Job 23: #whereisGod #loneliness #depression #God

Job 23: Summary- If only I could find God and yell at him, then surely things would change….but where or where is God?

 

Job cries out,

 He cries out that the world is wrong

He cries out that God is righteous, so why is his world wrong?

“Let me Explain” Job says, “Just talk to me” Job is convinced he has done something wrong, so why do bad things happen.

 

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good people suffer, if Job “righteous” and God’s exemplar servant (literally) is not able to avoid wrong. Who can?

Who can?

This story is pre-Jesus, there is no savior taking on the troubles and heartaches in a way that we can see (not yet anyway)…so this story is about the reality that human life is hard and that bad things happen to everyone the good and the bad (the rain shall fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike).

It is a comfort, though,

It is a comfort to know that if Job can suffer, then we do not need to be ASHAMED of our suffering…those who suffer from mental illness, addiction or long term debilitating illness, those things are not shameful

Yelling at God when things go wrong…that’s ok too. After all, God can take that anger and turn it into praise (only God can turn anger into praise in Psalm after Psalm after Psalm)

Because God is Grace, God is the stooping God, the kneeling parent, the carrier in the sand. We are NEVER going to be perfect enough for God. But God will always be perfect enough to help us to get to him.

This why we have communion…to connect us to God even when we feel unconnected.

The earliest written communions have
sursum corda (“Lift Up Your Hearts”) which is still included today

Lift up Your Hearts

We Lift Our Hearts to the Lord

Let us Give Thanks to the Lord Our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Lift our hearts…we are lifting our hearts…and we are also praying that God lifts our hearts with us, because we can’t lift them up high enough. God stoops. God helps us

When we celebrate communion we speak to God’s Godhood, how God was the beginning and the end, how God was, is and will be present with us.

Then we pray, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come to the elements, we ask for God to fulfill that promise of presence here and now. Giving a prayer of Great Thanksgiving just as Christ did before he broke the bread and passed the cup, and praying the prayer that Jesus himself taught with the Lord’s Prayer

….lifting our hearts to meet his…God meets us…in the bread and in the wine, Christ is present, promising particular and real presence in the elements.

“This IS my body broken for you…do this in remembrance of me” To remember who Christ is NOW, not just the past

“This is the cup of the new covenant sealed in my blood…whenever (whereever, however) you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim my death until I come again” in the future…this is a seal of my promise to you and your promise to me…proclaiming the death, til the end of time….

and we share in those elements, and we become the Body of Christ…so that Christ is no longer simply with us.  This broken ragged people, in different situations with imperfect bodies and hearts that are often in pieces….God lifts our hearts, moves us to celebrate his love, so that we too end up in giving thanks and praise….

We are the Body of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

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#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)

Ash Weds: Narrative Lectionary Here’s what we’re doin’ tonight!

 

 

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Ash Wednesday March 5, 2014

Psalm 23: King James Version

Call to Worship

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

Repentance: Confession and Creation of the Ashes (writing and burning of our sins)

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Silent Contemplation

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Communion

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

The Lord be with You

And Also with you

Lift Up Your Hearts

We Lift Our Hearts to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise

Epliclesis Prayer &  The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the glory and the power forever.

Bread  & Cup: Intinction

(please dip the bread in the cup, taking care to keep your fingers from touching the liquid)

Ashes

Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Benediction
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Prayers and Liturgy by Pastor Katy Stenta who is the solo pastor at a bigger on the inside church in Albany, NY and enjoys reading fantasy, soaking up sunshine, playing with her three sons and visiting her husband at his work, the library.

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!!!!

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

Root Beer & M&Ms

To me, church tastes like root beer and M&M’s, thanks to First Pres in Malvern Arkansas that had old school GLASS bottled root beer. My parents office had an M&M machine.

Being a pastor’s kid, I’ve probably put in more hours at church than most people, I’ve also probably done a lot more at church, so I feel comfortable.

