Responding to Tornados in Oklahoma

Week of Compassion (the outreach arm of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) is responding to the tornados that struck the Oklahoma City metropolitan area on Sunday and Monday.  Our staff has been in touch with the Oklahoma Regional Office, and is currently working with them to assess needs affecting Disciples, and will-as always-work with our churches and Disciples Volunteering to discern the best way to contribute to the long-term recovery of affected communities across Oklahoma City and beyond.

At this point, only skilled first-responders are permitted to enter affected areas.  If you would like to help out, the best thing you can do is to Pray, Pay, and Stay:  pray for those affected, contribute to immediate needs by reaching out through Week of Compassion, and stay where you are.  The time for volunteers will come, but it is not today!

We continue to keep Moore and all areas affected by disasters in our prayers.

Posture

If you have been around the church offices recently, you’ve probably noticed my new “office chair.” For the past several weeks I’ve been trying to adapt to sitting on an exercise ball, instead of a “normal” chair. One of the first things I found was that this “chair” forces me to focus on my posture in a way that I don’t when sitting in a normal chair. The ball means that I have to engage many more of my core muscles to stay upright, and I am much more likely to sit up straight as my parents and teachers told me when I was younger. More recently I have noticed that I don’t have to be sitting on the ball to notice my posture. Just using it while in the office has helped me to notice my posture in other settings as well.

Then, I was recently reading a series of articles about being a welcoming church, and I had a thought “Isn’t being welcoming a kind of posture?” I believe it is. Furthermore, I believe that we have been, and can still be, a welcoming congregation. It is a posture to which we have been accustomed.

However, the article I was reading was talking about how a church had decided that they would no longer be a welcoming church. Yes, you read that correctly. This congregation made a decision to stop being welcoming.

Why would anyone do such a thing? I would briefly describe the decision this way: the church decided to stop being welcoming so they could start being inviting. They made this decision, in my opinion, due to a difference in posture.

See, to welcome someone is a passive thing. They show up and we welcome. But, why does someone come to Marshfield Christian Church for the first time?

Inviting, on the other hand, is an active posture. Rather than waiting for someone to make a decision to attend church, the church goes about doing those things to make people want to come and join in worship and fellowship. Instead of passively waiting for people to come to a worship gathering, or fellowship event, a congregation that is inviting will actively seek out and invite people from the community to join with them. An inviting congregation takes seriously the Great Commission, going out into the world to share with others the joy and fulfillment of a life lived in journeying with a community of faith in search of an ever-deeper relationship with the God Who Is.

I should say that we should still welcome everyone to the table, into fellowship and into worship, those are things that I don’t believe we should (or even can) compromise. However, I do believe that it time for us to notice our posture. Are we welcoming, or are we inviting? It really does make a difference.

Give Me That Old-Time Religion?

You know the old gospel song, right? There are many different variations of the verses that can be sung with this chorus, from “It was good for our mothers,” to “It was tried in the fiery furnace.” But the chorus doesn’t change all that much:

Give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion, give me that old time religion, it’s good enough for me!

Catchy, isn’t it? If you are anything like me, you’ll find yourself humming or singing it now for the next several days. Sorry.

Most of you know that I am not an “old-time religion” kind of guy. I am constantly striving to find a voice for faith in our modern culture. And I don’t believe that doing something simply because it worked in the past is a sufficient reason. So, why “old-time religion?” Because I think it is also vital to our lives together. The founders of our denomination built a church that has two focuses, reform and restoration.

The reformation part of their focus leads (in the best circumstances) to a faith that is always seeking after a deeper understanding of our relationship with the God Who Is. This part of our church culture is leading us ever forward to new discoveries, to a deep engagement in the lives of the communities in which we live and serve, and keeps our gaze focused on God, and toward the future.

The restoration part of their focus maintains a strong allegiance to the historical faith that has been passed down through the centuries. Yes, restoration speaks to the renewed relationships between ourselves, others and God, but it also focuses us on the past. Restoration is the rudder that keeps us from veering away from a deeply rooted faith in Christ.

I have also come to realize that I may place an emphasis on the reformation, while sometimes neglecting the restoration piece. It is with that in mind, and with some logistical issues looming, that we have decided to try something “new” on months with a 5th Sunday. We are going old-school and we are going to use our hymnals! Three times this year, we will print the Call-to-worship in the bulletin, and we will pretend as though we didn’t have the projection screen. I have even committed to going without my electronic notes for those Sundays as well…

I hope you will enjoy the experience. I know that I am excited about getting back to at least the feeling of that “old-time religion.” Maybe, just maybe, God will use this change to restore and reform our hearts and lives. I pray God does just that.

Positions Filled

Thanks to everyone for the applications and prayers. We have selected our new custodian and nursery attendant. We will be introducing them to the congregation in the coming weeks. Please make them feel welcomed and appreciated.

Worth-ship

Did you know that our word “Worship” is actually derived from the Old English word “Worth-ship?” My guess is you might not. And, even if you answered, “Well yes, Alex, I did know that”, you may still be wondering why I would even bring it up…

My reason is this; our language has a huge impact on us, and on how we envision the world.

When I say I am going to worship on a Sunday morning, what does that really mean? Well, it could mean a whole host of things to each one of us. Worship is a pretty vague word, when you come to think about it… What I consider worship, some may consider dull and lifeless. What some think of as worship, others may call a “concert” or “motivational speech.” And there are yet others for whom the elements of worship are so strange to me that I find it appalling. (Take for example the handling of snakes or drinking of poison.) The truth is that worship is pretty hard to pin down.

The interesting thing is that the same is true of God. Faced with a bush that was on fire and yet not consumed, Moses asks God for a name, a name to tell the Israelites which god it is that is sending Moses to them. But, God doesn’t give Moses what he wants. Instead of saying, “I’m Baal,” or “I’m Zeus,” God simply (and profoundly) says, “I am who I am. Tell them I AM sent you.” I AM is a good name for God because by simply taking a name God would begin to be defined by humanity.

This is the very reason that some believers hesitate to write the name of God. Instead they choose to write G*d, or HaShem (which is Hebrew, and roughly translated means “The Name.”) Once we name something we can, on some level, contain it. We give it height and breadth and depth. But not so with God.

But what does this have to do with worth-ship? I am glad you asked. The two roots, worth and ship, tell us a lot about what worthship is. Worth is pretty obvious, but ship… what does that mean? In the Old English it means “to shape.”

Simply put, our worship shapes us by that to which we attribute worth. If we worship money, money shapes who we are. If we worship fame, fame in turn becomes a defining factor in our lives. The same is true of God.

As we worship God, God can (and does) shape us. So, the next time someone asks you why you go to church why not say, “Because that is where God shapes me.” It’s probably not the answer they expect, and I am pretty sure it’s a good way to start a conversation and build a relationship. I hope to be shaped by God with you in the very near future!