A Community

For the final presentation in my Christian Education class this last semester, I lead the class in a session that looked at sacrament in our lives. One of the recommendations during the session was to take a look at the liturgy from either baptism or communion within your own tradition and look at what the words mean. I decided that I should probably do that, as I was leading the class. I decided to look at the baptismal covenant services in the Book of Worship. I use the communion liturgy at least on a monthly basis, but rarely have the opportunity to look at the words we speak around baptism. A few responses by the congregation caught my attention, and made me think. In one of the services, the congregation pledges to do the following:

With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness , that they may grow in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.

I wonder how often we sit back and actually reflect on the words we speak during a worship service, better yet on the promises we make. In a lifetime, how many times does one make the promise to “surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness”? For some, I’m sure the number is staggering. We make this promise to help guide people in Christ’s way, but more importantly to be a community that loves and forgives. I know that I have failed many times to be a contributing member of that type of community, and I’m sure many of church members have done the same over time.

If we make this promise early on in a person’s faith journey (either as an infant, or when baptized later in life) we are setting the bar very high, but not impossible. I think that the church should focus on love and forgiveness before all of the other things we talk about. If we can be a community that truly loves each and every member of the community, and forgives instead of resents, it truly can be an awesome experience to be a member of a church. Unfortunately it seems that our community is too much about power and prestige, about who deserves better, about personal ambitions, and not about love and forgiveness. Yes, we have to set ourselves aside a lot in order to fulfill this promise, but isn’t that what Christ is all about? Aren’t we called to set aside self in order to share Christ with the world? It’s not an easy task, but love and forgiveness can go a long way.

Next time you are involved in a service of baptism, confirmation, or communion, take a moment to think about the words and see if the community is meeting its promises and guidelines. If we are not, let’s work to change that, for the sake of being people who follow Christ fully and live up to what we promise.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Random Acts of Kindness

I saw this article in the Lincoln paper last week, and then we discussed it at our weekly Lenten study. It sparked a lot of good discussion about helping others and what we should do as Christians. There were many diverse opinions on whether social justice is merely enabling people to live off of others or if it was needed. It was test of my skills as a pastor and teacher to stay calm with my own opinions and allow the discussion. All in all, it was a really good discussion and I wish more people could have been involved. Check out the article below!

Grace and Peace,
Z

Anonymous Club Donates to Others

“I chose the little gal who got raped at the tanning salon.”

A woman with pretty fingernails turns the pages of a scrapbook. She stops on a pink page devoted to the 19-year-old tanning salon clerk.

She read about it in the paper. She doesn’t know the 19-year-old’s name and the young woman won’t know hers. That’s one rule: You stay anonymous.

She glued a copy of her letter into the scrapbook.

Hello,

I belong to a group of anonymous local women called RAK. It stands for Random Acts of Kindness. We meet monthly and put a little money together for people who could use a ray of sunshine sent their way.

She sits with her group at Buzzard Billy’s. They drink margaritas and beer. They play old-school trivia. They laugh and chat.

They quiet down when it’s time for the woman with pretty fingernails to announce this month’s recipient.

She tells them how, the other day, she walked into the tanning place with the letter and the $240.

Whoever hosts the monthly meeting chooses to whom that month’s money goes.

You panic at first, when it’s your month. But something always comes up.

“Unfortunately.”

You read something in the paper, she says, or you hear a friend tell a sad story.

Her fingernails glide across other pages of the scrapbook, stopping on photos of people the group has helped.

There’s a picture of a Lincoln High kid from Sudan. A woman in the group had heard how he worked and cared for his younger siblings and how someone stole his van.

There’s a 2-year-old Minnesota boy killed in a tornado. The photo shows him smiling under the brim of a cowboy hat that’s too big. He holds a toy horse, as if he’s ready to ride.

There’s Dick and Jane Kreifels, who’ve taken in three men with disabilities, Bob, Scott and Mark. Mark’s arm is around Jane’s neck in the photo.

I want you to take this money and do something fun with it.

Some of this group’s women are teachers. One works in real estate. One is a counselor. One does fingernails.

Several pages of the scrapbook are devoted to group fun nights. Like the pajama party at Mahoney State Park. White wine. Smiling women.

