Friday, December 31, 2004

Epiphany Reflections from Center for Process and Faith

Check out this article: "Process & Faith Lectionary Commentary - January 9, 2005" by Tari Lennon for some good insights to this week's lectionary text, and also to the celebration of Epiphany as a whole.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Help South Asia Earthquake Relief through UMCOR

Here's a link to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) with the information about how to donate toward earthquake/tsunami disaster relief. Please help if you can! More info:
South Asia Emergency -South Asia Earthquake and Tidal Waves
December 27, 2004 The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding through its ecumenical partners to the catastrophe in South Asia. On Sunday, December 26, a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra caused tidal waves that have so far claimed the lives of more than 22,000 people in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives and Bangladesh, according to news reports. Thousands of people are still missing and tens of thousands of people have been displaced. The full extent of the disaster is still not known in more remote areas in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, where ecumenical parters are responding.
Please give to Advance #274305 and designate 'South Asia Emergency' on the memo line of your check. Give through your local United Methodist church or mail contributions to: UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Call 1-800-554-8583 to make a credit card donation. One hundred percent of your gift goes to relief and recovery efforts. United Methodists' generous giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing, part of their ongoing contribution to mission around the world, supplements the cost of Advance gifts.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

finding neverland

I went to see Finding Neverland tonight, for an end-of-Christmas-Day treat. And what a treat! I definitely recommend it. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are excellent, and the children who are in it are amazing and will touch your heart. I don't think anyone was not crying by the end of the film, and the tugging at the heart strings was done in an authentic not contrived way, I thought. There's certainly a lot of content her for spiritual folks looking for meaning - there was a line I especially liked about time always chasing after us. Coming from the season of Advent, where counting time has been important, I paid attention to that part of the film. Five stars!! :)
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Choose The Blue

an interesting link, found via The Liberal Mind:
Choose The Blue. This site shows listings of corporations, from supermarkets to automobile manufacturers, and gives statistics about their giving (direct/indirect/employee/etc.) to the 2004 political campaigns. The breakdowns are sometimes surprising, and always enlightening, I think, to realize just how much corporations can influence the political landscape. Wal-Mart, for instance, mostly supported the Bush camp, while Starbucks was in the 'blue' Kerry camp. Here's some details from the site, which is obviously for 'blue' consuming:

We believe corporations are as important as politicians in American Politics.

You know what party a politician supports. Do you know how much support a corporation* (through its connected political action committee) and its employees (through their political contributions) put behind a political party, its candidates, and its causes? compiles information from third party sources primarily to show certain reported spending by political action committees connected with a corporation* and by that corporation's employees as political contributions, in each case related to recent federal elections. .

If each American who voted "Blue" in 2004 spends $100 in 2005 on products of a corporation that by reason of its employees' or connected political action committees' political contributions supported "Blue" over "Red," $5 billion in revenues would be shifted to "Blue" supporting corporations!

This will be noticed! Choose where you buy ... and make a difference!!!

*Please Note: Corporations are generally not allowed to and do not make direct political contributions. This website's figures may combine contributions of a corporation's (and in some cases affiliates' and subsidsiaries') connected PACs, employees, and spouses. Not every corporation has a PAC.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Mary Monologues

Here is a quick link to the "Mary Monologues" that I am using for my late Christmas eve service this week. I always have a hard time finding dramas that I like both theatrically and theologically - this one seems pretty solid to me, for the most part. Check it out:
Mary Monologues: Mary Monologues
By Ron VandenBurg, based on the play 'Song of Mary', by John McNeil

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Bishop Woodie White's annual letter to Martin Luther King Jr.

I was glad to see that Bishop Wood White has not given up his annual letter to Dr. King even though he retired from active ministry this year. His letter always brings hope when I sometimes feel hopeless about racism. He brings up a good point about the appointment of Condi Rice to Secretary of State. Though I don't support her positions and politics, I, too, was suprised that so little was made in way of celebrating this highest post ever held in government by an African-American woman. Check out the whole letter here:
Bishop rejoices at progress in letter to Martin Luther King Jr. -
Dec. 14, 2004
Each year, United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White writes a 'birthday' letter to his late colleague, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., about the progress of racial equality in the United States. Now retired and serving as bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, White was the first top staff executive of the denomination�s racial equality monitoring agency, the Commission on Religion and Race. Americans honor King's memory on the third Monday of January.
and an excerpt:

Dear Martin,
As I begin this letter I must tell you of an incident involving one of your closest associates and one of my dearest friends. A few months ago, he and I were on a panel addressing the issue of race in the United Methodist Church. We were especially assessing the gains made or not made, since the discontinuance of the Central Jurisdiction. This was the racially segregated organizational structure created by the denomination in 1939. In 1968, it was not continued when a new denomination, the United Methodist Church, was organized.
Following the panel presentation, a woman addressed a question to me, inquiring if I intended to continue my annual letter to you, indicating how much it was appreciated. I indicated it was my intent to continue this practice begun in 1976. Whereupon, our colleague quipped, 'Yes, Woodie, continue, I just talked to Martin and he said he enjoyed hearing from you!' The audience howled. Vintage Joe Lowery!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

a few ramblings: cats, a sermon, and a new link

first the new link: Jesus Politics, who I found through a link to my own site (thanks!)

second - I'm having a hard time getting going with my sermon this week. I find it funny, at least, along with frustrating. For three weeks of Advent, the texts have not clearly spoken of Jesus' birth, at least not in my mind, not in a direct way. But I found a way, as we all do, to see the Advent in them, so to speak. But this week, the text is very clearly talking about the birth of Jesus. And my mind feels closed to messages! What's your take on the Matthew text this week? How are you approaching preaching it, if you are? (Matthew 1:18-25)

third, finally, and unrelated to anything godly (!), I brought home a second cat - a kitten - yesterday, and am trying to introduce her (Ella) to my 1 year-old cat (Grayer). Who knew the stress this could cause, on me and on Grayer! Ella seems oblivious and happy as long as she has something to pounce on. But Grayer is on the verge of a breakdown of some sorts! Wish me luck...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ten Practices of Just Peacemaking - Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Happened across this brief article on - Ten Practices of Just Peacemaking, Sojourners Magazine/January 2005:

1. Support nonviolent direct action.
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution.
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness.
5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

From Just Peacemaking, edited by Glen Stassen (Pilgrim Press, 1998)

I preached with a focus last week on Peace with Justice, so this little 'top ten' list caught my eye.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

good post from A Religious Liberal Blog

check out this post from A Religious Liberal Blog.

Dwight hits on a few topics I've been wanting to comment on lately, but they're all here for you in one good post, so I figure I'll just point you that way: Beth Stroud/welcoming churches/UCC ad, as well as comments about WesleyBlog's recent posts about liberal seminaries. Dwight mentions my favorite theologian, John Cobb, so extra points for that! I, too, went to a 'liberal' seminary, Drew, and though the faculty was certainly liberal, there was a great deal of variety and diversity in the student body who chose to study there, and I don't think less-liberal students were penalized for their beliefs. Challenged, of course. I loved my time at Drew, and I felt very well prepared for pastoral ministry, while I was at the same time challenged beyond what I could have anticipated in terms of my own faith development. I wouldn't trade it for anything. And the scholarship/teaching/etc., as A Religious Liberal points out with his good list of progressive theologians: top notch.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Faith-based communicators react to nixing of UCC ad by CBS and NBC

from the United Methodist News Service,
Faith-based communicators react to nixing of church ad:

Dec. 6, 2004
A nationwide group of faith-based communicators has added their voice to challenge the refusal of the CBS and NBC television networks to air a message from the United Church of Christ.
The statement, drafted by Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA, calls the networks actions 'arbitrary' and contrary to the principals of freedom of speech and equal access to media.

...“This is not about gays and lesbians; this is about the constitutional rights of a responsible organization to exercise the freedom to speak on a medium licensed to serve the public interest,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive with United Methodist Communications, the denomination’s communication agency.

“This decision calls attention to the reality that, for self-serving reasons, corporations in control of major media are in a position to filter and even block the legitimate speech by responsible voices,” Hollon said.

...“The controversial issue here is not the content of the ad, but the arbitrary standards of the network gatekeepers. Church doors are open to all who would come; but broadcast channels are increasingly closed to all but the wealthy and well-connected.

