#oberlin #MichelleObama #PCUSA intersecting #spiritual and #college

I attended Michelle Obama’s Convocation Speech at Oberlin College. A speech that was won by the Nine Scholars program to help Local High School Students achieve (awesome!)

Only problems were 1. Oberlin already had an awesome speaker lined up the Founder of SAVE the CHIDLREN on the 50yr anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Grad speech 2. Security was a bear in what is normally a very informal, formal ceremony (people float in and out, wear whatever they want…I like it).

It was the 10 yr anniversary of my graduation from Oberlin and my sister, the amazing Noelle was graduating so I had dual reasons for attending.

Plus I got to stay over with my peer and fellow graduate Charlie who owns the local gaming store (back in the day I founded the now mainstream Sci-Fi and Fantasy Hall which was really just a safe place for the gamer-geeks who had yet to find popularity in the real world). Infinite Monkey, if you want to support a great small business I recommend ordering from him here or Facebook them 🙂

While there I regaled the locales with tales of my pastorhood, my supposed youth (I look really young and DEFINITE not like a pastor) my parenthood (yes, I do have 3 children) and mourned…just a little bit that I had very few Oberlin-like people in my life. Instead I spend most of my time explaining to my mostly older congregation how the modern world is and explaining to my friends (most of whom don’t go or have never gone to church) why religion is a really awesome and exciting place for me to be…at least most of the time 🙂 (I try to be really honest in these conversations).

Michelle Obama gave some nice props to Oberlin and their open-mindedness, remarking how different the world would be today if all colleges awarded degrees to African-Americans and women from way back….noting it was one of the few places that she prob. could have graduated from 100 yrs ago. I nodded to myself, finding it sad that Oberlin, college, was one of the few places where I experienced the openness and hospitality that so many organizations attempted to live into, including at times the church. (I did mope a little bit)

Then Michelle urged Oberlin graduates to not just to enter the world, but to engage with it. To be in the hard places, to find the people who don’t necessarily think and act like you, but to instead be in the real world. To know that that small incremental work that is being done is important.

She then noted that 10 years ago (God? did she really say that), 10 years ago 1 state allowed for same sex marriage, and now any minute the United States was ready to pass it for all states (and I noted to myself that the PCUSA is already there, thanks in a large part to the small incremental changes that we had done over that last 10 years). And I remembered thinking, at my graduation that the world WOULD change for the better, that our speaker at that time had noted the start of that change towards equality and being EXCITED to be a part of that.

It has been work for me to live in-between. I am a full time professional woman and a mother, both the same. I am a religious pastor and a Fantasy geek–one of which is getting less popular (the religion) and one of which has become startingly mainstream (the Sci-Fi Fantasy). But I am still both the same. (Even moreso I have a traditional worship but am very groundbreaking in my ministry to the community) I work with people who are like me and I am friends with people who are like me, very few people get all the pieces that make up who I am. And yet, here I am. Not immersing myself in one thing or one way, I am doing the hard work of the real world.

And when my session, had a progressive discussion about Gay marriage, and I shared that with those people I met at the Oberlin graduation. I talked about meeting people where they are, and sharing my experience, to love them, they said they couldn’t imagine engaging with people who believed things so differently than them.

That’s right, the people at Oberlin, who sometimes I viewed as very accepting, couldn’t accept my religious people. NOT vice versa.

But there it was…the hard work of sharing…of being in the real world. The hard work that I consider being ministry whether it is at Oberlin College with stereotypical liberal students or sitting at a meeting of the church with the elders who talk through their traditions and their desire to serve others.

I may have cried a little (hmm…a lot…) during this speech where Michelle Obama brought the word to me. When Marian Wright Edelman then, daresay I preached, sharing some of the Word of God and Liberation in the way African-American Women are able to do without offending the nontheists of crowd while reaching into the tradition of Justice bespoke by MLK. Hers were not the words I needed that day because, that’s the world I live in every day. But I am so glad she was there, giving a piece of my world to Oberlin, because Oberlin shared a piece of its world back to me in Michelle Obama that day…and I don’t live in one world or the other. But in between, testifying back and forth between the two, like these two ASTOUNDING African-American Women.

