Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Pride Month!

(This will stay on top of blog throughout June.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Sleepless Night

The usual response will be:  Just deal with it.  I know I should, but I hate how this thing is just floating out there.  No kind of closure.  And although this may sound melodramatic I feel like I am walking in a field of landmines.  I am not sure what will set off the next one.  Quite frankly, I hate it.

I see no way of this ending in a win-win situation.  The family involved has made no attempt to show any remorse at their behavior.  In fact, they have been trying to defend it and say that I am the bad one in the situation.  I am not going to change practices just because one person does not like it.  I have gotten positive feedback about what has been happening and if one person does not like it, well, I guess that is too bad.  What I hate is this tip-toeing around trying to figure out what is happening.

I don't foresee is woman and her daughter ever seeing me as the leader.  As such, all she will do is bring anxiety into a system that is anxious enough.  And if it comes down to then having a problem with me, well, there are always other churches.  That sounds harsh, but we cannot survive if everyone wants to be leader.

I am getting really sick of not sleeping.  And I know I should "Let Go and Let God."  Maybe I am just not build for this calling.  I see macaroni and glue sculptures in my future.  When you come to visit, just don't bring anything sharp.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pentecost 5 - 8C We are all on the team.

Galatians 5:1,13-25

Luke 9:51-62

If we were going to have a casting call for church members, what would we be looking for? I am guessing we would look for people of impeccable moral character, right? And we would probably look for people who were upstanding figures in the community. We would probably want some people who are trustworthy and those that once they make a commitment are always going to follow through. We would want the people who are not going to make us look silly or cause our church any embarrassment. Oh, and being rich and being able to handle money would also be a good thing! If we were going to purposely select members for a church, we would want the best of the best!

Now, according to the standards that we had just set up, how many of us would be members of this church? How many of us are always of impeccable moral character? How many of us are always the most upstanding figures we know? How many of us have NEVER once had an “oops” moment where we realize we had promised to do something and then come to the scary conclusion that we had something else planned during that time? If you are like me, you are coming to the conclusion that the worldly standards for church membership are darn near impossible to live up to! If we had to live up to these standards just to get membership, if this were true, then I am guessing our churches would be pretty empty.

But if we listen to people on TV, isn’t that what they keep telling us? Don’t we hear that we have to be good enough, or rich enough, or pure enough, or faithful enough, or “whatever” enough to be acceptable to Christ? And if we can never be “whatever” enough, then why should we even bother?

Well, thankfully, the church that Christ has envisioned for us is not the church that the world has envisioned for itself. Where the church of the world would be turning people away, the church that Christ has envisioned for us is always busy drawing people in. How can I say this? All we have to do is look at the gospel reading that we have had for the past month! In each of these readings, Christ is reaching out to the outcasts of the world and bringing them into the community of the church.

Three weeks ago, we had the son who was raised from the dead. Two weeks ago, there was the sinner woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. Last week, we had the demon possessed man. And now this week we have the reluctant disciples. If we think back to what criteria we had discussed as constituting the perfect church member, each of these people would probably not even get to the steps of that perfect church, as the world would have it. But each of these people are called into truly perfect church of Christ. Each of these people is given Christ’s special attention. Even the ones who do turn away do so of their own accord; Jesus does not send them away.

On this last point, some may say that I am splitting hairs: Jesus does make demands of these people, but he does not say, “You are not worthy!” All these people, people whom the world were not comfortable with, Jesus loved and welcomed into his presence, and therefore into the Church.

But just because Jesus welcomed all of these people into the body, doesn’t mean that it was, or is, a free-for-all. To those who follow Jesus, Jesus makes some pretty strong demands. Jesus calls us past our day-to-day life. Jesus calls us to go out and proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to counter what the world expects to demonstrate that in Christ something truly transforming is occurring.

