Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And It Cannot Wait (Newsletter)


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 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.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25: 31-46


Why does Jesus tell this story if his resurrection is going to mean saving grace for all people? If believing in God’s work in Christ is enough to avoid hell, then why do the “goats” get sent to an eternal punishment? And why does Jesus say something so political- prisons, feeding people, strangers, naked people?

Clearly, a life in the Way of Christ consists of more than intellectual assent to who and what Jesus is in history, in the Trinity, and in one’s own life. The faithful life is one of constant and ever-renewing response to God’s outpouring of grace and mercy since the beginning of time, made evident and open to all in Jesus the Christ. It is not enough to say “I believe.” It is not even enough to show how you believe. There is never enough because we cannot match God’s love. We cannot earn it. We cannot show that we would have been deserving if God had just waited. We received it, before we were born, before our parents, before the greatest in our family lines… when our ancestors in the faith were still sinners- God’s love was still at its fullest, compelling response in the shape of loving our neighbors.

There are many who argue in both directions as to the reality of hell and who is there (if anyone) and who is going (if anyone). Without stepping into that mud here, let us acknowledge that it is a biblical reality that we will be called upon to answer for our time and talents in the life to come. Even when receiving forgiveness and eternal peace from the throne, it will arguably be a kind of hell to have to say, “No, I pretended not to see the person who asked me for help. Yes, I expected people who were in prison would have gotten aid from someone else. True, I thought that someone else would feed “those” people. No, I did not welcome him because I was afraid of him- even though I did not know him…” We have to hold these gaps in our faith practice lightly, letting go of them as we have received forgiveness for them and as we ask the Holy Spirit to correct our course and behavior.

Lastly, the gospel is a political document. It deals with how individuals and groups are to govern themselves and one another. Guidelines for how to carry one’s self in close community (the church) and in the world are, by their very nature, political. However, as Jesus gives us these guidelines, he also imparts healing and hope to go with them. He expects that those who follow these rules will not privilege one group over another in either direction, but will clothe the naked and bring them to table to dine with the over-dressed. Jesus expects that those who imitate him will bring together the guard and the prisoner into conversation, so that each sees the other as human. Jesus pioneers the pathway for the one who wishes to welcome a stranger and introduce her to the long-time establishment, so that they may learn from one another and perceive security in each other.

This, beloveds, is the work to which we are called. And it cannot wait.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March- Anchorage

It took me longer than I'd like to admit to agree to go to the Women's March in Anchorage. Mostly it was because I don't like crowds and I get very anxious thinking about large groups of people milling about, even with purpose. The conversations about intersectionality, who was and wasn't included, and the vastness of the purpose also made me waffle.

In the end, though, I felt that I couldn't not go. To quote Hamilton, "If you've got skin in the game, you stay in the game." Not only is my skin in this game, but also the skin of my children, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors, my parishioners, my antagonists, and the rest of creation. If I want to make an argument for seeing others and including others and change, I have to be where the conversation is happening. 

So I started making protest hats and praying. For the first time in my life this week, I thought about getting up early to pray more than I thought I would have time to do during the day. I actually told several people that I wanted Hermione Granger's time turner, so that I could have more time to pray.

I did not carry a sign today, though I did wear my collar. In a crowd situation, I am all pastor all the time- constantly looking around and assessing what's happening. I helped up several people who fell down. Gave and received hugs. Chatted with my friends. Tried to start a sing-a-long. Waded through the snow that did not stop. 

The march was powerful and enthusiastic. May the work that follows continue to be so. 

I made 11 "pussy" hats (all but one in pink) that were at marches today.
Seven were at #womensmarchanchorage and three were at #womensmarchwashington.
One stayed home. :) 

On our way to the Delany Park Strip in Anchorage.
It had snowed about 11 inches overnight and nothing had been plowed. 

People gathering in the cold.
I don't like crowds and I had felt very anxious the night before.
However, the atmosphere was very positive and enthusiastic. 

There were many signs for reproductive rights,
including lots that talked about uteruses (even though not all women have uteri).
Nevertheless, access to healthcare (of all types) and reproductive rights remain a significant issue. 

The signs were great and there were all kinds. 

There were kids of all ages. And lots of dogs. 

Snow on snow on snow, but it did not feel like the bleak midwinter.

My favorite sign of all- it summed up lots of what I think regarding women,
feminism, LGBTQ rights, and intersectionality. We are more than vaginal vessels
or vessels defined by the absence thereof.

