Holy Thursday

As we prepare to join in worship with members of the Marshfield United Methodist Church this evening, I find myself excited by this annual opportunity to join in worship with a larger portion of the community. I truly enjoy all of the special services throughout the year, but these times of joint worship during Holy Week are particularly special. So, I started to wonder, “Why is that?”

I think I like the special services because it is an opportunity for the holy to break into our routine. Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, is almost an oxymoron in some sense. We are accustomed to worship services on Wednesdays, think Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. And we are certainly accustomed to worship on Sunday, although Easter does have a particularly special atmosphere. But, a worship service on Thursday?

Thursday is just another day of the week, right? One day closer to Friday and the weekend. Just over the hump of Wednesday, Thursday is only rivaled in its ordinary-ness by Tuesday. (Actually Tuesday is probably even more ordinary as it doesn’t get a special worship service, ever!) So it is special that something holy breaks into the midst of our ordinary. And, I think it is particularly poignant that the reminder of the holy in the everyday is the celebration of the Last Supper.

Jesus gathered his disciples for a meal, something they had done countless times before. True, there is the tradition that this was a Passover meal which adds some significance to the event. But, Jesus would likely have celebrated many of the festivals, including Passover, with the disciples over the past few years. So, this was a fairly ordinary gathering, at least on the outside.

Little did the disciples know the importance of what they were about to experience. God’s message of salvation, of forgiveness, was about to break forth before their eyes. And what is remarkable to me is that the disciples don’t realize what is happening. They miss out on God’s presence. For them it is just like any other passover meal.

I find that comforting, or maybe the word is reassuring… Whatever the appropriate word, it helps me to know that I am not alone in missing God’s presence in the ordinary things of life. I’m not the only one who needs to be periodically awakened from a zombiesque trance and alerted to God’s transformative work in the world.

That is, for me, part of the joy of Maundy Thursday. It is a reminder of God’s loving presence in each and every day of our lives. Although I may not see it, God is working in the world to bring about wholeness and healing. Today is a good reminder to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts so we might experience and appreciate the all-too-often unseen work of God.

Where has the week gone?

I  had all the best intentions (we know about those, right?) to post something for every day of Holy Week this year. Actually, I’m just going to refer us back to some posts about this week from last year… But, I obviously couldn’t even get that accomplished yesterday…

So, here are the first two installments of our Holy Week meditations:

Monday – “Monday Mayhem”
Tuesday – “Teaching Tuesday”

Check back tomorrow for a link to some thoughts about Wednesday, as we journey together through Holy Week!

24-Hour Prayer vigil

Saturday Morning (3/26/16) at 6am we will begin our annual 24-hour prayer vigil. Please sign up at the church, or call the church office and Jennifer will help you find a time to pray. This year, as in recent years, we are not opening the church for the vigil due to logistical concerns. So, we do want to provide you with a list of suggestions of how you might pray during your selected time. These suggestions can be found on our website. We hope you will join us for this time of intentional prayer!

Changing Seasons

Take a lesson from the fig tree.
From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green,
you know summer’s just around the corner.

Matthew 24:32, The Message

As I left home to come to church yesterday morning, I noticed the first sure sign that spring and summer are just around the corner. The Bradford Pear trees along our driveway were covered with little white blossoms. If that wasn’t confirmation enough an hour or so later I heard from Jennie that our cats were VERY interested in the birds who are apparently building a nest in our gutters.

Suddenly I was struck with the realization that summer is near. As I went about my tasks I had almost forgotten the relentless changing of seasons was taking place around me. It has been said that the one constant in life is change. While I would argue that at least God’s love for us is also constant, I understand the sentiment.

Change is hard, even though it happens all the time. Transformation makes us uncomfortable, even when we know we need to transform, to grow, to mature. I recently saw a cartoon which talked about change. In the first panel the speaker asks, “Who wants change?” Everyone raises their hand. In the second panel the speaker asks, “Who wants to change?” Not a single hand goes up. Then there was another cartoon in which the business executive is standing at the boardroom table saying, “I don’t want to change. I want all of you to change.”

No matter how uncomfortable change makes us, it is a vital part of our existence. If we want things to change for the better, it is our responsibility to work for those changes. It is not fair to expect everyone else to change so we can remain the same. One of the most important things I learned in the course of my research was that the role of the pastor in congregational change should not be underestimated. However it should not be overestimated, either.

One of the things I appreciate most about the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is the congregational nature of our polity. In other words, the ultimate authority lies in the congregation. It is precisely because the community of faith (as a whole) is ultimately responsible for the direction of the church that the pastor cannot force changes to happen. I, personally, think this is a great thing. It keeps any pastor from being that chairperson in the board meeting expecting the congregation to change to suit him or her.

Instead of being an authoritarian ruler, the pastor is to be responsive to the needs of the community of faith. Pastoral leadership is to equip and empower the congregation to survive in the changing cultural climate. However, my goal is not for our local church to merely survive, my goal is for us to thrive! Through much prayer, and the results of my research, I am convinced that our thriving as a congregation is tied directly to how well we work together to serve our community and the world.

You may have heard, as I have for years, in any organization 20% of the people do 80% of the work. While that may be true here at MCC, we can do better. We MUST do better! The good news is that we are. If I have learned one thing from my research it is that I have some growing to do as a pastor, as a leader. All-too-often I will take a task and just do it myself. What I’ve realized is that behavior actually steals an important opportunity for me to work with someone else and build a stronger relationship.

Our culture puts a high value on being able to do things on our own. Think of do-it-yourself books, or websites, and how they promise to give you the knowledge and skills to do just about any task. I often chuckle when I see pictures of people’s attempt to recreate a craft they saw on Pintrest. Rarely does the result look like the example. What I’m coming to understand is that it isn’t important that we are able to do things on our own. What is important is surrounding yourself with good people who are willing to try new things, to change. It’s important to notice when the fig tree gets just that hint of green, because then you know summer is on the way.