Saturday, December 29, 2012

1st Sunday after Christmas C

Happy 5th/6th Day of Christmas!!  That’s right isn’t it? Let’s Count it Out… It annoys me when even major retailers do not do their due diligence to know what the 12 days of Christmas are – this year I was getting all of the Starbucks coupons for special deals on the 12 days of Christmas – BEFORE Christmas. 

In today’s Gospel, we get the Birth Story of Jesus from John’s perspective – you heard all about the angels and shepherds and cows, and the manger in that didn’t you?  Nope.  This is John’s version and it is PACKED with Words upon Words about The Word.  We don’t get any glimpses of the Charlie Brown Christmas special here – or even a lineage like we get from Matthew – here we get the back story.  In the Beginning is actually better stated as Before the Beginning… before Genesis… before Creation… before Time began ticking.

If you remember your Genesis stories of Creation (yes there are 2) – God speaks Creation into being.  The lack of violence is one of the profound differences in the Christian version of Creation vs the other Ancient Near East versions of Creation.  God Speaks the Word and Creation begins.  The Spirit moves over the water at Creation – the Trinity in action from the beginning. 

This text from John is read every first Sunday after Christmas – maybe because it is such a tough concept for us to grasp – maybe because it is so important for us to remember that Jesus may have been born in the flesh in a manger but he was before time, maybe just to confound us.  It’s hard to know.  But He was born among us – perfect God and perfect Man – born to speak to us of God’s love.  Born to free us from the Law.  Born so that we could have Faith and be adopted as sisters and brothers, heirs, not slaves.  The Incarnation of Christ is the beginning of a new way for us to be in relationship to God.  A way of freedom and peace and light. 

On this 5th/6th Day of Christmas, let us ponder that new Light in our lives that the Word brings – Let us find new ways to accept the perfect gift freely given by Jesus. 

He became as we are so that we could strive to become as He is – Come Let Us Adore Him!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent 3C

            So I had a sermon written for this weekend.  It had a good theme – a good catch line: “Roots vs Fruits.”  Seems to me that John the Baptizer is saying that we shouldn’t just rest on our past history of church going, of denominational dependence, of feeling entitled to whatever brings us here.  He points (John always points) to our fruits – what we have to show from living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day.  The Fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  JtB says to those gathered that no matter what their job, they are to be fair and honest in doing it.  That was the sermon.  Then All Hell broke out in an elementary school yesterday morning.

            This one is different, isn’t it?  It sounds as though it is a domestic violence episode to the nth degree.  It involved small children.  Even in the BCP (p 494), we recognize that the deaths of children are different than the deaths of adults.  Children have not yet become what they will.  When a child dies, the adults who love them lose the child certainly, but also all of the hopes and dreams they had for that child.  At least two of the children who were killed are Episcopalians.

            What are we to do?  This is the Rose weekend – the weekend of Joy on the Advent wreath.  We have Zephaniah encouraging us to sing, shout, rejoice and exult.  Paul in Philippians and Isaiah in the Canticle want us to rejoice.  Don’t they understand that we are sad?  Don’t they know what has happened?  Along with the crowd in the Gospel, I ask “What then shall we do?”   

            Our Presiding Bishop calls us to pray: We grieve with the many families and friends touched by this shooting in Connecticut. We mourn the loss of lives so young and innocent. We grieve that the means of death are so readily available to people who lack the present capacity to find other ways of responding to their own anger and grief. We know that God’s heart is broken over this tragedy, and the tragedies that unfold each and every day across this nation. And we pray that this latest concentration of shooting deaths in one event will awaken us to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day. More than 2000 children and youth die from guns each year, more than the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Will you pray and work toward a different future, the one the Bible’s prophets dreamed of, where city streets are filled with children playing in safety (Zechariah 8:5)?  

            Each of us has something we can do - just as JtB spoke with the different people in the crowd, encouraging them to be fair and honest in their work, we all have work to do in this tragedy.  For some it will be sending a card to the school or the local churches, for others it might be tacking gun or mental health issues - only you know what God has uniquely equipped you to do and what fruit you may bear here.  I do want to be clear - God was in that building - with each and every person, responders, teachers, students - God did not abandon them.  I hope that if you hear anyone say differently, you will address that gently.  How could anyone believe that God - whose own son died a violent death - whose son's body broken we will celebrate in a few minutes - would abandon them in their time of greatest need.  

