Why a Farmer’s Market?

We are blessed to open our 5th Farmer’s Market season this summer. A Farmer’s Market that we put out for our community. A Farmers Market that the church’s volunteers run from May to October.

So why a Farmer’s Market? Where is the discipleship in this? and how exactly is this a ministry?

New Covenant Presbyterian Church spent a lot of time trying to participate within the neighborhood. We wanted to be a part of what was going on. With approximately 15 community groups meeting in our building, we felt the disconnect. Many people will come to these gatherings, but nothing sponsored by the church.

We got to work to be a part of the community. Some events were short: a one day electronic recycling drive, a Mendelssohn concert and Ice Cream Social, a Dove Nominated Gospel Concert. We started some long term things too…we opened a free weekly playgroup.. We organized and oversaw an ongoing clothing exchange.

We looked at our resources, we looked at our strengths. We are place that is easy to gather at, we have a large parking lot. We are close to major highways.

How about a Farmer’s Market? Which we committed to do, as long as we remembered WHY we want to do this. To participate within the neighborhood.

To be a part of the community.

To be PRESENT. We committed to help to set up, to serve, to strive for a caring environment built on balance and needs (as opposed to being purely profit driven).

We will then sit at the church table and HELP people. Answer questions and LISTEN carefully to what is being said so we could get reacquainted with the community.

We did the work (See the upcoming post on HOW a Farmer’s Market) for details. By the Grand Opening close to 200 people came. Which was a huge number for a 50-60 person church.

By the middle of the summer we clarified our why into one phrase.

Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

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Because we want to be your neighbor, we want to be a community-building congregation, we want to be a community that supports communities.

The ministry of presence, of listening of neighboring is a part of who we are and what we do today! We look forward to our 5th rendition of this particular ministry of Farmers Market.

 

 

 

#Sacrifice, #Parable of a #church

A congregation came to Jesus and said, “Good teacher, what must we do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said, do the commandments. “Love and respect your neighbor. Have courage to do new things. Enter the world to support those in need. Gather as God’s family and honor everyone as human. Render to no one evil for evil, learn how to be more than nice. Pray and support those in need, and open yourselves to the community”

And the congregation said, “Lord we have striven to do all of this”

 

Jesus said, “Then there is one more thing, give away your worship space to be a place of sanctuary for the rest of the community”

And the congregation went away grieving, for their sanctuary was a very beautiful and well cared for space.

Then Jesus said “Trust the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, and remember you security is not in possessions or ownership of space and time, but is in God.”

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Mark 10

 

 

#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.

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#ashwednesday is for….

Ash Wednesday is for when all four of your checks hit after the bank closes but before you can put your husband’s check in, including the really big rent check, and they therefore all BOUNCE!

Ash Wednesday is for your four year old child throwing up all over the house, and not quite getting the try to aim for the bowl or the toilet concept

Its for your special needs kid being better focused in class, even as you worry about his continual bad smell

Its for losing your voice on the night the pastor has to lead service

Its for your eldest who is struggling to concentrate getting a good email from the teacher.

 

Ash Wednesday is to lay out your whole self before God

To confess yourself, not to feel ashamed, but to be able to see yourself as God’s beloved

The very act of owning  who you are and your reality, the act of being you as God’s, frees you to be reflective of God.

I confess myself and seek God…because to me, they are the same thing….

Ps 34:4-5  I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

Reclaiming #mysticism, #prophets & #christianity in Grounded

You probably haven’t noticed this, but prophets are often outside the fold of the norm in scripture.

Whether its Elisha, Elijah or Jesus himself it is difficult for those who stand outside of religion and claim a relationship with God to fit.

This is, no doubt, because humans long for “normatives” we long for a checklist by which to live our lives, some way to say this is the right (and only) way to be in relationship with God and each other.

Of course if we were created to be that way we wouldn’t be the multi-faceted, every learning, gender-fluid beings we are. Our spirituality and sexuality would not exist in complex relationship to each other, and our experience of the world would be all the same.

Its amazing that Christianity has plateaued into a “normative” state for so long.

In Diana Butler Bass’s book she reclaims the ordinary-earth, water, fire and air. She claims them as ways to experience God in mystical and tactile & experiential ways.

Because these days, when people of all ages have been burned by institutions (whether they be courts or government, schools or churches, scouts or libraries) and are highly suspicious of institutional wisdom.

Experience, instead, informs.

Diana Butler Bass talks about our experiences in the following ways…”Adam and Eve are made from hums, placed in Go’ds garden, and directed to care for the soil from which they came….” Land “is the source, the material basis, of the food supply (no dirt, no food, no us); or it may be viewed through the eyes of spiritual awareness, as part of a divine ecosystem….disregarding the ground is sinful and evil” p. 43

Humans are made of dirt ”

And Diana Butler Bass puts poetic narrative to her experience, allowing life to be mystical and mysterious in its particularity and beautiful & beloved in its multiplicity and shared interactions.

