#Christianity, you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means

1. Christianity to me isn’t about finding all the answers, but asking the essential questions (look at the Gospel its people asking Christ ?s and Christ asking people ?s) gathering together and acknowledging that God is bigger and greater than our understanding of things, and we’d rather see thing more God’s way than our own way, because our way is too small

2. Church is a the practice of community and worship so that when moments of extreme trouble come, you have a healthy way to bring them to God and process them. (Like fire drills). Every week isn’t revolutionary but every week is important.

3. Church is about community, there are few places where we commit to practice community with whoever comes thru the door Church is a practicum in faith just as its a place to explore spirituality.

4. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between you and God. As it is an ongoing, unique and individual conversation, my job as pastor is to act as mentor, guide and/or teacher. Where you are with God is based upon who you are, that’s why relationships with God can change a person because the two are so intertwined. This is why mature Christianity is (w)holistic Christianity. The kind where the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell you how to vote, but you have an evolved understanding of learning what God’s purpose is for the world and you apply that purpose wherever you are and as much as possible.

5. Faith is about seeking out relationships with God, people and the world. Loving things into a more real, truthful and essential existence than what they have before that love. Its not about controlling another person, quite the opposite, its freeing them to be who they are.

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Many Waters, #love, #lament Psalm 69

Recently the curator of the achurchforstarvingartists spoke at our Presbytery Retreat, to discuss counter-intuitive thinking for ministry.

Last Week the Psalms of Praise lead to thinking about the position of kneeling/servanthood as how we will ultimately be kneeling to Christ in order to be next to him, for that is obviously the position he will be taking in the 2nd coming (as opposed to a more victorious, glory-to-God-fear-inducing or otherwise judgy-type-stance)

So it makes an odd kind of sense, to me at least, that this week’s Psalm of Lament would induce and encourage the opposite position, the one of standing up and shouting.

Psalm 69 and Matthew 7 both encourage bringing our troubles to God. Not skulking or hiding them, not muttering them under our breath, but full out yelling. Standing up and crying out to God, Saying the words Hosanna! Save us! Save me! ” Save me, O God,
   for the waters have come up to my neck.” “I have come into deep waters,
   and the flood sweeps over me.”

Lament is a unique feeling it is somewhere between mourning and anger.

It is the energy of loss.

Lament is important, because when we do not name loss it consumes us. Madeline L’engle describes it in her book The Wrinkle in Time as being Xed. The nothingness, the loss of love and feeling of powerlessness starts to erase personhood. It makes your feelings look like *just nothing.*

Quotation-Madeleine-L-Engle-people-Meetville-Quotes-185385

If you’ve ever had a conversation with a loved one who makes a claim about what is bothering them, and you state that its *nothing* you might have opened a can of worms, because that *nothing* value you assign to the problem might make the person feel like their problem is *nothing* because they are *nothing.* This is a dangerous write off of others’ experiences and feelings, furthering the Xing process.

Lament can be different from just anger or mourning, because it is the energy behind naming and crying out for that which is a part of being human–for love, for laughter, for companionship, for safety and stability and beauty.

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
   At an acceptable time, O God,
   in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.”

For the right to make mistakes and to seek forgiveness, for the right to call out the heirachical and bigotted structures that make one feel unsafe, from the fact that women are interupted for speaking during CEO meetings (and men aren’t), to the fact that young African-Americans are seen as more suspicious than young Caucasians, its the facts that Transsexual people cannot feel safe in either men nor women’s bathrooms, its the fact that sexual abuse is insufficiently prevented and addressed, its in the fact that some children go to bed hungry at night, the fact that some people have daily painful realities to deal with in violence or addiction or physical ailments or mental illness. It is the fact that life is not fair, and who has not lamented that one true fact?

God does not want us to paste our smiles on and live our life ignoring its problems. God acknowledges there is real and harmful evil in the world, real difficulties that are a part of everyday life and that fact means that lament is a necessary part of our existence.

Lament is the deep mourning for those things that the soul needs to survive and thrive. It is for that reason that standing up and naming what is going out, and calling on God for it, can be a creative and healing act.

Whenever there is anger in a system, be it a church or a school or the government, that means there is energy, and when named and processed that energy can be used for change. Love

Lament is a just form of prayer, and one which the church too often forgets or glosses over, but God invites you to pray, reminding us that when our children ask for bread, we do not give them snakes. We give them bread (or even sometimes cupcakes) How much more will God Give us.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7


Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.

P.S. Might I recommend Madeline L’engle’s less known books “Many Waters” (about Noah and the twins) and “An Acceptable Time” (about time travel and the role of evil) ….as you guess the names are from scripture 🙂

God, Stooping, Kneeling and Praise Ps 113 Narrative Lectionary

One of the most common themes in the Bible is the proclamation that EVERY knee shall bow to Jesus Christ. I like this because I feel it contains within it the POSSIBILITY for universal salvation. This is a tricky thing, because if Jesus is our only salvation, then its difficult then to go and state that Every knee shall bow to God. However, this is my faith in God’s everlasting love and salvation, and what is great about this proclaimation is that its EVERYWHERE in the bible from Isaiah 45:23 to Romans 14:11 to Phil 2:10-11

5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.


9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

During my oral examination for ordination, I got asked about this phrase in my statement of faith, for I stated that I whole heartedly believed that someday every knee shall bow to Christ, every tongue confess him Lord.

I got asked if I was a universalist (that means that everyone will be saved no matter what which makes religion and even the need to do good irrelevant to some people), and I cheekily answered that the Bible says this to be true in both the New and Old Testament. I had no clue as to how God will put this mighty and impossible work into being, but I believed that the Bible was telling the truth, and if you viewed that verse to be universalist than Jesus and the prophets must have been universalists. This got me a laugh.

So, when I was looking at Psalm 113, a Psalm that names God and praises God as the one who stoops, a thought occurred to me….

When if at the end of the world, every knee shall bow, because that is the position Christ will be in? Christ who emptied himself, Christ who humbled (knelt/stooped) to be on earth

What if Christ comes, as always, to serve the world the actual physical position of servanthood, stooping and crouching to serve, and what if we all get on our knees to serve with her?

Maybe that is why it is couched with all the words about NOT judging each other in the New Testament, something that would definitely would have been better understood after Christ’s physical incarnation than before…..

Is it so hard to believe that Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to Christ not because of the mighty thunder and lightening of the end of the world, but because God is serving and listens to what it is we have to say and invites us to assume the same position? We are conquered by God’s graciousness and are finally able to embody it…

Psalm 113


1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.


2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.


5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who stoops to look
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

What is true #christian #forgiveness in an #abuse situation?

These notes are from my Albany area’s Christian Response to Sexual Abuse–all typos are my own… and make sense of what Justice is in a more mature way than demanding forgiveness in (any kind) of power abuse situation. I’ve had a colleague use this material for financial abuse as well.

Also, as one colleague noted, each person experiences abuse differently and heals differently, this is one way to think about the complex process that is healing. But here are some deeper theological thoughts than “we should just forgive the abuser and show grace” in difficult situations

The Elements of Justice-Making
Truth-telling: giving voice to the reality of the abuses (from the victim’s point of view)
Acknowledging the Violation: hear, name and condemn the wrong doing (by the governing body of the victim)
Compassion : Listen and suffer with the victim (Consider having an advocate for the victim)
Protecting the vulnerable: Take steps to prevent further abuse to the victim and others (removal from position, how can they have it at this time?)
Accountability: Confront the abuser of trust, and impose discipline (negative consequences) this step makes repentance possible
Restitution : Make symbolic/real restoration of what was lost; give a tangible means to acknowledge the wrongfulness of the abuse and the harm done and to bring about healing. The restitution must be freely given and of significant value to show repentance wanting to make right.
Vindication: set the victim free from the suffering caused by the abuse when justice has been done.

THERE CAN BE NO HEALING WITHOUT JUSTICE-MAKING
FORGIVENESS, REPENTANCE & RECONCILIATION
If your Sibling wrongs you, reprove him/her, if he/she repents forgive them. Even if one wrongs you seven times and comes back to you seven times saying, “I Am sorry” you are to forgive him/her. Luke 17:1-4
Forgiveness within a relationship is not a matter of forgetting the experience, nor is it a matter of saying that the behavior was acceptable. When a person whom one has trusted takes advantage of his/her position, it is usually a traumatic experience, not one that is easily forgotten. In the bounds of sacred trust, that behavior is unethical.
For the victim, forgiveness is not unconditional we are not God. (We can believe  and try to put into practice God’s universal ability to forgive)
The preconditions for forgiveness are
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient justice
The Victim(s) must be empowered through God’s grace
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient healing to be able to let go of the anger and pain
Without these conditions, forgiveness will not be authentic—it will be an attempt to or an effort to forgive. The victim must experience sufficient justice, grace & healing to be able t let go of his/her anger at the abuser.

For the abuser: Repentance= not merely confession, apology or intention not to repeat an offense
Repentance means to turn around to change one’s behavior and/or one’s life so that one will never repeat the offense. As the scripture passage makes clear, the victim(s) obligation to forgive is dependent upon the abuser’s repentance.
True Repentance : Signs
The abuser takes steps necessary for justice-making to make amends for the abuse: (see above)
The abuser identifies the beliefs & attitudes that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of rejecting those beliefs & attitudes
The abuser becomes aware of the needs that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of meeting those needs
The abuser identifies the conditions that allowed the abuse to happen, and changes the conditions to prevent future abuse
RECONCILIATION is restoring of the right relationship between the abuser and his/her church. IT involves restoring the trust that was violated and restoring the broken relationship on new terms.

(Note: my instinct is that since our God is a justice-making God, Forgiveness for God is universal, but I have not been able to fully think out this theology yet)

Good NEWS and extroverting

Nextchurch2015

We are listening to the immeasurable Diana Butler Bass who is greatly illustrating her theories on church and culture, when the news breaks on twitter a little before 7:30 (she started at 7).

Its a amazing, its wonderful.

I text the news to my parents.

I can’t believe it.

Twitter is going crazy.

The real question is Can we interrupt Diana Butler Bass?

7:28 pm @miheekimkort suggests “@revJohnRussell at 7:30 lets stand up and scream”

I tweet @bookkats “Feel the pcusa urge to stand up and proclaim the good news even tho its rude to interrupt awesome DBB” at about the same time

I wait for 7:30, sure someone will do it…

THREE agonizing Holy Spirit Bubbling minutes later (7:31) I realize no one has….

Then she talked about the fourth awakening, and its true realization (as in any realization) is when social justice comes into play, so I’m like “Ok, and now she’s talking social justice. Holy Spirit help my extrovert.”

I am totally bursting with the news. This is good news! This is my job to tell good news, and I have REALLY GOOD NEWS, and texting my parents isn’t going to do it!

@jledmiston says Can someone ask Q@dianabutlerbass for a brief space to acknowledg the PCUSA’s big news?

We were awaiting authority, in Nextchurch, which I love to define as the organic and hands on ideas of what is next for the church …irony….

So I’m like, maybe a quiet way is better (I guess I’m getting better at practicing some restraint) I Tweet “Stand up and hold up your phone maybe?”

This is the time, I realize, Diana Butler Bass is talking about the no going back change, the revival at the point ofsocial justice: what a moment to tell the news!

Meanwhile I hear rustle, rustle, rustle, everyone is looking at their phones

@mollyfid nails it on the head “Y’all, I”m about to Burst! UNfreeze yourselves presbys! Surely DBB will pause for a cheer”

Then I realize…I’m in the balcony, I’m in the first row. This is totally not awkward (I mean heck I’d love to do it from the most awkward and silliest position ever)….I’m the extrovert.

Oh my God….its me…I’m the one who is called into this place at this time to do this….its me, and I’m going to LOVE it

I stand up and (rather timidly) raise my hand. “Excuse me Diana….Sorry to interrupt, but we are just bursting here. We just passed 14F, all people can marry”

And I see it……from the balcony, everyone stands up and hugs and cheers in an almost disordered fashion….

It was beautiful, it was holy

my sister is trans…

I burst into tears

Diana Butler Bass asked my name and then said “The Episcopalians welcome you” 🙂

The amazing moment when God uses my no-hold-barred extroverted self who happened to sit in the front of the balcony at that moment…on the day when Brian preached about acceptance in the morning in the evening where the Presbyterian Light people were already planning their reception.

What do you call that but holy?

Holy

And then, we listened as best we can to Diana, hearing all the better her critiques because we were in a better place as church (claim the entire denom has failed, no problem : )

And then, we went and did church! The planned 80 people who went to the Presby Light reception were way…way…more….

Too many Presbyterians, after a long day, did church that night at a bar.

We have become a fuller church, how can we include people next, is Belhar Confession around the corner?

We did church, then and there with loud music and too many Presbyterians and drinks and food…

And we told each other the good news.

Amen. Alleluia

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#churches and #family the Socio-economics of #churchattendance

Warning: this will be rant-ish.

Know how churches don’t like that families and church no longer come first? How it is hard to get the typical family to church more than once a month?

The socio-economics of the situation are tricky, with little national health care and extremely expensive daycare it is difficult to have the time/money to invest in church. Either you are a stay at home mother/father with no extra funds or time or your one of two full time working parents who don’t have enough time to see your children and take them to all the extra-curriculars they “should” be doing.

The socio-economics are crazy, because most people can’t work a regular 9-5 job and are in and out of the house at crazy times working crazy hours.

Plus who knows if you’ll have that job or even be able to live in that city in 1 or 2 or 3 years from now.

Not to mention that most young families can barely afford to have a house or to not put in crazy extra hours or to work multiple jobs including babysitting or whatever other odd jobs they can find.

This is the reality.

So…understand, when churches do not support their staff taking care of their family. Whether it be to go to a family funeral, take care of a personal illness or to take maternity/paternity leave, that we are contributing to the very socio-economic problem we complain about day in and day out. Families who cannot take the time to take care of one another, who have to work instead of putting their family first, will have trouble making it to church.

Pastors are one of such staff…pastors are always on call, do not work 9-5, oft have to make meetings that cause delays of or missing of putting their children to bed. The hours are haphazardly put together depending on the congregation’s needs. Its a flexible job in some ways and very stringent in others.

Some typical (although not absolute) examples: if someone is ill, dying or in extremis you must be there…you may take sick days…as long as they are never when you are scheduled to preach

I know churches can ill-afford pastors, maybe its time to borrow other pastors, pay the choir director a little more or use a lay leader. Maybe its time to do a daily prayer service instead of a formal “traditional” service.

But if we can ill-afford pastors we absolutely CANNOT afford to not take care of those in need in our church…Think about that for a minute…the church claiming they can’t afford to take care of children and ill-ones…..

Thus: We can’t say we want more families to come to church–and then not support our families.  We can’t claim to be choosing God’s path and then not take care of our sick and our little ones.

(feel free to read paragraph above a couple of times)

Do we need an act of Congress to do the right thing?

I think we can do better.

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Naked as the day you were born: Job 1:13-22

For Job becoming Naked as the day he was born means loss. Loss of status, loss of goods, loss of food and security

Loss of family<–that one really gets me

Loss of respect, Loss of manhood (esp. in that culture), loss of legacy, loss of history.

and Job says “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

i.e. naked as the day he was born. An oft heard expression. Here Job acknowledges that those things that he claimed, his wealth, his house, even his family were not actually secure. For security is actually in God.

We have experienced this in the financial crises, when all the “security” in our money went down the drain. We experienced this at 9/11 when we realized that terrorism can strike anyone at any time. We realize this when a family member experiences disease or struggle, such as cancer (or perhaps even more difficult addiction or mental illness). Why? Because none of these things were really secure to begin with. What is actually secure is God, and Job is able to acknowledge this.

The other oft quote passage from this is “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away” (KJV sounds so much more authoritative doesn’t it)

Here is where I think Job gets it wrong. Because its not God who is taking all these things away….

Its evil. Whether it be Satan or the challenger, evil is what is taking things from Job, NOT God.job07a job08

 

What I find interesting about this interchange is that it is easier for people to believe in evil than good. I have met many people who have all kinds of beliefs, who are far more able to believe in Evil and evil forces than in God or good forces.

But (as my son pointed out this morning) the Devil can’t take God from Job<–from the lips of a child.

So, here is the question. Why is it easier to believe in evil than good? Why is it easier to believe that it is God who is angry or vengeful than to believe in a fully good and loving God who makes good things happen even admidst the bad.

After all, As it is so well stated in Dr. Who…the good things don’t negate the bad, but GOOD things can happen in the midst of bad! The Bad things don’t have to ruin the good ones.

So here is the question, why is it easier to believe in evil than good?
And what does that mean? Where does that put us. I can’t believe that there isn’t good and purpose for humanity. Honestly, my mind can’t even get around it. Good is stronger than evil, and I, ultimately, believe in Good. The Good of our Loving God.

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Job Ch 1: “What a Setup” or Biblical Fairy Tale

The beginning of Job is a total setup.

Once Upon a Time there’s Job: upright and blameless was he. Job was one who had plenty of sons and not too many daughters–sons whose hospitality was great (they really knew how to party people into the kingdom), and they hosted their sisters often.

Job’s hospitality was even greater, making sacrifices and worshipping on his children’s behalf, praying for them, asking for forgiveness if ever they wronged God (because Job admits he may not have been the perfect parent)

God and all the heavenly beings gathered together, and God asks Satan (otherwise known as the accuser/challenger) what he had been up to…

“The usual” Satan answers “Wondering around, looking at earth and earthlings?”

“Oh, did you notice my servant Job?” asks God.”Because he’s pretty much everything I could hope for, upright, honest and true (i.e. he fears God and turns away from evil)

“Why” asks Satan, “You know he only likes you because you take such good care of him, he is well blessed, he has every reason to be good. If you ruined him, all that would change”

“hmmm….” God says, “We shall see…tell you what do what you want to Job’s family, friends and possessions, as long as you leave Job alone, you can do what you want….”

Job is sure set up here. First he is set up to have everything, and then its what’s the phrase? “too good to be true” he is almost “too blessed” and as a result he becomes tested. Here God gives Satan, the tester, rights to do whatever he wants to Job (Excepting touching Job himself) to see just how faithful Job can be….

What a setup!

Don’t we pray for God NOT to lead us into temptation, what is with this? This doesn’t seem fair, how is it that evil can happen to Job and what does it all mean?

Here’s the setup, we are in for a good story, one where evil exists, but not without good, one where suffering is not greater than God, one where temptations and tests are less about who God is and more about who we are……

How will this work?

Plus, this happens in the mythical land of Uz, you know
a-long-time-ago

In fact the “Satan” character could be named “challenger” instead of Satan, because its unclear if the character is evil or just throwing challenges up….

So why does this perfect guy get setup in this way?
Because we’ve all experienced this, the question of why do bad thing happen to good people, theodicy, Why does evil exist, we all have experienced this reality in our lives.

And we all talk about God, its a human thing to talk about God and the role of evil in our lives, It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in this is a topic of conversation. So here we are, in a Biblical fairy tale (yay fairy tales!)

Asking the good questions, starting with
Once Upon a Time….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMzQCaRR_wk

Anectdotal Woman (or) 24 churches and a feminist

There are lots of stories about women in the Bible. Not all of them have names, but its nice to experience the parable.

So I’m going to tell a parable about an unnamed woman. And then I’m going to tell a lot of anecdotes that are by no means scientific but start to bear out what a woman may feel in ministry…they certainly confirmed my own experience

An unnamed woman I know got referenced for a local solo pastor position (yay!). This was very cool for many, many reasons, the first and foremost reason being that this woman is currently serving as an interim and needs a new position. This church was liberal, and Southern (thereby making it even more liberal) so looking at a young woman pastor was a pretty cool move.

She got turned down for the job, and the person who got hired was…..a man.

I have nothing against men, I think they are awesome. However, women have outnumbered men in seminary for many years now, as of 2012 only 1/3rd of pastors were women. Yep, that’s right, the PW reported to General Assembly that fully a third of pastors were women.

I am a liberal person, the PIF process is a long one. Once upon a time (a while ago) I applied to 24 “really liberal” churches. They were the “cool” ones that were Presbyterian Light, Rainbow-Friendly and environmentally sound. They were changing the style of worship, being creative in mission and had worship committees who were involved in writing liturgy.And Open, they were really, really, really, really, really, really open to ALL types of everyone/thing peoples….

24 self-proclaimed really liberal churches.

Basically none of them even called me back for a phone interview (I think I’m not hipster/cool/lesbian enough for the cool churches…I more dynamic extroverted female pastor who still does traditional worship in normal clothing, so most churches are uncertain what to do with me)

So anyway, I was deciding when/if I should follow up with my self-referrals, and it was too cumbersome to do phone calls. Since these were the hip churches they all had fully functional websites (something that drew me to these places in the first place). So I simply looked at their newsletters<–which always proclaim when new pastors come.

