Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . Youth Sunday

This past Sunday we had our Youth Sunday. The music was beautiful. The senior sermons where poignant and powerful. As a whole the service was cohesive and we have heard nothing but wonderful comments from the congregation. So this is my question. Does your church have a Youth Sunday? If so, what is the general opinion of it by the congregation, staff, ect? What do you consider to be the primary importance of Youth Sunday? Is it about letting the congregation know about what going on in the youth program? Or is it about offering the youth an opportunity to experience planning and leading worship?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sunday Devotional? What's wrong with Emergent?

John 10:30 “I and the Father are one." (NIV)

I having trouble with the Emergent Church. It’s not the new things that are emerging, nor the innovations emergent people are making. It’s the word – emergent.

I’ve been so conditioned by gender neutrality that I can’t accept the suffix ‘gent.’ That’s a masculine term and I’m really surprised that the enlightened emergents and emerlassies are sticking with it.

So, I started to change the word. I began with emerhuman and then realized that I had the same problem – human ends with man. Well duh! Back to the drawing board.

So I tried the neutral emerperson and then it hit me – person ends with son…another masculine term!

Then I tried to settle on emerbeing, which kind of has a ring to it, but then I thought about all those who are into good works, wouldn’t they want to be called emerdoings?

That didn’t help either….I started to pronounce it as emer doing …like Gerald McBoing Boing.

So I’m left wondering should it be emerist instead of emergent, or would that cause a new schism called emerism? And what about the ‘me’ in the middle of the word? Isn’t that being selfish? Surely it should be ‘we’…which would end up looking like ewerist, but that sounds like someone who is into Greek vases, or worse still, it’s a female sheep.

So, I’m having trouble with the Emergent church. Apart from laying off the Eucharistic Koolaid, does anyone have any suggestions?

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway, the Sunday worship prayer site Aaron's Beard , and the weekly international religous news blog Stushie's Stuff He's also started blogachuting on Fridays on the HH site - you should try it too.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Review. . . Bible in 90 Days

I first heard about Bible in 90 Days on a Ring member's blog. Quotidian Grace spoke very highly of it without offering much in the way of details. So, when it came up in my Adult Ed Committee, I was already interested.

Basically, Bible in 90 Days is a curriculum published by Zondervan that uses a specially published NIV Thinline, a Participant's Guide and some seriously good videos to get groups of people to read the Bible, cover-to-cover, in 90 days -- well, 88 actually.

Sound nuts? It works.

My church offered it starting in January. We had almost our entire average worship attendance sign up. We estimate the completion rate at around 80%. I kid you not.

So, what happened here. First of all, the curriculum works. Ninety days is long enough to get it done (12 pages a day in the specially published Zondervan Thinline), but it is still short enough not to lose enthusiasm. Second, the group format provides just enough support. Third, the videos are seriously good. There are actually two sets of videos. We did not use the set done by Biblical scholars. We used the set that is less intellectual. I thought that was a huge mistake. Let me state it here publicly, I was wrong. I'm sorry, you couldn't hear me? I WAS WRONG. The videos were wonderful, and I believe were largely responsible for the success rate.

Other factors involved were that the sermons for the entire 13 weeks of readings came from the week's readings. Second, the brand new Senior Pastor was behind it. Third, we offered virtually nothing else in the way of Adult Ed on Wednesday nights. Fourth, we put some effort into getting groups set up at different times. We had groups meeting Sunday mornings, Sunday evening, Monday morning, Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening and Friday morning.

Is this a Bible study? No. It is just getting through it. So, what's the point? First of all, everyone winds up with at least a passing familiarity with all the major themes and players. Second, the Old Testament ceases to be impenetrably scary when you've actually read it. Finally, it has produced an excitement and a hunger that is really refreshing.

There are two web pages with more information -- and -- one is the official Zondervan site, and the other is a site run by the man who started this whole thing -- at a PCUSA church no less. The two sites work well together. They do have different things, and it is worth checking out both of them.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Youth Sunday

This coming Sunday is the Sunday where we hand everything over to the youth. The last time that I helped with a Youth Sunday was my Senior year of high school and I have really loved walking down this road again such a great group of youth. Here is the Prayer for the People that I put together for the service.

