Monday, August 31, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
One of the peculiarities of being a pastor is sitting backwards in worship. This isn’t the case in all churches but at University, in both of our worship spaces, the pastors sit up front looking out at the congregation. This means that, throughout the worship service, anyone who wants to can see my face. If you sit in worship, you can’t see your fellow worshipper’s faces, but you can see mine. My every smile, frown, etc. is right there for you to see. There is a flip side to this. From my perspective, at least in our south sanctuary, I can see your face too – every smile, frown, etc. Only the worship leaders and choir have this perspective and our choir doesn’t even usually have it for the whole service so they miss the most interesting part: the sermon.
In some Christian traditions, the congregation really takes responsibility for the sermon. Perhaps you have experienced this at a church where the congregation is visibly and even audible praying for the pastor, encouraging the pastor, calling upon the spirit, that the word might be heard. One of my esteemed colleagues told the story at my service of ordination of delivering a sermon early on in his career where a woman in the front row rocked back and forth as she prayed, out loud, “help him Jesus” through his whole sermon. (He admittedly needed the help.)
Our church word liturgy comes from a Greek word that literally means, “the work of the people.” When the pastor is praying, presiding over the Lord’s Table, giving thanks over the waters of baptism or preaching, she or he is representatively doing the “work of the people.” The pastor’s role is representative. The pastor is leading the people in the worship that we do together. As I have looked out over the last few Sundays during the sermon, while Pastor Charles has been preaching, I have seen a number of faces that appear to get that. They have seemed actively involved in the sermon – listening, reacting, even visibly encouraging the preacher. But there are many other faces that don’t express that. Lots of folks look bored, disconnected, distracted, sometimes even perturbed. Now I can not know what is behind those faces. I cannot judge their thoughts or even how engaged they really are, but if they are engaged, if they are rooting for the preacher, if they are praying that the word may connect, they are not, in their expression and demeanor sharing that with the preacher. Now, it is always possible that there are some folks that are bored, disconnected, distracted, tired, even perturbed. However, my guess it that most people just aren’t thinking about how their expressions, reactions and demeanor can affect the preacher. We are used to being anonymous observers. Television news people, sitcom starts and talk show hosts don’t see us. They just see the camera. (Those that do see people, like late night talk show hosts, have studio audiences that have been selected, warmed up and even coached to react to and support the hosts.) We don’t owe them any support. They don’t need it. But our preachers - they are doing our work; they are leading us in the worship of God. We need their words and they need our support, we are working together to praise our creator and hear a word back as the ancient scriptures are incarnated in our setting. Every smile, nod, frown, laugh, tear, wink and amen make that work a little better. It takes a little work, but our God is worth it.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
After many years in
Even without the radical change in temperature, the change of season can draw us into new things. As adults, we can still embrace the possibility of a new year of learning and growing. I invite you to engage in the journey of lifetime through the Pathway to Discipleship. The pathway is simply a means to engage in the process of growing in our Christian walk, of beginning or continuing to look to Jesus that we might look more like Jesus.
The journey begins with u|connect, an introduction to life in The United Methodist Church, life here at University and to life in the pathway. There are two upcoming u|connect opportunities: August 9 and September 27th both at 5:00 p.m. This class is designed for those who are considering membership in the church or who have recently joined. But, I have been asked, “What about those who have been around the church for a while and want to really engage in becoming a disciple?” On September 20th at 5:00 p.m. we will offer u|re|member, a version of u|connect specially designed for current members of the church. Whether you have been here six months or were here for the building of the south sanctuary, this is a great opportunity to experience what all of our new members are experiencing and see how you might fit into the Pathway to Discipleship either as a student or a leader.
After u|connect, the journey continues in the Meeting Phase, where we ask the question “What is my need for Jesus and what do I do about?” Fall brings us three offerings in this phase. Jesus 101, which introduces us to Jesus through a look at his life as recorded in the gospel of John runs Wednesdays from October 7 through November 11. Alpha looks at many of the foundational truths and doctrines from scripture regarding Jesus and gives people a chance to discuss them with others in a small group format. It is offered Mondays for ten weeks September 14 through November 16. Finally on October 23-24, we will present Jesus for Seekers and Skeptics. This short retreat centers on some common questions in the hearts of those who still have some doubts and concerns in their hearts about the idea of a relationship with God including: “Is hating the Church a reason not to like Jesus?” “Will God really send non-Christians to hell?” “Hasn't science defeated faith?” and “Isn’t this just about getting a get-out-of-hell-free card?” Pastor Adam, our J.S.S. team and I recently completed our first retreat and it was an amazing experience. We are looking forward to being part of the experience again in October.
If you have completed the Meeting Phase, fall is a great time to continue the journey of discipleship in the Message Phase where we ask the question “What is the news about Jesus and what do I do about it?” Our premier offering in the Meeting Phase is Disciple Bible Study. Disciple I is a study that moves from the very beginning of creation in Genesis to the compelling images of hope in the book of Revelation. There are 17 sessions on the Old Testament in the fall and 17 on the New Testament in the spring. This program is more than Bible study; it is a transforming small-group experience. Because of the small-group nature of Disciple, space is limited. We are currently offering sessions Sunday, Monday and Wednesday evenings and Monday morning. For those who aren’t ready to commit to the long-term, consider Invitation to the Bible, a day long retreat that offers a lightening-fast tour through the Bible, plus a chance to learn about some of the tools and methods that will help you to read and study the Bible on your own. If you want to read and study the Bible but just don’t know where to start, join us on Saturday, September 19.
It has not been quite a year since we officially rolled out the pathway. We are excited that we already have people entering the third phase, the Mission Phase where we ask, “What is my call from Jesus and what do I do about it?” We have people engaged in Coach’s Directed Study exploring their calling through Bible study with one of our coaching pastors. We are sending people on The Walk to Emmaus to hear what God may be calling them to next. And in August, we launch the final piece of our pathway with The Pastor’s Academy led by Directing Pastor
This is an amazing season in the life of
Thursday, August 6, 2009
It's SO over: cool cyberkids abandon social networking sites at guardian.co.uk
Why Willow Creek and Saddleback are Losing Influence While North Point and LifeChurch.tv are Gaining Influence