About love and tradition and cultural differences. I asked (rather timidly even) if race played a part to our reactions.
And soon I found myself hip deep in a quagmire of pain.
People were triggered. They felt they needed to defend their pain.
And it was hard God, and part of me wanted to take it all back. Because I don’t want to create heartache.
But then I remembered two weeks ago when someone asked me hard questions about love and inclusion and the brokenness of the system that I perpetuated.
And although that was embarrassing and hard. I lived through it.
And in reflecting this experience I remembered that part of why I asked the hard questions this week was because as of last week I was tired of us: me, the church, consumer culture, ignoring hard issues and perpetuating whatever was comfortable for us.
Did you ever notice Jesus really likes to answer a question with a harder question?
You deconstructed me Lord. And I confess I need you to bless this mess today, because I’m going to be in the deconstructed zone for a while.
Because once God starts to deconstruct you, it becomes easier for you to see other places where the threads of normal need to be pulled apart.
And you can choose to continue the work God started, but it’s up to you.
So I guess I’ve reached a new level of maturity, where I stay in the muck longer than is comfortable, and I feel the anguish of racism on top of the anguish of those in pain.
And as my heart aches, I am thankful for all the times I was able to say:
“I don’t know. “
And “I hear you.”
As I sat with the pain and let go of the reasons and the arguments.
Do you sometimes say I don’t know God?
I don’t know
But thank you for helping me to brave the muck; and help me to muddle through, or sit, or cry. Help me to do this hard questioning thing I pray.
Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
Jesus, when you were born. A political and religious refugee in the midst of a religious apocalypse, in an occupied country, with no citizenship or even personhood to be acknowledged. Brown Hebrew child born in the frailty of a human skin, did you ever long for normal?
When you scared the, excuse me, BeJesus out of your parents and taught in the Temple, did you wish that you could have been a normal boy running with your cousins where your parents could easily find you?
When you preached your first sermon and almost got thrown over a cliff, when your cousin John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded, and as you wandered around with a bunch of smelly disciples who were really great guys but who didn’t really get it. Did you worry about humanity’s obsession with being normal?
When you healed on the Sabbath–taking the withered hand into yours, touching the forbidden flesh with your flesh, ignoring the precepts of the day. Did you think, but yeah normal is overrated.
When you reached out to the Samaritan woman and banqueted with the tax collectors and enjoyed the miracle of feeding thousands of people with meager faire, is that when you thought, in your anachronistic, asychrononius way that normal is only a setting on the washing machine?
I bet that when you told the storm to shut up, when Mary bathed your feet in perfume, and when you climbed the mountain to hang out with Moses and Elijah you really embraced that your normal is counterintuitive and counterculture and anti-institution land anti-nationalism.
I bet flipping those tables felt really good, Jesus.
So here is my prayer, that we don’t go back to normal, not really. Because normal saw a lot of wrong and a lot of idols and a lot of vanities. Normal was all about the have and have-nots and racism and inequity and cis-hetereo-patriarchy was the name of the game.
I hope we know, that THAT game is already lost. Because Jesus promised, has and will always win.
And there ain’t nothing normal about that.
Thank you Jesus, for all that you are, and all that you stand for–fix our fixation on normal, and focus our eyes on you and all that you stand for: equity, sanctuary, healing and love, we pray in your mighty name Jesus.
I used to know how things worked, but I don’t anymore.
I guess, this is the moment you write a psalm.
A prayer that cries out to God, for all the injustices in the world.
The missed vacations, friends and fun.
The skipped memories, rituals and milestones.
My God, why does life work this way? Why can I look at a cheaper mortgage when others can’t pay the rent?
How is it I’m in the position of privilege, when we almost didn’t make it out of the last recession?
Lord I used to know how things went, we worked, the kids went to school, we tried to find time for socialization.
Now I discover the hidden histories that were in plain sight all along. I finally understand the racism that I’ve been trying to see for the last ten years.
