Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sundaes on Wednesday--week 2

I still have a smile on my face as I reflect on the terrific start to “Sundaes on Wednesday” last Wednesday, June 20th. This was a significant night in the history of our new church. I was touched by how well organized the entire night went. I arrived at 5:30 p.m. and was very pleased to see a white bird—we called it a dove—that was outside the school entrance. We took that as a sign that the Holy Spirit was going to be with us during the evening. The set-up went remarkably well. The Facilities group had an excellent plan for set-up. We were basically ready to go by 6:00 p.m. And then the people started arriving—sixty-nine people were in the building—about 50 for worship and 19 in our youth/ids program. In addition to the large number of people from Chain of Lakes who attended, we had one person from the neighborhood, three families from Westminster, one family from Presbyterian Church of the Way, and many other friends of Chain of Lakes. Reba Schultz did a terrific job of sharing her musical gifts. The back-and-forth format of the sermon seemed to work well. After the sermon people talked at their tables for about ten minutes, and then we had a large group conversation. The line for the sundaes was long—Presbyterians do like to eat!

We will be worshipping again tomorrow night, Wednesday, June 27th at 6:30 p.m. Reba Schultz will again share her musical gifts. The heart-theme will be patience. Everyone in the north Metro is welcome to join us. I have started promising all visitors two scoops of ice cream for their sundaes. Yumm!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eulogy for Emogene Evans

Yesterday I had the privilege of sharing an eulogy at the funeral of Emogene Evans. Emogene was a wonderful woman--one of the joys of being a pastor is getting to know people like her. The service was wonderful--the themes and music were especially appropriate in a service that remembered her life. It was moving to me to celebrate her funeral in the sanctuary that she helped build--the colors of that space were dazzling yesterday. The Spirit was smiling on all of us. The following is the eulogy I shared. Thanks to John Curtiss for inviting me to speak.

It’s a privilege for me to be here today. I want to thank Pastor John for extending an invitation to me to share this eulogy. I had the honor of being Emogene’s pastor for 16 years and hearing stories from her that spanned a century. Emogene was a living repository of stories about Plainview and Community Presbyterian Church. If I ever wanted to know a story about something that happened in the last 100 years I would call up Emogene. “Emogene,” I would say when she picked up the phone. “yes,” “This is the parson.” For some reason she liked the term, “parson, ” so I always used it when I talked to her on the phone. “What do you want,” she would snarl back in her sweet way. And off we would go talking about the story of the day.

She was one of the few people I knew who without apology would mention Voltaire, Dr. Kevorkian and Billy Graham within five minutes of a conversation—and she loved each of them. She told me on many occasions that she disagreed with what I had to say, but she would defend to the death my right to say it. Which was good since the two of us disagreed about most things theological and political. You really didn’t feel part of the community until you had been chastised by Emogene. But she was so much fun, and who didn’t love having a refreshment in her condominium, shooting the breeze about the church or the community or the world. I don’t think it was an accident that her place looked out over the main street of Plainview because she looked out for this town, and was main part of our lives.

She loved this community. She loved sharing stories of what this town was like 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 years ago. There was probably no long-term resident of Plainview whose story Emogene didn’t know. She knew everyone who lived here for any length of time. The town was her canvas. She would go everywhere. She enjoyed telling me about when she would go to worship at Immanuel Lutheran or when she went to a Lent service at the Catholic Church. She would get a twinkle in her eye and tell me that she liked to play both sides of the street.

She loved this church. She knew most of the stories about this place. One of the stained glass windows in the sanctuary was given by her youth group; this window up here was given by her dad to the church. She knew all the pastors back to 1939 —Rev Stratton, Ed Diehl, Rev Brown, Chuck Schwenke, John Green, Gordy Hoke, Jim Walker, me, LeRoy Haynes and John Curtiss. She had an opinion about all of them. Some of her opinions were strong. She probably hadn’t gotten to know John well enough to have a strong opinion about him. But she was the type of person when she went overboard you could just say, “Oh Emogene,” and everything would be all right.

When I came to town Ed had just passed away. And it still hurt quite a lot. I remember having lunch with her at “the club.” She started telling me some stories about Ed. It was hard. But to look at Emogene you would never know it was hard. She had a classic Minnesota personality where her exterior presence didn’t match her interior feelings. But on that day she was in touch with what was going on inside of her. She startled me when she said that she needed to go. “Why,” I asked. “Because I’m going to start crying and I don’t want to cry in public. But she still wanted to talk, so we went to her place and talked some more about Ed. Not a day went by when she didn’t think about Ed or his passing or how much she wanted to be with him.

She was different than many because she couldn’t wait to die. She wanted to die. She didn’t worry a bit about her salvation. She was fascinated about heaven. She told me that when Ed was in his final days she kept quizzing him about whether he had seen heaven and what it was like. Ever since he was gone she wanted to go too. She wanted to be with Ed. Even though Jesus did say we won’t be married in heaven, I can imagine Emogene in heaven acting like the persistent widow in the parable that Jesus told—making her case that she needed to be married in heaven to Ed.

