Thursday, September 25, 2008

better

Today was better.  Yesterday's meltdown seems to be over (for now) and I've solidified once again into something resembling a human being, and maybe even resembling a pastor.  I think some of the problem was overstimulated extrovert (which doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's not pretty....at least it's over quickly).  That was resolved by lots of sleeping in and taking walks instead of going to the gym, along with only going to church for the afternoon/evening blocks instead of part of the morning block too.  (yesterday that was unplanned, but on Thursdays I don't go in until 1 anyway.  And yet I still work 8 hours.  How is that normal?)

Total hours spent in the church building this week (Sun-Thurs):  51.  I haven't been keeping track of how many I've worked at home (answering emails, looking up worship resources for World Communion Sunday, etc).  I don't know how many hours I'm supposed to work in a week (I'm sure that's in writing somewhere...bwahahahahah!) but I'm pretty sure it's not more than 50.  I do know that 51 was the average I was working when I was meeting with my therapist though, too (I stopped going last winter), so I suspect this is normal for me.  I'm not convinced that I like it, or that I'm helping to model good boundaries or time stewardship, but at least I know that this week's work wasn't more than it has been.  Now, the no-days-off-last-week (not even Saturday) thing was no good, and probably contributed, but...what do you do when there's stuff going on and you need to participate? (answer:  take more days off the next week, dork!!  It's not like you're (read: I'm) indispensable.  Get over it.)

So anyway, thanks for all the well wishes and helpful words.  Y'all are awesome.  And special thanks to Cecily who retrieved me from work and made me eat two rootbeer floats at a park this afternoon.  :-)

Now I'm still mulling over world communion sunday...and tomorrow I'll be mulling at an international restaurant (yummy!!) and at Whole Paycheck where I'll be stocking up for the debate-or-no-debate party.  :-)

I'll try for some kind of deep thoughts...tomorrow.  Probably about time, but we'll see...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

when fiction and real life meet

You know the young(est?) sister in the Secret Life of Bees?  The one who has a rock wall stuffed with all the prayers for all the world, the one who is particularly affected by suffering/tragedy/heartbreak/sadness/illness, even when it's just on the news or far far away?  (yes, the one who kills herself...leave that part out for now)

I feel sort of like her today.  Every little thing sends me into a meltdown.  Tourists still held hostage in Egypt.  people losing their homes.  hungry children.  magazines with women pastors on the cover pulled from LifeWay bookstores.  I mean, seriously.

But I'm not going to walk into the river, so don't worry.  And hopefully I won't end up crazy like when Buffy could hear the thoughts (and therefore the pain) of everyone around her...

more whelmed than I want...

I'm in that place of feeling overwhelmed--there is so much to do, so much going on, so many people to care about, and so little time to process.  In 3 days this week I've already worked 34 hours, and I still have two more days (long ones, too) to go.  There are many more people who need things ($$, gas cards, prayer, more prayer, classes, worship, meetings, more prayer, someone to talk to, etc etc etc) than I can handle on my own. I'm going on week 2 of headaches, though last week's was weird and very specific, and this week is cluster headaches around my right eye, so I doubt they are related.  I had a horrible dream this morning (all I'll say is this:  it wasn't a vegetarian friendly dream, it happened at church (weirdly), and my mom was in it.).  I miss my friends and am having one of those days when being single and living alone sucks.  I miss my mom today but can't figure out why today more than any other day.  I'm tired and I don't want to teach a class on predestination tonight, I don't want to argue about heaven and hell, I don't want to do anything except sit on my couch and cry and then pet my kitties.  My house has been taken over by fruit flies because I apparently had bananas that I forgot about in the fruit bowl (and which got covered up by a piece of foil so I couldn't see them) and I don't even have time to clean my house or deal with this problem.  

I, apparently, just want to whine and complain.  I haven't had a day where I've felt like this is a really long time.  Whine and complain, sure...I'm a pro...but crying and wanting a roommate and a housecleaner and more cats and a vacation, all at the same time?  unusual.

Obviously I need a nap, but instead I'm going to work now....sorry for inflicting my breakdown and my neuroses on you all.