Suddenly I’m understanding the economics of pastoral care and relationship.
Lord I am surrounded by fear and illness. My enemies spread discord and lies, and care nothing for the vulnerable.
I guess I’m writing this psalm, because psalms don’t resolve anything.
They just affirm that our God is the one who cares for every single person, our God does not even let a sparrow or a sparrow’s feather to drop without God’s knowledge.
They reflect that God is….somewhere…. shining through the cracks–showing us opportunities to be helpers, reminding us that when we are lucky: we need to care.
So here is my Psalm God, my crying out of obscenities at the injustices of the world, and my shaking of the fist at all those with hardened hearts.
Let every person have enough to eat, give every person a mask and the opportunity to stay safe, help us to stop being stupid.
Remind us to be as consistent as we can (something humans suck at) as we try to fight this pandemic. As it rips of the bandaids that we have put over racism, inequality, poverty, education and childcare and housing, help us to see the world as it is.
God, we are wounded and bleeding. Hear our cry.
We are begging for you God, to do your work. Please love all of your children, because some days that best I can do is get out of bed, shower, call someone and not sink back into depression.
Love doesn’t make the list as often as I wish, and thankfulness is not as dominant as I’d like. Heal me, save me I pray. Heal us, save us we pray.
I used to know how things worked, but I don’t anymore. So here is my Psalm.
Lord we used to know how things worked, but we don’t anymore, so here is our Psalm
Lord in your mercy.
Hear our Prayer.
Feel free to use as needed credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
Rewritten 1st Corinthians 13 in light of today & pandemic
If I speak with all of the authority & power in the world, but have not love,
My voice becomes blurred and untrustworthy.
If I can move mountains, changing laws, changing history, changing minds, and have not love–my work becomes meaningless
If I proclaim victory: that we are “great” the “best” the “most” and talk about all I have done for my family and my country, but have not love. I in actuality, have gained absolutely nothing.
Love: does it’s best to wait til after the danger of disease has passed to hug a loved one.
Love does not compare leaders, all of whom are doing the best they can to keep people safe.
It does not gut medicare and ignore the vulnerable and the elderly in the nursing homes as it boasts that it is doing everything possible to save lives
It is not racist or bigoted, It is not ignorant or panic-inducing.
Love is not irritable or resentful–it wears a mask out of love, and pays the essential workers more, and understands how reliant we are on one another for survival.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, it does not ignore the racial discrepencies in illness, treatment or quarantine enforcement.
Love rejoices in the truth, even when it is hard.
For it is through love we bear all things even in sickness and death, it believes all things even in joblessness and loneliness, hopes all things: even as singing is silenced the hope for the opportunity to sing again persists.
Love can endure all things.
Even when we can’t believe it especially, when we can’t believe it.
Love endures all things
Love never ends: As for prophecies: promises of the future beauty & success: it comes to the end.
Tongues: chattering gossip and lies–they too will cease.
Even knowledge: will come to an end as humans are limited and to think we know more than a grain of how the world works is hubris.
For we only know bits: facts & science serve as only the beginning, and we can foresee some other bits: arts and gospel serve to extend our knowledge beyond our own sphere and experience.
But, when the complete comes, the partial will end. God will give all knowledge to everybody. And it is up to us if we experience that knowledge as judgement or grace.
For I am but a child of God, speaking and reasoning like a child: babbling the bits of love I understand to God and other humans.
When I fully mature: when I join God, I will put away childish ways: jealousies, regrets, conspiracies, imposter syndromes, competitions and internalized bigotries and self-hate will fade into the foolishness they are.
Now, I can barely glimpse God and love: sometimes I feel it when I briefly glimpse myself in the mirror and can actually affirm, for a moment, that I am God’s beloved.
Someday I will see love, God, each other: face to face.
Now I acknowledge that even in the best of time, I can only know things in part.
