Sunday
Aug102014

Imperfect People

This is the time of year when we invite people to live into their gifts of ministry as we prepare to launch our fall programs. Truth be told, it can be daunting to match people's specific talents with the specific needs of the church, however we do this because it gives people a chance to embrace their call to discipleship. With that call comes mystery, wonder and the realization that God calls and prepares imperfect people to live and share the good news of the gospel with the world. It is through prayer and trust that we train, equip and prepare people to teach, lead and serve.

This wonderful letter in Greg Ogden's book Transforming Discipleship helps put things in perspective.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management for your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the the greater Jerusalem better business bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus define fly have radical leanings, and both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however shows great potential, he is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places, he is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller, and right hand man. All of the other profiles are self explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours
Jordan Management Consultants

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Aug092014

The American Road Trip: A Retrospective*

From Debra Rienstra

*Any resemblances to real persons or events, past or present, are strictly coincidental.

Circa 1978

She: Honey, I think we were supposed to take that exit.

He: Are you sure?

She: Well, I’m looking at the atlas here and … boy, this is right on the edge of this page … here, I’ll look at the detail map on the next page.

He: Let me see that!

She: You drive! I’m navigating!

He: Are you sure you’re reading that right?

She: Gives him a dirty look. I’m telling you, it’s exit 174. Stabs atlas with finger. I can see it right here.

2014

She: Which exit am I supposed to take?

He: Look at my phone mounted on the dash. It shows you. Just follow the arrows.

She: I can’t see your phone. It’s too small and there’s a glare.

He: Here, I’ll set up my tablet instead. Several minutes pass. Oh shoot. My tablet is out of power. Let me find my charge cable. Rummages through large tote bag containing a tangled knot of chargers, cables, plugs, devices of all sorts. OK, here it is. Flurry of plugging and unplugging.

She: So which exit am I supposed to take?

He: Just a minute! Minutes tick by. OK, well, Google maps has us using a different route from Apple maps. Pinches the image in. Agh! Too small! Stop that, you dumb thing! Pinches the image out again. OK, let’s see… Well, I think we should take exit 174.

She: Yeah, that was miles ago.

Friday
Aug082014

Ghost Town

From James C. Schaap

It may well have been the very first time I used a camera for something other than family pics, an old Argus C-3 I had bought second-hand way back when I was in high school. My wife and I, still sort of newlyweds, were walking the desolate streets of an old copper-mining town in the Arizona mountains, a place called Jerome. It was 1973. 

Jerome was, back then, a ghost town. Once upon a time, the population peaked at 15,000, but, by the early 1970s, very few people still lived there. Mining fortunes had been made, I'm guessing--the open mine still gaped dangerously on the north end of town but it was not running. Almost all of those who'd pocketed the loot or run the bank or worked the drills had long ago departed. Jerome was a Twilight Zone, streets broken and abandoned lined with a hundred grotesque houses caught in their own anguished disrepair, as if being forced to undress right there on the street. 

Thursday
Aug072014

Sinning and Running (not necessarily at the same time, but maybe)

From Thomas C. Goodhart I am always impressed when speaking with one of my many septuagenarian or octogenarian congregants and they share something about “working out” or “going to the gym.” I don’t mean to be ageist here but that is not something I automatically think of my friends in their seventies and eighties doing. Frankly, as an almost quadragenarian, it is something I hardly do. I do not go to the gym. Probably should…strength training, a little yoga, some cardio, it would all do me some good, as it does my older parishioners. If I do ever “work out” it’s usually running; but even that is generally done in fits and starts with a few months going well and then something happens and nada for a while. I suppose I’m currently in the “starts” phase. We’ll see how long that lasts.

The reason I have working out on my mind and relate it here—since you doubtless have little interest in my personal exercise habits—has to do with some reflections of late on sin. What could be more reformed that that! Specifically an exchange near the end of our recent Reformed Church General Synod made me wonder why we take sin so personally, while at the same time, not personally at all. Incidentally, while this involves the inner issues of my own denomination, I think the wonderment travels well beyond these particular familial and institutional parameters.

Wednesday
Aug062014

Lamentation

From Jes Kast-Keat

I know it's not Ash Wednesday. It's not even Lent: a  time in our church calendar where we are given space to mourn, lament, and prayerfully think about the problem of evil and sin in this world. Yet I will be preaching on lament this Sunday because there has been so much violence and saddness manifested in the world this summer that the people of God need to take this heaviness to God in worship.

Scott Hoezee wrote an excellent blog yesterday entitled "The Sad Summer" addressing the very things that we will take to God in worship. He named many of the events, and topics, that we will be praying for and interceding on behalf in worship.