In the gospel reading for today, the things that the “would-be followers” ask to do before following Jesus, do not seem to be bad at all, but Jesus responds to these requests quite negatively. Even simple, no-brainer, “NICE” things like burying a father seem to be rejected by Jesus. I really don’t think we are supposed to take this literally or else we would have dead bodies lying all over the place. But I think Jesus wants to shake up our thinking and make us question those things that we consider important. If burying a father, (which would be “honoring your father,” fourth commandment, you know!) is not worthy of taking time away from our ministry in Christ, then what is? And I think this is what Christ would have us consider. What do we just assume is Christian and don’t take time to truly ponder?

Jesus accepts all kinds of people, Jesus accepts us! But Jesus is not content to just leave us to our own devices. Jesus is not willing to allow us to just do whatever we think is right and attributing that impulse to “being Christian.” As we see from the gospel reading, Christ wants us to think about our lives. We see this also in our reading from Galatians. Galatians tells us what, as Christians, we are to strive for. We are to strive for those things that create and nurture community. We are to strive for love, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the things that help us all to live together as the body of Christ and are the gifts that come from the Spirit. The rest, jealousy, anger, quarrels, envy, those are all things that we need to be aware of and work to avoid.

Of course, avoiding all of these “negative” emotions does not mean that we become door mats. I find it interesting that our President is being criticized for not showing anger. And much of this criticism would be coming from the Christian right. From what I have seen, the President is acting in a very Spirit-filled manner; not becoming angry and quarrelsome. Some may say that he is doing nothing, but would yelling and screaming get him anything more? I don’t know. I know that yelling as screaming tend to make people defensive and when people get defensive, pretty much nothing happens. But I do know that, according to our scripture readings, the President is acting in accordance with to the Bible than some of the people I see. Sorry, I don’t like to get political, but this just seemed to come to mind.

So this is the dilemma we are left with: Christ invites all people to be his followers; HOWEVER, Christ has some pretty big expectations from his followers! Like I had mentioned last week, we can think of Jesus as our coach, maybe even more so as our Little League coach. The coach gets all kinds of kids and the coach’s job is to turn them into the best team possible. (I chose a little league coach because no one can be cut from the team.) The coach is going to work with the team and present to them an ideal to reach for. I am sure the coach knows that the team will probably not reach the ideal, but that does not mean that the ideal should not be placed out there. Then working with the team that is there, the coach works to form the best team possible. Christ is the coach and we are the rag-tag team.

But the other thing that we need to remember, the coach is not there just to produce a winning team, a good coach is there to help the players get the most enjoyment out of the game! When the players are better conditioned and trained, they are less likely to get hurt and are more likely to find true joy in the game. A good coach should also be able to lift the players to levels of skill they never thought they had. These all work together to create an exceptional player and an exceptional team.

The great thing about our life is that though Christ, we have the best of situations: We are welcomed into his church no matter what or who we are and through Christ we are formed into wondrous new beings. Christ asks a lot of us, but Christ also gave a lot to us! When the one who laid down his life so that we might have eternal life asks for us to work on our technique, we shouldn’t be too upset! Christ asks us to change, not because we are horrible people, but because Christ wants us to get the BEST out of life! Remember, Christ has our best interests at heart!

Thankfully, Christ is not the usual casting director. The church Christ builds is made not for some imaginary perfect person, but for us “real” people. The people Christ calls to the table are not the few, but the many. This is a truly great thing! This is a life changing thing! And it is this message we need to take to the world!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Six Months Past, Six Months To Go!

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

More "fun time" with Stage Mom and Miss Diva!

The letter I would like to send.  (Beware, totally snarky!)

Stage Mom,

I am writing this because I am at a loss.

First off, I am at a loss for the anger that I feel is being directed toward me. I have to assume that this anger is displaced because we really do not know each other well enough for the amount that is present.

You say I have not done enough to be pastoral. In what manner? What do you want me to do? I will not do therapy, I am your priest, not your therapist. I can be supportive of you during the process, but it would be inappropriate for me to offer to do therapy.

