Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Lord is My...

Pentecost 18, Year a
12 October 2014

Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Matthew 22:1-14

            The violent nature of the parable of the wedding feast of the king’s son almost obscures any ability to appreciate what the gospel writer is saying. The feasting imagery is familiar, but then the first group rejects the invitation and kills the slaves. The second group is scraped up, redressed, and set to party. The last man is standing there, thinking, “Do I stay or do I go?” and then it is decided for him.

            What was Matthew thinking? When Luke tells this parable, it’s not so violent and the ending is certainly far preferable. Why is this version so intense? Matthew is writing to a group of believers in Christ, Jews and Gentiles, who find themselves in tension with Jews who do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Frustrated with each other, they have begun to lose sense of the bigger picture- the nature of God and how God chooses to reveal that nature.

            The parable is about the nature of the king, God, but it is an exaggeration such that those who hear it are able to recognize the absurdity of their own behavior and to realize the extent of God’s perpetual invitation to grace and joy.

            The first group rejects the invitation of the king, the invitation to party and celebrate, because they 1) may think it is beneath them, 2) think that they can provide something better for themselves, or 3) don’t understand the real value of having a relationship with the king. The second group accepts the invitation because they 1) are not able to do better for themselves and they know it, 2) may not have had anything else going on, or 3) realize the value of the nature of the king.

            The king brings in the invitees, they are prepared for the party, they are welcomed and food and drink are pressed upon them. They did nothing to deserve this, but they were willing to engage with the king. Suddenly they are in a situation beyond their wildest dreams.

            The man standing at the edges can’t decide. Is it worth it? Will I look silly in clothes that aren’t my own? Is the food actually good? Is there any point to this party? In remaining speechless, he doesn’t even engage with the king. A failure to pursue any kind of relationship, even a combative one, leaves him outside the adventure, outside the party, outside the celebration.

            God’s persistent grace, God’s insistent mercy, does everything for us, except force us to accept it. That’s the reality of being in relationship with God, with Christ, with the Spirit… we just have to be willing to engage, to party, to be present. And we’re in… just like that.

            What does that accepting that relationship look like? In part, it means really pondering what God’s actions look like in your life. Where you’ve seen them? How you’ve heard the Word? When you’ve felt the Spirit? Many of us can recite Psalm 23, but most of us don’t have a lot of direct experience of shepherds. Psalm 23 is very moving and is deeply connected with Israel’s history in David and then in Jesus, as the Good Shepherd.

            If we don’t live in an agrarian society, if we are not usually around shepherds, ranchers, farmers, we should think of additional metaphors. Expanding our images of God helps us to recognize the many ways God meets us and invites us in, over and over, into a celebration of grace and renewal.
            If you were going to write Psalm 23 for yourself, what would you say? “The Lord is my…”

The Lord is my mechanic, I’m satisfied by his work.
    She keeps me tuned and running smoothly.
He leads me to open roads,
She grants me peace in congestion.
God’s mercy and grace toward me reflect well on her reputation.
Even when I need serious maintenance, I know the cost has been covered;
for you are with me;
    your torque wrench and your lift platform— they comfort me.
You bang out my dents and mend my scratches,
In front of those who treat me with disdain.
You keep my fluids filled,
    My belts are tightened.
Certainly safety and stability will pursue me on all of my expeditions,
And I shall ride in the chariot of the Lord forever.

            We are invited, again and again, into a banquet of rejoicing, reunion, and re-formation. We are clothed in Christ’s faithfulness. We are dancing in the Spirit. In the next week, I encourage to think out your metaphor of who the Lord is to you, where you see God’s work, and to say, “Yes. Amen. Yes.” to the invitation of relationship with your Creator in loving yourself, your neighbor, and your God.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Pirate's Guide to Lutheran Bible Interpretation

A Pirate’s Guide to Lutheran Bible Interpretation

1. The LAW makes ye feel keelhauled. The GOSPEL makes ye feel like LAND-HO!

          - Lutheran pirates read the Bible with awareness of law and gospel.

