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.
Our older son, Blake, lives in Tuscaloosa, AL. We are thankful to be able to say that after this week's storm. We have been in touch with him, and he and his friends are all safe and did not experience loss of property. Many others there, as you know, were not so fortunate. We have also been in touch with friends in the Huntsville area. They are all, so far as we know, safe, too. The area near the church we served there was damaged, but, so far as we know, the church itself was not. Not sure what they will do about worship this week, but, if know them, they will find ways to serve their community, and they will gather with whoever can to give thanks to God together. Please continue to pray for people all across the South who have lost so much. I think the most heart-wrenching thing I've heard so far was a woman on one of the news/weather broadcasts earlier today who said, through tears, "I don't know how to do this." I don't either, so I pray.
Deanna and I had a wonderfully peaceful worship experience last night on Maundy Thursday. Since we weren't having Holy Week services at Providence this year as that ministry winds down, we visited with another congregation in our Presbytery. It was a welcome change not to have to be in charge. Instead of worrying about whether I remembered whether we were saying of singing the "Holy, holy, holy..." part of the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the Table or whether I did the epiclesis at the right time, I could sit and let the liturgy wash over me and do the work it was designed to do. It did. Just before we were invited to the Table, the choir sang "In Remembrance" from CELEBRATE LIFE. I know. Everyone has sung it to death over the years, but it is still a wonderful way to prepare for the Sacrament. As I sat and listened, I remembered all the flap that music like CELEBRATE LIFE and SUPERSTAR, and all the others from that era had caused. People I remember from church life then (but who will remain nameless because some of them are still around) pitched more than one fit when that music became popular among young people in the '60's and '70's. Some of them were the same ones who had pitched other fits when the GOOD NEWS BIBLE appeared a few years earlier. Something about stick figure illustrations and the language of common speech just didn't sit right with some of those folks who thought they were protecting God from all of us. As I sat and listened to the choir sing, I remembered all that conflict from forty years ago, and it all seems so tame now. I tried to remember when that's all we had to worry about: people, young and otherwise, who were so hungry to hear the Gospel that they found ways to hear it in their own contexts. I still have a GOOD NEWS BIBLE somewhere, but I don't read it in the pulpit or even in my own study very often. I still have a score for CELEBRATE LIFE, but last night is the first time I remember hearing any of it sung in a long time. I think I have an old VHS tape of SUPERSTAR SOMEWHERE, but nothing to play it on anymore. What I remember, though, is how all those things and others spoke to so many and kept us faithful when we could easily have wandered off where others went. All that conflict seems so tame in comparison to the issues that divide us these days. It's not just old against young anymore. It seems to be everybody against everybody else. I'd like to think that some of the people we're all knotted up about these days still desperately want to hear some Good News and will continue to state their case until we let them. But I've known too many who have given up on hearing much from us at all, deciding that we're much more concerned with our own internal squabbles than we'll ever be about their well-being. On this Good Friday afternoon and tomorrow when there is time for even God to be quiet for a while, I'm remembering. "In remembrance of me, eat this bread. In remembrance of me, drink this wine. In remembrance of me, pray for the time when God's own will is done....In remembrance of me, search for truth. In remembrance of me, always love." What people tried to dismiss as a bunch of youth ministry stuff sounds like a call to action after all these years. Wonder when we'll ever listen?