Wednesday, June 30, 2004

another snippet from The Other Side

Ok, just one more:
on pg. 17, in "Fleshly Love" by Desmond Tutu, "If your worship does not make you see and fee like God, then it is an abomination, however elaborate it might be."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Food for Though from The Other Side

Finally getting around to reading my July/August issue of The Other Side magazine.

On page 8 under "Short Takes":
"Americans spend $250 per month on fast food and $5 on helping poor people." Ouch! I'm afraid I must locate myself in that statement. I'd like to think I spend less than the first number and more than the second number on average, but I know that my first number (food for me) is still more, much more, than my second number (food for others.)

On page 9, in "Yeast of the Pharisees," Shane Claiborne writes about Luke 18, where the prayers of the tax collector and the Pharisee are recounted. Shane writes, "...if our commitments are not born out of relationship, if they are not liberating for both oppressed and oppressor, and if they are not marked by raw, passionate love, then we do little more than flaunt our own purity by showing everyone else how dirty they are."
That hits directly on a longtime struggle of mine - for whom am I working? For whom am I passionate and compassionate? In my work for the earth, for example, being vegetarian, buying organic, etc., I do help people, but not directly. When do I work with my neighbor? In particular, when do I work with my less-well-off-than-me outside-my-daily-spheres-of-activity neighbors? What relationships are at the base, the foundations, of my actions? Or is it just me?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

John Cobb's Response to Prisoner Abuse in Iraq

Check out John Cobb's Response to Prisoner Abuse in Iraq
John Cobb, a favorite theologian of mine, writes an excellent article on the Center for Process Studie's website
A quote: "But the deeper moral issue is that of basic national policy. If we want to pursue American economic and political empire, the price will be the creation of a global system in which American atrocities will multiply exponentially. Indeed, in many places we will find that we, like Saddam, can only prevent popular terrorism by using state terrorism." - This makes me think of a communion liturgy sometimes used by one of my professors at Drew, Rev. Dr. Traci West. She would speak of how "on the night [Jesus] was given up" and crucified as an act of "state-sponsored terrorism."
Who defines terrorism? The terrorists or the terrorized?
Cobb also addresses the issue of culpability, and suggests fault must be found much higher up than with individual soldiers...

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Marva Dawn - Unfettered Hope - A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society

I've been reading: Unfettered Hope - A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society by Marva Dawn.
At first I was a little skeptical about the book - all this talk about 'focal concerns' and 'fettering' or 'unfettering' our hopes, and my disagreements with her views on technology in some aspects. But I have to admit, thought I'm not done with the book yet, Dawn's theories are really growing on me.
Here's an excerpt, which starts with a quote from Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water:
"'It is a criterion of love. In moments of decision, we are to try to make what seems to be the most loving, the most creative decision. We are not to play safe, to draw back out of fear. Love may well lead us into danger. It may lead us to die for our friend. In a day when we are taught to look for easy solutions, it is not always easy to hold on to that most difficult one of all, love.'
What are our foremost loves by which everything else is judged? In what do we place our hopes?" (pg. 62) She then continues, "It is my primary thesis in this book that Christianity provides focal concerns worthy of our creation as human beings and efficacious for dealing with the encroachments and fetterings of our technologized, commodified milieu. I believe that the focal concerns of Christianity . . . are these two: the love of God and the love of neighbor." (pg. 76)
She argues that our lives as Christians ought to be centered on our focal concerns: loving God, and loving neighbor. Everything, yes, pretty much everything we do ought to make us ask - is this in line with my focal concerns?
A challenge...

Luke 9:51-62 - Reflections

I finished my sermon already for Sunday. But I can't get this week's gospel lesson out of my head. I feel like sometimes my sermons alternate - one week emphasizing the "we have to get to work NOW!" part of the Good News, and the next week epmahsizing "God loves you, God's grace is boundless." This week is a "we have to get to work" week. I guess, really, that is the double message of the gospel - we've got some much we could so easily be doing to show God's kingdom all around us. We fail to do even some most basic things to love our neighbors. We MUST get to work. And yet, and yet...Christ welcomes the disciples who never understand what he's getting at no matter how many times he shows them. God loves us no matter how many times we screw up. Christ redeems us no matter how unworthy. Grace and Responsibility (incidentally, the title of a John Cobb book that I love,) I guess that's about right.
Anyway, I don't normally edit my sermons once they're done, but I keep wondering - is there enough grace in it? Still - sometimes I think we need to hear the equal truth - we say we want to follow Jesus, but we only mean it half-heartedly, and Jesus wants nothing less than our whole hearts.


Finally, after hours of trying with my inadequate computer knowledge, I think I enabled Atom/RSS of my site. Yay!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Luke 9:51-62 - Wesley White

Came across this post in my sermon prep from Wesley White of KairosComotion.
He writes:
"Reversal upon reversal. Hospitality turned on its head. How do we welcome a commitment to G*O*D that doesn't go astray for this reason or that?

