sermon interruptus

At Richfield UMC we offer three distinct worship services.

One is a “traditional” blended service held in the sanctuary.  We have a magnificent organ and lush music program.  We sing songs mostly out of the hymnals.

One of our services is held in that same space on Sunday morning and it is led in Vietnamese.  They too sing mostly out of the hymnal – traditional tunes with Vietnamese lyrics.

Our other service is called “Living Waters”.  We set out to create a worship service for the many who have been “painfully churched”.  So very often people have encountered boredom in church; a sense that they are to be passive consumers of someone else’s thoughts and convictions.

We didn’t want that.  So we set up the room with round tables and we meet in the Fellowship Hall with coffee cups and we welcome dogs and any other warm body seeking community and mind and heart stretch.

Our shared music is eclectic.  We use hymnal tunes, and we also use current and past secular music that brings the message of the day into our hearts.  We have a superb music leader, Victor Zupanc.  Victor is the Music Director at the Children’s Theatre.  He brings to our worship life a delight in working with different musicians, and a theologically questing spirit.  The man is poetry on the keys, and his spirit infuses our shared song.

One of the things that makes the service so fine is the people who gather.  We know each other, we like to play and question, and the work of the Spirit isn’t just about right answers, it is about finding our own answers to holy and vital soul questions.

Sharing a “sermon” in this context is not a one-way experience.  We share it.  Yesterday was an excellent reminder to me about why I love this service.  Twice during our sermon-slated time together, different members of the gathered asked a great question.  What this does is take us into the place where meaning is made.  Things get real fast when they are taken from one heart into many hearts.

In offering different sorts of worship, our church is seeking to live into transformation.  A great pulpit preach in a sanctuary where the gathered are active participants in the unfolding of the Word is pure gift.  I get to share that every Sunday.

And, I get to share the Word in a setting where collaborative unpacking of the Word is practiced.

So many gifts.  Blessed among women am I.




blowing out the pipes

Last night there were nearly 400 people gathered at church on a Friday night.  We were there to celebrate a spectacularly enhanced pipe organ.

The air was charged with gratitude.  Those who gathered were current church folk, past church folk, and those who feast on the sound of a fine pipe organ.  In the house were those who had put their bodies and hearts to demolishing the old and building the new.  We knew each other to be compatriots in the great work that was going to be brought to our ears and hearts.

We weren’t disappointed.  From the moment organist Dr. James Welch began his concert, we were taken in.  The river of sound washed over us with all the voicings such an instrument can share.

My heart was near to bursting with gratitude.  For a century and a half, a scrappy and grounded crew of the faithful has sounded praise and lament from the corner of 58th and Lyndale.  Children have been raised, missions begun, hearts held and lives dedicated to the practice of living as disciples of Jesus.  We were at it again last night.

Any church is a dance, a partnership between the Holy and the human.  We gather to remember who we are in the midst of the chaos and competing claims of life.

Last night, the “who we are” was so clear.  We are a people committed to the power and possibility of transformation.  We need each other.

And so it was that last night we celebrated the with the sound of the flute and the trumpet what it is to be alive, woven, and generative.

Thanks be thanks be thanks be.