The spider and the acolyte

communion spider.jpg“Our Father, Who art in heaven…”

“Pastor…Pastor…PASTOR!”

The (not so) whispered voice came from behind me as we began the Lord’s Prayer, just before the Words of Institution in worship a few weeks ago. I glanced behind me, and it was that Sunday’s acolyte.

“…hallowed be Thy name…”

“Pastor, there’s a spider!”

“…thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

I glanced back again and said, “Kill it!”

“…on earth as it is in heaven.”

“PASTOR, there’s a spider on the communion trays!”

“What?” I whispered.

“There’s a spider, right there.” He pointed to a 1/2 inch spider crawling up the side of the stack of individual cup trays.

“Give us this day out daily bread…”

I reached over, smooshed it with my finger, and flicked it across the chancel where it wouldn’t bother me any more.

“That’s your job,” I whispered.

“…as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

This true little episode is just one of the reasons why it can be difficult to keep your focus while officiating. It also highlights an important yet unwritten duty of an acolyte: dealing with arachnids. And it gives you a little window into the many unseen and unheard parts of a typical Sunday morning worship service.

 

 

Black Mouth Cur

IMG_3558.JPGSince the day we brought him home, we wondered what kind of dog Samson was. We were originally told he was a mix of shepherd and lab and whatever. Friends would look at him and see boxer and ridgeback. We often asked him, but he never even gave us hint. Our vet simply called him a Florida Brown Dog, and we pretty much stuck with that.

Today at the farmer’s market, a woman who I believe works at the humane society asked, “Is that a Black Mouth Cur?” I replied, “I have no idea.” She continued, “I think he’s a Black Mouth Cur. They are great dogs. In fact we have a waiting list for them. They are really good with wounded veterans and work well with those who have PTSD.”

So we went over to a bench and looked up the breed online and sure enough, Samson fit the breed’s description and looked like all the pictures. He’s got a shepherd-ish tail, but there plenty of variation allowed for in the breed. Black Mouth Curs are not among those breeds listed with the AKC, but there’s plenty of information about them available. And plenty more pics at Samdog.

 

More reflections on being a grandfather (part 2)

10400646_10153411674873460_5093416171899200828_nEight months ago, I jotted down a few thoughts about being a grandfather. It’s time to share some more reflections.

Eden is 1-1/2 years old; Elijah is about 8-1/2 months.I got to see Eden between Christmas and New Years while she and her parents visited, and I see Elijah several times a week since he lives nearby. Eden is running around, Elijah’s learned how to crawl (kind of). She’s grown quite a head of hair; he’s only sporting some peach fuzz.

The best part of a visit with them is when they see me, recognize me, and break into a big smile. That moment makes the rest of the day, no matter how good or bad, seem unimportant. When Elijah sees me at church, he either gives me the “Grandpa, what are you doing here?” look, or a quick, silly, “Ha!”

The second-best part is making them laugh. And I know just how to do it. Having ticklish whiskers helps, but I also know what silly sounds will get the belly laughs going, the wonderful sound of unrestrained squeals and giggles.

And how about little naked people scooting around the house before bath time? That never gets old and always makes me laugh!

Those are some more of my favorite grandfather things.

On Jesus’ prayer list

I came across this sentence as I was paging through one of my journals from last year: “We’re on Jesus’ prayer list.”

The thought came from Luke 22:32, where Jesus tells Peter, “I have prayed for you.” It also connects with Romans 8:34, where Paul tells us that Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of God. I keep a list of things I’m praying for in the back of my journal, and we’ve got prayer lists at church, but I don’t often stop to consider Jesus’ prayer list. I should. I’m on it.

On the one hand, this is very reassuring. My Lord is praying for me! He must care a lot about me. On the other hand, it concerns me. Jesus prayed for Peter because Peter was about to be “sifted” by Satan. Yikes. I hope that’s not on the schedule this week. Paul mentions it in the context of persecution. Really? I had other plans.

The context of Jesus’ words is about Peter’s failure, restoration and ministry to others. Well, I know from experience that I am going to stumble, by God’s grace I’ll get back up, and I’ll end up learning some lessons that will help me help someone else. Life’s never easy, so I appreciate being on his (and your) prayer list.

y1ty2

 

Don’t do anything!

