Thursday, December 13, 2007

Change in editorial plans

Well, we've found that the blogging board for Philippi has not had a whole lot of visitors, so we're planning in 2008 to restructure our website and make this page the sermon page. If folks want to make comments on the sermon, as folks often do on Sunday mornings, they can do so, and our web page will offer important information on the schedule at Philippi and so on.

One of the wonderful things we have discovered about the website is that our cruisers use our page to keep up with Philippi and particularly the Sunday sermon. So we'll shout out to Hananiah and Savanna Blue and all the other boats that have graced Deltaville's harbors!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pastor Lyle writes from Bali!

From the Predmores on the Road again - a brief update on the current road trip.

Hiroko left for Japan May 7 and has been spending this month with her mother in Yokohama. I came straight to Bali on May 14 to fill in for the current pastor, the Rev. Richard Solberg, at the Bukit Doa English Congregation. ( Richard is also a retired pastor, but he agreed to a two-year term at the congregation to give longer term pastoral care and to strengthen the congregation. He started in October, 2006, and the church is responding to his care, and growing. But he is retired, and when we suggested he should take a couple of breaks during his two years, he and his wife agreed. So we will be filling in for them for six weeks; he has returned to his home in Arkansas for this time.

There are two congregations at the Bukit Doa Church, an Indonesian congregation that worships at 7:30 a.m., and our English service at 10:00. All of the Indonesian congregations worship at either 7:30 or 8:00 on Sunday morning; it is much cooler! There is another English language service at the Legian Church, also with both an Indonesian and English service.

Both the Bukit Doa and Legian churches are only 2 of the 73 churches of The Protestant Christian Churches of Bali, (GKPB). The pastor at Legian is Ed and Marylyn Seine. They are retired and live in Indiana. This is their first time in the VIM (Volunteer in Ministry) program and they just arrived the first of May. So I have been"showing them the ropes". They are a great couple, so it has been fun.

On Thursday I introduced them to the MBM, the mission outreach of the GKPB. MBM has a number of programs; there is a medical team that has clinics in several locations, agriculture division that helps farmers with pigs, cattle and some rice farming. They have an experimental plot for organic rice. They help people set up small business (really small: for instance a sewing machine so a housewife can help with household expenses). A step up from this program is a small bank to help people who have some credit rating, again to make loans. All of these loans require a business plan and are carefully supervised so they will succeed. They have a shelter for women who suffer domestic violence.

On Friday we took a long trip, total of about 11 hours, to the western end of Bali to visit Blimbingsari. This was the first Christian village in Bali, established in 1938. The church in the village is considered the "mother church" of the GKPB. On Friday they were making preparations for Sunday services by setting up extra tents around the sanctuary. Pentecost is a national holiday for Christians, so family members, children, grandchildren and those who have moved away from Blimbingsari return on special holidays, like Pentecost. They have a normal congregation of 300, but they were expecting 700 additional visitors for Pentecost Sunday.

Two of the seven orphanages of the GKPB are in Blimbingsari, one for elementary age children, one for middle school age. We visited both of them, and at the middle school orphanage we found 10 Australians working. They were from several Baptist Churches in Western Australia, and had been at the orphanage all week. They helped remodel a boy's dorm and paint it. In the past year they also had a fund raiser in their churches to build an addition to the girl's dorm. These are welcome changes to the facilities; they look much better than they did a year ago when I was there.

Saturday was fairly quiet; Rev. Priana, the General Secretary of the Synod, called and wanted to stop by our place at the hotel. He had a young Indonesian couple with him from one of the village churches. They live in this area now and have a six year-old autistic girl. He was giving pastoral care, and wanted to have prayer together for the child.

Today was my second Sunday at the church. It has been good seeing many of the familiar faces, and getting acquainted with some of the new members. We also had the ten-Australian work team with us; they had come back to this area on Saturday. Also a German pastor, Rev. Bertold Dowery, that we have known from previous visits. He has been in Indonesia as a missionary and teacher for 30 or 40 years. He brought two visitors from Germany. It was good seeing him again and meeting his guests.

The Bukit Doa Church was built in 1998, so both the Indonesian and English language congregations started at the same time. The Indonesian congregation is approaching 1,000 in membership; our English congregation has been averaging 50 since Rev. Solberg arrived. Rev. Eka, the Indonesian pastor, called yesterday to warn me that they might not be finished by our 10:00 worship time. It was Pentecost Sunday; they were receiving new members and having three baptisms. He was right; it was a little after 10:00 when they finished, so 10:30 by the time we started.

