Money=Symbol

I still remember when the stock market was falling. I had just decided (luckily) to stay another year in school, and the market was doing horribly, and everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off saying “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” no wait…that’s chicken little. ImageThey were actually saying “The market is falling, the market is falling” which of course just made the panic and therefore the downturn of the market worse…

2 things get me about this

1. If someone with authority had just said, Stop, calm down, let’s take the time to think about this–instead of throwing money at the situation as quickly as possible things might have gone better (and I am totally bipartisan in my blame here)

2. Money is not what we think it is…

Anyone remember when gas was under a dollar a gallon? When I was 10 (that would be 19yrs ago–yes you may do the math of how old I am 🙂 ) I remember gas sometimes being as cheap as $.89

And when I asked my congregation if they can remember one cent candy, most of them could (alas that was before my time) ImageThe point being that a dollar is not really a dollar, and that money is just a symbol.

To us it means status (yes)Image but its more than that, we trust the value of the dollar, to us it means security something we can depend on. But you know what? Money is not security. People like to think about money in the bank, or land ownership as guarentees. People like to talk about job security (is there such a thing). Heck, we even have a system of money that is named Social Security.

Do you know that our dollars aren’t backed by silver anymore? It used to be money was the symbol of the silver that backed it up in the treasury–now its backed up by nothing.

So what I have a question, what makes money an effective symbol? Probably its quantifiable and tangible nature. We have put a piece of paper out to symbolize commerce, and so we are able to better conceptualize it.

This is why tithing is so important, it isn’t just about giving money to the church–its about your relationship with God. If you give money to God regularly, then you are going think about God whenever you deal with money, hence changing the very way we deal with money in the day to day–it changes the symbol. (Maybe this is why research shows the only way money makes you happy is if you give it away see amazing TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness.html for more)

Now…what if God was our security? What if we depended not on pieces of paper but on God to bring us through. What if we, in essence bank of God.Image

How much God do you have on you?

Do you have enough to get you through the week?

Can you share some God with me today?

Need more God, better go back to the bank (Church) where theres enough God to go around..

As the church, are we “generating interest” in God? Are we growing our funds? Are we accruing more God through our actions?

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Because after all, God doesn’t grow on trees…

PS Scripture Matthew 19, note 2 things 1. When the man is foolish, Jesus loves him first before he responds in ANY other way, Jesus loves him & 2. Jesus promises to increase everything a hundredfold–which is great because it clues us in to the fact that this love isn’t really quantifiable…hundredfold is a better interpretation than a hundred, because it isn’t exact, it is more a SYMBOL of what is going happen (besides who can handle a hundred spouses, speaking as a married woman who finds polygamy BIblical yet crazy, I couldn’t even handle two 😉

Anyway, the point being, Possessions are just symbols

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Re-reading Harry Potter

 

In Chapter 24 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry makes his cataclysmic decision to go after the horcruxes, he begins to sound like Dumbledore.

 

He speaks simply, directly and with authority

 

He thanks people, retains information, and still acts in empathy and sympathy with Griphook and Ollivander.

 

 

He becomes quite …dare I say… pastoral in his demeanor….

Interesting….

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what I believe….

When I worked at the Psychiatric Hospital as a chaplain, one of the things I would do as often as possible was a Spiritual Assessment: Basically to get a feel of someone, their faith, and how it may or may not support them.

 

 

One of the questions was “Do you feel hope?”

 

And more than once the answer I got was, “no, not really, maybe someday I will.”

 

i.e. I’m hoping for hope

 

To me, this is the essence of the Christian question….

 

When a father brings his son in Mark 9 to be healed, Jesus says he can only be healed by belief, and the father says “I believe, help my unbelief”

 

 

 

In PCUSA we have a great deal of rules and order. We have systemized theology so that we have a complete (well complete as humans get get) picture–we put all our information about God out on the table, and we desperately try to leave nothing out. Why? 

 

 

Because we don’t know everything, so we hang on tightly to those things we do know.

