Tuesday, May 29, 2007

stuff

thanks for the prayers and thoughts, friends.
The last post was just me being shocked by some news about a friend. Everything is fine--at least I think it is. I've heard from her and while I'm still shocked, at least I know it's for real.

In the meantime, it's been a busy weekend! An APNC hosted 6-month party for me (except I've been here 8 months now...) which was awesome, a birthday party for one of the youth leaders which was also awesome, Memorial Day parade which was surprisingly short and pleasant, and a memorial day/kitty birthday party that moved location due to unforeseen circumstances (and therefore was not a kitty bday party), also awesome. Less awesome: church member that fell from a ladder in a tree (with a chainsaw!) and broke his hip. highly awesome: that he didn't get more hurt. small miracles.

Hope all is well...I have to go get busy for this week now! Worship schedule changes this Sunday, lots to do. Church picnic this Sunday--even more to do! youth group car wash this Saturday, lots to do. In other words...busy-ness ahead!

ready, set....go!!

Friday, May 25, 2007

WHAT??

I just got some very strange news.

I hardly know what to say.

That's all.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

confirmation

Confirmation today was awesome. Yes, my anxiety level was a little out of control, no I didn't really sleep last night, yes everyone was really excited....it was great. The class did a great job following directions and we had a wonderful time even with the logistical nightmare of anointing the entire congregation in the pews--which turned out to be a really incredible symbol and experience. The sermon worked (and was apparently better than I thought it was, at least according to a few people I really trust). The sanctuary was packed and we even had overflow in the lounge downstairs. It was a great day. Even with me forgetting some things and fitting them in later, it worked.

Alan, Alex, Amber, Anna, Carl, Charlie, Collin, Connor, Grayson, Jon, Kayleigh, Kelli, Laura, Mack, Matt, Matt, Norma, Paul, Samantha, and Stacy, it was a privilege to share this part of the journey with you. I hope your adventures in faith and life are wonderful.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Adventure Continues--a sermon for May 20, Confirmation Day

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
The Adventure Continues
1 John 1.1-2, 18-24, 4.10-12
May 20 2007, Confirmation Day

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before God whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey God’s commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey Christ’s commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the past 19 weeks, something very exciting has been going on in this church. 20 youth, two adults, lots of parents, and I have been gathering here every Sunday night. We’ve shared dinners together—we lost count of the number of times we ate lasagna, though I believe the count stands somewhere around 8. We’ve shared stories of friends and family, homework and exams, pom tryouts, school musicals, and sports. We’ve also shared the stories of Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and even Emperor Constantine. We’ve talked about God’s call, we’ve talked about prayer, we’ve talked about worship, we’ve talked about what it means to be Presbyterian, we even talked a little about church history. We’ve explored who we are, what gifts God has given us, and how we can use them. We’ve talked about different ways to practice our faith. The youth have written faith statements and shared them with the session. We’ve talked with mentors, we’ve been on a retreat, we even re-enacted the Exodus during a lock-in, with Kettle Korn for manna in the wilderness of the choir room. We have talked about how to be good hosts and good guests, and we visited two other churches and a synagogue. It’s been a busy semester here at RCLPC!

We’ve done a lot of talking, a lot of storytelling. Can you believe we did all of this in just 19 weeks? The confirmation class has spent a lot of their time thinking about faith, church, and life, and how they’re connected. They’ve done the reading, the praying, the writing, the homework…so, if you’re looking for answers, these 20 youth can give them to you!

Just kidding, of course…one of the things we learned in this class is that there are no easy answers, that the mystery of God is always just a bit larger than our heads, that life and faith is a journey—and adventure—not a destination. We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.

The beginning of that journey is not, as some might think, the beginning of the class. Nor is it the first time we came to church, or the first time we read the Bible. The beginning of the journey can be found, according to this letter from John, in God’s love. God loved us, and so we embark on this journey, this adventure, of loving God and the world. That, says John, is what the life of faith is about. It’s not about having the right answers, it’s about loving people and continuing on the journey.