Monday, September 22, 2008

a little fun

in the midst of all the craziness of my life, this makes me happy. I watch the pandas several times every day, for a few minutes at a time.  It's like enjoying creation without going outside!  Plus pandas are cute and cuddly and funny.  Hopefully I'll get to visit in person at christmas time!  until then, watch away...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whiners to Bakers--a sermon for Ordinary 25A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
Whiners to Bakers
Exodus 16.2-15
September 21 2008, Ordinary 25A

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’
Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.’



Does anyone here ever wish they could go back in time? Anyone remember the good old days, when things were simpler, better, golden? What were those days like?

I once went to a retreat where the speaker used the acronym “BITD” instead of saying the whole phrase: “Back In The Day.” After a while, someone shouted “I think it was a Wednesday!” as a way of reminding us that “back in the day” doesn’t really exist—it’s idealized in our memory as a time better than now, a time when we knew what to do, a time we have successfully navigated and survived. Using phrases like “back in the day” or “back in the good old days” or even “when I was your age” (as in “When I was your age, television was called books!”) is a way for us to escape into a time and place that we already know how to handle.

Interestingly, the Israelites have only been out in the wilderness six weeks when they start living in the past. In that six weeks they’ve sung songs to God, praised and thanked God for delivering them, seen God turn water from polluted to potable, and camped at an abundant oasis filled with springs and palm trees. But now, a day into the desert, they’re hungry and cranky and they’ve figured out that they don’t know where they’re going or how they’ll get there or how long it will take or even where they are exactly. And there’s no established religion or government, no social safety net, and apparently no leftovers from the camping trip. So they start complaining, beginning with “if only we had died in Egypt where we sat around and ate as much as we wanted!”

Now, I don’t know if you remember what the Israelite people were doing in Egypt, but it goes something like this. Gather straw. Carry water. Make bricks out of mud and straw. Build cities you won’t live in using these crumbly bricks. Work longer hours because straw is hard to find. Pay taxes. Get paid very little. Worry that your children are going to be thrown into the Nile while you’re at work. repeat. That’s what the Israelites are looking back on with such fondness—being slaves of Pharaoh, captive to his every whim for a new city or a new palace or more food. Everything they had was provided by Pharaoh, and that’s not much: no days off, no straw, no safety for their families. And yet, when they’re hungry for one day out in the desert, “I want to be back in Egypt, like in the good old days!”

To Moses and Aaron, who worked so hard to get the people out of Egypt, this sounds suspiciously like whining—as in, “would you like some cheese with your whine?” But God listens—even to the whining. God says, “they’re right—I brought them out, I promised to be their God, and that means providing for them.” So Moses and Aaron tell the people that “in the evening you shall know…and in the morning you shall see” who God is and what God is like. But even before then, the people look at the edge of the camp and they see the glory of the Lord settle into the pillar of cloud that has been leading them…and then here come quails strolling into the camp just in time for dinner! The song we sang earlier from Taize was practically made for this moment—“look to God, do not be afraid, lift up your voices, the Lord is near!” The Lord is indeed near, and listening when the people lift up their voices.

After the glory and the quail, we might think things are going pretty well, but God has more in store. The Israelites wake up to find the first ever Sinai snow day! The ground is covered in a fine flaky substance they don’t recognize, and they ask around... “What is it?” The Hebrew word for “what is it” is manna. The stuff they discover is bread from heaven is named not by its appearance or its function or its taste, but with a question: what is it? It is provided by the Lord, for you. According to the rest of the story, they go out to gather and no matter how much they picked up, everyone had exactly the amount they needed for their families—no one had more, no one had less. It tasted like cakes made with honey—good enough to eat every day for 40 years. It could be baked or boiled, but not stored overnight except for the Sabbath. It was there every day for the taking, except on the Sabbath. There was always enough—no one went hungry and there was no waste. God provided by turning the whiners into bakers.

