Rejected Sermon Titles: Jesus and disabilities

Mark 2:1-22

Psalm 103:6-14

There is a certain amount of mourning that goes on when you have a child with disabilities. Immediately you start to try to figure out “what went wrong” which is code for who to blame. Most people start with themselves. When I found out Westley had autism, I worried about my two week trip to Israel while I in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. My mom pointed out that genes are formulated way before that.

My husband talked about his own worries “You know I”m neurotic, and I have ADD” for that matter people in my family have ADD too, and I didn’t eat most foods for most of my life because the textures bothered me, but sure it’s solely your fault that our child has autism.

I think in all societies there is a tendency to try to blame someone for disabilities and the imperfections. We try to find the sin that caused  the sin. It is here that we can start to understand that it was more shocking  for Jesus to forgive the paraplegic man than it was to see a bodily healing.

Eventually I have come to conclude that no human body is perfect. Not one of us has a body that works perfectly. We all have things that are different. And we are all sinners, we all are imperfect in that way too.

What causes this forgiveness and healing is the communal faith. The parapalegic faith, and his four friends. His friends who haul him up onto the roof, dig a hole in the grass and thatch and lower him down through the roof. Perhaps the lowering through the roof was less amazing than the fact that probably the friends had to touch this crippled man in order to get him to Jesus.

I wonder what that moment was like. I wonder if Jesus saw them trying to get through out of the corner of his eye, or if suddenly a man just appeared out of the sky, like an angel.

Like Jesus lowering himself to human level.

Like a miracle of community.

Then Jesus says because of all of their faith, not one, not another but all including the paraplegic man, he is forgiven…and then healed. Per usual in the Bible faith is used to describe the beliefs and actions of faith (as opposed to belief which is used in ref. to the individual). Not all of them had the same faith or beliefs, all of them had different bodies and skills, but together they formulated the faith for forgiveness and healing.

That is what we practice here in church. We pray for one another when our bodies don’t work well, when we sin, we work on forgiveness together. This church is a communal thing, because that is how we see Jesus.

When in Doubt: Thomas Narrative Lectionary Prayer

John 20: 19-31 and Psalm 145: 13-21

Call to Worship: Lord we come to know you, So Lord we come to taste and see the kingdom through communion, Lord we are full of doubts, So Lord, we come to touch and believe that you are the crucified God, Lord we are full of worry, So Lord, let us confess together, here, that you are “My Lord and My God” today. 

Prayer of Confession: Lord we confess that we are much more likely to remember people’s moments of doubt, then their acts of belief. We call Thomas the doubting one, when he was the one cheered Jesus’s return to Lazurus, willing to risk stoning and death. Too often we worry about our doubts, instead of embracing our triumphs. Remind us, here and now, that you are our Lord and God in times of both doubt and certainty. Let us confess you as our Lord and God, even when we aren’t sure, we pray.

Assurance of Pardon: God is faithful in all God’s words,and gracious in all deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down. Therefore, we can be confident in the truth In Jesus Christ we are forgiven, Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering Prayer Lord, let us go into the world, ready to find and hug Jesus. Do not allow doubt to be a stumbling block, but instead teach us how to share the love of Jesus Christ in such a way that all might hear it, so that we might be better dedicated to you we pray. Amen.

Prayers and Liturgy by Pastor Katy Stenta who is the solo pastor at a bigger on the inside church in Albany, NY and enjoys reading fantasy, soaking up sunshine, playing with her three sons and visiting her husband at his work, the library.

Being Open to Interpretation, #faith

Faith is opening oneself up to interpretation. Laying your whole being and existence of the line in order to interpret

the who of oneself

the why of existence

the where to now of being

These interpretations are done, usually, using a text, speaking from the Presbyterian perspective that text is the Bible, followed by the Confessions of faith and the Book of Order (our rules/discipline/consistituational documents)

But opening ourselves up to interpretation means being open to the interpretations varying, and interpretations themselves to change, because GOD is not a static being.

Consistent and faithful–God can be counted on.

Generally most people think God does not change, altho this does little for the times in scripture when God changes God’s mind (go figure).

But I say, if God can change God’s mind so can we.

If God is not static, neither should our faith.

If something is not growing, its not alive, we want a lively faith, we need to be growing in our interpretation and our understanding.

I have learned so much, by listening closely to all those people whose faith is especially different than mine. To my one best friend who never was churched but has a strong sense of God and Jesus. To my other best friend who was raised more Pagan than anything else and has a strong sense of the Greek & Roman Mythos of the world.

To my siblings all of whom are millennials, none of whom attend church regularly.

