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Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Advent Retreat - Session 3






Luke 1:46-55 (from the translation The Message)

And Mary said,
I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.




Mary, Woman of Promise by Mary Frances Fleischaker
Mary, woman of the promise
Vessel of your people's dreams:
Through your open, willing spirit
Waters of God's goodness streamed.

Mary, song of holy wisdom
Sung before the world began
Faithful to the Word within you
As you bore God's wondrous plan

Mary, morning star of justice;
mirror of the Radiant Light;
In the shadows of life's journey
Be a beacon for our sight.

Mary, model of compassion;
wounded by your offspring's pain:
When our hearts are torn by sorrow,
teach us how to love again.

Mary, woman of the gospel;
humble home for treasured seed:
help us to be true disciples,
bearing fruit in word and deed

Reflection

I remember the first time I saw a musical. I was maybe 11 or 12, and I went to see the local high school's production of Sound of Music. Everything about it transported me, but the most astonishing part to me (a novice to musicals) was the way in which the characters would, in the middle of mundane speech, be so transported by love or wonder or joy that they just had to burst into song. It was like magic.


In a way, the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth reminds me of some first-century-Palestine Broadway musical. The news Mary has to share is so stupendous, so astonishing, so joyful, that she cant even talk about it, she just has to sing. Whether you love to actually sing or not, perhaps you have felt a time when the love or wonder or joy of God transported you to such depths or such heights that you were beyond words. What did you do in that moment? Sing? Laugh? Dance? Or just sit in quiet ecstasy?


For Further Reflection
-What does your religious tradition have to say about Mary, if anything? How is Mary's journey important to you on your personal spiritual path?


-When we hear it, we know how singing is different from talking - how much more deeply emotions are expressed, how the vocal range rises and falls, how freely and effortlessly the notes seem to fall from a good singer. Is it possible to capture that same feeling from reading words on a page? If not, how else might we experience the Magnificat?


-Mary does not name her Child, or even reveal her pregnancy in the Song. And yet, the hope of Christ's presence is strongly felt in the themes of justice and mercy expressed. What hopes do you have for the coming of the Christ child in this season?

Prayer
God of all life, fill me so with your good news that I am fairly bursting with it. Help me to sing your song using the words and the tune that you have created just for me. Alleluia!






Paintings
It's Not About the Virgin Mary Scott Ward
Magnificat by Virginia Wieringa

Virtual Advent Retreat 2009, Part Two


(This is Part Two of our Virtual Advent Retreat. Part One is here.)


7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
(John 3:7-18, NRSV)


I have to admit I find that closing verse of the gospel lesson for Advent 3C a little funny. The "good news" John the Baptist came to preach to the people had a hard edge.

He's a tough-talker, John the Baptist. The gospel lesson for Advent 3C begins with name-calling. The people who come out to see him and be baptized are a "brood of vipers." Trees that do not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Undaunted, the people ask him for specifics. Over and over they ask him, what are we to do? He gives them simple rules for life: share with others, don't take more than you are entitled to take, be satisfied with what you earn.

He's powerful, John. People wonder if he isn't the Messiah himself. When we look around the world today we see plenty of messianic figures, people who proclaim one truth or another. He's preaching the opposite of today's popular prosperity gospel, more like the common sense thinking of our grandparents' generation. Make do with what you have; do a hard day's work and earn what you're paid; keep an eye out for those in need and help where you can.

It seems strange that his rules involve money and wages when he lives in the desert and not in the community of commerce. And it seems even stranger that he suddenly changes the subject from the practical to the metaphorical.

John the Baptist pen and ink "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." (Luke 3:16-17, NRSV)

That sounds more complicated than what came before.

And that's perhaps the key to Advent. What's coming will sort us out, into wheat and chaff. The winnowing fork is in his hand.

That's John's take on it, anyway. He has expectations of the Messiah, and in that he's no different than everyone around him. He believes the One who is Coming will move us all to the next level.

That's John's good news.


For Reflection
John speaks of wheat and chaff being sorted, and we tend to think of this as an outer process, a division of faithful people from the rest of the world. But perhaps we can apply this to the inner life. As we begin this Advent, can you identify the wheat and the chaff in your life? Are you ready to leave the chaff behind?

A Prayer
Advent God, in this season of anticipation, prepare our hearts and minds to receive the truth about our world and our lives. Help us to sort ourselves out with the help of your Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of the One who is Coming. Amen.

*************************************************************
We invite you to share reflections in the comments or to link to your own blog if you are virtually retreating there.

