Thursday, April 28, 2011

Newsbrief: Thank You!

There are so many people to thank.

And I’ll do my best to thank them all!

Last week was a truly wonderful time in our church, and there were so many folks working so hard to make it happen. I want to take a moment and say thank you to everyone who helped make Holy Week and Easter Sunday so very special. There are surely some names that I will miss, but please know that I appreciate everything that everyone did to make it all happen. Ready? Here we go!

Thank you to our youth who lead the Palm Processional to kick-off Palm Sunday (coming off their overnight stay to cap off the Prayer Vigil no less!) and to their advisors for helping pull it off. Thank you to all of our readers for the Passion Narrative – Al, Mike, Judy, Bob, Charlie, Patty, Marilyn, Carrie, Monica, and Sandi.

Thank you to DWM for hosting the potluck dinner on Maundy Thursday and to Kay for bringing the deviled eggs (always a favorite of mine!). Thank you to the Elders for leading us through the Service of Tenebrae so powerfully – Julie, Carrie, Al, Monica, Mike, Judy, and Patti.

Thank you to everyone involved in all of the special music during Holy Week – the Chancel Choir, the Praise Band, the Maundy Thursday Trio (Julie, Sandi, Nancy), the Easter Brass, and especially Doug for pulling it all together (and writing all of the Brass parts!).

Thank you to the Decorating Crew who made all things beautiful and to Dorothy for leading the charge with a whole team of volunteers. Thank you to the Worship Committee (Carrie, Sandi, Dorothy, Bob, and Don) for helping me to organize the services and plot out how everything would come together. Thank you to Janie for doing double duty in the office to pull off the extra worship services (and for working the lights on Maundy Thursday). Thank you to all of our Sound Board Operators, Liturgists, and Presiding Elders. Thank you to Carrie for working so hard behind the scenes to make sure that we had communion all set up and taken care of. Thank you to the Easter Egg Hunt organizers and to everyone who donated eggs and candy (I think Henry ended up with most of it!).

Most of all, thank you to everyone who joined us in worship!

It was a real thrill for me to spend my very first Holy Week and Easter with you all…and I’m looking forward to many, many more over the years!

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whiteboard: Doubt

Did you know that Easter is more than just one day?

In the worship life of the church Easter is in fact an entire season that runs from Easter Sunday clear until Pentecost...that is SEVEN full weeks!

In the Season of Easter our scripture readings lead us through a series of resurrection appearances by Christ. The first resurrection appearance is probably the most well known of them all: Christ appearing to "Doubting" Thomas.

I've never much liked that nickname for Thomas. Partly because it seems unfair to label a man's entire life based one thing he said (and miss everything else that he accomplished and the transformation that kicked it all off!). Partly because I'm not sure that doubt was even the root-cause of Thomas' questionable reaction to the Disciples who had seen Christ. And partly because it means we completely miss the powerful way the text speaks directly to us!

We'll cover all that ground and more this coming Sunday. In the meantime you can spend some time with our scripture readings: Psalm 16 and John 20:19-31.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Newsbrief: Holy Week

I was flipping through worship materials this week, when I found this.

It is an old hymn written by Barton Stone, one of the founders of what would become the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As soon as I read through it I wanted to share it with you all.

As we travel through Holy Week on our way to the victory of Easter Sunday, this hymn is Barton Stone’s answer to the question, “What should we learn from the cross?”

And his answer?

Well, his answer is in the very first line of the hymn, “Behold the love, the grace of God.”

Behold the love, the grace of God,
displayed in Jesus precious blood;
my soul’s on fire, it yearns to prove
the fullness of redeeming love.

The cross I view – O wondrous love!
My sins expire, my fears remove;
my native enmity is slain
I’m reconciled – I’m born again.

Our God is love – O, leap, my soul!
Let warm hosannas gently roll!
Love gave a Son to save our race,
and Jesus died through sov’reign grace!

What love has done, sing earth around!
Angels prolong the eternal sound!
Lo, Jesus bleeding on the tree!
There, there, the love of God I see!

Hope to see you on Maundy Thursday (Potluck at 6PM, Worship at 7PM) and Easter Sunday.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Whiteboard: Holy Week

I wrestled with what to put on the Whiteboard this week.

You see, we have two Worship Services this week, and they couldn't be more different from one another.

Midweek we will have our Maundy Thursday Worship Service (Thursday evening 7PM in the Sanctuary following the 6PM Potluck Dinner in the Fellowship Hall). At that service we will celebrate Christ instituting the Holy Communion at the Last Supper and follow it with a Service of Tenebrae -- a candlelit vigil through scripture that ultimately brings us to the cross.

