Tag: Pastor’s Corner

Keep an open mind when it comes to family worship services

 

Keep an open mind when it comes to family worship services

Published: August 20, 2013, The Island Packet, Bluffton Edition

 

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Have you ever been to a “Family Worship Service”?  I have, and it was fascinating. The service I’m thinking about was a Christmas service at a church I had served near Boston. I sat in the balcony, where I had a great view of the hundreds of moms, dads and their children. Whole families were sitting together in the pews — and it was noisy.

Sometimes when we think of church, we think of contemplative chapels with candles lit, silent prayers of confession, worship with a well-trained choir who sing with well-picked pauses and preachers who stop to let one think. Family services are nothing like that. Children have very few boundaries, and so the sanctuary becomes a place of constant movement (sort of like a hill of ants after having been kicked).

I worshipped with these families in an incredibly participatory style. We danced, played and listened to stories. Our eyes darted as children decided to dance in the aisles, and there was not candle lighting at the end like at most Christmas services I had attended. This was family friendly.

I left feeling exuberant, and having been raised in a family of five as the oldest, I enjoyed every minute. My church had brought families together and demonstrated an act of incredible vibrancy. Not all people felt as I did, however. I asked one of the worship directors (not a children’s ministry worship leader but a whole church worship leader who had led with guitars and singing) how he felt about it after giving my glowing review, and he was not as optimistic. The same energy, seeming chaos and unpredictability that I was celebrating was a thing of disconcertment for him. He felt out of control, unable to perceive where the service was going to go, and I believe he didn’t feel a sense of connection with his intended audience.

On Sunday mornings in a gathering of more than 1,000, the harmony of many adult voices singing would be quite different. I left him and wondered to myself about the canyon between our perceptions on such a lively worship event and I’ll admit I was a bit discouraged.

The question that bothers me the most is this, “Should children worship with adults?” We’re quite good at segregating the ages and sending children to “Kids Church,” youth to the “Youth Service,” and young adults to various small groups and offering fellowship offerings throughout the week. But I’ve always wondered how that affects the future of the church. What does it say to a child? When you take them into a place where we say we are entering and recognizing the Glory of God, and then, we send them to another place?

One who studies basic behavioral psychology knows that children develop patterns early on, and those patterns remain with them the rest of their lives. One alarming statistic going about the church today is that millennial young adults are not returning to the church. But I think to myself, we’ve been sending them away for a long time, why would they come back?

In Matthew 19, we see a similar tendency to segregate when the disciples rebuke parents from taking children to have Jesus pray over them. He says quite explicitly, “Let the little children come to me.”

I think this deserves some attention in our sanitized, clean and orderly modern worship services. How undignified are we willing to go to be welcoming and faithful to our future generations — who are the church of today not, as people often say, “the church of tomorrow”? Personally, I love when something out of the ordinary happens in church. A crying baby means there is life in that church. A teen might seem bored but at he or she is trying — and it means the family cares enough to build patterns of faithfulness in that young person’s life.

So how far are you willing to go? What would a family church look like? God’s family has all ages — from the Greatest Generation to the least.

Let’s get uncomfortable together.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Dealing with the Doubts of Thomas, our Twin (Article)

 

Doubting Thomas might have a twin … in us

Published: April 24, 2013

The Island Packet, Bluffton Edition

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Since moving to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton area, I’ve noticed something I thought was unique: There are an incredible number of twins in the area.

When I first started as a youth director at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Hilton Head, our youth ministry had three groups of twins participating. I even met a family who had adopted twins from Russia. I remember thinking, after meeting quite a few more older sets of twins, that there must be something in the water that natives hadn’t told us about. After some quick Internet research, I became less surprised.

Since the 1980s, twins have become more common and make up about 1 in every 30 births in our country. As is expected, they can be extremely connected to one another, sometimes creating verbal cues and language they alone understand. Despite this, they tend to be very competitive and can push each other pretty hard. And, later in life, it can be hard for the two to separate into adult lives apart.

