More with Less is a phrase Mennonites converted into a widely-loved cookbook franchise and spiritual guide to eating. I borrow that phrase here in thinking about the resurrection of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writes 1 Corinthians 15 twenty-five years or so after the Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead. His account of this resurrection precedes the written accounts recorded in the four gospels. He tells his readers that the gospel of Jesus makes no sense without a resurrection (of which Jesus is the first to be resurrected), and that if we embrace this gospel we need to live as people of hope.
So if we are going to be people of the resurrection, we need to return to a more with less:
- Less self-preservation and more God exaltation.
- Less Condemnation and more commendation.
- Less self-deception and more holy conception.
- Less diet in trash, slash and clash, and much more class.
- Less fear of tomorrow and more hope for today.
- Less navigating through life by what we don’t like and more steering toward our calling.
- Less suspicion and more permission.
- Less critique and more applique.
- Less aspersion and more conversion.
- Less destructive behavior and more consulting the Savior.
- Less hedonism and more paying heed to our sins.
- Less gossip, slander and sharing our “concerns,” and more praise, encouragement and doing of good turns.
- Less treating our body as a god and a temple and more treating our body as a temple for God.
- Less lust for possessions and more trust for provisions.
- Less titillation and more telling the nations.
- Less unwillingness, reticence and unavailability: more inspiration, preparation and perspiration.
- Less hoarding and more rewarding.
- Less spiritual blindness and more merciful kindness.
- Less complaining, infighting and judgment and much more penance, repentance and recompense.
- Less consternation and more communion.
- Less sorrow over our loss and more anticipation of reward.
- Less holding the line and more going where we are sent.
- Less supervising others and more loving our neighbor.
- Less hovering, worrying and wringing our hands and more embracing, praising and bending our knees.
- Less grouchy-gripies and more joyful smilies.
- Less of the grave and much more of the resurrection.
It is our ability to keep bringing life into death, light into shadows, and hope in apparent hopelessness that brings notice to the message Jesus taught his followers and offers to all. Unless our hope is meaningfully lived in front of others, it is as if the stone at the tomb remains firmly in place.
-mark l vincent
There once was a family–a Mommy, a Daddy, and 1.3 children. They and their pets lived in a suburban home with a deck, an entertainment room and a high-powered lawn mower.
Unfortunately, the economy tanked and the Daddy lost his job.
Fortunately, health insurance was provided through Mommy’s work.
Unfortunately, the benefit package changed and all employees at Mommy’s work must now pay 50% of the premium, with a much higher deductible.
Fortunately, nobody in the family is sick at the moment.
Unfortunately, Mommy is seven months pregnant.
Fortunately, the family wants this new child and Daddy is now available to be a stay at home parent.
Unfortunately, the family can no longer afford payments for the mini-van to haul everyone around.
Fortunately, the SUV is already paid for, and they can sell it to make up the difference.
Unfortunately, gasoline now tops $4 a gallon and nobody wants to buy a used SUV.
Fortunately, the family has been living in their suburban home with a deck, and entertainment room and a high-powered lawn mower for some time, so they can borrow against the equity in their home to refinance the mini van.
Unfortunately, house values dropped drastically and all the equity in their home disappeared.
Fortunately, they are willing to sell their home and move closer to Mommy’s work. By living in a smaller home and driving less, they can make ends meet.
Unfortunately, nobody wants a suburban home with a deck, an entertainment room or a high powered lawn mower because they are all doing the same thing.
Fortunately, the family kept setting aside money for a rainy day. They took the advice of their financial planner, not to make frequent trades or worry about short-term ups and downs in the market. They took the long view.
Unfortunately, when they looked at their portfolios, many of their investments had names like Enron, WaMu and British Airways.
Fortunately, they were young enough to file bankruptcy and start over.
Unfortunately, bankruptcy proceedings have been made more restrictive and the numbers of bankruptcies are clogging the courts. Everything is still tied up.
Fortunately, the Daddy’s parents lived nearby and everyone moved in together just in time for Grandpa’s stroke and loss of his pension.
Fortunately, they still have each other.
-mark l vincent
If wicked and naked and bad are good,
And decadent, sinful and guilty pleasure describe food;
If smashing and rad and awfully are what’s great,
And sick and tight and nasty indicate first rate;
Then place me on the list of hungry, wicked, naked, decadent and nasty sons of my father’s britches.
-mark l vincent
It has been a summer of moving in the Vincent family. We helped a little with my son and daughter in law’s move into their first apartment. My daughter moved half-way across the state to her first apartment. I finished a long-term project in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that required closing up an apartment. And during the last two weeks we moved both my sister-in -law’s family and ourselves to new digs.
It is hard work and my body is sore, but the process led to a few archeological finds in the back of old notebooks and journals–some of which may find their way into this blog over time.