To me, church feels like home.

Which is awesome, because it doesn’t matter where I am (or even what type of religious house I’m in), to me its a place to call home!

Church is a place for God to dwell. Its a place for us to enact the body of Christ. Sure we aren’t perfect, but in church we are more reflective, we think more carefully about our interactions. (the faults tend to sting more but, more importantly) the good actions are even more meaningful. These moments are what make church important, and for each of us, we start to accumulate these sacred moments, we start to build sacred relationships and the more we build, the more we are able to carry them onto our lives.

That is what is meaningful to me about sacred spaces and sacred relationships in a time where being spiritual-but-not-religious is another way to go.

For me, root beer and M&Ms will alway taste and feel sacred–like church….and certain interactions and reactions will alway put me in mind of God, and they are my church, my carrying of Christ’s Body into the everyday world!

Holy Complaining Batman @unvirtuousAbbey

And so, God gave us complaining. As we look at the Hebrews in the desert, we notice they do a lot of complaining. Here they are, stuck in the desert, and they are hungry. So they complain, they grumble, they mummer, they complain. They realize that they are truly on their own now, they are free (through God), and in that freedom they are responsible, so they start to complain, they cast blame on their leaders Aaron and Moses (which, as Moses points out, means they are really blaming God)…

There are two kinds of complaining in the world. The overwhelming negative complaining……and then there’s the kind of complaining that bonds us together, the kind that makes us feel like a family.

When I was in College, my second week of Freshwoman year was 9/11. Through it I found lifetime friendships, and from that suffering we embraced one another, had giant sleepovers (because we couldn’t sleep in our parents room even though that’s what we wanted to do), and gave out hugs freely. This was my first, and best interaction at Oberlin. Immediately my friends and I’s motto started to be “always room for one more” causing us to continually scoot back and open up our table to the outsiders…and it mostly remained our motto (even for those who were so socially inept they had trouble even among us nerds and dweebs, although granted, THAT was difficult)

This kind of suffering bonded us together, because we walked with each other and felt some measure of the same horror that the other felt.

When my sister was joining a sorority, I was partially fascinated and partially horrified, here these kids were, afflicting one another so that the new group could “bond” thru shared suffering. That is how powerful suffering was..(my sister started to stir rebellious talks of decency and rights and never did make the soriority).

Its scary, but it also shows us how God utilizes complaining to ease our suffering and bond us together. I believe that God does not cause our suffering, I believe there is REAL and present evil at work, but I believe God suffers with us. I believe that she gave us Christ to witness, endure and walk with us in that suffering, and I believe that complaining can be a way to bind our concerns.

So when the Hebrews Complain, their surface complaint is that they are hungry, their real complaint is that they are free, that they are concerned, that they are facing the unknown and that they feel like no one is with us….

This shared experience, the whole community grumbled… is exactly what makes them not alone in the world. Because they are all complaining about the same thing, they start to coalesce , coming together as a true community and group–not one that is just universally oppressed, as they were in Egypt, but as a community that has to work together to survive and thrive, one that has to practice cooperation and trust (Truly this is why church is so important)

This is why Grumpy Cat is so popular, because he is voicing complaints that different communities can relate to! (in a caustic and snarky way), but that kind of complaining becomes confessional–we think hey, I feel like that too!

That is why we have Confession, that is why we have Joy and Concerns, because God gives us the opportunity to Open our Mouths, to admit when we feel like we are running on empty, that we are malnourished, and yet burdened, that we are expected to take on heavy loads, when we are at our limit.

And then, God does what we don’t expect.

God doesn’t condemn our complaining, mark it as sin, and then wash our mouths out with soap for our disrespect.

Instead he fills our mouths with food, so that we can’t complain. He fills our mouths with bread (living eternal bread through the communion with Jesus Christ), and meat, he fills our mouths with praise, giving us a chance to complain, helping us to come together as a community through that shared experience, and then gifting us with enough nourishment to sustain that community.

