Rejecting Evil: a clarification, Membership Questions

The Membership Questions: If I Wrote them
Expanded:
Do you reject Evil
Of Guns
Of White Supremacy
Of the False Gospel of Hate
Of the Nationalism
Of trying to Control Your Child’s Life
Do you reject the idolatry of Power, Greed, Imperialism, Capitalism and Control?

Do you surrender to the Loving and Searing Truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who opens your heart in such away that you continually examine your life and ask–am I living in a way that adhere’s to God’s Life Giving Standards?

Do I, to Love my Enemies, Are the Imprisoned? Give Food to those in Near, Somehow free myself To Not Judge those different than you and to Welcome those who are different in Gender, Race, Sexuality, Age and Ability to my House, Home, Table and Life?

Do I affirm the Apostles Creed, as far as I understand it, knowing that it is a lifelong mystery. Do I affirm what I know and commit to continual study of the Apostles Creed and God?

God’s Potent Promises: Joseph in Prison

Full Resource

God’s Potent Promise for the Outsider: God is with You

Joseph in Prison
Genesis 39:1-23 Joseph in Prison, God with Him
Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed when People Revile you
Psalm 146

If you want a document version of this entire series for easy viewing and formatting just email me at Katyandtheword at gmail and title it Narrative Lectionary and I will be happy to send it to you.

If you would like to support my work, please give to my gofundme for my D. Min in Creative Writing or in an exciting new prospect become a Patron for only $3 a month!

Call to Worship

God you call to the outsider 

You care for those who are imprisoned, different or are alone

You are with the marginal

God you are the God of the least of these

How mighty is our God, who cares for those we forget

Praise be to God, let us bless God 

Call to Worship (Based on Psalm 146)

Praise the Lord, O my Soul

God made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, and keeps faith forevers

God executes justice for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, and sets the prisoner free. Thisis our God!

Come let us Praise the Lord!

Call to Confession: Come let us carry any piece of ourselves that is different or imprisoned to God.

Confession: Holy Spirit, I confess that I am not Joseph, but there are times in my life where I have felt like an outsider or trapped by my actions. There are times where I have felt different. God I confess it is easy to become embittered about those harsh times in life, or to hate as a result. I confess that it is easier to believe in a God of winners and powerful ones, than a God who wants to care for those who are vulnerable and powerless. Remind me that you came as a baby to show me that you are not interested in power, but love. Help me to understand a hope that is different and a freedom that is not political I pray. (Silent Confession). Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Jesus comes to free you from all sins, you have already confessed, so you can now rest, safe and secure in the good news, come let us whisper the truth to one another: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of the Day/Dedication: God, help us to see and accept and free the Josephs of the world. Remind us that you are always working towards justice and good, and human machinations are nothing towards your mercy. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymns: Live Into Hope, We Meet You Christ, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, O God of Every Nation, If Thou but Trust in God to Guide Thee

Image: https://ps11showmedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/sneetches.png?w=620

Children: Talk about God being the God of the “Marginal.” Define that word to mean not in charge. Explain that this means that God is not interested in Christianity being in charge or in control, because God is most interested in caring for those left behind and forgotten. Brainstorm who those people might be. Book Suggestion: “Martin Luther King Jr: A Kid’s book about advancing Civil Rights with Nonviolence” by Mary Nhin “The Star Bellied Sneetches” by Dr Suess

If you want a document version of this entire series for easy viewing and formatting just email me at Katyandtheword at gmail and title it Narrative Lectionary and I will be happy to send it to you.

If you would like to support my work, please give to my gofundme for my D. Min in Creative Writing or in an exciting new prospect become a Patron for only $3 a month!

Full Resource

Broken, A Prayer

Dear God

I know

Every time a denomination

Breaks over justice issues:

Like slavery, racism,

women in ministry, abortion rights,

And the personhood of LGBTQIA siblings

That you are crying big tears—

Tears that say

“Jerusalem O Jerusalem

I long to snuggle you under my wings—

Unified and beloved—

And peck to death any who threaten you”

Just kidding Jesus I added that last part,

Based on what mother hens actually do.