 

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Two things about this

 

1. Church is for unbelievers: Its for those who don’t know whats going on, and the more we make church for unbelievers the more successful church will be 

 

2. Church is for faith: Faith is not something you can hang onto–one minute you are walking on water, the next you are sinking fast. However, Church is a place to hold onto faith when you yourself don’t have any. We don’t have to believe all the time, because Jesus does. And we can both believe in Christ and not believe at the same time–>I don’t know what I believe

 

 

What an honest statement. I don’t know what I believe….

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I believe in love

 

I believe that bad things happen in the world

 

I believe in discipline

 

I believe in human brokenness

 

 

I believe in being a good person

 

 

I believe I can’t do it alone

I believe life is a miracle, every single time

 

 

I believe in relationships

 

I believe in science, math and the order of the world

 

I believe that someone is behind the ordering of it (most of the time)

 

I believe that there are intangibles that are as important as tangibles

 

I believe there are connections that are beyond desciption

 

I believe that humans have a purpose

 

I believe in God

 

I believe that good and evil both exist, and there is a struggle between them

 

I believe that I can’t understand that struggle

 

and I believe that God would never leave us hanging and alone ie I believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit

 

I believe that God is a particular person, not a nameless entity, I believe that we have complete free will and that God controls everything

 

I believe in auxi morons

 

I believe that God is timeless, and that often we mess things up by trying to constrain God with time (time travel anyone?)

 

I believe that most of the time I believe all this, and I believe the the church helps me when I believe…and when I don’t….

 

But I believe in hope, and if you don’t have hope, I believe you should hope for it! (Isn’t that what waiting for Christ is? Hoping for Hope!)

 

Voldemort “The old argum…

Voldemort “The old argument’ he said softly. ‘But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous prononuncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore.’ ‘Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places,’ suggested Dumbledor.” Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince (British ed.) 415

Voldemort, looking for love in all the wrong places 🙂

Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing, you ask who that may be, Christ Jesus it is him. The Lord of hosts his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle. And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We shall not fear for God has willed for his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness Grim, we tremble not at him. His rage we can endure–we know his doom is sure. One little word will fell him. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

“Conversion doesn’t hap…

“Conversion doesn’t happen by forcing people to believe things the same way you do. I figure if Jesus meets us wherever we are (whether it be at a well, in the tree or on a cross), then we should do the same. Do you know what happens when you force someone to run when they can’t keep up? They fall. You don’t want to cause someone to fall by forcing them into a belief they don’t have. If someone has doubts or is an aetheist/agnostic you have to meet them there and let them reach the next step through loving them wherever they are. That’s what Jesus did.”–Pastor Katy Stenta

 A good ministry moment today. 

Soul Beauty

Embracing God and self identity, that’s what is about folks!

the beautiful changes...

In a world where too much ugliness happens every day–much of it on the internet for millions of eyes to see–let’s take a moment and celebrate how one young woman has transformed a moment of ugliness into one of beauty.

It all started when this photo, taken without the subject’s knowledge, was posted on a website that invited mocking and cruel comments.

Then this happened:

“Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled 🙂 However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I…

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Hunger Games

Sometimes I feel like we can really relate to Hunger Games. Luckily things aren’t quite as bad as during the depression, but for me student debt is a real and heavy weigh in on my life as I tot up the bills and work towards providing for my family.

My friend Charlie says student debt is palpable (we graduated the same year) you can see it weighing people down when they enter a room.

So, here we are, hunger games–who are we sending out as our sacrifice? Who are we going to watch struggle for entertainment. You know what happens in hunger games, everyone is hungry for something. Even the rich city people are always eating, eating, eating (then they throw up to eat more). Why? Because they feel empty inside.

Jesus addresses emptiness, not by telling people to deal, not by pointing out people’s faults, and certainly not by giving them false platitudes.

Jesus sits with people, Jesus meets people, gets to know them, and (always) calls people by name. Maybe that’s what everyone is hungering for–even those of us who hear their name called out by crowds, those who are followed by the paparazzi and have their lives on public display (Duchess of Cambridge anyone) really just want someone to REALLY know them, to REALLY be present with them and to REALLY call them by name.

