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It’s Not Just About the Cookies

Did you know that at the Congregational Church of Grafton, it is the job of the Board of Deacons to host coffee hour every Sunday? That seems like a lot of extra work for deacons who are already busy enough. I watch in awe as they run around on Sundays serving the sacrament, taking prayer requests, cleaning glitter off the floor.  Let’s face it, the deacons are the ones who make worship work.  They do all the difficult and tedious things so that the minister is free to do her thing (for which this minister is very grateful).

The many jobs of the deacons are astonishing in scope, but then—so are their qualifications.  According to the Apostle Paul, deacons must be “blameless, dignified, strong in faith, and seldom drunk” (1 Timothy 3:8-12).  Our deacons are all those things and more.  They are talented, hardworking, organized, faithful and as far as I can tell—never drunk.  Paul would approve. 

So why are these already overworked people responsible for Coffee Hour?  Because Coffee Hour is part of worship.  My favorite description of worship is that “worship is the moment that we honor with extravagant love”.  But you can’t honor with extravagant love in isolation.  It is our community with each other that gives authenticity to our worship.  Therefore, worship continues into the rest of our time together—together as community.  And that would be Coffee Hour.   So we should start thinking of Coffee Hour as an extension of our worship—as our extravagant love.  Extravagant love for one another.  Thank you, Deacons, for helping us continue our extravagant love beyond our time sitting in the pews. 

Stay for Coffee Hour.  It’s not just about the cookies.

Pastor Jane

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

This Week’s Message from Pastor Jane

This Week’s Message from Pastor Jane.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

A Holy Week Meditation: Monday

 

Christ in Bethany (Pugin)

Christ in Bethany (Pugin) (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. Psalm 71

I always tell my unchurched friends (who respect what I do for a living, but don’t quite understand it) that Holy Week is my Big Week.  Then I add as though only I know just how funny I am “it’s Jesus Big Week too.” In my defense, for a parish minister, Holy Week truly is The Big Week.  But this particular Holy Week is bigger than usual.  As we follow Jesus to the cross and then to the empty tomb, we follow the United States Supreme Court in its own version of death and resurrection.   On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments considering the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. The next day, the court will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The timing of these two cases could not have been better. They remind us that Holy Week is about justice.  Jesus was executed because he stood up for the oppressed and defended the disenfranchised.  If Jesus had not challenged the religious leaders, if he had not questioned the social order, he probably would have died quietly of old age.  Instead he died on a cross.  Not for our sins, but because of our sins. This Holy Week, we will watch and wait to see if our own country will make right a long held injustice—the denial of marriage to our gay brothers and sisters. 

Let us pray for the death of an old order and the resurrection of what is new and good.

May Your Week be Holy,

Pastor Jane

(look for a meditation from Pastor Jane everyday this week)

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

Vow of Poverty Pays Off

Pope Benedictus XVI at a private audience (Jan...

Pope Benedictus XVI at a private audience (January 20, 2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Vatican is facing a dilemma it hasn’t faced in 600 years. I am not talking about the alarming rise of secularism in the West, or the abandonment of traditional dogma, or the continued presence of scandal among priests.

I’m talking about the pope’s really awesome retirement package.

For the first time in pope-history, the Vatican will manage a retirement portfolio for a retired Vicar of Christ. And something tells me that that same Vicar has not been faithfully contributing to his own 401K.

Not surprisingly, the job of Apostolic See comes with a pretty nifty benefit package. For the remainder of his life, Benedict will rake in the spoils of a truly golden parachute. For starters, he will have a few thousand euro dumped into this checking account every month; private living quarters at the Mater Ecclesiae, a former convent, remodeled just for him (comes with a 500 sq meter organic fruit and vegetable garden—gardeners provided); personal physicians on-call 24/7; live-in assistance of a small group of German nuns (not sure what they do exactly but they’ve been with him a long time); and at his beck and call, a bevy of housekeepers, cooks, and valets. It is a papal parachute of just under $600,000.00 per year. Of course, he has to trade in his big hat, ring, cape, and red shoes. Personally, I would keep the shoes.

OK. Enough with the pope-bashing (even though everything I’ve said is entirely true). I won’t even mention Jesus and his persistent camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle comments or that pesky last-will-be-first business. The pope wouldn’t be the pope if we took him out of the flashy, extravagant milieu of papal culture. And although I am pretty much ready to excuse all the over-the-top excessiveness of popedom, there is a nagging problem.

In the buzz words of today, the pope, the Vatican, and all the cool papal stuff, fit in the category of attractional not missional (except maybe the group of German nuns—never criticize nuns as they are true workers). Attractional means you market the church to the world. Missional means you bring the church into the world. In other words, when I ask myself, what can I do as pastor to get the world to come to Zion—I am being more attractional than missional. But when we go to Grace Church and help serve the Community meal, we are being missional. The trick is to tip the balance of church activity in the direction of missional (you certainly can’t abandon attractional altogether).

There are countless examples in the bible where missional trumps attractional. For example, the book of Acts:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. (Acts 2:44-45)

Out there serving, not inside waiting. Missional, not attractional. That’s why, when the pope flies in his private helicopter from the Vatican to his new posh residence and thousands of people cheer and wave, I wonder how much of the message of God’s Kingdom has been lost. Actually, I don’t wonder. I shudder.

