Do not give what is holy to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
One of the things I’m conscious of since our arrival here in Owen Sound is that in putting our respective “best feet forward”, many of us would seem to be treading on egg shells. And the questions you hear complementing this approach are: “What way are we going to go about this task now?”, “What kind of new innovations are going to materialize?” Well, Gwen and I are trying to “take it all in” and learn from you because we realize that there is an interesting mix of those who like it the way it was done in the past, those who liked some of the ideas shared during your interim year, and those who would like to try something even more daring than anything done before. But no one wants to hurt the others’ feelings, making waves, or – God forbid – making any costly mistakes.
Well, I’m afraid mistakes exist in every facet of professional life, and even in the Church. In the final analysis, being a faithful Christian is not about being perfect, but about being wise and loving.
I have an unusual hobby – I collect sermon titles. I have a “Stupid Sermon Titles” category. Here is a brief sampling: “You Won’t Get Quaker Oats by Sowing Wild Ones”, “Up to Your Neck in Whale Puke”, and “Heaven is No Trick & Hell is No Treat” to name but a few. Not only silly, but usually a sign of incompetence!
I used to tell friends that I was working on a manuscript entitled, “Ten services Jesus would have walked out of”, but I gave up on the idea because sooner or later I’d have to look at myself on video. I noticed that most of their nominations involved so-called children’s meditations – a dangerous liturgical practice that can involve “ghettoizing” our youngsters, if we’re not careful. But I do remember one story that would gain acceptance in anybody’s “Ten Worst …”
After Easter one year, a colleague told me the following story: My summer field assignment was at this fairly large church in a small British Columbian town. They had this young staff associate who was always trying something new. Well, on Holy Saturday I went by the church to check on a few administrative items, and there was the associate hard at work on something in the corner of the sanctuary. He was hammering away at something that looked like a small stage-set made out of plywood and papier mache. With fear and trembling, I asked him what he was doing.
“Have you ever read The Velveteen Rabbit?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “It’s a children’s book about unconditional love.”
“Right. Well, when it comes time for the children’s moment tomorrow, I’m gonna call the kids up front and read the Easter story from the Bible. Then I’m gonna read from The Velveteen Rabbit. I’ve got this stuffed rabbit here and I’m gonna stick it in the papier mache tomb, like this. Then I’m gonna count to three and pull out a live bunny rabbit from the tomb. Get it?” he asked. “It’s resurrection!”
Well, I got it all right, said my friend. I asked the young associate, “Does the supervising pastor know about this?”
“Oh, no,” he replied. “But won’t she be surprised.”
“Oh, I have no doubt”, said my friend.
My colleague stumbled out the door shaking his head, not knowing exactly what to do, but knowing he had to tell his supervisor. Once at the rectory, he relayed to her what the associate had planned for the next day. He described the tomb, the stuffed rabbit and the live bunny, with the senior minister getting redder in the face by the second. Then she gritted her teeth and said, “Look, you go right back to the church and tell that nincompoop to get those ‘flippin’ rabbits – stuffed and unstuffed – out of the church, or he’ll have to be resurrected in order to serve another church ever again!” Liturgical innovation postponed.
So the word for this quarter of 2013 is RELAX! Change at Georgian Shores will come about in God’s good time. And be ever mindful of my fifteen minutes of incompetence.
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