This Sunday is Youth Sunday!

Sunday, April 18 • 10:00 am In-Person and Livestream

Youth Sunday will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 18.  Youth will be leading various parts of the service, and Ken and Monica Montgomery will be doing the sermon titled “Why Church?”  Sign-up for worship or join us on Facebook Live at 10:00 am to support our amazing youth!

Celebration of Life for Janet Filip

Sunday, April 18th • 2:00 pm

A celebration of life for Janet Filip will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, April 18th at the Grand Pavilion at Sar-Ko-Park Park in Lenexa. Please join family and friends in celebrating Janet’s life.

Capturing the magnitude of a spirit like Janet’s with words is difficult. No matter how brief the encounter, her unmistakable laugh, warm smile, and loving presence made a lasting impact on everyone she met. A generous soul that welcomed all to her table, Janet was a friend, mother, grandmother to all. Read her full obituary

Sar-Ko-Par Park is located at 87th Street and Lackman. The Grand Pavilion can be accessed using the stoplight at 87th and Greenway Lane. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations to The Micah Ministry at Independence Boulevard Christian Church or Care Beyond the Boulevard.

a little r & r

While René and I will be on vacation this week and will return on Monday, the 19th, my thoughts turn to taking time for rest and recreation.

What may be little known, but immediately makes sense, is that a day of rest was built into our faith from the very outset of the scriptures. Genesis 1:1-2:4 concludes the 6 days of actual creation with a 7th day, a Sabbath Day of rest for God. As God launches into God’s “Day off,” God looks upon everything God has made and pronounces them “good.” On the 6th day, the day humanity was created, God got downright unctuous, calling our creation “very good.” God is like a proud parent watching her 1-year old taking their first step. It’s a grand moment; but not the end of God creating. God concluded that first metaphorical, cosmic week by creating a day of personal rest, the 7th day, the Sabbath.

Almost immediately this day takes on prime importance! In Exodus 20 God commands the people to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The maybe becomes a must.

Many people automatically assume “remembering the sabbath,” as God’s demand for worship. While this bears much truth, this interpretation is oversimplified. The original purpose had less to do with worship than ensuring the Jews would rest in order to put the person’s and society’s life into perspective, implying worship! But the initial priority has to do with rest. I’ll explain the reason for this in a moment. As one of René’s and my seminar professors said, “The Sabbath day was a day of divine ordered sloth.” It’s an invitation to purposeful laziness.

Our society has pretty much written this 4th commandment off as superfluous. In everyday society, there are hardly any remnants of observing the holiness of the Sabbath. Faithful members of the Jewish community, especially the Orthodox, continue to observe the Sabbath from dusk Friday night to dusk Saturday night over that period which really is the 7th day of the week. But things like Blue Laws, to enforce the Christian sabbath on Sundays (for Jews the Sabbath is Saturday), when stores closed down and only “essential services” remained open, have gone the way of the dinosaur. Of course, lots of folks sleep in on Sundays, but probably haven’t the faintest idea being lazy on Sundays has any religious connection.

And yet, a time traveler from a hundred years ago to today wouldn’t see much practice of Sabbath time these days. Sunday bears little resemblance to a Sabbath but a lot of resemblance to Saturdays, what with restaurants open, Shopping malls full, and innumerable sports leagues going on. This was true well before all the pandemic closures.

So, the question: Aren’t people, then, getting the rest the Sabbath was originally designed for? The answer is an unequivocal “No!” People of all ages these days are getting on average only 5 to 6-1/2 hours of sleep. The media often mention people being “sleep deprived.” The pandemic has added to a rapid rise in depression and anxiety-ridden insomnia. Sometimes if people didn’t tell us to breathe we’d forget to breathe, or take a deep breath.

Here’s the curious part; The 4th commandment about keeping the Sabbath holy originated largely as a political and economic statement against Pharaoh. Pharaoh would have fit nicely into our times as a corporate CEO or political leader. Egypt’s Pharaoh (Ramsees II in Moses’ time) always had one purpose for the slaves: Making more bricks (e.g. more personal profit) in order to expedite the building of temples for his worship! The Hebrew slaves were a conscientious bunch. They were so good at meeting Pharaoh’s quotas of bricks, they incentivized Pharaoh to demand they make more bricks, thus further precluding slaves getting enough rest. Pharaoh worked the slaves so hard they literally fell down and died in their own tracks! “Make more bricks” was his mantra.

So, what does God do? God lays down the 4th Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” At first blush it looks only like a religious statement. But its motivation is just as political and economic as religious. The Sabbath began as a political and economic protest with, unsurprisingly, heavy spiritual and theological implications against Pharaoh!