One of the Indonesian music groups of about ten were scheduled to stay and have special music for us today. The Australian work party had been working on a song in Indonesian all week to share with us. The two girls visiting from Germany were going to sing in German, they practiced in the car on the way to church, and then decided they would not. Nevertheless, with the visitors, the late start, only my second Sunday with this order of worship all added up to a good morning, but I was exhausted by the time I got home!

Hiroko arrives this Thursday. It will be good to have her here. I am getting tired of the greeting, "Hi how are you WHERE IS HIROKO??!"

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, you remain in ours.

Hiroko & Lyle

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thoughts on Pentecost

Hi friends:

We haven't really seen any action here on the old blog site, but I'm thinking we might post sermons on here, rather than on the website. Then members and friends can debate and discuss just like we do Sunday mornings!

Pentecost is coming up and I'm thinking of the new book Unbinding the Gospel. The focus of evangelism, the author says, is faith-sharing.

After he received the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up in the temple and started preaching. The content of that sermon seems to have been the core of the early church's preaching. But the drama of that particular moment was not just in the sermon, but in the strangeness of bumbling, misspeaking Peter preaching boldly, powerfully and clearly, even as Jesus himself did, with real authority.

Acts seems to suggest that the Holy Spirit delivers authority. The scandal is that ordinary people who open themselves to Christ are literally made one with the living God. The question in my mind, as a mainline pastor, is just how this Holy Spirit is given.

I believe that the Christian discipline practiced and taught by Jesus (prayer, worship, the study of scripture , repentance, reconciliation and generosity, to name a few) are a way to open ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we practice all of these disciplines as the chief principles and values of our lives, we empty ourselves, as it were, of all competing powers and spirits that may rule us. This prepares us for God to offer us his Spirit.

Peter had to go down a long road before God gave him this Spirit. Even Paul, whom we think of as having a sudden conversion, not only had lived his life until that point as a deeply faithful and observant Jew (far more conversant in scripture at the time of his conversion than most of us are after a lifetime of church membership), and Paul still had to undergo instruction in Damascus before he received the Spirit.

I don't wish to delimit God. God can and does bestow his Spirit freely to whomever he chooses. But it my experience and my reading of the scriptures that suggest that most of us have a lot of work to do before that gift is given.

Martha Grace Reese makes the excellent point that sharing faith clearly cannot happen if we don't have a faith to share. I would understand faith as the condition in which we find ourselves when we receive the Holy Spirit. Faith becomes the foundation of our lives with a connection to God, an almost scandalous connection, that gives us real power to say what God wants said.

For many mainline churchgoers, faith is more a set of values, and the scriptural stories simple moral myths designed to teach us to love and be fair. But this story of Acts speaks of things deeper than values. It speaks of possession by an unseen Spirit that gives us power we did not have before.

Let's hear some comments!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Holy Week Reflections

Hi friends:

I'm just getting ready to dig into the first draft of my Palm Sunday sermon and it occurred to me to put a few thoughts down on the old blog site. Maybe we might get into some theological conversations here.

I just read a story about a strange man at a museum who stood very close to every painting he looked at, about an inch away from the canvas, and studied every single detail with care. When everyone else trying to see the paintings became irritated with him, he told them they couldn't appreciate the paintings unless they studied them very closely.

Of course, we know that this man probably was missing the real point of all of those paintings. By focussing so closely on details, he lost sight of the larger pattern. It's really another version of "missing the forest for the trees."

It seems to me that a lot of Christians are dazzled by teachers and preachers who get into intense detail about their biblical interpretations. They quote little verses one after another and do long-winded studies of single words or phrases. But the big picture either gets lost, or worse, is made up by the teacher and imposed on the "detailed" study. And these teachers and preachers sound so convincing!

But the upshot is that most believers I know seem to have preconceived ideas about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit that they impose on every story or lesson they hear from the bible, without ever having really looked at the big picture of the biblical story. They presume that the "theology" they have been taught over the years represents the true biblical witness and regard each passage or story as fitting into it in some way.