In many ways, this is the central wilderness experience, the first of many lessons in the making of a people. God said, “I will be your God,” and then called them “my people” and had to teach them what that might mean—they had to go through the visioning process and figure out a mission statement (“love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” turned out to work pretty well!). They had to wander a little to find out that God was leading them if they would just follow. They had to look back without the rose colored glasses so they could look forward with hope. They had to learn that God is love, and they had to discern who God is calling them to be. And the very first lesson is to rely on God’s goodness and abundance to provide. That sounds cliché and naïve to us now, and I suspect it did then too—but alone out in the desert, the Israelites literally depended on God for their daily bread. They learned that God is faithful. They learned that hoarding doesn’t get any of us anywhere. They learned that God’s abundance comes along with justice—it’s not whatever we want, it’s what we as a community need. They learned that they can call on God to hold up God’s end of the covenant and God will do it. They learned that they were chosen to be a community of God’s people, being a blessing to the world, not just a ragtag band of wanderers. Most importantly, they learned that the journey from “if only” to “I AM” goes through a question: “what is it?”

“What is it?” God provided, but they didn’t know what it was or what to do with it, they didn’t understand at first that it would be there when they needed it or that it was both good for them and good tasting. They weren’t used to being provided for—and it takes time for slavery to get out of your system, time to turn from Pharaoh’s non-people into God’s people, time to figure out that God is not just another Pharaoh, time to learn trust and reliance, time to figure out providence—that God will provide, even if they don’t recognize that providence at first.

What is it? turns out to be manna, bread from heaven tasting like cakes made with honey or like fresh popped kettle korn, good enough to eat every day for 40 years. The journey from “If only” to “I AM”, from whiner to baker, involves lots of “what is it?” And throughout our whole journey, God provides, though we may not see or understand or have a word for it. And so God weaves us together, a community learning to trust, learning to look around and ahead rather than only back, learning to bake.

Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

it's coming...

the conspiracy!  I'm hoping we can all conspire together...(learn more here)




Wednesday, September 17, 2008

what if there is no problem of evil?

That's what I'm left with after tonight's adult ed class.  We are in the midst of a 101 series, currently in Theology 101.  and in discussing the classic theodicy problem (if God is both all-good/loving and all-powerful, how is there evil?) I discovered that the people in my class consider "evil" to mean "evil intentions behind the action" and therefore the vast majority of bad things that happen aren't evil.  Even when I changed language to "bad things" it didn't help...natural disasters were first off the list, then illnesses too, and then there was discussion of how extreme poverty/starvation/etc is our responsibility to take care of so why don't we do that, and then you're just left with the category I called "mean people."  and then there was free will.  So it looks like there is no problem of evil.  I offered them the classic solutions, but it doesn't matter because they don't seem to believe that God is so intimately involved in ordering things that happen to *them*...instead they are trying to focus on the big-picture "all will be well" sort of deal.  So love and power are not incompatible with the relatively small picture stuff, and even the bigger stuff isn't technically evil.  That's what I walked away from the class with.

What's interesting is that I WANTED to talk about predestination tonight, and leave theodicy for another time.  alas, no.  so now i'm pushing into a third week of theology 101 and leaving spirituality 101 (which I'm calling "how we relate to God" since the theology stuff is a lot about who God is and what God is like and what God has to do with us) for the 4th week.  (sigh)  so tonight:  attributes of God (which I should have known was going to get me to theodicy since "in control?" came up in both "God is" and "God is not" columns...), theodicy, sin, and the beginnings of atonement.  Next week:  finishing up atonement/reconciliation, justification/sanctification, predestination, and heaven/hell.  I can do that in an hour, right?  ;-)

an interesting conversation during the attributes of God section:  does God hate?  if God is love, and most human hate is grounded in fear, and perfect love casts out fear, is it possible for God to hate?  interesting thinking...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reading Challenge 2008

The latest book in the challenge was actually 3-novels-in-one-volume (sort of like the Trinity...but not quite.) called The Parish Papers.  I picked it up on a whim at half price books.  George MacDonald wrote these novels as serials--you know, back in the day (in his case, the late 1800's day) magazines and newspapers published a chapter at a time?  I can't even imagine reading a novel like that, but it seems to have worked for people.  Anyway, you can sort of tell that this was a serial, as each chapter stands on its own a little and the beginning of the next chapter helps you catch up a bit.  Mildly tedious but not too bad.

What was more tedious is that the main character, Rev. Walton (often referred to just as "parson") doesn't seem to know how to listen but he does know how to talk!  At first, every conversation he has turns from a two-way into a didactic theological monologue.  He gets a little better as the story progresses, but he still really likes to talk.

