Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Blog for Blogging's Sake

This is probably very self-centered of me...assuming that my thoughts are so important that I should bother blogging with my new HTC EGO 4G.

I love this phone so very much.

Jesus is probably "tsk-tsk"ing me from the right hand of the father. Possibly he is quoting Isaiah, "my thoughts are higher then your thoughts....


ok so Isaiah never said that latter part.

But what if I DID think like God? What would be the main difference?

Aside from being perfect and Holy, I think that my thoughts differ from God's thoughts in this way;

God doesn't just think. God DOES.
There is no disconnect between God's loving thoughts and God's loving action.

Lord, may it also be with me. Let me not be a man divided into segregated heart, hands and mind, but let me serve you as wholly one, o Holy One.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Can Take The Guidos and Guidettes Out of Jersey, But You Can't Take Jesus Out Of Anywhere...

Yes, that is the back of none other than Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino's head. Really, his haircut should come as not surprise. Look how often you see the cross hanging from the necks of the stars of MTV's Jersey Shore. The boys especially wear rosaries quite often (which I understand to be a no no for Catholics?) and Ronnie of course has a HUGE black tattoo of a cross on his back.
I'm going to be bringing up Jersey Shore and its cast in this week's sermon. Of course this means I'll be yapping on about the absurdity of "reality television" and the ridiculous ideals, values and behaviors that shows like Jersey Shore promotes and propose as how reality should be understood. I'm also just a wee bit off-put by the continuous presence of the cross of Christ in the show, and the continuous absence of Christ-likeness.

Or so one might think.

Whether I mention it in the sermon or not - I need to point out one aspect of Jersey Shore that I love (apart from the rest of it that I love as a guilty pleasure).

Every Sunday night it seems, the entire crew gather as a family at a big table and share a home-made meal together. Regardless of whatever spats have occurred or whatever resentment remains, they still come together and share a meal. And at that table you often see forgiveness, reconciliation and (dysfunctional though it may be) love. Remind you of another table? If not, then you haven't been paying attention at Communion - cause that's what's supposed to happen there. The Church, since the beginning has gathered around a meal, for the past millennia plus celebrated in a simple two-courses; bread and wine.

And really, should we look down on Mike, Ronnie, Snookie, Jenni, Pauly, Sammy, Vinny or Angelina? Is this group of sinners really that different from us - just another group of sinners that gather around a table and find forgiveness and love? (Yes, even Angelina...)

I'm just waiting for one of the Jersey Shore girls to bring home some strange middle-eastern lookin' dude to that dinner table - and watch him grab the garlic bread and tear off pieces, pass them around and say "take, eat, this is my body..."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Meaningful Christmas

So I'm already thinking about worship for this Christmas. It's actually a big deal because when I say "for Christmas" I'm mean the four Sundays of Advent and Christmas Eve.

I love most of the things we do at Christmas time.
- the lighting of the Advent wreath
- candlelight Christmas Eve service
- familiar Christmas songs
- familiar Christmas scriptures

But I want to make sure that we don't fall into simple sentimentalism here. Christmas should be meaningful! I mean this is the celebration of Jesus' Birth - and given our theology, that's a BIG deal!

Remember who we Christians say Jesus is? Yeah...he's God in human flesh. The first Christmas was a universe-shaking event, it literally changed everything. This is the day that God became human - for us, for all creation. God became a living, breathing, cooing, drooling, pooping baby boy named Jesus.

That's pretty meaningful. Christmas says so much to us about a God - OUR God - who loves his creatures so much that He was willing to become one of us. This isn't a God that stays remote up in heaven, not caring, not involved - our God became one of US.

So to commemorate this...we buy crap.
Seriously, we (and I include myself here) buy stuff we don't need, that really has no use but to satisfy our own lust for material possessions.

And I know - a pastor ranting against materialism at this point is old news. Churches have been seeking to combat what Christmas has become in our secular culture with what Christmas should be about for like...ever. But t-shirts saying "Jesus is the reason for the season" doesn't do much. And it seems that the Church's activity has only become a part of this big meaningless Christmas. All the candles and decorations and music points to Jesus Christ - but we've sentimentalized it all.

How can we have a MEANINGFUL CHRISTMAS that truly truly celebrates the coming of Jesus - that reflects the love of our God who came to US as one of us to save us?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Worship Update - Holy Humor Sunday

Well, we had our two memorial services here at Faith UMC.

Thing is, for some reason memorial services and funerals tend to be some of the most moving and meaningful worship experiences. I think the solemness of our reason for gathering (the death of a loved one and concern for those still alive and grieving) resets us.

What I mean is...while not in the best place, we are in a better place to really allow God to enter into our hearts.
...we are vulnerable...
...we are in desperate spiritual need...
...our everyday worries are cast aside, our human pain has cast them out of ourselves.

And I think for alot of us - we really open ourselves to the work of God's Spirit in such a time.

