Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're Ba-ack!!!

We're back from this year's annual conference, inspired, refreshed (after catching up with some sleep) and full of ideas competing for attention.  Where to start, where to start....
Well, right here of course!  On July 5th I'll start my tenth year of ministry with the folks of Readfield UMC.  There are different faces than there were then. We've said good bye to Freda, Bob, Bill, Fred, and many others.  Friends have
 moved on to new places and pursuits (What is Alan  Lake up to out there in Arizona these
 days? And how's Melinda doing over at Kent's Hill School's office?)  There are different challenges than there were then.  Remember when we looked out and wondered whether we'd ever get a mission trip up and running?  In 2010 there will be three adult/youth ventures to Louisiana and another to Kaoma, Zambia. 
Right here is where we'll seek and serve Christ this year, right here- wherever we each find ourselves:  in homes and schools, Sunday school rooms and choir rehearsals, the food pantry, the Gulf, Kaoma.  Here we are.  Jesus has prepared the way and ministry is waiting.
This year its my goal to invite guest bloggers to share their "where we are" stories with us.  Meanwhile, here's a sneak peak at where Jeff found himself during the preparations for Annual Conference....designing and building a book for living gospel storytellers to walk out of.  What story of God's grace will you carry from here?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Should have and did.


What are you running toward?   

An ad in the Boston Subway proclaimed "Don't ever have to say, "I should have."  

Standing in front of it were dozens of i-pod wearers creating islands of personal space. 

I wonder when Jesus would have used an i-pod (I'm pretty sure he would have loved the incredible variety of music) and when he would have left the ear buds out so that he connected with what was happening around him.

"Don't ever have to say, I should have."

Even church can become a set of private islands, each plugged into our own pew and our own view, a place to get away from it all.  Jesus understood.  Everywhere he went people were coming at him with their needs.  He plans a weekend on the lakeshore in Gerosene and a crazy guy jumps out at him.  Jesus heads back across the lake to Galilee and Jairus runs up, begging him to heal his little daughter.  Jesus hardly gets two steps toward Jairus' house and a woman tugs on him hem, embarrassed but desperate for relief form her 12 year hemorrhage.

I guess that's what happens when people get the message that God really cares about them, cares enough to reach out and touch their lives.  When they glimpse the real church, the one that knows care is not a list of tasks or even something we do, its who we are. It's Jesus' way of being.

Here's a way to tell whether you're "in or out" of what Jesus is doing.  Most folks got really annoyed.  The Gerosenes had the guy's craziness safely under control-over there outside town.  The people 'pressing in' on Jesus  moving toward Jairus' house were disgusted when that unclean woman interrupted  their entertainment.  When Jesus said "do not fear, only believe," i can do both, most stayed scornfully "out."

Only the real followers, and the child's parents, the woman now healed, went along. "Don't ever have to say, I should have."

What are you running toward?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An African Proverb says that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.  
Why is it so hard for us who follow the prince of peace not just to remember but to actually live this truth?  Ted Lydden Hatten, Conference Artist this week at the Iowa UMC annual conference, has a creative way to remind us of the relationships in Christ that are deeper and wider than our disagreements.  (This may load slowly, but is well worth watching the whole video.)
What chair might you prayerfully find yourself facing today?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Church Making

How would you go about creating a church? What would the key components be?  What would its parts be? Go ahead, take a blank piece of paper and have some fun designing with words or pictures.  After a while, imagine what other people's creations might look like.  What might God's version look like? 

There are as many ways of imagining ‘Church” as there have been Christians, and, especially since the reformation, we’ve tested a great many options.

What are the essentials?

We tend to think in terms of product. This is what a church looks like (or ought to look like).

But God works in Pentecost process,  consecrating us with the Holy Spirit's touch, cultivating us to become like Christ, and activating us to live as God's people. Anything we create and call” church” is a form for God to work through as God builds these processes. This is how a church is made.

 Here’s what we at Readfield UMC call the essential elements in our church’s experience: 

The foundation of our church is Christ.  Everything we build must be on Christ’s Holy foundation of Faith Hope, Love. If we don’t build on, and take care of, our relationship with that foundation we might as well be building on a sand bar.  So let's think of Christ's presence in the red of Pentecost as we celebrate God's living presence.

God has purpose for us.  We discover that purpose in the next set of elements, the way we nurture our relationship with God and the way we reach out with and because of our relationship with God.  We live tending the fire within our community and within our lives, reaching out with the light of Christ. 

Nurture follows God’s call to intentionally grow in our fellowship with each other, in our worship practices, in our mind, body and spirit, not just as individuals, but also an expression of the body of Christ.  Let’s color this area of our life together blue, for the deep waters of baptism, blue for –nurturing our souls (in-tending). 

Outreach follows God’s call to extend the grace that grounds and transforms our lives.  We reach out with words of witness and acts of mercy that respond to real people’s real needs.  We reach out with the work of justice, demanding that human community make a safe, healthy, respected place for each and all human beings.    Let’s color this area of our life yellow, for the light of Christ that shines brighter each time one of us extends the faith hope and love that give us life and purpose. 

 Then, as we're making our church, there are the people who develop and care for the gifts God gives us.  Green is for People (the Staff Parish Relations Committee & the Lay Leadership team)

White is  for property and our team of Trustees who keep our buildings and grounds clean and ready for ministry and our investments transparently in order.

And black is what we keep our budget in, thank Finance members. How many of us are at stick figure stage?)

But as all of us bring our gifts for God’s consecration, cultivate, and activation, we are pefected together, as individuals and as a community in that love that gives us holy ground to stand on and a holy purpose to reach toward.