Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week - Monday - Joy and Sorrow Live Together

Yesterday I began my sermon with an invitation. Joyce Rupp's simple breath prayer is one I commit to use every morning during this Holy week, and I am inviting folks who are part of The Village Church, who read this blog, who follow me on Facebook, or Twitter, or anyone I have a chance to influence this week, to join me in this simple practice. Whenever we pray this week, in the morning, at night, mid-day, at a stop-light, let's take a deep, cleansing breath and say these words: "Joy and sorrow live together." Jesus certainly lived this prayer during the last week of his physical life here on Earth. Because of Jesus, I know, that God knows, what my life is like.

God weeps with me; and God shares my deepest joy with me. Every day.

So when I have a really great day -- like yesterday, when we baptized and celebrated 5 persons saying "YES" to Jesus, I want to remember to say thank you to God -- because days like yesterday are a blessing from God.

And when I have a bad day, a day that wears me out, when I am fearful about the future; a day when I don't think I have the resources to do what I need to do; well. . . those are the days, I need to take a deep breath and TRUST GOD. "Joy and sorrow live together."

This is Holy Week. We are on a journey with Jesus. He is going to the cross this week. He is also headed to the miracle of Easter resurrection. And so are we. Thank you God.

What does it mean to you, to remember that joy and sorrow live together? I'd like to hear from you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


This week in worship at the Village we read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last week of his human life among us. For those at home with their Bibles, Luke Chapter 19. For those who do not have an experience of the story, it’s a great way to start a week. Jesus rides into the capitol city on the back of a beautiful horse. He’s greeted as the hero, entering triumphantly. Praises flow, in another telling of the story, palms are waived. The people have a hero, a king, an idol.

But, in case you are new to the story, the week’s not going to end that way. Jesus was sent to shake things up, and we all know what happens to those who shake up the norm, right? If not, look up what happened to people like Ghandi; Martin Luther King, Jr; etc. Things are not going to go well at the end. But that’s Good Friday. Jesus, thinking of the human part of his experience might give it another name, but fortunately, he also knows what’s on the side. Too often though, we as followers of Jesus, want to skip that part, and go right to Easter. Don’t skip the Easter part, but don’t skip the sorrow either.

“Joy and sorrow live together”. Boy, I wish I could claim credit for anything that profound, but Joyce Rupp, a writer on prayer, gave us that wisdom. She offers a prayer that sums up the week that comes now, “joy and sorrow live together”. Try praying that one this week. As you start your days, start it with that thought.

Today at the Village we celebrated a lot of joy. We celebrated our Fifth Month in our worship space. Our firth month celebrating worship together weekly. We also celebrated the joy of baptism. The joy of a person joining us all on the journey that is being a follower of Jesus. Today we are saying yes to Jesus. But, we didn’t just say it once, no, it was FIVE times. Most churches have to wait for years to have that kind of joy. We waited five months.

But we didn’t give these new travelers a diluted version of the story. We explained that on our journeys, as will be their experience too, joy and sorrow will be with them, as will we, and so will God. That’s what the difference is. But our story from the Bible this week has that all too.

Jesus enters into Jerusalem to great joy. But he knows what’s coming for the city. He knows there will be great suffering in the city later. The Temple will be destroyed, the city will face many crisis over the coming years. So, Jesus weeps, right there surrounded by this throng of welcome and praise. Next he’ll clean out the Temple. You see, the Temple had become a place of commerce. A shopping mall rather than a place of healing, empowerment and praise.

Next he will gather with his friends, his disciples, and have one “Last Supper” together. They’ll celebrate the Passover meal and he’ll give us all the gift of Communion. Later that night, he experiences the abandonment of his friends (the disciples can’t even stay awake when he begs them) and worse still a betrayal (but having played Judas in a production, I have a certain sadness for him. Someone had to do it, and Judas pays heavily for his role). He’ll be arrested, given a sham trial (Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran), a conviction even his judge didn’t want to give him (can you tell I played Pilate too? Cheri really loved tormenting me in the first years of our marriage when she did casting for Passion plays) , a jeering crowd (made up of some of the same ones who were cheering days before) and torture and death in a horrible way (no matter what your views on capital punishment, crucifixion is not gonna pass a “cruel & unusual punishment” prohibition).