I noticed a pattern. I didn’t mean to notice it. I didn’t want to notice it. But after the 4th and 5th church had it, there was no stopping it.

23 of the (self-proclaimed super liberal and open) churches had hired men……only 1 hired a woman. That’s the broad perspective

On a more personal level–I am convinced that I would be in a totally different place were I male….or a different kind of female….
Lets just say that when I do the intervieiwng thing, I bowl people over (and that’s not always a good thing)

They weren’t expecting…..me….

I think the word that is the problem is Pastor…..

“You saying its hard to picture me as a Pastor…pastor, pastor…..

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I don’t fit the word “pastor

into what I have found to be the three traditional roles for women ministers. Please note, I am naming these stereotypes as I see them perpetuated in culture. As I do not fit these, I also know many women for whom this stereotype falls short even if they fit it on the surface.

1. Those introverted, superfocused and reflective awesome chaplain types who can do pastoral care like no one else! Associate for pastoral care, go!

2. Those extroverted women who are loud & bombastic and obviously need to put their energy to use with the youth (preferably the younger children, leave the teens to an extroverted “very cool” male who has not yet realized his call to be the head pastor of a multi-staff church but will probably realize said call and be parachuted into said congregation once he catches up<–I’m trying not to be bitter about this pattern). Youth Associate Go!

3. The really creative and out there single mother/lesbian/crazy single lady who has short spiky hair (usually of some outlandish color), many piercings and tattoos. Amazing Solo Pastor who probably overworks for a half or three quarter time ministry, Go!

I guess I break the Mold

I am, in fact, a woman who unashamedly pursued a full time solo pastorate

and when people meet me….you know people who are looking for “the pastor”….
they don’t know what to do with me

Because I am a woman

an extroverted woman who is a great preacher, a good people person and who works really really hard at the ministry of listening and the ministry of presence….but otherwise is not shy, retiring and is not afraid to speak my opinion and to (kindly) tell the truth. In fact I rarely participate in the politicking that is usually associated with my gender.

Anecdote: I have been called many things, once I was called edgy for quoting the Book of Order, Another I was called unusual when I talked about serving the neighborhood. Some of this is part and parcel with the job, but I do think that I say things that people would expect um…..a man to say…..Specifically: I laugh a LOT in the pulpit. Every want ad for pastor I’ve ever seen wants a pastor “with a sense of humor,” but usually at some point I’m told that I laugh to much in the pulpit, because when a woman laughs, when I practice what I consider to be a spiritual practice of Good News, people assume I’m irresponsible. Laughter and Joy in a woman is assumed to be a point of flightiness (I am type A…..so I’m really wayyyyy on the other end of taking my responsibilities TOO seriously). I also have been called “young lady” whenever I tell a hard truth and speak to my authority, by multiple people.

I am a woman

A mother, who is not interested in being a children’s associate. I studied Christian Education to support the entire church’s learning and (fingers-crossed-maybe-someday) hopefully would be able to partner with those who are already doing the Christian Education in my church. I am not planning on only being a youth minister, despite the fact that I do indeed have three children…

Anecdote: I have a space marked “pastor’s spot” at the parking lot, which isn’t really my thing (special honors, no thank you), but it actually saves a lot of time. I don’t look like a typical pastor, esp. when I have a couple of kids in tow. Sometimes I have to convince people I’m a pastor, usually I have to repeat it more than once, and I’ve even had to argue with people about it (usually I just turn it into a joke). The parking spot saves me a lot of explaining, you can tell they’ve had that internal argument so by the time they arrive they are able to say “So YOUR the pastor”

I am a woman

a girl-next-door-looking-woman (brown hair and glasses to-boot, oh and I look a LOT YOUNGER than I am) who is super creative about how I build partnerships and relationships, full of energy and life I am ready to spark the excitement within the church and yet somehow does not have a million tatoos and piercings.

Anecdote: When I was in seminary I got hired on to do ministry at a Korean American church, to this day I am convinced I got hired because Koreans are used to people holding their Asian/youthful look against them and instead looked at my VERY impressive resume which states that I (always have and probably always will) have experience beyond my years! Yay for Bethany Pres!

I am a woman, and the church hasn’t found a stereotype for me……..

I have a VERY successful ministry where I am, the church is doing great, I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I’m still me, but some days its hard to have to consistently explain that not only am I actually a Presbyterian Pastor…..but I’m actually the only Pastor that I know how to be….

I think I’ll just start handing out cards that say
“atypical pastor” do you think people would then get the message not to expect whatever it was they were expecting?

And, how can we train churches (and the outside world, who seems to be just as surprised) to expect those types of people we aren’t expecting….

Prayer Ideas #prayer

I have worked on two different forms of prayer that I keep coming back to.

 

The first is the”Lord’s Prayer Chorus”.

The way it works is you hand out copies of the Lord’s Prayer to even the most experienced of the group.

Instructions: Each person contributes to the prayer one line at a time, and you don’t move on to the next line until someone is ready to.

I’ve done it both where people chime in wherever and whenever they feel moved to or the more orderly version where we go around in a circle…until everyone who has said AMEN has done so….

the Prayer might looks something like this

Person 1: Our Father who art in heaven

Person 2: Our Father who art in heaven,

Person 3 Our Father who art in heaven

Person 4 Our Father who art in heavn

Person 5 Hallowed be thy name

Person 6 Hallowed be thy name

Person 7 Thy Kingdom Come

Person 8 Thy Will Be Done

etc.
Note: How you divide the lines will effect how the prayer is spoken,

also someone suggested allowing people to backtrack in the prayer, I have yet to allow that freedom, but go for it.

 

The Other way to prayer is (sort of) a variance on the breath Prayer.

I call it “Simple Prayer”

Its where you take a line of scripture and pray it down to a single word. My favorite is “Be Still and Know that I am God”

Be Still and Know that I am God

Be Still and Know that I am

Be Still and Know that I

Be Still and Know That

Be Still and Know

Be Still and

Be Still
Be

#easter #smallchurch #emptytomb #emptychurch #nextchurch

Church-Mostly-Empty-Pews

And then all the Christians looked at the church, the pitifully empty pews, and asked each other. Where have all the people gone?

But the real question they were asking was where is Jesus? Akin to finding the empty tomb, we can see the emptiness, the absence……and we say to one another “‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” and weep.

And then Jesus meets us on the road, in the “real world” and instructs us not to dwell by the emptiness but to go and tell people that he has arisen.

Empty Church, pshaw, it is but the beginning of the resurrection story–Go on, go out it the world and tell them, wherever they are

“I have seen the lord” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

John 20

 

20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

#nextchurch Farmer’s Market: building local ministry

Sadly I recently looked thru my posts and found that my original farmer’s market post has disappeared (oh no!) So I will have to rewrite it with a broader perspective.

The church was called to local mission: most of the 40-odd faithful adults had volunteered regularly at homeless centers, hospitals and to knit/sew for the needy. The question was, how to do it? As an elder said “I don’t even think people know we are here” so we brainstormed…..

The church did a lot of events. A lot of, traditional events. Things like a Strawberry Festival and Choir Concerts. Things like Clothing Exchanges and Playgroups. None of them seemed to really take off…people came to these events, but not as many as the church hoped. See, the church had discerned that their call was for local mission, but we were having trouble connecting to the neighborhood. Our best moniker was “the church with all those AAs” our worst was “the one with the chain up” So the church tried all these events, and immediately named them to be failures.

The church was wrong though, these events weren’t failures, they were successes–if you looked at them the right way.

The Ice Cream Social  didn’t get a lot of people coming, but we served ice cream, showed the Nursery School’s artwork, plus got a couple of homeless people off the street for a few hours.

The Praise Inc Revival Concert was difficult I had to go to some kind of meeting (I forget what) and arrived late, when I walked in I was told “no one came” <–people did come, about 45, and what was really cool was that about 1/3rd were from the church, 1/3rd were from another worshipping community within our church and 1/3rd were from the community.

The clothing exchange was a lot of work, but it was cool because it was a ministry for everyone (not just the “needy”). Those who sorted the clothing found a lot of things for themselves and others (haha) and plus we started to get some regular ladies who dropped by to check out what we had.

The free playgroup didn’t have a lot of steady people but hey 1. it was drop in 2. a lot of people came until they found a job, and it was a great way to get to know the neighborhood if you were new in town.

The real issue, of course, was that we weren’t getting new members, which I (constantly) reminded our members, was not our goal.

Our goal was to get to know the community, to provide space for them to gather and to use our eminently well placed church that happened to have an awesome parking lot. (Of course we were doing other technical things too).

Then a couple from the church and said, What about a farmer’s market? We have a good parking lot.

Session agreed, and within session we outlined our goals which were to

1) Get to know the neighborhood

2) Help local farmers

3) Not have ulterior motives (or at least try not to)…this was not for money or members, it was for the community….In fact session maturely agreed that we would charge Farmers money to hold them accountable, but all the money would go back into the market.

We researched the other church farmer’s market, we went to big and small farmer’s markets, we looked up rules and regulations, we sent out letters and then we called & called & called & called the farmers until finally someone agreed to do it and all the other farmers (small world eh?) jumped in as soon as 1 person committed.

We plotted out the parking lot, we advertised and made signs and got ready for our grand opening.

We had well over 200 people! 200 people!

And afterwards we worshiped together and took apart all the things that helped to our success! We literally put each thing that we thought contributed upon a building block and then we took all the blocks and “built up” into what was now the farmer’s market!

And sure enough the congregation finally saw what I had discerned, those past events weren’t failures they were warmups!

During these events we learned about

1)How to work together; After throwing so many small events we had a pretty good idea who we were and what our skills are (hospitality, organizer, motivator, builder, community contact, etc. )

2) timing :how long things should be, when people got out of work

3) media: how do we publicize things online? What kind of signs get noticed? How can we tell our friends?

4) Events; small events lead to big ones, since we started to have events, people had been starting to notice us as being active and involved

5) People: We saw people from everywhere! People from the choir concerts, people from the praise inc. revival, people from the clothing exchange and the playgroup, heck we even saw people from our nursery school (which has been running for 40yrs, but like most church schools is viewed as separate from the church)

What a success, and we realized, all of those events were successful, and they built off of the farmer’s market.

So we kept building. We created a program called “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” in which all the events under those headings were purely to bolster and minister to the neighborhood so we could get to know them better.

Under this heading–We did a Trunk or Treat at the end of the Farmer’s Market for Halloween and we added a Chicken BBQ as a fundraiser (which isn’t really with no ulterior motives, but we were transparent about that we wanted your money for a sound system and since you drove thru our parking lot customers weren’t afraid we are trying to steal their souls), we did Charlie Brown Christmas in December and hosted over 100 nonchurch parents and children who watched it. Last summer we included Charity Yoga where the proceeds went to the Presbyterian Disaster Fund. We built a success!

We are still building. This has become a foundational ministry, it has honed our mission statement to one line “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” Its become a joyful duty for the 12 some volunteers to work EVERY week for 4-5hrs for 4 months, it has become an identifier for our church “the one with the farmer’s market.” Enrollment for nursery school is up, the community comes together, and we truly are starting to get to know our neighborhood, from the farmers to the crafters to the performing artists to the customers. This will be our 3rd year doing the farmer’s market, we are the most successful one in the city limits, our vendors love us, and we have expanded even moreso. its a beautiful day for a neighbor!

And that is how our true local ministry was born!

(for more info about what I learned as a minister for my context click here)

Narrative Lectionary: John 13:1-17

John 13:1-17

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

Jesus washes feet. If you have ever washed a baby or an older person–you are aware there is a kind of beautiful intimacy to those washings. There is a trust and a love that makes something that should be gross.

Of course, its embarrassing, so Peter says no, and Jesus says “well if you want to be a part of what I do, you have to let me wash your feet”

So then Peter says “Wash everything then!”

And Jesus says “Nah! feet are enough”

And then Jesus goes on to say that he knows that they aren’t clean ie he knows that Peter is going to deny him, he knows that Judas is going to betray him, he knows they are only human and they will get dirty again. They will all get dirty again.

Its like when you wash a child, and know they are going to get dirty again. Or (even worse) when my husband got out of the shower only to be thrown up upon. Ugh!

But it is still beautiful and intimate to take care of those we love. And Jesus promises to take care of us, even are grossest parts, even knowing that we are broken and that we will get dirty again. Jesus demonstrates that the way to

We like to concentrate on Jesus miracles, but really Jesus superpowers are love and forgiveness….remember before Jesus ONLY God could forgive you (you had to still apologize to the human participate, but ultimately only Jesus forgives). So Jesus, empowers us! Telling us to do to one another what he does. He encourages us to love eachother, to forgive each other and to wash each others’ feet. This is why we confess our sins together and then assure eachother of pardon. We are the body of Christ, we are the ones who are going to be the intimate group, who washes each other feet. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

 

 

Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

 

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

 

Children! Yay!

It is a gift to love children.

I know this, because as a child, I never wanted to forget what it was to have an adult who talked to you like real human being…there were these grown-ups who “got it” and I read books by authors who seemed to still get it. L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, J. M. Barrie, Raold Dahl, Maurice Sendek, Dr. Suess and a million others.

My husband tells me that I treat everyone like children.

I prefer to think of it as “I treat everyone the same” (including myself…I think that means I still consider myself a child)–Besides we are all children of God, right 😉

I have been gifted with continuous exposure to children, my youngest sibling is 10yrs younger than me, and I have two more! Let’s just say I’ve gone to Disney movies most of my life (either by acculturation or pure survival I still love them!). This means she was only 11 when I graduated college (yep. I was so totally in the know about Blue Clues, Pokemon and what KIDS actually thought about Harry Potter). During College, I worked at Headstart, reading to children. Why? do you ask? Because these children are usually a. not read to at home b. don’t have role models who went to college c. need adults who are around just to talk/listen to them without extra demands. Also, Headstart is underfunded and can always use an extra pair of hands. So, I was around preschoolers 2-3 times a week!
I also dabbled in summer jobs that included a Montessori School, fulltime babysitting and being the children’s director (read: all the Munchkins) of Wizard of Oz

Then I worked at Bethany Presbyterian while I was in seminary where I was the Christan Ed. Director for over 50 kids, with an amazing full out PTA and volunteer staff of Sunday School Teachers.

Then, I also had 2 children at seminary (because, hey, I hate being bored) and babysat part time.

Literally, I have NEVER had a TIME WITHOUT CHILDREN in my life.

So, yes I don’t remember EVERYTHING of being a child, but I didn’t forget everything either 🙂

You know what I’ve learned? You forget! There are lots of adults my age–I’m only 30–who don’t have a clue as to what to do with kids–either they have never been around them, or they’ve completely forgotten.

And, some people are able to rediscover it with parenting or by connecting with a child in their lives 🙂

To love children, to stay engaged with them, to truly value who they are (not just who they have potential to be) is a gift. I’m so lucky to have that gift.

This is why I think that families should be included (w)holistically in church, that real space and time should be given to children to be a part of everything that is going on, and their contributions should be valued…This is why I didn’t become a Christian Educator, because I think Children Should be INCLUDED in church, not just a special category of ministry (altho they are that too) I want to be in the “main church” fighting for and with them!

after all, their contributions have always been a meaningful part of MY life!!!

Ch 6: Waking up

How long did I sleep? I look out the window, no light shines in. I wonder about that. The forest outside was so entrenched that not a droplet of light shone through. I wonder how it is I can see…some light is coming through, but it looks like nothing more than a misty glow.

The candle has guttered, I look at the wick and feel sorry for it.

I should get dressed, but I instead go to the hall, the back of my neck prickles

“Hello? Are you there? Its me, Pri….”

Was that a sigh? Cautiously I look around…nothing.I start to walk down the hallway…trying to keep my elaborate robe tied on, but the silk seems to slip. What is the use of clothing if it can’t stay on I wonder? Frustrated I see the rope for the curtains. Determinedly I grab it and tie it on.

Amazing how small victories can give you confidence. Feeling better, I slip down the rooms seeing what seems to be a study, a ballroom, a music room with many instruments.

Nothing is as well lit as I would like, and nothing feels inviting, so I continue on. Counting the curtains, exclaiming to myself over the decorations. Trying to keep my spirits up.

Oh look, a kitchen!

Narrative Lectionary: Thoughts on John 4:46-54

Restoration: from the Latin seriously it actually is 😉

restore – Online Etymology Dictionary

Restoration c.1300, “to give back,” also, “to build up again, repair,” from Old French restorer, from Latin restaurare “repair, rebuild, renew,

Katy’s Definition to simultaneously destroy and resurrect something at the same time

Image

God Restores us, healing our hearts AND binding our wounds: Forget Ps 140, I’m using Ps. 147:3
Image

kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery by filling the cracks with amalgam mixed with powdered gold, I was awestruck. Kintsugi is translated as “golden joinery,”  The new, reformed whole contains both the remembrance of that which was before and also what is now – something that had been broken into pieces and is now reformed, containing the additional joining amalgam that is noticeable and traceable.

Viewing kintsugi pottery brought to mind how quickly Western culture discards the broken – broken objects, broken people, and broken relationships. We fail to see what the broken might look like if we put the resources into mending the broken.

Katy’s Synonyms Kintsugi, Restoration, (w)holistic Christianity, Shalom, Fullness, Overflowing, Give me your tired/poor/hungry, Brokenhearts, wholeness, complete,  Image

What a great Valentine’s Day text (love it when it works out that way!)

There is a Balm in Gilead folks!

Empowerment

 

Ok, Oberlin got me with this poster
There were a million other reasons why I went, but this was the primary one.
Its also why I go to church. (as opposed to sitting at home and being spiritual)
When I was 10 I was confirmed as an adult
I was assisting with Sunday School at age 12
At age 14 I told an emergency Children’s Sermon
By age 15 I ran a Vacation Bible Fair (just one night)
 
I was empowered, as such I am excited to see what I will do from now on!
Through church I find partners, through partners to be empowered to make a difference in the world.
 
Hopefully churches give healthy empowerment and partnership to those who want to love.
 
That’s how i look at it……

Partnerships

One thing that frustrates me about church is when people grudgingly take on tasks.

I don’t know, for me its more fun to be involved and DO things, don’t you want to be a part of whatever is happening?

This week I got the chance to talk to a wonderful lady. Together we planned an arts project in 2 parts: 1 a Family Friendly Art Show 2. A Kids Theater Program (that is very accessible monetarily and hopefully schedulewise).

It was a good hour.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be prep involved, but mostly it just took a spark, an idea.

There will be setup and hosting and taking down.

There will be more planning for part 2

But the way I look at it; it will be LOADS of fun, as most ministry is.

So I’m confused…..do we really begrudge the time & energy that is spent in ministry….or are we just afraid that we are going to have to do it alone!

And for me it took a partnership. So often people don’t want to lead in the church, because they feel like they have to do it alone.

Good News! We don’t have to. God is with us, we are never alone, and God sent us partners! From the gecko, God realized that we work better in Tandem.

Young Families in Church…continued…..

A lot of young people don’t go to church (I know your shocked, your really, really shocked).

Here is my vast knowledge about church

1. Its a good community…its a good way to have intergenerational interaction, its a good way to ask hard questions (at the good churches anyway)

2. Church Shopping is tough: churches are desperate (which isn’t that attractive) and its hard to church shop when you feel unsettled, and lets face it, with the way the economy is, most people are fairly unsettled, especially the young people. I have been at the same job for 4ish years…that is VERY unusual for a person my age. If you don’t have a steady job or don’t know if your going to have to move (again) within the same year, its hard to make time to church shop.

In theories churches should be helping with this process (how about get to know your town guides? New to the neighborhood events that aren’t creepy? My church does a playgroup that allows a little bit with this)

3. Churches need to advertise themselves as a pace of transition (ie we are a stable place to come while your transitioning)…too much to Churches self-advertise or give the impression that this is where to go when you start to sort out your beliefs or your all set on where you are in life. This is OPPOSITE of what church should be, church should be a place to be crazy, screwed up and confused, a place to support people who are figuring it out…….Maybe churches should be more like college and less like a government.

4. Young Families Basic Needs: tend to include activities at a time of day they can actually manage, Sunday School that is enjoyable, Family friendly events, Adequate Rooms for children, Babysitting for events that are not suitable for children, changing tables, cribs, and preferably a space in the Worship area for kids to worship during church (try getting that one done, its almost impossible)…want to welcome families? Go out of your way to give them a real space to be….

5. Try to focus more on the Sabbath piece of church. Every single person I know is stressed and overwhelmed, if church could be a place of sanctuary, rest and sabbath we might actually communicate our message better.

6. That whole forgiveness of debts thing: do that. We preach forgiveness of debts, practically everyone I know is WAY in debt, yet we do nothing to practice what we preach….um….yeah….

