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From P-Yoo to Pew, Post 2 (by Vicky Scott)

July 17, 2012 2 comments

This is Post 2 for the series, “From P-Yoo to Pew.” As always, you are welcome to submit your own!

______________________

I love the Church—do not be deceived; God and I have had several knock down drag out fights over this one.  The Church has been the catalyst for countless tragedies. People have died in the name of Jesus. Others have been exploited for God’s honor. The Evangelical Christian Church has laid the foundation, built the walls, and reinforced the “us and them” barriers between those who are in and those who are out. The place you and I call home, the place where we have been compelled, convicted, and changed—has caused hundreds, thousands, and even millions pain.          

I would argue this same place, on a micro or macro scale, has hurt your loved ones.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I bet, you, too, have been hurt by the church.

I have too.

And I have hurt people in the name of Jesus.

And I bet you have too. 

The reality is, the brick buildings, the organs, the pews, and the hymnals have not hurt us.

The people who enter those buildings, play the organs, sit in the pews and sing from the hymnals have hurt us. The people who hear our hearts and our hurts, the people we see the ugliest, parts of ourselves. Those we admire who speak words of distorted “truth,” the words that pierce our hearts and make us feel inadequate and unwelcome at the Table.  

This is a tragic reality.

Though it’s sad and messy, I choose to trust that those initial wounds were not caused out of malicious intent, rather a desire for us to know Love, Peace, and Grace in the deepest, purest, truest sense.

            I can claim that to be True and good, and I can extend grace to that.

I know God’s heart breaks when we intentionally or unintentionally hurt one another.

But I think God is enraged when we choose to avoid or to ignore those hard conversations. Those awkward silences. Those tears. And, if you are me, the swearing.

We suck at apologizing.

We are terrible at reconciling with one another. 

I will be the first to admit, I am guilty of this.

I was infuriated as I sat at my birthday dinner looking across the table, to see my step-mom, a woman I haven’t spoken to in years. The woman I hate most was at my birthday dinner. (Pretty selfish eh?)

Mid-meal, the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, this is what heaven’s going to be like a meal, a celebration of sorts, my step-mom on my right, and another woman who I have not reconciled with on my left.

I was filled with compassion.

And when we recognize, we are all just trying to figure life out, we too will be filled with compassion. 

And God is funny, this we know. 

I would not be surprised if those we disagree with, those we have treated like shit, and those who we have said are unwelcome at the Table will be the people we will be sitting on our right and our left.

For all eternity.

We can celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy our meal, with one another, or we can listen, apologize, and reconcile during our time together around the Table.

How do you want to spend it?

________________________

Vicky is a young adult who loves iced coffee, dance parties, peanut butter and conversing with friends.

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Toy Story and the Disposable Church

June 29, 2012 1 comment

One of my favorite scenes from an animated movie occurs in the bedroom of the evil neighbor Sid, a troubled child the viewer is introduced to in Toy Story. Sid collects toys, tears them apart, and then puts them back together in hideous creations that cause fear in the hearts of every healthy toy. Yet something surprising happens just when Woody and his pals are confronted with these toys as Woody tries to rescue his fellow toy, Buzz Lightyear. It’s this scene that comes to mind as I think about a conversation I had over coffee today.

As I talked with this friend today, the subject of church came up (always seems to happen when I’m talking…) and our conversation was centered around the consumer mentality engrained in humanity’s collective psyche.

As we talked, I spent a fair amount of time talking (always seems to happen when coffee is involved) about how the consumer mentality breeds in us a disposable mentality.

And as I talked, I realized that perhaps part of the issue behind a lack of involvement by men in the ministry to youth and children is that we are afraid of people seeing how much we are broken. We are afraid that if others see our brokenness, it won’t be long before we are thrown away.

Because, you see, that is what we do. My shirt gets a hole in elbow (which all of my shirts always do!!) and I throw it away. The soles on my shoes get a bit worn down, and its time to find a new pair. My computer runs a little more slowly than it should, so I buy a new one.

And I realized that the less time I spend serving others, the less people really know me, the less they see my brokenness, the longer they are apt to keep my around.

When I choose to serve in the classroom of a child, or to speak to a group of middle school students, or lead worship for some high schoolers, it won’t be long before they see my brokenness. They’ll notice my analogy was a bit weak. They’ll hear me play a wrong chord – once, twice, even three times! They get bored of my speaking. This will happen. This has happened.

I am a broken person, and I don’t want people to see that. But the more I try to hide it, the more I pull away, the more I stay uninvolved, the more I pretend as though the opportunity is just not the right one.

Health in the church, in the world, will come when we are not afraid to say, “I will mess up, people will experience my brokenness, they will come to see my weaknesses.” And that as we say this, we still choose to engage, to become part of the fabric of a community that, like a baseball glove, is healthiest when it broken in, when it is pliable.

