An odd collection for the first Sunday after Easter...

After nearly 30 years of ordained ministry - and 43 years after I was called into ministry - I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the first Sunday after Easter.  Don't get me wrong: the whole drama and intensity of Holy Week is always powerful and important to me both personally and professionally.  What's more, I always discern something true for me and the people I am serving during this time, too.

But let's face it: there is nothing flashy or intense about the week AFTER Easter!  The rubric is that Senior clergy take that week off and the Associate Pastor gets to preach - and most people stay at home.  And I rather like that this year.  I will be starting a new sermon series grounded in some of the ideas in Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, so I'm looking forward to this celebration.  And we're going to celebrate the Eucharist AFTER the close of worship so that only those people truly interested in community need gather around the table.  As well as anyone who is curious or confused - there's a palce at the table for them, too.

And that brings me to two different writings that seem to me to be at the heart of my ministry in this post-Easter season.  The first is called "A 20 Point Plan for Church Renewal" that was reprinted from Diana Butler Bass's blog.  I love it - both the irony and the gentle loving - as it speaks to the anxiety so many of us in the post-modern, post-establishment era of the Western church face all the time.

Be genuine. Do not under any circumstances try to be trendy or hip, if you are not already intrinsically trendy or hip. If you are a 90-year-old woman who enjoys crocheting and listens to Beethoven, by God be proud of it.

Stop pretending you have a rock band.

Stop arguing about whether gay people are okay, fully human, or whatever else. Seriously. Stop it.

Stop arguing about whether women are okay, fully human, or are capable of being in a position of leadership.

Stop looking for the "objective truth" in Scripture.

Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.

Actually read the Scriptures. If you are Episcopalian, go buy a Bible and read it. Start in Genesis, it's pretty cool. You can skip some of the other boring parts in the Bible. Remember though that almost every book of the Bible has some really funky stuff in it. Remember to keep #5 and #6 in mind though. If you are evangelical, you may need to stop reading the Bible for about 10 years. Don't worry: during those ten years you can work on putting these other steps into practice.

Start worrying about extreme poverty, violence against women, racism, consumerism, and the rate at which children are dying worldwide of preventable, treatable diseases. Put all the energy you formerly spent worrying about the legit-ness of gay people into figuring out ways to do some good in these areas.

Do not shy away from lighting candles, silence, incense, laughter, really good food, and extraordinary music. By "extraordinary music" I mean genuine music. Soulful music. Well-written, well-composed music. Original music. Four-part harmony music. Funky retro organ music. Hymns. Taize chants. Bluegrass. Steel guitar. Humming. Gospel. We are the church; we have a uber-rich history of amazing music. Remember this.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Learn how to sit with people who are dying.
Feast as much as possible. Cardboard communion wafers are a feast in symbol only. Humans can not live on symbols alone. Remember this.

Notice visitors, smile genuinely at them, include them in conversations, but do not overwhelm them.

Be vulnerable.

Stop worrying about getting young people into the church. Stop worrying about marketing strategies. Take a deep breath. If there is a God, that God isn't going to die even if there are no more Christians at all.

Figure out who is suffering in your community. Go be with them.

Remind yourself that you don't have to take God to anyone. God is already with everyone. So, rather than taking the approach that you need to take the truth out to people who need it, adopt the approach that you need to go find the truth that others have and you are missing. Go be evangelized.

Put some time and care and energy into creating a beautiful space for worship and being-together. But shy away from building campaigns, parking lot expansions, and what-have-you.
Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7. Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

Listen to God (to Wisdom, to Love) more than you speak your opinions.

This is a fool-proof plan. If you do it, I guarantee that you will attract young people to your church. And lots of other kinds of people too. The end.

The second comes from the wisdom and lived experience of Maya Angelou who IMHO looks more and more like the Living God than almost anybody else (except, of course, Bishop Tutu.)  She writes about what I used to call "Johnny Cash" Christianity - a humble, gentle way of owning our wounds and God's grace without ANY of the preachy mean-spirited evangelism that so often poisons the water.


When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ..."I am a Christian,"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble,
And need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian, I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak,
And need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed,
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible,
But God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches,
So I call upon His name.

When I say ... "I am a Christian,"
I'm not holier than thou.
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace somehow.

credits:
1) Stephen Watley @http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenbwhatley/4510784644/
2) Mako Fujimura
3) Dianne De Mott 

Comments

RJ said…
pax - blessings to you.
Black Pete said…
BTW, our province has passed a law, to be implemented in stages, which mandates all the public buildings in the province to be fully accessible, and full services available for people with disabilities, by 2025. Churches will not be grandfathered, either. So, there won't be any more dragging of feet on that issue, at least...

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