Being Human

An experiment in poetry

Thanks to my Doctorate in Ministry in Creative Writing at Pittsburgh Seminary

By Katy Stenta 

The story gets more fantastic

The more we tell it

It gets bigger

Even when we make it more concise

The better adjective, the simple adverb

The timing

All of which can be 

drilled down

to this thing called perfect


But the human being

Exists outside of perfection

There is no perfect time to be human

There is no perfect relationship 

No perfect creation

made by human hands

Humankind works so hard to tell its story

Because maybe if we describe our faith

more perfectly, more people will follow it

Why do we chase perfection? 

Why do we want the feeling of 

having the exact words

to shape how our experiences exist—

Do we not then pretend that our experiences are 

unembodied? 

Do we not want to be lost in a fantastic story

precisely because we have struggled too?

Do we not experience our lives as Science Fiction?

Too technical to explain, too human to let go 

of our essence.

I think I prefer Science Fiction to Perfection. 

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship IV

Worship IV

Chapter 5: Never Start a Funeral with Logistics: Commitment: Here I am, I am Here 

See Creative Moment: Moment to capture people’s attention and imagination p. 170

Numbers 6:22-26

22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, 

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 

25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 

26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Isaiah 3:6-8 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’

Call to Worship: 

God you called Abram and Sarai

And Abraham and Sarah said here I am Lord

God you walked with Ruth and Mara

And Ruth promised to Naomi: Your God will be my God

God your wrestled with Jacob

And Israel made peace with his brother Esau

God you are always present with us.

Here I am Lord, I am here with the lord, my God today. 

Confession: Reflective Questions

What do we enjoy about gathering?

How is your prayer life Going? 

Creative Activity: Write a Promise about how to be more fully present with God and Church, Present it to God (In offering or on the communion table or you can be more creative and hang them on a tree or weave them through threads)

Homework: Set aside a day for viewing people different. At the beginning of the day pray for all those who you are going to be in contact with that day in person, online, through the phone or however they may come. Ask God to help you think of each person you come in contact with for the next 24 hours as a messenger from God, either someone you can help/pray for os someone God can use to teach you something. Take notes for the day. At the end of the day ask the Holy Spirit if anyone on that list is someone you should be praying for intentionally or get to know better.

Study Verse: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’—Isaiah 3:8 

Prayer of Dedication/the Day: Lord Jesus, thank you. All I have is yours. All I am is yours. Help me hand it to you. Amen. (Unbinding the Gospel p. 185)

Hymn Suggestions: Here I am Lord, Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door, O Jesus I Have Promised, Take My Life

Gathering & Gospelling Worship Series

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship V

Worship V

Chapter 6: Keep Your Best Self Out of My Gathering: Confession & Authenticity &

Baptism

Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested* as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-13

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

1The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Call to Worship (1 Cor. 12:12-13, 17)

Just as the body is one and has many members

All the members of the body, though many, are one with Christ

For there is One Spirit

We are all baptized in to one body

There is neither Male nor Female, Jew nor Greek, Slave nor Free

We have one faith, one Lord, one baptism

Come let us worship our God

Come let us worship our God

Confession: Reflective Questions

What is your baptismal Name (what name do you think God calls you, your full name, your nickname? Beloved Child? Something else?) ?
What are your gifts?

Where do you feel most at home with yourself? Where are you most fully you? (what place, people, circumstance makes that happen with little to no effort)

What is God calling you to do today? next week? next year?

Creative Activity: Remember your baptism worship based on your liturgy. Or Take a moment have everyone reflect upon their baptism. Then grab a branch. Invite them to rededicate themselves to the Lord as you use the branch to sprint the congregation with water. 

Homework: Make a list of those you know who aren’t connected with the church, (you don’t need to know them well) Don’t say anything to them, just make a list. Pray for them. Pray for a chance to be with them. Pray and keep your eyes open. (Unbinding the Gospel, p. 186)

.

