Tuesday, March 30, 2004

just noticed...

how long it's been since i read the Onion.

I should get on that.

Or maybe I should get on the theology reading.

quite the toss-up.

so i was planning on leaving at 4....

I was going to leave work at 4 today. it's now 4:38 and I'm still here. this is the first non-work thing i've done in several hours (very impressive, given how my attention span has been going lately). it must be the skittles.

if I eat any more skittles, i'll throw up. bleah......

but i really need some Dr. Pepper.

I'm going now.

Monday, March 29, 2004

i may appear to be a slacker, but really...

...i'm just very busy. we had a lock-in this weekend. was very busy getting ready, staying up all night, then sleeping all day (after playing the clarinet in worship--oy).

still tired. still want nap. still have obscene amounts of homework to do. need a vacation. not going to get one. ever.

but i am going to the middle east. and i am going to scotland. and i very nearly typed "ai" instead of "i" which would be my new-found southern accent (which accidentally came out in class today) coming out in print. frightening. it is going to have to stop.

when do i get to go to the beach again?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Mission Means Justice

Mission Means Justice
Isaiah 42.1-9
March 21, 2004

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD,
I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD,
that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

I know in the church we don’t believe in astrology and horoscopes, in a person’s zodiac sign as a determiner of destiny. But I would be willing to bet that lots of people read their horoscopes anyway, just for fun. One of the most cliché pick-up lines is “hey, what’s your sign?” Well, my sign is Libra. The symbol for Libra is the scales—we’re supposed to be balanced people who value fairness. Lady Justice is a blindfolded woman holding some scales that look just like the scales of my Libra symbol—suggesting that the justice system is one that values fairness and balance. Now, since this is my sign and these signs supposedly say a lot about who we are, you would think that I (along with everyone else born between the 23rd of September and the 22nd of October) would be experts in the field of justice and fairness. So what explains why I had such a hard time writing a sermon with Justice in the title?
The main problem I’ve had seems to be with the abstract concept of justice. In our American legal understanding, justice seems to mean fairness, balance, equity, and the like. It means that everyone gets treated equally, and that there are consequences to every action. But this balancing act doesn’t seem to be what God means by justice when I read the book of Isaiah, or what Hannah and Mary sang about in their songs praising God’s justice, or even necessarily what Jesus was like all the time. There it seems that God cares especially for the poor and downtrodden, that it isn’t about equality at all but about lifting up the needy and bringing down the mighty.
How can we be a part of this vision of God’s justice when our own idea of what justice is doesn’t seem to square up with God’s? The prophets say that doing justice means caring for the poor, the needy, the outcast, the alien, the orphan, the widow. Deuteronomy says that following the law will lead one into a just relationship with God and neighbor. In the first chapter of Isaiah we hear God shouting at the Israelites that the wealthy and powerful have become so self-absorbed that they forget to care for those less fortunate than themselves. The pious have become so involved in temple ritual that they neglect to feed the hungry. The whole nation ought to be ashamed by this behavior.
So God has sent the servant, in whom God delights. The servant who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit, who will bring forth justice to the whole world. The gospels claim that this servant is Jesus. In his life and in his death, he has established justice. But if that’s the case, where is it? I look around and I don’t see justice in either my usual definition or in God’s definition: instead I see war, I see famine though there is plenty of food for everyone, I see children dying of preventable diseases, I see homeless people on the streets, I see big houses and limousines and Hollywood stars wearing million dollar dresses.
I wondered how I could preach this text and say that God has established justice and thus the work we do is not to bring about justice but to help people see it, or some other way of making it sound like all the work was God’s and we’re just conduits of information somehow. I have agonized over how to make this work. And finally, I think I have a way, a way that reminds us that it’s really God’s work without releasing us of responsibility. The word established has become key. Established doesn’t necessarily mean Accomplished or finished. It just means started. In Christ, God was working for the reconciliation of all creation to Godself. The whole creation is new because God came to live among us, to be our light in the darkness. And now, as we wait between the resurrection and the coming again, the church has been called in righteousness to continue the justice God has established. God has taken us by the hand and kept us. God has given us, the church, as a covenant. God will open the eyes of the blind and lead out the prisoners who sit in dark dungeons. And we, the church, are both the proof and the workers.
Here we are, an organization full of sinful people, people who don’t often do the right thing, people who live with broken relationships, and yet God has called us to be in relationship with our neighbors and with Godself. God has called us to be a light in the dark world. And God is holding our hand the whole time. And so we can be bold enough to do God’s work in the world. Which is why we spend the night at a homeless shelter once a month, lobby for changes in legislation so that children with cancer don’t lose healthcare benefits, tutor kids in reading and math, visit the people who are often forgotten in nursing homes and hospitals, write letters to our congresspeople, go on mission trips to work in soup kitchens and build houses, and countless other things. It’s why we smile at our checkout clerk at Publix. It’s why we support our churches and local charities. Because God has called us, and led us, and given us as a light to the nations.
It isn’t possible to go out and do mission solely as proselytizing. Catherine showed us last week some of the dreadful consequences of forcing Christian faith, complete with Western cultural ideals, on other people in order to save their souls for eternal life. If we claim that Christianity has only to do with eternal life and nothing to do with life in the here and now, then we are severely misrepresenting our God and the work of Jesus. Jesus said “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” He cured the sick, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and visited people who needed him. He told stories of how at the last days the king will say “come inherit the kingdom that has been prepared for you, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” And the people asked when this had happened, and the king said, “as often as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” Jesus not only talked about the future in the kingdom, but acted like it was already here among us. The people who were outcasts were welcomed at the table—even known sinners, even tax collectors, even disciples who didn’t understand what was going on. This doesn’t sound like a mission to save eternal souls. It sounds like a mission to exhibit the kingdom of heaven in this world.
I went on an impromptu road trip this weekend, and saw a place in Conyers that you may know about, called the “Church in the Now.” I’ve heard some things about this place that make it seem like perhaps not exactly the type of community I would want to be in, but I am interested in their name. See, this is exactly what we ought to be: we need to be doing mission as the church in the here and now, not as the church of the past, stuck in our ways, and not as the church only interested in the state of our souls after we die. We are interested in what our lives are like here in this place, now in this time, as the children of God. We are interested in what God wants for all God’s children right now, not in whether ultimately every person will go to heaven or not. I’m intrigued by the idea of being a church in the now, just as we call ourselves a church of the new covenant. We are children of the covenant—and we have been given as a covenant, a light to the nations. And we exist here and now, surrounded by people who want to know what God has to say to them in their situation. What does God have to say to us in our current context, our current problems, our current excitements, our local culture? “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness.” God has called us into right relationship, into reconciliation, into care for one another.
You often hear me talk about the Great Ends of the Church, which are listed in the very first chapter of the Book of Order. The sixth great end is the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. That’s what mission as justice means to me personally. It means that we are engaged in showing the world what the kingdom looks like, because God has already showed us. To do God’s mission in the world is to show forth the kingdom in word and in deed.
We Presbyterians like to sit around in committees and figure out what everything means before we actually do anything. Ann Weems has a poem about this, and about how we can go about this business of exhibiting the kingdom of heaven to the world—which seems a daunting task! Hear her poem “Careful Consideration”:
Certain in-charge church people
expound upon the finer points of doctrine
while the disenfranchised await the verdict.
Meanwhile the holy fools rush in
and touch the outcasts,
creating Good News once again.

