Love One Another: Gospel Work

How can I tell you about the value of caring for one another?

You aren’t creating anything that can be sold, when you go to take care of a human being. There’s no plastic product or multiplying dividend. After all (mostly) we can’t buy and sell people–becuase when we do, the abuse is horrendous. To take care of someone, is in fact the counter of making money off of them.

I read that the more you chose to take care of the people who work for you, the less money you are going to make, because it takes time and money to take care of people and the rewards are not quantifiable in market terms.

It’s also hard work to take care of people. The babies, the elderly, the sick, the disabled need help because they are the least capable among us. We are taking care of them because they are worthy, and it does not matter if they can produce anything.

Our value is not defined by our productivity.

Our value is not defined by our productivity, but to take care of someone is a lot of work–the cleaning, the bathing, the feeding, the lifting, the entertaining, the shepherding. And yet, we pay those who take care of people, from the personal assistants to the home care attendants to the nurses to the childcare workers, the least amount of money, because after all they can’t produce anything.

Even in church the Associate Pastor or the the Christian Ed Coordinator has the least amount of pay and the least amount of power in the church.

We don’t value caring for one another much.

And yet, and yet Christ said love one another. Christ’s primary and often repeated and initiated commandment was to serve one another. Love and serve together seems a lot like caring for one another. Christ who found Zaccheus in the tree, talked to the lonesome woman at the well, who embraced an individual even as he was hanging on the cross itself, never wasted time on productivity.

Jesus wasted all of his time caring for the least of these. He welcomed the children who didn’t even count as people yet, he helped the widows who were a burden on society to be noticed, he took extra care to touch and  heal the sick and the disabled who were outcast from society, and he always had time for the poor who society deemed invisible.

Jesus’s work brought in no money, he told his disciples not to fuss about what they had and didn’t have, and to just go and do the work that needed to be done. He told them not to worry too much about how they looked or sounded, but to love and care for each other, no matter what the cost and sacrifice meant for them.

In the Gospel world, the work of caring is the most essential–because it is the most essential. Making sure everyone has food and shelter and clothing and community are the essentials of love. Jesus knew that to feel love, first one had to have the essentials, and then love follows.

Tell the Good News! Jesus commands, be witnesses, tell the truth of it. We are supposed to love each other so much, we are willing to die ourselves then let anyone feel left out.

God loves you.

Exactly as you are.

God does not demand perfection or taken or productivity.

You are a child a God, you are beloved, you are a part of the family–no ifs, ands or buts.

You belong.

Show one another how you value each other.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s that simple and that hard.

Jesus taught us the value of caring for one another. Lord hear our prayer, help us to get through this pandemic through love and care. We pray this n the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Detailed Famous Maslow Pyramid Describing All Essential Needs ...

Preparing for Worship 2

Preparing the family doesn’t look the same. I no longer have to dress my kids up–which ironically they love to be dressed up because it elicits so much positive attention. We can go to church in our pajamas now.

Instead of the Panera bribe, I mean stop, we make every Sunday like clockwork for the last 6 plus years (before that we hadn’t committed but still went out for breakfast), we eat piecemeal at home. Now I just buy the ultra sweet supermarket muffins and make some chai pods for the morning. We may even still be eating them during worship.

Instead of hauling all of the kids to the car, usually one is still half asleep and the other two are bickering, we bicker at home and argue over whether or not we can use electronics before church (no)

During worship, attention is scarce, wiggling is paramount, and we try to get my eldest to be responsive. The music is also just not the same. We miss singing together with the booming organ overwhelming our flubs.

But, it’s still time for Dad and the boys to sit together. It’s still the time we are a family. I’m still “leading” up front and the boys are watching/listening/imagining/being bored.

Lord help us to practice worship as a family in whatever way we can, we pray. Amen

Preparing for Worship 1 

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

Preparing for Worship

Lord, these days preparing for worship looks different.

I no longer prep the sanctuary, or listen to the choir rehearsing, or spend moments in my office opening myself to the Holy Spirit.

I don’t look around for the people in the halls and the pews, trying to greet them all by name.

These days, I wash my hands thoroughly and solemnly put on a mask, fully aware that my signature smile is hidden.

I place the video and sound equipment around me, making sure everyone can see and hear what is going on.

I put on gloves before I hand the order of worship to anyone, and make certain there are more than six feet between myself and the musicians.

And whenever I do all of this, I think of God. I think of my hope to serve. I think of my congregation and how much I miss them.

And I feel your blessing, as these movements of 6 plus weeks, have become a ritual of love and care and preparation.

Then I take a deep breath, like I always do, in every setting, send a quick prayer up to the Holy Spirit, and begin….

