Word of the Week

Resurrection: a Disruption of Order

What would you think if you walked into church on Sunday morning and found that the bulletin was completely blank?

Would you think the office administrator had forgotten something important? Would you think that the pastor was losing her mind? Would you show concern to the music director for the lack of a plan?

In the case of Washington Plaza yesterday, a disruption of order is exactly what we experienced. The bulletin was printed as normal with a thematic picture on the front cover and the announcements on the back cover. Yet, when you opened it up, there was nothing inside.  Two blank pages and worship to unfold as it would . . .  and, no, the staff did not forget to do their jobs. It was an intentionally designed service for our Easter series this year. We would practice the disruption of resurrection together in worship.

The great mystery of the resurrection is that nothing could ever be the same afterwards. Resurrection is strange. Life coming from death? (What??)  There's nothing logical emerging from it. There is no blueprint. There's no "ten steps ahead of you" plan given to us by God. Resurrection is the hope of clinging to what has to be lived through, not predicted ahead of time. Such are the ways of the Spirit of God, even as uncomfortable as they might make us feel. 

Yet, does how we structure our lives together as communities of faith in the modern era reflect this?

I'm a planner type-- I love plans and find them very helpful in leading a church-- don't get me wrong. But, might our desire for plans in worship, plans stemming from traditions, and plans from what we've always done  rob us of what resurrection actually is?

Resurrection as an adventure of not knowing what is next . . . .

Resurrection as a journey of ongoing discovery . . .

Resurrection as following a Teacher whom we trust will lead us in all things . . .

Resurrection as a surrender of our control . . .

I once worked with a pastor who was famous known for barely editing the bulletin Sunday to Sunday. Our services looked almost the same thing every week minus the change of hymns and sermon title. When I got the courage to question him about this once, he replied, "The world is a crazy place, you know. When people come to church, they like things stable. They like to know that some things are always the same."

As much as this statement goes against church growth strategies and the opinions of my former supervisor, I believe that church is not the place for stability if we are practitioners of the resurrection.

And, while I agree that the heart of the gospel remains the same-- no matter the time, no matter the season of the year-- I have to think that our worship become boring and stale if it looks exactly the same every Sunday and if we always believe we know what is coming next. If we are glued to our bulletins always type of people, then, we as church leaders are giving permission to our congregants to sleep walk through faith. We easily become those who not are really listening: only standing up and sitting down at the appropriate moments. 

When people come to Washington Plaza, I hope that they experience the gospel presented to them in fresh ways each Sunday. I hope that they take away the idea, no matter what the service theme is about, that the gospel encourages each of us to act. For the resurrection story that we are seeking to enact is ALIVE after all, isn't it?

And, for those of you who missed it and are wondering, we did just fine with the blank bulletins. In fact, the freedom of the experiment reminded us that resurrection has and always will be a verb.