Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pentecost


The Art of Flame
Originally uploaded by Jeremy-G
This week, we celebrate Pentecost--the birthday of the church. (And, concurrently, we're marking the 140th Anniversary at First UMC San Diego.) At Water's Edge, there will be bluegrass music (and I get to play spoons).

Pentecost is a bit wild: the Holy Spirit, like tongues of fire, rests on the apostles and gives them the ability to speak to a diverse crowd of people in a multitude of languages which are, for their hearers, everyone's native language.

Amazing.

They hear the same story, but in a mess of different sounds.

How beautiful that the beginning of our church life happened through a unity expressed in vividly diverse ways.

This gives me hope that the future of the church rests secure, as we continue to follow the Spirit's lead, making the good news of Jesus Christ visible in a wide variety of expressions and styles.

I've been excited by the United Methodist Church's new ad campaign, which asks us to "rethink church." Pentecost seems as good a time as any I know to remember that church is not a building, but a way of living. And our call is to be those 10,000 doors that open people to life in the Spirit. May it be so.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Extravagant Generosity

This week's practice is extravagant generosity. Which makes me think of a song in our hymnal:

Cuando el pobre nada tiene y aun reparte, cuando el hombre pasa sed y agua nos da, cuando el d├ębil a su hermano fortalece, va Dios mismo en nuestro mismo caminar, va Dios mismo en nuestro mismo caminar.

When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers, when the thirsty water give unto us all, when the crippled in their weakness strengthen others, then we know that God still goes that road with us, then we know that God still goes that road with us.

There's something powerful about the extravagance of generosity that God's love inspires in us--not so much that we always have impressively large sums to donate others, but that our giving makes a significant difference to us.

My dad has some favorite sayings related to giving. One of my favorites is an invitation to give until it feels good--somewhere past giving 'til it hurts is a joy that comes in being able to share something that matters to us.
Photo by Jack Hynes, shared through Creative Commons via Flickr.com
In Luke, Jesus tells the story of a woman who gave something that, from the outside, seemed insignificant; for her, it was everything.

Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, we're told how the Macedonian's joy and poverty somehow, mysteriously and miraculously, overflowed in a wealth of generosity.

I'm digging that phrase: a wealth of generosity. More than being about the measurable sum collected, their wealth lay in their spirit of giving. Surely, none would have need if we lived with a true wealth of generosity.

I do, however, think of the times when I have seen just this kind of spirit--courageous, risk-taking generosity inspires others to the same.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Intentional Faith Development

This Sunday, as we focus on intentional faith development as a practice that strengthens our church life, we also celebrate Mother's Day.

And, while Mother's Day is a relatively new holiday (in comparison to our ancient celebrations like the season of Easter), the practice of honoring our foremothers is not new. Our passage for this week from 2 Timothy tells of the important role a mother and grandmother played in shaping a life of faith, as Paul gives thanks for Timothy's mother Eunice, and grandmother, Lois.

As may be expected for a time a culture when women's roles were limited by a boldly patriarchal society, we know little about these two women; we learn, from Paul's mention of them, though, that their role in the shaping of their son and grandson's faith was critical.

In Deuteronomy, just after Moses has shared the central law that God gave on Mt. Sinai in what we've come to call the "Ten Commandments," Moses summarizes the law, and gives clear instruction to pass it on. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might," he says, continuing that we should impress this on our children.

I've been intrigued with the phrase about how to teach them to our children. Some translations say to "impress them" on our children. Others read "teach them diligently." Or, simply, "recite them." The Hebrew word used, shanan, can be defined either as teaching diligently, or (as it's used more commonly in the Hebrew Bible) as having a slightly more visceral definition: something like whetting, piercing or incising. Tattoo them on your kids hearts, perhaps.
Photo by Piero Sierra, shared through Creative Commons via Flickr.com
This doesn't seem to be about the kind of teaching that might allow one to do well on a standardized test; this teaching comes with a kind of whole-self, lifelong demonstration of loving God.

I give thanks for those who have been models for me in this work--who teach by a way of living that models deep love for God and neighbor.

May it write this law incisively on my heart.