Foundry United Methodist Church

Barbara Cambridge, Lay Leader

 

 

 

What is Foundry For?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

 

 

Colossian 3: 12-17

 

 

The last line of the Order of the Phoenix, the latest Harry Potter film, is spoken by Harry Potter himself. He says that the difference between him and Voldemort, the incarnate evil in the Potter series, is that Harry has something to strive for. For is the last word of the film.

 

For is also embodied in the culminating action of the film. In a dramatic scene, viewers learn that love and friendship are what separate Harry from Voldemort. As Voldemort has tried to take over Harry’s mind and body, it is remembering the parents and teachers who have loved him and seeing his friends who have stood by him that enable him to retain his sanity and to return to leadership for justice in the world.

 

Harry’s community is what enables him to act in the world on behalf of his values. Asking what we are for can be to ask what we are willing to act on behalf of, but it can also be to ask how we live in order to act. This morning our scripture helps us examine this second question. How do we live together as a community in order to act? Why does the congregation called Foundry exist? What are we congregated for?

 

Before the scripture gets to how we as people whom God has chosen should act as a congregation, it advises us how we ought not to act together. We are advised that before we can teach one another wisely, admonish one another wisely, or sing with gratitude in our hearts, we must get beyond “whatever grievances (we) have against one another.”

 

The causes of grievance are sometimes similar to causes of grief. We feel let down by the actions or decisions of another person, we lose someone dear to us, we disappoint ourselves by acting in ways that fail to embody our values, or we consider someone else wronged. We have all felt grief over loss or regret. I remember when Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s first books about grief were published because, after reading them, I understood more fully the various stages of grief, including anger and a sense of loss that at first can seem as if it will never go away. Kubler Ross’s writing helped me understand that I needed to experience the evolution of my own grief, and that I could move on to feeling joy again. We feel grief for something and as a transition, even if it takes a long time, to again being able to experience joy.

 

We get into trouble, though, when grief moves into grievance. Grievance turns from for to against. Grievance is defined as resentment or complaint against an unjust act or the act of inflicting a wrong or causing suffering. Sometimes I wonder how grief turns into grievance. For example, I know a family that lost the mother, whom all family members loved and grieved for deeply, yet within weeks family members were attacking one another about who had or had not cared sufficiently for their mother during her last months of life. And the attacks only deepened over time so that the brother and two sisters stopped talking to and seeing one another for years after. 

 

I can only think that the family members got stuck in the stage of grief that is anger.  They turned that anger into grievance, not because they wanted to but because being against someone or something can be easier than being for someone or something. In being against, we can stay in the past, whether in actual or imagined versions of that past, because we need only regale ourselves and others with the wrongs or injustices that we derive from that past. A known grievance is often easier to bear than an unknown future without the someone or something that we have lost. In moving to the future, we have to be for something new and even unknown, and that’s sometimes really difficult.

 

And, a state of grievance is exacerbated when we decide to feel a grievance on behalf of someone else. As I was first reflecting on the Bible verses for this morning, I was at the same time reading a wonderful children’s book. Author Jon Muth incorporates in this book of short meditations, titled Zen Shorts, ideas to puzzle over. He suggests that through meditating on these short narratives, we can “hone our ability to reexamine our habits, desires, concepts, and fears.” Here is one Zen Short, called “A Heavy Load.”

 

Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair.  Because the rains had made deep puddles, she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants who had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up, put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk; she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”

 

Putting aside grievance or the potential for grievance, we can, as the older monk, move on with our lives. We can consider what we are called to do, including within a community.

 

One thing we are called to do according to today’s scripture is to teach with wisdom. During the past two years, Foundry members and constituents on planning groups and in congregational gatherings of many kinds, including appreciative inquiry groups, discussion sessions about neighbors, and lately house meetings, have been seeking to understand what God is calling us to do and be. We have been teaching one another what it is we hear God calling Foundry to do and be.

 

Several weeks ago Foundry’s current planning group met with Bishop Schol, who leads the Baltimore Washington Conference of which Foundry is a part, to learn from him ideas about how Foundry might organize itself to act on what we hear God calling us to do and be. In the course of the conversation, the Bishop advised us to discern our mission, values, and goals before we decide structure to support our objectives. He suggested an interesting way to discern what defines our congregation. Pretend, he suggested, that you are going out to create another Foundry. Who are five or six people in the congregation whom you would send to create another congregation that embodies the essence of Foundry?

 

Since that conversation I’ve thought about people whom I would choose. One person is part of my pew neighborhood. You’ll recall that the term “pew neighborhood” emerged during our first planning phase when Foundry was asking itself “Who are we?” A member said that his pew neighborhood, the people who often sat in the same section of the church from Sunday to Sunday, was important to him. I understand what he means. My pew neighborhood is also important to me, and one person in that neighborhood is particularly important because she teaches me wisely by her presence and her actions. I’ve asked her permission to talk about her, so don’t worry that I’m embarrassing her unawares. Annie Belle Daisey, who recently turned ninety years young, is in church every Sunday: corporate worship is important to her as a way to praise God and as a way to renew herself in the company of others. I often peer over her shoulder to see what book she is carrying on a particular Sunday because Annie Belle is a learner: she is often engaged in an adult education class or carrying a book someone has suspected she would like to read. Annie Belle has seen many, many changes in Foundry over the years, some that have delighted her and some that have disappointed her; but she has continued to contribute and be a part of a church about which I recently heard her exclaim to someone during the time we all pass the peace “Foundry is a very special place.” Annie Belle teaches me wisely through her presence, her commitment to learning, and her appreciation for our community. She’s someone I would want to send to create another Foundry – but I would do so only with a sense of great sacrifice because our pew neighborhood would be diminished without her presence.

