Last night Mihee and I attended STOMP! at the IU auditorium. It was a gift on many levels, but maybe most of all because we were able to get out on a Friday night and do something with culture, art and music. It beats listening to Barney, the Wiggles, and Bob the Builder sing on the Toddler Music Channel. We saved that for this morning.

Stomp! is  great on so many levels.  The creativity, the simplicity and the complexity, the non-verbal communication, the unexpected humor, and the playful interaction between the performers all combined for an enjoyable experience. At various points throughout the show the performers would use instruments such as brooms, trash cans, lids, cigarette packs, lighters, basketballs, newspapers, plastic bags, sawdust, water, foam tubes, and inflatable rafts. I was amazed by how they were able to use these simple and everyday objects–a lot of it we would consider trash–and transform them into something that was in its own way very beautiful. I was captivated by the way they would engage and instruct the audience simply by clapping. There were times when we (the crowd) could easily follow along and keep up with the clapping, snapping and stomping . There were times when we got lost and confused. It was fun. It also made us, in some ways, part of the performance. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was struck by  how elaborate it all was. The set, the instruments, the costumes, and the stage was very ordinary. “Industrial” or “urban” come to mind as words to describe it. And yet when it was all set in motion it was a sight and a sound to behold. All at once there would be cans flying around with drumming, clapping and dancing. There would be coordinated passing, throwing, catching, lifting, and lowering that made this industrial atmosphere almost seem organic – fluid and alive.

For some reason, as all of this was going on for the hour and 45 minutes, I was thinking about God’s work all around us. I was thinking about how God takes some things that seem very simple and ordinary and makes them produce something strangely beautiful. I was thinking about how God uses something seemingly small and simple and yet when they are set in motion they are complex and often connected to something else. I was thinking about how long ago God spoke, but that God still communicates with us, mostly now without words like the prophets heard, but in many other (and unexpected) ways. Most of all I was thinking about how God engages us and calls us to not simply be audience members or spectators but to be participants in what is going on around us. Like the audience last night, sometimes we get it exactly right and the place is rocking…and other times we get lost, confused and it is easy to want to just simply stop participating. When the latter would happen, when we’d mess up, the expression on the cast member’s face was never one of white hot rage or frustration. There was always a quirky grin, a slight smile, and a chance to do it right was quickly offered. Sometimes it was very clear that we were to just relax and be still, as if he/she was saying to us, “It’s okay. I’ve got this under control.” But even to the very end we were called and engaged…clapping, snapping, stomping, thankful to be involved and hoping it wouldn’t end.


At the Lakeshore

I am not preaching this coming Sunday. While I love preaching, I always look forward to the Sundays I am not in the pulpit. A big reason for this is because I get to listen to our Associate Pastor proclaim the good news. And Rachel is excellent. The other reason I look forward to my non-preaching weeks is because I always think to myself, “This is the week I will get caught up on…or finally get to…”

But it never works out that way. Sure I don’t have to get the bulletin in order, pick hymns, and come up with something to say for Sunday, but the work of ministry quickly fills those empty spots on my plate. In fact, just yesterday I was in meetings basically all day discussing everything from long-range planning to building use and a whole lot in between before I went to make a visit at the hospital.

So I didn’t get to catch up in my book reading or do some planning (although I might get to do these things later this afternoon). But I did get to engage in ministry in a much needed way this week and was freed up to do so with out feeling too much stress.

The gospels seem to have a lot to do with call and “follow me” accounts this month. It’s a good reminder for me that my call can–and does–look different day to day and week to week. And if I am faithful in it, then I realize that in many ways I am not in control or the one who sets my calendar. The Spirit has a lot to do with that. It also reminds me that in following Jesus there are very few slow or easy weeks. The work of Kingdom building continues whether I am in the pulpit or not.

There is a hymn in our denominational hymnal, “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.”It is a calling hymn listed under the heading “Life In Christ.” The hymn speaks to the call of the fishermen who were called to “leave their nets and to fish for people.”In many ways their vocation was the same–to fish. Only now it looks a little different. Of course later in the gospels, after the events of Holy Week, many of them go back to fishing for actual fish for a time. Part of the Hymn’s refrain has the line, “Now with you I will seek other seas.”

I’m reminded that God’s call often calls us away from the “same old, same old” into new things and in new directions, some other seas. Maybe that is why we say that the Spirit falls afresh on us, because it is always doing something new, something different, something fresh…even if only for a week (or day) before returning to the usual rhythm. I’m also reminded that seeking other seas does not always mean moving across the country or changing jobs. It might just mean taking the bold risk of trying something new in the community and context already called “home.”

One thing I did get to do this week was look ahead some to the lectionary readings for next Sunday. I’m preaching on a text with an exorcism. What do I do with that?!?! Good thing I’ve got some time to think about it.



Zechariah’s Tongue

I’m not really big into social media or blogs. Not that I don’t enjoy hearing/reading/seeing what others have to say, I do. I resisted Facebook for as long as I could and really only opened that account to connect with people at my church. Of course I’ve reached out way beyond those boundaries now with friends from all areas of my life. Realizing that social media is how a lot of people communicate opened me up to jumping in…although I am still in the shallow end. I was talking with someone this past week who told me to not even bother leaving a voicemail for anyone under 30, because they don’t check it. Boy, do I feel old! My reasons for resisting FB have a lot to do with my annoyance at those who self promote like crazy. I also figured that I actually did stay in touch with those I really cared about staying in touch with. FB proved me wrong on that one as I have made some delightful re-connections from days gone by. Connecting with others in a new way (for me) has been good too. I have also come to realize that FB is a legitimate way for some to express themselves and share their voice with others. But the “braggy” people still annoy me.

Blogging is another area that I passionately resisted. But this was mostly because I wasn’t sure what I had–or wanted–to say about anything. As the New Year came this year, so did another birthday in January. I decided that I need a spiritual discipline and blogging seems like a good challenge for me. While I am not really sure what this will evolve (or devolve) into, my thoughts right now will be to share or play with sermon ideas in addition to other mad ramblings about faith, sports, family, and life.

I titled this post “Zechariah’s Tongue” after my friend in Luke chapter one. As the angel Gabriel came to Zechariah to announce the good news of his soon to be born son, John, like many of us he doubted. His tongue was tied and he was made to be mute as a result. Jumping ahead to the birth of John the Baptist later in the chapter, we see that eventually Zechariah’s tongue is freed and he began to speak, praising God.

As I begin this blog, my hope is that after being quiet and now beginning to speak in this new way, I too will do so in a way that praises God. As today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am also inspired by his prophetic witness of not remaining silent, but speaking out in truth and love.

I feel like I’ve said too much already.