           And then I circle back to the original sermon this week.  How dare we proclaim Joy?  How dare we not?  Even in our sadness and grief, we can still produce the Fruits: Love, Joy, Peace, Self-Control, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith and Gentleness.  That is exactly what we are called to do in this.  It takes courage.  It takes a history of living into the Gospel.  Keeping all this in mind, let us pray again our Collect of the Day:  Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent 1C

           Happy New Year!  We are such a weird group of people aren’t we?!  Episcopalians and other liturgical churches move to the beat of a different drummer – particularly with the calendar.  Today is the beginning of our new liturgical year.  Last year (last week) we were still in Year B, but today we begin Year C – we will get a lot of Luke this year!  If you follow the Daily Cycle, you will begin Year One.  Today we also switch the Prayers of the People and the Eucharistic Prayer.  (stand or kneel).  So here we are celebrating the New Year before Advent and before Christmas. 
            The world out there began celebrating Christmas before the turkeys had cooled – some even before the jack o’lanterns were extinguished.  Every store and restaurant has Christmas decorations and Christmas music – it’s a cacophony of lights, colors and noise out there.  But here we are again being counter-cultural.  Today is also the first Sunday of Advent.
            Advent is a season of hopeful waiting.  Jesus tells us today in the Gospel to be alert – I used to have a t-shirt that said “Be Alert – the world needs more Lerts.”  Being alert is different than being overwhelmed – different than the manic nervous energy we can see all around us.  What does being alert look like?
·      Prepared – not afraid – peaceful – “It is unfortunate that we can secure peace only by preparing for war” John F Kennedy. 
·      Look up – Lift Your Heads – when we are prepared, we can look with hope
·      Clear our hearts of
o   Dissipation – too much energy used without a real accomplishment
o   Drunkenness – addictions, power, control
o   Worry – what??  How does worry make this list?  Dissipations and Drunkenness are the opposite of Stewardship.  Worry is the opposite of Faith
·      Do not fear – get ready and stay ready

How do we go about being counter-cultural?  Being good stewards of our time talent and treasure – not worrying – and praying.  This is how Jesus calls into a Holy Advent.  It is a specific list that we get today.  It doesn’t mean that we cannot decorate our homes and enjoy holiday gatherings.  We do not have to be Scrooge in the midst of the holiday gaity.  Instead think of it as permission to go slower – to be mindful – to make connections – to prepare your soul – to meditate – to pray for God’s will to be done in your life.  Pray about what you can do to draw evermore close to the God who loves you more then you can ask or imagine.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observation of a Holy Advent, by preparation and prayer; by self-denial of dissipation, drunkenness and worry; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  May it be a season of hopeful expectation in your life and in the life of St Martin.  Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I SIng a Song of the Saints of God

I absolutely love doing ministry in the church in this time period.  Mind you, I have only a vague idea of how it worked for earlier generations.  I love the feeling of connectedness and collaboration I have through the RevGals blogs, through Facebook and Twitter friends, and through the face-to-face contacts I maintain.

Several years ago, while we were still in seminary, my friend Mary turned me on to Lent Madness.  There are two Episcopal priests who have turned the excitement of basketball's March Madness into a brilliant way of not only learning about the Saints during Lent, but also caring about how they move through the bracket (or not) to be awarded the Golden Halo.  Last year's winner was Mary Magdalene.

Yes - that's me posing for my picture with the venerated Golden Halo winner of 2012.  This was at TEC's General Convention in July.

While I was there in the Forward Movement booth, I nabbed a couple of official brackets for 2013 play.  I also spoke with Fr Tim about how Lent Madness had inspired me to do ministry a bit different for NavajoLand this year.

Until the LM bracket of 2012, I had not realized how many Native American saints there were.  They are all in the Holy Women, Holy Men book that I use for daily prayers, but they are not grouped together in any way.  I was inspired by the LM bracket to use six of the Native American saints for the NavajoLand VBS that my family and I (with my home parish) do each summer.  (disclaimer: I have general reservations about traveling into other communities to do "mission work" however, I believe that among the Dine population, the ministry of presence is very important.)