 

Sometimes individuals teach us wisely, but other times we learn collectively. In last month’s Foundry Forge, writing about house meetings Dean wrote that we were trying through those meetings “to listen at a deep level – to listen to the Potter who seeks to shape and mold us…not just to listen for good and interesting ideas – but for a Voice beneath our own thinking.”

 

Over the past two years, planning groups also have worked to listen to a “Voice beneath our own thinking.” Toward that goal at the beginning of each of the current planning group’s work sessions, a member of the group chooses a Bible passage that seems to that person to bring a special message to Foundry as a community. For example, one member selected Galatians 3 with the amazing verse 28 that states “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” The planning group member said about the passage: “I might not be ready to give up on prejudice or to break down a barrier – but scripture sets me right. If you are a person who affirms that you have been made right with God because of your faith in Jesus Christ, then the fact is you are my sister or my brother. That’s where we begin. Everything else must follow this basic fact of faith.” In examining various passages together the planning group has been doing what we are called to do in Colossians, to teach one another with all wisdom, but we are also looking through the scripture to what God is calling Foundry to do now in this time, in this place, with all of us as community members, all of us who are sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

In house meetings Foundry members also been taught and learned from one another.  I had the opportunity to attend five of the house meetings where I learned so much about how sisters and brothers at Foundry feel about our community and what it is and could be. Through a process Dee helped us enact, at house meetings we listened to one another, really listened. Dean and Dee have begun sharing in various settings what they heard and what Foundry members taught one another in these meetings. In many ways, both ongoing like worship on Sunday and short term like planning groups and house meetings, we as a congregation have occasions and spaces where we can teach and learn from one another wisely.

 

In Colossians we are called to teach one another with all wisdom, but we are also called to admonish one another with all wisdom. To admonish can be to encourage toward something or to call away from something. One kind of admonishing toward something that we practice at Foundry is encouraging one another in times of joy and of sorrow. For example, during corporate worship on Sunday mornings, members of Foundry offer to contact individuals who have gotten married, moved to a new place, faced health issues, or lost loved ones.  Encouragement is especially welcome at times like these.

 

The tougher of the two kinds of admonishing, however, is calling away from or being called away from certain actions or attitudes. When we believe that we need to admonish another person in our community or when we desire admonishment from those who love us and can see what we may not be able to see about our own behavior, the trick is how to give or receive in a way that can be heard as coming from the caring place that it does. Of course, we want to be sure that the admonishment comes from a caring place. Is the source envy, guilt, or a lack of clarity, or is the source the desire for more expression of caring, for more just practices, or for closer community?  We are called to “clothe (ourselves) with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” especially as we are admonishing or being admonished. At Foundry we need to continue as a community to seek ways to admonish one another by following the call to “put on love, which binds (us) all together in perfect unity.” Not a false unity, but one in which we seek to admonish and be admonished with wisdom for the benefit of our community.

 

The last part of the Colossians passage that we’ll focus on this morning is a joyous one: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you. . . sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” The rich diversity of kinds of music, kinds of instruments, and range of voices in the choir and in the pews here at Foundry enables us to express gratitude to God in a multitude of ways. Foundry members appreciate classical music that has inspired people over time, spirituals that emerged from particular historical periods and continue to have currency today, and new songs written by contemporaries who praise God through new rhythms and words. Our children, youth, and adults make up choirs who lead the rest of us in feeling the power and love of God through music. We in the pews sing sometimes loudly and joyfully and sometimes quietly and poignantly with tears in our eyes.

 

 We currently have the opportunity in a written survey to describe what we as Foundry members and constituents value in music. You may often hear, as I do and did as recently as in house meetings, “Foundry has a great music program.” And we do. But the scripture today doesn’t talk about a program. It says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you sing . . . with gratitude in your hearts to God.” What if we began to hear an additional description of Foundry: “Foundry is a singing congregation.” My pew neighborhood includes a pew with a marker about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s sitting there for a Christmas Eve service in 1941. In that bleak time in our world’s history, Churchill had asked Franklin to attend a Methodist church. Churchill wanted to hear Methodists singing. Building on Foundry’s wonderful traditions in music, how can we become even more of a singing congregation? I hope in the survey and in other ways in the coming months we’ll share innovative ideas about how all of us can make music to thank and to praise God.

 

Our scripture lesson for today ends with these words: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through Christ.” As we move beyond grievance, teach and learn wisely, admonish and accept admonishment wisely, and make a joyful noise until the Lord, let’s through our words and deeds give thanks to God. That’s what we at Foundry congregate for.

 

                 

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