Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reading challenge 2008

Last night I made a Saturday evening tactical error:  after finishing my "sermon" (actually a guided meditation) I decided to read The Shack.

It was actually pretty well written, and a compelling story.  The theology was basically sound (in my opinion)--I was reading fairly quickly so I don't remember any egregious theological errors (nothing that made me cringe anyway) but if I missed something, I'm sure someone will let me know.  I liked that God was portrayed in ways that made the main character uncomfortable, as in NOT a grandfatherly type.  I liked that it was repeatedly pointed out that God loves every single person, regardless of their actions, and that God's love can't be lost, but that in order for us to experience eternal life NOW (this has nothing to do with "eternity" but with a quality to our life together now) we need to rest and trust in that love.  Even the stuff about atonement (and I'm pretty sure substitutionary atonement is the norm for this book, which is something I don't always agree 100% with as I think it's a limited theory in need of the other theories for us to get a fuller picture) was relatively subtle most of the time.  And the portrayal of the loss within Godself at the death of Jesus was profound and lovely.

However, the book is totally sad (I mean, hopeful and all, but the basic storyline is heart-wrenchingly sad).  I don't know how anyone could read it and not cry unless you are stone-hearted.  And it also definitely pushed some grief buttons for me. (hence the saturday evening error--I cried and ended up dehydrated and with puffy eyes as I headed into Sunday.)  But anyway...

read it and tell me what you think.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Turn Aside To See--a guided meditation for Ordinary 22A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
Turn Aside To See
Exodus 3.1-15
August 31 2008, Ordinary 22A

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the
Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.

~~~~~~~~~~

Today we will walk in the footsteps of Moses.
In invite you to close your eyes.
Put your feet flat on the floor, sit up straight, and be comfortable.
Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly.
Take a deep breath in, and let it out slowly.

Picture yourself doing something you do every day.
Where are you?
What is around you?
What sounds do you hear?
What do you smell?
What colors do you see?
How do you feel in this everyday place, doing your everyday task?

In the midst of the ordinary, everyday-ness of your place, glance to one side.
There is something there—you can’t quite make it out, it seems out of place.
Are you curious?
Look harder—can you see it?
Will you leave your busy-ness, your schedule, your plans to step off your beaten path?
What’s stopping you from stepping out of the rush, from turning aside to see?

Go ahead—turn aside to see.
The colors are dancing,
heat is coming off in waves,
sparks are flying,
but the bush is not burned up—it’s still there, green as ever, with berries ripe for the picking.
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
Are you curious?

Suddenly you hear something—faint, at first, but definitely coming out of the flames.
Listen closely, what is it saying?
names…
your name.
Will you answer?
It seems silly to talk to a bush, especially one on fire.
But the voice is compelling.
What will you say?
Moses said, and Samuel said, and Mary said, “Here I am.”
What will you say?

Again, the voice:
take off your shoes—this is holy ground.
Go ahead—if you can reach, take off your shoes and then close your eyes again.
This is holy ground.
Holy.
Ground.
Feel it—solid, cool in spite of the heat coming from the bush.
Feel it—shifting as flames speak and you know something big is coming.
Feel it—holy, sacred, made by God for this moment.
Holy Ground.

One little turn off the beaten path and we’ve ended up here, barefoot on holy ground.

The voice again:
I’m God.
Not just any god, but God—the God of your ancestors, the God who created all this, the God who called people and blessed them, the God who called people to be a blessing to others.
What will you do now?
Moses, shoeless Moses, hid his face—afraid to look at God.
What will you do now?

The burning bush is not God—it is an instrument of God.
Look into it—stare into the flames.
See the shapes, the life, the passion, the swirl of color.
You turned aside to see—now, see.
You took off your shoes to feel God’s holy ground—now, feel.
What will you do?

You can turn away.
You can hide your face.
You can go back to your daily life and keep a secret.
You can go back to your daily life with a great story.
You can put on your shoes and walk.
Or you can stand on this holy ground,
wondering
hoping,
listening.

God’s voice, yet again…
I have plans.
For you.
For my people.
For the world.