I mention this because Thomas, the “doubter” of Jesus’ resurrection, has the Greek name, Didymus, which is Greek for “twin.” Twice I’ve read through the story of Thomas, who said he would not believe Jesus had returned until he saw the Lord’s wounds in person. Jesus appears, and Thomas awakens in faith. In the process, this twin has had a lot of bad publicity, but I think he’s gotten a bad deal.

If Thomas was a twin, the Scriptures do not mention the other. It is possible he had lost his twin earlier in his life. In a literary sense, many interpreters speculate that we (as in the readers as individuals) may be the “twin” of Thomas, facing our own doubts as we hear and weigh the gospel. A Gnostic Gospel (written long after the gospels) attributes the twin to be Jesus himself. I read one article that humorously remarked how surprised Mary and Jesus himself would have been to hear that. The first explanation resonates with me, and this has colored my view of Thomas in a totally different hue.

If Didymus was a twin who was separated from someone with whom he’d been so close, his connection to Jesus would have been different from that of the other disciples. Churches sometimes talk today about having a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. Who would understand this more than a twin? Who would have a natural understanding of having a deep and intimate friendship and bond with someone they love and respect? And who would have had the hardest time dealing with the death of their Lord and the relationship with the master?

Previously, Thomas was stout in faith and courage. In John chapter 11, he told the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” as Jesus deals with the death of Lazarus. He then seems to experience some separation anxiety in John chapter 14, “Thomas said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?'” when Jesus begins mentioning his own demise in the progression toward Jerusalem and the cross. I’ve read that this also explains why Thomas may not have been with the other disciples when they saw Jesus the first time. Was he in intense grief, unable to bear company or comfort, dealing with the death of his hopes and dreams that had previously been invested in Jesus?

Then Christ appears to him, and he is once again awakened. The connection is unbroken, and the source of life is returned to a broken and hurting spirit. He believes, and from that moment Thomas’s life has a clear direction. He is recorded to have ministered as far as present-day Iran and he died preaching and teaching the good news of his lord, Jesus Christ.

If I were to “go” like Thomas did, and believe with the passion of a committed twin, what could we accomplish? Who would receive the hope that emanates from the light of belief in our hearts? We could turn the love we have received into a tangible expression of goodness for our world. Let’s tell the stories of how moving from brokenness and doubt toward the moment belief transforms everything.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Living Beyond the Apocalypse: Immanuel

Amid all the worry, doomsday talk, there’s one big reason to feel joy

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Do the following phrases seem familiar? “Have good cheer.” “Joy to the world.” “Peace on Earth.” “Oh what fun!” “Good tidings we bring.” “With true love and brotherhood; each other now embrace.” “We wish you a Merry Christmas!”Of course, these are all lines are from popular carols, and you can hear them on the street or sung by pop singers in your local Starbucks. The pure optimism that rings in the voices of those singing these words often wakes me up.My eyes sometimes get cloudy. Don’t you know that the end of the world is coming (thanks, Mayans!).

I want to be cheerful, but I hear a lot about worry. There are worries about future generations and our nation’s future; worries about our economy and our ability to compete in a global marketplace; there are worries about our families, our homes, our cars, our relationships and on and on the list goes.

The problem with worry is that it can become a world view. How can plans be made if we are terrified of what is to come? How can the world move forward if we can’t seem to grasp and control our individual and collective destinies? To use words from the book of Ecclesiastes, everything can become a “chasing after the wind” and our work in the world can feel “meaningless.”

But are things really that bad? Google recently released a video showing what people were wondering about over the year (see “Google zeitgeist 2012”). Some of the queries were inspiring, some were just sad: Lindsanity. Hurricane Sandy. Gabby Douglas. The Hunger Games. Kony 2012. Honey Boo Boo. Mars landing. Some of the worries I had about the new year melted away as I realized how much had happened in the one previous. Remembering the past is a good way to have hope for a better future.

