Mystery...

Today was a gentle day at worship - beautiful, well-integrated liturgy mixed
with wonderful music and story-telling that was poignant and personal - and it felt nourishing.  We welcomed six new members into the community today, too and that was encouraging for our struggling community of faith.  Like St. Paul noted in this morning's reading:


The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption...

Two truths hit me afterwards:  first, telling personal stories in worship that are clear and honest make a difference.  People want to know that the gospel matters in our lives.  M. Craig Barnes has written:

Those in the pews may try to turn the pulpit into a pedestal, but that is only a projection of their own flawed aspirations to rise above their creaturely limitations. While there are certainly appropriate standards of faithfulness for leaders, what parishioners really want is a pastor who knows what it means to struggle against temptation and despair, like they do. They want to be led by someone who has also stayed up all night fretting over choices, regrets and fear, but who then found the quiet grace to start over the next morning. They want to see the gospel incarnated in a human life that is still far from complete but has become more interesting because the human drama is now sacred. In other words, they want a pastor who knows what it means to be them, but them in communion with God. Innocence is precious, but it's the glimpses of redemption that truly compel.

And second, you have to take a risk and be vulnerable in the story telling - nothing inappropriate or bull-shitting, of course - but vulnerable and real.  Ernest Kurtz tells this story about the word love and it is gritty and sweet:

An old Jewish woman was dying of rectal cancer. Her husband sat
at her bedside, holding her hand, talking to her and crying with her. A nurse came into the room and said, "Excuse me, sir" gently touching his shoulder. "It is time to change the bandages. If you'd leave the room, I'll be done in just a few minutes."  To which the old mans said, "Excuse me," with a gentle but determined smile, "but I'll stay right here. This tush and I have had a lot of good times together - and I'm not going to turn my back on it now."

Our humanity is often broken - and not always pretty - so we must give shape and form to the truth - but always with humility and respect.  Today, from the music of the choir and band, to the readings and prayers and embraces after the Peace, everything was real and humble and beautiful (with a small case B.  I just finished preparing next Sunday's liturgy and hope we can share something from Paul Winter's "Misa Gaia" for the celebration of "Cosmos Sunday.")

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