Mike Cope's blog

Monday, July 05, 2004

Miscellaneous notes on this 5th of July: 1. Happy 50th birthday to rock and roll on this anniversary of Elvis's first record. 2. From Eugene Peterson: "Pastoral work is fundamentally creative work. The section of the Creed in which we set up ecclesistical shop is the third, beginning with 'I believe in the Holy Spirit.' If this is so, if we in fact believe in the Holy Spirit, then we must not at the same time try to moonlight as efficiency experts in religion. We cannot nurture the life of the Spirit in a parishioner while holding a stopwatch. We cannot apply time management techniques to the development of souls." 3. I spoke yesterday on how the Lord's supper is a unity meal which unfortunately has been a cause of more disunity (or at least a rallying point of disunity) than almost any other Christian activity. Then, while serving communion with my wife, a visitor interrupted communion in our area by yelling at me that he was offended, that it felt like he was at a Catholic Church. I had to stop serving people long enough to ask him--kindly but firmly--to please have a seat and continue the discussion after the assembly. I told him I'd be glad to wait and visit with him, but I couldn't ever find him afterward. He was a living sermon illustration for the point I'd made. 4. The good news is that the all-star team I'm managing has now outscored our opponents 16-14 in our first two games. The bad news is that we won the first one, 15-0. . . . You do the math on the second one! It's a double elimination tournament, so now we play every night until we lose again. (I guess the more optimistic way of saying that would be: "Confident that we'll return to our winning ways, we will be playing every night this week.") 5. Today I begin part of my study break. I'm really, really, really ready. I've been running on fumes for several weeks. I don't feel creative. I'm prickly. I've lost patience and purpose. (Don't panic. This is an annual event for me. It's part of my "already/NOT YET eschatology," my "glass-is-half-empty" personality, and too much speaking on the road.) 6. I loved being able to worship in an assembly on the 4th of July where we could pray for America (and all nations of the world) without it turning into a sordid display of American civil religion. Those who cling to some belief that America is God's special country are blind to what's happening. The center of Christian strength isn't in America. Don't blame the courts, the president (present or past), liberal judges, Democrats, or Republicans. Blame weak churches that are immersed in consumerism. To find vibrant, missional churches, look to Africa and Asia! (The churches here that are a source of strength are the ones that don't whine about what's happening in America--they just recognize that they live in a Post-Christian environment and gladly accept the missional nature of the people of God.) 7. I refer again to #5. I'm a bit prickly. Maybe the blog needs a rest until I get a couple days into my break.

24 Comments:

  • Mike, you are entitled to rest. I will pray for a peaceful time for you. I have been at that prickly place before and it doesn't feel good.
    grace to you, Julie

    By Blogger julie, at 7/05/2004 07:36:00 AM  

  • I think #3 would set me on edge as well, though it sounds like you handled it well. But I'm sorry that it happened. Even if one disagrees with the method employed, one should have at least enough respect for the observance, the celebration of the body and blood of Christ, to bring objections at a more appropriate time.

    But I really like #2.

    Even Jesus withdrew sometimes. If you need a break, you need a break.

    But re: #1? I live in Memphis and I think they're about to throw me out. Because.... I don't like Elvis! There. I've said it. My heresies go deeper than anyone suspected.

    I expect immediate disfellowshipping by all Elvine-minded bloggers, but I think I'm prepared to deal with that.

    By Blogger Q, at 7/05/2004 08:06:00 AM  

  • So knocking him unconscious with an almost empty communion tray was out of the question?!

    When I think of how many times I have almost dropped a tray...it is certainly plausable that you could have slipped and conked him in the noggin.

    Mike, may God continue to grant you patience and in the days ahead may He grant you His peace.

    By Blogger J A Pierpont, at 7/05/2004 09:29:00 AM  

  • Regarding #3: You handled it much more gracefully than I think I would have. I'd have probably just said, "So?" and gotten on with it. If he made any other noise, I'd have asked the bouncers.... I mean ushers, to manhandle him out of the place.... I mean, invite him to the fellowship hall for coffee.