One encouraging story happened a long time ago, in a land far away from our Lowcountry. Some shepherds were with their sheep in the night. The times were uncertain, militaries were engaged across the known world. There were politicians, emperors, religious people, merchants struggling and succeeding much like us, and there were deteriorating dangerous roads.

One moment, the sky opened and a spiritual display startled and terrorized these men. Then a being (a messenger of the heavens, an angel) opened the sky to tell them something big. They saw a celebration so bright it was beyond imagination, and their lives were changed forever. A child was born, Jesus the Christ.

The angel announced the coming of a king who would save the world. The shepherds rushed out and told everyone, and people were amazed. History was demarcated, and God proved that life isn’t stagnant, that our lives are constantly ready for a new event, a renewal.

Sometimes we need to look back to remember that our future is bright. Personally, I’ll be doing that at St. Andrew By-The-Sea’s Christmas Eve service, under the stars, on the fields next to Station 300. I’ll stand with others, a candle in my hand and remember that no amount of worry will change an iota of the future. God has it all wrapped up. In Jesus, he came to be with us, lived among us, and he is and always will be with us.

When I sing carols this Christmas, I’ll remember our hope through every detail, because of our God, Immanuel.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Living Beyond Difficulty for Something Bigger: The Woman at the Well

WomanAtTheWell

Look beyond life’s difficulties to something bigger

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 

In youth ministry we spend a lot of time thinking about the systems that surround young people today. Families face a multitude of issues as they try to find their version of “normal” in a world where it is becoming clear that there is no true “normal.”Each person is different, so care and ministry vary according to the situation. And in a world full of personal freedoms, we are like flowers in a field competing for sunlight (attention) and nutrients (pay checks) to push ourselves above the grass (ordinary existence).

We don’t want to be bored, so we fill our lives with endless entertainments and activities. It is easy to get bogged down and stressed by the details.

One woman in the ancient world, who lived in an area known as Samaria, was the poster girl for “the complicated life.” We don’t know her name, but some of the details of her life are recorded for us. Her people were competitors in the religious marketplace and were despised for creating an alternative to Judaism based on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. She had a hard life, likely having lived through either the deaths of five husbands or through five divorces. Either way, she was a woman who knew hardship and grieving. She knew the stresses life can bring.

She’s found in the gospel of John, chapter 4. I’ve read this story over and over again. It was the first portion of Scripture I ever wrote a paper on, and it continues to speak to me. At the well, Jesus, after walking a long way and needing rest, food and water, stopped while his students went to find food for everyone to eat. Jesus saw the woman and talked with her despite the social barrier.

I’ve read a lot about how awesome Jesus did in breaking through the “status quo” in this and many other situations. He told the woman about her complicated life, but then offered her some water, but not ordinary water, rather “living water.”

She wrangled with him about the details for a while concerning religion and spirituality (much as we do today when we hear someone say they attend one church or another), and he broke through all that, moving instead to the big idea beyond it all: One day you will worship God in spirit and in truth. She talked about a big hope of everyone, the hope for the Messiah (an anointed king who would save everyone from oppression or bondage). Jesus told her, I’m that person.

That’s big stuff.

I imagine her with a blank face for a second or two. I also imagine it would have been an awkward moment as she looked at Jesus, testing his face for authenticity. But in the moment she decided to trust him, the details of her life seemed to be overshadowed by a new story. She burst into the town and told the people of Sychar (her home city) that she met a man who told her everything about her, and that he might be the king everyone has been waiting for.

From a life of ashes, she arose as an evangelist. There was good news for her people, and many people have come to Jesus because of her. They also trusted in him and believed his words.

In the midst of trying to build chaos of this world, I invite you to look deep into the Scriptures and find yourself in the woman. Become excited and forget all the norms. Be who God wants you to be. Be full of excitement and joy because something big is coming. Reach out and extend your hands to others, and find purpose as an extension of God’s love for all.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill.

