Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31st at The Gathering - evening service

Just as we have been splitting the messages into two parts with two preachers in the morning service, we repeat this pattern in the evening as well. So once again Jeff Gentry and myself (Pastor Phil) are doing the teaching. Jeff is teaching on the first half of James 5, and I and teaching on the last half.

It is slowly growing darker now at 7:05 after we sang together, and prayed about needs. Only the smallest lights in the room are on, and candles are lit. At the communion table there are four candles on candlesticks, and a black box with with an orthodox icon and a candle in it, and a Celtic cross about 16 inches tall.

The evening service is a very small group often, and tonight there are about 10 of us.

One guy, who is a part of the church is sleeping in the back. He's sleeping off a drinking session. It's probably safer here than out on the street.

There is a pile of books on the floor in the middle of the room. It represents our attempt to find answers to life in black and white. A small beautifully carved wooden cross sits atop it.

Jeff is teaching again on patience and gossiping from the text of James 5.

"Patience in suffering" is a part of the text being developed here. Job, Moses in the desert, Abraham, Joseph imprisoned.... Now we are discussing personal models. Jeff suggests Mother Theresa, and James Shewey mentions a professor he had who told his students to prepare for the last days by taking the garbage out for mom when she asks - otherwise live our life now in preparation for the future. The guy in the back mentions Bev and I. He says that from time to time, and Bev an get embarrassed a little but love him a lot.

Now at 8:15 - I taught and connected Pentecost, and the openness of sharing the gifts of the spirit as discussed in ! Cor. 14:26-33 with James 5. The Carlos (the Prof. Carlos Z.) presented communion. Our sleeping friend woke up, and was a little trouble during communion because he was "sauced."

The service was a nice open service with good discussion times, and a little male heavy tonight, which is unique for Sunday evenings.

Sunday, May 31st at The Gathering

This morning it is a nice day. Our doors to the street are open wide, and a few people wandered in while Carl Nystedt led the worship. Carl is good, and people like to stop and listen to him. So if we can open the doors (which face to the walking mall) everyone likes to visit in downtown Salem.

Jeff is preaching now, and started by saying that "eschatology" is a $5 theological word that you don't need to spend $30,000 at seminary to learn.

I teaching through the first part of the 5th chapter of James, Jeff tells about living at Larche, and learning to cultivate life and spirituality by cleaning toilets, and putting away his Merton.

Attendance at service this morning is smaller than typical. Are you a member of a small church? How does it effect you when the numbers are smaller on a Sunday morning? Does it effect you?

Now Jeff is on the subject of gossiping - now he's meddlin'! James meddles. I guess we need to meddle like he does as well. So Jeff is calling us to repentance on the subject of grumbling and gossiping. "Nothing about us without us," is a quote he brought up as a good rule of talking about others - say nothing about them with out them present.

Okay, now Jeff is talking about gopher wood, and wondering how gophers make wood. Hmmmm, what happened to that $30,000 seminary education.

Hey there, it's Jeff now. Phil started finishing up James by pointing us back to the openness and power that is evidenced in Acts 2:41-47 and encouraged in passages like I Corinthians 14. Phil noted that for all his tough talk and assumed heavy handedness, in passages like I Cor. 14 Paul encourages the church to a radical mutuality in which more than one prophet speaks, praises and tongues are encouraged and interpreted and the church shares all good things with one another.

In closing (a phrase that preachers use at their peril, btw), Phil reminded us that James has commissioned us to do what he was attempting to do. Namely, to turn one another from sin and death and so save one another. Hmmm...saving one sounds like Martin Luther had more than one reason to hate this book that he both wanted to strip from the canon and effectively commended in his writing and preaching on a number of occasions.

Paul Drake anchored the service by leading our celebration of Eucharist. In a reading of Mark that I have never thought up myself, Paul reminded us that the first Eucharist was kept among a community that was broken and disintegrating as the disciples worried that they would be the one to betray their Lord. Paul mentioned that his reading of the text was influenced by the relationality that was emphasized in the two former sermons that were preached this day. Maybe we have multiple prophets speaking during our services after all. I wish more of these prophets were women. We've got enough white male middle-class prophets around here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Great Pub Theology

Tonight - May 27, 2009 a group of us met at The Old Spot, just like we do once a month for Pub Theology night.

Topic: Faith and Works how they fit together, and how they determine true spirituality.

Attending: Tom and Mary, Erin and Jim, The Prof. Carlos Z., Slade, Jeff C #3 (he's only the #3 Jeff because it rhymes with C), Mike C, and me (Phil).

Some random thoughts for the evening:

1) Mary and Tom capsized their canoe and lost their phones and wallets, and piles of other stuff, which is now on the bottom of the Atlantic. Somehow the canoe story became an illustration of faith and works. You know - storms of life, how we respond to them....

2) Mary's story about a relative who went to church all the time, but was as mean and cruel as anyone you ever met was a bit chilling.

3) Jim and Erin gave an illustration from personal life which was beautiful, on point, and you can ask them more. :-)

4) Slade called up James 2 first - "faith without works is dead."

5) Tom did not mention Obama until nearly the end of the evening! Wow, now that was restraint.

6) Jeff did not fall asleep. He wanted to I think, but he played the man, and actually was coherent.

7) Mike connected faith without much in works as a type of predeterminism, or fatalism; and works without much in faith as a type of legalism. This made the discussion take a robust turn for the good.

8) We ended by having everyone in a short phrase describe their idea of God's Government: The answers were Federalist Republic, Monarchy, Tyranny (actually something like a Kingdom Monarchy was meant I think), a Government to help the Weak, Anarchy (2 times), a Government run by the Military (Jeff called this a Hunta and laughed), and Socialism (of course this was the Prof Carlos Z., but you knew that didn't you?). So, if this was a democracy then Anarchy was the winner. Hmmmmm...

But, assuming that the government of God fulfills all the deep needs of humanity, and has all the best dynamics of any government we can imagine, then all the good things of all the kinds of government are a part of God's Kingdom, and all the bad elements of all the styles of government are lacking in God's leadership. Somehow that all tied into the topic of faith and works, and we all walked away feeling like the evening rocked.

Okay, I guess you had to be there to understand the Anarchy thing, but trust me it was cool. Peter Rollins gets it, I know that. Thumbs up Pete.