Friday, November 30, 2007


I have been remiss in my blog posting of late. I would love to say it's because I've been too busy, but really it's not hard to make time to blog. The last couple of weeks I've been traveling and sans computer (as my macbook went to Apple Heaven, or at least purgatory, and my new one has not yet arrived) so it's been harder than usual, but still...

I suspect I've not been blogging because a) there are so many things going on inside my head, and b) it's a lot of work to figure out what I can and can't post here.

Having said that, it's been a good couple of months. The fall has gone beautifully here and we are headed for winter. Advent is upon us. People keep asking for my Christmas wishes--my Amazon list is up to date and my preferred gift cards are: Borders, Trader Joe's, Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft, and Costco. I'm giving to Heifer again this year instead of gifts to everyone I know. Last year I got a water buffalo (!) but this year I think I'm going with a goat, a flock of ducks/geese, and some bees. The picture of the Kenyan woman with a baby goat in the catalog was so adorable it swayed me from my favorite farm animal!

Last night I went to a concert sponsored by WorldVision: The Watoto Children's Choir. They are truly amazing children with amazing stories. They sang and danced, they gave testimony, they told their life stories, and they were fantastic. The concert was free, but we were encouraged to sponsor a child. I've been contemplating sponsoring and I think I might do that at last--I've been sort of holding out for some way to sponsor Middle Eastern children, but that is not forthcoming. African it is...

I must get some work done so I can go to the grocery store and home to play with my kitties! I have three meetings next week that are a 45-minute-each-way drive away from here, so I have to be very efficient in my time. ha!

also, for your information: "Just Jane" is only a so-so book. It's a novel about the life of Jane Austen. It's written entirely in the first person and I find that mildly irritating. That's all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here We Go Again--a sermon for Christ the King Sunday, year C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Here We Go Again
November 25 2007—Christ the King C
Luke 1.68-79

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’


I have some confessions to make today. First, I have to tell you that I am somewhat cynical when it comes to matters of capitalism, consumer culture, materialism, and mass marketing. Second, I have to tell you that I spent 14 hours at Disneyland while I was visiting family in California last week, and I loved every single minute of being there. In spite of the blatant marketing to children, in spite of the consumerist mindset, in spite of the excess, it truly is a magical place and I was definitely swept up in the Disney holiday magic. It’s a Small World was lavishly decorated, the rides were fun, the food was good, the level of detail was impressive, the Castle was covered in snow and twinkling lights—even though it was 70 degrees and sunny.

I’ve been to Disneyland before—once before, to be precise—20, or possibly 21, years ago this Christmas. My brother was so young he was in a stroller, and now he’s 21 years old. All I remember about that trip is getting a red Mickey hat with my name embroidered on the back. So this time, when my brother and I walked through those front gates, we were like little kids all over again. We ran and skipped and frolicked, we waited in lines, we made jokes, we rode rides, we explored nearly every inch of both Disney parks in those 14 hours. Though we had been there before, the whole thing seemed new, it was like it was our first time.

Now I know you’re sitting there thinking “well, you were very small children and it was a long time ago” and that’s true. But it’s also true that this kind of thing happens to us all the time. We return to things we have done before and they seem new. And there are some things where perhaps it should happen, but instead we come to the place or the time of year and it all seems old-hat, like nothing new could ever happen.

That’s a little like how I feel about Christ the King Sunday. This is a weird Sunday—it doesn’t always appear in the liturgical calendar, but most years it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It’s the last Sunday in the church year—sort of a liturgical New Year’s Eve. As I’m sure many of you know, our liturgical calendar begins with Advent, moves through Christmas and Epiphany, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, bringing us to Christ the King Sunday, and each season has a color and often a theme. Our calendar uses a three-year cycle of Scripture readings, and today marks the last day in this cycle. Next Sunday we are in Advent, a new year has begun. But this Sunday we are on the cusp of the cycle, waiting for the dawn. Normally we would be talking about how Christ is King of our lives, or how God is more powerful than any human monarch, or some other sort of regal topic. Sometimes we read crucifixion stories and hear about God’s love breaking human power. It’s the same theme every year, and this is my fifth time in a row preaching it, and after a while it just feels old, like we’ve been here before. I imagine that’s how many of us feel, year after year, as we approach Christmas and its attendant consumer joys. Here we go again…didn’t we just do this? Haven’t we bought all the presents by now? Haven’t we heard the story a hundred times before?