So come to church, complain (some), and share in each other’s crevices, so that they become not the cracks that make us fall apart, but instead the edges on which we grow!

PS for some Good Holy Complaining follow @unvirtuousAbbey on Twitter

Exodus 16:2-5

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

John 6: 30-33, 41-42

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heavenand gives life to the world.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Water into wine

Sören Kierkegaard, 19th century
“Christ turned water into wine, but the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult: it has turned wine into water.”

Only the church can do that! Take Jesus’s Wine and turn it back into water–how do we do this, by constricting God

Item 1: Grace

Do you know what grace is? Its abundance. Grace is giving room for someone else in your life, so that they can be themselves. Its giving space to someone else. God’s grace is abundant–God moved Godself aside to make room to create us, so that we can be something other than God.

Christians job is practice that hospitality, to make room for EVERYONE in the church, and to make certain that we aren’t trapping God in our structures, limiting who God is and when God is relevant.

Consider if we said music can only be delivered thru a tape deck, music would be dead.

Item 2: Church is Boring

When we say God can only exist in a formal church, when we say our understaOpen Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of Allnding is the “correct”

(this is the opposite of open-sourcing church which is the way all information is going see Open Source)

If we make God ordinary, everyday; unexceptional and predictable.

We constrain God to what we understand her to be (see what I did there?)

We would rather tame Jesus than trust him (hence the above)

In fact, as I explained my job to a Japanese man who I am tutoring in ESL–he said that he found it amazing that we were applying a 2,000 (whereabouts) document to everyday life, and he asked how that worked, and I said that was basically my job, to talk about why its still relevant today and give the big message of God’s Grace and Love through the little stories and messages in the Bible…

“ah” he said “so your a translator” smart man that 🙂

Item 3: the Story (wedding at Cana) John 2:1-11

Name: Jesus

Location: Wedding

Mission: to Party people into the kingdom (through hospitality, wine and grace)

Jesus makes space for us, and gives us abundant love–making space for us, and we as the church should be doing the same

Item 4: the Translation (otherwise known as timing is everything for God, and we need to see God acting beyond the here and now to make the here and now better!–this is a deep thought for a parenthetical, oh well)

1. I’ve been praying about some kind of immigrant service due to a congregant’s problems getting a santioned-job-and-also-visa…plus I’ve been tutoring ESL on the side (again, this is what I do because the kids gotta eat). An offer came in last week for an immigration center to rent space for an office from us (rent, can you believe it) how perfect is that?

2. My church enjoys the “perfect” location, being high in demand for functions–we have been leveraging that into money…instead we are going to make the move to try to be theological & intentional in how we use the space (I’d like to have a ceremony dedicating the spaces of the church)

3. A congregant once suggested that we get snuggies for everyone in the church–our church is cold and hard to heat (ah the beauty of the 70s A-frame building). We could be known as the snuggie church–some people might feel that isn’t “proper” but lets face it I think being warm and comfortable is a more realistic presentation of God than shivering in nicer clothes….

The point is that God gives to us abundantly, and she does so by giving us new ways to understand, by giving us new people to enjoy relationships with and by full-on giving us permission to party people into the kingdom (who doesn’t love a wedding?)

Item 4: Happiness and Holiness

Plus! Jesus consecrates happiness

Sometimes, the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy,” Robert Brearley writes. “God does not want our religion to be too holy to be happy in”(Feasting on the Word Year C, Vol. 1)….suppose we took every time we are happy as a holy time (note I did not say that we are only holy when we are happy). What if we celebrated, promoted happiness and in that way opened the way for God’s glory in the world?

Jesus is calling us to abundance, to happiness and to grace–and we need to be certain the church is concentrating on those instead of on the programs, the pews, the property, and the payments. These things do not make a church. People and Prayer do!!!

PS Here is today’s Coffee with Jesus, Apropos much?