Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Repent

Monday I made the mistake of reading the attendance and giving report for our church in the past two weeks. Across the board our numbers were dismal, and everyone knows church is a numbers game. The previous week our offering was $418. The previous day I preached to a slim gathering of 64. The sermon was about money and God's reign. How ironic.

I slouched in my chair. I scanned the spines of my bookshelves, looking for inspiration from church growth gurus. Better yet, I decided to pray.

Perhaps it was my posture or the topic, but my prayer echoed the outskirts of Gethsemane. Rather than sleeping, I decided to walk through the sprawling town that is Leesburg, IN. As I prayed, God made it clear that repentance was a central topic.

"Help this town repent," I asked God. Recently, the town was guilty of political foment, all-you-can-eat fried fish, and littering. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

I prayed repent from the church to the fish fry pits, from the pits to the elementary school, down the alley and past an old man. I prayed repent from the Post Office to the National City Bank and across State Route 15.

A town worker interrupted my prayer. He called me over to his truck and rolled down his window. "You're right about this town," he began. "It's evil. There are evil people here."

I prayed repent over his truck. "It's funny that you mention that," I said, "because I've just been praying repentance for this town."

"Let someone else do it," he suggested.

"Do you know what repent means?"

He gave an uncertain nod. His wife is Catholic; he's a Bears fan.

I prayed repent over our conversation. "Repent literally means to change your mind. To alter your thinking."

"That's not going to happen in this town," he concluded swiftly.

"That's why I'm praying it," I respond, grinning.

We parted ways. He returned to his work, unconvinced, unchanged. I returned to the church refreshed, repentant. God reigns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pimentos

Our table is littered with pimentos. This is dinner time. This is messy. I am laughing my head off. My daughters eat like animals. Claire is a bird, picking and pecking at meager portions. In fact, she is more like a hummingbird, searching for sugar diluted in water. Margot is a fox, scavenging for meat. Brown & Serve is her meat. Bacon is her potatoes.

At some point we should force variety down their throats. We should also introduce the virtue of cleaning the table. If it is not pimentos from the Spanish olives, it is globs of oatmeal, streaks of honey, or amputated bread crusts making the tabletop a Martha Stewart no-no (or Jackson Pollack canvas).

As parents we are bad examples. We let our kids climb on furniture, jump off bunk beds, cross the street, steer the car, pound sugar, and flatulate (not in public). To misquote Shakespeare, all the world is their playground, and they are merely playing.

More than once Liz and I have felt scrutinized by other adults and parents. When we feel their red eyes fall on us, we invite them home to feed the girls and put them to bed at eight. To date we have had no takers. (Okay, we never really asked.)

Fortunately, Liz and I are on the same page. We want our daughters to celebrate each day. Tomorrow they may grow old and responsible and anxious... if the Lord wills. Then again, tomorrow is never a guarantee (James 4:13-17).

Meanwhile, I am laughing. Our table has measles. Our table has freckles. Our table needs serious attention because it is covered by pimentos my daughters spat out because they looked like demon eyes and felt like boogers. Oddly enough, if they were really boogers, my daughters probably would have eaten them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Threes

For Lent I gave up milk shakes, ice cream, and DVDs. These three objects seem harmless enough, but may be the biggest contributors to our national health care crisis. Virtually any offering seems small when compared against the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. We do not remember Him often enough...

I attended three funeral services last week. The first was a beautiful, multi-sensory, and liturgical procession led lifelessly by a Catholic priest. The second was a quaint, thoughtful, and participatory event designed humbly by a seasoned Methodist preacher woman. The final was a grand, scripted, and honorable memorial pieced together by family and friends. Death comes in threes...

For our church workday, faithful members spread about the building and collectively worked on finishing our TO DO list. Painting projects, trim work, and cleaning transpired. I moved junk and clutter from magnetic collection spots to the shed or dumpster. Beneath our stage I found a basket. I brought it to the kitchen where some ladies were scrubbing. "Where does this go?" I asked. Pointing to the top of a cabinet, one lady said, "Put it up there. Then there will be three, and it will look intentional." I must have appeared confused because another lady added, "Good decor uses threes." Apparently, it makes design more interesting...

Jesus asks us to remember Him through the ordinance of communion. Washing the feet; raising the cup; breaking the bread. Three stages. Three poses. Trine, trifold, and trinitarian.

In a world where spiritual commitments are seasonal, death is certain, and beauty may be nothing more than a game of numbers, remembering Jesus is vital. Communion is a good mode of remembrance.

[Threefold communion] was a picture of membership in the household of Jesus. It memorialized His suffering that made the family possible, it was a visible expression of the relationship that He had created within the body, and it motivate the participants to a life of obedience and separation from the empty values of the world. (Scoles, Restoring the Household, 96)