"Presumably the messengers smoothing the way for Jesus told some little not-quite-trues. Folks were ready to welcome Jesus until they saw that he wasn't stopping by their wood on a snowy or any other night - just passing through when he should be gracing them with bread or healing or a story.

"So the messengers blame the villagers before the villagers could blame the messenger. And Jesus catches their cover up and says, 'Nope, we are not getting rid of the evidence.'

"And others preemptively welcome themselves in, only to be turned away. And others are welcomed before they are ready to climb aboard. And others set conditions upon being welcomed into the family...

"If you were to use the villagers and the three along the road as measuring rods, how would you evaluate your current life? Are you feeling had or naive or tradition-bound or realistic? Are you feeling so committed that you are willing to misunderstand, impetuously volunteer, honor covenants in the face of greater opportunities, or be wonderfully inconsistent with a generous offer and a built-in excuse to not follow through?

"Each is a learning about hospitality. Each contains both sides of hospitality in its freedom and constraints. This is a great place to pause and reflect on how basic hospitality is on the journey toward suffering, death and being raised is. How are you doing? We?" --Wesley White , 6/21/2004 6:59:13 AM

-This post reminds me of one of those books of questions - ice-breaker/conversation-starter types. And one asks something like, "If God told you to go be a fisherman in the middle of nowhere, would you go?" And my honest answer: Nope. I'd make up any reason I could why I could do lots of good things for God instead, but not that, not something so drastic, isolating, sacrificing things I want/enjoy/possess/etc.

This week Jesus puts us on the spot: Do you really really want to follow me? Prove it!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Hammer and Nail - Indigo Girls

Just borrowed Indigo Girl's Nomads Indians Saints from my brother, who has had this on the brain due to his recent three-row garden-planting extravaganza -
lyrics from the first track, "Hammer and Nail":

Clearing webs from the hovel
a blistered hand on the handle of a shovel
I've been digging too deep, I always do.
I see my face on the surface
I look a lot like narcissus
A dark abyss of an emptiness
Standing on the edge of a drowning blue.
I look behind my ears for the green
Even my sweat smells clean
Glare off the white hurts my eyes
Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail
Now I know a refuge never grows
From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.
I had a lot of good intentions
Sit around for fifty years and then collect a pension,
Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts.
But my life is more than a vision
The sweetest part is acting after making a decision
I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts.
My life is part of the global life
I'd found myself becoming more immobile
When I'd think a little girl in the world can't do anything.
A distant nation my community
A street person my responsibility
If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring.

The verse I really like is
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail
Now I know a refuge never grows
From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.

I think some who critique leftist/progressive thinkers correctly point out that sometimes we're all talk without the matching action. I know I am guilty of that sometimes. How do we move from talk to action? Or from head to hands, as Emily and Amy ask?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Check out this link, and consider signing on. The ad shows a handful of religious leaders from different faith groups in the US apologizing for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. You can endorse the ad by signing on.
United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert, who is extremely active in ecumenical relationships on behalf of the UMC, is speaking in support of this initiative, (though not officially on behalf of the UMC, lest people get all excited...)
On a side note, did you know George W. is United Methodist? He won't meet with United Methodist leaders, but I noticed that he did 'meet' via videoconferencing with the Southern Baptist Convention this month. Go figure.
Anyway, people of faith have struggled with how to respond to the war. I was just talking this afternoon with a youth from my church about questions about war/military service, etc., and she expressed to me how confusing it can be for her to even keep the facts straight, much less figure out how she stand on various issues. But I think when it comes to these abuses that have been taking place, people of faith should be able to stand together and with confidence. So check out the site (It's even a non-partisan group.), and maybe add your name!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004



I found this link while surfing the web recently. What a fabulous idea - basically the program works like this: you get 4 or 5 households to together become an EcoTeam. You meet alternately at each other's homes, you commit to making certain relatively simple changes, and by the end, you are living in a more sustainable way, a more earth friendly way. I read the table of contents and the actions that they require you to take, and they are really very doable - not drastic - but have real results.
I like it because making lifestyle changes can seem very overwhelming. My brother and I have been trying very hard on our own to make changes - we've both been vegetarians for a long time, and he's recently become vegan. (I'm trying, but a lot less successfully than he is!) But beyond that, we've realized that our purchasing habits still make a lot of impact. I now love Wegman's, because of their nature's kitchen section where everything is organic and friendly. But beyond that, I'm trying to be more aware of my consumer-consumer-consumer habits. Ugh. So much to think about!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Favorite Hymns

This past year at my church we conducted a worship survey and came up, in part, with a list of favorite hymns. Here are our top 10:
1. #378 Amazing Grace
2. #377 It Is Well With My Soul
3. #504 Old Rugged Cross
4. #314 In the Garden
5. #593 Here I am Lord
6. #572 Pass It On
7. #77 How Great Thou Art
8. #431 Let There Be Peace
9. #143 On Eagle’s Wings
10. #344 Lord, You have Come to the Lakeshore