Many years ago now, most of these youth, and most of you, marked a symbolic beginning of this adventure by being baptized. Does anyone here remember their own baptism? Do you remember the hands and the water, the prayers, what you were wearing, how you felt? Do you remember the words that were said? In many churches, after a child has been baptized the pastor says these words from the first letter of John, “see what love God has for us, that we should be called children of God—and so we are.” It’s a wonderful thing, to be children of God. To be part of God’s family, to be part of the communion of saints, to be part of the church community—a community that promises to journey together on the adventure.

It’s not just the parents or just the pastors who are busy nurturing kids and youth in the life of faith. We all promise to guide and nurture those baptized. On the green bulletin insert you can see the names of people who nurtured these youth just during the past five months—if we put down everyone for the past 15 years, I suspect the bulletin insert would look rather like the church directory. Take a look at the youth being confirmed today. If you have ever been a Sunday School or Vacation Bible School teacher for one of these youth, raise your hand. If you have ever helped with their youth group, raise your hand. If you have ever been led in worship by any of these youth, raise your hand. If you have ever had a conversation—about church, life, school, anything—with one of these youth, raise your hand. If you have been involved in the confirmation class as a small group leader, a mentor, a driver, a chaperone, a chef, raise your hand.

I don’t want to be cliché here, but really—it takes the whole church. All of you play an integral role in the faith journeys of the people around you. From baptism to confirmation and well beyond, we are all companions on the journey of faith and life together. See what love God has for us, that we should be called children of God, and placed into God’s family in this place? And so we are.

What’s less often said at baptisms, at least of infants, is that it’s not always easy. We rarely say anything about call, about mission, about ministry in the tough places, when we have a cute baby up front. But it’s there. Baptism is a symbol of grace, it’s true. But it’s also a symbol of our calling. “If we love one another, God lives in us.” I think we often toss this kind of language around—Jesus living in our hearts, being Christlike—without thinking about it’s implications. After all, it’s kind of a tall order—to love one another, everyone, and so be the bearers of God’s image in the world.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, of course. Way back in Genesis it says that God made humankind in God’s image. Since the beginning, we’ve been God’s image-bearers. But now here’s John telling us exactly what that means: when we love one another, even the people who are hard to love, even the ones who don’t want to be loved, even the ones who make us angry or persecute us or who do ridiculous things—then people can see God in and through us.

This is what we’re baptized into. This is the call symbolized at our baptisms, the call we renew every time we take part in a baptism here, the call we claim at confirmation. This is a call extends through our whole lives. When Martin Luther put his hand on his forehead and reminded himself “I am baptized,” he remembered not only the amazing gift of grace, the incredible privilege of being part of God’s family, the love that was there for him before he could love back, a love he could never repay. He remembered also the call to share that love, to bear God’s image in the world. He didn’t know what that would look like, or how he would do it, but he knew it was his calling.

That’s what we do here today. As we celebrate the journey these youth have been on, we reflect on our own journeys, and we celebrate that the adventure is not over—the adventure continues, now and throughout our whole lives. We don’t know where the road will take us, but we travel it anyway. As John says in his letter: “We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” We can look and look, but we can’t know the future. All we can know is that God loved us in the beginning, before we could love God back, and that God will continue to love us and journey with us.

So, while I won’t say the journey will be easy, I will say it will be an adventure. Some of the things God calls us to do are hard. Some of them require disturbing amounts of hard work. Some are relatively simple. We do them all out of love—the love that has its beginning and its ending in God.

In a few minutes we will witness some amazing youth claiming these promises and claiming their call. They come to officially join the church, to affirm their faith, to take up their calling to proclaim the gospel at all times, using words when necessary. They are excited and ready to be a part of this community. They’re ready to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. They understand that it’s not all fun and games, though there are fun and games to be had…they’re ready to be in ministry with all of you. Are you ready to be in ministry with them? Get ready, because together, with God’s love living in us, we can change the world.

