Wednesday, April 4, 2018
I remember being in Ada, MN when I wanted to engage teenagers more intentionally in the Passion narrative of Good Friday. Using the music of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings", I was able to use youth to create still frames in a dramatic fashion that led the observer through the events of Jesus crucifixion and burial. It helped that the church had stage lighting that gave great effect to the presentation.
Some of you may remember the BMG music service. One could order a music CD and get another for next to nothing. I would order the most interesting music and listen to it for possible use in Good Friday dramas. My favorite is Chantecleer's rendition of "Steal Away" which has a great crescendo that I time with Jesus' crucifixion and then trails off for a beautiful burial scene.
Another year I discovered a music group by the name of Secret Garden, a Norwegian music duo that produce some beautiful and unique music. One song in particular was called "Hymn to Hope" that incorporates violin and bagpipes for a haunting melody that worked well for a Good Friday drama. For a unique twist I thought of two girls holding a large black sheet to symbolize death that was ever present in scenes that reflected Jesus' ministry. Again, there is a crescendo in the music - a perfect moment for crucifixion - and then trails off so I had the girls take the Jesus character off the cross and wrap him in the black sheet and lay him on the ground for a dramatic end. And that is how we close the service. So I now have three dramatic portrayals that I can incorporate into Good Friday and rotate if a congregation likes that sort of thing.
Memorial Lutheran in Afton, MN, had a tradition of offering a living tableau of DaVinci's Last Supper which included a script introducing each disciple. They would alternate years, presenting the last supper portrayal one year for Maundy Thursday then the next year do a Good Friday drama.
I did some theological editing of the script for Maundy Thursday and, working with lay leaders who recruited actors from the congregation and got them in costumes, we were able to make DaVinci's masterpiece literally come to life.
I am still struck by people's responses to this last supper portrayal. Each disciple is introduced and then they gather behind the table. When Jesus is finally introduced, the lights go out, the men get into their DaVinci pose, and then the lights come on. People actually gasp, whisper, take a breath as the living nature of this portrayal seems to catch them off guard. Even though they know that it is coming.
At Trinity, third graders receive instruction on the practice of Holy Communion and Maundy Thursday is their first partaking of the sacrament. We actually have Jesus bless each child and have the disciples serve communion, first to those families who child is receiving communion, and then to the entire congregation. When the service is over we allow parents to take pictures of the class with the tableau in the background.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Sunday, July 17, 2016
I had applied and was accepted to attend a continuing education event at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI. The seminar is titled, “Digital Pluralism and the Death and Resurrection of the Church.” Basically, we’ll be looking at the effects our pluralistic society has had on the church, looking at the things we have done to contribute to this, and what are some solutions/things-we-can-do to address the decline in attendance in traditional church and how can we move forward as an engaging and meaningful faith expression of the Christian church.
I will try to contribute daily to my blog (no promises!) and encourage responses and questions as I engage with the instructor and other participants in learning and discussion. I also had “homework” to prepare for this seminar. Two books: Preaching at the Crossroads by David Lose (who is leading the seminar) and Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass. We were also asked to watch two movies before attending: Pleasantville and Big Fish. I commend them to you. They are very much on the creative side of film-making so don’t expect a “normal” movie experience. I would love to hear your impressions.
We’ll also be looking at fall lectionary texts to see how we might apply our learning to our preaching.
Just wanted to let everyone know what has been going on at the Isaacson house lately. As some of you may know, Kristen has been dealing with sever back pain for a number of years. She has been able to work but her pain has left her exhausted at the end of the day. She has been working with doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors through the years. Having had enough, she sought out more advanced relief and found the Laser Spine Institute. After initial consults, they offered her some laser surgical procedures that they believe will give her much relief.
So we left home on June 28 for Tampa, FL. She had some preliminary meetings, MRI, and pre-op blocking procedures that week. She had her first surgical procedure on Tuesday, July 5. Working on her lower lumbar spine she had a laser decompression, cleaned out a herniation, and laser section on a nerve in her L 4/5. After a few days of recovery, she had a second procedure on Monday, July 11. This time they focused on her neck, decompression, laser section of nerve, and removal of a bone spur on C 6/7 and C 5/6.