(numbers are from the United Methodist Hymnal)

I was looking over these yesterday in preparation for my summer preaching, where I will be focusing on one of these hymn choices each Sunday and preaching on their theology and significance (while trying to fit in the lectionary as well, hence the what is for me quite-in-advance planning). So I've been thinking about this mix of 10 hymns and musing on what this eclectic selection of songs means about our theology, assuming this list isn't too unusual for congregations.
1. I'm not surprised that Amazing Grace makes the number one spot. After all, what is more meaningful to us than an understanding that God's grace covers us and our faults? We may not be ready to think about God's grace extending to people that we don't like much, but we can at least grasp that it is pretty cool that God's grace covers us. So I think we do well to love this hymn so much.
2. It Is Well with My Soul - I wonder if this is mostly a Methodist favorite, given Wesley and his societies' emphasis on the "how is it with your soul?" theme, or if it's just an all-around winner. I have to admit, it is one of my favorites too - I remember clearly singing this on September 11th, 2001, at a Drew chapel service, as we were still learning of the tragedies of the day, singing under the direction of our talented Mark Miller. It was also very influential in the writing of my very first sermon. The hymn is comforting, strengthening. I've had it requested at many funerals as well. But again it is interesting to note that like Amazing Grace, it is a self-focused hymn. Me and my faith. Hmmm.
3. The Old Rugged Cross may be a favorite of my congregation, but not on my own top 10 or 25 or 50 list... So why so loved? It definitely is more popular with some of our 'old-timers'. Theologically - it's focus is what it claims: the cross, the passion itself. The suffering sacrifice of Jesus. I guess that's why, aside from musical reasons, this hymns is not moving to me. Jesus' passion is not my focus as much as teaching and resurrection and spirit of Christ. But given the recent success of Mel Gibson's Passion, there is obviously a place for focus like this!
4. In the Garden. Another Me and My Jesus/Me and My Faith selection. This one, at least, I like more than I ever used to because it was my later grandfather Millard Mudge's favorite, and I can't dislike anything he liked, I admired him so much.
5. Here I am, Lord - Finally, some action related to the meaning. Responding to God's call - when we do that, we usually run into some other people in our answering! Who will serve? Who will meet people's needs in God's name?
6. Pass it On - I have a congregation of campers, and i consider this first and foremost a 'camp song', so maybe that's why this one is so popular. I do like it well enough. About spreading the good news. I'm down with that!
7. How Great Thou Art - A praise song, which is good to make at least somewhere on the list. But note, it's still 'me and God' in language.
8. Let There Be Peace on Earth - Here we go - outward reaching. Relationship building. In times of war such as this one in Iraq that continues to plague our world, even in the midst of such very intense patriotism, it was refreshing to see that peace could make our list at St. Paul's.
9. On Eagle's Wings - Our hymnal only includes the chorus, not the verses, so I was suprised such a short little refrain made the list. Like a benediction/blessing hymn.
10. Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore - I love this hymn, and think it is lyrically and musically beautiful. I was surprised my congregation picked it, though, because it is (relatively) new, it is Spanish, it is not a straight typically-catchy melody. But it was chosen even as a favorite for a funeral of one of our older, dedicated church members, Don Perling. This is still about self and God, but it is more complext than most, I think, of this variety. The last line, about "seeking other seas", inspires us to get up, get out, and get to work.

Just some thoughts. But I guess that my reflection is: few hymns here that are more about us doing work for God than about God doing work for us, few hymns that are more about others and their needs than ourselves and our needs. I guess it's only natural. And my own favorite hymns aren't so theologically-stellar always. As a musically-educated person, I often like hymns first based on their tunes, then their lyrics, though both are needed to make my top list. My favorite: Be Thou My Vision.

What's on your top 10? Why?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Trinity Sunday Musings

So Explain It To Me (Prov.8:1-4,22-31;Ps.8;Rom.5:1-5;John 16:12-15)

I found this article, by Mary W. Anderson, through a textweek link while preparing for my sermon this Sunday. A good paragraph:

"At the age of three I had a memorable experience of the three-in-one, I was watching my grandmother sleep during her afternoon nap. As I contemplated her existence, I thought wisely, "That's Grandmamma, Mamma and Odelle." She smiled in her sleep as I called her by the names used for her by her grandchildren, her daughter and her husband, Three names, three relationships -- and yet the same person. Amazing!"

I'm struggling with the variety of events at church this Sunday: Trinity Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, 4 superb scripture selections, Communion, Confirmation. I don't know where to start. That the doctrine of the Trinity is hard enough for me to grasp much less convey to my congregation is just icing on the crazy cake this week. But I appreciate this metaphor to grandma, mother, wife, without over analyzing its theological correctness, because I think the illustration gets at the heart of the Trinity. The Trinity is about the wonderful amazing complexity and thoroughness of God relating to us. I can't understand how God does it, but I'm grateful nonetheless, that God is in me, around me, working through me, creating me into this life that I am.