Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Scooby Doo and the Avatar Were the Worst!

Luke 10:25-37

This Sunday was Thanksgiving Sunday AND World Communion. The church calendar is intersecting in a fabulous way with the secular calendar this year. If you're church geeky such as me, it might interest you that the following dates/days have been or will be connected:
  • Christmas Eve 2017 - was a Sunday (we had our usual Sunday morning service and then two evening Christmas Eve services)
  • Ash Wednesday - was Valentines Day in 2018
  • Easter Sunday - was April 1st. I was tempted to set up a tomb-like structure and have a Jesus character jump out and yell 'April Fools!!' at the start of the service. But I didn't. Cause I'm a grown up.
  • Pentecost Sunday - was Victoria Day long weekend. So many people leave town that weekend to get their first weekend of camping in. Various combinations of the staff also try to take that weekend off. Not in 2018. We. Were. All. Here.
  • Canada Day was a Sunday.
  • Thanksgiving Sunday was the same Sunday as World Communion. Giving thanks as we have communion with Christians around the world. Cool.
  • Remembrance Day is a Sunday.
  • Epiphany 2019 falls on a Sunday. Super cool. We'll have to food involved with that service. Have an actual Feast of Epiphany
Anyway - none of this is what the message was about Sunday. I got myself a little distracted. Here's the somewhat organized chaos of what happened...

With some help, I told this story:
A man was going down from Calgary to Okotoks, when he fell into the hands of two pediatric cardiovascular surgeons. They stripped him of all of his vast amount of money, stoned him, and scurried away, leaving him half comatose.  An Avatar happened to be going down the same road, and when she saw the man, she shuffled by on the other side.  So too, a Scooby Doo, when he came to the place and saw him, he skedaddled by on the other side.  But a Muslim, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he felt sorry for him.  He went to him and bandaged his elbow, pouring on water and milk.  Then he put the man on his own cow, took him to an pyramid scheme business and took care of him.  The next day he took out two purple pieces of monopoly money and gave them to the babysitter. “Look after him.” He said, “and when I return, I will pay you for
any extra damages you may have.”
Does this story sound familiar to you? If you're churched at all, it should ring a few bells for you. It's the Mad Libs version of The Good Samaritan. I asked the youth and children to select verbs, nouns, occupations and such at the start of the service and then I told the story.

Dave read the scripture reading in French and some folks acted out the story. You remember it right? Some religious people ask Jesus what are the basic laws to follow in God's world. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And love your neighbour as you would yourself. At which point, the religious know-it-all tried to trick Jesus and asked, 'But, who is my neighbour?' And Jesus, being way clever, answered with parable rather than a straight-forward, easy to work around answer and told the story of the despised Samaritan being the hero of the injured man. The priest and the Levite were not the heroes. THAT Samaritan was very much the hero.

And then I asked some questions...

·       What do you suppose the injured man thought when he saw the priest coming his way? (If you can’t rely on a religious leader to help you, who can you count on?)

·       What about the Levite (lay leader respected in religious circles)? (Disappointed, an outcast, not worthy of being helped…)

·       Why do you suppose neither of them stopped to help? (Ritual cleanliness, being late, maybe they were being tricked…)

·       The injured man was a Jew and Jews HATED Samaritans – they treated them like second class citizens. How do you suppose the injured man felt when the Samaritan walking towards him? (Helpless, vulnerable, expecting to be taunted or harmed further?)

·       What did you notice the Samaritan did in this story? He took IMMEDIATE action. He saw someone in need and got involved. He ignored prejudices. He saw a person in serious need and acted. His concern for the injured man was genuine and long-lasting. He made arrangements with the innkeeper to return later to check on the man’s condition and settle his bill.

·       How do you think the injured man felt when he realized the full extent of how the Samaritan helped him? (THANKFUL) When you live with gratitude, you look at the world with a different outlook – you are more compassionate, forgiving, helpful, kind.

·       What was Jesus trying to say when he made the Samaritan, a hated foreigner, the hero of the story? (Our neighbour can be ANYONE.)

Not very often do we come across such dramatic opportunities to help someone else. My son Simon and I saw a very bad accident last week. We got to be good Samaritans because help was very much needed but there are very few moments in life in which we witness such a dramatic event. I can think of two different ways of loving the world as you would love yourself even when there are no accidents or violent acts to respond to:


Gratitude - Thumbprint Prayer -- Each day look for at least one person, place, or moment that you’re thankful for or that fills you with feelings of thankfulness. When you are with that person, or are in that place, or have had that moment, leave your thumbprint somewhere close by. As you do, say—even under your breath—“Thank you, God!” See how many thumbprint thank yous you can leave in the world.

Helping - Acts of Kindness – write some action you could perform this week on a piece of paper and put it into the offering plate

The youth and the children then collected all the sticky notes with acts of kindness written on them and taped them to the cross. It was awesome.

And that is how our message time went on this Thanksgiving Sunday. You can watch the whole service here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

This That and the Other

Alright. I'm going to confess right here and now - no burying the lead... I have not done what I wanted/said I would do. I had it in my head that I would read a book in a couple of weeks and then I would write up a little blog post about the book. You know - just write up a little something in between the sermons and other such things that I write in my day-to-day to life.