Lord God, we come before you this morning with motives mixed, or perhaps with no known motive at all. Yet here in this place - whose very walls are filled with memories - you are with us here and now. We thank you that it is not necessary for us to wait for your presence until we deserve it or until we have banished all other thoughts and considerations from our minds.

Lord, help us to know and understand why we are here. Why our lives really matter? You have placed us on this earth to tend and keep it, we are called to actively participate with you in taking care of the world that we find ourselves in. This world is filled with such beauty and such order and such good, and yet at the same time filled with such heartache and such pain? Give us your grace that we may join together to work for the kingdom that you promise on earth. Let us never rest at peace until hunger, oppression, discrimination, pollution, and war have been banished from our planet. And bless the efforts of those who are working to eradicate these ancient afflict. Unite all persons of goodwill, who perceive your grace in many various ways, as we work together for your world.

We pray for your church-for this congregation that we love, for the denomination of which we are a proud part, and for all who bear your name regardless of what other name they bear. We pray for ourselves: for those of us who are sick and who need your gift of healing, for those who are in despair and who need your gift of comfort; for those who are nearing the end of their life and who need your gift of faith.

Help us here and now, to understand the decisions we make and the life we lead has greater meaning beyond today. To understand why everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do matters. Desperately wanting to understand what significance this minute, this hour, this week, this month, this year has to our lives and to our world. Help us to not just sit back and wait for something to happen or someday to come. Teach us to live lives not for some unknown future but for today. That we may firmly believe and act out our faith, that your will is being done in us and through us. The choices we make now will shape our world and lives for eternity. Because of you, our lives have meaning today and our lives today have meaning forever.

We literally are partners with you, O God, in making this world the kind of place that you originally intended it to be. We are people committed to partnering with you to make this world, the world that we live in, the kind of place that you originally intended it to be. May we be the kind of people who, when we live this way, the very trees of Paradise will be planted. We trust that you will provide that tree whose leaves are the healing for all nations.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blacksburg Vigil Candle

A stained glass window design commemorating the tragic losses at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg this week. My eldest daughter Lynsey is going to Grad school there during this summer and will be working in Student Affairs & Administration.

Feel free to copy and use the design for your own meditations. The school colors are represented in the candle and flame.

Blacksburg Candle

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The PC (USA) Office of Youth Ministry Resources to Use with Your Young People

Here is an email I received yesterday from Louisville

Dear Friends in Youth Ministry,

The Office of Youth Ministry has created some resources to use with your young people in response to the shootings at Virginia Tech. You can find them at

1. 60-70 minute lesson plan for a youth group or youth gathering "Through a Mirror
Dimly". PDF icon

2. Online Devotions for youth and youth leaders. Special writings on April 17, 18 and 19 responding to the shootings at VA Tech.

3. Liturgy of Discernment and Prayer For a Youth Group PDF icon Contemplative movement for youth groups using scripture and prayer to explore the acts of violence happening in our world (and this past week).

For any questions please contact The Office of Youth Ministry through

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Words for the Wordless

Your Joy Will Be Their Strength
By Jim and Kaye Johns

you're close to people whose hearts are breaking,
those who are discouraged and have given up hope.
May You who see their troubles and
grief respond when they cry out.

When they're hurting,
help them find their joy in You,
for ...Your joy will be their strength.

Help them to trust You as their God of hope.
Fill them with Your joy, peace, and hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.

- from Prayers for the Moment

Monday, April 16, 2007

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Responds to Virginia Tech shootings

At least thirty-one people were killed in the shootings at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Another 29 people were injured. Many of the victims were students shot in a dorm and a classroom building. This shooting is the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, topping the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas at Austin where 16 people were killed and the Columbine High School shootings where 12 people where killed.

Police say the campus is now secure and that the gunman is dead. No motive was given for the shootings. It was not known if the gunman was a student.

Three members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team (NRT) are on their way to the campus to be a presence and resource to the community. Over the years, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been very engaged in helping communities and student survivors that have been affected by school shootings.

NRT members have been in contact with Catherine Snyder, Presbyterian campus minister, George Goodman, of the Presbytery of the Peaks, and with Alexander Evans, Pastor of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. Evans is also a chaplain with the fire department.

A convocation service will be held on the campus Tuesday to help the community cope with the tragedy. Counselors are available to students and staff in the West Ambler Johnston residence hall where some of the shootings occurred and in another school building.

