Monday, April 30, 2007

stories to tell

At the heart of our church life is a story. Story about God. It's incredible story: about God who becomes human. About God who is love, and who makes a new kind of abundant life possible...

Every week, we gather in worship to remind ourselves of the stories of our faith, and how they fit into the bigger story that's unfolding through us.

This week, we get some help in the storytelling. Or, if you prefer, storySINGING.
Our Chapel Choir is going to share some of Jesus' story with us through the music of Godspell. One of the things I love about this musical is the way its characters come to know the story of Jesus' life as they figure out how to tell it. It becomes their story.

So, we'll hear the Gospel with that 70's groove. And, we'll remember how John ends his Gospel. His testimony is just one piece of the story: there's so much more.

As we seek to worship this week, we're also aware that there's so much more to tell--of God's continuing presence in our lives. And, in our worship together at the Water's Edge. I give thanks that I can share this worship space with you. See you there...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Psalm for this Sunday is a familiar one--the one that starts "The Lord is my shepherd..." The one that reminds us of God leading us beside still waters.

Like many things I know by heart, this Psalm is one I can say without really thinking about the words. But when I do...oh, it's excellent. It seems like, everytime I do, I hear something new.

Mostly, I speak it at memorial services; it's comfort, both in what it says and in the familiarity of the words. It makes me feel better.

BUT, it doesn't promise that things will be easy. I like how it acknowledges that there's difficulty. It includes the "valley of the shadow of death." This Psalmist knows what's up--that life isn't always easy. This Psalmist knows I have enemies, but reminds me that God makes me a feast where I get to sit down in their presence.

Our other scripture passage, from John's Revelation, makes it even clearer: God wipes away every tear from our eyes.

(This is a nice change from the scariness of much of the rest of the book. Revelation is a wild ride.)

But I'll leave that fun for Sunday. Rev. Elbert is going to preach, and it will be good to welcome him to our gathering. I'll be away, so I trust you'll fill me in on what you figure out when I get back...

Monday, April 16, 2007

This week, we get to share in one of my favorite Jesus stories: the one where Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples. After he's been resurrected, and after they return to fishing, he appears on the lakeshore and cooks some fish for them.

I love it for a lot of reasons--delighting in good meals, sharing good food with good people, is just one of them.

I also like the gracious hospitality it shows--a risen Christ who sets a feast for us. (And not just the ritual of holy communion, when it happens inside our nice churches--but real, stick-to-your-ribs hearty breakfasts on the lakeshore...)

He had to be disappointed in the disciples. After all they'd seen, they went back to fishing. Not that fishing is, in and of itself, a dishonorable thing: it just meant that they weren't using their lives to follow Jesus.

(Incidentally, I can't think of any time Jesus actually went fishing, for fish. He certainly found disciples when THEY were fishing. And he certainly went onto boats...)

Instead of being mad, instead of showing his frustration at their slowness to let the Spirit's power really infuse their lives and change their futures, Jesus cooks for them.

There's a lesson here, somewhere...


And, as is there isn't enough to think about there, we also get to share in the story of Saul's conversion (in which he becomes Paul). Set next to the story of Jesus's breakfast, though, I suspect it might be as much about Ananias's hospitality as it is about Saul's being changed. CHeck it out.

AND, of course, Sunday is Earth Day.
That's gotta fit in there somewhere. Of course, a little better hospitality (like shown by Jesus and Ananias) might not hurt our planet...

Monday, April 09, 2007

witness protection program?

The day after Easter, in this pastor's life, is a day of letting-down; all the details and expectation of Holy Week is over. I get to rest back in Resurrection, which I celebrate as grace and hope. And, I get a little punchy...

So, as I ponder this week's scripture, I'm wondering which is worse: folks who just come to church on Easter (and Christmas, of course), or the disciples, in that they hear and know something of the incredible story and power of resurrection, but then keep it protected, behind locked doors.

I'm thinking of two ways we (me certainly included) tend to do this:
One is that we discover how cool life in God is, so we join church. We fill up on the Holy Spirit every week, we find meaning for our lives, and we find it good. But then we just keep that to ourselves. Lacking good models for how we might share our faith (that is, in a way that is not judgmental or pushy or, well, really annoying), we just keep quiet about it.

