Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us!

If you're like me, then you're one of those youth ministers who gets roped into doing the children sermon.  And if you're like me, you also actually enjoy doing it! But fresh ideas are always welcome.  For the first time ever I am posting one of my children sermons.  Feel free to use and/or modify.  The emphasis/inspiration is how the Holy Spirit democratizes the church, cf. "I will pour my spirit out on all flesh." Acts 2:17b  This means that the kids are just as much the church as the adults.  Of course in acts, language isn't a barrier either.  Pentecost...and the formation of the church breaks down barriers, it doesn't put them up.  So let's celebrate that this Sunday!

May 23, 2010
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21
Children Sermon
[Have a birthday cake prepared]

Good morning girls and boys, how are you?  It is really good to see you today.  Today is a very special day.  Today is the birthday of the Christian church!  As you can see we have a birthday cake, with some candles.  Can we sing “Happy Birthday” to the church?  Put the cake on a stool or table in the middle of the aisle.

Let’s sing:
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear church,
Happy birthday to you!

Now when it is someone’s birthday, what do you normally bring to the party for the birthday person? [a present, or a card]

That’s right, a present!  So who has a present for the church? [wait, allow for pause, or for possible sarcastic answers]

Does anyone seriously have a present for the church?

Wait a second, who is the church, anyway? 
Is it this building?
Is it the altar?
What is the church? 
[The church is all of us! It’s the kids, the adults, the older youth, all of God’s people are the church.]

So if it’s the church’s birthday, and we’re the church, then do we get presents? 
Who is going to give us a present?
Do you have a present?  [asking someone in a pew] Oh wait you’re part of the church too.
Pastor Mark, do you have a present?  You’re the pastor.  Oh wait, is the pastor part of the church too.  Who is going to give a present? [Looking somewhat discouraged]

Well today in our scripture from the book of Acts, we find that God gives a gift to the church. God gives is the Holy Spirit!  Who does God give it to?  God gives it to everyone!  Young or old, rich or poor, female or male, slave or free, people with papers, and people without papers.  Everyone gets the Holy Spirit! And with this gift, God literally gives his power away to us, so that we might be a part of God in the world, and that everyone is equal.  So today I encourage you to receive the power of the Holy Spirit, the very real presence of God with you here and now!  Amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

[Super]naturalism - friend or foe?

Okay, so it's not like I haven't been at work, but now that the semester is over and so is my first year of seminary, I am back in the office at Our Savior's.  It is a bizarre and welcome feeling, to be in a congregation doing ministry - during normal business hours. It's not as if I haven't been here...I've just been swooping in mostly during the evenings or on the weekends.  Now it is different.  But why and how does this affect youth ministry and theology?

Today I have experienced what some have called the maceration of the role of a minister.  There are so many jobs and needs that one must attend to, that it is hard to focus for very long on just one thing: like reading and thinking about theology, for example.

Theologians and ministers have a difficult task of thinking deeply and also doing so in such a way that is accessible and practical to religious people in general.  Content must not suffer. Form must be functional.  What a challenging task!  Already today I have read three very cool and interesting blog posts concerned with this very thing, and my brain is hard and work holding them together.

Philip Clayton wrote a piece on faith and science, hoping for a democratization of the conversation. He invites common religious folk would not eschew science, but participate with it, both for positive social change, and to rethink theological positions.

Bruce Epperly wrote on the resurrection being not just a parable or a supernatural event, but a physical reality made possible with a more immanent understanding of God.  Here is a prime example of how theological doctrines are really at stake in one's view of science.

Drew Baker has started a new phantastic blog all about ghost stories (and justice & post enlightenment thought).  He doesn't eschew supernaturalism but embraces it.  This could be a fascinating development.  Have religious folks tried so hard to be taken seriously by science and modernity that we have sold short the wonderfully supernatural stories that thoroughly modern folks believe in anyway?  Talk about ironic!