It's a funny thing, but there are folks who still don't know that a minister actually does work four (and sometimes five) days of the week beyond Sunday. We compose - on paper or in our heads - sermons. We write grant applications. We write bible study programs. We write newsletters. We write prayers, worship services and blessings for babies. We help with Committee work. We host programs. We make phone calls and visit those who need a pastoral presence in their lives.

You get it. I know you do. But sometimes I forget. And I think I can write just one more thing before the At-a-Glance gets sent out on Thursday afternoons. Which is a long-winded (I am a preacher after all) way of saying, there's no way I could write a blog post for each book I've read so far this year.

A valuable piece of advice I received as I was contemplating becoming a leader of international study trips was:
When things don't go the way you thought they would and you realize you can't achieve your goal, you change your goal.
Isn't that amazing? Makes life infinitely better most days.

Anyway, this is me changing my goal. I will - I WILL - read all the books I set out to read this year but...the blog posts will happen when they happen. And one is happening today. And, with this post I will be more than doubling my finished book listing...so, as my new ministry colleague and most favourite person with the last name Harper says - strap in cause things are about to get a little crazy.

I've consulted my Goodreads account and according to it and this blog, the last book I mentioned here was Reasons to Stay Alive - book 7 of the intended 26 I want to read in 2018. But I have been reading. Slowly but surely. Here are the books I've read since my last post...

#8 - Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A lovely quick read about how to guide your child to respect themselves and others. To treat others as you would like yourself to be treated. To honour each and every being and expect the same in return. I think I knew/had learned most of what was mentioned in this book but there were still some very good realizations in this book.

#9 - Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesca Ramsey

I saw an interview with Ramsey about her activism as a result of making the short video Sh*t White Girls Say...to Black Girls She was catapulted into the limelight with the video and had a steep learning curve on the ins and outs of being an activist. She writes about what it means to be a black woman in America and how challenging it is for a black woman to navigate in the world. If you read only one chapter of this book, read the one about black women's hair - the politics of hair, the discrimination of hair and the rude behaviour associated with hair. 

#10 - Yes We (Still) Can - Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump by Dan Pfeiffer
As many of you know, I'm on a bit of an American politics kick these days. Dan Pfeiffer was very much an insider to the Obama Whitehouse and he continues to offer political commentary on the podcast, Pod Save America. Living through the chaos of the Trump Whitehouse, this book is a fascinating read. And...I want to share this story about my decision to read the book. I had been contemplating ordering it, especially since ordering it within a certain time would mean a certain good charity in the States would get a small cut of the book sales. But I was wavering on whether I would actually read a whole book on politics and forgot about it. At least I thought I did until a box from Amazon arrived at home and this book was in the package. I thought, 'oh, I guess I did order the book - huh.' And I read it. Meanwhile, my eldest son, who follows the same pollical commentaries as I do, asked if I had received a package from him lately. No. No I didn't, I told him. Finally, when he was visiting in August, he tells me that this book was the package that he sent. Oh! That's why I don't remember ordering the book! I thought I was losing it for a little while there. He knew I had it because he and I are connected on Goodreads and he saw that I was reading it despite not realizing the Amazon box had had a gift enclosure note that I had missed. I thanked him and then gave it to him to read.
#11 - More Ready Than You Realize: The Power of Everyday Conversations by Brian McLaren
An interesting read about the power of evangelism, testimony, story-telling and friendships. I really appreciate McLaren's gentle push and pull of going deeper in theological exploration.
#12 - The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs
After reading Jacobs' Year of Living Biblically, I figured he'd be worth reading again. This book is fun but tedious. It's basically a summary of the Encyclopedia Britannica interspersed with vignettes from his life with his wife and extended family - which are the nuggets of hilarity that kept me reading. I do feel a bit smarter having read the book but new bits of information I have are a bit esoteric and likely not very helpful in day to day life.
#13 - Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person - Shonda Rhimes
This book made the pile of books my dear hubby chose to read over the summer. I write that sentence like he chose the books in that pile. How it happened went more like this... 
Him: I think I'm going to read 6 or 7 books this summer.  Me: Oh, can I do that with you?
Him: Sure. Me: Do you need suggestions? 
Him: Sure. Me: Okay, this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one and this one. 
Him: Sure. (He finished all seven books. I finished 4.) 
A friend had recommended Rhimes book so I added it to the pile. I wasn't so sure when I started the book but I found it to be a good read. Rhimes is responsible for all the good TV on Thursdays evenings (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, etc) but she woke up (metaphorically) one day to the realization that she was not living life to its full potential. She was not having fun. She was not living a full life. And this book is about how she figured it out and started living life the best she could.
#14 - The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
This book was summer homework for the SVUC Board. A great way to help you get focused on what's important and how to accomplish what you'd like to achieve. Easy to read and worthy considering how it can help you get to where you want to go.
#15 - The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by MLK Jr himself
This was a challenging read. Not because of the writing. But because of the terrible and desperate situation African Americans lived in before the Civil Rights Movement. I had no idea how immediately MLK was thrust into state and nation-wide leadership after he was ordained and called to his first congregation. How much his and his family's life was under constant threat. How VERY BADLY white people treated black people during the era of Jim Crow. This book is worth every minute it takes to read it.

So. There you have it. I'm up to 15 books out of the 26 on my reading schedule this year. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker is next. It promises to be good ready - Hatmaker regular gets told by Evangelical Christians that, because she's a woman, she has no business expressing her thoughts about theology, Jesus and God. I'm thinking she's a bit feisty and I like feisty.