Please keep the loved ones of those killed and injured, the school administrators and teachers, the residents of the reservation, and the care givers in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday Question of the Week . . . Responding to the Unimaginable

Lord, help us to deal with that which we can't understand. Be with all those who have been personal effected by unnecessary and horrific violence.

How, as Christians and church leaders, do we respond to the events that took place at Virginia Tech?


The world's a darker place today
For men with guns have staged a play
Where kids with hopes and lifetime dreams
Have been mown down with bullet streams.

The world's a sadder place today
With broken hearts in disarray
And mournful parents full of tears
With nothing left but painful years.

The world's a broken place today
For who won't turn to God and say,
"Why did You let this happen here?
Why is our world so full of fear?"

The world's a silent place today
And heaven knows not what to say,
For even God is hurt inside
And grieves the loss of those who died.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sunday Devotional - Body Talk

The resurrection of Christ – the bodily resurrection of Jesus – is central to our faith. If Christ’s body hadn’t been resurrected by God, then only His Spirit would have been raised. That happened to Samuel way back in the Old Testament when King Saul got the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) to raise his spirit from the land of shadows. If it was just Christ’s spirit alone that had been raised, then God would not have been doing anything new.

But the Gospels make it clear that it was Christ’s body that was raised from death. And this sets Christ apart from any other human being in history. This is what makes Him uniquely our Lord and Savior. This is what puts Him above all the other historic religious leaders – Christ was raised from the dead – body and all. This is also what the first Christians believed, causing them to be persecuted and martyred for the faith.

Easter is a beautiful time of year, not just because it is full of new life all around us in creation, but because a human body that was mutilated, maimed, and murdered was raised to life again. This is what we mean when we say “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” and this is what Christ Himself means when He says to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:27)

If we say and believe otherwise, then we’re calling Christ and the Gospel writers liars. Maybe in our Presbyteries, we need to ask ministerial candidates a new, but essentially an old question: do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we can get trapped into thinking that our own thinking is more sophisticated, knowledgeable, and superior to the first Gospel writers. We forget that they were heavily influenced by people who had first-hand experiences of all that You expressed. Guide us with Your sacred words. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Hills and Seas

Eternal God,
help me to love the hills of home, for they tell of thy majesty;
help me to love the seas I know, for they speak of thy energy;
help me to know that behind hills and seas, thou art,
forever and ever. Amen.

- Prayers From an Island by Richard Wong

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Like a Rolling Stone

Last of the anime type Easter posters

Easter morning - Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Like a Rolling Stone...

Death where is your victory? Grave where is your sting?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Review. . . CNN Commentary WWJReallyD?

I had intended to post this week on a wonderful way to get groups of people to read all the way through the Bible called Bible in 90 Days. That will have to wait for next week.

Instead, when reading my morning news, I ran across an article on, Commentary: What would Jesus really do?

Mind you, this isn't buried on some religion page that you have to follow a multitude of different links to find and God will have to help you if you don't already know it is there. No, this is a front page headline in the Latest News paragraph at the top of the main page. The headline differs from the title. The headline reads, "Martin: Christians must take back the faith". I saw that headline and thought, "Oh boy, another tirade about Easter bunnies." I was wrong.

This commentary was written by CNN contributor Roland Martin and is connected to the CNN Special Report entitled, "What Would Jesus Really Do?" and airing tonight at 8 p.m. E.T.

This commentary has nothing that screams "in-depth" about it. It is filled with soundbites. It is clearly intended to direct attention to the Special Report airing tonight, and it says some things that are astonishing to read on the front page of

I have been typing and then deleting quotes from the commentary. Don't read a few quotes, read the Commentary. It is a great thing to read on Good Friday. It only takes a minute.


Something Right

God's plan of Salvation - the sacrifice of Jesus, His Holy Son.

Something Right

A Good Friday poster

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maundy Thursday

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He took some bread and wine, saying, "This is My Body; this is My Blood. Take, eat, drink, and remember Me."

On The Night

Worship Bulletin cover for Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hump Day Prayer . . . Wednesday of Holy Week

Dear God since we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses,
Help us to lay aside every weight
and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance
the race that is set before us,

Rembering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the pioneer,
perfecter of our faith,
who for the sake of the joy that was set before him
endured the cross,
disregarding its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Help us to remember the One who
endured such hostility from sinners,
so that we may not grow weary or lose heart.

- Based on Hebrews 12:1-3