Friday, August 21, 2009

Two places I could really see myself worshipping.

We ministers spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of environment we'd like to worship in. Or, at least this minister does anyway. That's kind of odd, since in most contexts (mine included) we're kind of the master of ceremonies when it comes to creating a space for worship. I choose the hymns, the liturgies, the sermon texts, the sermon, what goes on the altar, etc. etc. I don't control what happens in worship--I believe the Holy Spirit has that responsibility. But, I draw the blueprint so to speak. So, why in the world would I be looking with longing at other communities of faith? I will here refrain from answering my own question. If you have an answer, you let me know.
So, I've before pointed to a places where I'd love to worship. I've also filled you in on my plans for a treehouse church. Probably what you've noticed about these two posts is that I'm a sucker for aesthetics. I fit very squarely into that 2/3 of young people mentioned in that poll in the second link who would rather worship in a Gothic or ancient looking church than a new-fangled technology enabled convention center. The darker and danker, with the lingering musk of incense, the better. So, I'm obviously not one of those who holds to the "we could be in a storefront or a sale barn, or where ever as long as the Spirit is there" kind of philosophy. Well, I don't deny that. I uphold that truth very much--worship happens where people gather and invoke the presence of the Spirit. It doesn't matter where people are, real and meaningful worship can happen. But, I'm also one who loves to be surrounded by beauty. For me and my personality, the Spirit of worship is translated through my physical surroundings. When I'm sitting in the light of a stained glass window and the hymnal I am using is bathed in blue, that's the kind of thing that gets me. I can get past a humble sounding choir. I can make it through an asinine sermon. If I can visually experience worship, then I am there.
Also, it helps if I'm worshipping with a group of people I connect with. That being said, I happened upon a couple of church websites that are both very aesthetically pleasing that lead me to explore churches that I could imagine myself connecting with. Perhaps you do too:
Oh, and then of course there's the church that Jonny Baker belongs to, Grace

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sabbath Rest and Getting Over Ourselves

I'm doing some research for my second sermon in the "Family Ties" Sermon series for the church. I felt good about last week's sermon on food and faith, but unfortunately forgot to record the thing on my ipod, so you have no sermon to listen to over at the church site. Speaking of food and faith, our church farmer's market is going pretty well this year. I've had calls form people wondering when the cantaloupe's are going to be ready, and I've posted some pictures on the church website as well.

I'm preaching the second sermon in the series on "Work, Rest, and Purpose," and it's about how the cycle of work and rest should be observed by people of faith and how this cycle can instill healthy work habits in children. I've never been a workaholic, and I don't think workaholism was modeled for me as I was growing up either. I appreciate a Sabbath and would probably not find myself getting too angsty if I had to quit working and just stay at home all the time. I'd probably make a good "house-husband" if I were ever needed to be one.

Some of the resources I've found on Sabbath and work have been great. I listened to an Adam Hamilton sermon from July on faithfulness in the workplace. He pointed out that we'll spend around 96,000 hours in the workplace in our lifetime, compared with around 2600 hours in worship (even for the regular workers), so the way we are faithful people at work matters a lot more at least in terms of "exposure."

I've also enjoyed the Baylor U. Christian Reflection on Sabbath. Lot's of good stuff there. One thing I just read in the inspirational piece by Milton Brasher-Cunningham is that Sabbath reminds us that we are not indispensable. The world will carry on without us. The scriptures frequently remind the people of Israel that God will see to it that they are provided for on the Sabbath. Milton Brasher-Cunningham contrasts the sense of indispensability instilled in us by our consumer culture that "bombard[s us] with the distorted “truth” that enough is not adequate, overachieving is average, acquisitive is better than imaginative, networking
is building actual relationships, and padding our resumes makes us more
important." He says, "Hearing and heeding the Still, Small Voice is no easy task."