It was fun week with the team and Dine children all learning and being inspired by Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV, Mary (Molly) Brant Konwatsijayenni, Deacon David Oakerhater, The Rev Cornelius Hill, and The Rev John Johnson-Enmegohbowh.  We sang "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" each day along with other VBS songs, did crafts, and studied the Bible stories.  It was a really fun week.  What I hope is that the children and adults who were there were truly inspired to see how we could all aspire to be saints in God's kingdom - no matter what our heritage or life situation.  I hope those children walk a bit taller knowing that there are Native American saints who have gone before them.

One of the souvenirs that St Christopher's in Bluff and St John the Baptizer in Montezuma Creek really like is when we make banners they can hang in the church for the rest of the summer.  It's fun to look at previous year's banners that we have done and see how much the children have changed.  Here's the banner we did for this year.

Each note is a different child or team member from one of the locations.  A different but same size banner was made for the other location.

Just for reference, this is a picture with Sam, my 5'8" 17 year old.

The t-shirts had a similar musical staff motif with the Saint's pictures on them and a blank spot for the recipient to add their own face.

I brought back a t-shirt so that I could send it to the Lent Madness Supreme Council for their archives in thanksgiving for the inspiration they provided.

Today I am going to the Diocese of Texas' Clergy Conference at Camp Allen.  I have heard that one of the LMSC might be there, so I am taking the t-shirt - just in case!

I love doing ministry in this connected time!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Random Friday Five from RevGals - Thanks Karla!!

Hello dear Friday-fivers!  Without further ado, here is the Friday Five Random-Style meme for you on this September morning!

1. What is one of the best things that happened to you this week?  A supportive text from a colleague - meant all the difference in my week. Reminds me to send such texts to others when I see positive effects of their ministry/work.

2. If you were in a Ms., Miss, Mr. (name your country) Pageant, what would your talent be?  ALWAYS always choosing the slowest lane/line - no matter for what or where - OR finding the last item in a store that does not have a price tag...those are the two true talents in my life.  

3.  You were just given a YACHT!!! What would you name it, and why?  Probably Myrtle - I love to drive my family crazy by giving my technology and vehicles old traditional female names.  My cute little go-cart Versa is Agatha.

4.  If you were to perform in a circus, what would you do?  (I can't remember if I asked this before...)  I perform in the circus of my life every day - juggling is not my true talent, but I can manage it in short bursts.  Tap-dancing, ditto.  I do believe I am particularly adept at walking a tightrope, so maybe that's the circus talent.  

5.  What do you have in your bag/wallet/backpack that best describes your personality?  My wallet - it is very utilitarian and particular for it's purpose, but it has a cute exterior.  Practical and attractive, I think that describes me.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Syrophoenician Woman - Mark 7:24-37

           This is one of the most difficult passages in the Gospels – Thanks for inviting me to preach!  Seriously, I have known Curt for fifteen years – thanks for inviting to preach on this text.  It’s one of my favorites, maybe because of the complexity!

Today we get Mark’s version of this story – and that’s important because it is missing some of the key features of the same story re-told in Matthew.  We know that Mark was probably written before Matthew, so this version does not have the softer corners of the Matthean version, plus it’s for a different audience.  You probably remember that Mark seems to have been written for people who were not of Jewish ancestry – those who weren’t insiders.  This passage is a great example.  Did you notice how careful Mark is in letting us know that the woman is NOT Jewish?  It’s almost humorous – First the location, then the fact that she is “Gentile” and then “of Syrphoenician origin.”  Could she be any more different than HIM?  He’s in Gentile territory – in a region that if you were Jewish, you would know was infamous for another woman, Jezebel – one of the MOST notorious non-Jewish women that we know of.  In this region, the Gentiles were the people in power – those who held the good jobs, the chosen people.  Maybe this perfect storm of location and people and circumstances is what has Jesus on edge; what makes this the most difficult passage…

In one way, this is the Jesus I know and love – he’s visiting friends, looking for quiet, always looking out for the underdog.  He’s in a place where his Jewish friends are treated badly, not treated like God’s chosen people, maybe struggling for financial security, maybe even struggling for enough food as they are treated as second class citizens.  He embodies what we just heard in the James passage – not putting the rich on a pedestal while denigrating the poor.  So maybe he’s a bit defensive when he steps out on the street, hoping to NOT be noticed.  Also, he certainly knows the story of Jezebel and he’s certainly never going to be de-railed by a woman like that.  Maybe that’s why he is SO HUMAN in this.  It’s hard to watch it happen though isn’t it?  Cute, cuddly, brown-eyed, perfect Jesus – is rude.  He not only implies that she’s a dog, but since she is a female that slur is taken one step further… He better be glad his mama wasn’t there! 

