Sunday, April 10, 2011

La Resurrección

On the last day of Messiah Lutheran Church's trip to Guatemala, we traveled by van from Antigua to Guatemala City, following our hosts, The Reverends Amanda and Horacio Castillo, pastors with La Iglesia Luterana Agustina de Guatemala (ILAG.) Our journey on this Sunday would carry us to one of ILAG’s congregations, the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection.

La Resurrección sits in one of the ravines that lie like deep opened graves across Guatemala City. This particular ravine is known as El Tuerto, a part of Zone 1 of the capital city. Parking our vans at the top of El Tuerto, we began our descent. On crumbled, narrow and mismatched steps we descended past cinder block homes with tin roofs rusted. Through narrow catacomb-like passageways we carefully maneuvered until suddenly we were at the church. Two large black metal doors, like those of a mausoleum were cracked open just enough beckoning. Through the opening emanated the light of La Resurrección.
Inside we were welcomed by a colorful altar, paraments, flowers, candles, and gracious, smiling people. This place felt alive. A young boy stood at the side entrance flirting with whether or not to come in. A rooster that crowed periodically outside added his voice to the liturgy. The liturgy, although in Spanish, felt familiar. There was confession and communion, readings and a sermon, prayers, hymns and even a remembrance of Baptism. 
There was just enough familiarity and more than enough warmth and light to make our group feel right at home.  Which meant, on that Sunday morning in La Resurrección, we were united. Our living Lord stood among us bringing us peace and making us one. We were one body, recipients of the same life giving word and the same bread and cup. Along the right hand wall next to the altar, a banner affirmed this union. A single cross with the Luther’s Rose, beneath which were two churches, one entitled ELCA and the other ILAG. At the bottom of the banner, the words “Unidos en Cristo.” During the service, as is “our” custom, we shared the peace of the Lord. The members of La Resurrección were not shy. They hugged us, all of us, and our hearts burned within us.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Should We Take Jesus At His Word?

(This sermon, based on Matthew 6:24-34, was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville TN for the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany. What is below has been edited slightly.)
+    +    +

Whenever this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount comes around, I find myself tempted to hum a little ditty. It goes a little something like this:
[sung]    Here’s a little song I wrote
 You might want to sing it note for note
 Don't worry be happy
Of course that’s from the 1988 song of the same name by Bobby McFerrin.

Or, some of you may find yourself drifting back even further, to something like this:
[sung]   Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera
That you’ll remember is from the 1956 song by Doris Day.

But, even at their best, I think those songs do not get to where Jesus intends in our gospel reading for today. His is no syrupy, sweet “Don’t worry; be happy.” In today’s passage, Jesus is plumbing the depths.

The farmer-poet Wendell Berry comes close to the depth to which Jesus descends. In his poem The Peace of Wild Things, Berry writes:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rethinking Youth Ministry

I just discovered a very compelling blog site called Rethinking Youth Ministry. Based on just a morning's worth of perusing, I'm recommending that my Youth Ministry Leader friends give it a look.

While you're at it, and the real purpose of this post, check out two blog posts by one of Rethinking's bloggers, Brian Kirk found over at The blog posts are Distractional Model of Youth Ministry Part 1 and Part 2I'm wondering, Youth Ministry Leader friends, what you think of Kirk's evaluation and recommendations?

The congregation I'm serving is getting ready to call a Coordinator of Children, Youth & Family Ministry. I'd like to be able to set a vision for this ministry and start off with someone who shares that vision and expectations. I'd love to hear your approach, thoughts, recommendations and advice.