Someday I will know fully, just as I am already full known by God.
Someday I will fully know myself, and I will be fully known by others, and acknowledged as belonging–not a piece or part of me, but all of me, as a created beloved piece of God’s love.
And as Faith, Hope and Love abide today.
Someday there will be no need for faith and hope.
So fully will we be bathed and punctuated by Love.
Feel free to use for sermon/worship/prayer with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
At the beginning of the week, and saw that the passage was about prayer. Thank God, because no matter what happens this week, I know that it will apply.
Then the African-American caretaker of an autistic man was shot……
I am the mother of an autistic child. Right now he is small and cute. When he flaps his hands giving “exclamatory hands” to excitement or frustration, its not very threatening, and if he does throw a tantrum he is still small enough that I can pick him up in a worse-case-scenario.
As the mother of an autistic child I can say, I don’t care who this police officer was aiming for, this was a terrible action.
So what am I supposed to do, pray?
What can others do for me and my son, pray for us?
Prayer is often used as a comforting action–but that is not its only purpose.
When you pray for someone, you are placing them in God’s hands. You are enacting love. You are opening yourself to be in relationship with them.
Whenever there is a harsh disagreement in the church congregation, session (board of leaders) or the Presbytery (our higher governing board). I will be the first to raise my hand and call for prayer.
And I’ll tell you what it is difficult to immediately stop and pray, the temptation is to continue arguing, the temptation is to prove that I am right, and that you should be listening to me!
This is exactly when prayer is needed, though, because you are trying to focus on God, to change your own individual perspective. Prayer is an act of Holy Imagination, where the world is viewed as the beginning of what God wants for us. God’s priorities and love are given voice and precedent over our own perspective. True prayer, opens oneself to actively love others, and that love is changing. That action is one in which we practice persistence to build a practice and discipline of prayer.
Time after time the most effective antidote to bigotry and prejudice is not education or knowledge. Its not about who is on the “right side of history.” Its having a relationship with someone who is different than you. Its knowing and loving a queer person or a person of color or one who is trans, female in leadership, or living in poverty.
Love is dangerous, because love changes your perspective.
Praying for someone is looking at them and loving them. Praying for another person an act of loving God, one where you recognize the other person as a child of God.
Just as Jesus looked at Martha, and then loved her, and then spoke to her last week.
So too are we called to love each other. Prayer is a discipline by which you practice seeing the world as God wants it to be, so we are more equipped and enabled to bring that world into being. Praying for one another is loving them through all the joys and hardships and struggling to find community with them, especially when we disagree.
Prayers are so much more than a comforting platitude, prayer is one of many disciplines by which we are able to get things done.
when of our baptismal questions is do you denounce/reject Evil?
i always joke this is the easy one, who isn’t against evil? But as the news of violence and hatred pile up. I wonder why it’s so hard to act against evil?
Min the Belhar Confession there is a rejection piece that condemns wrongdoing–and I find myself, over and over again, condemning the bad things that have happened.
So here’s me practicing my rejection and denounciation of evil!
I condemn senseless murder. All of it. I condemn that African-Americans are unduly targeted, I condemn that trans women of color are the most murdered and abused of our population, I condemn the ways our Latinx, Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Native Americans (as well as countless other minorities) are silenced and erased, I condemn that people are killing police officers, I condemn small children being run over on holiday in Nice, I condemn people dying who were dancing, I condemn the violence against those who use the bathrooms who don’t look gender conforming, I condemn all efforts to divide by calling some groups racists and others anti-police. In the name of The Belhar confession I condemn any threat to unity and recognize that separation is a sin Christ has already defeated. I will continue to work towards unity and reject the sins that are prejudice, separation and bigotry.
I am done with it. No more!
I will stand behind every humans right to live, breathe, laugh and love no matter who they are. I will resist the temptation to compare and separate and will work to treat all humans like the creations of God they are!
its been a crazy week. I’ve in essence heard the Good Samaritan story three times.