But I also think God,

As violent words, weapons, wars and rhetoric

Batters our souls—because after all bad theology kills

You crucified Christ know that better than anyone.

—I think about how you took bread

Among your beloved

You took bread

Blessed it

Broke it

And said “This is my Body Broken—

Broken for you”

Jesus, today your Body feels broken;

Again.

Bless it we pray

Bless this Broken Bread

Bless our crumbs

Teach us Belovedness

And

How to be a resurrection people

In the midst of brokenness

Scarred and real

So we can say together

We are Christ’s Body

Teach us this

we pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Bullshit, A Prayer

Jesus,

Your coming back was such good news,

that the disciples called it bullshit–

we translate it nicer in church;

can you imagine that?

……

Jesus did you think that our job

maybe

perhaps

as Christians was to do

such extraordinarily good things

that when we did them

people would say

Bullshit! No one would ever do that!

……

And not so like, anyone would become Christian

or perfect

(because lets face it Jesus,

people are onto you when you are trying to steal their souls)

But just like, treat humans with respect.

……

Sometimes I imagine that churches paid every single person a living wage

or rallying for the forgiveness of debts (Reminder: Jubilee is a Biblical concept)

and working hard for universal healthcare for our congregants (the stories I could tell)

or even just make it so every sanctuary was a sanctuary for immigrants

……and

LGBTQIA folks

and those who are mentally Ill

and Those with addictions

and people with disabilities

and those who were houseless

……

If all those could feel welcome, accepted, heard and be essential to the leadership!

A place for teens to hang out without anyone worried about lawsuits.

And we got past tokenizing everyone who is different than us (hello white church).

I bet if we worked on a couple of these things, the church would become more Christ-like–what do you think Jesus?

……

Sometimes I dream that churches were changing the world–

and then I wake up, amazed that no one has cried out

Bullshit!

……

God I’m praying for that kind of church,

until then, I hope I hang our more with

Mary, Mary and Martha,

and keep saying things that make people say

……

Universal Basic Income for everyone? That sounds like bullshit!

……

Can’t wait Jesus, Till then,

I’ll keep praying

Idle Prayers,

And doing the work to make them

Working Prayers again.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Like my work? Please support my Doctorate in Creative Writing in Ministry–as a Public Theologian at Pittsburgh Seminary

Image: https://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_image/public/2020-05/ChristIsRisen1200_0.jpg?itok=pikHhKoE

Affirming Prayer

I want to pray for you and affirm

As the ashes have just been smudged

On your forehead

And we feel a little fragile these days

With war, and pandemic and climate change

And racism

And transphobia and homophobia

And all the Ableism

And all the hate—

So much hate that it’s bitter on our tongues

And it polluted the air we breathe

And we can feel it—

trying to X us out of existence

Because hate hurts all of us;

Even as it tricks the hater into feeling powerful.

But anyway I’m praying that you..

Yes you, know that you

Are created in the image of God

Exactly as you are.

With all of your so called flaw

And imperfections

And differences,

Remember that our God is

Manifold, and that they

Love multiplicity and variety

And invented rainbows

And galaxies

And microbes we can’t even see—

So trust me, and be affirmed

Even in, especially in your fragility

That you are known, created and beloved

By God, exactly as your are

And take their blessings I’m your heart I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

A Disappointed Prayer

It happened again God,

A person I admired,

let hate and errors spew from their mouth

accusing other of not being humans

refusing to understand.

I know what you mean when you

say their ears were closed

and their hearts were hardened.

And it hurts, God, when the chinks in the armor

turn out to be pieces of hatred,

Screw TERFism

–and White Fragility

And Sexism

And Heternormativity

And Colonialism

And Exceptionalism

And Ableism–

when people who you hoped could imagine worlds

Of openness, people who helped you to see a better kingdom of God,

turned out to be as human as everyone else.