Poet T. S. Eliot writes:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.[1]

Yes, we have done it a hundred times before. Time does not in fact march ever onward. The seasons, the clocks, the calendar, and the church year show us what time really is—a circle. We repeat the cycle because there is such value in hearing the story again, in returning to the place where we started. Remembering is an important thing, and it’s what our liturgical calendar helps us to do. It’s not just a way to move from green to purple to white decorations, it’s a way to remind us what God has done and to open our eyes to what God is still doing, to be formed by God’s story. Because, of course, you can’t really go home again, can you? The circle may actually be more like a spiral—we return to the same place but we know it for the first time. There is something new waiting for us around this bend.

Zechariah sings about remembering—about remembering God’s promises, being reminded of the covenant. God has looked favorably on the people and we too have remembered the covenant. But it’s not only about remembering. There is a forward part of the circle, too—as Eliot says, we shall not cease from exploration. Zechariah’s son, John, will go before the Lord, will prepare the way. The dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. However dark things are in the last part of the circle, light comes again. The shadow death casts is long. When you are sitting in its darkness, dawn seems impossible. When you live in a world like ours, ways of peace seem unlikely. But this dawn is not just the usual spinning of the earth on its axis, this is God breaking into our cycle, this is the dawn from on high—the dawn to which we return year after year…always to find it as though it is the first time.

Our faith tradition leads us each year to a new old thing. Some people lately have taken to calling Christianity an Ancient-Future faith, or to calling themselves an Ancient-Future church. Whenever I hear this, I wonder where the present is—what about now? But I also think there’s something right about this. We arrive where we started, and we know the place for the first time. We hear new things in old stories, we sing old songs with new words, we practice an ancient faith in a forward-looking world.

On this last day of the liturgical calendar, we are pointed toward Advent but, like any other New Year’s Eve, we are looking back as well. We look back on a year walking with Jesus through the gospel of Luke and forward to a year in Matthew’s gospel, we look back on God’s promises and forward into Advent looking anew at the promise of light for the world, we look back on all God has done for us and forward at the beginning of all things with a Word, and we look again for the coming of the true King. Zechariah has broken his silence, John is preparing the way, and we journey again toward God’s vision of light and peace. Though we have been here before, we will once again know it for the first time. There is something magical about it—about the waiting and the singing and the images, about living the story over and over. We thought we knew it, but our memories have gaps that exploring the circle can fill, we’ve missed things before, and God has new things to say even using the old stories and songs.

You may notice that this service seems a little different than some. It’s sort of a circle like the liturgical calendar, like my Disney trip, like life. The end is like the beginning, but it’s also different. We can see and hear new things even in the old tunes. We explore together, and we arrive where we started and know it for the first time, this time in the light.

Thanks be to God.

[1] T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding, V.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunny SoCal

I'm in Southern California. It's 70 degrees and sunny. I approve.

'puter is in mac hospital. I'll either pick it up fixed on Friday or pick up a new one on Friday. I don't know which yet. If I pick it up fixed and it doesn't stay fixed, then I get a new one for sure--thus sayeth the guy on the phone and several guys in the store. But store guy also said I might have a new one when I get home, so who knows.

DisneyLand tomorrow! I haven't been there in 21 years. I'm kind of excited, like little kid excited, instead of appalled by the consumerism and mass marketing to children. Although, talk to me tomorrow night.... ;-)

Back to the fam....

Friday, November 16, 2007

Apple Care

Apple Care is a good thing. I love my macbook--it's cute and personable and generally does what I want it to do.

It also does some things I don't want it to do--namely, kernel panics. Suddenly, in the middle of formerly harmless activities like sermon writing, blogging, facebook-checking, blog-reading, emailing, playing Scrabulous, listening to iTunes, chatting, etc......this screen appears. It's commonly known by me and several other mac users as the "gray (or grey) screen of death." There doesn't appear to be a pattern to the madness. Sometimes I will have 6-10 in a row--including having it happen when I am restarting from another one. This is where AppleCare comes in--it's the service/warranty program that allows me to call or go to the store without paying an arm and a leg each time. I have spoken with the AppleCare people probably 15 times. I've been to the Genius Bar 5 times. One of those times they took my 'puter away and fixed it and gave it back to me 5 days later. I was good for 10 whole days after that! Two of those times I've been at the Genius Bar for more than an hour while they fixed the problem. Every single time I go there, the grey screen of death is elusive. It seems it only happens when there's no Apple Genius nearby.

I have reached the end of my patience with this problem and how it's been "fixed" many times now. It's time for a new computer. That's what I'm going to tell the product specialist I am waiting for now. I've only been on hold 35 minutes so far--that's better than yesterday, when I had to hang up and go to a meeting after an hour and twenty minutes (10 of which I spent talking to the tech support guy who answered the phone, then took pity on me because I've called so many times for the same problem).