How can Jesus behave this way?  We can certainly understand his being wary of this woman – but to behave in such a way – what about perfect God and perfect Man??  And there we land on what makes this passage so difficult.  Jesus is perfect God and perfect Man, and we start to question him on that here.  How is Jesus still perfect when we’re left wondering if he kisses his mama with that mouth? 
There is a difference in the Greek idea of perfection and the Hebrew idea of perfection… the Greek idea would have Jesus never cry as a baby, never have to be put in time-out as a small child, never worry his parents by wandering off, never try to disobey his mom at a wedding, never speak to a woman this way.  The Hebrew idea of perfection is more nuanced – an evolution.  Once you know better, you do better.  Once presented with a situation, you make the best choice and learn from there.  In the Hebrew idea of perfection, minds and behaviors can be changed, people can learn and grow, even if they are God also. 

That’s what ultimately happens here – Jesus gets his mind changed.  I truly believe he had no intention of helping her or her unseen daughter.  As hard as it is to imagine, I believe Jesus starts on the side of his friends and has no intention of sharing a blessing with this woman.  But she is smart and quick and relentless in her argument.  She doesn’t pause at his slur – she doesn’t cry or beg.  She answers him back.  She sees him as his own disciples don’t yet – and won’t ever in Mark’s gospel.  She makes him see that in this case, she is not the rich oppressor but the poor parent concerned for her child.  The mom willing to kneel at his feet and risk that slur.  She shows him that she and her daughter are also created by God – and deserving of his ministry.  After all, by accepting the crumbs, she’s not taking anything away from his friends, merely accepting the leftovers that would have gone to waste.  She realizes and then shows him that it is not a zero-sum game.  Just because he blesses her, no one else has to do without.  She changes his mind. 

The second part of this story is often overlooked.  We’re so shocked and intrigued by the woman that we forget about the deaf man with the speech impediment.  It’s a normal healing story by comparison… a bit grody… but much more in the vein of healing stories that we’re used to.  It’s easy to overlook.  I think that’s a mistake though.  I find it ironic that Jesus uses the phrase “Be Opened” because I believe that’s what just happened to him.  He had to be opened to speak to a Gentile, he had to be opened to hear the woman, he had to be opened to having his mind changed, he had to be opened to healing a Gentile child.  And now he says “Be opened” – he is preaching what he has just experienced – preaching what he has practiced – and the people follow his example.  They begin to speak about his great deeds, his mighty acts.  They begin to tell the story of his perfection…

Part of what makes this Gospel so difficult is all of the nuance.  It’s complicated.  We are much like Mark’s audience in trying to understand stuff that’s not native to us… yet we can grasp the juxtaposition of Jesus.  Be opened.  Let us go from here this week, opened to those we dislike because of their station in life.  Let us go from here and move through the week being open to what the person directly in  front of us is saying in every moment of every day.  Let us go from here and be opened to the possibility of seeing a new way as we grow in perfection towards our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Audio Here:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blessings and Benedictions

I asked on the RevGal FB page and this was the list of on-line resources I got:

  • from Kris Lewis:  ‎"Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make this earthly pilgrimage with us.
    So, be swift to love, make haste to do kindness, shower abundant hospitality on friend and stranger, walk in justice, that you may follow the path of mercy and love.
    And the may the blessing of God who comes to us unbidden, who for our lives was broken, and in whose spirit we are called to wholeness and holiness of life be upon you and all those whom you love this day and always."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pentecost 13B

John 6:56-69

Most of y’all know that I grew up just a few hours away from here in Archer City, Texas.  I went to college at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.  You may even know that Wichita Falls has a big bike race every year – the Hotter than Hell 100.  They ride 100 miles in August in Texas.  That bicycle race was this weekend.  I think they caught a break with the temperatures this week, some years it really is hotter then hell.

When I was working as a waitress to put myself through undergrad, I worked at a little “Italian” place.  On Hotter than Hell weekends, I learned about carbo-loading.  We would serve all you could eat spaghetti- and boy would they go at it – plate after plate of spaghetti.  The theory is that by eating a LOT of carbs right before a big race, your body has a lot of easily stored and easily accessible energy – fuel for the journey.