“It is important to note that the broadcast networks are not being asked to give free time to the United Church of Christ to express its message -- the church is ready to pay dearly for that privilege, even though the networks do not pay for their highly profitable use of the broadcast spectrum.

“The Federal Communications Commission, in giving free access to the public’s airwaves to commercial corporations--with virtually no strings attached--has handed them powerful control over America’s media “public square.” The for-profit keepers of that square are all too willing to promulgate messages laced with sexual innuendo, greed, violence, and the politics of personal destruction, but a message of openness and welcome that merely says ‘church doors are open to all’ is being silenced as too controversial!

“Advocacy advertising abounds on TV: agribusinesses, drug manufacturers, gambling casinos, oil companies, even some government agencies regularly expose viewers to messages advocating their products and programs, in the interest of shaping public attitudes and building support for their points of view.

“Are only the ideas and attitudes of faith groups now off limits? Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and freedom of speech, not to mention common fairness, beg for leadership by the FCC to assure that America's faith community has full and equal access to the nation's airwaves, to deliver positive messages that seek to build and enrich the quality of life.”

This statement was signed by many communicators from several denominations who are part of the NCC - UMC, UCC, PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopal, etc.

Understanding the truth (and lies) about liberals and conservatives -Steven Waldman --

Understanding the truth (and lies) about liberals and conservatives By Steven Waldman --
Perverted, God-Hating Frenchies vs. Inbred, Sex-Obsessed Yokels
Why Can't Liberals and Conservatives Get Along? Because They Fundamentally Misunderstand Each Other

That's the catchy mouthful of a title of this article by Steven Waldman I found on beliefnet. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are the main points:

They're Just As Moral As Conservatives

They're Just As Smart As Liberals

Most Are Religious

They Don't Want a Religious Dictatorship

They Believe History Is On the Side of Tolerance

The Pro-Life Position Is Born of Compassion

Most Support Separation of Church and State to Protect Religion

They Feel Under Assault

Family Values Are Revered

They Believe American Culture Has Become An Insult to God

I think Waldman makes some good arguments. I don't agree with him 100% on his interpretations or justifications of either 'side', but I think he puts some of our caricatures of other another in perspective. There are always some on any side who are the extreme version - some liberals and some conservatives who I think are genuinely evil. And I think there are some liberals and some conservatives who don't fit in the assigned boxes they're supposed to. But generally, these 'truths' seem to hit some major themes, and can be easily applied to both the political world and religious communities...

Friday, December 03, 2004

sermon on Isaiah 11:1-10 by Edward F. Markquart

In preparing for my sermon this week, I came upon this sermon by Edward F. Markquart on Isaiah 11:1-19, the peaceable kingdom. I don't normally just link to other sermons, but his was exactly where my head had been this week. Check it out!

My favorite section - the intro:
"Wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t so much killing going on right now in Iraq? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if the Muslims and Christians in the Sudan would miraculously started to live together in peace? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no death squads in Columbia and people weren’t shooting each other? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were peace on earth?
Or, if you can’t have peace between nations, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within our families? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole week together as husband and wife and not have a fight? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if your children did not fight with each other? Wouldn’t it be nice to go on a family vacation and not have any blow-ups? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if tempers didn’t flare so quickly, like a match that suddenly ignites? If you can’t have peace in Iraq, maybe we could have peace at home and in our families. That would be nice.
Or, if that isn’t possible, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I weren’t so harsh with myself? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t explode at myself in anger? Wouldn’t it be nice if my guts were calm? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could sit around all night and not have a compulsion to eat ice cream or drink wine or beer in order to calm my nervous stomach? Wouldn’t that be nice? If I can’t have peace between nations or peace within the family, maybe I could at least have some peace within me?
Or, if I couldn’t have these, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace at least a few days before or after Christmas? We all know what time of year this is, Christmas time. During Christmas, we are often short of money, short of time, and short of temper. In preparation for the Prince of Peace, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of Christmas peace at your house or mine?"

Thursday, December 02, 2004

United Methodist court revokes Beth Stroud's credentials

United Methodist court revokes Beth Stroud's credentials:

Dec. 2, 2004

By Linda Green and Linda Bloom

PUGHTOWN, Pa (UMNS) A United Methodist lesbian clergywoman has been stripped of her ministerial credentials by a church trial court.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth 'Beth' Stroud was found guilty Dec. 2 of engaging in "practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings." After that 12-1 decision, the trial court, or jury, entered a penalty phase and voted 7-6 to strip Stroud of her ministerial credentials, effective immediately.

Stroud, 34, is not able to perform the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion but plans to remain on staff at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, where she had been associate pastor since 1999.

She has the right to appeal the court's decisions in 30 days to the denomination's Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeal.

At the trial's conclusion, Stroud acknowledged in a press conference the divisive nature of the issue of homosexuality, which was visible during the proceedings. Looking at the trial court, she said, "in every face that I saw, I saw pain, and in every face I saw, I saw compassion."

I guess the verdict was expected, though I had hope that Beth Stroud would not be stripped of her credentials. Not much else to say about this, I guess, that hasn't been said elsewhere, I'm sure. One of the things that bothers me most: It is not against UM law to be a celibate gay pastor, just a practicing gay pastor. Doesn't it seem, then, that people are upset by the idea of gay sexual relationships? To me, that a pastor can be gay if he/she is celibate implies an understanding that being gay/lesbian is in itself not wrong, or at least, not a choice. It is, after all the "practice of homosexuality" that is forbidden by UM church law. But by our law, 'practice' equals 'sexual acts'. And by that equation, we've pigeon-holed God's gift of sexuality into just a tiny component that's only about who we sleep with. What a shameful abuse of God's gift!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

CBS and NBC reject an add from the UCC showing acceptance of gays and lesbians

I was alerted to this via chuck currie's blog, and then read this article about it on which i quote below:

CBS bans church ad inviting gays
Network says church spot welcoming gays is advocacy advertising; NBC said to take same line.

December 1, 2004: 4:24 PM EST
By Steve Hargreaves, CNN/Money Staff Writer
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -

CBS has refused to run an ad by a liberal church promoting the acceptance of people regardless of sexual orientation because the network believes the ad is advocacy advertising.
The church also says the ad was banned on NBC.
The 30-second spot, run by the United Church of Christ, features two muscle-bound bouncers standing outside a church, selecting people who could attend service and those who could not. Among those kept out are two males who appear to be a couple. Written text then appears saying, in part, "Jesus didn't turn people away, neither do we."

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast," the church quoted CBS as saying.
A CBS spokesman confirmed that the ad was banned, but would not comment directly about the above statement.
"It was against our policy of accepting advocacy advertising," said the spokesman.
NBC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
"It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial," said Rev. John Thomas in the statement.
"We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line."

I highlighted the two sections most disturbing to me - first, the CBS would actually reject the commercial because the Bush Administration might hold views and advocate for policies that are in conflict with the UCC's views - appalling, and scary. Second, I think Rev. Thomas hits on an important fact - with programs like Will & Grace which show gay and lesbian lifestyles as acceptable, how can they reject this commercial? I'm frightened at the implications of decisions like this. Where will it stop?

By the way, you can check out the 'offending' commercial at

Monday, November 29, 2004

Martin Luther King Jr. - Strength to Love

I came across a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. in reading materials for one of my bible studies tonight. I've read it before, but found it moving and meaningful yet again.
From his book Strength to Love:

"To our most bitter opponents we say: 'We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good . . . . But . . . we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

Ever-timely words to inspire us.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

wesley blog

another blog to check out - wesleyblog, by shane raynor. this is a much more conservative/evangelical -whatever label you want to use - blog than most i link, including my own. but i appreciated very much this post about the UMC Taco Bell boycott. Now, shane himself doesn't agree with the boycott, at least not the practice/strategy of it, etc... but what caught my attention was that he posted a whole entry from a friend of his who disagrees with him and gives a totally different point of view. i like it when someone is not afraid to put thoughts out there that are different than their own opinions, calling into question their views. we don't like to suggest, humans in general, that we might be wrong about something, or that thoughtful others might hold very different views than us. so its refreshing to see someone put it out there in the open!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Eco-Justice Notes from Peter Sawtell - Thanksgiving

want to share these thoughts from the latest edition of Eco-Justice Notes from Peter Sawtell, which you can find online here.