Many thanks to Jenee Woodard at Textweek for the art links, which I found here.

Virtual Advent Retreat 2009



A meditation on the readings for Advent 2C offered by Mompriest:

Entering the Advent journey is an invitation to travel, intentionally, into the wilderness – the dark night of the soul. One hopes that the Church guides this journey offering opportunities to pray, ponder, stirred up, conflicted. John, the desert prophet, proclaims the burning chaff, the background to our Christmas shopping. Advent sings of incongruous images - new birth and end of life, the Alpha and the Omega, of oppression and freedom, of despair and ultimately of hope. The path is uneven and twisted, spiraling in to the depths of our being, certain we are lost. And then, quietly, the Spirit of God calls to us, “Awake, arise, my love, my dear one.” The early morning desert sun illuminates the way - through the valley to Jordan’s bank - our God is near. Awake and hearken, let each heart prepare a place for the Word to break in, a child to come anew, whispering peace into you and me. Come, our long expected One, come.

Within in our darkest night
A starless chill
Shudders
Calling, “Emmanuel
Where
Oh where, are you?”

Within our deepest soul
Astounding one
Voice
Cries in the wilderness
“Prepare
the way of the Lord!”

Within our darkest night
A still small spark
Kindled
Hark! The glad sound calls out
“Sleepers
Awake!” Jerusalem

Rise up and give walk in light
prepare
from darkest night -
Arise!
Our Daystar comes, the night

Dispelled, every valley filled,
every
mountain low, the rough made
smooth
A light, a light bathes bright

Discard the garment, sorrow
afflicted.
Arise! Put on the robe
Adorned
with love and mercy



Questions to ponder:

John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, describes our spiritual journey as a process of moving from desire for God, to conflict with God, to contemplation and peace with God. (Go here for more on this idea.) Many consider this process to be a spiral not linear. Based on these three "states" where are you in your faith journey?

Does the mystery of Advent invite you into deeper reflection on your relationship with God?

Do you have a meditation of your own you'd like to share with us today?

Do you have an Advent resources you'd like share?

Leave comments or link us back to your blog and join us in this virtual retreat!


You can find the readings for Advent 2C: here
Photos from the personal collection of Mompriest

Additional meditations will appear throughout the day by Songbird and Juniper.

Crossposted at Mompriest's blog: Seeking Authentic Voice

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Christ, Be Our Light


Blessed First Sunday of Advent!

Such a consolation to light the wreath at Saturday night dinner, and to sing Advent hymns during bedtime prayer with my daugher Ladybug. I thought about posting some of those beloved classics, but ended up with one by Bernadette Farrell that may be new to many. I sang it, heart exultant and lighted candle in hand, at a powerful liturgy with a beloved community a little less than two months ago....And have turned to it again and again for hope as that community cracked and buckled and finally died. Like the old liturgical year, and the cracked and buckled and dead places in our world and our hearts, may all that was of God in it rest in peace and rise in glory with Christ our Morning Star.

Longing for light, we wait in darkness;
Longing for truth, we turn to you;
Make us your own, your holy people,
Light for the world to see:

Christ, be our light,
shine in our hearts,
shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light,
shine in your church,
gathered today.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

prayer for First Sunday in Advent

To you Lord, we lift up our heads, hearts and hands in prayer.
We put our trust in you, believing that your word is true.
We lift up to you our longing for hope in a despairing world.
We lift up to you our need for hope in a time of deep hopelessness in our world.
We lift up to you our deep desire for hope in a bleak and sometimes depressing world.

You promised hope to Israelites and you kept your promise.
You promised hope in the coming of your son and he was hope for the world.
You promised hope to the early church and that hope was not denied.
You promise hope to us and we pray for your continued faithfulness.

Lord, we pray for strength when our faith falters.
We pray for you to pour on your love so it fills our lives
and splashes over on everyone around you.
Fill us with confidence in your presence in our lives.
Fill us with your joy and peace as we go through this busy time of year.

Keep our minds focused on you, our hearts filled with you and ours outstretched for you.

11th Hour Preacher Party: Signs in the Sun Edition

Oh, my gosh. It is sooo grey where I am, I need a reminder of what the sun is before I can write about signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. So here goes.



How are you faring on this eve of the First Sunday of Advent? Is it blustery or beautiful where you are? How will you begin the church year?

I've got the coffee ready, and I'm cooking a pot of oatmeal, enough to share. It's good for our brains, I promise! Stop by and tell us what you're preaching, what you're facing, what you're thinking on this last day before the first day of a new beginning. Join in the comment thread and if you're usually a silent participant, introduce yourself!

