Monday, July 28, 2008

Good question

My father, who was a high school teacher for almost forty years, used to tell his students the same thing most teachers tell their students, "There is no such thing as a silly question." I'm not sure that's universally true, but the point is well taken: if you have a question about something, the odds are good that someone else does too. To that end, I was emailed a not-so-silly question this morning and perhaps you were wondering the same thing...
  • Q: The top of yesterday's bulletin had the title "17th Sunday in Ordinary Time." What does that mean?
  • A: It refers to the date on the Revised Common Lectionary, the three-year cycle of Scripture readings that takes us through most of the Bible. Unless otherwise noted, the text or texts that I preach from come from one of the readings from this schedule (there is generally an Old Testament, a Psalm, a Gospel, and an Epistle reading). I like to use it for preaching because it helps me to look at the whole of Scripture as I listen for God's voice. I think it's good for us as a congregation because the seasons of the church add a different spiritual dimension to our worship life. Different people and denominations give these seasons different names, but the one I follow generally goes: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, a few special Sundays like Pentecost and Baptism of the Lord, and the rest are called Ordinary Time.
If you have questions that you fear might seem silly, go ahead and email them to me. If I think it might be a question that others might share, I will post it with your name withheld.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And speaking of chatting...

I've heard from several folks who have told me they have had a bit of trouble commenting on this blog. Of course if you can't comment, it kind of misses the point. So here are the steps that should make it possible to add your comment:
  • Click on the word "comments" in the lower right beneath each post
  • After typing in your comment, type in the nonsensical sequence of letters in the space provided
  • Click the circle next to "Name/URL" and put in your name (you don't have to put in anything for URL)
  • Click "Publish your comment" and that should be it
Again, I hope that this will be one of many ways that we can talk to one another; these conversations help us greatly as we seek to be Christ's Body in this community.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let's Chat...

To all of you who have let me know that you've stopped by to read this blog, thank you! I'm glad to hear that people are reading this and I hope that it will continue to become a useful tool for us in communication.
Speaking of which, I want to expand on something I said (or tried to say) on Sunday during the announcements: I want to be as available to you as possible. Whether or not you take advantage of them, there are a number of ways that I am available to chat:

  • You can comment on this blog.
  • You can email me (especially if you have topic ideas for this blog).
  • You can stop by the church and chat with me during my office hours (Mon-Thur, 9-4). (You should call ahead because the work of a pastor is not exactly a "regular hours" kind of job, but I try to be as consistent as I can be.)
  • You can set up an appointment when we can meet for coffee or even invite me (and if you're adventurous, my family) over for dinner.
  • You can contact me at my various phone numbers: at the church, on the cell phone, or for an urgent need, at the house.
  • You can corner me after worship or in the grocery store or whatever else our paths might cross.
The point is, I want to talk to you. I want to hear your life stories and learn why the people of Calvary are your church family. I want to know why you love this church and what about it makes you crazy. I want to know about it if I hurt your feelings and I want you to hear me say, "I'm sorry." I want to hear from you when I'm wrong and I want you to hear from me if it turns out I'm not. I want to hear about your hopes and dreams for our future and even about your disappointments from our past. I want to make myself as available to you as I can because I want to know you and I want you to know me.
So remember you are invited! I want to hear from you. I enjoy hearing from you. I believe I am a better pastor to you because I've heard from you. I hope to hear from you soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jumping Off

For several years after my high school graduation, I worked at a summer camp in the mountains of central California. Sometimes on Saturdays, after the campers had all gone home, we’d pile into our cars and go to a place called Angel Falls. There was a river that ran over a series of tremendous boulders, creating waterfalls, pools, and other amazing formations. It was a beautiful and relaxing place to spend the day; one might imagine that it was the tranquil beauty of the place that gave it its name. But no, it was because the river’s current and the unusual rock formations had taken so many lives over the years.
I came close to death at least one time myself at Angel Falls. My buddy Darren had led us to a rock and pool formation that was simply made by God for jumping. The pool was wide and deep and the rock was nice and flat on top, perfect for the running start we would need to get over the small outcrop between the rock and pool. Darren showed us how, pointing out the slick, mossy spot that we should avoid.
After Darren it was my turn (I always followed Darren and this was neither the first nor last time it would lead me into danger). Off I ran toward the edge and, although I had been warned, stepped right on that mossy spot. Suddenly this jump was not going at all as I had planned it; I found myself in one of those slow motion moments. I was keenly aware of the outcrop I was supposed to be jumping over, now quickly rushing towards me. I managed to turn my body in mid flight, as to bounce off the thing with my body’s more squishy spot, and I headed down into the water.
As Darren rushed over to me to see if I was all right, I realized that I was not immediately sure. After taking inventory I found that my body was not broken, but I could have just as easily been one of those angels that gave that place its name. I felt the simultaneous emotions of elation, as I realized I was not hurt, and of sobering humility, as I realized I could have just as easily died. Rest assured that I was much more cautious of that mossy spot on my following jumps.
Lately I feel I’m on that rock again. The leadership of this congregation has done so much to keep this church on track: there is a good sense of who we are as the people of God in this community and a wonderfully well-focused vision for how we are to live out that identity. In a sense, all I need to do is jump in. And yet I can’t help but wonder about those mossy spots; one misplaced step and I could find myself having to choose which body part I land on.
If Darren were here he’d call me names that question my manhood and suggest I, “Just go for it,” and Darren’s taunts aside, that’s probably the right thing to do. Yes, I might (and probably will) slip up from time to time. And yes, the fall might (and probably will) hurt. But Christ has called us to jump: For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7, NRSV). The Body of Christ has not failed the world through lack of planning; we fail through lack of jumping. We slip once and expect that we will always slip. Or even worse, we see someone else slip and determine it’s just too risky. May we be a people who dive in fearlessly and joyfully wherever and however our Savior calls us.

Moving Part 3

(Sorry it's been so long since my last post. I had actually written this one about a week ago and hadn't had a chance to post it.)

OK let's face it, moving is horrible. For all my talk about the spiritual lessons related to moving, let's not forget that there's not much good that goes with the move itself: I have aching muscles, a stubbed toe, and I have no idea where my can opener is. As of today, we have unpacked quite a number of boxes... but you'd never know it by looking around the house or garage. Slowly, we are beginning to get settled into our new environment, but we have a long way to go.
Yes, the move is rough, and yet God has blessed us tremendously through it. God has brought some wonderful people into our lives lately, making all this turmoil so much easier to bear.
One of my favorite stories related to this happened last Friday, the day after the Big Move. My daughter and I were walking over to the mailbox to see if we had any mail yet and a woman drove up and stopped in front of us. She introduced herself as a neighbor from up the street and commented on the crew we had at the house the day before. (If you weren't there, it really was quite amazing. I didn't personally do a head-count, but I think at least half the church was at the house at some point. We barely needed the dollies; people were lining up to take boxes before they could make it into a stack.) She said to me, “What a wonderful testimony to the neighborhood that so many people from the church would come help you move!” And then she said one of the best things anyone could say about a church: she said, “I want to be a part of a church like that.”
I told her, “So do I!!”
I doubt that any who were carrying boxes last Thursday realized that they were evangelizing to my new neighborhood, but I think that's how the proclamation of the gospel works the best. Sure, we need to remain diligent to take the extra step of making that invitation when field is ripe, but most of what we do to call others to Christ is simply by making him look good. I thank God for this wonderful church, which has been making Christ look good for over a century. May we continue this work for many years to come.