- The law is the part of Scripture that makes us aware of our need for grace. The law makes us aware of our tendency to MUTINY (our brokenness).

- Grace is the part of Scripture that shows us how God heals and forgives our mutinous tendencies and works to heal us from them.

- The law is not “bad” and grace is not “good”. They go together.

- The wise Lutheran pirate knows that law can be found in calm waters (in the gospels and in other places) and gospel can be found in stormy seas (in hard passages to read and understand).

2.      Image result for cross image  marks the spot.

- The pirate’s Bible is a Jesus book. It’s not for recipes or instructions for swabbing the deck. It doesn’t show how to use the stars for navigation or which kind of fish are okay to eat.

- The Lutheran pirate looks at the whole Bible with a Jesus lens. The parts of the Bible that precede the Gospels reveal God’s character and what pirates (people) are like. These writings help the faithful pirate understand God’s history and navigation plan for God’s crew. Jesus is the eternal First Mate who was sent to set the crew and any would-be pirates back on the right course.

3. Use yer Bible to understand yer Bible.  

- Non-pirates refer to this as “Scripture interprets Scripture.”

- This means that when a pirate is confused, she uses the whole Bible to figure out what to do, not just one verse all by itself.
- For example, the Bible says, “Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.” Eph. 6:5
If the Bible says this, be it lawful for the pirate ship to keep some swabbies around with no pay, even with pretty good hardtack? Can the cap’n own them?

- Other parts of the Bible discuss loving mercy (Micah 6:8), doing unto others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12), and following the law of love (Romans 13:8-9). The Lutheran pirate sees that the larger view of the Bible does not favor holding captives and enslaving them.

4. Thar be NO secret treasures in them thar stories.

- The Lutheran pirate looks for the plain meaning of the text.

- He might need some context for a story or a cultural frame of reference to help.

- However, there are not secret treasure maps hidden in Jesus’ parables. The story of the prodigal son is about a landlubber with 2 ungrateful crew members and their actions. You don’t have to be a Lutheran pirate to understand the story at its plainest meaning. You don’t even have to be a pirate.

- The pirate uses common sense when reading her Bible. A miracle is a miracle. A parable is a story. An event is a memory or a retelling from people who knew people who were there.  Pirates might disagree, but that’s no reason to divide the crew. There are metaphors AND literal actions.

5. Avast! Ye need a crew!

- Lutheran pirates don’t keep their Bibles in their bunks and never talk about them.

- A good captain encourages pirates to read their Bibles at home AND during crew meetings. No pirates should read the Bible alone and expect to come to an (a)vastly personal revelation of the Big Captain (God) speaking only to them through a Scripture.

- A personal reading of Scripture can move a pirate! However, yer Bible is the same words that have been given to all pirates. There’s no special messages for just ye!

- That’s why a crew (a group or congregation) matters for public interpretation. Pirates weigh their experience and learning of Scripture within and against the community experience where Jesus, First Mate and Pirate Pioneer, has promised to join them!

Now yer ready to read that Bible! Swab the poop deck first, pirate! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Crazy Vineyard Owner

Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21: 33-46

            Let’s assume that the plain metaphor of this parable is as follows: God is the householder, the landowner of the vineyard. The first messengers are the prophets. The son is the Son, Jesus. The wicked tenets are the temple leaders who have forgotten their responsibility to the householder/landowner. The people who be given the vineyard are those who follow Jesus, regardless of the their ethnicity or tribal heritage.

            Is God naïve? Why would God send Jesus, knowing the treatment the prophets had received? Why did God send more than, let’s say, three prophets. If the people refused to hear or follow them, with disastrous consequences for the prophets, why didn’t God quit? And why send the Son?

            Pausing to reflect that the author of the gospel was not a reporter on the spot, but someone making sense of oral and written traditions some forty to fifty years old, this story is written to reflect what has happened in the community of those who followed Jesus. Some were rejected from temple fellowship. Some have been killed. Rome has destroyed Jerusalem by razing it- temple and all- to the ground.