She dignifies the spiritual awareness that so many has, with a well reasoned personal narrative, grounded in scripture touching on the ideas of God as home, neighborhood as a state of being and the hospitality of creating a commons to dwell in.

“Spirituality is about personal experience–the deep erealization that dirt is good, water is holy, the sky holds wonder; that we are part of a great web of life, our home is in God, and our moral life is entwined with that of our neighbor.”

None of that tells us a checklist to be healthy, wealthy and wise, “it is about tracing the threads of the interconnected universe.” 238

Diana Butler Bass explores the spiritual revolution as it is unfolding today. I highly recommend reading with an open mind, to understand God, and just how accessible Xi is.

Personally as a pastor, I love to learn about how people understand God to be in their lives, and to me church is/should be the place where we share our differences to enrich our own faith. I hope that mystics are heard especially when they are not understood and help us to change into whatever church is being born today….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building the #Nativity: (#christmas) Mary & Joseph

There are very few pictures of Mary and Joseph that are not Joseph pulling Mary on the Donkey for Bethlehem.

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We aren’t there yet, though.

Besides, they aren’t Even LOOKING at each other!

But I can tell that Mary and Joseph aren’t really pictured before Jesus. Even though, they had some kind of relationship as they were engaged. Let’s face it, Mary and Joseph probably were from the same small town and knew each other really well, no matter how well they knew each other.

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So this week we filled in the first characters by telling of when Gaberial tells Mary and then Joseph about Jesus coming. Its interesting because as the artwork shows, we clearly do not picture them together.

There are two distinctly similar portions to these accounts. The first of which were that Mary and Joseph were the afraid.

Can you imagine how they each felt seeing an angel? How worried they were about this unknown, and surprising child? Jesus Christ is probably the most surprising child ever!!

No wonder they were afraid.

Today is also the Hope week of Advent. You know what hope is? ITs saying yes when you don’t know what will happen.

That’s Mary and Joseph.

That’s parenthood too, when you have a child you don’t really know what is going to happen.

My mom remembers women who swore they would come back to work after having a baby, and then realize they couldn’t stay home. Then she knew others who were trying to stay home who were going crazy and needed to go back to work. This taught her that parenthood is one of those things you have ideas about, but you don’t really know until you get there.

And even if you have a partner in parenting, that person wouldn’t necessarily parent the same way. In fact sometimes what works for one parent doesn’t work for the other.

In a way we are all Mary and Joseph, trying to figure out how to relate to Christ. Each of us working to get to know him in our own way.

Faith is a bit by parenting. You have ideas about how it should work, but you don’t really know what practices and theories work for you until you put it into practice. Active, Contemplative, Environmental, Introspective there are many ways to practice faith.

I think of how afraid Mary is that Joseph is going to leave her, and Joseph so afraid about the leaving he thinks they must do. Each of them being afraid, and lonely in that fear.

Church is unique too, because just like a family, even though our practices are different other people’s faith practices can inform our own. Even if those particular practices are never our cup of tea, we can still strengthen one another by sharing about our faith.

Family is that way too!

Last year I talked about how we are the family in the waiting room, waiting for Christ and becoming family. We are becoming family through church.

When Joseph hears that he should keep the baby & Mary, that’s the moment they start to become Family. Before Christ even arrives.

As we build the nativity, we might each be drawn to different characters, but look at the variety of family, friends and strangers that come to see Jesus. This is because God invites each and every one of us to become a part of the family.

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Heck, Jesus wasn’t really the son of Joseph, but the practice of inviting others to be a part of the family start with Joseph, continues with the Nativity,then the Jews, then eventually we are all adopted as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think of when Joseph is no longer alone in his fears, of the moment when he tells Mary what he was hoping and worrying about Jesus, and Mary shares back. This is the moment they become family, before Jesus is even born.

(Here is our version of the family, we made with the kids as Our First Building the Nativity Ornaments)

This is what I think happened then, even tho there is no such art of Mary and Joseph

We do not have to be a certain ethnicity or worship a certain way or even read the Bible in a certain language. That’s because the Good News of Jesus Christ is translatable. Christianity can fit into any culture (when we do it right).

We are all invited to come and join the nativity, so join us as we build the nativity this Advent season

 

 

 

Do the #refugees make you feel uncomfortable?

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Do the refugees make you uncomfortable? Do they shake you from your feeling a safety and make you rethink life? Perhaps they make you hug your children tighter at night.

Today my husband and I discussed the possibility of WWIII calmly trying to assess whether that is a reasonable concern.

Friends, my faith does not solve these problems, but it assures me that the risks are worth taking.

Another name for the Holy Spirit is “the one who stirs up.” The Holy Spirit both stirs us up and comforts us at the same time (I don’t know how, but its true).

Christianity isn’t supposed to be sitting on our laurels of blessings, feeling at one with the world.

It is a call to action to serve and love one another, to be open to other human being

 

And lets be honest, that’s dangerous. Its dangerous to open yourself to being in relationship with others. But that is our call as Christian.