From the first creation story (Gen. 1:1-2:4) forward Sabbath rest was something God did and wanted for all God’s creation—not just humans, but all the other animals and vegetation too! Those who observed the Sabbath were accomplishing 2 things at once: They were resisting Pharaoh and they were declaring Yahweh (Israel’s & Jesus’ God) as the only true God.

By extension, Israel’s discipline of taking Sabbath time from their slavery to work was both a “sit-in” protest of doing no work against Pharaoh, and a time of stillness to ponder the course of their nation’s and their personal destiny. It’s the second half of this statement which implies that worship would remain a regular practice of the anti-Pharaoh protestors.

About three weeks ago, Gallup indicated that church membership from 1999 to 2021 declined from 71% to 47%, or approximately 1%/year over the last 20 years. This is a steep decline, long preceding the pandemic and only worsened by the pandemic.

But, however sobering this decline, the 4th commandment remains increasingly relevant for our time. It isn’t a stretch to imagine the mental, emotional, and spiritual toll the pandemic has taken on all of us has also worsened the already pandemic’s health, economic, and social tolls we know from these past 13 months. There is no clear way I know of measuring this, but I would not be surprised if those who are out-of-practice of taking time for spiritual meditation and worship have not felt an even greater negative impact from COVID than those who do.

We need a regular sabbath time of rest and worship to get our life’s top priorities straight. We need sabbath time to rest from our labors so we can look again with eagle-like perspective on what is true from what is false, what is of God and what is not of God, what deepens our relationships to others and what does not. Finding rest and taking time to be holy to talk with the Lord is to me the only way we have any chance of keeping it altogether.

No other way makes “holidays” what the word really means, “holy-days” to recognize what is sacred from what is profane. Sabbath time is really a time to discover God is always present with us through worship and through our family and friends. Sabbath time is a time for us to realize we are not alone.

For now,
Rick

Men’s Group Returning to Tanner’s

Sunday, April 18th • 7:30-9:00 pm

The Men’s Group will return to Tanners on Sunday, April 18th, from 7:30-9:00 p.m.  No reservations are needed.  These will be regular meetings in Tanners back room, unless otherwise indicated. Tanner’s is located at 22374 W 66th St, Shawnee, KS 66226.

Contact Rick Jensen at rpmcycler@gmail.com for more information.

 

Blood Drive May 4th

Tuesday, May 4 • 3-7:00 pm

Shawnee Community and the Community Blood Center are hosting a blood drive at Shawnee Community on Tuesday, May 4th from 3-7:00 pm.

Schedule Donation Appointment

Why Give Blood?

Community Blood Center must collect almost 600 units of blood daily to meet the needs of area hospital patients.  As there is no substitute for blood, Community Blood Center relies on volunteer donors like you to supply the life-saving blood and blood components to hospitals in Kansas and Missouri.

Thank you for your support!

Baseball Sunday at Shawnee Community

Sunday, April 11th • 10:00 am In-Person or Livestream

The Kansas City Royals are underway for a full 2021 season. To celebrate the return of Major League Baseball, co-interim Rick Jensen will be preaching on one of his favorite subjects this Sunday: Baseball as a reflection of how to do church and be America.

People are encouraged to wear ROYAL BLUE this week, to celebrate, whether at home watching on-line or during in-person worship at 10:00 a.m. GO ROYALS!

Sign-Up for In-Person Worship

a little r & r

This past weekend I read an article in one of the nation’s major newspapers about what churches have discovered over the past 12 months related to the pandemic. The amazing thing I discovered in the article is that the issues and challenges churches have reported facing during the pandemic are precisely the kinds of issues and challenges we face at our church.
These challenges and issues will sound familiar:

1) How are we to keep our members’ attention and keep them actively involved through Live Streaming and zoom meetings?
2) How many of our members are actually still a part of the congregation since so much time has passed with limited no in-person worship over the early months of the pandemic and only limited in-person worship recently?
3) How many of our members have left the church either to attend congregations which in spite of the pandemic continued meeting with all its risks (church attendance early on in the pandemic was considered a “super-spreader event), or have been tuning into other churches who went to Live Streaming earlier than our church?
4) How are churches coping with lost revenue, since contributions across almost all congregations have seriously declined?
5) What will happen to Live Streaming once churches are able to meet on a regular basis as in pre-pandemic days?

As I read the article, I thought it could have been written precisely about us! Besides which, our church has had to deal with the loss of its former pastor, which only exacerbated people’s absence on top of Covid.

The bottom line of the article was this central question: What is reasonable for us to hope for the future of our church?

Some of the answers to this question comes in the form of answers to the challenges listed above. For example, at least those of us in leadership (5 above) recognize that Live Streaming worship services in the future won’t a choice but a necessity. No one can know how
many people have grown so comfortable with Live Streaming they will prefer to continue their relationship to the church through this vehicle. Those who continue to feel cautious about the pandemic may never return physically to church but, thankfully, will continue their relationship to the church via on-line worship.

