Itinerant Preacher

The last few weeks, I’ve been preaching at different sites around the western US.  What an interesting experience this is, both as a preacher and as a visitor!

As a preacher, I look not only at the texts for each week, but at the congregation to whom I will preach.  Who are they?  Where are they located?  What are their challenges?  What gives them joy?

The first congregation, to whom I preached the “Doubting Thomas” text, had just moved into a brand-new building and was figuring out how they would live in this new space.  The Thomas narrative concerns how the disciples are encountering the risen Christ, both in rumor and in actual encounter – a new space for them too.

The second congregation heard another story of Jesus appearing to the disciples, one in which the essentials of hospitality are emphasized.  This congregation is working on “mission redevelopment” which means they are undertaking specific tasks to determine their mission in the community – and hospitality to the community is one of those tasks.

The third congregation is the smallest of the three, in a mountain resort community, and they heard the text of Good Shepherd.  As luck would have it, the regional Lutheran camp was in attendance too and brought goats from their farm!  I was able to use the story of how their farm dog almost sacrificed her life for the herd last year, fending off a rattlesnake – and remind the congregation that while following Jesus (i.e., their outreach work) is not without risk, it is also not without the reward of abundant life.

With each visit, I expanded my own list of questions to keep on hand for when I am in a call.  Some of those questions:

*Is it easy to find the entryway?

*Are there folks present as greeters/ushers who can help someone find the restroom?

*Are there pavement issues that could be difficult for people with mobility issues?

*Does the whole congregation see welcoming the stranger as their job (not just that of who’s on duty that day)?

These Sunday visits have been GREAT.  They have also been super helpful for me, who has been with the same congregation my whole life!  Now I have some experience of what it feels like to walk into a new space – and my future ministry will benefit from that.

How about you?  Have you worshiped somewhere other than your home church, and found that the experience helped you see things “at home” in a new way?  I would love to hear about it!

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The Work of Christmas

Blessed Epiphany!

The actual day was yesterday, but we have a whole season, through Mardi Gras on February 13th, to begin the work of Christmas, as clearly set forth in the famous poem by Howard Thurman.

The Work of Christmas

New Year’s Resolutions

Wishing you all a very happy new year!

My faith community worshiped together on Sunday, December 31st and as part of worship, we wrote things from 2017 we wanted to leave behind on slips of paper and then, right before wishing one another peace, we shredded them – yes, in a shredder.  It was a great moment.  But we also made space for writing our hopes and dreams for 2018 in simple one- or two-word phrases on strips of cloth, and then tying those to pieces of framed chicken wire.  It’s an idea I saw at the ELCA Worship Jubilee in Atlanta in 2015.

This morning, the blog from Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago entitled “We Talk, We Listen” features a wonderful reflection by their Pastor to the Community and Director of Worship, Rev. Erik Christensen.  He puts forward the idea that while resolutions can be a good thing, what is usually missing from them is accountability – which can also be thought of as relationship.

For today’s blog post, I am linking to his, because he has solid things to say about how this also reflects our worship pattern as Lutherans.  I am in the middle of moving and am very short on time (pro tip: don’t do this at the holidays if you can avoid it!) and I am so grateful to lift up the good work of a respected colleague.

We Talk, We Listen: Rev. Erik Christensen

Enjoy!

Advent 4: And did it happen

We are on an ever-so-brief precipice between the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve.  My home congregation moved Advent back a week, so we observed Advent 4 last week.  But many places are observing Advent 4 in the morning and Christmas Eve at night tomorrow.

This is one of my favorite pieces from the collection “Cloth for the Cradle” by the Iona Community.  The language dabbles in the approaching Incarnation, with a tone of amazement – not only that this could happen at all, but that it could happen for each one of us.

Advent 4: And did it happen

Advent 3: We suspect angels

I am behind with my Advent posts, since I am selling my house and it closes in a few weeks.  We are in accelerated packing mode at the moment.  So that means I’ll post the next few Advent videos at a slightly accelerated pace to catch up.

Today is the meditation for Advent 3, “We suspect angels.”  I am again struck by the timeliness and timelessness of the words from the Iona Community, penned over 25 years ago.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.

Advent 3: We suspect angels