You say I ignored your mother when she had surgery. Your mother did not say anything to me. If she is upset, I wish she would say something. If I also remember right, this was right between Palm Sunday and Easter. I was living in Lansing at that time. I think I did offer to visit. I don’t remember. However, this feels like an attempt to find something to be angry about and this incident provides a way of channeling your anger toward me.

I feel it is important for the children to be in worship. Children add to the worship of the congregation and it is our duty, as Christians, to help each other grow. Miss Diva using the excuse that she doesn’t get anything out of worship is a strawman argument in that she has not been present in enough services to make that decision. Also, from you words and attitude and her words and attitude, it would not make any difference what I preach. I get the distinct impression that you consider Miss Diva to be more advanced than I. That is ok, you can believe that. But that doesn’t mean that I have to change the church to make her happy.

I am sorry, but nothing I do can make you happy. There are too many other things going on in your life and until you deal with that, you are going to keep blaming others for your unhappiness. If you get rid of me, then what? You will not be pleased with the next priest either, I can guarantee that! No one is going to live up to the secret agenda you have. And since no one can live up to it, what good does it do?

You told Senior Warden that pastoral care has been absent here for four years. I have only been here 3 months. I AM NOT THE ONE WHO YOU ARE ANGRY WITH!

Do you realize that in saying that I should meet with your daughter outside the church because she is very possessive of the church and will fight me about it, you are giving her tacit permission to be a bully? You are telling her that she just has to beat, or browbeat, people until she gets what she wants. This is what passes for parenting these days?

And you really cannot be surprised that I retracted the offer to have Miss Diva preach. You acted like you got shocked when I said that I would be working with her to write a sermon. Did you think I was just going to let her go? Especially after the display she put on? But then again, you seemed to enjoy it. The “apologize to Fr. Ben” was a nice touch. But WAYYYYY too late. And the smug, “I told you she would be upset,” let me know that you have no respect for me.

You say that I don’t show you any respect! I would never let my child give you a dressing down in public. My child would be treating you with respect and dignity.  If you want respect, you, AND YOUR CHILD, need to be willing to give it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Observations on Seperation

Ok, Nick has only been gone for one day.  But, I miss him so much.  I realize how much I have become dependent upon him being there.

What I find interesting is that my lived experience is not much different having him close to two-thousand miles away or just 30 miles away at work.  It is kind of like the concept that I could drown in 6 feet of water as easily as I could drown in 1000 feet of water.  Once the water is over my head, I can't breath.  In a similar fashion, once Nick is away, it doesn't matter if he is two miles away or 2000, he is still away.

But the psychological stress is different.  Knowing that he is in Acapulco is hard.  I see him on Skype and remind myself that this could be an episode of Mission: Impossible and the room could just be made up to look like it is in the tropics.  Whether he is two miles or 2000 miles, knowing  that he is 2000 miles away is more stressful.

Oh well....

Confusion and other updates

Ok, when I talked with the kids last week, on of the overwhelming comment that I heard was, "I can't sit still for an hour."  Now, this was not just from one kid, nor was it just from one family.  It was from almost every kid there.

WHAT IS UP?!?!?!

I feel old when I start doing, "When I was a kid..." but when I was a kid, we could, and did, sit through church.  We were able to sit for an hour and even if we were bored silly, we still sat there.  I will admit that I sat at the end of the pew so I could see what was going on, but that was pretty much it.

Did I always understand the sermon?  I RARELY understood the sermon.  But we were there and we sat through the service.  We did not get up and run down the aisle.  We did not go out an chat with our friends.  And, truthfully, I would have never thought of telling the priest that I could not sit through the service.

I heard Ed Friedman, author of Generation to Generation, call us the generation of perpetual novelty.  We seem to need to be constantly stimulated.  I know that I have some difficulty with this.  As I type this, music is on in the background, and if I were not sitting in my office, I would probably have a TV on.  But when our children cannot go from the grocery store to home without watching a movie, or cannot go five minutes without texting someone, that is insane!  A friend of mine told me that her daughter, age 12, sent/received over 6500 text messages during the last billing period!  THAT IS INSANE!

