Tuesday, May 22, 2012

listening to sunday's sermon

I attended my wife's church this weekend, the ucc congregation in menomonie, further out on the rim to the east.  my friend rob is the minister there and we haven't taken the opportunity to visit there in nearly a year since my wife was doing her clinical practical experience at the same time I was, but while mine ended in february, hers continued until midmay. 

the church is beautiful, an old congregationalist place built sometime the early part of last century.  rob is an accomplished preacher but he wasn't doing more than opening and closing service sunday; they had a guest preacher: scott anderson, the executive director of the wisconsin council of churches.  I noted a few things about the congregation below.

my wife likes attending rob's bible studies before the service so we went early and because it had been so long since we'd attended ended up fielding questions from rob and the other students about our current doings and experiences for much of the time. the readings focused on psalm 133 and ephesians 4:1-6 and we concentrated on the message of ephesians (as rob reasoned scott would concentrate his message on that reading). it was a good conversation with older people we know and have talked with before and who are similar in thinking to us, to the point where I felt the need to speak out against diversity in order to ask questions whether we don't in fact need some form of division in order to articulate what "we" are not.

while I've been there many times, I tried to look with new eyes on the place and the people.  there were about 140-150 congregants present, most of them obviously grandparents or parents.  the average age looked about 60+.  there were many kids:  we counted 30 who scrambed up to be part of children's time.  I counted between 15 and 20 younger adults, single people or teens or early 20s.  there was 1 woman of color, a japanese woman I've seen there before, and 1 man of color, a student from nigeria who has been attending about a year and is ready to return to africa. 

rob is very connected with his community--he's been there for nearly 20 years (I'm not clear about this, it may be longer than that)--and that was born out by the reaction to a problem with the church organ.  a few weeks ago, a pipe had fallen or dropped, and a group of members had worked on it in the ensuing time.  this day was the big debut of the refinished organ.  with a big flourish, the organist hit the 1st notes of a favorite hymn--and immediately there was a resounding thump as something dropped inside the organ.  a group of 5 guys jumped to their feet and, while rob made amusing references to the organ's problems and changes, did a quick inventory outside and in the organ, and by the time mark the organist had settled at the nearby piano instead, they reported that the fix to the organ was actually easy and would be done in days.  there were lots of comments and jokes said about the situation and people laughed easily and quickly and there seemed no moments of discomfort or disease. 

the theme of the kids' time was based on the same ephesians verse--the woman working with them read a book called the crayon box that talked--and then scott's message which was strongly against what he sees as a "divided, competitive christian church."  a few quotes from his sermon:

  • "we are the various parts of the body of christ as workable commodities."
  • "we should recognize the unity which has been purchased and given to us by jesus."
  • "we must confess our need to be with each other to be the body of christ."

it was a fine sermon, and I wish I had written down a few other quotes, particularly the quotes he used from other speakers.  one, a woman, had made a comment to a congregant complaining that most contemporary worship didn't speak to his sense of praise to the effect that, "well, it isn't really aimed at you, is it?"  this struck me as a particularly xian things to say, noting the emphasis on what rick warren referred to as "it's not about you." 

No comments:

Post a Comment