Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alter Call

The Lutheran clergy (and a few friends) in my area recently embarked on a musical journey together. We decided to call attention to hunger issues in Alaska and around the world by staging a musical originally produced by Bread for the World. Lazarus: A Musical Call to End Hunger is based loosely on the biblical stories of Lazarus and the Rich Man. In the case of the musical, the Rich Man is offered a chance to change his ways and shares his vision of all eating and being satisfied.

The experience of singing with colleagues was both riotous in entertainment and frustration. We practiced throughout the Easter season when we were only slightly busy. (Ha!) Also, we're all used to being in charge, but when we're together, we eschew authority and, um, we don't always respect it. (Just ask our bishop.) One of our accompanist's noted, "I can't really believe pastors are like this." I said, "It's our off-time. We're like kindergartners who were taken to the zoo and then promised ice cream."

Anyway, we performed during our Synod Assembly in Ketchikan, AK and then last night at Central Lutheran in Anchorage. We sang for about forty minutes and then the executive director of Lutheran Social Services of Alaska spoke about the food needs in Alaska, specifically Anchorage. Another pastor spoke about how to contact our senators and Congressman (we only have 1). He specifically talked about the difference between charity and effective and efficient use of dollars and legislation to change situations.

I leaned over to another pastor and said, "This is practically a revival. We have a big crowd who got charged up by the singing and now they're hearing the preaching." She replied, "Yes, then we'll have an altar call."

I said, "No, this is the altar call. It's an alter call." The end result of revivals in the Baptist tradition is, usually, to see how many people will come to Christ or rededicate their lives. This is well and good, but the way that plays out isn't in what we say, but how we live.

In the end, faith-filled living either reflects Jesus' love for neighbors in ways large and small or it doesn't. Occasionally, we need revivals, mainly for the call to pay attention, to listen for God's voice, to participate in how God desires to use us.

Jesus' words that the poor are always among us aren't an assurance that we can care for them tomorrow. Those words are our "alter call".

Photo credits: Pastor Stan Berntson, MV Christian


Unknown said...

I love this! Wish I could hear you sing.

Book_Writer said...

As someone who both farms and works professionally in the area of food production, I am extremely concerned about the growing prevalence of hunger throughout the U.S. Nearly 10 years ago, I wrote a story for the Asheboro, NC, newspaper about hunger in that small community and learned, much to my surprise and chagrin, that many children go without meals when school is closed for holidays and the summer, and yes, even on the weekends. It is quite disturbing to watch as the incidents of hunger becomes more widespread in this country. I recently wrote about politics in my blogpost: http://annettesobservations.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html