Some have said that the gospels are each just preludes to the Passion ("passion" refers to the arrest, trial, torture and execution of Jesus). In all four, the Passion is the longest moment-by-moment narrative. There are many elements to the story, but they are all connected, and there is meant to emerge a great pattern, a main idea. Yet too often, we get focussed on the details to the point that we miss the great pattern.

I wonder at this story. It seems to reach into places within us that are ineffable. It defies speech. You read it (or better, hear it), and you think, "there's nothing I can say."

But of course, we must say something. The thing that emerges for me when I stand back from this great work of God is first of all just that: it is all a work of God. I am awe-struck that even the evil that is done emerges from structures put in place by God. I am amazed at how God brought about the person Jesus, his Son, quite literally through the centuries-long development of a whole nation in which such a man could finally be raised and shaped.

What I see is a kind of beautifully-wrought trap. By setting God above the powers and principalities of the world, Jesus drew upon himself the wrath of every one of them. Of course, these powers and principalities were themselves created by God, and in themselves are perfectly good and lawful. What Christ exposed through his ministry was the human corruption of these institutions, which itself is the great problem of the whole bible.

What gives the powers and principalities their potency is the threat of violence, particulary legitimate violence. However the justice system was perverted in this story, all the proceedings are basically legal. Even the motives of the Jewish religious leaders are laudable; they wish to protect the majority from repercussions from the Romans that might arise from Jesus' intemperate remarks about God's rule.

And so it is that the powers and principalities rush in to do what they have the God-given power to do: to torture and kill Jesus the Christ. They do it all by the book, however brutal it may appear to us.

What they don't realize is that this is precisely what God expects and plans for them to do. He's been preparing Israel (and the rest of the world) for this moment from the time he called Abram and told him to "get up." The wonder and the awe for me comes from the realization that these powers, all of them under the rule of hasatan (the accuser) who himself fully expects to trap all of humankind in the ultimate crime, are tricked into coming to a service of worship at the foot of the cross.

And so it was that one of the centurions who killed him said, "Truly this man was the Son of God."

By bringing the whole world and all of its powers to this moment, God brings them, against their will, under the forgiving power of his Son. His innocent Son (St. John's "lamb who was slain") suddenly has the power, the right, and the responsibility to forgive. And as the good son of God, he does not disappoint. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

And so God in Jesus Christ set into motion and unstoppable train. This ineffable thing, this "kingdom," about which we still know so little, is unfolding, and nothing anyone can do can stop it. Hasatan (the devil) is hoisted by his own petard. Everything he does now merely brings the blessing of forgiveness.

For none of us really know what we do.

Weigh in, won't you?


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cornelia Kennard and Joy Brooks

Shortly after the death of Iva Yates, Cornelia died, and a week later, Joy. Makes for a hard winter for our Philippi family.

We're going to miss Cornelia's smile and Joy's great sense of fun. Our hearts go out to Jimmy and June and Buddy and Sissy and David.

At the same time, Philippi's worship attendance in January averaged 76. This is a 14% increase over last January! This last Sunday, February 18, we had 88 in church. January and February have typically been very quiet, low attendance months at Philippi. Something is happening!

I struggled with a cold during my vacation, and now I'm on my third day of fever. I'll be at our Ash Wednesday service tonight, but I'm not getting much else done. Love to hear from any and all of you!


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iva Yates dies at 101

Hi Philippians!

Some of you may not know that Iva Yates, our oldest member, died this morning, January 31. She was 101 years old. I regret I didn't know her. What a storehouse of amazing history her memories must have been!

Her home is right on 33 down a little past Lover's Lane and has been converted into a charming museum called the Yates House. You can see pictures of her there in the main room. She was quite beautiful.

If anyone has any memories of Iva, feel free to post them or to call me and tell me about them.

We don't have a firm time for the funeral, but we know it will be on Saturday, with a reception following at the church. Watch the Sentinel for the obituary.

Peace to all from Pastor Mike

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Welcome to Philippi Christian Church

Just want to welcome everyone to this little experiment. This is an opportunity for everyone at Philippi to have an ongoing conversation about things of interest to Philippians.

You can comment on sermons, converse on current events from a Christian perspective, share a prayer concern, keep us posted on a person we're praying for, get feedback on your own Christian walk, or just share your happy news!

I'm a little new to blogging, but I'm fairly sure you have to sign in to blogspot to post comments, but I may be wrong on that. It doesn't cost anything and no one will bombard you with advertizing for doing so.

So blog away!