We are called to preach and embody Christ and the Good News Even at the risk of our own lives. Does that include refugees who might be terrorists?

As a Christian you are called to be in some kind of relationship with every other human being on the earth.

Because they too are creations of God.
Do the refugees make you uncomfortable?

That might just be God tapping you on the shoulder.

 

 

#hopewins #notafraid #diwali Practicing Humanity & Defeating #Terrorism

Today is diwali the celebration of light winning over darkness, how fitting a reminder, for me a Christian when mercy and justice are hard to find today.

Fear Not!

Every time an angle appeared, every time God speaks, fear is cast out. God doesn’t want us to live in fear, God wants us to live into hope.

But that’s hard, its hard when attacks occur all over the world on one day–Beruit, Paris, Baghdad. Its difficult when gun violence continues to cause school shooter drills and institutional racism is unveiled again and again and again.

So what I do is, I cry. I pray. I look at the stars. I light candles.

(until we find the right words, we’ll light candles–Martha Spong)

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I live in hope.

This expression is one I use when things are uncertain. I toss it off in casual conversation as though it is easy, but it is so, so difficult.

Worrying is a human past time. Its a way to cope with the reality that evil is in the world. It is a tool that can be overused to the point where we worry too much and forget to live.

Fear also, is interesting. As Christians a tenant of our faith is the fear God. We are not supposed to base our decisions on what could happen, we are not supposed to live our life based in fears, we aren’t supposed to live into the worry and the guilt, because the truth is, we humans do not function well in those state.

When we are anxious and afraid, when we are guilty or judgmental, we make bad decisions.

No doubt, this is why over and over again we are urged only to fear God. “Those who fear God” is an expression in the Old Testament to describe all those who are trying to follow God instead of giving in to other things. But then God tells us over and over again to fear not. And counsels us to hope and trust in what is going on….

Its hard not to fear, not to worry that I’m not secure enough in money or friendships. Its hard when my body does not function the way I want it to, or when my children get hurt from the bad things that go on in the world. Its hard when the news talks a lot about the problems of the world and little about the solutions. Its hard when refugees and children are dying from violence and rejection. Its hard when people proclaim “its not like it used to be” with authority as if evil is new and spreading instead of being old and already defeated by Jesus.

But I live into hope.

I practice not being afraid.

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Building trust, assuming people are trustworthy, treating everyone with respect and kindness.

Because those are hope building practices, and this is how to defeat evil. This is how #hopewins, this is how we defeat #terrorism, not with weapons or policies, but with the refusal to live a life of fear.

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The Anglo-American, Caucasian #Christmas, War on #Christmas & #Starbucks Coffee

Apparently Starbucks selling coffee in plain red cups is seen by some as another sign of the so-called “War on Christmas.” And rightly so. How dare they crowd out Advent and Christmas with the color reserved for Pentecost? I only drink liturgically correct coffee.

(Above is a light-hearted post from a colleague of mine)

Did you know the liturgical color for Advent is actually purple or blue? And that the color for Christmas is just plain white (no doubt for holiness?)

The war on Christmas is really a harkening for days when Christianity all looked the same….Christianity and Christians…and America, back when “true” Americans all looked the same and part of being American was being a certain brand of Christianity.

The War on Christmas is not really a war and its not really about Christmas, its a culture trying to come to grips with how the world is changing

Look the outrage at the cups, the outrage at the outrage of the cups, and those who are tired of the whole debate and feel that the Christians who are talking about how ridiculous the other Christians are being make for a good cultural discussion about meaning.

I worked in a Korean American church for a while. It was the melding between a 1.5 generation Korean congregation (those who are truly of both Korean and American heritage) +their young truly American, but ethnically Korean, children.

This congregation joined a regular small, had their heyday in the 1950s Caucasian Congregation.

I was on staff as the Christian Ed Coordinator, but realistically a lot of my job was translating.

Translating between the older Anglo-Christians, the Gen Y Koreans and the up and Coming Millenial-American-ethnically Korean Children.

Advent candles

Aren’t Advent Candles Taught in Seminary?

Ruth, a saint and mother to us all at church asked me this when their Korean-American Pastor didn’t do them.

No, I said, thats an American Tradition, not a Christian one.

Then I explained that Advent differs from place to place (I’ve lived all over America) and that even the words are different and in different order, depending where you came from.

Oh.

We did do Advent Candles, I was put in charge (as cultural translator) extradinare.

So the question is this?

What is at the root of this question about Starbucks (whose CEO is Jewish) and red cups?

As Christianity and Religion changes, as being American changes, perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.

And if people do things differently than you traditionally do…ask about it, learn about what people do and why.

And if you want to learn more, go to church, we have highly educated people, I spent 4 years at Princeton, who know about how things are done and why they are done that way, and how things are changing and why that’s exciting too…

Other thoughts on Red Cups

http://emilycheath.com/2015/11/07/christians-red-cups-and-priorities/

http://marthaspong.com/2015/11/09/more-red-cups/

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.*

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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 🙂

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