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September 15, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


Did you know that Thursday was the 231st birthday of Alexander Campbell? No? Well, now you do!

 

Two hundred and thirty one years ago Alexander Campbell was born. And just a few short years later, along with his dad, Thomas, he went on to found what would become the denomination we call the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Pretty cool stuff.

 

Essentially, our denomination began over a disagreement about communion. The church the Campbells grew up in felt that only a select few should

receive it. The Campbell’s begged to differ saying everyone is welcome to the table. The church of the day only served communion when the ordained clergy happened to be in town to preside at the table. The Campbells, hearkening back to the first century church, felt that our “meal” should happen every time we worship, whether or not the ordained were around to serve it.

 

Now, here we are two hundred and some years later still sharing communion with everyone who comes to worship, and still serving it every time we gather. But, what’s this Christian Temple business of offering communion in two different ways? Sometimes we come forward to receive the meal. Other times the elements are brought to us. Why is that?

 

Theologically speaking, we’ve always liked people serving one another in the pews since this practice emphasized our core value of the priesthood of all believers. But this practice was a little easier to manage back in the days when our sanctuary was symmetrical and our pews were a lot shorter! Now, it can be confusing for our members- and especially our newcomers- to know what do during communion, making the experience a little more stressful than it might otherwise be.

 

So, a few years ago we decided to gradually introduce the idea of coming forward for communion on the first Sundays of the month, and during the summer when our crowds are typically a little smaller. Each year we’ve grown more and more comfortable with this way of doing things.  And, while it is lovely to be served communion in our pew, many of us also find it touching to receive the elements at the table from an elder, along with the soft spoken blessing,“This is the body of Christ, this is the cup of salvation”.

 

So where does all of this leave us? Maybe you could help us answer that question. As we go back to serving communion to people in the pews during the fall, please let us know what you think? Which do you prefer? Our sense is that we are naturally gravitating toward the common practice of coming forward to the altar for our special meal. But we would love to hear from you.

 

And we do all of this in the spirit of old Alexander Campbell. Whose

priority was that our holy communion remain the central experience of our worship service- no matter how it is served.

 

Welcome to worship!

 




September 8, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


The fall of 2001 was a heady time for Christian Temple.

On Labor Day weekend we were basking in the afterglow of a recent ‘all hands on deck’ production of Godspell. We were preparing for our first sabbatical time to begin the following Sunday, during which I would be away for two months while the esteemed Bill Howland, formerly of National City Christian Church, would serve as our pastor. “The Ponderosa”, a prequel to the hit TV Western, “Bonanza” starring my little nephew, Drew Powell, premiered on September 9th! And the annual Bethany Beach retreat was only two weeks away.

Then, Tuesday, September 11th happened and several narratives began. There was the national one we were all suffering through. Locally, one of our own families lost a dear lifelong friend when Flight 93 went down in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. Pastor and congregation were separated at a terrible time by the planned sabbatical and the over 800 miles between Baltimore and St. Louis. And, while we didn’t know it yet, esophageal cancer was metastasizing inside the bigger than life body of one our most active church members. These events were all braided together when Doug Welch received his cancer diagnosis right around the time that the congregation hosted the memorial service for Lizzie Wainio presided over by Jayna Powell while her husband broke sabbatical protocol by working in the kitchen for the reception.

Wow! And the stories from those months just kept coming. And we’ve told those stories. And we’ve loved those stories. And those stories say a lot about who we were all those years ago, and who we are still.

But, as we begin our new program this year the same way we’ve begun our program every year since the 9-11 attacks- with a day of service- we need to keep this in mind: vital congregations are those that celebrate their past but not for too long. As important as these eighteen year old stories- and all the other ones we enjoy around here- are, newcomers are attracted to the body of Christ more by the opportunity to create new stories than by remembering the old ones. As a congregation that has very recently received recognition for being open and inclusive, we need to remember that spending too much time telling the old stories- even the really good ones- will always exclude those who didn’t live through them.

So, here’s to a new year filled with responding to the world’s violence with acts of justice and compassion; nurturing God’s children in the faith; offering ministry to those who are sick and grieving; and celebrating the presence of Jesus Christ whenever we gather!

Welcome to worship!




September 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


In his song “Buffalo River Home” John Hiatt uses the line, “Now, there’s only two things in life, but I forget what they are”. I love that!

Oh how we long for the wise to make things simple for us. We are hungry to hear about the seven habits of highly effective people. We can’t wait to try out the six rules for tidying. And what about the first five people we are going to meet in heaven.

Anyone remember the Prayer of Jabez? So simple. Almost as simple as “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.

Lists and “steps” have been around for as long as we have. And they have their place. We can do a lot worse than to live our lives by the Ten      Commandments or the eight beatitudes. For decades the Twelve Step    program has, as another song says, “made men out of monsters”.