I #believe in #miracles, and other weird #Christian things…

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew+3:1-12&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

Ps. 2:7-8

7I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.

8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”

baptism of the Lord

Brownson says that Baptism is not Salvation, but the promise of salvation. It is the faith in that promise, it is the acknowledgment that our God is a Promisekeeping God

Baptism particularizes the promise that God makes to the world.

Why?

God promises to love the world, to take care of it, to save it.  Baptism, adopts us into that promise, particularizing it into us…embracing us into the reality of Jesus Christ, making us part of it all…We are all children of God in general, baptism, makes us each children of God as individuals; Matt 28:19-20 baptize them in the name of the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit and teach them my commandments, and I will be with you always..making us effectively related to God (effectively changing all our last names to be Jesus Christ). Hence my name becomes Katy Jesus Christ–thus I become part of the body of God!

babies-diverse_istock_000010072649large1

Every single baby that is born is a miracle. Babies being born are so,

so miraculous…child-of-god

but your baby being born is a PARTICULAR miracle…Right? I mean all babies are amazing, but your baby (whether its yours, your friends, your child’s baby, if you have ownership) is SUPER-EXTRA AMAZING..because its your particular baby. Baptism is special for that same reason.

Baptism…and Communion are sacraments…for Presbyterians there are two such sacraments; which are another weird thing that Christians do.

That’s what makes a sacrament, a sacrament in the Presbyterian church a sacrament is that which Jesus enacted, commanded and then promised particular presence during…

This is my body broken for you…this is my blood of the new covenant

SONY DSC

That’s after all, what a miracle is…its seeing God’s particular presence in a particular circumstance, its when you don’t know how or when things happen, but they do, through God’s presence. Its different than magic, which is when you explain the unexplainable….Miracles are about grace-filled instances which happen through God making connections that we might not expect

Ever time we practice communion or baptism, God promises to be particularly present. God is present and loves us all the time, but the fact that God promises to be particularly present with these moments …make them miracles

Like a roof that needs to be fixed, and suddenly a bequest appears that covers it….like a lesbian couple who end up not getting married at the church but force the governing board to extend welcome to such a wedding…like having way, wayyyy too much work to do and suddenly a snow day gives you the extra time you need.

These moments are miracles, places where our humanity is insufficient, and yet God’s presences helps things to work out….

These moments are the difference between Spirituality & Religion

Spirituality is talking about who God is…and what God does in general…a generalized understanding of God and how it effects spiritual life. Spirituality is good…its practiced by most people, even those who don’t go to church.

Religion is (nothing more & nothing less) than the practice of God’s presence, the practice of miracles. The practice of seeings where God is present, participating it and then telling others about it. It is through this practice that we are joined together. We recognize and practice God’s presence, together.

body-of-christ

Its just like practicing family–practicing family can be as easy as having dinner together…you plan the dinner together, experience the dinner together and then discuss how dinner went (maybe with people who aren’t even your family)…Each of those steps are within the practice of the miracle that is family…

So too is communion…we prepare for communion declaring what it will be (how it binds us to God and eachother), then we practice it together, then we discuss how it went and what it means for our future…in this we practice the miracle of God’s presence. We do this every time we talk look for/experience/witness to God’s presence in our lives….

Let’s go practice some miracles….

(thanks to Barb Hedges-Goettl for the theology of Christ’s transformative presence in communion)

The #God #Experience or Why do we do that #church thing?

Epiphany is a realization that changes you…

that’s what the Magi had…it changed them Matthew 2:1-12

Then they were brave…

Why? Because they experienced God….Experiencing God is like experiencing the stars.

calvin

We can define the stars…but the experience of these burning masses of gas, is beyond a description.

We can define God as this fully human, fully divine, who was born in a manger, and died to save us all…

but the experience of God is more than that…that is why we gather together each week…each Sunday we come together to share where we see God working in our lives!

And to try not to be-little it…not to make it small…but to magnify it. To proclaim it, to call attention to the good news of God in our lives, one who is present and active.

wings“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.” Madeline L’engle

Bad things happen, and we are not told to ignore them(heck 2/3rds of the Psalms are people crying out to/yelling at God), but what we are meant to realize, and share, and embrace, is God’s work in & through us.

