"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Abundant Percussion

The photo above is from our Confirmation Kick-off Retreat, held just east of Raleigh at Milburnie Fish Camp. It is a lively afternoon of young people just beginning their confirmation journeys. These confirmands are dedicating great amounts of time and activity to maturing in the Spirit and moving towards the articulation of a personal faith in the God we worship and serve. It goes without saying that it is a meaningful year: the confirmands are exposed to the great underpinnings of our faith, are called to formulate their personal expressions of faithfulness and share these expressions with our entire church family.

Part of the day entailed conversation about worship and its importance. Our hearts and minds were designed by God to communicate with God. The soul with no worship, song, study, prayer or meditation is quickly a soul in need of treatment and, sometimes, resuscitation. Worship is where our hearts and minds breathe most easily. We talked about falling asleep in worship (and whether that was a good or bad thing—or both!), we talked about not just listening to the songs and hymns which were sung, but really singing them and learning from the words and the vision of the hymn writers. We talked about the importance of prayer and about the beauty of witnessing a baptism or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Our confirmands will be in the balcony this Sunday, October 4, at 11:00 a.m. as we celebrate World Communion Sunday. If you are around them, be sure to say hello and welcome them into the broader life of our church.

The photo above is of Karl Zinsmeister, our Director of Music, leading the confirmands in song. The kids are playing instruments called boom-whackers—plastic tube-like melodic percussion instruments. When played in groups and patterns, they form notes and chords and are a great way to get groups to sing together. Now here’s the thing: I took the photograph. My vantage point was one where I was watching the youth smack their boom-whackers, make their melodies and sing their songs. I wish you could have seen the joy on their faces. I wish you could have heard the sound, seen the smiles and laughter as they sang and joyfully worshipped together. It was a good moment. It was a Spirit moment. It was an abundant moment: abundant with percussion—abundant with joy.

When you support the budget of our church, when you make a pledge to our common stewardship, you are a part of this abundance. Young people like these confirmands are learning about the faith of our tradition, sharing and serving within the precepts of the gospel.  They are surrounded by loving adults, and they are able to worship with some appropriate measure of abandon. When we speak about abundance, these are the very moments to which we are referring: the life and work of the church to share the faith and shape our community. It is good work. It is our work. And we need your participation if this work is not only to endure, but thrive.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Abundance Part I


One of the most interesting moments in the gospels occurs in Luke Chapter 12. Sometimes called the parable of the rich fool, this beautiful piece of scripture begins with Jesus telling the story of a man whose crops produced abundantly. As the parable unfolds, this man takes his bumper crop and fails to share it—he refuses to share it. As he hoards it all for himself, the voice of God calls him a fool, not because of his abundance, but because of his response (or lack thereof) to his abundance.
I wonder: how are we, as modern Christians, doing with our abundances?
This past Sunday I looked around White Memorial and I saw evidence of abundance everywhere.
· A trio sang a glorious anthem in worship at all three services.
· There were nurseries beginning to fill with children coming to church.
· I saw one of our pastors offering amazing pastoral care to a young man who is living through a very complex time in his life.
· We saw some faces we had not seen in awhile—faces more able to be present as summer draws to its close.
· We hosted organizational meetings for youth volunteers and youth advisors.
· We saw new staff moving through the day, helping our members find what they needed and learning more about who we are as a church.
· There was an organizational meeting for Presbyterian Women and their annual retreat next winter.
· Dozens of teachers had orientation and planning meetings with our church staff and with the other teachers in the classes—thinking about the year to come in our church school and ministry programs for children. We saw veteran teachers, first-time teachers, and folks who cannot believe they have been called to teach in the first place.
· Our Associate Director of Music for Alternate Worship search team met.
· I saw members of our Director of Middle School Ministry Search Committee mingling with our Associate Pastor for Youth and Their Families and our confirmation class leaders. 
In a word, it was abundant. And it was only one day. In our church, and in our church family, we enjoy many days like the one described above.
In the coming weeks we will talk about abundance with increasing regularity.  Nearly every day I am made aware of the “bumper crop” of talent, ability, resources and energy at White Memorial. We are truly a church that makes differences in the lives of our members, in the lives of people in our community and in the lives of people around the world. In thanksgiving we’ll talk about the abundances of our church family, and we’ll talk about how true wisdom is found when we share our resources with each other—our church, our community and the world.
In the parable of the rich fool, the fool is foolish because of his refusal to share. This is a good lesson to take to heart. As we look ahead and give thanks for our many abundances, in what new ways can we share with our church this year and in the year to come? With all that we have to share, surely there are ways each of us can contribute from the abundance in our midst