Jacob: The Trickster

Jacob is a loveable trickster: a character we often identify with–the loveable thief, the passionate adulterer, the rogue hero.

One who gets his inheritance by tricking his dying father to giving his blessing (i.e. will) to him instead of Esau.

He is even named as a rogue–as heel grabber is the translation of Jacob

you know the whole pull yourself up by your bootstrap culture in America? Jacob did the opposite, he pulled himself up from someone else’s bootstrap (heel). This ability, no doubt like all talents is a gift and a curse (as Adrian Monk would say). Every piece blessing is a gift, and a curse. For example, I am an extrovert, most of the time it is great, except when it isn’t ūüôā If I don’t extrovert enough during the week, I am in sore danger of extrovertly exploding over people.

Gifts are meant to be used, when you write or sing or extrovert, its both a duty and a joy. You don’t do it for recognition, you do it because you have to. In that way it can be a blessing…and a curse.

Jacob has stolen Esau’s inheritance…last week our lectionary covered the¬†Abrahamic Blessing¬†the promise to father a nation and spread the blessing through it…when Jacob took this blessing he did not know that this blessing carried with it more than wealth. This is a blessing to be used…or its a curse.

Why do we love rogues anyway, what is it that makes them so fun? There is something about a rogue that means, just because they don’t follow the rules doesn’t mean they don’t have a heart. These are the human wish for redemption, our ongoing story for hope…

So, here is Jacob, on the run from his brother Esau who at best will be really, really mad for Jacob stealing his inheritance, and at worst is out for blood. He is out in another country, in the middle of the desert when he dreams…

He dreams of Angels. Angels who (we know) are not Precious moments cutesy babies, but are something scary to behold. They are going up and they are coming down, they are in-between, in short they are everywhere. This must have been scary enough.

Then God¬†stands next to him¬†(that must have been terrifying) and says I am the Lord of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac” remember, this is Jacob who just took all of his father’s blessing, so when God says he is Isaac’s God, it carries much weight! Then God promises that Jacob will father nations, that his descendants will own the land and that they will spread like dust North, South, East and West. God promises “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you¬†and will watch over you¬†wherever you go,¬†and I will bring you back to this land.¬†I will not leave you¬†until I have done what I have promised you.‚ÄĚ”

What does Jacob take out of this conversation? That its too much? Does he see God’s promise as a threat (you WILL father nations) of responsibilities? Does he refuse to hear what it is that God is saying?

No

Jacob says…probably in a quiet voice of wonderment “I didn’t know God was here.” He didn’t know that God was with him. He didn’t know that God sought and found him, that God was his keeper. Jacob ought to be the last candidate for God to be with, tricking his way into inheritance, but yet, God was still within him. He didn’t know. He thought he had to be right, and brave and good for God to love him.

I didn’t know God was here…There are many places where we don’t know God is present.

1 in 10 people have mental illness, 1 in 10 struggles with addiction, 1 in 5 women have been sexually abused, and more than that have been victims of abuse. If we needed to be “whole” for God to be found, then about half of us would be statistically disqualified (actually that’s fuzzy math, but you get the idea)… For those who are Spiritual but not Religious, they might say¬†I didn’t know God was here¬†feeling that we make impossible requirements for answers and perfection.

….But we know our God is not a fixing God though. God does not simply take us apart and put us back together as new people. Our God is a creating and blessing God, working with what he made, as it exists in the world. God is present where we are, improving on what God has given us as gifts and blessings. Identifying who we are in one word, and blessing us with the next. God is like a “strengths-based counselor” building on who we are and what we do, so that we might become a better version of ourselves. Building off Jacob’s trickster nature and naming him as God’s own in order to make Jacob wonderful….

Church should be a place to do this, a place for broken rogues, tricksters and scoundrels, a place of hope. It should be a place where we all don’t know that God could be here. A place where we welcome people who know nothing, after all we know nothing too. God tends to show up in the ways we least expect it (in tricksters, in a women, in a stable, on the cross)…we could all know nothing together.

After All…

God could be found here too.

Millennial Preacher

“With the Bible in one hand, and Facebook in the other”

My sermon writing involves

reading scripture

praying

facebook

reading commentary

rereading scripture

online news articles

blogging

Outlining sermon

catching up on twitter, tumblr, etc

reading all of my favorite people’s posts (I have a great gay rights friend, an awesome scholarly pastoral friend and couple of fantasy Geeks)..to feel “up” on the world

renegotiating my sermon

thinking about illustrations

In the morning I

pray

read scipture

read outline

edit my outline (which usually means completely reordering and changing everything)

listening to conversations of congregants

holding in my heart the status of the church

realizing how the hymns/prayers add nuance to my sermon and trying to jot them in

Preaching and trying to stay focused

Leading Prayer, Praise and Worship, Blessing and Benedicting

Talking more to people ūüôā

Going home and collapsing…

It is the most artistic, emotionally engaging and wonderful hour(ish) of my week.

