Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lunch with a friend

Today I had lunch with my friend, the Rev. Vy Nguyen. He's an ordained Disciples pastor, a fellow TCU grad, and a product of "the other" Disciples Divinity House (he's a University of Chicago guy, I'm fromVanderbilt!).

Vy is the Assistant Regional Director for Church World Services. That means he is THE GUY who oversees CROP Hunger Walks for Arizona, Northern Nevada, and Northern California.

Vy also happens to be one of the very first people that I told I was coming to serve as your pastor at First Christian Church Scottsdale. At the time he replied, "Well, we'll get to measure your success as a pastor based on how many people you can turn out for the CROP Hunger Walk on November 14!" (Did I mention Vy is very good at his job? He is. The man knows how to turn out a crowd for a CROP Hunger Walk!)

Vy is in town helping to set up CROP Hunger Walks throughout central Arizona in order to raise funds for Church World Services. CWS works with partners like the Disciples of Christ and other Christian communities to eradicate hunger and poverty and to promote peace and justice around the world. CROP Hunger Walks are one of the major ways that they raise funds to accomplish this marvelous mission.

Over lunch today Vy formally accepted my invitation to fill our pulpit on Sunday October 24. I then quickly bought him lunch to say thanks! I will be attending a family wedding that weekend, so Vy will fill the pulpit, preach up a storm, and get us all charged up for the CROP Hunger Walk.

Katie Newton and Sarah Dale are our coordinators at FCC Scottsdale for the East Valley CROP Hunger Walk. You can look for lots more details and information in the coming weeks, and you'll get to hear all about the program from my friend the Rev. Vy Nguyen in October. And remember, Vy's measurement of my success as your pastor is hanging in the balance here...so lets get a HUGE group of folks out there for the CROP Hunger Walk on November 14!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pastor Rep Breakfast

So this past Sunday I preached about Sabbath and told everyone about how my wife, son, and I all spend Monday together as our sacred time to rest. What happened the very next day? The very first Monday after my big Sabbath sermon?

I went to work really early that Monday morning!

I know, I know. I can hear you all saying, "Pastor, you've gotta practice what you preach!" And in general, I do. No really!

It is just that this past Monday morning was the Arizona Region Pastor-Rep Breakfast, and it was simply to important of an event for me to miss (and for the record, after I got home Susan, Henry, and I enjoyed a nice full day off together complete with trips to the Splash Pad and an afternoon swim with the neighbor kids; great way to recharge my batteries and restore my soul).

For folks who don't know, Pastor-Rep Meetings happen twice a year here in Arizona. It is a chance for the pastors and representatives from of our local Disciples churches (thus the name Pastor-Rep!) to get together and share with one another. You can learn more by visiting the Region's Pastor-Rep website by clicking here.

Bob Bruns and I attended representing FCC Scottsdale. It was nice to celebrate so many of the achievements of our brothers and sisters in the faith, brag up our church a little bit, and share some of the important dates in the Region with each other.

As I am prone to doing, I came up with three things you need to know from that meeting!
  1.  Regional Assembly is coming! You'll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming weeks. We have the opportunity to send at least NINE voting delegates to represent us at Regional Assembly October 22-23 at Sun City Christian Church. Click here for more details and contact me if you would like to attend.
  2. We need pictures! As part of the program at Regional Assembly each church is invited to submit FIVE digital photos of "the church doing the work of transformation in the world." Which means we need photos. Do you pics from the last Mexico Mission Trip, the After School Program, a Church Work Day? Then please share them with us in the church office!
  3. Save the Dates for Youth Events! Fall Retreat will be in Tucson from October 30-31 for Chi Rho and CYF. Spring Retreat will be in Phoenix from February 12-13 for CCF, Chi Rho, and CYF. Locations and further details to be determined.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Mighty Casey

The Mighty Casey
This past Sunday my sermon was titled "Faith (part 2)" and for folks who weren't there, yes the previous Sunday's sermon was called "Faith (part 1)". It is the first time I've done anything as gimmicky as split a sermon in half and told people if they wanted to know how it ended then they needed to come back the following Sunday!

I started off "Faith (part 1)" by reading Ernest Lawrence Thayer's classic poem "Casey at the Bat" in its entirety. If you don’t know the story of “Casey at the Bat” or if you are just feeling sentimental then you can find Disney’s 1946 cartoon version on YouTube by clicking here.

The poem has surprising things to tell us about faith and gave me the chance to ask if anyone had ever felt like Casey. Or like Flynn stranded at third. Or Jimmy Blake stuck on second. Or the Mudville Nine unexpectedly defeated on the last day of the season.