People asking about a clothing exchange that closed over a year ago is evidence of God’s power.

The church making budget every year for 3yrs even though not everyone gives what they thought they would is pure miracle.

Having a ceiling and roof repair in one year, and having an estate come through the works for a quarter of the cost…..that has been in probate for 30 years…is God at work

Every person who has heard God’s voice, every one who feels God’s work, every one who comes through the farmer’s market or the playgroup, the fact that we are getting more calls for help in a month than what we used to get in a year.

These are all God-experiences…..

They are amazing…

and its is this reason we journey together…we see God’s star in the East, we may get lost, we may need to ask for directions, we may have to go back a different way…but we are doing it because we are experiencing God.

Together!

Root Beer & M&Ms

To me, church tastes like root beer and M&M’s, thanks to First Pres in Malvern Arkansas that had old school GLASS bottled root beer. My parents office had an M&M machine.

Being a pastor’s kid, I’ve probably put in more hours at church than most people, I’ve also probably done a lot more at church, so I feel comfortable.

To me, church feels like home.

Which is awesome, because it doesn’t matter where I am (or even what type of religious house I’m in), to me its a place to call home!

Church is a place for God to dwell. Its a place for us to enact the body of Christ. Sure we aren’t perfect, but in church we are more reflective, we think more carefully about our interactions. (the faults tend to sting more but, more importantly) the good actions are even more meaningful. These moments are what make church important, and for each of us, we start to accumulate these sacred moments, we start to build sacred relationships and the more we build, the more we are able to carry them onto our lives.

That is what is meaningful to me about sacred spaces and sacred relationships in a time where being spiritual-but-not-religious is another way to go.

For me, root beer and M&Ms will alway taste and feel sacred–like church….and certain interactions and reactions will alway put me in mind of God, and they are my church, my carrying of Christ’s Body into the everyday world!

This sounds just like “Bible Study”…what’s different about all of this?

My Presbytery is trying to explore the whole 1,001 worshipping communities/church planting. 

As we did we talked over exciting interest for starting a house church in the college area…

 

and we were discussing how to go about, different ideas and resources (i.e. Messy Church etc.)

and someone asked “Can someone tell me, how this is different from a Bible Study? I mean we do this, we get to better in different houses and worship and get together what is different about this?”

Well……I might have said a few things in response 🙂

1. Its not that different but we are reformed and always reforming because we need to find new ways to tell the gospel message. Clothing Exchanges are not that different from Rummage Sales (as one of my congregants pointed out). But they ARE different because they speak to a different generation in a different way!

2. We need to meet people where they are in a tree, by a well, even on the cross. If that is what Jesus is doing then that’s what we should do too. 

3. Because we need to show our willingness to see, know, people in places that AREN’T the church. When people say they are Spiritual-but-not-religious they mean they want to reach God, but they don’t want to reach God in the same way we do, so we need to find ways that work for people. Ways in which they are comfortable. Thank God, the message is the same as what it was  over 2000 years ago, even though the method changes

4. Aren’t we reformed and always reforming so we can grow and be nurtured closer to Christ? Don’t we hope that we keep looking at ways to become more able to see God?

5. Because its not exactly the same, it seems the same, but its really not. Because we are saying, come to our Game, Come to our Home Field, Come to our Turf and we’ll tell you about how we do the God thing. Its not simply sitting inside the church and throwing open the doors and wondering why no one is coming in…its going out to meeting them on their turf…its street ministry at its finest.Its changes to a “you might not experience God the same way we do, so we’ll come to you and let you tell us what you want to try” thing…that’s what Spiritual-but-not-religious is, experiencing God in a new way!

 

Your right, its exactly like Bible Study…..Only Different!

