New Blog Post: “How to Experience Easter”

This week I offer you a revised essay that I wrote on April 19, 2012:

I feel called to help others more fully experience the joy of the resurrection.  I have found N. T. Wright a helpful guide in this regard.  As he writes: “We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, specialty concerts, anything that comes to mind” (Surprised by Hope [HarperOne, 2008], 256).  So how are you intentionally celebrating Easter as the great festival that it’s supposed to be?  As Wright says, “If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. . . . The [fifty] days of the Easter season . . . ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving” (257).  So what new thing do you feel called to take up at this time, to help make Easter the season of new life that it’s supposed to be?  One thing I plan to do as pastor is reflect on God’s grace via a study of the Book of Exodus, which I’ll be preaching on this spring.  Whatever the Lord is calling you do to, I pray he uses it to breathe new life into you.  He has risen!

Pastor’s New Blog Post: “Easter Sunday: Our Greatest Day”

I’m pleased to report: the Palm Sunday service that we led last week was blessed.  The members of the Alberta Flying Farmer’s Association were warm and welcoming, and we worshipped the Lord with gladness at the Red Deer Lodge.  Palm/Passion Sunday is an important step in our Lenten journey, as it marks the beginning of Holy Week, when we take our final steps with Jesus to the cross.  All of this leads, of course, to Good Friday and Easter, when we remember the death of our Lord and celebrate his resurrection.  In preparation for this moment, I’ve pulled out one of my favorite books: Surprised by Hope, by N. T. Wright (HarperOne, 2008).  Listen to what Wright says about Easter: “Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity, as Paul says, you are still in your sins.  We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, it cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course.  This is our greatest day.  We should put the flags out.” (p. 257)  So we rightly sing our hearts out on Easter Sunday, and we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord with feasting and play.  I wish you all a happy Easter—all fifty days of it!  May we all truly feel the joy of the resurrection this Easter season, and experience the new life that God intends for us—through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

New Blog Post: “Who is Your King?”

 

This Sunday we have the privilege of leading worship at the Alberta Flying Farmer’s Convention in Red Deer.  You may wonder how this opportunity came to be.  Well, my wife’s parents belong to this association, so it was natural for them to invite us to lead worship for this convention, as it takes place in Red Deer.  This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out in the community and preach the gospel.  And since it is Palm Sunday, I will preach from Mark 11:1-11, in keeping with our current sermon series called “King’s Cross: The Identity and Purpose of Jesus.”  Through the story of Jesus’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, I will invite the people to reflect on who is their king.  We are made to worship.  So it’s not a matter of choosing to worship or not, but rather, who do you worship?  There are many idols out there competing for our attention.  For example career, money, success, family.  But this gospel story reminds us that Jesus is our true and rightful king.  And so with the people on the road to Jerusalem, we’re invited to shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  And we’re invited to pray. . .

We praise you, O God, for your redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.  He entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph and was proclaimed Messiah and King by those who spread garments and branches along his way.  Just as we carry these branches, may we follow Christ in the way of the cross, that, dying and rising with him, we may enter into your kingdom, through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.  (The Worship Sourcebook, K.1.4.1)

New Blog Post: “Healthy Leadership in Small, Strong Congregations”

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of small congregations.  Partly because of certain issues that we often face (i.e., the challenge of recruiting and mentoring leaders), but also because I continue to read Kennon L. Callahan’s, Small, Strong Congregations (Jossey-Bass, 2000).  This has been a very helpful book.  As I read it, I’m feeling guided and encouraged as to what a small, strong congregation looks like, and what we need to become.  For example, listen to this quote in the context of the challenge to recruit and mentor new leaders: “Small, strong congregations never have enough money. They never have enough leaders. With imagination and creativity, they are always giving away more than they have. The result is that God supplies new leaders and new resources to match the mission. The stronger the mission, the more leaders the congregation develops. The stronger the mission, the more generously God helps us discover the resources to share the mission.” (pp. 204-205)  I find such words instructive and inspiring.  As I read Callahan, I’m feeling increasingly encouraged at who we are as a small, strong church, and who we are becoming as a small, strong church.  And I look forward to more growth and strength as we continue to worship the Lord together, seek his will, and discern the one excellent mission that he has for us in our second decade of life. 

This conversation reminds me of a prayer that I sometimes pray as a leader of a local church.  I invite you to pray it with me. . .

This is my one incessant prayer to you, hour by hour, day upon day: It’s yours. I am not fighting this battle for me.  It is all yours, and I want whatever you have for me in this situation. 

It is not my organization, it is yours, so I depend on your Spirit to show me what to do.  These are not my people. I chose them and organize their efforts, but they do not belong to me.  You entrusted them to my leadership, and they agreed to follow me.  They deserve more and sometimes expect more than I can give them. What they really need is enormous.  If I take their needs and hopes and fears on myself personally, I will be crushed instantly.  They are yours. . . . 
Yours is the kingdom, but we never seem to have enough resources!  We are always lacking something, our dreams always mocking our reality, our vision always dancing around our poverty.  You own everything, so what we need must seem small to you.  Show me where to look for it, how to know it when I see it, how to get it, how to use it best, and especially how to be content with it.  It is all yours.
So this day is yours; I am yours; these people are yours; these resources are yours.  The challenges we face are yours, as is anything we hope to accomplish.  It’s yours, God.  It’s not mine.  
–Richard Kriegbaum, in Kurt Borklund, Prayers for Today, 152.