I guess we all need Jesus in the end–but it’s timeslike these

I really need the Holy Spirit,

to come down and protect my marginalized beloved ones–transgendered, black and brown, poor and disabled.

It’s times like these I need the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire and comfort me,

because I really don’t know what to do with the pieces of my heart when they lie shattered by the people who I trusted to care for it.

And of course, still, always, none of us are Jesus

I guess this is why the Kin-dom God can never, ever

ever

be the vision of one person

No one person is ever going to get all the pieces–

help us to keep imagining it,

together,

encourage us,

especially in times like this we pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

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A Different kind of Rest

God, I wonder what it was like,

when David was king and pondered an enforced rest.

David, who had trauma in his family and then perpetuated trauma on his friend, and raped a woman.

David, who dealt with the physical pain of a sexually transmitted disease that roiled him for years.

God, how stretched was David, when he prayed for a rest that would not let him go.

When David harkened back to simpler times, and longed, not even to be a shepherd again, but to instead be the sheep.

David, reimagines rest as something to be protected, with a staff and a rod.

David sees true rest as being able to let go of his enemies, and eat and drink without having to worry about being attacked.

David, who was so privileged and powerful needed rest.

How much more do we need rest after the pandemic.

How much more do our Black and Brown siblings need the space to rest, and the time to reinvent what rest and rejuvenation looks like?

How much more do our queer siblings, need sabbath?

How much more do our beloved trans* individuals need sanctuary?

Hustling is not going to cut it anymore. You can’t out hustle a pandemic or trauma or racism or bigotry.

God, drive those who need to, down to the cool waters.

Chase them down with goodness and mercy.

And remind us, that Sabbath, like blessings, is not pie. There is enough to go around. We need to create space for rest with one another.

Help us to create a culture of Sabbath, I pray.

Amen.

Again I have to give theological credit to @TheNapMinistry and Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey for their continually revolutionary take on rest. https://linktr.ee/thenapministry

Please share/adapt/use with Theological Credit to “The Nap Ministry” writing credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

A Week of Hard Questions: A Prayer

God, this week I asked hard questions

About love and tradition and cultural differences. I asked (rather timidly even) if race played a part to our reactions.

And soon I found myself hip deep in a quagmire of pain.

People were triggered. They felt they needed to defend their pain.

And it was hard God, and part of me wanted to take it all back. Because I don’t want to create heartache.

But then I remembered two weeks ago when someone asked me hard questions about love and inclusion and the brokenness of the system that I perpetuated.

And although that was embarrassing and hard. I lived through it.

And in reflecting this experience I remembered that part of why I asked the hard questions this week was because as of last week I was tired of us: me, the church, consumer culture, ignoring hard issues and perpetuating whatever was comfortable for us.

Did you ever notice Jesus really likes to answer a question with a harder question?

You deconstructed me Lord. And I confess I need you to bless this mess today, because I’m going to be in the deconstructed zone for a while.

Because once God starts to deconstruct you, it becomes easier for you to see other places where the threads of normal need to be pulled apart.

And you can choose to continue the work God started, but it’s up to you.

So I guess I’ve reached a new level of maturity, where I stay in the muck longer than is comfortable, and I feel the anguish of racism on top of the anguish of those in pain.

And as my heart aches, I am thankful for all the times I was able to say:

“I don’t know. “

And “I hear you.”

As I sat with the pain and let go of the reasons and the arguments.

Do you sometimes say I don’t know God?

I don’t know

But thank you for helping me to brave the muck; and help me to muddle through, or sit, or cry. Help me to do this hard questioning thing I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Baptisms and Miracles

To modern day readers, this encounter with the Eunuch may be one of the wackiest texts we encounter. All the reasons that stick out to us as being weird or miraculous were fairly typical of ministry of the day. 

