July 27, 2018, Weekly Note From the Preacher Woman

Beloved:

It was good to get home on Saturday afternoon from camp. I emptied most of my suitcase in the dirty clothes, took a long shower to remove the smell of campfire from my hair, and then got ready to go back for our adventure at camp together on Sunday morning after our service here in Madras.

What a great day! We are already planning for our all-church picnic and worship at Suttle Lake to become an annual event. There were 35 of us, plus staff and counselors gathered on the playing field for barbeque out on the beautiful lawn. The menu was traditional picnic fare with hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, chips and drinks. We managed to rearrange the tables so we could all sit in the shade, and even had a bit of excitement when the automatic sprinklers turned on suddenly. The intrepid Resident Counselors ran for the sprinklers to keep the water off all of us—so they were the only ones to get wet. After lunch, we gathered in one of the chapel areas and worshipped together. The Resident Counselors joined us for worship, and provided leadership in “Fred the Moose,” and also sang one of the songs I learned from them in the course of our week together. It is called “Madly,” and I wanted to share the lyrics with you:

I’m madly in love with you.

I’m madly in love with you.

I’m madly in love with you.

I’m madly in love with you.

Let what we do in here,

Get to the streets out there.

We will dance for you.

We will dance for you.

That is the whole thing, isn’t it? Earlier in the morning, a young woman stood out in our greeting area. Gary introduced her to me, and we visited a few minutes before worship. She explained that she was looking for a church. We chatted a few more minutes about this and that, and then she said that she had noticed our rainbow flag as she was walking by the church other day. “Is that for real?”

“Well, yes,” I said, “we are a reconciling congregation, which means that everyone is welcome here.

 She paused, “I was kicked out of my home church. My pastor told me I am going to hell.”

 Since then, she has been looking for a place to belong. So far, she hadn’t been welcomed in any church she had tried.

My heart cracked a bit as she shared her story.

I was glad to be able to say that I thought she would not experience that here.

She took a seat near the back, and I kept an eye out for her. I saw folks greet her, shake her hand and welcome her. The sermon text for the morning, was about Paul and Barnabas returning to Jerusalem. Some folk had heard about their welcoming the Gentiles into the fold, and wanted to make sure that the new converts realized they would have to change their ways in order to be part of the community of Jesus followers. Paul and Barnabas argued with them until they were blue in the face, and they all finally decided to head back to Jerusalem to see what the Apostles and elders had to say.

The conversation must have been long and intense. They had a hard decision to make—do we insist that all who follow Jesus conform to one orthodoxy—i.e. become Jews—or do we make room at the table for those who had never been invited? Their decision on that day changed everything. Who is welcome? Who can be one of us? How wide is God’s circle? The debate still rages.

After the service, I invited her to join us on our field trip to Suttle Lake. She couldn’t, because she works three jobs. I said, I hoped she would come back.

The card she filled out during the service had these words written in a neat hand: “I felt very welcome here.”

Beloved, may “what we do in here, get to the streets out there.” Thanks be to God.

See you Sunday, Pastor Nancy