#RejectedSermonTitles: Time is Wibbley-Wobbley

Time is nonsense.

Ecc 1:1-11; 3:1-7

Humans have created time, like lines in the sand, to help us to keep track of things. This makes sense because we are namers, our job is to name things, explore them and understand them.

We are human, we compartmentalize. Time is human lines in the sand, just like countries, they are human ways of dealing and understanding the world. Tools that are useful, but do not tell the entire story.

But have you ever tried to make time for something, or to spend time on just one thing? Its difficult to do.

If I were God, I would have made life easier, just one human being going from point A->B no complications. Or perhaps stick to 2 humans, Adam and Eve, only having to concentrate upon one relationship only.

But God is timeless. God has allowed us to have complex feelings and complex relationships. the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. We can be at different places and do different things. We are made into complex beings, because God can step back and free us from time, to be more complicated. We have many relationships at different stages with many different types of people, and we feel complex emotions about all of these relationship and our relationships effect our other relationships.

Timey Wimey Dr Who
Timey Wimey Dr Who

God allows time to be different. Nowhere in the Bible does it have the timeline or steps to being a Christian. Different people come in different ways. Because God frees us from time and cultures and checklists.

Church is one of the few places where you come, wherever you are to experience God.

Again, we may wish that you are baptized before you take communion, but the reality is sometimes you take communion to get baptized. God is timeless, God is beyond time. Working on all the relationships that influence our experience of God, digging deep into the emotions which are so often mixed. Never are we just sad, we are sad with a touch of anger, or depression that comes from feeling bereft. We are happy, but nervous. We are full of joy and yet miss those we love.

Church is where we gather to practice experiencing God together, and wherever we are, we meet together. What’s more, we open our congregation to invite anyone in…

we know that our own experience of God is enriched by the different places that we all come from

Church is not a social club, or a volunteer group or a corporation. Its not a checklist, its a practice of the experience of God together, its a place to find companionship on the spiritual journey. Church is unique.

Because, God is timeless. Experience of time is as mixed and nonsensical as Ecclesiastes says. God experiences happen throughout the week, in fact we practice God’s presence on Sunday to help to interweave worship throughout our time.

We are practicing it here, every week, God’s presence together. Not because time is a constant stream, but because God is timeless, entering into our lives in different and complex ways–supporting us as complex beings.

What is true #christian #forgiveness in an #abuse situation?

These notes are from my Albany area’s Christian Response to Sexual Abuse–all typos are my own… and make sense of what Justice is in a more mature way than demanding forgiveness in (any kind) of power abuse situation. I’ve had a colleague use this material for financial abuse as well.

Also, as one colleague noted, each person experiences abuse differently and heals differently, this is one way to think about the complex process that is healing. But here are some deeper theological thoughts than “we should just forgive the abuser and show grace” in difficult situations

The Elements of Justice-Making
Truth-telling: giving voice to the reality of the abuses (from the victim’s point of view)
Acknowledging the Violation: hear, name and condemn the wrong doing (by the governing body of the victim)
Compassion : Listen and suffer with the victim (Consider having an advocate for the victim)
Protecting the vulnerable: Take steps to prevent further abuse to the victim and others (removal from position, how can they have it at this time?)
Accountability: Confront the abuser of trust, and impose discipline (negative consequences) this step makes repentance possible
Restitution : Make symbolic/real restoration of what was lost; give a tangible means to acknowledge the wrongfulness of the abuse and the harm done and to bring about healing. The restitution must be freely given and of significant value to show repentance wanting to make right.
Vindication: set the victim free from the suffering caused by the abuse when justice has been done.