He writes,
"Yesterday, I preached at an ecumenical Thanksgiving service. As I was searching for a text that would ground my sermon, I kept being pulled back to a passage that portrays a person in prayer lifting up heartfelt thanksgiving. "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." (Luke 18:11)
That's not a typical Thanksgiving Day passage -- but it may be quite revealing about how we often deal with thanks.
We give thanks for what we are not. I'm thankful that I'm not like some other people: poor and hungry, sick or suffering, homeless, or living in a war zone.
We figure out thankfulness by looking at others who are worse off than we are, and being grateful that we're not inflicted with their problems. Our thanks are comparative, and depend on our relative advantage over others.
Implicitly or explicitly, did our Thanksgiving Day prayers sound like the Pharisee of Jesus' story? "I thank you, God, that I'm not like those other folk who have the audacity to be poor."
As citizens of the richest nation on Earth, as members of a society that uses a wildly disproportionate and unsustainable share of the world's resources, do our prayers of thanksgiving really say, "I thank you, God, that I have wealth, advantages and privileges that most people in this world can never hope to have?"
When we catalogue our wealth, are we saying, "I thank you, God, that I have had the opportunity to benefit from the unconscionable plunder and destruction of your creation?"

I see in his writing my own attitudes toward thanksgiving - 'thank God i have so much.' Sounds a lot like that Pharisee, eh? It may be the day after Thanksgiving, but it is not too late to consider Sawtell's words...

Thursday, November 25, 2004

"Apocalypse (Almost) Now"

My friend sent me this article from the New York Times, which talks about the popular Left Behind series. Very appropriate given this week's Advent 1 lectionary text! Check it out:

(you'll need to register for free to read the whole thing)

Apocalypse (Almost) Now

Published: November 24, 2004

"If America's secular liberals think they have it rough now, just wait till the Second Coming.
The 'Left Behind' series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: 'Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching.'
Gosh, what an uplifting scene!"

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

exodus 23:2

i was doing my lesson for the Disciple Bible Study I'm leading at my church, and stumbled on these verses from Exodus 23:

:2 - You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice;

I don't know - that verse just struck me - perhaps a verse of encouragement for social justice advocates who sometimes feel overwhelmed by seemingly small numbers. No matter - wrong is wrong, and we're commanded to go a better way.

Monday, November 22, 2004

another blog

anothew new blog to check out, found via chuck currie:
NewsBlog - "Speak from the Heart: Progressive Christian Voices
We heartily welcome you to this blog that is designed to present postings that present the views of 'progressive' Christians who seek to present, apply, and live out the Gospel of grace, faith, love, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. At a time when much of what is proclaimed in the name of Christianity polarizes our society and Christianity itself, there is a need for scholarly voices of love and compassion to present their views, share them with others, and enjoy vibrant dialogues regarding theological, political, and social issues."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice

check it out:
Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice:
"Make All Things New is the theme of the third annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering in Washington, D.C. addressing urgent global issues. It takes place in the context of a new presidential term, a new Congress and a new opportunity for people of faith to learn together and raise their voices in advocacy for a more just and peaceful world.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days will highlight the urgency of pursuing wise and peaceful solutions to conflicts and the need for aid, debt and trade policies that benefit our impoverished brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Participants will examine U.S. policy regarding the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America, global economic justice, global security, eco-justice and U.S. domestic issues. There will be challenging speakers, issue briefings and training in advocacy.
Comprehensive briefings will precede visits with members of Congress or their key policy staff assistants."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

two new blogs

two new blogs to check out that will soon be added to my blogroll:
jockeystreet, which is my big brother's blog. not religiously oriented, but certainly left and progressive and political, and with more edge than mine :)
and also:
the liberal mind, who describes his blog this way:
This blog will be the outlet for my Liberal Mind to find solace. I'm not expecting everyone who reads my stuff to agree with it (actually, I'm kind of expecting most people to disagree with it). But in a world where everyone is quick to throw a label on something which means something else, I figured that everyone will have a different opinion of what exactly a Liberal Mind is. Thus, those who actually stumble across this blog will find the musings of this Liberal Mind.
I found this blog because of a comment left on my site, and was very humbled by a post about my blog that he wrote. it's nice to know they're people out there reading, and nice to feel like something i do makes an impression - thanks!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

syracuse peace council

this week my brother and i finally managed to get ourselves to the syracuse peace council to volunteer. we were looking for something to do post-election to make us feel not-so-helpless and useless. we're signed up to get to work.

happily, spc also launched their own blog this week. visually not the prettiest (hey, i just use blogger's templates, so who am i to talk?) but still exciting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

worship and liturgy ideas request

it's the most wonderful time of the year...
or coming soon, anyway.
my brain is already trying to organize and plan christmas services, and i've got a couple requestions for the blogging community:

1) I'm looking for a monologue to use on christmas eve for the message. i like to do something different for our early service - last year i used a monologue from the perspective of the innkeeper. Most i'vve found are a)cheesy b)theologically questionable c)uninteresting. know of anything that is thoughtful, challenging, good?

2) We're having a Blue Christmas service this year on the 27th of December, which is a service created around the themes of loss and grief and sadness that often are stirred up during the holidays. Know of any good liturgies for this? I'm still looking.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

election thoughts from Social Gospel Today

From one off of my frequent-read-blog list, Social Gospel Today, some election thoughts that I thought worth quoting:

"A comment on our last post suggested that a great many Americans no longer vote with their pocketbooks. How true. For many of those people, it is a different book that they think they are voting with - the Bible.

I wish that I could say that that was a good thing, or even a Christian thing to do. But as we have said on this blog numerous times, worshipping the Bible - or more accurately, how certain biased ministers and preachers claim to interpret and teach it - does not necessarily mean that you are following in Jesus' footsteps. Sometimes, it can even mean just the opposite.

What saddens me the most isn't that 'Christians' in America cannot grasp the fact that EVERYTHING is a moral issue (not just abortion and gay marriage, but war, taxes, poverty, criniminal justice, etc etc), nor that ingenius Republican strategists have convinced them that the only Christian vote is a Republican one. The part that saddens me the most is that the Democratic Party failed to get in touch with the America that DESPRETELY NEEDS THEM to stand up for their needs. "

Especially like the "EVERYTHING is a moral issue" emphasis. Yes! Yes! Yes!

And in another post:

Consider these numbers from CNN's exit polling data:

Kerry carried:

72% of minority voters.
88% of African-American voters.
63% of voters making less than $15,000 per year.
55% of voters making less than $50,000 per year.
64% of voters in a household that lost a job.
Can a Republican party that carried only the votes of the powerful really be the party of Christianity?

And one more:

...I know two things:

(1) God isn’t going anywhere: if the Democrats continue to cede the religious vote to the Republicans, and if they let their party be dominated by secular pragmatists, they will continue to face devastating defeats.

(2) Jesus’ clear mandate that we serve poor and oppressed isn’t going anywhere: if we continue to let ourselves be duped by the narrow vision of Christian values offered to us by the right, and if we ignore the Republicans’ horrific records on social programs and social justice, the Kingdom of God will continue to retreat in this country.

All around well-put sound stuff.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Revealer: Gay Marriage, GOP Secret Weapon

Please check out this very interesting article by Jeff Sharlet at the revealer:
The Revealer: Gay Marriage, GOP Secret Weapon 03 November 2004

Jeff asks, "Was the 'moral value' of homophobia this election's X-factor?"

Also take time to read the comments - a great conversation that developed out of his post.