    I did have one similar experience a couple of years ago. I had been teaching a class on worship on Sunday mornings for several weeks. We had discussed that there are no prescribed patterns for Sunday assemblies, and that we have a lot of freedom in an activity (the "worship service") that is not expressly commanded by Jesus. On this particular Sunday, I was discussing the ways we can teach in the assembly, and included drama in the discussion.

    We had a family visiting that day, and after a few minutes of uncomfortably shifting in his seat, he asked where I got the scriptural authority for the use of drama. I wish I had gone to Agabus tying himself up with Paul's belt in Acts 21, but I'm not always that quick of a thinker! I essentially responded that we have as much authority for drama as we do for song books, four-part harmony, church buildings, and the Lord's Supper as a symbolic meal rather than part of a potluck.

    He wasn't impressed. I think he may have reported us to the CofC police for proper documentation as heretics. I think his kids like the praise team, though, especially during the solos and the use of vocal percussion.

    By Blogger Tim Castle, at 7/05/2004 09:42:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Miscellaneous comments on your miscellaneous notes:

    1. Figures a heretic like you would pay homage to Elvis.

    2. Didn't that Peterson fella write that Message thingy? (refer to note #1 and replace Elvis with Peterson)

    3. Of course you couldn't find him yesterday...he had to book it out of there quick to a. beat the Baptists and b. he wasn't going to Sunday School ("there ain't no Sunday School in Acts 2")

    3.1 Maybe it was that long flowing white robe you were wearing yesterday?

    3.2 Did you point out that you couldn't kneel in Highland's pew-chairs if you were over 2 feet tall?

    3.3 Is that the same guy that was yelling at you in the back by the Holy water?

    3.4 Did you look in the Bingo Hall for him?

    3.5 Sounds like this guy would be a living illustration if you ever get around to preaching from Num. 22:27.

    4. All the great managers in baseball could be described as "prickly." Don't be so hard on yourself.

    5. Prickly, patience, purpose, and panic. That's some quality illiteration Mike. You sure you need a break? Or better put: Are you positive a pause in preaching and pastoring will produce a prickleless preacher and promote positive progress in progressive planning?

    6. I wanted you to know that I ordered 48 CDs of your message from yesterday entitled, “God Shed His Grace On Only Thee”. While I did think the stars and stripes cover jacket was a nice touch, paying $14.98 per CD for only one sermon was a bit pricy. I was pleased to know that a portion of that (.0000789%) will go to put new carpet in the latte/Botox bar in Highland’s Family Life Center so I felt better about my purchase. Plus I put the entire order on my Highland Visa card and earned myself .5 points towards the purchase of the Get Out of Debt God’s Way video series.

    By the way, what did you mean by all that “weak churches immersed in consumerism” talk? Just wondering.

    6.1 If we can’t blame our government and we have to blame the churches then couldn’t argument be made that because the church is made up of people like ourselves that we should really be blaming … no … no … wait a minute here … surely you’re not suggesting … oh you have some nerve.

    7. Mike, I know you’re older than me so I feel kind of awkward even bringing this up…but here is some career advice that I think you might want to consider. Being prickly is almost a form of job security in the churches of Christ. If you ever become overly optimistic or hopeful you might just find yourself out of a job.

    7.1 Of course if you get canned you could always blog all day long … so there you go … glass half full!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 7/05/2004 10:50:00 AM  

  • Ah, yes, the sin that is greater than all other sins -- the sin of offending ME. By merely a hair, it trumps even the sin of doing things that remind one of the Catholic faith.

    When did offending ME become the most burning issue for us? It's exhausting, I tell you. And it offends me. So there.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 7/05/2004 11:20:00 AM  

  • Amen on # 6!

    It is too bad that you couldn't have talked with the offended anti-catholicite (remember anti-dentite from Seinfield - the show that you probably have never watched but only heard about from Friends). Maybe you could have given him a copy of Peter Kreeft's book, "The Journey - A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims" or Henri Nouwen's book, "Clowning in Rome".

    At least you didn't pass out the juice before the bread.

    My prayer for you as you begin your study break is that creativity will flow from your security.

    Thanks for the blog!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 7/05/2004 11:29:00 AM  

  • As anonymous, I'll not be posting and more comments. I certainly hope though to be reading many more.