THERE CAN BE NO HEALING WITHOUT JUSTICE-MAKING
FORGIVENESS, REPENTANCE & RECONCILIATION
If your Sibling wrongs you, reprove him/her, if he/she repents forgive them. Even if one wrongs you seven times and comes back to you seven times saying, “I Am sorry” you are to forgive him/her. Luke 17:1-4
Forgiveness within a relationship is not a matter of forgetting the experience, nor is it a matter of saying that the behavior was acceptable. When a person whom one has trusted takes advantage of his/her position, it is usually a traumatic experience, not one that is easily forgotten. In the bounds of sacred trust, that behavior is unethical.
For the victim, forgiveness is not unconditional we are not God. (We can believe  and try to put into practice God’s universal ability to forgive)
The preconditions for forgiveness are
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient justice
The Victim(s) must be empowered through God’s grace
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient healing to be able to let go of the anger and pain
Without these conditions, forgiveness will not be authentic—it will be an attempt to or an effort to forgive. The victim must experience sufficient justice, grace & healing to be able t let go of his/her anger at the abuser.

For the abuser: Repentance= not merely confession, apology or intention not to repeat an offense
Repentance means to turn around to change one’s behavior and/or one’s life so that one will never repeat the offense. As the scripture passage makes clear, the victim(s) obligation to forgive is dependent upon the abuser’s repentance.
True Repentance : Signs
The abuser takes steps necessary for justice-making to make amends for the abuse: (see above)
The abuser identifies the beliefs & attitudes that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of rejecting those beliefs & attitudes
The abuser becomes aware of the needs that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of meeting those needs
The abuser identifies the conditions that allowed the abuse to happen, and changes the conditions to prevent future abuse
RECONCILIATION is restoring of the right relationship between the abuser and his/her church. IT involves restoring the trust that was violated and restoring the broken relationship on new terms.

(Note: my instinct is that since our God is a justice-making God, Forgiveness for God is universal, but I have not been able to fully think out this theology yet)

Open to relationships

My colleague Rachel Young wrote an interesting piece about being missional http://pres-outlook.org/2015/02/can-introverts-missional/

which reminds me of an ongoing conversation that I have with people.

I try, try, try to practice trust, and yet still be safe. Its a particular balance. It means that sometimes your credit and debit cards get stolen right out of the church office, because you tend not to lock. I am still uncertain whether I was being too trusting or not….I now only lock when that particular group is in the church.

However, I think that the only way to build trust is to give it. You treat people with suspicion and the likelihood is they will return the favor. Plus if you don’t take chances its hard to have a relationship. You have to say hi, you have to share about yourself. Eventually you have to share your address if you want people to come over.

Basically, I feel like that trust and grace go hand in hand. In order to trust someone you have to be gracious with them, trusting that they are doing the best that they can and being gracious when people can’t live up to your standards or do things differently

Henri Nouwen calls this forgiving people for not being God i.e. all knowing and perfect.

It doesn’t mean being stomped on either, it means calling people into account, whether its because they are disrespectful to you during a meeting or they leave a mess in the church or they siphon money off the church’s accounts.

So much of my job is being open to be in relationship with people, whoever, however and whatever state they may be in. That takes trust, and graciousness and hope. It means worrying a little less, setting safe boundaries and then building a community of people who can help you if the relationship does not work out.

But I think that is a good way to describe being a minister.

Open to being in relationship with the church, the community and the world…..That is true ministry..and one in which everyone can get in on.

No Strings Attached

no-strings-attached_2

What is #prayer?

Talking to God is like calling your best friend who you haven’t contacted in months, & the conversation is as if you spoke just yesterday

I think that is why everyone followed Jesus–imagine meeting someone who you could connect to like an old friend, and who obviously & immediately loves you.

That is what we need to talk about in Church, what if we could have relationships like that!

Faith

Faith is work, its communal, its varied, it contains all our varied beliefs and doubts.

Belief is us reaching towards God

Faith is God reaching towards us

In order to have faith, you must have community. Its different than asceticism or belief, it is more than the individual spirituality.

Spirituality is how we practice our beliefs.

Faith is RELATIONAL, its about our relationship with God and therefore is about our relationship with each other.

Our relationships with one another help us to understand God- hence God gives us Faith.

 

Have Faith!

Moses: Experiencing God (part II)

Part !

Ultimately God is relational, and our experience of God is relational….that’s why we need to know

However, what is hard is some people haven’t ever had that burning bush experience…I haven’t been in that place before, but I know that some people haven’t experienced God.

