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?

Image

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.”

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.

Let’s Talk about Debt…

Debt is a big problem for us. Even if you don’t personally have debt (hooray) the United States as a country walks around with billions of dollars in debt every day.

What does this mean to be in debt? I’ve decided it means that you are empty–you have are literally worth less than nothing when you are in debt. And here we are in debt.

If you’ve ever studied the book of Ruth there is a weird legalistic part at the end. Instead of an immediate happily-ever-after between Ruth and Boaz (I love that fact that she proposes to him, talk about being ahead of the times!) It basically has to do with the fact that if you take on Elimelech’s indebted land, then you can make it fruitful again. However, if you have a son by Ruth you are then beholden to that inheritence instead of you own. I think thats it. Honestly, scholars disagree. They aren’t really sure what all was meant, and when Ruth was written down it was already ancient history because the whole sandal thing had to be explained.

Image

Anyway, what everyone agrees on is

A. Elimelech’s land had laid empty/fallow for many years and the debt on it had to be redeemed in order for it be planted again

B. Ruth was part of the deal, and Ruth was so obviously (at least as far as they knew in Biblical times) barren, because she didn’t have any previous children.

So here you go, empty land, empty family.

In many ways we the mainline church have the same problem with empty land–have you seen our crumbling-on-the-sale-block-only-six-people-attend-here churches? (the irony being that non-religious people are always sad to see churches close, what is that about anyway???)

Ok but without getting too tangential, we as a church are empty.

Then there’s me, well us, well my entire generation. I grew up during the boom years, I was told that as long as I work hard and do right things will work out for me. Yet here we are (and I speak from my personal experiences and those of my friends) struggling with debt, purpose and fulfillment.

Opportunities are so scarce for my generation, and many people have had to put off marriage, children, settling down or even being able to start their career due to the economy. Every single person I know has had to live off of their parents in some way, shape or form post college.

Married, single, graduate, post-graduate, post-baccelerate, even those with children have had to get help, move in with their parents or follow their spouse across the country only to work a menial job hopefully sort of in their field.

So what is it people want when they come to church?

They want somewhere, where they are no longer empty. They want somewhere where they can be fulfilled. And (more importantly) they don’t want to feel judged. Us Milleniumers, Boomerangers (because we return home), us zero-ers or whatever you want to call us feel the weight of our own emptiness.

All our hard work seems to be for naught, much of what we are characterized by is our selfishness our need to be special our consumerism etc.

I can say (in total biased opinion) that this is not true. We don’t all think we are special or well-deserved, we just hope we might be a little bit, and our experience of adulthood (do you know my second week of undergrad was 9/11/2001–my entire adulthood has been shaped by our post 9/11 world, whereas my entire childhood was pre-9/11).

Do you know what Young People think of when they think of church? Antigay (i.e. judgemental and bigotted). I cannot tell you how much this hurts me. No wonder people think church has nothing to offer, no wonder it seems nonsensical and out of date. People don’t associate church with love and service, but rather selfishness and closemindedness. Plus the church is trying to figure out how to bring people to the church, when instead we should be figuring out how to bring church to people.

So here we are, empty. What does it mean when we forgive our debts? What does it mean when God Fulfills God’s promises?

What does God offer us that is different from the regular activity?

Here is a need, plain and simple, for many “young people” and most people in general. A need to find fulfillment and worth outside of money, a way to struggle with debt and yet not to feel empty, and definition that exists outside the bounds of the day-to-day slog. So what is fulfillment, what is forgiveness. How does debt figure into all of this, and should the church heed this desperate call of the empty young professionals today, or do we continue to figure out how to survive without worrying about these problems!!!

I feel a VERY strong call here to do something about this, what if the church stood in the way of debt, what if we showed how God fulfills us, what would happen then?

Farmers, Markets and God

Well,

2 weeks in, and our Farmer’s Market is going fairly well. It is also very time intensive! Here we are in the middle of summer, and our stats stand as follows

 

Grand Opening over 200

Rainy, Rainy 2nd week 65

Overall, I think that we are doing pretty well–however as we begin this ministry of farming and marketing, I am trying to tease out the theology behind the market.
Why are we selling vegetables? What space does it provide the community? Should I be doing more “religious” looking stuff? Are we touching people–doe we get the word out? How is our advertising anyway? Do we have enough farmers (a lot of our vendors sell things other than vegetables)? What is growing out of this seed that is being planted (get it)?

You can tell there are a lot of questions….and yet, its exciting. It’s exciting to do something new, to see the church pull together, to actually have people want to come into our humble parking lot (which is apparently a lot less scary than the church building itself)…
So we’ll see what develops, in the meantime, I’m enjoying the adventure…..

Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the doors…

ImageWe all say that the church is the people, that being said, my church spends more than half of its budget on the building. On the one hand, no one objects to the money that is needed to heat, repair and maintain our building. On the other, I’m rather uncomfortable with this use of our money.

demotivational poster CHURCH

If the church is about people, then we really shouldn’t be spending so much on the building. Having committed now to put forward 10% of the offerings we receive towards mission, I find this commitment both inspiring and sad. Are we really only putting 10% of our money in the community? Are we really going to worry about every dime we spend, or can we figure if we have the  money that means that God wants us to do it.

Image

I don’t know if I believe in balanced budgets or buildings. I do believe in fulfill our responsibilities though (i.e. paying contracts, keeping buildings safe, not overspending and blaming our lack of money on God or each other). I know that’s probably an auxi moron but there we go. I am also aware that my church provides important community space, but I also am aware that we are in the Landlord business–and I really don’t feel like this is the kind of ministry I wish to be doing….

Here’s what I do think.

I think we should be CHURCH BUILDING not just a church building. I think the church needs to be located at the center of the community, and if the people don’t come to us, we should follow Jesus’s example and go to where the people are.

So what should we do? Sell the building? Become nomads? Be more creative with our uses of space? Where are we the most church? How can we hit the streets more? I am especially struggling with this as many churches are closing and many church buildings are empty or for sale–and what really gets me is the community, those who live near the church and yet never attend it, sees this loss as sad. What is it with the associations we have with “the Church” as opposed or in conjunction with “the Church Building”

I am still struggling to find the answers to these questions. Anyone else have thoughts?????

The Feeding and Care of Pastors….

Pastors only work one day a week, and it’s a half day, Right????

I think my new thing is to ask for an budget for weekly exercise. I find it hard to find the time, energy and money to exercise. Yet if I sign up for a class I inevitably attend, enjoy it and ultimately get sick less, which is a win on all fronts…oh yeah, and to continue to ask for more staff–I always think we need more staff, because I am feeling overworked

In fact, I find in general that anytime I overwork, I get sick. It’s just the way my body works. Not eating or sleeping regularly? There’s no getting away with that….I just get sick, get an enforced day off, and am not happy while I’m at it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath

So that’s it, eat, sleep, and hopefully exercise. Contrary to popular belief pastors do not  work only half a day, its more of a on-call-and-thinking-about-your-job-24/7-type-of-career. When we say that we are called, we really mean it!

Maybe the confusion comes from the following facts

1) I love my job

2) I truly care about all those in my ministry

3)I have work-a-holic tendencies.

Add it all up and it means that when I’m working, I don’t always look to be hard at work. It is hard to separate my “work” self from my “home” self (maybe because they are almost the same thing), and I have trouble setting time aside for myself.

Take last week, Monday I worked all morning fielding phone calls for the Farmer’s Market Grand Opening, that afternoon and evening I prepped more stuff for the opening and wrote the bulletin. Tues Morning I ran our Mugs and Hugs Playgroup, immediately after lunch I came back to help to set up then I stayed until 6pm for the market. That night I worked on a bulletin for a funeral.

Wednesday I spent the morning home with the family (normally my open door office hrs), that afternoon I spent with a family for their visiting hrs at the funeral home. That night I finished the bulletin for the funeral.

Thursday I conducted a funeral and burial (at the graveyard), accompanied the family for lunch, that night I packed for a trip

Friday I travelled up to Silver Bay for a retreat of Presbytery (the governing board) and slept over. Sat I returned early due to babysitting difficulties (after the 2nd sitter called out with the stomach flu I gave up), Sat night I prepped for worship/Sunday School.

Sunday=Adult Sunday School and Agape Worship.

Image

Then there’s all the things I wanted to do: prepare more stuff for the farmer’s market, pick up signs from the shop, plot out my scripture passages for the next month, visit all the shut ins (this is esp. due because I’ve been sick), visit some of our community connections, foster relationships, pray more, oh and rest up since I’m on meds for laryngitis (remember how I said I get sick when I don’t take care of myself…well point made God), this doesn’t even include any of the personal stuff I wanted to do…

How do I resolve this? I think I need to set stronger boundaries, but I also need to train my congregation to take better care of me. I am the most likely to take care of myself if someone else reminds me to do so. My husband helps with this, but I still have a long ways to go to doing it “right”. Someday I’ll get the Jubilee right, in the meantime, I’ll strive to keep a better schedule…..Imagel

Lady Jabberwocky

Write with Heart

A Pastor's Heart

Thoughts on Life and Faith

10:00 am Worship @NCPC

Won't You Be Our Neighbor

Martha Spong

Clergy Coach

r e F o c u s

a ministry for transition

Church Set Free

Love is the answer - now what's your question?

Living Contemplatively

Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

PNEUMYTHOLOGY

ROBERT LAMBERT JONES III

A Spirit Filled Life

Seeing the Sacred in the Everyday

Improvisations

thinking outloud online

G-Free Rev

Knittin' and Preachin'

Infinite Windows

Meditations on faith and art

Mom Meets Blog

Managing motherhood, midlife and a blog

This Everyday Holy

Ordinary Living in the Lectionary