I need your help.

Your help.
What is your first thought?
What is your second thought?
How can you help God?
Why you?
What does God mean by “help” exactly?
Are you feeling a little crazy?
Wondering if you should be listening to a plant or a fire?
Looking around to see if anyone has noticed?
Hoping you’re hearing voices or that this is all a dream?

God’s voice, again…
Yes, you.
You are the one I have chosen.
You, standing here on this holy ground.
You, who turned aside to see.
You, who can do far more than you realize.
You, the one staring at your feet and thinking you aren’t good enough.
You.
And then God says:
I will go with you.
My name is I AM—and I will always be.
I’m not just a thing, not just a person, not just a verb—I AM.
I AM God.
I AM the God of your ancestors.
I AM the maker of all things.
I AM the One who called you.
I AM love.
and I WILL go with you.

Listen again—
God is telling you what you have been chosen for.
God is calling you…to what?

Your hands,
your heart,
your ears,
your eyes,
your feet…
made holy,
made for a call,
made for carrying good news.

Will you turn aside
to stand on holy ground
to hear the blessing
and to hear the challenge
and to hear the promise,
and then to go out into the world with holy bare feet?

When you are ready,
take a deep breath, let it out slowly
and look down at your feet.
Open your eyes to see the holy ground.
Then turn and see your holy neighbors,
companions on the way,
fellow workers in God’s world.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

reading challenge 2008

I have been remiss in posting about books...I promise I still read, though I actually didn't crack open a single non-Lonely-Planet book during my entire vacation.  Anyway, I think I forgot a book or two that I read right before vacation, but here's what's happened since..

This is a re-read, of course--I read the whole thing on the plane on the way home from Scotland.  I laughed, much to the chagrin of people seated around me on an 8 hour transatlantic flight.  I love this book.  It was particularly amusing to read it when we're in the middle of the Bible in 90 Days.

also a re-read--I felt I needed to read more Harry Potter after I'd been in Edinburgh and everything looked like an HP set, and after seeing some of the places where Rowling did her writing.

Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin
Hide and Seek, by Ian Rankin
(and currently reading, probably will finish by bedtime) Tooth and Nail, by Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin is a Scottish author, some of whose haunts we visited on the literary pub crawl in Edinburgh.  Several of the places we visited are places his novels happen, so I decided it was an easy fluff way to relive my vacation.  These are crime/mystery novels, the type my mom used to love, all in one series with the same Inspector (Inspector Rebus).  They thankfully aren't the kind of books (so far) that cause nightmares when read right before bed, or the kind that make me stay awake until 2am trying to finish the book so I can know what happened.  While I do love those can't-put-it-down page turners, I'm exhausted and need to be able to read a few chapters and then go to sleep without seeing serial killers in the shadows on my wall.  These fit the bill nicely and I can picture the places he talks about!  Fun.

This is a children's book, I think--of the chapter variety, of course.  It was amusing and a quick-read--there are intrigues and stereotypes and fictional history...plus the glossary in the back cracked me up.

The Friendship of Women, by Joan Chittister.  This is the book for tomorrow's RevGalBookPals discussion, so I read it this afternoon.  While I think some of the symbolism she sees in the women of the bible is a stretch, I enjoyed thinking about my friends and what biblical woman archetype they might fit in.  Plus the book was short, had big margins and wide spacing, and is divided into manageable chapters.  I'm all about books I can read entirely on a Sunday afternoon without compromising my nap as well.

I know I've read something else but this is all I can remember for now...and now back to my crime novel!  :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Holy Disobedience--a sermon for Ordinary 21A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
Holy Disobedience
Exodus 1.8-2.10
August 24 2008, Ordinary 21A

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, God gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.’
Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. ‘This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,’ she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’ Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Yes.’ So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.’ So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, ‘because’, she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’


“This must be one of the Hebrews’ children” she says. Well, of course? Who else would be driven to such desperation that they would leave their child to float along the river, waiting to die? Who else would come up with such an idea? The Hebrews, of course—the once-favored-but-now-enslaved Hebrews. There’s no better story to show that it’s all about who you know, no better story to show what happens when power goes to your head, no better story to show that people have surprising ways of holding on to hope, than this story of the Hebrews in Egypt.

