When Jesus Created Father’s Day

“This, then, is how you should pray…” – Matthew 6:9

Modern history – as in internet browser searches – will tell you how Father’s Day began as a 20th century holiday phenomenon with 19th century roots:  how the daughter of a Civil War veteran, inspired by her father who raised six children as a single parent, thought dads should be honored with a special day just as mothers recently had been saluted.

You’ll discover the Christian influence in its creation and the roles four U.S. presidents (Wilson, Coolidge, Johnson, Nixon) played over seven decades to secure the annual calendar date as a national holiday.

LEARN MORE: Presidential Resolutions

You’ll learn about sales and kick around the best ways to honor your sire: a tie, food, a day off.  You’ll enjoy bits of whimsy through memes and other internet postings, like this:

What search engines won’t tell you is the quandary this holiday, despite its Christian infused roots, has brought to modern day leaders of musical worship. The quandary is selecting appropriate songs to honor fathers during Services of Worship.

It’s not a dissimilar issue than exists for Mother’s Day.  There aren’t a lot of role-specific church worship songs, and that’s all right. Celebrating Father’s Day in church isn’t one of the ordained feasts mandated by scripture. The pressure is, perhaps, self-imposed. After all, “father” is mentioned in the Bible over 400 times.

Is That All There Is?

It’s not that there AREN’T songs about fathers.  In fact, one selection “Good, Good Father,” written by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown in 2014, became a Billboard No. 1 hit when recorded by Chris Tomlin in 2016. Ironically, in musician circles there’s a sense that this and similar daddy-related recent tunes have been sung so often, they’ve crept into the realm of Christian cliché – like annually trotted out Christmas carols.  Okay, more obligatory than cliché.

Nothing against the song, mind you, but the searchers keep asking, “Isn’t there something else?”

Albert Hay Malotte

The answer is, “Yes.” An overlooked modern tune is at the end of this story. However, there is a more powerful contemporary song to be sung to honor fathers, and its lyrics are found in modern ancient text. Albert Hay Malotte, an Academy Award winning composer, found the lyrics and in 1935 created the quintessential  fatherhood song, uttered not by a Christian, but Christ Himself.

Malotte called the song, “The Lord’s Prayer,” and introduced to the world the oft-recited words of scripture that best express two principles fundamental to Christian faith: prayer and accountability.

LEARN MORE: “The Christian Origins of Father’s Day”

Interestingly, while “The Lord’s Prayer” is a popular selection among recording artists, as film underscore, and at public ceremonies (often a solo), it’s surprising to discover how often people are unaware that the words come from the mouth of Jesus and not just song lyrics or a denominational prayer book. This is true event among many Christ-followers.

By the same token, taking a closer look at the circumstances surrounding the prayer, it’s fair to say that long before June was established as a calendar month, Jesus created Father’s Day.

On a Hill Far Away

Jesus introduced “Father’s Day” in the midst of his sermon on a mount.  But this public premiere was the outgrowth of private preaching He’d conducted elsewhere with a small group of followers, as reported by the gospel historian Luke:

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:1 (New International Version)

In that teaching to a small group of men, Jesus continued emphasizing their responsibility to address the needs of neighbors and family even at the sacrifice of personal comfort. These earthly actions, He said, are an example of how “your Father in heaven” tends to our needs, especially those who are persistent and consistent in communication.

These two traits, persistence and consistency, were the essence of the prayer that He repeated to crowds elsewhere, much like a keynote speaker with a stump speech. The text, recorded in Matthew’s gospel, is less a sermon by our contemporary comprehension than a compilation.  Maybe it ought be “The Mashup on the Mount.”

A church sanctuary design for a Sermon on the Mount series. (Photo: Jake Moreland)

A Personal Relationship With…

In the sermon, Jesus frequently reiterates the phrase “your Father” to His audience. Jesus’ use of the third person noun could be interpreted as a philosophical reference, keeping God at a distance. This is especially true in our times, depending on the listener’s paternal relationship.

Student ministry pastors often lament that among their greatest barriers uplifting The LORD to teens is because their concept of “heavenly Father” is tainted by negative relationships with their earthly father.