On Hurricane Sandy: Dealing with the Problem of Evil in a Technological Super Connected World

Image Source: causecast.com

Staying connected even when the news is bad

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
info@islandpacket.com
Published Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We exist in a technological world where Twitter and Facebook deliver first hand pictures and stories of disaster to our hands wherever we are.  As hurricane Sandy neared the east coast the last few days, people I know in England were messaging my wife and I letting us know of their prayers for our safety.  Though we live in South Carolina and were safe, we both have families in affected areas, and it was nice to be so connected.

At other times, however, it is quite surreal.  While people were posting scriptures and prayers for those losing power and struggling with the elements, others were joking about “Gungnam Style” dancing (a Korean gone global dance craze) which might be a rain dance, surmising that we’ve brought Sandy down on ourselves.

I suppose the disconnection between what we see online about disaster, and what we are experiencing brings about a bit of melancholy.  It is strange to be captured by something so big, yet feel no real effects in the actual world.  Though it feels like we, ourselves, emotionally, have gone through the tragedy with our brothers and sisters in Jersey and New York with this all access.  How are we supposed to take this all in?  How are we not to become overloaded by the gory details?  How much can we really help?

As workers at a church, we are not immune to these issues, and at staff meeting today, our group discussed how such huge storms seem to a type of evil in our world.  While we realize the natural world swirls and has processes that we seek to understand and find equilibrium with, we simultaneously have to grapple with the suffering disequilibrium brings.  Even with a weeks foresight the devastation is astronomical:  $20 Billion in damages and the priceless lives of 46 people lost.  No time for grieving, cleanup and repairs to this huge swath of humanity begins.

Some say that the storm is punishment.  They point to a sign of God’s judgment on these people, perhaps not particularly those hit, but America as a whole.  This same sentiments were expressed during the Haiti earthquake, the Asian tsunami, after Katrina, and in 9/11.  Being Methodist, my response to this is very Methodist as well.  The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission work in the midst of destruction, poverty and great need, and their reflections mirror my own, and in an article on their mission, they point to the theology of the Incarnation:

“At the heart of this theology is the clear biblical expression of our loving Creator God who, in the words of Jesus, ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (John 3:16-17) God is in the business of salvation, not destruction–offering healing and wholeness. God is about loving care, not supernatural punishment.”

In the midst of all the brokenness in our world, the Incarnation is God’s presence among us.  This was in the person of Christ, and in the Holy Spirit among us today.  We work to make God’s Kingdom a reality today – redeeming what was once broken and making it whole again.  In this mission we become more like God, as a people – humanity becomes stronger, and we exhibit God’s light in the midst of dark times.

While there is certainly evil in our own times, God is not here to break us further, but He is our Redeemer and we participate in this amazing mission to heal our world.

Pastor’s Corner: Was God Born? The Concept of Eternity and a Great Mysterious God

Grasping God’s greatness is an adventure of the mind

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A recent letter by a child to God asked, “God, how were you born?”That same question came up last night with a group of middle school students. I remember grappling with this thought myself; the notion of an ultimate creator being created is a natural one.We are all born into this world. None of us has ever not been born — unless you are an extremely unique creature. So far everyone I have met has had a birth date, and there have been witnesses, so no one has been able to claim otherwise in spite of the fact that we don’t remember our own moments of personal genesis.

The notion that God has no beginning and also no end is a mind twister. I remember having the concept of eternity explained to me in my early years this way: A dove holds a feather in her beak and is able to fly from one end of the known universe to the other end. In the middle of the universe, there is an iron ball the size of Jupiter. The dove grazes the iron ball with the feather each time it passes. On the day that the iron ball is completely worn down to nothing by the dove’s feather, that is the day that eternity has just begun.