I thought about that a lot as I was doing my sermon prep this week.  All this bread talk – all these carbs – we’re stuffed full to the brim and tired of bread!!  This is our last week of bread and it has me wondering what Jesus is up to here?  Are we carbo-loading?  Is Jesus preparing us for something?  Is there a reason we’ve been carbo-loading for five weeks now?  What will we need energy and endurance to get through?

Individually, what’s up in your lives?  Schools starts next week – maybe strength and patience for the teachers, knowledge and understanding for the students, wisdom for the administrators, grace for all involved?  You all have something you are trying to get through right now – I don’t know what it is for you but you do.  Jesus has given you the Bread of life to get you through.

How about as a church?  What is Jesus up to at St Martin?  We have several new ministry opps coming with our Fall programming – we don’t know all the details yet – we don’t know where we will be led or what will be asked of us, but we’ve been fed and we’re ready.  We have a lot of leadership here that has been filling up on carbs and is ready for whatever we may face.

How about as a diocese?  We have Convention coming up – we will have a new provisional bishop soon.  Bp Ohl’s time with us will be finished at convention – this is causing a LOT of anxiety in the diocese right now.  We will have new leadership, a new chief pastor – and we don’t know yet who it will be – we probably won’t know until October-ish.  We are challenged to begin planning toward reconciliation and what this diocese will look like in 5 years.  It is scary and exciting – some people want to NOT MAKE A MISTAKE – keep the status quo.  Others are ready to try something new and risk a mis-step on the possibility that it could be better.  There are some like the people in the Gospel this morning who want to turn around and go back to where we came from – and others who want to forge ahead – which group is following Jesus? 

How about as a Society?  We have a national election coming up in case you haven’t noticed.  And Lord Help Us Please – November 6 can NOT get here fast enough for me – I am already sick of the whole process.  I am really mad about the level of misinformation being publicized.  This is where I am going to go into RN Public Health Teaching mode on you.  I hope you all know that certain remarks made by a politician last week are WRONG – completely and utterly wrong.  There is no biological fact behind what was said and the implications of it are more than just dangerous.  I have a friend, Martha Spong, who has written about this danger.  She has done the deep reflective work of how all of this affects the church by affecting it’s members.  She has labeled this mis-information as Old Husband’s Tales and I think she is exactly right.  The article is on Huffington Post, and I really want you to look it up and read it.  I'll put the link on our Facebook page so you can find it.  What the politician said is completely untrue – a myth that seems to have persisted in spite of 5th grade Biology classes to the contrary. I’ll bet there are 5th grade Biology teachers out there shaking their heads and wondering why they bothered to pick up all those permission slips for that film over the years.  These myths are dangerous because they perpetuate the mindset that women need to be taken care of – they need guidance on how to handle their own bodies, their decisions and their basic health care.  In the South, we are especially susceptible to this notion.  What seems like a nice caring-for is actually treating women as less than – not smart enough to know what’s happening, not smart enough to make her own decisions, not smart enough to look at the facts at hand and figure out how to go forward.  Now don’t get me wrong – we don’t want to be put on a pedestal either.  Our bodies are not mysterious or magical – we are biological human beings that deserve equal treatment. 

This teaching is difficult - Does this offend you?  If you disagree with proven and biological facts, I hope it offends you.  I hope you will be inspired to do your own research or talk with me – or other scientific people about it.  I do not want you to no longer go about with me –I hope we can discuss it – but even Jesus was OK with allowing people to walk away from hard teaching.  This is non-negotiable in 2012 – our sons and daughters are relying on us to work this out.

Episcopalians are typically better educated than the general population - Our Christian duty is to speak out against ignorance and oppression – we have vowed to respect the dignity of every human being – male or female.  As Episcopalians, we are in a UNIQUE position to speak the hard facts into the public discourse.  We have a Presiding Bishop who is a Biologist and a Female.  You all are here listening to a sermon preached by a priest who is a female.  We can hold onto the tensions of society and engage the conversations without having to apologize for our Christianity!

Jesus hasn’t carbo-loaded us to send us off without support.  In a few minutes – and every time we gather for Communion - we eat the flesh and drink the blood.  Let us keep our eyes open for what Jesus is up to among us in our lives, at St Martin, in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and out in the world.  Let us use our spiritual strength gathered here to see Christ at work in the world about us and join in that work.  Amen.