Thinking Out Loud

April 15, 2018

People in Your Church: Beautiful He and Beautiful She

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

by Ruth Wilkinson

It’s pouring rain. Buckets. Pissing down, as our English friends would say.

And it’s moving day.

S. and her family, including young K., are on their way. Everything is in boxes, the key has been arranged for. All there is to do now is actually go.

I had to work today, but swung by to say good bye and see if I could lift a few boxes and feel like I’d helped. When I got there, the truck was full and the trailer almost. S.’s man, the cranky Dutchman, was wrestling one end of a big wooden thing into place while the other end of it was being wrestled by Beautiful He.

Beautiful He and Beautiful She are a couple I’ve known for years and they get lovelier the longer you know them. He’s a builder and she’s an artist, both on canvas and in the kitchen.

They were both there today to help S. move with their big black truck and their trailer.

I first met Beautiful He and Beautiful She at a church I used to go to.

As with any ‘church’, there are people who do different jobs and, as with any ‘church’ there are jobs people want to do and jobs people don’t. Most of the ones people do want involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

Most of the ones I’ve done involve the use of microphones and rehearsal.

One Sunday morning, we’d just finished our final practicing and I was heading down the hall to go check on my son in the nursery.

The soundcheck was done, the arrangements finalized. My head was full of songs, and key changes, and harmonies. I needed to check my hair and make sure my skirt was turned around straight and my mascara hadn’t run and then I was headed back to the platform for the ‘pre-service song’ (of which there would be one, followed by a spoken welcome, 2 songs, a pastoral prayer, 3 songs and then, after the sermon, one more.)

As I headed down the hall, I saw Beautiful She coming the other way. Also wearing a skirt, also with her hair done, also wearing heels. Carrying a bucket, and a mop, and a plunger. She smiled as she passed and said good morning, Ruth, the practice sounded good. And away she went, turned down the hall to the bathroom and disappeared through the door.

I thought, “That’s who I want to be.”

I want to be someone who can get all dressed up but be willing to wield a plunger. To put on a pair of high heels, and go stand in a puddle. Who doesn’t take themselves so seriously ‘as an artiste‘ that they’re no use to anybody. Someone who can be beautiful while cleaning up a mess because cleaning up messes is a beautiful thing to do.

Someone who’ll be truly available to what ever God puts in their path, to serve and to give and to love.

Someone who’ll put down her paintbrush and leave her easel, long enough to get soaked to the skin by cold September rain, helping a virtual stranger move.

That’s who I want to be.

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April 2, 2015

This is Maundy Thursday

Over the past five years we’ve seen a major shift in Evangelical observance of what the Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches call Holy Week. There is much more consciousness of Lent and even debates — because of the rapid shift in some denominations — as to its incorporation in Evangelicalism. While we’ve always been observant of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, there is also an increasing awareness of Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. This article appeared here exactly five years ago…

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 2-5 (NIV)

What’s that saying? “A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” Today I felt somewhat spiritually outclassed.

I spoke with someone and asked what their church was doing for Holy Week. They told me that their church was doing a service on Thursday, as well as Good Friday.

Thursday is called Maundy Thursday. The theological page Theopedia doesn’t cover it for some strange reason, but the regular Wikipedia site offers two explanations for the name, of which I give you the first:

FootwashingAccording to a common theory, the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

As an aside, if you’re into church hopping, this is the day for you:

The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance.

Anyway, this church is having a foot washing as part of their Thursday service, and I was told, “Come and join us and we will wash your feet.”

I’ve never said that to anyone. And I’ve never washed anyone’s feet. I’m not totally comfortable with doing this or having it done for me. But the Biblical mandate to do this is quite clear. I feel like my spiritual pilgrimage is somewhat incomplete, like the person who has never been to Israel (or Wheaton, Illinois; the one time Evangelical equivalent, now displaced by Colorado Springs or Nashville; I’m not sure which.)

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~John 13: 14-17 (NIV)

Does anyone see a loophole here? An opt-out clause? A reason why this doesn’t apply in the current dispensation?

I don’t.