19th century novels, even when they've been "cleaned up" for "the modern reader" can be kind of slow sometimes, and occasionally the speech patterns are hard to follow if you aren't paying close attention.  It wasn't a huge problem, but it was noticeable if I was reading while tired.

Anyway--there's not a ton of action (though there seems to be more disturbing action in Walton's parish than mine!) but there is some interesting character, relationship, and theological/faith development.  The third book in the volume is written from the perspective of the oldest daughter and was probably my favorite.

So anyway, if you're looking for a portrait of late 19th century church of england, here it is.  If you're looking for theology-in-a-story, here's some.  The main theological point is the same as the Shack:  trust in God, trust in God, trust in God.  Easier said than done, which is lived out by each character in the story at various points.  Some of the theology is old and more evangelical than I like, some is unhelpful (telling a dying woman, whose husband just died, that God "chasteneth those whom He loveth") but if you can get past it, the story does move along.  It's interesting to think about how people of one class befriend those of other classes, how relationships develop, what faith-friends might look like, etc.

It was a fun read, in other words, but not the kind of book you can pay only a little attention to. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

insanity

That's what I think my life has turned into:  a big ball of insanity.

We have an interim pastor lined up, thank God.  But she won't start until October 20, which leaves me with 6 more weeks on my own.  6 weeks in as the only pastor of a congregation of 400, here's what I've learned:

1.  preaching every week is a discipline that would require a lot more practice on my part.  And is also something I don't really want to do.  Possibly ever.  I know God is laughing her butt off as I say that. (anyone remember when I informed the Fourth Church session that what I had learned from Colloquium was that I didn't want to be in a church where I had to do three services on a Sunday morning?  hahahahahahhaah!! God said.)

2.  Preaching every week when you are also responsible for all the other ministries and programs (youth, education for kids and grown-ups, fellowship, etc etc etc) is very difficult.  I have complained about this before:  that if my job is already nearly 50 hours a week on programs, adding preaching on top of that (without removing any of those other responsibilities for that week) is really stressful.  I am working very hard on empowering laypeople to do ministry in all these areas, but that in itself takes a significant amount of work and time, in training and encouraging and resourcing and helping.  Not to mention the communication, which generally has to come through me/the office anyway.  I am committed to laypeople being the church and "doing church" together, following their calls in the church and in the world, etc etc. But that doesn't seem to be the end of my work, yet.

3.  I love preaching and planning and leading worship.  I hate turning in bulletins on time every week.

4.  I don't know anything about Stewardship and I don't really want to, but all of a sudden it looks like the entire campaign this year will be on "my" watch.  Crap.

5.  I also don't know anything about money, in general, so of course the Treasurer wants to go over the stuff with me before the session meeting.  I miss the days when I could just show up to a meeting and have that be good enough.

6.  If you're (well, if I'm) in charge of everything, some things fall through the cracks.  The thing falling through the cracks right now:  checking up on sick people.  Praise the Lord for the clerk of session who went to visit someone I'd visited once...only to discover she'd been moved somewhere else and no one had let us know. I'm pretty sure I should have figured that out sooner, but...there are only so many hours in a day.

7.  I really like being an Associate Pastor.  I don't want to be in charge of more than I already am.  And now that I'm sort of de facto in charge of everything, I worry about what happens when an interim comes and we have to negotiate a collegial relationship as well as the responsibilities that I might end up being sort of territorial about after 12 weeks on my own.  In fact, I stress about the possibilities in that working relationship a lot.  More than is probably necessary, since I can't do anything about it until she gets here.

8.  I need more bookshelves in my office.  Every flat surface is covered in stuff and I can't do anything in there until I get more storage.  I can't even tell you how tempting the empty bookshelves/table/desk/drawers/entire office next door is.

9.  days off are good good things, but rarer than they should be.  I want them to be more regular again.  6 weeks...