Our organist at the church, Bob, has talked about how people who find a great new restaurant will eagerly mention it to others, but how relatively reticent we are to talk about something that feels our souls...

The other way this can happen is when we get afraid. John's gospel says the disciples hid behind locked doors because they were afraid. Could be a lot of things that bring us fear, but the one I feel most crippled by these days is the fear that we'll lose what we have. We, in the church, treasure what brought us here, and therefore fear change--the kind of change that might, actually, allow us a more-full experience of the divine.

So, we frown at people who don't dress right, or who belong to the wrong associations, or who seem like they might make us listen to music we hate. (Or, they might do something CRAZY like play a kazoo solo on Easter Sunday. But I digress...)

I'm still haunted/enchanted by a story Doug Pagitt
told at an Emergent Church gathering a couple of years ago, in which he talked about adopting children into his family. They didn't invite the kids in, show them a list of activities the family was planning to participate, and tell them they'd be welcome anywhere. (That would be absurd.) They made them a part of the family, and let everything they'd do be shaped by their presence.

If we, the church, are the family of God, shouldn't we do the same?

And I think we (the water's edge people) need to remember this as much as anyone. We're getting good at being family together, but I'm feeling the Spirit pushing us to share this good stuff we have with others. People who might not find any church to call home, except that they feel at home here. Because we're seeking after being authentic to the Spirit's witness in this place.

As we ponder how we're being (re)defined by resurrection this year, maybe it's a good time to ask how our witness to the outside world looks.

What do you think?

Monday, April 02, 2007

before sunday...

there are lots of chances to worship together this week:

On Wednesday, there's a Family-Friendly Vespers worship, at 5:30 in the sanctuary. There'll be an organ duet featuring 10-year-old Justin (on a familiar tune called "Jesus Loves Me") and, best of all, a chance to share in communion with folks of all ages. Afterwards, there's a simple dinner and activities for families of all ages, shapes and sizes.

On Thursday, there's Maundy Thursday worship, at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary. It's the day we remember Jesus' Last Supper, and so we gather again at that communion table, this time with a special drama.

On Friday, there's noontime worship for Good Friday. It technically starts at 12:15, but there'll be music to be had starting before then. Worship with our community as we mark Jesus' death.

And, the piece I'm most excited about: a new kind of Easter Vigil.
With experiential ways to interact with the Holy Week stories, this is a rich new way to begin the Easter Season. And, new though it may be to us, it builds on way-ancient traditions of the Easter Vigil. (The Vigil just happens to be one of the most ancient Christian traditions we know of!) Plus, we will be baptizing adults--welcoming new sisters and brothers in the family of God. So, you'll want to be there. Start in the Chapel, anytime between 7:30 and 9 p.m.

this sunday: resurrection

We get to celebrate Easter this week. Everything made new. God's eternal life triumphs over the ugliest of human violence. And, even over death. There's nothing to fear. We belong in God, who is everything.

When Mary encounters Jesus in that garden about what had seemed to be his tomb, she's not ready to recognize him. She, along with the other disciples, is STILL not prepared for what's going on in God. It's not until he calls her name that she realizes it's him--that she's speaking with the one who she mourns. (And, it's not just magical thinking.)

He tells her not to hold onto him.

I think Resurrection is like that: you just can't hold onto it BUT it changes everything.

I've been trying to figure out how to imagine that--an image for this.

There are many good ones that've been thought of before: the freedom and lightness of a butterfly (transformed from it's previous life as a caterpillar, after a time in that tomb-like cocoon), the grace of Easter lilies. The precious and stunning display of sunsets--light transformed in an instant to reveal colors previously imperceptible.

You cannot own, control, or hold too tightly to these.

But, this morning, I'm thinking even more of sandhill cranes.

It's crane season back home in Nebraska--those incredible days when millions of cranes gather in a narrow stretch of the Platte River. There, they gather strength by gleaning grain from the cornfields. They sleep in the river to stay safe. And, best of all, they dance.

Each night, just before sunset, they return to the river en masse, singing and dancing (and hoping to attract mates). For that brief period of time, these days in late March and early April, the beauty of the cranes (usually distributed halfway around the world) is visible in overwhelming glory, in one place. Fragile-looking and wonderful. Resilient and full of life.

What images would you give to resurrection life?