I'm not sure yet what to make of the election and what happened and why. I'm very discouraged, and like many, I think, wondering what to do next. Surely, there's more to be done than shake our heads and sit around for four more years waiting. But I'm looking for direction. I think Sharlet's article, is, at least, thought-provoking, and an issue that is plaguing my denomination and many others. So, if you have a few minutes, check out his article.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Family Values

from this article at
Voters in 11 states to get say on gay marriage
Sunday, October 31, 2004 Posted: 10:51 AM EST (1551 GMT)

(AP) -- Each side says the fight was forced upon them by the other, and now the climactic showdown is at hand: Voters in 11 states will decide Tuesday whether to impose constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

The arguments about same-sex marriage in religious circles are used in so many times and places that it is hard to say anything new - like we are as a country in terms of tomorrow's presidential election, so we all seem set in stone in our totally opposite camps in the Church as well. But I must say, I am so tired of people talking about the Bible's mandate of "one man-one woman" and the family values of the Bible. What Bible are these people talking about? As I mentioned before I attended the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew Theological School last week, and heard Peter Gomes speak, among others, and this idea of family values in the Bible was one of the recurring themes.
If people believe homosexuality is wrong, I can 'accept' that they have a view that I don't hold - but when the basis of said view is this idea of a Biblical ethic of family values, I have to question: what Biblical family values?
Tamar tricking Jacob into sleeping with her?
Dinah being raped?
David sleeping with Bathsheeba and killing her husband?
Lot's daughters sleeping with him?
Jesus refusing to claim Mary as his mother at one point in the gospels?
Jesus repeatedly urging the disciples (and others) to leave everything to follow him - even family?
Paul urging people to stay unmarried?
Solomon's wives and concubines?

Now, all that said - I think the Bible does give us an ethical basis for making decisions, including decisions about relationship and families. I just get concerned when we lift individual texts to support any claims we have about "what the Bible says".

My rant for the evening.

If you haven't yet: Go vote! Just a couple more hours in many states...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

all saints?

Are you celebrating All Saints Day in your congregation? If so, how are you celebrating? This year, in my congregation, we're lighting candles, or inviting family members to light candles, as we read the names of those who have died during this last year. It's something new for this congregation, but something I participated in when I was a youth pastor in Dover, NJ, that I found meaningful, and it is pretty simple to put together. Plus, I found it a nice way to connect with the families of those who have lost someone. What are you doing? Any creative ideas?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Harry Potter goes Greek - Ancient Greek, that is.

For all you Ancient Greek-lovers, check out this article - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a new Ancient Greek translation:

An Ancient Greek Potter - BY BRIAN M. CARNEY - Thursday, October 21, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT
Later this month, in a publishing event unlikely to be marked by midnight release parties or round-the-block lines of adoring fans, a new Harry Potter book is due out from Bloomsbury--in Anicent Greek ("Hareios Poter Kai he tou Philosophou Lithos").
Why did they do it? "Well, the Latin translation was such a success," a Bloomsbury spokesperson deadpanned, that they thought they'd give Greek a try as well. That's right. There's a Latin version already ("Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis"). In fact, over the past few years, Harry Potter books (especially the first) have been quietly translated into scores of languages, some of them obvious and sensible, some of them, like the Welsh version, downright odd.
For his part, Andrew Wilson, the retired British secondary-school teacher who translated "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (as the first Harry Potter book is titled outside the U.S.) into the language of Plato for Bloomsbury, wouldn't be surprised if J.K. Rowling, the author of the best-selling series, was behind the decision to translate it into Ancient Greek, a language so dead that modern Greeks are fond of saying of it, "It's Greek to us!"

What fun!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

random statistic for today.

I just started reading Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. An interesting statistic (in the newest edition) in the preface: "Elections [in the US] are many times more costly [than in Europe] - the entire 2001 British general election cost less than Senator John Corzine spent to win a single New Jersey Senate seat in 2000." (pg. xii) Huh.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Peter J. Gomes

Not much time to write, but wanted to share: I'm currently attending the Tipple-Vosburgh lectures at Drew Theological School, and last night had the opportunity to hear Peter Gomes speak. Aside from being funny and friendly, he was also quite brilliant!! He spoke for about an hour and was captivating. He talked about a number of things related to our theme "The Bible as Weapon /as Wisdom", and he made excellent points. One things he said: the Bible interprets our culture. And liberals have let conservatives have charge of the Bible, and thus, given them charge of interpreting the culture. Should you get the chance to hear him speak, don't pass it up! (He also directed the seminary choir in the Hallelujah chorus - spontaneously...)

Friday, October 15, 2004

A Prayer for National Discernment - Neal Christie

In Christian Social Action magazine, a communication resource of the General Board of Church and Society, Neal Christie often writes prayers which are used for the closing Benediction page. This month, (Sept/Oct 2004 issue, pg. 32), he writes “A Prayer for National Discernment” which is particularly timely:

Lord of the past
From one clot of blood you formed every race and culture
And we chose to gather as nations.
But did you ever imagine a life-time election
As priest and prophet in a stateless state:

As the Word who expressed Isaiah’s word,
You were no studied mouthpiece for corporate ballots,
You took no popular polls, admitted no party allegiances,
Danced no inaugural balls,
And held no debates, but spoke truth telling parables.
By the spirit’s triune unction
You became modest enough not to escape the miseries of life,
convicted enough for the poor to save face,
alive enough to outlive Herod’s bloodletting regime
and powerful enough to promise an end to Caesar’s client empire.

Lord of the present, when the White House is our world’s largest gated community,
When we mistake flags for sacraments,
Convention speeches for Scripture,
And illegal wars for leaning on the everlasting arms;
When we prefer mass branding which glues us to telegenic emperors,
When we choose national leaders by corporate proxy,
Who predict Gospel prosperity the plantation size of Walmart;
When we by anything, but value nothing,
And shelve our souls wall to wall in the process –
God, remind us that your yoke is easy and your call without deceit,
To be in friendship with those whom you elected for life –
The poor, the immigrant, the sick, the widowed, the child.

Lord of the future,
May we believe what we sing so well, “Elect from every nation”
And with a relaxed heart commit ourselves to a lifetime of action
As citizens of no one nation,
But only to your ever expanding kin-dom,
Favoring national repentance over calculated remorse,
Vigilance for earth stewardship over stiff-necked ownership,
Health care for all over sugar high promises without cost,
Living wages over weapons of mass destruction,
A new quality of freedom in commitment over myths of national scarcity.

God, give us an election that is not of our own choosing,
In the jubilee path of Mary and Ruth, Esther and Martha.
For your movement of grace reaches farther than your justice,
And your mercy is offered without bias or bounds.

I particularly like that phrase in the third stanza, "we mistake flags for sacraments." Right on.

Barbara Kingsolver

I do a lot of traveling by car, so I’ve become a big fan of books-on-tape, and I just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. I have already read Prodigal Summer, Animal Dreams, and The Poisonwood Bible, and I loved them all. In fact, I would say that The Poisonwood Bible is one of the best works of fiction I have read, ever. I could quote whole sections, chapters, of her book. I found it just so profound and meaningful – the way she develops her characters and shows them growing, transforming, or not growing, despite all that happens. The book follows the Price family – a missionary family – as they travel to Africa to live and work – particularly through the eyes of the four young – and very different – daughters. The religious and social layers, the cultural issues, racism, justice concerns, etc., that are woven seamlessly in – I’m just in awe of Kingsolver’s skills.
So, I was playing around online to find out if the characters I grew attached to make it in to Pigs in Heaven, the sequel, which I have yet to check out from the library, and I found that Kingsolver has quite a nice website with a big FAQs section as well as study guides for reading groups that give some good, probing questions to use along with her books. Check it out.

Monday, October 11, 2004

church attendance

OK, I know this was Columbus Day weekend, but attendance at my church yesterday, and this fall in general, has been a bit lower than usual. I went through my member list, to see who I've been missing. The answer? Not anyone, really. It seems that people are all attending - just much more sporadically than usual, coming only 3/4 of Sundays in a month, or coming every 3rd Sunday or something. The biggest church attendance deterrent seems to be sports - I never thought I'd find myself despising them so much like I heard pastors complaining about them when I was growing up - I guess this is a pastor's version of turning into your parents when you get older.
How do you get people to see where they're really put church on their priority list, or their relationship with God? I think people like to have it both ways - to think that their relationship with God is their number one priority, but to not have that actually evidence by any behavior or action in their lives...
I know we all need a Sunday off sometimes to sleep in - I know I wish I could some weeks! But I think we've come to view religion as such a personal/private thing that community and public worship together doesn't seem very essential to us...
Rant for the day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

more from Les Miserables

yes, sad to say, I'm still reading Les Miserables. But, I'm at least about 2/3 of the way through the 1500 page book - well, close to 2/3 of the way through....