…since the original article appeared, I have had to, on a couple of occasions, help my mother with some moisturizing lotion on her feet. Normally she has someone who does this for her. Another time when we were swimming and my wife was sitting on the side, I sort of pretended to be washing feet that by that point were obviously clean. I can’t describe it but there is something spiritual in the servitude of this; something God knew all along and something Jesus modeled for us. You may not want to go to a church and experience this — not yet, anyway — but it’s something you might start by doing as a family.

January 24, 2014

All the Room Was Hushed and Still

To my American friends:  You’re not getting enough Graham Kendrick in your diet.

All the room was hushed and still
And when the bowl was filled
He stooped to wash their feet
And when it was complete, he said

This is what I’m asking you to do
This is why I’m kneeling here beside you
This is what I want my church to be
This is what I want the world to see
Who it is you follow

Love each other
One another
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you
Walk together
And whatever comes
Love each other
In the way that I have loved you

Let the room be hushed and still
Let us go to where he kneels
And join him as he serves
And learn his ways of love

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 2009 Make Way Music
http://www.grahamkendrick.co.uk

Most of us take communion on a regular basis and most of us are baptized in one form or another. But how many of us have ever experienced foot-washing? Was Jesus not establishing a pattern [insert words like ordinance or sacrament as it fits your tradition] with this as well?

This is also a great song for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

  • We featured a Graham Kendrick song (or two) here several years ago. Click here.
  • For those of you know those two, here’s one of my favorite lesser known GK songs from the early ’90s, Heaven is in My Heart.

March 17, 2013

Mutual Submission

Wedding Foot Washing

This picture appeared on Wednesday at DailyEncouragement.net, and it arrested me in my tracks. It’s the kind of thing you probably wouldn’t expect if you were an invited wedding guest, and an image that would probably stay with you for a long time. Furthermore, it’s a wonderful foundation on which this couple started life. The rest of the piece was actually about baby dedication. You can read it here.

July 12, 2011

Best of Thinking out Loud

4 Classic Posts from 2008

During that year before Mrs. W. and I married, I was living with Tony Rossi in a house he owned in northeast Toronto; though we each tended to be home while the other was out. Tony was a member of The Daniel Band, which was for awhile one of Canada’s most popular Christian rock bands. The band was good friends with Glenn Kaiser and Resurrection Band; some of the band members remain connected until this day.

Anyway, in 1978 Tony wrote this song, which I’ve carried in my Bible since. These are not the full lyrics, but without the tune, I thought you’d enjoy it in this abbreviated form.

I’d rather be a servant, and not a master
‘Cause then I could do my duty and I’d be true
I’d rather do the praising, and not be glorified
‘Cause then I could give all the glory to You


I’d rather be a student, and not a teacher
‘Cause then I could learn about the wisdom You bring
I’d rather be an audience and not a vocalist
‘Cause then I could listen to the song that You sing


Well the first shall be last, and the last be first
Well, my Lord, You know that’s how it will be
For to be the greatest we must all be least
Yes, my Lord, You know in this I believe

Tony Rossi, 1978

The Beatitude Creed

How about this for a novel creed:

I believe that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.
I believe there will be comfort for those who mourn.
I believe that being meek is a good thing and that those who give everything will inherit the earth.
I believe that those whose heart is set on seeking righteousness will find it.
I believe the merciful will receive more than they think they deserve.
I believe the pure in heart will be blessed and will see God.
I believe that those who long for peace and do more than others think is safe are children of the living God.
I believe in a place of safety for those who are hurt for trying to do the right thing.

I believe that being poor, and ignored and weak, and sick and tired and broken and messed up and kicked around is not as spiritually dangerous as being self-satisfied and clever and well-clothed and well-fed and degreed and creed-ed and important.

~posted July 17th, 2008 at A Life Reviewed blog – Joe and Heather live in Coventry in the English West Midlands

…something similar…

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(Matt. 5:3)
Author and theologian Monika Hellwig gives us the following:
  1. The poor in spirit know they are in need and can’t help themselves.
  2. The poor in spirit know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with others.
  3. The poor in spirit rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor in spirit have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor in spirit are less interested in competition and more interested in cooperation.
  6. The poor in spirit instinctively appreciate family, love and relationships over things.
  7. The poor in spirit can wait, because they have learned patience.
  8. The fears of the poor in spirit are more realistic and exaggerate less, because they already know they can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor in spirit have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threatening or scolding.
  10. The poor in spirit can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

~found in files; original source unknown

Lion Chaser’s Manifesto
by Mark Batterson

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don’t try to be who you’re not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

June 16, 2010

The Mercy Ministry Learning Curve

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:59 am

Across North America and around the world, Evangelicals, many for the first time, are learning what it means to be in service to those gripped by poverty.   Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, thrift shops, etc., were once the purview of mainline Protestant churches; but all that has changed when Evangelical churches started to put the needs of the poor on their radar.