Now, I know that I do not have children, but what are we doing to our kids!  And are we giving them excuses for not developing?  You know that the kids that told me they could not sit still heard that from someone.  And what do they do at school?  Do we have ADD rooms for them?  Maybe the reason they never learned to sit still is because they never HAD to sit still?  Granted, it is not the most pleasant thing to learn, for the child or the adult, but it is something that can be learned.

Are we doing something to ourselves and our kids by having the perpetual stimulation?

I remember, when we would travel, we would play games, like the ABC game where you had to find the letters in the alphabet before you drove past a cemetery.  Or we learned to read the map.  (My father would even try "short cuts" we would suggest.) Or drew, or whatever.  We learned other ways to keep our minds occupied.  We learned skills.  Were long trips a drag?  Yes, but that is why we left at o'dark thirty!  At least we slept part of the way.  (Well, my sibs did, I still can't sleep in a car.)

Oh well....

Updates:  I sent the letter to Miss Diva concerning the no-preaching gig.  Have not heard back.  Heard from the Asst. to the Bishop who reassured me that even though she was friends with this family, she could not condone the behavior and had my back.  That brought much relief.

Nick is in Acapulco on a business trip.  (REALLY!!)  I worried all the flight time and I will worry all the time back.  But Continental Airlines has a fun thing that you can follow flights so I was able to watch his progress.  We also Skype so not only am I able to talk with him, but also see him.  (AND THE BEAUTIFUL PACIFIC OCEAN HE CAN SEE FROM HIS BALCONY!)  And what is great is that it is free!  Ok, so I ranted a bit about technology earlier, but it does have its benefits.

Oh well, all for now.  Have a great day and do something where you have to actively keep your mind occupied.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Well, I Don't Think This Happened To Me Before.

Because of my actions, I may have a family leave the congregation.  And truthfully, I am not overly bothered by this.
A week or so ago, I explained a situation with a mother and a daughter.  Well, the whole thing just got more crazy.

I scheduled a meeting with the Youth so we could talk about when they wanted from their program.  The Prodigy Girl decided she could not be bothered to come in for the meeting.  So we discussed various things like when Sunday School was going to be and what the young folks could do to be more involved in the life of the church.  We also discussed Confirmation and some of my expectations for Confirmation.

Afte about a half-hour, Miss Diva herself graced us with her presence.  She was very upset and, if not screaming, at least speaking in a vary angry voice.  I asked her if she would please sit down and speak in a more civil tone; to which she said, "No!"  (Her mother was sitting there, almost encouraging the behavior.)

The "conversation" continued with Miss Diva telling me that she gets "so much more" out of Sunday School than the worship service and cannot understand why I would want the kids in the service.  She cannot understand why her sister should have to do sermon reports for Confirmation since she never had to.  (It didn't even phase her that I am a different Priest than the one who did her Confirmation classes.)  I was then told by Miss Diva  that the sister's faith is so deep that she shouldn't have to write about it and how dare I ask her to do anything like that to be confirmed.  (Remember, the mother [henceforth referred to as "Stage Mom"] was sitting there not saying anything.)

After trying to end the conversation three times, Stage Mom finally told Miss Diva that she should not use that tone of voice with me.  (Not that her whole interaction was inappropriate, just the tone of voice)  After a brief scuffel, Miss Diva decided to apologize for her tone.  (How magnanimous!)

Then, after Miss Diva left, Stage Mom said, "See, I told you she would give you a fight."  This was said almost with a smirk.  Then Stage Mom said, "She doesn't do change well."  I SHOULD SAY NOT!  Then Stage Mom told me she once asked Miss Diva when she felt closest to Jesus.  Miss Diva's reply was, "Mom, I don't understand your question, every moment of my life I am close to Jesus."  (This all was said in a manner that insinuated that I should be hanging on Miss Diva's every word becaus I could learn so much from her, considering how deep she was.)

