Mustard Seeds #faith #church #hope

I have a deep seated theology about belief vs. faith.

Belief is individual, Faith is shared–hence community of faith.

Faith is the vast array of beliefs, doubts, worries and hopes that are held in community.

When a disciple asks to increase faith, the disciples says, “Increase our faith”

The disciples feel like they don’t have enough, enough hope or energy or whatever to get the job done.

And Jesus says, you–plural all of you–all you need is the faith of a mustard seed, and you can do all the moving you need to do.

Luke 17:5-10

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”’

You know, I have never seen the thriving church. I’m 33 and I have never seen the church the way it used to be.

But I have seen the church. I’ve seen it in my small church which struggled to find a new pastor, which put in thousands of hrs to sit with and reconnect with the local community.

I have seen  it in the four years we could count on, the 6 years we’ve had and the 2 more (at least) that are going to happen.

There Jesus is, in a group of people who don’t know if they have enough resources.

Jesus doesn’t say don’t worry….I love this about Jesus, Jesus never says don’t worry. Because God knows to worry is to be human. We are great at worrying, we are super champs at worrying, and its how we deal with

the unknown

the unsteady

the scary

Jesus doesn’t say don’t worry, he doesn’t dismiss the worry or tell us its stupid. Instead Jesus says “I have good news, the good news is that all the faith any and all of you need is the size of a mustard seed. I can work with that amount of faith”

The implications being this faith is enough to grow.

And when we have those moments of faith, the hymn or the prayer, the sermon snippet or the conversation in the parking lot. We are church.

I have seen the church–come see it with me….

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#God is at #Starbucks

In my life, I am too busy…

I have always been a Martha, I don’t even want to be Mary.

But in the midst of the children screaming, the messiness of the house and the juggling of the schedules, God is there.

Just like Goodnight Moon, where each and every object is remembered and names, God keeps track of us, and loves us.

God is there in the mounds of paperwork, the long to do list and the phone that is ringing–in every worry that is a part of the church.

I know God is in these things, in the sunny walks to buy milk, where everything goes smoothly, in the car rides where everyone is yelling at each other for no reason. God is there.

But although God is there, the time I get to spend with God, is often not at worship where I’m trying to remember everyone in my prayers, or at home where we say our Amens or at the office where its a game of finish the most things. The moment I get to to spend with God is in the coffee shop–at the Barnes and Noble or the Starbucks, its when I go grocery shopping late at night, its when I get time to exercise.

And so I treasure the time I get to spend with God, taking comfort that God is always spending time with me.

Too Much of a Good thing

This is basically a status update on my Church’s Won’t You Be Our Neighbor Program:

Its official,

My church is in transition from Family Size to Pastoral Size

In short we are going from teensy-weensy to tiny sized congregation

and our farmer’s market has 100 people more a week averaging at about 350 ppl a week

holy

Let there be wild rejoicing

But….its work. We are going to have to stretch and grow with these changes. I’m going to have to pray about how better to connect spiritually to the community, I need to discern how to provide the support that my (now overworked) volunteers need.

I compared it on Sunday to the cup that God promises us to be overflowing. Have you ever tried to drink out of a cup that is filled to the tippy-top? Its tricky and messy….but important

Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit

I think we are going to do it. We are going to be a church that is an actual community center.

I just have no idea how………….yet 😉

#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.

Transgendered and Ministry

Being Transgendered is living into the reality and wholeness of yourself.

Mary McKibbean Dana attempts to write about Pastoring to a trangendered person (I say attempts because she admits she still learning)

So here our my unsorted thoughts about being Trans….

I, in my secret-most parts, wish the church was the FIRST place people feel safe to turn to when they have been rejected by family, job, friends, politics, life….

after all, isn’t God the person who sees Nicodemus and CALLS HIM BY NAME! and makes him whole.

Its Jesus who talks to the risque Samaritan Woman (who is defined as risque just because of who she is, its considered dangerous) and when she says “You shouldn’t be talking to me” man does that sound familiar.