7. Engage, engage, engage, find as many opportunities as possible to serve the community, to experience the community and to get to know the community (this is that piece of advice every single leader of churches gives)

8. Do NOT talk about young people as the “future”; first off, they are already people, not just future people (get my drift?), secondly this gross genera9lizing of who the young are is not appreciated

9. Try not to be judgmental: To be human is to be judgmental, its how we separate the “us” from the “them” its a defense mechanism, its natural, and its sad….we don’t need to judge other people, that’s God’s job. Plus! loving is our goal, good news is our job, and judging people adds to their problems. I used to have someone call me up at night and tell me what I needed to worry about…guess what…that is the opposite of helping…

10. Have Faith: Preach Good News, practice joy, dwell in the spirit, worry not about today or tomorrow, consider the birds, consider the lilies of the fields, they toil not, but God takes care of them…

The Token Young Family

“It’s exhausting being the young family in a church” This sentiment was shared to me by one of our “young families” about what another “young family” told them.

Its exhausting. Of course, I speak from the “young family” and “pastor’s family” congruently, but I know what they mean.

1) Getting the schedule

I’m not sure if it was just very different for families back in the day when our older members were young, or if they’ve forgotten just how crazy it is, but there is some kind of generational divide between what people think young families’ schedules are like and, well, reality. Events that seem easy are actually not. Babysitting is not considered (nor the lead time needed to get a babysitter) and the whole, I have to work for a living is similarly forgotten (which is ironic since I work for the church so hanging out is part of my work but sermons and paperwork need to get done too..I can only imagine how this increases for regular families)

2) Responsibilities

Most things these days require some level of participation that is beyond us: school, clubs, jobs, job-related socialization. Church responsibilities are the same, churches try to toe the line between keeping families involved and yet not being overdemanding, but honestly, most events are more fun if there are children there, except for the ones that children need to stay home for. The truth is, juggling kids at events is tricky, I’d prefer if every event was welcoming and helpful for kids to be present at.

3) Regular attendance

For most families attending once or twice a month is the very best they can do…they are just too busy, and making them feel guilty is not helpful.

Of course the easy solution to this is to no longer be the only “Young Family” at a church, but its hard to figure it out….I toy with ideas of starting a TEDtalks Bible study or doing more Family Oriented programming (Kids Clubs, Parents Night Out, Exploratory Music Classes), but timing is tricky. And I want church to be FUN. In the meantime, the hope is that there are advantages of being the “young family too” such as a. the kids getting more attention b. the church can listen better to your needs c. the church starts to be a better and better place for young families to hang out at…..

4) Welcoming

Being desperate is not the same as being welcoming. Church’s “need” young people to keep going, so they look at young families as their literal salvation (oops) and get very needy very quickly. Prime examples: Expecting young families to have their teenager to help with technology, expecting young parents to teach the Sunday School, Expecting young families believe the exact same things that the church grandparents believe are a few examples.

i.e. The Church should be more than a vampire looking for Fresh Blood!

Being welcoming is accepting the natural gifts of the family and asking them where they want to help out. Being welcoming is allowing for give and take….ask what the family needs from the church, not just vice versa…

What would help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed about families and church?

The Mystery of Ministry

“Why would you want to work only 1 day a week, and that’s a half day” –my mother…obviously before she was a pastor, trying to understand why my father was considering the ministry….

Similarly, my friend’s boss once said she wish she could have an easy job, like me…my friend laughed and said that I do all that a CEO does, but with volunteers instead of employees (and morals, although she didn’t tell her boss that)…..

I sometimes think being a pastor is more mysterious than Astrology in Harry Potter

unfog unfogging_the_future__2__by_i_never_stop-d5diz7i

These weeks have been very busy for me, between budget meetings, an emergency with a very troubled family involving the welfare of their children and a funeral…I’ve had to hit the ground running.

The truth about ministry is that it seems very mysterious because not many people know what you do in a week. We are like glaciers. For glaciers usually only 10% of them are visible…and I think only about %10 (that would mean 4 to 5 hrs) of the work of ministry is visible

For one, there is sermon writing…how do you do it? I personally consider it an art, which means that everyone approaches it differently (warning: results are not guaranteed) That alone can take 5-15hrs…Personally I tend to build up from the bulletin. Writing prayers, picking hymns in the context of the scripture help to lead me to the right space (usually)

There’s the office stuff: Paperwork for Presbytery, Newsletters, checking with the secretary (what  a blessing that I have one) to see when things will be printed, coordinating sending out things from sympathy cards and flowers to whatever other mailings are necessary (Stewardship materials anyone?)

Then there’s event planning: figuring out the timeline, alerting the appropriate leaders and medias, making sure the time is well advertised and convenient for most

There’s Pastoral Counseling, which often happens spur of the moment, and is so necessary for people’s care

Praying, as often as you can, and trying to include all relevant people in your prayers

Then there is the ministry of presence: which is the time you spend in the office or hanging out not looking busy so people can approach you…

Keeping in contact with those who have dropped out of the loop for whatever reason, and trying to remember to keep the church’s end of the relationship up either personally or (better yet) thru the deacons or hospitality people

Visiting those who are homebound or need home visits as often as possible and trying to build up lay leaders so they can do the same.

Keeping Connectiveness through the congregation by building in real fellowship moments that allow the congregation to draw together and experience God

Running the governmental board, maintaining Christ’s peace and addressing problems as quickly and directly as possible…looking beyond the people in the room towards God’s purpose for whatever is taking place…and then leading other people to that same vision…

Overseeing and checking in with the staff, trying to maintain harmony, set good boundaries and maintain open communication to nip problems in the bud

Advertising, Information and Communicating in as many levels as you can verbally, thru publishing (bulletin, newsletter, etc), thru the internet, to the church, to the community, to those who come, to those who don’t come, to the elderly, to the busy, to the families, to the staff.

Creating/Maintaining or Overseeing Christian Education for the littlest thru the adults

Being available for those Pastoral Care moments of sickness, deaths, births, marriages, major celebrations, moments of personal crises.

Attend big moments for church members (graduations, weddings, funerals, etc), even if they are not directed by the pastor, attending such events is important (and mostly fun) and a part of the job that is often not understood to be work, but are because you go as the “church’s” representative.

Maintaining your own Spiritual practice so you don’t dry up from lack of spiritual nourishment

Building Clergy Connections thru lunches, spiritual friendships, governmental meetings and other proscribed activities (mentoring, peer groups, continuing ed. etc)

Don’t forget the preaching–which is mostly what everyone sees

In addition to this there is overseeing and working on a viable mission (hopefully every church has one)..you know the thing  your church does that is really unique and therefore special, so you work really really hard not only to maintain this but to grow it.

To push the church, the staff, the governmental board, the neighborhood to be more Open: Open to new ideas, Open to new (and different) people and cultures, Open to experimenting, Open to failure, Open to unexpected successes, Open to honest assessments, Open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

Mostly, pastors are there to facilitate, coordinate and teach about our relationships with God and eachother. Sometimes that means stimulating though about this….oftentimes it means spurring people into action. Its not an exact science, but it is an important task…

This is a fairly generalized list of what my job is, it is by no means a job description, but maybe it helps to clarify who pastors are and some of what they do.

Comic from “The Naked Pastor”

Book Review: Sassy Steampunk–A Study in Silks, A Study in Darkness, A Study in Ashes

Baskerville Affair by Emma Jane Holloway

Evie Cooper is a not quite fashionable young girl living in London in the midst of the Steam Barons Rule.

Part Steampunk, Part Revolution, Part Mystery this book follows the adventures of Evie Cooper and her closest friends during a tumulteous Time.

“You have to decide that for yourself” Variations of this line are put forward by characters of all stripes indicating, strongly, that who you are depends highly on who  you decide to be and no one can really tell you how that is going to work out for you….this could be the theme song of the entire book–making me a very happy Katy.

Things I liked about this book

1. Character development (everyone develops, everyone)

2. Fleshed out characters (good and evil more often turn to gray, and love is highly valued)

3. Love Triangles…but they are relevant to the plot

4. London: Victorian Age

5. Steam Punk

6. If you’ve read Holmes (YAY) you get Lotsa extra plot points!

7. Class Revolution: This book takes on income differences and revolution in an interesting way (causing some fun 99% thoughts), down with the Steam Barons….

Things to note: The main character is a little annoying at times (she is definitely a teenager when compared to characters such as Mary Russell) and the plot is not strong on the mystery and be warned there is a love triangle, however the strong characters of which there are many who we get to know and see develop and the play with family dynamics are awesome. And the fact that no one is condemned to be evil if they choose not to be is great (I’m a sucker for redemption) Of course I always love Victorian era women, because if they are awesome by today’s standards they are even more awesome for stepping out in a restrictive age…I love me a rebellious woman

And I hope there is another trilogy exploring this underworld with WAY more Holmes in it….

Study in Silks

Friendship and Pastoring: What they have in common

My mom’s best friend had an abortion, this was back in those days when abortions were even more frowned upon.

She admitted it, later, because she didn’t feel like my mom would approve, due to her Christian beliefs (my mom is now a Presbyterian Pastor)

420 × 294 – rottenecards.com

At that moment, my mom realized that she couldn’t be there as a friend, because she was perceived as being too judgmental….And this woman really needed a friend right then. When a girl from an abusive family gets pregnant an abortion might be the safest option…(or not)

But the point is, that my mom, was not perceived as a friend. It was at this moment my mom realized, she never wanted people to think they couldn’t talk to her, because she was going to be judging them. After all, what kind of friend does that?

She then went on to realize that pastoring has a similar action.
I never preach my political views from the pulpit, instead I preach the Bible and open my door to any who want to struggle to interpret how it works (which is why its dicey to have church facebook friends, because I do some of my political stuff there….but I don’t really mind as long as people realize its my freedom of speech space)….

If I preach all for or all against abortion and you are on the opposite side of the aisle, you probably will feel like you can’t talk to me when you have problems in that area…just like you want friends who will talk to you, you also want a congregation that can talk to you (in fact if anyone has a problem with me, I ask them to tell a session member or *more preferably* me directly about it, so I can address it..what’s the point of a pastor you can’t talk to?)

I will admit, I do have some boundaries, human rights are definitely something I feel comfortable ascribing as a part of Christianity, preaching hate as the Gospel is DEFINITELY off limits, but other than that I (try) to be someone you can talk to…..

After all, I really DO like to talk 🙂

Food Tripping: Church & Food

If you have any question about what kind of person Jesus is, remember this, his ministry began and ended with food! It started with the wedding at Cana and Ended with the Last Supper

John 2

New International Version

2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Food is good, it is one of the few things we do that is both necessary for our very existence, and pleasurable at the same time. Whenever I worry about who God is, I remember that God invented chocolate….what kind of God creates so many different foods with so many varieties in the world? I’m afraid to say if humans created food we would have created one substance that is of some nutritional value, and bland. Our God is more creative than that.

In my family we have something called food tripping, where you describe a food you love so much you space out from remembering it….

In fact, just one food can elevate an entire meal. Its likely your favorite restaurant isn’t really your favorite because everything tastes good there, but rather because they serve your favorite food. (I’m actually a sucker for either awesome bread or desserts) For example when I make pizza if I can have fresh basil or fresh mozerella the pizza tastes better–all it takes is one good ingredient to elevate the entire pizza 🙂

Recently there has been a growing fascination to where food comes from, whether it is local or organic, how it is processed, and lets not forget the Food Network. The source of our Food is compelling.

The reason why we are so fascinated with food, is that the more we know the food’s story, the better it tastes! We take pleasure in things that are creative acts. Things that are unique. This is why my grandmother’s bisqick coffee cake and my father’s bread taste different than any other versions of this food (even though, both recipes are available to everyone). Knowing that your food came from the local farm via the local farmer’s market, learning about food makes it taste better.

Now imagine that you are at a wedding and you get Jesus wine. A wine that serves to both elevate the entire meal but also just tastes better because its from JESUS! The source is good, therefore the food is good. Isn’t the spirit of the meal half of how a meal tastes anyway?

What if we thought about churches more as meals than programs. What if we tried to serve up our favorite pieces of worship–1 or 2 things, with Jesus as the source. What if instead of trying to offer a buffet of everything (or even the most modern whatevers) we served a nourishing meal with the hospitality that is in Christ’s spirit, one that we can offer in JOY!

After all, this is a meal we are celebrating, its abundance, its being drunk on the Holy Spirit, its understanding that the invitation is from Christ, and no other can make it better.

I think if we talked more about the source of our nourishment, and if we served the love with which it was made, church will be transformed from a boring form of sustenance that simply gives us the basic nourishment we need, to one where JESUS gives us the SPIRITs and we are invited to CELEBRATE THE LOVE TOGETHER.

How wonderful that would be!

PS Check out this Ted Talk There is some interesting claims about the creative act of humanity and how the creative act is what makes art valuable (ie why we like originals more than copies). i.e. Creativity and Relationship is what makes things pleasurable for us. We all know God is THE creator, making each of us a unique work of art, and we are invited to be co-creators with him. What kind of creative food can we serve up in church these days!!!!

By giving us a …

By giving us a window into the folk wisdom of an earlier age and revealing the wishes, hopes, fears, disappoinmtents, and frustrations of that time, these stories help us to understand just what is at stake in our own cultural stories. The tales we tell each other and our children not only reflect our own lived experience and our psychic realities, they also shape our lives, enabling us to construct our desires, to cope with our anxieties, and to separate fantasy from reality.” Maria Tartar Cambridge, 1997

Grimm’s Grimmest p. 15 copyright 1997 Chronicle Books, San Francisco

We tell stories to find truth. Tolkien called this the eternal truth in his Mythpoeia essay/poem.

Myths, Lewis told Tolkien, were “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”

“No,” Tolkien replied. “They are not lies.” Far from being lies they were the best way — sometimes the only way — of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.

Katy’s thoughts Stories help us to understand the human condition in light of the eternal truth, God….our charge is to tell the Gospel wherever and whenever possible, and since Christ’s story is our story, and our story is Christ’s story….the t

wo help us to find where God is…

What we are doing now, our job, is to speak our knowledge/prophecy/stories of God in love. Because that is our window to truth!

And ultimately Fairy Tales are stories about love! 1st Corinthians 8-12 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” In essence the next verse is the Mythopoeia thesis “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

All right,” sai…

All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying

humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

 

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

Susan and Death, The Hogfather by terry pratchett

Stories are an essential part of being human.

Fantasy helps us to work towards the world in God’s image, dreaming and imagining is a part of that

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”  (NIV, Joel 2:28)

YAY! Talking, Communication, Virtua Media and Such….. #holyspirit #communication #virtualmedia #comments

Communication is difficult.

I once heard some professor say (don’t ask me who I don’t remember, it might have been Prof. Kay) that communication is a gift.

Humans have a lot of trouble understanding each other. It takes the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in order for REAL communication to take place.

Why? Because it takes listening, empathy, sympathy and a willingness to enact the words that are being spoken.

The longer I live, the more I believe this…

Ever have a conversation where you are trying to listen carefully and you repeat back what has been said, and they repeat back too..but later it turns out you actually didn’t really have the same understanding of the conversation? Those feel like the most.

This happens to my husband and me all the time!

This problem gets slightly more complicated with virtual media….where there is no intonation (This is problematic for people like me…who primarily joke in sarcasm and ironies….a good footnote for my life is that if I’m saying something mean about you, to you, I’m joking…..really, I am)

hence e-motions 🙂 which help but aren’t the same.

Then there’s the fact that rarely do we pay REALLY close attention to what we are reading on the internets….we are usually watching tv (I have Avatar on currently) or quick peeking while we’re waiting for something, or whatever.

Then there is comments, many bloggers disable comments because so often they devolve…and most of the criticism is ridiculous…comments are about something totally unrelated or it turns into a rant. The anonymity triggers some of this, as does the distraction, but some of it is just human nature.

Communication is tough.

But when it happens, its amazing.

Its like when married people have an entire conversation without using words (as Tamora Pierce points out in Trickster’s Choice)

Or when friends REALLY get each other in a moment, its like two souls shaking hands (as Sean Stewart says in Nobody’s Son)*

Its a spiritual moment…and I believe it CAN happen online…..but just like in regular conversations, when it happens, its a gift from God–thru the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit

*These are lines inscribed on my heart, I do not have the books with me, so I do not have the page numbers….Trickster’s Choice its between the father and step-mother of the girls Aly takes care of very early on. In Nobody’s Son its between the heroine and her best friend, when the hero first meets the best friend

This year I will……

This year I will talk to dragons, I will spend the time I need to with fairies and fight off the bad guys with a sword.

I will flirt outrageously

I will laugh more than ever

I will be sure to build as many towers as I knock down, and remember that journeying to the castle is just as important as defeating the bad guy

I will improve my tea drinking ritual–because its more fun the more you do it

I will remember to sing loudly in the car, try new upsidedown and balancing thingies in yoga and throw more snowballs

I will wiggle more in my seat, draw more doodles and as a result become wiser than ever

I will pick the flowers

I will get my hopes too high on a regular basis, expect all  people I know to be brave & wise & good no matter what I might (or might not already) know about them and catch up on Dr. Who

I will exclaim over every baby that they are each the most beautiful baby in the universe—because every single one is, and spoil my cats while contemplating with my husband the fact that we’ve acquired a creature (baby or kitten) every year that we have been married.

I will make it my mission to make my job be more and more about people (and less about paperwork)

I will declare random vacations to go out and play in the sun

I will do silly things I’m not good at, I will play strategy games, draw, play music, etc. because those are the things I love

I will do something meaningful to support trans*/bi community

I will watch as many Disney movies as possible and get my haircut when I feel like it

I will remember never to eat the food in fairyland

I will let my kids be messy, allow them to have fun, and teach them to love people

I will play more practical jokes on my husband

I will enjoy God’s sense of humor!

I will get lost and have fun while I’m doing it

I will read many, many library books

I will chase rainbows…and sunsets….

I will go on as many adventures as I can cram in…

I will walk to nowhere

I will tell the stories that give my life meaning, and repeat them over and over again until they are true

I will be Katy 🙂

Ch 5: Looking

Hopefully she slept, I peeked in at her and it seems like she was asleep…but the light startled me, so I only caught a glimpse.

I hope she was asleep.

Otherwise why would her eyes be closed?

I did see that she had brownish/blackish hair, it looked a lot neater than mine. Could I even brush myself if I wanted to? It might feel good to use a brush.

If her hair is dark then her eyes would be….I realize I’m growling

The candle had burned down to the nub…I should have replaced it, but it was too scary.

I couldn’t go into her room.

Focus, focus.

Name, I need a name, maybe if I have a name I can start to define thing.

Maybe then I can look at her again.

Maybe then I won’t be afraid to change the candle.

Christmas Carols Annotated!

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I like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & Winter Wonderland.

But…..I prefer Christmas Carols, possibly because they are so seldom played that they are not on the radio and retail venues everywhere…

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This is not in my Presbyterian hymnal–it is also seriously undersung (ie its considered a carol but never included Christmas Eve  and is only occasionally on the pop albums). Although the sexist words (ugh) the TAKE HEART lyrics make me super, super happy….

Away in the Manger: The other lullaby (you know not Silent Night), the second verse is my favorite…where I tend to change lowing to Mooing and “no crying” to lotsa crying (because that’s what makes sense, Jesus was fully human after all).

Hark the Herald Angels Sing: reconciliation and healing in his wings…..maybe my favorite carol…….maybe

Angels We Have Heard On High: GLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

The First Noel: I love, love, love the melody of this

What Child Is This?: um…a carol that asks a million questions—feels genuine to me!

Good King Wenceslas: I don’t actually know all the words to this, yet when people are caroling in movies this is what they sing (perhaps because it feels all medieval)

Ding Dong Merrily On High: played somewhat on the radio (must not be too Christian), it sounds like bells. I’m kind of Meh about it….the tune is fun, but I guess it isn’t ingrained in my bones the way other carols are.

O Come All Ye Faithful: Love the invitational message of this song (always sing it during Advent, notice that this can also totally be an advent song?)

O Little Town of Bethlehem: A great tune sung by pop artists because of its beauty…..not so singable for congregations although well known enough we can fake it 🙂

Carol of the Bells: Perhaps the replacement for Ding, Dong Merrily on High?, the words are mood are similar. I definitely like the tune of this better….

Good Christian Men Rejoice: Very similar to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a little sexist, but deep lyrics “need not fear the grave” and lots of rejoicing.

Wassail: Simple, repetitive, yet really full of Christmas caroling spirit

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Yay! Advent mysteriousness!

O Holy Night: BEAUTIFUL, wish we didn’t confine this to soloists….everyone has a right to belt this out, off key and all!