Thank you God for teaching me new ways to prepare for worship. Amen.

Preparing for Worship 2 Family Edition

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

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….

Reject evil

when of our baptismal questions is do you denounce/reject Evil?

i always joke this is the easy one, who isn’t against evil?  But as the news of violence and hatred pile up. I wonder why it’s so hard to act against evil?

Min the Belhar Confession there is a rejection piece that condemns wrongdoing–and I find myself, over and over again, condemning the bad things that have happened.

So here’s me practicing my rejection and denounciation of evil!

I condemn senseless murder. All of it. I condemn that African-Americans are unduly targeted, I condemn that trans women of color are the most murdered and abused of our population, I condemn the ways our Latinx, Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Native Americans (as well as countless other minorities) are silenced and erased, I condemn that people are killing police officers, I condemn small children being run over on holiday in Nice, I condemn people dying who were dancing, I condemn the violence against those who use the bathrooms who don’t look gender conforming, I condemn all efforts to divide by calling some groups racists and others anti-police. In the name of The Belhar confession I condemn any threat to unity and recognize that separation is a sin Christ has already defeated. I will continue to work towards unity and reject the sins that are prejudice, separation and bigotry.

I am done with it. No more!

I will stand behind every humans right to live, breathe, laugh and love no matter who they are. I will resist the temptation to compare and separate and will work to treat all humans like the creations of God they are!

Phew! Back the the work of living it out!

 

#PokemonGo #community and #technology

Pokemon Go is not new technology, its based upon Ingress which uses google maps landmarks to create a fun reality that layers on top of the landscape of life. In fact, the idea is not that different from Geo-caching which has been around for a LONG time.

PokemonGo.jpg

What PokemonGo has done is hit all the right notes at the right time.

-Classic Fandom that has been around for 20years

-A pre-written motif to “Collect” & “Catch” them all

-The fact that it is the Age of the Geek, most adults who complain about the overuse of technology unashamedly own smartphones and use facebook….

ageofgeek.jpg

-A year that has been…rough….2016

Let’s be clear, millennials and young people have grown up in an age where getting to know your neighbors is a rarity.

Its not because we (because I’m a millennial) are addicted to technology and antisocial–its because we are a displaced generation, overworked and farther away from home than any of our parents were…this means that technology has been USEFUL for us….

Its not all sunshine and rainbows but through facebook my parents and in-laws see pics of their grandchildren (after all what else is fb for?), through cell phones I can call my best friends in Seattle, NYC and Alabama without crazy charges pretty much whenever I want, through meetups I hold a weekly playgroup that has touched at least 300bfamilies, through twitter I can virtually attend many conferences and conversations about racism, community, church and technology, and through etsy I can find items that have my autistic son’s favorite character, through instagram I can take pics of what I am reading and hopefully find people with like interests…..

Technology makes manifest our longing to connect, giving us opportunities to find new ways to reach out. It was only a matter of time before technology would turn things on their head and actually succeed in bringing people physically together.

It brings people together in communal spaces, inviting them to talk and interact…and what is amazing is they do!

It would be easy to pooh-pooh the effects of a fad…but why not celebrate? Is this not what we hope the ultimate goal of technology to be? Isn’t it wonderful when people get together? (and yes, people are imperfectly using the technology, a handful of people have taken advantage of it and people need to remember to be SAFE on their cellphones–but you should see the hundreds of churches seeing positive effects of one game)

When things are tough, and community is hard to find, I see PokemonGo as the opposite of escapist, its creative. Its creating community in what has otherwise been a fairly lonely year of tragedy. As communities of queer,Latinx, African-Americans, police officers are effected, as Baghdad, the Middle East and France are attacked, as time is hard, PokemonGo is just what the Dr ordered.

So GO! Don’t capitalize or dismiss the game.

Enjoy it, live into whatever interactions it creates (whether you play or not)

and be excited for what it might mean for the future, because that future won’t come unless we dare to dream it.

 

#Confession #lent the #bible is clear

Prayer of Confession:

Embodier of God’s Love, teach us your love. This week our confession is that we are not willing to make the sacrifice. We are more concerned about who is a part of the kingdom, instead of loving those who might not be. We ask, what must I do? Yet the Bible is clear. When people in the Bible said Moabites were bad (Deut. 23), then Ruth the Moabite came to love Naomi in heroic ways. When the people of the Bible proclaimed that those from Uz were evil (Jer. 25), Job from Uz was uplifted as the the most blameless man on earth. When God’s people hated Samaritans, Jesus told a Samaritan who was the only one to love an injured neighbor. When foreigners and eunuchs were banned (Deut 23), an African Eunuch is prompted by the Holy Spirit to be baptized into the church. (Acts 8). When the story begins with prejudice and fear, the Spirit of God moves them to be stories of God’s openness, welcome, inclusion and affirmation. We confess that often time our story is one of worry and doubt, about what we can do, about what others can do to us. Turn our story into God’s story, the story of love. We confess ourselves and pray that we are changed here and now. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Bibleisclear.jpg

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 🙂

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….

