Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Forgive me for bringing this up waaaayy too early. But I’m skeptical about the phenomenon of Christmas gift receipts. Sure, you can include with any gift a special receipt without price, allowing for easy return. But mostly, we do this with Christmas gifts. And I think the trend’s increasing.

Which annoys me, instinctively. Perhaps I’m missing the point. But consider that, first off, it’s a total lie; if you return the gift, you learn the price anyway. So apparently, you’re only not supposed to know the gift’s value if you use it, as intended. But if not, who cares? I find that confusing. More importantly, though, why are we so obsessed with returning gifts in the first place?! Do we feel entitled to critique what others spend freely on us, judging whether it’s truly worthy of our possessing it? I know not everyone feels this way, and that some gifts are epically bad. Nevertheless, a gift is a gift. It’s something you don’t pay for, that you had no claim to originally. So say you’re welcome, enjoy it or put it in the closet. A poor gift does no harm. Usually.

But it’s May. We should be thinking not of Christmas, but sun, gardens and vacations. And, of course, pledge campaigns. PCCC does this annually, ask PCCCers to make pledges for next year’s budget. I won’t focus on that except to remind you a) pledges by May 19 please!, and b) our 2013 theme is spiritual gifts.

So…about spirituals gifts, what are yours? How do you give them, develop them, gracefully receive others’? It’s an awkward question for MN-nice folk. We don’t like proclaiming our gifts. The thing is, though, God created you. God’s Spirit dwells within you. So you have spiritual gifts. Deal with it. No heavenly Macy’s available for return!

The question, therefore, is one of stewardship, using our gifted resources well. And one way I think PCCC does this is through participation in worship. We both receive others’ gifts and share ours through prayer, fellowship, song. So to explore that, I recently asked intern Hayden to think with me about our worship, asking whether our church shares well our best gifts each Sunday. Our decision: Maybe, often, many prayers are wonderful , the choir’s joyous! But the deeper stuff- Plymouth Creek’s values- don’t get shared consistently enough, obviously enough. Would every Sunday visitor know we value unconditional hospitality? Friendly, intimate community? Freedom of belief? Joyful service? Some Sundays, totally obvious. Other Sundays, not really.

Plus, I don’t think we’re “receiving” or probing these values as richly as we could. The reason: Your worship planner- me!- doesn’t communicate in those terms regularly. So we’re making a couple tweaks this month; a good ole PCCC worship experiment. First, we’re including one non-scripture reading in every service, something from a novel, poem or wise sage related to that week’s scripture. Hopefully, this communicates to us and newcomers that we welcome many voices to the table, believing God works beyond our walls, inviting us to follow! Second, we’ll take a half minute or so after each sermon for personal prayer and reflection. This acknowledges that preachers never “finish” the sermon; listeners do! So with Jeremae softly playing as everyone ponders prayerfully (or waits patiently), we’ll have more freedom to believe and decide how God wants us to live.

Maybe you’ll like these experiments. Maybe not. But we’re trying, which matters. Put differently, we’re hoping to include more gifts in our worship, and give ourselves more chances to receive them well. If it works, these gifts could welcome visitors better, while empowering us to serve God’s world more. If it doesn’t work, consider this letter a worship gift receipt. We’ll stop, start over and try again! The point is, you never get a gift if you’re not opening to receiving it. Either you turn it away, or return it for yourself, and then it’s not a gift anymore, not really. Which is fine if the original gift was a ghastly, ugly sweater! But for spiritual gifts, more’s at stake; God’s kingdom come on earth. May we have courage to receive- and give- as God intends. Worshipfully, consistently, together.

Grace and Peace,

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