For those contemplating suicide because of their “Christian Families” we pray.

For those contemplating suicide because of their “Christian Families” we pray.

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L’engle’s thoughts on those who are figuring out their identity and also her wisdom I use to pray for someone I don’t know (excuse the contextually-gendered language)….#LeelahAlcorn @UnvirtuousAbbey Name us Lord, we pray, Call us by name! Help us to name one another, Mother-Father God!

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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?

Generation Wars in Church

And then there are the (rare) churches who want a pastor to lead them into the 21st Century, to equip them to be ministers, to teach them not so that they are smarter but so their faith is deeper, who train others to do pastoral care, and who spend more time out in the community than in their church buildings. There are especially younger pastors who long to do this usually with great passion.

Hunger Games

Sometimes I feel like we can really relate to Hunger Games. Luckily things aren’t quite as bad as during the depression, but for me student debt is a real and heavy weigh in on my life as I tot up the bills and work towards providing for my family.

My friend Charlie says student debt is palpable (we graduated the same year) you can see it weighing people down when they enter a room.

So, here we are, hunger games–who are we sending out as our sacrifice? Who are we going to watch struggle for entertainment. You know what happens in hunger games, everyone is hungry for something. Even the rich city people are always eating, eating, eating (then they throw up to eat more). Why? Because they feel empty inside.

Jesus addresses emptiness, not by telling people to deal, not by pointing out people’s faults, and certainly not by giving them false platitudes.

Jesus sits with people, Jesus meets people, gets to know them, and (always) calls people by name. Maybe that’s what everyone is hungering for–even those of us who hear their name called out by crowds, those who are followed by the paparazzi and have their lives on public display (Duchess of Cambridge anyone) really just want someone to REALLY know them, to REALLY be present with them and to REALLY call them by name.

If the Hunger Games are about the games we end up playing because we are feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually hungry (um…like we do in politics maybe), then Jesus is not about Games. Jesus is about reality, Jesus is about being the real you, Jesus is about the truth of the world, and the Real-ity of Re(a)l-ationships! And if we are asking who is going to be the sacrifice, the answer was, is and will be Jesus Christ, and we don’t need “God in the white house” Imageto know that (did anyone else see that meme?). Because God is bigger than the white house, God is bigger than America and God is bigger than a world economic downturn. If you think we have control over where God is, frankly that is are humanity showing (oops)

If you don’t believe that, then there is no point in preaching the gospel in third world countries, because they are in no way on equal footing to our problems.
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Say it with me, Jesus is about Love and graciousness (not being judgmental, putting our morals on others or creating the world for Christ). God is HERE, love is HERE, let’s act like it. And please let’s think before we say something about how “other people were raised” or what “real morals” are–God loved, talked to and did not make anyone feel bad about their mistakes, he forgave and gave them a chance to change. If Almighty God can do that, then we should at least try to do the same–ImageRemember, no one convinced anyone of anything by yelling insults to them over the internet. People have been changed through true acts of lovingkindness (or hesed as its called in the Old Testament).

Me: “Who does Westley (m…

Me: “Who does Westley (my 2yr old) say hi to?”
Congregation: “Everybody”
Me: In fact he’s quite militant about it. If you say hi once, you are doomed to continue to say hi to him all day!

Best synopsis of my sermon about welcome today. Text: Mark 9:30-37

30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 

Beauty and the Beast

I may or may not own a billion different versions of Beauty and the Beast. (Plus some figures, snowglobes and plastic McDonald’s toys)

Why? Because its my favorite fairy tale. Why? Because its the first/best fairytale and it is so TOTALLY theological!!!! (did I put too many exclamation points there?)Image

Things to know about Beauty and the Beast which I have disseminated from years of study (no seriously I have been convertly studying fairy tales for 8 years. First as an “English” major at Oberlin, then as a theological student at Princeton)

1. It is the FIRST fairy tale we know of

2. It evolved from what is the last myth we know of: Cupid and Psyche (in “The Golden Ass”) written a couple of hundred of years after myths were in styleImage

3. Before Christianity, the “happily ever after concept” did not seem to exist in stories….In fact the theological differences between Cupid & Psyche and Beauty and the Beast are amazing but I will write my thesis on all that later (hopefully). Today we’ll stick to B&B

Next thoughts

If you haven’t read Beauty and the Beast, I invite you to do so on literally the best Fairy Tale Resource today (I mean literally, I’ve done the research) at Sur La Lune http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/beautybeast/index.html

1. The prince/beast is a fallen man somehow either through his own or his parents brokenness. Usually his outer ugliness mirrors his inner ugliness (The Fall from Grace Anyone)

2. His Salvation/Transformation into his former/real/best self is through Love

3. Beauty Loves Beast even in his ugliness

4. Beast regains his life/and is transformed through the pure love of Beauty

(PS how cool is it that the Christ figure is a girl in this one)

1. Humanity falls and is ugly

2. Humanity’s hope lies in God’s grace through God’s Love

3. God loves us, period.

4. We are born again/from above and transformed

And we all will live happily ever after!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.–1 Col 19-20

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.–Ps. 86:9

(PS concerns and questions about the every knee shall bow language will be addressed in another post, so don’t worry)

Now that I’ve blown your mind (or at least reminded you to hear “Be Our Guest” again) I invite you to read any/all of the following, and if you know another Beauty and the Beast that you like let me know in case I haven’t read it.