            If God was already able to perceive by the time of Isaiah that people do not want to bear the cost of discipleship, the work of tending the vineyard of creation, then why did God keep trying?

            Perhaps the pursuit of reconciliation is fundamentally God’s nature. Not wrath, not grace without cost, not mere redemption, but reconciliation- the repair of the relationship and the restoration of its promises. The culture of the time of Jesus focuses on shame and honor. When we read a story from this period and this location, we look to see who would have expected honor and who would have received shame. A householder, the owner of the vineyard, would not have been remiss in sending his son because the tenets would have been expected to honor the son. It’s not naïveté, but the cultural reality that underscores this story. The tenets don’t inherit and they should honor the son, as a stand-in for the father, as the flesh of the father, as the father standing before them.

            The fact that they don’t is not a reflection on God’s character, but on the character of people, on our own character.  The truth is that we, as people, are fundamentally naïve in our perception of the world, our lives, our communities as belonging to us. We think of the hours, sweat, energy that we have put into work, home life, families, relationships… they are ours. When we are supposed to give all glory to God, to the Spirit, to Christ… we feel a little irritated.

            Where’s my credit? Why isn’t there acknowledgement of my work? Why can’t I just bask in the glory for one minute? Because it’s not your vineyard. It’s not my vineyard. It’s not false modesty or self-deprecation to say, “God helped me” or “I couldn’t have done it without Christ”. It’s the truth. The hard truth. The costly truth of grace.

            God is not naïve. God is wily. God has pursued the world at high cost, the death of Jesus on the cross, being the highest price. God still pursues, still seeks relationship. God is still about grace that allows us the gift of caring for, of stewarding, creation- plants, animals, people, the Way of Christ (all in our care). We cannot be naïve enough to claim sole credit for this work and believe ourselves to be in right relationship with God.

            The hardest task we face, day by day, in remembering our baptisms, in living into communion and community, is accepting the reality that this is not our vineyard, that we are workers in God’s creation, that the kingdom and the power and the glory are his- now and forever. (And they always have been.) This is the cost of grace, of acknowledging the relationship, of accepting the truth about God’s power and person.

            What will it look like to acknowledge God’s hand in all the areas of your life- especially the areas that you don’t normally associate with faith? What will it be like to realize that God’s pursuit of reconciliation with you, with all creation, happens mainly beyond these walls? What will it be like, this week, and in all that follow- to step out in faith, to be embraced by grace, and to serve others while saying, “This is God’s vineyard.”


Friday, October 3, 2014

I Feel Petty


When you grew exasperated with Peter or James and John,

If Johanna and Susanna were a bit too loud,

Or the Magdalene and Thomas wondering about things totally out of reach…

What did you do?

Did you look heavenward, in whichever direction that is,

And say, “What were You thinking?”

Did you disappear to the necessary,

Only to be found later- a few miles out of town?

When I go to the dark of the supply closet, a prayer space,

When I am fleeing gossip, petty grievances, and your beloveds, but not mine right

I wonder what you did.

Here we are, together, in the quiet.

Even with no sounds, I hear you telling me that

The candles, the carpet, the coffee,

They’re not actually part of the yoke.

Don’t let them become more than they are.

Do the necessary. Take the walk.

And remember that you’re with me.

And I am not you.





Reblogged from RevGalBlogPals.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

No Christian Autopilot

Matthew 21:23-32; Psalm 25:1-9; Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

            What does that proverb means at the beginning of the Ezekiel text, “That the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? The Israelite people saying it in the reading are asserting that they have been brought into exile in Babylon because of their parents’ sins. The truth that the prophet is making clear to those who will hear him is that both parents and children suffer from their own mistakes.

            God makes clear that there is no rejoicing in heaven over the death of anyone, particularly not those who have turned away from the embrace of grace. The openness of grace, God’s grace, is such that no generation can separate another from it. The embrace of God’s love is not earned, but it must be experienced. The acceptance of what God has done for anyone of us is reflected in living a holy life. This is what Ezekiel is urging the Israelites toward in this passage.