Anyway, another quote to share:
God makes hi will visible to men in events, an obscure text written in a mysterious language. Men make their translations of it instantly; hasty translations, incorrect, full of mistakes, omissions, and misreadings. Very few minds understand the divine language The wisest and calmest, the most profound, decipher slowly, and, when they arrive with their text, the need has long since gone by; there are already twenty translations in the public square. From each translation a party is born, and from each misreading a faction; and each part believes it has the only true text, and each faction belive it possesses the light.
Often the government itself is a faction. (pg. 838)

Friday, October 01, 2004


So, a pastor-friend of mine had a copy of this magazine: Revevant. He (a mid-50s clergy) was very impressed by it, and subscribed. He let me borrow his copy, and I must admit, I was quite skeptical, because he said that it was conservative theologically and in some other ways, but that he still found it, well, relevant. I frankly found this hard to believe.

But, I flipped it open last night, and so far have been quite impressed. I can't say I agree with everything, but there are a lot of intriguing articles in there, like about the pros and cons of "Christian Culture," suggesting that perhaps just living as Christians in a "secular" world is often a better path. I tried to find out more online - here's who they say they are:

"We get a lot of emails asking who we are and what we believe, so here it is:

We're twentysomething Christians. We want to break stereotypes, challenge status quo and enact change through the media. We're seeking God, living life and striving to impact the world around us. It's pretty simple, really.

Oh yeah, and we're a self-contained, for-profit business (although the profit part is debatable)."

Hm. Anyone know more about this magazine? Thoughts on it? I'm thinking of subscribing, anyway...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Ok, maybe it's a bit early for some of you to read a post about Christmas. But as a pastor, I already have Advent services on the brain, and I swear, my mother has been shopping (yes, you, mom!) for Christmas things since January. So, this year in my family, we're trying to be more intentional about what kinds of things we get each other for gifts. We're not quite ready to do away with presents altogether (particularly my younger brothers, who were appalled at the very thought), but we're working on things like: is this present useful? is it harmful to people or the earth? can it help people - ie - can we make purchases from local business owners or crafters, etc.? can we buy something that is organic or recyclable or helps reduce waste, etc.?
I think we may start having some alternative giving options at our church this year. At Simple Living, they have a huge section dedicated to different ways of celebrating Christmas, and they have tons of free/cheap resources specifically for local churches. Check it out! Check out also:

Friday, September 24, 2004

Global Rich List

Happened on this link at Dylan's Lectionary Blog:
Global Rich List

Enter your annual income, and it will tell you how many people are richer and how many are poorer than you in the world. At my $30,000 pastor's salary, I am still in the top 7.22%. That's a wake-up statistic!

Try it out!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom

Just finished reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. A lot of people in my church had read it, and all loved it, so I thought I'd give it a look. It's a pretty quick and easy read - could read it in a day if you had the time to spare. Overall, I wasn't greatly impressed - something like a well-written Hallmark greeting card. But a couple nice quotes near the end, where the "point" or "moral" is spelled out with little subtlety:

Eddie, the main character, responding to why he was 'sad' in his life: "I was sad because I didn't do anything with my life. I was nothing. I accomplished nothing. I was lost. I felt like wasn't supposed to be there." (pg. 191) This is a common worry/fear about our own lives, isn't it? That we won't count for anything?

Then, on the last page, the reassurance: "the secret of heaven: that each [person] affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one." (pg. 196)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

More Stewardship Thoughts

Thanks for feedback on my stewardship post last week. I want to share some of comment left by Mike from Things of Infinite Importance.

He writes:

We also push 50/50 giving in our community. That's taking your tithe (or whatever percentage you give) and giving 50% of it to the church community and 50% of it to works of love and mercy outside the church community. Then we as a church strive to do the same ... take 50% of our money and use it for ourselves and give 50% away. It puts the focus where it needs to be (IMO), which is on being Christ in the world among the poor, weak, sick and lonely. It also makes it all seem a lot less self-serving.

I really like the strategy he suggests - especially how his idea turns the focus from raising money for our own church to giving in Christ's spirit.

I also picked up a book by Dan Hotchkiss, Ministry and Money, A Guide for Clergy and Their Friends. Still a ways to go yet, but here's some quotes that jumped out at me so far.

"We avoid confronting our unease about economic inequality by distancing ourselves from people who are different, and by trying not to notice the differences. One of the most frequent reasons clergy give for avoiding the financial aspects of congregational life is that they don't want to know how much members give." (pg. 8)

and some statistics: 36% of labor force and 24% of weekly churchgoers say, "it annoys me when churches ask me to give money." (pg. 16-17) Ah.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Process Theology and the Lectionary

The Center for Process Studies has a new (or I guess a renewed) page that features lectionary commentary by process theologians. Check it out!

Also, here's a quote from my A Year in Process daily calendar by Judith Casanova - I would link to it, but can't find a way to order it online - though it is listed at The Center's site under the book section. Anyway, the September 14th quote was from Alfred North Whitehead's An Introduction to Mathematics and reads:

"Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

Ah, perfect take on human nature!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Stewardship Campaigns - God and Money

This week as the gospel lesson in the lectionary has us reading the fascinating and perplexing Luke 16:1-13, where we read that we cannot serve two masters, God and wealth, my mind is turned to the Stewardship Campaign that gets underway in my congregation in November every year. In the United Methodist Church, local churches make a commitment to pay apportionments, money that supports ministries beyond our local church walls. We at St. Paul's have a hard time making these payments - we pay our own bills first, and by the time we get to our apportionments, we usually only scrape out about 50% of what we owe. I hate this fact! I wish we paid 100% every year. But, of course, that means people have to give more money! This past year, the first I completed at a pastor, was the first year I ever pledged in my life, and the first year I tithed from my income. It has been hard. But I know it has been the right thing for me to do.
So, some questions for you who are involved in congregations in some form or another - do you have a successful stewardship plan that you'd like to share? As a pastor, how much do you share about your own financial giving? I've been thinking, this year, of laying my cards on the table to my congregation - this is how much I make, this is how much I give, and this is how difficult it has been for me. What makes people want to give as much to the church as they give each year to McDonalds? I've been looking for some new resources, but everything I've found seems too contrived for my personal tastes. Help! :)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

CROP walk - Church World Service

My church is participating this year in the CROP walk, an outreach of Church World Service. I attended our "Oneida Area Christian Churches" meeting last week, and was very impressed with the presentation from the gentleman from CWS (and from one of my own church members as well!) I've been participating in the CROP walk for years, but this was the first time I learned more about the program as a whole. They also shared with us some great resources about hunger to be used in worship, Sunday School, etc. I encourage you to check out Church World Service directly, or, you can also donate to my team! (after clicking the link, click on my name, Elizabeth, in the top right corner, or my team, to make donations.)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Faithful Skeptic: Theology Doesn't Matter

here is a great post from The Faithful Skeptic, "Theology Doesn't Matter".

An excerpt:
"People seem to change churches all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with theology. It amazes me that people can step from a liberal Methodist congregation to a conservative/fundamentalist congregation without blinking. What does that say about the theology of our church?

What it tells me is that of all the reasons people go to church, theology is probably not near the top of the list. People go for social activities, support, companionship, worship, music, etc. What bothers me is that I think theology is really important. What we're about as a church is more than the sum of our activities or the format of our worship. What we believe matters a great deal. How is it that our message is making so little impact? Do we have a coherent message?"

I often think this, as I watch people switch in and out of various churches, mine included, in my community. It is a challenge for us to wrestle with.

Isaiah 58

At the "No Room for Poverty" rally I attended last week, Rev. Dr. James Forbes was one of the first (and best, in my opinion) speakers. He urged us to go home and read Isaiah 58. I did, finally, and had to put some verses up here today - what a great chapter, one I don't remember noticing before....:
from the NRSV -
:3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. :4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. :5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a da y acceptable to the Lord?

:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? : 8 Then light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

good stuff.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Luke 15:1-10 from Dylan's Lectionary Blog

A great parable from Sarah Dylan Breuer at her lectionary blog, which closes with these thought-provoking questions:

"Three questions:
Where is the shepherd?
Where are the ninety-nine?
If one sheep is with the shepherd and ninety-nine aren't, who's really the stray?"

having trouble with permalinks on her site, so I'm just linking to her main page, but definitely worth the read. She calls it the parable of the ninety-nine, and the story is hilarious and accurate.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Steve Waldman on why evangelical Christians love George W. Bush so much. --

Found this article from, titled, "Why evangelical Christians love George W. Bush so much", written by belief net editor-in-chief Steve Waldman. He writes:

"First, Christians feel persecuted. This idea is nearly unfathomable to people in New York City or non-evangelicals. How could they feel persecuted? The country is 83% Christian! They're always trying to impose their views on us. But many evangelical Christians believe they are despised, misunderstood and discriminated against by journalists, Hollywood, other elites, and almost anyone not in their pack.

And there is a grain of truth to their concerns. A recent poll showed that while most Americans say a candidate's religion would not affect their vote for presidency, there is one religious type that they would vote against just because of their beliefs: an evangelical Christian. (Actually there were three faith-based non-starters: evangelical, Muslim, and atheist--perhaps they should form a new coalition?) The film, called 'George W. Bush: Faith in the White House' intersperses clips of Bush with photos of school kids who had been punished for praying in the cafeteria."

Intriguing, and makes some sense to me. I find particularly interesting who we won't vote - anyone we perceive to be extreme one way or another - an evangelical, a Muslim (I think most people still stereotype Muslims as extremists, despite inaccuracy and despite attempts to correct our stereotypes through interfaith dialogue!) or an atheist - the other extreme. It's like Goldilocks and the Three Bears - this candidate has too much faith, this candidate has not enough faith - but this candidate is just right....

Friday, September 03, 2004

"No Room for Poverty" Rally

2004 'No Room for Poverty' National Rally

Heading down to DC tonight/tomorrow for this rally - have no idea what to expect, but hopefully it will be fun and informative!

last thoughts on Marva Dawn's Unfettered Hope

Finally finished Marva Dawn's book Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society. I was less impressed with the last chapters than the first, but in all a good read.

A quote she lifts out from Martin Luther's Christmas sermon that really struck me:
"There are many of you who think to yourselves: 'If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the baby!' . . . You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem . . . Why don't you do it now? You have in Christ you neighbor."

Why don't I do it now?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Bishop William Willimon on Luk 14:25-33

Just reading over an article from Pulpit Resource magazine, written by William Willimon, and found his words for September 5th's readings to be right on target with what I've been thinking about lately.

On page 43 of the Sept. 5th article he writes, "Forgive me, forgive the church, for sometimes implying that Jesus will make life easier for you, will fix everything that's wrong with you, will put a little lilt in your voice, a little sunshine in our life. Chances are, he won't. He can do even better than that. He can make you a disciple. Fogive the church for sometimes being guilty of false advertising."

I wish I could quote the whole article - one of the best of his I've read in Pulpit Resource. Worth a look!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Luke 14:25-33 from Wesley White

I was intrigued by Wesley White's take on Luke 14:25-33 on his Kairos Comotion website this week:

Kairos CoMotion Lectionary Dialogue:

"Luke 14:25-33

This section is not much different than what is reported about cultic behavior in general - a narrowing of perception to see only the chosen one. There is no cost too large to pay to be a disciple. Folks are put in the position of suing for peace from a larger, controlling ruler.

I know that discipleship is a huge issue in the history of the church and still today when folks call for solidarity in faith or patriotism or whatever.

I do wonder, however, as the Republican Convention convenes (not that it is any different in kind, perhaps only in degree, of any other cultic behavior) and congregations continue, whether or not it would make a difference for us to be disciples together rather than disciples of one mediator or another . . .

What is the choice that appears to be present in the passage for you?"

A different perspective than I've read before on this passage. "There is no cost too large to pay to be a disciple," he writes, but questions how this can turn into something ugly and harmful for us. Too costly. I'm still trying to process this perspective, but I am intrigued!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

"Finding Rest in God"

I was preparing next Sunday's bulletin and checking out hymns to use when this little prayer/affirmation caught my eye. I think it's beautiful and moving. So here it is:

"In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. The ever-growing soul and its capacity can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace unitl it rests in God."
--"Finding Rest in God," Sundar Singh, India, 20th Century, The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 423

Dubya - two of them

On Thursday night my mother, cousin, and I went to see Michael W. Smith and MercyMe in concert at the NYS Fair. Frankly, I'm not a huge listener in the Christian Music category, but Michael W. Smith had been one I liked and knew more of growing up. I certainly have always thought he was a talented singer with a really unique voice in a world of very similar sounding artists. At any rate, the concert was an adventure...
Smith talked about his post-9/11 sessions talking to the other Dubya, George himself, and George asking him to write a song about it. Eventually, Smith wrote this song called "There She Stands", all about the American Flag. Some lyrics:
"Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think the fight is gone
Someone will risk his life to raise her
There she stands ...
When evil calls it’s self a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull her from the rubble
There she stands"
Then, Smith proceeded to say, "I'm not here to endorse a particular candidate, but if you love your country, you'll vote in November."
I was really uncomfortable with the whole thing to say the least, though I suppose I ought not to have been caught so off guard. I guess what I just hate is how assumed it was there that night that if you are a Christian, you come with this whole package of beliefs. 'I am Christian, so I must like songs in adoration of the American flag.' 'I am a Christian, so I must be a Republican who will vote for God-inspired George W. Bush.' The list could go on.
The performers, Smith and MercyMe, talked about how much their faith had changed their lives, and the lives of the audience. But I wonder, how have their lives changed? In love of God and neighbor? In following the teachings of Jesus Christ? Or, is Christianity simply "moral living" - no smoking, or drinking, or premarital sex, or hanging out with bad, immoral people. And voting for George. Somehow, I think Jesus was demanding a bit more from us than that.
OK, I'm getting riled up now, so I better close...
But a final question - how about some progressive/open-minded Christian bands? Have any good ones to recommend? I know of a couple, but it seems to be a small genre! Suggestions please!

Friday, August 27, 2004

def poetry

Do you ever watch def poetry on HBO?
Some really good stuff, really talented people. Moving. As a preacher, and a theatre lover, I'm pretty comfortable with performing and being upfront. But this def poetry - it's musical, it's thoughtful, and I feel like I could never do something like that.
That's all.

from Rev. Richard Fairchild - Musical Chairs

Stumbled across this fun sermon-starter from Rev. Richard Fairchild, based on this week's gospel lesson from Luke 14:1, 7-14.

Sermon and Liturgy for Ordinary 22 - Proper 17 - Year C.

Here's what caught my eye:
"I want you all to do something unexpected - and perhaps a bit uncomfortable for you. I want you to change seats - to move around to a place where you rarely, if ever sit.
So get up - and move - those on my right - please move to my left. And those at the back - move to the front. Let us do it - come - and see what it feels like...."

Thinking about trying it with my congregation. Though, this could spark a revolt....!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

castles in the clouds

My mother and I took a mini-vacation today to Alexandria Bay, where we enjoyed the gorgeous weather on a two hour boat tour of some of the more famous of the 1000 (actually, according to the tour guide, 1700ish) islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway between U.S. and Canada. We spent part of our time on Heart Island at Boldt Castle. The castle was built in the early 1900s by millionaire George C. Boldt as a monument of love for his wife, Louise. The castle is huge - and has been much restored since I last visited in high-school - it has 365 windows, one for every day of the year, 4 floors, pool, servants quarters, 30+ fireplaces, bathrooms galore, bowling alley, a 'playhouse' for the children where the family of 4 lived during construction, which had its own bowling alley, a hennery, a huge boat house, and a replica of the L'arche de Triomphe.. When his wife died suddenly, George ordered construction to cease, and the building lay in ruins until purchased by the 1000 Islands Bridge Authority in the 1970s.
I must admit, my mother and I admired the beautiful castle, the gorgeous grounds, the view of the Seaway - what a beautiful region and beautiful architecture! But we had to say to each other: "a bit much, isn't it?" All of that time and energy and money poured into a building - and suddenly George discovered that though this monument would last, the person for whom he was building it left his life too quickly. Did he spend their last years together? Was he busy with this project and his other financial endeavors? Was this gigantic building worth it, only to be abandoned?
So my mom and I spent some time reminiscing about vacations we've taken in our family - when I was in elementary school, we were much worse off financially - living in a house that was literally falling down around us, using food stamps to get by, struggling with a lay-off in employment, and four children in the family. But we still managed to have such good times together. Every year we'd have a garage sale in the summer, and if we earned at least $30 from it, we would go to the state fair. There, we would eat $1 hot dogs, (pre-vegetarian days ;) ) have 25 cent milk, look at the butter sculptures, visit the animals, watch the dancing at the Indian Village, and visit the Center of Progress building. We never went on the rides on the midway, but we had a great time.
The drive for more and bigger and better is constant in our world, and it seems so hard not to fall into the trap of wanting, always wanting. Today, I remembered a bit of how much joy there is with so little, if let ourselves experience it, how much pain there can be in the abundance of things, when we let our possessions possess us.