10.  I am very tired.  I have been coming home and falling immediately asleep, often on the couch.  Monday night I was out cold by 7pm.  I don't think I've stayed up past 9 more than once or twice in the past two weeks (aside from sermon-writing-saturday-nights, obv.).  I've had two whole days off this weekend, thanks to a guest preacher, and it feels like the most amazing luxury.  Except now I don't *even* want to go church tomorrow.  (sigh)

11.  People are always asking me questions I don't have the slightest idea how to answer.  What's up with that?

12.  I have more voicemail than I've ever had before.  

Okay, I have to stop.  I must go to bed (even though I napped most of the day away, post-massage...).  Tomorrow, even though I'm not preaching, is still a long day:  3 services, Inquirer's Class, and Middle School Youth Ministry kick-off.  For those keeping score at home, that's 7.30 prayer/children's sermon writing, 8.30 worship, 9.30 worship, 11.00 worship, 12.00 inquirer's class, 1.00 youth ministry.  woohoo.

I love my job, I love my job, I love my job...
(it's more than a job, it's a calling...it's more than a job, it's a calling...)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

10?-a sermon for ordinary 23 (or 27...)A

Rev. Teri Peterson
RCLPC
10?
Exodus 20.1-17, Romans 13.8-10
September 7, 2008, Ordinary 23A (ex. 20 = ord. 27a)

Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
...
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ah, the Ten Commandments—probably some of the most well known words in the Bible, thanks to Charlton Heston. Right? Everyone knows the 10 commandments—aren’t they the source of our laws, the rules that keep us in check, the thou-shalt-nots that have defined the negative view of religion for years? Well—maybe, but maybe not. I read this week that nearly 90% of Americans get stuck once they’ve named 4 commandments. The poll didn’t say which 4 were the most consistently memorable, which is too bad because I’m quite curious. Perhaps these words are not as well known as I thought! Nevertheless, they do in some way form a foundation for our life together. The form of that foundation is not always obvious, but I suspect it’s there whether we notice it, or whether we can name it, or not. As a society we are obsessed with rules—making rules, following rules, breaking rules, punishing people for breaking rules. It’s possible that some of that obsession comes from these very words.

Unfortunately, our focus on rules obscures something very important about the 10 commandments—did you notice the very first sentence? God says, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, who rescued you from slavery.” Before the rules, salvation. Before the commandments, grace. God first saves the people, sets them physically free, and then speaks these words. Following the rules isn’t going to save the people—they’ve already been saved. Following the rules isn’t going to earn them God’s good action on their behalf—they’ve already received the action. Following the rules isn’t going to make God like them anymore—God has already said, “I am the Lord YOUR God.” So what’s with the rules, anyway?

Tom Long also notes that the first words out of God’s mouth are not “follow these rules or else!” but are a proclamation of freedom already given. He goes on to suggest that we can view these 10 “commandments” as descriptions of what life is like in God’s vision of community—not as heavy burdens to bear, but as good news of liberation, of freedom from overwork, from idols who control us, from violence and loneliness and deception. God sees what our human community could be like, and offers us these 10 words to show the way to life after physical freedom, a life lived in response to God’s grace.

These 10 words as they stand now might be considered such a part of our fabric of life that we barely notice them—perhaps that’s why so many people can only name 4. I wonder what would happen if we though of 10 new words, words for OUR community. After all, God speaks to specific places and times just as much as to every place and time. What might the 10 commandments of our RCLPC community be?
Perhaps something along the lines of…
1. I am the Lord your God, who loves you and calls you…listen to my voice!
2. You shall worship and serve with all your mind…and also your heart and maybe even your body if you’re really into it.
3. You shall reveal any musical gifts you might have, ASAP.
4. You shall bring something tasty to potlucks.
5. You shall consider prayerfully when (not if) you are asked to serve on a team, teach Sunday school, or sing in the choir.
6. You shall eat together…often.
7. You shall laugh together, including at yourselves…often.
8. You shall talk to one another when there is a conflict—no gossip!
9. You shall ask for help when you need it—ask and you will receive.
10. You shall tell all your friends what God’s spirit is doing in this place.

This is a little tongue-in-cheek, of course…except the bits about musical gifts and potlucks…but you get the idea. The 10 commandments are not about following the rules to the letter, they are about becoming God’s people, living into God’s vision, being woven into God’s community. They are about how we live together, how we treat one another, how our community grows in spirit, how we work together, how we reach out together, how we serve one another, how we love.

