Holy Asides
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October 13, 2015, 1:03 PM

My Son's Wedding Reflections


As most of you know, my oldest son, Jonathan, got married at the beginning of the month. I had the privilege of officiating the service, and it was a marvelous and joyous event. Over the past ten days I have had time to reflect on some of the highlights, and I wanted to share them with all of you.

The Generosity of Grace Community Church. Jonathan and Sam, his wife, had planned an outdoor wedding at her mother’s house. Unfortunately, the excessive rain caused by Hurricane Joaquin caused them to change their plans. The husband of one of Sam’s co-workers is the pastor of Grace Community Church, and they generously opened their doors from Thursday through Saturday for the decorating and organizing of their marriage celebration. Pastor Steve and his wife were gracious throughout the weekend, and I was very touched by their gift of hospitality.

The Involvement of My Family. Of course, I was beaming with pride that all of my children were part of the wedding party. My daughters looked gorgeous, and both of my sons were quite handsome (not that I am objective). But, it was also wonderful that both of my grandmothers were present at the service. It is very rare that a groom has two great-grandmothers in attendance at his wedding, and it was wonderful to have the range of generations on hand.

The Emotional Reality of Officiating. There were several times where I almost broke down in the midst of the service. Of course, I was not the only one. I had to read the passage from I Corinthians that Sam’s grandfather was supposed to read, because he was too filled with tears to do it. So I wrapped my arm around him and read in his place. Preaching the sermon was very difficult. A couple of times Jonathan teared up as well, which made it even more challenging. But, ultimately, I made it through, as did everyone else, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Great-Grandfather’s Stole. When hands are joined after the vows and the giving and receiving of rings, the priest wraps a stole around them. This is the “tying of the knot.” The stole I used on this occasion belonged to Jonathan’s great-grandfather on his maternal grandmother’s side. His great-grandfather was a German Reformed pastor, which has largely evolved into UCC, and it was meaningful not only to Jonathan, but obviously to his mother’s family, that this family connection and bond continues.

Two Families Coming Together. Obviously, this is the nature of marriage, where “two become one flesh,” but I am speaking of more than just Jonathan and Sam. I had only once met Sam’s father about five years ago, and I had never met any of her other family. After the rehearsal at Sam’s mother’s home, Friday evening provided a brief, but powerful, time of connection. It became clear that we were coming together as a new family, and it was a wonderful realization. In a world where the family is becoming more and more fractured, it was great to be a part of an addition.

Joy and Celebration. This was the first event since my divorce where all of the family was coming together. It was not without some nervousness of how everyone would act or respond that I ventured into this occasion. I was pleased that the joy and celebration of this event overwhelmingly washed away any of the hard feelings, hurt, or discord (at least temporarily). It was a wonderful celebration that seemed to come to a close too quickly, as we had to restore the church to its original form because of Sunday’s worship.

While not a reflection of the wedding, per se, I am grateful that I get to share this event with you all, even just in this reflection. Thank you for your prayers and your love. 




September 9, 2015, 4:20 PM

Understanding Healing


The first of our monthly Healing Services will take place this Sunday at 6 PM. 

 

Because of misunderstandings, as well as quite a bit of abuse throughout the history of the Church, there are often misconceptions about the ministry of “healing.”  

 

Healing is NOT:

  • Exploitive faith healers slapping people on their heads.
  • Telling people that God would heal them if they “only had faith.” 
  • Only for those with extreme terminal illness.
  • Only for physical issues.
  • Solely being anointed with oil. 

 

Healing IS:

  • Receiving God’s anointing through prayer and the laying on of hands.
  • Being restored through God’s love: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • Allowing God to lift our burdens and relieve our pain.
  • Interceding on behalf of others.
  • For EVERYONE.

 

It is this last point that is the most crucial. Perhaps the biggest obstacle that we must overcome is seeing that we are worthy of God’s healing and blessing and anointing. Too often we look at the pain and suffering around us or in the world and deem that "others need healing more than us." But God’s love and healing is not finite; there is not a limited supply. God longs for all of us to be completely healed and restored to fullness in body, mind, and spirit. 

