Wednesday, February 22, 2012

As Wednesday

The forty days begins now. I love the forty days of Lent because it gives frame to this time of reflection and prayer. Tonight at MCC we are beginning with an all-church supper together, followed by a brief worship service of meditation, imposition of ashes and eucharist. I love being a pastor to a pilgrim people!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Transfiguration: who stands with you

“Get it” is a powerful phrase. It can certainly be read as an imperative command to “go get it” as you throw a ball out for a dog to fetch. But when it is assigned to a person or an organization, that they “get it”, it becomes a strong endorsement that they are attuned to or ahead of what customers want/need. High performing athletes “get” where they need to be and what they should be doing. At almost every level of profession, those who “get it” perform better, achieve more and are depended upon for leadership.

Consequently, those who “don’t get it” are seen as lost causes and sources of endless frustration for leaders, teachers, parents and coaches. These are the ones who require enormous energy and deliver minimal results. The ones who “don’t get it” are the ones who surprise leaders in ways that are not good and pleasant. “Getting it” is an evocative shorthand phrase to describe capacity, potential and prospective in all sorts of fields.

That’s the question that lingers in front of the text for Sunday from Mark 9:2-9. Do the disciples “get it” as they are following Jesus? How many of them would you choose to be on your team? A way to answer that question is to read all of Mark 8 in preparation for worship. My prayer for Sunday is that together we “get it!”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's Time....to Come In

It happened after my first car accident. A car bumped into our rear bumper on a family trip. No one was hurt, but the bumper was crumpled. From that moment on, I was keenly aware of how many other cars had dented bumpers. I never saw them before. Now I saw bumper after bumper with dents in them. The same thing happened after I had to wear a temporary cast on my wrist. I saw casts everywhere. I never knew so many people wore casts!

When we moved into the parsonage, I was aware every Friday when the yard crew showed up to mow and trim trees and hedges. I was not used to someone mowing my yard. I took care of my house and did what work I could (grass mowing in the summer, leaf raking in the fall, and snow shoveling in the winter). Now others do it for me, and some weeks I don’t even notice the guys.

Sunday’s text is a powerful story about Jesus noticing someone the rest of society preferred not to see, hear or be close to: a leper. In Mark 1:40-45 a leper approached Jesus inquiring if Jesus might wish to heal him. Jesus not only healed him…he touched him! As you prepare for worship, reflect, meditate, pray for God to open your eyes to those he wants you to start seeing.

Grace & Peace,


1. Consider one of two adult learning opportunities:

a. Chasing Francis by Ian Cron book discussion at 9:00 a.m. in Fellowship Hall

b. Conversations in Luke discussion at 10:30 .m. in the Upper Room

2. Jr. High “619” group meets Sunday night at….6:19 p.m. in the Outback

3. Give, Live, Love campaign to finish the Children’s Playground, send students to CHIC this summer and provide scholarships to other camps has raised $4,000 toward the $15,000 goal. Thank you!

4. A Prayer Retreat based on the “Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius will be held on MCC campus February 25 from 9:00 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. with lunch provided. This will be a day broken up into hour-long periods of directed prayer and reflection. There is no cost for the retreat other than the commitment of your time. All are welcome. R.S.V.P. to donnjohnson@mac.com

5. Ash Wednesday begins the 40 day period in the church called Lent. On Wednesday, February 22, there will be an all-church dinner in the Peterson Life Center at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Service of Ashes at 7:00 p.m.

Eating Together

I read somewhere this week that a primary activity of Jesus was eating with others; good meals with bad people! It got him in a lot of trouble, but it's what he did consistently. He shared meals, time, and love at tables.
Last week we ate together....well! There was no program, just celebration. It takes work, planning, setting up, preparing and cleaning up. When we debrief these church meals, something is always wrong, missing or could be done better. In many ways it's almost easier to not encourage church meals because of the legitimate administrative challenges.
But.... they accomplish so much, as the photo shows. Families who are new to the church stay and sit with others they don't knowyet. College students are joined by a "grandparent" couple and get to know someone outside of their demographic. Kids run around shrieking and squealing and lighting up the air with laughter. People share telephone numbers and emails. They linger in conversations longer than after church on the patio with a quick cup of coffee.
Maybe a new ministry team could be: meal ministry!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ministry Image

This year's Midwinter Conference for Covenant pastors was nothing short of inspiring. The worship band surprised us at every turn, taking us into new and familiar songs. The speakers opened up scripture in deep, fresh ways. The moments of sharing were less like the old announcements and pitches than fresh glimpses into the lives of other pastors on the road with us. Some of the new initiatives that the Covenant is launching (Cov Kids/Congo) are really exciting. And it was all wrapped and packaged in the beautiful setting of the Hyatt Regency O'Hare.
Then I came home to the real church with an address, members, boundaries, budgets, and messes. The photo above is what's happening right now in our children's playground area. We are in the process of installing a new, state-of-the-art playground for children from a generous gift from a family. Painstaking time was invested in playground companies and dates for demolition of the old equipment, preparation of the site (removal of chips and old concrete footings) and the installation of the new equipment.
The Bobcat arrived Friday to finish the site preparation and all was going smoothly until....the sink hole of mud sucked the Bobcat right down. No error on the operator's part. Nobody knew that there was a three feet deep oozing mud hole ready to eat the Bobcat, stopping progress till Monday when bigger equipment will have to come in to extract the Bobcat.
I look at that Bobcat and smile. That's what so much of ministry looks like: great plans, good people, and then a mud hole that stops us in our tracks and slows down our time tables. The challenge for us pastors is to graciously lead our churches through and out of the mud holes on to firm ground again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hyatt elevator ride!

I love the Covenant

"I Love the Covenant" has become, over the years, a semi-sarcastic way of tweaking denominational loyalists who uncritically support all things and everything Covenant. Those of you who know me, know that I'm not one of those. Though I have family roots going way back into the Covenant, I've been quick (sometimes too quick) to point out faults and take shots a leadership, programs, events, and initiatives.

Not this year. Why? Am I getting old and sentimental? Old yes, sentimental...no. What deeply and truly impresses me this year at the Midwinter is the spirit and quality of emerging leaders. Start with the worship team who leads us twice daily in worship. The creative blending and breadth of songs is rich. I look forward to each session of worship, knowing they will take me to the familiar, the ethnic and the new seamlessly. It's not about their musicianship and performance as much as about being servants leading us into the presence of God.

I love their embrace of technology. I went to the luncheon (above) composed of worship leaders who arranged to have it live-broadcast. Over 40 worship leaders around the country tuned in and participated in on-lince chatting over a wide range of topics. Technology is embraced to broaden and extend community, not "wow" us.

I love the focus on the local church and not the big initiatives. This conference blesses me over and over again for just being a local pastor. In past conferences big named pastors of mega-churches came out and showed us their formulas that we could bring home and be just like them (never worked). Now we have video testimonies of renewal and revival in a little church in North Dakota that has delivered over 150 meals to hungry people in a town of 80! Local faithfulness is valued.

The days of advocacy and pushing seems done and the time of conversations and questions is happening. I know the battles women and minorities have faced getting a place at the table in this formerly Swedish/white tribe of believers. It's so fun to see the blend and mix of men and women and multiple ethnicities on the floor, the stage and in leadership of all levels. Are we done? By no means. But I sense the direction is less about how the photo looks and more on the character and competence of persons.

This is a fun group to be a part of

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