 

 

Embodied Spirituality: (w)holistic faith and what it means

Good Examples of Embodied Spirituality tend to be as follows

yoga

monks working

liturgical dance

and Mr. Rogers (because he’s the Presbyterian Superhero of faith 🙂

Here is the Spiritual but not religious issue in sum:

Christianity–more and more abstracted and spiritualized religion, emphasizing the moral lessons of the Bible, essentializing Jesus as love and pursuing faith. Like good Augustine-type-people we have more and more distanced ourselves from the body, turning communion into a remembering of Christ. Barb Hedges-Goettl concludes that we have moved away from the reality of the broken, embodied Divinity present in Jesus Christ. A particular example of this can be found in how communion is celebrated (more about this below/in the thesis)

Hence Christianity is about being “spiritual” and has almost nothing to do with our bodies

If anything we should deny our bodily needs, giving quick and easy solutions to issues of 1. addiction: denial, proof that worldly wants are addictive and evil 2. homosexuality: denial its just a bodily impulse and the body is evil 3. Health Issues: If you are truly pure your body will be healed, otherwise better luck in heaven. These are broad generalizations, but you get the idea.

Hence we have an entire generation of the spiritual not religious, because if Jesus is only love, and we should deny the body, why do we need to gather and/or embody Christ through the church? The church doesn’t embody Christ, in fact, it doesn’t even consider embodiment important, so bodies are–literally–gone from the church. Spiritual but not religious people can do all that from home. So that’s it, they’ll be Spiritual, they don’t need to be religious.

If what we eat, how we care for our bodies, where we are present and how we are active are spiritual activities, then spirituality very quickly turns religious….

Barb Hedges-Goettl suggests to us that a vital piece is missing, and that is the living body of Christ. My question is : If we say Christ’s body is both present in communion and embodied by the church, what does this do to our faith: God is NOT JUST present when we see love, God is calling us to presently embody love as a corporate (ie enfleshed/embodied/living-flesh-corpse) of Christ that is out in the community….I find this especially interesting in a digital world, where embodiment is finding new expression–and yet still nothing beats a face to face meeting (you can’t hug on skype)

“In my dissertation I wrote that faith is about meeting God and God acting upon us. God is the life-changing agent/subject, not the object of belief. The living resurrected Christ changes us; he is not just an example to emulate or the purveyor of an ethic or value”–Barb Hedges-Goettl Photo

Dr. Barb Hedges-Goettl ‘s thesis is : The Body is Missing: Eucharistic Theology of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Conversation with Zwingli, Calvin, and Nevin” (10107), has been submitted to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in preparation for posting on ProQuest)

PS Shepherd is the best fictional clergy, EVER

Life, Fairy Tales, God, Children: How Katy Works

Why do I go to church?

You know, most people my age don’t go to church

Most of them don’t even believe in religion

They may believe in God, but if they do it tends not to be the “standard” version of God

These people are usually identified as “nones‘ (which is kind of a detrimental name, even though I know it isn’t meant that way…maybe we should be calling them/us something else) Something like 75% of people my age don’t affiliate in their religion

(for more about why I include myself, a pastor, in this at times, please read my post “I don’t Know What I believe”)

But I believe in God….Life is just too short to be meaningless…

Meaningless is just too hopeless to be believed

And people are just to wonderful to give up on….

And because of these truths, I believe in God….I know that not everyone believes what I believe, and I don’t mind (usually). As long as you aren’t preaching hate as gospel, I’m pretty ok with most beliefs…after all I’m not the one who is going to judge whether the fig tree is bearing fruit. That is up to the boss.

What I do worry about, is my generation in terms of willingness to try to religion. Have we given up? Do we truly think it has nothing to offer? Does the bad really outweigh the good? Do we think that we can only find our own spirituality outside of church? (What does that have to say about church, but what does that also have to say about us).

I recently learned that millenials are those of us born between 1980 and 2000. Here is what we have in common.

We grew up in a boom, but came into maturity in a economic downturn/depression

We are the children of baby boomers

We tend to be called hipsters

We don’t have a lot of life opportunities: jobs, marriages, having children–>we have to put these things off

We were all born in a pre 9/11 reality

We grew up with Harry Potter

We like individuality–but tend not to rebel, but instead go off our own way

We are thought of as ungrateful and lazy

We don’t have a strong religiousity

Yet here I am: mother, fairy tale enthusiast and pastor. Here I am, trying to figure out if I have a strong enough call to conduct a ministry via sci-fi and fantasy that I need to invent something to do this.

