Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Five: character swap

Over at RGBP, today's thought-provoking question is "What five characters would you switch places with for a day? I initially read this to mean characters in books, but can use plays, movies, comic strips, cartoons, anything you'd like. For bonus points, tell us WHY for each or some."


Winnie the Pooh.
Life's adventures always end well for Pooh and his friends. There may be a little light drama, but it's easily taken care of with a witticism or a snack or a nap or some help from friends. There's something so beautiful about that kind of simplicity, I would like to have some of that!

Adelia, the Mistress of the Art of Death.
She's a doctor who figures out mysteries using only the bodies left behind (she was trained as a coroner, essentially). It's the 12th century and she is an independent, educated, interesting woman who (mostly) does things her way. I would like just a portion of the knowledge and spunk she has!

Nell, in the forthcoming novel written by a friend.
Seriously awesome. Great sense of humor, wonderful in an adventure, quick-witted...and she does have some awesome adventures! (I can't give away more, because you will all seriously want to read the book.)

moving to television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Of Course!).
Especially more mature Buffy, or Willow, near the end of the series, where she's learning about the realities of power and community.

and for a historical figure: Isabella d'Este.
As part of the Medici clan she was powerful and interested in art and music and culture. She was a mover and shaker in her day, patronizing major artists and setting trends that would endure. She also had some adventures that would normally have been frowned upon for women, and her understanding of marriage was much more modern than her time really allowed. She was spunky and a little spiteful while also gracious and excelling at hospitality...and thoroughly interesting.

And you? What five characters, books-movies-tv-history, would you like to trade places with for a day?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

memo to politicians of all parties

Dear politicians,

Since you seem to have forgotten, let me remind you of your job.

Your job is not to ensure that someone of the other party serves only one term.

Your job is not to spend money making yourselves look good or your opponent look bad.

Your job is not to cater to the K-Street lobbyist.

Your job is not to do whatever it takes to make a lucrative career out of your public office.

Your job is not to spend the GDP of several countries trying to get re-elected.

Your job IS:
to serve the American people.
to serve the best interest of the country as a whole.
to serve the greater good of the community who elected you.
to serve as a beacon of hope and help in a system that leaves people behind.
to serve with, not against, your colleagues in various offices so that we get the best possible solution (not no solution) to whatever issue is at hand.
to find ways, creative and conventional, to ensure that no one does end up left behind in a country we are fond of calling "great" and that we claim so much pride in.

I can see how you would get confused about the meaning of the word "serve" and the purpose of your position in our government, and I can see how difficult it can be to remember that not one moment of your job is about you. Even clergy have difficulty remembering sometimes, and you get paid a whole lot more than we do, so it's harder to remember.

I don't care who sits in what office as long as everyone in every office is willing to work for the greater good. Unfortunately, that so rarely seems to be the case.

But seriously: your job is not about you or your party, it is about America. So stop working so hard for yourself and start working for us. Stop your self-centered vision of doing nothing other than blocking the other guy, and start working for us. That's why you're there--period.

the voters.

Monday, August 27, 2012


In our church there are women ranging in age from 8 weeks to 102.

Every one of these women has or will come of age with the ability to vote. Though the oldest among us grew up in the midst of the struggle, and may have voted for the first time amidst controversy.
this is one of the less offensive ads. distressing.

We women have been voting for 92 years. Before 92 years ago today, women not only had no say in our national life, but we also endured mocking, insults, abuse--verbal, physical, and printed. We can barely imagine now the ads saying that women are too feeble-minded, too hysterical (a word invented to describe women) for the responsibility of voting. (and for lots of other things too) It was considered not only normal but even expected to put women in their place, make decisions for them, insist they couldn't control themselves.

Maybe we haven't made as much progress as we'd thought.

But we do have one thing those women 93+ years ago didn't have:

We can vote.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Broken With Pride: the 13th People's Choice sermon of 2012

Rev. Teri Peterson
Broken With Pride
Exodus 20.8-11/Deuteronomy 5.12-15, Luke 13.10-17
26 August 2012, People’s Choice 13

Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the Lord your God commanded: Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
In Deuteronomy, the commandment ends not with creation, but with this:
Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That’s why the Lord your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day.

Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you are set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.
The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, “There are six days during which work is permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord replied, “Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said these things, all his opponents were put to shame, but all those in the crowd rejoiced at all the extraordinary things he was doing.

All summer long, you’ve been asking the questions and we’ve been trying to answer them from the pulpit. Now it’s time to reverse—I get to ask the questions! Unlike the questions you’ve asked us, I’ll start with an easy one: put your hand up if you have ever thought “I wish it was the weekend” or “how many days until vacation?” Next…what comes to mind when you hear the word “Sabbath”? … okay, now hands up if you’ve ever thought “I’m too busy to take a break.”
What would happen if you did take a break, or a day off, or a nap, or a vacation?

