Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Important Message to All Methobloggers:

Please, whatever you do, nobody tell John about this.
I don't want to be responsible for getting him riled up.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cursillo Weekend - Prayer-O-Rama

This past weekend at the Cursillo my wife and I helped with, I prayed more often and longer than I have in my life. That was kind of the point of what I was responsible for, to pray for people. But I have never prayed with such intentionality and specificity for such an extended period of time.

And kneeling, no less! I tried a variety of postures: I knelt with my back straight and my hands held out, I knelt down low and almost "hunkered over," I knelt on one knee, I leaned on the altar with my elbows - any posture you can kneel in, I tried! Different postures leant themselves to different prayers, I found. Depending on where I was spiritually, I think different postures just somehow "worked" better.

It was an amazing weekend, again. Four people from our church attended, and four were there to work. Everyone had a powerful experience in the presence of a community of grace and love and unconditional care and compassion. My wife and I were each moved, renewed, and exhausted! We return to the world with the assurance that God is good and the undeserved grace of Christ is sufficient and the Holy Spirit is alive and calls us all to serve one another with love and joy.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Don't Be Church People: Thoughts on Luke 4

Luke 4:14-30: The Synagogue People

The synagogue people thought all along that Messiah was coming to them, and for them. And furthermore, they had heard the scuttlebutt that this Jesus bar Joseph may just be the One. Imagine their surprise, then, when they hear the list Jesus reads them (v. 18). It is a list that describes the people Jesus has been anointed to serve:
- the poor,
- the captives,
- the blind,
- the oppressed.
And, via his reference to the Hebrew scriptures (vv. 25-27):
- the foreigners,
- the widows,
- the lepers.

“Hey,” said the synagogue people, “We don’t hear ‘synagogue people’ on your list, Jesus.”
JC replied, “That’s right.”
“But what do you know, carpenter boy?” they fired back, thinking, “He must not be Messiah, after all. How could he be, since WE didn’t make the list?”
In fact, the absence of the synagogue people from the list made them so mad that they decided to throw Jesus right over the cliff, out of their lives forever.
How many times do we, realizing that Jesus is here for more than just “us,” try to throw him over the cliff and out of our lives forever?
- By the way, “US” = people who look like me, act like me, think like me, share my morals, speak my language, believe what I believe, are in my age group, have my same sexual orientation, earn an amount of money similar to mine, are of similar skin color, and so forth.

Of course, the synagogue people in Luke 4 threw Jesus only out of their own lives; they did not deter his mission. Up at the top of that cliff, Jesus walked right through the midst of them and went on his way (v. 30). And, presumably, the synagogue people went right on being synagogue people, and missed the whole thing.

Let’s not be “church people,” thinking that Jesus is somehow “ours,” came to “us,” is here for “us,” saves “us” from “our” sins – all of which presumes a “them” and a “they” for whom Jesus did not come: the “not-church people.” Remember the list: poor, captives, blind, oppressed, foreigners, widows, lepers. The ones whom the world forgets, Jesus remembers. Our inability to grasp the scope of the Messiah’s mission will not deter it, but it may mean that we miss the whole thing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Missouri Ministers' School 2007

Whew! Residents in Ministry and then Missouri Ministers' School last week just about wiped me out. The RIM meeting was Monday and Tuesday, then Ministers' School was Tuesday through Thursday, back to back. The RIM planners several years ago reasoned that tacking the RIM meeting onto the beginning of Ministers' School would save people a trip. In truth, it just makes the week really, really long and forces many residents to choose one meeting or the other, and since the RIM meeting is requried for ordination, guess which one they choose.

Tidbits from last week:
- We had a breakout session about blogging as a spiritual discipline as a part of the RIM meeting. About twenty of us sat in a circle and talked about blogs, why people have them, how to set them up, and their potential as not only a personal spiritual discipline but also a powerful ministry tool to facilitate communication and evangelism. It was good to be able to speak as the "resident expert," so to speak.

- It is extremely hard, if not impossible, to be present at one meeting while trying to prepare for another. I am the chair of the Board of Managers for Ministers' School, and so I was trying to make sure everything was set and ready for that big event, but at the same time I was trying to be at the RIM meeting. Not recommended.

- Ministers' School went quite well, with no major glitches. We have a fantastic board of managers this year, who all did their jobs very well, thus making my job all that much easier. The faculty this year was Bishop Robert Schnase, Dr. Hal Knight, and Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III. They were focusing on the theme "Stay Focused on Jesus: the Reward is Worth the Effort." The theme and faculty were put together by the dean, who this year was Rev. Dorothy Smith. Around 250 clergy from all over the state attended.
*I will be the dean in 2009 and 2010 - I'm pretty excited for that!

- During Ministers' School this year, I did something I have never done before. From my spot at the piano, I "bumped the preacher" at the end of his sermon! It was great! I had attended worship services where the organist or pianist started playing along with the preacher as the sermon reached its climax, and always wondered if they worked it out ahead of time or just kind of let it happen. Tuesday night, I was listening to Rev. Cleaver (EC3) preach, and thought to myself, "This sermon is pretty good. It is just the kind of sermon that ought to have a little musical umph." And before I knew what was happening, I was doing it. And when I talked with Emanuel afterwards, he said that it was good, so I was happy.
If you haven't experienced it, "bumping" is comprised of extemporaneous, improvised phrases on the keyboard, in time and pattern with the preacher's sermon. These phrases should be in a blues/gospel style, and ideally will accentuate the rhythm of what the preacher is saying, enhancing the experience for the congregation. Most of the time, it happens in a black church, but my very caucasian hands just seemed to take on a life of their own and the back-and-forth between Emanuel and me really felt like the Spirit was moving. It was pretty cool.

- I have started the spiritual discipline of Examen - at the end of every day I pause and look back over the day, asking myself when I experienced the presence of Christ most fully, when I felt furthest away from God, when I was able to love as God loves, when did I fail to do so, and so forth. This discipline is a part of my Residency covenant.

Okay, there's more from last week, but I'll just stop there. Any more at this point would just be boring. Onward ...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On the Way to Ordination

Next week is going to be a biggie. Monday and Tuesday will be my final Residents in Ministry meeting before ordination, and Tuesday through Thursday will be Missouri Ministers’ School, of which I am the chair of the Board of Managers. Both events, which technically do not overlap but practically do, are at Tan-Tar-a Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri. By the time I get home Thursday evening, I expect I’ll be pretty wiped out.

What a ride this trip toward ordination has been, and continues to be! If I am ordained this June, it will have been almost eight years since I responded to God’s call and made the decision to seek ordination. That’s a lifetime. EIGHT YEARS! And now just a few short months (and one high-pressure round of interviews) to go.

To kneel before God, surrounded by the conference, uplifted by my family, fortified by the six generations of ordained Methodist clergy before me, to feel the Bishop’s hands on my head, to bend and receive a stole around my neck for the first time in over a year, to know the church’s affirmation of the way the Holy Spirit is at work in my life – I cannot now imagine what that’s all going to feel like. But I’ll bet you it will be pretty cool.

I may even write a blog post about it. ;)