The Church’s Boring SitCom

March 20, 2014 1 comment

I like to watch TV. I probably like to watch too much TV, and so, while I’m not an expert, I’m just fat and lazy enough to have some credibility when it comes to explaining a few things about what comes across the screen.

I also like to be a part of the church. I probably go to church too often, and so, while I’m not an expert, I do have a clerical robe and wear it rarely enough to have some credibility when it comes to explaining a few things about the church.

And so, I am in just the right position to be the guy who thinks about what it would be like to have a sitcom about the church. There have been a few: Amen and Good News are more well-known. “Rev” is a good one on hulu. Anyway. For the most part, sitcoms in general revolve around some simple lie or mistake made by one character, and then the subsequent cover-up of said lie or mistake. Further there is commonly some misunderstanding that gets blown out of proportion. Of course, there are frequently characters with some deluded vision of grandeur – these are the people we all laugh at, and somehow root for.

I got to thinking about how good or bad a sitcom would be if it were about the church. Not how the church actually is because, there are enough broken people in the church (myself included) who would give fodder for millions of hours of comedy situations. No, I was wondering about a sitcom about the church – the way it should be…or the way it would be at its best.

It wouldn’t work. It would be super boring, and here’s why:

“Oh no, I seem to have lost my wedding ring. Instead of coming up with some elaborate scheme to keep that information from my spouse, I’m going to just have a civil conversation with him/her about it.”

“I saw my boyfriend in a compromising situation. I think I’ll ask him about it. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for the whole thing.”

“Dwight, we’ve worked with each other for ten years here at the paper company, and while you and I have our disagreements, I want you to know I apologize for some of the pranks I pulled on you, and how I made you look silly at times. It was cruel of me, and I am going to try to change my ways.”

See? Boring. If the church is on the road toward discipleship, if each individual makes a mistake and then repents, if people are willing to talk out sticky situations…church sitcoms could be boring. I wouldn’t watch them.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t funny. Humor can be righteous. Some of the funniest people I know are followers of Christ. I have a feeling the Trinity could sell out a comedy club for eternity (who’s to say that’s not the case?). We can be funny, we would just make for a boring sitcom because the “sit” part would be resolved far too quickly and without subterfuge.

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Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible

April 24, 2013 1 comment

Ok, if you know me and my family, it will come as no surprise that we can bust a move to some groovin’ music in our living room.  My daughter, the budding choreographer, can seriously outstrip half the stuff on broadway.  Anyway, we love us a little music.  Know what else we like?  Making up silly lyrics to our own little ditties.  Usually, they are pretty good rhymes…well, half the times.

Here’s what I want to tell you about.  We like music, and found a musician, Randall Goodgame, who can put together some silliness and some seriousness and combine them deftly.  And now he’s decided to put together with his magical musical abilities a source of lyrics that have the ability to change lives.  He’s putting scripture passages to catchy melodies and worldclass music.

When I was a child I attended AWANA, a kids church program that helped pack into the recesses of my heart and mind an incredible amount of scripture.  I’m confident that my youthful sponge of a mind absorbed 90% of what I can recall at any given moment.  It was key to God’s work in my life.  I want that for my kids.  Therefore, I’ve decided to help Randall make his newest album.  He has a series of albums called “Slugs and Bugs.”  They include a really great song about adoption and one about bears who have no cares and can’t drink from a cup.

I think you should give generously to a lot of things.  One of those things is the kickstarter for Mr. Goodgame’s new album.  You’ll get a little bonus for your gift, and the knowledge that you are helping children in lots of places hear, remember, and eventually display the glory of God.

If you’re interested, go HERE and help out!

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Unsolicited Advice From The Guy With The Camaro In The Student Lot

April 23, 2013 1 comment

I’m like most people in that I like to give advice.  I do not, however, like to give it unsolicited very often.  This is one of those moments when I would like to give some unsolicited advice.  Actually, I’ll narrow it down.  I’d like to give advice to anyone wanting to start a church.  Two pieces.  Here goes:

If you are planning to start a church, go to seminary.  There you have it, piece one of advice.

I won’t go into all kinds of detail on why I think that’s a good idea.  Partially because I see it’s payoff every single day.  You can only take people as far as you’ve gone.  Sure, you can have a lot to say and a lot to teach, but there comes a point when that well runs dry, and there’s a need to know how to go deeper.  A seminary education in whatever denomination with which you are affiliated gives those tools and the well from which to draw – not to mention relationships that feed your soul for years to come as well as give support and collegiality for a lifetime.  So…go to seminary.  It takes time and it takes money and it takes all of you, but…doesn’t that sound a whole lot like any call?

Ok, now for the second piece of advice.

If you followed my first piece of advice and find yourself in seminary and still want to start a church, then go to chapel.  That’s the advice.

Go to chapel every day.  If your seminary has a chapel program where professors and students  and perhaps staff lead worship, go.  For God’s sake, go.  Here’s why: one day you’ll be in a new church.  That church will have been started by you, and will have no history but your own, and that of those who come to help you begin.  That church will have a beginning point, and as far as your new congregants are concerned that beginning point is the only important one.  But…

But you and I know differently, don’t we?

We know that the church will not have started in the storefront your rent or the home you meet in.  You and I know that the church started a couple thousand years ago, and women and men have met to worship their Creator and Savior by the power of the Spirit since then.  Your new church is only the latest incarnation of the body of Christ.  This age old church has been around the block a few times, and there are more than a few things that it can teach your young infant of a church.