(I just puked a bit in my mouth while typing that!)

I finally said that I needed to leave before I said or did anything that I would later regret.

Now I was stuck in a situation:  The assistant to the Bishop was friends with Stage Mom and Miss Diva.  I asked Miss Diva to preach for me when I was going to be gone on vacation because Assistant said that "she has a strong faith."  Now I was supposed to work with this child who obviously didn't think anything I said was worth listening to.

Well, the letter went out today:

"Dear Miss Diva,

After the meeting of Friday, June 18th, I will be retracting the offer to have you lead and preach to the congregation on August 1st... "

Stage Mom told me that if I proceed with the requirements of Confirmation and with wanting her children in Worship, her children would be "Worshiping at the 'Church of the Holy Comforter.'"  When I gave her a questioning look, she said, "If you make demands, they won't come to church."  Their loss I guess.

I am also betting that this letter will be enough to stop the family from attending church.  They were not present this past Sunday because they had to "go pick strawberries" during worship time.  So much for the importance of church.

What is odd is that I am strangly calm now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pentecost 4 Year C Demons Walk Among Us

Luke 8:26-39

You may be happy to know that you are not going to get the usual sermon for today: The usual sermon involves how demons were the way that people of the past would describe mental illnesses. You would be told that when we hear about people possessed with demons, we are not supposed to assume that as an actual being inhabiting the person and we are to realize that people were dealing with the unexplainable in their midst. You have probably already heard a sermon like that, if not, you probably will at some point. And besides, I don’t want to get into the whole “do demons exist or not” argument. It is not really a useful argument so I am not even going to go there. But that does not mean we are not going to talk about demon possession!

So, you are probably saying to yourself, “Self, how can we talk about demon possession if we are not going to talk about demons?” Well, we can talk about demon possession by using the term “demon possession” to represent those things that drive us away from God and away from each other.

In the gospel reading for today, we had the man who, we are told, was possessed by demons. He was running around naked, he had to be chained, and he was living in the tombs among the dead. Whatever was happening to him, it was keeping him from living a life that was complete and fulfilling. If we use our definition, whatever the demons were, we can see that they were keeping him from God and from the community.

What are the demons that posses us in our world today? What are the things that keep us away, not only from God, but from each other? One of the biggest, and probably oldest, demons there is would be the demon of Greed. As we learn more about the housing collapse and about the disaster in the Gulf, we find more and more that people were taking all kinds of risks, doing all kinds of things that could be considered foolhardy at best, to make money. They did not care about what might happen to others. They did not worry how their actions would impact the rest of the world. As long as they were making money, that was all that mattered. The demon of Greed kept them apart from those of the community and relegated them to live amongst the dead. The drive for money became their god and did not allow the true God to speak in their lives.

But collapsing economies is an extreme case. Most of us will never be in the situation where our actions can cause billions of dollars to be made or lost. Even at our greediest, we probably will not cause damages to that extent.

So does that mean that we do not need to talk about demons? What about us? What other demons may be living in our lives? Truthfully, this is the part that I don’t like to talk about because it hits way too close to home. And talking about demons in our lives brings up one of the big demons that we clergy deal with: That demon is the demon is acceptance. I am not sure I want to talk about these demon things because you may not like what I have to say. You may think I am being too hard, or “not living in reality” and you may not want to come here anymore. And then people will get angry with me and it will just become a huge mess. So the demon of Acceptance would be telling me to just be quiet.

How would being quiet be a bad thing, though? Wouldn’t saying nothing bring our community together? Wouldn’t it make us all so much happier? Well, in saying nothing, I would be avoiding my obligation to you as a leader. It is not really much of a leader who allows anything to happen. Think of a coach who would allow the players to do whatever they wanted; wouldn’t be much of a team, would it? The same goes for a church. Sometimes we need to hear that what we are doing is not in our own best interest, let alone best interest of the congregation or other members of the congregation. However, if I were to allow everyone to do whatever they like, it make you all like me, and it may make the demon of Acceptance very happy, it would not make for a healthy and vibrant congregation. And it would not allow us to grow closer to God.