To back up a little, this saga begins with Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. He eventually rises through the ranks of the Egyptian government, becoming the overseer for the whole land—essentially the prime minister of Egypt. A famine hits and Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to buy food, not knowing that Joseph is the one they come to buy from. Eventually they reconcile and all the Jacob family comes down, 70 people in all. They settle in Goshen, the fertile land in the Nile Delta. And they grow—in population, in wealth, and in stature. Generations come and go, and the Hebrews are productive members of the Egyptian society and economy.

But then a new king comes to power and he doesn’t remember Joseph—and it’s all about who you know. Along with a short historical memory, this king is getting used to power, and may be a little prone to anxiety, and when he takes a look at census numbers and discovers that the ethnic Hebrews outnumber ethnic Egyptians and when he learns a little more about this God they worship …it all seems like a recipe for trouble. He imagines the scenario where this all goes horribly wrong…and he concocts a plan to bring these people under his control, turning them from productive members of society into slaves through a cunning propaganda campaign in which he spreads his own fear through his whole nation—what if? What if? What if? Soon the Egyptians hate, dread, fear their neighbors, and so being ruthless is easy. Plus if we try hard enough, maybe they’ll begin to think of themselves the way we think of them—as less than human.

But no—the spark of hope seems to grow stronger rather than weaker, the Hebrews continue to multiply and to grow. So desperate measures must be taken—and the Pharaoh orders the first biblically recorded ethnic cleansing campaign. And, of course, he calls on the women, the keepers of community life.

Except these are no ordinary women—these are midwives. These women are charged with bringing life into the world, and they aren’t about to follow an order to turn life into death, especially since they know that they serve the God of Life, even Abundant Life. So they continue doing their jobs, just as they had before, bringing life and love into the world, even if it is a world of ruthless oppression. They continue to fan the flame of hope, a small light in an increasingly dark time. They blatantly disobey Pharaoh—the earthly authority, the one who considers himself powerful, even over life and death. And they end up in the throne room, answering questions.

My favorite part of this story is the midwives’ answer to Pharaoh’s question. “Why have you done this when I told you to kill them??” he asks. And Shiphrah and Puah, faced with earthly power, with fear embodied, look the Pharaoh in the eye and do the last thing we expect of nice, proper ladies—they lie! They don’t apologize, they don’t plead for their lives, they don’t even appeal to religion. They just tell their made-up story, and tell it convincingly enough that they leave the palace free women, able to continue their lives and their important work.

And their work is important, especially since God’s future literally rests in their hands. One of those babies they deliver turns out, you see, to be the one God has in mind to lead the Hebrews into the future, to turn them from victims of ethnic cleansing into a community for the blessing of the world. But first he has to survive the pogrom—you see, Pharaoh’s fear is increasing, and so is his fearful propaganda. Now that the midwives can’t get the job done, Pharaoh orders his people to get in on the fear-filled action by tossing babies—sons of their neighbors, their former friends, their coworkers—into the Nile. Now remember, the Nile back then was different than it is today—it was deeper, wider, and faster. It flooded regularly, bringing life-giving silt to the land and replenishing the wells with fresh water. It was also filled with crocodiles and fish and goodness knows what else. It was a long silver ribbon of both life and death.

But again, the hands of women are resourceful and strong. Moses’ mother makes a basket and makes it watertight. She knows she’s not supposed to do this, she knows that her child is likely going to die one way or another. She also knows that Pharaoh’s type of fear isn’t the kind that brings safety or security or life—only trust in God can do that. So she drops the basket in the river, leaves Miriam in the reeds with strict instructions to watch silently, and leaves. Who could bear to watch? Her own child, floating downriver, crying for food, for eye contact, for love. So Miriam watches instead.