I'm putting this on my blog partially for the publicity of a problem and partially so I won't lose my nerve when I finally get a product specialist on the phone. I am not going to send my computer to them, I am not going to go back to the Apple Store so they can take my computer away to be "fixed" again. I want a new one. Something is not right with mine that all the previous repairs have not solved. I am resolved, I am firm...I can do this. Without being mean (you know, I don't want to be "that customer") and hopefully without crying.

Pray for me and my 'puter...and maybe for the Apple guy (or girl) who comes on the phone!

learning stuff

So at Tuesday's interminable-feeling Presbytery meeting, I learned new stuff about polity--namely, how to introduce a substitute motion and what happens after that. I think the Moderator was learning along with the rest of us, but it all went well. Our substitute motion failed, of course, but so did the main motion, so all is well (from my perspective on polity, anyway). Who knew that a Presbytery meeting could be so exciting?

Walter Brueggemann used to mark up all the papers I turned in to him with "don't start a sentence with so!" Obviously I have not learned this lesson. It's a speech quirk that I think is common in my generation, and since I write the way I talk (generally frowned upon in academia), sometimes sentences begin with "so..." Plus, if you are stating a conclusion in an academic paper, wouldn't you be allowed to start a sentence with "so"??

Anyway, that's all for now.

Monday, November 12, 2007


The retreat.was.awesome. somewhere between 170-180 people came. The speaker was GREAT. The music was fabulous. The kids were energized and participated well. The setting was beautiful. It was a wonderful time.

Can I use any more superlatives?

It was insanely busy for me, but it was loads of fun. And then I came home and I was very very very tired. So naturally I slept a couple of hours, woke up, ate, and tried to stay awake until a decent hour by watching Buffy. For the first time in over two years, I watched the episodes where Buffy's mom dies (and the aftermath). I survived. It was even kind of good--I was reminded what great work those episodes were, and also learned that I can do it--no need for dread.

But today I am tired, very tired. Work productivity is low, to say the least. And tomorrow is a Presbytery meeting. (joy of joys)

Okay, on to the "stuff I have to do before tomorrow" list!

Friday, November 09, 2007


I'm off to the Presbytery Senior High Retreat--good times! 169 participants are signed up this year (including adults), so we are looking good. The musicians and speaker are ready, the small groups are planned, the workshops are prepped, the housing situation is ALMOST ready (got some news this morning that means I have to do some re-arranging, but whatever), I'm headed up before everyone else to make sure everything is in readiness....I'm very excited. Lake Geneva, here we come! (and Geneva Java, in the basement of the old First Baptist Church, get ready for me. I'm going to need you!)

Friday 5

Friday 5- extravagant unbusyness....

Sally at RGBP says: I am writing in my official capacity of grump!!! No seriously, with the shops and stores around us filling with Christmas gifts and decorations, the holiday season moving up on us quickly for many the time from Thanksgiving onwards will be spent in a headlong rush towards Christmas with hardly a time to breathe.... I am looking at the possibility of finding little gaps in the day or the week to spend in extravagant unbusyness ( a wonderful phrase coined by fellow revgal Michelle)...

So given those little gaps, name 5 things you would do to; care for your body
exercise regularly (ie stop making excuses when the alarm goes off and actually get myself to the gym!)

2. to care for your spirit
Play with my kitties.
visit my city friends more often.

3. to care for your mind
read fun books. (I have taken up doing this at the gym so I can, umm, set two birds free with one stone?)

4. to bring a sparkle to your eye
cook fun things and then eat them!

5. to place a spring in your step

Enjoy the time to indulge and dream.... and then for a bonus which one on the list are you determined to put into action?
I guess I'd better make time for a nap!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"invitation"--a sermon for Ordinary 31C

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
Luke 19.1-10
November 4, 2007; Ordinary 31C

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

All week long I have been walking around singing a song you probably know: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…” It’s so sad that this is what we remember about Zacchaeus two thousand years later—that he was so short he had to climb a tree to see Jesus. I wonder if what you all will remember about me twenty years from now is that I’m short enough that I need an extra platform in the pulpit so I can stand in here without looking like a child. I would like to think that “short” is not my memorable, song-worthy defining characteristic!

For a short man, Zacchaeus seems to be pretty well-known—at least, people think they know all about him. He’s a tax collector, which means he collaborates with the oppressor, so that must mean that he doesn’t care about his people and that he is power-hungry. He’s rich, so that must mean that he is corrupt. Basically, he’s a sinner. He’s a short-in-stature sinner. What else do we need to know?