Another demon that seems to be running rampant in our society is the demon of Distraction. We don’t pay attention to ANYTHING anymore! Families sit around the table with their heads buried in their various personal electronic devices. When children cannot even travel from the grocery store to home without having to be watching a movie, there is a problem. I have seen this! I had also been out with a family in a restaurant and one of the kids never once added to the conversation due to being so engrossed in a video game. But it is not only the kids. People walk around with a blue tooth stuck in their ear, because “you never know when someone will want to talk to you!” I don’t think we realize that we are telling the people around us that they, the people we are right in the presence of, that those people are not as important as that person who might call.

Distraction keeps us from experiencing what is really happening. Distraction tells us that what MIGHT be is more important than what IS. And Distraction keeps us from God because we may just miss that important call or that big putt or that last minute touchdown. What I always wonder is: If the call, putt, or touchdown was that important, wouldn’t an all-caring, all-loving God make sure it was part of our lives?

Just like the demons in the gospel, the demons in our lives are many! And they are sneaky! They don’t want to be called out and named. They don’t want us knowing about them because once we know about them, we can start to banish them.

However, another demon can come jumping in right here! That demon is the demon of Self Sufficiency. “I can do it myself!” I don’t need God, I don’t need the church, I don’t need anyone. And that demon is probably as old as the demon of greed if not older. The way that demon stays alive is to keep the person away from those things that could get rid of the demon. The demoniac in the Gospel lived alone and did not encounter people. When the demoniac come in contact with Jesus, the lies of the demons were made clear and the demons were driven away.

We encounter Christ in our world through the people who surround us. When we isolate ourselves from the community of faith, we prevent Christ’s love which is found in the community from touching us. The demons in our lives love this isolation, but this isolation does not help us to grow and mature. Isolation prevents us from truly feeling Christ’s love and prevents us from spreading that love to the world.

This conversation about demons could continue on. I am sure we can find all kinds of things that prevent us from being a part of community and from growing closer to God. But the main point that we need to remember is that our demons, whatever they are, cannot stand when confronted with the love of Christ. Those things that pretend to give life cannot stand when confronted with the true life we find in Christ. We may want to move away from the community of faith, and we may even move away from Christ, but we need to remember that it is WE who are moving away, not Christ. Christ is here, embodied in the community and found around the table. And it is in Christ that we find our strength to live life fully and authentically.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pentecost 3 Year C Grace Vs. Law

Galatians 2:15-21

Luke 7:36-8:3

In one of my former congregations, I had a member who used to refer to people as “Old Testament Christians.” At first I didn’t see any problem with this. The people believed in Christ; that was a good thing. They paid attention to the Old Testament; that seemed like a good thing, too. I really didn’t think too much about it. But the guy who made this comment was a smart man; he wasn’t the type who would just say something off hand. For him to name a group of people, “Old Testament Christians” probably meant that there was something more to it.

So once, when I was talking with the guy, I asked him what he meant when he called someone an “Old Testament Christian?” He responded by asking me a question: “Have you ever met someone who claims to be a Christian but whenever they are confronted with a problem, they jump back to the laws of the Old Testament?” I replied, “Yes.” He said, “Those are the people I am talking about. They are all about grace when it is black and white or when it fits their understanding of the world. But as soon as things start to get gray, they move away from grace and go right to law. They have difficulty dealing with the ambiguity of the world and dealing with things they don’t necessarily agree with. So instead of staying in the conversation and learning and growing, they jump right to the LAW and say that that settles it. Those would be the ‘Old Testament Christians.’”