To all the fellow-clergy on twitter & Facebook who are feeling our way through social justice issues and the state of the world.

To my LGBTQUIA community who can interpret scripture in ways that are beyond my ken as a hegemonic individual.

To my brown sibs and and black sibs who are empowered, loving and honest in ways that need to be heard.

Here I am, open to interpretation, and my faith informs that, and the scriptures equally are being interpreted and re-interpreted.

And I read the Bible, and that is Canon, but I read the other texts too, Langston Hughes and Madeline L’engle, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Malala Yousafzai, Elias Chacour, and so much more.

If you are asking a questions of faith, be sure to be open to interpretation, hard as it is.

For you know, that’s the kind of faith that will change you.

#Christianity, you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means

1. Christianity to me isn’t about finding all the answers, but asking the essential questions (look at the Gospel its people asking Christ ?s and Christ asking people ?s) gathering together and acknowledging that God is bigger and greater than our understanding of things, and we’d rather see thing more God’s way than our own way, because our way is too small

2. Church is a the practice of community and worship so that when moments of extreme trouble come, you have a healthy way to bring them to God and process them. (Like fire drills). Every week isn’t revolutionary but every week is important.

3. Church is about community, there are few places where we commit to practice community with whoever comes thru the door Church is a practicum in faith just as its a place to explore spirituality.

4. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between you and God. As it is an ongoing, unique and individual conversation, my job as pastor is to act as mentor, guide and/or teacher. Where you are with God is based upon who you are, that’s why relationships with God can change a person because the two are so intertwined. This is why mature Christianity is (w)holistic Christianity. The kind where the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell you how to vote, but you have an evolved understanding of learning what God’s purpose is for the world and you apply that purpose wherever you are and as much as possible.

5. Faith is about seeking out relationships with God, people and the world. Loving things into a more real, truthful and essential existence than what they have before that love. Its not about controlling another person, quite the opposite, its freeing them to be who they are.

The Meaning of Children

There is  a great series about parenting, faith and life going on here.

Sadly I was too overwhelmed to officially attempt to join, but these are my thoughts.

I have known and loved so many children already, and its been a blessing. I cannot remember a time without young children in my life. I am the eldest of four children, my youngest sister is 10 years younger than me. She is about to graduate from college this weekend. At Oberlin I worked at Headstart, at Princeton Seminary I was the Children’s Ministry Coordinator at a local church, and then I started having children of my own.

Three

Three Boys

I like to say…I have all the stuff.

My children have taught me a lot about individuality and acceptance in that each and every one of them is unique and different.

My eldest (7) is a dramatic leader, he love performing, and projects. I like to say he’s like me without the adult super-powers. He is wordy and smart and argues about EVERYTHING. I do mean everything, he verbal processes every single decision.

My middle child (5) is different. He has severe communication problems and not so severe physical coordination issues. He is empathetic, easygoing and overall a complete sweetheart. I think he only can understand 10% of our verbal communication, yet he goes with the flow and throws himself into group activities with joy.

My youngest (3) loves cars, rockets, stars/moon and baseball and basically everything stereotypically boys…took three to get there, but we got one. He likes to entertain himself, and cackles cutely when he is making trouble.

My kids are not perfect, and there is no way to treat each of them equally, they are too different. In fact, parenting skills are obviously NOT the only thing that molds a child. However, I think they are comfortable. They know they are loved for who they are and their skill sets and trouble spots are accepted.

I often think of how God loves and accepts each of us. Of how when we ask people to be exactly the same, we are really saying that God does not have enough love to share it with those who are so different. Its too hard to love different children.

Having three different children, I think that I have enough love for each and every one of them, and my husband (which of course is yet another kind of person) and I don’t love them for being the same or different or perfect.

I love Franklin’s sense of momentous occasions

I love Westley’s way to lead you to what he wants by holding your hand.

I love Ashburn’s cackle of delight when something surprises him.

I love being able to love them.

For more articles be sure to check out some http://miheekimkort.com/2015/05/17/the-meaning-of-children-you-suck/ for the month of May and June

#easter #smallchurch #emptytomb #emptychurch #nextchurch

Church-Mostly-Empty-Pews

And then all the Christians looked at the church, the pitifully empty pews, and asked each other. Where have all the people gone?

But the real question they were asking was where is Jesus? Akin to finding the empty tomb, we can see the emptiness, the absence……and we say to one another “‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” and weep.

And then Jesus meets us on the road, in the “real world” and instructs us not to dwell by the emptiness but to go and tell people that he has arisen.

