Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Surprise On Sunday

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to worship yesterday. Hope you got something out of it, and put something into it too. For those who couldn't make it, check out ShawneeUMC.com for a re-cap and a quick set of questions that will enable you to go a bit deeper on the subject of "hard work". The devotion is great (Charlotte Hefner put it together, so you know it has to be good), and will help you immensely. We're hoping to have downloadable audio files of the sermon on-line soon, so please be patient while we play "catch-up" with technology.

Now, on to the blog musings...

Spent this evening with twelve wonderful educators planning our first ever "Back to School Blessing", which will be a worship service geared to lifting up teachers, students, and school support staff. Education is so important, and in recent times, the church has, in many cases, "cut its nose off to spite its face" when it comes to getting behind the public schools. Too often, we paint these places as "godless" institutions simple because prayer can't be conducted on a PA system to start the day, forgetting that as long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in school.

The best (or worst) example that I ever saw of this occurred about 10 years ago here in Shawnee. After two or three years of poor turnouts for the annual "See You At the Pole" prayer time at Shawnee High School, the group that organized the event decided that the best way to draw a larger crowd of students at 7am in the morning for prayer was to contact the pastor of the largest youth group in the community, and ask them to be a part of the event. It just so happened that I was that pastor, and thinking, at the time, that prayer could never be a bad thing, I readily agreed to help wherever I could.

So, after a couple of phone calls where I was basically told that I wouldn't really need to do much, just invite our youth group to show up and lead the prayer, I arrived that morning very optimistic. I wasn't disappointed at the turnout either, as the event which had never drawn more than ten people before, drew at least hundred students, teachers, and administrators that morning. I thought it was fantastic....

until the prayer began.

I learned a great lesson that day: The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked. And since I never asked any concrete questions about the schedule for the morning, I had no idea that 1) a teen had been asked to sing "America the Beautiful" (which turned out to be very cool), and 2) another pastor had been asked to open up the prayer (which turned out to be a disaster). I never knew that small group that been praying at the pole had used it as an opportunity to beseech and beg God to somehow break through the darkness that was the faculty, administration, and the school board, and help them institute formal daily prayer, bible classes, and the abolition of certain books or texts. I never knew that ALL (which was the word I heard used) the faculty and administration (many of whom attended our church) needed to be saved because virtually none of them were. That very few students were "living for God", and needed his "revival" immediately . That, in fact, God was currently not present in that school, and needed to be "allowed" to return.

Talk about a downer.... pretty much every faculty member, administrator, and student there that morning was "called out" in that prayer, in ways that weren't accurate or truthful. Never before, or after, have I ever received more negative feedback in regards to prayer than I did the rest of that day (and pretty much the rest of the week).

The "Back to School Blessing" won't be about that kind of division that so many Christians feel exists between the public school and church. We'll be thanking God for all the dedicated teachers and administrators who are giving their best effort to raise up students intellectually and morally. We'll pray for students so that they might remain focused on their studies, be good to one another, and celebrate the progress they will be making in the coming year. And mostly, we'll thank God for the way He is present in the school, all of the time, reaching out to every person who will listen, working in ways that can, and can't, be understood. We will thank God for our schools, and for people who choose to home school, and ask for his continued blessing.

September 11th @ 11am. Don't miss it!

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