Sunday, May 22, 2005

272 Never ask a question during the children's sermon

This morning Pastor Jeff called the children forward to the front of the sanctuary and sitting beneath the cross and in front of the altar, he opened a brown paper bag. "I have similar items in this bag, and I want you to tell me what they all do." One by one he pulled out a bottle of glue, a rope, a roll of scotch tape, a big roll of duct tape, and some velcro with great drama for each item. He commented that duct tape seemed to be holding the world together these days and "what would we do without duct tape," and went on to explain the velcro. "What do these things all have in common?" he asked. One older child said, "They hold things together." "That's right," Jeff said. "And what holds us together in God's love?" One little guy so excited, shouted "DUCT TAPE!"

Monday, May 16, 2005

Pentecost Concert

Our choir presented a wonderful "Choral Evensong on Pentecost" yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m. It was a time to show off our "new choir" (specifically for the Lytham Rd. campus) and our newly refurbished pipe organ. Interspersed with brief messages from the pastor and scripture reading, we had choral numbers, brass ensemble pieces, two hymns with the congregation, and several organ solos.

Pastor Paul made the most stunning remark I've ever heard at a church concert. He told us we had work to do--that listening was the work of the audience. I wish that message could have come before the wonderful organ/brass Prelude (Praise the Lord, Sigfrid Karg-Elert). A woman behind me was reading the program aloud and commenting to her guest--who probably could have read it herself, and the woman beside me was chatting with her companions. The louder the brass, the louder they talked. As a former trombone player, I wanted to hear the Prelude!

Paul also gave us a bit of history about the organ that I didn't know. The church is 49 years old. A member gave a $50,000 gift in 1970 to purchase the organ, and Paul estimated the same instrument would be $500,000 today. But in 1983 the size of the sanctuary was doubled (holds about 750), and there was not enough space to enlarge the pipes to really fill the church with the sound needed for some pieces. In January the pipes of the organ were dismantled and taken out for repairs and cleaning (we used the piano), and when it was reinstalled, there were some ranges included that are digital since there is no room for additional pipes. A few years ago another member in her will left $250,000 to the church just for the music program, and $80,000 of that when to repair and refurbish the organ. (I didn't have a pencil with me to take notes, so I might have a few details incorrect.)

And another thing I loved. The women of the choir wore white shirts and black skirts or slacks and the men wore dark suits with white shirts and ties. There were times in the past when I'd have to shut my eyes to the cacophony of colors and clothing styles during concerts. Our new director must be from the old school who thinks sight and sound need to be in relationship, not fighting each other.

Friday, May 13, 2005

270 What Mel did for Jim

Jerry and I met in the late 1980s at our first Medical Library Association meeting. Boston maybe? We became almost instant friends. Two things, besides our profession, bonded us. We both had bad backs and were standing up against the wall to listen to presentations and we both attended Al-Anon. We continued to meet annually--Seattle, San Antonio, Detroit, Philadelphia and probably a few other cities. We also met each others husbands.

We'd sort of lost track these last few years--she took some exotic positions out of the country, but e-mail recently reconnected us. She happened to mention that her husband had become a Christian and stopped drinking. "Tell me more," I responded in the reply message. Here's what she told me, and it is absolutely awesome. Enjoy--I have her permission to share.

"A year ago February, we were in Florida with my brother, Tom, and his wife Jeannie. They invited us to go see the Passion of the Christ. Jim said, "Why not?". He came out of the movie just sobbing--received Christ at the point of Jesus leaving the Tomb. It was an awesome occasion. I was what you would call a back slider. Had been a Christian for years--just wasn't walking the talk. We came home from Florida and joined a wonderful church--Clarkston Community. Pastor, congregation, music everything is just awesome. Can't wait to go every Sunday. Jim has become involved with Habitat for Humanity--he's a house leader for the June Build. He worked as one last year, as well. I've been trying to organize the church library--no space!!! Jim quit drinking that night of the Passion. Just amazing what a happier person he is now. Life is good!!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

269 Roast Preacher for Dinner

You've probably heard that old saw--"after church they had roast preacher for dinner." Saturday night we had dinner at friends--I think there were 11 of us, and the topic turned to preaching. We were all Lutherans, some Missouri Synod, some ELCA. Our church is fortunate to have four really outstanding pastors, all with different gifts. Jeff, the youngest is an orator--his preaching skills are amazing and energizing. Paul, the senior pastor, is gentle, soft spoken and an encourager. His father and grandfather were Lutheran Pastors. Dave is our theologian and teacher--I love his classes and have blogged about them. He is a former missionary and an excellent musician. But I love John's faithfulness to preaching the gospel--his attention to the "left side of the THEREFORE." Like me, he was a church member all of his life, but the light turned on for him in his 30s when he was a schoolteacher in the Columbus Public Schools and he left a successful career to go to seminary. So he knows from experience there are a lot of member-seekers sitting in the pew every Sunday who need to hear the Gospel in fresh, but persistent ways.

