Communion Tastes Different Now

God, I have had many times when I realized I didn’t really know anything.

All the things I knew how to do have changed.

From going for a walk to grocery shopping.

And, so, Communion tastes different.

Do we even know how the economy works? I doubt anyone knows anymore.

Money and power become nonsensical, time itself has changed.

When I see two or three year olds wear a mask, without blinking, for three hours of nursery school.

I realize that they are the only ones who will know how the world works right now. Because they are growing into it.

Meanwhile ancient schemes are being broken

And the Holy Spirit is here, whispering new words on the wind.

And because I have changed, and I’m a part of communion, communion tastes differently now. The kingdom tastes different.

Because everything is being made new.

The whole world is indeed laboring in birth, and I am praying that somehow, all things are working together for good.

The thing about labor is, you don’t know what you’re doing

Parts of you die and parts of your body make room for the new thing, and parts of your body are never the same again.

It’s messy and bloody and it hurts like hell.

And when you are handed the child, whew.

You really realize that you really don’t know anything.

Mothering, swaddling God, tell us it’s ok if communion tastes different, it’s still communion.

Lord, teach us how to handle this new reality that is being birthed, I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt credit Pastor Katy Stenta

Here is the Link for Pandemic Prayers and Resources: Top Posts are “In an Abundance of Caution” “The Lord is My Shepherd: What kind of Sheep are You” and “Masks: A Prayer”

#rejectedsermontitles: Go Home #HolySpirit, your drunk

So…the thing about drunkenness is that its abundance, right?

Its too much…

15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.–Eph 5:18 (for a little bit about how we want to fill ourselves with other things note This Everyday Holy discussion I participated in)

Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit

My congregation had a very Holy Spirit moment one yr at a Chicken BBQ, I can’t remember what number it was, but we ordered only about 200 chickens and they were gone, in like an hr flat. And there was much panic about how few were left at the end, and how were we going to keep track and how we were going to send ppl away.

And many, many ppl who wanted to get chicken went home sad.

And we were sad for them.

And I think this is how it feels to be filled with the Holy Spirit, when the good of the situation is COMPLETELY out of control. Like, you know, in Acts when all the disciples were speaking in tongues and suddenly everyone wanted to convert. I imagine Chicken and the Bible still resulted in CRAZY GOODNESS.

I am sensing this conflict rising now, its hard not to take on “too much” in the congregation. The question has changed from “What if we fail?” to “What if we succeed”

That’s right, we are literally afraid that we will be overwelmed, that we will have too much of a good thing.

I guess that trusting in God is trusting that there will be enough room for all the people who want to come to your Farmer’s Market/exercise class/back to school celebration thing that some people crazily wants to do. (that’s me, I’m definitely in the crazy corner).

I never thought of it before but there are too reasons not to do something, bc it might succeed, or it might fail.

But we take on too much, we are overflowing, thats when we grow.

Poor Holy Spirit, no one wants to drink of you, because when we do we change, it is by far the most bombastic member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes you blurt out the truth in sticky situations, to cheer out loud whether its appropriate or not, to make you offer something of yourself that your weren’t planning/didn’t even know you had to offer.

But that’s what makes her so good.

Now imagine that we got drunk on that!

(Ps I recommend Mann’s Book The In-Between Church for congregations that are subconsciously  dealing with fears of growth)

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.*

Quotation-Madeleine-L-Engle-people-Meetville-Quotes-185385

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 🙂

John 3:1-17: Narrative Lectionary, first thoughts

Less than compelling than Nicodemus in a tree (I mean Zecheus is way more fun story)….I mean really, they are secretly meeting to…..discuss theology… and to make matters worse, this is the where all the “Born agains” get their terminology…..As Beuchner says, the problem isn’t being born again, its proclaiming it like your a Super Christian

John 3:1-17

3Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Pneuma: Wind, Spirit….we will be born on the wind, or the spirit….because “the wind blows where it chooses” Fresh air…the winds of change will blow us, and being born again/born from above (this is a pun in Greek that means both)… We are able to be MORE flexible because of God (not less) You know some great examples of winds of change (beyond the Holy Spirit) Mary Poppins Image Wizard of Oz Image You know the old serenity prayer? I think its a good one…. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. But maybe another viable version is God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change the courage to change the things I can the graciousness to grow into changes around me and the serenity to know the difference.

Another good resource on this passage 🙂

Think One Person Can Change the World?????

We do too

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That’s where they got me. I mean I was pretty sure that Oberlin was the undergraduate program for me. I had talked to the dweeby guy, stood up to my counselor “You sure you want to move that far away” (um…DUH I hate high school), and all, but when I got the packet with Oberlin’s old motto, it got me.

I also probably should have realized that I was going to be a minister then, because I was kind of like one person has changed the world (ie Jesus) and he has totally empowered me to do the sameImage

…ah the confidence of youth….

But if you know me, I am the eternal optimist, so I hopefully haven’t become too cynical since then, even though the world keeps on giving me worst and worst news….bad economy, little jobs, sucky compensation for work done, the evaporation of pension funds, the need to put off life (marriage, house, children etc) due to the aforementioned problems, wars, fiscal cliffs, national debts and taxes.

However I believe there has been a cultural shift in the last election–it hasn’t really to do with the president but more the fact that racism and bigotry has been limited due to the backlash for some representatives comments Re; gays, women, abortion, etc.

Part of that change was examined in my last post Open Source Culture (Go Millenials!)

Thanks to a recent conversation with my philosophical compadre Charlie, I have crystalized some of what I have been writing towards in the last couple of posts. (PS he totally pointed out that at least in a democracy we all have a vote that is value–talk about power)Image

Churches need to do the following to Change the World

Build a Community that

1. Forgives Debts: That’s right, be proactive, do a kickstart, open donations, find some way to address indidividual’s debts in your community–I suggest starting with student debt since that is the least questionable kind of debt. What if we as the church worked to communally Forgive as many debts as possible?

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2. Be multigenerational: Church is one of the few places where different generations interact who are not related. Embrace this. Keep young people in church, give them a special space to be look at one example. If we make those connections that otherwise can’t be made, then we are providing a service. (and of course this means making worship accessible to those spiritual but not religious people).

3. Finally Educate, educate, educate. Why are people in debt? In pursuit of education. What if church’s provided free community education: relieving debt and bringing generations together in one fell swoop (HA, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) I would love to spearhead a million different educational opportunities for my community, because that is a concrete way of helping people.

THink one church can change the world????

REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please