• Community

     

    Two of the cultural aspects that I appreciate about our church are the hospitality and friendliness: actual hospitality and real friendliness. Any church you might ask would say they are hospitable and friendly. Why wouldn’t they? Far fewer actually live them out.

    Following Earlene Brand’s funeral last week, a member from her former church in Sulphur approached me and remarked “It was like you had known her for half her life.” Earlene had only moved to Oklahoma City two years ago. I said simply, “Well she just fit right in and was super active.” Upon further reflection, I think it went beyond that though. Part of our DNA at Connecting Point Presbyterian Church is moving beyond the polite “Hellos!” and handshakes of Sunday morning to the real stuff of life. I knew and we knew Earlene, because when the church is really being the church, we find ourselves acting like we have known each other for far longer than we actually have. We care what happens to one another. We reach out to help. We hear the deeper life story.

    A similar realization happened at the Summer Faith Experience standing in line to eat talking to one of the families from across the street at the apartments. She said, “Are we the only new ones here for this? You all seem like you know each other very well.” I remarked that they were not and that we had some friends of friends and extended families here also, but the truth went deeper.  While not brand new, we are pretty new to one another. Some of you have been at Connecting Point for less than six months, others have been here for around two years, others less than five years, and finally there are some Greystone/Connecting Point Presbyterian ‘lifers’ that have been with us for this entire journey. Compared to other churches, we are all relatively new to one another and yet we act like old friends.

    The Book of Acts details the efforts of the early church to live in Christian community together. We can learn things from that description. In our best moments, when we truly recognize how much we do live together in a disconnected world and work together to change it for the better, I think we are living a modern vision of the Acts community.


     


  • White, Black, and Red

     

    Every day, sometimes many, many times a day, I say “hands up” to my son Evan before changing his shirt. Every time he obeys and throws his arms in the air so that the wet or food stained or mysteriously damp shirt can be removed. Evan is currently in that in between stage of using a fork and spoon: he can pick up food, but it does not always make it to his mouth. He also likes drinking from straws, but conceptually has not grasped yet how to drink from a cup without tilting it and dumping it out. “Hands up” won’t be his first word (momma), but it should enter his vocabulary through overuse soon.

    I am very aware as a pastor and person that cares about social justice that “hands up” has a very different connotation in my context than elsewhere. I am reminded of Michael Brown and other black teens and adults who were killed every time I utter that phrase to my son.  I am also aware as the father of a white child in America that, odds are, my son will never hear that phrase yelled from a police officer’s mouth and then fear for his life. And I feel guilty for that. I feel sorrow for that. I grieve our brokenness over that.

    Two years ago this week, Kati and I found out we were going to have a child. Our lives have changed in innumerable ways since then and Evan’s birth. The most profound change for me is that I am a lot less accepting of the world as it is. I feel a much greater responsibility towards the future than I did before. The society, politics, and church he will inherit are the institutions we will leave him. And whether things are actually worse now than previously or we are just more aware of how truly fractured and failing things are, it is a scary time to be alive.

    To put it another way, Evan personalized an entire generation’s present and future struggles. How will racism, sexism, hate, and violence change in his lifetime? How will politics divide and unite us in new and old ways? How will our economic policies affect the poor? What wars will his generations see and where? What ways will technology burden and unburden us? What will come of our fragile planet? Will there still be protestors in the streets in 2035? How will our country and globe come together or not?

    What can we do now to make that future better?

    This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost Sunday celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. The Holy Spirit is the animating, life-giving force that drives the church out to the places of need and distress. In the New Testament Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit spread the early believers out across the world. In large part, Acts is about their travels, struggles, and work. For all, the call and the empowerment by the Holy Spirit was the same: change people and change the world. They were sent out to continue Christ’s ministry of love and care, reconciliation and redemption, justice and hope. They were the visible witness to unity and peace of the Kingdom of God.

    My hope is that the Holy Spirit will do just that for us, not just for Evan and his generational cohort, but because it is our common call. The pain and hurt of this era are more noticeable than ever. How will we be compelled to action?




  • We The Rotten And Redeemed

     

    A few years ago, I discovered a movie of which many of you would have been aware for some time: The Lion In Winter. The 1968 movie version starred Peter O’Toole, an aging Katharine Hepburn (she won an Oscar for her role), and a young Anthony Hopkins. The non-historical story dramatizes the struggle between King Henry II’s three sons for the right to inherit his throne. At the center of the drama is the plotting, estranged Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine played Hepburn. The script reveals the darkness and greed of the human soul and the often hidden love as a family fights against one another for power and possession.

    A seminal scene in which Eleanor reacts to a prince drawing a knife to threaten his brothers speaks to the broader human condition and possible hope. Eleanor says, “Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It's 1183 and we're barbarians! How clear we make it. Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war: not history's forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars. We carry it like syphilis inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can't we love one another just a little - that's how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world.”