As the adventure continues, may it be so.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five: The Big Event

From the RevGals...

Big Event Edition of the Friday Five

Did you know that the major purpose for forming a non-profit, RevGalBlogPals Inc, was to be able to attract grant support for a large scale RevGalBlogPal meetup? My dream from the beginning has been attracting financial support that would allow as many of our bloggers to be together as possible.

RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)
I'm all for a glorified slumber party that includes massages, pedicures, fun, food, and small groups or fun workshops--that sounds like a retreat to me!

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?
Ummm...I can go almost any time other pastors can go. April sounds good to me, though I don't know what the CTS Colloquium topic is for next year so I might want to go to that too (it's usually the week after the week after easter...) also keep in mind that for those of us who are associates, spring is hard because we often work with youth and that turns into crunch time for many of our youth (confirmation, plays, musicals, sports, Youth Sunday, etc) so we are a little busy by the end of April/May...

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)
I care not as long as it's either a) not too ridiculously far from an airport or b) not so far from here (there's lots of great stuff near here....since I live near Chicago but also near the country, etc...). I'm not so outdoorsy, but if there are showers, I can survive. I personally am kind of a city girl...I like to take walks in cities. and I also like beaches.

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)
I think keynote speakers are often boring. I would rather we talked amongst ourselves, honestly. I love the suggestion of Anne Lamott, though I heard her on the radio once and was disappointed in her public speaking. What if we had someone who came and mingled and such rather than a traditional lecture? we could be very post-modern and emerging (or something).

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?
ice cream!! :-) and lots of different styles of worship. And nothing too early in the morning.

Dream big for the Big Event!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Love In Action--a sermon for the day of prayer for Colombia

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Love In Action
1 John 1.1-2, 18-24, 4.10-12
May 20 2007, Prayer/Action/Witness for Colombia

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before God whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey God’s commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey Christ’s commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Does anyone here remember your own baptism? Do you remember the hands and the water, the prayers, what you were wearing, how you felt? Do you remember the words that were said? In many churches, after a child has been baptized the pastor says “see what love God has for us, that we should be called children of God—and so we are.” It’s a wonderful thing, to be children of God. To be part of God’s family, to be part of the communion of saints, to be part of the church community.

What’s less often said at baptisms, at least of infants, is that it’s not always easy. We rarely say anything about call, about mission, about ministry in the tough places, when we have a cute baby up front. But it’s there. Baptism is a symbol of grace, it’s true. But it’s also a symbol of our calling. “If we love one another, God lives in us.” I think we often toss this kind of language around—Jesus living in our hearts, being Christlike—without thinking about its implications. After all, it’s kind of a tall order—to love one another, everyone, and so be the bearers of God’s image in the world.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, of course. Way back in Genesis it says that God made humankind in God’s image. Since the beginning, we’ve been God’s image-bearers. But now here’s John telling us exactly what that means: when we love one another, even the people who are hard to love, even the people who don’t want to be loved, even the people who make us angry or persecute us or who do ridiculous things—then people can see God in and through us.

This is what we’re baptized into. This is the call symbolized at our baptisms, the call we renew every time we take part in a baptism here, the call claim at confirmation—as we will at 11 this morning as we celebrate the claiming of this call by 20 youth. This is a call extends through our whole lives. When Martin Luther put his hand on his forehead and reminded himself “I am baptized,” he remembered not only the amazing gift of grace, the incredible privilege of being part of God’s family, the love that was there for him before he could love back, a love he could never repay. He remembered also the call to share that love, to bear God’s image, to, in some sense, pay it forward.

How many of you have seen the movie “Pay it Forward”? It all begins with a class assignment—to do something that will change the world. Seventh grader Trevor decides that his project will be to help three people. These three then are not to pay back the favor, but instead pay it forward by helping three more people. Eventually the whole world will be helping each other. Trevor helps three people and at first he thinks it’s all a failure. Only later does he find out that the world has indeed changed—his idea has spread and other people are even taking credit for it! Unfortunately, he never gets to see the extent of the results of his idea or the way he helped his three people. Even so, I think Trevor had it right. He extended love to people who were hard to love, to people some would have said weren’t worth it, and at great cost to himself. “When we love one another, God lives in us.”

