Beloved Community

Last week I had the chance to lead a conversation for the online campus of my church with some amazing educators.  We were doing it as a part of a special worship experience about living our faith in the ordinary time of life.  We have been going throughout the summer hearing from people who live their faith out in amazing ways.  

In essence, it is the spirit of living into the small things of the Mother Teresa quote, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  

These educators represent the heart of most teachers, but they are an undervalued/heard voice.  They are amazing people who will tell you to talk to those responsible for the education of the students.  They want to be on the learning team so that each child can find success with as mean cheerleaders surrounding them as possible.  

But just sharing this link is not the reason for the post….

Continue reading…

Ordinary Time: Faith

 

This weekend’s conversation is all about faith.

With a broad swath of lectionary readings we are able to see what  faith is lived out like.

Here are our readings for this weekend:

  • 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; (David learns about Saul’s death)
  • Psalm 130; (psalm of the temple dedication)
  • 2 Cor 8:7-15; 2 Corinthians 8:7 (CEB)  7  Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you.
    Mark 5:21-43 (jesus heals the woman bleeding for 12 years and the 12 year old who was dead

In the lectionary we see a few things that we learn about faith

1. Faith allows us to Pause to see the bigger picture

First we take a look at David and his ability to step back in a time of potential personal gain and mourn with his people because of the bigger picture.  He is mourning, and telling his people to mourn.  This is tragic. Period.  This loss is crushing. Period! And we don’t need to fill the silence with anything but our sorrow and hurt at this point.  To do anything else would trivialize or take away from the current events and dehumanize the fallen king and his son.

David knows that there are times (more than he would to admit) where it is not about him.  David knows there is a bigger picture at play than simply his personal advancement.  Faith is committing to God’s plan over our own.  In one of the commentaries I read this week was one written by Walter Breggeman where he talks about our hardship to mourn publicly and the need to come together through faith to see the larger picture: 

the prospect of public grief is a scarce practice in our society, where we are so engaged in self-deception, pretending that everything is “all right.” Underneath that propaganda, however, we are a deeply troubled community with a great deal of unprocessed public hurt. We have no easy way to process hurt, but this poem is a model. For obvious starters, we have yet to finish with the residue of racial hate left from the Civil War. We have scarcely faced the ghosts of anti-Semitism made visible in the Holocaust. We have not yet tapped the horror of Vietnam. We have yet to acknowledge that our long history of wars is not a set of triumphs but an endless process of “bow against fat,” of “sword into blood,” of death for the lovely and beloved. The earth, like Gilboa, stands deeply cursed. The voice of contemptuous Philistines mock in their outsider status. The purveyors of haughtiness on the inside only go on shopping and consuming and do not notice. This text is a noticing, and its noticing places hard questions before us. What permits one to notice the grief and loss of life around us? How can we break in on our muteness? How can we acknowledge the triumph of brutality in our self-deception? When shall we find words, and who dares sing of intimacy broken, of loss unspoken that must be spoken, of greatness overwhelmed by the savage power of death? David sings about the poignancy of human anguish. These questions may find their buoyant answer if we join the song of relentless, candid faith.

Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Kindle Locations 4228-4238). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.

2. Faith Gives us grit Continue reading…

Ordinary Time: Story Resources

For the past few weeks I have been having a great time gathering materials for my messages. However, like so many other weeks there is so much good stuff and only tome for a little bit of conversation.  So, for the first post in a long time I am going to give a little outline of the message and some of the additional resources that I mention in the message as well as some others that I have been liking while researching and studying this week or while I have been prepping for the message.

We will see how it goes or what it feels like.  This week seems like a good fit because I feel like I have a story welling inside and I struggle at times with the best way to get it out.  This might be a way to get some of the floodgates opened up.

So, this past weekend my congregation continued a series called Ordinary time.  It is following the Lectionary and we are trying to lean into the time in the church year that is from the Sunday after Pentecost to the beginning of advent.  It is a long period that we are not getting ready for Christmas or Easter.  We are using an amazing book by author and pastor Erik Willits. Check it out from his website right here.

This is the 4th week in the series that will take us through the summer

The scripture readings for this weekend were: 1 Samuel 17:1, 4-11, 19, 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20; 2 Cor 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

Ordinary Time: Story Message Outline

We are called to be Spiritual Biographers.  We write (through our words, deeds and ideas) about the why God interactions with creation.  We share the grace and heartache of humanity.  The reality is that the story we are writing is the only Good News (gospel) others will be reading.

Ordinary time gives us an opportunity to get our story straight and prepare to write the next chapter.

The lectionary reading give us 2 guides this week 1. David and Paul.  From them we learn 3 critical things that a good spiritual biographer does.