(I apologize for re-instituting comment verification; we've been hit with a lot of spam recently. Hopefully this will be temporary.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Five: Crush

I have to admit it. I felt for her.









You see, in high school, I had a crush on my Chorus teacher. He was a young guy, and he had gone to college with some cousins of mine, and over the summer between 9th and 10th grade, we ran into each other at a series of pre-wedding parties, and I feel DEEPLY in like.

You?

1) Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?

2) Who was your first crush?

3) Have you ever given a gift to a crush?

4) Do you have a celebrity crush? (Around my house we call them TV boyfriends and girlfriends...)

5) Have you ever been surprised to find yourself the crushee?

As ever, let us know in the comments if you play at your blog. And you'll get more visitors if you add a direct link, thusly: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Please visit one another to read answers, because you never know when you might discover a perfectly delightful blog crush!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Have You Got the Time Edition

Today's question is pretty straight-forward:

I'm in the process of applying for CPE for next summer. I met the director of the program and he has all but assured me that I will be among his trainees. An added bonus - it will be the LAST set of credits for my M.Div. (Let's get this party started!!! WHOOO HOOOOO!!!)

I've also been asked to consider leading a contemporary service at a little church that has an influx of folks who want more than the hymnal. It would be a 6 hour a week job (paid for 4 - I'm figuring planning, encouraging, practicing and sharing the preaching.) I'm excited about the opportunity. The service would be on Saturday evenings.

HOWEVER - I am a little concerned about taking on anything besides CPE since it will be a full unit in about 12 weeks. Have any advice for me? I'd like to stay married and relatively sane.

Thanks! :)

Sue who blogs at http://www.innerdorothy.com/ writes:
Well, first of all, congratulations on being so close to the end of your program!!!!

Those 12 week intensive CPE units are very taxing on mind, body and especially spirit. I did two of them. The first one I started while I was still working in my first career as a lab technologist. I worked CPE Mon - Fri and the lab on the weekends. After 4 weeks, I thought I would either lose my mind or drop the course, but thankfully, my retirement from the lab came just in time. After that, CPE took up ALL of the rest of that summer. I had young children then and always felt torn between my *shudder* verbatims, my clinical time, my time with the boys and of course, my husband. There were a lot of things to juggle at one time. I was not sorry to see the 12 weeks come to an end - either time.

I'm not in your situation, so I feel a bit presumptuous making any comments about this, but honestly, a 6 hour job in which you are being paid for 4 hours is setting you up for a really unhealthy pattern of ministry. If the job is 4 hours - they get 4 hours of work. Period. The double standard around ministry time is simply unacceptable in 2009. Maybe it was "expected" that the minister always did more time than they were paid for in the past, but that was then, and this is now. I would encourage you to think long and hard about those two "volunteer" hours and what they could turn into a few years down the road.

I've been there. I was there for far too long - in that place where a 40 hour week suddenly turns into a regular pattern of 60 hour weeks until it's crash and burn time. Please don't let that happen to you. It's up to our generation of ministry personnel to end the "old ways" that weren't healthy for ministers or for their families. It's up to us to insist upon balance and fairness in our vocation, so that we don't have to sacrifice our personal lives and relationships to be in the ministry that God is calling us to fulfil.

Peace to you,
Sue

And Earthchick who blogs at earthchicknits.wordpress.com agrees...
I think you are wise to be hesitant to say yes to taking on additional ministry beyond CPE. In my experience, CPE actually takes more out of you than just the hours involved in the actual on-site ministry. I found CPE to be far more intense and taxing than anything else I did during seminary. It is more than just the hours you put in on-site (which is plenty - especially if you are on-call) - it is the emotional and spiritual self-examination that really takes sustained energy and commitment. Some CPE programs advise against taking on additional duties (such as classes or other ministry positions) during the course of the CPE.

It is also hard for me to believe that the ministry opportunity you are being offered would really only be 6 hours a week, especially if it involves sharing in the preaching!

My advice would be to let yourself focus on just one thing - CPE - and give it the energy and focus it deserves. You will have plenty of time after seminary to take on other ministries, but (assuming you go into full-time professional ministry) you will likely not have the chance again to pour yourself into an experience like CPE.

earthchick

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged; please use the comment function at the close of this post to share your perspective and experiences.

May your Thanksgiving celebrations be filled with joy, with gratitude, and with those you love, and may you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Festival of Thanksgiving


photo credit: Buckhead Church

Tomorrow will be the American Thanksgiving Day. Whether you have already celebrated Thanksgiving, call it Harvest Festival, or don't have a holiday like this, I encourage you to consider and share that for which you are thankful.