In a lot of ways I am “old-fashioned” for my age. I am young, married, have three children and an “old-fashioned” kind of job that carries with it healthcare and a pension (at least for now). And yet, I feel the pain of those around me. I too am physically weighed dow

n by student debt that I’m terrified I’ll never get rid of, I too understand that completeness and fulfillment will not fully come from my employment (hmm…that should be on the list above).

So I guess I’ll keep at it, hang onto the understanding th

at my concept of religion and my relationship with God is helpful to some of the people in my life, and that people will or won’t join churches on their own, and its not my responsibility.

Still–and take this for what its worth–I like church and I believe in God…

Katy likes it! Hopefully if/when you are interested you can find a place that fits you too!

It’s a beautiful day in our neighborhood…

A new catch phrase that we have been working with in the church is “Won’t you be our Neighbor” yes…in the spirit of the great Mr. Rogers…

If you recall the words the song it goes

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? could you be mine? I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you..I always wanted to live in the neighborhood with you.

How many times do we tell that to people–we love you exactly as you are, we always wanted someone, with all of your idiosyncrasies, annoyances, complaints and problems here!

How often are we able to get rid of the bottom-line, how often do we love people exactly the way they are–instead of who they could be or who we wish they were…

(Nowell calls it forgiving one another for not being God).

Why did people follow Jesus…why did they leave everything…

Luke 5:1-11Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats morred at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5Simon answered, “Boss, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9For he and all who were with him caught in the amazement at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Why did the disciples leave everything and follow Jesus? I think its because Jesus loved the disciples exactly as they were!! I think that feeding people and fishing in a lake town is probably very, very important, it isn’t as important as building a community….

And building that community means welcoming people who are spiritual and not religious, it means going out and meeting people wherever they are instead of requiring them to understand our concept of church–it means opening up to the fact that Jesus did not say follow me and tithe, follow me and become a church member, follow me and be sure to sit in pews in an A framed church for worship–Jesus said “I love you exactly the way you are, follow me I always needed someone JUST LIKE YOU (for more on that, read a blog about God making us perfect by Jim Palmer here) with your ideas of worship, your sense of God and your understanding of Life, follow me, I love you, so follow me” and I think that they did…

So can we do it? Can we leave our church buildings, our pews and our projects…can we go into the world and work to love and accept each other exactly as they are–children to the infirm, sick to the well….can we put a sign on the church door and tell people we’ve “Gone Fishing?”

What do you think?

PS here is the most awesome Garden of my Mind remix for Mr. Rogers 🙂

http://video.pbs.org/video/2244712132/

Les Mis: In any other story Javert would be the hero….

and other reasons why Les Mis is awesome

1. Its about real people struggling through their problems, and dealing and coping with them as best they can (they don’t end with a happily ever after or a death, instead life keeps going)

2. The love interests are not the main characters–like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty the story isn’t really about the young couple but all the people connected with them

3. …and yet it is a love story, its a story about seeing God because “when you love you see the face of God” not because God is not just the emotion love, but because love is real and hard

4. The music–not only is it brilliant but the entire musical is a fugue–all parts of one whole piece, threads in the tapestry, reflecting the reality of what life really is (One Day More=point and case)

5. In any other story Javert would be the hero–he even gets the hero’s ballad, he is just in the wrong story, because he has the wrong prespective, and he’s on the wrong side. How often is this true that people are doing things because they REALLY, REALLY believe in them, but still somehow they are wrong…CHRISTIANS everywhere should take notice. There is no such thing as a checklist for Christianity or living life right, faith is a struggle, life is hard and choices are not so easily seen…

6. Ultimately is a story about grace

Here is my synopsis of Les Mis: Grace, it makes bad guys into good guys and good guys into heroes.

7. Death, Resurrection, Grace, Psalms (You know that song “Turning through the years, note how the words don’t change but the meaning does–too bad it was cut from the movie its totally a Psalm), the coming of the kingdom (hint: the barricade is between heaven and earth) and of course love.

1st Cor. 13:1-13

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luckily my church saw Les Mis last week and got to touch on some of these themes, and guess what the lectionary was…God is so Good…I will close with scripture to ruminate 🙂

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