6.17.2005

I received an email from Sue responding to my last blog. She directed me to her church's blog site where she had posted an essay she shared with her congregation on Pentecost Sunday of this year. She mentions a few things some readers won't recognize, like the Goatwalker Cafe (I think it's called), but you can get the gest of what she's saying. I found it powerful and moving and I think she should give more of her time to reflection and writing. Enjoy.

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Several years ago there was a popular essay called, “Everything I Need to Know about Life I Learned In Kindergarten.” My own version of that essay for this Pentecost Sunday would be entitled, “Everything I need to know about the church, I learned as the daughter of the chair of the Bereavement Meal Committee”. The first essay mentioned had lots of little points like, “hold hands” and “take naps”. My essay has multiple references to……well, … ham.

Just as a brief overview, the Bereavement Meal is a meal served by a group of the folks from the church whenever anyone from the church loses a loved one or when someone from the church passes. There’s never any question about if there are enough folks to pull it together or if anyone will head it up. It’s a well oiled machine, and the only question is whether you want your meal at the church served by the committee or brought to the house.

As a child, I did my share of helping schlep hams back and forth from Kroger to be baked and back to be sliced and then on to the church. As a teen, I rolled my eyes when I discovered that the church actually had bereavement hams as a line item in the church budget. As a young adult, I thought it a sappy tradition. But the older I get, the more I realize that in fact, this IS “church”. I’ve come to see something almost sacramental in the baking of the ham and the passing of the corn pudding and the washing of the dishes. I am a witness to the concrete presence of Christ. And I see there a long and abiding faithfulness to be present with folks.

I was not raised in a church where folks said, “If I can do anything, give me a call.” Folks call and say, “What day this week can I cut your grass?” Dinners show up. When someone you love is in surgery or you are waiting to hear news, folks just show up and sit there beside you.

I have seen the very hands and feet of Christ in the small enduring acts of faithfulness of people committed to walking along side of each other.

I don’t know if the theology I was taught there was good or bad. I can’t tell you a specific Sunday School lesson I ever heard there. But I can tell you that my 6th grade Sunday School teacher Mrs. Martin remembered my birthday until I was into my 20’s. I cannot think of a sacred moment in my life that someone from that church has not been present in some way with me or with my family.

When my children are in their 40’s, I hope that they too will recite a litany of steady acts of faithfulness that fleshed out to them the ministry of Jesus among them, and that they will see their own hands as a part of that body. I hope that in the baking of Goatwalker brownies month after month, of gathering bulletins after church for recycling, writing letters to Chuck, in carrying meals to someone who needs them they will see those as moments when they had the opportunity to “be church”, not just attend it. And when my soul slips to glory and the ham is passed, I hope they will say, “THIS is Church”.

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By Sue, who is very nearly perfect

6.15.2005

I'm in one of those, "Who needs the church?" kinds of moods today. I wonder if this is really what Jesus had in mind. Actually, in my more cynical moments, I'm sure it wasn't, not by a longshot.

Debating policies for half an hour at Council meetings, even when the debate is somewhat civil (as it usually is in my church), seems to me a complete waste of time. How do we ever expect to build a vital community of followers of Jesus with this kind of stuff taking up so much of our time. Surely this is not what Jesus had in mind. Surely it should be simpler (not necessarily easier, mind you) than it is. And this frustration is happening with me among people I know have a desire to follow Jesus (imagine my frustration if they didn't give a rip...on second thought, don't).

I don't know, if I had a choice between a larger church with lots of great need-meeting programs and a smaller one with 150-200 people who were passionate about their faith and their relationships with one another and in their worlds, I'd choose the smaller one. I don't know, maybe my son is right. Maybe house churches really are the way to go. Maybe you avoid some of these pitfalls in that context. I know, I know, there would undoubtedly be other pitfalls, but I'd be willing to swap them for a season. I can dream, can't I?

6.10.2005

I hurt my back the other day, picking up a little girl named Grace. There might be a sermon illustration in there somewhere. I used my back instead of my legs (I KNOW there is an illustration in that). The last three days my movements have been, uh, limited, to say the least.

I had to drive out to pick up Rachelle at a friend's house. She had spent the night last night. All the way out there I was more than aware that my back was not happy with me. It would have preferred if I had stayed home and let someone else get my daughter. This was aggrivated by the fact that this friend lives about 30 minutes away -- it was a longer ride than my back wanted.

On the way out there however I became reacquainted with an old worship CD that we thought we had lost, but was recently returned to us, Glenn Kaiser's All My Days. Listening to it on the way out to pick up my daughter made the pain of the trip worth it. I worshipped and felt connected to God in a way that I don't feel as often as I would like, frankly. That is something that I miss. I miss the passion of some of my earlier days with Jesus. Maybe they are too subjective to go chasing after, I don't know. All I know is I miss that sense of God's nearness, subjective as it may be.

If I were to describe what it feels like, I suppose I would say that when I feel connected with God like that if feels almost tangible. My physical being is affected. There is a thinness to my conciousness, a thinness I can almost see through. The Kingdom "feels" close by. This reminds me of the Celtic concept I have heard of -- thin places -- physical spaces where there is a strong sense that the vail between heaven and earth is thin indeed, whispy and parting with the wind of the Spirit.

As I drove out to pick up my daughter this morning, there was a thinning of the vail, though it was not as thin as I would have liked. It was a foretast, a reminder of how thin it has been in the past, how thin I long for it to be more often than it is.

6.06.2005

Okay. It's been a while. A lot happening. Sorry.

Just a quick update, the vote on the levy I mentioned in my last post passed. I'm glad. It will cost me more, but I think it's better for the community and, in the long run, better for any outreach we want to do. If we want to reach out to young families, it would be nice to have some in the area. Know what I mean?

Another topic. Last week I watched the film Waking Life, by indie film maker Richard Linklater. If you've never seen it, I encourage you to take the time. I actually ended up buying a copy of it on DVD for ten bucks.

It's shot on DV and then animated on top of the imagery, using various animators. Part of the film is scripted, part is not. Some of the people in it are actors, some are scholars and thinkers who write their own lines. On the surface it's a film about lucid dreaming and the story takes place in the context of several false awakenings and layers of dreams as the main character, Wiley, walks through life, meeting people, observing scenes and talking about the meaning of life, why we are all here.

I liked the context and the juxtaposition of the animation with such serious stuff. But, as much as anything, I enjoyed the special features and the commentary track that reveal this artistic community in Austin, Texas, where the director lives and makes some of his films. It's a great metaphor for the church community, I think, when it works best.

Another thing I am grateful for is that the film has introduced me to the science fiction author and thinker Philip K. Dick. But that's another post.

I know almost no one reads this blog, but I would be interested in anyone who does and has seen the film posting some comments.