#oberlin #MichelleObama #PCUSA intersecting #spiritual and #college

I attended Michelle Obama’s Convocation Speech at Oberlin College. A speech that was won by the Nine Scholars program to help Local High School Students achieve (awesome!)

Only problems were 1. Oberlin already had an awesome speaker lined up the Founder of SAVE the CHIDLREN on the 50yr anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Grad speech 2. Security was a bear in what is normally a very informal, formal ceremony (people float in and out, wear whatever they want…I like it).

It was the 10 yr anniversary of my graduation from Oberlin and my sister, the amazing Noelle was graduating so I had dual reasons for attending.

Plus I got to stay over with my peer and fellow graduate Charlie who owns the local gaming store (back in the day I founded the now mainstream Sci-Fi and Fantasy Hall which was really just a safe place for the gamer-geeks who had yet to find popularity in the real world). Infinite Monkey, if you want to support a great small business I recommend ordering from him here or Facebook them 🙂

While there I regaled the locales with tales of my pastorhood, my supposed youth (I look really young and DEFINITE not like a pastor) my parenthood (yes, I do have 3 children) and mourned…just a little bit that I had very few Oberlin-like people in my life. Instead I spend most of my time explaining to my mostly older congregation how the modern world is and explaining to my friends (most of whom don’t go or have never gone to church) why religion is a really awesome and exciting place for me to be…at least most of the time 🙂 (I try to be really honest in these conversations).

Michelle Obama gave some nice props to Oberlin and their open-mindedness, remarking how different the world would be today if all colleges awarded degrees to African-Americans and women from way back….noting it was one of the few places that she prob. could have graduated from 100 yrs ago. I nodded to myself, finding it sad that Oberlin, college, was one of the few places where I experienced the openness and hospitality that so many organizations attempted to live into, including at times the church. (I did mope a little bit)

Then Michelle urged Oberlin graduates to not just to enter the world, but to engage with it. To be in the hard places, to find the people who don’t necessarily think and act like you, but to instead be in the real world. To know that that small incremental work that is being done is important.

She then noted that 10 years ago (God? did she really say that), 10 years ago 1 state allowed for same sex marriage, and now any minute the United States was ready to pass it for all states (and I noted to myself that the PCUSA is already there, thanks in a large part to the small incremental changes that we had done over that last 10 years). And I remembered thinking, at my graduation that the world WOULD change for the better, that our speaker at that time had noted the start of that change towards equality and being EXCITED to be a part of that.

It has been work for me to live in-between. I am a full time professional woman and a mother, both the same. I am a religious pastor and a Fantasy geek–one of which is getting less popular (the religion) and one of which has become startingly mainstream (the Sci-Fi Fantasy). But I am still both the same. (Even moreso I have a traditional worship but am very groundbreaking in my ministry to the community) I work with people who are like me and I am friends with people who are like me, very few people get all the pieces that make up who I am. And yet, here I am. Not immersing myself in one thing or one way, I am doing the hard work of the real world.

And when my session, had a progressive discussion about Gay marriage, and I shared that with those people I met at the Oberlin graduation. I talked about meeting people where they are, and sharing my experience, to love them, they said they couldn’t imagine engaging with people who believed things so differently than them.

That’s right, the people at Oberlin, who sometimes I viewed as very accepting, couldn’t accept my religious people. NOT vice versa.

But there it was…the hard work of sharing…of being in the real world. The hard work that I consider being ministry whether it is at Oberlin College with stereotypical liberal students or sitting at a meeting of the church with the elders who talk through their traditions and their desire to serve others.

I may have cried a little (hmm…a lot…) during this speech where Michelle Obama brought the word to me. When Marian Wright Edelman then, daresay I preached, sharing some of the Word of God and Liberation in the way African-American Women are able to do without offending the nontheists of crowd while reaching into the tradition of Justice bespoke by MLK. Hers were not the words I needed that day because, that’s the world I live in every day. But I am so glad she was there, giving a piece of my world to Oberlin, because Oberlin shared a piece of its world back to me in Michelle Obama that day…and I don’t live in one world or the other. But in between, testifying back and forth between the two, like these two ASTOUNDING African-American Women.