Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Love Letters

An Inkling
It’s not often that any part of my preaching comes back by popular demand.  Once is usually more than enough!  But I’ve had a number of requests for a copy of my love letter to Sarah that I read a couple of weeks ago as an illustration.  So I’ve copied it below.
Apparently lots of people need help in the romance department – especially us guys.  So guys, feel free to use this as a model for your own love letters.  No credit need be given.  But I must warn you – the passions it stirs in your beloved may be more than you bargained for.
And if you need any further pointers on love letters or romance in general, give me a call.
With love,
Dear Ms Hill: 
This correspondence is to notify you that I continue hold you in high regard.  Your virtues, when put in ratio to your vices, continue to rate positively.   Anecdotal evidence gathered from your peers and associates verifies that you are indeed worthy of continued fondness.  That conclusion is corroborated by my own experience.  Please count this as your official notification of affection for 2010. 
Copies of this correspondence have been placed in your file, and you now have the certified copy yourself, as demonstrated by the notary seal. 
Cordially yours,
Phillip Keith Hill

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Leading the Way

An Inkling
The pay is low.  Those who imagine that it will be prestigious soon find out differently.  Complaints tend to be more prevalent than compliments.
Which is not to say that it is without rewards.  Those who are called to a task that seems beyond their abilities find great joy as they see God lift them to new levels.  And the fellowship they find in the common quest to respond to God’s calling is both deep and lasting.
About whom do I write?  Our St. Giles Elders.  They are your Elders, in that you chose them.  But in a prior sense they are God’s Elders, for he chose them through you.  We’ll be installing the Class of 2013 during worship this Sunday.
We believe that God guides our church.  If he wished, he could do so by writing in the sky.  But ordinarily he guides by writing in the hearts of those whom he has called to lead.  In the Presbyterian Church, that is the Elders.
Elders lead by envisioning.  Through prayer and discussion they seek God’s plan for our church.  Elders lead by loving.  Although that is the business of the whole congregation, Elders show the way.  Elders lead by growing.  There are no finished products among the Elders – if there were, their leadership would be irrelevant to the rest of us.  Rather, as they deal with their own wounds and failures, availing themselves of God’s grace, they demonstrate for us all the joy of becoming more like Jesus.
Many folks do tasks around the church house for which they receive very little appreciation.  Let’s do what we can to alleviate that situation.  And let’s start with the Elders. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here, There, and Everywhere

An Inkling
“Missional.”  It’s a major buzzword around the church these days.  And yet, judging from the many ways I hear it used, its precise meaning is not really very precise. 
I’ve attached a two minute You Tube video that should help firm up the term.  (You might watch it now…)
Welcome back.  Two minutes hardly does justice to the kinds of paradigm shifts that are necessary as the church is “dis-established” in our culture.  But you get the idea.  Instead of assuming that our mission will become more effective as we’re increasingly clever about attracting people into the church house, the missional model affirms that effectiveness comes primarily with an outward focus – getting Christian people engaged in everyday settings and relationships.  Imagine that! 
Actually, there is nothing new about an outward focus – see Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19)  But what is new is the realization that more and more people in our culture no longer assume that they really should get around to finding a church.  Indeed, many view the church with great suspicion.  So if we’re to connect with them with the love of Christ, it will have to be through our friendships and mutual interests in the settings where they live and work.  That sounds a lot more fun than running a public relations campaign for the church.
It’s not as if we no longer need to gather for worship, study, fellowship, etc.  In fact, there is a pretty good scriptural precedent for that as well in the vibrant early days of the church:  “They gave themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  (Acts 2:42)  Gathered to be scattered, to be gathered to be scattered,…
Here, there, and everywhere,

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Days of Our Lives

An Inkling
One of my surprising discoveries as a young pastor was how many people watch soap operas.  I learned this while making afternoon visits in the homes of some senior church members.  When it got to be 2:00 or 3:00, the scheduled time for their soap, I’d see them get fidgety.  They were hoping I’d take the hint and leave.  The more forthright simply told me that it was time for their “story,” as they called it, and that they couldn’t miss it.  That’s what alerted me to the fidgets in the others.  Thus I gradually learned which times to avoid, lest I come between people and their stories.
I really didn’t get it.  Why would a mere story have such a pull?  The older I get, the more I understand.  Stories have great power – for good and for ill.  I find myself spending more and more of my time following stories about the days of our lives.
Last week I did so in Kansas City for three days with 20+ guys for the annual gathering of our “pastors covenant group.”  Our covenant is one of care and accountability.  I’m in a group of five within that larger circle.  Our smaller circle checks in with each other monthly, usually via email, and then we catch up with the broader circle more generally once a year at a gathering.  I enjoy these gatherings for a number of reasons – a surfeit of good food and nonsense being among them.  But even more I enjoy the stories.
I still don’t really get the contrived drama of soaps.  But the real life dramas of friends are endlessly fascinating.  As we tell our stories and then unpack them together, our eyes of faith begin to discern patterns that point to the One who has both a grand plan and a stunning imagination.  He spins a tapestry like no other with threads of tragedy, comedy, mystery, irony, adventure, and love, and in the process he even writes our improvisations into his over-arching tale in astonishing ways.  I know of no better entertainment, education, or edification.
The days of my life don’t seem particularly interesting to me, but my covenant brothers tell me that they see the hand of the Divine Author at work.  That’s encouraging!  And I certainly see his hand at work in their stories – which leaves me all the more eager for the next installment.
Tuning in,