To a child whose father is absent from the house, or a family residing in a tyrannical household, passages extolling God’s goodness and protection, such as Psalm 68:13 – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” – and 38 similar promises, are empty rhetoric.  Equally damaging spiritually are improper behaviors by father-figures, including clergy.

All the more reason Jesus not only taught the prayer as a mechanism to overcome weaknesses of the flesh, He preceded it with cautionary “sermonizing” about the perils of blind trust. Not only did Jesus tell the people what “Your Father” knows, He also gave them permission to speak directly to Him, then showed them how. In doing so, Third person philosophy became first-person access.

What’s In A Name?

For numerous reasons, introducing direct access to God was earth-shattering. One, going back to the burning bush, when Moses asked His name, addressing God had been formal and fearful.

God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘ ‘I Am’ has sent me to you.’ ”   

“I AM” was subsequently spoken as The LORD, Yaweh, El-, and other titles that spoke about His character and attributes. Yet none of these was personal.  Abraham was revered as the “father” of the Jewish nations, but Abraham was human and centuries deceased. And though Isaiah spoke of God in the First Person, Isaiah was a prophet and such references were not unusual. Prophets were supposed to talk to God. Besides, that was over 500 years earlier.

Imagine, then, what it may have been like to hear Jesus give this instruction:

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven…hallowed be your name…’ “

For the disenfranchised listener, the statement is reassuring. It’s personal, yet maintains reverence.

The statement is also dangerous, for the another reason the prayer is earth-shattering is that it establishes a firm foundation on His road to the cross.

Jesus The Protestant

In both the prayer and it’s prelude, Jesus advocates appealing to Higher Authority than earthly leaders. His prelude to the prayer unflinchingly threatens the religious status quo, for in that introduction

  • Jesus busts the religious leaders for making public spectacles of prayer.

“Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.”

  • Jesus undercuts them as role models, diminishes their organized influence by eliminating the need for a priest as go-between.

“Do not be like them…for Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

  • Jesus distinguishes between lengthy, generic, rituals and symbols of other beliefs, and brief, earnest, specific, bold requests.

“Do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

  • Jesus empowers personal prayer for even public matters.

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

LEARN MORE: A “Sermon on the Mount” Study Guide for self or group.

The battle between the role of Jesus and the influence of religious authority has continued since. It’s the battle Martin Luther fought that led to Protestant faiths (those that “protest” convention), and that exists today between those who define “evangelical” to share the gospel or be political. What’s more important is that then, as now, is not eliminate the role church leaders, just some perceptions. Simply, Jesus he invites – hypocrites and curious alike – to change actions and have the same personal relationship that He has with His Father.

Musical Hallmarks

Having laid the foundation, in eight simple yet challenging sentences, Jesus then gives the principles to cultivate that relationship: reverence, submission, confession, forgiveness, provision, mercy, grace, eternal life. Malotte, who also wrote scores to The Beatitudes and The 23rd Psalm, turned those poetic principles into lyrics that may also be considered Jesus’ Father’s Day Card.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, it is in heaven.”

Malotte adapted the King James Version, the primary Bible translation available in in 1935.  Other translations have been published since then, all copiously maintaining the accuracy and integrity of original Hebrew and Greek texts as best possible. There has been minimal push-back. Recently, however, a revision of the prayer recited in Catholic masses caused a stir seemingly as radical as when Jesus first intonation of “Our Father.” 

“Pope Francis Approves Change To Lord’s Prayer”

At Last, The Temptations & Christ

Reactionaries groused that the Pope was approving wholesale revisions in line with revisionist political correctness. That’s been a complaint of some translations adopting a gender-neutral tone. 

Reading beneath the headlines reveals that only one line is being revised…for clarity.  

Pope Francis

“Lead us not into temptation,” the Pope says, may be spoken in public recitation, as, “let us not fall into temptation.”  Reason? Bad English translation; bad theology, he said.

Though not Catholic, and as one who puts Christ’s teaching above the papacy, I appreciate this clarity.  For a long time “lead us not into temptation” has been had to reconcile, event for years for those who regular study scripture. Imagine its confusion upon new Christians, especially in light of the later assertion by Jesus’ brother James:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”

— James 1:13 (New International Version)

Besides, the edit is more sensible, less stressful than the ever-confusing, on-the-spot choice between saying “debts” or “trespasses” when asking forgiveness in some denominations.

