Batman and Baptism

Baptism Message: You are beautiful and loved and perfect as a newborn naked baby, the more “Naked” you can be with God, the more you can share in the glory of Christ’s love (both reviewed in Skinny Dipping and Embodied Spirituality and Nakedness)…
Reality…Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, then always be batman. This morning a batman costume helped to relieve any nerves during baptism….yep today I baptized batman..

Parenting Parable: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Once Upon a Time there (around Matthew 21) there was an actual father who had to deal with two sons. And this family was so typical, Jesus decided to use them as a guide to life. In this family there were two sons who’s father told them to go and work on the vineyard. The first son refused. The second son agreed.

But in an ironic twist, the son who refused changed his mind and went and did the work anyway, the second son didn’t go at all….

Then Jesus asked, which son did what his father asked (not which was the better son, not who was more faithful, just who DID IT) and his disciples answered the first

This is classic teenage behavior: My father (a behavior psychologist and pastor) likes to point out that usually while teenagers are giving you mouth, they are doing exactly what you asked them to do. Hence my father advises parents to look at actions more than words.

You want your kid to do x, y and z and he/she is doing it, great!

They don’t have to be happy about it…that might be asking too much

I have a congregant who complains about every bit of work that has to get done–she is a veritable saint, showing up to everything, serving on boards, cleaning what needs to be cleaned, working when work needs to be done, and is dependable and loyal as anything. I’ll take an entire congregation of such people (even if it does wear me out).

With my eldest, we’ve learned not to give him the opportunity to argue–this is a child who thinks no=anopportunitytoargue, maybe=yes and if-you’ve-given-an-inch=everything-is -up -for-negotiation. I call him the negotiator. So often I don’t tell him what’s going on (against my extroverted nature!) and just start doing it–going upstairs to brush teeth without telling him, taking all the other kids out to the car (because they are too young to argue, at least verbally), or reading the stories whether or not he is present. When I do this, he often follows, because my actions as a parent speak louder than words! Putting things into action means that I REALLY mean that we are doing this now, I’m not just talking about it…

What does this say about parenthood (esp. on days like yesterday when I lose it?) What does it mean about us as Christians? Jesus ends the parable by pointing out that the prostitutes and tax collectors are getting in before the church people for they believed and acted first. A lot of the Spiritual not Religious data says that Christians do not follow through on what they believe. The practical aspect of faith is missing.

As parents, I think this means telling and ACTING on the fact that we love our children. If we do not act out love–if we don’t practice REAL forgiveness, if we are not open and accepting of EVERYBODY, if we curse people while we are driving or tell our children that dressing up in high heel shoes is a ridiculous thing for a boy to do (my son’s experience in nursery school), if we mock the weak, demean the different and blame the poor for their plight, what are we teaching them?

How can we enact love? How can we, on the days we don’t feel like it–go out and pick the fruit of God? How can we return to work in the Garden of the Kingdom of God again, and again in meaningful ways?

We might not always want to do it, but that’s ok, as long as we know that our actions speak louder than words, and its never too late (even after we’ve refused!) to go out and work the garden.

A Parenting Parable: A Fig Tree

“Hurry UP!”

Sometimes I can be a tad impatient with my children, especially my “almost” 5 year old. For example last Friday we were late to school because every single thing I asked him to do he said he would and then didn’t. Making me repeat myself over and over again.

Last week I was trying to nap during my children’s nap/quiet time (quiet time for the older boys for 1hr, nap time for the baby and perhaps my 3 year old depending how good a job we did of wearing him out). My mistake was to try to nap upstairs (my window get a nice piece of sunlight to sleep in midday: I’m part plant you know). Every couple of minutes it was “mmmooooo—ooomm–maaaa….how do I spell….” followed by some word that was somehow related to Dr. Suess–which is our current obsession. My problem was I was so tired I couldn’t follow through on my threats so I kept saying “this is the last time” spell it and inevitably he would return….

What amazes me about this all is that my children’s behavior and its significance for me, the fact of whether they are having a good or a bad day is ultimately reflective of the kind of day I’m having.

Jesus tells a parable of the Fig Tree…In it a fig tree that has been growing for 3 years. It grows, its green, it looks healthy, and yet does not produce fruit. The Master declares it should be cut down, but the caretaker (Christ anyone?) says that he will trim it, give it better soil, and to please let it grow another year and see what then happens. The Master agrees….–Luke 13:6-9

…and that’s it…the story ends, not with whether or not the tree behaves better but the two “parents” of the tree, the caretaker and the master, Jesus and God, agreeing to give it better care. Deciding it wasn’t (entirely) the tree’s fault, and that it probably could produce it just needed more time and space to grow, and more nurturing, and trimming of its bad parts….

If I’m having a good day, the hiccups of a 1, 3 and almost 5yr old are minor and workable. If I’m having a bad day every infraction feels like a personal insult.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRG9g5f4tujtVpidSbLAT4Vgmwit9cw7H8qta5FVswcf7r91o3BpgIf I have the wherewithall to take a step back on the bad days then I at least don’t lash out but unfortunately, I am only human. My mom said she used to be really moody/dramatic (Re: my side of the family tends to be) and if one thing went wrong her entire day was ruined. Post-Children, if only a few things went wrong, she knew it had been a “good” day.