I think of all the things we say in church

We honor names, but claim that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, for that reason we don’t even say the person’s last name (I like to say because their official last name becomes Christ). We say that Christ calls each and every one of us by name, and if that name needs to change to fit who a person is now that’s ……VERY Christian. Saul–>Paul

We say that in Christ there is no male or female. (ponder)

When we think about trans* people the orphans of most movements, the ones who are feared and so violence is repeatedly done to them, the ones who are so often homeless, who have difficulty getting jobs, who for some reason are a considered esp. dangerous to children.

…..Church should be the first to institute family/asexual bathrooms for safety. Churches should have resources for depression and homelessness. Churches should be a safe place to talk about how and why you feel different and that God blesses our search, imagining a world for us where all are included and loved.

We are all loved.

No exceptions

God created us, loves us, calls us by name and makes us who we are supposed to be….

#holy time

Yes,

Easter tends to be more crazy than Christmas

1st of all pastors tend to run double whatever number of services they run Christmastime during Holy Week: I’m at the bare minimum of 3 (4 if you count Palm Sunday)

Plus, usually, my kids are off that same week, so I get to gesticulate around that and the fact its a superbusy time of year.

Plus, people volunteer to do things less–Christmas is just more of a pitch in holiday. How many people really want to help out with the Good Friday Service (altho we do a service of the nails that is poignant and beautiful)

Its a crazy week for me I have two parishoners in the hospital/recovery, plus the other 4 homebound who I would like to see during this Holy Time, plus a session meeting to make certain things are in place, plus an all day Persbytery meeting (which they always schedule the week before Holy Week, which always leaves me scratching my head), plus whatever other office-y stuff I need to do.

Then there is real life. The things that happen that make you a pastor, the things that aren’t on the calendar.

My colleague Sarah Ross said “In minstry, I don’t really plan a schedule so much as I just plan to be interrupted.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber once had an intern who shadowed her. At the end he said ” it was “oh my gosh..you’re A PERSON for a living!””

So, interruptions and being a person are my goals for the next two weeks…God sanctifies them and makes them holy

#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.

images

Clothing Fast Update

I have not put away all of my clothes…

This is a hoped for result of wearing what amounts to only 3 outfits.

I have been doing more laundry (to keep my clothes clean)

And I have a conference to go to…so I know exactly what to pack for clothing (strangely)

I do oft wear 2 sets of clothing on Sunday–my day off…

That’s it so far

Open to relationships

My colleague Rachel Young wrote an interesting piece about being missional http://pres-outlook.org/2015/02/can-introverts-missional/

which reminds me of an ongoing conversation that I have with people.

I try, try, try to practice trust, and yet still be safe. Its a particular balance. It means that sometimes your credit and debit cards get stolen right out of the church office, because you tend not to lock. I am still uncertain whether I was being too trusting or not….I now only lock when that particular group is in the church.

However, I think that the only way to build trust is to give it. You treat people with suspicion and the likelihood is they will return the favor. Plus if you don’t take chances its hard to have a relationship. You have to say hi, you have to share about yourself. Eventually you have to share your address if you want people to come over.

Basically, I feel like that trust and grace go hand in hand. In order to trust someone you have to be gracious with them, trusting that they are doing the best that they can and being gracious when people can’t live up to your standards or do things differently

Henri Nouwen calls this forgiving people for not being God i.e. all knowing and perfect.

It doesn’t mean being stomped on either, it means calling people into account, whether its because they are disrespectful to you during a meeting or they leave a mess in the church or they siphon money off the church’s accounts.

So much of my job is being open to be in relationship with people, whoever, however and whatever state they may be in. That takes trust, and graciousness and hope. It means worrying a little less, setting safe boundaries and then building a community of people who can help you if the relationship does not work out.

But I think that is a good way to describe being a minister.

Open to being in relationship with the church, the community and the world…..That is true ministry..and one in which everyone can get in on.

No Strings Attached

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