I’ve already addressed the question, “Should we say grace before each meal?”   That’s been a rather thorny issue for the team my wife started four years ago, for reasons too complex to iterate here.   The people her group serves have already ‘served time’ when it comes to being in situations where you have to take the sermon before you get the soup.  The issue isn’t black-and-white, trust me.  If you missed that one, feel free to add a comment.

Today’s question is, “Should the team ration how much food people take when going through the line the first time?”

The problem is, on the one hand, there are times like this week where some people simply pig out, and the people at the end of the line are left with very little.  Not a happy situation.   One week a guest team from a local church came to serve the meal and they actually stood and served people and rationed out portions.

However, on the other hand, my wife views this meal as a type of community.   Her core team is convinced that there isn’t an “us and them” dichotomy and that we are all sharing a meal together as a family.   The team actually blends in; and everyone eats together with team members sitting at various tables getting to know fellow diners intimately.  It’s the classic Eastern “sharing a meal” thing.

“But wait a minute;” I argue; “Even in families there are teachable moments where you learn to share; where you learn to look out for the interests of others.”

I am always out-voted on this.   For the foreseeable future, nobody is going to be told what they can’t have, including the guy who brings his own 16-inch china dinner plate.

But the people at the back of the line are acutely aware of what they can’t have.

How do you continue the family atmosphere without authoritarian formalities and at the same time make sure everybody gets fed?

March 30, 2010

Foot Washing on Maundy Thursday

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13: 2-5 (NIV)

What’s that saying?  “A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.”  Today I felt somewhat spiritually outclassed.

I spoke with someone and asked what their church was doing for Holy Week.   They told me that their church was doing a service on Thursday, as well as Good Friday.

Thursday is called Maundy Thursday.    The theological page Theopedia doesn’t cover it for some strange reason, but the regular Wikipedia site offers two explanations for the name, of which I give you the first:

Foot washing in Singapore, 2008

According to a common theory, the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the “Mandatum” ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

As an aside, if you’re into church hopping, this is the day for you:

The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance.

Anyway, this church is having a foot washing as part of their Thursday service, and I was told, “Come and join us and we will wash your feet.”

I’ve never said that to anyone.   And I’ve never washed anyone’s feet.   I’m not totally comfortable with doing this or having it done for me.  But the Biblical mandate to do this is quite clear. I feel like my spiritual pilgrimage is somewhat incomplete, like the person who has never been to Israel (or Wheaton, Illinois; the one time Evangelical equivalent, now displaced by Colorado Springs or Nashville; I’m not sure which.)

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~John 13: 14-17 (NIV)

Does anyone see a loophole here?   An opt-out clause?  A reason why this doesn’t apply in the current dispensation?

I don’t.

November 3, 2009

Zacchaeus Meets The Christmas Story

The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-9 is the ultimate children’s Bible story.   Think about, it’s got:

  • zacchaeusa short key character; kids can identify
  • a parade — or something similar —  about to pass by
  • tree climbing; what kid doesn’t like that?
  • unlikely guy gets singled out for special treatment
  • Zacchaeus and Jesus have a tea party, at least according to the children’s song; actual serving of tea may have been unlikely
  • restitution of unfair trade practices; he did something bad and is going to make it right

But the tree climbing is the fun part of the story, so much so that we omit to notice the fact that respectable adults in the culture don’t climb trees.   In the book Preaching the Parables to Postmoderns, Brian Stiller reminds of another story where we miss the cultural nuances.

Stiller notes that in the story of the prodigal son, the father sees his returning son in the distance and runs to meet him.   To run meant to lift the lower hem of the tunics worn at that time, which would expose the ankles and lower leg.   While that may not seem out of line with the bathrobes worn in most church plays you’ve seen, it in fact is out of line with norms in that society.   Besides, the patriarchal head of household doesn’t run, period.