Back to Toy Story – its here, confronted with the maimed toys, that a paralyzing fear enters into Woody’s heart, and he is certain he has seen his final moments as a plush pull-string cowboy. But to his surprise, the broken toys come together and help Woody retrieve and re-assemble Buzz. It is a beautiful scene interrupted only by the reappearance of Sid. (Don’t worry, toys, you’ll exact revenge on Sid soon enough!)

Let’s stop disposing of broken things, and instead embrace our brokenness. For as you see my brokenness, I hope you’ll allow me to experience your brokenness. And together, we’ll come together like the toys in Sid’s bedroom, to serve each other, to bring each other into wholeness, to send each other off into service in the church and in the world, all for the glory of an unbroken God who longs to bring us into wholeness.

Is Jesus a River or a Wall?

March 14, 2012 11 comments

Over the past few days I have been posting various status updates on Facebook in order to flesh out some ideas of who Jesus is and who Jesus is not. Statements like the following were only met with approval: 

“Things Jesus never said: Make sure your theology is correct before you follow me.”

“Things Jesus did not say: If you are to really follow me, just continue to meet with you friends and study the Bible. That is all you need to do.”

But today I wrote one that received more comments than likes. This is what I wrote:

“Jesus never said: You are wrong!”

Most people who know me know that I do believe the Bible mandates a certain ethic/morality and that to follow Jesus means a life set apart, a life of holiness. I believe that when Jesus said one must die to self that he actually meant it. 

But I also realized that a chord of dissonance was struck in that post. And my question is this, “Why do we feel the need to be right?” What is it within us, and I ask this honestly, that so strongly desires to be right? 

I like to win arguments with people. I like to have my idea chosen, and I like when I am stated as the expert. I like when my friends quote me. And I think this is unhealthy about myself.

I’ve been meditating on Mark 11 this month, in preparation for preaching in chapel in a few weeks. This passage details Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem, often called the Triumphal Entry.

Perhaps you know the story – the people lay out their coats, wave palm branches and shout out, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And it is their full expectation that Jesus is coming into town to overthrow the current political regime. They see before them a warrior, a fighter, a man who will finally save them from the oppression they have experienced under Roman rule.

And we also know the end of the story. Jesus is brutally killed. He does not fight back, but allows his captors to end his life. Yet death does not prevail, and three days later Jesus rises from the dead. Amen!

But here is the thing – while Jesus was parading through these people praising his coming kingdom, they were proclaiming something that was not true about him. Their perceptions of who he was were wrong. 

Yet he did not correct them.

What?!? He knew what they were proclaiming, and he did not correct them. He did not tell them they were wrong. He did not stop the parade, stand on top of his donkey, and proclaim, “No! Do you not see who I really am? I have told you all these things, and yet you do not get it!”

Instead, he allows them to praise him in their false perceptions of who he is.

This has been challenging for me to ponder. What are your thoughts? 

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Break Bread in the Storm

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The last few chapters in Acts read like a modern day adventure movie. Paul, in the hands of Roman centurions is found on a ship with nearly 300 others. In the midst of their voyage to Rome, a horrific storm envelops them.

In the midst of this storm they lose direction.

In the midst of this storm they lose hope

.

When all of their cargo had been tossed overboard, when all of their hopes had been destroyed, when all of their dreams for the future had been dashed, Paul stood up in their midst with a message.

And that message was to eat.

Luke writes it like this: “Paul took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.” (Acts 27:35)

Here – in the midst of a storm, in the face of death – communion was served.

Perhaps the church, in its desire for order and predictability, has missed the true meaning of communion.

Or perhaps we are not fully honest with what communion is intended to be.

You see, when Christ offers the cup and bread to his disciples, it is as a meal served while disaster is imminent.

When Paul offers the bread to these sailors, it is as a meal while disaster is imminent.

When we take communion with each other, perhaps it should be done as a meal in the face of the disaster that life can sometimes be.

Take comfort in the storm that rages in a community of people with whom you can eat. And as you eat with them, remember who Jesus Christ was, is and promises to be.

Both in the calm and especially in the storm.

Single Men and the Church

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

A few days ago I wrote a post on why single men should serve in the church nursery. You can find it – here.

I generally don’t like to be a creator of conflict, and I do resonate with the majority of what Mark Driscoll wrote about single men serving in the church nursery. And one of my good friends, a pastor in Orange County wondered about why I had such a hard time with that one part of what was overall a good call to service in the church.

And so I began to think about how I would encourage single men to be involved in the church. And it really depends on the age of the man – so below I list a few of the ways I think it is good for single men to engage the church, and do so by age group. As someone in my low 30s, I’ll only cover the ages I know:

15-18 year old

– Be active in Sunday school and youth group. Invite your friends to events. Ask your youth pastor to help plan and or teach during one Sunday morning.

– Find a way to use your gift (music? art? connecting with children? numbers? greeting people?) and ask someone if there would be a chance to use that gift. Be open to how it would fit within the overall design of the service.