But, again, Joy & sorrow live together. Without the sorrow of Good Friday, there is no joy to follow. And believe me, joy comes in the morning, Easter Morning. Whether you come to the Village or another church, don’t miss that joy. Every church’s worship that days reflects a joy that we all need.

Whether you’re on the journey with Jesus or not, you’re on the journey of life, where joy & sorrow await. Most of us, myself included, have tried wandering aimlessly. But I can tell you, when you go on the journey with Jesus, you don’t have to go alone in this. When you chose the way of Jesus, you chose to go with others, to use our gifts and our energies and our resources to change the world for good. Followers of Jesus are not just looking out for themselves, they are looking out for everyone. Today we celebrated that by sending out a time to feed the hungry, by hosting a group for supporting those who our society does not look upon with favor and tomorrow by celebrating an effort completed to protect us all.

The way of Jesus is the way of compassion and community; it is the way that says until all are free, no one is free; until everyone has food to eat, good educations, health care and . . . we are all not complete. That’s what it means to be on the journey with Jesus. I don’t just care about me and mine, I care about everyone. We call this the outward journey.

It also means we pay attention to this relationship with God. We pray and we grow. Just like any relationship, romantic love, family or friendship, it has to be nurtured or it will become stale. I must confess I have lost too many friends by not nurturing that relationship. That’s why prayer and study are such an important part of this journey. The nurturing of this relationship with God is the inward journey.

We pay attention to this relationship when we come together as a community of faith as well. We come to worship to connect with other people on the journey. Not just because we are in need of some support, but sometimes because we are full of that joy. You don’t know when another traveler needs you there to be the joy they are lacking, to be the shoulder they need to cry or lean on. That’s one of the things we promised each other today in our baptism ritual, we promised to nurture each other in faith. We can’t do that if we don’t show up.

The journey with Jesus is one of joy & sorrow. No sprinkling of water and saying of a prayer takes away the sorrow, but the joy, well that’s amazing. Hearing the stories of those coming forth to be baptized today, you could not help but see the joy. Not only their joy, but ours as our little faith community, in only five short months, has indeed begun to “Follow Jesus and Change the World”.

The five folks today, Jesse, Terri, Sara, Vanetta and baby Faith, they know sorrow. But they also tell us they’ve experienced joy thanks to us. An unconditional acceptance into a family of faith. Fellow travelers who will be there in sorrow & joy, who will be there in doubt and faith, in comfort and betrayal.

Joy and sorrow live together on life’s journey. But, that’s ok. It’s ok because God is with us. We’ll get through the sorrow because we follow the path shown to us by Jesus. Jesus experienced the joy and the sorrow of this life. And Jesus showed us the joy that comes in the morning.

We marked five new people with what we like to call an invisible tattoo. It’s an invisible mark of God’s love and acceptance. Like any tattoo, it doesn’t go away (ok you can get a real tatto removed if you want, so the analogy kinda of breaks down), no matter what you do, it’s there. God loves us and once we’ve claimed that love, it’s there for us, when we need it, no matter what.

Are you wandering alone on the journey? Do you need a home where you can find someone to help you through the joy and the sorrow? Well, if you’re near Toledo, check out this home. If you’re not, we are not the only place the start of the journey can be found. Go find another trail head on the journey and some travelers. Peace be your journey this week, through the sorrows of Good Friday and the joy of Easter morning.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Cheri’s sister Cindy and I both got glasses at about the same age. I got mine about Kindergarten and she got hers in the First Grade. Cindy experienced an amazing revelation, she saw leaves on the trees for the first time in a long time. She began to experience new details in a very wonderful, complex creation. I get that every morning as I stumble and fumble to find the glasses I just knocked onto the floor when the alarm jolts me awake in the dark. Mind you, you could put a spotlight in the room, and until those glasses are on my face, I can’t see any details.

Cheri has a spiritual director, Sister Breta Gorman. Cheri has been seeing Sister Breta longer than she has known me. She is the one who keeps Cheri centered, and on track, with monthly counseling and occasional retreats at Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont. It’s a beautiful facility, surrounded by woods. One time, when Cheri was particularly all over the place (say it ain’t so, my wife bouncing off of walls), Breta told her to go out and “pray the leaves”. Cheri’s reaction, which was my reaction, and probably yours too, was “pray the leaves? What in the world does that mean?”.