Can We Only Imagine?

For all its power and simplicity, however, this prayer has also fallen into the cliché, rote chasm.  It’s often referred to as “The Our Father,” as if a mantra or magic incantation.  It could even be said “The Lord’s Prayer” is a misnomer.  A more apt title may be “The People’s Prayer.”  Or, “The Siblings’ Prayer,” since the “Our Father” kinship with the Son of God. The actual Lord’s Prayer, some instructors says, were Jesus’s words after his last supper records in John 17. He prayed for unity among His followers.

Now that I think of it, looking at both, “The People’s Prayer” and “The Lord’s Prayer,” gives an interesting ideas to address the ills facing our world, especially our nation, this Father’s Day season.

Imagine if, in the context of Jesus’ prayer for unity, Christ’s followers employed His prayer template for self and leaders…not just church leaders but, say, legislators. Like:

  • What if, rather than “national days of prayer,” street corner incantations, or convention center revivals, individual Christ-followers simply went into our prayer closets and applied the principles of revering God, seeking His will and provision, asked forgiveness and forgave others?

“Give us this day our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

  • What if, rather than reciting the “If my people…would pray” passage in 2 Chronicles, we followed Jesus’ guideline of confessing sins of greed, rudeness, and turned from our wicked ways of violence and blame?

“And let us not fall not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

Might “The Lord’s Prayer” enacted “heal our land?” If so, imagine the sound of voices, bursting from prayer closets, a grand chorus singing in unison:

“For thine is the kingdom,

and the power,

and the glory, for ever.

Amen.”

Would that be worthy of a Father’s Day playlist?   

Andrea Bocelli with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Songs for Father’s Day

As we did for Mother’s Day, here are a few songs about fathers that are standard and less well-known. The Marvin Gaye selection is bittersweet. A talented artist and troubled man, he was shot to death by his father. The sentiments here are, nevertheless, accurate and noteworthy as they are rooted in scripture. Thanks to Stephen A. Banks for this rare, bacon-fryin’ recording.

Original 45 rpm version that Marvin Gaye re-recorded on his album “What’s Going On?”

“God Is Love” (Album Version) — Marvin Gaye

“Daddy” (Inspired by Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”) — DJ LV

“Good, Good Father” — Chris Tomlin

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Carol Story: A Silent Night Anniversary

Silent Night” is the quintessential Christmas song. It’s virtually impossible for any artist to record a Christmas album and not have a rendition.  In this 200th anniversary of the song’s creation, we thought  it fun to expand the variety of recordings of the song to show its durability and to underscore the need to not let musicality overshadow the message of the lyrics.

Sis. Vanetta Pinn, who curated our Carol Story YouTube Playlist, included versions by Mariah CareyJustin Bieber and Boyz II Men for our re-posting consideration.  We’ve linked these videos to give a glimpse of vocal variations, musical arranging and technical production growth through the years. 

LEARN MORE:  “Silent Night” 200th anniversary observations

We’ve also included a medley by KIT Ministries co-founder Vikki J. Myers as a sample of how Christmas music can be merged with non-seasonal worship selections to give a sense of how the Christmas message lasts beyond the holidays.

However, for the purposes of our #CarolStory live presentation, the renditions that best  reflect the backstory nuances are by Andrea Bocelli and Mahalia Jackson . 

See December Archives (left) for other “Carol Story” stories.

In the context of #CarolStory,  the 10-minute worship play, “Silent Night” is woven with five other standard carols — “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “O Holy Night,” “Hark! The Herald,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “The Hallelujah Chorus” to establish the atmosphere of fear, awe and respect that the shepherds experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared on “The Night” when Christ was born. (The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-15)

LEARN MORE:  “Carol Story” The Script

Bocelli, singing in Italian, brings to mind the European feel of the original German carol written by Franz Gruber.  We wonder how Gruber may respond to the variety of arrangements of the song, especially considering the urgent and somewhat controversial circumstances  under which he wrote the piece for Christmas Eve 1818.

