Mark 1:27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching―with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Notice how people notice. (Yep, meant to say it just that way.) Jesus comes to the synagogue where everyone has expectations on what will happen, the way to understand God, and the manner in which things are taught. That is simply NOT Jesus. He has a way that baffles, engages, amazes, and confounds the conventional. That is (or should be) the Church.
Today, I met with the pastors from Trinity United Methodist and St. John’s United Church of Christ. Our purpose was to vision August’s Denver Day Service. It seems far in advance, but our purpose is to invite the community to something that engages and amazes, though for some it will baffle. We are looking to partner with the Cocalico Education Foundation for that Service. Why? The Service has always been about community. It is about our children. It is about teaching in the school and within our community what it means for churches to care for others before the very congregation who is ‘the Church.’ It asks nothing. We give everything for the sake of children who may never know who is helping them. That confounds what the world teaches.
In our meeting, we also started a discussion on a joint Good Friday event. It’s different. It is off the page, then again it is perfectly in keeping with Good Friday: a “Death Café.” Sort of grim, but in reality, Good Friday is all about engaging death in its most horrible form. Pastor Brad Haws made me smile when he said the Church should have a rule that no one is allowed Easter unless they have been to Good Friday. He means that people can have NO perspective of the resurrection without the cross. In truth, no one escapes “our Good Friday” since the manner of our death is only a factor to the truth we will die. While it may scare some people; undoubtedly, we all have our ideas on death. We have fears. We have “wishes” on how to handle our bodies and celebrate our lives. We all have property that reflects a lifetime of “who we are.” (Our heirs may fight over that property.) How do we understand death? Well, our “Good Friday Café” will be an invitation to discuss our attitudes. It considers things we may have given little consideration. I give thanks to Dorothy Hoyer and Luther Acres who gave me a chance to participate at their “Death Café” event. It engaged and confounded me, but also amazed me how much there was to discuss. I hope you come. Necessity will require we limit how many people who may attend the “Café.”
Ash Wednesday is earlier and so is Easter. Lisa Gaskill and I met on doing an Easter Egg Hunt, maybe at a time where people will say “why then?” For children where Easter is about the Cadbury bunny, is it possible the Church can remind that the “life” is not our passion for chocolate, but a life defined by Easter.
So back to Mark’s gospel. Jesus is just at the start of his ministry. He has so MUCH MORE that will yet create a wonder that many will refuse. Others will grope to comprehend God’s chosen means of teaching and touching humanity. Saying that, I hope more of you will come to Bible and Breakfast and our Sunday Adult Study. The examples above, are the invitation to be amazed regularly about our Lord.
With blessing…Pastor Joe
Matthew 2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
There is a certain comfort in being in this “in between time” of Christmas and New Year. For pastors, many take this week off. The busyness of December needs a reprieve. I understand that. The rest others need this week equally applies to pastors. Congregations likewise may feel stretched by annual meetings, budgets, programs for 2018, new council members, building needs, and a host of things―often little things―that demand attention. It cries for a little peace.
Rest is a place we associate with quiet and well-being. It is peace and a time away from the norm. Yet, as a gathering we equally need rest. That rest is at worship. It is a time to engage that part of the nativity where Luke writes “…and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Peace is part of the mystery of the season. It is in Christ taking our humanity. It is in the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is in our “sharing of the peace” each Sunday and understanding ALL our conversations and actions (in the church and out) represent Christ. Peace is a reflection of God’s wish for our lives. That which we fear, those things that burden us, all that prevents a relationship with God and others must enter into the “peace that passes all understanding.”
That says that when we are not at peace, then we do not reside in Christ. Our actions bring the chaos which is part of sin. I spoke with a pastor who is helping in a congregation that has faced internal division. He noted how difficult it is to remind and draw people to God’s peace. The church I attended before Seminary had one person who always found some issue. For example, the organist didn’t play “Silent Night” correctly. They disliked the church leadership. It seemed that they took delight in turmoil of every sort. Tough to understand, isn’t it? They brought strife that eventually involved the synod. That was sad! This one person had such certainty that they hurt others for their own sense of wellbeing. They were not agents of peace. Then again, the church is made up of sinners. We will not always show our best qualities. How can these things be avoided?
I have faced many times strife between spouses or neighbors or even people coming to Peter’s Porch. What it precipitates is the hurt the person picks up from their tormentor’s behavior. Emotions are contagious. Anger brings an angry response. Our grief causes others to feel sadness. The effect is WE become the person who has hurt us. We become them. How odd. We become the person WHO destroyed our peace. My counsel is to avoid that trap. Don’t become the person who has hurt you.
Oh, I know that is difficult. Yet, I know too well how one person can make you feel miserable. My sense is they want company. In their misery, they invite us into their darkness. It may be difficult, but I prefer to offer joy. I prefer to show life. I prefer to think by God’s grace and mercy that I am able to show the child whose star gave light to a dark world. I prefer to be an agent of peace and understanding. Yes, I may brood over slights and meanness because I’m human. Yet, I work to avoid their behavior because that is not “sharing of the peace” I wish to offer others.
May you know peace this year…so with Happy New Year, I also say Peace-filled New Year. May we be agents of Christ in a troubled world—a homage better than gold, frankincense and myrrh.
With blessing…Pastor Joe