Breta responded, go out and take a walk. See the leaves. See how many versions of green you can see. See what details you can see in the leaves. Cheri did and felt awe and the presence of God.. She had an experience of God’s love and perspective on her place in the world. It was exactly what Cheri needed to do to see the real picture.

Spirituality is SEEING. It is seeing what we and others can not see. It is seeing that connection between us and God. Human beings across cultures, and throughout time, have always sought this connection. That’s where religions come from. An attempt to make this spiritual connection.

Now, imagine the phrase “seeing what we can not see” in the context of a story about a blind man being given the gift of sight. In our worship celebration today, we told such a story out of the Gospel of Mark (Chapter 8: 22-26 for those following along with the “home game”). Now, for those who have not had the chance to read this part of the Bible, let me give you some context. Tension is starting to build around Jesus. The Pharisees, the religious right of his time, want signs. As Mark puts it “Jesus sighs deeply in his spirit. Why does this generation want signs?”. He is getting somewhat distressed by the whole thing and he goes around to the other side of a lake to get a break.

But there, right away, are the Disciples, worried about what are they going to eat. He just feed 4,000 people with food scraps, but they’re getting worked up again. Jesus gets impatient with them. He says “Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and not hear? And do you not remember?”. Poor Jesus, he knows his time with them is getting short and they are not getting it. The Disciples are people who hold in awe now, but back then in the story, they don’t come off as really, particularly bright.

So, enter today’s story. Jesus arrives at the village of Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. To say the human side of Jesus has had it, is an understatement and there are more folks wanting his help. He led them out of the village, put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him and asked “Do you see anything?”. The result? He looked up and says “I see men. They look like walking trees.” Not a perfect 20-20 result on the first try. So, Jesus tries again, and the man looks hard and he has recovered perfect sight. He saw everything bright and in 20-20 focus. Jesus sent him straight home telling him “Don’t enter the Village” ( I don’t like that last line, by the way, but I’m sure Jesus was not referring to us).

Our friend Karyn had a blindspot going recently. Not a visual problem, but a blind spot in thinking. Karyn is a gift preacher, but she is an even more gifted teacher of preaching. Karyn did her doctoral thesis on churches like the Village and is one of Cheri’s advisors on preaching. When Cheri needs a fine tune, a little guidance on tough subject, whatever, Karyn is there. Karyn got her first seminary teaching job in the last year at a seminary in North Carolina.

She and her family had moved there from suburban New Jersey, just outside of New York City. She had left a wonderful church that let her do wonderful, edgy stuff, and moved to Carolina. Karyn was a huge hit with her students. They loved her as a teacher. The faculty too, saw a gifted colleague. But the administration, not so much there. Karyn was told she was getting cut loose due to budget concerns. Never mind enrollment and tuition income being up. Never mind that the rest of the faculty was being given a raise, they tried to reject in favor of keeping Karyn. But the die was cast with the administration.

So, Karyn and her family were going to need to move. She has feelers out for other teaching jobs. Despite being a woman (a tough sell at some seminaries) and one of those radical, outreach folks (a tough sell at others), she has good leads. She even has a viable Plan B, an appointment at a church in Kansas. But anyway you look at, except Karyn’s at the moment, she needs to start the process of selling her house. But she was still not sure.

She needed Cheri to say “YES, put the house on the market NOW” to get her to see she needed to act. So, she started the process. And, right there and then, God sent Karyn a message. Her neighbor contacted her before she could even contact a realtor. The neighbor’s kids want to move there and they want Karyn’s home. Without the costs of a realtor (no offense to my friends who are relators who earn their commissions), without muss, without fuss, a buyer. A buyer who was even willing to let them rent the house back until the time to move. But Karyn had a problem.