            Turning to Matthew, the temple leaders have begun to take for granted that their titles reflect God’s view of them- rather than understanding that they are the stewards, the caretakers of God’s people. It is very important to remember that all kinds of people, throughout history, (up to and including a wide variety of religious leaders) have been very protective of what they deem their God-given rights and duties.

            Frankly, it doesn’t matter what Jesus says to them at this point. They are afraid of how he will disrupt the system that feeds them and gives them power. They have forgotten what it means to be chosen representatives of the power of God in the world, what it means to be called to witness to the power of the Creator’s wisdom, might, and mercy.

            Jesus knows this and they realize it, but most of them are not willing to go back, to repent, to refocus on what it means to be humble, acting justly, and pursuing mercy. They say the words, but they do not do the deeds. The embrace of God’s love is not earned through the right formula of words or deeds, but it must be experienced through trust and faithful living. The acceptance of what God has done for any one of us is reflected in working out a holy life in love and service.

            What does this mean for us? There is no such thing as Christian autopilot. We cannot come here, say the right words, eat the right things, sing the right tunes, and go out assured of God’s presence in our lives. That presence comes not from what we do or don’t do, but through God’s promise.

            We must examine ourselves, our lives, our priorities. Are we just saying the words about loving our neighbor without doing the work of forgiving, not gossiping, offering help, comfort, or prayer? Do we blame previous generations for the messes around us without acknowledging our own sins? Do we enjoy our comforts, our places, our familiarities so much that what is new is automatically suspicious and irritating?

            It is never too late to refocus, to repent, to reform… There is time to be the one who does go and do the work, regardless of the words that may have been said in the past. The embrace of God’s love is not earned. It experienced through trust and faithful living. The acceptance of what God has done for any one of us is reflected in working out a holy life in love and service and knowing that we do not go out alone.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Ninevah Moment

Jonah 3:10- 4:11; Matthew 20:1-16

            The main points of today’s lessons can be summed up in about 3 minutes. Context for Jonah: the Hebrew prophets and the Hebrew people are not holding up their end of the covenant with God, in which they are blessed as the people who reveals God’s mercy to the world. Context for Matthew: Jewish Christians and early adopter-Gentile Christians are not happy when it turns out that those who are new to the faith receive the exact same level of blessing as they do. The modern upshot for us: God’s grace is not fair, earned, or distributed as expected. We are both the beneficiaries the expected and mandatory reporters of these facts.

            So, that’s it.

            Except that it’s not. That’s not actually enough. I am guessing that if I pole most of you hear, we would agree that God’s grace is open to all. We would acknowledge that we have some responsibility to spread that news. The truth is, though, that there are some people who are Ninevah to us. Just exactly who may vary from person to person. There are people whose latecomer status to church, to faith, to hope makes us frustrated when they seem to get the same “pay”- that is, they have equal voice, equal vote, and equal presence in the life of the congregation.

            The first wedding I did on my own was for two people who did not attend this church. They had difficulty finding someone to do an outdoor wedding because it was February. They were very young, 18 and 19. He was about to deploy as an MP (military police) with the Army and she was 11 weeks pregnant. I wanted them to wait, but I knew they were not going to listen to that. So, I felt that it was better for them to have a positive experience with church, in hopes that they would return if they ever had difficulties.

            I officiated their service, wearing my parka, in snow above my knees at Otter Lake on Ft. Richardson. I didn’t hear from them again. I did hear of them the next spring, when he had returned from his deployment. They struggled with reunion. In an unfortunate series of events, he shot her while she was holding the baby, killing them both. Then he tried to kill himself, but failed. At the trial, he was sentenced to more than sixty years in prison. He spent the first couple years in Spring Creek in Seward, but now he’s in Goose Creek outside Palmer.

            It’s a horrible story, but if you leave only remembering those details- you will miss the point that I am about to make. While he was awaiting trial, when he was found guilty, when he was sentenced, for the years he was in Spring Creek- I did nothing. I talked to the chaplain on the base. I knew that his unit was being reassigned to another state, so most of the people who knew him were leaving. He was not from Alaska, so he didn’t have family up here. There were only a few people with any kind of connection to him and I was one of them.