Here is one gem that should be memorized by every seminarian:
The top 10 excuses pastors use to leave the office early
10. I’ve got a couple of errands to run.
9. I’ve got an appointment with the pastor across town.
8. I’m going fishing in the Jesus sense of the word.
7. I left an important file at home.
6. The head of our denomination called and said he wants to meet me at the golf course . . .NOW. I can’t say no!
5. Two words: ”comp time.”
4. My spouse cleared all appointments for the rest of the day and won’t tell me where we are going.
3. I haven’t eaten lunch yet.
2. God told me to take a day of rest.
1. Sermon research.
-mark l vincent
Years ago in Giving, the annual magazine of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, I teamed with my good friend Rev. Sam Brink (at that time part of the deployed stewardship staff for the American Baptist Churches) to develop the top ten reasons people do not give to an offering. We attempted it in the best David Letterman fashion.
In this era of fear that replaces the former era of greed, it seems worthwhile to bring it back to the light of day. Enjoy.
Top 10 reasons people do not give to the offering
10. “I’m a little short this week. I’ll make up for it next week.”
9. “Oh, so that is what those baskets are for!”
8. “Sorry, I don’t itemize on my taxes.”
7. “Love to give, but all I have is a twenty.”
6. “I thought YOU brought the checkbook!”
5. “But the bulletin says you got enough money last week!”
4. “Our children give during Sunday School.”
3. ”I only get paid once a month and today is not the day.”
2. “Sorry, I don’t carry cash.”
1. “I’m not sure who to make the check out to. God or Jesus.”
Our son gets married this coming May, which means looking for a dress for the mother of the groom. In an act of impulsive love, I cancelled late afternoon plans and took my beautiful bride shopping. A mistake?
I am good at being patient while Lorie shops. I take a sincere interest. On occasion, I have even been helpful in choosing something she enjoys and wears frequently. But there are some stores where the husband is not welcome. The tension is up from the moment a person possessing male appendages walks in.
I had dropped Lorie off and parked the car, entering a few minutes after her. By then she was at the back of the store perusing the racks. Entering the door, a saleswoman accosted me, demanding to know my name to prove I was actually with someone already in the store. Already uncomfortable, I moved to where Lorie was and began my patient wait, moving several times as other shoppers approached the rack where I was standing, making it known I was not welcome to stand there while they looked at the rack. It was a warm day for early March, a hint of spring in the wind, but only frosty estrogen inside.
What would have happened if I had said: “I’m not a predator! I’m married! I’m not going to peek inside the dressing room curtains! I’m not thinking about what you would look like in a size 20 evening gown! I’m happily married. I’m a father of an adult daughter. I am a business owner, a respectable citizen, an ordained minister. Please, I mean no harm.” I doubt anything I could say would have helped.
An insight underneath all of this is that no-one can expect to be welcomed everywhere, to be loved by everyone, or to always be looked to for the role one is most accustomed to playing. By walking into that store as a man I was a problem, and there was little to nothing I might do to change it during the fifteen minutes or so we were in the store.
Other rooms into which I might walk will cast me as a leader, but only a few. Most of the rest I will simply be a spectator, a potential source of income, a family member or friend, a volunteer, or a participant under the direction of another. Life can be lived well if I craft my skill at moving comfortably between these roles.
If you immerse yourself in leadership theory, you quickly learn that a key issue is the leader who cannot distinguish when they have responsibility from when they do not. In short, the best leaders are also excellent followers. They understand the limits of leadership. At Design Group International, we seek to model this in how we set up and administer projects on behalf of businesses, non-profits and ministry organizations. Any one of our consultants might be lead on a project, provide project assistance under the direction of another, or even provide back office service to make sure the job gets done well. Anyone who thinks too much of their self, or believes they have more gravitas than others within our common practice is not going to fit well among a group of people who are trying to grow themselves into excellence as both followers and leaders.
Beyond this, and in tribute to the dress store experience, I must also become more comfortable with those settings where I am not readily welcomed, even when following my wife.
Honey, I’ll go shopping with you anytime.
-mark l vincent
Each spring Lorie and I receive about thirty requests to help people we know with their missions trip or service project by making a contribution. We give to one or two each year, usually because we believe in a young person’s potential and want to assist their formative experiences.
But each spring we also marvel at the inefficiency of these projects, the cultural mis-assumptions they perpetuate, how much they seem like mere tourism, and whether there is any real religious or humanitarian benefit. Not that we are opposed to people traveling and gaining experience. We would, however, support a better way should one emerge.
To help matters along, here is a template people might use in asking for my financial support. Please feel free to check the appropriate boxes to help me understand what you are doing and how Lorie and I might help. Rather than send it to me via e-mail, you might spring for a postage stamp to help prop up the U.S. postal service.
-mark l vincent
The mayor of Sheboygan, Wisconsin was recently censured by his city council for horribly unthinking and public (and drunken) comments he made about his sister in law (http://www.fox6now.com/news/witi-090924-sheboygan-mayor,0,157572.story). To his credit he has apologized and accepted the city council’s decision without any defensiveness. Still, one wonders about his ability to govern from here.
