I’ve always admired people who have read the Bible cover to cover. It’s a grand accomplishment that requires disciplined dedication. I’ve started reading the Bible in this way many times, but midway through Exodus my daily discipline turns into an occasional practice that never survives through Leviticus.
A few months ago I heard someone reference the “snowball” model of debt reduction. Basically, the model is that when someone has a list of debts, this model suggests that it’s more effective to pay off the smallest debts (by amount) first. While mathematically a strategy of paying off debts with the largest interest rates first is a solid approach, a new study from researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that the emotional motivation gained from paying off accounts through the “snowball” method led to better results long-term. (See http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news_articles/2012/snowball-approach.aspx.)
This study got me thinking. What if I aimed to read the Bible as a snowball? I googled “Bible reading checklist” and printed off a checklist that has a check box for every single chapter in every book of the Bible. Then I started with the book that had the smallest number of chapters—Jude! In one sitting, I read a whole book of the Bible. Yay! And, instantly, I was hooked. The Bible Reading Snowball is working!
So here is a challenge to you. If you’ve been longing to be a regular scripture reader, consider joining me in the Bible Reading Snowball as we roll from Jude all the way through Psalms. No snow required.
It’s a joy sharing our experience with others. In recent weeks we’ve received several how-to questions about Potluck Church, and it got us wondering if those who read this blog might also have similar questions. So, here are three quick questions and answers:
How do you arrange the tables?
At present we place four 96” x 30”, plastic, heavy-duty folding tables together into a large rectangle and set up to 18 chairs around the large rectangle. Then we cover it with two barely overlapping king-sized white sheets to give us the look of a unified tablecloth. This allows us to all sit together and have one conversation around what feels like one table. In the center with the Christ candle we will have some sort of simple table decoration that will set our theme or enhance our worship time together in some way.
Do you have music in worship?
Other than times when we listen together to a piece of music that relates to our theme or scripture, or the annual Christmas caroling trip, we typically do not have music. The simple reason for this is that no one around the table currently has expressed an interest in sharing their gifts of music with us. Our worship is an authentic expression of the spiritual gifts present around the table when we gather. Music would be a wonderful way to worship in Potluck Church. This question reminds me that Matthew 26:30 tells us after Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Last Supper, they sang a hymn before they went out to the Mount of Olives. What a meaningful way to end such a meal!
How do we decide who prays?
We typically have an opening prayer and another dedicated time of prayer as we end our conversation and turn toward the bread and cup. Both of these are often spoken extemporaneously. Sometimes a topic or liturgical season will lead us toward a printed prayer that is recited. Whatever the style, type or method of prayer, we simply ask for volunteers in the moment. “Who would like to pray for our meal tonight?” Or, “Who would like to say a prayer for these prayers that we’ve shared?” Most nights someone will quickly speak up. If no one feels called to pray aloud, we will have a time of silence to say our own prayers from our hearts. By inviting everyone around the table into opportunities for leadership, we make the worship together.
What questions do you have about Potluck Church? Send me a message and we'll try to answer them as best we can.
Typically when I read Luke 2:8-14, it’s Linus’s voice that I hear in my head, telling us “what Christmas is all about.”* But, as I read the words this year, the phrase ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν struck me. The NRSV translates it as “terrified,” but the phrase connotes some appropriately fearful reverence—the stuff of awe-inspired worship. Today, we so rarely use the phrase God-fearing, but many biblical encounters describe this sort of reverent fear of the divine.
At the turn of the year I often see the question,”What would you do if you were not afraid?” It’s an evocative question that can help uncover assumed obstacles and stir up possibilities within us. Fears can stop us in our tracks, and being able to articulate our fears can help us acknowledge them and move through the fear toward responsive action. It makes me wonder how the shepherds living on the hillside moved past their initial response (ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν) and started walking to Bethlehem. The message for them is, in part, to not be afraid.
Then again, maybe fearful awe is an important accompaniment to faithful action. Maybe the question we should be asking isn’t “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Maybe instead we should be asking ourselves, “What might you do if you responded to the awestruck fear and allowed it to guide you into action?”
*Mendelson, Lee, Charles M. Schultz, Bill Melendez, Vince Guaraldi, Robert T. Gillis, David Benoit, Chuck McCann, et al. 2008. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Burbank, Calif: Warner Home Video).
Recently my husband was talking with someone about how to establish a Potluck Church in her town, and the inquirer remarked how easily he spoke about eating a meal in memory of Christ. “It seems to roll off of your tongue—this experience of eating with Christ.”
Setting a plate and cup for Christ at our worship meal is a weekly practice for us. Is it symbolic? Yes, but it’s more than that. It’s an acknowledgment of Immanuel—God with us. He is here as we worship. He is here at this table. He is here, ready to sit at all of our tables.
Revelation 3:20 (NRSV) teaches, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” What a gift! To eat with Christ.
Immanuel. Truly present. God with us.
Merry Christmas to you and all that grace your table!
This week our Potluck Church worship gathering will be mobile. We’ll gather to light our Advent candle of joy, and then we’ll head out into the community to go caroling.
It’s a fun thing to do, caroling—silly, even. But it is a great way to spread the joy of Christmas. We are all invited to bring names of those we’d like to visit. Sometimes the name is of someone who is sick, or lonely, or just in need of some cheer. Other times it’s someone that we are missing in our lives, and we just want to reconnect. Once we encountered a farmer looking for his lost bull! On another occasion we caroled to a friend in his bathrobe. These are some of our fun caroling memories that make us laugh and, over the years, are becoming the stuff of legends.
There are other special memories, too—times when we got to see God at work right before our eyes. Like when a son asked if we might carol to his father, because they had not spoken in over a year. There were tears all around. And in the midst of that reunion, it made us wonder if we had just experienced the sort of joy that Jesus was talking about in his parable told in Luke 15 when the prodigal father and the prodigal younger son meet. It was a great, great joy!
Maybe tomorrow night we’ll get the honor once again to bring good news of a great joy that is for all of the people (Luke 2:10).
[After reading the poem “The Plastic Angel” by Ann Weems, extend the invitation by saying. . .]
Sometimes we come to this table feeling sort of plastic, as if our own annunciations are feeble—filled with doubt. But from the beginning, this table has always been a place that made room for those who doubt, those who misunderstand, those who talk a good game, those who miss the messages, those who loose hope, and those who lack glory. And, yet, Jesus welcomed them around the table.
There is a place for us here.
[See Ann Weems, “The Plastic Angel,” in Kneeling in Bethlehem (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1987), 43. Currently available to be viewed via Google Books.]
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?
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.