Church Stuff-More or less

Does the church make sense or do we make it too hard for people to come in? I think yes and yes and the task then is to make it easier. Maybe for someone out there, this will be the case. I write as a Lutheran (or, perhaps a Lutherpalian) although I might seem out of the mainstream from time to time. That's okay, isn't it? Let's blog on.

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Location: Northport, Long Island, United States

Contrary to what Google will tell you, I have been blogging for several year, right here. Look for Churchstuff-moreorless. life was a hell of a lot easier when you could talk to someone to get help. Now, you can't do it on the telephone, you can't do it on the internet. Life was easier and made more sense because people actually cared. Now they will screw you as quickly as they will help you. Unfuck the world.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Remember that you are dust...

We held our annual Ash Wednesday service last night at 7:30. The attendance was typical for a non-Sunday Lutheran service, less than you hope but important nonetheless. I still have some black under my thumbnail even though my forehead is reasonable clean.

As I went to put my alb away-along with my heavy cloak and balck stole-I bent down to pick up the hanger I dropped before the service, oblivious to the processional candle standing there in the closet. Smack! went my forehead on the dripcatcher. When I got home to wash the ashes off, I noticed the cut on my forehead, dried blood and all. Now the ashes are gone but the mark remains and probably will for a week or so.

We tend to like to get such things over with quickly, why dwell upon the sad stuff. Like going straight from Palm Sunday to Easter. I've always wondered about folks who come to Ash Wednesday services yet eschew the imposition of ashes. We had a few of them last night. But, we also had a few late comers who approached me later in the service, during the sharing of peace, for ashes. I quickly went to the sacristy and returned. Even after the service, someone came to me for ashes as well. MAde it all seemed worthwhile and no inconvenience at all.

The faith is inconvenient at times. We like to skip over some parts as I said earlier. But Jesus never said it would be convenient, just that he would be there.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clothing the Naked--or at least the cold

Long Islanders for Change  is a continuation of the 2008 Obama campaign. One of our intentions is to do regular (as in monthly) community service projects and yesterday was February’s turn. Together with Project Hope we collected winter clothing to distribute to less fortunate members of our community. Truth be told, many of those folk are migratory workers but we don’t check for documents. Project Hope is one of several social ministry projects of a local Roman Catholic parish, St. Hugh of Lincoln and, from what I could see, they seem to actually get it. They seem to be truly acting as Jesus’ agents, feeding the hungry, clothing the less fortunate (it’s too cold to be naked) and so forth, so it is indeed fitting to give them props here. While we (the Obamites) were busy receiving, sorting and folding clothing in one corner of the cafeteria, two dozen youth were busy preparing vegetables in another. They actually seemed to enjoy what they were doing and none seemed to be there against their will.
I guess I noticed it because it looked exactly what I had hoped to instill in all of the congregations with which I have worked yet haven’t. I guess I noticed it because I realized that it was possible. Not just the youth, but the adults, too. Everyone seemed to be enjoying what they were doing, even if it was Saturday.
Later in the afternoon, as we were wrapping things up, I happened to have an opportunity to spend some time talking with the head of their youth ministry. Small talk, mostly, I guess because I didn’t think to ask to what he attributed the activity that I had observed. Next time I see him, I’ll have to remember to ask. It will haunt me until I do.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Prayer in ‘The Middle Years’ of Opportunity

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organize myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart:
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me,
I give You my discontent,
I give You my restlessness,
I give You my doubt,
I give You my despair,
I give You all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Two Champions

There were two kingdoms that shared a common border. In one country, they worshiped the sun, and in the other country, they worshiped the moon. Because of their religious differences, the two kingdoms went to war. Each gathered an army and the two armies met at the frontier. Row upon row of warriors, sunlight glinting on their war gear, faced each other across the no man’s land.

It was agreed that each army would send forward a champion to fight in single combat. The strongest, most skillful warrior in each army was selected. The two men advanced towards each other, grim faced, and with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. On the chest of one was emblazoned an image of the sun; on the chest of the other, an image of the moon.

When they met, they fought like demons. They fought all morning long, as the sun rose higher in the sky. They fought through the midday heat, when the sun was at its zenith. They fought on and on as the sun descended towards the west. They were both such strong and skillful fighters that neither man could gain the advantage. They were still fighting, nose to nose, locked in each other’s arms, when at last the sun went down. But by then they were exhausted. They both collapsed on the ground, too feeble to even crawl back to the camps their respective armies had made for the night.

“I hate you!” groaned the Champion of the Sun.

“I hate you!” replied the Champion of the Moon.

“I have to kill you,” said the Champion of the Sun. “Back home I have a wife who loves me and a little boy who wants to be a warrior like me. I have to protect them from the likes of you.”

“I had a wife,” said the Champion of the Moon. “Your people killed her in the last war. That’s why I have to kill you.”

The moon rose. Presently, the Champion of the Sun asked the other man, “what was she like, your wife?”

“She was lovely. We had been sweethearts since we were children. I used to play with her in the woods near here.”

“Sounds like you had a happy childhood,” said the Champion of the Sun. “Not like mine. My father made us work all day in the fields and he’d beat us if we complained.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” said the Champion of the Moon.

And so they talked about their childhoods and the other things that they had done in their lives. They talked and talked as the moon rose higher in the sky. Still they talked as the moon descended towards the west. Only for the last hour or two of the night did they sleep. Side by side they lay, their swords and shields dumped beside them.

The sky turned grey, then pink in the east. Sounds and smells of breakfast making emanated from the two camps. The two champions were woken by the warmth of the sunshine on their faces. Wearily, painfully, they creaked to their feet. They looked into each other’s eyes. Then they embraced, and, leaving their swords and shields behind, walked back to their respective armies.
They could not fight each other any more, for you cannot fight someone when you know their story.
Adapted from a Serbian folktale

Friday, February 20, 2009

An embarassing test post

Reading my last blognote, I think I was going to post more frequently. I am somewhat embarassed to see how long ago that was. Some of it has been my fault-I moved like I said I would. Somethings get lost in a moving shuffle, things like best intentions and blogs. So, when I finally decided to take up the pen--err the keyboard--again, the blog people denied ever knowing me. But, now we have climbed that hurdle. So, now there is really no excuse. Oh, wait, I have a couple of online devotions to write first. I'll be back real soon, I promise.