A Community United in Praise

Location: Community United Church of Christ (St. Paul Park, Minnesota)

Scripture: 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5

I’m not sure if this is proper for a pastor to admit or not, but I really love to dance. I’m not talking about a genteel waltz, nor have I any idea how to do a spicy tango. What I’m talking about is club dancing, to the kind of thumping bass music that’s on offer most nights of the week at establishments of ill repute. You might not recognize it as dancing, per se. It looks like a cross between jumping in place and flailing after bees. There’s nothing synchronized, structured or planned about it. Nothing especially beautiful either, at least in the classical sense. This is why I keep my eyes closed or look down most of the time, particularly if there are mirrors around. What really captivates me is the beat, and the feeling of complete release that comes from being lost in the music. When Javen and I arrive at a place where the beat is going strong, I go directly to the dance floor. It doesn’t need to be crowded, or to be playing Lady Gaga (though both help). But if I’m in the right head and heart space, dancing without any purpose beyond the joy of movement brings me into a place of adoration. “Alive, God! I’m alive, and moving, and grateful to you! Praise you, praise music, praise artists, praise beats, praise talent, praise life!” Continue reading “A Community United in Praise”

A Community for Outsiders

Community United Church of Christ (Saint Paul Park, Minnesota)

Scripture: Ruth 1:1-11a, 14-22

It’s been just over a year since our dog Ruthie came into our lives. She was a rescue pup that Javen and I adopted into our household of two cats. She has been a joyful, loving addition. I pretend that I don’t like her constant affection, that I need my space, but her desire to be right beside us is one of the things I find most endearing. She follows us around from room to room in the house, stands watching us intently as we cook in the kitchen, begs to go out with us when we’re by the back door, and hops on the couch immediately when we go to sit down. In fact, we named her “Ruthie” because of this passage of Scripture: “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” One couldn’t ask for a more loyal, loving friend.

Unless you ask our cats, especially Amos. Continue reading “A Community for Outsiders”

A Community Loyal to God

Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9

Over a year ago I got an email from church member Marlys Rucker. It was an email forward that contained a version of this morning’s scripture. So, since she is the wisest Marlys that we have at church, I saved it and made a note to come back to it when I was preaching on the Ten Commandments. Because what Marlys sent me was The Ten Commandments (Minnesota Style). See if you recognize any of these: Continue reading “A Community Loyal to God”

On Farming and Faith

Last month I spent the better part of a day at Prairie Oaks Institute, a working farm and retreat center in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. While exploring the 110-year-old farm, I began noticing connections between where I was and the community that I serve. Both farms and churches have existed for millennia, yet both must also adapt vigorously to the 21st century. Reflecting since that day, I’ve noticed at least three common characteristics between farming and faith communities (at least those of the mainline Protestant persuasion).

Continue reading “On Farming and Faith”

Ordinary People, Extraordinary God

Scripture: Exodus 1:8-2:10; 3:1-15

The word “sabotage” comes to us from the Dutch. Hundreds of years ago fabric producers in the Netherlands began shifting the way they made cloth. The old way was labor-intensive, involving many artisanal cloth-makers working on small looms. But with the invention of large, wooden textile looms, business owners could guarantee a more uniform product and didn’t need as many employees. Workers feared for their livelihood and fought back. They took their heavy wooden clog shoes and tossed them into the gears of the industrial looms, snapping off wooden pins and wheels, thereby fouling up the machines. A wooden shoe was called a “sabot”, and that’s how we get the word “sabotage.” Continue reading “Ordinary People, Extraordinary God”