But, to her horror, someone else is watching. Someone powerful, and someone else with strict instructions. Pharaoh’s daughter comes down to the river to bathe—a princess accompanied by her entourage, perhaps getting ready for a party or perhaps just in a daily or weekly ritual. In any case, her job is to make herself beautiful so she can look the part of princess. Her job is to do what her father says, when he says. But she sees something, and her instructions fall by the riverside. She wades into the river, looks in the basket and states the obvious—“This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.” Well, now all bets are off. Miriam can’t follow her instructions anymore—her baby brother is in the hands of the power! She wades out into the water, the life-giving and life-taking water, and defies all our expectations with her cleverness—“do we need a nurse? Well, do I know the woman for you!” And the princess defies all our expectations, all her instructions, all her training, and all her father’s laws, saving this child from a watery grave and agreeing to raise him as her own son. And somehow, Moses’ mother manages to hide her surprise and her joy, calmly taking him in to be nurtured and fed and loved—and getting paid for it too!

Five women in one story. Five women who defy expectations. Five women who defy fear, who choose to live with a little spark of hope rather than giving in to the darkness. Five women, upon whose disobedience the entire future of God’s people depends. Five women, some of whose names are long forgotten, some of whose names live on in our collective memory. Five women who redeem an entire people with their courage in the face of power. Five women who live in the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of fear. Five women in one story.

I doubt I need to tell you how unusual it is to have this many women in one section of our story. I doubt I need to tell you how unusual it is to have this many women cast as heroes. I doubt I need to tell you that these women are all of us at one time or another, doing what God has called us to do and so participating in the coming of God’s kingdom. The famous quote that “good girls rarely make history” is probably true—and these women are anything but conventionally “good”!! They act in such unexpected ways, they disobey the authorities time and again, they draw deep on resources of hope and compassion and ingenuity. And they certainly made history—and their courage allowed God’s history to continue to be made. That is holy disobedience indeed. Perhaps God’s future lies now in our unlikely hands—may we follow the example of these five unexpected agents of grace.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

big day!

It's here!  new youth group members....welcome!  You know you always wanted to be taken, blindfolded, from your house at 6am to join the youth ministry!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

big weekend!

it's a big weekend here...our biggest youth event of the year (well, besides youth sunday and summer trips) is this Saturday.  It's a huge secret and is taking lots of planning, but as soon as it's happened I'll blog about it!

Also I'm preaching again this week (week 2 of 4 in a row), and there's a luncheon in which high schoolers will tell their mission trip stories.  that too requires prep by me, the one with a Costco card.

Today's my mom's birthday--she would have been 50 today.  Happy Birthday mom!  I miss you so much.  Today my colleagues and I will eat Mexican food at a little hole in the wall place where they make everything from scratch, and we'll sing you happy birthday over ice cream from kaleidoscoops.  I hope you enjoy it.

Also, our internet is still down at church.  It's supposed to be back on today, but I hold out little hope.  Maybe next week....

so, it's busy.  sorry for the blog silence...back soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Double Dog Dare--a sermon for Ordinary 20A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
Double Dog Dare
Matthew 15.21-28
August 17 2008, Ordinary 20A

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.


Well, that’s not the Jesus we usually hear about growing up in Sunday School, is it? This is a hard story to hear—our loving, all-compassionate Jesus first ignores a human being in need, and then insults her to her face. The story is just barely redeemed by the fact that Jesus heals the woman’s daughter in the end—but it’s hard to argue that the ends justified the means. I mean, Jesus called this woman, this suffering woman, a dog.

But you know what? There’s not much a mother won’t do for the good of her child. If there’s one thing we know from both nature and our own experience, it’s that you do NOT mess with a mama protecting her cubs. Or perhaps I should say her puppies??! This woman is no exception—she is willing to go to great lengths, to endure insults—even this most vulgar of insults—for the sake of her child. She’s willing to make a scene, to beg, and to be a little sassy if necessary. This is one tenacious woman.

Now, I have to admit that if I had to choose between these two characters right now, I’d side with the woman in a heartbeat. I’m a Cubs fan, so I know about persistence in the face of failure. I tend to be on the side of the underdog, with compassion and righteous anger bubbling just below my surface pretty much all the time. The trouble is, usually I say that that’s what Jesus calls us to do—but here he is being exactly the opposite of how we think he ought to be, playing the role of oppressor rather than liberator, divider rather than gatherer, perpetrator of prejudice and injustice rather than the one breaking down the walls of hostility between us. How is that possible? I mean, isn’t Jesus supposed to be perfect? How could he be so horrible…and so horribly human?