I think Trevor, and the people in the movie who take up the Pay it Forward movement, are a great example of loving not with words or speeches but in truth and action. The world, Trevor says, is not so good. When he tells his idea to his class, they laugh at him, saying the world’s problems are too big, that people blow off the honor system, that he’s envisioned a perfect world, a utopia, that can never exist. But he does it anyway. He puts love into action.

Trevor takes a look at the big picture of the world, and he does something. Today people around the country are taking a look at a smaller part of the picture and trying to do something. In Colombia, there are 4,000 people being killed every year because they work for human rights. There are 4 million people displaced from their homes—15,000 so far this year—by violence and because of aerial fumigation of coca plants, which also kills legitimate crops and causes a variety of health problems. The civil war in Colombia has been going on for more than 40 years. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s dangerous and depressing. Many of those assassinated for their work for human rights are Christian leaders who insist on helping displaced people, who insist on speaking out when the government silences or kills people, who insist on telling the stories of those who have been victims of human rights abuses.

It’s a big, big problem. One that’s hard to imagine how we can have any impact on at all. And so, as we do so often when faced with tragedies like this, we do nothing. Many people in this country don’t even know what’s going on in Colombia. I had no idea the scope of the problem, the length of the war, or the numbers of people involved, until this past Wednesday when I started to do some research. The only conflict that has produced more displaced people is the war in Sudan. In both Colombia and Sudan, as well as numerous other places in the world, people are being forced from their villages by the army, by the guerillas, by the rebels, by paramilitary groups—all of whom need bases, need children to be soldiers, need supplies, need food, need shelter. These groups go into a village and often they kill the men, take the children into their army, and do as they please with the women. Lucky ones get away and survive by living in the jungle, always hungry and always afraid. What can we do about it?

I read a story this week about a Colombian Presbyterian pastor. Paramilitary soldiers swarmed his town at dinner time and ordered the men to the town square, where they would all be executed. They all lay face down in the square. Jesús Gómez, the pastor of the Presbyterian church, lay with the other men, frozen with fear. One of the soldiers, who knew Jesús and respected his work in the area, leaned down and whispered in his ear, “Pastor! Don’t just let them kill you. Make a run for it!” Jesús says it was like coming out of a trance. He began to run, and when he did others, including the children, also began to run. Though the soldiers shot into the running crowd, many got away. 14 people were killed that day. There had been 70 men lying in the square, waiting to be shot. 56 men, plus women and children, were saved by that soldier putting love into action, even for just one moment.

Sometimes all it takes is one person. The Colombian churches have asked for American Christians to come down to accompany their people. Those who work for human rights are often at risk, but if they are being accompanied by a foreigner, especially an American, they are much less likely to be assassinated. So for the past several years, the Presbyterian Church has been training people to do just that—to take a month or two out of their busy lives to go literally walk with a brother or sister in Christ. It’s dangerous, it’s costly…it’s love in action. In just two weeks, Ann will be leaving for Colombia to spend a month putting her love into action. I suspect many people will see God as she walks alongside the Colombian people.

Now it’s true, this is not the approach everyone will want to take. But there are other things we can do. It may sound trite, but we can pray. It may feel like doing nothing, but it is not. Spend some time praying for the people of Colombia, for peace and justice to come to a troubled land. Also don’t underestimate your voice in our government! There are postcards downstairs you can send to your representatives. Put your love into action.

At the end of the movie, Trevor reflects on his Pay it Forward idea and how difficult it is to even imagine the world could be different. (play scene 1.48.40-1.50.42)

I think what Trevor is asking, and what John is asking us to do in this letter, is to see the world as children of God—to see the world as God might, and to share the love we have received. To imagine that things can be different, to not give up our praying and our working until God’s kingdom is as real on earth as in heaven. That’s the baptismal call—to go out and share God’s love with the world, to put love into action.