Empty Church, pshaw, it is but the beginning of the resurrection story–Go on, go out it the world and tell them, wherever they are

“I have seen the lord” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

John 20

 

20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Millennials, Fantasy & Faith (and why does Katy keep putting them together)

Here is an article about our continued consideration of the “God is dead” question…

“Was Nietzsche right in thinking that God is dead? Is it truly the case that—as the German sociologist Max Weber, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, believed—the modern world has lost the capacity for myth and mystery as a result of the rise of capitalism and secularisation? Or is it only the forms of enchantment that have changed? Importantly, it wasn’t only the Christian God that Nietzsche was talking about. He meant any kind of transcendence, in whatever form it might appear. In this sense, Nietzsche was simply wrong. The era of “the death of God” was a search for transcendence outside religion. Myths of world revolution and salvation through science continued the meaning-giving role of transcendental religion, as did Nietzsche’s own myth of the Superman.

Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.”

 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117082/nietzsche-and-death-god-new-books-peter-watson-terry-eagleton

 

Deep, deep thinking in this article and in these reviewed books. This is a response not only to this, but also the Pew Research Poll on Millennials (which I believe I was surveyed for)…..its time for us religious folks to look beyond culture and get creative in trying to understand where people are and why they are there–ie the unattached, economically underemployed yet hopeful millennials

This is an article the re-examines the “God is Dead” question from a modern perspective….Here is the way I understand it. Nietzsche, in light of the prominence of science, tried to make a moral code not dependent on religion.

Interestingly enough, this move away from religion relied heavily upon a “Superman” theory, in my nonexact layman’s terms think of it as the “myth of progress” which is the story/belief/mythology that humans are getting better and will always continue to get better, It is a different theory than the theology of Reformed Christianity, which states that the human condition is an imperfect/broken one, but that God intervenes to work within and among the gaps to create his new kingdom.

Here is one of the most exciting parts of this article, for me “Yet Watson is not mistaken in thinking that throughout much of the 20th century “the death of God” was a cultural fact, and he astutely follows up the various ways in which the Nietzschean imperative—the need to construct a system of values that does not rely on any form of transcendental belief—shaped thinking in many fields.”

Why, because I see where that played out in culture/the fantasy genre, and I THINK ITS CHANGING in the 22nd century!

If you are a fantasy reader, you quickly notice a trend in 20th/most of the 21st century fantasy (ie since Tolkien  formalized the genre)–technology is on the rise, and magic is recessing…sercreting itself away and becoming more and more inaccessible. Imagination is on the decline, the elves are retreating across the sea, the Ents are disappearing, Oz is put under an invisible bubble, the Neverland Fairies keep on dying, Narnia is very remote and mysterious, there is only one unicorn left and she is the last. The fantasy genre usually is a reflection of the Western understanding of spirituality. The more science comes, inevitably the less faith will play a part…..this belief was so true in 20th & 21st century.

Behold the changes

J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Muggles and Magic live parallel and not so separate worlds, and once you know about it, you are a part of things (and muggles and wizarding folk are all related in a myriad of ways)

Charles De Lint/Neil Gaiman: Fay are a PART of the cities, they integrate into the varied spectrum of the city, oftentimes helping to explain the richness of human interaction. Ex: Charles De Lint “ I’ve taken to calling my writing “mythic fiction,” because it’s basically mainstream writing that incorporates elements of myth and folktale, rather than secondary world fantasy.

Once Upon a Time/Fables/10th Kingdom: The meta-fairy tale genre is relatively new in literature and cemented itself in the mainstream media with Once Upon a Time. No longer are we “stuck” in one fairy tale/one kind of understanding of magic/one culture–but sectarism gives way to the fact that we can all learn from one another and get a greater understanding of ourselves and the human existence! (rather like how the internet now instantaneously exposes you to so many other stories/people than ever before)

 

I really, really think that we should be studying this change, because it signals a CULTURAL shift in how we understand the human condition and faith. No longer are we sure that technology will change everything. Instead, the increased exposure, the uncertainty of the economy and the advances in technology have all influenced the Millennials.

Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

If you read the about me statement of faith, you will see that I don’t believe everything all the time (technically I think that’s impossible). However, I stand as a Christian and trust that God fills those gaps for me (partially thru the church). Here is a post about a pastor who is wrestling with belief/doubt, and faith and what atheism means. It raises good, complicated questions about how pastors and churches should be looking at faith…

 

“I was trained to believe that there was no hope outside the Cross. That people are constantly looking to fill the God-shaped hole inside of them. That we are all looking for a Savior. I am not so sure about that anymore. Sure, some people are. Others are content to live in the moment, find happiness where they are, and simply be. Wherever I come out, it will not be the reformed charismatic pastor/theologian I once was.”