That last part usually takes a moment to sink in. Understanding that God has no beginning or end, and is the Alpha and Omega of all things in our own universe, is hard to grasp. It takes a bit of appreciation of mystery, and yet the concept draws us in. Those who do good wish to have an eternity, in order to do the most to better mankind and the universe. The evil genius wants an eternity to destroy what the good people build.

The stories of the ancient gods, who were very human in their frailties, seem to be about their longing to go on epic adventures without the worry of one day dying. In wisdom literature, the book of Ecclesiastes says, “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, in a reply to the letter of the child I mentioned previously, tried to respond for God in his own words and simply said, “But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!” The response is quite charming and full of grace and love to a 6-year-old named Lulu.

Grasping the greatness, or “big-ness” of God is a great undertaking. This is an adventure of the mind and a journey of faith. The box we build to put God into continues to break, even as we learn what God has put in the box for us to see. That is why I love the Scriptures. That is why I love the continued action of faith in the lives of people who express the eternity of God by doing great and wondrous things.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Overcoming Fear of the Monster: Building a Common Language for Discovering God

Turn the corner to find an ally in God

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sometimes I feel as though my life were a cartoon, like “DuckTales” or “The Gummy Bears.” Both are Disney cartoons I frequently watched back in the day, mainly because the characters often took off on adventures, searching for treasure in some long-forgotten place. Jungles, deserts, caves and old temples were opened and explored. I’ll never forget the surprised looks on the adventurers’ faces as they encountered mummies or some other Indiana Jones-like booby-trap. Those looks of fear made me feel as though I shared in their impending disaster.

 

The Gummy Bears would merely bounce around until they either stunned the enemy or passed him. In “DuckTales,” Scrooge McDuck, the eccentric millionaire, and his nephews would usually run and scatter, hoping to run from the issue and regroup later to make a plan. Whether the reaction is fight or flight, standing in a situation with unknown results is terrifying, even in a cartoon and especially for the children watching and waiting through three minutes of commercials to find out the eventual resolution. Every cartoon used this mechanism, though, to keep kids biting their nails, waiting for that next harrowing moment — all the while selling us sugary cereals and cool new sneakers.

A recent conversation about faith reminded me of this fear last week. I was on a dock, getting to know some really cool new people, when it came up that I work at the local Methodist church as a youth director. Our conversation turned to the apprehension many have about religion and faith in general. I often hear about the division of science and faith. Science being the discovery of truth and reality through the use of hypothesis, empirical testing and the creative aspect of formulating new ideas for intriguing problems with the goal of filling in the gaps in human knowledge.

I do think this dichotomy is false. In fact, I think those who believe in God have an imperative to discover how his creation is ordered, and in this process of testing truths, we gain a greater understanding of the universe and begin to see the brush strokes of a greater genius.

But with new discoveries being made daily, religion can be like that scary monster around the bend. Each generation turns a new corner ,and they find something big that has been generated by people and their experiences and thoughts on God over millennia. Any conversation on belief in God often seems convoluted, and the first response can be to turn about and run. Running doesn’t solve the problem, however. Eventually you have to come back to the same issue. A plan is necessary.

One day, each generation will have to walk into the face of the “monster” and find out if it is real, and, if so, is it benevolent or something to be fought. Sometimes fear is irrational and needs to be tested in the face of truth. Other times, fear helps us assess properly and soberly our reality, our place in the situation, our plan to move forward, and our method of proceeding.

I’ve found that the monster we tend to fight or run from is not God at all. It is merely a scarecrow built by others, or a trap we have put out ourselves to keep all the bad stuff away. The adventure cannot proceed unless one turns that corner toward belief. And once this is done, you’ll find you are not alone.

Even in the most anxious moments, God is an ally, not an enemy.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

I find it refreshing when people open up and find language for their journey, regardless of their views. I like to share mine as well, and in the end, let the truth of reality be something we all strive for together.

Read more of The Island Packet (here).