I have heard preachers suggest that Jesus was testing the woman, trying to see if she would persevere even in the face of difficulty, daring her to continue her quest for healing. I’ve heard them suggest that Jesus didn’t mean it when he used this insult, but he was trying to teach his disciples something. I’ve even heard a few people suggest that the word used is more like “doggies”—like a term of endearment for a pet, which is unlikely since pets were largely unheard of and animals tended to be unclean. There are lots of ways to soften this, but the reality is that Jesus was harsh and that his prejudices seem to have gotten the better of him this time, at least at first.

But the woman didn’t give up—she just kept pushing, almost daring Jesus to walk away. What does she have to lose? She’s already lost her dignity, any standing she may have had in the community, and often her daughter. It can’t hurt for her to keep shouting, to run after this man she’s heard about, to kneel at his feet and beg, or even to backtalk the great teacher of Israel. And once he’s insulted her so, she ups the ante—she double dog dares him. “yes…but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.” Well, who can argue with that? I don’t have a dog, but I have two cats who try to eat anything that falls on the floor in my kitchen. She’s not asking for the world, but she is asking this man, this Word of God made flesh, this Bread of Life, to be enough for her daughter. She’s asking Jesus to take a little step out of his comfort zone, a little hop over the boundary line he thinks he has to work within, to have compassion for someone completely and totally Other. And, thankfully, Jesus does it.

I like to imagine Jesus sounding totally amazed in his last sentence here—“woman! great is your faith!?!?!?” As though he’s looked into her eyes, he’s heard her voice, and he’s seen and heard the image of God calling out to him. We talk a lot around here about seeing God in other people, about hearing God’s voice in the people we meet—well, here’s a time when maybe Jesus saw God in someone besides himself. He looked at this woman, he heard her desperation, and he knew God’s call. And when he heard the call, he immediately followed, even outside the bounds, across the walls, over the line.

I often tell people that I think each one of us lives on a platform. We have a platform on which to dance and dance, to sing and play and frolic, to laugh and cry and wonder. We come up to the edge of our platforms sometimes, and we might even peek over the edge now and then, but most of the time we back away from that edge and dance inside the lines, afraid of falling off the edge. Sometimes we might hear things coming from below, but they’re hard to make out and it’s too scary to think about jumping off our platform, because it’s like the edge of our world—if we jump or fall off, we might die. But occasionally something happens—a reading, a movie, an experience, an encounter—and it’s like a voice calling us from somewhere off the edge of our platforms. So we gather up our courage and we dance to the edge and we let ourselves slip a little bit…and we fall off and it’s scary and we’re out of control and we don’t know what to do…and then we find ourselves on another platform, bigger than the one we were on before, and we have so much more room to dance and sing and frolic, so much more room to laugh and cry and wonder. And so we dance around our platform, amazed at how big it is and how many more friends we can fit in our room and how great it is that this big platform is here and how thankful we are that God had another platform for us when we fell off the one way up there. Eventually we get comfortable and sometimes our platform gets crowded, and we have to make a choice. We remember what it was like to fall off the other platform, how scary it was. And we’re feeling like this one doesn’t have room for all our friends or all our vision of how God wants the world to be, and we’re hearing voices from somewhere off the edge again…but do we fall again? What if there’s not a bigger platform to save us, for us to land on down below…what if instead there’s condemnation? So in our fear we keep dancing our limited dance, but eventually the voices are too loud, shouting after us with such desperation, that we come right up to the edge again, close our eyes, reach out, and go, to find that we’ve lost control again, we’re scared and screaming again, and then that there’s another bigger platform with room for more friends and more dancing, so we kick off our shoes and delight in the expanse of God’s vision.