So there it is…the promise is that God will follow through on cutting down the bad trees (you know the importance of boundary setting and holding to consequences in parenting), but at the same time, practicing Grace….If my children aren’t bearing fruit that day, maybe I need to look at the care I’m able to give them that day (after all children tend to notice when we are stressed and respond in kind) The focus is not on the consequence but on the gift…let our parenting be the same….not only on my good days, but also on my bad ones

On the other hand on really hard days–where it isn’t about me or the children, but about the world (Newtown and Boston of course spring to mind)–then the misbehavior of small children are put into perspective, and I begin to feel blessed–blessed to be safe, blessed to have children to love, bless to have children who misbehave and are imperfect.

General Service Announcement

General Service Announcement

“This is a general service Announcements reminding everybody that the best treatment for dementors is CHOCOLATE…in light of the sad events in Boston, in my professional and pastoral opinion I recommend CHOCOLATE for everybody” (Should you be someone who is unable to do chocolate, Cookies may be substituted). Chocolate may not fix our sadness, but it reminds us of the good that does exist in the world and encourages to act out of love not fear.

PS Check out today’s Lectionary Reading from the Bible–remember the opposite of love is not hate but fear, hate grows out of fear
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
1st John

Sermons are Art

Sermons are Art

Sermons are art, sometimes they rock, and sometimes they don’t. Its less of a quotient of how many hours you put in, and tends to be where you are emotionally, are you feeling creative, is your imagination engaged, can you connect to your audience, is it relevant and yet provoking.

I’ve always said, I wish every sermon was a masterpiece, but since its art, it doesn’t work that way. There are practices and disciplines that help you to be a better artist, but never any guarantees.

This brings me to Presbyterian Today their articles about arts in the church (Shout out to Katie Douglass who pursued arts even while she did her doctorate at PTS)

Arts and Church Art as worship and considering popular culture (ie arts) and religion (cough, cough Science Fiction/Fantasy and Religion anyone? Read about Faith and Dr Who & Star Trek here)

and  Whether Sermons are becoming Obsolete…(well depends what you mean by sermons)

If we aren’t approaching Sermons as an art, but instead only as a form of communication or education,  then we are not encouraging creation, we are merely communicating about it. And I really think that is missing God’s point. If its art, then the format is far more open then are first and second definitions of sermon imply!!!!

Abundent Grace: A Parenting Parable

John 21:1-19 is about Jesus’s Abudent Grace–You might think that its about Peter’s need to be forgiven 3 times, but I see it as ever so much bigger.

Jesus is abundent, so much so, he equals and exceeds our need for forgiveness…this is where love gets scary folks, because God know every single sin, and is equal and greater than those sins–God loves us so that all our empty spots–all our places of sin are filled in–so much so that they in fact overflow with God’s Love

Brennan Manning says it like this….

Parenting says this: My three boys take one bath (there’s a trinity joke somewhere in there, but really its just easier to run one bath). They are all in preschool and can all still fit, and mostly they love it. One day my eldest, Franklin, was scooping all of the toys to him–telling me he wanted to play with all of them. I then pointed out that he can’t play with the toys, because he is hanging on too tightly, and his hands are too full, and that he must share the toys to be able to play with them (this was a moment of parenting brilliance).

That’s how God’s love is–think about the fact that the disciples caught 153 fish (ps great scholarly debates exist about this number, until a scholar drily observed that maybe its says 153 because there was an eyewitness who actually saw the fish, and that is the actual–as opposed to being a symbolic–number)

Anyway, they catch all these fish and what are they to do? They can’t eat them all before they rot (pre-fridge and pre-salt), so they have to share the wealth…just like the manna, just like the toys…that is the abundance of Christ’s love–it is so abundent it fills even the most ordinary corners of our lives (fishing is a daily thing in Galilee). Although we may be like the disciples and be unable to see Jesus from the boat (or the bathtub), he will keep appearing, and keep loving us, inviting us to be nourished and then to “feed my sheep” or Share the toys so we can be in relationship with and nourish one another….

How’s that for use or lose it parable of the talents?

PS: Note the nets did not break this time (which is a whole other sermon) I think this is because the disciples have a little more where-with-all to catch some of Christ’s love, it doesn’t all pass through this time, some of it gets caught, harvested and used.

 

John 21:1-19

 

21After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

Star Trek and Dr. Who

Having written about Parables and Fairy Tales and the importance they play in defining the universality of the human condition for every particular human–and hence why they are awesome. I feel you are ready for the truth.