May it be so.

Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2007

corn

the fields near the church have little hints of green. there are neat, perfectly spaced rows of corn that is beginning to sprout. It has grown from nothing to 2" in the past few days. As I drive along the road, there is a brush of green on the fields...and when I get close, I can see that it is very orderly and mostly brown after all.

But it's still pretty.

Spring is here at last.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

mother's day

I want this day to be like all the other days, but it isn't.
I want this day to be like all the other Mother's Days, but it isn't.

I want to be able to write blog posts like this without tears, but I can't.
I want to be able to pray for those who find this day difficult without tears, but I can't.

I want to plant tomato plants for my mom today, but I can't.
I want to call and wish her a happy mother's day, but I can't.

There are many more things I want, but I won't get them. Not "this side of eternity" anyway.

I want to be able to tell people how hurtful it is when they assume that everyone loves Mother's Day. But somehow do it without raining on their happy mother's day parade.
I want to feel like I normally do when leading worship rather than like I'm floating and don't really want to be there, like I did today. And we didn't even sing any songs that trigger mom-ness...

I want to not get a thousand and one emails about how my mom needs the latest gadget, flowers, books, gift cards, clothes, e-cards, etc...she doesn't. not anymore.

I want to talk to my mom. I want to tell her that I love her and miss her.

Instead I will go set up for confirmation class. I will listen as my 20 confirmands are examined by the session and received into a new family. We will talk again about what it means to be members of a church. We'll go through the service for next week so there won't be any surprises. And then I'll go home, tired. And tomorrow "everything will be back to normal." as if.

Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you. I hope you are having a good day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

more random

yesterday I saw a woman wearing pantyhose--unremarkable except she was at the gym. On the treadmill. Yes, seriously.

today I was determined not to drive anywhere. I walked to the Freeze for my afternoon soft serve. I had dreamsicle. It was pretty good. Total walk (round trip, including getting the ice cream, admiring the geese, watching kids play at the lake...) 1 hour 20 minutes. not bad. I probably could have done the library if I'd put my mind to it.

my kitties love me. they are curled up by me, soaking up my most-of-the-day-at-home presence.

I had a great dinner. it's on the "what do you mean you don't have a ricer" page. Except I ate it all before I could take pictures. Sorry.

Time to write prayers of the people and get to bed. good times.

dots of Saturday

  • If you haven't, you need to read this book. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's worth the read.
  • Facebook is strangely pointless and yet keeps calling me back. What is that all about? And how is it different from Friendster, bebo, or Myspace--social networking sites that I "belong" to but don't use?
  • Trader Joe's Strawberry Lemonade is really good.
  • I am not driving anywhere today. I might want ice cream later--I'll walk to the Freeze. I was thinking of walking to the library and finally getting a library card, but I don't think I can walk both there AND the Freeze without my legs falling off. the Freeze is a mile away from home...the library is about a mile and a half but not in the same direction. hmmm. perhaps a library card next week, then.
  • Today's the last day of the Cezanne to Picasso exhibit at the Art Institute. It's fantastic. I went for the third time yesterday. It was so great--even with the crowds.
  • I had "Trader Giotto's" goat cheese and roasted red pepper pizza for lunch. yum.
  • my kitties love having me home--they're snuggling me up all over the place, no matter where I sit down. They can't get enough of me. Maybe cuz I'm basically never home....
  • I need a children's time for tomorrow. any ideas? (text for the day: John 5.1-9)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Five: dichotomies...

RM says on RGBP:

There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize!
--Mac!! Mac mac mac, with a side of Microsoft Office so I can be compatible with those of you who haven't made the smart switch yet.

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
Bring on the Chicago style pizza. Since I live in the suburbs of Chi-town, I get to eat the real deal whenever I want. best place in the city? Bacinos. Their spinach and mushroom is what gets me through the week sometimes. In a pinch, Giordanos will do. And Georgios is our local place...not my fave crust but it'll do.

