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!