Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ the King

“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.”                              Thomas Aquinas

Today is the last Sunday in this church year. When we gather next Sunday, I will wish you a happy new year, as I did on the first Sunday of Advent last year. This is the Sunday when the story comes around to complete the circle.

I remember how confused I was on my first Christ the King Sunday in the Episcopal Church. As most of you know, I was raised and formed at First Baptist Church in Archer City. When David and I met and started dating here in Wichita Falls, he was attending the Disciples of Christ church over by Midwestern State University. David is a cradle Episcopalian; he used to bicycle himself to church for some of the early services when it was his turn to acolyte. When he moved here, someone had told him about the Diocese of Ft Worth – not ordaining women, being out of step with the rest of TEC – so he went to church with his friends. One of the doctors in town was a childhood friend, their moms were lifelong friends, and David had moved here partially because of that friendship. After David and I met, we moved to Lewisville and tried out different churches. I had no desire to return to my Southern Baptist roots. We tried a Methodist church and a Lutheran church before we went to the Episcopal Church. Of course David was most comfortable there and that may have been what led to my feeling of being “home” there. I loved the vestments, the liturgy, and the seasons. Christ the King Sunday felt out of place though. I got that we were marching through the stories of the different gospels in Ordinary time, but to have Holy Week readings in November made very little sense to me.

This is the first year for me that these readings do not feel so odd. Over the years I have gotten used to this Sunday, but this year I “get” it differently than I ever have before. Maybe it is the world’s political landscape, maybe it is this church’s special circumstance this year, maybe – after 21 years as a confirmed Episcopalian – it has finally sunk in. I never claimed to be the brightest one here. J

When I read and heard our own bishop and our presiding bishop saying “Do not fear,” it dawned on me that it is the same thing I believe our lectionary planners might be saying: “Do not fear.” In these darkest nights, on these cold, stark days, after journeying through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, we get one last reminder: Christ is King. Christ is the Truth. Christ is the Incarnation of Love who walked among us and remains among us as the Holy Spirit does – Perfect Love. Perfect Love casts out fear. After all of the stories we have heard over the last year, after all of the stories we have lived this past year, Christ is still King of all – in control, faithful to us, as we are faithful to him: a King who is willing to give his very life because he loves us that much; a King who conquered death so that we can live without fear of death, without fear of refugees, without fear of what may come tomorrow. We are His people and he is our King. “Do not fear.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Part-Time Call

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Monday day off or Friday day off... Discuss.

When I worked full-time at a parish, I tried each one. I figured out really quick that I can honor a Monday off much better than I can honor a Friday off. I believe my seminary training may have had a small part in this: there were no Monday classes in seminary at Perkins in Dallas, so I was formed to take Mondays off in some way. In seminary, I usually had some reading, writing, etc to do on Mondays, but I did not have to leave my house those days. It may not have been a true day off, but it was different than the other days. 

In the parish, Mondays worked better for me because the deadline for just about everything is the next Sunday. On Monday, I can forget all that needs to be done that week and relax into a day off. On Fridays, I could never ignore what was still undone and I would end up working on Fridays in small ways. 

Now I am in a part-time call, which sometimes feels like it is part of every day. I have more time off, but there seems to be just a little something all the time. My newsletter editor likes my submission every Monday about what is happening that weekend. It only takes me about 10 minutes and then I have the rest of the day to putter around. Tuesdays are really a better, more complete, day off for me now most weeks. If diocesan meetings fall on Tuesdays, then I take Fridays off instead. I have gotten better about honoring a Friday off by either getting work done before then, or doing whatever it is on Saturday. 

A Tale of Three Widows

All trying to survive

All forced to live an invisible life

Two have banded together to figure out a way through: one uses life wisdom, one uses her wiles
One has given it all in $$

All trust in God’s favor – all believe that God is steadfast

All trust in a system. All are caught in patriarchal (work of the devil? Collect) society that can either care for them or discard them

Ruth and Naomi seem to end well in Jesus, but the unnamed widow’s ending is unknown – even though Jesus noticed.