Monday, August 23, 2004

from Take Action - God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

Take Action: God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat.:

"God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat. Sign our petition and send a message to America that God is not a Republican. or a Democrat. and that the Religious Right does not speak for you. Remind America that Jesus taught us to be peacemakers, advocates for the poor, and defenders of justice. With your help, Sojourners will place this petition in The New York Times."

Consider this interesting petition from - sojo is obviously a progressive arena for faith discussions, but i like this campaign - it speaks to all of us and helps us put this election into some thoughtful, Christian perspective, actually, for once, looking at what Jesus teaches us to do, calls us to do, and holding that up to the issues we hear tossed around today. Check it out.

Friday, August 20, 2004

from Wheat-allergic girl denied Communion

check out this article from

Friday, August 20, 2004 Posted: 8:07 AM EDT (1207 GMT)

BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) -- An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.
Now, Haley Waldman's mother is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, saying the girl's condition should not exclude her from the sacrament, which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. The mother believes a rice Communion wafer would suffice.
"It's just not a viable option. How does it corrupt the tradition of the Last Supper? It's just rice versus wheat," said Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman.

Spirit of the law, letter of the law. Wonder which Jesus would rather us follow? The lectionary just this week talks about Jesus teaching how even on the Sabbath the strictly religious would take an ox out for water - yet then they argue against healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath. How can we miss the point so entirely? How can we imagine that Jesus, sharing a last meal with disciples, would be dreaming of 2000 years into the future when a child could not remember his meal too because she couldn't have a gluten-free wafer. Honestly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Camp Aldersgate...

At Camp Aldersgate this week directing a senior high camp, so sorry for the lack of posting. I love it at this camp, and have been coming since I was in elementary school. God's creation - I think creation is one of the easiest ways for us to connect with God. In junior high, here, I was in a musical based on Sandi Patti and the Friendship Company - the words to one of the songs, though simple/naive in theology, still come to me: "What made God take so much care to make creation glow? [God] could have made it black and white and we'd have never known..." Praise God for the beauty of this earth.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

back from Red Bird

got back from Red Bird tonight -
aside from group dynamics and the specific details of our trip from St. Paul's, which were, as on most trips like this, I expect, a mixed bag, I found the experience of working there very meaningful, cause for a lot of self-reflection. I'm always feeling frustrated with myself because, as cliche as it sounds, it's so easy to talk the faith talk and not walk the faith walk, the one that Jesus so clearly calls us to. Pastoral ministry is surprisingly not hands-on sometimes, or at least, not hands-on in terms of interaction with least and last, with oppressed and underprivileged. Much of ministry, most of ministry, is spent with middle-class folks much like myself. God knows all of us middle-class folks are in need of ministry, but I feel like it's so easy to shut out God's precious ones...
But being in Red Bird was eye-opening in my own self-examination. I'm amazed at my own classism that reveals itself - I think, working on this little house in rural Kentucky, about my hesitation to use 'their' bathroom, to eat food prepared in 'their' kitchen because the house is dirty and smelly. I think 'uneducated.' I think, "why can't they clean their house, even in their poverty?" I think, "Why do they spend their money on cigarettes? Why do they pollute their young children's bodies? Why are they so gruff with their children?" And I'm amazed and appalled at myself. How judgmental! How blind! Like racist responses and attitudes liberal white people try to deny they have (myself included), these are my classist responses, privileged responses that I want to pretend I don't have. As if I don't know or understand how poverty is linked to self-esteem and self-worth and stress and family dynamics and health care and environmental issues and quality and equality of education. As if I am not part of a system that by my benefiting from it makes it more likely that others suffer from it...
A challenge to me. Between that, and getting to use a circular saw, it was a pretty full week...

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Eco-Justice Notes - 8/6/04 - Time for That Stuff

Check out this week's eco-justice notes from Peter Sawtell:

Eco-Justice Notes - 8/6/04 - Time for That Stuff

I think Peter's perspective on this issue can, as he suggests, apply to many issues in ministry. Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes. Does being overwhelmed get us out of responsibility for doing it? Nope!

Meanwhile, I'll be out of touch with computers and hopefully in touch with God this week at the Red Bird Mission in Kentucky. I've never been before, and am really looking foward to it.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Hey! Take a minute to check out some of the other blogs I've found on my sidebar. Thanks to everyone who responded to my call from some other progressive UMC bloggers. I really appreciate the responses, and am glad to have some great links to show off.

UMAction - Bigger is Better?

I just popped over to UMAction's website to see what they were up to. (I won't link to them.) I have to admit I had never heard of UMAction until I started serving on the General Board of Church and Society, a particular favorite target of theirs. Mark Tooley, who covers UMAction, comes to all the GBCS meetings, and at one of the first ones I was at we were debating the INFACT boycott directed at Phillip Morris. After the meeting, I read Tooley's account on the IRD website, and was shocked - the account of what had happened was totally skewed - whole sections of the conversation were left out to make it seem as though the Board had made a totally irrational decision that would end up hurting poor mothers instead of limiting tobacco advertising to children. It was ridiculous. Anyway, I digress, but that was my eye-opener to the methods of UMAction.
Today, on their site, I was reading responses and reactions to the politics of General Conference 2004. What make me made is that they equate growing/larger church membership in the South with greater faithfulness to the church and to Christ. Actually, I think great faithfulness is a difficult journey - it is not surprising, then, that great faithfulness does not attract the masses. Jesus suggested it would be so, that this way was narrow and difficult to travel. When did big numbers come to mean better Christian discipleship? It's so frustrating, and frustrating to see the UMC adopting policy that supports such thoughts, such as granting 37% representation on all general boards and agencies to the Southeaster Jurisdiction. I find it frustrating as a pastor. How can we make sure are voices, voices of justice, are heard? I think it is unethical, for instance, to inflate church membership rolls, or to fail to follow the process in the Discipline for removing inactive members just to keep our statistics up. But I also don't want to get stuck in a numbers game that cares only about increasing membership for the wrong reasons. I want people to hear the Good News of God's reign on earth. But not just so "we" have more "faithful" Christians than "they" do.
Anyway, I hate that groups like UMAction seem to claim that their supporters are the only ones who are faithful Christians, as if the rest of us who believe differently are only putting time and effort into justice movements because we are unfaithful or want to hurt and destroy our own church. I guess it is really a parallel thing to what is happening in the nation as a whole, with Republicans emphasizing morality, as if Democrats didn't care about ethics and values...
My rant for the day ...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Horatio G. Spafford - "It is Well with My Soul"

This summer at St. Paul's I'm preaching on the favorite hymns of the congregation, and tying them into the lectionary. This week is "It is Well with My Soul." (view sermon) I thought I remembered that the hymn author didn't have a happy ending to his life, despite the inspiring and touching story of how the hymn was written, but I had to search long and hard before I found the ending to his story:

from the Christian Network: "In his late life Spafford experienced a mental disturbance which prompted him to go to Jerusalem under the strange delusion that he was the second Messiah. He died there in 1888 at the age of sixty."

It's a sad ending to his life, but I wish people wouldn't tend to exclude it from the story and try to make him into some saint who never faltered in the face of sorrow in his life. Sometimes the real story is more moving . . .

Monday, August 02, 2004

another trial for the UMC...

United Methodist clergywoman to face trial:
Aug. 2, 2004

By Linda Bloom
United Methodist News Service

A United Methodist clergywoman in Philadelphia faces a church trial as the result of an investigating committee decision.

