Thursday, September 25, 2008

Surfing Haiku

Today I had an inspiring AM session riding super clean waist/shoulder high waves. Desperate to express my enthusiasm, I decided to write a haiku.

Sea breeze, waves breaking

Breathing heavy, shoulders burn

Drop-in, pop-up, carve

I hope I did this correctly. Joe and Drew, let me know how I can improve.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

After the Canary Dances

Once every two months I lead an informal “worship service” at Webster, an assisted living and retirement community in Rye, NH. We have our service in a room equipped with several couches, a big screen T.V. and a baby grand piano. In addition to the 12-18 live-in residents that make it to the service each month, I’m usually accompanied by several members from the church. Most are members from the choir and do an exceptional job of leading us in singing a few hymns. Many of these hymns are in a tune I’ve never heard before. I’m no worship leader, so I’m there to say a prayer, read scripture, and give a brief message. The service typically lasts about a half hour.

This week I had a tough act to follow. Prior to our worship service, the Webster residents were being entertained by a man with a dancing Canary. As I arrived the man’s act was just finishing and he was trying to corral his dancing bird into a dog kennel for the car ride home. I think the old folks were really wound up afterwards and had a difficult time immediately transitioning to what was going on in the worship service. As usual, I began the service with a prayer that I don’t think anyone heard. A woman in a wheel chair was squawking almost as loudly as the dancing bird. It was distracting, but I said my prayer and an “amen” that was not repeated. Almost the same could be said for my message. Oh sure, there might have been a few in the room that could track with what I was saying, but for the most part, nothing but blank stares.

I’m reminded of Henry Nouwen who went to work at a home for the mentally disabled. Although a highly educated theologian, author, and well respected leader in the church, Nouwen’s credentials were meaningless to the mentally disabled. The only thing his disabled friends desired from him was his presence, time, and consideration. My times spent at Webster, I’m learning, are not really about my message or the songs or my prayers that everyone seems to talk over. That’s not the point. I think the greatest ministry happens when all that is over and when it’s time for me to leave. On my way out, I greet the residents and shake their hands and ask them for their name. To them this seems to be the best part. Maybe I’ll drop the sermon and stick to learning more names.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Found It Just Recently

I recently made a startling observation about myself: I finally have a life. Alright, I realize I’m being a little dramatic, but for a while there I was wondering if I had made a serious mistake in moving to rural New Hampshire. It’s been more than a year since I officially relocated to the east coast. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No family. No friends. No nothing… Yes, I realize I’m just a little on the dramatic side again. But it’s true! How does one spend his evenings in a place he has never known? Trust me, there is only so much time one can spend at Gold’s Gym. But now—now things are remarkably different. No, it didn’t happen over night. But now, life seems to be so…. Well, I’m not exactly sure how to put it. One thing is for sure: I’m a lot busier than before. I gave up my gym membership about 5 months ago and don’t think I’ll be getting another. Sure, I’m turning scrawny, but there are just so many other things to be doing instead of carrying around dumbbells. Is there more work to be done at the church? Did Greek do this to me? Do I have more friends now than before? Yes. At last, I think it’s just about doing the hard work of building community, and becoming acclimated and involved. Some people can jump right into this. Others, I suppose, never find it. But me—well I think I found it just recently, which probably means I was there 6 months ago.

Now to move on to a few life updates (don’t you just hate that term—“life update”?).

1. I’m driving down to Boston tomorrow night to see Sigur Ros in concert. I’ve never anticipated a show like this before. I know it’s going to be good, I just don’t know how good.
2. I joined a semi-competitive dodge ball team through the New Hampshire Sports & Social Club. From what I understand it to be, grown adults chuck rubber balls at other grown adults on Tuesday nights and gather afterwards at a sponsoring bar for $2 drafts. I heard last year a couple guys literally broke their arms because they were throwing too hard.
3. Jake is coming. Yes, Jake Buter is coming to New Hampshire. I think he’ll be here for about a month. Jake, where were you 9 months ago!? Oh, I remember—you were in China.

That’s enough for now I suppose.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

That's What Catholics Do

At Rye Congregational Church we celebrate the Lord's Supper every first Sunday of the month. Typically, congregants receive the communion meal by ingesting a small waffer the size of a Tic-Tac breath mint, and Welch's grape juice served in a small thimble sized cup. The congregation remains seated while the elements are distributed.

This Sunday was different. We served communion by intinction, whereby the wafer is dipped in the cup and then received. Receiving communion by intinction was the custom of the last two churches I attended, and quickly became a much anticipated way of celebrating the sacrament for me personally. But it's so much more than personal preference.

On the rare occasion that we do serve communion by intinction at my church, we break one loaf of bread. And although we have two cups in order to accommodate the size of our congregation, there remains a sense of a common cup that is shared by many. Intinction also involves coming forward, action, response. Moreover, intinction gives certain people the privilege of serving their brothers and sisters in Christ the elements. These servers say the words, "The body of Christ broken for you" and "The blood of Christ poured out for you." These words, we must remember, are the very words of Christ as they were shared with His disciples, appropriated now by the communion servers. And if you're fortunate to know the names of the people you're serving, you address them by name. We miss so much with our passive reception of individualized wafers and cups of juice.

The above is probably best considered a theological understanding of intinction in contrast to another custom of serving communion. But maybe we need to give greater consideration to those who are unable to come forward under their own physical strength. Are we running the risk of discriminating against the elderly and physically handicapped of our congregation? The answer is no. And this is unabashedly the correct response because it is always in weakness that we dare to partake of this meal. The Lord's Supper is properly received when our frailty and humility are most apparent.

So why don't we serve communion by intinction more often? Because longstanding members of the church become terribly upset with the custom of intinction and leave the fold in search of congregations that do not coincide with the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Sad, I know. Such is ministry in a New England congregational church.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Learning Greek

In high school I recorded a twenty-six percent on a Spanish quiz. Yeah, we're talking 26%, in as "F" minus, minus, minus... In college, I struggled through yet one more year of Spanish. And now, I've decided that since I did so well with the easiest language for an English speaker to learn that I'd try my hand at Greek. Despite my former disappointments in learning a second language, I am happy to share that I have already mastered ten percent of the words found in the New Testament. Are you impressed? Well, you shouldn't be impressed. The Greek word transliterated "kai" means "and," which happens to be 1 out of 10 words found in the NT.