            Would he want to hear from the pastor who did his wedding? I tossed and turned over what I should do. I prayed about it. I talked about it. I tried to forget. I didn’t actually flee to Tarshish and I didn’t endanger any fishing charters, but my uncertainty became a whale in whose belly I sloshed around. This is what happens to many of us when we are confronted with a serious situation for which we feel unequipped.

            Of course, we say, God’s grace is for everyone, but I don’t know how to visit someone in prison, I don’t know what to do when someone is dying, I’m not sure what to say when a marriage is breaking up, I am uncomfortable in hospitals. At a certain point, we fail to act as though grace is enough. We talk about manning up, womanning up, putting on big girl or big boy pants, but- in the end- it is the Holy Spirit who equips us to do the serious tasks that are absolutely, one-hundred percent the work of being a follower of Christ.

            So we either believe God has enough grace for every person AND every situation or we don’t. We either believe that the Holy Spirit equips and guides or we don’t. We either believe that we are being Christ to others and that Jesus is meeting us through them, or we don’t.

            Last December, I wrote out Christmas cards to some people who were not receiving our family Christmas cards. These were plain cards, with an Alaskan winter scene on the front. I looked up the I.D. number of a certain prisoner and wrote a brief card, “I want you to know that you are not forgotten. This is who I am. I pray for you often. You are remembered by me, by others, and by God. Merry Christmas.” I got a letter back, thanking me for sending one of the few personal cards he received. Ninevah, for me, looked like writing to a prisoner, a murderer, not because I thought God wouldn’t grant him grace, but because I didn’t trust grace enough to make up the difference in my best efforts.

            We all have Ninevahs. Furthermore, we are all likely someone else’s Ninevah or even a late-coming worker. Our age, our abilities, our gender, our occupation, our education level, our habits, our children’s habits, where we live, our vices, our struggles, our health… all of these things are likely to make someone around us uncomfortable. They are also the barriers that stop us from reaching out, because we are unsure, afraid, or just plain disgusted by the person in this situation.

            The end of Jonah shows God’s mercy- not only to the Ninevites, but also to the prophet. God doesn’t say, “You ungrateful son-of-a-gun, how about you die right here and right now and then I won’t have to listen to your whining anymore.” Instead, the God who sent a prophet to the Ninevites, to encourage them toward repentance and toward a right relationship with God… does the very SAME thing for Jonah.

            We worship that same God. We live in the grace of that same God as it has been revealed through Jesus. We live and move and have our being in that same God through the mysterious and on-going work of the Holy Spirit. All three persons of our one God work on us, through us, and for us repeatedly and on a daily basis, so that we may come to even a basic understanding of grace- not for ourselves, but so that we can carry that grace to the world. For we are both beneficiaries and mandatory reporters of the greatest unfairness in the world.

            God’s grace is not fair, earned, or distributed as expected. It is for all. It can and does help you. It is enough.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One- Minute Writer: Disappear

You may have noticed that I haven't posted much lately. I've been doing some extemporaneous (no notes) preaching. I've also had some other things going on as well in my life. I actually haven't been reading as much lately either and the absence of that is really starting to tug on me in some not-so-subtle ways. 

A friend of mine says, "Writers write." 


It can be very difficult, though, to jump back in because that first rusty post is like the first slow painful walk or run in the start of an exercise program. 

I thought I would go to the One-Minute Writer today for a prompt. Just writing for sixty seconds, or walking for 10 minutes, is a start. 

Today's prompt is a doozy: How would the world be different without you in it?

Here we go. 

I suppose the short answer is to look at this question from the point of view of if I hadn't been born. Thus, all other things being the same, my parents would have had three children. My sister would be an oldest child and the only girl. She would have also been the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family. I assume, via my theological knowledge of It's a Wonderful Life, [Time's up here] that there have been moments in my life that affected the outcomes of the lives of others, whether or not I know about them. 