A few weeks ago when I too a walk through the Indian Trails Sports Complex with my dog, Samson, I couldn’t help but notice how negative all the signage is. Take a look and see if you agree.

No pics collage

Not very welcoming, is it? It’s all negative and frankly, a bit depressing. I know you have to have rules and people need to know the rules and follow the rules, but are’t we getting carried away? I only too a few pictures. My tax money was used to purchase many, many more signs like these.

I’ve walked through the complex many times and never really noticed the signs. Do you think anyone really pays attention to them?

Relevant

relevantWhen I got to the office early this morning, I saw the red light lit on my phone. I had a voice mail.

I couldn’t understand it at first. After several listens, I could make out the introduction, “This is Corinne, from Relevant Church.”

Relevant Church. I had never heard of that church in our area. Interesting name. A presumptive name. An implication: other churches aren’t relevant. Like mine, for instance.

Am I being a bit too defensive? Perhaps. What would define a “relevant” church? Is my church relevant? Or out of date? Like your father’s Buick, maybe.

What would characterize a “relevant church?”

A church that speaks to the issues we face in our time? A church that addresses the concerns that we have right now? A church that speaks the language we use everyday?

How about a church that preaches the Word, in season and out? Or church that proclaims the gospel, timeless good news for people in darkness who need some light? Or one that points to a Savior who doesn’t come to condemn but to save?

Is an eternal God, who never changes, “relevant?” Is the gospel ever “irrelevant?”

 

Not that bad?

After worship, a member of the congregation said to me, “I couldn’t say the confession today. I don’t do any of those things. I’d be lying.”

Yes, that got my attention. I wasn’t sure what to say at that moment, don’t remember what I did say but know I wisely said little. I did go back to see what we had corporately confessed at the beginning of the service.

The confession that day was taken from the rite of individual confession and absolution. We said things like

“I have lived as if God did not matter and if I mattered most…my Lord’s name I have not honored as I should…my love for others has failed…there are those whom I have hurt…my thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.” (Lutheran Service Book, p. 292)

Those words pretty much summed up my life that week. I read those words and think, “Guilty as charged.” But not this person. He sounded just like the wealthy young man who assured Jesus that he had kept all the commandments. Afterwards, I realized I could have told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus, but that probably wouldn’t have gone over well.

So what was really going on here? Have I been preaching too much gospel and not enough law? Did he really not get it? Or were his failings in other areas than these that we mentioned?

I don’t know. It just caught me off guard. I’ve only ever had one other person object to the words of confession, insisting that they were not “a poor, miserable sinner.” They just didn’t think they were that bad. An average sinner, maybe. But not miserable.

crucifixion-of-jesus-christWe can all use a little more Christ and him crucified. The horrific reality of Jesus’ suffering and death usually makes me marvel, “I’m that bad? I’m that loved? It’s all taken care of? Really?” Then the absolution really hits home when God says, “Yes!”

 

 

There’s a corpse sitting here.

corpseI got the call about 11 am. Her sister had walked into the house and discovered her father, seated in his chair, without his oxygen tube, TV blaring, dead. He had struggled with health issues for years, but none of us expected this. In fact, I had just given him a ride home from the hospital a few days before, and he was doing better each day.

It took me about an hour and a half to get home, cleaned up and over to the house. He was still sitting there in the chair as I talked with his daughter and a hospice nurse finished up some paperwork. In some ways, it felt just like the times I went to visit, except he was unusually quiet. He usually did most of the talking. More than once I thought to myself, “You know, there’s a corpse sitting here!” But He looked peaceful, so I waited with his daughter until the staff from the funeral home arrived.

We sat and talked about family, the in-and-out of the hospital routine of the past year, his many friends in the neighborhood and the only thing he really ever wanted to do: go fishing.

Actually, I’ve been in similar situations before. A number of times I’ve stayed with a family member until the staff from a funeral home arrived to take the body of a parent or spouse away. Just part of the job, I guess. It never really bothered me. Though the body was there, the soul had gone to be with the Lord, and that is a very reassuring thing to know.