Study Verse: There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism Ephesians 4:4

Prayer of Dedication/the Day: Prayer: O God, please give me a list of people. Help me to pray for them. Let me feel your love for the people on ours lists to know you. I’m open to the nudges of your Spirit, well help me to be open to nudges of your Spirit!! Amen. (Unbinding the Gospel p. 186)

Hymn Suggestions: I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me, Just As I Am Without One Plea, Lord I Want to Be a Christian, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Gathering & Gospelling Worship Series

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship III

Worship III

Chapter 3: Don’t be a Chill Host: Active Welcoming & The Invisible Church

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of* the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Call to Worship: (based on the words of Mother Teresa)

Christ grant us the joy of our baptism

Joy is prayer

Help our joy in small things to continue

Joy is strength

Let us take joy in one another

Joy is love

Teach us how to share Joy with one another

Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Let us rejoice together today!

Confession: Reflective Questions

Do you make a better host or a better guest? 

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street: How did you get to this church family?

—Take a moment to Pray for all the church, the past members, current members, the children, the new members.—

Creative Activity: Plant Seeds, Pray for those names that are brought in

Homework: Find someone who doesn’t go to church, say you and some of your friends at church are trying to figure out how to make our church even more open to new people so you are conducting interviews. Tell them you’ve been a Christian so long, you don’t have a good perspective on it anymore. Over (safe) lunch or coffee as questions. Listen without interrupting. Don’t give advice or answers, just ask clarifying questions. Take notes.

(Unbinding the gospel p. 83 and 84)

  1. What pops in your mind when you hear the word church
  2. Has anyone invited you to their church? What did you think when they asked you? Did you go? If you went how did that feel? If you didn’t go why not?
  3. Have you ever had a sense of God or Jesus communicating with you?
  4. If you could ask God any question what would it be?
  5. Would you like prayer for anything (pray there if it’s not awkward. If not pray throughout the week/bring that prayer to church.)

Get back to the person if they asked for prayer a week later and ask how that situation his going. 

Study Verse: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,* and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us—Hebrews 12:1

Prayer of Dedication/the Day: Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, refresh me. Water from Christ’s side, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. Be with me as I go, assured of myself as a beloved and baptized child of God. Amen. (184 UTG)

Suggested Hymns: Called as Partners in Christ’s Service, Guide My Feet, Jesu Jesu Fill Us with Your Love, In Christ There is No East or West, It is Well with My Soul

Gathering & Gospelling Worship Series

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship II

Worship II

Chapter 2 & 4: Close Doors & Create a Temporary Alternative World: Make Holy Spaces

Exodus 3:1-6

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 6He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Isaiah 6:1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.’

Create a threshold (p. 167) Do something to create a Holy Threshold Ideas Include: Anoint with Oil as People Walk in, Or give them a note that says beloved child of God, or Have a Sign or greeter by the door inviting people “Prepare for worship with us by stopping for a moment and taking 10 breaths to connect with the Holy Spirit before entering” or invite people to take a rock, mentally put a prayer into the rock and then lay it on the Communion Table

Call to Worship: (based on Celtic Awaking Prayer Looraine, Ena, Jacinta, Maree & Sally)  

http://celticspiritpilgrimage.com/services-page/

God We are longing for silence, seeking and searching for solitude

Where do we find you God? 

Running restful waters, shimmering leaves

whispering winds. 

Ancient ruins, stories in stones, Celtic crosses standing strong, ancestors remembered.

Where do we find you God?

Sacred spaces, Enriching our Souls, mysteries unfolding, God is in the known and unknown. 

Where do we find you God?

Come let us find God in this holy space.

Confession: Reflective Questions:

What is your favorite space at church?
Where do you like to pray?

What is your favorite Hymn? 