Keeping things simple can keep us on the right track. Those who have the gift of making things simple also make the world a better place. One     definition of a prophet is that she says something that has never been said before, in such a way that it sounds compellingly simple. Simple can be very good.

But we are also wise to remember that sometimes things just aren’t that simple. Simple has its limits. And, when we’re in the middle of a mess, the last thing we may need is for someone to reduce our situation down to an easy fix by saying something like, “Well, in my experience there are only two things in life.”

The thirteenth chapter of Hebrews gives us this first century list of six “things in life” we should remember:

- Let mutual love continue

- Do not neglect to show hospitality

- Remember those who are in prison

- Let marriage be held in honor by all

- Keep your lives free from the love of money, and,

- Remember your leaders

Okay. It’s an odd collection to be sure. I’m not sure it touches all the bases or solves all the problems of the world. I can certainly imagine forgetting it when the chips are down.

But it’s not bad. And it makes me wonder. If each of us had to make our own list of the most important things in life, what would the top six be?

Welcome to worship!

 




August 25, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


“This is the life!”

Ever heard that phrase? Ever said it? Maybe just after stepping onto the balcony of your hotel room and looking out at the view? Or standing at the summit after the long ascent”

“This is the life!”

This week I discovered that “the life” isn’t always a good thing. In a Baltimore Sun article from July “the life” is the way women who are trafficked as sexual slaves refer to their existence. The article follows the story of Alex, the daughter of successful, strict parents whose “life” began when she was fourteen. She was stalked on the internet and caught by a man who preyed on her vulnerabilities and took her on what was to be a short road trip out west. It was six years before she was able to escape. Now, Alex has been free from “the life” for three years, is a community college junior with a 4.0 GPA and manages a small Baltimore bakery.

None of this would have happened without the services provided by The Samaritan Women, a very local twelve year old non-profit organization providing restorative care for victims of trafficking. The Samaritan Women was the first organization of its kind in Maryland and is one of very few places in the country offering its unique array of services. The southwest Baltimore campus is the home of a fourteen bed shelter, a large community garden, a commercial grade kitchen and a variety of healing spaces. To date it has served over 200 women.

This afternoon, Music on the Hill will offer all of us an opportunity to support the work of The Samaritan Women, as well as the life-saving work of Catonsville Emergency Assistance. While The Samaritan Women is offering its services to women in crisis, CEA is busy providing emergency food, eviction prevention and utility cut-off assistance. And today we all get to support both by wandering over to the ball field behind the church, listening to great music, enjoying a bite to eat, petting the animals, painting our faces, buying a cake or two and, along with our neighbors making a small donation to help those for whom “the life” has been anything but enjoyable.

Our text for worship today is all about Jesus healing a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. While Alex was bent over for only six, we can be sure that Jesus is still very interested in her well-being. And this afternoon the body of Christ has an opportunity to see her and reach out.

Welcome to worship!




August 18, 2019, 12:00 AM

My Two Cents


One of my most unique adventures this summer happened up at Camp MaryMac in Sharpsburg, MD, where I was a counselor for what our region calls Pioneer Camp. On a fine weekend in June I had the lovely opportunity to hang out with fifteen of my closest first, second and third grade friends- six of whom were from Christian Temple!

 

For three  days we took turns on the tire swing, crossed back and forth over the old rickety bridge spanning the swollen creek, played with the parachute, did yoga(!), roasted s’mores on the fire AND learned about how we are all part of ‘Team Jesus’.

 

It was great. Except for one thing.  Unless I miss my mark, I think that over the course of our weekend, I got to witness a bully in the making. And I was surprised at how it sounded and looked.

 

One of the kids in our group (NOT from Christian Temple!) related well to the adults, was extremely smart and seemed at first to get along with everyone. In fact, for whatever reasons, the other kids really wanted to be among this guy’s buddies. But not too long after the camp began, this little boy began doing this strange thing. He started giving nicknames to all the other boys.

 

This naming could have been harmless enough, right? Except that each one was demeaning in one way or another. One referred to something embarrassing that had happened at camp a year earlier. A few others had to do with size and shape. After a while the nicknames began to catch on. The other boys were using them. And before you know it, there were tears. “That’s NOT my name!” And there was a sideways smile from the one who had started it all- a smile I have seen way too often over the past three years.

 

Bullies aren’t brave. They are afraid like everyone else- maybe more so. And the way they deal with their insecurity is to name the world in a way that diminishes others and makes them feel superior. It’s so easy to see- in children and adults.

 

And so, in a world full of bullies and other things that can make us feel diminished, one small thing we can promise ourselves to do? Call people by their names. Say those names often. And speak them with the reverence they deserve.

 

Welcome to worship Christian Temple!

 


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