Zacchaeus climbs up a tree because he doesn’t want to miss Jesus.   The father in the story of the two brothers runs because he doesn’t want to miss a moment with or hide his enthusiasm for the return of his lost son.   Both actions involve a considerable loss of dignity on the part of both parties.

David understood this.   Consider this account from II Samuel 6:

14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

The line I like is verse 22: I will become even more undignified than this.    Nothing reinforces this like the Matt Redman song,

David Danced by Steve PhelpsI will dance I will sing
To be mad for my King
Nothing Lord is hindering
The passion in my soul

And I’ll become even more
Undignified than this
Some would say it’s foolishness but
I’ll become even more
Undignified than this

David’s removal of his outer garment ought to remind you of something else.  Think about this moment from John 13:

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.

The outer garment that Jesus removed was the fine piece of clothing that symbolized his authority as a rabbi.   Hours later, Roman soldiers would gamble for the chance to walk way with this prime specimen of clothing as a souvenir of their day’s work.

This action symbolized his servant leadership, but as he told Peter, there was a bigger picture yet to be grasped.   I believe that the removal of his outer garment symbolizes something else entirely, as shown in Philippians 2:

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor…

Jesus gave up the splendor of heaven — took of his outer robe — to enter into our human condition.   But then, as John 13:12 shows us, he puts that outer robe back on, i.e. he returns to the glory he had known before at the right hand of the Father.

There are lots of words we could use to describe this, but the key one for today is that he made himself undignified.

Now, he invites you to find a place where you can lose your own dignity in order to accomplish his purposes in your generation.

I Samuel and John passages – NIV; Philippians passage – NLT

August 15, 2009

True Religion

Here’s an older cartoon I hadn’t discovered before.   Theophilus is drawn by Bob West — if I’m reading it right he’s been doing this for more than 30 years — and can be seen here.   This episode reminds us that sometimes when we are drawn into using our “labels” it actually spoils things.

theophilus-widow

December 27, 2008

When Service Isn’t What’s Called For

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:12 pm

Several decades ago, I was hired by Muskoka Woods Sports Resort, a prestigious residential facility two hours north of Toronto, Canada offering one-week programs to the children of the well-heeled.   Not coming from a ‘camping’ background, I suppose that I brought a different skill set in my toolbox, and was told that I was a helpful person to have around.

Later, I learned that this meant I was able to bring strong leadership skills, especially the ‘upfront’ abilities needed to chair a meeting or an event, or facilitate a discussion group.   In later years, I learned that having ‘profile’ really feeds the ego (and prevents others from having a turn) and that a better place of service might be at the back of the room instead of the front, or perhaps behind the scenes altogether.   I am now comfortable serving in either capacity.

However, more recently, I’ve been aware of situations where neither gift of service — profile, or behind-the-scenes — is called for.   Case in point:  A few days ago a team of people in our town presented the third annual Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.   This event is put on for the sake of people who can’t afford a fancy Christmas dinner, or simply don’t want to be alone on the 25th.   At this event, no one is ’serving’ anyone else.   True, there is a core team of volunteers; but they sit together with everyone else; there’s no ‘us’ and ‘them.’    The plates are on the table as they would be at a family Christmas dinner, and everyone at the table is equal.

Because of family commitments, my wife and I have been unable to attend these, but clearly, a different mentality is needed if a thing like this is going to be effective.   The problem is that so many — okay, I’ll say it: so many of us – have been ‘bred’ for either upfront profile service or behind the scenes service, that it can be difficult to fit into a new ministry pardigm.

Or is it?  I think that anyone, if they take about thirty seconds to think about it, can buy into a different way of thinking.*   The problem is, being behind the scenes or being up on a platform or stage is really, really safe. Especially if it’s a ministry to the poor.   You don’t have to share serving utensils; you don’t have to breathe the air if someone has a bad cough.   Sadly, it’s those safe ministry roles that people are still being trained for and still being ‘bred’ for.

*And a couple of years ago I did actually buy-in.   The ministry my wife pioneered to people living in a dilapidated motel centers around a weekly dinner.   For the first 2-3 weeks, I would eat at home first, and then show up to help serving.   But my wife didn’t need people to ‘help serving’ and the people there didn’t need ‘help’ to scoop up a slice of roast beef and mashed potatoes.   They needed people who wanted to be their friends.

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