Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sharing Life

The vegetables had just come out of the soil and I placed them in a pan of oil and they immediately began to simmer and pop.  The scent of sautéed onions and garlic is a little glimpse of heaven; they smell better than anything could ever taste. I took the sautéed vegetables which included squash, zucchini, and onion and arranged them on the plate. I placed a steak that had been rubbed with copious amounts of paprika, cumin, and pepper and of course, seared on both sides right on top of the vegetables.  I topped off the meal with a watermelon that was so luscious that the juices leaked out and on to my shirt with every bite.

But it did not taste the same. Everything was cooked to perfection, but it was still dull.  I was eating alone. How can you enjoy a meal if you are alone?  A meal is not the same when no one mentions the miracle of vegetables that were covered in dirt just five minutes ago. Food is bland when no one is laughing or telling stories.  A glass of wine makes you feel like an alcoholic when you aren’t unwinding with a good friend.  My meal felt less like grace and more like a mound of energy that merely functioned to keep me satiated for the rest of the night.

I am grateful that my parents made the five members of the Snider clan sit down at the table every evening for dinner.  Nothing extraordinary ever happened—told a few stories and sometimes we fought.  Rarely someone would comment upon the food that my mom prepared. But, we were together and we were able to learn important habits.  We learned the habits of thanksgiving, respect, and we learned how to gracefully receive something we did not want. As the family endured my dad’s jokes and my big brother’s stories, we learned the skills of listening and patience.  Slowly, meal after meal, we are transformed into different people. And we receive grace all along the way, whether we realize it or not.  

A teacher of mine, Norman Wirzba, asks a series questions, “Is food just a commodity? Is it just fuel? Is it merely a necessity to keep us going? Or, is it more than that—is it grace?”  Table fellowship is a cornerstone to both Jewish and Christian worship.  In Acts, the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers (2:42).”  As they broke bread, the early Christians took time to learn about one another and place their lives in the context of Jesus Christ. The table became Eucharistic as the gathered body of believers were transformed into different kinds of people—a people who were more attentive, caring, and hospitable.  Food is never only about energy.

I am struck by a conversation that a group of members at Plains had last Sunday after worship. We shared food at a local ‘greasy spoon.’  The food is reminiscent of the sort of thing your southern grandma might cook.  A parishioner remarked, “We complain about going out to eat because it’s cheaper to stay home. Years down the road, we will not remember this little bill.  But we will remember the memories we make.”  Another parishioner remarked, “That was a good sermon illustration.” And I nodded, “Yes. Yes, it was.”

It’s about sharing food. And it's also about sharing your life. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

LaGrange College Senior Thesis

I found my senior thesis from college on the web while researching for Bible Study.

Thought I would share it. The topic is on Wesley's understanding of works of mercy and sanctification.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Parsonage Ramblings

Every once in a while I have those days when I wish I didn’t live in a parsonage. Mostly because I have to get approval before I do anything in the house.  There is a leak in the basement—call the Trustees. Wait.  The lawn mower hasn’t started in two consecutive weeks—call the Trustees, again. And wait.  The latest tragic misfortune to strike Holland Road: the toilet runs non-stop over night creating condensation that drips from the toilet disfiguring the bathroom tile.  What’s my next move? You guessed it, call the Trustees.  

Of course, this really isn’t that big of a deal. I take a lot for granted (like not having to pay rent). I am a spoiled United States citizen. I forget that a parsonage is hospitality when it’s at its best; they “welcome the stranger.” United Methodist Churches do not ‘call’ their pastors, but pastors are ‘sent’ from the conference creating a sort-of arranged marriage between Church and pastor. The pastor and the Church say to one another, “Will you learn to love me?”  Itinerancy has its flaws, but it can be a wonderful lesson in hospitality. For the Church is faced with the challenge to welcome the strange new pastor into their church, their community, and their house.  “Come live with us. Yes, even in our house,” says the Church who is up to the challenge.

Our Church was up to the challenge and they have done a great job of welcoming two young, spoiled, and naïve (but enthusiastic) strangers into their house and community.
About a month ago a parishioner, who is zealous about having a pristine parsonage tells me in the hospital, “I want all of my memorials to be donated to the parsonage fund.”
 I interjected, “But, you are going to be released from the hospital today…”  
“I know; it’s just been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about how important a parsonage is.  How will we ever take care of our community, if we can’t even take care of our pastor? A worn-out parsonage means that our Church is worn-out.”    
 “Done deal."

John Wesley would also agree. He believed that your outward appearance signifies what kind of character you have.  In other words, if you are a slob in some parts of your life, then you are likely to become a slob in other parts of your life. He noted, “cleanliness is next to godliness”: “Be cleanly. In this let the Methodists take pattern after the Quakers. Avoid all nastiness, dirt, slovenliness, in your person, clothes, house and all about you. Do not stink! Let none ever see a ragged Methodist.”  I would guess that the same might go for a Methodist’s parsonage. A ragged Methodist parsonage signifies that the character of that Methodist Church must also be ragged. 

I can’t help but to wonder what the Church imagined when I first moved in and failed to mow the lawn in a timely manner.  “Will a pastor who overlooks lawn care, overlook us too?”

I am blessed to be a pastor to a parishioner who takes pride in the parsonage.  I pray for the grace to develop this kind of character, too.  One day maybe we will both be able to develop the character to be able to look upon the entire world as our parish and treat the world with love and hospitality.