Her post-op appointments were very positive. These were minimally invasive procedures with just a few small incisions on her lower back and neck. Her recovery is simple – four weeks of walking, icing, and resting her back. Then gradual increases in exercise and movement. She still has difficulty sitting and standing for any period of time but we are seeing progress and are hopeful that these procedures will be the answer to helping get a more normal life back.
I took vacation time for these three weeks focused on Kristen’s health. While I seem to have some skills at care-giving, I am not a nurse. The procedures were basically out-patient so I saw to her needs as she recovered in our hotel room across the road from the Institute. Needless to say we are tired of living out of suitcases for three weeks but it seems that it has been well worth the effort.
Thank you for your prayers and concerns. Thanks to our parents who have been helpful and supportive through this time and for watching Karsten in our absence. Thanks to Ryan for mowing our yard and to Adrianne for watering plants. Thanks to the French’s for watching our dog Sweetie for part of this time. Thanks to Trinity’s staff for making things work in my absence. We move forward from here and the future looks promising.
I’m not quite back to work. We arrived back in Crookston on Thursday night, July 14. I had a wedding rehearsal on July 15, wedding on July 16 along with a premarriage consult for another couple getting married on July 23. I’m flying out Sunday, July 17 for a scheduled continuing education event in Grand Rapids, MI and am returning Friday, July 22. Karsten is home with Kristen and parents are stopping in daily. I’m performing the wedding on July 23 and planning to preach and lead worship on July 24. I’ll be back in the office on July 26. I plan to be home and working the entire month of August!
Sunday, June 19, 2016
In the wake of the Orlando shootings, I grow increasingly frustrated with those voices that lack compassion and kindness in their rantings and postings. The example Jesus portrays is one of total compassion and an extension of grace to those who are victims - victims of violence, victims of hate, victims of grief, victims of insecurity.
I'm drawn to the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11. The self-righteous scribes and pharisees bring her to Jesus for a judgment. In the midst of the hostile language Jesus chooses not to engage the rhetoric. Instead "Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground." When they are done he poses the question, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Then he goes back to writing in the ground.
Jesus doesn't escalate the conflict. He poses a self-reflection question. The accusers slither away in embarassment. Jesus addresses the woman, "Neither do I condemn you." There is no heated language. There is nothing hateful said to anyone involved in the situation. There is an emphasis on compassion and understanding. Jesus lets that be the motivation for the woman to find her way in faith and life.
When it comes to speaking about the tragedy that happened in Orlando, how we use our words reflects on the love and grace our faith calls us to share. Nothing is gained by using words that are homophobic or anti-Islamic or escalate a hostile rhetoric. Brothers and sisters, let us be peacemakers who seek to understand and exhibit kindness especially to those who are different from us. This is the way of Jesus.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Our church council has been talking about ways we can engage more people into the life of the congregation. We've heard about all the trends, both negative and positive. One of the suggestions was to activate an interactive online presence where people might be able to participate in a discussion forum about various topics. The topic of "blogs" was brought up as one of those methods.
I'm not sure how many people presently are using blogs, but when I mentioned I had my own blog (which I have seriously neglected for quite a while) it was suggested that I get that started again. So here is my next attempt. I can't promise how frequently I will be updating, but I encourage those who use online media to connect with me through this medium and we will see where the discussions go.
The picture above is from our Maundy Thursday worship on March 24. Our Worship and Music Team was discussing about ways to make this service "come alive" and wouldn't it be nice if we could recreate the Last Supper. We put some heads together, did some serious recruiting, had a rehearsal the night before and you get what I think is a pretty good representation of DaVinci's Last Supper. This is also the service for those children receiving communion after their formal instruction. Hopefully it is memorable for their faith journey.
So feel free to comment in this space. A few more blogs should be coming and I look forward to the input from many of you.
Peace, Pr. Isaacson