What about if something happened to me? My children would not have me. My husband wouldn't. My friends, siblings, parents, community would be changed without my gifts. To be clear, it is not that my presence defines an of these people or situations, but my existence does give shape to many things around me. I have certainly struggled with darkness at times in my life. At this time, a relative bright time, I can see that my life is intrinsically entwined with many around me. A loss of one alters a community in a variety of ways, no matter how the loss occurs and especially when it is unexpected. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Be a Boaz

Reading: Ruth 3

Commentary: What’s happening in this passage? Ruth has pledged her support to Naomi, followed her back to Israel, and been responsible for taking care of them. Naomi has the connections in this place, her hometown. If she can find a righteous man to marry Ruth, Naomi will have the grandchildren for whom she has longed and she will know that Ruth will be taken care of as a wife. It will have to be just the right man for Ruth- because he will have to recognize the risks and efforts she has made with Naomi. He will also have to be willing to give Ruth children who will also be understood to be in the line of her dead husband. (Otherwise the grandchildren wouldn’t really be Naomi’s.)

            Boaz is just such a man. He has seen Ruth’s care for Naomi. In the verses we just heard, Boaz acknowledges Ruth’s forethought and risk-taking. As a widow, Ruth could have chosen a different husband, possibly even a younger man. However, she honors Naomi and Naomi’s needs and goes to lie with a man who can provide for them. Boaz has already shown a willingness to do that.

            Boaz is honored by Ruth’s actions and rewards them. He will make every effort to get someone to care for her and Naomi. He is also careful to be sure that Ruth’s reputation is protected. It is certainly arguable that Ruth is a little bit mercenary and Boaz is not turning away a pretty young thing that shows up in his bedroll. Be that as it may, the upshot of this passage is that righteousness and faithful action are rewarded by God and by people.

            Of course, it doesn’t always seem like that’s the case. We certainly know many situations wherein it seems that evil is rewarded, that other people are a means for getting ahead, and that no one is willing to speak out for the widows, orphans, travelers, the unemployed, or the hungry. Isn’t anyone willing to be the Boaz to these people, to stand up, support, lift up, encourage, and redeem for life?

            We understand salvation to have been achieved for all creation through Jesus. There is still on-going work- the spreading of that news, the building of God’s kin-dom, and the reconciliation of creation with the knowledge of God. In our culture, it is all too often that people who are in tight spots are not given the extra boost they need. Boaz does not tell Ruth that things will work out if she just keeps trying. He doesn’t take advantage of her vulnerability and then send her away. He doesn’t push off her request until he had more time.

            As Naomi says, he does not rest until things are made right for Ruth (and for Naomi). We are also called to be “redeeming kinsmen”, to be the one who supports our brothers and sisters. We are to press on for the cause of our family, the family of God, and not to rest until all understand who has spoken for them, who has claimed them, and in whose hands their future rests. God's. 

Hear a short worship service, including this commentary, here: 

Find this worship service every week here:


Friday, August 22, 2014

Binding and Loosing

Reading: Matthew 16:13-20

Commentary:  What does it mean to say that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The gospel writer, Matthew, is putting these words down for a very young Christian tradition, still mostly Jewish followers of Christ with some Gentile participation. The young ekklesia, as Matthew calls the assembly of the faithful, struggles with oppression from outside and wrestles with how to get along together on the inside.
            Learning to live together faithfully in community was and is a large part of walking in the way of Jesus. Those who chose (and who choose) to do so are not embarking on an unmapped journey without assistance or guidance. They have scripture for their map, church community for their support, and the Holy Spirit as their GPS. Embracing all of these tools means seizing onto what heaven, what God, has offered to the church universal.
            By using these tools as individuals and as the Christian community, we will be living out what it means to say, “Jesus is the Messiah, God’s anointed, the son of the only living God.” It is in the living out that religion moves into faith. Correspondingly, faith means that some things are drawn close and others are released.
            Faithful living includes the embrace of community, the love of one’s neighbor, active forgiveness, unbridled generosity. Faithful living also requires the rejection of racism, classism, the using of others as means to an end, the abuse of power, and the worship of anything other than God as God.
            What we embody, what we say, our choices are bound to us through habit, action, and association. This life shows God and those around us what we take seriously and what is important to us. As it aligns with God’s mission and kin-dom, it is bound in heaven and will flourish in mystery and sometimes within our own witnessing.
            What we reject, what we renounce, what we denounce, and what we abandon becomes separated from us. It rusts and fades. It cannot take root. These words, actions, and choices indicate to God and our neighbors that these things have no place in our community or our lives. They have been loosed from association with us and they return to nothingness.
            Thus, we are called to be in daily reflection to what we are binding and loosing in our lives and communities. What are we calling forth? What are we letting go? What have we asked the Spirit to help flourish? What have we renounced to rootlessness and non-existence?
            All of these things together reflect to show the truth of our answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” 