In "Faith (part 2)" I ended the sermon by saying that our scriptures remind us time and time again that the story doesn't end where we think it might. Resurrection is possible. Grace is always reaching out to us. New life is just around the corner. And then I closed the sermon by reading "Casey at the Bat (reprise)".

Plenty of folks have asked me for a copy of the poem. And just as many people want to know where it came from. The most common guesses are that Ernest Lawrence Thayer (the author of the original poem) wrote it, or that I did. Neither one is right.

The truth is a bit zanier, really.

It was written several years ago to be a part of a national advertising campaign called "The Strolling Man." The series of ads would show a cartoon mascot strolling leisurely through revisioned endings of classic stories.

“Casey at the Bat (reprise)” ran as a full-page ad in ESPN: The Magazine (which I subscribe to and read each edition cover to cover). I clipped out the strolling man ad and saved it in my “future sermon ideas” file.

The advertising campaign didn’t take off, thought, and was eventually canceled. The company has scrubbed all references to it and you can't find it anywhere on the web.

That company? Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey! 

I’ve been all to happy re-purpose their forgotten ad campaign and use “Casey at the Bat (reprise)” to talk about faith. Here is the poem:

The last we heard of Casey, he’d made 5,000 faces pout,
For with the season on the line The Mighty Casey had struck out.
The manager was furious, he sent Casey to the farm,
There ‘The Mighty Casey’ could do the club no harm.

Casey sank into depression – he could hardly play the game,
The fans and players taunted him, when the announcer called his name.
Casey’s batting average plummeted, soon his eyes had lost their spark,
No one could remember, last time he’d hit one out of the park.

Then one day when all looked bleak, and Casey’s hope began to fade,
He heard a voice inside him, reminding Casey why he played.
He dug his heels in deeper, and worked his body nearly broke.
And then one day it happened: The Mighty Casey found his stroke.

Meanwhile back in Mudville, headlines screamed of a pennant race,
But the home team lacked a Slugger, Casey hadn’t been replaced.
‘Twas on the eve of the final game, when Casey got the call,
The desperate boss of The Mudville Nine, asking Casey to play ball.

Casey strode to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning,
The scoreboard said four to two, and the home team wasn’t winning.
Jimmy stood safe at second, while Flynn was hugging third,
When there rose a rumble from the stands, the second loudest ever heard.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
Oh, how the boos are shattered, by the force of Casey’s blow.
In the favored land of Mudville, women dance and twirl about
For there is joy again in Mudville, Mighty Casey hit it out.

Yours in the Journey, Rev. Brian

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three Things from the Elders

The Elders had their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday August 11 (aren't they a good lucking bunch!).

Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:

  1. We have some important dates coming up in the life of the church
    • 9/12 Kick-off Sunday
      We will celebrate the official start of our Fall Program Year!
    • 10/3 World Communion Sunday and Rev. Brian's Installation
      A day so important we'll have TWO worship services!
      At 10:15AM we will celebrate World Communion Sunday, the highest of high holy days for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
      In the afternoon (around 4PM, details to come) we will have an Installation Service that formally installs me as the Settled Pastor here at FCC Scottsdale!
    • 10/24 Rev. Vy Nyguen of Church World Service to fill the pulpit
      My good friend the Rev. Vy Nyguen (Assistant Regional Director for Church World Service) will lead worship and preach a rousing a sermon to get us geared up for the Crop Hunger Walk! 
  2. In helping to lighten the load of the Nominating Committee (yep, it is about that time already!) we began discussing potential Elders to come aboard in 2011. If you have ideas please feel free to let me know.

  3. I passed out Version 1.1 of my schedule which contains some minor tweaks. Since my son's new school starts at 8:30AM (and since it is only 2 minutes down the street) my normal office hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be from 8:30 to 4:30.
    Also, in addition to being available for evening meetings, dinners, and pastoral visits on Wednesday evenings I will also be available on Thursday evenings now too thanks to a gracious offer to babysit each Thursday from a member of my wife's congregation.
So there are your three things: Important Dates, Potential Elders, and a Revised Schedule.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Sporadic Bibliography

Time to re-introduce an old feature on the blog. The name has changed several times, mostly to reflect the frequency of the articles.

At first it was the "Weekly Bibliography" but I had a hard time posting it every seven days. Then it became the "Bimonthly Bibliography" which has a nice alliteration to it, but that didn't work either. Thus the new title...The Sporadic Bibliography!

Every now and then I'll use this space to list off some of the interesting things that I've been reading. Because the best part about reading something interesting is being able to share it with others, right?