    It brought tears to my eyes yesterday and again today over the distraction displayed during communion. I made the Luby's comment, and obviously many made the wrong interpretation. I for one think the whole Sunday worship period occasionally could be devoted to just communion and prayer, nothing more, nothing needed. But what if that were done in the gym at tables? That was my intended point.

    Mike I really do enjoy the thoughts you share.

    Jim

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/05/2004 12:57:00 PM  

  • Matt - you would truly have been astounded had you overheard a brother tell me that I was going to be responsible for his "fall from grace" if I didn't abandon a belief I held, since HE was the weaker brother, and I, as the stronger believer, was responsible for his spiritual welfare and where he would spend eternity.

    My response was truly unique, as any of you that know me and can attest to its veracity, I was left speechless (lol) - simply could NOT believe what this man believed about weaker and stronger brothers. Suffice to say the missionary team spent quite a few extra hours in conversing, teaching, and praying with this lovely gentleman (which he truly was and is)

    Mike, I pray you are refreshed and strengthened during your study break - you are so wise to take this time. Where your retreat from study impacts us, we will miss your gentle, wise insights, but I'm sure we can all wait for your return, as a still stronger and wiser man of God.
    In His love and grace,

    PS - Eat tons of Guacamole to aid you in your refreshing!! :)
    Kathy

    By Blogger Kathy, at 7/05/2004 01:07:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:03:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:03:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:03:00 PM  

  • Isn't it nice that Mike left the "keys" to his blog house with us so we could continue to enjoy the hospitality of this fellowship?

    Jim, I am glad you clarified your point about Luby's, but even if you hadn't, would your feelings have been any less valid? I do hope you will consider doing what you need to do to keep your comments coming if the comment rules change.

    As far as the gentleman who disrupted communion: One never knows how we will respond to culture shock or what was even going on with him. But could we give him the benefit of the doubt?

    It reminded me of an incident that occurred with my grandfather that people at that congregation still laugh about. They were having services and suddenly were under tornado/severe thunderstorm warning. The whole congregation retreated to the basement.

    Some of the guys saw this as a chance to start some 42 tables and a few even braved the storm to fetch their dominoes. (I guess true Texans always keep a set in the pickup.)

    Now, my grandfather loved 42, but he could not fathom the church building as being the place to enjoy this type of activity. He was also not very outspoken, nor was he generally given to expressing his opinion. But in that moment his religious ferver conquered his fears and he climbed up on one of the tables and began to shout: "In the church building? IN THE CHURCH BUILDING!!!!!"

    I don't mind people laughing about him doing that if it is from a point of acceptance and love, but I can guarantee you that it was not funny to him and he felt something sacred had been violated.

    So it occurs to me that my granddad could have been capable of doing just what that man did and if that had happened, I would have been grateful that Mike handled him with the restraint that he did. And I hope that in the jesting we do about these types of incidences, we never lose sight that these are people who matter, too -- even visitors. It could be someone's grandparent, mom, brother, sister, dad, or even child-- but always a child of God.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:04:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:04:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:04:00 PM  

  • AAACK!!!!! Sorry for flooding the blog house. These multiple posts are driving me NUTS!!!!! Even the trash cans don't seem to be working.

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 7/05/2004 02:44:00 PM  

  • I always seem to be out of town when all the exciting events occur at Highland! I applaud your patience.

    Re comment #6: I thought everything went wrong with this country when prayer and the 10 commandments were banned in schools...surely it can't be any other reason.

    Mike, hope you have a great "duty free" time...catch your breath and come back feeling full of God. I will miss you while you are gone.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/05/2004 09:20:00 PM  

  • 1. I still prefer the young Elvis, but they haven't stopped counting in Florida.

    2. It's probably best that we don't apply concepts of time management to the development of souls. For now we're too busy spending time on less important things and that would just be embarrassing.

    3. I saw that guy yesterday. I had just come off the stage to join my family as they came up for the Lord's Supper. I mentioned it to Kendra later and she hadn't even noticed. It struck me as rather sad really. He left immediately after the confrontation (with no regard for the proper traffic pattern). When will people learn that their message, no matter how sincere, gets lost in that kind of noise?

