Summer is in full swing in Florida. Heat. Humidity. Afternoon showers followed by even more humidity. it's summer! I have been working as Organizing Pastor for a new church start near Amelia Island, Florida. We recently made the decision that this work will not continue, so I am seeking another call and wondering what's next. In the meantime, I am doing some interim work for a congregation that has just begun to search for a new pastor.
Just finished Greg Garrett's The Other Jesus. Everyone probably ought to read it.
In fiction, couldn't put down Welcome to the Fallen Paradise by Dayne Sherman. Read it in almost one sitting. Good southern stuff.
John S. Kloppenborg's Q The Earliest Gospel. Interesting, especially the connections between Q and James.
Douglas Ottati's Theology for Liberal Presbyterians and Other Endangered Species, which I heartily recommend, even for those who will need help getting past that word in the title. I'm with him: either we believe and trust grace, or we don't!
Martin Thielen's What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? Turned out to be less than I had hoped it would be, but still helpful. Would be fun to do a short term discussion with a group.
Right now, I'm indulging myself (Yes, I know it's Lent.) by reading the first four years of New Stories from the South, a collection of stories I've been reading at Christmas for years. Finally got the first four years I didn't have and and treating myself.
I know almost nothing about music from India. But I heard an interview with someone who does on NPR this morning that included a statement I've thought about all day. Some Indian musician died recently (don't mean to be disrespectful--I told you I didn't know much about it), and the NPR piece was about him. Near the end of the piece, the narrator talked about the musician/teacher who had died. He told a tale of a time when the teacher had told a voice student that he his singing was way too much like typing--that he needed to learn to sing more like handwriting. Then this afternoon, Deanna was here at the church giving a piano lesson, and I heard her tell her student that it was time for her (an adult) to start feeling some of the music instead of just playing it from the page. I'm as suspicious of feeling in religion as a Presbyterian is supposed to be, but I do think there is something about the thinking of the NPR guy and Deanna the piano teacher that can be helpful to us. Paul talks about the Law being our guide while we need one. That doesn't mean we can abandon the Law, but I hope it mean we can eventually get to a point at which we're not so worried about dotting i's and crossing t's and can spend more of our time and energy listening for and responding to God's call. I offer neither my penmanship nor my practice of the faith as a model for others, but I do think we'd all be helped if we lived and believed more like handwriting than typewriters.
We're doing Vacation Bible School this week. Like most everything else about new church work, Vacation Bible School requires a lot of flexibility. This year we're focusing on the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis, and our plan is to equip the kids to tell Joseph's story in music and drama at the end of the week. Our first exercise in flexibility came when we wound up with a bunch of preschool and elementary aged girls and one little boy. OK, so we won't be the first drama troupe to use females in male roles. The fact that music is not the primary gift of some of those little girls is something we figured we'd deal with. At the risk of sounding sexist, what they lack in musical ability, they more than compensate for in drama queen-ness! In the midst of music and drama, we're injecting a little Bible study (we're funny that way) into the schedule. Last night, we talked about covenant and how Joseph and his family were descendants of Abraham and, thus, in the same covenant relationship with God as Abraham and us. I thought covenant was one of those theological concepts I understood reasonably well. I studied under Hubert Morrow in seminary, so I have lived with covenant theology for years. His book, A Covenant of Grace, is just one reminder of what I learned from him. So for Bible study last night, I had made up a handout with a list of things in one column that God promises to do for us: to be our God, to love us, to forgive us, to be with us always...). Of course, each promise came with a citation from Scripture which we dutifully looked up and read. The other column of the handout had space for group members to write or draw something about promises they were ready to make to God. We talked about those promises. We prayed about those promises. We gave time for them to write or draw about their promises. Some were predictable given their ages: to pray, to come to church, to read the Bible, to be good to their siblings (unlike Joseph's slave-trading brothers), to be helpful at home. All good promises. One particularly precocious girl had another thought. After looking again at God's promises and considering hers, she said, "How 'bout if I just write, 'Right back atcha, God!'" I'm not sure what Dean Morrow might think about her covenant theology, but I think she's onto something.
I took a Calvin quiz (www.trouw.nl/nieuws/religie-filosofie/article2050113.ece)(I don't know how to make this a link, so you can cut and paste it if you want to see how you score)the other day in celebration this year's Calvin anniversary year. It told me my doctrine was solidly Calvinistic (surprise, surprise), but that I probably needed to lighten up a bit. So today, Deanna and I went to a mid-day concert from the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, which is going on here this month. The program (a free one) was interesting, one piece in particular. It featured a violinist and an African drummer (the drum, not the drummer)playing a piece dubbed as Bach meets Africa. (You get to hear interesting things at summer festivals!) It was fun, especially for the children who gathered in a community center gym for the event. Chamber Music concerts can sometimes be about as stuffy as Calvinists, so it was refreshing to go to one with children and other non-Chamber Music types in attendance. There was one little boy in particular who really got into the drum/violin piece. He didn't know that you aren't supposed to applaud between movements (I know, more stuffiness from a Calvinist!), but he knew he liked what he heard, so he clapped in the middle of movements when he wanted to! He was a joy to watch, and the piece was a joy to hear. I still like my worship done decently and in order, but I've learned that it's OK if something unexpected (like applause, which I usually don't like, but understand can be a genuine response) happens. I'm not ready to throw all order and sequence out of planning for worship, but a little spontaneity can be a good thing, too. Maybe I'll take the Calvin quiz again later this year and see if it thinks I've lightened up enough!