She didn’t want to let go of a house, without knowing where the next place would be. The thing is, there is a very good chance the next place is set. A seminary is probably going to hire Karyn in the next few weeks. But, regardless, Karyn needed to move. Understand, Karyn is one of the most deeply spiritual people we know. She is filled with the spirit, it literally took Cheri saying “Karyn, GOD has told me to tell you to sell the house, it’s written in the clouds in the sky in Toledo” to get her moving. We’ll make sure you know when Karyn gets the job nailed down, but the house is done.

Where is your spiritual blind spot? What is keeping you from seeing what God wants to show you? Where are you stuck? We all have them. It might be something you need to let go of - some old habit, some way of thinking, an old hurt, a grudge, a relationship that is not healthy. Maybe it’s something you need to work on, but you just keep putting it off. It could be an addiction. Or maybe you are just feeling lost and you need to reach out to someone, a friend, a counselor, a mentor, a spiritual guide or just a real, live person in your life. We all need help. God is always willing to listen, but God also uses real live people to help us.

What is the blind spot God wants to take away from you, so that you can see God’s vision for your life? Just take a moment to just sit there and listen and watch for it. In worship, much to the chagrin of the church’s legal department (we don’t real have one, but the lawyers were sitting together and we grimaced in a lawyer like fashion and who had just experienced a twenty four period with one trip and fall with head strike on a wall, and another head hitting a TV screen) we did a little exercise. Cheri had people put blindfolds on and take a walk with a partner. People were then led, at the end, to one of the TV’s, where the message “Open your eyes and see the wonderful vision God has for you” awaited. So try it now (without the blindfold walk). Take a minute, close your eyes, settle your mind, quiet your heart. Now, open your eyes and see the wonderful vision, things, plans, paths that God has for you. You’ll be amazed at the joys to come (sorry, they’ll still be pains, sorrows, fears too, the Christian life is not a destination, it is a journey).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good News for The Poor & Oppressed by Cheri Holdridge

I have the best job on the planet. This week I got to talk with Sara who is 18 and Jesse who is 19; and on March 28 they are both going to be baptized right here at The Village. It does not get any better than that when you are a pastor, let me tell you. And here’s why. At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus made this bold announcement he said: God Spirit has anointed me to bring GOOD NEWS to the poor and the oppressed to those on the edge of things those who are hurting the most. THIS IS WHY I CAME, Jesus said,TO BRING HOPE TO PEOPLE THAT FEEL HOPELESS.

Now, if you were to meet Sara and Jesse on the street, you probably would not think they are poor, or oppressed, or hopeless, or any of those things. But think about it. It hard to be a teen-ager, or a young adult these days. Just think about it. The drugs, the violence, the economy, the lack of jobs. This is a HARD TIME to make the transition from child-hood to adulthood. And these two have some added pressures. Sara has gone to eleven schools in her life. Her life with her mom has not been very stable. She very thankful that she came to live with her grandmother, Linda, this past year. And Sara says that coming to The Village has made a huge difference in her life.

Jesse told me that I could share with you he has been very depressed, in large part because he has known as a teen-ager that he gay. Jesse has tried to commit suicide three times, and did some cutting. He was told he would go to Hell because he was gay. Because Mama T invited him to The Village, and he found a place here where he could hear the Good News that God loves him just the way he is, Jesse says his life is totally different now. He went with me and some others to an event in Columbus with other Reconciling Church folks, talking about what it means to be a fully inclusive church. Half-way through the day he gave me a big hug and said, astor Cheri I just want to thank you for starting a church like The Village. I never knew there were churches like this that accepted someone like me. I am just so happy. Jesse is on fire now, to invite his friends to come to The Village.

Jesus at the beginning of his ministry said these simple words: have been anointed to bring Good News to the poor and oppressed. And that just what he did. The Bible is filled with Good News God healing message of hope. But out there in the world, people are frightened, and depressed for lots of reasons. We e inside here too, feeling that way sometimes. People are going down roads that lead to despair and brokenness. They are looking for a better way, if they can find it, but they are convinced that church is NOT the place to go to find help.

When Sara grandmother started talking to her about The Village Church, and how it was different from most churches, Sara tells me, she wanted to believe her, but she didn really. She didn really expect a church to be a place where folks would want to know her, or care about her, or where the messages and the music would speak to HER life.

