Faith, Poetry and Funk

Here’s a line from St. Pophyrios of Kavsokalyvia: Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet.

And then here’s where St. Pop sent me: It is not sufficient to accumulate the facts. Someone’s got to sing us a song. Someone’s got to let the poetry loose. Someone’s got to bring the funk.

I’m trying to tend to these ideas with piece for A Deeper Story. I’m not sure if I quite said what I wanted to say, but then that’s part of the poetry, part of the funk.

Preaching

The idea of ‘preaching’ has fallen on rough times, often tarnished by those who claim to be friends. Perhaps I’m a hopeless idealist, but I think it’s a mistake to surrender a good word to the wolves.

At the same time, I also feel like Reinhold Niebuhr who confessed, “There’s something ridiculous in a callow, young fool like myself standing up to preach.”

At any rate, I continue my Church Words series at Deeper Church today, pondering the old, out of favor word: preaching. This subject gets me stirred up.

Blessing of a House

Recently, I had the chance to lead a small circle of folks into the home of friends. We toured the house, hearing stories about the space, what the rooms represented and what their hopes were for the life that would blossom between those walls. We blessed each room, and we blessed our friends who would call it home. This occasion was one of the reasons I’m a pastor, and it’s one of the most Christian acts I know.

I recount the story at Deeper Church.

Amy’s Letter

A day or two ago, I got caught up in a flash of inspiration. These don’t come often, and when they do, you’ve got to grab that dragon and ride, ride, ride.

What started to be one thing ended up another, and lo and behold a (very) short story came to life. It shaped up as a tale about a three-ring circus, a brave letter and a woman who calls it like she sees it. The story starts like this:

Fred and Amy were neighbors on Rural Route 28. Their mailboxes shared a weathered post at the end of the gravel lane. This seemed fitting since their families also shared a weathered pew at Zion Presbyterian Church. Fred and Amy, along with Stan the tire salesman and Robert the county’s public defender, made up Zion’s Pastoral Search Committee. Though a thankless job, their assignment did mean that every Thursday night, they’d sit in the church’s empty manse, drink Folgers and have a few minutes to shoot the shit. Then they’d return to the pile of resumes that supposedly represented the last hope for their beleaguered flock. (read on)

I wrote this for a friend, but I’ve discovered it was even more for me. This story gets at some of my deepest frustrations with the predicament we find ourselves in – but also it gets at my grandest hopes for I what I mean when I use the word pastor. I’d be pleased to share it with you.

Oh – and may I add: if you have a pastor, go easy on ’em, chances are they’re getting their teeth kicked in at least a couple times a month. And if you have a good pastor, tell ’em so. They may not act like your gratitude matters, but I absolutely promise you that it does.

Tell Me the Truth

Since I’m a pastor, I find myself having more than your average number of conversations (though I have no idea who keeps these stats) on subjects of temptation and desire, shame and hope. These terrains of the soul are universal, common to all; but it’s remarkable how agonizingly difficult it can be to own these spaces.

These conversations, not to mention my own story, has led me to a simple conclusion: The Church should not teach people to lie. Unfortunately, though, too often we do. I say more about this on a piece for the good folks at A Deeper Church.

Membership

I was making myself at home. In the dark way of the world I had come to know what would be my life’s place, though I could not yet know the life I would live in it…I had come unknowing into what Burley would have called the ‘membership’ of my life. I was becoming a member of Port William.

{Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter}

More than a few years ago, ecclesiastical authorities pulled me from my seminary womb, spanked me on the butt and scribbled my name on an ordination certificate. They sent me into the world, green and ignorant but effusive with zeal. One of my enterprising ideals was to de-bunk the ossified notion of church membership. I insisted the whole affair was a formality offering no more umph than signing up for the YMCA. We wanted ‘organic community.’ We wanted to ‘authentically live life together.’ We didn’t want structures but wanted to do ‘life on life.’ Apparently, we also wanted to craft our own clichés.

Years have, I believe, brought a humble measure of wisdom. Reading Wendell Berry and my Bible have added a bit more. I’ve reflected on all this with a piece for Deeper Church, if you’d care to tussle with these ideas further.

Church Words

I’ve pitched in with a few other writers over at Deeper Church, a place to think about the rich joys and deep mysteries we discover via life in God’s Church. I’ll join in once a month or so.

Today, I began to think about our church words, about our need for poets and storytellers. We need women who plant a disruptive seed in our imagination. We need men who flip us topsy-turvy with their playfulness and their unguarded revelations. We need poets and preachers who brush past the cynicism, refuse fatigued dichotomies and fashion words as though they are handcrafted dynamite. These happy subversives light the fuse and calmly set the short-wicked sentence in our midst.

If you want to read on, you certainly may