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]
b. No nuts. I don't want them in my brownies, my fudge, on my sundae...just don't.

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
Definitely over the top.

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
umm, somewhere in between? I squeeze from the middle when I put toothpaste ON the toothbrush, but I flatten the tube from the bottom ahead of time (with the lid on) so all the toothpaste is conveniently located near the opening.

bonus:
cats or dogs?

cats, for sure. I love them. dogs drool, cats rule!!! (why yes, I work with children and teens...why do you ask?)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

spring has sprung

The trees that bloom are blooming and there are tree flower petals everywhere. It's gorgeous. And maybe makes me a little sneezy.
The sun has been out and it's getting warm--in the 70's and it feels hot.
The birds are still singing even though the sun is going down.
You can't see the church from the local college anymore because there are leaves on the trees now.
I need to buy a fan for my bedroom and maybe one for my living room too (though I could just move it from room to room--I live alone, after all).
We are switching over from spring green to summer green. It's great.
Confirmation class only lasts one more week.
Several of the youth in my church are graduating very soon. Crazy.
I need summer shoes.
It's only a month until I start getting super-fresh organic veggies from a local farm. I'm very excited.
I actually had to use the air conditioning in my car today.
The Freeze is open and it's beautiful. Many flavors of soft serve, all in one place. Mixed fresh for you. cheap. a mile from my house. local. "low fat." Did I mention beautiful?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

more about food...

so it's no secret that I love food.
Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pizza, gardenburgers, stir-fry, pad thai with tofu, grilled cheese with tomato, ice cream...mmm.....and now I'm part of a CSA co-op here in my area. A local organic farm sells 50 shares of its produce every summer. Each week, beginning in a month!, I'll go out to the farm and pick up a 5/8 bushel box of veggies, which I'll share with my lovely friend Sherri (and some of which might get frozen for winter). mmm, local fresh organic veggies. yum.

It's also no secret that justice is important to me. And it makes me sad how many people are hungry in the world, and right here in my own town.

At the 30 Hour Famine, RCLPC youth collected enough money to feed almost 9 children for a whole year, and they collected 70 pounds of food for our local food pantry on our one-hour scavenger hunt.

If you're looking for a way to help, try this out. Just put canned items next to your mailbox on Saturday and your mailman (mailwoman) (I think "letter carrier" is the newly appropriate term) will take it away and it will go to feed hungry people right there in your own community. Pretty awesome, pretty easy. Just do it. Hungry people thank you. Cuz hunger isn't just a winter issue. and not everyone can afford the $500 co-op.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Whirled Peas--a sermon for Easter 5C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Whirled Peas
Acts 11.1-18
May 6 2007—Easter 5C

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. and they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Close your eyes and I’m going to ask you a question. No peeking, now! Raise your hand if that was the first time you’ve ever heard this story of Peter and the petting zoo.

It’s not exactly the most common story—in fact, it’s a little bizarre. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In our final semester of seminary—that would be the 8th semester including summers—my friend Amy and I were finally taking the first-year New Testament Survey class. Each week we were assigned a book of the New Testament to read through in one sitting. That sounded boring, so instead we got together and read the assignments aloud—taking turns reading while the other person provided sound effects. When I got to this story, instead of saying “moo” or “caw caw!” or “gasp!” Amy said “what? You just made that up.” When I said I had not, she grabbed the Bible out of my hands, saying “there is NO WAY that is in the Bible,” and then seeing it for herself. Her response was, “seriously?” It was a funny moment, for sure—one of many in those last weeks before graduation.

As Amy learned, and as you all just heard, the story is indeed in the Bible. It’s weird, true, but it’s still in there. We all know the Bible has no qualms talking about food, personal hygiene, how we live our private lives, how we live our public lives, and politics. But even so, this story is still bizarre. Peter falls into a trance and the Holy Spirit tells him to eat things that are completely abhorrent! But first he has to choose which disgusting thing to eat, then catch it from the petting zoo sheet and kill it, presumably prepare it, and then eat it—breaking every possible purity code on the books. He must have thought this was a temptation story like the one of Jesus in the wilderness, so naturally, he resists.