Philip is awoken by an angel and told to hit the road and travel on a specific road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then the Spirit tells Philip to join the chariot, so Philip runs to catch up to a chariot! Then upon baptism the Spirit whisks Philip away, poof, and the Eunuch goes on rejoicing. In the era that this was written, none of these encounters with angels ro the Holy Spirit would be remarked upon as strange.

The parts that are not as strange to us, are the real miracles of the time:

Philip being converted by his mission experience

A Eunuch who can read ancient Hebrew text and is studying it

A river appears in, what is likely to be, the desert road between two cities. It is unusual for water to be in a place that is not a city, and yet it appears at the exact time that the Eunuch seeks baptism. We do not think hard about water in the desert, but we can be sure the ancient Hebrews and Greeks and Ethiopians did as they traveled. 

In modern times, we have learned a lot. We know that those who go on missions go to convert themselves not others, and think hard about the nature of toxic charity and heroism. We think that reading the texts is normal, or should be and encourage as many people as we can to study them. And we absolutely hope that all people are accepted into the faith. 

So what we consider miracles were considered normal and vice versa. Except for the fact that the Eunuch is queer individual, and we still aren’t sure what the answer to their question “what should prevent me from being baptized?”

Whether swept up in the suddenness of the moment or not having a good answer, Philip does not answer the question, and that itself becomes the answer. 

There is no objection to the baptism, so the moment passes. 

The Ethiopian is so excited to be baptized, that Philip cannot in any circumstances say no. 

No doubt the flashing neon signs fo the angel and Spirit served to help too. Yes that EXACT chariot, that’s the place we mean. No need to wonder if this is the right person, and the fact that they are reading Ancient Hebrew on a scroll is incredible. Here is this person, probably not even allowed in the temple, who takes their faith seriously enough to journey to Jerusalem and is educated enough to read, and not only to read, but to read a different language then that which is spoken in Ethiopia. 

How? Is this Eunuch a descendent of the Hebrews who journeyed and stayed in Egypt? The borders of such countries are unclear, but this individual is clearly a different gender, country and culture than Philip. They even garner such great power as to be the treasurer for the queen. They are riding rich, in a chariot. Did Philip feel overwhelmed by all of these differentials? Did he wonder if he was the right person for the job? Did he rejoice that God gave him such a challenge? 

It is important, as anti-trans legislation rips through the US and the UK, as anti-queer policy rips apart the Methodist and Reformed traditions, as the Pope proclaims that gays cannot get married in the Catholic church, it is important to look at this precedent. 

“What is to prevent me from becoming baptized”

In John, Jesus says: I am the vine and you are branches, abide in my and I in you, so that we might bear fruit. We are once again, reminded that our fates, our health, our prosperity, our faith is intertwined with one another. We must acknowledge one another, work with one another and grow with one another, so that we might all bear fruit. When we put barriers up, when we say we cannot welcome one another, we die on the vine. This is so very true in churches, where people want only people like them to attend. 

This is also true in our economies, where Citi Bank says we have lost $16 Trillion in GDP in the US alone due to our racism https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/916022472/cost-of-racism-u-s-economy-lost-16-trillion-because-of-discrimination-bank-says

Philip knows what it is to be an outcast and is by no means the least of the disciples, no doubt some part of him sympathized with the Eunuch. After all Philip was almost stoned to death. Philip knows what he is doing. 

So imagine after this incredible journey, after he is swept back to the disciples, after he has baptized this individual, the story he tells–the precedent he sets, is the a eunuch: A queer gender non conforming individual is part of who should be baptized! 

“Go and baptize all people” in Matthew 28:17-20 could be glossed as “I really mean it.” 

I am the vine and your are the branches could be glossed as: we are not meant to discriminate

And Psalm 22 definitely emphasizes that God is for all people and that God promises to be for all generations, even those “Dang Kids” future generations who no doubt will do things differently in the future. 

Hopefully this passage can inspire us to pursue baptism more inclusively and more joyfully. 

And if not, hopefully God sends an angel, the Holy Spirit and a river to help us along the way.