Once I started to think about it, the concept made me kind of sad. All of these people who could be living in the light of Christ’s love are being stuck in the judgment of the law. To many people, it may seem like the law is the way we earn our salvation. We have to do everything “good enough” and then we will “earn” our salvation. But this is not the way. The Law provides us something that looks like a way to be assured that we are going to make it to heaven, but all that the Law does is points out our flaws. All that the Law does is holds us captive. The Law just points out how we have fallen short of the mark; and when I say, “we,” I mean all of us. If, in order to achieve salvation, we have to keep all the Law, we can never do that. None of us has ever kept all of the Ten Commandments, let alone the other 603 that are in the Old Testament that we usually don’t talk about. Did you know that? In the Old Testament there is 613 laws!

We cannot keep the Law. Period. If the Law is how we attain salvation, then we are all are always going to fall short. Our reading from Galatians says, “no one will be justified by the works of the law.” We cannot get our salvation from the Law, no matter how much we try.

But we have a hard time moving beyond the Law. Why is that? I would like to think that we pay attention to the law because it gives us a way to exist as a community. We get along better if we don’t kill each other. We can survive as a community if we are not stealing from each other. And our families stay intact if we remain faithful. Law is God’s way of providing us a guide for better living. And when all are following the Law, we have to admit that life is pretty nice.

It would be nice if we followed the law because we all existed better together. But, unfortunately, we usually use the law as a way of keeping score. “We” keep the law better than “They” do, so therefore “We” are better and therefore more deserving. That other person, “They” don’t keep the Law, and therefore do not deserve anything.

This is what we see in the gospel reading for today. The woman was seen as bad. She was a bad woman and didn’t keep the Law. Therefore she didn’t deserve Jesus’ care and compassion. The Pharisees thought that they were all deserving of the attention that they received because they kept the law. (Or so they wanted others to believe.) And I am sure that if there was any way they didn’t keep the law, they has some kind of justification for it. But now this woman, it was known that she broke the law and was not a good person. She did not deserve any kind of love or care.

That is the thing about grace, and that is what we are talking about here today, is that it is there for us. It is there for us when we deserve it, but, especially, it is there when we don’t deserve it. And probably the time that we most appreciate grace is when we DON’T deserve it. When we are following the Law and we receive blessings, we tend to assume that these are just the rewards of our good behavior. But when good things happen to us, when we are blessed even when we know we have not been keeping the Law, when we know we haven’t been exemplary and still God sees fit to bring blessing into our life; that is when we truly feel God’s grace.

The unfortunate thing is, when we most feel God’s grace, it is at that moment that the world finds it the most offensive. I have heard of congregations keeping Youth Directors on who have embezzled from the checking accounts. I have heard of spouses keeping in a marriage even after finding out that the other spouse has flaunted the marriage vows. In the Bible we have Ananias, a Christian, taking in Saul, someone who was known for killing the Christians. In these situations, most of us would find the actions of these people questionable at best, and in most cases, we would find them very offensive. The world tells us that someone who steals should be fired, someone who cheats should be thrown out. And, of course, if the person is killing Christians, well that person does not deserve any kind of kindness.

But the way of God, the way of Christ, is not the way of the world. In the gospel reading, Jesus should have pushed the woman away. By the logic of the world, he should have been offended. But Jesus wasn’t. Jesus allowed the woman to express her gratitude and Jesus gave her his blessing. To the world, to the Pharisees, this was offensive. But Jesus took it in stride. The way of Jesus was not the way of the world.

I read a quote, I don’t know who said it, but it really opened my eyes to the way of Christ. It said, “Perhaps God’s grace is always offensive unless you are the one receiving it, in which case you might take down your hair and weep and kiss someone’s feet.” It would be wonderful if the whole world could celebrate with the woman who received God’s grace. It would be wonderful if we could always see God’s grace as a reason to rejoice. It would be wonderful if we could always see the world as God sees it. Unfortunately, we can not.

But the great thing is, even if it doesn’t make sense to us, it does make sense to God. God will be present and God’s grace will be present.

We have been given the law to help us to live together, but we have also been given grace so that when we do fall short of the law, we are still loved and accepted. The law is there to help us to be community, but Grace is there to give us the strength to carry on.