Financially (4-above) Shawnee Community has been helped enormously by two PPP loans of approximately $25,000 each, the first of which made all the difference in keeping the church afloat in late summer-early fall of 2020. Our landlord’s postponement of December through February’s rent to the end of the 5-year lease assisted greatly. Several large member/friend contributions last November and December (some 2021 pledges pre-paid at the end of last year) propelled us into a more favorable financial position for the first 3 months of 2021.

Items 2) & 3) above may not be answered for some time. The church has no way of knowing, except in just a couple of instances, how many people may have chosen to tune into other Live Streaming worship services or felt comfortable worshiping in another church that disregarded CDC instructions about not participating in in-person services. Some may have just chosen to permanently transfer their membership or participation to another church. The good news is that the size of the response to the Search Committee’s church survey was very large. We’ve also enjoyed many of our young households participating in the live or recorded “Call to Worship.”

Finally, regarding Item 1, keeping folks active, the church has always made as its top priority these past 12 months the safety of our people. We refused to be cavalier and blithely say, “Oh go ahead and attend church and meet physically because we’ll all be okay.” That kind of blasé response would have been irresponsible and unconscionable. The one nightmare I have had during the pandemic is that the church would open too soon, only to be complicit in a member’s illness or death due to COVID. I am grateful for the sacrifice, patience, and conscientiousness of SCCC’s members to wait until it was clear we were safe in doing limited in-person worship, as is true now with all our staff vaccinated.

Just a few days ago I was visiting with another pastor who, having consulted other pastors, said, the way his church is approaching the future is by imagining their church as a new church start. “We can’t take for granted that our people will automatically return once the pandemic is over,” he said. “We have to win them all over again and make an extra effort to reach new people, because reaching them will be so much harder than before the pandemic.”

I think he is right. This is good advice for our church!

God knows SCCC has had lots of practice functioning like a new church! It began in 1977-78. The church re-started from 1984-1991 when René and I served as Shawnee Park’s co-pastors. The church reinvented itself again around 2013-14 under former pastor Johnny Lewis when it adopted the new name of Shawnee Community Christian Church to become one of the youngest churches in our denomination. It has remained one of the youngest Disciple congregations thanks in large part to Director of Children’s & Family Ministries Patt Ludwick, Youth Director Jack Sampel, and Music Director Ronette Hoard, and the technical skills of Ashley Follette and Matt and Bobette Sawka.

I dare say many of this church’s most productive, exciting years have occurred during each of these 3 (re)starts! And this is no way a slight to the church’s longest serving pastor Michael Yarborough, who specialized in marriage enrichment for mostly younger couples.

Is the idea of thinking like a new congregation too much to wrap our minds around? I don’t think so. After all, what is this Easter season about but contemplating what new thing God may be up to next? Churches have always been at their best when their people have thought of themselves as pioneers, not settlers; as part of a movement to fulfill God’s will than as an old, established institution living more on its past than for its future.

We just have to believe in what God can do through us and with us. René and I have seen it here before. Most everyone in this church has experienced these new starts.

As the prophet Jeremiah, living in an equally hard time for Israel says on behalf of God, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So, once again it’s time to hitch our wagon and move upward and onward. As the title song of the musical “Paint Your Wagon” says,

Where am I headed, I don’t know.
Where am I going, I ain’t certain,
All that I know is I am on my way.

We are on our way! Join us in the journey! Tally Ho!

Rick

Rick & Rene Jensen on Vacation

Co-Interim Jensens on Vacation April 12-19

Fully vaccinated and ready-to-go see their grandchildren René and Rick Jensen will be on vacation from Sunday night, April 11 through Monday, April 19 in Denver, Colorado.  Their trip planned around their younger granddaughter’s birthday, April 13, was canceled because of COVID-19 a year ago. They will return on Monday the 19th.

Men’s Group Returning to Tanner’s

Sunday, April 18th • 7:30-9:00 pm

The Men’s Group will return to Tanners on Sunday, April 18th, from 7:30-9:00 p.m.  No reservations are needed.  These will be regular meetings in Tanners back room, unless otherwise indicated. Tanner’s is located at 22374 W 66th St, Shawnee, KS 66226.

This coming Sunday, April 11th, the Men’s Group will meet from 7:30-9:00pm on Zoom. Contact Rick Jensen at rpmcycler@gmail.com for more information.

 

Youth Sunday is April 18th

Sunday, April 18 • 10:00 am In-Person and Livestream

Youth Sunday will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 18.  Youth will be leading various parts of the service, and Ken and Monica Montgomery will be doing the sermon titled “Why Church?”  Sign-up for worship or join us on Facebook Live at 10:00 am to support our amazing youth!