Then comes the surprise. “What God has called clean you must not call profane.” Three times—the holy number—and then it’s over. And just as Peter is congratulating himself on a temptation well survived, the unclean people start to show up. Not just any unclean people, either—Gentiles. This time, though, when the Spirit says “go,” Peter goes, and supposedly makes no distinction between “them” and “us.”

Now, when the leaders in Jerusalem hear it, they’re outraged. How could he go eat with unclean, uncircumcised gentiles? He knows the rules. They know the rules. So when he gets home, they summon him for public criticism and questioning. Everyone clearly knows what’s right and what’s wrong—and who’s right and who’s wrong—in this situation.

The trouble is, as Buffy will remind you anytime you ask her, is that “it’s not about right, not about wrong—it’s about power.” Who has it, who wants it, and how you use it. Peter had an experience that showed him who had the power, and it wasn’t him. When he told the story, the church leaders in Jerusalem heard who had the power, and it wasn’t them. This is a huge change, a turning of the world. It turns out that the institutions—the Jewish Temple, the Roman Empire, even the Church, don’t have the power. They don’t have the power to determine what’s right and wrong, who’s in and who’s out, or to control the Spirit. Only God has the power. The Spirit blows where she will. Peter and the church leaders were moved to silence by this realization—because what can you say? Only the words of Peter seem to work: “who was I that I could hinder God?”

To step back, to let go of our notions of right and wrong, to let go of our power, and to let God break down our walls and barriers is not easy. It’s comforting to have those walls in place. They give structure to our world and our lives. And where the walls are physical and real, made of concrete and 25 feet high, it seems impossible to bring them down anyway. So why not just leave them there? They make our worlds a manageable size, they keep us safe.

Except, of course, they don’t. What they do sometimes instead is restrict our view and keep us in the dark. I told my story about Amy, and now I have a similar story about some of the people I met when I was just beginning to be a Young Adult Volunteer. Before I left for Egypt, when I told people what I was going to do and where, the most common question I got—even from extremely informed, intelligent people—was “what are you going to do there? Everyone there is Muslim.” The close second was “How will you handle being the only Christians?”

Just as Amy, and some of us, didn’t realize this story was in the Bible, there are a lot of people in this country who don’t realize there are Christians in the Middle East. Christianity is a “western religion,” they say, foreign to that culture. But it isn’t. Jesus was born in Palestine, he and his family traveled to Egypt when he was young, and he visited what are now Lebanon and Syria. The disciples are known to have traveled after the resurrection to Iran, Iraq, India, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan to found churches. Mark, the gospel writer, was the first bishop of Alexandria—the first pope of the Coptic church. In fact, Christianity came to the West only through the efforts of very courageous missionaries. It’s strange to think of ourselves as the products of missionaries, but so we are! And there are indeed Christians still living in the cradle of our faith—12% of the population of Egypt is Christian.

But Christians are a serious minority—between 1 and 40% of the population, depending on the country. They do not hold the positions of power that we enjoy in the US. Instead, their position in politics and in society ranges from openly persecuted, as in today’s Iraq, to officially tolerated but culturally and politically disliked and disadvantaged, as in Egypt and Syria, to integrated in the country’s political and cultural life, as in Lebanon, to ignored and forgotten as in Palestine. No power there.

Being a Christian in the Middle East is hard work. You often can’t gather publicly for worship. You can’t practice your faith openly in many places. Some shopkeepers won’t sell to you. It’s hard to get a permit for a church or a school or an addition to your house. The government can take your property without compensation. You are harassed on the streets—because everyone can tell who you are by the way you dress. You have to be careful what you preach. You can’t share the good news because evangelism is illegal. If you happen to be a convert from Islam, you will be shunned by your family and community, or sometimes killed. Like everyone else in the Middle East, you’re probably poor and you probably live in fear of the next outbreak of violence. Worst of all, the people who have worldly power often don’t acknowledge that you exist—they lump you together with the same people who persecute you.

