23 February 2012

Mr. Okra as the new paradigm for parish ministry

Carnival season for 2012 has come and gone.  It was a great time, but man oh man the crowds were huge!  I've never been apart of that kind of mass of humanity in my life.  Believe it or not most people in New Orleans look forward to Lent, we need some time to rest and recuperate after the parades and parties!  We need some time to fast after the feast.  We need some silence and some contemplation after the noise of the crowds and the sounds of the music.  We need the practice and observance of Lent (here is a shameless referral to a past guest column on just this need).

Yesterday some clergy in some cities imposed ashes on people in city streets and even in a drive thru.  Go to this post by a Baptist colleague in upstate NY for a nice description of this phenomena.  On the one hand it does seem to water down the practice by not being present in the service and not participating in the entire service.  Perhaps it does, perhaps it does.  So what?  Yeah, so what?

So what if pastors go up to people, remind them that one day they are going to die, rot, return to the earth, and then rub ashes on their foreheads?  If someone is willing to participate, willing to be reminded of their finiteness, willing to mark themselves of their reminding, so what if they didn't sit through Psalm 51, the passage from Matthew that I wish the RCL would change, and go through the time of repentance?  I say have at it.  For even cheap grace is still grace and even the dogs deserved to be fed (see Matthew 15:21-28)And while I am at it why stop at Ash Wednesday?  Why not offer the ashes everyday of Lent?

Really, why just this day?  What about someone who forgot about Lent or never heard about it - believe it or not some folk don't know the first thing about it.  Why shouldn't they be able to participate even if it is for only ten days or one Sunday?  I think there may even be a parable about this (see Matthew 20:1-16).  *for the record I still prefer the KJV.

What if churches took their mission to heal the world in the same manner of Mr. Okra?  Yeah, what if Mr.  Okra was the new model for evangelism.  What's that you don't know about Mr. Okra, here is an old truck version of Mr. Okra.

we have for-giveness, we have bible studies, we have the way of peace, we have something to say about what is the good life...

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