Followed by a nap

Why I Am (Still) a Presbyterian

christopherjoiner

It happened again yesterday. I lose track in the last nine years how often the question comes, but for some reason yesterday was a tipping point that sends me today to the keyboard and this blog.

Here’s the question (asked sometimes kindly and sometimes with less kindness, but always basically the same):

‚ÄúWhy are you still in the Presbyterian Church (USA)? Don‚Äôt you know it is in decline because it is too liberal/too conservative, too traditional/too trendy, too political/not political enough, etc.?‚ÄĚ

Well, here’s why.

1. I think God is big, in the sense of sovereign, in the sense of ‚Äúsuch knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high, I cannot attain it‚ÄĚ (Psalm 139:6), in the sense of ‚ÄúO the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!‚ÄĚ (Romans 11:33). John Calvin thought this was the most important message of scripture, and the PCUSA thinks‚Ķ

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Thanks!

I have reached 250 posts and 100 followers about the same time! Then today (midafternoon) I’m already up to 51 views! The blog has seen amazing growth in the last month, and sustains a VARIED audience (wahoo!!)

Thanks for all the reads, likes and comments!

What Young People want in church

What Young People want in church

YES, YES, YES

“So here are some of my thoughts about this. ¬†Please chime in as you feel so moved.

1. Young people want innovative things in church. 
Now, this is going to seem to stand in direct opposition to what I said above, but bear with me. ¬†Far too often faith communities latch onto the word “innovative” and think it means media in worship services, contemporary bands, and so on and so forth. ¬†This is wrong. ¬†This was maybe innovative 20-30 years ago. ¬†Maybe not even then. ¬†When I say innovative, I mean different from ordinary life. ¬†I have a smart phone and a laptop that are with me constantly. ¬†I am constantly connected and surrounded by a multimedia, multi-sensory experience. ¬†In the church that I attend, I want something different. ¬†We actually want to be fully present and have an experience of the divine. ¬†We are not looking for entertainment. ¬†Which leads me to my next point…

2. Young people want church to be part of the world
Congregations have gotten into a nasty habit of trying to appeal to young people, or furthermore any new people, by trying to make their churches as much like the “outside world” as possible. ¬†This rests on at least two¬†problematic assumptions. ¬†First, that the church is separate from the world and, second, that we want to be isolated from it. ¬†This is not true. ¬†Just because your congregation has a coffee cart in the narthex, doesn’t make me think you are cool and certainty doesn’t make me want to come attend worship. ¬†We want churches that are in touch with their neighborhoods and our country and our world. ¬†This is not limited to once-yearly Habitat for Humanity builds or mission trips (that is another post entirely) to Mexico once every couple years or collecting food for the food pantry. ¬†No, young people want their congregations to share life with their communities. ¬†The good, the bad, and the¬†ugly, which leads to…

3. Young people want church to be a place where they can be real
Coming of age as a young adult right now is a lonely and terrifying proposition. ¬†We are disproportionately unemployed. ¬†We are the first generation who are “worse off” than our parents. ¬†We are drowning in debt. ¬†We are putting off getting married and¬†having children and owning homes.¬†¬†We will likely never realize the American dream as it has been known in the past. ¬†We are being bombarded with demands to “hold it together” and maintain a certain image because networking is important and we “never know what contact will help us get a job”. ¬†There are very few places where we can be truly who we are. ¬†Where we can share our pain and disappointments and joys and fears. Church can be that place. ¬†But most of all, we want to be heard in all of who we are, which brings me to…

4. Young people are tired of having assumptions made about them
“Young people” are often seen as a commodity. ¬†And furthermore, seen as THE commodity that will save the church. ¬†A church is seen as thriving if it has young adults and we sometimes feel only like numbers and a bullet point in the strategic plan. ¬†We are talked about and around and all sorts of people have ideas about what we want and what we need, most of which is wrong. ¬†There is a pretty easy way forward. ¬†People could ASK us what is important to us, which leads to…


5. Young people want to feel valued in the church

We want to have opportunities to serve and learn in faith communities. ¬†But it is not as simple as keeping the existing structure of volunteer positions and leadership structure and plugging in young adults. ¬†How about getting to know us and identifying and nurturing our gifts? ¬†This is an entirely opposite approach than currently exists and it is scary. ¬†If you want us to lead, you might have to step out of the way to make room for us. Which leads me to…