LEARN MORE:  History of “Silent Night”

There’s a nostalgic prejudice for Mahalia Jackson’s version.  It was among the first “church” Christmas songs I heard (as opposed to the just-released “Frosty,” “Rudolph” and “Jingle Bell Rock,”) and was a family favorite.  Mother was not a singer but held her own singing along whenever the record  (as in vinyl) played , or when the Spirit moved her to burst into song  while baking cookies — thinking she was alone in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

As with other selections in this piece, the lyrics of “Silent Night” are woven throughout the play to move the story along and work effectively as scene exposition transitioning between scenes.

​LEARN MORE:“Carol Story” Live


Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli, “Silent Night” (Italian)

Andrea Bocelli is an Italian singer, songwriter, and record producer. Celin Dion, with whom he recorded “The Prayer,”  has said that “if God would have a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.” 

Bocelli has recorded 15 solo studio albums of both pop and classical music, three greatest hits albums, and nine complete operas, selling over 90 million records worldwide. He has had success as a crossover performer, bringing classical music to the top of international pop charts.

He was born with poor eyesight and became completely blind at age 12, following a football accident.


 “The Prayer,” his duet with Celine Dion for the animated film Quest for Camelot ,  won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1999. — Source:  Wikipedia

LEARN MORE:  Andre Bocelli Today

Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson’s “Silent Night,” a personal family favorite.

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. Possessing a powerful contralto voice, she was referred to as “The Queen of Gospel.”  She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as “the single most powerful black woman in the United States”. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers.

“I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free,”  Jackson once said about her choice of gospel, adding, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.” — Source:  Wikipedia.

LEARN MORE:  Mahalia Jackson Biography

One More Thing

Mahalia Jackson is also one of the individuals whose story is included in  the Kingdom Impact Theater production, “Faith, Hope & Love:  History-Making Women of Faith,” a one-woman performance by Vikki J.  Myers.

More Christmas MEMos and Wonderings

Advent Revelations

Christmas and All The (Indy) News

Shopping at 15

Combatting Cultural Christmas

Sinterklaas, Piet and Me

Sophomoric Christmas

Worship in The Barn

The Virgin Shall Be With Child: Really?

When the 25th Is Over

Carol Story: Songs of “The Night”

This carol is one of 61 on the playlist of “Carol Story,”  a 10-minute play that tells the story of Christ solely through lyrics of Christmas songs as dialogue.  Learn More.


“O Holy Night” is an English translation of the French carol “Le Christien Minuit” that was translated and became a rallying cry of abolitionists during the Civil War. The third verse of “O Holy Night” was a direct Christian call to eradicate slavery, a sentiment that led to the song begin edited  or outright banned in some sections of the country. We address this story more in our production, “Freedom Song.” 

​In the context of #CarolStory, “O Holy Night” is woven with five other standard carols — “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “The Hallelujah Chorus” to establish the atmosphere of fear, awe and respect that the shepherds experienced when the Heavenly Host appeared on “The Night” when Christ was born. (The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8-15).

Danny Gokey, a former American Idol runnerup, cleanly expresses those emotions and the abolitionist sentiment in his elegant yet simple video.  As a bonus, we add a unique one-man barbershop quartet performance by Julien Neel, aka Trudbol A Capella, in the original French.

LEARN MORE:  Original French Lyrics

LEARN MORE:  Beloved Carols with non-American Origins

LEARN MORE:Donate and Partner with Kingdom Impact Theater.


About the Singers


Danny Gokey

Danny Gokey — “O Holy Night” (English)

Daniel Jay Gokey is an American singer and former church music director from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the third-place finalist on the eighth season of “American Idol.” After his placing on the show, Gokey signed to 19 Recordings and RCA Nashville at the beginning of a career in country music, releasing the single “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me.”  

LEARN MORE:  Danny Gokey’s Biography.

Trudbol A Cappella

Trudbol A Cappella — Le Minuit Christien (French)

Trudbol A Cappella (Julien Neel) is a one-man barbershop quartet. Julien sings all the parts from bass, to baritone, to tenor.  He typically covers classic barbershop tunes, but also Beatles songs, video game and TV theme songs, choral music, etc..  Julien lives in France and sings in French, English,  German, Swedish and will try other languages. Julien sells audio learning tracks and publishes a cappella videos each Thursday. 

LEARN MORE:  Trudbol’s Biography.


