For the longest time I did not appreciate responsive readings in worship. hey seemed too rote and emotionless, especially when the congregation read them in a boring monotone. But over the years, I’ve come to focus instead on the power of the words regardless of how they are read and how that power is magnified when spoken by a multitude of souls.
I have learned over the course of my life that we humans are products of family systems that influence us for better or worse. Our patterns of behavior are formed over a period of time out of interactions that span the entirety of our lives (and also the lives of our ancestors!). Such influence is true not only for my relationship with my biological family; it’s also true for my church family. Consequently, hearing stories and understanding the underlying patterns of the church to which I belong helps me to know how better to respond to both challenges and opportunities we face in congregational life. It also helps me to understand why we tend to react to such challenges and opportunities in ways that are often unconscious and unintentional.
Over the last months, we have seen numerous strategic objectives from our recent Vision 2020 ministry plan come to fruition. As the old saying goes, “It’s always great when a plan comes together,” and I have to say that I am most pleased over the efforts of so many in our church, both staff and laity, who have dedicated themselves to making our vision become a reality.
For the longest time I always thought that I had the best job anyone could ever ask for. As a pastor, I get to be a teacher, a salesperson, a counselor, and a business executive, all while sitting in the same chair. This kaleidoscope of opportunities is why I’ve always described my calling as “the most wonderful work in the world.”
Under the category of “the only real constant in life is change,” I was taken by the news this week of the Nabisco Company’s recent decision to change its traditional red and yellow Animal Crackers package to reflect a more animal-friendly image. If you’ll remember, the traditional package features four cages in which a lion, bear, gorilla, and elephant are confined. Now, when you go to pick up a package of Animal Crackers, you’ll find those same four animals, along with a zebra, in a free-range area that respects their right to roam as God created them to do.
Life is filled with decisions, most of which are not easy. Everyday life is inherently complicated so that we face very few choices that fall under the “no brainer” category. It matters not whether the judgment we must make is personal or corporate, secular or sacred, each comes our way with complications and consequences we often find daunting.
I know people have always been prone to disagree with one another, but it seems like in recent years our disagreements have become more serious than ever before. Once upon a time you might come across two parties who didn’t see eye to eye on a certain thing and yet those parties could still coexist at work or in the home or even in a church. Nowadays, coexistence has become a lost art. As soon as the first hint of disagreement arises people retreat to their corners and look upon the other as the enemy.
Some weeks ago, I mentioned an invitation our church received from our partners at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. Their president, Elie Haddad, extended to us an opportunity to come to the campus to observe how our missions dollars translate into seminary education for churches in the Middle East, as well as for a vibrant ministry to Syrian refugees that have flooded into their country. Our Missions Committee has continued to explore the possibilities of such a trip and we have now identified a “window” of March 5-15 of 2019 for such a visit.
We’re enjoying a week down at Navarre Beach with our family. Our daughter lives here, where she’s a high school English teacher, and our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren have come over from Tallahassee, where he is preparing for his new position as a general surgeon at Capital Regional Medical Center.
Most of us tend to be impressed with the spectacular. Whether it’s an entertainment event or a special sale or an extraordinary accomplishment, we associate its value with how much it exceeds normal expectations. Hence the saying: “Bigger is better.”