Jericho was a fairly large, bustling city. The scene that day might have been rather like a parade—people lining the streets, calling out to Jesus, begging for healing, grasping at his clothes, hoping and praying that will be enough. Parade routes tend to be crowded—I have spent more than my fair share of parades trying to peek through the people to see floats and marching bands—and this road was no exception. Zacchaeus didn’t arrive in time to get a good seat, to spread out his lawn chair and cooler, so he’s peeking through. But it’s not enough—he doesn’t want just a glimpse, he doesn’t want to peek, he wants to see. Something about Jesus has captured his imagination and piqued his curiosity, something has touched him deep enough inside that he is willing to go for a jog and climb a tree. He disregards his status, his nice clothes, his image (which is already tarnished anyway), and runs through the crowd toward the tallest tree he can find. He works pretty hard just to see who Jesus is.

You know those people who stand in line all night to see a new movie, who camp out for concert tickets, who line the red carpet at a movie opening? Zacchaeus is like these hardcore fans, except that they’re not waiting to see the Son of God, and except that Zacchaeus doesn’t even know who Jesus is yet. He knows Jesus is popular, he’s probably heard some teachings, but he couldn’t pick Jesus out of a line-up. He wants to know more, to see this man he’s heard about, and he’s willing to go out on a limb to do it.

I imagine that he’s just gotten up there when Jesus approaches, stops, and calls up the tree to invite himself over. Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone were to invite themselves over to my house on the way out the door at the end of this service, my response would not be the same as Zacchaeus. I might fudge a little, suggest dinner instead of lunch, say “what about tomorrow night?” or remind them that there’s a luncheon at noon that none of us should really miss. My house, especially on days when I preach, is a disaster area. Today there are Operation Christmas Child boxes all over my living room floor, Vegetarian Times magazines all over the dining room table, and unhealthy snacks all over my kitchen. I’m not ready to have people over! And if Jesus invited himself over, well, I’d be in trouble. It’s a good thing that “cleanliness is next to godliness” doesn’t actually come from the Bible.

But Zacchaeus doesn’t miss a beat. He climbs down from the tree and is happy—happy!—to welcome Jesus into his home. Zacchaeus is a wealthy man, so his hospitality is probably very excellent. It’s likely that his house is well-cared for, or maybe that he sends a runner ahead to warn his wife that a Very Important Guest is coming for dinner. It’s likely that he has the best wine and wonderful food to offer. Jesus really knows how to pick his hosts! A sinner, to be sure, but a sinner who understands hospitality.

While Jesus is busy inviting himself over to dinner, the crowd is busy grumbling about his choice of host. I mean, we’ve already established that everyone knows everything there is to know about Zacchaeus. He’s the bad guy in the story, right? Well…maybe, but maybe not. How often crowds act on their assumptions! They assume that because Zacchaeus is rich, he must be corrupt. They assume that because he is a tax-collector, collaborating with the Romans, he must have renounced his Jewish heritage. Zacchaeus hears their grumbling and takes the opportunity to point out that he gives to charity and he makes restitution when he finds fraud—he defends himself against the very inhospitable crowd and their assumption that they know him. “They don’t know me,” is what Zacchaeus says to Jesus.

But Jesus knows. Jesus looked up into the tree, and he knew. He knew that Zacchaeus wanted to see him. He knew that Zacchaeus was willing to risk his status, his appearance, and even his life to see. Climbing a tree can be a dangerous thing, after all—limbs break, people fall, and with 1st century doctors … Where the crowd sees a swindler, Jesus sees a seeker. Where the crowd sees a thief, Jesus sees a good host. Where the crowd sees a collaborator, only as good as a gentile, Jesus sees a beloved child of God, one of the chosen people.

It is in this moment, with just a few words, that Jesus turns from guest to host. While trespassing on Zacchaeus’ excellent hospitality, he turns the tables. Zacchaeus can offer great food and drink, but Jesus offers him this: “salvation has come to this house, for he too is a Son of Abraham.” Jesus offers him his very self—salvation, wholeness, right here, in Zacchaeus’ own house. Jesus offers him restoration to his community. Jesus offers him his true identity as a Son of Abraham. Not just bread, not just wine, but his very self. Jesus issued an invitation—he invited himself over for dinner. But he issued another invitation—an invitation to wholeness, an invitation to his table, an invitation to know your full identity as a child of God.

And right here is where my own assumptions about Zacchaeus and about Jesus have obscured the point: sure, Zacchaeus may have had a nice house and a housekeeper and a great cook—he may have been ready for guests on a moment’s notice. But that doesn’t matter. Jesus knows when he invites himself over that our houses may not be in order, that we haven’t swept or washed the dishes or hidden the sugary snacks. Jesus does the inviting and the hosting—whether we’re ready or not. There’s no dress code on this invitation, just “RSVP.”

Jesus has invited himself over to our house, and he is the one who has set this table with the finest feast. This is an invitation that, for all our riches, we cannot afford to pass up. Instead, like Zacchaeus, let us welcome, and be welcomed, with joy.

May it be so.