Friends, this is good news! The former things have come to pass, and God is declaring new things right here in our midst—before they spring forth, God is telling us of them. And we are called in righteousness, taken by the hand, and given as a covenant and a light. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Amen.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

beach in a bottle and light up flip-flops

these are the two things i came home with from our impromptu road trip last night. at dinner time, noell and i decided to try to get out of the city to somewhere actually dark and not noisy or smelly, somewhere we could see the stars. soon we were a long way out and we looked at a map. the beach was only a couple more hours, so why not? so, around 2 in the morning we rolled in to Myrtle Beach, SC. We played in the sand and surf, collected sand, water, and some shells in an empty water bottle, and were generally silly.

oh, and for the record: sea foam is not seafoam green but is in fact a kind of icky dirty dish-water beige, like dirty snow. crayola has lied to us our whole lives.

back to the point: we drove all night, we had a blast, we talked, we looked at stars and smelled fresh air, we went to Wal-Mart at 4 in the morning to buy flip flops because shoes were wet, and to get toothbrushes because we wanted to brush our teeth more than anything else, basically, in the whole world. It was great. My flip flops light up like little kid shoes--they are so cool!

so now i have to go write a sermon about justice. justice is: being able to go to the beach to be free of the clutter in order to make coming back more bearable.

well...maybe not. but it is working for a place where everyone can do that. right?

i love the beach. :-)

Friday, March 19, 2004

school is weird

school computers are weird, and i can't see the last post i made...i don't know if it's doing that for y'all too--if so, you won't see this post until i post something new. so there. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

i'm going to scotland!

i'm really really going! The session at St. John's-Renfield Church has "enthusiastically agreed" to my coming, and is going to arrange my housing, in-country transportation, and phone. yay! i'm so excited, i can't even tell you!

also, i'm going on a trip to the Middle East (israel, syria, jordan, egypt...and then greece) in may, which is exciting. woohoo!

all around, a good day. except for the part where my car has not yet been returned to me and won't be until next week. BLEAH.

anyway...yeah. good times!

