Birthdays all Around

The church and I shared a birthday this Sunday, and what a celebration it was. The sermon, “Variety Show” is uploaded in my sermon archive.

I struggled quite a bit with this service, because I really like to make Pentecost special. Unlike Christmas and Easter, there are no traditions, no expectations, and in many ways no limitations. It’s just me and my congregation and one of the best stories in the Bible. Honestly, there’s so much to preach about and talk about and reflect on in Acts 2. This year I was particularly struck by the diversity of the church, and the thought that the strength of our body is in that variety, that uniqueness. Sure it’s a real pain in the butt sometimes to have to acknowledge that the person spouting what sounds to me like the most unChristian, unMethodist, unhelpful theological or social perspective is a brother or sister in good faith, but it’s the truth (most times– I reserve the right to say that some people are, as one congregant offered mid-illustration, ‘crazies’). It’s the reason that we can be a global church, a worldwide body, relevant in many places to many people. The broadness of our reach is only limited by the broadness of our inclusivity. What that means for a denomination that consistently refuses to acknowledge that we do in fact disagree and this year has decided (by a decisive and rousing 12 vote margin out of a thousand delegates) that our inclusivity can be limited at the pastor’s discretion, remains to be seen. But the fact remains, in my opinion, that we are only relevant when we are relevant everywhere, able to trust that the Gospel of inclusivity and grace and transformation is conveyed in every language and every worship style (and every theological expression?).

Obviously, I’m following the old mandate of never preaching a sermon you don’t yourself need to hear.

And for a gimmick an experiential element of the worship service, we made a mosaic, having people come up and glue a unique, rough-edged, broken, somewhat dangerous piece of glass to a heart-shaped piece of plaster (which reminds me I have some grouting to do– didn’t know pastors were also, er, grouters, did you?). Hey, I thought it was fun, and beat my other idea, which was making a soup from many ingredients. Fun, but it would have required open flame in the sanctuary, and that’s taking the Pentecost theme a little too far even for me.

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3 Responses

  1. Happy birthday! I like the mosaic idea.

    I’m often stymied by the inclusion business, especially after this General Conference…the problem for me is being inclusive of the people who (in my book) don’t want to be inclusive of others. Which I think is what you were talking about, yes?

  2. Yes. And can/should my inclusivity of others extend even to include those people and theological positions that exclude others? I don’t know that I can be inclusive of exclusivity (I was going to say the two might be mutally exclusive, but that’s taking it a bit too far with all those clusives!). Yet, I am torn because I struggle to view another’s theology and beliefs as being as relevant and valuable of my own, even if I strenuously disagree. Can I see the value in another’s position if I find that position to be hurtful to me? To my loved ones? To the church?

  3. i’m pretty intolerant of intolerant people in general.

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