And to be honest, when we set out to plant The Village, I did not have any high hopes that we would reach young adults any time soon. Folks under 30 are THE HARDEST demographic group to reach. They are a tough sell. They see through anything that is inauthentic. The experts will tell you I am too old to reach Sara and Jesse with my preaching. At 47, the best I can hope for it to reach 35 years olds. Go figure. I can only attribute this to God and to the Spirit of God in this community. It helps that we have a young band leader. Joe is only 24. Sara and Jesse like Joe music. So that helps.

But Sara also likes it that all of you care about her. Someone out there noticed on Christmas night when Sara was crying, and asked her about it a few weeks later. That meant something to Sara. You see, young adults notice authenticity. They notice when we truly care, even if we are OLD!

Do you know why crowds came from all over to listen to Jesus? Because he was real. And because he met them where they were. He did not judge. He said that he came to bring the good news to everyone. He did not come just to the rich and to the religious leaders and to the smartest and the well educated. He ate with sinners, with prostitutes, with lepers, with smelly fishermen and tax collectors. He would have hung out in bars and coffee houses and homeless shelters and under viaducts in makeshift homeless shelters because he said, came to bring Good News to the poor and the oppressed and to the blind and I came to set free those who are in bondage.

I think . . . I just think. . . Jesus would like a church in an old restaurant that was once a bar, on a border area of town, between a nice neighborhood and some neighborhoods where poor people live. I think Jesus would like this place. I KNOW Jesus would like it that we have created a space where Sara and Jesse feel welcome and where they want to come every week to hang out with God, and ask questions, and grow closer to God.

Well guess what? There are more Saras and Jesses out there who are hurting, and who need to know that God loves them. And they don know that a church like The Village exists. They may have a hunch that God MIGHT love them. But their only experience of church is one of judgment, or hypocrisy, or of just plain being bored.

How will they find us?
We will have to invite them.

Now Jesse did not come the first time on a Sunday morning. He came to our Blues Christmas concert on a Friday night. That why we have special events, because sometimes those are easier ntry points for new folks that Sunday morning. We have a couple of events coming up this weekend that would be great opportunities for inviting others.
- Call me Malcolm Film Friday at 7:30
- Sounds of Hope concert and jam session Sat at 7
Who can you think of that you can invite this week to come with you to one of these events? Or to worship with you next Sunday? We have some items to pass out that I want to invite you to carry with you. I want you to take out a piece of paper right now and write down the names of four people you will invite to the Village. Two you will call this week; and two you will pray about.

We have Good News to share with the poor and the oppressed, with people who are hurting. But they will only hear it, if we make the effort to invite them to come hear that Good News. So, will you invite them? The message has changed the lives of Sara and Jesse. They have hope now, that they did not have before. They will never be the same, because grandmother Linda, and Mama T, invited them here. Who will you invite. We can stop now. We have only gotten started. Whose life will you change?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Practice of Prayer

Almost every morning, I light a candle, sit down with my cup of coffee and pray. After 47 years, this has become a daily practice. But just the other morning, after I had gotten the kids out the door, and I was making my coffee and putting a few things in the dishwasher, the thought came to me: "I have GOT to go sit down and pray. NOTHING else is more important today." And I realized that after years of practicing prayer, it had finally, for at least that particular day, truly become my priority. Years ago my Spiritual Director, Sr. Breta, had told me that she had never seen a person who wanted to pray more than me, yet had a harder time developing the discipline of the daily practice of prayer. I must confess that I hate discipline. That is, I hate routine, I hate being told what to do. I am not an athlete so I have never trained for much of any physical challenge.

I have discovered the word spiritual "practice" works much better for me, rather than spiritual "discipline" (even though they are the same thing). But I have spent most of my life trying to develop the practice, as a follower of Jesus, of daily prayer.

I remember, when I was in college, joining some fellow students in a thing called something like "The John Wesley Great Experiment" where we made a covenant to get up at 4 a.m. (before God wakes up!) to pray on our own at home, and then gather once a week to share our experiences. If it was good enough for John Wesley, then it was good enough for us! At other times in my life, for weeks, even months at a time, I would pray the Psalms every morning. I remember these times as good seasons of feeling more centered and balanced. I was journaling more, and sensing the presence of God. But then there were the days when I just felt too tired to get up to pray and be with God. So the practice fell by the wayside, until another season.

