BUSY! BUSY! BUSY!

BUSY! BUSY! BUSY! Isn’t this supposed to be summer? And yet, we have more going on than ever at Covenant! Perhaps most importantly, we have the CONCERT FOR NEPAL tomorrow. Let me just take a moment to offer some special gratitude to all of those who are working to make this happen! There are so many working with the Nepal team to make this concert a reality, and I fear I would leave someone out. The fact is, most of you have been contributing in some way, and for that, I am so very THANKFUL! I do want to offer a special thanks to our Mission Chair, Bonnie Little, for doing such a phenomenal job organizing all of this. Like I said, most of you are contributing in some way to this effort, and somehow, Bonnie has managed to keep us all fairly organized. THANK YOU BONNIE!

Amidst the busy-ness of preparing for the concert, we also have been preparing for VBS, a Presbytery Meeting (on the same day as the concert!), a near future visit from Scott MacLennan to tell us how the relief efforts are going, new Sunday School classes, and so much more! I know many of you have been rushing around with all this busy-ness, not just the church staff.

I did want to reflect on that busy-ness though, because I think the scripture lesson speaks to this in some way. In Mark 5 this week, a man named Jairus asks Jesus to come heal his daughter, who is extremely ill. On the way, Jesus is interrupted by another woman in need of healing. By the time Jesus arrives at the young girl’s bedside, she has died. Doesn’t that just seem to reflect how we feel about busy-ness some time? We are focused on so many things and sometimes a ball gets dropped, and catastrophe ensues! Now, in the case of Jesus, he simply brings the young girl back from the dead to turn tragedy into miracle! If only we all could do such things!

But there is another underlying message that isn’t just about Jesus’ ability to handle busy-ness with miracles. There is amazing grace in this passage. Can you imagine if Jesus had just refused any time or healing on the other woman by just saying, “Sorry, I got a little girl to cure, I’ll get to you later.” One of the things that most marked this woman was that her disease had cut her off from the community. Jesus refused to be a part of the system that continued to ignore her needs. In so doing, the other thing that was so important seemingly went undone. The grace comes in the fact that the other important thing wasn’t completely lost. By the grace of God, it all worked out in the end.

Though our first temptation is to say, “Yeah, but Jesus performed a miracle to make sure it worked out.” Though this is true, I think the lesson comes in thinking that sometimes when we drop the ball when things are busy, by the grace of God, somehow that thing we missed will be handled in a different way. Jairus’ people thought there was only one way out of this solution—healing before the young girl died. Jesus shows us that kind of small thinking isn’t the only way that God deals with problems. When a ball gets dropped or an issue gets missed, by the grace of God, other doors can be opened.

This can be a reminder to us to trust that in the midst of our busy-ness, God can transform chaos into healing. Sometimes we will miss things, but sometimes…that can lead to more amazing ways of handling a problem than we could have imagined. It also comes as a reminder to extend grace to other people. We all get busy. We all drop the ball. We all miss things. The point is not to scream at someone when that happens, but to look outside the box of our small thinking and come up with new and innovative ways to address the problems. We may not be able to bring people back to the dead, but if we think more like Jesus about problems, we just may find new ways to address problems that seem beyond fixing.

Amidst our busy-ness, keep this in mind. Extend Grace, and be aware of outside the box opportunities to find God’s miracles in our midst.

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Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Neighbor’s Doors

I have to tell you all about an amazing experience that Bob Mennonna and I had this week, but first, some background…

While we were doing New Beginnings, a couple of things were mentioned quite a bit. First, we want to be more connected to our neighborhood and immediate community. We want to serve them better. Second, we really don’t want to knock on doors. I think many of us can understand the desire not to knock on doors. Not only is it a little intimidating to talk to someone you don’t know, but many of us have had an experience of obnoxious religious folks knocking on our door trying to “save” us. Needless to say, most of us don’t want to be those people (let me just make clear that not every door-knocking religious person is obnoxious, but we have all probably met one or two who are). The point is, for whatever reason, this scares many of us.

Last Wednesday night, Bob and I set out to walk the neighborhood. There was a little bit of nervousness on both of our parts, but we quickly discovered those nerves were completely unjustified. We discovered our neighbors are amazing and wonderful and supportive. Talking to them was not scary at all.