Wow, if all of these people keep it up, I will have just as much summer reading as I had during the semester (hahahahaha).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gran Torino - [Spoiler alert] Can Hollywood do religion?

Does Hollywood get religion?

I just saw, Gran Torino, with Clint Eastwood for the first time.  It kept me interested, had suspenseful moments, humorous moments, and everything else one comes to expect from a Clint Eastwood movie.  But I'm confused about what the film said about religion.

There were two religious leaders portrayed in the film: a Roman Catholic priest, and a Hmong shaman.  The priest is portrayed as naive, " a 27 year old over-educated virgin" according to Walt (Eastwood).  Whereas the shaman is given a somewhat more positive role.  The Shaman is spot on with his "reading" of Walt, to which Walt says to himself, "I have more in common with these... (racial slander for Hmong) than my own people."

The main conflict in the movie is a gang of Hmong young men seeking to initiate another young man: Thao, who is Walt's neighbor.  Walt uses guns and tough talk to defend the neighborhood - classic Eastwood.  The role of the priest is further complicated by the fact that he works with the Hmong gang and condemns Walt for using arms to defend himself and the neighbors from the gang.  However, the Hmong neighbors pour out gratitude to the gun wielding Walt.

[Here comes the spoiler]
At the end of the movie Walt offers himself as a sacrifice.  The result is that a community and one family in particular is "safe" from gang violence, and the gang will likely go to prison for a long time.

At Walt's funeral, the priest comments on how he learned form Walt about life and death.  But what of the priest's efforts to work with the gang before violence was perpetrated and perpetuated?  In this fictionalized account of inner city struggles it seems like the role of a priest is quite insignificant.  What would the real life clergy persons who work day in and day out with gang members make of this movie?  What would Father Gregory Boyle of Los Angeles have to say who created Homeboy Industries?

Does anyone out there recommend movies that deal with inner city issues that have a more nuanced and realistic representation of both the shortcomings and contributions of religion and religious leaders?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tattoos as a Sacrament?

Alanna's understanding of communion focuses on an open table, and connection to Christ.  Her tattoo of the elements of communion helps me understand how through communion Chris is connected to the one who receives.  Thanks Alanna for this deep reflection!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hand of God

Bryan reflects on his journey to Los Angeles, Skid Row, and Pershing Square.  There he met a man by the name of Michael who was "wise without trying to be wise."  Bryan shares how he thinks the hand of God is at work in the world.  Thanks Bryan!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to [Not] Talk to Youth

My friend Katie shares where she finds ultimate authority.  Advice and opinions can be helpful, but eventually God is the ultimate source. Our youth group watched this, talked about it, and then practiced it with some sweet Lectio Divina.  It was super powerful.  Thank you Katie!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Theology Pirate Strikes Again! One Hard Core Drummer Falls Victim!

I hope you enjoy this sweet video of the Theology Pirate interviewing Austin, a real life Hard Core/Death Metal/Straight Edge drummer on his views of authority, God, and music!  Rock on!

Monday, May 3, 2010

I Need You to Lead Me

I’ve never read a book quite like “Tribes” by Seth Godin.  I’m usually not one for books on leadership.  But the subtitle grabbed my attention: We need you to lead us.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you are a follower and need to be led. Martin Luther talked about the “priesthood of all believers.”  I think he realized that he could not do it all.  He needed help.  I can relate to that.  I need lots of help, in many different areas of my life.

But Godin didn’t spend much time talking about how to follow.  Instead, most of the time he gave examples of people who lead “tribes,” and how you too can lead a tribe.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about leadership it’s that it’s really hard.  I don’t know of too many people who lead out of choice…seriously.  Pastors care called to congregations.  That is, they are called to lead.  Sometimes they don’t want to, but the Lord has need of it, so what is one to do?  Take the prophet Jeremiah, for example.  He wasn’t chomping at the bit to lead.  But resistance to God was futile.

In the context of faith, even a leader is still following God.  Learning how to follow is at least as important as learning how to lead.  I believe there is one whom is worthy to follow.

We need you to lead us.