Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Untamed Hospitality

As a devotional exercise in preparation for our September thematic preaching series on "hospitality", I'm reading Elizabeth Newman's incredible book Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers. Beginning in July, I'll publish a comment on one chapter per week, completing the set of posts by the end of August. Anyone care to join me in this reading adventure?


Marva Dawn in her recent book on a "sabbath way of life" writes:

Often we are not present to people because we are basically slothful. This is the opposite of what our culture thinks. Busyness seems in our society to be a badge of honor; that we are so busy proves how important we are. But Eugene Peterson calls it an "enemy of spirituality" and "essentially laziness," for "It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions. It is taking charge."

This is a rebuke that I constantly need. Do you? Do we realize that much of our busyness is not really godly activity? Peterson clarifies, "spirituality is not the absence of activity. You either enter into what God is doing or you don't." Busy people are lazy person "because they are not doing what they are supposed to do."

The Peterson quotes are from his Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. I've been troubled lately by the fact that most people I know, including myself, when asked, "How are you?", answer, "It's been busy lately." This doesn't really address how we are. It's not sharing of ourselves. I'd add to Marva's insight that being busy shows how important we are. It is also a way of protecting ourselves, setting up a wall between us and others. We're busy = we're inaccessible, we don't really have time for all this chatter about how we are.

This is proved by the fact that when someone says, "I'm busy, how about you?" it is almost a challenge back. Their real question is, "Are you busy also?" Notice that no one ever says, "I've got lots of time on my hands. Really, not much going on lately." So busyness gets in the way of spirituality and relationship (two closely related things).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thematic Preaching- July is Genesis

I'm offering the outline of readings we'll be using in July in place of the lectionary, we're doing thematic preaching during these "ordinary days" between Pentecost and Advent, and the July theme is Genesis. Since I'm new to the whole thematic preaching thing, I'd love comments:

July 1- Creation (and evolution)

Genesis 1, read responsively by lector and congregation

Lector: chapter 1, v. 1-2, 6-8, 11-13, 20-23, 27-31
Cong: chapter 1, v. 3-5, 9-10, 14-19, 24-26
All: Chapter 2:1-3
Pastor: 2:4-25 (read after the psalm)

Psalm for this day is Psalm 8, read or sung responsively from the hymnal

July 8- The Fall

Lector: Genesis 3:1-12
Psalm 1 read responsively from hymnal
Pastor: Genesis 4:1-16

July 15- The Flood

Three different readers recruited for this Sunday, they will stand at three microphones and read a section each, back-to-back

Genesis 6:5-22
Genesis 7:1-24
Genesis 8:1-22

We'll read Psalm 11 responsively between these readings and the sermon

July 22- Babel

Lector: Genesis 11:1-8
Psalm 150
Pastor: Revel 7:9-17

July 29- Abraham and Sarah

Lector: Genesis 12:1-9
Psalm 105:1-11
Lector: Genesis 18:1-15
Pastor: Genesis 21:1-21

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On not looking at the ball

Perry is correct- you juggle by feel and keep your eyes on the road. In fact, I have found that my juggling pattern runs so close to my body and just a bit below my eye level, so there really isn't a way to watch the balls at all. Most juggling is like this. Your brain knows where the balls will be after you throw them, not your eyes.

Thanks to all for well-wishes. I completed the run in record time (for me), 3 hours 8 minutes for the 20 miles, even with the addition of three miles of joggling. Over $1500 raised for refugees. Yay! If you'd like to learn more about LIRS and its ministry, visit their web site.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Joggling for Darwin

Perry over at Just Your Average Joggler was kind enough to post about my fund-raising joggling. Thanks, Perry. Perry runs a LOT farther than I do while joggling- he joggles marathons.

He wonders why no one joggles for Darwin. Personally, as a Christian I don't see any reason why joggling for Jesus needs to be in opposition to Darwinian theory. Lutherans and Catholics, for example, tend to believe good science and good faithful theology compliment each other more often than they are in opposition.

On the other hand, I wonder what social Darwinism would have to say about care of the refugee and the sojourner in our midst?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


So far donations for the Syttende Mai run this year have totaled $1180, which means I'll be joggling two of the 20 miles. $320 donated by Friday will increase my joggling miles to three (I'm joggling one mile for each $500 folks donate).

I'm excited about this, because this means that for the year we've raised a total of $6000 to establish a rolling security deposit account for newly arriving refugees in Milwaukee! Thanks to all who have contributed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Aesop says (of fable fame)

"We hang the petty thieves, but appoint the great ones to public office."

Said on or around 600 B.C. There indeed is little new under the sun.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

True and terse description merits citation. So as I was reading Moshin Hamid's sophomore novel, I came across this:

It was a testament to the systematic pragmatism--call it professionalism--that underpins [the U.S.]'s success in so many fields. At Princeton, learning was imbued with an aura of creativity; at Underwood Samson [a prestigious New York finance operation], creativity was not excised--it was still present and valued--but it ceded its primacy to efficiency.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An Observer in Olive Branch

Took a very early flight from Madison to Memphis last Sunday morning. I was in my rental car by 8:45 a.m., so had adequate time to drive around and consider which church I might attend.

I never have Sundays like this. Either I am preaching and presiding at church, or I am with family somewhere and already know where to attend worship. It is extremely rare for me to be so free that I have to choose, and so disconnected from locale that I don't know how to start the choosing.

So I decided to experience things from the flip side. What if you just woke up in southern Memphis and decided to go to church, but didn't know anyone. What would you discover?

Well, first of all, most of the churches are some kind of Baptist. I am not familiar enough with baptist tradition to explain exactly how they differ one from the other, but there are many of them.

Second, it is kind of intimidating driving into the parking lot of an unknown church and especially an unknown denomination. And to do so alone. I'll admit: I bailed more than once on churches I thought of going into.

Then, I decided to pull into my hotel (Olive Branch, Mississippi), just to make sure I knew where I needed to be later. The hotel hosts TWO churches. That is, a congregation meets in a convention room at the hotel, and another congregation meets at an outbuilding across from the hotel. They both have adult bible studies meeting in rooms around the hotel at 9 a.m., worship at 10:15.

I sat in on one service. Nothing surprising to support. Frontier worship of the contemporary variety.

What did completely surprise me was that the hotel had two mission start congregations. So, I asked the front-desk clerk about it.

"Oh, that's nothing. We used to have five!"


"Yes, but three of them now have their own buildings, so we're down to just the two."

Plus a group of Pastor-Theologians, none of whom are Baptist.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

ELCA Book of Faith Initiative

Ironic isn't exactly the right term, but it is kind of funny when a Christian denomination decides to have a special "emphasis" on the Bible.

See the ELCA Book of Faith Initiative.

I'm supportive of the initiative. We're hoping to have a special emphasis kind of like it in our congregation next year. Nevertheless, I wish I could identify the "word" that labels the sense of the program that is humorous in some way.