    Rarely have I come across such an apt description of the human condition, particularly as we enter the darkness of Good Friday. This day, we are the voices screaming from the crowd “Crucify him, crucify him.” We are the ones demanding the release of another. We are the ones who stand idly by as Jesus Christ is sentenced and goes off to die. We are the ones unmoved at the foot of the cross. We are the broken. We are the thieves. We are the murders. We.

    We are also the ones that Christ still dies and rises for. We, the broken, thieves, and murders. We, the ones that just before were screaming for his death. We, the sick and failing. We, too, are lifted from death to life. We, too, are moved from rotten to redeemed. We.



  • Celebrate With Joy

      

    Why are we not more joyful? Christians as a whole, Presbyterians in particular, why are we not filled with more joy?

    This Sunday, Palm Sunday, the crowds will shout for joy for Christ’s arrival. They will praise his name and celebrate his entrance. Easter Sunday, the disciples will be happily amazed at Jesus’ resurrection. Generations to follow will joyfully share stories and sing with delight. The church will commemorate Easter Sunday and every Sunday as a day of jubilant remembrance. Men and women will dedicate their lives with pleasure to following this resurrected messiah and his teaching. They will serve Christ and others they meet with gladness.

    But why are we, modern day, Presbyterian, mainline Protestant, reformed type Christians not more joyful? The low-hanging-fruit answer is that we are a faith that is mostly head and much less heart. We have been dubbed the “frozen chosen” for a reason. We do not dance and sing with hands in the air. We do not even clap well. And there might be something to all of that.

    The Protestant work ethic might also get in the way. We are constantly working. We value work above leisure and joy.  We are suspicious of “down time”. “Aren’t we supposed to be doing something right now? What have I forgotten?” Or even worse, “Now that I have a break, what more can I do?” Or even worse than both of those, “What is next to do?” There is a wall of separation between us, our faith, and actually enjoying it being lived out because, in the back of our minds, we are always supposed to be some place else doing something else.

    Often our faith is treated like a bad marriage: it receives our leftover time, leftover energy, leftover effort, and leftover money. There is no joy to be found because there is no joy left to give.

    As we begin Holy Week and move from the joy of Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter Sunday. My hope is that we actually enjoy these moments. For a few moments a few times this week, set aside everything else, be refreshed, be reenergized, and joyfully celebrate these high points of our faith. Live into everything it means. Rejoice with the entire family of the Christian faith. Maybe even dance and clap a little…..

    by Rev. Timothy Blodgett

  • The Marathon of Holy Week

    A new season has started. Spring is a week away.  Winter is just now losing its grip. With the last round of snow out of the way, running season has begun. I live in a neighborhood with serpentine running trails meandering throughout the homes and parks. Miles of paved trails lead active individuals around and around on an endless route of car-free paths. And just this week, people are beginning taking advantage of the season change. Some evenings it seems like everybody in the subdivision is out of his or her house running.

    Many of those people are training for marathons. The OKC Memorial Marathon is just around the corner on April 26. In my life, I have run my fair share of races. As a child, we did a lot of fun runs. I loved to do sprints and other races in gym class. I have zero athletic skill, but I can run fast….briefly. As an adult, Kati and I have participated in 5Ks together at the Deer Creek Classic and the Remember the Ten run in Stillwater. I even had a treadmill in my house for a couple of years that received regular use. I say that to say this: I cannot physically or psychologically conceive of running a marathon.

    26.2 miles is a long way. Each mile brings its own set of challenges: hills and valleys, sun and shade, wind and rain. A marathon cannot be won in the first mile or the fifth mile or even the twenty-fourth mile. It can be lost anywhere along the way. A runner can go too fast in one section and ruin another. The stress of a particularly strenuous hill climb can change the mentality for the rest of the race. Negative thoughts in the heat of day can sneak in and stay even as the cooling rain begins to fall. Runners lose track of the bigger picture because of what is happening in a moment. A marathon is as draining mentally as it is physically. Beyond all of that, it just seems like a really long way to go on foot.

    Another marathon begins a little over a week from now. Holy Week is its own kind of marathon. For Connecting Point Presbyterian Church, it means four worship services of various kinds and two events in the course of eight days. It means a lot of long days and nights at the church preparing for and actually doing what we have been planning for months. Like a true marathon, the marathon of Holy Week comes with its own set of issues. Can I really make it to four services? How can I lead, participate, and still enjoy the week with so much happening? What if I am tired and worn out byWednesday?

    I think that is where the marathon runner helps us. They enjoy running. They enjoy running that far. They enjoy the scenery and the challenge. It is a process and journey for them that runs all the way from training to the race itself. No one part gets all the attention or energy. No one part makes or breaks the race. Sure some parts need more effort. In other stages of the race, they may turn the pace down a little. They may be a leader in one area and follower in another.  What matters is completing the 26.2 mile journey.

    Enjoy the marathon of Holy Week. Appreciate all the ebbs and flows of what is to come. This week contains the highest highs and the lowest lows of our faith. Experience all of that. Take a break where necessary too. Push on where you need to, as well. The finish line, Easter Sunday, is only over the next hill…


     

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