I told her on many occasions that it wasn’t time for her to die because God was not through with her yet. It was true. She made some tremendous contributions to this congregation over the last 20 years—like she did throughout her life. She was part of our building committee. We were all too na├»ve to believe that a church our size could build the type of building that we imagined—what turned out to be a million dollar building. Emogene played an important role in that process. She attended more meetings than she wanted to attend. She let us know that she had attended more meetings than she wanted to attend. Because of her and many others we finalized architectural plans, received the blessing of the congregation, and started a fundraising drive. Our team had decided that we would do some large gift solicitations. I volunteered to visit Emogene.

It was one of the hardest visits I’ve ever done. It was hard because I knew her so well, and I was going to ask her for so much. I knew that the amount I was asking her to give was three times the amount she was thinking about giving to the building campaign. I told her when I came to her place that she had every right to throw me out for making the request. She didn’t throw me out of her place. We talked. When I left she told me she would think about the request. She did think about it. She ultimately gave the large gift—three times the amount she was planning to give. This beautiful building would not be the place it is if she hadn’t made that gift.

She is totally cursing me out right now for telling you this story. The story needs to be told. Emogene Evans has a multi-faceted legacy, but for me her primary legacy is her commitment to the church, in particular Community Presbyterian Church. In this age of narcissism where life revolves around me, Emogene was interested in seeing life revolve around us—the community. She was the type of person who was willing to put her money where her mouth was. She did. Every one of us is a better person because of her sacrifice.

This church has not always been Presbyterian—at first it was congregational. A long time ago this community got mad at the Congregationalists because of the quality of the pastors that were being assigned here, so that group of people went off on their own. Emogene was part of that group. When she recounted the story she said the congregation wanted to be a community church—because they wanted to be involved in the community. This faith community has lived out this desire, making a difference in the lives of many, many people in this community—because of people like Emogene.

I was very sad to hear about Emogene’s stroke and her physical condition. We had kept in touch—she would write me a letter or I would make a phone call every now and then. I hadn’t seen her since she had suffered her stroke. When I heard what happened I was praying and hoping that she would go because I knew she hated to be in that condition. So when she finally did let go—and believe me for Emogene it was never easy to let go—we could all say thank you, Lord. It was time.

So we go on. We go our separate ways. We don’t live in the past because the Holy Spirit always calls us to move into the future. But on each of our faith journeys we carry a common legacy of our saints—and Emogene Evans was one of those saints. The next time we wonder if the challenges and messiness of being in a faith community are worth our involvement, let’s remember Emogene. Let’s remember the thousands of trips she made through these church doors so that our community life might be better.

Praise God for the life of Emogene Evans.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Star Tribune article about "Sundaes on Wednesday!"

What a wonderful start to the day!  Not only is today the 12th anniversary of Amy and my wedding, but the Star Tribune ran an article this morning about "Sundaes on Wednesday!"  Check it out at: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/159267235.html

The Spirit is working!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Divorce and the church

Yesterday I preached about the how the church responds to divorce.  In the sermon I shared some statistics about divorce, some brief teachings about how the Bible addresses divorce, and then some ways local congregations can support marriages and people who have had to experience divorce.  View the sermon at:  http://blip.tv/chain-of-lakes-church/community-issues-responding-to-divorce-6196323

Divorce is an issue that fits into the current polarization in the church and the wider culture.  Some people believe that divorce is immoral and shouldn’t happen; others hardly are bothered when people get divorced.  

Because our culture is fighting about gay marriage right now, the urgency of supporting of supporting heterosexual marriage is less.        

I feel like I hardly scratched the surface in the sermon—and it was 26 minutes long!  This sermon easily could have been a six week sermon series. 

My hope is that the church can find common ground regarding this painful issue.  In the sermon I shared three commong ground statements that I think could bring people together.  They are: 1) God wants the church to take marriage very seriously; 2) God wants marriages to succeed; 3) Divorce is painful. 

I know that these are simple statements, but imagine what would happen if every congregation committed themselves to designing ministries based on these three common ground statements.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sundaes on Wednesday at Chain of Lakes

The following Press Release was sent to local papers today

Chain of Lakes Church, a new Presbyterian church forming in the Blaine and Lino Lakes area, will offer worship on Wednesdays this summer called “Sundaes on Wednesday.”

These worship services will start Wednesday, June 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Northpoint Elementary School, 2350 124th Court NE, Blaine.

“As we thought about our community, we realized that many people leave for the weekends during the summer.  We decided to offer a mid-week worship experience for people who would like to worship in their own community,” said the Rev. Paul H. Moore, organizing pastor for Chain of Lakes Church. 

“We will still offer a small group worship on Sunday mornings, but Wednesday evening will be our primary time or worship.” 

Moore described the Wednesday worship style as casual, conversational and engaging.  People will be seated around tables and will have the opportunity to discuss the theme of worship with others.  A separate children’s program will be available along with child care. 

“We know that many people will be coming directly from work, so we are offering healthy, pre-packaged food to folks,” Moore said.  “They can eat the food during worship.  At the end of worship everyone can enjoy a sundae.” 

Chain of Lakes Church is a new Presbyterian church that is sponsored by the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area.  The new church started worshipping in January 2010.  

The church has already connected to the community by adopting Lino Lakes Elementary STEM school as a mission project.  

“We want to invite the community to join us for Sundaes on Wednesday,” Moore said.  “We are looking forward to offering this to the community.”