Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sermon Ponderings - WorldWide Communion

This is just me sitting in my virtual coffee house throwing out random thoughts as I do research/prayer/thinking about this Sunday's sermon:

Scripture: Psalm 124; Mark 9:38-50
Working Title: Open Table

This is not the lectionary Scripture for today. I am not cowering from the discussion of divorce but I think you will agree that in my current situation that sermon is best left to the future. And not on Worldwide Communion Sunday

  • Very much aware that us mainlines have made it Worldwide Communion Sunday which others may find silly with a touch of arrogance since it is ALWAYS Communion Sunday where they are.
  • Earthquakes... tsunamis... the UN... G-20 all in the news this week - in your mercy Lord, hear our prayers...
  • "...whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward." Does this justify the 'but I'm a good person' anti-church defense?
  • John's follow-up to Jesus not buying into the whole 'who is the greatest' argument is to tattle-tale? Really, John? Seriously?
  • "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off..." - wondering what my left ring finger did. ;)
  • Some (many?) would see the church as one big stumbling block. From bulletins without prayers printed in them to the seat ownership mentality to the nightmare that can be committees... no wonder so many want to cut the church off.
  • I think that above bullet point just might preach.
  • Stumbling block is same word as 'snare' - folks would rather chew their own foot off in order to escape the clutches of the church...
  • Okay, that above bullet point maybe went too far. Or not...
  • Misplaced pencil, guess I can't work on this any more.
  • Oh. There it is.
  • :(
  • Good stuff on the pros and cons of a strong community in Feasting on the Word
  • No easy answers here highlighting the need for grace, fluidity and acceptance that things in life are usually grey, not distinct.
  • Challenge for me is when the choice is between spirit or structure I tend to err on the side of structure (shocking coming from a mainline pastor in a denomination that has a Book of Order as part of its Constitution, I know)
  • I've hit my time limit for working on sermon this morning, more later...
  • What are your thoughts... (although please note I am refraining from reading YOUR sermons on this Scripture from last week in order to fight desire to cut and paste your better offerings in TOTAL!)

(10/2 Ramblings...)
How often is our fall-back position in effect amputational theology? Don't like gay marriage? Cut them off! Don't like paying for other people's healthcare? Cut them off! Don't like the way a family member does things? Cut them off!

But surgery is rarely so simple. Even those who go under the knife for tummy tucks and augmentation find that their issues are far more complex than a simple swipe of the knife will solve.

When we cut off members of our society we lose something more than just them. We lose integrity. We lose balance. We lose a deeper sense of who 'we' are....

What the sermon aims to say: Look before you cut.
What the sermon aims to do: Encourage folks to clear a path to the Open Table of the Lord, whether it be for them or for someone who is being cut off.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Bridge

I went to a seminar with the esteemed moderator of our denomination last weekend. The majority of his keynote addressed the differences between the modern and post-modern generations, realizing of course that these things never fall exactly across generational lines. Then he mentioned that there are a group of us who just very well may be called to be the bridge between the two.

As someone who has a blog (admittedly underused), a facebook account and a twitter account, I get social media. To a point. I have friends both older and younger who get a lot more out of it, but still that willingness to engage on that level is a post-modern trait. However, I had to laugh at myself when I realized that the reason we had not started a church blog was because I don't have time to do it and it never even ocurred to me to have a group of other folks contribute to it. That desire/need for control and strong parameters is a modern trait. Of course, now that the idea has been floated into my head I will probably follow up on it. Eventually.... as long as I have enough control :)

My mental blog block really raised this challenge of having to bridge a great divide. This is not going to be simply throwing my robe over a mud puddle of confusion so that one side can reach the other. I'm not even sure these two sides can SEE each other, let alone respect and understand each other.

What about the woman who reprimanded my friend for wearing his hat in the fellowship hall during a dinner at the church?
What about my friends who discount the amount of mission the Presbyterian Women accomplish just because they refuse to meet at night?
What about the people who moved their membership because a female Head of Staff was just too far out of the box?
What about the parents who rip the church and say there is no place for them, and then get mad when we are hesitant to baptize their child because we know we will never see them again to love and nurture that child?
What about the retiree-aged pastor who clings onto the pulpit because it defines him/her blocking out the next generation from having a place?
What about that next generation that frustrated about not having a pulpit blindly swipe at those that are in their way with no compassion about why these folks are finding it so hard to let go?

So often it seems like we need less of a bridge, and more of a space shuttle.

I wonder if part of finding a better place is admitting that a particular worship space cannot be all things to all people. This goes for the institution and the seeker. For instance, I currently serve a mainline denomination with a strong traditional worship service. We at times introduce things that would lean us towards 'blended' but we are traditional. And we are good at it.

Before my arrival this congregation delved into the contemporary worship scene with disastrous results. There are still people no longer attending and feelings very hurt. These things take the musicians with the commitment and talent to do it well and every week. It also needs the support of at least one person on staff. Right now we have the latter, not so much the former. BUT there are at least two other congregations in our immediate area who do WONDERFUL contemporary worship. So why not worship there? And why not have it be okay with our institution to say, "Go, with our blessing." It's the same God - or so we say - so what does it matter?

Again, this simplifies the many issues that we are facing as the church and actually I think the generation after me may very well have a better chance of briding the gap (blending the worship?) than I will.

Still, I appreciated the challenge for me to be the bridge even if I can't see the other side.