Creative Activity; Draw, Doodle, Color a Prayer

“Just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and silence in which another voice may speak” —Mary Oliver

Homework: Bring a name of someone who you want to connect to the church

Study Verse: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.— Exodus 3:5b-6

Prayer of Dedication/The Day: Holy, holy, holy God, Creator of all things. Please initiate a holy space. Between you and me, between my neighbor and me, between strangers and I. Share with us how it is you make holy spaces: when two or three are gathered, when the bread and cup is shared in our name, when water drips the grace of baptism. God, there are times you can feel the infinite grace that is contained in a single moment of holiness: when a baby laughs, when I look at the stars, when a good story is told about someone we’ve lost. Helps us to embrace these holy spaces, and teach us how to invite others to experience them to, we pray in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Hymn Suggestions: Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty, Be Thou My Vision, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Immortal Invisible God Only Wise 

Gathering & Gospelling Worship Series

Further thoughts on inclusion and exclusion and the church:

As you may be able to tell from the scripture I’m focusing on holiness and being set apart. In my mind this is more about recognizing ones call to do kingdom work here and now and inviting others—specifically as possible into the work. This means recognizing others’ gifts and that God had specific calls for each of us. For some it’s to be pastors others teachers others the oh so sacred work of cleaning this year. This also means not everyone will do every part of ministry in the church. This is why we try to honor our uniqueness and call people to recognize the holiness of their unique work both in the church and in the world.


We at church often say c’mon and help instead of I value this gift in you. What is God calling you to do with it.

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.

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

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship I

Worship I
Chapter 1 Decide Why You are Really Gathering: Practicing Communion
Communion, Suggestion: A Bring Your Own Picnic especially if you are doing Outdoor worship

Scripture
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
John 6:30-35
So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Confession: Reflective Questions
What brings you to Church Today: Answer with the first thing that comes to your head Specific and Silly Reasons are great! Prepare to Share these during Joys and Concerns (p. 33 TAG)
Where do you see God at work in your life this week?

Call to Worship:
Jesus says I am the bread of life
Come let us feast together
Jesus says whoever believes in me will never hunger nor thirst
Come let us gather and welcome one another to the meal
God is the reason we are here, let us gather in the name of God
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Joys & Concerns: Invite people to share why they came to church by mutual invitation—after someone shares they invite someone else to also share. If you have a large church, create some quick mini groups and do mini joys and concerns where people pray for one another and hear and pray celebrate whatever reasons individuals came to church that day: remember God works through snacks, the need for community, and “I don’t know.”

Creative Activity: Goal: To See God
Partner up
Think of your most important experience with God in your life.
Take turns talking for 4 minutes each (I’ll time you) without stopping. Pray for the person speaking
Switch (inspired by Unbinding the Gospel p. 22)

Homework: Bring in Food Pantry Items or monetary donations
Study Verse (print out to take home): Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread 1 Corinthians 10:17

Prayer of Dedication/the Day: God remind us why we are here. Help us to set the intention to be one body, one bread. Help us to find and include more people. For many hunger for the nourishment of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for making us accountable to you, and remind us always, especially when we get off track, that you love us no matter what. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (TAG 24 & 26 desired outcome)

Hymn Suggestions: We Gather Together, Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine, Jesus Loves Me, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, Blest Be the Tie that Binds

Gathering & Gospelling Worship Series

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.  

Gathering & Gospelling! The Worship Series based on The Art of Gathering and Unbinding the Gospel

Gathering and Gospelling

6 Week Worship Series

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

The time is ripe to invite people into your community. We miss gathering, and we need to remind one another why we do this church thing, and share its importance with one another. Thus this worship series is developed around two works.

Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters, Riverhead Books, 2018, New York, New York.

https://www.betterworldbooks.com/search/results?q=The%20Art%20of%20Gathering

TedTalk: https://www.ted.com/talks/priya_parker_3_steps_to_turn_everyday_get_togethers_into_transformative_gatherings

Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism, 2nd Edition, Chalice Press, 2008, St. Louis, Missouri.

https://www.betterworldbooks.com/search/results?q=Unbinding%20the%20Gospel

Each Worship is based upon a chapter, or two from The Art of Gathering. Some exercises and Prayers are from Unbinding the Gospel. After each chapter title is a Worship Title theme for that day.