6. Young people aren’t interested in maintaining the status quo in church
The Derek Penwell article,¬†What if the kids don’t want our church?, has been floating around for awhile ¬†and I have even written about it on this blog before. ¬†This is painful but I am just going to say it, we don’t really want your church. ¬†This is not a value judgment. ¬†It just is. ¬†The Baby Boomer generation is perhaps the first in American history that has had such a wide swath of products and experiences targeted especially towards them. ¬†They received this well. ¬†And this huge and gifted generation has assumed that everyone else wants the same thing that they do. ¬†We do not. ¬†We want the same opportunities that you all have received to re-imagine and re-shape what church can be. ¬†Which opens the discussion of…


7. Young people value authenticity
Authenticity gets thrown around as a marketing tool, particularly in churches. ¬†Young adults have a finely tuned ability to smell inauthenticity and nothing is more pathetic than a carefully crafted facade of being “authentic.” ¬†We want congregations to recognize their own gifts and identity and live into that. Not every congregation can stand for everything and not every congregation is going to be able to be a place where young adults find a church home. ¬†But that is okay, because we need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do what she will and form and reform our congregations and our leaders which leads me to my final points…

8. We are open to where the Spirit is leading us and we want our churches to recognize that
Those of us who are a part of faith communities are incredibly faithful.  Our religious practices look different.  We want to discuss theology in bars with our friends.  We want to experience worship, not just attend it.  We want to sing hymns loudly and badly in pubs with our congregations.  When we start becoming engaged in congregations, it might look different than our parents and grandparents, but it is no less valid.  

9. Those of us who sense a call to serve want to be raised up as clergy in the church
We are young.  We are faithful.  We are LGBTQ.  We have tattoos.  We sometimes swear.  We have made mistakes.  We will continue to do so.  We are no different from you, yet we are so different from you. We need to be mentored by you, but we also need for you to allow us to fly and to be moved by the Holy Spirit.  

10. We want to hear when we need to step back and let a new generation lead
We won’t be young forever. ¬†Even though we are often the youngest in congregations, we will continue to age. ¬†And if our church communities are doing what they hope we will, we won’t be the youngest. ¬†And we need to learn when to get out of the way for something new to happen as well. ¬†At that point, we will need you to help us know how to gracefully step aside. ¬†“

Ozma of Oz, Eon/Eona, Song of the Lionness and coming out of the closet

Ozma of Oz, Eon/Eona, Song of the Lionness and coming out of the closet.

Reblogging this in honor of http://www.queertheology.com synchroblog on Oct 1

Here are some of the thoughts I had earlier about this

If I’m in disguise, and I think all of this is a part of being Christian, what parts of Christianity are being unexplored when we are exclusive. What do gay men and lesbian women experience in Christianity that I miss out on? How about single parents, immigrants and the transgendered?”

Short Story: Library Monsters….by Katy Stenta

“Why is there no down?” the boy-boy asked the librarian, looking for the elevator button

“There is no downstairs” the librarian chuckled, “Well there is one, but you can’t get there from here?

“Why? What’s down there” child asked 2 more of his 300 questions a day (249 already, his mom didn’t mean to be counting, but she couldn’t help it once she heard that children tend to ask 300 questions a day)

The librarian raised her eyebrows “I think there are library monsters”

“Are they nice” boy-boy recklessly asked, (250 questions)

“I can’t imagine mean monsters living in the library”

The boy-boy went upstairs with his two little brothers, until the library closed.

As the library closed, the boy-boy (and his mom and brothers) went out to the steps to wait for his dad to join them)

While they waited, a natural game of chase arose up and down the steps and looping around the ramp…(and at times climbing upon the railing, although mom kept trying to say no)

Then a mumuring began…a kind of quiet celebatory roar

Naturally the boy-boy had to know “What’s that noise?” he piped out, asking the noise, then the stranger and then finally his mom (253 his mom thought).¬†

“It could be the monsters” mom said, just as the noise quieted

The boy-boy imagined Library Monsters–Piling books up high….Sliding up and down the railings of the library steps, snuggling the animals, messing with the toys. He imagined the monsters had a million eyes, and would spend long hours looking at books–and that during the day they would listen in the pipes to the adults reading them out loud.¬†

Just then the noise started again, and the boy-boy whispered “See you soon” as his dad came down the steps and the family got in the car, and he didn’t ask another question……until they arrived at home!

Shannon A Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

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