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 sojo.net: 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.net - 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 CNN.com: Wheat-allergic girl denied Communion

check out this article from CNN.com

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!