What I do know is that when I talk to people about experiencing/knowing God that when they try to UNDERSTAND who God is, that is the wrong way to go about things.

I don’t know about you but I personally live with four other beings, none of whom I will fully understand (and its more than the fact that I’m a female living with four males), having a relationship with someone doesn’t mean that you fully understand them. Also, I know that relationships are different with different people….

Every time a read a parenting blog or article about the “right way” to raise every child I think how can this be? Different children raised by the same parents turn out differently, even I know I parent my three child in different ways. I relate to each of them differently. God similarly relates to each of us in a different way.

That is why we need a faith community, because none of us can have a full experience of God…well…if your like me, then not more than for an nanosecond. I love those moments of experiencing God. Madeline L’engle describes some of those moments as when you are looking at the stars (her parents used to wake her up to stargaze and its a big part of her writing).

You can envision Abraham having that moment….looking at the stars with God, filling the fullness of God’s will and purpose. Having it for a moment, and then continuing (since we can’t hold the fulness of God all the time)  through a relationship.

What I do know, is that experiencing God is relational, not rational, that we cannot fully know God by ourselves, and that this is why we are relational with both God and each other. Thus we better know God through all of our relationships–with God and each other.

That is why we are in community, because we don’t all have the same experience of God. We are together, not to tell each other that the only way to experience and know God is the way that works for us! (Did you know that you shouldn’t like ALL of worship, ideally different people like different parts, because its not all for one person, its for a diverse group of people so different people can experience worship during different parts of the service)

The point of the variety is so that we can share, experience and relate to God differently and (in the best of times) simultaneously. I don’t know what to do if you haven’t experienced God, but I do know, that your best bet is a faith community…Because we can’t experience God alone, we can only believe in God…alone…..

 

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivitesand Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.

16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ –Exodus 3:7-17

 

Christopher Priest’s “The Islanders” Review

Good thing I like to re-read books (yep, I’m one of those re-reader people)

I Islanders is like a stack of papers one finds in someone’s room. Most of it are chapters to a guide book but some of them are random stories or journal entries–as if someone has been collecting all the information they could real & fictional, because they loved the islands so much.

Trouble is that the stories don’t all agree, there is no overarching plot and the islands themselves are basically unplottable.

Don’t get me wrong, when I say trouble, I mean it in a good way. The reader is left with the mystery (Christopher Priest obviously treats his readers as intelligent). And I definitely need to reread this book to get more and more out of it, but I bet I could reread it many times and get different nuances–I love it when that happens.

What is really cool about the book is the stories relationships to one another are as complex as the characters relationships. After all, the context for someone’s life is based on the relationships that person has with herself (himself), other people and the play in which she lives. (This book explores that too).

If you are into science fiction, anthropology, geography, Lord of the Rings (re: invention of another culture), wicked (ditto), or philosophy give this a read. The stories are short and the meaning is deep.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Islanders-Christopher-Priest/dp/0575088648

The Islanders

PS this would make a great tv show with its complex vignettes, although I doubt anyone would be brave enough to do this, but it would be awesome!!!

Where is God???

 

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. –Matthew 2:1-12

 

When the wise men asked Herod where God was, they were not asking an idle or philosophical question. Instead they believed that Christ was present on earth, and were actively seeking his location. Today when we ask where God is, it tends to be a more philosophical question. Where is God when we feel alone? Where is Christ when tragedies happen to children in Connecticut? Where is the Holy Spirit when the catholic (world) church is so divided, and seems to split at the drop of a hat?