Hear a short worship service, including this commentary here: 

Find this short worship service regularly here:

Friday, August 15, 2014

To My Kindergartner

Twenty-eight years ago, my dad gave me a bath the night before I started kindergarten. I remember two baths from my dad really clearly from hundreds that he likely gave.

The first bath I remember is one in which he tried to scrub off a mole cluster on my left arm thinking was dirt. It’s still there.

The second bath was the pre-kindergarten bath. My dad told me that there might be kids in my class who looked different from me. He might have said more about that, but I don’t remember it. Then he said that there might be other people, other kids, who would say things to be mean about people who looked or seemed different. Not only was I not to join into that meanness, my father warned, but I was to stick up for kids who were singled out or picked on. If my dad heard about me doing otherwise, it would be big trouble for me.

I remember this conversation clearly because part of my personality involves playing and re-playing shoulds and should nots over and over in my head.

My own child is about to become a kindergartner. I went to kindergarten in North Carolina, in the mid-eighties, and my kindergarten teacher was black.

My son is going to kindergarten in Anchorage, Alaska in 2014. He is entering school a long way from Ferguson, Missouri and Sanford, Florida. His preschool class had children from a wide variety of backgrounds. Nevertheless, what should I say to my kindergartner-to-be on the night before school starts? What do I tell him in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting? What do I tell my white son, with two white parents, about his situation, his privileges, his responsibilities?

My darling-

You have been able to drink juice in the store, eat cookies, get balloons, and hold your toys without anyone looking askance at you or me. It’s because we’re white.

We have played on playgrounds in different neighborhoods, run through the woods, tried before paying, and been given the benefit of the doubt. It’s mostly because we’re white.

We have books with people who look like us, movies of people who sound like us, pictures of things that we do, CDs of songs we sing- none of which were hard to find. It’s because we’re white.

In the world, you will get second chances, encouragement, recommendations, and help. Even if you are shut down, something else will come about for you. It’s part of what it means to be white in America.

My darling, it is not that I don’t want these things for you. I do and I will fight for this to be your world.

I’m tell you this because I want these things for your friends too. I want these for black and Samoan and Alaska Native boys and girls who will attend school with you. I want these things for children in Missouri and Florida and Texas and California and across the country.

I want you to all have the freedom to be children, to know that community is there for you, to grow up knowing that you too contribute, are valued, matter, influence decisions for peace, safety, and a future.

In kindergarten, just like in preschool, there will be kids who don’t look like you. You won’t look like them. Their moms and dads think they are special, just like I think you are special. You are all at school to learn.

If another person- a kid or a grown-up- is not kind to a kid, if you see something that isn’t right, is scary, or unkind- you can tell me or Daddy or Nana or Uncle D. We will help you. We will believe you. We care about you and your friends.

The bigger we get, the more we learn about other people and other places. The bigger we get, the more we have to do to work together with other people. The bigger we get, the more we realize that we have run out of people to tell and the work of repairing injustice, unkindness, fear is in our hands.

That’s not your work just yet.

But that’s Mommy’s work. My work.

No, it’s not because I’m white. It’s because I’m human.