First time was with Alton Sterling, then Pilando Castile and finally with the Dallas police officers who were targeted. This in the wake of Orlando is wearying.
And then we hear the story of the Good Samaritan and the lawyer asks but…who…who exactly is my neighbor?
My flippant answer is whoever is close enough to annoy you. And as you know people can be pretty far away and still be close enough to annoy you.
My more serious answer is those you are close enough to hurt. This is an amazing thought because you can be very far away–all across the world or thd internet and still be able to hurt someone.
The counter to that is that if you are close enough to hurt someone then you are close enough to hurt someone then you are close enough to help them.
the Good Samaritan story was so revolutionary because the Samaritans were so politically and religiously at odds with one another. They would desecrate each other’s temples, burn each other’s buildings and fight over the same land and water. When Jesus tells this story it angered people because it’s like telling about Muslim and a Christian or an African American young man and a police officer. This was Jesus’s answer to Who is my neighbor.
The Belhar Confession, which is being adopted by the PCUSA was written by Africa about apartheid. We in the USA don’t seem to have apartheid until you look at the kind of violence that is going on and how it hurts African-Americans until you look at the kind of violence that is going on and how it hurts police officers.
Belhar Confession is about unity being both a gift of God and our duty. I don’t know what to do about African-Anericans being stopped for minor violations and things escalating so quickly. I don’t know what to do about police officers being targeted for violence. Unity Both a gift and a duty because God says we belong to one another.
We belong to one another because we each of us are called to bind up the wounds of the cops and the African-Americans. We belong to one another because Jesus has loved us into being showing us how love affirms our??? identity. Christians need to love like Jesus. There are no “buts” I this love, it’s not I love you but… It’s I love you and We belong to each other.
Real love is the kind that takes nothing away from you it affirms and does nothing but add to your identity it’s a live not based on your value or progress or perfection. God made us each unique and still belonging to one another. The word of God is not to believe in God and be the same, but love one another and affirm each identity so we add to each other.
Love is a language that doesn’t even compute in the financial, political and corporate world . That is the kind of love we are called to practice because we belong to one another God gives us to one another as a gift and it’s something to also work for. We belong to one another. Who is my neighbor? All those whom we are close enought to help. This is the word of the Lord thanks be to God!
I’ve heard the original words this plays off of are by Amy Young.
Mothers come in many different forms, and today we celebrate them all! We confess ourselves as the children of God: each of us is a son or a daughter.
Bless those who are mothering in strange ways and times, for we know that God is with them. We remember Elizabeth who had a child in old age, we remember Mary who had a child as a teenager
For all those mothering people who are not here, for whatever reason and help us to take some time today to give thanks for their lives, and to grieve their absence. We remember Esther who grew to be a mother of faith, without having a mother of her own.
We give thanks to all those who have acted in love, mothering those who need it in their lives: the single fathers, the aunts, the grandmothers, those not tied to us by blood all of whom provide the care we need. We remember the Pharaoh’s daughter, who took in Moses in his time of need and became mother to him.
For all those parents who have lost a child, we pray and honor their parenthood We remember Naomi who grieved the death of both of her sons.
For those who feel their family is not normal, who feel motherless or childless, we pray forgiveness for forgetting or ignoring those for whom mother is a complicated word, for whatever reason. We remember Sarah who was taunted by her own mother and sisters for her infertility.
For those for whom the church is their family, and see God as the mother they need, we give thanks. We remember Ruth who committed herself to her mother-in-law’s family, fortune and faith.
We give thanks for all the mothering people who practice waiting, waiting for a phone call or a visit, who are far away from the children of their heart for whatever reason. We remember other unnamed mothers, like the mother who had to wait for the prodigal son.
Help us to celebrate the full meaning of mother today. Lord let us celebrate all motherhood in all its forms, today and everyday in honor of you God: who birthed all creation into being. Amen.