Saturday, May 03, 2008

365.25 - Day 6

365.25 - Day 6
Originally uploaded by whatnext
The monthly recurring appointment of writing my church newsletter column is usually associated with sundry quandaries.

Deciding what to include is always a challenge. Do I spend time talking about theological topics? The church calendar? Some big church event?

This month, I decided to talk about prayer. These days, prayer is viewed as a rather banal activity, but it is, in fact, one of the most important activities of faithful living.

For the church community I presently serve, congregational prayer is essential. So many things are in the works, and the temptation to plunge forward without listening for God's voice can result in disaster.

We are, after all, human.


... "Church transforms into coffee chain."

Make sure you read the entire thing.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

365.25 - Day 5

365.25 - Day 5
Originally uploaded by whatnext
Acts 1:6-14 reads,

"So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers." (Acts 1:6-14 NRSV)

Convinced that we can do it all ourselves, and that we have to do all the heavy lifting, we forget that gathering to wait and to pray "are depicted as two primary activities of a faithful church." (Willimon, William. "Acts." p. 21).

Sermon writing is an interesting discipline. You get your manuscript or outline wrapped up, and then there is this gap filled with wondering and not a little anxiety. What will happen in the pulpit when the Holy Spirit is present as the Word read and proclaimed on Sunday? This gap is the divine tension that imbues preaching with its joy-filled trepidation.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

365.25 - Day 4

365.25 - Day 4
Originally uploaded by whatnext
“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.'” (Matt 19:13-14 NRSV)

I get the privilege of delivering a tiny "sermonette" to between 20-30 children (and their teachers) at our day school each Thursday. The talk takes place in our sanctuary. Today, I showed them my camera and asked them what it was for.

"Pictures!" they all shouted.

"Why do we have pictures?" I asked.

"To remember!" a young boy exclaimed.

"Right!" I said, "But say we don't have a camera around. Is there another way we can remember things?"

At this, one of the teachers pointed to a girl and asked her about the notebook she carried with her.

"I write things in it," she explained.

"Great! We also right things down to remember them. And what do we have if we write A WHOLE BUNCH of things on lots of paper?"

"A book!" they shouted.

"Yeah! Well, here's a book we use in church called the bible. This is what we use in church to remember what God has done for us."

Some got it. Others might get it a bit later. That's okay.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

365.25 - Day 3

365.25 - Day Three
Originally uploaded by whatnext
A segment from a massive stained glass window at First Presbyterian Church in Corpus Christi.

Over lunch, I joined up with my wife to co-lead a class on spiritual classics. Today's subject was John Wesley's pastoral writings about sin.

Memorable Wesley quote:

"Why are you afraid of your past? For there is no condemnation of past sins 'for those who are united in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 8:1), when the 'law of the Spirit has set you free'(Rom. 8:1). O you of little faith! Even though your sins were once more in number than the sand, so what? you are now in Christ Jesus! 'Who will be the accuser of God's chosen ones? It is God who pronounces acquittal; then who can condemn?' (Rom. 8:33)."

365.25 - Day 1.25

365.25 - Day 1.25
Originally uploaded by whatnext
The Day 1.25 picture was made by my lovely wife. Please forgive the stubble.

Behind me is a beautiful St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located in downtown Corpus Christi, TX.

365.25 days in the life of a new pastor.

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365.25 - Day 2

365.25 - Day 2
Originally uploaded by whatnext
A picture of my first-ever office. I've come to really enjoy the rust-colored carpet. Very comfy and functional.

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Quote of the Day

Regarding church redevelopment, here is Rev. Dr. William H. Willamon, United Methodist Bishop for North Alabama:
If your church is in decline and not growing, it is because your congregation has decided to die rather than to live (alas, there is no in between when it comes to churches). The majority of our churches are not growing, thus we have a huge challenge before us. Still, our major challenge is not to find good resources for helping a church grow and live into the future; our challenge is to have pastors and churches who want to do what is necessary to live into Christ's future.
Willamon is, I think, correct. Moreover, I think the same could be said of many churches in my own denomination. Many, either consciously or unconsciously, have decided that the expectations of growth and renewal are unwarranted.

But if your congregation is more concerned about what Christ would have you do, then there is cause for tremendous hope. Might that mean loosing one’s life to gain it? Yes, indeed. That old church building? It might have to be torn down or relocated. Uncomfortable with evangelism? You may need to get over it through constant prayer and by praying that you might actually encounter someone who has never heard about Jesus and who is thirsting for living water. Is your program budget swamping your mission giving? You might need to invert some percentage allocations.

Who knows what might be required? The Good News is that we have an Advocate who can make it happen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

365.25 - Day 1: This Is How It Begins for Me

The Old and New Testaments, and John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

This is part of a new Flickr series I've created entitled "365.25 Days In the Life of A New Pastor," available here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Vesting Prayer

I recite this prayer each Sunday immediately before worship:
O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue Thine apostles with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that they proclaimed Thy Word with power: Grant unto me, who am set to minister and teach in Thy holy name, the same spirit of wisdom and love and power; that the truth Thou givest me to declare may search the conscience, convince the mind, and win the heart of those who hear it, and the glory of Thy kingdom be advanced; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Source: The Book of Common Worship [Presbyterian Church of the United States of America], 1946.

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