Sunday, August 23, 2009

where the rubber meets the road

It has been one of those weekends.
I knew Saturday night that my frame of mind may only be improved with a trip through Andy's drive thru and ordering a key lime pie concrete.
You have probably had one of those kind of weekends.

I don't know if the details are as important as the questions that surfaced.
I didn't really ask the questions aloud.
Well, unless you count as I stood over my college best friend's grave.
Through a random series of events, I found myself looking down at the marker and realizing it had been almost 10 years since I talked to her in person. Theologically, I knew as I spoke aloud in that empty cemetery that my voice being projected was more for me than any other.
The conversation was a process of thoughts developing slowly at first and then snowballed into a rather enlightening awareness.

As a pastor, I knew I would be called into hospital hallways during the most vulnerable of times.
This was one of those weekends.
As a fixer, I wanted to have the answers. I never seem to have the answers when it counts.
I didn't have any answers for the family whose son would only call earth his home for only a few more hours.
Or a family whose little boy has had a rough first few weeks of his precious life and seen the inside of a hospital more than anyone should.
I have no answers for the family who just across the field would be burying a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and brother. (The reason for being in the cemetery in the first place).
I told this all to the clean cut grass beneath my feet.
My best friend from college who had always seem to have an opinion about my boyfriends and my college dorm decor was silent.

Yea, these questions were between God and I.

What is it that I believe? What is it that I stand before a congregation and profess?
If what I say when I wear a black robe doesn't mean anything in my sandals and capris in CCU or in the middle of a cemetery than it means nothing.
That is when the rubber meets the road. Faith.

If I profess God to be a comforter, than I must believe God to be of comfort when I pray that for a family.

If I profess that God has more for us than this moment, that Jesus' words of a place beyond this place are true, than I must believe it when standing before death.

If I profess that God is a healer than I must believe God can and will heal when it is God's will to do so.

I guess you could say this weekend consisted of some rubber meets the road moments.
And you could say that I figured out where I stood.

I believe that the God I worship on Sunday morning is in the details of life.
The voice that called me into ministry, tenderly whispers to these families "I love you".
The arms that have led me this far, holds each of these people (including you and me) with a gentleness that is beyond understanding.

Yes, when faith meets reality - God is there.
And for that, I am thankful.

Because the key lime concrete only made me feel stuffed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Church: rain or shine?

I was on vacation recently and this included a Sunday morning. Yes, a Sunday morning in which I was not required by my employment to put on a robe and stand in front of a church congregation. (Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I just did not have a place I had to be this particular morning.)

As the day approached, I considered what I would do with my morning. Would I attend the UM church just down the street? It is a small congregation, I would probably stand out. I want to blend in, not stand out this Sunday morning.

I could attend the mega-church across the highway. However, that would be listening to a sermon and some music. Do I want more of an experience than I could receive from a podcast and a CD?

What will I do with my Sunday morning?

As the sun broke through the night, I started to eye my half finished paint job on my garage door. The weather is beautiful. If I get an early start on my painting task, I could have a couple coats on before afternoon arrives. Dilemma, dilemma.

This decision got me thinking about why people attend the church I currently serve. Seriously, why would I expect anyone to attend worship on a beautiful Sunday morning when there are garage doors to be painted?

Okay before you start judging me. Yes, I know Scripture speaks of the reason to be in worship. I know we are called to lift our praises to God in thankfulness...just read the Psalms, its pretty clear why we are to be in corporate worship. That is not my question. I didn't ask if God calls us to gather for worship.
I understand enough about Wesley theology and prevenient grace to know that the Holy Spirit is pursuing our hearts to reconnect with our creator and worship is often used by the Holy Spirit to draw us closer. Again, not the question on the table.

I asked what would bring a stranger into our building to worship instead of tackling the "to do list" in their often too busy life.

What brings that visitor through our doors instead of sleeping in or spending leisure time with family or working in the yard on a Sunday morning?

To hear a powerful and dynamic teaching.
I could listen to a sermon podcasts downloaded off iTunes from any of the well known dynamic preachers that exist today.

To eat a donut and have a cup of coffee from our incredible hospitality ministry.
Krispy Kreme has a drive through, do I need to say more?

To watch our high tech, vibrant and relevant media we use in worship.
I have a hundred channels on my HD flat screen and can rent a movie at McDonalds.

Each of the above points of attraction are important and I appreciate everything our congregation does to enhance our worship, hospitality and technology. And many people attend churches based on these attributes. However, I don't think those things pull people off the paint ladders and into the pew. (Sorry for the continued paint analogy. I am blaming it on the paint fumes.)

So, what is it that brings people through the doors on a Sunday morning?

I think (and this is just a spitball answer from a vacation focused mind) it is community.
Not just community you can receive from being a part of the Rotary Club or a Sorority.

We all desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. To be part of a community that is focused on something larger than our little world of garage doors. A community that because of the Holy Spirit will get up at the crack of dawn and serve donuts and coffee. A group of people so focused on what Christ has done they want worship to be dynamic, vibrant, powerful and relevant so more people will become part of the community known as the body of Christ. Because, yes worship is about giving God our best.

However keep in mind next Sunday morning, that person siting next to you in the pew may have put down the paint brush long enough to walk through the church's front door.

Will they find a community of hope within the congregation?