Susan Boyle Kind of Church

Everyone has something to offer everyone else.  We all have gifts of the Spirit.

Susan Boyle surprised us because she was a homely Scottish woman who lived her whole life in poor, small village taking care of her mother, and had grown to forty-seven years and never been kissed.  She took YouTube by storm as she starred on the British version of American Idol.  When she opened her mouth to sing, what came out brought the whole crowd to its feet and a smile of joy to that chronic curmudgeon Simon Cowell.  She reminded us everyone has something to offer.   Click here to be inspired again by her mind blowing performance.

The church must make sure each of us and all of us have our chance to contribute to the fellowship of faith.  If there are persons who are not contributing then we are all hurt and at fault.  Churches full of people taking steps toward each so that everyone is able to offer their gifts; are churches who sing songs that surprise.

Don’t ever stop offering yourself waiting for something new or to change.  Volunteer where needed, call persons whom you have missed, write notes to the homebound or infirmed, go on a mission trip, join a choir, become hospitable, take a turn  caring for under-served children or  preschoolers or engage in any number of opportunities right near you.  Don’t just stand there; we need each other and God needs you.

Carve out wider clearing in the forest of your world; colonizing your part of the world for heaven’s sake.

Back to Work!

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RIVER OF LOVE

Faith trusts the flow of the river of life.  It is always best to stay in the stream.  I believe in the natural current of process, which I don’t have to change, coerce, or improve.

This requires me to exhibit incalculable confidence in God, especially when troubled.  Usually, I am certain I have the ability to make things work.  So, I rush right up into my head trying to change or create the flow of the river.  This is a loss of nerve in God who loves me more than I can know.  Worse, it robs me of any ability to be present with a God who is already at work; flowing the river of life through me.

So, I remind myself on this day God is not an authoritarian who seeks selfish good.  My God is a lover who desires to shape the divine image within me.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, From Everything Belongs

Published in: on March 28, 2011 at 7:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friends and Enemies

We are walking toward the cross in this Lenten season and the Judas story is right around the corner.  It amazes me Jesus does not treat Judas like his enemy.  Jesus calls him “Friend.”  What’s more, Jesus even tries to find the hand of God in all this.  I rarely think of that possibility first.

 

Caravaggio's take on Judas's betrayal

Over the years, people in churches have gotten on my case for bad theology, manners, preaching style or other various and sundry matters.  They are usually trying to marginalize their pastor in some way.  (Some I can’t blame when I look back at some of those sermons.)  In one case, I decided to confront such a person in the church parking lot.  The person craters and hardly ever spoke to me again.  Years later, I am still stewing about it.

 

I tried to fight fire with fire, and we both, got burned.  I took a person, who too is a child of God, and make a betrayer and devil out of him.  The chance at reconciliation went out the window by my using the violence of harsh words to defeat my enemy.

Jesus seems crazy when he says bless those who curse us, do good to them that do us harm.  Turn the other cheek.  Love our enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.  Seek peace and pursue it.  Put away the sword.  Pour water on fire.  Lower the temperature.  Cool things down.  These teachings seem so hard when we experience betrayal, rejection, denial, and loss.  Setting down our sense to be right is the Jesus form of peacemaking, though it goes against all of our natural instincts.

The reason this is so hard is because it seems so crazy.  Maybe crazy is just the tonic we need.  The paradox of peacemaking in our sick world is we are called to fight fire with Living Water.  After all, this Lenten road leads to a cross constructed by enemies of a Christ, who forgave them and us and us and called all of us “Friends”.

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Patience, Here and Now

We are spending these next few weeks looking at the Fruit of the Spirit as a way to answer Jesus question, “Do you love me?”  I offer this as a tease of some upcoming material in our worship experiences.

One of the Fruits of the Spirit is patience, learning the best things take time. We are a culture of the quick fix; who are tinged with a sense of arrogance we can fix anything now.  Some of us want to cultivate patience right now or at least at the end of this coming worship series.  Cultivation is a lifelong process.

Olive tree farmers know an olive tree will bear fruit in its 5th or 6th year, and doesn’t reach maximum yield until it is 30 or 40 years old.  When the olive growers plant an olive tree, they say a prayer: “God protect it and make it grow so that my children’s grandchildren will benefit from its abundance.”  That is patience.

I will not try to improve on Father Henri Nouwen’s words about patience.  “Patience is a hard discipline.  It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict.  Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something.  Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are.  When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are.  We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else.  Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”  Imagine cultivating this kind of love of Jesus who loves us in patient and unimaginable ways.

I am headed back to nourish the field called my heart and soul; it needs a bit more cultivation and time to grow.

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Variation on Sisters and Brothers

Dear sisters and brothers:

Holidays and family gatherings are synonymous.  The Thanksgiving table and the Christmas tree bring families together like no other dates on the calendar.  Families who are blessed with the ability gather on these days will express gratitude for each other.  This is a gift no person should take for granted.

There are those who will not be able to be with family during these times for a variety of reasons-distance, discord, death, etc.  They will look elsewhere to create family during this season.  We can thank God that there are so many creative ways to find family during the holidays.

The coming holy days initiated my thoughts concerning church family.  I recall being in churches where everyone called each other brother this or sister that.  It is likely if this was your custom you probably grew up poor.  Once people get money they like to be known by their family name in church.

The reason churches called each other Sister Gladys and Brother Herb was to remind them that flesh and blood does not inherit the kingdom of God.  Nobody gets to take a last name to heaven.  The family of destiny takes precedence over the family of origin.  It is difficult orienting life in this way because it interrupts our familiar familial ways.

We all know spiritual sisters and brothers whom we need to make room for at our table during these seasons.  Imagine how much a new family member might add to the festivities.  Brother Juan or Sister Imogene might just be just what the family needs.

Our big brother Jesus is adamant there will always be room at the kingdom table and enough spiritual grace to go around for all.  Also, a new addition to the family gives another reason to bow our heads and offer thanks to our Heavenly Father for the gift of all our sisters and brothers.

Time for me to get busy setting the family table,

Russell

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment