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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week in Review, July 16-23, 2012

(editor's note: each Monday morning, I will review some of the ways I saw God in action over the past week. Although I live in Omaha, NE, I travel across the country, and get a chance to see how God moves around on a pretty regular basis. I can't tell if this will be helpful to anyone but me.)

One of the highlights of the week is INGLORIOUS PASTERS, a weekly podcast that is just gettting started. Myself, along with Teaching Elder Mark Davis of Heartland Presbyterian Church, Clive IA, are starting up a new ministry on the internet. IP--with its direct borrowing from Quentin Tarantino's movie Inglorious Basterds--is a podcast about current theology, historical theology, and biblical theology. In short, it's about theology. I have to say, Mark is truly one of the greatest gifts to my life. We've known each other for about 8 years now, and I continue to learn from him every time we talk or I read some of his stuff. The guy thinks about things, and he thinks well and from a theological point-of-view. He and I just about agree on everything, and where we differ is some of the most interesting places of conversation. He almost always believes in the best of everyone else, and the worst about himself...I am not burdened with such modesty. You can catch samples of our work on our Facebook page--and as we get the hang of it-- we hope to branch out in distribution.

This past week we recorded some conversations on "Predestination: It Could be Worse." As a Lutheran I have had exactly zero conversations about that topic over the years, as we are not too big on that framing of the concept. (We tend to use "election" or "vocation" as ways to get to talk about God's initial, or prevenient, grace.) But I did learn that I love Psalm 8 a lot. Probably for the "bulwark."

My second favorite part of the week came in finding a YouTube video of the Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler ("The Debonair Giant"). Recorded over 30 years ago, his insights were refreshing to hear, as so much of what he said then we try to say now, and so much more inelegantly. I never had a class from him (he was retired fully when I came along), but we did take in a few lectures on the Pentateuch together. (He was auditing, I think.)  The world he lived in no longer exists, and the style and type of theology he knew (he calls himself a "classic Christian" which is a term nowadays we couldn't even begin to wrap our minds around) no longer is in vogue...but what he knew? Well, truth never goes out of style, even if it is hidden.

Lastly, I saw some mission in action. You can't do anything with youth these days without some type of "servant event." Getting kids and young adults out into the world to serve is practically a requirement for youth events these days. So I saw some kids tie-dye some shirts. In and of itself, nothing too spectacular, however, they were tie-dyed for other kids. In other words, somebody created something and gave it away. This is God in action.

You see, if I send a group of kids to go paint your house, there isn't too much I am asking of the kids. They are basically free labor for a project to be done. Although there may be a bit of creativity in how one paints a house, the colors, the style, everything about it is determined by everyone BUT the kids. They are just the people who paint. You can see why "mission-fatigue" sets in...it's not really mission, it's free labor and people get tired from labor. Painting a house may be missional, but it is not because you paint, but because you share in the life of someone else while you are painting. To end a project with a half-painted house and a new friend is way more missional that to end a project with a fully painted house and not even knowing the home-owners name. Habitat for Humanity is NOT mission--it's labor, and even Karl Marx would know that.

Anyhow, I am sitting in worship and some kids come up with a story about how they went and met the kids through the Boys and Girls Club. After a day they left, went and made the kids they had met a tie-dyed tshirt, and come back for another day of work and play. That's mission. The shirts were made by the kids for the kids because of the kids. That's how God works. Those shirts were gifts. God's mission--contrary to popular belief--isn't just about getting things done, God's mission is getting to know the strangers name.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

2 comments:

Matt Routledge said...

I like your comment about Habitat for Humanity and would like to share a little story. I remember seeing a commercial about Habitat for Humanity when I was younger and always thought I'd like to participate in that. My freshman year in college I got a chance to go with my campus pastor and 7 other people who I worshiped with every Tuesday night, but didn't know them real well. That would soon change. We set out for Taos, New Mexico over spring break and to this day it was one of the best experiences of my life. Why? Because of the people I met and the friends I created. Like Joel from Iowa who made fun of my accent. The HH coordinator, "Goose", who lived in his van. Paivi (PIE-vee) from Raahe, Finland who became my "spiritual compass" so to speak. And Tyler from Montana who now is my best friend and we're godparents to each others children. Over the five days spent in Taos, each person only spent 2 days actually building. The first day was spent in fellowship with over 60 college students from 3 Midwest universities and the families who would be living in the homes we were building. We were split up in teams and we took turns spending time on the job site, working at a soup kitchen, and being with children at a Head Start program, but we always started the mornings together in prayer. At the job site we worked side by side with the family members. At the soup kitchen we helped prepare, serve and eat food with the people while some guy sat in the corner and sang the blues. And at the Head Start program we spent the day with the children of Taos as I played guitar and sang them Roger Miller songs! (For some reason they really liked "Do-Wacka-Do"). At the end of our stay we were blessed by a traditional supper made by the families we had helped. I believe that my life was made better by my time spent in Taos and I am thankful for that. I tell you all this because the next year I had a complete opposite experience with HH. We went to Jupiter, Florida and the time spent there was more of a vacation. We did nothing for the people of the community. We only met 1 person who would be living in the home and he was ungrateful and so mad at the world that it was hard to even be around him. The only people I remember are the people who I knew before the trip. So why we're these 2 HH trips so different? Why was one of them mission and the other a vacation? It was the people who made it mission...not the organization. Any monkey can swing a hammer and build a house, but when the people of God come together, work together, live together...the people of God grow together in love and life. Thanks for your writings Scott and for allowing me to share.

Scott Frederickson said...

That is a great story...and exactly what I believe makes the world a better place. Good friends, such as yourself.
Peace.