April 26, 2015

for APCB

a tomorrow:
when the end comes
when all is made well
when the lifeless are raised
and scourges reversed
and permanence
and the one
we lost

that good day
mostly in my cochlea
The memory of
of a call not
yet heard
The crescendo
of another
(in some Easter season)
for the life of me
all I could hear
was another


April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

"Christian faith simply would not be, did it not hear, believe, and tell what once took place between the sixth day of one week and the first of that which followed. What keeps the heart of the Christian church beating, and its blood circulating, if not the story of those days, so endlessly rehearsed, with such infinite variety and such steadfast unalterableness? Sketched out by the very first preachers, subjected to profound reflection by the apostles, extended and elaborated four different ways by the evangelists, later reduced again to apothegms by the drafters of countless creeds and confessions, the story of Christ crucified, buried, and risen continues even now to be told and acted out, year by year and week by week. The worship of every Sunday is a fleshed-out echo of what Christians have heard happened that third day, that first day of the week. Likewise the church's hymns, when thoughtful, and her preaching, when faithful, reannounce the first proclamation of death's death and sin's atonement. Each act of baptism dramatizes the dying and rising again of the Savior as well as that of those he died and lives to save; and in every celebration of communion the same story is presented and re-presented with particular intensity and unique effect, red wine refocusing the savagery of execution on Golgotha and the breaking of bread re-releasing the astonished cries of recognition in Emmaus.

Since none of these retellings of the story can be anything but symbolic and abbreviated, the Christian family takes time once a year to replay the events at their original speed — to experience for themselves the somber, then joyous, sequence, moment by moment. Through a few hours of worship and many of ordinary life, they relive annually the growing tensions of the climactic week; the grieving farewells, shameful betrayal, guilty denial, and agonizing fear of the night before the end; the long, dark, deadly day of pain and forsakenness itself; an ecstatic daybreak of miracle and color, song and newborn life; and in between one eerie, restless day of burial and waiting perhaps for nothing: a day which forces us to speak of hell and to conceive how it might be that God's own Son, and therefore God's own self, lay dead and cold within a sepulcher.

Such is faith's story, which we are invited now to hear freshly as if for the first time; to think about with the widest stretching of our minds and our imaginations; and to make our own, as the key to learning how to live and even how to die."

Alan Lewis - Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday

April 3, 2015

#neighborhood: uncomplicated

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  (John 1:14, The Message)

Sometimes we overthink church.
Take the word "ministry," for example.  If you're getting your hair done downtown and the gal next to you says something like, "You know, so-and-so's son is going into the ministry" ... you'd never think to yourself, "Ah, he's getting ready to shovel his elderly neighbor's walk."  Truth is, we've ruined a perfectly good formula (and the word) by making it more complicated than it needs to be.  Ministry = Jesus' call + genuine need + our offering of time, talent, or treasure.  90% of the time, that's it.  Forget going to seminary.  And forget about paying someone in a robe to do ministry for you.  Just look around the neighborhood.  Don't overthink it.
Do like the Presbyterians in Enon Valley do.  Once a month, they invite the whole village downstairs into their square social hall.  No overthinking going on here: just a plate full of spaghetti and meatballs (for example), and 119 (this night) of their friends and neighbors.  Churched folks, yes.  They come.  But also unchurched folks.  Lots of folks.  The mayor was here.  A mechanic and his parents.  A teenager comes in for a bite before rushing off to opening night in the school play.  An Amishman.  Kids running around.  This is not a soup line.  This feels more like someone's dining room.  Pass the butter and tell me what your grandkids are doing these days. What a blessing: an uncomplicated meal amid such complicated days.
Enon 1
All this started six years ago, when unemployment in their end of the county kicked into high gear.  Folks were hurting, worried.  Enon church decided a meal a week would be the right kind of blessing in that kind of time.  It was.  Remember: Jesus' call + genuine need + our offering.  Time went on, however, and some jobs came back around.  That's good.  It was acknowledged that something weekly was not needed anymore.  That's good, too, in its own way.  Yet by then, folks had discovered that the gathering would surely be missed if it went away altogether.  So they've carried on.  100 folks a month can't be wrong.  One year, thanks to donations from the Presbys who help out, the total cost to the church budget to serve more than a thousand folks was a remarkable $2.  How's that for a ministry formula?
Jesus' call + your community + meatballs ... or whatever you think will be a blessing.
What ministry is the Holy Spirit nudging you to share in your #neighborhood?  Don't overthink it.

#neighborhood: people

"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  (John 1:14, The Message)
I believe it was that nice man Bob, way back in the side burn days of 1971, on that new Street show for teaching children how to be nice, who first asked, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?”
(I bet you are humming the tune in your head now.)
As it turns out, that query was first raised on another street, in an interchange recalled in Luke chapter 10.  Hoping to stump Jesus publicly and make himself out to look more religious, a lawyer responds to some of his teaching about the great commandments by playing dumb and asking: Well, who really is my neighbor?  (As is sometimes the case in religious exchanges, he didn’t really want an answer.)
No one is playing dumb at First Church, New Castle, however—not about the people in their neighborhood.  Twice a month on a Saturday, all throughout the year, some First folks get organized to ask the question again.  The doors are opened to the Social Hall.  Tables are set.  Ovens are warmed.  And neighbors trickle in from all around Jefferson Street.  They call it Glory Grille.  Indeed, some of you may have served.  A great many groups have pitched in over the course of 10 glorious years.  At this point, First must be inching their way toward 250 meals served since that first table setting.
But the core of this crew will tell you that it is not so much about how many meals are made or seconds served.  Sure, the numbers matter.  We measure what we value.  But ask them — the First folk who come both Saturdays a month, who feel the biggest burden to carry it on — and they’ll tell you how it is more about the people than the food.  Greeting.  Meeting.  Talking. Praying.  “Everyone should be met with a smile,” a long-time Glory girl tells me. “This should be a place that brightens their day.”  Maybe that explains the back of her shirt: “His light in the city.”  The gold on blue letters are a reminder to us all: Let the glory of our grilles, the glory of our guests, shine on the one who hosts us all in the first place.  Matthew 22:1-10
Folks at First learn twice a month who is really in their neighborhood.  Once a sanctuary full of Suits and Hats, these days some at First wrestle with how the Holy Spirit is nudging them toward the neighbors who are actually along their stretch of Jefferson.  That’s a tune all of our churches could be humming, whatever our streets are called.
Who are the people in your church’s #neighborhood?