MORE CHRISTMAS MEMOS AND WONDERINGS

Advent Revelations

Christmas and All The (Indy) News

Shopping at 15

Combatting Cultural Christmas

Sinterklaas, Piet and Me

Sophomoric Christmas

Worship in The Barn

The Virgin Shall Be With Child: Really?

When the 25th Is Over

God & Family: Who’s Up First?

Balancing church and family responsibilities is a reason Paul cautioned wannabe pastors in Corinth about getting married.

Depending on the source you’re reading, there are varying views about divorce rates among couples who profess to be Christ-followers. The rates are either growing at the same rate as non-believers, greater than that rate, declining from that rate, or were never as high.

Assorted denominations have particular perspectives whether couples should divorce and what roles those who do divorce should have in Christian ministry, particularly leadership positions.  Whatever the numbers, whatever your opinion, these facts remain:

  • children of God divorce;
  • they have done so since the time of Moses;
  • divorce is not God’s desire.

Of the numerous verses in Scripture about divorce, the best perspective is Matthew’s gospel account of Jesus’ conversation with Pharisees.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

(Yes, we switched from the New International to the King James for the last verse for readers who may have heard the words at weddings yet didn’t realize these are the words of Christ, not just the preacher.)

The salient exchange is this:

 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

The question 20 centuries later, then, is, “What causes hearts of married couples to become hardened today?”  Moreover, “How do Christian couples become hardened?” For our purposes, one more reflection: “What happens if one of those hardened Christian spouses is a pastor?”

Divorce Certificate Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Keep these questions in mind when listening to Family Priorities, today’s audio installment from “Who Prays for the Pastor?” In this segment, author Frederick Ezeji-Okoye recounts the testimony of a pastor whose zeal for evangelizing produced fruit, not all of which was sweet.

Before you start, discuss or journal about the following:

  • What does the phrase “God-First Ministry” mean to you?
  • What does Family-First Ministry mean?

Pray for the health of your pastor’s marriage as you hear the following testimony.  Ask God to improve communication between both spouses and their offspring.

LISTEN TO THE 1-MINUTE AUDIO DEVOTIONAL

“Family Priorities”

Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/14803153

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/michaelmyers-4/who-prays-for-the

FOR FURTHER STUDY

Download the Free Devotional Discussion Guide

Look into Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries Leadership Workshops

  • “Practicing What Is Preached:” Steps to apply weekend sermons to daily communication.
  • “The Roscoe P. Love Love Clinic:” Practical relationship communication for men, for women; couples, singles; adults, teens.

For maximum, on-going impact, we recommend purchasing the paperback or the audiobook, or both.  Each is available at amazon.com.


This essay is one in a series of devotionals on coping with stress in ministry, and is based on the book, “Who Prays for the Pastor?” written by Bro. Frederick Ezeji-Okoye.  The accompanying discussion guide was written by Michael Edgar Myers, who also narrated the audiobook and 1-minute devotional excerpts. If you have any difficulties accessing the material, please e-mail mem@kit-ministries.com.  Thank you.

#SDG #Shalom #AndAmen

When the 25th Is Over

When the 25th is over

And all the kin are gone,

When you’ve packed away the tinsel,

The lights and all the songs…

When you’ve paid the bills for all the frills

And feel your ample girth,

Will you gaze upon your bottom line

And find your peace on earth?

When the 25th is over

And you’re standing in a line

Returning gifts you didn’t like,

But that you said were, “Fine.’…

Will you run a tab on your whole life

To see just what it’s worth?

Will you ask yourself, “What must I do

To find some peace on earth?”

As crabby girls and sulking boys

Cry over broken brand-new toys,

When the 25th is over

And you’re taking down the tree,

Can you tell them of the irony

Of that tree with lights so bright?

That ‘t’will stand for a cross on Calvary

On a darker silent night?

Yes, the 25th is over

And life is back to normal.

You’ve tossed your cookies

And squeezed the candies

(to find the one that’s caramel).

You’re feeling glad Christmas is gone

With all its hype and prices…

Yet, deep inside remains this thought:

“I wonder who this Christ is?”

Then simply search, and simply ask, 

And think of His good news.

Then simply make His sacrifice

An offer you can’t refuse.

For if you do, He’ll give to you

His peace on earth so strong…

You won’t have Christmas on the 25th

You’ll live it…all year long.