(This may, perhaps, possibly in the Disney version make Gaston into the devil…hehehehehehehe)

Good Versions of Beauty and the Beast

1st John 4:7-18 (I’ve copied it below)

C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader Eustace’s Story

Beauty by Robin McKinley & Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (yes she wrote 2 good ones)

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

Cupid and Psyche in the Golden Ass (Hi, Chloe! I love you!)

La Belle et La Bete directed by Cocteau (black and white one of the 1st films, look at the effects, I mean this was before computers)

Beauty and the Beast the 80s TV show

10th Kingdom (in a lighter vein)

Donkeyskin/Tattercoat/Alleirauh are very similar (though different)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley (I know, but I couldn’t help myself)

Fables Comic Series (note: main characters)

and of course the Disney movie/play

1st John 4:7-18; Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Children in Worship: It’s More than Having Coloring Sheets

We say we want young people at church, but how do we make worship accessible for young families (that means the adults and the children) Here is one way

Still Waters

In the first issue of PLGRM, Rev. LeAnn Watkins, rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN, shares how after numerous attempts of increasing attendance of bible studies and other church-related programs, her staff decided to cancel it all – everything during the weekdays except seasonal services. You can hear her tell her story on the Episcopal Story Project. She says, “You can’t chase after folks and expect them to hear you. You have to be in front of them when they are coming toward you. So we’ve tried to ask the question, ‘How do we stop chasing people, and get in front of people?'” I have to say that I ask myself the same question.

Not unlike many churches, I can no longer assume that those sitting in the pews are familiar with Bible stories such as Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale…

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A Post about being Post…well Post-Everything

I am a graduate of Oberlin (yay Oberlin), and I loved (almost) every minute of it. But one of the things Obies love to do is take things apart. (Any other Obies feel free to chime in about this). In fact, sometimes we would move to “deconstructing” things so fast that I would feel like I didn’t even know how the thing was constructed in the first place (as an English Major my high school was highly lacking in Shakespeare, and I wanted to round my education out with him, however the only classes offered were about deconstructing what we supposedly had learned in high school).

Now as I get into ministry I hear a lot of talk about what this post-culture is going to do? Author Ross Douthat wrote an article about Can Liberal Christianity be saved? (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html) His conclusion was that” Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die. (PS for a good response to this read http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2012/07/can-liberal-christianity-be-saved-a-response-to-ross-douthat/)

However as I look at this world, I see that we are trying to construct a Post-Religious world (i.e. Spiritual not religious viewpoint that is so oft referenced). So the question comes, what does a post-church, post-christian, post-denominational (I am told by a good friend this is a move that the Bible belt is especially making) world. How do we post about our Post-world? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postchristianity)

Going forward I have to say that to me a post-religious world would look like the following

1) Where individuals ultimately choose to uphold each other as people, even when beliefs differ (perhaps what our Moderator and Vice Moderator were trying to model at GA before our Vice had to step down). Allowing Spiritual Practices to bring people together–>at least I think this is what some of the Spiritual people are trying to get at…

2) Where church isn’t made up of the “shoulds” of religion: church should have pews, church should include hymns, church should have Sunday School, but is instead moved by Holy Spirit to BE a faith community whenever and however that comes together….

3) Where the Faith of a group of people is ultimately used to empower those individuals who are powerless. What happens when powerless people come together? that’s right they become empowered If the church functions as a community builder grounded in the love of God, then we cannot help but support and empower each other to do new and wonderful things….

Places where this is overlooked today=basically everyone who is assigned an associate pastor (that is a rant yet to come)

The Young

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Recently, these interactive boards have moved from the back of the broken pews to the corner of the sanctuary that we designated as a toddler area. (from a fellow pastor http://theresaecho.com/2011/04/18/interactive-toddler-boards/)

The Elderly

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The College Age

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The Young Adult (i.e. those in there 20s and 30s)

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(you know those with young families who need babysitting or those who are still single and constantly on the move to find a job in the tough economy)

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The Minorities: Racial, Ethnic and of course the poor

Thats right if your not a white middle class, middle aged American in many denominations your power is significantly less not only in society but in the church itself. Plus if you are not well-educated and don’t love words (say you learn by practice or are a visual learner) you probably won’t fit in well to the traditional Presbyterian service. (Does anyone else see something wrong with this?)

What would a service look like if it was regularly handed to these groups? What would faith look like if we went to where these people were?