Then on Sunday, well, that is obviously Easter Sunday! We will celebrate Christ's resurrection, the gift of new life, and that God's love is ultimately more powerful than the death dealing ways of the world.

So what to put on the Whiteboard? Do I split it in two and dedicate half the board to Maundy Thursday and half to Easter Sunday? Do I change it midweek as my focus changes? Can you really right, "Christ is Risen" in big bold letters before the Holy Week worship services are through?

In the end, I decided to focus on the whole week rather than the particular worship services. Which is how we ended up with this...

I hope to see everyone on Maundy Thursday (Potluck at 6PM, Worship at 7PM) and Easter Sunday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Whiteboard: Palm/Passion Sunday

The long journey of Lent is nearly complete. This coming Sunday will mark the beginning of Holy Week and worship will be marked by the discord at its center. You can even see it in the name of the Worship Service: Palm/Passion Sunday. It isn't often that a "/" makes it into Liturgical Calendar, but this week it does.

In truth, it will probably feel like two worship services, which is generally something you want to avoid but not this coming Sunday. You see, that discordant note is part of the point really.

The first part of the service will be dedicated to Christ's Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. For six weeks now our Gospel readings have been laden with geographic clues, slight references to ancient cities or towns that are easy to skip over and read past. But those geographic references are important because they underline an important theological theme -- Each week during Lent we have drawn closer and closer to Jerusalem. "Jerusalem, O Jerusalem. Where the prophets go to die." Strangely, Jerusalem is where Christ is greeted with a huge celebratory party complete with palm fronds, a donkey ride, and ecstatic shouts of "Hosanna! Hail the Messiah!" It is a wonderful scene...but it is only the first step in this Sunday's worship service.

You see, if you are a Sunday-only kinda worshiper (and most folks are, if even that much) then all you get during Holy Week is a big triumphant celebration (Palm Sunday) followed by an even bigger triumphant celebration that probably has brass instruments accompanying the choir (Easter Sunday). So for the average (even active) churchgoer you miss the entire crucifixion. And in that sense, you miss the power of the resurrection. After all, you can't really celebrate resurrection -- God's power triumphing over the death dealing ways of the world -- if you skip over the whole death thing.

Which is why we have a second part of our worship service this coming Sunday. It is why we have a "/" in the liturgical title. It is where the "Passion" part of Palm/Passion Sunday comes in.

We'll spend the second half of the service retelling the story of Christ's betrayal, sham of a trial, abandonment, humiliation, crucifixion, and death. If it sounds like a sharp U-turn to make in the worship service, well, it is. And I've always been of the opinion that it should be. It is part of the point of the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem that it is so suddenly and so sharply cast aside in the face of the cross. We'll experience that whiplash induced shift in the worship service this Sunday...but I don't want to say too much about how we'll do it for fear of spoiling the surprise.

All of that is to explain this week's Whiteboard picture which seeks to capture both the celebratory nature of Palm Sunday as well as the solemnity of the Passion Story. The shadow of the cross lingers behind the palm frond on Palm/Passion Sunday.

I hope to see you in church this Sunday, next Sunday, and on Thursday too for our Maundy Thursday worship service at 7PM following our Potluck Dinner at 6PM.

{ps My thanks to Barry for buying me a set of more colorful Whiteboard markers. He's usually the first one to see my Whiteboard creations...and make fun of them! Thanks for the new markers, Barry.}

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Newsbrief: Prayer Vigil

The Prayer Vigil is coming up next week.

The event will kick-off with our regular Wednesday Noon Prayers and then will continue each day in the Alpha and Omega Rooms until Palm Sunday.

If you haven’t signed up yet (and most folks haven’t!) then please find the sign-up sheets this coming Sunday and pencil your name in on a day and time (or multiple days and times) that work for your schedule.

In thinking about prayer, I always come back to Frederick Buechner’s excellent book Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. In it he begins his definition of prayer like this:

We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to ourselves but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world. According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it.

As the Season of Lent rapidly comes to a close, I we will try to “keep at it” through the Prayer Vigil. We will have supplies and resources ready for you, the room all set to go. All we need is your presence and your prayers to help make it happen.

Yours in the journey, Rev. Brian

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whiteboard: Lazarus Come Out!

This coming Sunday we have two familiar texts, each one dealing with the promises of new life that come from God alone. In fact, they are even more powerful than that. They are both about the power of God to bring what was once dead back to life.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the story of the Valley of Dry Bones, the very same valley where Ezekiel prophesied to the Lord and miraculously (and rather graphically) them bones, them bones, them dry bones live again.

John 11:1-45 is the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. It is also the inspiration for the drawing on my Whiteboard this week.

Enjoy the picture, and I hope to see you in church on Sunday morning!