Silent Night: Candlelight, love the 2nd verse…I always raise my candle for the “love’s true light” verse…there’s a mysterious, random fourth verse that no one sings (and I actually do feel its useless)

Joy to the World: YAY! The other alternative for ending the Christmas Eve Service….not that we ever do…but it totally could and of course….its not necessarily just a Christmas song

Christmastime is Here: Wish we adopted this as a carol we sing in church…the message is sound, and maybe if church’s sang newer beautiful songs, then….well we wouldn’t have saved the church, but our Christmas Eve will be richer for it (yes Charlie Brown)

Welcome Christmas: Ditto, “Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores” words so carol sounding, people tried to translate it……….(yes its Grinch)

I Need a Silent Night: The very new Amy Grant Song……self-references carols, def. worth checking it out.

Being Christmassed! Xmas Links that get me in that holiday spirit!

Usually I’m Christmassed way before Thanksgiving. The love and joy and hope of Christmas descends upon me (usually unexpectedly)

However this year there were technical difficulties regarding a Santa Hat (how can I wear this if my children keep stealing it) Christmas Music (I still don’t know where my CDs are) A Church Production of Charlie Brown (Cancelled: sad day) and family (no one is able to visit us this year)…plus it just felt a little too fast.

This week I transitioned, somehow in reading Mary’s Joy–it became mine,

Luke 1 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

And THEN (magically) I found things on the internet that made me feel like Christmas

Things like an amazing version of Angels We Have Heard on High (4 guys, 1 piano)

Things like this retelling of Jesus “Brilliant, no one will be expecting that!”

Then there’s this little girl sharing the Christmas Spirit with her parents, through singing/signing ;P

And an old favorite hallelujah! which is how being suddenly Christmassed feels to me!

Many pastors believe in delayed gratification, that singing Christmas hymns during advent is akin to a sin.

I don’t. I do think in giving Thanksgiving its due, and try to wait until them to do Christmassy things (altho what happens in the privacy of your own car is your business)

But, I love Christmas, there is something truly infectious about it…even as it is commercialized, the feeling itself is magical.

and important

and a good

and I’ll try not to be TOO annoyingly happy about it

🙂

I think I’m going to go watch Charlie Brown Christmas now!

Ch 4: Time

I begin to get oriented. The big whatchamacallit left, and as he passed a candle was lit.

Did I black out before that? I remember all the feelings I had, but I don’t know how much time passed, or if I really, actually saw anything.

The candle is flickering…..

Can something that shape even light a candle? I don’t even know if there are hands or claws or…

my mind went blank at “claws,” probably not a good direction for my thoughts to go. Maybe that’s how I blacked out to begin with.

The flickering candle is comforting…it marks the passage of time better than the dark does–it makes me think of morning….maybe I should go to bed. Its hard to tell without any windows.

I stand up–I’m surprised that I’m not shaky, maybe its because I’ve spent all my energy on the..confrontation. Ok, good to know for the future, when I go through an emotional rollercoaster, at some point, my body calms itself down.

I peer out to the hall, of course no one is there. There would be no sneaking in this place.

Determined, I pick up the candle and walk. Its only a hallway, I tell myself. Its not as if its a dungeon or the forest. My eyes follow a gold line trim on the wall, the gleam of it comforts me. Dancing in the light.

The first room I open, thankfully has a bed, I lie down. I carefully place the candle on the winged table nearby

I watch the shadows dance on the ceiling until I fall asleep.

My Santa Hat

My Santa Hat is older than my children.

I got it the first year of college at Oberlin.

At that time, I realized three things

1. I missed my family and church (the churches were CRAZY as a result of 9/11 and I couldn’t find a good one)

2. I wouldn’t be able to do much preparing for Christmas

3. People hated to be wished “Merry Christmas” something about the White Christian hegemony in a very liberal arts school.

Plus I had my first round of finals coming up (yikes!)

so I went to CVS and bought this really nice $5 Santa hat, it is a dark red with a clothlike white trim

I have worn it since that Dec 2001, ….and (amazingly) I haven’t lost it…

I wear it to celebrate Christmas

I wear it to celebrate Advent, to bring Christmas into conversations is a “safe space”

Every Thanksgiving I get it out, and start to celebrate.

Sometimes I think that God works less like a thunderous mountain of justice…and way more like my Santa hat.

 

Robin McKinely is contemplating Christmas’ approach too

Christmas Books: Classics, Children’s, Adult’s, Books you didn’t know were about Christmas

Every year I look for a great Christmas book to read during Advent. Here are some that I enjoy over and over again!

 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Ever actually read the book? Its a good read out loud Tale.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: There’s nothing quite reading about a land where its “Almost winter and never Christmas” when Christmas is on its way…

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories* by Connie Willis: A great collection of fiction stories that is about the true meaning of Christmas by the amazing author of “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” This is more fiction than sci-fi, but is SO amazing!

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Similar to the movie (Christmas with the Kranks), this very quick read talks about the ridiculousness and wonder of the Christmas hoopla

 

 

 

Mrs. Miracle by Debbie MacComber: Total popcorn, the first and best in this series. I do love a good Mary Poppins

type story is awesome, and the angels are awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst/Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson: A story of transformation from the worst things of Christmas…to the best…in fact I might say Skipping Christmas is an adult version of this same story.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess: My advice: do the voices

The Gift of the Magi by O Henry: a tearjerker

The Little Matchgirl by Hans Christian Anderson: ditto

The Night Before Christmas preferably right after you hang stockings and right before bed. Get 8 different copies and let everyone choose one to looks at, that’s the Hedges-Goettl way 🙂

The Nutcracker: If you can’t go to the ballet, read it. Or buy the advent calendar and read a little of the story all the way til Christmas

Velveteen Rabbit by Margary Williams: Starts at Christmas, ends with resurrection, best translation of the Gospel ever!

Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburgh: Beautiful, poignant, perhaps not a kids story (that’s all I’m sayin)

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Starts at Christmas, ends at Christmas, life happens in-between Christmas…

 

 

 

 

 

*top recommendation

Church Event Guide/What I’ve learned in the last 4 years: Don’t do anything for free

Recently there was an article concerning the …..lets say staidness of overly churched culture….

How do you get a church to event plan beyond the church culture? Here are some guidelines to consider

Rule number One: Don’t do anything for free….it creates a debt mentality that is unhealthy for the congregation and the attendee

Church: Let’s throw this free event, then people will love us and come to church….

Potential Attendee: Free? Really, I bet that church just wants my soul, no way I’m going to that…

Church: We had a free event…why didn’t anyone come (or) People came to our free event, why aren’t they coming to church

Rule Number Two: If you throw an event, have a reason behind it (other than attracting people to the church…ideally have at least TWO solid reasons

ex: Let’s have a farmer’s market 1. it will support our local community and help reaquaint with the neighborhood 2. It will help our local economy–these are our reasons, we are sharing them with the farmers and the customers

ex 2: Let’s put on a play of Charlie Brown Christmas as a food drive because 1) that’s what Christmas is all about 2) we don’t want it to be free 3) because its for children, and if someone cries they can be taken out without money lost

I have found if you have 2 solid reasons, more and more reasons to have the event start to build…..eventually we realized a. there is no farmer’s market in our corner of the city b.people are meeting each other at our farmer’s market and becoming more communal c. its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary (see the ps for more info) d. Won’t you be our Neighbor? we found a motto that described that we wanted everyone in the neighborhood to come to the farmer’s market, and that this reason should drive everything we do

Charlie Brown Christmas 1) its accessible to children of all ages (yay for a mental center coming to see it) 2) one of our actor’s father with alzheimer’s could wander around and enjoy the show 3) people don’t feel bad when their kids make noise because we welcomed the children and they didn’t have to pay “good money” for it. 4) People love to donate food, we got wayyyyy more than the number of people who attended 5) It’s multigenerational, children are seeing what their parents and grandparents grew up with so everyone enjoys it 6) It tells the good news but is not too preachy–many people who are spiritual-but-not-religious felt comfortable with coming to see Charlie Brown

Rule Number Three: No ulterior motives….Try, try, try not to have ulterior motives for putting on Events, because when you do, You hamper God!

You box the event into being successful based on a bunch of random info that you think is important, instead of running the event and then discovering what was important afterwards.

Discuss What Worked Rule Number 4: This is the one piece of advice that I MUST stress, talk about the BEST part of the events, discuss what worked, look on the brightest side, ok not many people came, did you get ANYONE new (?) that’s progress, did you learn anything about advertising (?) that’s progress, did the group do a lot to work together and enjoy certain parts of the process (?) that’s progress. Progress is incremental, you do not build a success story out of one event, but many

Rule number 5 You do not build a success story out of one event but many (see above).
Rule number 6 Try to do repeatable events. I find it take 12 meetings (rule of thumb) to know if something has failed. I repeat, an even CANNOT have failed until you’ve tried it multiple times: whether that be a Bible study or a playgroup or a concert series. That means if you meet once a week it takes 3months, if you meet once a month it will be a year. If you have an event every season then its 3years before you can write it off as a failure. (recommendation: if you have monthly events that are not really connected but seem to be a “thing” that are happening, start measuring those as a grouping, because you are advertising regularly.
(Rule number I’ve lost track, because it doesn’t matter how many rules there are) If you must count (altho I try not to) include your workers as attendees! They are there, they are making time and effort because they think this event is important, and you value your current members/community as much as your potential community (well that is the theory you should be practicing right?), include them
Another Rule Reinvest from the event: For our farmer’s market all our farmer’s fees went into advertising the market, we didn’t make a penny. For our Charlie Brown Play we turned it into a food drive to further teach the message of the play. Don’t do it for the church, do the event for the MISSION of the church
Final Rule: advertise, advertise, advertise: Get people to hand our pamphlets, send out invites, be sure to do that internet thing pick ONE UNIFIED IMAGE for the event and post it everywhere. It takes 3 times of seeing something to register. Put up NEW SIGNS for every event, it makes you look active, it shows your paying attention, it shows your reaching out and you care.
PS try to have events outside the church building (I know, I know that monstrousity costs a lot of money to maintain), but its a lot easier for a stranger to go to neutral ground then to come to your turf where you make the rules ex: its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary, the fellowship hall feels less forboding than the chapel area and the NURSERY is a very friendly place if you make it feel welcoming. Also TRY To make things clear (where to enter, where to park, etc) you don’t want to make your people feel stupid before they even arrive<—my church is still struggling with this, but it makes a clear in-crowd, out-crowd thing…you don’t want that!

Reverse Black Friday Experience

Thursday morning at 6am I went to help with Equinox, which is a Thanksgiving meal program that serves about 10,000 in the Albany area….

I was really pleased to do this for the following reasons

1. My family is not the greatest financially, so I’m more able to give time

2. I have a 5& 1/2, 3 & 1/2, and a just 2 year old at home, so the theory of giving time is good, but not always possible, however my mother in law was in town, so I was able to feel like my husband had back up (he does the kid thing all the time, but he’s also our chef so……)

3. We are in the area….I usually don’t work over Thanksgiving, which means this is when we usually go to family (family comes to us for Christmas)…but this year we did a LOT of traveling…so my eldest asked his grandparents to come up and they obliged…

4. I got around to actually volunteering! They gave me the early shift, which I appreciated because it meant I really had the whole day to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Immediately this made me feel better about the entire holiday…you know feeling worthwhile and all that…

I worked for two hrs…after which they practically kicked you out, so the next volunteers can get in…

I sorted bread, putting 2 bread products in a bag (trying to pair English muffins with the gigantic loaves so its more even) to be ready to pick up by the drivers who start their runs at 8am….

But my favorite part was the line….I had flashback to Black Friday…there they were over a hundred people sitting in their camp out spots (some since 3am I heard) waiting to be “drivers” to deliver the food…families and friends all sitting with boxes awaiting their food….

If we all did this…lined up one day a year to help people (instead of shopping) what a difference it would be….

Maybe it isn’t all year long…but I like to think how small starts…like volunteering for 2hrs…can make a huge difference

(The food is gathered in city hall since its the only place big enough to hold it all….a formal dinner is served to 500 people and 9,500 people get it delivered)

 

Also! Check out this for more Survival Strategies

Hunger Games: Female leads, Love Triangles and a tiny movie review

Katniss Everdeen is not a typical girl! (this article was written after my blog)

1. When I first read the first chapter I wasn’t sure if Katniss was a girl or Gale was a girl…..

2. She can’t lie: Notice how she’s always the last to know about the real plot (wait Peeta is actually in love with me, I thought we were just pretending is the first book, and a whole host of things in the second one I can’t name). Stereotypically

3. Katniss is not in a typical Love Triangle…I feel like the girl is usually caught in a direct competition where the ENTIRE plot rides the triangulation….Katniss says she’s too busy to worry about being in love…and I think she’s right.

4. Love Triangles don’t exist for boys in books, usual for Men there are two equally viable possibilities and sorting it out is more about what kind of life the hero wants to live (i.e. quiet and nerdy or fast and exciting). For girls its about who is the “RIGHT” boy…I think Hunger Games is more about the possibilities of living with Peeta vs. Gale as opposed to one being “right”

5. Katniss is a dunce about others but she is very self-aware…I like it

6. She grows (always important to me)

7. Every time you think you get how deep the plot is, it gets thicker

8. Its a study on PTSD

Tiny Review of Catching Fire (spoilers ahead)

Catching Fire is intense, people who are not familiar with the book tend to be surprised.

There is a lot more kissing than in the book (as I remember Katniss kisses Gale and Peeta once (for real) each…)….still I found myself taking it into stride

The “feel” is right: This is important because the pacing and details have to change some (the books are mostly introspection, which doesn’t translate to the screen”) however, I think the changes they did were (mostly) sensible for onscreen, and I have no doubt this is because Suzanne Collins has experience writing for TV as well as books

Finally! ending was interesting: I won’t give it away, but they uncover something that is a major mystery in the third book…wondering how they will handle this in the next movie….

Missing Link: I wish they did more with the minor characters, part of what is engaging for Katniss (for her audience and for us) is how she connects with the other characters, they missed that some with nuts & volts as well as the morphlings (who were barely onscreen)….also Peeta connects more to them and is particularly good with the morphlings which we completely miss…a regretable loss….

PS Cinna is my favorite character, I wish they gave him a couple more minutes of screen time about him “putting all his emotion in his work”

Overall: A great adaptation of the book…however ALWAYS read the book

Funny thing abo…

Funny thing about pastoring, a way to make your job easier is to be emotionally calibrated to the season…i.e if you are “feelin” Thanksgivingy around Thanksgiving, you will be a better pastor, ditto with Easter, Christmas, etc…..I love my job. I am in essence paid to “do the holiday thing”!!!!

YAY

Fools

“Christianity is, by its core nature, more akin to folly than it is to the Pope’s massive corporation. The central dictate of Christian doctrine is humility, in imitation of Christ’s ultimate self-humbling. Christians are mocked, persecuted and small: the powerful so-called Christian empires are the real perversion of the Gospel, not the Holy Fool.” p. 127 to Play the Fool by Laurie R. King

Seeds: Narrative Lectionary Resource 11/18 Swords into Plowshares

Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; then 2:1-4

There are two entries about this text at the Narrative Lectionary/Working Preacher site.
2018
http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3835
2014
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2236

While the lectionary adds in verses from Chapter 2 about beating swords into ploughshares, I find myself wondering if this provides too ready a solution to the situation, moving from a threat to morale and from the military to a time when might will not dictate right, but without necessarily addressing the time now/between now and then.
I have to admit to not being too fond of taking chapters out of order in this way, either.

In chapters 36 and 37, the king of Assyria, rather than defeating Israel in battle, seeks to conquer them by making them disbelieve God’s power and support. Take away the people’s hope/vision and it won’t matter what you do to them after that.

Why does the Assyrian king talk instead of fighting, especially when he apparently has the military advantage? Maybe he figures he can defeat the Israelites for all time at less cost if they give up hope. Without hopes/dreams, we are lost.

While in the lectionary the text is paired with Matthew 5:14 about being the light of the world/city on a hill, I find myself thinking of other passages.

Psalm 138 talks about kings who, like Hezekiah, rely on God
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+138&version=NRSV

2 Timothy 4:1-5 about the people having “itching ears,” hearing what they want to hear
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+4&version=NRSV

In John, Jesus praises those who believe without seeing. In a sense, the king of Assyria is contrasting his own visible, physical rule with that of the (unseen) god of Hezekiah that must be believed without being as visible.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+20%3A26-29&version=NRSV

Below are angles on the king of Assyria’s attempt to kill the Israelites’ hope

See Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+13%3A12&version=NRSV

and Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision/hope, the people perish
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+29%3A18&version=KJV
Also see Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” which begins: What happens to a dream deferred?
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46548/harlem
and this piece emphasizing “when your dreams meet reality, choose hope”
http://www.linglestownlife.org/filerequest/2551.pdf
In Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” hell is the place where all hope is abandoned
Maybe abandoning all hope = hell
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/abandon+hope%2C+all+ye+who+enter+here
Liturgical resources related to this aspect of the passage

Collect/invocation:
O God of Israel, Hezekiah, and Isaiah,
who sustained the hope of your people Israel,
threatened by Assyria’s words and weapons
embolden us to face all threats to our faith and hope,
that we can serve and praise you with our whole selves for our whole lives.
Amen.

Confession of Sin (the refrain is from Isaiah 37: 31, Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah)

 

O God, you shatter the powers of this world.

You conquer all that separates us from you and from one another.

Yet we remain captive to doubt and fear.

 

When the problems of the world and our own problems overwhelm us, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When we look at our challenges as though we must meet them ourselves, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When our lack of seeing threatens to result in a lack of believing, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When hopelessness is contagious and cynicism reigns, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When we give in to meeting hate with hate, forgetting to listen, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When our lack of seeing threatens our believing, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

God promises that we will sow and reap;

taking root below and bearing fruit above.

Out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,

and out of Zion a band of survivors.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

Thanks be to God!

 

Prayers of the People

The leader part could also be prayer concerns/petitions/prayers of the people, with the refrain as a call to action: As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

This might open with the closing from above:

 

God promises that we will sow and reap;

taking root below and bearing fruit above.

Out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,

and out of Zion a band of survivors.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

Thanks be to God!

 

For newly elected leaders, that they may serve the people and thus serve you, we pray and take action. As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

For victims of wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters, we pray and take action.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.    Etc.

 

(Closing) God, make us part of your zeal, praying and working as members of your kingdom, the faithful remnant.

 

 

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving (Note that aspects of this prayer may also be used when the Lord’s Supper is not celebrated)

 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

God make us truly thankful to you.

For all that you have made, for the world and the people in it, we give thanks.

For the witness of your people and your prophets, we give thanks.

For your providence and your promises, we give thanks.

For sowing and reaping; for harvest and feasts, we give thanks.

For the planting of vineyards and the reaping of their fruit, we give thanks.

 

For your presence as Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit, we give thanks.

For the sustaining gift of this Supper, we give thanks.

 

As Hezekiah came to Isaiah

when external and internal threats seek overwhelm,

when forces that destroy hope are gaining power,

when those who do not believe in you belittle you—and us,

we come to you.

 

In this meal, we come to you,

to partake what you offer:

your constant presence and power,

your everlasting hope,

nourishment and strength for the journey of faith.

 

Send your Spirit upon these gifts of bread and cup,

that they may be for us the body of your Son, Christ Jesus,

so that we may be the body of your Son in the world.

 

Hymns relating to various themes of the passage

From Glory to God: Presbyterian Hymnal

 

#53: O God, Who Gives Us Life

#168: Within Your Shelter, Loving God (Psalm 91)

#177: I Will Come to You, You are Mine

#339: Lift Every Voice and Sing

#356: Praise to God, Whose Mighty Acts

#357: The Days Are Surely Coming

#373: O Day of Peace (swords into plowshares)

#463: How Firm a Foundation

#706: Commit Your Way to God the Lord (Psalm 37)

#758 Why Do Nations Rage Together (Psalm 2; swords into plowshares)

#776 O God, Be Gracious (Psalm 4)

#781 Hear My Cry, O God, and Save Me! (Psalm 77)

#782 Hear My Prayer, O God (Psalm 43)

#790 In Silence My Soul Thirsts (Psalm 62)

#812 O Save Me, God, and Hear My Cry (Psalm 54)

#817 We Walk by Faith and Not By Sight (John 20)

#818 By Gracious Powers

#831 I Depend upon Your Faithfulness

#841 God Is My Strong Salvation (Psalm 27)

#842 The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27)

#843 My Soul Is at Rest (Psalm 62)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that if you have access to ATLA, you should try articles there, which are peer-reviewed.

 

Other open access materials are mainly of the conservative persuasion.

They include:

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-36/

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-37/

This commentary notes the text of Isaiah 36-37 is nearly identical to that of 2 Kings 18-19 and that the events are also provided in a more summary fashion in 2 Chronicles 32:1-19.