 

Therefore, I invite you to come and experience this service of healing, where we focus on receiving God’s restorative love. May we proclaim the words of the centurion to Jesus, which many speak before coming to the altar for communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

 




August 31, 2015, 4:03 PM

Growing into our Vision


I was greatly pleased by the number of people who came out for the “Exploring Who We Are” dinner and discussion last Saturday evening. Additionally, I thought the Vestry did a great job preparing and serving dinner, as well as facilitating the table discussions. While there will be much said about that evening over the coming months, especially as we look at our vision and mission, I want to highlight one aspect: the 2020 vision component.

 

A topic discussed was what St. Joseph’s would look like in five years. After perusing the feedback from the 65 people in attendance, there was one common theme that emerged: growth. In five years, St. Joseph’s will grow. We will grow in leadership. We will grow in participation. We will grow in diversity. We will care for one another in deeper and more meaningful ways. We will grow in the number of families attending with more kids, teens, and young people. Our outreach into the community will be expanded. Our building will hopefully be expanded. The question then becomes, how will this growth take place?

While the specifics of how we grow will take prayer and discernment, the general principle will be the same as when talking about growth of any kind. How do kids grow? How do plants grow? They are fed, watered, cared for, nurtured, cultivated, and weeded. In short, there is much work and investment that goes into this growth. There is much care and intentional effort that occurs throughout the process. The same will be true for growth to occur at St. Joseph’s. We will need to feed on the word of God in worship. We will need to care and nurture one another. We will need to intentionally reach out to our neighbors and communities to cultivate the soil. And we will need to be patient. Growth does not happen overnight. Also, in the midst of the growth that does occur, there will need to be weeding and pruning to encourage greater growth. And, perhaps most importantly, it will be a process that involves many active participants. Growth will not take place by depending solely on the clergy and vestry. We must work together in unity, effort, and partnership in order for true growth to take place. 

 

I look forward to the next stages of this conversation with all of you, as we begin to cultivate and prepare the soil for the planting that we will undertake.




July 30, 2015, 12:00 AM

Confirmation Re-Imagined


Confirmation Classes, which have been a tradition in the Church for as long as anyone can remember, will begin this fall. Over the years, Confirmation has signified such rites of passage as “Making an Adult Confession of Faith”, “Becoming a Member of the Church”, and the “Ability to Receive Communion”.  Confirmation, being the requirement to receive Eucharist under the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, is probably the aspect that has the strongest influence on how we still perceive Confirmation, because, let’s face it—now days there are not many 12-13 year olds, who are separated from their parents, who must make an “adult” confession of faith. This is because our own experience, and that of our children, shapes how we believe things should be. Many of us were Confirmed at 12-13 years of age. We memorized the Creeds and Prayers and learned the Catechism—all with the goal of being able to take Communion. However, since the “new” 1979 Book of Common Prayer, all are able to receive Communion once they have been baptized. So, now what? What is the goal or emphasis of Confirmation today? And, perhaps, what should it always have been?

 

I believe that there are three components to Confirmation that should guide us into how we prepare, sponsor, and teach those who wish to be confirmed. Confirmation is first a confirming of what God has already begun in us at Baptism. This is the general understanding of Confirmation, specifically in our individualistic culture, and heightened all the more so by being in a concentrated Baptist region. This is the opportunity for one, whose parents took vows for them as a child, to make the vows their own. They are confirming that they indeed believe that Jesus is Lord, and that they will renounce sin and Satan. Moreover, when the Bishop lays his hands on their head and they receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they are also confirming that they are seeking a deeper life in the Church and in Christ.

 

The second component is also familiar, and it is related to why it is the Bishop (not priests or lay people) who comfirms. In Confirmation, the Church, specifically through the historic Apostolic succession of the Bishop, confirms that God is at work in those who come forward. Through the laying on of hands and calling forth the Holy Spirit, the Bishop confirms that what Christ had begun in them at Baptism has matured into a deeper adult faith.

 

It is the final component of Confirmation that generally eludes us. The community of faith, the local congregation, as represented through the sponsor/s, confirms that this person exhibits the qualities of a growing and developing faith in Christ. Moreover, they confirm that this candidate takes seriously the vows that the parish took at their Baptism: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” The congregation enthusiastically replies that they will do this. But, rarely, if ever, does this thought reemerge. We hold Sunday School, VBS, and Youth Groups to encourage our young people growing up in the Faith. But, what about their ministries? What about their leadership? How are we drawing them into the larger aspect of the Body of Christ? It is this that the parish is confirming—that this person is committed to Christ, and prepared to serve in ministry. It is this final component that I hope we can stress and encourage—not just for the sake of those being confirmed, but for our entire congregation. 

