What’s Your Welcome Mat Say?

What’s Your Welcome Mat Say?

One of the great things about being a pastor at Faith Presbyterian is the way we plan worship.  And one of the amazing parts of the process is Worship Brainstorming Parties. (Hat tip to Marcia McFee of Worship Design Studio for the idea.) At our brainstorming for our worship series that began last Sunday – A Place to Call Home – I invited participants to make a welcome mat for Faith Presbyterian Church. My example used a scripture we read in Lent. Jesus tells his disciples to “shake the dust off” if they encounter people who won’t hear good news.  People hear a lot of bad news in the world.  I like to think that when we come to church, we are invited to shake off all that negativity, to be embraced by good news.                                 Another mat invited people not wait around outside, but to come on into the warmth of home. The idea of “home” appeared in a number of mats, echoing – not just our series – but people’s profound sense that church is a place where we are “at home with Jesus.”                                  People are, also, sensitive to what might make someone feel unwelcome – or ill at ease – at church, and created welcome mats to convey a sense of inclusion in a challenging world. The mat on the left below forms the letters of WELCOME using the word “welcome” in many different languages.  I...
Eyes Opened

Eyes Opened

What happens when your eyes are opened to see something that you thought was impossible to see? That’s what happens to the two disciples who walk with a stranger on the road out of Jerusalem on Easter Sunday afternoon.  They spend an hour or so (or possibly more) walking along with him, chatting about events of the past week in Jerusalem, enjoying the afternoon sunlight. They have had a really hard week; a week in which they watched their leader, Jesus, hanging on a cross until he was dead.  They are lost.  Their hearts are broken.  They think their world has ended.  They can’t see anything positive in the future. Then they stop for the night and ask the stranger to stop with them and share the evening meal. He does and joins them at the table in the inn. As they begin to eat, the stranger picks up the loaf of wonderful homemade bread that the waiter has brought to the table, and breaks it to give them each a piece. What happens next for them is like when you find the o in the puzzle below.  Look for it, and when you find it, remember how you felt when you found it. cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccocccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc cccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccc When he passes the bread to them, they immediately recognize the stranger – he is Jesus, the man they thought was gone forever. He is alive. They are astounded! What they think is impossible is possible!  Jesus, who they thought they would never see again, is with them!  They see him!...
Jesus Makes It Home

Jesus Makes It Home

Luke tells a story about Cleopas and an unnamed companion. The two are on a hopeless walk away from Jerusalem. They have seen the home they had among Jesus, and the other disciples, splinter and fragment in the face of Jesus’ trial and death. Their sense of community of purpose, the belonging that welcomed and inspired them had vanished. Vanished like Jesus from the tomb. Which only led to more hopelessness and confusion. Luke tells this story of Cleopas and the unnamed disciple to believers in the early church who were becoming hopeless. Luke’s first audience, 70 years after Jesus’ death and the empty tomb, were growing weary of waiting for the promised return of Jesus. They had – in the words of Cleopas – “hoped he was the One who was going to redeem Israel.” Instead, thousands were killed and thousands more scattered in the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. The Roman army commander and future emperor Titus ruled to breed hopelessness, describing himself as “an instrument of God’s wrath”. The early church would have understood the hopeless walk away from stories of an empty tomb. Hopelessness might be our traveling companion these days too, as we talk with each other about everything that is happening in the world. The promises we believed in, the possibilities we were invested in, seen dismantled. All about us is risk. We see the devastation let loose in the world on the innocent and the evil alike. We hear the promises and boasts, taunts and posturing of emperors and wanna-be emperors. It can seem like the home we...
Catch a Whiff of Resurrection

Catch a Whiff of Resurrection

One year, a church wanted to give the children a chance to decorate real eggs, the kind that require a bit of care. So we set up an Easter egg decorating party. Some of the teenagers were tasked with preparing the cups of dye. I noticed one girl poking dejectedly at her line up of coloring cups. Sure enough, her little tablets of color were just sitting there looking lumpy in a half cup of water. “Mine won’t dissolve” she wailed. “They just sit there.” I went over the directions: “You put one of the tablets in a cup, you added a tablespoon of vinegar and….”  “Well, no,” she said. “I didn’t add the vinegar.” “But it’s the vinegar that makes the tablet dissolve,” I said. “The color won’t break apart without it.” She just moaned. “I left the vinegar out.  I don’t like the way vinegar smells.” That young woman may have hit on an important Easter message. Without vinegar – without that key ingredient – the dye didn’t burst into useable, living color. It just sat there, lifeless. And life, without the resurrection, life without the living Christ, can be colorless and without purpose. It’s not just resurrection after death we need. It is resurrection during life. Like Easter egg dye without vinegar, life without resurrection can be wasted and wasteful and wan. We need that key ingredient found in the Easter story. The gospel writer Luke tells us the story with little drama and few words. The women – who feature prominently in Luke’s telling – go to the tomb. They are carrying spices and ointments...
What is generosity? #40acts blog

What is generosity? #40acts blog

Isn’t it fun being generous?  Doesn’t it feel good to give something to someone and see them smile and say “thank you”?   In fact, it makes you want to give even more, doesn’t it?  You pledge to church, and give as you pledged, then wait for the “statement of giving” to come at the end of the quarter so you can feel good that you met your pledge.  Maybe you make a pledge to give when a student from your alma mater calls during the annual campaign; then, a week or two later, the alumni association sends you a notice asking for your gift.  You write a check, or, more realistically, go on-line with your credit card and give the $ 20 or $ 25 for the scholarship fund.  A week or so later, you receive a letter of thanks.  You feel pretty good, don’t you?  We know we do.  Oh, and one other.  You put a special license plate on your car for your college and pay the BMV an additional $ 25 dollars that goes to the scholarship fund; what a wonderful feeling that is.  Well, actually, the wonderful feeling is that everyone can see that you are proud that you went to PURDUE or BALL STATE, or, of all things, IU. We wonder if that is really being generous.  When today’s 40 ACTS talked about the sacrifice involved in generosity, it got me thinking about my actual giving.  I never think of it as a sacrifice; we think of it as something that we just do.  We give to church, college, the BMV and other charities...