Monday, March 15, 2010

Loving Your Gift

This past Sunday, I was sitting in my usual chair at the front of the worship center, waiting for the final worship service to begin.  At Highlands we do three services (8:30, 9:45, 11:00...we used to do four but most of the staff almost died from hyperventilation....).  So, it was 10:55, and I can honestly say that I was sort of dreading to have to do another worship service.  It had been a hard previous week administratively, our church is struggling financially, and I was tired.  I didn't want to preach again.

But then, I heard this voice in my ear (not audible, but noticeable), say to me, "Do you Love your gift...Do you love your gift...Do you like the art of preaching...Do you enjoy the activity that God gave you an ability to do?"  The answer in my mind was, of course, yes, but I wasn't acting like it.

God gives all of us gifts.  To some people He gives the gift of organization, to others the gift of personality, to others the gift of music, dance, video, cooking, gardening, caring, listening, nurturing.  God gives us all gifts.  However, it isn't enough to just have a gift from God, we are also called to love that gift.

In the book of James it says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above; coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights...".  Our job as Christ followers is to not only accept the gifts that God bis us, but to love them,, and to live into them.  When we do this, we actually make God's gift in our life even richer and fuller.

Love your gift...even when you have one more sermon to preach on a long Sunday morning...

All for now,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Easter - Surprise!

One of the most important things that marked the very first Easter Celebration in history was Surprise.  It was a surprise that Jesus chose Passover to make a big theological statement during Passover (most of his contemporaries thought Jesus would do something big during Roshashan - Atonement).  It was a surprise that Jesus actually was killed on a cross (his followers thought he was bluffing or mistaken, right up until the very end).  It was certainly a surprise that Jesus came back from the dead after three days, as he said he would.

This year, Highlands Church is trying recapture some of the surprise that represented that first Easter. To this end, we are trying two new ideas.  First, we are having a Maundy Wednesday worship service instead of a Maundy Thursday service.  For practical reasons this works better for us, because we already have a well attended Wednesday night service.  Also, Maundy Wednesday sticks in the mind a little more easily (it's out of the box).  We are also introducing an Easter Sunset Service (instead of an Easter Sunrise Service) on the Saturday night before Easter.  Again, other churches are doing Easter Sunrise, we are focussed on Surprise and newness.

When modern day Christ followers get too locked into tradition, ritual and thoughtless ceremony, we lose a sense of surprise.  God wants us to remain surprised about life, the things of God, the resurrection.  Surprise leads to joy and joy leads to newness and faithfulness.

How has God surprised you lately?

All for now,

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The End of Camelot

This past week I received some heartbreaking news.  A friend of mine, Rev. Jamie Evans, a fellow pastor in ministry, and colleague in faith, took his own life.  As with all suicides, there have come the usual flurry of questions, unresolved answers, personal remembrances and the looming three letter word which presents itself like an angry sentry at a castle gate - Why? When a death like this happens we are faced with an unresolved question mark, never to be followed by a period.   

There is a larger story here, though, which we shouldn't overlook.  Jamie's death also marks the end of Camelot.  In the 1930's and 40's, Jamie's grandfather, Louis Evans Sr. was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.  Louis Sr. was pastor during a time of great growth in the Presbyterian Church - "the golden age".  Louis' son, Louis Jr. was also a great pastor, as was Louis' wife, Colleen - Coky.  Coky graced the cover of Time magazine with a beautiful profile of grace and faith.  Both of them strode upon the national Presbyterian pastoral scene with panache and regal gallantry.  

When Jamie went into the ministry, most people felt that it was yet another piece of the dynastic legacy of pastors.  And it was.  Jamie was an incredible preacher, teacher, leader.  He seemed to have it "all together".  He looked like Tony Robbins!  

When John F. Kennedy Jr. (President Kennedy's son) was killed in a plane crash a few years ago, it was popular to muse about "The End of Camelot".  When Jamie died this past Thursday, a similar Camelot came to an end.  A seasons end, a curtain fell on four generations of great Presbyterian ministers, and legends of the faith. 

Ecclesiastes reminds us that, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."  This will be a season of closure for the Presbyterian church. 

But a new season will begin...

All for now,