 

I have often felt that Confirmation is like a mini-ordination. Similar to the ordination of a Deacon or Priest, the Bishop lays his/her hands on the candidate’s head and asks the Holy Spirit to fill and empower them for the Lord’s service. As we prepare to lead and guide those wishing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, let this be our focus. We are teaching and encouraging the newest ministers of our parish, helping them to discern their gifts and strengths, and providing them with opportunities to serve Jesus Christ faithfully.

 




June 12, 2015, 8:41 AM

Crazy Fun


This is the second of two reflections on my ride in the Dirty Kanza 200.

 

As you could tell from the last blog, the Dirty Kanza 200 was a difficult and challenging ride. Of course, this is actually shocking to no one. Nearly everyone said to me, “You’re going to ride 200 miles on your bike? On gravel? In Kansas? In one day? You’re nuts.” Well, maybe so, but the ride is more than just competing or overcoming obstacles or meeting goals.  It’s also fun. So, in no distinct order, I want to share seven things that made this 200-mile gravel grinding race enjoyable.

 

  • The Camaraderie. I may be nuts, but there were 999 other people lined up with me—just as crazy as I am. And it was great riding with many of them, joking as we hiked through the mud, asking from where one another came. We would pass and then repass each another. Most of us were not competing for podium places. We were just trying to finish, so there was a common encouragement that took place.

 

  • The Scenery. One of the difficult things about riding on gravel is you have to pay a lot of attention to the ground in front of you. But occasionally you are able to focus and appreciate the amazing prairie grass that surrounds you. It was truly beautiful, made even more so by the complete lack of cars (or even houses) along this isolated route in the Flint Hills.

 

  • The Cows. The cows could be considered scenery, but they deserve to be mentioned. Many times we passed right through a herd of cows and I could have reached out and touched one on either side.  I just prayed they stayed right where they were and didn’t decide to cross right then. One little bull was standing on the outside of the fence as we were going up a hill. That was a little troubling, but he was much more interested in the grass than us. 

 

  • Bike Handling. Over the course of 200 miles, I realized my bike handling skills have improved. Going into this race, I thought my skills were really pretty bad.  But I discovered that many people's are much worse, or that mine were better than I thought... probably a little bit of both. But I was able to bomb down the hills, climb up steep grades of loose rock, bunny hop over obstacles, and ride quickly and steadily through the mud. At one point, I came to a complete stop in the mud to wait for a fallen rider to get out of the way, and I was able to get going again. That might not be impressive to you, but after already walking many miles in the mud, it was one of the highlights of my day.

 

  • Checkpoints. The support and encouragement that I received at the checkpoints was wonderful. I was cheered coming into town. I was fed. I was given help in cleaning my bike, finding supplies, and reorganizing my kit. And then I was cheered as I remounted for another long haul. Considering these checkpoints came after riding 77 miles and then 158 miles, it was a blessing to be helped and encouraged to press on.

 

  • “Block Party”. Near the end of the ride, with maybe only 25 or so miles to go, there was a party on the corner at one of the houses. There was music blaring, there were torches burning and people cheering, and they were handing out Cokes, water, and beer. In hindsight, I should’ve gotten a beer—instead of the Coke, because the Beer Garden ended at midnight (I rolled in 3 minutes after midnight). It was a wonderful show of support from the community to help push me in those final miles.

 

  • High Fives. The cheering from the community at the checkpoints, the houses along the way, and at the finish line was wonderful. But the best was the kids who came out to the edge of their driveway and put out their hands for a high five as I went by. I must’ve high-fived a dozen kids, and each acted like it was the greatest thing ever. They laughed, cheered, and beamed as they told their parents—“I did it! He hit my hand.” I am not sure anything could make me feel more like a pro rider than the purely joyful reaction of those kids—and it was amazing. 

 

 

So you may be right—I may be crazy to ride 200 miles of gravel in the middle of Kansas. It was a challenge, but it was also a blast!


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