I think, in some ways, what this woman did for Jesus was call him off his platform and onto a bigger one. And when he heard God in her voice, calling him to take a leap, he danced right off the edge and found himself living in the kingdom of God right here on earth. And that little fall off the top table onto the one below was exactly what the woman, and the world, and Jesus, needed. Just a little barefoot dance, just a little courage, just a little leap, just a little crumb of grace, was what we all needed, and when we got it, we were amazed and delighted to find that it was more than enough.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

lots of stuff, not lots of time

I have about 5 blog posts brewing, on the following topics (I'm hoping that putting this out there will force me to be accountable and actually finish these...):

* Scotland, week 2
* being an Associate Pastor when your Senior Pastor has gone away for good
* wondering about models of ministry and the personality of pastors, and how those come out in an interview process (or don't)
* something about religious education and the idea that faith is "forced down our throats"
* books books books.  I've read a few that I haven't had time to post about.

Unfortunately, dot number 2 is keeping me sort of pre-occupied.  Things that are stopping me from blogging in a coherent way this week:

* the first of at least four weeks in a row preaching, which I've never done before (exciting!)
* talking with potential interim candidates
* catching up with my intern--she has only two weeks left!
* the bible in 90 Days, which is now in the New Testament.  Once we get out of the gospels (so, in about five more days) I am going to need to spend even more time on this because my dislike of Paul makes me a) not want to keep reading, b) not want to teach the class, and c) need to do more prep in order to write about/teach about the material.
* a memorial service this weekend that is going to be very difficult
* frustration about communication (or lack thereof?  If a person doesn't take in what I communicate to them, does that mean we have a communication breakdown?  Os this in some way something I can fix?  Not sure yet.)
* planning the youth ministry kick off (in less than two weeks!)
* Team Night and the following called session meeting for examining new Deacons
* getting ready for fall in WEAVE (adult education/fellowship), plotting with admin and choir directors RE fall plans, etc etc etc...
* plus all the usual stuff that happens every week (worship planning, bible studies, meetings, etc...)

So--I'll blog as soon as I can.  And it will be brilliant, I swear.  :-)  In the meantime, you can join my NT blogging misery over at the church blog, you can send me happy preaching vibes, and you can discuss the following question:

Does playing Scrabble on facebook need to be as painful as it has become with the loss of Scrabulous to Hasbro and their inept coding team?

Monday, August 04, 2008

looking back...

...about two weeks.

That's right, I'm going to attempt to blog about Scotland. But this first one may be jumbled and/or come out in list format....

1. Apparently, flying to Newark is a bad bad idea. I learned this as my plane (on which I had been rebooked because my original flight was likely to be late, causing me to miss the connection) sat on the tarmac, with "we're going!" "no, we're not..." announcements coming over the intercom every 25 minutes or so for about 3 very hot hours.

2. You can get a pedicure in the in-terminal spa at Newark, however, so flying there might be worth it if you have 30 extra minutes to spare.

3. I love Scotland.

.....

wait, that wasn't enough?

Okay....

Going back to Iona was a really interesting experience for me. I lived and worked there for two summers when I was in college, in 2000 and 2001. I came home the last time right before 9/11. Though I've done tons of other traveling since then, I've not been back to Iona. It's probably my favorite place in all the world. It's where I learned what living in community looks like. It's where I learned about my passion for creative worship. It's where I learned that I can sing and teach others to sing too. It's where I heard my call to ministry. It's a lot of things for me, besides being just my favorite place--there are memories around every curve, on every beach, in every ruin.  

We stayed at the Abbey where I used to work, but this time I wasn't the one who knows everything, who handles questions and complaints. I was just a guest. Tricky, because I know things (like where the back stairs are and how much more convenient they would be) that I can't put to use, and because some things have changed (those stairs don't go as far as they used to!). Tricky because the experience is not the same, being staff and being a guest, and even coming back doing the same thing is different because the community is different. Things have changed--the staff have changed, some of the people with whom I worked have died, Historic Scotland has different responsibilities, there's scaffolding still on the Abbey Church bell tower.  