The Middle East is a complex place, with rich history and tangled politics. It’s hard to say who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not hard to say who has the power in the situation, though—we do. If we put ourselves in Peter’s story, we are the church in Jerusalem, passing judgment before hearing the story. When we do hear the story, the question is whether we’ll be moved to silence and to praise by the realization that God has broken down the dividing walls of hostility, whether we’ll jump in and be part of the demolition crew, or whether we’ll decide that our walls are best left intact.

Now I know, we’re far away, and as individuals we don’t feel like we have much power, and it’s complicated. But there are still things we can do. We have more influence than we like to realize. One thing we can do is choose not to make judgments, not to assess what’s right and what’s wrong, not to assume we understand people’s lives or people’s feelings when we hear or read news. Instead we can simply love people as God’s children. Another is to pray without ceasing that all of God’s children might have peace founded on justice, that there might be recognition and respect of Christians who live in the cradle of the faith, that God’s power might ultimately triumph over the earthly powers, that God’s wisdom will ultimately have the last word over our worldly wisdom. We are entering a week of prayer and witness with and for Christians in the Middle East. Take your bulletin home and use the prayers printed in the insert to pray for people and churches in each country. Use the Cradle of our Faith booklet to learn more, to see people and places, to offer your witness that God’s power is stronger than our walls.

Another thing we can do sounds bizarre, but I’m going to suggest it anyway. Peter had a vision that changed the world. Perhaps it’s time for us to practice having a vision. There is a popular green bumper sticker with swirly designs that says “visualize whirled peas.” It’s silly, but perhaps just the thing we need today. Peter’s vision that began with food led to a much larger change in the world and the church—without it, we of gentile descent wouldn’t be here in church today! Maybe if we start small, with whirled peas, which sound almost as gross as killing my own unclean dinner, our vision can be expanded to world peace. After all, God is turning the world around, maybe even one pea, and one prayer, at a time. And so we pray—may it be so.

Amen.

Friday, May 04, 2007

random dots of a random day

  • I love going to the Taize service in Oak Park. It makes me happy. Tonight my soul was full while I was driving home. I wasn't even (very) irritated at the minivan driver who insisted on driving 55 in the left lane for many miles on I290.
  • Is it bad that this story gives me a little bit of inner glee? probably. But it's worth it.
  • I spent the day in Oak Park and it was lovely. I read most of a book about ethical food choices while sitting in an independent bookstore, then had a nice dinner while reading a novel about discovering gnostic gospels or something (whatever, it's lame, but it's set in Cairo, which is why I bought it...). I walked around a lot today. It was nice out.
  • I have a sermon, but it's not good. tomorrow morning I'm doing a re-write. I have a plan, but I don't want to write it right now because I'm tired.
  • If I'm so tired, you might ask, why am I blogging instead of being in bed? Answer: laundry. I have to switch my clothes into the dryer before going to bed. soon and very soon.
  • One of my cats is psychotic. he eats and then paws the floor around his dish (the way they do in the litter box to cover things up...except he hasn't mastered that so he paws outside the box, apparently hoping that litter will magically move inside the box even if he's not touching it...). I don't get that. It's a new development, too.
  • Speaking of cats, either my cats are getting bigger or Richard's cats are losing weight. When I went over there the other day I mistook the larger cat for the smaller one. Hard to do the first time, when I saw Theo back in the fall he had three chins, I swear.
  • I have a new reason to go visit Lake Geneva--to scope out the facility for the presbytery's senior high retreat. we're using a new facility this year and so someone needs to go look at it. that's me! yay, Lake Geneva! I'm coming to you sometime in summer! woohoo! LG is only 35 minutes away, which is awesome. I love it.
  • sleepy...