Our recent conversations at worship have focused on the Protestant Reformation as we celebrate its 500th anniversary. It’s amazing to consider the legacies of the reformers—scripture in the vernacular, the priesthood of all believers, and the elevation of hymn singing, to name a few. Where would simple models of church be today if not for the reformers who sometimes gave their lives for a simpler, more accessible church that felt more true to their beliefs?
Yet, 500 years later, it seems like the reformation remains incomplete. If we are each invited into the ministry of all believers, and God is available to us and worthy of our worship at any time and place, then surely there is more reform to be received in God’s reign. God is not finished with us yet.
If you were to write 95 theses to the church today, what conversations might they spark? Are there reforms or protests that you are feeling called to articulate or help enact?
mom’s spaghetti, stir-fried kale,
my favorite bottled ginger ale,
seedless grapes, roast beef ciabatta
lemon parsley gremolata
enchiladas, pasta Thai,
crockpot soup, ham-on-rye
pinto beans, baked potatoes,
warm brie, sliced tomatoes,
steamed broccoli, Pringles chips
roasted carrots, hummus dips
Mardi Gras pancakes, black-eye peas,
fresh corn, or pimento cheese.
But when I’m busy, feeling about to die,
I run in the deli for a pre-made pie.
Then, everyone cheers! They love anything sweet.
And, still, it’s not about what we brought to eat.
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
(John 1:46, NRSV)
When we were in the beginning stages of birthing Potluck Church, we were fearfully hesitant to tell others about it. What would they think? Would they understand it? Would people serving in traditional churches be threatened by it? Would they judge it? Or judge us for feeling called to help start it?
So, we were very protective of the idea and of our zeal for it. It took a while to trust others with this baby. Over time, God taught us to share it, to be generous with this call, and to take risks to tell the story to others.
Occasionally we still encounter folks who will say something like, “Madisonville? Really? That’s where you started it? A small town in western Kentucky is doing something new?” In these moments I am reminded that something good can come from Nazareth, that God does do new things in places where we’d least expect. And I’m even more thankful, then, for the people who have spoken words of encouragement and inspiration. Thank you, encouragers—you know who you are.
At Potluck Church we gather together at one table. There are rare weeks when our table does not comfortably hold enough chairs. A few weeks ago we experienced one of those times. In a hurry, we added an extra table on the end to allow us to accommodate three more people, but we had no extra tablecloth on hand. To me, it felt like a kids table tacked on the end—like we had two-tiered seating. We joked that those chairs were “the cheap seats.” In hindsight I wish that I had offered to take one of those “cheap seats”—to do as Jesus encouraged and take a lower seat.(“All who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matt. 23:12, NRSV) But that’s hindsight for ya.
Every indoor worship space has a maximum capacity—a population number at which point the room no longer feels comfortable. And the rule of thumb for the traditional church is 80% occupancy of what the pews will technically hold. At 80% clergy are encouraged to either expand the sanctuary or offer more worship services. The warning is that visitors will turn away if the church grows past 80%.
But what is the percent capacity for a dinner church? For a worship where everyone sits at the table? If we are to be a church that claims all are welcome at the table, then an actual seat at the table with space for a plate seems critical to our way of worship.
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a
woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13:33, RSV)
On July 24, a seemingly ordinary dump truck was traveling down the I-5 through Tacoma, Washington. And everything was going as planned until around 4pm when the day started to get warm and summer sun started to heat up the metal sides of the dump truck as it carried a huge load of fresh dough down the interstate. And as the truck got warmer and warmer, the dough began to grow, and expand, and spill out of the top of the dump truck—oozing over the sides and onto the interstate, leaving a trail of globs of dough. Crews had to be called in to clean up the overflowing mess.
Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dump truck filled with dough on a hot summer day—overflowing in the midst of our rush hour. Maybe part of believing in the parables is to believe that Christ can and does meet us in the everydayness, in the ordinary of our common lives. Amidst the stuff of life, God continues to teach us, and encounter us, and remind us to watch for the quiet, almost silent, overflow of the Kingdom of Heaven.
One of the many benefits of attending the Leadership Academy hosted by the Disciples of Christ’s Hope Partnership for Missional Transformation is that they assign you a coach that will journey with you for a while. Potluck Church’s behind-the-scenes coach is Dr. Preston Adams—a man who has known the joys, challenges and pitfalls of starting new efforts, including new churches. The role of the coach is to ask questions, to listen and to return us back to our vision and mission when we find ourselves overwhelmed or adrift. The coach holds us accountable, without being paternalistic. Nurturing questions drive the conversation forward.
If you are starting a new congregation or ministry, let me encourage you to seek out a formal coaching relationship that will journey with you over the challenges and through the transitions and doubt-filled wilderness times. Find a coach that will pray for you and your ministry, celebrate with you at the smallest of victories and help you to see and keep watch. Because it is through sustained attention and focus that you will see God building your ministry.
Thank you, Dr. Adams and Hope Partnership.
We are in the final moments of eclipse countdown right now as we welcome visitors and prepare to experience totality today in western Kentucky. This will be my first solar eclipse, so I don’t quite know what to expect, but I imagine that it will be a spiritual moment for many of us—to recognize a sense of unity that we all share on this little planet in the universe, and to see the power of creation’s ability to put on a show for generations of creatures, great and small.
In the early days of Potluck Church we began by asking the question “Where did you see God this week?” Worshipers would share as they felt led to answer. Sometimes there were great silences, followed by confessions that God had been hard to see in their weeks. Then one among us suggested that we change the word “see” to “experience,” because “see” is too limiting of a word. And so now we ask a different question—a question that might allow us to talk about the eclipse as a place where we experience our creator not just in what we will see in the sky or on the ground, but also in what we will feel, and hear and sense with our whole beings and in our connectedness.
Thank you in advance, Creator God, for the opportunity to experience this eclipse moment today with you and in unity with all of your creatures.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.