 

For a side-by-side comparison of the three from the KJV with summary and commentary

http://bibletrack.org/cgi-bin/bible.pl?incr=0&mo=10&dy=2

 

For a commentary from Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, probably the most conservative branch of Lutheranism in the US:

http://www.iowaeastdeaf.org/dit/eiit04/documents/eiit04_2_1_PeoplesBibleonHezekiah.pdf

 

 

Less conservative takes on the 2 Kings version include

 

This blog tells the story all the way through the defeat of the King of Assyria

https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/05/09/commentary-on-2-kings-18-19-   hezekiah-and-sennacherib/

 

Here’s a Schmoop summary of the 2 Kings version

https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-18-summary.html

https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-19-summary.html

 

 

The Siloam Tunnel, also called Hezekiah’s Tunnel, relates to the potential siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siloam_tunnel

On another tack, note the (Advent-ish) phrase “Do not be afraid,” delivered by Isaiah, God’s messenger (37:6).
“Be not afraid”
https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=be+not+afraid&qs_version=NRSV
“Do not be afraid”
https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=%22do+not+be+afraid%22&qs_version=NRSV
John Michael Talbot song, “Be Not Afraid,”

Liturgical resources related to “Be not afraid”

Collect/Call to Worship
O Lord, you continually cast out our fear,
calling us to trust in you rather than we can see—and cannot see—
in the world around us.
Visit us this day with your courage and strength,
that we may know that our hope is in you alone,
and share that hope with one another and the world.
In the new creation of the Father,
the victorious action of the Son,
and the ongoing action of the Spirit,
hear our prayer. Amen.
Note that if you have access to ATLA, you should try articles there, which are peer-reviewed.

Other open access materials are mainly of the conservative persuasion.
They include:
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-36/
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-37/
This commentary notes the text of Isaiah 36-37 is nearly identical to that of 2 Kings 18-19and that the events are also provided in a more summary fashion in 2 Chronicles 32:1-19.

For a side-by-side comparison of the three from the KJV with summary and commentary
http://bibletrack.org/cgi-bin/bible.pl?incr=0&mo=10&dy=2

For a commentary from Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, probably the most conservative branch of Lutheranism in the US:
http://www.iowaeastdeaf.org/dit/eiit04/documents/eiit04_2_1_PeoplesBibleonHezekiah.pdf
Less conservative takes on the 2 Kings version include

This blog tells the story all the way through the defeat of the King of Assyria
https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/05/09/commentary-on-2-kings-18-19- hezekiah-and-sennacherib/

Here’s a Schmoop summary of the 2 Kings version
https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-18-summary.html
https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-19-summary.html

RCL: All My Mites

It is election time in the United States, and I have been thinking about this text–Mark 12:38-44 all week, before even I was conscious that it was the lectionary.

I will start by admitting that I didn’t remember that those in political & religious power are devouring widows. I remembered thew widow giving her all, but I didn’t remember that it was in such sharp contrast to those in power.

My gaff makes sense, however, because too often we forget that Christianity is not about power. Or rather, that Jesus Christ is all about empowering those who have none. Thus being in power and being Christian is tricky at best.

As a Presbyterian in the United States this is a hard pill for my particular denomination to swallow. We used to be the power brokers in the US, we are the Catholics in Rome, we have our Reverend Witherspoons and our Aaron Burrs.

I think about this often because, in my context, my denomination has the least amount of money it has ever had. And its panicking all levels from the local church to the national governance. We are spending down our reserves as less and less money is coming in and membership is “declining.”

I think Jesus Christ is telling this story not only to point out the differences in power, and to remind us who it is we should be standing by. But I also firmly believe that Jesus tells this story because its true. Those who are the closest to being poor given the most to those in need. Those who are in the most precarious place, tend to practice their faith closer to the church and in a quieter manner than those with money and power and prestige.

And I’m convinced that those who have experienced poverty give the most because they understand what it means to have nothing, and that they, we, appreciate what they have more. I say we because I have experienced the grief of poverty and debt, and as I rise in prestige, power and money I hope that I never forget what its like to pick which bill you aren’t going to pay this month, to scrape together all the change in the house to send your child the money for a school activity, to carefully put all the baby food and milk back in the fridge to be used later.

But our God is a God of abundance, as is evident of 1 Kings 17:8-16. I have seen God make something out of nothing multiple times. I have had it so that the thing that was going to break my bank was miraculously paid for by someone else. I have received timely gifts of items we have desperately needed, that the person didn’t know we needed, but somehow the winter coat came just after the zipper from the old one broke, that a free day of play at a kids entertainment center appeared right when we couldn’t afford to do anything but the kids desperately needed to get out. I’ve seen politics and power at its worse and but I have also  seen how Medicaid and Therapy Care provided by the state of New York has saved our sanity and provided the structure our son with autism, and really our entire family desperately needed. And though the structure that comes through is the government, I cannot help but believe that these gifts came through my trust in God. Because the reason are in New York in the first place, in an epicenter for autistic care, is because I came here to serve a church. We thought we were just coming here to serve God, but of course, God called us here to help us.

I give to God not because God needs my money and my goods, but because God can increase them tenfold. I give to God because God can do way more with my stuff and talents than I could ever imagine.

Both widows have little

Both widows give

Both widows experience miracles.

Psalm 146 puts it well, I do not trust in the power and principalities of the world–as Nadia Bolz-Weber notes they are but footnotes in the story of Jesus, because God is the true power. So when I pray, when I trust, it’s God.

Because I want my God to be the one who executes justice. That’s who I want to worship and that’s who I want my God to be. I want a God who wants me to feed the hungry and set prisoners free, the one who opens the eyes of the blind and lifts up the burdened.

I want the God who teaches be me love the righteous, watch over the strangers/immigrants, and to uphold the orphan and the widow.

I want to know this God, and in knowing this God I want to be able to do this work.

Because I want to love God with all my heart

all my soul

and all my mites.

Thanks be to God


Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over eight years and blogs at katyandtheword@wordpress.com When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.


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Seeds: Narrative Lectionary Liturgy 11/11

Scripture 

Micah [1:3-5]; 5:2-5a; 6:6-8 and Matthew 9:13

Additional Scripture 

Hebrews 12:14-15

Psalm 119

Psalm 85

Meditative Thought: Does infinity look like justice, mercy and kindness?

Call to worship:

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak

For he will speak peace to his people

Surely his salvation is at hand for all God’s people, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

Let us worship the God of Righteousness. 

 

How shall we approach the Lord, with great sacrifice?

The Lord has told you what is good

What does the Lord require?

Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God

Prayer of Confession: Lord we admit that we have trouble with the words justice, mercy and kindness. We confess that it would be easier to just give over some goods or money than to do things. Guide us on the path of righteousness, show us justice, mercy and kindness so that we can do that same, we pray. Amen. 

Assurance of Forgiveness: Fear Not, God promises that Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss. So we know the truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Eucharist Prayer: Lord we give thanks that you have given us many ways to experience your love. And when you sent your only son to die on the cross, we were able to witness your mercy. Whenever we taste your bread and cup we can experience your kindness and abundance. When we gather into communion with one another and you we can practice your justice. Creator of all good things, add your spirit to this meal, make it a meal of righteous and holiness, so that we might be nourished to continue your kingdom work today and everyday we pray.

Prayer of Dedication/Closing Prayer: God, you are love, you are mercy, you are justice. Send us into the world with hope for all these things. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen

Food for Thought

image.png

url

http://www.mydailycupofjoe.com/free-thought/wisdom-from-calvin-and-hobbes-look-up-to-the-stars/

When I worked at the psych hospital and asked the patients (for their spiritual assessment) if they had hope, some would say, no but I’m hoping for it–hoping for hope.

 

Hymns:

Live into Hope

I’ve Got Peace Like a River

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Amazing Grace

Sunday School Ideas: Footprints to follow & talk about walking humbly, trace shadows and talk about being made in God’s image, Take pictures of everyone and fill them in as the body of Christ to do God’s work

Seeds: Narrative Lectionary Resource Naaman

2 Kings 5:1-15a

Matthew 8:2-3


More images & other resources:
https://preachingandworship.org/search/naaman

Kids’ versions of the story

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuzMNR6MFb42 Kings 5:1-15a
Song and puppet show version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chUWkrcgdr0
Puppet theater version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpCVnUb6t_8
Lego Star Wars version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JQgGQUqGR4&feature=youtu.be

Readers’ theater script of the story for 3 voices: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2013/06/readers-theatre-naaman-healed-of-leprosy.html

Prayer reflection on the different people in the story: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2013/06/prayer-reflection-2-kings-5-1-14.html
Ways of retelling the story:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theperipateticpreacher/2016/06/improbable-emissaries-2-kings-5/

Naaman’s personal leprous disaster drives him to plan a trip to Israel, but this time not as conqueror but as sickened supplicant. But first he must go through the hoops of ancient channels of diplomacy. He asks his king to write a letter of introduction to the king of Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, to smooth his way into the presence of the mighty prophet, Elisha, fabled for his miraculous abilities to effect cures. The king of Aram agrees to write the letter, while Naaman prepares to depart, assembling a vast caravan of silver and gold and festal garments, stacked on numerous carts, guarded by a phalanx of his finest soldiers. No general would or could do less!
Unfortunately, the king’s letter, though intended to assuage any fears the Israelite monarch may have as he watches the general and his enormous train approach, instead terrifies the king due to its straightforward, though perhaps ambiguous prose. “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). What, shouts the king, tearing his royal robes in horror. “Am I God to give death or life, that this man sends me word to cure someone of leprosy” (2 Kings 5:7)? This letter, reasons the king, is nothing more than a ruse to start another war. Once I fail to effect the cure, which I surely will, the Arameans will think I do not care about their general, and will come at me again with force of arms.

[Another rendering of this part of the story from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D  The message to the king is a bit like a medical referral getting lost en route, Naaman’s case is held up by bureaucratic twists and turns. Israel’s king panics when he receives the letter — how in the world is he supposed to cure leprosy? And if he doesn’t, will Aram attack again? Is this some kind of trick? Interestingly, the King of Aram could have asked for almost anything else, and the King of Israel would have figured out some way to handle it. But curing leprosy was not an option for him. Elisha, upon hearing of the King’s anxiety, tells the King to send Naaman to him.
Fortunately, the prophet hears that the king has torn his clothes in terror, and himself sends a letter, calming the king and suggesting that he send Naaman to him; that way all will know “that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8). So, after receiving Elisha’s address from the king, and coordinating his GPS, Naaman heads toward the house of the prophet. He brings all of his entourage with him and draws up to the entrance to Elisha’s house, horses stamping and wheezing, chariots squeaking and creaking in the dust. And then another improbable emissary appears.
Instead of Elisha, an unnamed messenger steps from the house and announces to the great throng, and especially to the general, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). And with that he turns and heads back through the door. And Naaman is enraged, commanding that all the chariots and horses turn around and head for Aram. “Does this so-called prophet not know who I am,” he fumes? I thought he would come out with magic robes whipping in the wind, wave his arms about, calling on the name of his God, YHWH, point at my skin and cure the leprosy. And the Jordan River? I know the Jordan River; we have just passed through that muddy creek. There are fabulous, rushing clear streams in our own land that make the Jordan look pathetic! I will not stand here and be treated like this. We are not amused! We are going home!

[Also from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D Being treated as a nonentity by rude or busy practitioners and then being subjected to strange and distasteful procedures — this is very much the stuff of life on the other side of health and wholeness. Losing his identity, becoming a number, and feeling foolish and desperate at the same time proved overwhelming to Naaman. How could he possibly trust the prophet’s strange prescription relayed through a lowly underling?
And still one more improbable emissary shows up in the story. Again, some servants (the third time servants have delivered the powerful truths of the tale) admonish their leader, saying that if the messenger had asked Naaman to do something really hard, he would have done it, thinking that a cure can only come through arduous trial. How much more should he do this simple thing, dipping his body into the Jordan? The general again listens to a servant, takes his Jordan bath, and comes out clean as a baby (2 Kings 5:13-14). This grand story is driven by improbable emissaries at every crucial turn.
http://professorhswaybackmachine.blogspot.com/2013/03/tales-from-bible-1955.html

Healing 3.png
Themes/Titles:
Not specifically mentioned anywhere I found is baptism/renewal of baptism, which my husband used preaching a first-person sermon on this passage many years ago. He notes that washing 7 times can be seen as reflecting the 7 days of creation ending with the new/re- creation.
My own take is heading toward who Namaan was. He is an example of intersectionality, which notes that we are not monolithic beings. He is admired, famous, accomplished as a military leader and he is despised, rejected, unclean as a leper. And yet neither of these apparent polar opposites ultimately define him—ultimately he is a person in need of God’s mercy and healing, which he receives—as we all are.

Themes in online resources include health care, power dynamics, the witness of the unnamed servants, healing, etc.
Looking for God in All the Wrong Places See http://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/2013/06/wrong-places-john-holbert-07-01-2013.aspx?p=2)
*Can’t Buy Me … Healing See https://politicaltheology.com/trickle-down-health-care-the-politics-of-2-kings-5-1-14-maryann-mckibben-dana/
Holy Health Care? See https://politicaltheology.com/trickle-down-health-care-the-politics-of-2-kings-5-1-14-maryann-mckibben-dana/
Power, Humility and Healing See https://lectionarylab.com/2013/06/28/year-c-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost-proper-9/
and http://day1.org/7368-on_scripture_moral_leprosy_2_kings_5114_by_adriene_thorne and https://www.pulpitfiction.com/archive/2017/02/24/ep-21-seventy-apostles-of-christ-on-the-wall-or-proper-9c-ordinary-14c-pentecost-7?rq=naaman

The Mountains Are Laid Low and the Valleys Are Exalted See https://lectionarylab.com/2012/02/02/year-b-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany/

The Magic Pill/Your Part in Your Healing See http://www.bethscib.com/lectionary-reflections/magic-pill.)

*That River? See http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1204_

Prophet for All See https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/seventh-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016#notes

In, Through, and Despite of Bureaucracy See https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar/seventh-sunday-after-pentecost-year-c-2016#notes

Bodies/Embodiment See https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3833
Hymns
BOW – The United Methodist Book of Worship
CLUW – Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
MVPC – Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
SOZ – Songs of Zion
TFWS – The Faith We Sing
UMH – The United Methodist Hymnal
URW – Upper Room Worshipbook
WSM  – Worship & Song, Music Edition
WSW  – Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition
SoG  – Songs of Grace
Hymns directly referring to Namaan
See https://hymnary.org/search?qu=naaman (See place below first 3 hymns where it says “View 22 more texts”)
Note: you can set the hymnal so that you see only the hymns in whatever hymnal you are using (if it’s on hymnary.org)
These include:
Namaan the Leper
There was Namaan the Leper
The Beautiful Stream (although apparently it wasn’t!)
Great Namaan the Syrian
Naaman
Wash and Be Clean
We Read that Leprous Namaan’s Cleansing/Faith is the Victory
Namaan, Go/ When the captive maid had told of a prophet
Jordan River Is Flowing By/ Would your heart be free from sin
Is there anybody here like leprous Naaman/Weeping Mary
The Cleansed Leper/’Twas Namaan the Leper
The Little Missionary/Abana was a river
Washing
For those listed on Hymnary.org, see https://hymnary.org/search?qu=all%3Awash%20in%3Atext
Some examples (titles are after final /)
https://hymnary.org/text/wash_me_o_lamb_of_god
https://hymnary.org/tune/wash_me_cleanse_me
https://hymnary.org/text/lord_jesus_i_long_to_be_perfectly_whole (Also known as “Whiter Than Snow”
Healing
At Hymnary.org: https://hymnary.org/search?qu=all%3Aheal%20in%3Atext
https://hymnary.org/text/wounded_world_that_cries_for_healing

Teasers from other sources
Geneva Notes
http://www.ccel.org/g/geneva/notes/2Kings/5.html
2Ki 5:11
5:11 But Naaman was {f} wroth, and went away, and said, Behold,
I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and
call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand
over the place, and recover the leper.

(f) Man’s reason murmurs when it considers only the signs
and outward things, and has no regard for the word of
God, which is contained there.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/henry/mhc2.iiKi.vi.html
Note, the methods prescribed for the healing of the leprosy of sin are so plain that we are utterly inexcusable if we do not observe them. It is but, “Believe, and be saved”—”Repent, and be pardoned”—”Wash, and be clean.”

http://day1.org/7368-on_scripture_moral_leprosy_2_kings_5114_by_adriene_thorne

Now the United States of America was commander of the free world. She was a great country, in her own sight and in the sight of others, highly regarded, because through her the Lord had given victory. She was a valiant warrior, but she had leprosy.
Ways of retelling the story:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theperipateticpreacher/2016/06/improbable-emissaries-2-kings-5/

Naaman’s personal leprous disaster drives him to plan a trip to Israel, but this time not as conqueror but as sickened supplicant. But first he must go through the hoops of ancient channels of diplomacy. He asks his king to write a letter of introduction to the king of Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, to smooth his way into the presence of the mighty prophet, Elisha, fabled for his miraculous abilities to effect cures. The king of Aram agrees to write the letter, while Naaman prepares to depart, assembling a vast caravan of silver and gold and festal garments, stacked on numerous carts, guarded by a phalanx of his finest soldiers. No general would or could do less!
Unfortunately, the king’s letter, though intended to assuage any fears the Israelite monarch may have as he watches the general and his enormous train approach, instead terrifies the king due to its straightforward, though perhaps ambiguous prose. “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). What, shouts the king, tearing his royal robes in horror. “Am I God to give death or life, that this man sends me word to cure someone of leprosy” (2 Kings 5:7)? This letter, reasons the king, is nothing more than a ruse to start another war. Once I fail to effect the cure, which I surely will, the Arameans will think I do not care about their general, and will come at me again with force of arms.

[Another rendering of this part of the story from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D  The message to the king is a bit like a medical referral getting lost en route, Naaman’s case is held up by bureaucratic twists and turns. Israel’s king panics when he receives the letter — how in the world is he supposed to cure leprosy? And if he doesn’t, will Aram attack again? Is this some kind of trick? Interestingly, the King of Aram could have asked for almost anything else, and the King of Israel would have figured out some way to handle it. But curing leprosy was not an option for him. Elisha, upon hearing of the King’s anxiety, tells the King to send Naaman to him.
Fortunately, the prophet hears that the king has torn his clothes in terror, and himself sends a letter, calming the king and suggesting that he send Naaman to him; that way all will know “that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8). So, after receiving Elisha’s address from the king, and coordinating his GPS, Naaman heads toward the house of the prophet. He brings all of his entourage with him and draws up to the entrance to Elisha’s house, horses stamping and wheezing, chariots squeaking and creaking in the dust. And then another improbable emissary appears.
Instead of Elisha, an unnamed messenger steps from the house and announces to the great throng, and especially to the general, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). And with that he turns and heads back through the door. And Naaman is enraged, commanding that all the chariots and horses turn around and head for Aram. “Does this so-called prophet not know who I am,” he fumes? I thought he would come out with magic robes whipping in the wind, wave his arms about, calling on the name of his God, YHWH, point at my skin and cure the leprosy. And the Jordan River? I know the Jordan River; we have just passed through that muddy creek. There are fabulous, rushing clear streams in our own land that make the Jordan look pathetic! I will not stand here and be treated like this. We are not amused! We are going home!

[Also from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1747%5D Being treated as a nonentity by rude or busy practitioners and then being subjected to strange and distasteful procedures — this is very much the stuff of life on the other side of health and wholeness. Losing his identity, becoming a number, and feeling foolish and desperate at the same time proved overwhelming to Naaman. How could he possibly trust the prophet’s strange prescription relayed through a lowly underling?
And still one more improbable emissary shows up in the story. Again, some servants (the third time servants have delivered the powerful truths of the tale) admonish their leader, saying that if the messenger had asked Naaman to do something really hard, he would have done it, thinking that a cure can only come through arduous trial. How much more should he do this simple thing, dipping his body into the Jordan? The general again listens to a servant, takes his Jordan bath, and comes out clean as a baby (2 Kings 5:13-14). This grand story is driven by improbable emissaries at every crucial turn.
http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/proper-9c/?type=old_testament_lectionary

Nearly everyone needs some kind of healing. It may be from physical or mental illness. Or perhaps it’s from haunted memories or grief. Yet while God’s people know to look to God for that healing, we don’t always get to choose its method. So we may not always particularly like the way God chooses to heal us.
https://www.pulpitfiction.com/archive/2017/02/24/ep-21-seventy-apostles-of-christ-on-the-wall-or-proper-9c-ordinary-14c-pentecost-7?rq=naaman
war vs healthcare
Interfaith relations/dialogue
How might we reclaim evangelism as a way of showing God’s goodness and not about getting more members?
Are we willing to accept the strangeness of the Gospel in order to be healed?

Seeds: NL ideas 10/28

 

1 Kings 3:4-9

Matt 6:9-10

Additional Scripture

Psalm 5

Ecclesiastes 7

Meditative Thought: What is the wisdom of the Saints?