What I find amazing are the unthinking, insensitive and public statements I have heard by people who are not inebriated when they say them. Once uttered, especially by a leader, it makes it difficult to respect the person behind the words ever again. Recently, while driving to and from Florida on our vacation, my wife Lorie and I wrote down some of the most unthinking comments we have witnessed. We replay them here well aware that we are guilty of regrettable words ourselves. Interestingly, all these comments were made by church folk in church settings. We have tried to render them as accurately as possible.
Perhaps you have an example of two that would help us chronicle the attitudes we should leave behind and certainly never bring before the people of God. These are good reminders to guard our tongues.
- If you prayed for your mother every day she would get better.
- If our nation’s enemies don’t convert, kill ‘em.
- (During announcement time at Sunday morning worship) Stop using so much toilet paper! The basement toilet was clogged again and I’m tired of plunging it out!
- I hate it when the scriptures are read in a worship service.
- Your music is demonic because I don’t like it.
- All muslims are terrorists.
- I will always be the worship leader.
- I hope you aren’t offended that God healed me and you are still sick.
- God might love homosexuals, but if they come to this church I’m going to castrate them.
- You are sitting in my seat. I always sit there.
- My bud and I intend to be the last two people here when they close this church down.
- God is a Democrat. Really.
-mark l vincent
I am glad you were predestined to be a Calvinist or could choose to be an Arminian.
It is wonderful that you speak in tongues . . . .or can sit in extended silence.
Good for you that you were dipped in the waters of baptism as a symbol, or dipped thrice to complete your salvation.
It is fine with me that you understand the signs of the times and that your special diet brought you healing.
I am happy that you discovered the right scripture translation and have hit a new milestone in the number of minutes you spend in prayer each day.
And how nice that you just read the best book ever, a best seller by the Founder/CEO/President of a newly established Global Ministry Center.
And may you coninue to receive a Word, work for justice, unlock deeper mysteries, attend conferences, participate in Orthodox rites, walk the labyrinth, incorporate Jewish holidays wth your Christian ones, or whatever else it is that keeps your faith alive.
I am glad they help.
But when you have a moment, can we talk about following Jesus?
-mark l vincent
This past week brought a meaningful worship service and a time of tribute, thanksgiving and pastoral parody as my pastorate ended at North Suburban Mennonite Church. This talented and warm body of believers basically remade themselves in the last 3.5 years, and under the guidance of their new pastor (Dr. Roland Kuhl) are poised to be a strong witness to the power of Jesus Christ in the Libertyville, IL area and beyond.
Each year, the congregation hosts a retreat, including an evening of hilarity and hijinks. They brought a little of that to the farewell this past Sunday, giving me a few good pokes as they sang some Beatles and Billy Joel tunes with a whole lot of tongue-in cheek lyrics.
In that same hilarous spirit, I offer this following acrostic. Yes, some of it has a little bit of the inside joke flavor to it, but the sweet difficulty of leading organizational change leaks through.
Reflections on North Suburban Mennonite Church,
N o congregation thinks it is like any
O ther. Each one thinks it is
R eally unique. But “unique” is a
T rue description of this
H ighly talented bunch of
S horts and Birkenstockers.
U nderneath their
B luster and seemingly
U nlimited intellect is a
R awness to which the Spirit of God wants to apply a
B alm—and is doing so.
A t one time this group thought they might
N ot last.
M any wondered aloud whether
E verything was going to be changed.
“N o sharing time?!”
“N o announcements during church?!”
O r, “What! No annual retreat?!” Or,
“N o! Not a great, grey wall of cloth at the front of the church!”
“I want to see the light now that we have emerged from the basement!”
T hank God, time helps us set aside these our first reactions,
E ven though we still can’t get any empowered and feminist
C hurch ladies to read Scripture in a public worship service from the
H orny passages found in the Song of Solomon, thus making a balding, paunchy, forty-year-old male pastor read aloud about how wonderful are his breasts. Some things simply remain
U ndone. . . .But wait!
R oland, the Kuhl
C anadian that
H e is, has come. A future awaits!
No-one has had a better and more dedicated wife than I have known. No-one. I am fortunate to be married to her, and to bask in the love of all the women of her family. Count me among all those who know the joy of monogamy and all the freedoms that come from the helpful boundaries it provides.
This year, we celebrate 25 years of marriage. 10 of them have been marred and paradoxically aided by her agonizing bout with cancer. Lorie, I would do it all over again and this blog is my public proclamation of my undying love.
Throughout the years, I’ve written a number of poems for her, including several musical pieces performed at our wedding. Continuing in that tradition and with the hope that the inspiration offered might benefit others, here are two more that celebrate this lovely young woman I’ve known.
If sunshine were water,
and wind blew mountains high.
Should mustangs whinny nursery rhymes,
and mother improve on pie.
‘Twould be the start of special somethings,
memories of winsome tones–
Like youthful love,
flowing warm in our ancient bones.
Ode to a Kiss
Let’s do that thing that humans do,
pushing lip against a lip.
Plant those russet reds upon me
and let me take a sip.
How I love that pressure
of your nose pressed into mine!
How I love that sweetened suction!
How I long for that next time!
So come here lover lady.
Kiss me and then repeat.
Let’s find each other at the junction
where our two faces meet.