  1. Know your story–Before Goliath David has a history of protecting the the sheep from predators. He also knew that God was with him and he was anointed to do great things.  In knowing his story, he was able to step-up to Goliath when no one else would.
  2. Set up camp in the discomfort zone–Standing before a giant David chose sling and stone over sword and shield.  He knew it was going to be risky, but he was confidently entering into unknown territory and setting up camp.  Paul understood what it was to be uncomfortable for the glory of God (see the 2 Cor reading).  For both of these men setting up camp in the discomfort zone meant that they would be able to make history.
  3. Write the next chapter–we don’t stay in the discomfort zone forever.  Either we are called to a new place or we face Goliath and that place is no longer uncomfortable.  But we do tell the story.  David kept Goliath’s sword as a reminder of the way God delivered him.  Remembering and writing the next chapter in our spiritual biographies allows us to set way points along the trail of more fully trusting God.

Monday Moment–So what? Why does this matter

We are the only gospel some of our friends will ever read. What does your story say about God? Is it Good News?  As Spiritual Biographers we want others to read our lives and know what God is all about.  This week try this:

Make a list of the 5 people who you have the most contact with, and then:

  1. Pray for them that they may be blessed by God’s grace this week
  2. Look for an opportunity to get into the discomfort zone and share (a little bit more) of your story with them.  This could be over lunch or coffee or just during a pause in your day.  Have meaningful conversation to get to know one another more deeply.
  3. Write the next paragraph: promise to continue the conversation or offer to do it again.  Write the story with your friends in it.  Faith is a team sport.

Some resources I came across this week:

Tell Someone: You Can Share the Good News: check it out on amazon

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants: Check it out on amazon

One Proud Pastor

There are times where my heart bursts with pride because of the faith community that I get to serve.  For the past month and a half we have taken a look at different religions of the world.  Each week we laid the foundations for the beliefs for each religion and then sought out some of the similarities between Christianity and the others.  Additionally, we attempted to see where we can be reminded of the depth and wonder of the Christian faith by seeing how other faith traditions may call us to refocus on some aspect of Christianity.  We also spoke honestly about the differences.

The goal of this series was that we could sit down for a cup of coffee with someone of a different faith and no one have to give up our beliefs or convictions, but we could both be more deeply committed to our faith because of the conversation.

The series, it gave me a platform to make connections with many people who I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.  I met many hindu, buddhist, jewish, atheist, muslim and even some christian folk who shared their story with me.

There was a lot of trust placed in the church and prayer for the Spirit’s guidance during this series.  The leadership, worshiping congregation and FaithPoint community at large took a big risk with these conversations.  As a community of faith committed to making our belief and practice a real everyday part of our lives these conversations needed to happen.

This past weekend we partnered with a local mosque and have a panel of young people come and talk (over coffee) about the core beliefs and practices of Islam as well as some of the differences.  This was our chance to show that the kinds of conversations that we had been encouraging throughout the series are really possible.  We had 5 young people come and be part of the conversation.  Some were in high school, others in college and one is a teacher at the middle school that we worship.

To be honest I was nervous.  For weeks I struggled with how much of the conversation should be outlined ahead of time and how much should be organic.  I knew this was a conversation we were called to facilitate, but the “what ifs” kept creeping in.  I had only met 1 of the students ahead of time.  But if we are going to model this kind of conversation the more “real” it could be the better…right?

So, I sent out our order of worship to the group ahead of time along with contact info and about 5 questions to guide the conversation.  That was all the pre-conversation scripting that happened.  I was determined that there would be no surprise for these young people and FaithPoint’s leaders and those serving last weekend were a huge part of making them feel comfortable.  Emails were sent to their parents and FaithPoint’s leadership affirmed how these young people were brave coming into “our” space to share. “So let’s make sure they know they are our special guests,” one of my leaders said.

The time came for the conversation and it was easy and natural.  The coffee was also great.  I had a blast!!! I learned so much, made great connections and couldn’t believe how quickly the time went.  The best part was that we were able to say we needed to do it again rather than outright ending the conversation.

BUT THEN…. worship ended and the FaithPoint community descended on our guests.  I stood back and watched as the group was surrounded by a whole church full of people saying thank you, giving hugs, and in tears that we could come together and find common ground.  I watched as a proud parent at the playground when their kids interact with others.  My heart was overflowing.  We were late getting cleaned up because of the rich connections that were happening.

I know this interaction couldn’t happen everywhere, but FaithPoint is one of those places called to be a forum for this kind of conversation and I couldn’t be more pleased, proud and blown away that I get to be their pastor.

Thank you , Thank you, thank you for being the church you have been called to be as we all grow in God’s grace together rather than the church that is comfortable resting on “the way it has always been.”