— (c) Michael Edgar Myers, 2002.  All Rights Reserved. Use granted through written permission of the author only.  Cover photo (c) Michael Edgar Myers, 2014.  All Rights Reserved

dons-save-it-all_1
“Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day,”  a Mom & Daughter Duet, Vikki J. Myers & Cami Myers

 

 

 

When the 25th Is Over

When the 25th is over
And all the kin are gone,
When you’ve packed away the tinsel,
The lights and all the songs…

When you’ve paid the bills for all the frills
And feel your ample girth,
Will you gaze upon your bottom line
And find your peace on earth?

When the 25th is over
And you’re standing in a line
Returning gifts you didn’t like,
But that you said were, “Fine.’

Will you run a tab on your whole life
To see just what it’s worth?
Will you ask yourself, “What must I do
To find some peace on earth?”

As crabby girls and sulking boys
Cry over broken brand-new toys,
When the 25th is over
And you’re taking down the tree,
Can you tell them the irony
Of that tree with lights so bright?
T’will stand for a cross on Calvary
On a darker silent night?

Yes, the 25th is over
And life is back to normal.
You’ve tossed your cookies
And squeezed the candies

(to find the one that’s caramel)

You’re feeling glad Christmas is gone
With all its hype and prices…
Yet, deep inside remains this thought:
“I wonder who this Christ is?”

Then simply search, and simply ask
And think of His good news.
Then simply make His sacrifice
An offer you can’t refuse.

For if you do, He’ll give to you
Peace on earth so strong…
You won’t have Christmas on the 25th
You’ll live it…all year long.

— (c) Michael Edgar Myers, 2002.  All Rights Reserved. Use granted through written permission of the author only.  Cover photo (c) Michael Edgar Myers, 2014.  All Rights Reserved

dons-save-it-all_1
“Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day,”  a Mom & Daughter Duet, Vikki J. Myers & Cami Myers

 

 

 

 

 

Worship in The Barn

Says the Lord: “My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine…and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8, 9 (New Living Translation)

The piano player phoned about 10 minutes before the call time.

“I just wanted to make sure I’m at the right place,” he said.  “All I see is a barn.”

“Red barn?”

“Y-y-ess…”

“You’re in the right place.”

The actors arrived at the big red barn about 15 minutes later, in time to see The Pianist at work.  He grabbed a snow shovel and joined two other men, who may or may not have been attached to The Barn, clearing the sidewalks.  Not because he had to.  It’s just who he is.  The extra hands were helpful because the temperature promised to only become more sub-zero, although no more snow as anticipated.

Except for the eye-watering atmosphere, the scene was picturesque:  The fresh white covering over acres of woods made isolated crimson structure and its attached beige silo more robust.  A Courier & Ives card-in-waiting.

That The Pianist pitched in reflected the aura emanating from The Barn, manifested in the two men who were already at work when The Pianist parked.  The manifestation continued through Shoveler No. 1, George, who stopped shoveling to greet and hold The Barn door for the entering cast.  He was especially elated to meet The Singer, who would be presenting a solo during the Service of Worship.  He had heard a recording of the song she’d selected and made an offer.

“I play drums,” he said.  “May I sit in?”

While The Singer, The Pianist and George The Drummer entered The Barn to rehearse, stabilizing harmonies in the sanctuary;  The Director climbed into the loft of The Barn for an overview of staging and recording possibilities.   Ten minutes later, as George The Drummer assumed his mile-mannered George The Shoveler identity, The Director descended the loft and went to talk with The Pastor in another part of The Barn, the silo — The Pastor’s oval office.

the-barn-saw
A commemorative saw, reminder of the craftsmanship, on display in the lobby.

“Lark (n): A lighthearted, fun, carefree episode. Often unplanned, a lark can happen when you are feeling adventurous.” — vocabulary.com

Atop the circular stairs, The Director gazed out the window into the white field glimmering under the eastern rising sun.  The view was pastoral. Placing himself where The Pastor studies at his desk, it was easy — and helpful — to envision the serenity and inspiration of this view on a lush, green day. At -6 outside, this was not that day.

Yet Minus-6 or 98.6, that the view exists is a miracle.  The Pastor, Lamarr Lark, is not the first of many connected to The Barn, who will use that phrase, “a miracle.”