Of all the ten commandments, I think this is one of the top two hardest—the other being that pesky first one about no other gods. When it comes to observing the Sabbath, honoring God by keeping it holy, taking a day to rest and let others rest as well…well, it just seems a little archaic. In our fast-paced 21st century world, taking a day off could mean falling behind in the productivity race, which could mean less chance of a promotion or a raise, or could lead to a boss’s displeasure, or even the dreaded loss of opportunity. Observing the Sabbath would mark us as strange, or old-fashioned, or selfish. And besides all that, there’s the question: what would our work, our family, or the world do without us if we stopped for a moment? And then the frightening follow-up thought—what if they get along just fine…what does that mean for who we are, our place in the world, our importance?

And so we go on—busy busy busy, and proclaiming our busy-ness at every turn too. It’s almost as if we take pride in breaking the commandment to rest—surely our busyness means that we are too important to follow that command, surely it must be more of a suggestion for people with as much to do as we have, surely God doesn’t mean it.

Until the day our bodies rebel, and sickness forces us to rest. Until the day our creative energy gives out because we haven’t left it any time to rejuvenate. Until the day we snap and brutalize our relationships because we never had any downtime.

Then we discover, for at least a few minutes or a few days, that even as we have been rebelling against the perceived shackles of the commandment, we have been enslaved by our own view of ourselves.

Now I know, most of our cultural understanding of Sabbath comes from things like Little House On The Prairie, where Sabbath-keeping is about sitting in a straight-backed chair reading the Bible for a whole day that could be spent playing, or from the blue laws that restricted our shopping and eating and drinking habits until just a decade or two ago. Those legalistic Sabbath experiences feel more like restraint than freedom. But did you notice that in the lesser-known version of the commandments, the one from Deuteronomy, the reason given for keeping the Sabbath is that we used to be slaves, and we’re not anymore, so celebrate that freedom—take a day off! Slaves don’t get days off. Slaves don’t get to recline and enjoy a meal or a conversation with friends. Slaves don’t get to give their animals or their land or their families a break…they work work work because their life literally depends on it. But we are not slaves anymore.

Except when we are.

Nearly a thousand years after the commandments were first given, a woman walked into worship. She was a woman who was defined by her condition—bent over, afflicted, outcast, broken. She was a woman who worked hard to overcome the situation, every moment of every day, without rest. When she came to worship that day, and when Jesus straightened her back and looked into her eyes—maybe the first person to look her in the eye for eighteen years—the church elders turned on her. Not on Jesus, but on the woman, who dared to step out of her definition and into a new one—Before, she was the bent over woman, she was the afflicted one, she was the local outcast—but now she is a child of God, beloved, a daughter of Abraham, a member of the covenant community, a human being. She was freed, not only from illness but from a false identity and from all the work it takes to keep that up. And in that same moment, the elders and the congregants were freed as well. No longer must we sit by while others suffer—we are freed to act compassionately. No longer must we have special powers or the right college degree or a title to share good news—we are freed to speak the word of God into every circumstance. No longer must we keep silent while leaders bully or buy us into submission—we are freed to witness to another way. We are not slaves anymore.

 Except when we are.

 Many—perhaps even most—of us are in thrall to the ideal of self-reliance. We are enslaved by our perceived need to be available all the time. We willingly wear the chains of an identity primarily defined by what we do and how productive we are. We are slaves to the idea that we can waste or make time. Our pride is in the way of our freedom. We need to step aside and recognize that we are not the ones whose effort creates and redeems and sustains. In fact, sometimes we hinder God’s movement even with all our good intentions. 

Following the commandment—to lay aside our work and rest awhile—shows us another way. It gives us some perspective, teaches us that we do not rely only on ourselves, but on one another and ultimately on God. It gives our bodies, minds, and spirits a chance to take in the glory of God and to connect with God’s providence in new ways. It allows us the space to just be, to rest in the heart of God, and so to be renewed for the calling God has for us. It is freedom of the best sort—freedom to be who we are created to be, not who we think we have to be.

So—do we need Sabbath in the 21st century? Yes! We need it as much as ever. Now, as at every other time in history, we are in danger of believing ourselves to be capable and crucial to the running of the universe—to be as important, or maybe even more important, than God. Which means it makes sense that Sabbath and Idolatry are two of the hardest commandments to keep—because they are so interrelated. When we break the fourth commandment we also break the first, for we place ourselves in the God-spot. It’s God who neither slumbers nor sleeps, it’s God who creates and redeems and sustains…and it’s God who rests, and calls us to do the same. Notice that the commandment doesn’t lay out how exactly—we have to figure out how to set aside the time, to keep work and housework and obligations and maybe even technology from intruding into that holy space…and that “how” will be different for every family. But I believe, and God believes, that it can—and must—be done. So lay your burdens down, put up your feet, and rest awhile.

