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.

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church: Credo Reflections

“Trust the Process”

Credo is a great program started by Episcopalians and picked up by the Presbyterians to help with clergy health and welfare (emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, financial). Its a process to work, worship and create so that a rule of life can be developed.

This year the Presbyterians are running the first ever early ministry model. (Previously it was only available to mid-career). I was lucky enough to be pulled randomly from the hat to attend. Its a support network to help what is now the overworked life of the clergy today.

I would say, for me, the process was a success. We shall see how the rule of life plays out and whether I can use the accountability tools helpfully.

Here are some interesting things that emerged for me….

1. Many of the pastors there were wishing to start a new church somewhere…

Which makes me wonder, what is that about? Are we prophets of the future? Are we wishing for a system with more pull? Is this what revolutions look like? Or is this how we manufacture hope? What is at the root of this and how does it effect the church in general as we go forward.

2. I also heard that a lot of people wanted to write, really write something, either through a blog or a publication or something. Recently I read a blog (I wish I could find it again) about the fact that pastors are writers who get paid

I personally feel that is true, I write sermons like I wrote my English/History papers (which I double majored in). Writing papers every week in undergrad was a good warm up to solo preaching.

So as we look forward, and as CREDO happens next year, I wonder, what can we do with these amazing revelations.

 

Small Church, New Church, Old Church, Blue Church–the clergy seems to be moving in a similar direction

Especially considering that us Presbyterians believe the Holy Spirit works by consensus 😉

 

 

Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

Narrative Lectionary: Saints, Prophets and Love!

Let it be known that I am pairing this week’s scripture (of which I am using 1 Kings 19: 9-15, John 12:27-28)

with 1 Corinthians 13:1-3….

Saints, Prophets and Love, oh my!

1 corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Something about the sound of Love, and Silent presence, Silent Love are among my musings…I feel like this ties it all together…

So I am doing THREE readings for Sunday (how unpresbyterian of me boowahahahahahah)

Something to consider as you sermonize!

PS Hallows not Horcruxes might make its way in there too!

Sermons are Art

Sermons are Art

Sermons are art, sometimes they rock, and sometimes they don’t. Its less of a quotient of how many hours you put in, and tends to be where you are emotionally, are you feeling creative, is your imagination engaged, can you connect to your audience, is it relevant and yet provoking.

I’ve always said, I wish every sermon was a masterpiece, but since its art, it doesn’t work that way. There are practices and disciplines that help you to be a better artist, but never any guarantees.

This brings me to Presbyterian Today their articles about arts in the church (Shout out to Katie Douglass who pursued arts even while she did her doctorate at PTS)

Arts and Church Art as worship and considering popular culture (ie arts) and religion (cough, cough Science Fiction/Fantasy and Religion anyone? Read about Faith and Dr Who & Star Trek here)

and  Whether Sermons are becoming Obsolete…(well depends what you mean by sermons)

If we aren’t approaching Sermons as an art, but instead only as a form of communication or education,  then we are not encouraging creation, we are merely communicating about it. And I really think that is missing God’s point. If its art, then the format is far more open then are first and second definitions of sermon imply!!!!

Open Sourcing and Laziness

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Ok, so what if this open source movement which started with the music companies and the digital downloading (actually it started with the record button on VCRs but I’m too youngImage to remember that). Was a cultural shift today? If you look at communities sharing businesses, etc. this generation is into open source

Examples include Relayrides, carsharing, CSA, community gardens, couchsurfing, firefox, anything Wiki and of course probably the most famous and one of the first Linux

Opensource means sharing information freely so that the community benefits. Granted making money by sharing your car isn’t a direct example of open source, but the free sharing of when you use and don’t use your car helps to free it up so others can use it (see what I mean). It also can hint at laziness because your are using someone else’s work/resources to get information. You didn’t do the work yet you get to benefit from it!

When it comes to Spirituality, my generation also tends to take a more open source perspective, enjoying all of the knowledge that comes from religion and then choosing what they want to practice (hence spiritual not religious can mean anything from a vague idea of God, to a number of spiritual practices that just to happen to exist via the church). I think this is a piece of culture of millennials that older people are missing. In fact there is a slight movement towards Open Source Theology/Christianity Read Landon Whitsitt’s book  or blog(http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/11/27/pecans-and-pastors-continued/) or checkout http://www.opensourcetheology.net/ and the Bible without Religion Project http://jimpalmerblog.com/rfv-bible-religion-free-version-by-jim-palmer/.

