Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Five ~ "Clergy Superbowl" Edition

1. Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated?
Hyphenated. We'll read the Palm Sunday reading early in the service and later use the Passion narrative (read in a 'reader's theater' kind of way) as the gospel reading/sermon. First year we've done that here--basically because senior pastor doesn't want to write a sermon this year. Not because it's part of some master plan for a meaningful Holy Week. Okay--no more venting (in this post anyway).

2. Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss.
As much as I don't like footwashing because I simply hate feet, I think it can be done well. I have been on both sides--the washee and the washer. It was hard to be the washee, not because my pastor (I was a teen at the time) was washing my feet, but because the rest of the congregation was watching. What kind of look was I supposed to have? I don't like people touching my feet--could I grimace? Should I smile? What should I be feeling? On the other hand, I've only be the washer once--while in seminary doing field ed. In this particular case, the people whose feet we washed were two little children, who had not yet been baptized. That was meaningful for me...that God still loved, served, gave his life for these lovely children...and this water was just water, but a sign to me of the promise that was to come for them in the waters of baptism.

3. Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience.
The tradition of my family growing up was always meaningful. At noon (or early afternoon), we went to a service at another Lutheran church in our town. They had a statue(? It hung from the ceiling, so I'm not sure of the right word.) of Jesus that was above the altar in the center of their sanctuary (in the round). I don't recall any outside windows, so even though it was mid-day, it was dark. As we heard the story once again, the lights were dimmed and gradually, a black veil was lifted to cover Jesus. We left in darkness and silence. Then, we would often go back to our own congregation for an evening tenebrae service, particularly meaningful when I didn't expect the Bible or a door to be slammed shut. I think the most meaningful aspect though of Good Friday for me remains the leaving in darkness and silence. Even as the leader, that's how I want the service to end. I don't want to be asked a question that can wait until another day; I don't want to make small talk. I want to spend one evening totally focused on Jesus and what he gave up for us.

4. Easter Sunrise Services--choose one:a) "Resurrection tradition par excellence!"b) "Eh. As long as it's sunrise with coffee, I can live with it."c) "[Yawn] Can't Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?"
A!! I'm not a morning person; every other Sunday, I'm snuggled under my covers convincing myself that I really don't need that extra five minutes to get ready. The bed is so much more important. But on Easter Sunday--I want to start the celebration in the dark, bleary eyed and slow moving as I get ready. I want to be one of the first to the church, where I am greeted with semi-darkness and the overwhelming first smell of the Easter lilies as I open the door. I want to greet other bleary eyed travelers on this faith journey and share the amazement that Christ is risen. I want to worship in joy and celebration and gradually increasing light.

5. Complete this sentence: It just isn't Easter without...
Greeting people with this phrase..."Christ is risen!" and being greeted in reply with "He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" I'm still working at training this congregation in this habit; it makes me so sad to not have this.

Bonus: Any Easter Vigil aficionados out there? Please share.
I've only been to very modified Easter vigils that I've led, using a set-up that was given to me as to what was done in the past. I'd like to attend one, and one done really well, so I have a good frame of reference.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Biblical Literacy, Biblical Fluency, and Beautiful Words

I’m not convinced that my words will come together as eloquently as I’d wish, but I’m going to give it a try. In the past few months, I have attended a number of workshops and retreats and pieces of each have come together in a variety of ways.

One of the things we church leaders (as least in my denomination) often speak of is biblical illiteracy, a lack of biblical knowledge, of people not knowing the Bible. While the speaker I heard wouldn’t disagree, I don’t think, he made a distinction between literacy and fluency.

The comparison is learning a language. It is possible to be fluent before being literate. A first stage is recognizing the language when it is spoken around you. Then, you can pick out a few words. Later, you can understand it when it’s spoken. Then you can speak it. And eventually, you can learn to read and write it. For example, think of how you learned your first language. You were probably fluent before you were literate, though you continued learning.

Anyway, so what if the problem in many of our churches is not so much biblical literacy as biblical fluency? We don’t even recognize the language when it is spoken around us. And the only solution is hearing and absorbing the language of the Bible.

On another note, lately I’ve been listening to books on CD, surrounding myself with beautiful words. This started when I was driving many hours each week. But this habit has continued, even if it’s only a few moments in the car on my way to work or home.

And so, this Lenten season, I’m surrounding myself with beautiful words—the beautiful words of the Bible. While, in the grand scheme of things, my biblical fluency is pretty high, as is my biblical literacy, it really can’t hurt to increase both or surround myself with these beautiful words.