The Rev. Irene Elizabeth (Beth) Stroud, 34, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Germantown since 1999, talked about being a lesbian in an April 27, 2003, sermon to her congregation. She also said she and her partner "have lived in a covenant relationship for two and a half years."

Church law forbids "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or appointed as clergy to churches.

An investigating committee from the denomination's Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference met July 23 to review evidence on a complaint brought against Stroud. "The committee on investigation voted that reasonable grounds exist for a church trial as provided in the United Methodist Book of Discipline," according to a statement from the annual conference.

The committee's vote was 5-3.

Stroud told United Methodist News Service that the committee chairman "called me personally to share the results and was very pastoral and very caring."

A trial date will be set after Bishop Peter Weaver, who leads the denomination's Philadelphia area, has selected a retired bishop to preside over the trial."

I imagine, sadly, that this trial will go much differently than the Karen Damaan trial given the way decisions of judicial council at General Conference 2004. What will it take to open people's minds and hearts? A stream of painful trials of gifted and qualified clergy? Using up all of our time and resources in church trials until we have nothing and no one left to preach the gospel?

reading right now - marva dawn and victor hugo

quotes from a couple books i'm reading right now.
ashamed to say i still haven't finished marva dawn's unfettered hope - i'd kind of abandoned it for a month or so. but i pulled it out yesterday. a quote she shares, a quote from she highlights from Augustine: "Hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to work to make things other than they are." (pg. 119)

then, from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I'm SLOWLY wading through the unabridged version - about 600 pages in right now...) Here are a couple quotes - "where there is an infinite outside of us, is there not an infinite within us? . . . There is a 'me' in the infinite above, as there is a 'me' in the infinite below. The 'me' below is the soul; the 'me' above is God." (pg 517)
and on the next page, (518) "there are, we know, illustrious and powerful atheists. These men, in fact, led back again toward truth by their own power, are not absolutely sure of being atheists as with them, the matter is nothing but a question of definitions and, at all events, even if they do not believe in God, they prove God, because they are great intellects."

Sunday, August 01, 2004

progressive united methodist blogs?

are you out there? progressive united methodist blogs? i've found a lot of episcolpal/anglican progressive blogs. some UCC blogs. where are the umc blogs? if you have one, or know of a good one, let me know!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Racism in the United Methodist Church

Check out this article from United Methodist News Service:

Delegates say racism affected Southeast jurisdictional elections

Some excerpts:

July 28, 2004

A UMNS News Feature
By Michael Wacht*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — While delegates to the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference celebrated the historic election of two women bishops to the jurisdiction, some were also left hurt, angry and empty by proceedings they felt were unjust and racist.

The Rev. Geraldine McClellan, a member of the Florida delegation to the July 14-17 session, said racism was blatant at the conference, both in the balloting and in the way delegates interacted with each other.

Referring to the record 34 ballots taken to elect the slate of six bishops, McClellan said the balloting went on so long “for one reason—the SEJ refuses to elect a qualified, visionary African-American woman."

"In 1984, Bishop Leontine Kelly was an episcopal nominee in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. She left the jurisdictional conference, flew to the Western Jurisdiction and was elected to the episcopacy,” she said. “What was prevalent then is prevalent now: the blatant sin of racism.”

Lynette Fields, a lay member of the Florida delegation, said it was “really powerful” to hear the stories of ethnic conflict in episcopal elections from past conferences.

“The experience of those last ballots [this year] brought back those stories,” Fields said. “The experience reminded people of our past and how far we have to go. It was a celebration that we elected two women, but the process was so obviously divisive and painful, that it was hard to fully celebrate.”

Dawn Hand, a lay delegate from Western North Carolina, said she does not like to make things into racial issues, but is sometimes “painfully reminded … that somehow, at the core, it unfortunately turns out to be a racist issue.

"It’s painfully obvious it’s not the will of this conference right now to support a Native-American person who is qualified, a black woman who is qualified,” she said. “Racism, whether intended or not, is a painful experience, but one I have become accustomed to.”

Some would deny the charge of racism because one African American, Bishop James Swanson, was elected on the fourth ballot, Sheila Flemming, a Florida lay member pointed out. “It’s tokenism,” she said. “White people are comfortable with one. As a historian, I see from the very early days that whites are more comfortable with a few blacks. Racism can still exist when a few blacks are at the table.”

The Rev. Roger Hopson, the Memphis Conference’s director of connectional ministries and a member of the Memphis delegation, said he didn’t think the racism was conscious and believes it came out of a rush to get through the process.

"The great majority of Euro-Americans weren’t consciously trying to keep African Americans out,” he said. “For the majority, I think it was unconscious racism. We are so programmed to think of only one [minority] and one [woman]. There were too many competent African-Americans to elect only one.”

McClellan said she saw the quota mentality in the report of the nominations committee. When delegates challenged the report on inclusivity issues, a nominations committee member said the 2000 Book of Discipline set a minimum of 30 percent racial ethnic representation and the SEJ had included 31 percent."

--I am glad to read this article, to know that there is attention drawn to issues of racism that we still have to battle, but sad, of course, to read of these realities as well. I am even still amazed at how few female bishops we have in the jurisdiction - 13, I think, before these most recent elections, give or take a couple, and that includes, I think, retired female bishops. I think it is so difficult to recognize our own racism (speaking as a white person). We can recognize its existence, recognize it in others, all while insisting we are not racist. For me in seminary, recognizing my own racist behaviors and attitudes was an important part of my journey. Learning about white privilege, learning about my ignorance of black history, etc. - these things were painful things I did not want to confront and with which I still struggle, all while considering myself a progressive, open-minded, social-justice equality minded person. We have much work to do, and a long way to go.

Youth, Church and Society, and a Ticket

Just recovering from a busy week.
Friday-Sunday was one of our conference youth events at Casowasco Camp/Retreat Center, and I am the Conference Youth Coordinator. This is a position I've had for a year now, and I still often feel like I'm learning the ropes, and this weekend was no exception, with plenty of glitches in things to keep me a little crazed all weekend. But, to me, the things that makes it worth doing for me are the youth and the faith they can sometimes express so eloquently when not keeping the chaperones running around after them. For example, the chair of our CCYM (Conference Council on Youth Ministries) is so often good enough to quote, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him head into ordained ministry, though he currently has other ideas. In one of his witnesses at our event he said, "It doesn't really matter to God when [our faith journey] starts, just that it does. All faith journeys start in the same place: with God." As  much as the youth sometimes push the limits and bend the rules, I am reminded that this group of nearly 100 teenagers has chosen to spend a weekend they know will be filled with keynote speaking, and small group time, and worship time, in the middle of their summer vacations. That's pretty impressive.

Monday I headed to DC for an additional member nominating committee and found out I will be returning to the General Board of Church and Society this quadrennium after all. I am very excited about that - I love working with GBCS. This was also the first time I was at The United Methodist Building, where GBCS is located. It is literally next to the Capitol, which is pretty cool positioning for our denomination's social justice/advocacy agency.

Then, last night, after driving for hours, I got a ticket for a broken headlight 5 minutes from home! Go figure...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"This Land is My Land"

Check out this cartoon.
It's a version of Woodie Guthrie's "This Land is My Land." Not really related to sermons/lectionary stuff/etc., but pretty darn funny. Plus, it takes equal jabs at both presidential candidates (fair and balanced?) so any political persuasion can enjoy...

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bishop Solomon preaches at NEJurisdictional Conference

I wanted to share a few quotes I jotted down from Bishop Solomon's sermon at Northeastern Jursidictional Conference last week.

He said, "Love is not a possession; it's an expression."
And his major points throughout:
1) "Rules are out. Relationships are in." What he had to say on this was most moving, I thought:
"Jesus was more concerned with relationships than rules . . . There is no shortage of people who are quick to remind you of the rules . . . At this last General Conference, time was spent solidifying the rules at the expense of sanctifying the relationships.Any community that is bound by legalism is not free to love."

2)"Individualism is out. Neighbors are in."
3) "Indifference is out. Responsibility is in."
4) "Literalism is out and truth is in." "Jesus is the plumb line for truth." "If you put the Apostle Paul up against that truth, even he is a little ragged around the edges."
5) "Lament is out and action is in."

Some good stuff in there!