Celtic Lent IV

The most prevalent of all Celtic symbols is the Celtic knot. Found on the high crosses, on jewelry and in the margins of manuscripts, the knot symbolizes how all things in heaven and earth are intricately intertwined and inseparable. The relationship of the members of the Trinity is the prime illustration of interconnection.
Life in this world is intertwined with life in the world beyond this one. The communion of saints was a vibrant reality for the Celts, who believed that those who had died remained present to them. Only a thin, permeable membrane separates those living on earth and those living with God. This was especially true of the risen Christ, whom the Celts believed is not only at God's right hand but also at theirs.
Even though God can be encountered anywhere, there are also certain "thin places" where this happens most easily. Prayer huts were often constructed on these sites, where people could seek silence and solitude.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

well well well...

here we are at ice cream wednesday again. what kind of ice cream do i want today?

Celtic Lent III

For the Celts salvation was the restoration of original goodness. What had been covered needed to be uncovered. What had been lost needed to be found. This finding and uncovering was the work of Jesus, who came to conquer evil and restore creation's goodness. God's Spirit was perfectly present in Jesus, and Jesus' grace makes the restoration possible. As Jesus healed the sick and forgave sinners, he restored their divine image. Once again they could live as God's daughters and sons. Knowing that they were God's sons and daughters and were given the grace to live that way, the Celts understood their goal was to become more and more like God's perfect son, Jesus. They strove to be imitators of him, growing in every way into him (Ephesians 4:15).

Friday, March 05, 2004

ah, buffy...

blah blah blibity blah, i'm so stuffy give me a scone...


I don't want to be Melanie! Does that mean I'm going to be whiny yet irritatingly perfect, and die young while having obnoxious children, forcing them on irresponsible women? OY.

In other news, the magnetic church conference starts tonight. yippee! (yeah...)

I returned my rental car today. they were oppressing me. and now I am carless. sad.

but, on the bright side....well....yeah....

my cat is ok. at least she was, three hours ago...

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Darling, it seems that you belong in Gone with the
Wind; the proper place for a romantic. You
belong in a tumultous world of changes and
opportunities, where your independence paves
the road for your survival. It is trying being
both a cynic and a dreamer, no?

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla


Thanks bunches to (anonymous to everyone else but not to me) C.O.V. member.

btw: I have now played the clarinet three times in three days. apparently i'm going to play in church next week: just two of the 6 studies in english folk song, but playing nonetheless. i don't sound as horrible as i expected. my standards must have been lowered by 18 months away from the instrument.

It's weird to be playing again--and I don't think I'll keep it up because, frankly, it makes my arm hurt. anyone ever wondered why their arm hurts? no...well...mine hasn't since i quit, but now it does again.

in addition, i have a new scar on my lip, and i hate that feeling.

anyway. there you go. i've been playing the clarinet. it's weird.

thanks again COV #1!!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

it's wednesday

it's wednesday, and i got to sleep in a bit.
it's wednesday, and i am at church (it's my day off...)
it's wednesday, and i have now played the clarinet twice in two days.
it's wednesday, and i don't have class tomorrow (i remembered about two hours ago) b/c we are on field trips and my field trip isn't until next tuesday.
it's wednesday, and i'm going to watch some Buffy and the movie Camp tonight.
it's wednesday...two days until Friday when the John the Baptist fast is back on.
it's wednesday...and i am not caught up on the homework i should have done by now.
it's wednesday...two weeks until the theology exam. oy.

it's wednesday and it is sunny again, unlike tuesday. :-)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


NOOOO!!! I want the sunshine back!!

In other news, does anyone know how to make the column on the left there (the one that starts with "going to scotland") wider by about 1/3 of an inch? I don't know enough about code and whatnot. Let me know. thanks!


unless, of course, your 'puter doesn't have cursive fonts. in which case, it's not that exciting. sorry. but you can just imagine it--the titles have become cursive and they're very pretty. when you can see it. :-)

Monday, March 01, 2004

pretty pretty pretty


beneath the Celtic Cross of Jesus, part II

The good creation has been corrupted by evil

Because it is the work of a good Creator, all of creation is essentially good. However, it has been corrupted by evil. The Celts were not naive about the perniciousness of sin. Evil was an invading army that needed to be driven out. Nature did not always treat the Celts kindly. Their lives were often harsh and hazardous. Invaders plundered and burned their villages. Protection was needed. St. Paul told Christians to "put on the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11), so through prayer Celts "bound" to themselves spiritual breastplates, called Loricas, to reassure them of divine protection. Perhaps the most famous of these is St. Patrick's:

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three
I bind this day to me forever, by power of faith, Christ's incarnation.
His baptism in the Jordan River; his death on the cross for my salvation,
His bursting from the spiced tomb; his riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom, I bind unto myself today.

Patrick's Lorica ends with a caim. Caims were prayers spoken as Celts drew a protective circle around themselves. With the right arm outstretched they would turn sunward making a full circle as they recited the caim. Patrick's caim:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.