Call to Worship

Lord let us approach you with wisdom

Let us approach you with hope

Let us approach you with love

Come let us approach the Lord

Prayer of Confession Holy God, we confess that we do not always approach you with wisdom. Sometimes we are afraid, that we do not know everything, and we feel foolish to approach you. Yet, you are always inviting, all people of differing ages, faiths, intelligences and abilities. You promise that all can be used to glorify you. Though we may be aware of our limitations, open our eyes to the possibilities we pray. 

 

Assurance of Pardon

God wisely sent his only son to teach us, but also to love us. Remember the truth. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Additional Prayer

Call to Worship (from Psalm 5)

                                     

Give ear to our words, O Lord;
Give heed to our sighing.
Listen to the sound of our cry, O Lord;
We pray to you, our God and our King.

You hear our voice in the morning.
At sunrise we offer our prayer.
O God, we wait for your answer.

*Hymn # 80   I Greet Thee Who My True Redeemer 

*Call to Confession  

*Prayer of Confession (adapted from prayer by Brenda Kuyper)

One: Our Father in who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Many:  Forgive us when we act in ways that shame your name;                                                                                                                     empower us to honor and praise you by all we think, say, and do.

One: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Many: Forgive us when we are so caught up in our own lives                                                                                                                               that we fail to share your love and grace with the world around us.                                                   

One: Give us this day our daily bread.

Many: Forgive us when we trust too much in the things and people

you have given us, forgetting they come from you.

One: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Many: Forgive us when we harden our hearts toward those who have hurt us,                                                                                        forgetting that, time and again, you forgive us when we have hurt you.

One: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Many: Show us the ways we hurt you and the work of the Kingdom.                                                                                                     Embolden us to stand firm against temptation..

One: For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Many:  Make us your people, serving your kingdom.

ALL: IN CHRIST’S NAME WE PRAY, AMEN.  

*Assurance of Forgiveness                                                                                                                                                                                            

    One: Christ Jesus came that we might know forgiveness and be renewed,                                                                                                     

    becoming more and more like him. 

    ALL: THANKS BE TO GOD FOR THE GOOD NEWS:  IN JESUS CHRIST,

    WE ARE FORGIVEN.

Hebrew Scripture Lesson:    2 Chronicles 6:18-21

Special Music: Make My Life A Prayer to You           Len & Barb Hedges-Goettl

Gospel Scripture Lesson:   Matthew 6:5-13                    

Epistle Scripture Lesson:   Romans 8:26-27  

                                                           

*Hymn #350  Open My Eyes, That I May See                   

Teach Us to Pray Rev. Dr. Len Hedges-Goettl

*Hymn #435   What a Friend We Have in Jesus            

Prayer of Confession adapted from https://www.reformedworship.org/article/june-2013/lord%E2%80%99s-prayer. Cover image from https://www.puttingonthenew.com/2014/04/01/make-my-life-a-prayer-to-you/

Rev. Dr. Len Hedges-Goettl (GATE-L) is an ordained PC(USA) pastor who became a clinical psychologist after discovering he needed more training to continue and deepen his pastoral work with survivors of abuse. Len (and his wife Barb) returned to the East Coast several years ago to be nearer to their grown children, most of whom settled on the East Coast after living in Jenkintown for ten years as kids. Katy, a pastor in Albany, NY, and her librarian husband Anthony have three boys ages 10, 8 and 6. Bob, an Information Tech guy who lives in Philly, will be married to Brenna next year. Social worker Izzy lives with lawyer husband James in NYC. Their youngest daughter Noelle, a theater person, inexplicably lives in Chicago. 

Possible Lord’s Prayer hymns

Presbyterian Hymnal: 

347: Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive

349: Let All Who Pray the Prayer Christ Taught

358: Help Us Accept Each Other

God’s will

#86 (refrain) When We Are Tempted to Deny Your Son

#178 (verse 1) Lord, to You My Soul  Is Lifted 

#287 (verse 1) God Folds the Mountains Out of Rock

#316 (verse 2) Breathe on Me, Breath of God

#324 (refrain) Open My Eyes That I May See

#387 (verse 3) Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us

#391 (verse 5) Take My Life

#409 (verse 1) Wild and Lone the Prophet’s Voice

#553 (verse 2) For the Fruit of All Creation

Hymns for the Living Church (1974)

#370 Teach Me Thy Will, O Lord

#516 Father Eternal, Ruler of Creation

Paraphrase(ish)

#203 (verse 2) God of Mercy, God of Grace 

Lord’s Prayer as service music: 

#571 (John Weaver 1988)

#589 (West Indian Folk Melody transcribed by Olive Pattison) 

#590 (Vater Unser/Schumann’s Gestliche Lieder, harmonized by Bach; Vers. Henry J. deJong, 1982)

Seed: Narrative Lectionary Resource for David and Bathsheba

 

Resources by Rev. Dr. Barbara Hedges-Goettl

The story of David and Bathsheba is part of the RCL lectionary for 2 consecutive weeks Proper 12/Ordinary 17B and Proper 13/Ordinary 18B; the second half of the story makes 2 appearances, also appearing as Proper 6C/Ordinary 11C.

See resources for 2 Samuel 11:1-15 at http://www.textweek.com/history/2sam11.htm

and for 2 Samuel 11:26-12:15 at http://www.textweek.com/history/2sam11_12a.htm

This passage is, as they say, “a sticky wicket”–from the odd slicing of this pericope to the passage’s relationship to our society’s growing awareness of  the abuses of men; see Gennifer Brooks’ commentary at https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3813

With regard to the NL pericope, if the congregation knows the story (mine does), one could preach from just the Nathan part of the story and use that to review the larger saga. I plan to use 2 Samuel 12:1-13/14/15; I am not yet sure what to do with the punishment being the death of David & Bathsheba’s child—as if she hasn’t suffered enough already! If the story needs to be told more fully, vv. 26-27 don’t work well in isolation from the rest of the story; one at least needs to include (in the reading or as an explanation) that David arranged Uriah’s death.

With regard to the relationship of the text to today, I am thinking of God requiring repentance before offering forgiveness–a piece that is often forgotten when victims are told to forgive their abusers. I am thinking of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which saw telling the truth as a road to reconciliation. I am thinking of the controversial political cartoon featuring Judge Kavanaugh’s daughter praying for forgiveness for her father, a backhand recognition that we all need God to be our ultimate arbiter, forgiver, and healer. 

PH 1993

Hymns relating to truth, abuse of power 

278 Our God, to Whom We Turn

285 God, You Spin the Whirling Planets

289 O God of Every Nation

291 O God of Earth and Altar

386 O for a World Where Everyone

Hymns related to Penitence/God’s Mercy

261 God of Compassion, In Mercy Befriend Us

301 Lord Jesus, Think on Me

303 Jesus, Lover of My Soul

345 Dear Lord and Father of Mankind/Dear Lord. Creator Good and Kind

355 Hear the Good News of Salvation

370 Just As I Am, Without One Plea

381 O Come Unto the Lord

383 My Faith Looks Up to Thee

395 Have Mercy, Lord, on Me

Settings of Lord, Have Mercy (566, 572, 573, 574)

The David/Bathsheba story in pictures 

http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/david-bathsheba/

A friend of mine who is a NT scholar, Rene Schreiner, recently did an extended Sunday School class on Bathsheba, including looking at the history of its interpretation. 

Here’s one she recommends thinking critically about: Bible Stories for Adults: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEaTuGfm14Q).  

She feels the Feminist approach is probably the most even-handed. See https://www.google.com/search?q=feminist+bathsheba&oq=feminist+bathsheba&aqs=chrome..69i57j0.5043j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

She also highly recommend Wils Gafney’s section on Bathsheba in

https://www.amazon.com/Womanist-Midrash-Reintroduction-Women-Throne/dp/066423903X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539696207&sr=8-1&keywords=wilda+gafney

If you want to get into the idea that 2 Sam was written by the Deuteronomist, a great podcast on Deuteronomy can be found on The Bible for Normal People with Peter Enns (Episode 39).

Veggie Tales also has Nathan’s song posted on YouTube.”  image.png

 

Seeds: Lectionary Resource 10/14

Joshua 24:1-15 [16-26]

Matt 4:8-10

Additional Scripture

Psalm 119: 25-32

Ephesians 4:22-24

Meditative thought: Renew us with rocks and covenants and water and baptism. 

Call to Worship: 

There are so many places we can go and so many things we can do

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord

The worries of the world are temporary, we look to the eternal

Come let us worship the Lord. 

 

What is worship?

Its time spent with God

What a gift to worship God

Let us worship God!

Prayer of Confession

We confess that we don’t know how to worship you. We spend a lot of time worrying about how to serve you. We forget that we renewed by worship. We are so human in scope, but when we spend time with your, remember how to worship, we are able to let go of worry, and give some of our burdens to you. Help us to worship you today and everyone, we pray.

For all that we’ve forgotten

Forgive us Lord of mercy

For all that we worry about

Forgive us Lord of mercy

For all the burdens that embitter us 

Forgive us Lord of mercy

For all those things that we judge others about

Forgive us Lord of mercy

Lord, let us confess that we belong to you. Help us to let go of all of those things in our lives that do not belong to you, and place those things in our heart that belong to you, we pray. 

Assurance of Pardon:

Remember, nothing separates us from God, God has promised us over and over again that we will always be God’s People. Hear the Good News; In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

Eucharist Prayer:

God of Abraham and Sarah, the one to whom Miriam sang after the liberation of the Hebrew People. You created us and loved us into being. You are our God, passing blessings throughout time and space, consecrating ordinary acts of eating bread and drinking wine, promising presence whenever two or three gather together in your name. We are here, in your name, we are gathered to taste your goodness. Please send your Holy Spirit on these elements so we can celebrate communion with one another and with you. 

Prayer of Dedication/Closing Prayer

Lord, help us to dedicate our full selves to worshipping and serving you here and in the world we pray. Amen

Food for Thought

 

 

Things without Arms or Legs

i have a sad, are you looking for solutions of comfort?

http://www.thingswithout.com/comic/311-a-sad/

Craft Idea: Draw something permeant on Rocks, Draw God’s house with all the people God welcomes. Create a renewal of baptism and remind everyone that they belong to God.

Hymns/Music

BOW – The United Methodist Book of Worship
CLUW – Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)
MVPC – Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)
SOZ – Songs of Zion
TFWS – The Faith We Sing
UMH – The United Methodist Hymnal
URW – Upper Room Worshipbook
WSM  – Worship & Song, Music Edition
WSW  – Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition
SoG  – Songs of Grace

 

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 UMH MVPC CLUW TFWS SOZ URW WSM WSW SoG
Awesome God       2040          
Battle Hymn of the Republic 717       24        
Christ Beside Me       2166          
Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine 606         135      
Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day 411   100            
Freedom Is Coming       2192          
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah 127                
Holy Ground       2272          
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus       2129          
I Will Trust in the Lord 464   292   14        
Lord, What a Cloud of Witnesses!                 55
Near to the Heart of God 472   324            
O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice 391                
One God and Father of Us All       2240          
Stand Up and Bless the Lord 662   128            
Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place 328 344 215            
The Family Prayer Song       2188          
The God of Abraham Praise 116 28              
We Believe in One True God 85                

http://www.carolynshymns.com/choose_this_day_the_one_youll_follow.html

to tune “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”

Joshua 24:16  From God Shall Naught Divide Me.  

The Lutheran Hymnal 39

393  
Joshua 24:16  From God Shall Nothing Move Me.

Lutheran Service Book 713/Lutheran Worship 409

  409

Commentary

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2017/11/adventurous-lectionary-november-12-2017-pentecost-23/ (below)

Sample: Paul Tillich saw our god-visions in terms of our ultimate concern, that is, what we are willing to live or die for, the primary objects of our loyalty. What we worship and treasure shapes our character. Anything that demands exclusivity or primacy focuses our spirit. Placing the one God above all others orders our lives and enables us to live globally as well as locally, transcending the individual ego in light of larger visions. Yet, exclusivity can also lead to violence and displacement as it did in the Israelite occupation of Canaan. Joshua demands a choice. There is no “cheap grace” here; following your god’s path is not optional, and there are consequences to serving the “wrong” deities.

Full content from https://www.pulpitfiction.com/notes/proper27a (below)

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JOSHUA 24:1-3A, 14-25

INITIAL THOUGHTS

  • “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” makes a beautiful arts and craft project to hang in your home.  Somehow, I feel like this cheapens the solemn act of covenant that happens here.

BIBLE STUDY

  • Literary Context
    • Near the closing verses of Joshua.  One of the last things he does alive. Before it closes, they bury the bones of Joseph in the promised land
    • Promise of Genesis: You will be a great nation in this land.
    • Genesis closes with a great nation in the wrong land
    • Exodus closes with the nation on the border of the land.
    • Joshua is the story of possessing the land.  It contains some of the most disturbing parts of the Bible. They are now a great people in the land
      • Do you read Joshua as God ordaining horrendous violence OR do you read Joshua as a history of the victors justifying the violence they used to win?  Is there another way to read Joshua?
  • Lectionary Issues
    • The verses cut out are a retelling of the history of the people.
    • Verses 4-12 retells Exodus and Joshua.
    • Focus is on God’s work, “I sent.. I plagued… I brought… I handed…”
  • “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built…”
    • Not a self-made nation
    • God reminds them that their existence is dependent upon God, and God alone.
    • NRSV and CEB translates: “Now go and revere the Lord.”
      • CEB Study Bible note: “The word revere is sometimes translated ‘fear,’ but the rendering here is most helpful.  The term has to do with the reverence and honor for God seen in complete devotion.”
      • “Fear the Lord,” seems to be in direct contrast to Jesus’ call to “Fear not.”  How are these things related?  Does this reveal the nature of God that is changed from the Old and New Testaments?  Is Jesus claim to “fear not,” go against the OT claim to “fear the Lord.”  Or is it a misunderstanding of the OT’s use of the word ‘fear.’  There is no way that Jesus is saying “Respect Not,” or “Be irreverent.”  Or maybe he is saying, “lighten up.”
  • Joshua puts forth a choice: “Serve the Lord” or “serve the other gods.”  You cannot serve both (reminiscent of Jesus’ claim that no one can serve two masters)
    • Joshua: “My family is going to serve the Lord.  What about you?”
    • People:  “Of course we’ll serve the Lord, he’s awesome.”
    • Joshua: “I don’t think you realize what you’re saying.  Serving the Lord is really hard, and he’ll get extra pissed if you promise to serve him, and then don’t.”
    • People: “No really, we will serve the Lord.”
    • Joshua: “Alright.  Let’s mark this agreement with this big rock just in case someone forgets.  And by ‘someone’ I mean you, because God won’t forget.”

PREACHING THOUGHTS

  • What does it mean to “serve the Lord?”
    • Put away other gods. – What is the modern equivalent of putting away other gods?
    • “Inner devotion can be so vaporous, so vague and unmeasurable, that it is meaningless.  Perhaps for that reason verse 14 recalls Genesis 35:2-4, in which Jacob leads a ceremony of collecting and burying idols.  Joshua 24:14 may suggest a ritual removing of gods that might compete with the Lord as a sign of exclusive devotion.  This can be important for contemporary people of faith who find it difficult to reject the pervasive societal and cultural influences that mitigate faith in God” (Jerome Creach, Interpretation: Joshua, p. 125).
      • This sort of ritual burying of false idols could have some potential for modern worship services, but could also slip into ‘book burning’ type of ritual that could be counter productive.
  • Is a wall hanging a pleasant reminder of the covenant, or a cheapening of what is meant?  It depends on the motivation, and the heart of those in the covenant.
    • An analogy: “A fitting similitude for modern people is the relationship of a person to a passionate lover.  If the relationship leads to a marriage covenant, certain formal agreements apply.  The obligation to the lover, however, is not fulfilled by mechanical compliance with stipulations.  Imagine the absurdity of a partner in marriage greeting the spouse at the end of the day, ‘My commitment to you is complete today because  I have not committed adultery.’  The relationship requires multiple expressions of love that can never be legislated fully.  Moreover, the passion of the lover is naturally expressed as anger if the partner ignores or neglects the relationship” (Creach, p. 127)

Whole content from https://lectionarylab.com/2014/11/03/year-a-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost-november-9-2014/ (below)

Teaching the Text
by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
“Third time’s a charm!”

I’ve heard that all my life, though I’ve never thought much about the meaning (or original context) of the phrase. I suppose usually we mean it as either a token of good luck or persistence. Of course, I’ve also always heard that “the harder you work (persist), the luckier you are.”

Whatever the deepest meaning may be, Joshua makes the Israelites commit three times to follow Yahweh. I guess he didn’t want any backing up later…nobody saying, “Well, you didn’t tell us it would be this hard!”

Whole content from http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/apr32m.shtml (below)

Joshua

Joshua tells of the conquest of the Promised Land (Palestine). God had promised to their forefathers that they would one day occupy this territory. The book begins with the crossing of the Jordan. It then relates the stories of military victories, achieved under his guidance, through which the people of Israel came to control all of the hill country and the Negev Desert. It describes the allotment of land to each of the tribes and ends with Joshua’s final address to the people.

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Joshua 24:1-3a,14-25

The people of Israel are now residents of Canaan. According to this book, the conquest is complete. The land has been divided among the tribes. We leap forward to the final chapter of the book. The people (or their representatives) gather at Shechem, on the eastern edge of the hill country, some 50 km (30 miles) north of Jerusalem. Shechem was the site of a pagan shrine. Here Abraham built an altar to commemorate his meeting with God; here Jacob, returning from Haran, set up camp, bought land, and erected an altar; here Joseph was buried. Our reading describes a treaty between God and his people, in the general style of treaties between a victorious king and a vanquished people, vassals. Such treaties say: in return for protecting you …, you are obligated to … But what really matter to us are the differences from a typical treaty, what makes this an agreement between God and Israel.

In v. 2, God’s titles are given. (“Terah” was Abraham’s father, who “served other gods”.) Vv. 2-13 is the whereas section: the background, the reason why the parties wish a treaty. V. 14 states Israel’s obligations: “to revere the Lord …”. V. 22 speaks of witnesses, but (then and now) it is odd that the witnesses are parties to the agreement. This treaty, unlike others, is light on the curses: what will happen if either party breaks the oath; v. 20 says “if you forsake the Lord …” But this verse is discordant with the rest of the reading and with Israel’s experience during the Exile, so perhaps it was inserted later, as a lesson for people of a later age who were straying from worshipping God. V. 25 says that the treaty was ratified, together with subsidiary documents.

Vv. 14-20 are really separate from the treaty. The people have a free choice as to whether they worship God or the local gods, but Joshua and his household elect to serve God (v. 15). The people, recognizing all God has done for them, do choose to serve him. (“Beyond the River”: the river is the Euphrates, so this refers to Aramea, the land to the north. The ”Amorites”, vv. 1518, appear to be an indigenous people of the Promised Land.)

Verse by verse word study: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/apr32l.shtml

Full content from http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?title=Proper_32A#First_Reading:_Renewing_the_covenant (below)

First Reading: Renewing the covenant

The OT reading from the RCL invites us to reflect on the theme of covenant renewal, and specifically renewal of the covenant as the people of God near the end of the beginning.

As the biblical narrative of Israel’s origins tells the story, the 12 tribes of Israel (under the leadership of Joshua/Jesus) have now taken possession of the land. They have worked together for the common good, and they have overcome great obstacles (with the assistance of their god, Yahweh). All they hoped for is now in their grasp. The land of promise is theirs.

All of us familiar with the story know it was too good to be true, and the ensuing narratives will show a never-ending struggle to retain the land and sustain anything like a viable sense of being the covenant people.

Even the collective promise to put away (finally? after all these years?) the pagan gods of their ancestors has no substance. Later episodes in Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings—not to mention the testimomy of the prophetic literature—show that ancient Israel and Judah were attached to their plethora of deities (as well as their sacred images) until at least the time of the Exile.