In another piece in that Christian Reflection study,Richard Lowry says that the "Biblical sabbath offers a way to think and act theologically as we confront
the spiritual, ecological, and economic challenges before us. By celebrating
a hoped-for world of abundance, self-restraint, and mutual care,
sabbath traditions critiqued ancient royal-imperial systems that created
scarcity, overwork, and gross economic inequality. These traditions can
serve a similar critical function today, offering words of proportion, limits,
social solidarity, and the need for rest, quiet reflection, and recreation in
the face of never-ending work and consumption. In our world, sabbath
consciousness may be the key to human survival, prosperity, and sanity."

Today our family life committee decided to postpone indefinitely a retreat that we at first had to move from a popular riverside camping resort about an hour away to right here in town on account of a fundraiser for a principal of one of the schools who is battling cancer. The committee didn't know about the date of the dinner that a lot of our churchmembers would be involved in when they first started planning the retreat (which they were planning to center around the "ReThink church campaign." After the committee decided to still hold the retreat but relocate it to town so that the folks involved in the benefit could still be around to help prepare, etc, I was reminded of the Luke passage where Jesus heals on the Sabbath and is confronted by the Pharisees. What better way to spend time focusing our time and energy on rest and relaxation than to be present to a person's healing? Today I heard from one of the leaders of the committee that our list of participants was dwindling because of various other things that have sprung up, and the committee was okay with indefinitely postponing the retreat. Here again I was reminded of the scriptural witness of Sabbath reminding us to remember that "there is a God and we are not It." The world doesn't rely on us or our programs. Things will go on. I was proud of the committee for putting so much work and effort into the task of creating an uplifting and challenging program for the retreat, but if we had actualized it, the work would have been tangled up with the results. Now that the work has been done and the retreat postponed, the committee can either think of the work as a "waste of time" or as a "gift to God." I think that Sabbath rest helps us reorient our work toward God. At the end of a life without Sabbath rest, I think there are often folks on their death bed saying to themselves "What did I do with my life?" "I wasted so much time!" Sabbath grounds us in the notion that our work is dispensable. We can lay aside time to be at rest and we will survive. Not only will we survive, we will flourish!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Garden Update, and a beautiful picture of Julianna

We planted our zucchinis too close together, so some of them had to be taken out. The tomatoes are growing in up the fence, and both are very healthy and full of tomatoes. I've already taken around 20, and there are probably 50 more on the way--and that's just the first of the year. last year I was picking tomatoes at the end of October. (I remember because I got a burn on my hand a couple of days before Julianna was born because I tossed a slice of green tomato into some hot oil.) There is some kind of vine all over the tomatoes and the cannas, but it doesn't seem to be adversly affecting them, so I leave it be. We didn't spray anything on the garden, so I see the vine as added camoflauge from the birds. We havent' had any bird or bug problems. Maybe Lao-Tzu is helping with the birds. She likes to crouch in the garden like a jungle cat. We're growing sweet peppers, and none have come to fruit yet, but the plant is getting big. Our butternut squash are looking good, around 4 or five of them growing now. The sunflowers are a beautiful reddish purple as you can see, and we also have carrots that may or may not be good. Our neighbor said our soil wasn't sandy enough for them here. Then again, he doesn't come to church, so maybe the Lord just isn't blessing his garden like He has mine :) We've got some beans and some sweet potatoes and some russett potatoes too, but I guess we won't know how those have done until we dig them up. We're enjoying the gardening, and Julianna is enjoying the baby food Lara makes her.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

"A Fool Gospel Church"

Just for the record, it's been a couple weeks now, and no-one has noticed that that is what I changed our church's title bar to read on the church blog. I thought it was funny. Maybe it's just me.

Free Study Series on a number of topics

I just found a Bible study series through the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University that I bookmarked and thought I'd share. It is well written and fairly broad in scope. There are topics ranging from aging to children, global wealth to mysticism, sports to pornographic culture, and much more. I came across the study series by way of a particular study called "Prophetic Ethics," which included a session on "The Prophet as Storyteller," which was linked to this week's lectionary readings on textweek. (Thanks Jenny!) Each subject has a number of resources, including art, articles, hymns and worship services, inspirational pieces, book reviews, and a collection of 6 study guides and lesson plans. I know where I'll be looking next time I need an idea for a small group study! You can download all the material for free on the website, or sign up for a free issue in print.