Monday, April 27, 2009

Risk-Taking Mission and Service

Our Scripture passages this week are two old favorites of mine:

The prophet Micah clarifies that faithfulness isn't about fancy worship, but about lives of humble service. "What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God."

Then, in Matthew's gospel, Jesus clarifies what kind of criteria God might use in our judgment: how we treated the "least of these" in our midst.

Humility seems to be a key piece in both--a willingness to the unglamorous work of serving.

In a world when marketing strategies tell us that public service can be good for our "brand," when community service improves our college resumes, and when famous personalities are tapped for photo ops for non-profits, these passages seem to call us to something even more.

(Not that making service cool is a bad thing--I think it's pretty fabulous to lift up heroes who model serving others.)

These passages ask us to go a step further--to risk serving people who no one else would choose. Or to take the chance that our investment in another person won't solve their problems and doesn't necessarily depend on them doing things like we think they should.

Risk-taking mission and service also opens up the possibility that our service will change us, our ways of thinking and our priorities in life.

This is risky business.

I wonder what risks you've taken to be in mission and service?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Passionate Worship

Note: My apologies for not posting this sooner--I started it early last week, and then forgot to ever change it from "draft" to "published" status! Hopefully, it might still be fun conversation for this week...
Photo by Sean Dreilinger, shared through Creative Commons via

Our scripture this week includes tale of a dramatic sea crossing and the rejoicing that followed from Exodus, as well as a story of prayerful singing in worship at a time of transition and hope from Luke's gospel.

Worship is a beautiful response to God's liberating work in the world. Both in a narrow escape in a time of very real danger and oppression (as in Exodus) and at a moment when God's salvation is finally incarnate (though still just a little baby), music gives form to thanksgiving, and expresses a joy that can be shared.

I'm especially moved by Simeon's song, the piece from Luke's gospel. Here, and old man gets a chance to meet Jesus--but not full-grown Jesus. He sees little, days-old baby Jesus. And then sings of the fulfillment of God's promise.

How wild to have such confidence and trust in a tiny newborn.

I think this is what I like about worship, though--it's our way of naming and celebrating the wonderful wholeness and salvation of God's kingdom, even though the best we can see these days are our little, tiny signs of grace. Fits and starts, as precarious as a newborn.

But, we gather, holding to what we know matters most, and we let it change us.

May it be so!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Radical Hospitality

Note: For the next five weeks, our whole congregation is going to be reading and praying about Five Practices for Fruitful Congregations. I encourage you to follow the link and participate with us. Our worship will focus on one practice each week. Then, on May 31, we will celebrate them all, as well as Pentecost (the birthday of the church!) and our congregation's 140th anniversary. This should be a rich time, as we look at what makes church "church," as we look at our past, and as we prepare ourselves for bearing good fruit into the future.

This week, we have two texts. One from Deuteronomy and one from the gospel of Luke, each with a lesson about what it means to offer hospitality.

In Deuteronomy, as God delivers the law that will be at the core of the relationship between people and God, we hear words that echo through scripture: that we should love God with our heart and soul. And, then, that we should care for the widows and orphans in our midst. And for the strangers, because we were once strangers in Egypt.

How wild that here, at the very heart of God's commandment, is the expectation that we offer hospitality and care. And that we acknowledge our own need for hospitality, too.

That we should welcome the "stranger" has pretty powerful implications in our own time. Other translations use terms like "alien" or "foreigner." Without regard to citizenship status.

I wonder who we're most called to offer hospitality to, today? Who ought we be welcoming, and how will we find ways of offering that hospitality?