Even so, the story in Joshua 24 is a classic scene in which the essence of Israel’s faith is proclaimed:

  • gratitude to Yahweh for past and present blessings
  • a sense of collective vocation/identity
  • a rejection of other gods, and their sacred paraphernalia
  • commitment to serve Yahweh and no other gods

Full content from https://ralphmiltonsrumors.blogspot.com/search?q=joshua+24 (below)

The Story (from the Revised Common Lectionary) Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 and Matthew 25:1-13

Here’s an amazing coincidence. Deuteronomy 30 says that Moses closed his career by urging his people to “Choose life!” Here, Joshua ends his leadership by demanding, “Choose whom you will serve!”
It could be Joshua’s spin-doctors still trying to show that their leader was a worthy successor to Moses.
Or it could be that every leader needs to confront her/his followers with the need to choose. Don’t drift. Choose! Choose now! And then run your life accordingly.
I would hope to dramatize that message with video clips from television ads (copyright be damned – they put them out there to be seen!). All those ads say, “Choose! Choose ME to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be healthy, to be powerful… to be loved…”
If TV ads prove technically impossible, I could resort to glossy magazine ads.
We also need to say, “Choose!” But the real choices are not which product to buy, but which values, which standards, which way of life. Will we support a culture that deals with short-term interests and selfishness, or will we promote long-term values that will benefit all of God’s creation, including us?
As Joshua says, whatever our decision, our life choices make us witnesses against ourselves.
Jim Taylor

It seems to me the Joshua and Matthew readings come together to form a couple of parables with strong contemporary relevance. It’s important to notice that Joshua is not calling on the folks to choose between God and no god. The choice is between God and gods – the gods of fertility and prosperity.
So why not paraphrase the Joshua reading and where he refers to the gods of fertility and prosperity, talk instead of the gods that rule the shopping malls, the car dealerships, the real estate market and yes, in these days especially, the stock market. I might ask them to take out their favorite credit card and look at it while I read the paraphrase.
Be sure to include the built-in warning that’s in the story. Don’t make pious little promises you don’t intend to keep, because they’ll come back and bite you.
And Matthew’s story about the bridesmaids – try not to tell the one about the preacher who asked a group of young men, “Would you rather be with the wise bridesmaids and their lighted lamps, or would you rather spend the night in the dark with those foolish bridesmaids?”
The story reminds me of the geezer who was asked why he spent so much time reading the Bible and doing church stuff. “I’m cramming for the finals!” he said. Or the person who said, “I’m going to stop procrastinating. As soon as I can get around to it.”
This story connects with the Joshua passage in reminding us that good intentions about future changes in our lifestyle or habits are quite irrelevant. The promise must be made in the present tense.
Ralph Milton

Following musings on a cruise, also on https://ralphmiltonsrumors.blogspot.com/search?q=joshua+24

The Joshuas among us demand that we choose – and we do choose. Whatever is the most fun and the least hassle.
Don’t read this as a grumpy, green-eyed rant about folks who have things we covet. It is a lament for the living that is lost. It is a lament for people who “laugh, but not all of their laughter. Who cry but not all of their tears.” (Kahil Gibran)
It is a lament over the dull-eyed wanderers who have made their choice about who they will serve. They spend their days moving from one amusement to the next. They spend their evenings mindlessly pulling the handle of a slot machine. They spend their nights in drugged and dreamless sleep.
And they tell themselves.
“I must be happy, because nothing hurts.”

Soft Edges – by Jim Taylor
Getting a Grip on Gravity
Around the time of Moses, the ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra. They were smart enough to recognize that all the other gods that people worshipped – gods of wind, fertility, river, storm, etc. – all depended on a single source of heat and light, the sun.
Moses may have adapted the concept of monotheism – one God, and only one God – from the Egyptians; he was raised in the Pharaoh’s palace, after all. Or he may have borrowed it from his Midianite father-in-law, Jethro, after Moses fled from Egypt as a wanted-dead-or-alive murderer.
Or, of course, he may have received his revelation directly, just as the Bible relates, from a burning bush in the middle of the desert.
There’s a growing trend among some environmental movements to worship Ra again. They recognize that everything on this earth – plants, animals, insects, fish, and yes, humans too – depends on the sun for life.
Without the sun, there would be no photosynthesis and no plants. Without the sun, we would be a sterile rock hurtling through frozen space. Without the sun, water would not evaporate, form clouds, fall as rain, run as rivers, or irrigate our fields.
Even the fossil fuels that our industrial civilization depends on are simply solar energy that fell on the earth millions of years ago.
Some people claim that if we could more efficiently capture the energy that reaches the earth from the sun, if we could store it, convert it to heat and electricity, we would have no need for fossil fuels.
With no pollution, they insist.
But if I were going to worship something other than God, I think I would choose gravity.
That thought occurred to me the other day, while taking the dog for a walk. We go down a steep little trail that the municipality kindly graveled a few years ago.
The top end of the trail has no gravel left, though. Because every time I put my heel down, it crunches a small mound of gravel ahead of it. Thousands of foot-falls over the years have moved the overlay of gravel steadily downhill.
Gravity does more than just drop apples on Isaac Newton’s head. It causes water to flow downhill, carving ravines and canyons. It causes cliffs to crumble. It wraps a thin skin of atmosphere around the earth.
It holds the earth – and the other planets – in stable orbit around the sun.
Indeed, gravity brought the sun god Ra into being, by compressing the solar gases until they ignited the fusion furnace that still gives us light and heat.
Gravity is the only thing that escapes the clutches of an astronomical black hole.
Physicists speak of four forces. Compared to the “strong force” that holds atomic nuclei together, gravity is considered a very weak force.
Yet gravity surrounds us, envelops us, so completely, so universally, that most of us are completely unaware of its presence.
Which is, now that I start to think about it, a pretty good description of how most of us perceive God, too.

Another commentary, incl. address of the problem of the incomplete conquering of the Canaa  http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3465

Excerpt from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2602 (below)

The place in the story

We are at the end of the story of Joshua and the Israelites’ conquest of the Promised Land. In fact, we are well after the period of invasion and warfare, “a long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies all around, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years” (Joshua 23:1). All the tribes have gathered at Shechem, a point right in the middle of the land and right between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, where Joshua had previously renewed the covenant with the people (Joshua 8:30-35). Joshua had already spoken to the leaders of all the people in chapter 23, right before our passage, had given what had seemed to be his final words, in awareness that he himself was shortly to die (23:14). He had given them stern warnings to follow the law of Moses, laying out the severe consequences should they fail to do so, concluding with, “you shall perish quickly from the good land that he [the Lord] has given to you” (23:16).

Yet here in chapter 24 Joshua speaks again. This time he speaks “to all the people” (Joshua 24:2), and he speaks not from himself but as a prophet: “Thus says the Lord,” begins his speech. The speech from v. 2b through v. 13 consists of a first-person narrative — from the perspective of God — of the mighty acts God had accomplished from the time of Abraham through the conquest of the land. It emphasizes throughout that the whole history was God’s doing, not the people’s: “I brought you out” (v. 5); “I destroyed them before you” (v. 8); “I rescued you” (v. 10); “I sent the hornet ahead of you” (v. 12); culminating with, “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant” (v. 13). The speech contains no admonitions, instructions, or warnings, not even including the giving of the law in its account. None of Israel’s failures along the way are mentioned, either. It is a straightforward, powerful narrative of God’s presence with and action on behalf of the people….

How do we remember?

The question for the people, then, is how they will remember their history and whether this history of God’s acts will be the basis of their identity going forward. Here we ought to see ourselves in a similar position, for the question of how we narrate our own past and present, and how we see God working in them, is a perennial question for Christians….

Moreover, the question is always before us in our daily lives. Can we narrate the story of our own lives as the mighty acts of God? We might think of the question in terms of our individual lives, but Joshua put it to the people as a whole. We thus might better think of the question corporately, as a church. How can we narrate our history as a people and our lives together going forward as God’s work among us?…

The response

The people shined in their response to Joshua: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:16). They summarize Joshua’s (God’s) account of their history as their own (vv. 17-18a) and then conclude, “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God” (v. 18b). Joshua is not satisfied, for he then goes on to give all the warnings we might have expected already (vv. 19-20), but the people are emphatic in their commitment to the Lord (vv. 21-24), and the exchange concludes with a covenant renewal (vv. 25-28). Nor was this mere lip service, for v. 31 then tells us that “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua.” This was a great moment in the history of Israel, one of those all-too-few times when the people really got it right. The story stands as an example and a charge to us: Will we serve the Lord or the gods of our times?

Sample from http://words.dancingwiththeword.com/2015/08/do-i-choose-or-am-i-chosen.html (below)

Did I choose or was I chosen?

It seems to me this is what Simon Peter finds himself struggling with today as he hears Jesus’ demand to choose. For he responds by saying there really is no choice at all, even though others have clearly chosen not to follow. And as Jesus points out, the twelve were chosen, yes. But one of the twelve chose another way.

So I expect in the end it is perhaps some of both. Indeed, it goes without saying that out of great love, God has chosen us all. And yet, at the same time, you and I are called to choose every day ‘whom we will serve.’

And so I am called to wonder every day as I begin a new day:

  • Will I choose to live in kindness or will I let old hurts taint my responses to those around me?
  • Will I close my office door or will I respond to the cry of pain in the outer office? Or on the other end of the phone line? Or in our neighborhood and beyond?
  • Will I work for justice in the world or will I cower in my fear that I might offend?
  • Will I entrust to God a portion of what I have been given or will I hoard it all away in fear?
  • Will I begin and end my day in prayer or will I try to go it alone?

And on and on…

Oh yes, with Joshua and Simon Peter we do choose ‘who we will serve — who it is we will follow.’ This being so, I thank God every day that God made the ultimate choice for me first. Because of this, all of my choices every day are made under a benevolent cloud of grace.

Indeed, we have before us now a central question for people of faith and so it is so vitally important to keep it before us. For while God did choose us, you and I are called to choose how we will live out the joy of having been so chosen. Shall I, shall we, live it in hope and love and promise? Or shall we not? Either way, what will that look like?

  • Do we choose or are we chosen? What do you think? What stories from your own experience shape your thinking on this?
  • What does it look like to ‘choose’ to serve God in the day to day? What choices are you faced with even now?

Another take on choosing, this one on free human choice over God’s provenience is found at http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2215 and includes this commentary:

In verse 14, where Joshua urges the people to fear and serve the Lord. “Serve God” becomes the core refrain of Joshua’s message. He repeats the word twice in verse 14, and it appears three times in the subsequent four verses. Serving God means worshipping God alone and not other gods. Indeed, Joshua’s admonition to serve other gods includes instructions to “put away” those gods that their ancient ancestors served and that their more recent ancestors served in Egypt (Joshua 3:14).

But the semantic range of the Hebrew word ?abad includes both “worship” and “serve,” and in the book of Joshua it makes sense to translate — and understand — it as service because of its proximity to Exodus. The Israelites have been freed from slavery in Egypt, but their freedom is not absolute. Rather, they move from being Pharaoh’s servants to being God’s servants. Unlike the type of slavery and service they provided in Egypt, however, this time they must choose to serve God.

And Joshua presents this as a genuine choice, not something they are compelled to do. In fact, the Hebrew of Joshua 24:15 puts it starkly, “it may be evil in your eyes” to serve God! The NIV and NRSV soften the language, with the NRSV saying, “if you are unwilling,” and the NIV saying, “if it is undesirable to you,” but the ESV and the KJV present the difficulty more literally. Maybe it is not a good thing to serve God! Maybe it seems bad to serve God! Joshua ends the verse by presenting his own choice: he, and his house, will serve God.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in the light of Joshua’s rhetorical challenge, the people affirm that they will never forsake the Lord and serve other gods. But they are not only imitating their leader, because they have their own reasons. In verses 17-18, they recall what God has done for them in the past: bringing them and their ancestors up from Egypt out of slavery, doing great signs in their sight, protecting them along the way and among the people, and driving out the people in the land. Because of what God has done for them, they choose to serve God. And, in verse 18, they add another reason, “For he is our God.” This God they choose to serve is their own, personal God.

The other lectionary passage from year B ends with that verse, with the people making the positive affirmation that they will serve the Lord. This one continues, almost humorously. Joshua had laid down the challenge in verses 14-15 — to serve God — and the people have said they would in verses 16-18, but in verse 19, Joshua tells them, “You cannot serve the Lord!” He goes on to explain that God is holy, and jealous, and if the people forsake God, God will not forgive. To Joshua’s word that they cannot serve the Lord, the people respond (with indignation?), “No, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:21).

It seems unlikely that Joshua is merely practicing reverse psychology. Instead, Joshua is proving the people an opportunity to reaffirm their choice. They have already said, once, in verse 18, that they will serve God, but after Joshua’s rejoinder, they affirm it two more times in verse 21 and in verse 24. Their three-fold affirmation to serve God is followed by the official covenant making ceremony, writing down the words, and setting up a stone as a witness.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1371 excerpt below 

Joshua has gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, the place where, long ago, God had appeared to Abram and promised the gift of the land (Genesis 12:6-7). Abram built there an altar, the first sanctuary to Yahweh in the land of promise. In the book of Joshua we learn that the Lord has also designated Shechem as a city of refuge, a haven that interrupts and transforms a landscape marred by violence and revenge (Joshua 20:7).

Joshua now gathers the people in this city that orients them to the boundary between justice and mercy and beside the altar that commemorates God’s revelation and promise and their ancestor’s worshipful response.  At the moment of decision the people are surrounded by physical reminders of God’s revelation and promise and oriented by their own shared practices of worship, justice, and mercy.

The leaders of the community are also such a physical reminder. Joshua summons the elders, heads, judges, and officers to station themselves and stand upright in the presence of God (24:1). These individuals possess wisdom and memory, live as visible examples of covenant faithfulness, dedicate their lives to justice, and are entrusted with responsibility for the people’s welfare. They commit their bodies, hearts, and minds to bridge the space between heaven and earth and draw their people closer to God.

The opposition between worship and slavery rises to the fore.

The editorial shaping of the lection moves the hearer past God’s first-person account of what God has done for Israel’s past generations and given to the present generation. The emphasis falls instead on what the people will do.

The threefold repetition in one verse (24:14) of the Hebrew verb ‘abad sharpens the focus. The verb occurs six more times in the lection (24:15-18; the related noun ‘abadim occurs once). The range of meanings for this verb includes “to be a slave”, “to serve”, “to work”, and “to worship.” The conceptual link between worship and slavery may seem obscure or theologically distasteful, but it is critical for understanding the choice Joshua offers the tribes of Israel. They can and will give their whole selves to one kind of relationship only. Worship of false gods is slavery to human artifice and self-interest. Joshua calls Israel out of bondage into the freedom of life in covenant with God.

Joshua’s call to worship Yahweh in integrity therefore entails putting away (vehasîrû)  the gods “your ancestors” worshipped in Mesopotamia and Egypt (24:14). This instruction echoes an earlier command. In the book of Genesis, Jacob instructs his household to put away foreign gods (Genesis 35:2), and he hides the gods beneath the oak at Shechem (35:4), in the very ground on which the tribes now stand. The preacher who now summons the congregation to choose worship of God must also reveal the false gods hidden like landmines in the ground beneath their feet.

The people speak their reasons and tell their story in their own words.

The elided divine speech in Joshua 24:2b-13 offers God’s version of the story and suggests reasons, from God’s point of view, why the Israelites should now choose to serve God. But to arrive at their decision in true freedom and integrity, the people must tell their own story and declare their own reasons.

They begin by naming the relationship that has claimed them and allows them to claim God for their own: “Yahweh is our God” (24:17). They then profess that God brought “us” and “our fathers” up from Egypt, from a house of slaves. The people who stand before Joshua never set foot in the land of Egypt (except possibly Caleb, see Deuteronomy 1:36), but they remember this passage to freedom. They testify to miracles worked in their sight and to God’s care for them on the road and in their crossings.

Only after the tribes have told the story in their own words do they declare their commitment to serve Yahweh (Joshua 24:18). This declaration is climactic, but not the last word. Three words follow, highlighting once again the relationship that is the ground for every free choice this people makes: “Because [Yahweh] is our God” (24:18).

Brief commentary from Brueggemann https://www.huffingtonpost.com/walter-brueggemann/joshua-2413a-1425_b_1070263.html (excerpt below)

Joshua attests to his community that he and his household have chosen covenantal life with YHWH, the God who has given both the land and the commandments of Sinai. But he fully recognizes that other choices are available, other gods and other ways of life. And a decision must be made! Israel, and the church, must decide again and again about identity, about defining passions and loyalties. And beyond religious community, the civic community continually needs to decide again what kind of society it intends to be. This decision may be made in a formal ceremonial way, thus we have frequently reiterated patriotic occasions. But more powerfully, these decisions are made by public action, by policy formation, by budget priorities, and by the shape and nature of the infrastructure of the community….

What this God requires is a life-commitment that will impinge upon every dimension of public life — social, political and economic. This God, so says Joshua, is uncompromising. With YHWH it is “all or nothing,” no casual allowance for accommodation. What is at issue is a jealous God who is committed to neighborly justice and the organization of the economy for the sake of the weak and vulnerable (thus the testimony of the book of Deuteronomy that stands behind this narrative chapter). But the other gods, the totems of agricultural self-sufficiency, do not require such neighborly passion. The either/or that Joshua presents has immediate practical social consequences. A decision for YHWH entails socio-economic justice. A decision for the “other gods” leads inevitably to socio-economic exploitation, the accumulation of wealth at the expense of neighbors. Such a “religion” without commitment to social justice will eventuate in communities of economic failure, such as we now witness in Reading.

Brueggemann on scarcity and abundance https://www.religion-online.org/article/the-liturgy-of-abundance-the-myth-of-scarcity/

Another commentary raising questions about Joshua’s depiction of the victory over the Canaanites: http://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2011/11/whom-will-you-choose-john-holbert-11-02-2011.aspx?p=2

African American commentary on the passage*** http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=167    

Australian resource with links***

http://otl.unitingchurch.org.au/index.php?page=joshua-24-1-25

Quoting MLK about choice: http://www.workingpreacher.org/.aspx?commentary_id=378

Another Working Preacher commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=175

Seeds: Narrative Lectionary 10/7

IMAGE:

Book Title: Euangelische vnnd Christenliche Predige[n] / Judoci Clichtouei vo[n] dem Vatter vnser, Aue Maria, Glauben, zehen Gebot, vnd siben Sacramenten, Lateinisch beschriben, vn[d] durch Haimeran Schweller, Rö. Rü. Ma. [et]c geliebter Rüningklicher finder zü Insprug Caplan, vnd Prediger verteutscht

Author: Clichtove, Josse, d. 1543

Image Title: Ten Commandments

http://pitts.emory.edu/dia/bridge.cfm?ID=108066

 

COMMENTARY

 

https://www.workingpreacher.org/?lect_date=10/07/2018&lectionary=nl

Exodus 19:2-8  http://www.textweek.com/yeara/propera6.htm

http://www.textweek.com/pentateuch/ex19.htm

Exodus 20:1-17  http://www.textweek.com/yearb/lentb3.htm

http://www.textweek.com/pentateuch/ex20b.htm

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 http://www.textweek.com/yeara/propera22.htm

http://www.textweek.com/pentateuch/ex20b.htm

 

 

WORD STUDY POSSIBILITIES

 

Note the repeated use of shama/shema (listen)/sh’ma in 19:5 as in “Hear, O Israel,” the Jewish prayer; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shema_Yisrael

 

For transliteration/word study, see   https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/exo/19/3/t_conc_69005

 

Transliteration

shama`

Pronunciation

shä·mah’ (Key)

Part of Speech

masculine noun, verb

Root Word (Etymology)

A primitive root

Dictionary Aids

TWOT Reference: 2412, 2412a

KJV Translation Count — Total: 1,159x

The KJV translates Strong’s H8085 in the following manner: hear (785x), hearken (196x), obey (81x), publish (17x), understand (9x), obedient (8x), diligently (8x), shew (6x), sound (3x), declare (3x), discern (2x), noise (2x), perceive (2x), tell (2x), reported (2x), miscellaneous (33x).

Outline of Biblical Usage [?]

v

  • to hear, listen to, obey
    1. (Qal)
      • to hear (perceive by ear)
      • to hear of or concerning
      • to hear (have power to hear)
      • to hear with attention or interest, listen to
      • to understand (language)
      • to hear (of judicial cases)
      • to listen, give heed
        1. to consent, agree
        2. to grant request
      • to listen to, yield to
      • to obey, be obedient
    2. (Niphal)
      • .to be heard (of voice or sound)
      • to be heard of
      • to be regarded, be obeyed
    3. (Piel) to cause to hear, call to hear, summon
    4. (Hiphil)
      • .to cause to hear, tell, proclaim, utter a sound
      • to sound aloud (musical term)
      • to make proclamation, summon
      • to cause to be heard

n m

  • sound

Strong’s Definitions [?](Strong’s Definitions Legend)

שָׁמַע shâmaʻ, shaw-mah’; a primitive root; to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.; causatively, to tell, etc.):—× attentively, call (gather) together, × carefully, × certainly, consent, consider, be content, declare, × diligently, discern, give ear, (cause to, let, make to) hear(-ken, tell), × indeed, listen, make (a) noise, (be) obedient, obey, perceive, (make a) proclaim(-ation), publish, regard, report, shew (forth), (make a) sound, × surely, tell, understand, whosoever (heareth), witness.

 

 

Also Exodus 20:1: Elohim dabar dabar amar.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/exo/20/1/t_conc_70001

 

dabar=do, make, say, thing, word; suggests command/performative speech of God as in creation; here God is commanding a command, making a making, wording a word.