“I remember standing out in the field,” NOW he could flash the smile that rivals the snow for gleam.  “I was…I was crying…and I was…..”

Mad at God?

“I couldn’t understand.”

During this brief chat at the top of the winding staircase that supplanted an office door, Pastor Lark recounted the short, intense history of Connection Church, the church he had been working to plant in the country – farmland – an hour north of Chicago.  He had no idea how apt “planting a church in the country” would be.

Lark and the team had purchased a large acreage of farmland, the centerpiece of which was a rickety building slightly older than Abraham:  a 136-year-old barn.

“You would not believe what it looked like.  I said, ‘God, what are you doing?’ ”

RAISE THE ROOF

Lark had a vision for a church.  This wasn’t it.  When a real estate developer offered cash for the property and a quick closing date, the complex Lark envisioned sharpened.  “I had the spot and the property all picked,” he said.  Something sleek and modern.  Custom-made.  Something economically feasible with bells and whistles to intrigue families of the Media Age, families with whom he interacted when working in corporate America nearby, families curious about The Word but scattered about where it’s hard to meet new neighbors. This vision was clear.

Before closing occurred, village officials nixed the deal.  The developer’s plan for a new multi-house residential complex was incompatible with zoning guidelines.  No sale.  The Barn became a white elephant.  Lamarr wept.

And submitted.  Rather than a barn razing, there was a barn raising.

“God’s plans are not our plans!” Lark’s smile was praiseworthy.

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Praising God in the sanctuary: Refurbished original wood.

IF GOD WERE A CARPENTER

As God unveiled His plan — in His time — He provided new vision, blueprints, capital, partners, and workers.  Like George the Shoveling-Drummer.  Like Brenda Lark, The Pastor’s Wife (First Lady of the Oval Office Silo).   Like Mike the Carpenter.  Lamarr preaches from the pulpit.  Mike preaches from the carpet.  (Or, he would if there were any.  The floors are hardwood.  So are the walls.  And the beams.  Almost everything.)

“We didn’t want any drywall upstairs,” said the soft-spoken Mike.  “We had to shore up the beams, keep the wood.  We didn’t want any pressed wood.   I’m a carpenter.  Carpenters are craftsmen.  I always wanted to pass what I know on to someone else.  God made that happen.”

Among the volunteers was a college-age lad, a medical student who latched on to the intricacies of carpentry.

“Carpentry is one of those professions that used to have prestige, like the pastor was saying.  Sometimes people see me and ask, ‘Are you still pounding nails?’  They don’t mean it bad, I’m not somebody to make an issue, so I say, ‘Yeah, I’m still pounding nails.’ But it means something to be a carpenter.”

He didn’t say so, but like any good preacher, he left room for interpretation and personal application.  On this last Sunday before Christmas, standing in the middle of a rehabbed barn with a nail-pounder gave new insight into the fact that Mary’s husband from the line of David the Shepherd was a carpenter who taught the craft to his son.

“Carpenters are creative. Everything was created through Jesus.”

The Barn has endless sermon possibilities.

IF WALLS COULD TALK

“Somebody was telling me that the walls could preach a sermon,” Pastor Lark interjected into his message.  He continued noting that the whisper of the walls remembering the process of cleaning the building in preparation for the carpenters. “Some of you remember.  When we dug out the downstairs, the SMELL from the horses!  Imagine…THAT is the barn where Jesus was born…”

Cleansed of its horse dung, porous rafters, and unstable foundation, the remodeled basement is the Connection connection. The drywall is painted stark white, offset by hand-crafted wood trim. It’s an adaptable open, modern space where children play, teaching may occur, food consumed, TV viewed over the fireplace.

“That wasn’t supposed to be there,” said Pastor Lark.  Then came Mike, who added two other places that weren’t “supposed to be there:” the kitchen and, upstairs, an entry hall into the worship space.

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Billboard near Chattanooga, TN. Courtesy “Creative South Homes” by Kaliee

“You know, it’s easier for some people to come to ‘The Barn’ than to come to ‘church,’ “ says Mike the Carpenter, who  moved from a church he had been attending for almost 20 years to answer a cry he heard in a message by Pastor Lark. “People have baggage about ‘church,’ but when they come here, and get to see what we’ve done they’re more open to hear The Word.”

