Friday, January 19, 2007

Playing at work

I have had the most fun today. I've been working on our "theme" for the new service--a unifying image to tie the mail-outs about the new service, the outdoor advertising, and the banners inside all together and give us a symbol to sort of rally around, and I think I've found an image that will work...I'll post more when I see if the planning committee agrees.
Now, there's the little matter of Zacchaeus, and how I would preach his story differently to the "crowd" at the contemporary service. Some key assumptions: we want to attract people to this service who are not currently going to church and potentially never have been a part of a church. We intend to create a worship service that will invite people to become a part of the church and move into deeper discipleship through fellowship, Bible study, etc. We anticipate drawing a sort of mixed crowd that will include younger Christians and those looking for a more contemporary and informal worship style as well as those with little or no context for the Bible and church (or a negative one).
All this means that I wouldn't dare preach the same sermon on a Sunday night as I would on Sunday morning, when I am assuming a basic familiarity with the Bible and traditional worship structures. This church is old and well-established in the community and primarily has attracted members who were churched elsewhere, so I can pretty generally assume that they are familiar with our church vocabulary and will remember stories like that of Zacchaeus.
Here's something like I might try for the evening service (we'll have to settle for an outline; I don't really plan to write manuscripts...or if I do, I won't be preaching from it.)

Text: Luke 19:1-10
Theme: Jesus Seeks Us Out
Title: Invisible

Retell the story (or a little drama) as if Zack were sitting in the local lunch spot on a Sunday afternoon. Zack's in his little dinky table for one next to the bathrooms, listening to the church goers hassle the waitstaff, while he waits and waits for a waiter to pass by with the coffee pot. He's basically invisible, until a stranger enters the restaurant. The stranger is well-dressed and looks to be well-off. He walks through the tables, often seeming to pause at one or another while the church crowd stumbles over themselves to try to win him to the Baptists, the Episcopalians, the Methodists...and then sees Zack. He makes a beeline for Zack's table, borrows a chair from someone nearby, and says, "Hey, man. What's for lunch?"

The Point: Jesus' love seeks us out. Somehow, despite our less desirable qualities and our knack for making a mess, the One who could be with anyone chooses to be with us.
We've all got some Zack in us...different from the crowd, but yearning for someone to notice us. That Someone is Jesus Christ, who wants us to know that we are all stand-outs, all exceptional, all his "preferred company." Just when we think we're invisible, Jesus sees the good in us...sees us as someone he wants to know better...and to change our lives for the better, forever.
The One who sees us when we feel invisible invites us to be a part of something visible: to be a part of his crowd, to join a group of folks who look out for one another and for others who are love as we are loved.

Those are preliminary, but there you are...

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