Ending of the Temple in 70 yrs – the sanctuary made by human hands

The scribes who pillage the houses of widows
The apostles who go out and will carry forward Jesus’ work

Stagnant church
Church on the move

Always stays the same & comfortable
Trying something new & unknown

Always the same worries and troubles
Transformed by the love of Jesus

Closing ranks
Holding space

Museum for saints
Hospital for sinners

Serious rules
Serious fun

All of these are too black and white –
Sometimes need to look inward and care for own widows and orphans
Sometimes we need to hunker down for comfort and weather storms
Sometimes we are called out to minister to Others = Foreigners
Sometimes God calls us out of our buildings and into new spaces
Seasonal, Cyclical

Tales of the widows remain in our lore – Jesus’ genealogy, Jesus pointing out the Widow.

He watched her – what do we see?

What is ours to learn from the Three Widows?
Use of Wisdom and rhythms of life
Use of wiles and strengths
Throw all we have into the mix and see what God does with it

I am very curious about what God is up to these days in Wichita Falls. God has been steadfast and has blessed us over and over and over again. God will remain steadfast and continue to bless us as we struggle and discern who and how we are to be the Episcopal Church in Wichita Falls.

This is frequently how my preaching notes look. There is audio on the right sidebar PodBean Player.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Witch at Church

Julia's writing prompt today: It's NaBloPoMo day 2!
Prompt: write about what you wear at church (your best clothes, your comfy clothes, robe, stole, etc.). What does the phrase "church clothes" look like in your world?
This last weekend included All Hallows' Evening - which has been shortened to Hallowe'en on most secular calendars. It is an ancient Christian holiday, appropriated from a Celtic celebration (more info here). A lot of Christian holidays have appropriated the holy days of other religions, as any scholar of world religions can trace. I believe those days have been appropriated because someone somewhere realized that there are rhythms to life that cannot be denied. On the dark days of the transition between seasons, maybe people needed a reason to gather and have fun.

All Hallows' Eve gives Christians a chance to poke fun at death and darkness, knowing that God through Christ is the Eternal Light that no darkness can overcome. We seriously believe what Paul said about no darkness being able to come between us and the love of God. We seriously believe what John of Patmos teaches us in Revelation about God being the ultimate winner of any universal contest between dark and light. We act silly and playful, dress in costumes, trick or treat, and generally revel in God's victory and steadfastness. We get to hear readings that are nowhere else in our regular Sunday lectionary: the Witch of Endor, Eliphaz the Temanite, the battle between the dragon and the angels; it's all fantastical. 

I think we look like Twins!
As an almost 50-yr old American woman, I do not mind the insinuation that I am dressed as my true nature in this picture. When I don a witch costume, I am trying to don the feminine mantle of Professor Minerva McGonagall, Mrs Molly Weasley, or even one of the unfortunate women chronicled in Kepler's Witch. Kepler's Witch tells the story of Christians convicting women of witchcraft merely because they were smart enough to notice the rhythms of life, remember which herbs and plants cured which symptoms, and maybe were bit more enlightened than others in a pre-enlightenment era. There is much discussion among middle-aged American women about embracing our inner Crone as we grow older and wiser - as we grow into being a witch by Kepler's definition.

As an Episcopal priest, I know that there are people who call me a witch in undertone, meaning it to be a derogatory utterance. When I don a witch's hat and cape, I am claiming the title in order to take away it's power to place me in a powerless position, as the Imp advised the Bastard to do in one of the Game of Throne books (I cannot remember if it was when Jon Snow was just leaving for the Wall or when Tyrion Lannister visited him at the Wall). A religious woman with strong convictions certainly fits the definition of a witch to a lot of people who have a tough time separating faith from magic and prayers from wishes. 

I do believe there is some criticism that could truly be leveled at my costume choice: Paul tells us not to eat the meat offered to idols if it causes our less mature members to stumble. In a society of people who do sometimes have a hard time separating faith from magic and prayers from wishes, maybe it is dangerous to dress as a witch wearing a priest collar. Also, just as it is inappropriate for me as a white woman to make up in black face, I should not dress as a practitioner of Wiccan when I am clearly not Wiccan. [Aside: all of the Wiccan practitioners I see in movies and TV dress like me on any day I am not wearing clericals. That gives me a giggle.]

Thank you for the prompt Julia! Reflecting on my choice of church clothes this last weekend was enlightening to me.