May it be so.
a Sabbath hour

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Five: choose your own adventure

so...I hardly ever post twice on my blog in one week, let alone in one day. but then I had the opportunity to make up the Friday Five for today, so....

This summer at RCLPC we've been doing what we're calling a "People's Choice" sermon series--people submitted sermon topics, and the preachers have taken them on. This Sunday I'm preaching my last in this series, about Sabbath. (Why yes, we did blatantly steal this idea from KathrynZJ, who did it last summer...) It's kept people engaged all summer and we've all had a great time. So now it's your turn...

1, 2: What are two texts or topics you wish you could hear a sermon about?
I would like to hear a sermon about Miriam, beyond her role in the whole Moses-in-a-basket adventure. She sticks around for a lot more of the story, but we often forget about her.
I would also like to hear a sermon that takes a creative look at the women who followed Jesus, beyond "and they provided for him out of their resources."

3, 4: What are two texts or topics you wish you could preach a sermon about?
Hmm...well, as a preacher I often get to preach those sermons I wish I could, except there are a few things that I think require more time or depth than a sermon can really give. At RCLPC a sermon can only be about 12 minutes long, and while most of the time that seems fine, it's difficult to address some bigger picture things in that time--for instance, what does it mean to be Church in the 21st century, and how does that affect our involvement in political and civic life? Or how can we nurture God's passion in the life of the church and of individuals, and what does that mean for the ways we think about "church" (especially when it comes to programs and education and mission)? Finding ways to link those big questions with the lectionary and simultaneously break them down into smaller parts that can fit into other sermons because they are way too big for just one is a huge challenge...and then add in the part where people may or may not be there every week or remember enough to make those connections from sermon-to-sermon, and we have ourselves a big ole conundrum!

5: What's your favorite sermon you've ever heard or preached? What makes it your fave?
I can't believe how hard it is to answer questions I made up myself! LOL. Umm....let's see...I think my favorite sermon that I have heard is probably a toss-up between a sermon preached by Otis Moss III at the Proclaiming the Text conference at Montreat in 2009 (it was about re-mixing, starting with Joshua doing a Moses re-mix) and one preached by Anna Carter Florence on the women in the Moses-in-a-basket story at the HerStory Conference in 2008. Both were amazing and have stuck with me for their vibrant imagery, strong good news coupled with challenge, and interesting twists on stories I'd heard or read dozens of times before.

Wanna play? Answer on your blog and leave a link, or play in the comments!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Okay, so my summer vacation was actually work, but it was still awesome. Two weeks leading a small group of mostly church people around Scotland. It was part Presby-Pilgrimage, exploring some of the history of our religious tradition and connecting with our spiritual roots. It was part tourist-extravaganza, visiting palaces and cultural spots. It was part study tour, exploring Scottish history/geology/politics/culture from 135 million years ago up to now. And of course it was part Iona Community Awesomeness.

I went a couple days early and stayed a day after the rest of the group (cheaper flight!) and took the opportunity to visit Inverness, look for the Loch Ness Monster (no sightings, sorry), see the Highlands a bit, and learn more about the 1745 Jacobite Uprising that culminated in the "battle" (read: massacre) at Culloden. I also took a moment to visit the first palace in Scotland at Linlithgow, to meet up with another RevGal and visit the Borders, and to eat plenty of delicious curries.
the entry courtyard of Linlithgow Palace

the window into the king's presence chamber-it had colored glass so when light came in it created a double rainbow at the foot of the throne. cool.

Looking across the palace courtyard from the top of a tower

the entry to Linlithgow Palace

Culloden Battlefield

clan graves at Culloden

due to a public transportation adventure gone awry, I didn't actually make it to my boat tour on time. However, it was making another stop in a lock on the River Ness, so I was able to get on partway through. This is looking back at the canal...aka the part of the tour I missed. I'd been really looking forward to that part, but alas...

Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle, as seen from a boat on Loch Ness

Looking down on part of the Urquhart Castle complex from a higher spot...with Loch Ness looking pretty!

this was the view for my entire Highland train journey. so gorgeous.
Melrose Abbey

yes, that gargoyle is a bagpipe-playing pig

looking out at the Borders from the top of the Melrose Abbey tower

looking down into the sanctuary

Kelso Abbey...what's left of it

Floors Castle--a real live castle still lived in by a real live Duke-and-Duchess!

yeah, I took this from a weird angle, but still...the place is HUGE

In between, I facilitated the travel and learning and conversation and delicious meals all over Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, Stirling, and Iona. We visited the classics, like  Castles, the Wallace Monument, St. Giles Cathedral, and Holyrood Palace. We also went a bit off the beaten path with visits to Govan Old Parish Church (where we got a nice surprise--John Bell was there for morning prayer and to give a lecture to another group, which we hung around for!), Glasgow's Transportation Museum (surprisingly cool), and a behind-the-scenes tour and conversation with a Member of the Scottish Parliament. Not to mention that we spent a week on Iona, building community with people from around the world via song, worship, daily tasks, workshops, and a 7 mile walking pilgrimage.
inside Edinburgh Castle

Holyrood Palace courtyard

St. Andrews Cathedral

the William Wallace Monument, Stirling (that column on the corner? The staircase.)

