25 November 2012

Primal Christianity

This morning we observed Christ the King/The Reign of Christ at Judson Memorial Baptist Church.  To be honest I'm not a fan of those medieval titles but I live with them until new metaphors emerge.  The point of the service was to close the liturgical year.  I took as my text Paul's letter to the Philippians chapter three verses ten to twenty one, using the theme of holding on and pressing on.  The central questions of the homily (yet again, even my short homily was longer than my previous long sermons from the past) what was worth holding onto from the past year and what did you need to press on from the previous year.

The homily ended with a time of reflection, after which worshippers were invited forward to light a candle as a representation of what they were holding onto and what they were pressing on from.  The worship committee designed the service and the liturgy, my golly are they a talented bunch!  As folk came forward I could tell that the ritual was a meaningful one for them, each brought to the candle their own interpretation of the event (which is the way it is supposed to be, I can neither control nor desire to control that experience).  I lit a candle for matters that I wish not to share, let me simply say there are things that I wish to press on from and hold onto the experiences of community that I am soaking up daily.  As I sat down in my position behind the pulpit I began to get nervous, what if someone catches their sleeve on fire, what if someone put too much hair spray or gel into their hair this morning and their hair catches fire and they light up like a roman candle?  What if someone trips and knocks everything off the table, what if we run out of candles, what if...  That's the way my mind works.  Luckily none of these things happened, the service went swimmingly.

Upon the conclusion of the service.  I was taken aback by how many people found meaning in the service.  I never know how folk are going to respond to something that I thought was a great and beautiful idea (with each new layer the worship committee kept blowing me away with their beauty and depth).  One parishioner remarked about how if you give folk a chance to play with fire they will respond.  I chuckled, as did he.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought he was right.  After all who doesn't like to play with fire?

Maybe in worship should be, in some manner, at a primal level, playing with fire, water, bread, & wine.  I recall from freshman psychology class, which ain't much, I was so damn immature, the professor once saying that if we could travel back in time thousands of years ago (and by thousands I mean more than six thousand, in case you were wondering) to the time of "the caveman" we could communicate with this creature on an emotional level, a primal level.  So what if worship, in other manners, dealt with the matters of primal emotional needs: forgiveness, anger, laughter, crying, community, the need to touch and be touched, to bless and be blessed, to love and be loved?  And still be intellectually stimulating!

I don't think every Sunday all of these elements should be present in every worship service but maybe over the course of a month these would be highlighted in some form or fashion.  But balancing the primal needs of human beings through the lens of Christianity, that is the never-ending quest.  How to make Christianity more earthy?  Or how does Christianity help us to be more human on this earth?  In tune with the seasons, our own primal needs and the primal needs of our neighbor.  Maybe these are the real question bouncing around in my mind.

Someone put a pot of coffee on and get down my Matthew Fox books!

22 November 2012

Sermon Fun

Last Sunday's sermon was perhaps the most fun I've ever had as a preacher.  I share it because here is what a preacher looks like when he or she loves their vocation.

Judson Sermon November 18 2012 from Jacqueline Thureson on Vimeo.

19 November 2012

Welcome Home

On the afternoon of November 11 sometime between 3 and 4:15 I was officially installed as the 12th pastor of Judson Memorial Baptist Church

Installation services at free church Protestant congregations always border on either turning into a coronation service or a battle for the longest service of the decade.  This service was neither excessively long nor over the top praise of the one being installed.  Instead it was a worship service to celebrate the difficult work of the church, by the search committee, by me and my family, and the host of others who poured out their hearts and souls during this process. 

I cannot remember an installation service at the church I attended as a kid.  When I first heard about them I felt a deep sense of betrayal, "you mean there was a party we could have had and didn't!"  The search process is a trying, difficult, and growing time for a church and a pastor.  All of that emotional investment needs a celebration, especially when the all seem so happy about the fit.  I don't want to go through another search process (I mean it).  In the back of my mind I wanted to be a part of service that I could look back on years from now and say there was nothing more I could have wished for at the service (except the presence of my family in WV, but they'll be here come Spring).  I wanted the service to be one of deep promises, a service that we could all turn to in moments of joy and elation and moments of disappointment and frustration. Perhaps the church wanted this too (hope so) for the service we developed together was amazing. 

I asked for the church to lay hands on me to close the service.  During the prayer my oldest son climbed down to knell with me and my youngest played with my preaching tabs and my daughter stood tall with her hands on my shoulders.  The emotion of the moment caught up with me and I began to cry.  My tears fell on my oldest son, my youngest kept playing with my tabs, and my daughter started crying when she felt the emotion in my shoulders.  At the end of the prayer I stood up and a man from the church said the greatest benediction ever, "Welcome Home Travis."  And then I really began to cry! 

(Little did that man know that after my trial sermon an elderly woman from the congregation came up to me, shook my hand, looked directly in my eyes and said, Welcome Home.  I dont know how I kept my composure but I did.) 

Although my name does have Norwegian roots, I never thought I would find and make my new home in Minneapolis...but I'm glad I did. 

post script: after the service my two oldest kids, a couple of the youth, my friends, and church folk all gathered for a bluegrass jam session playing Old Joe Clark, it was a blast.  The first time I've played in public since Lime Rock, that tells you how much I feel at home here!