Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That Had Never Occurred to Me Before

This morning my daughter asked me if Frankincense has anything to do with Frankenstein.

What do you think?????

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wright, Warren and . . .

From the Jeremiah Wright controversy to the Rick Warren uproar, I think we've learned that whoever Barak Obama chooses as a spiritual representative/advisor, some portion of the population will be outraged. If this makes him decide to avoid including religious leaders in public ceremonies and/or to attend church infrequently, people will say "See, he's not really a man of faith. He was just pretending in order to get elected." He's in a no win situation on this, I think.

However, the next time he wants an experienced, articulate pastor from Southern Californian to speak at a significant event he could pick, well--you know . . . :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Little Child

A friend of mine forwarded this to me from an experience this year at his church:

Dear Colleagues,

Some mother of a child in our preschool came up with the idea that the script for the Christmas program would be built up with cute answers and fantasies from the preschoolers themselves. One of the prompter questions was: Who is Jesus?

There was a little pantheist...."Jesus is everything"

and an aspiring Trinitarian..........."He is God and the Holy Spirit"

and a poet who caught a truth I think we could preach............"He is a little baby who is actually taller than us"

Grace and strength be yours as you witness to ....."a little baby, actually taller than us"

Friday, December 19, 2008

In which I hand out lumps of coal . . .

. . . to the congregation for which I am Committee on Ministry liaison which has picked the week before Christmas to have a big blow-up requiring my presence at their special Personnel Committee meeting two freakin' nights before Christmas.

I will not be bringing fresh baked cookies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Sunday morning dilemma

The lump of coal situation described below is the result of something that happened Sunday morning. I brushed by a recently bereaved member with a cheery, "Good morning, how are you?" instead of engaging in a sustained pastoral moment about how she was bearing up.

Sunday was pageant Sunday. There were 8 billion crises and logistical tangles erupting. It was simply not a time for me to engage in a long conversation with anyone about anything.

Pageant Sunday is a special case, but even on normal Sundays the fifteen to twenty minutes right before worship are usually a period of time when pastors are distracted with details: is the liturgist here? Does the choir know their cue for the response? Both acolytes have the flu--what do we do??? Could I make an annoucement about xxxxx?

This is not the first time I've unintentionally offended someone by rushing past them in a hurry on Sunday before worship when they were hoping for a sustained pastoral care moment.

I know. I know. All those details should be attended to before Sunday so the pastor can be fully present to those arriving for church on Sunday. But in the real world, liturgists forget that it is their Sunday, choir directors forget to check their e-mail, acolytes get the flu and elders forget to call during office hours to tell you about the announcement they need to make.

Have you figured out a way to solve this dilemma?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I did something--or rather failed to do something--that flipped the switch of one of those always-ready-to-be-offended persons in every pastor's life.

Nothin' but coal in MY stocking this year . . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whose Kid it That?

Last night we did a little Los Posadas thing with the Spanish-speaking congregation that shares our building. We ended by singing Christmas Carols in Spanish and English. It occurs to me that our idea of Christmas Carols are so wrapped around in tradition and piety that we forget what they really say. Hearing them in another language can startle us out of that complacency.

For example: What child is this? = Que nino es estes?

Whose kid is that?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Waiting and the Unexpected

I spent this morning working from home because I was waiting for a delivery. My parents have recently moved from the house they have lived in for 30 years and into a retirement community. They shipped me a bunch of stuff they did not have room for in their new place. So I had to sit at home and wait for the truck which was scheduled to arrive any time between 8 and noon.

While I was waiting, I remembered the Advent of my first year of ordained ministry. It was a long standing tradition for the youth group to sell Christmas Trees as the kick-off for their season of fundraising to go the the Mondo Montreat Youth Conference in the summer.

The just-sign-up-with-us-we'll-make-this-easy-for-you Christmas Tree people stressed that it was absolutely vital to have a group of volunteers ready to meet the Christmas Tree Truck at the appointed delivery time. The drivers of the truck were just that, drivers. They would not remove the trees from the truck, they would not carry the trees to whatever holding area you had arranged. All of that work was up to you and your trusty, dedicated volunteers.

Newly minted and eager to do the right thing, I dutifully recruited a group of youth and parents to meet the truck. A week ahead they said the truck would be there between 4 and 4:30 p.m.on delivery day. The day before they called to reconfirm the time and to remind us that the drivers would not unload the trees and we'd better have a crew ready and waiting. Roger, copy that! No worries, mate!

The next day about five minutes past noon, when not a soul was at the church but me, up drove the Christmas Tree truck.

"You're not supposed to be here for four more hours!" I cried.

The driver shrugged. "I'm just following the delivery route they gave me this morning."

"But my volunteers aren't here! The youth group kids won't be out of school until 3:00--the adults are still at work. There's no one here to unload the trees!"

Again the driver shrugged. "I don't unload. And I gotta get outta here in about half and hour. I won't get my other deliveries done otherwise."

And he climbed back into the cab of the truck and lit a cigarette.

First, I ran back to the office and made about five, quick, panicked phone calls. I got one live person and a bunch of answering machines. (This was before cell phones--or at least before most regular folks had them.)

Then, I went out to the truck and began to unload trees. One tree at a time. We had ordered one hundred. Even then, when I was in my twenties, no one would have looked at me and thought "tree wrangler". But I persevered.

About twenty minutes and twenty trees later, three youth group dads showed up. They had gotten the word and come to the rescue. The driver grumbled and threatened and looked at his watch. We grumbled back and kept going. A few more volunteers eventually showed up and in another half hour, we had the trees unloaded and had sent the still grumpy driver movin' on down the road.

Today's delivery was smooth and uneventful in comparison.

But I think the other experience is closer to the message of Advent.

You think you know what you are waiting for, but you don't.
You think you know what to expect, but it's not that at all.
The world will not help you, but help will arrive if you persevere and keep the faith.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent Episodes

Big Purple Candles ordered for church Advent wreath in early November had not arrived by the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. A call to the shipper produced assurances that they would be there by for the start of Advent on December 1. Uh . . . .

Venture to craft store to buy candles so we would have them on the REAL first day of Advent produced blank stares when we asked for purple candles. Only red, green and gold on offer. Or white.

Emergency raid of Sunday school supply room discovered purple candles left from last year's advent workshop.

First Sunday of Advent found Pastor Rebel duct-taping these narrow candles into the wide candle holders on the church advent wreath.

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord . . .