Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday, June 7th Morning Service

10:10 - Small churches usually start late. Lyle Schaller said so back in the 70's with his book The Small Church is Different. It is still true for us in Salem today. But, now here I go to pull this talkative crew together.

10:17 - He says that but we still didn't start church until now. The Gathering starts really late. This is Gentry by the way.

10:20 - There is a pretty full house here today and a good energy is pervading the place. Maybe that energy is the Holy Spirit. Hopefully it is.

Phil invited everyone to participate in the service today in the way that they feel led. Usually that just means that a couple of extra people play drums or something and maybe a few extra prayers are prayed. But with this crew, you never really know what an invitation to contribution will bring.

10:25 - After a few community recitations - "Come I This Day" and "The Beatitudes" - we are going to sing one of Phil's original songs, "Fall From Heaven." I am glad to be a part of a church where we have so many musicians and artists who bless us with their creative contributions. Carl writes great songs too, btw, and Phil's scripture chants are available for use in your church or community worship.

10:31 - I just ran into a family of tourists who were taking pictures of the outside of our building. Since the doors were open and we welcome interruptions, I invited them in to take pics. They politely refused, but we always welcome that sort of thing.

10:37 - Teaching time. We'll see what Phil has to bring today. The bulletin text is I Corinthians 15:12-19.

We're starting with a Scripture chant. Thank God. Sing along at home: God be merciful unto us and bless us. And cause His face to shine upon us..."

Today really is one of those days where it feels like anything can happen.

Phil is interspersing the chant above with the prayers of the people. People are asking for the end to war in Iraq and Afghanistan; parenting two year olds (namely mine); for a member's parents who are going to work with the Mennonite Mission in Indonesia for four years.

10:47 - Now Phil is starting teaching. Sorry for the false alarm.

Phil is starting by contrasting times of worship that try to replicate heaven on earth - extremely high church, beautiful cathedrals, professionally produced evangelistic/healing services, the mormon tabernacle - with worship gatherings which welcome the chaos of ordinary life - where we don't necessarily try to control people's weaknesses, awkward social interactions, the banging and clanging of real life interactions. Phil says that he prefers churches where anarchy, hopefully God's, breaks out and faith is worked out in the context of the mess.

Carlos quickly asked: "how do you know when the anarchy is God's or Satan's?"

Jeff M responded: "look at the outcomes." James S responded: um, actually I was typing, not listening.

Took a bathroom break. Who knows what I missed.

Phil: "When we get together in these moments, we should experience real life. Praying for two year olds in the midst of our frustration is real life. That's the way it ought to be."

A lot of joking about children, "spiritual warfare," murphy's law, etc.

Phil: "Through stories I want to give some philosophical background to who we are and what we do." Phil then identified a guest and asked if we could pray for his pain. The man said yes, he has a broken shoulder. We stopped and prayed.

The first story I'm going to tell...Phil is telling his story about God slapping him, which is also his conversion story.

"I want to explain how my story has influenced my view on this idea or concept that we call evangelism.

* Evangelism has become one of these terms that is loathed. According to recent studies, Evangelicals, who take their name from this emphases on the proclamation of the good news, are trusted by others about as much as prostitutes or lawyers

* One of the things that makes evangelism so hard, that makes it feel forced on people, is that Christians think they are solely responsible for the work of proclamation or evangelism. But, as my story suggests, God is already working in people's lives. We should never judge people based on what we think God is doing in their lives. We don't know what God is doing. So one of my assumptions in our work in Salem is that God is already working in their lives and we just need to trust his work and accompany people. Maybe we can help people interpret their experience or help them in other ways

* When I was younger I had the strong sense that God was more interested in my hereafter than in the here and now. I think that is true in a sense, though every single moment has the capacity to be an eternal moment. By opening myself to these eternal moments I am making my way to the great eternal moment in his presence. However, by focusing too much on people's hereafter we can put too much pressure on them to make choices in keeping with our hope for their eternal life

* James S - "When we went on mission trips to Utah we were always asked this really awkward question on our return: 'How many people did you convert.' That's an extremely awkward question, because I was out to sow seeds, to produce or reap the harvest is not something I can make happen."

Aside: there is the sound of a trumpet wafting through the streets. I don't know if it is recorded or not. Is this the weekend of the jazz festival. Btw - this aside was interrupted by someone asking for the men's room. There is always a lot of traffic around here to and from the johns.

Aside, Aside: More people are just wandering in and sitting down. That's cool.

* Sometimes in caring for the world here and now, we can lose sight of the eternal implications of what we are doing. We tend to have this pendulum swing as believers between coming too focused on there hereafter or, on the other side, of becoming too focused on the here and now. We need to find the terrible tension and balance between the here and now and the hereafter. Phil gives the illustration of a tightrope walker, who is balancing between his right and his left. As evangelistic Christians we have to be able to balance on that line.

* Reading of the scripture: "If Christ is not risen, your faith is future; you are still in your sins...If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." Phil - If we believe in the resurrection and it did not, in fact, of occur, we are following an empty hope. I Cor 9:23 - "I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some." In my case, I study witchcraft and other religions in order that I might serve and know people well.

11:38 - Turn to Eucharist.

12:01 - this is Phil typing after the service now. Wow, I went really long compared to usual. I like the service to be about an hour and fifteen minutes, including fellowshipping and starting late. We started on small church time - 15 minutes late, and then went about an hour and a half, and so it was a really long service for us.


Chandra said...

Yay for blogs! I was in the nursery for most of this so it was nice to read about what was happening out front. :-D

Beth said...

Interesting contrast of different kinds of services, altho I would want to offer a third possibility, the paradigm of those of us in the liturgical church, which is the full presence of messy ordinary life plus the full presence of heaven, which we'd root in the doctrine of the incarnation (Christ is fully God and fully human.)

Linda said...

Great! It was great to read about today's service since I'm all the way in Vermont and working. I enjoyed it.
Hope to see you soon!

Pastor Phil said...

Thanks for being in the nursery! We could not have done this without you!

Pastor Phil

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Beth,

The presentation of different types of services was a simplification. Of course, there is a merging of the two dynamics as you outline, but typically there is a origination point in one or the other. Evangelicalism wants to bring Jesus down into our mess (although this is not absolute, because bringing God's presence/heaven down to earth is a common theme), and highly liturgical services often offer a typology of glory - a respite from this mess.

The merging of the two is our goal in either model, and the value probably equal.

I tend to be anarchical I suppose, and prefer a messier model, but I have fun in both, and see deep abiding value in both.

As far as the incarnational approach: This is our goal at all times, but the most illusive of attainments, and perhaps never truly tested until the messiness of life arrives on our doorstep. You do a great job of inviting the messiness of life onto the doorstep.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Linda,

we sure do miss you down here at The Gathering!