You know what I think? I think that Ministry, True Ministry is to make FAITH ACCESSIBLE (that’s right, I put it in caps, that’s how serious I am). ImageHow do we make, not only our building, our worship and our activities accessible, How do we make our Faith Accessible. What does it mean that people identify Spirituality over religion or faith? I think its because Spirituality feels accessible. You can use what is comfortable to you, you can learn about it at your own pace, and your can connect with different people over different aspects of it even if you don’t agree completely with them (for the record I have both liberal and conservative friends).

So how can we do that for Faith?

I don’t know,

But let me remind you friends, that there is no resurrection without death!
Whether you consider this time the denominational pregnancy http://vimeo.com/25360983

or even if you think we are dying….http://treymorgan.net/17-signs-your-church-might-be-dying/

Either way, there is a rebirth a coming, the question is how will we access it?

(P.S. Giving Access is not the same as watering down faith, just so I’m clear on that!)

LOL Pastor

I have been an LOL person before it was cool, before LOL was conceived (almost) I was living it out. If you have ever been to one of my services, be warned, LOL will happen. In fact I am very likely to LOL at myself (and if you don’t know what LOL please google it immediately)Image

Now here is the interesting thing, my willingness to laugh has gotten me into a lot of trouble. (For why I laugh please read https://katyandtheword.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/pastor-with-a-sense-of-humor/)

a. People think I’m an airhead (I think this has to do with me being female). People assume because I laugh, I don’t care, when actually its the opposite. I laugh because I do care. I tend to take life very seriously. And when I say seriously, I don’t mean in a holier-than-thou or everything-is-sacred kind of way I mean the, life-is-God’s-gift, We-only-get-one-shot-at-it, so I pay attention way! I pay attention, so I don’t miss the happy moments. I pay attention because I have found that laughter is rare, and humor is a hard commodity to find. I pay attention because it is SO important to find Joy in life, and I don’t want any ounces of it that I can catch to slip through my fingers. Image

b. People think I devalue God, ministry, etc. by laughing. Last I check the Book of Order (the Presbyterian Constitution) says W-1.1000 i.e. the very, very, very first thing said about worship is “Christian   worship   joyfully   ascribes   all   praise   and   honor,   glory  and  power  to  the  triune God.” We are supposed to have fun, I don’t know why we forget that (p.s. when is having fun not holy?)

Plus-we are currently striving under Openness to be more open to joy (bet you didn’t even know that). In F-1.0404, our first Openness statement is “a  new  openness  to  the  sovereign  activity  of  God  in  the  Church  and  in  the  world,   to  a  more  radical  obedience  to  Christ,  and  to  a  more  joyous  celebration  in  worship  and  work;”

What does this mean? It means the more obedience we find, the closer we are to God, the more joyous our celebration has become. My most recent example of this is the Farmer’s Market, which most of us find “fun.” This doesn’t mean we aren’t working, to the contrary, it means we are doing the right kind of work.

Which brings me to the third problem I often encounter.

3. People think I don’t work hard enough. I seriously think because I enjoy my job, people think I’m not “working.” I have tried to give more voice to the work I am doing, but I have found it difficult to do this without gogguzomen (grumbling, muttering, complaining in Greek–I love that word, doesn’t it sound just like what it means?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbhnRuJBHLs Anyway, so if I don’t complain like the rest of the world, I must not be doing my job properly, but in actuality I am obsessed with my job. I am, in truth a workaholic, and it takes a lot for me to put down the reins and take the days/hours/minutes off that I need. However, it is hard for people to see this, because I love my job. I truly love my job. I love that when I do well I can laugh, I love that when I make mistakes I can laugh at myself, and I love how God turns everything upsidedown on me, so what I thought I was doing completely changes (rather like a King in a manger, Salvation on the cross, Great Epistles written by a tax collector), when these surprises come I like to laugh. It doesn’t mean I am taking things lightly. It just means that I am game for God’s jokes. I am ready to be surprised, I am ready to be happy, and I’m ready to find happiness, even in what seems like mistakes at the time. It doesn’t mean that I don’t internalize those mistakes, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty, or work on them. What it means is that I am able to find the humor in things. I am able to understand that I don’t understand. I see the mystery in God’s face, and I laugh.

So I admit it. In the face of a faltering denomination tearing apart on issues of acceptance no less (talk about the ultimate irony!!!), despite a disappointing GA where the Youth/Younger people were ignored (even as people wondered how to get young people into the church), in a place where Vice Moderators are threatened and feel the need to step down (http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/7/4/mccabe-resigns-vice-moderator-220th-ga/). Times seem to be tough. However, I refuse to give in. It is easier to pick-a-little and talk-a-little than to find the good. It is easier to dwell on the bad, and it is human to try to rip things apart rather than to laugh and move on together. So in light of all this….I’m going to continue to be a LOL pastor.