– Help with Vacation Bible School or summer camp – be a counselor (be a hero!) for a group of kids for one week in order to learn from them about how to see the world

19-22

– In addition to the above, seek someone in the church to be your mentor. It will most likely mean you have to be proactive in finding someone and asking them.

– Whether or not you are in college, you are beginning to find things that really make your heart sing. Look for ways to focus on that one thing. Let go of your desire to do all things (this is a disease!) just because you think you can do them. Find one thing and live into that.

– When you agree to do something, show up for it. People expect young men to be inconsistent. Destroy their expectations by being there when you should be there.

23-30

– Join a committee that meet regularly and helps make the church run smoothly. Be someone who is good at listening, provides perspective, learns from those who have been alive longer than you and find times to push back a little.

– Teach Sunday School for a group of boys. Aim for 5th grade or higher, areas that are usually lacking for teachers.

– Volunteer for the youth group.

– Volunteer to mentor a high school boy.

These are just a few ideas – what are some more you might have? The church needs people who don’t primarily look to be fed but who look to serve the church and its community in any way it can.

Learn how to serve selflessly, for the church, the bride of Christ. It is not just something nice to do – it is part of our calling if we are serious about following Jesus Christ into the world.

You Are a Farmer!

November 4, 2011 Leave a comment

This past week I ran across a quote from John Woolman that has been resonating loudly between my ears and careening down into my heart with reckless abandon. Here is the quote:

‎”To till poor land requires near as much labor as to till that which is rich.”

In the context of his journal entry, Woolman is actually talking about farming. But it took on a more reflective aspect for me as I pondered the soils in my life and which ones I am investing in order to produce good fruit.

And as I did so, I realized there are certain soils that I spend a lot of time and energy on that are just not that important.

These might be soils in which I might be fairly capable, but in the end the fruit is not as robust as if someone else were to work the land. As a Gen X American (and as a male) I have been trained to believe that I can do anything if I just put in the necessary time and hard work.

But this belief is contrary to the life to which Christ is calling me.

And here is where Woolman’s quote hits at the root of my existence. I am not meant to till every soil. In fact, some soil is, for me, poor soil. But for someone else it is a rich, fertile soil.

How do I learn which soils to till?

Here are some things I have learned:

1) It is OK to say NO. I don’t have to, nor should I, take every opportunity given to me. This allows others to work the soil who may not be given the chance otherwise, and it keeps me from tilling soil that is not fit for me.

2) You have to attempt to till certain soils to learn whether or not they are for you. Feel free to till certain soils, but be ready to let those go if they end up being poor soils for you.

3) When I find good soil, invest in it, really work at it to make into a beautiful garden. Any farmer will tell you that even the best soil requires a lot of work. And the work is not always joyful, but the product will be.

It is good for me to remember that whether it is good or bad soil, the work of tilling it is the same. Do you want to work on the good or the poor soil?

What about you? What have you learned about soil? Where are you tilling that perhaps is bad soil? Or what is the good soil in which you need to invest?

Rooted Mobility – An Acts 15 Overview, Part 1

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Acts 15 has become one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

That statement is somewhat of a surprise to me. At first appearance, it seems to be about the early church and its decision to not require circumcision of Gentile believers who were accepting the message of Jesus in large numbers. (As a side note, I’ve always wondered how they “checked” about circumcision – was it someone’s job? If so, in the words of the immortal Mr. T, pity the fool…)

Yet as I have spent more time looking at what is going on in this chapter of Acts, I am realizing that it has great applicability to the church today, especially the Quaker church.

I could go on about how, in my opinion, the Quaker church is uniquely situated to be an important voice for the word today – but I’ll just let you read earlier posts about that – here and here.

The issue the early church was dealing with is not unlike an issue the church is dealing with today.

It goes something like this:

One voice says: church is not relevant to the needs of the world today! The forms and structures get in the way of vital faith. We need to blaze trails, do things new, move away from the rigid structure and go with the flow.

Another voice says: defining a rigid theology is the only way to combat a world that is losing a sense of what it means to be followers of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is hard hitting, takes prisoners, and can only be interpreted and understood one way. We are that way. Get on board or be wrong.

Both of these groups tend to err on the side of their way being the way.

But as I read Acts 15, it seems that what we need is what I have termed a “rooted mobility.”

(As a side note, anyone else catch the Quaker meeting happening in Acts 15? It’s there!)

What is rooted mobility? Perhaps the best way to describe is like the old Miller Lite commercial. Two groups argue over which aspect of Miller Lite is the best – that it tastes great or that it’s less filling.

It’s an either/or argument that is unnecessary (I’m guessing, as I’ve never tasted Miller Lite).

But the early church is trying to decide between two sides, both of which are needed in the church:

Are we to be a people holding tightly to tradition?

Or are we to be a people who blaze trails into the unknown?

The decision in acts is to be both/and – to be rooted and also mobile.

And this is our call today, as the church – a call to rooted mobility.

Over the next few days I’m going to explore what rooted mobility means, but in short, I believe it is best defined as:

Holding Loosely, Walking Lightly and Loving Boldly