An important reason that I think this worked so well. We didn’t go out there with the intention of passing out tracts or converting anybody. We went out there with the intention of trying to be good neighbors and warn them of possible noise and disruptions this Sunday morning and on the 27th when we do the Nepal concert. We also gave them a means to contact us in case we need to tone it down. Not a one of them objected or was worried that we would be disruptive! In fact, I do believe many of them will at least join us for the concert (a few may even join us on Sunday!). Part of this has to do with humility. Instead of making these visits about something we have that we think they need, we made it about being neighborly and permission seeking. Many people were taken aback that a church would act this way.

I do believe that this tells us a whole lot about what it is to be a neighborhood church. It isn’t about the numbers we get in the doors. It is about being humble servants of those around us.

We are preparing for VBS and our theme is Stinky Feet (we are doing all sorts of Bible stories that are gross in one way or another). The central scripture that we are building VBS around is Jesus washing the disciples stinky feet, and the main lesson that we learn from that story is what Jesus tells us, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.” (John 13:14).

For far too long, the church has functioned under the assumption that we are somehow above, more loved or more saved while others are not. We have functioned in a haughty or arrogant way, thinking that we have a monopoly on the truth and that those “other” people need what we already have. I don’t think this attitude fits with Christ’s model of servant leadership.

Instead, I think we knock on doors our of humility. We ask how we can serve our neighbors. We offer what we can—even if that is washing stinky feet. We will be surprised of the amazing results and how we make connections and relationships with our neighbors—even if they never grace the threshold of the church. It isn’t about upping number or producing results. Plain and Simple: It is about Serving as Christ served us.

Sensus Divinitatus

This week we are repeating the same scripture passage as last week. You may remember that last week we focused on the Trinitarian theology in this passage, and the interesting implications for how we use scripture—how we understand it, and perhaps more importantly, how we feel it.

You might be wondering, why are we doing the same passage again? Didn’t we hear the word of God preached from this passage last week? What more is there to say? All good questions. They point toward one more very important point about the Trinity—specifically the Holy Spirit.

Our Reformed forefather John Calvin is often accused of being a stick in the mud, dour, cranky, legalistic, and uncreative old sour puss. Let’s be fair—he often times was! However, Calvin doesn’t get near enough credit for some things. Calvin was very thoughtful about the Spirit, and frankly, he was quite creative and even contemplative—I know, not what we usually think of as Calvin. Perhaps most beautifully, is John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Calvin actually thought we had 6 senses, the usual ones (Sight, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling), plus one very special one THE SENSUS DIVINITATUS! (Doesn’t it sound like a spell from Harry Potter? Don’t worry, it won’t turn you into a Newt) Anyway, Calvin thought that one way the Spirit works through us is via this Sensus Divinitatus—our sense of the Divine. The idea is that we actually have a special ability to discern where God’s Spirit is at work in the world, especially when it comes to the reading of scripture. Calvin was adamant that the scripture isn’t actually the Word of God until the Spirit activated our Sensus Divinitatus and opened us up to what the Word of God had to say to us. That is part of the reason we always pray a prayer of Illumination before reading scripture—we are calling on the Holy Spirit to flip the switch on our Sesnsus Divinitatus. What’s more, since each of us unique snowflakes has that special sense, the Spirit might activate it in slightly different ways for each of us.

In some ways, this explains something every preacher experiences on Sunday morning. After worship, as people parade out to shake hands, I will often hear, “Great sermon preacher! (Always great sermon, right?! ;p). I especially liked when you said _________.” Strangely enough, there are times when I know that I never actually said__________. Not only that, but one person in line could have heard something completely different then the person right behind them! I don’t attribute this to someone not paying attention; rather, I think this shows the Spirit at work through the Sensus Divinitatus. We all have different faith journeys. We all have different experiences of the Divine. We all have different blessings and burdens weighing upon us. We all have different things going on in our lives at a given moment. All of these things add up to us being tuned in for hearing the Word of God a bit differently—or in other words, a unique Sensus Divinitatus.

All of this goes to explain why it actually makes sense to occasionally use the same passage over again. The Word of God is not carved in stone, but is alive, growing, changing, responding to the world we live in. From week to week, a given scripture can say something quite different to us depending on the Spirit and our finely attuned Sensus Divinitatuses (Sensae Divinitatae? Who knows what the plural actually is!) The same spoken words can be transformed in our hearing by the power of the Holy Spirit to move us in powerfully different ways. Part of the amazing power of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the Sensus Divinitatus!

So this week, as you settle in to hear that Prayer for Illumination, take time to open yourself to the Spirit. As you hear those words of Scripture, listen for what important thing God might be speaking to your heart.