If the Hunger Games are about the games we end up playing because we are feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually hungry (um…like we do in politics maybe), then Jesus is not about Games. Jesus is about reality, Jesus is about being the real you, Jesus is about the truth of the world, and the Real-ity of Re(a)l-ationships! And if we are asking who is going to be the sacrifice, the answer was, is and will be Jesus Christ, and we don’t need “God in the white house” Imageto know that (did anyone else see that meme?). Because God is bigger than the white house, God is bigger than America and God is bigger than a world economic downturn. If you think we have control over where God is, frankly that is are humanity showing (oops)

If you don’t believe that, then there is no point in preaching the gospel in third world countries, because they are in no way on equal footing to our problems.
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Say it with me, Jesus is about Love and graciousness (not being judgmental, putting our morals on others or creating the world for Christ). God is HERE, love is HERE, let’s act like it. And please let’s think before we say something about how “other people were raised” or what “real morals” are–God loved, talked to and did not make anyone feel bad about their mistakes, he forgave and gave them a chance to change. If Almighty God can do that, then we should at least try to do the same–ImageRemember, no one convinced anyone of anything by yelling insults to them over the internet. People have been changed through true acts of lovingkindness (or hesed as its called in the Old Testament).

Me: “Who does Westley (m…

Me: “Who does Westley (my 2yr old) say hi to?”
Congregation: “Everybody”
Me: In fact he’s quite militant about it. If you say hi once, you are doomed to continue to say hi to him all day!

Best synopsis of my sermon about welcome today. Text: Mark 9:30-37

30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 

Beauty and the Beast

I may or may not own a billion different versions of Beauty and the Beast. (Plus some figures, snowglobes and plastic McDonald’s toys)

Why? Because its my favorite fairy tale. Why? Because its the first/best fairytale and it is so TOTALLY theological!!!! (did I put too many exclamation points there?)Image

Things to know about Beauty and the Beast which I have disseminated from years of study (no seriously I have been convertly studying fairy tales for 8 years. First as an “English” major at Oberlin, then as a theological student at Princeton)

1. It is the FIRST fairy tale we know of

2. It evolved from what is the last myth we know of: Cupid and Psyche (in “The Golden Ass”) written a couple of hundred of years after myths were in styleImage

3. Before Christianity, the “happily ever after concept” did not seem to exist in stories….In fact the theological differences between Cupid & Psyche and Beauty and the Beast are amazing but I will write my thesis on all that later (hopefully). Today we’ll stick to B&B

Next thoughts

If you haven’t read Beauty and the Beast, I invite you to do so on literally the best Fairy Tale Resource today (I mean literally, I’ve done the research) at Sur La Lune http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/beautybeast/index.html

1. The prince/beast is a fallen man somehow either through his own or his parents brokenness. Usually his outer ugliness mirrors his inner ugliness (The Fall from Grace Anyone)

2. His Salvation/Transformation into his former/real/best self is through Love

3. Beauty Loves Beast even in his ugliness

4. Beast regains his life/and is transformed through the pure love of Beauty

(PS how cool is it that the Christ figure is a girl in this one)

1. Humanity falls and is ugly

2. Humanity’s hope lies in God’s grace through God’s Love

3. God loves us, period.

4. We are born again/from above and transformed

And we all will live happily ever after!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.–1 Col 19-20

All the nations you have made
will come and worship before you, Lord;
they will bring glory to your name.–Ps. 86:9

(PS concerns and questions about the every knee shall bow language will be addressed in another post, so don’t worry)

Now that I’ve blown your mind (or at least reminded you to hear “Be Our Guest” again) I invite you to read any/all of the following, and if you know another Beauty and the Beast that you like let me know in case I haven’t read it.

(This may, perhaps, possibly in the Disney version make Gaston into the devil…hehehehehehehe)

Good Versions of Beauty and the Beast

1st John 4:7-18 (I’ve copied it below)

C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader Eustace’s Story

Beauty by Robin McKinley & Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley (yes she wrote 2 good ones)

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

Cupid and Psyche in the Golden Ass (Hi, Chloe! I love you!)

La Belle et La Bete directed by Cocteau (black and white one of the 1st films, look at the effects, I mean this was before computers)

Beauty and the Beast the 80s TV show

10th Kingdom (in a lighter vein)

Donkeyskin/Tattercoat/Alleirauh are very similar (though different)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley (I know, but I couldn’t help myself)

Fables Comic Series (note: main characters)

and of course the Disney movie/play

1st John 4:7-18; Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Shannon A Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

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