So not only was I wary of doing a "Holy Humor Sunday" that week because of our church'es grief - I didn't want to cheapen the meaningfulness of the encounters people had with God in any way.

Not to mention I was in no mood to be jolly. On top of two memorial services, it's finals season for me and I have a ton of papers and projects to do. On Wednesday, my Father in law had a heart attack too. He's okay though.

Well, we did it anyways.

And we were silly.
our choir director wore her pajamas (all the better for my sermon, right?)
another fellow came in a straw hat and running shorts
funny hats were abundant!
no one brought whoopie cushions though...probably a good thing...wouldn't want some confused soul think that we were promoting the real gets hot enough in that church...

And during our joys and concerns, when the congregation lifts up their prayers of joy and concern (was that redundant?) and on this sunday, jokes as well - one man, the gentleman who was widowed the past week, stood up and gave a moving testimony. I mean moving. Not a dry eye in the house, but plenty of smiles.

And ya know what. It was a reallt beautiful and meaningful service.

Silly? Heckz yeah.

But really beautiful, somehow. I doubt I will ever forget it.

Peace and Love in Jesus Name!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two Funerals and Humor on Sunday (or "God's Really Bad Joke")

If you read my previous post, you see that by my decision and design - Faith UMC is going to have a "Humor Sunday" this coming Sunday. Again, the point is to experience joy - joy because Christ Is Risen!
And to lift one another up by making each other pee our pants laughing.

Well... God sent me a few stumbling blocks in the form of the deaths of two members of our church. So we will be having two memorial services, one on Thursday another on Saturday.
Two services where people will be faced with the reality of death.
Two services with mourning and crying that will not stop when i say the dismissal and blessing.

So should I have Humor Sunday still? Is it appropriate? Will I offend? Will this sully the memories of these dear people? I'm conflicted. I mean - even beyond my concern for the congregation and those who loved these people - I'm mourning too! Can I pull off leading a humorous worship service? Should I?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Humor Sunday!

Okay, so the picture above is just...not right. I mean I think Jesus smiled and laughed -he was human and those are some of the best parts of being human! And he is also God - and I do believe that God has a deep sense of humor. BUT - Jesus was not a used car salesman or the Fonze either. (Hey! Pick up your cross and follow me! Eeeehhhhh!).
The above picture is not anything like what I intend for this upcoming Sunday - which we have announced as humor Sunday. Yes, I told the congregation to bring funny hats and clothes, noisemaker and yes...even whoopie cushions (i'm wondering if that was a good idea...)
But we are not going to turn Jesus into a joke. The point is to lift each other up with humor - to encourage one another with laughter - and to experience joy together as a church. After all we are in the season of Easter - what better time to experience joy.
I'm still not sure how I'm gonna pull this off...

Worship Updates

Seeing how it's been a while since I've posted - I'm just going to offer some refelctions on some of the worship that we've experienced at Faith UMC lately, highlighting parts that were particularly meaningful for me.

On Wednesday, March 31st - I preached at Shiloh UMC in Indian Head, MD. Faith is involved with a group of churches along the 210 Corridor and we join together during Lent for Wednesday night worship - we have different churches host on certain nights, and another church provides the worship experience on those nights. Any-hoo, what was neat for me was the chance to use a projector and screen (I want one! I want one!). The scripture was from Matthew, where a leper comes to Jesus asking to be cleansed. Jesus in his compassion, reaches out and TOUCHES the man (which was a no no in the ancient near east) and heals him. See the first chapter of Mark in your Bible for the whole story. We projected a picture (that I think i posted on this blog a year or two ago) of a person stricken with leprosy holding a flower. The sermon was meant to confront us with the fact that we are all spritual lepers - and in the need of Jesus healing touch - and that we, now bearers of this touch of Jesus, should withold it from no one. The downside? The podium I used wouldn't hold my manuscript - and I kept loosing my place and essentially had to make it up as I went along. God worked it out (thanks, Lord).

On Good Friday we had a small service at Faith in the early afternoon, after food pantry. We used a big wooden cross I built last year and went through the gospels - telling the story of the crucifiction. Meanwhile the cross was adorned with a crown of thorns, nails and finally a balck cloth draped over it to signify death. I made the mistake of not instructing the congregation effectively and I think they felt a little lost, and it distracted from the depth that the service could have had. But maybe I'm wrong...God judges hearts...not me (okay, I DO - but I'm not supposed to and when i do I'm often wrong.)

On Easter we had our sunrise service at 6:45 am. It was simple, we sang, read some scripture and "flowered the cross" covering the center of it with carnations and then draping in it a white sheet. This cross was then brought into the sanctuary as the choir processed in (which i thought was kinda cool). Honestly, I can't even remember what I preached! Sad, right? Really, I feel like the beauty of the day (it was gorgeous out!) contributed more to a sense and understanding of Christ's resurrection WAY more than anything we did inside the church.