Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm thinking about Space

I'm thinking about space. No, no. Not outer space. Inner space. Sanctuary space. Church space. Home space. Sacred space.

A few months ago I went out to Kansas City to visit some innovative churches. I was struck by how much their space spoke to their mission. In one church, St. Andrews, the mission included creating a place for people to be at home and reaching to God. Their space was home-y, complete with living room furniture in the narthex, and transcendent. The high ceiling peaked at skylights that drew your eyes to the sky.

By contrast The Church of the Resurrection, was set-up on a large scale. The sanctuary felt like an auditorium. Their mission was focused on unchurched and nominally churched people. A traditional church setting wouldn't do.

I'm thinking about our space at Prince of Peace because we've got a great sanctuary, flexible seating, and a world of possibilities. I want to do something different for the Thanksgiving Service we're holding tomorrow night in order to mirror the theme of gratitude and community, but can't figure out what. I'm hoping it will come to me tonight in a dream.

In Divinity School my friend Ian cajoled a little crew of people to spend hours moving pews into the round. It was backbreaking work. We did it multiple times partly because we liked Ian. But more we did it because when we worshipped facing one another, a different sense of God's presence came through.

I just heard about St Paul's chapel next to the site of the World Trade Towers. They moved out the pews, which were charred and scarred by the relief workers who slept on them after 9/11. These pews were a beloved and sacred part of the church's history, but the future of the chapel as a "welcoming, dynamic space" required flexible seating. Watch this 10 min video for more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Afternoon and still writing

Someone recently mentioned to me that it would be interesting to get an inside look at the sermon writing process. So here you go.

I'm sitting at a coffee shop working through my sermon notes for this weekend trying to see what's emerging as the sermon. I've been reading and studying the texts and now have a full plate of ideas.

I've got many thoughts, most of which won't make it in there. I'm pulled in two directions.

One half of me wants to pick up on the theme of faith from the passage from Hebrews: "Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful." As this is confirmation Sunday and our confirmation students have prepared their faith statements, it seems a good time to talk about faith - especially maturing in faith and being faithful in the midst of a community.

The other half of me is drawn to the image of the temple's destruction foretold in the gospel, Mark 13. In this gospel lesson, Jesus sits with some of his disciples and tells them about some events that will accompany the destruction of the temple. Jesus indicates that not only will the temple be destroyed but the whole world will start to end...The beginning of the birth pangs. The disciples are instructed to stay faithful.

In the background for me are images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and a story of Lutheran peace vigilantes who for years gathered weekly to make their desire for a united Berlin known.

Also in the background is the shooting at Ft Hood. How I wished that the shooter wasn't Muslim. I wished his name was something like Erik Johnson. Would have made it no less tragic, but a bit less complicated. Now, again, Islam is the easy excuse for all that is wrong with the United States. It seems like a good time to remind ourselves that Christianity too, throughout human history, bears its share of war crimes and senseless violence.

I have sympathy for those many Muslims for whom this even puts them in an even worse national light than before. This has to be a hard time to be Muslim in America.

What does this event say about the way this war has stressed so many veterans and soldiers. Is there some responsibility we have as Christians and as Americans to be good stewards of our own people? Clearly this shooting indicates a major breach. A military stretched too thin.

How do I speak to this set of sympathies with a strong faith and honor those who died and those who serve in the military. How are we as Christians called to be compassionate to all who have suffered (including our Muslim brothers and sisters) as a result of this shooting?

These are some of my thoughts as I face the writing process. PoP members reading this, expect some of this to show up tomorrow and Sun morn at 8:30; but if I were you, I'd hold out for the 11:00 service where 5 confirmation students will deliver their faith statements.

Peace - Pr Sarah

In peace - Pr Sarah

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's not exactly writer's block..it's reception block

People have been pointing out to me that it's been a month since I last wrote on my blog. Why is that? It's not for lack of material. If all it took was something to write about, I could blog every day.

I've been professionally, personally, and physically exhausted. When I'm exhausted, I can do no more. I guess that's the meaning of the word exhausted. You are spent and have nothing else to give.

Rest wasn't my problem. I was sleeping the usual amount. But I was sapped, tapped and drained. No one thing is to blame, but lots of little things added up. I was working just enough too much that I let exercise go. I was overcommitted to friends and social events. There are too many calls I didn't return; too many birthdays I missed. Too many days I didn't pray. My balance tipped, and I was in survival mode.

Clarity came in a near disaster, as it often does. I crashed my bike a week ago. I think I lost control of my bike because I was so spent. I'm totally fine now, but it was that proverbial wake-up call.

As I sat there lying on Rock Creek parkway trying to get my bearings, I could do nothing. My biking partner had been through this kind of thing herself and was the perfect person to have on the scene.

I was in the position of being able to do nothing but receive. And receive I did. Water, an orange starburst for energy, a ride, a housemate to see me to the doctor.

The crash wounds have healed, but I am still in reception mode.

Yesterday was my birthday. From yoga at 6:00 am, a reminder that I've received a body that still works (praise god!), to coming home from a great Bob Dylan concert at 11 pm to a full and happy household, I did nothing but receive love all day long.

And all day long, as the joy in my heart grew, I realized: I am back! I woke up this am wanting to say thank you to the world and to God. I'm ready to give again.

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...