We have just completed another year of VBS. I am not as exhausted as most years. That might have to do with the beautiful cool weather we enjoyed this week. Praise the Lord!
We had 75 children and 46 adults and youth healing out and one dog (acting in a skit). There were still children in the community who didn't go to any VBS this week at Peace or at Trinity. If anyone has ideas about how to draw children in to VBS from the community, I am all ears.
This year we went with a VBS produced by Go Fish. I was attracted to this VBS by the great music and the promise to put the Bible back into Vacation Bible School. The music was really good, but the Bible studies were a bit above the heads of younger kids. Our preschool teacher said the preschool material was good.
As usual I was in charge of the drama rotation in the VBS schedule. There was no drama material in the Go Fish VBS, but it wasn't hard to develop from the themes Go Fish used. We made movies of Bible skits the kids developed. Grades 1-2 did Noah. Grades 3-4 did Jesus. Grades 5-6 did the Prodigal Son.
One theological note: The Go Fish Bible study said that because God is holy, God cannot be anywhere near sin. I have heard that expressed by other preachers. Where do we get such an idea? Our separation from our holy God is not because God can't stand sin. Our separation from God is because we sinners can't stand holiness. Holiness to sinners is like the brightness of the sun to our eyes. The problem is not God's. The problem is ours. After all, Jesus is the holy Son of God, God in the flesh, and yet Jesus came near to sinners. To say that God cannot tolerate sin makes it sound like our problem is that God is allergic to us. Salvation is not taking care of God's allergy to our sin. Salvation is God taking care of our allergy to God's holiness by purifying us.
We have used Group VBS and several others. There is no perfect VBS, except maybe the VBS we produced on our own a few years ago. I would probably use Go Fish again, but I would also want to do more to modify the Bible Study material for our kids.
Thanks to all the folks who helped with VBS this year. I
I finally finished watching The Bible Movie on DVD. Parts of it were pretty good. I especially liked the Abraham stories. I would have skipped Samson and gone with Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and his disciples were pretty well done also. Overall it was a very well done movie.
Of course, there were lots of things I would have directed differently had it been my movie, but there was one scene that was absolutely terrible. After the stoning of Stephen, the apostles were splitting up and leaving Jerusalem. John and Peter were parting, and Peter said to John, "Good luck."
Oh, please! The apostles believed in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the presence of Jesus, not in the gods of luck and fortune. That was so bad I had to stop watching for a little while. How about a little "the Lord be with you"? or I will be praying for you. But "good luck"? Good grief! They were going out to change the world in the name of Jesus. What did luck have to do with anything? "Good luck" was secularism creeping into the dialog of the movie.
I got my four shots and my airline tickets. And today I received the itinerary for the mission trip to Uganda. This promises to be the best continuing education I have ever experienced. There are over 60 people on this trip and there are several options for service each day to choose from. Opportunities include visiting with children, women's outreach events, well dedications, construction projects, and serving in schools, hospitals and clinics, gardens, and prisons.
I am especially excited that on July 17th I will be part of a group participating in the dedication of two wells sponsored by Peace Lutheran Church. That will surely be an emotional day for me.
We leave on July 9 and return two weeks later. I confess that I am anxious about the trip. The nurse at the immunization clinic gave me enough warnings to scare Indiana Jones. But there is so much to learn, so much encouragement to share, so much faith, hope, and love to discover with our brothers and sisters in Uganda.
At our Wednesday morning Bible study we are using a series of studies from the Connnections Magazine titled "Reading the Bible with Luther". Our most recent study was held on an icy Wednesday morning when 7 of us showed up. The past two months we have had free breakfasts thanks to two birthday boys. Fred and Merlyn.
This month we looked at how the Bible itself taught Martin Luther to read the Bible theologically. Psalm 119 is a long psalm praising the value of God's word. Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees." We noted how the Bible can be pretty boring at times. It can be hard to connect to. But when we are challenged in life, when trials come, when circumstances make us question our faith, then the Bible seems to come alive.
When we are living life superficially we may not find the Bible speaking to us all that clearly. It is when we are full of questions and when we know our need of God's grace that the Bible truly engages us and speaks a living word. Several of us at the study that morning recalled times when we found great power in the Word of God. Those times were all during hardship and challenge in our lives.
Many have noted that the Bible is truly written to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. It pulls us and pushes us to live life on a deeper level. Certainly it is challenging. But we don't have to discover God's word on our own. We can do it together.
A professor in seminary told us students that our first four years in a congregation would be rather ineffective because we didn't yet know the people of the congregation well enough to speak to their hearts and the people of the congregation didn't know us well enough to trust us. Then the next four years he said would be the prime years of ministry in a congregation because the pastor and the people know each other well enough for trust and honesty and understanding to develop. Then he said that after 8 years the pastor and the people know each other too well.
There is some truth to the fact that over time a pastor and a congregation may become too comfortable with each other. When Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth, he said, "No prophet is accepted in his hometown." That may be true of pastors who are too long in one congregation.
But what the seminary professor didn't take into account is that congregations are always changing. Peace Lutheran Church in Deshler is a very different congregation than it was 14 years ago when I came here. My experience has been that in small and medium size congregations in Nebraska, about a third of the members of a congregation are new every ten years. I never would have guessed that to be the case in rural and small town churches. But looking at the membership roster of Peace, over 220 members were not members of Peace 14 years ago when I and my family joined.
In addition, there is always turnover in leadership. And I as the the pastor am different than I was 14 years ago. I keep learning new things.
I don't believe that the seminary professor who gave us his rule of thumb about how long a pastor should stay in a congregation had ever served more than a few years in one congregation. Maybe if he had stayed one place long enough, he would have realized that congregations and pastors are always changing.
I believe he did have a good point. It does take time to build trust and understanding. And pastors and congregations can get into ruts and get too comfortable. Sometimes a change is needed. But other times what is needed is for the pastor and the congregation to persevere through dry times, to keep being faithful and keep following Jesus even when it seems not to be bearing fruit.
Thanks to all the new members who have joined Peace recently, I feel like I have a new congregation again. That was really already true, but I can't help but notice it now.
Happy New Year! I am experimenting with a blog for the first time.
This year started out with a great experience on New Year's Eve. I was privileged to participate in the baptism of five young people ages 12 to 18. It was snowing all day and I kept thinking that we would have to cancel our New Year's Eve service and reschedule the baptisms. But 82 people showed up in spite of at least 6 inches of powder on the ground. We deal with a lot of tough stuff in the Church (sin, death, grief), but welcoming 5 young people into the family of Christ is about as fun as it gets in the Church.
I remember as a teenager seeing my pastor baptize a grandmother and thinking, he looks like he is having a great time. I think the joy of my pastor was one of the things that God used to call me into ministry. Perhaps if there is a shortage of clergy anywhere it is because pastors are not showing off the joy of the Lord. Well, I had a great time Monday night.