Which brings me to the “lazy” idea. There is this idea that unemployed people are lazy, and since roughly %40  of those who are unemployed are under the age of 30 I take great offense of this. Every single person I know is looking for a job, those who are employed are either underemployed or unable to make enough to support themselves/their families (this is esp. true for families where one spouse has found employment and the other is more limited in their geographical choices). It isn’t that we are lazy, its that we can’t find work, and we have to make do in the in-between. (And if you think people don’t want to be working, do me a favor and offer someone a job and see what they say)

In the meantime we are making do by sharing, by returning to trading times, goods and services for things instead of money. Something that started as an internet phenomenon (free information: its everywhere) became a necessity as we couldn’t get to work, and the reality that working harder has not meant that we do better/make more money or are more successful. Since we’ve seen through the promise of “work hard and you’ll succeed” (because that’s what we were told growing up).

If you mean we won’t work harder for little to no rewards, if you mean that we don’t have our eye on the prize, if you mean we are less possessive and are becoming instead an open source generation: then yes, I guess your right we are lazy Instead we are doing what we need to make ends meet and then using our extra time creatively.

But I, instead, see it as a cultural shift away from materials and valuing information, a place where timeand space are seen as more definitional than profession or monetary status. Image

Yes, boredom helps creativity, and yes we as a generation are bored, there is little to no meaning in our lives, and all the things we were taught to strive for (no student debt, professional fulfillment, financial security) are inattainable–but that boredom is giving us creativity. And if that is a side effect to our so called laziness, I’ll take it.

I see this as a moment for change…

Go Laziness, Go Openness, Go Millenials, I wonder what we will do next

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God Can’t work thru…

The next time you think that God doesn’t work through a president, an annoying person or a bad situation, remember all that God has worked through.

Noah drank

Rahab was not virtous

Saul persecuted

Christ was born in a manger

If you can’t see God in the picture, it is because you are too caught up in your human bubble–rest assured, God is there, and God will do amazing things you never even thought of

A True Story

A teacher and a nurse are left with a faltering church. The teacher is practical and into appearances and the nurse is into rule following and order. Both women help to run the church for 40+ years. In all probability should either of them not have been there the church probably no longer exists.

Neither woman likes the other (in fact there are rumors of the women’s mother’s hating each other), but they are there the two pillars of the church. In walks a policeman. The policeman is new, and yet he gets to irritate both the teacher and the nurse. The teacher hates how he wants to lay out everything in rules, the nurse hates that the policeman likes to always be right.

A new pastor walks in and insists that God wants all these people to be a church.

The people all wrangle, manipulate, yell and complain.

But the pastor says that God put everyone in this church for a reason.

Much more goggosomen,grumblings murmuring and mutterings occured (See John 6:35-51 about goggosomen)

Then the pastor insisted that the church continue to be a church

Then an argument broke out, it might have been between the policeman and the teacher, or the teacher and the nurse or any combination of said participants.

Words were said, aggression became passive for some and active for others.

And in the end the pastor looked at her scripture, threw out her sermon and preached on the Golden Rule in light of the fight that had taken place not ten min before service.

Jesus commands us to love God, anyone who has loved a person with depression, addiction or bad days knows that love is hard work. Happily Ever After is just the beginning of the commitment.

That is what we are doing here as a church–we are vowing to be together forever, to love no matter what and to work on our relationships.

Who here doesn’t have relationships they need to work on? Church is a place to work on those through the empowering and life-changing love that is personified in Jesus Christ.

And every Sunday, every time we gather, whenever two or three gather in Christ’s name–the tone should be that of a wedding, for we are renewing and living out our vow…

The story doesn’t end happily ever after–because the church is too busy, too busy renewing their vows, working together and attempting to love one another no matter what.

Because whether or not the church needs us, or whether or not the God needs us…

The church wants us, and God wants us….God wants to love us, God wants us to reflect that love unto the world so that our entire being is changing…..

And that is something the pastor will avow to till the end of her time!

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(funny thing, all these professions are public sector jobs, note the above comic portrays a teacher, a policeman and a nurse)

Deuteronomy 6:4-94Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

Mark 12:28-34

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question

“Once a pastor has turned you off from talking to them, they have failed. After all, that is their whole job to be available to talk to them. So if you go off alienating people or judging them, you’ve not only done someone else’s job, but you’ve already failed at being that person’s pastor”

Realitieis of pasotring, otherwise entitled “if its ever in my job description to judge people, then I’ll quit” (my ministrial motto

 

Shannon A Thompson

Author. Speaker. Librarian.

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