I am not a perfect praying person. I am not a perfect Jesus-follower. So there you have it. My confession. I try to pray every day. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I do not. Right now, I am in a pretty good season of prayer. I would not have the strength to plant The Village Church, were I not in a season of life in which prayer is my priority. But I am here to bear witness to the fact that prayer is something takes practice.

So . . how about you? How is your practice of prayer going these days? What are your obstacles or challenges? Do you have any tips you can share with the rest of us? Want to meet me for a cup of coffee and chat about it? You can give your comments below, or e mail me at

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gods’s Purpose for This Moment

This month we are doing a series of services on the story in Luke Chapter 4 where Jesus gives what is his first sermon. It’s Luke 4: 14-21 for those trying to follow along at home. In this scripture, at the start of Jesus’ ministry, he gives his first sermon. He goes to the synagogue and is asked to read the scripture. He reads the words of the prophet Isaiah about being anointed to bring good news to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. Jesus then tells the assembled , that he is there to fulfill just that. Now, if you read further, I can tell you the sermon went over like a lead balloon. Thankfully, no matter how bad her sermons are (and they’ve never been in the 12+ years I’ve been hearing them) they don’t lead to people wanting to throw her off a cliff.

Jesus came to bring good news to a world of pain and brokenness. Jesus came to bring healing to us all. This week in worship, Joe shared a song, “Any Moment” that he wrote in response to the death of a friend from a drug overdose. Jason (our drummer for those who can’t join us on Sundays) and Joe lost a friend recently to an overdose. They could have just lived in that loss, the pain, the fear. But God moved Joe and Jason to perform a song about not living in that brokenness. Jesus came to bring us all out of those kind of places.

Thankfully, there are people out there who live in the opposite moment. They live in a time in their lives where they are free to live their lives as they want to live them. They live in a world where they can let go of their pain and sorrow and live in their joy.

Mrs. King, who was Becca’s 2nd Grade teacher, is one of those people. At the parent’s meeting, the first night of 2nd Grade, Mrs. King described herself as someone who jumps out of bed every more filled with energy, grabs her coffee, jumps into car to come to school to teach our children. She promised to love them all just the same, and you know, she did. She was a great teacher. I don’t think I ever saw her have a bad day.

Isn’t it great when someone has found their joy. When they’re free to live their purpose, the purpose that God has given to them. But that purpose can change. In different seasons of our lives, what God has anointed us to do can change. The scripture talks about being anointed by the Spirit. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God.

That’s a powerful thing. To be bathed in God’s love and given a power to do something. God’s power can make you do some powerful things and Jesus definitely did some powerful things. Jesus stood up to the political powers of the times and the religious powers of the time. He forgave and loved everyone he met. If nothing else, having shown love to the most unlovable of his time, I know that God can love me thanks to Jesus. But, we all have this power. God has given it to us all. We all have a particular purpose in this life. Sometimes a different one at a different time.

Some of us live that out at work. Mrs. King has a job that is her joy and changes the world. Believe me, teachers change the world. I could use up pages about teachers who changed my life and all that has done for the world, but this isn’t about me. Some of us, though, have jobs that are just that, a J-O-B. But others take those kind of jobs and turn into a ministry. There are countless people I run into everyday who show God’s love working at receptionist counters, at fast food restaurants and the like. Other people live out their purpose in their free time.

Noah comes to the Village with his Grandmother Linda and her partner Robin. Noah is only in the Fourth Grade, but he’s already found that calling. Noah has a heart for the hungry and the poor. Every month, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, one of our sister churches in Toledo, hosts a dinner on the last Sunday afternoon of the month to help people stretch their limited food dollars. People from the Village regularly volunteer at this dinner. Noah loves to volunteer there. In fact, even when he is sick, he wants to be there to help.

Maria and her son Tomas (not their real names) live in our neighborhood, but in the “wrong part”. Cheri, the kids & I live in the Old West End, which 100 years ago was Toledo’s first suburb. The city grew about 18 miles further west, and this became “the hood” during the 1950's to 1970's. Later, people moved back in to claim the wonderful former mansions and other homes. So, there’s an affluent part and then there is Maria’s part. Becca had us invite Maria & Tomas to our home for a party. She said she almost did not come, but she wanted to meet us. When Tomas came to Becca’s school, Becca was one of the few kids to make him feel welcome and at home.