The left side of therefore. By that I mean if you ever see the word THEREFORE, or NOW in Paul's letters, pay attention. He's just finished up laying out for you why you should believe. The cross and the resurrection. Then he moves on to what you should do about it. So many sermons focus on the right side of the THEREFORE, and the sermon becomes just so much law. "Therefore, do this, and that, and don't forget about thus."

Sunday morning John was the pastor at the service I attended (we have 10 services). I had been finishing up some art show details, and slipped into the last pew by my husband who was an usher that service. The sermon was just starting. John announced the good news that Jesus had died for our sins, that his resurrection was our hope. The topic of the current sermon series is "gifts of the spirit," and the day's theme was kindness. He went on to tell a personal story (forgot to mention that John is the best story teller, having been an elementary school teacher). After selling their home to church members about 8 years ago, they moved to a condo. The new residents didn't wait for the neighbors to call on them, and instead, on Christmas Eve took cookies to the neighbors. They met a family who had just experienced a death and were grieving. They invited them to church and offered to pick them up. That couple have since become members and love the church. John said somewhat sheepishly that he had lived there for years and although he had spoken to them about yard and flowers, had never invited them to church or offered a simple kindness like a plate of cookies.

Coming away from a sermon with one major point to ponder is good; but coming away with that point plus the Gospel is even better. Thanks, Pastor John.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

268 The Festival of Blue Hair and Walkers

Alto Artist blogs about being a Jewish singer in "On Chanting." Once you start reading her story it is difficult to stop. To begin at the beginning, I think you need to go to the February archives. Here's a sample:

"When I had a moment of awareness, years later--a sudden and jarring formulation, for which I was not prepared, of the idea that I did believe in God--I thought I had gone crazy. It made no sense. Rational people didn't waste brain power on this. It was months before I even mentioned it to anyone. In the interim, I started going to services. It was an unusual synagogue, full of singing and dancing--based upon my prior experiences, I barely recognized it as Jewish. And there was often a woman standing at the bima, which was utterly alien. I told myself that it was fun, and a great place to meet guys, but the real reason I returned each week, even going so far as to wake up early on Saturday morning, was to convince myself that I wasn't nuts. Here were hundreds of smart Jewish people who prayed; they couldn't all be living in a fantasy world (especially since a large percentage were mental health professionals, this being the Upper West Side), could they?"

And another:

"Chanting Torah had always seemed like one of those interesting and ridiculously difficult things other people did, like roping calves or writing symphonies, solidly ouside the realm of experience I happened to occupy in this lifetime. On the other hand, thirteen-year-old boys and girls did it all the time, so I knew it was easier than brain surgery. And it involved singing, an opportunity I could never turn down. Intrigued by the challenge, I agreed to give it a try."

Hat tip to Glory Be for introducing this wonderful writer.

Monday, May 02, 2005

267 Visual Arts Ministry has three shows in May

The Visual Arts Ministry of Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC) is planning three shows for May-June, 2005. At The Church at Mill Run, 3500 Mill Run Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026, from May 7 -June 11, 2005 we will again offer the Spring Show for the Upper Arlington Art League. Popular Lewis Center artist Charles Rowland will judge the show. At The Church on Lytham Road, 2300 Lytham Road, Upper Arlington, 43220 from May 6 through June 10, we are offering "The Elaines." Watercolorists Elaine Strutner of Upper Arlington and Elaine Sherer of Dublin, both of whom began seriously painting after retirement, are the featured artists. The members of the UALC Visual Arts Ministry are having their own show at the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington, 43221 during the month of May.

The web page for the Visual Arts Ministry is a bit out of date, because I'm in charge. We use a turn-key system that I think is a bit cranky and I haven't been able to get in to revise our section for maybe a year or more.