The congregation I serve has been around for about 4 years.  And in that time, I have felt the draw to speak very generally.  In the desire to speak to and reach out to the common denominator, I have felt the desire to mottle and make a hodge-podge of theology.  I can see from here that what would follow would be a very weakened foundation for a church.  But, oh, how it calls out to me.  It calls out to me because it is easy.

What is hard is to take the time-tested faithful witnesses and translate them faithfully (without changing them) into language that is accessible to someone who has never stepped into a church building, or house church or storefront mission station.  The hard part is taking creed and standard and liturgy and not watering them down, not altering them in a way that weakens them.

Seminary does a lot of things to a person, and one of the best things it can do is to steep a person in the richness of a historical faith.  If for three or four years you study and prepare your mind, you will be able to reach back and pull forth from the recesses of your education what is needed in a situation or conversation or sermon preparation, and have the tools to seek answers to difficult situations.  If for three or four years you attend chapel on a regular basis and prepare your soul, you will be able to take the creeds and standards, and not change them, but make them accessible to your hearers, those you would lead toward the Way of Christ.  To attend chapel day in and day out puts phrases and words deep within you, and they will arise at the most unplanned and needed moments.

Besides, you might think you are smart in writing your own liturgy.  You might think you are witty in rephrasing creeds.  You might think you are well-versed enough to alter the questions and answers of the Heidleberg Catechism, but I ask you this: Can you be sure that what you are coming up with will be good enough and faithful enough witnesses to scripture to last another 400 or 1400 years?  I have my doubts.

I am fortunate enough to live in a town that has one of my denominational seminaries in it.  And so, weekly, I try to attend a chapel service.  There is the awkwardness of feeling a bit like the guy who graduated high school last year and now parks his Camaro in the student lot after school and revs the engine, but it’s worth it because I know I need the rooting, the reminders, the phrases that continue to be my soul’s steeping.

That’s my unsolicited advice to someone who wants to be a church planter.  Take it for what it’s worth.

 

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Another Spring Poem: What Brings Spring

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

What Brings Spring

 

Is it the vernal equality of sun and moon

Unlocking cellular triggers

Chemically announcing permission

To spread fingers and release

For bud to thin its protective sepal

 

Is it the rise of one degree to the next

Releasing sugar sap to motivate

Xylem and phloem to siphon

Drawing out of the earth

Nutrients and water thawed

 

Is it the earliest returning bird

Warbling a memory of Summer

Vibrating tissues long sleeping

Reverberating the low, slow frequency

Awakening entish neighbor one by one

 

Or is it Christ

Recreating the world each spring

Turning the tilting planet sunward

Warming and lighting

Sending birds to sing it awake

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A Poem: When Easter and The First Pitch of Baseball Coincide

March 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Long and lean He lingers

Behind the mound

With the chalk, white

And powdering the dirt

In stark contrast

 

Looking right, left

Lingering more and making up

His mind to turn rubberward

But first a final gaze

Always a gaze upward

 

To the children in cheapest seats

The first heft is always for them

They are leaning forward

Almost falling, waiting

To spring upward

 

And Then

With confidence, knowing

There is only one of these

Carrying such power to bring

With it the summer

 

Toe digging clay

Removing enough

But stopping in time

And stopping time

As he digs in

 

Palm all the while grinding

Rubbing dirt and oil and sweat

Each ball the same, save this one

Prayed over, sought after

Now rubbed and prepared

 

For the breath

For the rush

For the spin and turn

For the pop

For the leap and cheer

 

But not yet

Rubber bound now

One foot forward

He bends and leans in

To shake off a sign, no…two

 

Then the stand

And the world is both

Eliminated as well as

Shrunk to 216 stitches

The whole world

 

Is then wound

And spun – a seed

Pushed, gathering breath

Until, through the sun

It sinks with a pop of leather

 

All ages of children emit popcorn

Exuberant leap

Of summer begun

And this one game to enjoy

Before eagerly anticipating October

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A February Poem

February 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Hope

From my perch I peer

Rooftops below now white

Puffs of steam or smoke

Dissipate as prayers for Spring

From vents and chimneys

Brick and pipe my reminder

We people sit cloistered

 

A mother must, at times

Send children forth

For too fresh a breath of air

Into white, bundled

And she with twelve to twenty

Simple minutes alone

Sips brown conconction in quiet

 

And in the dusk now

Prayers renewed

Wet mittens drying

Warm glows from frames of families

And from my perch I peer

One crisp, red disc

A rooftop bloom, waiting

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Christmas After Connecticut

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

The window radiates its cold

Panes cannot keep the frost out

There is no snow, no breeze

Birds stay nestled, knowing somehow

This is the morning for wrapping

Wings around those closest to us

 

Curious of the pane, I reach out

My fingers, hot from my earliest coffee

Fingers trembled there over mouths

And hearts and folded together

Or shook clenched at the gray, silent sky

These, my safe fingers leave a tracing on the pane

 

These my fingers, one with bloodied band-aid

From a completely explainable accident

Can set down their cup and take up

Their children and clench

My unsuspecting children

With a fierce clenching, never to release

 

And somewhere, not so far as Connecticut

A mother weeps at the loss of a daughter

Not two weeks old

No smaller the tears

Nor shallower the grief

Than a child of 10 or 50

 

Christmas comes

A child the reason for joy

An infant bearing the hope of

A world

All that world rejoices

But not all that world rejoices

 

For many, nay most, the future

Pushes on in that joy, that hope

But not all that world rejoices

A mother does not push on

Will not push on…to lose

That last moment of joy, of hope

 

If that child so long ago was

Indeed Emmanuel, then

Where is He?

My fingers can not touch him

And only leave a trace on the

Cold pane.

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