What Are We About?

For some reason I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic recently, so I have been looking back through some of my newsletter articles over the past (almost) eight years. Some six years ago I wrote a series of articles based on the vowels in our alphabet. I chose words that begin with each of the 5 vowels and “y” and wrote an article that was based on that word. For the next several newsletters, I’m going to revisit those articles.

Before I begin, I need to say that things have changed since 2008. As a matter of fact, they’ve changed a lot! So, these are not the original articles, but adaptations that fit our current situation here at Marshfield Christian Church.

So, we begin our survey of the vowels with the letter A. (I figure we should start at the beginning, right?) The word I’ve chosen is “about.” Because, I think it is foundational to know what church is about. What are we here for? What do we stand for? Why do we gather together, and what do we do when we gather? It’s all tied up in the question, “What is church about?”

For many years we Disciples were weak in this area. We didn’t have very good language to talk about our theological perspectives and our positions on social issues. All-too-often we’ve taken to describing our denomination by highlighting how we aren’t like other denominations, instead of having a clear vision for ourselves.  We might say things like, “We practice a believer’s baptism like the Baptists, but also have communion every week.”  We didn’t have a clear vision of what it meant to be a Disciple of Christ.

Now, that isn’t all bad. As a denomination we’ve prided ourselves on the diversity we allow in the “non-essentials” of belief. We have lived very fully into the phrase “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.” But, that has also cost us. It is hard work to sit around the table with people who have polar opposite opinions on any topic, let alone the topic of faith. But, that hard work is essential to creating a truly welcoming community.

Some years ago our General Minister and President, Sharon Watkins, unveiled a new statement of identity for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) This short statement helps us to know what we are about. It helps us define who we are in the wider community of believers. Our identity statement is this: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.” Movement, wholeness, welcome and table; all are words that talk about who we are as churches and as a denomination.

That is well and good, but how does that statement for the denomination play into our lives here in our little corner of the world. Well, I believe you hear echoes of that identity in our mission statement here at MCC. I imagine you could all recite it with me, since we close worship every Sunday by saying these words together, “Journeying together with God we are Disciples of Christ, feeding our neighbors and ourselves through the Word of God.”

Six short years ago, we were unfocused. We didn’t know what we were about. Then through hard work and prayer, we have discerned that this is our mission. And we’ve begun to live into it! We are making God’s vision for us a reality. But that doesn’t mean we stop. Our lives and our mission as a community of faith are constantly unfolding before us.

To continue to grow into the people and the community to which God is calling us, we must keep asking ourselves, “What are we about?”

Rethinking Rest

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Gensis 1:1-5 NRSV

It continues like that for 6 whole days. There was evening and there was morning, the day as God created it. And then on the seventh day, God rested.

Is that how your week looks? Is that how you think of your day being ordered? I know I don’t. My days start in the morning, and continue through a flurry of activity. Until, by the evening I am tired and take myself to bed. And it continues like that day after day. In so many ways I have come to view rest as something that must be “earned.” I get to rest a bit on Saturday, because I’ve worked hard during the week. If I haven’t accomplished all the tasks, I simply put them into an already busy schedule, denying myself rest until the work is complete.

But, that’s not the way things were created to be. (We are going to ignore the creation/evolution debates right now and take the position that this scripture is at least meant to tell us something about God and life, whether or not we view it as scientifically or historically accurate.) Genesis tells us that the first thing we do in each day is to rest. Work is what we do because we have first rested. It takes the script of how I, how we, have lived our lives and turns it on its head. This way of thinking takes rest from something we have earned, to something that we do so that we can earn the right to work.  It transforms our rest into worship.

Quite frankly this is something that I’ve only recently begun to implement in my life. I have been struggling to find a balance between self-care (those things I do to stay healthy, to keep water in my own well, so that I might help give comfort and care to those around me) and the other responsibilities in my life. It was in the course of a discussion on that topic that one of my colleagues reminded me of the biblical day. Thinking about the day as being shaped by rest before work creates a completely different set of priorities and even transforms our understanding of our relationship with God. Instead of pausing at the end of the day to let God take over the work we have begun, we awake to a new morning with eyes open, searching for where God is working and joining in with rested hands, hearts and minds.

Now, as the parent of teenage children, I know that there is a danger in highlighting the importance of rest. If rest is important, even worshipful, then shouldn’t we do it more? Shouldn’t we sleep longer, take three-day weekends, or even four? Let me simply say that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason… This is not an invitation to slothfulness. It is not meant to say that God has predestined everything and therefore our contributions are unimportant.

Quite the opposite. In choosing to follow God, we have chosen to be used by God to transform the world into God’s kingdom by our word and deed. This is a reminder that it is not our own power, intellect, or force of will that makes that transformation happen. You and I (as much as we may want to) cannot change the heart of another, nor can we bring about peace and wholeness in our world. However, as we join in the worshipful work of rest and are reminded that we are joining God in God’s recreation of the world, we bring about a sense of peace within ourselves. That seed of wholeness is the mustard-seed faith to which Jesus referred. May it grow into a mighty tree in your life, and mine.

Ash Wednesday Services 3/5/14 6:30pm

The sun is out and the snow and ice are melting! It looks like much of the winter nastiness will be off the parking lot and sidewalks just in time for our Ash Wednesday services tomorrow! Come and join us at 6:30pm as we reflect and prepare for our journey through Lent, to the cross, and then to the empty tomb!

Worship 3/2/2014

We WILL be having worship this morning. But certainly use your best judgement on the safeness of your travels. Worship will be casual, and somewhat more brief than “normal.” And the elder’s meeting will be rescheduled. Be safe, and go with God!