Speaking and doing are one. Sometimes when actions contradict words,  I say that actions can speak so loudly that people cannot hear what is being said. Matthew 21:28ff relates the parable of the sons, one of whom said he would do something but didn’t do it; the other who said he wouldn’t do it but then did, comes to mind. Teenagers are experts at saying no while doing yes. Which speaks louder, words or actions? What is they aligned and spoke together? What would the power of that witness be?

 

Our power to bring words and action together is dependent on God’s grace and power:

Second Chapter of Acts song “Which Way the Wind Blows”

with the lyric “do a doing, say a saying” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYW65gzedo0

 

SONGS/HYMNS

 

Thy Word by Amy Grant https://youtu.be/CSZlIVP9u0Y

See Psalm 119:105-112

 

https://hymnary.org/text/you_who_dwell_in_the_shelter_joncas  (“On Eagles’ Wings”)

 

https://hymnary.org/text/the_god_of_abraham_praise_who_reigns

2 The great I AM has sworn;
I on this oath depend.
I shall, on eagle wings upborne,
to heaven ascend.
I shall behold God’s face;
I shall God’s power adore,
and sing the wonders of God’s grace
forevermore.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/when_we_walk_with_the_lord (“Trust and Obey”)

 

https://hymnary.org/text/o_come_o_come_emmanuel_and_ransom

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

 

https://hymnary.org/text/glorious_things_of_thee_are_spoken

1 Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
He whose Word cannot be broken
formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/the_care_the_eagle_gives_her_young

3 And if we flutter helplessly, as fledgling eagles fall,
beneath us lift God’s mighty wings to bear us, one and all.

 

 

 

https://hymnary.org/text/amazing_grace_how_sweet_the_sound

 

 

https://hymnary.org/text/let_us_with_a_gladsome_mind

5 He His chosen race did bless
in the wasteful wilderness:
for His mercies shall endure,
ever faithful, ever sure.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/o_beautiful_for_spacious_skies

2 O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness,
and every gain divine.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_of_bethel_by_whose_hand

4 O spread thy covering wings around
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father’s loved abode
our souls arrive in peace.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/come_let_us_join_our_friends_above

 

  1. Come, let us join our friends above
    who have obtained the prize,
    and on the eagle wings of love
    to joys celestial rise.
    Let saints on earth unite to sing
    with those to glory gone,
    for all the servants of our King
    in earth and heaven are one.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/lift_every_voice_and_sing

1 Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring,
ring with the harmonies of liberty;
let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies,
let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/the_mighty_god_with_power_speaks

 

https://hymnary.org/text/i_am_your_god_you_are_my_people

 

https://hymnary.org/text/jesus_calls_us_oer_the_tumult

1 Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
saying, “Christian, follow me.”
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, “Christian, love me more.”

 

https://hymnary.org/text/god_spake_these_words_and_said

 

https://hymnary.org/text/may_we_thy_precepts_lord_fulfill

1 May we Thy precepts, Lord, fulfill
And do on earth our Father’s will
As angels do above;
Still walk in Christ, the living way,
With all Thy children and obey
The law of Christian love.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/god_spake_these_words_o_israel_hear

1 GOD spake these Words, O Isr’el, hear,
What I shall now command;
Thy LORD and only GOD am I,
Who with Almighty Hand

(A verse for each of the commandments)

 

https://hymnary.org/text/the_great_command_jehovah_gave

1 The great command Jehovah gave,
No other Gods but only me
Shall ye my chosen People have,
Your only trust in me shall be.

(A verse for each of the commandments)

 

 

https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_who_gives_us_life_and_breath

3 O God of covenant and law,
revealed in cloud and flame,
your mighty deeds evoke our awe;
we dare not speak your name.
Yet we by faith are drawn to you
and will your people prove,
as on our hearts you write anew
the covenant of love.

https://hymnary.org/text/these_are_the_holy_ten_commands

Goes through the commandments; some verses are not on Hymnary because they are still under copyright

 

https://hymnary.org/text/the_ten_commandments_patterson

 

https://hymnary.org/text/thus_spoke_the_lord_i_am_your_god

 

http://carolynshymns.com/long_ago_god_reached_in_love.html (to tune “Jesus Loves Me”)

v.3 Ten Commandments were the way God called people to obey,
For God wanted us to see: In obeying, we are free.

 

http://carolynshymns.com/gifts_of_love_our_lord_has_given.html(to tune “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”

  1. 1 Gifts of love our Lord has given, Words of life: “I’m your God!
    I have brought you out of Egypt; now I call.
    Listen here, listen well:
    When you live in gratitude you’ll keep my law.”
  2. 2 “Have no other gods before me, says the Lord God Most High.
    Don’t choose idols that you worship in God’s place.
    Know God’s name, use it well.
    Keep the Sabbath for it is God’s gift of grace.”

https://hymnary.org/text/hark_israel_and_what_i_say

Hark Israel and what I say,
give heed to understand:
I am the Lord thy God that brought
thee out of Egypt land,
Even from the house wherein thou didst
in thraldome live a slave:
None other God at all before
my presence shalt thou have.

 

 

https://hymnary.org/text/attend_my_people_and_give_ear

Attend my people ad give eare,
Of setly things I will thee tell:
See that my word in mind thou beare
And to my precepts listen well.

 

https://hymnary.org/text/when_israel_camped_in_sinai_then_moses_h

  1. When Israel camped in Sinai, then Moses heard from God:
    “This message tell my people, and give them this, my word:
    From Egypt I was with you, and carried on my wing,
    The whole of your great nation from slavery I did bring.
  2. Just like a mother eagle, who helps her young to fly,
    I am a mother to you, your needs will I supply;
    And you are as my children, the ones who hear my voice,
    I am a mother to you, the people of my choice.”
  3. If God is like an eagle who helps her young to fly,
    And God is also Father, what then of you and I?
    We have no fear of labels, we have no fear of roles–
    If God’s own being blends them, we seek the selfsame goals.
  4. Our God is not a woman, our God is not a man;
    Our God is both and neither, our God is I Who Am.
    From all the roles that bind us our God has set us free.
    What freedom does God give us? The freedom just to be.

https://hymnary.org/text/when_i_remember_o_my_god

 

https://hymnary.org/text/be_still_and_know_that_i_am_god_and_th

 

 

 

PRAYERS (please include “by Barb Hedges-Goettl, copyright 2018). You may use/adapt these for use in worship settings.

 

 

Call to Worship:

God calls to us from the mountain, saying, “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Therefore, obey my voice and keep my covenant and you shall be my treasured possession, a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” Come, let us worship the One who calls and sanctifies us.

 

Prayer of Approach/Invocation

Hear, listen, understand.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

Give heed, consent, agree.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

Diligently discern.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

Consider, be content.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

Yield and obey.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

Proclaim and summon.

O Lord, give us ears to hear.

ALL: AMEN.

 

Confession of sin:

 

O God, your commandments glisten with the possibility of life lived in faithfulness to you and with one another. Yet we know we fail to live up to that call.

 

(Each petition may be followed by a time for silent confession, and/or the refrain:

Lord, have mercy.)

 

We put other things before you.

We misuse you and the faith we profess.

We let work take over our lives.

We do not honor those you have given us in love.

We hate.

We trample boundaries and promises.

We take from others.

We lie.

We envy.

 

Bear us up on eagles’ wings to you, that we may be your people, priestly and holy, living what we believe.

 

Words of Assurance: In Christ, the law is fulfilled. Through his power and his mercy, we are being re-made as God’s treasured possession, God’s own kingdom. Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

 

 

 

PONDERINGS/THEMES

 

I work in a middle school. The theme of recent morning “word of wisdom” was the need for rules to make school, society, games, life, work.

 

Why did God give the Commandments? What does the giving of rules mean? What does the giving of these rules mean? Is this a place to discuss human sinfulness, need for limits/boundaries/guidance and also forgiveness?  My father thought Jesus was worth following because he understood human nature better than other religious leaders. What do the Ten Commandments say about human nature?

 

Do the Commandments apply to everyone? Do they fit “the rule of law”?                 Quote from James Madison: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  From the American Bar Association discussion of “The Rule of Law” at  https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/publiced/features/Part1DialogueROL.authcheckdam.pdf

See also

Rule of Law Institute of Australia                                           https://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/what-is-the-rule-of-law/

World Justice Project                                                                        https://worldjusticeproject.org/about-us/overview/what-rule-law

Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law

 

Seeds: Narrative Lectionary Resource 9/30 Parting of the Seas/Escape Egypt

Genesis 14

Matthew 2:13-15

Additional Scripture

Psalm 105 (summarizes story thus far)

Psalm 80

Meditative Thought: How often is rescue through a restoration?

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 105)

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the people

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.

Call to Worship

Rescuer of Israel, You call your people out of Oppression

When Moses was enslaved, when baby Jesus was threatened, you rescued them

Call us out of oppression, again, lead us into light

You are our Lord and Our God, worthy of our Praise.
Prayer of Confession

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. We confess that we follow our own ideas instead of you.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

We confess that we are often distracted by shiny things, the popular things, we put our trust in money and power.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

We confess that we have trouble listening to you and to one another, and that our relationships need to be saved.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

We confess that we forget that you are the God of forgiveness, that we would rather hid our faults than name them.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Remind us of your love, your grace and your forgiveness, so that we can be filled with hope and live the life of the People of the Resurrection

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Prayer of Confession

God of the rainbows and the stars. We confess that we have trouble trusting. We do not want to make ourselves vulnerable. We have trouble baring ourselves in relationships. Yet, you promise to bring us out of the wilderness we wander in, you give us signs of your love, splitting the oceans and splashing us with baptism. Help us to trust in your steadfast love we pray. Amen.

We confess that we have trouble listening. We do not listen to you, we do not listen to those who are oppressed, we plug our ears and hum as if everything is find

Assurance of Pardon: Our God is the God of the Covenant. Promising us over and and over again to love us no matter what. In the name of this God we can proclaim together: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

God declares, God is our God, and we are God’s people, forever. In this we know that God’s forgiveness never ends.

Eucharist Prayer: Lord, you are a Covenantal God. You created us to be relational, to one another and to you. And when we forgot that relationship you gave us a rainbow and pointed to the multitude of stars, you walked with us along the beach. And when we got tangled in rules and who was in and out, you came to us as a baby. Vulnerable and cute, your grew into the grace of Jesus Christ, showing us just how radical your love could be. And when we met love with hatred, you died on the cross for us, you proved love to be the power of resurrection and you sent your loving advocate in the Holy Spirit to bless us. Bless these elements here, so that they are imbued with your love, and so that we can taste and see the seal of your Covenant we pray. Amen

Prayer of Dedication/Closing Prayer: Let us Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he has uttered as we go forth as the children of the promise to Abraham and Sarah. Amen.

Food for Thought:

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/trust Trust and Vulnerability a comic

1.png

 

https://fromoffshore.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/calvin-hobbes-santa.gif?w=525

Music

You Are My Hiding Place O Lord https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnM4a3TKPro

O Hear Our Cry, O Lord (vineyard haven tune)

Our God, Our Help in Ages Past (St. Anne tune)

Spirit of the Living God

Every Time I feel the Spirit (Pentecost tune)

When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land (Go Down Moses Tune)

I Love the Lord, Who Heard My Cry (Watts words)

O Jesus, I Have Promised (Nyland or Angel’s Story tune)

Craft/Sunday School Ideas

Create Meditation Mason Jars: Glitter & Water, add fish sequins if you want, Remembrance of baptism prayer & sprinkle water, Make an ocean with glue & glitter draw with crayon in the middle for the split (keeping glue/glitter off) put a Moses in the middle, Make a promise banner: add what promises God makes along the way, Older: Discuss Slavery & What deliverance meant, Action: Have some pleople wave streamers and others walk thru on dry land.

Image result for ocean crafts

https://ducksnarow.com/2016/03/o-is-for-ocean-paper-plate-preschool.html

Ocean in a bottle http://activitiesforkids.com/ocean-in-a-bottle/

 

Resource: By Pastor Katy Stenta, solo pastor of a bigger on the inside Church New Covenant Presbyterian in Albany, NY

Seeds: NL (try 2) Potiphar’s wife

HYMNS

ELW-Evangelical Lutheran Worship (from NL website)
God himself is present openhymnal.org
Arise your light has come ELW314
Goodness is stronger than evil ELW 721
Presbyterian Hymnal (1993)
If there is a number after the decimal, it refers to the verse addressing the theme
Hymns in bold print are thought to particularly address the theme
Parentheses mean that the theme is not explicitly mentioned

God’s Faithfulness
251 Your Faithfulness is Sure, O God
276 Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Assurance of God’s Presence
170.3 The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want
172.2 My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
173.2 Psalm 23
(174.3) The Lord’s My Shepherd
248 You Are Before Me, Lord (Psalm 139)
Note: Margaret Wise Brown’s picture book, Runaway Bunny, is a good parable of God constantly holding us as in Psalm 139.
(269) O God of Bethel, by Whose Hand
342.1 By Gracious Powers
361 How Firm a Foundation
407 When a Poor One
446.3 Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
461 God is Here!
483.3 Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above

LIBERATION: GOD HAS LIBERATED
112.1 Christ the Lord Is Risen Again
114.1 Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
115.1 Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
153.2 He Is King of Kings
168.2 Lord, Why Have You Forsaken Me
205 All Hail to God’s Anointed
237 When God Delivered Israel
334 When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land
604 Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)

LIBERATION: GOD LIBERATES
222.6 Psalm 103
243.4 We Thank You, Lord, for You Are Good
253.2+3 I’ll Praise My Maker
254.7+8 Psalm 146
423.4 Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun
466.3 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing
478.3 Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
600 Song of Mary (Magnificat)

LIBERATION: GOD WILL LIBERATE
18 The Desert Shall Rejoice
205 All Hail to God’s Anointed
219.3 To God Compose a Song of Joy
332 Live Into Hope
401 When Will People Cease Their Fighting?
445 Great Day!
601 Song of Zechariah (Benedictus)
602 Song of Zechariah (Benedictus)

LIBERATION: OUR RESPONSIBILITY
274.3 O God of Earth and Space
291.3 O God of Earth and Altar
311 We Meet You, O Christ
332 Live Into Hope
334 When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land
401 When Will People Cease Their Fighting?
411 Arise, Your Light Is Come!
420.4 God of Grace and God of Glory
428.4 We Give Thee but Thine Own
434 Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples
443.3 O Christ, the Great Foundation
552 Give Thanks, O Christian People
563 Lift Every Voice and Sing

LIBERATION: PRAYER FOR
1 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
2 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
9 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
204 Psalm 72
237.3 When God Delivered Israel
291.3 O God of Earth and Altar
(321.4) Holy Spirit, Truth Divine
343.3 Called as Partners in Christ’s Service
(351.2) Give to Me, Lord, a Thankful Heart
(353.2) Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Here
378 Make Me a Captive, Lord
427.2 Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service
555.2 Now Thank We All Our God

PRISON/PRISONER
9.1 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
253.3 I’ll Praise My Maker
(321.4) Holy Spirit, Truth Divine
411.2 Arise, Your Light Is Come!
423.4 Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun
466.3 O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

CHORAL A Blessing, Howard Don Small

From Glory to God PCUSA 2013
772 Live into Hope
773 Heaven Shall Not Wait
776 O God, Be Gracious (Psalm 4)
777 How Long, O Lord (Psalm 13)
779 How Long, O Lord, Will My Prayers Be in Vain?
782 Hear My Prayer, O God (Psalm 143)
786 Why Stand So Far Away, My God (Psalm 10)
790 In Silence My Soul Thirsts (Psalm 62)
841 God is My Strong Salvation (Psalm 27)
842 The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27)
845 To the Hills I Lift My Eyes (Psalm 121)
851 Come, Bring Your Burdens to the Lord

Note: One might search other hymnals for hymns connected to the psalms listed above, or do the same at hymnary.org or other online hymn source.

Wondered if others in these categories from the index, p. 949ff, might apply
Assurance
Love of God for Us
Sovereignty of God
Original materials:
you may print/adapt but please credit: © Barbara Hedges-Goettl

The psalms above seem to indicate what Joseph might be saying to God; therefore, I have taken them as texts for the original resources below:

Confession of Faith:
Psalm 4 (primarily from the NRSV)
Our righteous God answers me when I call.
God gives relief from my distress;
God has mercy on me and hears my prayer.

When people turn glory into shame,
when people love delusions and seek false gods,
God still sets apart faithful servants for God’s own service.
God hears when these servants call.

So we tremble and do not sin;
when we are on our beds,
we search our hearts and are silent.
We offer the sacrifices of the righteous.
We trust in the Lord.

When people ask, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
we respond by asking the light of God’s face to shine on us.
The gladness God gives us is far greater than their joys at
harvest, as they gaze on their bountiful crops.
In peace we will lie down and sleep,
   for God alone makes us dwell in safety.

Note: See also The Message paraphrase of this psalm, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm4&version=MSG

Prayers of Intercession from Psalm 13 (part for “Many” is from v. 3, 5):

One: When betrayal comes,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When loneliness takes the place of family and friends,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When pain has to be borne,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When needs are large and resources small,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When darkness is overpowering,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When it’s hard to know what to do,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When divisions deepen,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When words wound and inaction lets those words stand,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When God’s bounty is evident,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When salvation beckons,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
One: When light dawns and songs are sung,
Many: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.
Prayers for individual needs or lifting up of particular names may take place here
ALL: O Lord our God, we trust in your steadfast love. Consider and answer us.

Calls to Worship
Psalm 13:5-6 (The Message)
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
    I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m so full of answered prayers,
 I’m singing at the top of my lungs [should be followed by a song!]

Psalm 27: 4, 8-9 (NIV)
One: One thing I ask from the Lord,
    Many: this only do I seek:
One: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
Many: to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
ALL: Come, together let us seek the Lord.
[Prayer of invocation could go here instead of at reading of Scripture]

The clothes unmake the man?

COMMENTARY:
https://www.workingpreacher.org/narrative_podcast.aspx
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3809

FROM ATLA
If you’re a seminary grad, you likely have alum access at your seminary.

Tamar and Joseph in Genesis 38 and 39
Bekins, Peter
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, June 2016, Vol.40(4), pp.375-397
story of Joseph and his master’s wife in Genesis 39. If… his master’s wife in Genesis 39. This episode appears… positions of Genesis 38 and 39. In
PEER REVIEWED
Full text available

ARTICLE
CONFRONTING REDUNDANCY As MIDDLE MANAGER AND WIFE: THE FEISTY WOMAN OF GENESIS 39 [1]
Mckay, Heather A.
Semeia, Summer, 1999, p.215
: Uncovering the Woman in Genesis 39.&quot; Pp. 318-42… Potiphar&apos;s wife (Genesis 39) using a reader-response… . A READING OF GENESIS 39
PEER REVIEWED
Full text available
DISSERTATION
Powerplay in Potiphar’s house: The interplay of gender, ethnicity, and *class in Genesis 39
Junior, Nyasha Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob (advisor) 2008
ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Wife: The Feisty Woman of Genesis 39.” Semeia 87 (1999… CLASS IN GENESIS 39 A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE… . Within this story, Genesis 39 constitutes
Full text available
ARTICLE
Madam Potiphar’s Boy Toy: No Laughing Matter
Zucker, David
Women in Judaism, Spring 2011, Vol.8(1), pp.1-11
gender, ethnicity, and class in Genesis 39,” Princeton… . In Genesis 39, Madam Potiphar’s use of the verb…Genesis are familiar with the outline of chapter
PEER REVIEWED
Full text available

ARTICLEmultiple sources exist. see all
Divestiture, Deception, and Demotion: The Garment Motif inGenesis 37–39
Huddlestun, John R
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, June 2002, Vol.26(4), pp.47-62
reading of Genesis 3739 suggests that, as far as the… Genesis 39, Alter draws attention to a number of… , Deception, and Demotion: The Garment Motif in Genesis 37
PEER REVIEWED

Note: My husband feels there is a message here about (male) vulnerability and the lack of recognition of this possibility/reality
Related stories: female clothes in tennis!
http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2018/08/29/us-open-official-draws-ire-after-penalizing-female-player-who-fixed-shirt-mid-match.html

https://www.cbssports.com/tennis/news/french-open-bans-serena-williams-black-catsuit-to-impose-rules-on-clothing-starting-in-2019/

Prayer on clothing angle:

O God, we say that “clothes make the man,”
but in Joseph’s case, clothes unmade the man.
His fancy robe gave rise to jealousy and was used to “prove” his death to his father.
The robe he abandoned in the hand of Potiphar’s wife was used to frame him.

God, protect us from the tendency to be defined by outward things,
by what is seen and worn. Deepen our gaze, that we may see with our hearts,
for what is essential is invisible to the eye.

See below for artwork/quote using The Little Prince

Artwork credit: By Marcel Mayer – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3337510