That’s another rule: Find fun people for your group.

Fun, responsible people.

Use it to pay a bill you’ve needed to take care of, get a new outfit, go get your hair done. WHATEVER!!

Last April, someone in the group chose a 17-year-old who was riding in a car that crashed into a tree. His page includes a newspaper photo of the crumpled car.

The woman with pretty fingernails started this group after her own teenage daughter got in a wreck, one so bad the driver died. Her daughter spent a long time in the hospital.

One day in those dark months, a woman she knew handed her an envelope. It contained money. And a letter.

“Oh, my God.”

Her eyes fill with tears, remembering the moment.

“I still have her letter. She said just to pay it forward.”

So she started this group.

She took her daughter with her to drop off the money and letter at the tanning salon.

We want you to know how exceptionally sorry we are for your recent troubles, and let you know there are people everywhere thinking and praying for you – some you’ve never met.

Take care and God Bless you!!!

Random Acts of Kindness.

Our Community…

After looking at my work load for school next week, I realized that I had less to do than I expected. So I decided to relax and enjoy the day today. I wish the weather was nicer, but being indoors is just fine at this point. I spent the morning watching and listening to old sermons and songs that I have kept for one reason or another. Many are from my experiences at General Conference in 2004 and 2008. I save these things as reminders of why I keep going and why I need to stay where I am to work on things.

There is a huge community to come together in God’s name, and it’s not easy or pleasant all the time. No matter how things get, we need community. We need each other. As I was watching a sermon for the 2008 conference, I kept watching the worship and a very simple song came up. In its simplicity it overpowered the service and the conference, driving home the message of the day, we all need to work together and be there for each other.

I need you
you need me
we’re all apart of God’s body
stand with me agree with me
we’re all apart of God’s body

It is God’s will that every need be supplied
You are important to me
I need you to survive

I’ll pray for you
You pray for me
I love you
I need you to survive
I won’t harm You
With words from my mouth
I love You
I need you to survive

I pray that each of you find that community to feel welcome and loved. Whatever troubles you this day, whatever is heavy on your heart, I hope that you find comfort in the prayers and love of others. I know I am thankful everyday for my community, and pray daily for them. We need each other to survive.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Love Will Find A Way…

This morning I was struggling to get into a reflective mood. I stayed up late doing homework, got up early to do more homework and just wasn’t feeling it at all. So, when I feel that way I go straight to the iTunes for some inspiration. Like always, something came up on my shuffle that centered me and calmed me some.

Here are some of the lyrics:

“Love Will Find A Way” by Celia Whitler

Searching, longing for someone to know.
Listening, waiting on your own.
Deep inside you know life is a winding road.
Faith will lead when you’re alone.

Love will find you, when you think you’ve lost your way.
Love will speak to you, when there are no words to say.
Love will reach your heart when you’re lost in this world of doubt.
Love will find you somehow.

Looking back it’s clear to see the path you’ve chosen doesn’t always lead you to your goal.
Someway, someone will show you love.

I’m still in my dreaming for the church mode, and this spoke to me after reflecting on my pastoral care reading for the week. People are lost, heck, I’m lost most of the time. Faith is the part of us that guides us and brings us somewhere we can be accepted and love. I hope that my ministry can create a place for that to happen. That as people feel lost on the road of life, there is always a welcoming place, free from judgment and ridicule. A place that is comforting and not hurting, that can show people the unending love of God. That’s my hope anyway.

Small Things…

Today, with the time change and the dreary weather, attendance and participation in worship were less than one would like. Even with those factors, there were some great moments had. It may not have been during the actual worship service, but God moments did happen. In between services, I had many heartfelt discussions about the nature of relationships and how society is functioning today.

One conversation was about how we don’t have community like there once was in our churches and towns. People don’t rely on one another for anything now, and there was a mutual dependence that made everyone stronger. This got me thinking about how we are too often working with the mentality of being completely self-sufficient. This is just not realistic, and maybe the church needs to be the agent that brings strong communities back into our society.

I don’t have any specific ways to do this, or really have a plan to find those answers. I’m just thinking that we need to strengthen community, and the church might be the place to start.

Any ideas? Please share!

Grace and Peace,
Z