Mike's Sunday Letter

Celebrating Saturday with Daniel and Nathan:  high school graduates!  I've been their pastor since they were two.

--with personal notes
  • I am traveling this weekend, in Ohio today for the Harper/Long wedding (Nolan is my daughter's father-in-law.)  It was a beautiful and touching wedding, a celebration of God's great love.
  • Monday begins three days of moving for Alison and Nelson (to Madison, Wisconsin) so I'll be driving to Chicago to help them load their truck Monday evening.
  • The U.S. Government has approved Scarlette for citizenship.  She will take her oath in Chicago at noon on June 9.
  • This week begins a time of serious packing for me.  Our move to Mattoon is a little over a month away.

May 29, 2016
When Generations Mix, Mixups Occur
(While I am traveling (or packing) I will rerun some of my old letters.  The following was written three years ago, the first time that the people of Grace Church (median age:  80) visited the Quest worship service (median age:  8?).  At the time, Quest was meeting in a school gymnasium.  They were about to move into our building and begin an adventure that would eventuate in merger.  Enjoy the memories.) 

from May 26, 2013
About two or three dozen of us shambled into the gymnasium last Sunday morning.  We were the folks from historic Grace Church.  And we were accepting an invitation from Quest Church to join them in their strange and modernistic worship.  We went with trepidation, tempered by curiosity. 

We arrived:  with our hearing aids, our new hips, our thick glasses, our splotched skin perfumed in Ben Gay.  As we entered the gymnasium-turned-worship center, our eyes darted hither and yon. Our minds were quickly trying to calculate the degree to which we might be discomforted or discombobulated.  Would the loud music give us a migraine?  Would darting children knock us over?  

(We had heard that they eat and drink during their worship services:  would a vender saunter by during a prayer and try to sell us a pulled pork sandwich?  Did these people even pray?)

As we entered the facility, each one of us was greeted by at least 5 or 6 individuals with old fashioned smiles and handshakes.  We began to relax.  Our hosts directed us to tables in the back laden with free food and drinks.  This might be okay after all.  

The worship hadn't started yet, and things seemed a little confusing, and everyone was talking:  just like at Grace before our worship starts. 

A pleasant young woman with a basket of "treats" was walking around offering them to the guests.  As she approached Herschel and Harriet, they felt her warmth and generosity as she asked "Would you like one of these this morning?"  The young woman was very pretty and Herschel's heart thumped a little and he got a big smile on his face and said "sure" and reached out his hand and plucked a "treat" from the basket and popped it in his mouth. 

It was the worst darned treat Herschel had ever tried to ingest.  He kept grinning at the pretty lady while trying to figure out what to do with this object in his mouth.  He daren't chew or swallow it.  As he continued to grin and nod and roll the "treat" around on his tongue, the young woman's eyes popped wide and her mouth fell open.  Her mind raced in circles:  What to say? What to do?  
Finally, she blurted out, "Oh no sir, that's not to eat, that's an ear plug.  We thought you might want it in case the music gets too loud."  I'm not sure what Herschel did next.  I just hope he didn't spit it back in the basket. 
I am Grace's pastor, their shepherd.  And when I the shepherd lead my flock into new pastures, I hope and pray they will be refreshed and rewarded, and behaved.  By all accounts, my hopes and prayers were answered last Sunday.  The music was different but inspiring.  The setting was strange but hospitable.  The slide show on the history of Quest Church was emotional.  And Andy's sermon was wonderful and gracious:  weaving together the stories of Grace, Quest, and Pentecost.
In fact, the whole experience was so gracious and joyful...that I hesitate to end this letter on a negative note to members of Quest.  But it is necessary. 
I, the pastor and shepherd of Grace members, hereby plead with you:  Please do not give Grace members any more ear plugs.  I know you only meant it as a kindness, but most of us can't hear that well anyway.  Doctors estimate that the "hearing is the first to go," and our escaped hearing has a 50 year head start on yours.  At Grace Church, we have a basket full of hearing aids, not ear plugs. 
Furthermore, if given the chance, dozens of Grace-ers will start popping the plugs in their ears during the sermon, not the music.  (I know them pretty well!)  And of course, there is always the danger that a Grace-er may swallow one, especially if he is one of our old men being charmed by one of your young women.  So please: don't give my congregation any more ear plugs. 
That said:  welcome to the Grace facility, your new home.  You are our new collaborators in the work of Christ.  We rejoice in your arrival.  -Pastor Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS




J. Michael Smith | 2508 S. Cottage Grove | Urbana | IL | 61801