Sometimes the articles I'll post will tie directly into an upcoming sermon. Other times it will be something interesting that I've read about church vitality or leadership development or prayer. Every now and again (though not as often as you'd think!) I'll share something simply because it is silly and I want you in on a good joke.

So without futher adieu, here is what I've been reading lately:
The Text This Week
Simply the best scripture study and lectionary resources around. It has tons of links to Bible Study aids, sermon starters, blog posts, worship resources, prayers and more. It is where I start my sermon preparations every single week.

Green Stop Signs?
A fascinating article about the ways we as the church send mix messages that keep us from effectively communicate with the wider world. From a website designed "to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Chris." And yes, font size and clutter matter!

Evangelism and the Under-30 Crowd
Wanna know what young people want in a church home? Check out this great read from the Alban Institute about the Relational Evangelism Pilot Project.

Prayer Generator
A daily dose of prayer from the good folks at beliefnet. If you hit the "see another prayer" button then it will randomly generate a prayer from the archives. Pretty cool and surprisingly engaging.

Enjoy the read! If you ever have posts or articles that you would like to share with me feel free to drop me an e-mail!

Rev. Brian

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Youth Group Float Trip

I had a great time on Thursday, spending most of the day with the Youth Group from FCC Scottsdale (and beyond) on a float trip down the Salt River.

Two things simply have to be said:
  1. It was an absolutely beautiful trip. I've never been on the Salt River before, and the startling contrast between the desert landscape all around you and the mountain chilled river water surrounding you simply can't be missed. How did I not know this place was right in our backyard?
  2. Despite numerous coats and reapplications of SPF 50 Sunscreen, my forearms, knees, and ankles are all a fair shade pinker than they should be. We'll be lifting up a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of aloe vera at worship on Sunday.
Here is a big word of thanks to Jeanne Thompson for helping to organize the trip, for the 15 or so youth from our church who were there, and for Mark Line and all the dozen kids from the joint Disciples Youth Group in the East Valley that joined us. We had a great time, and it was the perfect environment for me meet our youth and get to know them a little better (honestly, when you are floating down a river for five hours you get to have some pretty good conversations!).

Oh, and the rumors are true. I was there in my blue floral swim trunks, big floppy hat, and bright blue water shoes. Strangely, no pictures have survived to be passed along to you!

Three Things fom the Worship Committee

The Worship Committee met on Wednesday August 4 in my office. Here are the three things you need to know from that meeting:

  1. We are going to celebrate September 12th as Kick-Off Sunday! It is going to be a big, energetic, praise-filled worship service that helps us kick off our Fall Program Year here at the church. We'll dedicated our Sunday School Teachers and Students, we'll celebrate the great things that are going to happen this church year, and we'll praise God the entire time! You don't want to miss it!
  2. My Installation Service will be Sunday October 3 in the late afternoon! I honestly couldn't be more excited about this event. It will be a time for us to formally celebrate and recognize the ministry that we have been called into together. And what's even better, October 3 is World Communion Sunday! There couldn't be a better time to celebrate our ministry together than to have an installation service on World Communion Sunday. More details to come.
  3. With so many big things coming up, the Worship Committee will be meeting again soon to get all our ducks in a row (thus the picture above). Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday September 1 in my office at 5:30.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I've been thinking about...

...Andy Ortiz!

That's him there in the over-exposed picture on the right (total user-error on my part, I shot the picture with the blazing Arizona sun shining through the window behind him; though it does sort of look like a halo, doesn't it!).

Andy is the President and CEO of Ortiz Leadership Systems and he has a background in leadership development for non-profit organizations.

Oh, and for the past year he's been working with me as my Faculty Coach through the Center for Progressive Leadership (I'm wrapping up a remarkable Fellowship Program through CPL). Every other month or so Andy and I get together for coffee so that he can guide me through the CPL process and take a more one-on-one approach to my development as leader.

I cherish my meetings with Andy, and not just because it is an excuse to eat a fresh baked muffin at a coffee house! Andy helps to keep me on track with deadlines, accountable to the goals I set for myself, and focused on developing best practices for myself and the church. He's REALLY good at what he does, and he's helping me get better at what I do too.

Andy has been a tremendous sounding board for me. Many of our spring time conversations involved my discernment process on whether or not God was calling me to serve this congregation. Andy always listened to whatever I had to say, asked just the right questions along the way, and helped me prepare for the next steps in the Search Process.

This morning Andy and I got together for coffee again...and celebrated the fantastic first month you and I have shared in ministry together at FCC Scottsdale!

So church, meet Andy Ortiz! I honestly wouldn't be where I am without him!

Yours in the Journey,
Rev. Brian