A wide spot in my imagination.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let there be peace on earth...and in the Senate

So, the Senate majority leader says the U.S. Senate may stay in session all the way up until Christmas Eve. And one member of that august body responds by calling the work schedule sacrilegious. Another senator says that the Senate's possible work load is disrespectful to birth of Jesus.

Sure, having to work on Christmas Eve is not so fun. Everybody from the Virgin Mary might have something to say about that.

But consider the work the Senate has before it -- A treaty to limit nuclear weapons and a bill that funds the federal government. Spending the week before the birth of the Prince of Peace thinking about a peace treaty seems okay to me. And the other bill (with the terrible name of omnibus spending bill) contains some pretty needed stuff, too. Sure it's got some "pork" and sure it needs a full discussion, but that bill includes things such as health care for poor people, projects to prevent the flooding of towns and money for a hospital emergency room. The Jesus whose birthday is coming up, said he came to "bring good news to the poor." Again, spending some time before Christmas talking about how we help poor people seems like an okay use of anyone's time, even United States senators.

The two senators who criticized the Senate schedule have backed off their comments a little bit. And they're certainly welcome to vote against these bills if they choose. But hiding their opposition behind inflammatory religious language seems to miss the point of the holiday they say they're defending.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Skipping Church

As I type this, the people of the church I serve are singing and praying and listening to the scripture and celebrating communion...and I am not there. I am skipping church. For most people, that's no big deal. Judging from attendance patterns, many people skip church. It's a little different for me: I'm the pastor of a church, so it's my usual role to be the for the singing, praying, listening, celebrating. So, I don't skip church too often.
And to be truthful I didn't take the day off, and I'm not playing hooky. Here's the deal: We have three worship services at our congregation. Most Sundays, I lead or take some active role in each of those three services. But this morning, for the 9:30 service my colleague here at UCC is preaching and leading worship. So, I find myself with an hour of nothing to do.
I thought about going to one of the adult groups. I thought about being in worship as a congregant. I thought about working on my sermon for next week. I thought about checking email.
But instead, I'm taking about eight minutes to type this, and I'm drinking a cup of coffee.
It's good to skip church. Let me explain that. For me it is good to skip church because church is what I do, it's my job. For most people it's good to actively engage in church because because it is not what they do all week. For most people, gathering at a church or temple or mosque or synagogue provides a refreshing break from the rest of life. And that is what is really good.
It's not about "skipping church." It's about taking a break, changing our patterns, rethinking our habits. Sometimes that is formalized as a sabbatical. Other times it's a nap on the couch with football on TV. The way the Book of Genesis tells it, even God took a break.
The Advent season is sort of like skipping church for me. That is, it's about change. It's about seeing the world in new ways and experiencing our faith in new ways.
Back to skipping church... Lest anyone think I'm a real slacker, I probably should say I've already preached and led worship at one service this morning, and I've got one more to go. At those services, the scripture reading includes an interesting little blurb. In Matthew 11: 18 and 19, Jesus says that people called him a drunkard and a glutton because he hung out and ate with sinners and tax collectors. Now, there's a slacker for you. That's "skipping church," or at least changing our expectations, seeing things differently, having new insight.
At Christmas-time we sing about "sweet little Jesus boy," not "sweet old drunkard guy." Maybe we need to take a break from some our of holiday traditions to re-think them. Maybe we need to do things differently so we see things differently.
Maybe I should write some new carols about Jesus as glutton and drunkard, party-guy and friend to ne'er-do-wells.
Or, maybe I'll just go back to drinking coffee and skipping church for a few more minutes.