The Old Testament Christian, does make sense. By following the Law, we can exist better, together. But it is only when we have the love and grace of Christ that we can grow together as communities of love. We are not just law, we have more, we have Christ’s love! The love the world may find objectionable, but the love the world needs.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It Has Been An Interesting Week

I have been having a bit of a crisis week.  I have already considered quitting my call about 20 times.  I have thought death would be a good thing about an equal amount of time.  I have been pulled back from the brink by Nick more times than I would care to admit.  (I feel guilty for putting him through things like this.)  And I really don't want to do anything.

I know that something is going on that is beyond the triggering event.  The triggering event was a parent telling me that her children didn't feel like they belonged anymore because a quilt was taken down from the sanctuary.  They also didn't feel like they were important because I didn't meet with them on my first Sunday here and haven't gotten back to them. 

I explained that the first Sunday was NOT a good idea to have any kind of meeting and that I have been trying to schedule a meeting.  The message that I have been trying to schedule a meeting did not get to them.  The mother's comment was, "Well that is one of the challenges God has put before you as their Shepherd."  (AAAARRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!!!)

What I hate is that I am a cheerleader for getting the kids into the worship service, not just as acolytes, but as active participants.  (I have been told by the mother that her children would be upset by being referred to as "kids."  I hate the term "Youth" because it sounds so stilted and churchy.)  I am upset because the kids have Sunday School during the church service and even now, that there is not Sunday School, they are out in the fellowship hall during worship.  Maybe if they were in the sanctuary more, they would feel more comfortable in it?

But my reaction is way out of proportion to the situation.  Maybe it is the feeling of being blind-sided?  Maybe it is the feeling that the parent is using the children as a means of speaking her mind without having to take responsibility for her actions?  I don't know.  I just don't like the feeling.

I asked why the child did not come to me directly.  "She is shy."  But she is able to lob gernades over the fence when it suits her.

I never thought that a 15 year old would become my thorn.  But the chestnut is "Beware of those who introduce themselves first, they have the biggest agenda."  I guess the presumption that I would drop everything on my first Sunday to meet with her was a pretty large sign.  Oh, and I have been told how "theologically advanced" she is.  *Snarky comment witheld*

I am glad to have kids in the congregation that can think theologically, but I also do not feel I need to pass everything that I do through her filter.  I don't even ask the Bishop!  I just wish people could be a stable and emotionally mature as me!  *wink wink!*

I have written a letter to the adult leaders of the Sunday School (one of which is the mother who talked to me) stating my intent to meet with the YOUTH.  *shudders*  I also stated how I would like to have a designated student to be the contact person along with the adults and when there is a problem, the child, along with an adult (if necessary, cause I understand that the Priest can be scary, especially since I have only been here for 3 months) should bring the problem directly to me.  We shall see.

I guess I am just afraid of getting pummeled like I was in my first and second churches.  Christians can be very mean people.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Great Way To Start Pride...

Nick and I came back from camping over the Memorial Day weekend and I noticed someone had changed the sign in front of the church.  This was nothing big, someone had just changed the sign from "Spread the Message" to "Sunday Worship 9:30."

When we got home, there was a message on the phone, it said that the sign had been vandalized and that the message had since been fixed.  I did not know what was placed there, but I was more than a bit apprehensive.

I got a message this morning telling me what was on the sign:  One side said, "Eat me gay service 9:30" and the other said, "Spread the ass."  I am suspecting that it is some kids acting like idiots.  I really don't think it was aimed specifically at me.

It does hurt though.

People ask why we need Pride now days.  THIS IS WHY!  When someone can sue for libel just because someone calls them gay (think George Rekers) is insulting to those of us who are gay.  When what you are can be considered libel, it does not help to increase one's self-esteem.  When something that is a defining aspect of your life is used as an attack, it points out that there is need for change in our world.

I also feel sad for a world that finds homosexuality something that is so scary.  If this was done by kids, then it should  be telling that they find the thought of being gay as something that is detestable.

And since when has defacing something associated with the church been OK?