I wonder if that’s what Paul was trying to say to the Romans in his letter. All these commandments can be summed up in one word: love. Jesus says this too—that love of God and love of neighbor is the whole of the law—not just these 10 but all 613 laws of the old testament. They aren’t talking about love the feeling, they are talking about love the verb—the action that we decide on every day, whether to love or not love. When we decide each day to love, we fulfill the law, we live in gratitude, we share the grace we have received.

But rules are so tempting, aren’t they? Even if it’s just our 10 ricklepickle commandments, it feels like they give us something concrete to do or not do, something to measure ourselves against and to feel good about when we do well, or to feel guilty about when we don’t. “love your neighbor” is harder—it feels vague and maybe even a little wishy-washy. How exactly do we do it? is what we really want to know. Tell us what to do so we can live up to God’s expectations, so we can be good enough, so we can go to heaven, so we can earn grace.

Because that’s what we’re really talking about—earning grace. And no matter how many times we hear that grace is free, that God gives it to everyone, that grace falls like rain, that grace is enough, that grace is God’s to give and not ours to earn, we still want to do something. Our Protestant work ethic kicks into high gear, as does our American “no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch” sensibility.

Except, where God is concerned, there is a free lunch. It’s right here on this table—offered to us with no strings attached, no rule-following as a prerequisite, no way we can earn it. At this table, God is the host and God invites whomever God pleases—and that just happens to be every single one of us. When we come to this table, we take a place in the vision God has for community—a vision full of good news, a vision of freedom from overwork, from idols who control us, from violence and loneliness and deception. A vision of a community, gathered around a table to break bread, to share stories, to love one another both with words and actions.

May we live into God’s vision of a community woven together by love.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reading Challenge 2008

Okay, I just finished the Twilight series.

This week (like from Monday to now) I've read Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.  Yes, I'm a fast reader, especially when the book is interesting and especially when I am stressed out and in need of escape.

Anyway, about these books I have this to say:  wow.  

I'm very impressed with this series, with the character development, with the consistency of writing style through four long novels, with the plot twists (especially in the fourth book!), and with the story in general.  It really is a captivating story.  In spite of having to work with all new vampire/werewolf mythology (I am a Buffy fan, after all!), I found the books easy to get into and even to get immersed in.  And the characters are so vividly written that at first I actually *felt* like I was back in high school, my insecure and slightly clumsy self, unsure of why anyone would want to be friends with me, etc.  I do NOT like that feeling so I spent some of this series not really liking Bella much, but she does capture the teen psyche in a remarkable way.  And Edward...move over, Mr. Darcy?  (okay, maybe not quite, but pretty close...I mean, he has WAY MORE than ten thousand a year!!!  ha!)

I think there are movies coming soon.  Part of me can't wait to see this story visually realized, and part of me dreads that because it won't be the way it is in my head.  I'm telling you--vivid.  I have LIVED this story this week.  I had Twilight and once I got to the end, I went immediately to Borders to purchase the next three, as I was unwilling to have any gap in the reading at all.  I could NOT wait.  Yes, I thought it was that compelling of a story.  I can see why these are the most popular books among youth--there's a lot to capture about the growing-up life, and this story does it well, with sub-plots about sex/intimacy, school, friendships, grief, family, navigating the world as a young adult, violence/nonviolence/peacemaking, faith in oneself, mythology/truth/fiction, gifts (as in talents, gifts of the Spirit), and growing into self-awareness.  I'm telling you, it's good.  I am thinking of putting these books, along with some others, on a shelf in our youth area.  What other books would you put there?

So...Twilight.  enjoy!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

blessed?

I am confused by the idea that there are some people who are "less blessed" than we are.  Who are these people?  In what ways are we "blessed"?  Why do we assume that people whose lives are different from us are not blessed?  

Discuss.


And then, when you're done with that, I want to know more about allegiance.  "country first"?  Where does that leave God?  Are we creating an idol?

While I'm listening to the RNC right now (obviously), I think these questions apply to both parties (I was just too busy to blog last week--and this week I'm forcing myself to make the time because I'm beginning to go insane) and to our whole national life.  And especially to our faith life--what does it do to us when we replace God with an idol?  How is this related to the idea that some are less blessed?  To other ways we view ourselves and our political and religious leaders?  

Discuss.  I'm going to finish Breaking Dawn so I can blog about the Twilight series...