Cheri’s Mom, Betty Holdridge, is nearly eighty years old. Like me, she’s a preacher’s spouse and has played many roles at many churches. Beyond that, she has also been a social worker working with children and a mother of three daughters. Now, she’s retired and beside being our go-to babysitter at times, she is in charge of praying for the Village. When we need something or someone, it is Betty’s job to pray for that. So, over the years, Betty’s purpose has changed many times.

As Cheri has continued to evolve as a Church Planter and leader, she has been asked to define and re-define her role. Today, she laid it out perfectly. Cheri’s purpose is to help hurting people know that they are beloved children of God. After that, her role is to help them find out what their passion is and then fan the flames of that fire. That’s her job, fanning the flames of passion that will help us all change the world. But be prepared for that to change too.

Recently, a group of us went to the Church for All People in Columbus. Jennifer & Tim Atkins come to the Village with their boys, Andrew & Peter. We went with Tim and Jen to visit the Church for All People to give Jennifer some time with the leadership down there. Right now, Jennifer is busy raising her two sons and working a job for Mercy Health Partners that regularly requires 50+ hour weeks. But she has some embers burning. She doesn’t know what that will be yet, but she went to get her ember fanned.

While we were there, we got to spend some time with Eileen Howard. Eileen and her husband George are leaders at the Church for All People. Years ago though they had been missionaries in Africa. When their time there was done, they came home to the states. Eileen told us the story of being worn out and discouraged. She was sure she needed to be doing more to bring about the world God wants (you’ll sometimes hear us church types slip and call the Kingdom of God). Her pastor at the time shared some wisdom with her. He told her that sometimes you change the world by changing the diapers. That is something Jennifer needed to hear.

Sometimes your ember will ignite on its own. But sometimes you are gonna have to keep coming to the Village and praying. That’s one of the reasons to come every week. Come and hear about other people's passions, hear about God’s love, whatever it is you need to hear. The message will come, but only if you take the time to listen for the Spirit. If you listen long enough, you WILL hear the message that you are a Beloved Child of God and that you have a special purpose. God will get with you, that is when you and God are ready.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From Cheri: How about a Church for ALL People?

Last Sunday I visited a place called the Church 4 All People, a United Methodist Church in Columbus Ohio. The Church 4 All People is a wonderfully unique church in its diversity of race, econonic class, education level, and even theology. This church began around a coffee pot in a Free Store. Folks who had lots of "stuff" came into town from the 'burbs and gave their time and their "stuff" away for free in a 'hood where there were many people who are homeless or unemployed or underemployed. Around a coffee pot, a thing called "community" began to form, and before they knew it, some folks got a crazy idea to start a Church 4 ALL PEOPLE.

A Church for all People is just what I saw and experienced last Sunday morning, and it was amazing!

Sadly, most churches are not churches for all people, they are churches for a certain type of people: white people, or black people, upper middle class people, or middle class people, well educated people, well dressed people, people who drive certain types of cars, talk a certain way, wear a certain type of clothes, and so on. Most churches are filled with people that look very similar to one another.

I want to be a part of a church that is filled with all kinds of people. I like diversity. How about you?

Recently, a church consultant, who visits churches all over the country, visited my church: The Village. He said that he liked The Village because the folks here look like "the next twenty people walking down the street." I was not sure what he meant at first, so we had a conversation so he could unpack that a bit. Now that I have visited The Church 4 All People I understand. He meant, any 20 people on any street could come to The Village and fit in, because we are a church for all people. I am not entirely sure how we managed to do this, but I thank God every day for this gift, and I pray that we can sustain this sense of welcome and hospitality.

Whether you attend The Village Church or another church, I invite you to join me in this spiritual practice. The next time you stop at at stop light, look at the next 20 people that go by, either in a car or on foot. Could the next 20 people walk into your church and be welcome? If your answer is yes, then thank God. If your answer is no, ponder, why not, and consider what you might want to do about that.