You do not need to have read these books to do the series, but If you can read at least one it will help you in your writing and development of ideas. It is also a great companion study to read these books in conjunction with or before or after this worship series.

Proposed Order of Worship

Start with Scripture

Confession: Reflective Questions (silent meditation or music playing)

Call to Worship

Hymn

Optional: Confession of Faith: Apostle Creed or some other Confession

Children

Scripture Again

Creative Activity

Sermon

Prayer: Joys & Concerns

Hymn 

Homework

Prayer of Dedication

Blessing

An article that might be helpful for your leadership to read
https://freshexpressionsus.org/2021/05/20/what-if-they-dont-come-back-4-opportunities-for-churches-post-pandemic/

Notes about the Order of Worship: Worship is ordered without announcements, because of the “Don’t Start a Funeral with Logistics” (TAG p.175) If you must do announcements I suggest printing them out, emailing them after or putting them somewhere around Homework. Note the scripture is read 2x, Confession is done meditatively with some reflective questions for your notebook or to think about. Creative Activity is before the Sermon, and write the sermon to be about 5-7 minutes, or consider skipping the sermon/reflection if your context will allow since time will have been spent DOING the sermon as an activity.

Also decide on your context for the blessing. Perhaps you want people to bless each other or perhaps there is a formal benediction. Feel free to use the Study Verse as the blessing

If you need another hymn or a space for an anthem, feel free. Our practice is to shorten worship in the summer, and we have been having only two hymns (without singing) for Pandemic Worship.

Sample Introductory Letter

Worship 1: Chapter 1 Decide Why You are Really Gathering: Practicing Communion 

Worship 2: Chapter 2 & 4 Close Doors & Create a Temporary Alternative World: Make Holy Spaces

Worship 3: Chapter 3 Don’t be a Chill Host: Active Welcoming& The Invisible Church

Worship 4: Chapter 5 Never Start a Funeral with Logistics: Commitment: Here I am, I am Here 

Worship 5: Chapter 6 Keep Your Best Self Out of My Gathering: Confession & Authenticity & Baptism

Worship 6: Chapter 7: Create Good Controversy: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly 

Prepare: Figure Out how you will give people their reflective questions  

Have Paper and Pen Ready for each person each session; perhaps give each person a small notebook (and offer to store them), and devise how you will send the Homework and Study Verses home 

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.  

((This series has been developed solely by me Pastor Katy Stenta at Katyandtheword so sadly all errors are my own.))

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.

#BreakBlessBuild prayer (inspired by #NextChurch)

Lord, we confess we are Breaking. Shards of our personality lie upon the floor, mixed with the pieces of relationships we are trying to pick up and maintain.

It’s hard to see what parts of me are missing, because everything is so messy. I’m a mess, my house is a mess, and what is time in this mess anyway?

And we want to build so fast, God, but we don’t know the landscape yet.

How many things have to break before we start to rebuild? So far we’ve lost a dishwasher, an oven, an HVAC system, 3 phones, 2 tablets and a computer.

And they are nothing compared to the families we have broken, the healthcare system that is broken, the minimum wage is broken, education is broken, and whiteness breaks everything else along the way.

Is this how your people felt, when they lost their Temple?

Is this how Mary felt when she broke the perfume over your feet?

Is this how your disciples felt when they left you to die on the cross?

God, we are broken. Teach us to build. Help us to build peace, build hope, build relationships. Stop our hands from building structures, edifices and properties. Teach us instead to build up each other.

Bless us Jesus, with your abudant blessings that neither depend upon our brokenness or our building. Instead it is your binding–magnitizing us with love, encouraging us to love and serve one another.

Bless us, Because…

Just Because.

Break us, Bless us, Build us through our binding to you we pray.

Amen.