It is the first of May and I, for one, am happy for the entrance of the new month. April, for all its glory because of wildflowers, has been an emotional roller coaster. It may just be me, but it's been an odd last few weeks. It began with Easter in March, which is early. When Easter is in April, it seems to focus the month. Easter in March left April a little discombobulated. Then, in quick succession, we struggled with the killings of the District Attorney and his wife in Kaufman County, the Boston Marathon bombing, the explosion in West. Mixed in that was revelation that the killer in Kaufman country was not a member of the Aryan brotherhood or some terrorist sect but a disgruntled and vengeful former Justice of the Peace. The news was full of sadness.
On the upswing, we witnessed the gathering of five living Presidents for the opening of the Bush Library, an event that was “class” all the way. Our former Presidents are a unique club. They witnessed to us that despite their vast ideological differences, they know how to treat each other with respect. It was a characteristic that I wistfully asked God to deliver to all our politicians.
The dedication of the Bush Library was followed almost immediately by images of the President, the Governor, and others speaking at the painfully sad memorial service in Waco for the twelve "first responders" who died at West.
We have struggled with our own sense of loss among our own church family. That has been balanced by our children preparing for their spring concert on May 12, and our graduating seniors developing serious cases of “senioritis.” They are excited to share their plans for their lives after high school, and it is exciting to listen to them. The month of April has been an emotional roller-coaster. May offers a bit of a respite.
Dana and I are wrapping up the bible studies we began way back last September. The children's and youth ministries are planning their school year ending programs and parties. There is a "male-bonding, spiritual life golf retreat" to northern New Mexico in my future this month, the 16th annual such trip, and I am very ready to go!
When I return, it’s Memorial Sunday and “Burgers for Biloxi!”, and
then annual conference the first full week of June.
May has focus; the golf trip. June has focus; conference. July has focus; VBS. April did not have focus. Even the wild flowers came and went without much notice. We need focus in our lives to put things into proper perspective.
My colleagues and I who are participating in the pilot program for Healthy Church Initiative have been reading and reflecting on the issue of “focus” in our churches. It is no secret that churches which are outwardly focused are healthier than churches which look only inward. One of the great strengths of this church is its long history of mission and missional outreach. But so often the missional outreach of a church can be passed to the “missions committee.” Then just a few key people become the standard bearers for the whole church’s mission.
One of the books we read as part of the pilot program suggests that in a truly outwardly focused church, each small group should do one project each month which is not based or directed toward itself. I think that is a tall order for a community where the membership is as deeply involved in other projects and opportunities for service as we are, but the challenge is a good one. What if we took on the challenge of one activity each quarter for every small group to do that is not directed toward themselves? Each Sunday school class, each bible study, each choir, each UMW circle, each small group decide among themselves what project they want to do and once every quarter spend some time on that project? The opportunities are endless. We can volunteer at Irving Cares, the Interfaith Clinic, read to children in the public schools (I’ve done this as part of Rotary. It’s a lot of fun. And, IISD has a program that goes through the summer), work on the garage sale, volunteer at the hospital, the police department, etc. We can ponder this over the summer. Then, when the small groups kick off in the fall, we can add to our agenda an opportunity to be the church beyond ourselves. When the Resurrected Christ needles Peter at that breakfast by the sea recorded in the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John, asking him, “Simon, son of do you love me?” Peter’s response is plaintive, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!” The Resurrected Christ then commands the reluctant Peter, “Tend my sheep.” I challenge us to look beyond ourselves and go out and tend some of the Lord’s sheep. It would be good for them, and good for us.
See you in church!Bill