#WomensMarchAnchorage is estimated somewhere between 2000 and 3000 marchers.
The line of marchers was well over half a mile long before we started walking and then it stretched out far behind us. 

We shall overcome... snow and tyranny.

This little light of mine... I'll gonna let it shine AND warm me. 

I will never forget this picture as long as I live.
It takes deep faith and desire to come out and march with a walker on unpaved streets,
at 13 degrees (F), in a huge crowd.
You have to want to be there. And she did. 

Signs at the march finish line/ work start line (depending on your view of it). 

Yep. 

Solidarity. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Beg (A Prayer)

Oh, God-
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

In the midst of grief and fear, frustration and pain, despondency and despair,
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

As I continue to press that Black Lives Matter, that vaginas are not second-class reproductive organs, that LGBTQ people must have access to all human rights, that all children should be able to be educated close to their own neighborhood with the resources of all spread to all schools,
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

As I listen to spin, to lies, to twisted realities, to perspectives that I do not comprehend and that I cannot support,
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

When I hear others dare to use your name, or the name of Jesus, or reference the power of the Spirit for work and words that you would not own,
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

The time to walk in the Way of Christ has always been now. It was and it is and it shall be.
I beg you- do not let my heart become hardened.

Amen.


Originally written for and posted at RevGalBlogPals.org

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Haunted

I've written before on what it is like to grieve for someone who is living, but with whom you are no longer in relationship. I find myself in that position again (different person, people). I'm probably not the only to be in the situation as it seems the current political climate has caused many rifts that have broadened into chasms that cannot be sutured.

In my abdomen, I feel an ache when I think of you.

A person with whom I laughed and a person for whom I cried. Deep in my prayers, I lifted you to the Lord again and again.

Yet, my humanness disappointed you, a humanness for which I was unrepentant, an imperfect self that I am struggling to respect and love- so I refused to reject it at your petty tantrum.

Still.

It hurts. The loss of esteem hurts, but- truthfully- your question "What does Jesus have to do with it?" is the one that haunts me.

What does Jesus have to do with how we vote?

What does Jesus have to do with how we live?

What does Jesus have to do with how we treat others?

What does Jesus have to do with how we might flip tables and demand justice?

What does Jesus have to do with how we might apologize for the words, but not for the sentiment?


That phrase grieves me because I failed you. Ironically, this is not the failure you perceive- that I should have been more vocal and aimed better at stoning the sinners you wanted stoned. I failed you in that in our walk together, I should have mentioned Jesus more, pointed to him more vigorously, bathed you in stories of grace and truth.

This is also a failure.

Your salvation- evident or not- is not mine to claim, establish, or grow. Your life in Christ is not mine. The Spirit's work in you in not mine. It does not depend on me. It does not wait for me. It will not wither without me.

I still pray for you.

And I pray for me... that I will let you go. Because you belonged to God. You belong to God.

And, thus, never to me.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Extra! Extra!

I have a second blog that is only about books and reading.  Because I need that space.

I even bought the domain name since I do read all the things.

It might not be for everyone or for you, but I thought I'd let you know.


https://readsallthethings.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Christian Bill of Rights: Amendment V

Amendment V
The follower on the Way of Christ will not hold human institutions, including courts, governments, or social agencies, as sources of salvation or aids to sanctification. Those on the Way of Christ will, however, use all power and privilege to hold these institutions, adding the church catholic to them, to standards of justice and equity. Those on the Way are not in thrall to these institutions, but to the law of God- which is interpreted through the Living Word, the written word, and the on-going work of the Holy Spirit.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.”  Matthew 18:15-17

Don’t spread false rumors. Don’t plot with evil people to act as a lying witness. 2 Don’t take sides with important people to do wrong. When you act as a witness, don’t stretch the truth to favor important people. 3 But don’t privilege unimportant people in their lawsuits either. Exodus 23:1-3


Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky.  But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.  This will provide you with an opportunity to testify.  Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance.  I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict.  You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you.  Everyone will hate you because of my name.  Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. By holding fast, you will gain your lives.

Star Word 2016: Respect (1)

It's late, which means writing a post is probably a bad idea since this is neither a confessional nor a diary. Nevertheless, I'm typing away. On Sunday, we (the congregation I serve and me) drew our star words- adjectives and adverbs that might give shape to our year in one way or another.