Maybe the new pope will rescue and reclaim the message of Jesus. Maybe he will be the new John Paul XXIII. If he is, I won’t care if he wears the red shoes and the big hat and the gold ring. As long as he remembers who the real head of the Church is.

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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

Desperately Seeking Jesus

At the heart of epiphany (revelation) is the promise that we are being brought into the very presence of Jesus.  (Luther Seminary’s blog “God Pause”)

 I would like some fulfillment on that promise of being brought into Jesus’ presence. At funerals and sometimes in just regular Sunday morning sermons, I hear ministers preach about when someone will  “stand in the presence of Jesus.”  They are generally talking about an afterlife experience; according to many Christians, it is after death that we will be united with Jesus.  It’s not that I don’t believe that I may meet Jesus someday, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of concrete facts about it.  My lack of knowledge doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that it won’t happen, it simply means that I am not overly knowledgeable about the life after this one.  Truthfully, none of us is.  But the good news is– I don’t think we have to be.   Jesus lived in the present and if I want to model my life after him, I need to live in the present also.  This means that instead of waiting on the promise of being brought into the company of Jesus in the distant future, I should be seeking the company of Jesus right now.  Expecting fulfillment sooner rather than later. 

We don’t want to make the mistake of the people of Nazareth who actually did stand in the presence of Jesus and even recognized that he was filled with God’s grace. For a few short moments, they knew they were in the presence of someone sent by God.  But then their cynicism kicked in.  “Is he not just the son of Joseph?”  And the moment had passed.  The knowledge that they stood in the presence of God’s Holy One, dried up and blew away like a dry leaf on the wind. 

The scriptures are full of hints on how to experience the presence of Jesus.  “Seek and you shall find.  Knock and the door shall be opened.”  “That which you did for the least of these you did for me.”  Jesus presence could weave its way in and out of the moments of our days, if we sought to see him. If we looked into the eyes of our brothers and sisters and saw not alienation but reconciliation.  If we took seriously the commandment to “love one another” and set aside the many laws and rules of the Hebrew scriptures that separate and divide. 

At Annual Meeting this past week, we voted unanimously to add our ONA statement of inclusivity to our constitution.  Open and Affirming is one of Zion’s ways of standing in the presence of Jesus.  No one was more welcoming than the One who said “Go forth unto all nations and baptize.”  It was Jesus’ most inclusive statement—ALL nations.  Not some, all.

So my words to you as we trade Epiphany for Lent–do not wait for some apocalyptic moment to stand in the presence of Jesus or to “meet” Jesus.  Seek him now.  Model your life after him in the present and the epiphany promise will be fulfilled.
 

See You in the Pews!
Pastor Jane

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 

Church as Gym

Burlington YWCA

Burlington YWCA

Every January, I make a few New Year’s resolutions. As of today, I am enjoying huge, unmitigated success in the fulfillment of these resolutions. I have fulfilled every one of my seventeen resolutions! I am a New Year’s resolutions success story!  Hannibal has crossed the Alps! OK…I’ll slow down.  Current literature on New Year’s resolutions and my own pathetic personal history do not indicate a favorable outcome.  Not only do I generally abandon my resolutions after about two weeks (at the time of writing this, I’m on day 3) but according to a recent issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of all people who make resolutions actually achieve them.  I guess I am just one of the 92%.

But I do have one goal that is sure to meet success—working out at the gym (for me, “gym” is the Burlington YWCA).  The reason I will stick with going to the gym is this– I enjoy it.  Forbes Magazine says in “Five Resolutions You Won’t Keep and Five You Will” that a resolution works best if it is “pleasant” or if you really enjoy it.  Well, I enjoy the gym—I enjoy the people, the energy I feel when I walk in the weight room, the encouragement of the staff, the fact that we are all there for the same reason—improved health and quality of life.  So I know I will not abandon that particular resolution.

The gym is a good image for the church.  Similar to the gym, the church is where we go to work on our faith and build up those spiritual and ethical “muscles” we rely on when we are not in church. Just like my strength training sessions with my YWCA trainer, Stephie (who is really awesome), everything I do in church is deliberate.  Nothing is without purpose; or if it seems lacking in purpose, I may have forgotten why I come to the “gym” at all.  Is my reading of the scripture just one more element of the worship service or does it move me with the voice of God?  Do I pray knowing I am heard or am I just repeating words?  Do I know if I swing a kettle bell to strengthen my back or just for the entertainment of Stephie?  Hmmm…could be a little of both.

The other day, while clearing out our basement, I picked up a large box of books and quickly carried it up two flights to my office.  I commented to Don that if I hadn’t been working out, I wouldn’t have been able to do that so easily.  In other words, there are things I can do now that I couldn’t do without the benefit of the gym.

What benefit does your gym/church bring to you?  Is there anything that happens for you in church that helps you when you are not in church?  Are there loads you can now carry that would prove too heavy without your faith community?

Send me a comment; I would love to hear your thoughts!  Pastor Jane

Stephie the Awesome Trainer

Stephie the Awesome Trainer

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Blogging With Jane

 
 
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