Monday, April 30, 2012
Something a bit unusual happened at morning worship today. Something like it happened a few years ago while Terry Teykl was leading a Saturday prayer seminar. He shared a concern for a friend in Texas and asked us to write a prayer for him on a note card. Then, he called his friend on his cell phone, put it on speaker phone, and asked us all to read our individual prayers aloud at the same time while his friend listened. Cell phone technology was put to spiritual use that afternoon.
This morning we came to the moment of sharing as a congregation our prayer concerns. As we were beginning with this part of the service, I noticed one woman picking up her cell phone and look at what I assumed was a text message. She was on call from work, but while she was reading that text she noticed another from a man who is an every Sunday attender, but was absent. This text told her our missing guy was at the hospital with his wife who went with chest pains. So, immediately we prayed for her.
Technology not only came to worship, but brought a new dimension to our moment of community worship. I have personally prayed with many people through a telephone connection. When unable to be in someone's presence, it can be a powerful moment of being together in prayer before the God who hears us as we pray. When technology can serve holy purposes, it makes no sense to refrain. God created it along with the world and its stuff.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Since the light was taking forever to change from red to green, I looked to the left and out the open window. He was on his knees leaning over the wet concrete of a new stretch of sidewalk. With his trowel in hand, he was making a smooth surface out of rough looking freshly poured concrete. As I looked at the long stetch of completed work which showed evidence of his hand, I marvelled that a man could stay at such a hard job for such a long time and continue to do it with such care. And then I wondered if he realized that he was not doing concrete work, but was instead someone working to create a safe place for people to walk while busy motorist raced wherever it is they were going.
Culture would say his work was menial. I guess that would make him a "menial-ist." There are a lot of his kind around us. Unfortunately, they become invisible to too many people who see themselves working at something better than menial jobs. Those of us who having trouble seeing the many menial-ist around us need some new eyes. The clerks at the grocery store are not just running a scanner, but are a part of that long chain of people from farmers to migrant workers to buyers to truckers to store owners who provide food for our famiies. The custodians of our institutions and businesses do not just clean toilets and floors, but create inviting places to use. The inmates of the prison work detail are not just picking up roadside trash, but are some of the people who are offering care for the environment by cleaning up after careless and thoughtless folks.
The list of invisible workers grows as we look around us with more care. We might call them the menial-ists, but Jesus would likely see them as some of the least of us who stand first in His line of love and care. As the green light sent me chasing the car ahead of me, I realized that I should have at least hollered out my car window to the guy doing safety work, "Great job!"
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Advent may be the first season of the Christian year, but Easter is the linchpin which holds it all together. All the other seasons (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Pentecost) are set by Easter and Easter is the one day which is determined by a constant. The constant is seen in the night time sky during these days. Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. In other words, Easter is determined by something which is a part of the creative order.
Once that date is set, all the other seasons fall in place. Fifty days after Easter comes Pentecost. Four Sundays before Christmas Day, Pentecost ends and Advent begins. Twelve days after Christmas comes Epiphany. And, finally Lent is fixed by backing up from Easter forty days (excluding Saturdays and Sundays). Easter is the liturgical linchpin which holds the Christian year together and it is the one date determined not by what is on the earth, but by what is in the heavens.
But, more importantly, Easter proclaims that resurrection truth which is central to the gospel message. Throw Easter away and there is nothing but foolishness. The Apostle Paul made it clear that the message of the resurrection is the one essential of our Christian faith. It is one of those things which is non-negotiable. It is the linchpin of the Christian calendar and the Christian faith.
In a book of sermons, Frederick Buechner, tells us of his return to Princeton University for the 50th reunion of his graduating class. He remembers a classmate who upon graduation day moved up and down the line of graduates asking each one, "What are you going to do now?" The author confesses to being too shallow with his quick answer and then writes, "The question now, of course, is what did we do with rest of our lives, and that is more unsettling still." But, it is only a bit later in the sermon that he comes to the really unsettling question, "What are you going to do with the rest of your life?" Of course, as he points out, we do not know if the "rest of our life" is defined by a few years or many long years.
At this point in my journey, it became a question that fits the definition of being unsettling. After retiring from a lifetime of ministry, it is an easy thing to simply say, "Well, that is finished." And maybe it is. Actually, maybe is not the operative word. Ministry as I have known it for nearly forty years is finished. But, there is also this "rest of my life" which is before me for whatever season of time it represents.
We come to many such moments when we find ourselves asking the question about the rest of our life. It is not an uncommon question when significant change challenges us to move into a future made new and different. It is the question of retired folks, folks with new jobs, newlyweds, people who face life threatening illnesses, the death of loved ones, a move to a strange place, and a host of other life circumstances. In reality the question, "What are you going to do with the rest of your life?" is for everyone, every day.