 

First, I don’t have an easy answer to these hard questions. What I do know is that God has a plan, and God’s plan does not include death, tragedy or violence. However, everything is not as good as God is, and God’s plan is not the one we hold primary in our lives (unfortunately). Secondly, if you are angry at God, then do so! God knows what to do with your anger. Did you know that 2/3rds of the Psalms are about being angry at God! (Note how we often assume that the anger is God’s–God is angry at us, or sinners, or other random people–maybe the problem is that we are angry with God and we cannot admit it…(for more on this watch the movie “Saved” see where one girl clocks another with the Bible…)

(Note the girl’s response is the hold the Bible and say “this is not a weapon” i.e. real love)

Life is unfair, and God created us, God allowed us to make choices and sometimes that hurts…

On the other hand, the only way to avoid hurt, is to stop loving, to stop caring about the people in our lives, the wars that don’t effect us and the children we didn’t get a chance to know. Grief, anger, sorrow, despondency, depression, emptiness—all of these feelings legitimize those relationships in our lives. They are real feelings, because the people we mourn were real people, and whether we are mourning the loss of someone through a death or a falling out, those relationships have meaning in our lives, and it is our privilege to feel complex and important feelings about the relationships.

 

Finally, it is important to remember that anger is energy, and the best thing to do with that anger is to channel it into something. If we (instead of debating guns for instance) focused all the anger and grief that we have from Sandy Hook into helping other children in unfortunate circumstances—those who suffer violence in their neighborhood everyday, or those who are stuck in the foster system with no way our, or those who live in poverty. Think of what we can do. Do you think Martin Luther was angry? How about Martin Luther King Jr. or Elizabeth Cady Stanton? They used those intense feelings appropriately. And our job is the same…to get off the tv, the internet and the office conversations. Remember Fred Rogers aka Mr. Rogers said that whenever a tragedy occurred on the news, his mother would remind him to not just look at the tragedy, but to note the helpers.

 

How many helpers are there in the world as compared to the sick and abusive? And can we be those helpers to. Where is God in all this? Part of the answer is that he is with us, showing us how to help.!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

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!

Image

(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

Hunger Games

Sometimes I feel like we can really relate to Hunger Games. Luckily things aren’t quite as bad as during the depression, but for me student debt is a real and heavy weigh in on my life as I tot up the bills and work towards providing for my family.

My friend Charlie says student debt is palpable (we graduated the same year) you can see it weighing people down when they enter a room.

So, here we are, hunger games–who are we sending out as our sacrifice? Who are we going to watch struggle for entertainment. You know what happens in hunger games, everyone is hungry for something. Even the rich city people are always eating, eating, eating (then they throw up to eat more). Why? Because they feel empty inside.

Jesus addresses emptiness, not by telling people to deal, not by pointing out people’s faults, and certainly not by giving them false platitudes.

Jesus sits with people, Jesus meets people, gets to know them, and (always) calls people by name. Maybe that’s what everyone is hungering for–even those of us who hear their name called out by crowds, those who are followed by the paparazzi and have their lives on public display (Duchess of Cambridge anyone) really just want someone to REALLY know them, to REALLY be present with them and to REALLY call them by name.

If the Hunger Games are about the games we end up playing because we are feeling emotionally, physically and spiritually hungry (um…like we do in politics maybe), then Jesus is not about Games. Jesus is about reality, Jesus is about being the real you, Jesus is about the truth of the world, and the Real-ity of Re(a)l-ationships! And if we are asking who is going to be the sacrifice, the answer was, is and will be Jesus Christ, and we don’t need “God in the white house” Imageto know that (did anyone else see that meme?). Because God is bigger than the white house, God is bigger than America and God is bigger than a world economic downturn. If you think we have control over where God is, frankly that is are humanity showing (oops)

If you don’t believe that, then there is no point in preaching the gospel in third world countries, because they are in no way on equal footing to our problems.
Image
Say it with me, Jesus is about Love and graciousness (not being judgmental, putting our morals on others or creating the world for Christ). God is HERE, love is HERE, let’s act like it. And please let’s think before we say something about how “other people were raised” or what “real morals” are–God loved, talked to and did not make anyone feel bad about their mistakes, he forgave and gave them a chance to change. If Almighty God can do that, then we should at least try to do the same–ImageRemember, no one convinced anyone of anything by yelling insults to them over the internet. People have been changed through true acts of lovingkindness (or hesed as its called in the Old Testament).

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