Since drawing my word, I've wrestled win it. I will unspool some of that wresting here and some will be between me and the Holy Spirit.

My word is "respect".

Of all the things I might struggle to respect- close to the top of the list is the President- Elect. However, I have always been respectful of the office of the President. It makes me sad and frustrated when people refuse to call a president by name, using epithets or euphemisms. I have been driven to deep grief by how people have treated and spoken about President Obama.

I said many things about Mr. Trump when he was a candidate. Most weren't kind and I did mean them. However, I have skin in the game of the American Experiment and I respect certain offices, though I disdain racism, sexism, anti- LGBTQ actions, idolatry of the free market, and abuses of power. In a little over a week, the prayers of the people will change to be "We pray for our president, Donald, our governor Bill, our Senators Dan and Lisa... "

I have been praying for how I can pray with deep intention and respect for the President-Elect and how I can respond with courage and power to the real concerns and fears of many people, including myself.

I can respect that people see things differently than I do. I can respect that I could be wrong. I can respect certain roles and titles and traditions.

However, I will not ask for Divine Help to respect taunting, intentional disruption livelihoods, petty behavior, jealousy, treason, deliberate ignorance, pandering, or pouting. Someone once told me that I preached tolerance, which told me that they don't listen to me. I never use that word. I might accept certain things that the next person doesn't accept, but if I don't think it's okay- I don't tolerate it.

I will continue to respect the office of the president. I will pray for President-Elect Trump in his transition and in office. However, I am still the very very very politically minded girl I've been all my life and, as I always have had with every president, there are a few things that I will not tolerate.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Star Words and Approachability

In 2015, after several years of meaning to do this, I copied my friend Marci Glass and did Star words with the congregation I serve, Lutheran Church of Hope. Marci has written about this practice on her blog in several posts. I recommend scrolling down and reading this first posts and then you can pick and choose (or read them all). 

I used the PDF of words she had created and shared generously with other RevGalBlogPals via our (closed) Facebook page. LCOH's diligent administrative assistant and I cut out 300+ stars last year. We also made a separate set of stars for kids from the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). While I'm not saying that adults shouldn't also choose from that list, it was easier to have a more condensed and more easily interpreted set of words for our younger members. An adult can wrestle with approachability. A six-year-old, not so much. 

This year, on 1/8/17, we will choose words again. Because I don't like to feel wasteful, we are not choosing from a complete set. We are choosing from the 260+ words that are left over, which also means that there are no repeats from last year. 

You can read from my January 2017 newsletter article below on my own thoughts about my 2016 word. 


____________________________________

Last year on Epiphany, we drew out Star Words as a congregation. Reaching into a bowl of more than 300 possibilities, we pulled out words like “fun”, “encouraging”, “solemn”, “inviting”, “tactful”, and many others. Some people may not have thought about their word again since that Sunday. Others have worked it into their lives or paid attention to where it showed up. A congregation member recently encouraged people to tell the story of their word.

I got the word “approachable”. This word gave me pause in many ways. I try to be as accessible as possible, but I frequently hear that people don’t find me approachable. Strangers feel okay asking me questions or seeking my help, so then I am surprised when I find out that church people do not. One congregation member told me that I am very approachable if a person needs help, but it is harder to approach me as a person who wants to help me.

In my time in Poland, I spent 11 days looking for people who were approachable to help me with directions, transportation, and translation. Standing on a sidewalk in the middle of a place where you know no one and no one knows you can be very scary. I think about this experience a lot when I think of refugees or immigrants who may have very little knowledge of where they are or how things work. How approachable do I seem when I am out and about?

On January 8, we will draw new stars, new words, for 2017. Does this mean I can quit thinking about approachability? We had enough stars last year to go again from the same pile. So the words that were taken are gone. We all get a fresh start. How should we approach this exercise?


When I drew stars for people who wanted them, but were not at church, I prayed for them before reaching into the bowl. Is there a way to be open to this experience and to a year of the Spirit’s work in clear and mysterious ways? Even if you’ve long tossed out your star, think back on your word and on your year. What did you learn? What would you like to learn? How approachable are you to the Holy Spirit’s work and power?



If you are interested in a word of your own, please comment below or email me at lcohpastor@alaska.net. Next week, I will pray for people by name before I draw a word specifically for them. The words are all face down in an opaque bowl. I can't see anything about any star when I reach in and draw.