But in all of that, it's still my favorite place. There's something about that island that lives inside me, I think, and it calls to me. The intentional community, the life centered on worship, the fact that there's nothing to "do" because there's no shopping, just one pub, and 22 beautiful beaches just begging to be enjoyed. The rhythm of community life, organized by bells rather than clocks. It's great.

The program we participated in (and which I had not intended to participate in quite so fully but found myself sucked into nonetheless) was about hospitality toward the Other, with the intention of helping us foster interfaith relationships. I don't think it necessarily started off well, but it definitely picked up! It was centered on three Bible studies, which were done in a great format that I plan to steal shamelessly. We were divided into groups and each given a character. After the story was read, every character group went off to its own place to think about some character-specific questions (so in the story of Naaman, my group was the king of Israel). Then each group was visited by another character or two, who had questions for us. It was a really intriguing way to get into a story. I loved it!

Also, I went to this place fully intending not to get sucked into any leadership of any kind--I didn't want to be leading worship, singing in the choir, MCing the variety show (called the "guest concert" which is generous), leading my bible study group, etc. Of course, as a pastor, I did sort of end up taking a bit of a lead in the Bible Study because sometimes there were things that would really inform our character that others didn't know to look for (ie: flip back two or three chapters and find out what king we are, are we good or bad, etc). But I did pretty well with the rest of it-I didn't lead worship or end up in the choir. However, Sam, our program leader for the week, asked me on the first day if I was musical. Since I'm a bad liar, I had to say yes. He then proceeded to ask me if I would start each of our six sessions by teaching everyone a song. Well, he looked so needy at that moment (his co-leader was ill and couldn't come) that I said yes. Which is how I found myself leading a group of 20 people in songs from around the world 6 times during the week. In case you're desperately wondering, here are the songs I chose, but not the order in which we did them (because I can't remember that!):
Bless the Lord (from Kenya)
Mayenziwe (S. Africa)
Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord (Cameroon)
Take, O Take Me As I Am (a John Bell song, so...from Scotland)
Nung Ye Da (Ghana)
Ya Rabba Ssalami (Palestine)
I admit, it was fun. I miss doing that.

What else did we do? We ate together. We did chores (Elsa and I had the chore of setting up for breakfast, which we did late at night after coming back from the pub, thus releasing us from before-breakfast chores! hallelujah!!). We worshiped. We went on a pilgrimage around the island--7 miles. We made new friends. We snarked a little about our roommates (we had to be split up because of the bunk bed situation and people who weren't able to be on top bunks, while we young things are perfectly capable of climbing up there). We ate cream tea at the Argyll Hotel basically every day. We went to the pub at night. We danced at a ceilidh. I was forced to sing the fruit and jello song at the ceilidh as well (for which Ginna bought me a drink) (and which was horrendously embarrassing). We had a guest concert in which amy played a princess in a tragedy (tragic because everyone died, but actually utterly hilarious) and in which Ginna and I rushed the stage with flowers, pretending to be star struck. We sang silly songs and serious ones. We went swimming. We walked on the beach at night. We watched sunsets. We enjoyed both misty days and sunny days. We watched children play. We grieved the nuns buried at the now-ruined Nunnery (when there were only three left, the Protestant Reformation came to Scotland and the nuns were slaughtered). We laughed. I got offered a job, which I had to turn down (for now). Amy chased sheep. I b-a-a-a-d. And I learned how to do an impression of a Scottish frog (ribbit!).  I'm sure there's more, and if I've left anything out I suspect my traveling companions will note that in the comments.

So that's the end of installment one of Scotland 2008 (which, in my facebook photo albums is labeled "summer in heaven").  I have to go to a breakfast meeting with my now-former senior pastor (yesterday was Richard's last day) and the other staff.  More on the "pastor-who-stayed" phenomenon later.  Also more on Scotland, of course, and on my observations of reading Lamb (by Christopher Moore) for the second time.  There are definitely things I didn't pick up on before and now I feel dumb.  Did you ever notice that this guy was writing theology as well as a hilarious novel?

breakfast...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

scotland photos


My photos are up on Flickr!

Enjoy...

home

catching up on many things. photos to come. for now: kitties to pet, laundry to wash, groceries to buy....