    4. The rules for pitchers' rest can nail you in tournaments like that.

    5. Good luck with that. Let me know if you want a getaway day to the ranch.

    6. Okay. But my heart went out to a WWII vet I sat next to last night at the fireworks display who felt a bit slighted. His argument was that even if the U.S. is not a paragon of virtue, how much chance might other nations have had under the boot of a dictatorship or totalitarianism were his generation not around. Interesting point of view. Call it a sordid display if you want, but I appreciate what his generation gave. I guess the real question is how much of that sentiment is appropriate in a service where we gather to lift up the name of God. I guess to be consistent we need to be as guarded in how we honor other things, too.

    7. Rest well, little blog.

    By Blogger Val, at 7/05/2004 10:32:00 PM  

  • ...and dream of large women.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/06/2004 02:14:00 AM  

  • 3. I think you handled the situation very well! I appreciate Serena's thoughts on this as well. I think it is easy to assume a lot about the guy, just as he assumed a lot about Highland...but do unto others....

    5. Rest, Run, eat guacamole, and go see a few movies (tis the season). Funny, I have never thought of you as a glass half-empty person.

    6. Well said Val!

    7. I will miss the blog family this week! Of course I can always follow their links and read their blogs.( I would love to pull a Travis or Jim here, but alas I am not techno savy enough to put a hyperlink in a comment.) When you come back, if you get Matt to help you with restricting comments, you might also ask him to help you put a site hit counter on your blog. They are free and easy. I bet we would all be amazed at how many hits this little blog gets in a day!

    Enjoy your break!

    By Blogger SG, at 7/06/2004 09:03:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    REST, brother! I am so thankful you're getting that time.
    As for the communion thing--whether it's a table with fancy inscription saying "This Do In Remembrance Of Me" or a "gym" table, the point is not the table!!! It's the people. Communion should be about community joining together to share a feast celebrating the life and death of Jesus. The feast he shared with the apostles in that upper room was probably not an occasion that was marked by silence and lack of contact or expression or conversation. It was most definitely a holy moment--but why do we try to make holy moments devoid of emotion or community? It seems ludicrous.
    Enjoy vacating. Wish we were at the beach too! The closest we'll get was last Saturday at Maddie's Hawaiian Luau. But, it was the next best thing!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 7/06/2004 11:18:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    REST, brother! I am so thankful you're getting that time.
    As for the communion thing--whether it's a table with fancy inscription saying "This Do In Remembrance Of Me" or a "gym" table, the point is not the table!!! It's the people. Communion should be about community joining together to share a feast celebrating the life and death of Jesus. The feast he shared with the apostles in that upper room was probably not an occasion that was marked by silence and lack of contact or expression or conversation. It was most definitely a holy moment--but why do we try to make holy moments devoid of emotion or community? It seems ludicrous.
    Enjoy vacating. Wish we were at the beach too! The closest we'll get was last Saturday at Maddie's Hawaiian Luau. But, it was the next best thing!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 7/06/2004 11:27:00 AM  

  • http://detales.blogspot.com/2004/07/holidays-are-wonderful-i-still-dont.html

    Oh be careful little fingers what you type!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/06/2004 08:50:00 PM  

  • 6. Not to use your blog for my own rant, but I just returned from a summer camp experience that used the 4th of July (the day camp started) as a lead in for a week filled with a marriage of church and state. At various points in the camp week:

    It was suggested that the pledge of allegiance could be said as a prayer, given that the words "under God" are present

    This revved up folks who liked the idea of sneaking prayer back into school or something (this point was confusing)

    We ended every breakfast with a devo and the pledge

    The place we met to eat and worship was decorated with flags EVERYWHERE. Not one mention of the cross or Christianity within the building.

    The theme was "Trust and Obey" and this was somehow tied to the importance of trusting our leaders and obeying them.


    Let me say that this camp was run by great people with good intentions. The good experiences far outweighed the bad. As a first time attendee and glorified visitor, I didn't feel right raising objections. However, when I mentioned my concern to one of the parents from my church, they seemed unconcerned. Am I off base on this?

    By Blogger chrismith, at 7/10/2004 06:16:00 PM  

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