Although weekly services began in September 2016, the official grand opening won’t be until Spring 2017 as Easter approaches.  Until then, building within the building continues.  The building of relationships — among the members and within growing local communities in Lake County and across the county lines.

Crossing county lines doesn’t mean just across the road into Cook County.  The mission of Connection to be a multi-cultural church is more than an advertisement on a side of a barn which is why Lark – an African-American leading a small, mostly Caucasian congregation – is partnering with Rodney Patterson, also African-American and pastor of historic Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side, a predominately black congregation, to worship and study Scripture together. The fellowship hall is the workshop for building that relationship.  It’s a room of transformation– a carpenter’s 2 Corinthians 5:17.

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Remnants of a Brainstorm.

HANDWRITING ON THE WALLS

The fellowship hall walls are covered with poster-sized sticky notes, the residue of brainstorming sessions.  They are a blueprint teaching the members how to interact and engage with people who drive from nearby communities, who have different church experiences or Bible knowledge.  To emphasize the teaching, the sticky-noted mission statement discusses an edit between “A diverse community” to “an inclusive and equitable” community.  That vision, Lark said, is not his, but His.  “We want Connection to reflect a heaven that says ‘every tribe and nation.’ ”

At the same time, he knows he is dealing with humans — real people, sinners, who have personal issues that must be addressed, Biblically.  Like Paul’s church epistles, these sticky notes have specific instructions. One challenge is developing a corporate, proactive sense of serving as exhibited by The Carpenter and The Drummer (who not only played drums on the rehearsed special song, but unexpectedly — miraculously? intuitively? Spirit-fully? — provided improvised drum underscore in the scene performed before the sermon).  Part of overcoming the challenge is discipling through action and language.

Illustration: “I don’t like the word ‘volunteer’ in a church setting,” said The Carpenter.  “A ‘volunteer’ doesn’t have the same commitment.  It’s about ‘servanthood.’ ”

Another illustration hangs on the walls of the oval office.  Above The Pastor’s desk, the post-it note outlines guidelines for developing a Ministry Team proclaiming boldly: “Come and See Orientation Engaging a Non-Believer” leading to TEAM Time:

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SHILOH IN THE SILO

On the opposite wall are outlines for practical application of TEAM Time. “The Worship Experience” speaks of “unity fellowship” an important element in a church culture where “worship” is often a synonym for “music.” (Toward this, Connection jobs-in musical ensembles or individual worship leaders rather than depending on a set musical team or style.  Perhaps something else Pastor Lark had not planned.)

“The Worship Experience” plays out in the Sunday hour, however, it’s especially applicable as the guideline for the burgeoning relationship with Shiloh entitled, “Let’s Talk About Race,” a series of six dialogues including themes of socialization, reconciliation and transformation.  Part of the process includes “unity fellowship” worship experiences in the home church’s neighborhood.  Shiloh is scheduled to visit The Barn in February — African-American History Month.  Among their collaborations is a semi-annual joint Service of Worship alternately hosted on their home sites, meaning – a trip to the South side and a trip to The Barn.

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Lamarr Lark (r) with Dana James and Rodney Patterson from Shiloh.

The idea, Lark explains, is that in an era of increasing racial tensions in the U.S., it’s important to demonstrate that the gospel of Christ is for all;  that worship is more than musical style, but a place of preparation for regeneration; that Christ, more than the ballot, is the hope for the nation. Saying this in his message, The Pastor paraphrased a public official who had recently spoken of feeling without hope as the country changes leadership.  The Pastor looked to the walls of the resurrected barn on which hung a symbolic cross of resurrection.

PHOTO ALBUM:  Connection and Shiloh Fellowship

If the walls could preach, they’d say THAT resurrection was as likely as the expected Savior of Humanity being introduced to the world in the guise of a baby in the din of a stable.  If walls could preach they’d say THAT birth was as likely as a dingy stable being resurrected into a chapel.  If the walls could preach, they’d say either of the above would take a miracle.

If the walls could preach, they’s stay it was no lark that the The Pastor stood in the middle of The Barn talking about the birth in the dingy stable.  They’d say it came from a silo mentality.

God’s ways are NOT like ours.

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