Star Trek and Dr. Who are Parables

Not only are they like most science fiction which discusses how the human race will interact with and respond to technological changes in the future (which is a little different than fantasy which explores humanity-exactly-as-it-is-except-there-happens-to-be-magic)…but these are characters whose stories are literally written and re-written from different perspective…

I mean at the end of Season 6 (yes I’m on netflix so I’m behind a season) when time has stopped, a villain offhandedly remarks that Rory is “the one who won’t die” which is so true, (WARNING: SPOILERS, Skip to next paragraph if you care) because Amy and Rory go through 5 different versions of reality to that date, and the timestream so that he is alive again.

Anyway, Dr. Who has similar scenarios played out over and over again with different versions of the main characters–the Doctor and his companion, (or more recently companions). Even building its own mythology (Daleks, MetalMen, Weeping Angels–to encounter again, and again). The goal is the same, humanity is the same, in lots of cases the situations are the same (there is a storyline I call the Space Movie storyline, where everyone dies from something they shouldn’t have touched in the middle of space–this one gets used a lot for the obvious reason that Dr. Who is a first and foremost a Space Adventure).

But we keep watching it, because these are the stories worth repeating again and again!

Similarly, Star Trek has a crew of People stuck wherever they are (usually not at a Space Station) trying to reach home. They have encounters with similar types of beings (Kling-Ons, Vulcans, Robots, and random encounters with unknown species including the ever-lovable Tribbles.) As the characters encounter “the other” they learn to define humanity or even better “lifeforms” in a broader perspective….Even though its filled with tropes like the redshirts 🙂

Each story is a piece of the human experience, and each series can retell a similar plotline with its own set of characters to give us slightly different perspectives. What is maybe the best part is that both series unashamedly state that they are looking into the human condition–there is always a character in Star Trek who is exploring what it means to be human (Data, Seven of Nine, Odo) and Dr. Who is constantly observing and remarking (happy crying, how wonderfully human of you) about it. Thus through the eyes of the other, and the reactions of different characters to different situations allows us to learn more about ourselves!

Thus the tellings,

and the retellings

and the Fun!

That’s why we like Dr. Who, and Star Trek, and Parables, and Fairy Tales

Tower of Babel: A Parenting Parable

One Sunday Morning I was preaching on the Tower of Babel.

That morning Franklin, my 4 year old, really wanted the flashlight. We had the flashlight on the top of a bureau so the children wouldn’t turn it on and leave it on without our knowledge.

I told Franklin to wait for me to brush my hair–and then I would be able to get him the flashlight.

I come out of the bathroom and find Franklin halfway up the stairs with a stool/chair that is bigger than he is…

I took away the stool and started to laugh….”You thought it was easier to carry a stool all the way up the stairs and to climb on it and get the flashlight…that would be easier for me than waiting”

Isn’t this the story of Babel? Its easier to build a tower to God than to wait for God’s action. Isn’t this why we try to do everything for ourselves? We talk among ourselves, agree among ourselves and work for ourselves forgetting the all knowing, all caring perspective of God…that’s why God separates us out–not because we work together, but because if we do no more than preach to the choir.

If we do not have variety, we do not have the richness of God. So God separated us, God gave us more perspectives so we could see the fullness of the human condition–so we could hear the same story over and over again in different languages

Ex: Cinderella: French: Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre, Italian: Cenerentola, German: Aschenputtel, Vietnamese version Tấm Cám, Korean version, too, named “Kongjwi and Patjwi

These versions give us meaning so that the nuances change, the characters differ, and the vastness and depth of God and his love, the meaning of the human condition can be peeked at 🙂

So–Can we do it, can we wait for God? Can we take in all the nuances of humanity and still accept each other as God’s children, or do we need to climb the stairs with a stool, do we need to depend on ourselves to reach God, or can we depend on God to reach us…

Genesis 11

New International Version (NIV)

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

File:Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited.jpg

Parables are Godly Fairy Tales

Ok,

Don’t take this the wrong way. But if Fairy Tales compile to give us an understanding (picture/idea/grasp) of the human condition. Then parables give us a God’s eye view of the human condition. Noting not only life as it is, but also, at the same time, life’s potentials…[think Prodigal Son]

Compiled together, the parables–The Mustard Seed, The Widow’s Mite, The Lost Sheep, The Seven Bridesmaids.

Reading these stories over and over provide windows to the self–clarifying the relationships in our lives. It plants the seeds of knowledge, it gives us the broad scope of life, while allowing us to fill in the details of our own lives.

This is why I read fairy tales theologically, parables practically and reread as much as possible….

The Thing about Fairy Tales Is: Once Upon a Time, Happily Ever Afters and Meta

Ingredients of A Fairy Tale=

1 Upon a Time

4 or 5 Stereotypes

3 or 4 Stock Characters

1 simple plot

Good versus Evil

True Love Manifested (depressingly or not)

and possibly ending with Happily Ever After

Told and Retold, Reshaped and Reworked: I LOVE reading all of the versions of fairy tales!

But the thing about fairy tales is that that they are a collection of data on the human race. The more versions you read, the more insight you build about the human race, and the more you allow the stories to interact, the more you start to understand who we are, and how we work!

That’s what is amazing about fairy tales–the more they are stock the more true they are, the more versions exist, the more the human condition is explained…That is what is SO META about fairy tales!!!