Stirling Castle

St. Giles Cathedral

We ate entirely at restaurants recommended by friends. For the most part, it was local food, often slow-food, traditional and not-so-much. We enjoyed a chip shop, a curry house, scottish comfort food, homemade soups and breads, local produce (and meat, for those who eat that), and traditional desserts. Everyone was, in advance of the trip, worried about the food--between the combination of a vegetarian trip leader and the stereotype of British food, they were probably right to be worried! But now that they've traveled with me, they know how important food is...and how good I am at finding places that will be awesome and will cater to even the pickiest (or most allergen prone) among us. Even our most skittish eater had a wonderful food experience, and is still talking about the vegetarian restaurant!
the clean plate club at the vegetarian restaurant!!

scottish comfort food: sausage and mash, fish and chips...

One of the great things about being a small group (there were 8 of us) is that we were able to travel entirely by public transportation. That gave us yet another window into the Scottish life/culture/people that we wouldn't have had if we'd rented a minibus or gone on a big group tour. It was sometimes frustrating waiting for buses or trains, and sometimes crowded or hot or whatever, but it was also real life, not just the sanitized version of vacation many of us are used to. Yes, we were tourists, but we were tourists who did our best to get into the place as it is, rather than keeping ourselves separated from it by tour bus windows.

One of the things I learned on this trip is that leading a group can be very stressful! Part of that is because I always want things to be perfect when I'm showing people a place I love. I feel the same way about taking people to my favorite restaurants--I want them to love it, and I'm nervous the whole time that they won't! There's something vulnerable about inviting people into your favorite things, and I definitely had some anxiety about that on this trip. Not to mention that of course I want people to like and respect me, which meant I had to ensure that all the details would go smoothly (with only one or two notable exceptions, they did), and I needed to know everything and be able to answer every question (or bring in someone who could, which is much more my forte!). pressure or anything! Every night when we got back to the hotel, I would spend time blogging the day for the church, reviewing the itinerary for the next day, the historical/religious/spiritual/cultural significance of any place we were visiting, and making sure I was certain of all the times and transit connections and restaurant locations and reservations. Then it was to sleep, then up early to have tea and biscuits and to try to get in a workout before meeting the group for another exciting day! Getting to Iona was a relief because at least we weren't going anywhere and I didn't have to plan meals, though of course there's still plenty of group-leadery-stuff to do there too.

Without fail, Iona always feels like home. I don't know what it is about that island, but basically within minutes I could feel that visceral settled-happy-love thing going on. It's not just mental or emotional but physical too. That place tugs at my heartstrings. A friend met on Iona many years ago asked, before I left, "is it weird that when I think of Iona I get positively homesick?" My answer was no...and still is. Because it happens to me too, no matter how happy I am in my current home, something about that island is home in a more basic way than where I live or where I came from. Strange but true, and beautiful too.
the nunnery

looking across the garden and sound toward Mull

the abbey

port ban

the bay at the back of the ocean

st. martin's and st. john's crosses outside the abbey

the sound and Mull


tea time in the garden!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

lots of good intentions...

I keep meaning to blog. I even sometimes write blog posts in my head when something is happening and I want to remember to write about it. But for some reason they never make it out of my head and onto the keyboard/screen. This is not a new phenomenon, of course. And it's not just in blogging, either--I haven't been writing much of anything beyond the sermon lately. Once we sent in the book manuscript (which, for those playing along at home, was 3 months ago), I apparently ran out of words. Or maybe life was beyond the words, somehow.

So...I'm going to try again. Coming soon: the classic "what I did on my summer vacation" post (except that it was a working vacation...but there will be pictures!), contemplating the level of casual violence in our society as seen through the microcosm of Six Flags, and probably some stuff about church and society and culture. And maybe some pictures of the cats. Possibly a book review (you never know!).

And maybe I'll start posting my sermons again too. The last few have been sermons I didn't love, but when they were preached they kinda worked, so perhaps it's time to post them even when I think they might not be good, since apparently (according to John) I have no ability to discern whether my own sermons are good or not. ha.

In the meantime...there is a ton of cuteness over here.