Christine says: "I invite everyone to stop by the Abbey for this week’s Poetry Party and share a short poem or prayer of thanksgiving for ordinary, simple things!"

What are you thankful for these days? Let us know in the comments! Link to your posts and those of other ring members using this simple formula: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: The Story Begins Again

(photo by Mr. Mompriest, cresent moon at sunset)

I love when Advent comes and the church year begins anew. For practical reasons, as a preacher I appreciate that the lectionary returns to only four readings instead of the multiple choices we have during the Season after Pentecost. You can find the text this week here.

As a preacher I look forward to the Advent season and it's opportunity to tell the Christian story of mystery, hope, and anticipation as we await the coming of Christ anew. I relish the darkness, the soft light of candles, and invitation to prayer that seems to come naturally with short days and long nights.

I am reminded of this from Taize:

Within our darkest night,
you kindle the fire that
never dies away, never dies away

or this

Our darkness is never darkness in your sight;
the deepest night is as clear as the daylight.

These songs from Taize immediately take me back to a cold winter night, a chilly candle lit church, icons, and an hour of song and silent prayer...a time out to appreciate Advent and leave behind the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas.

What are your thoughts for this Sunday? How will you begin to tell the Christian story anew? Will you lean into Jeremiah's promise from God? Or jump right into the parables in Luke and tell stories about figs and stars?

Monday, November 23, 2009

“Too Small for Anything But Love” -- RevGalBookPals discuss Terry Tempest Williams' Finding Beauty in a Broken World


I think about Pete Seeger in the early 1950’s, who adapted the spiritual, “We Shall Overcome,” an old gospel from the Deep South during the civil war, and arranged it for contemporary times. …Seeger introduced the song to…Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks…(Lily) tells the children about Martin Luther King, JR.,…and says that there was a song that strengthened (him ) and others in their struggle for equality…In John Bosco’s living room, seven children, a mother and father, aunts and extended family members, and four barefoot artists sing “We Shall Overcome” together.(Finding Beauty in a Broken World, page 248)

The first time I read "Finding Beauty in a Broken World" I anticipated a story similar to Red or Refuge, the other books by Terry Tempest Williams that I have read. These books tell a story about family, life, death, and love interwoven with reflections on the wilderness of Utah, themes close to my own heart.

You see, Terry Tempest Williams and I have some things in common. For example, we both share the same first name, although we spell it differently. We both were born in Salt Lake City into Mormon families. We are only two years apart in age. From there though, our commonalities end. She is a compelling story teller with a passion for how we care for the world and one another.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World however was not like the other books. The story is told in prose that is broken and dissonant, like shards of glass. A story that moves from the art of creating mosaics in Italy to a prairie dog study in Bryce Canyon, Utah to the rebuilding of Rwanda following the genocide of 1994.

The first time I read the book I was intrigued as Tempest Williams describes the art of making mosaics. I was confused and bemused at her decision to include, verbatim it seems, her notes from watching prairie dogs for a study in Bryce Canyon, Utah, some 100 pages of notes taken over two weeks. (I have to admit, the first time through I skimmed that section). And I was completely captivated by her story of working with Lily Yeh on the creation of a genocide memorial in Rwanda. Captivated enough that I decided to reread the book, this time understanding the mosaic metaphor that connected her disjointed paragraphs to the prairie dogs to the bones of those killed in the genocide with the incredible grace that comes from creating beauty out of the brokenness.

I offer here some of her words:

Page 90: Most people are not comfortable making a connection between racism and specism or the ill treatment of human beings and the mistreatment of animals. We want to keep our boundaries clean and separate. But isn’t that the point, to separate, isolate, and discriminate? We create hierarchies, viewing life from the top down, top being of course, God, then a ranking of human races, and so our judgments move down ‘the Great Chain of Being’ until we touch rocks. This is the attitude of power, and it hinges on who is in control. Who has power over whom? How does this kind of behavior infiltrated the psyche of a culture? And what are the consequences of scala naturae?

Page 87: The amused officials assured the Navajo that there was no correlation between rain and prairie dogs and carried out their plan. The outcome was surprising only to the federal officials. The desert near Chilchinbito, Arizona, became a virtual waste land. Without the ground-turning process of the burrowing animals, the soil became solidly packed, unable to accept rain. Hard pan. The result: fierce runoff whenever it rained. What little vegetation remained was carried off away by flash floods and a legacy of erosion.

Page 18: I believe in the beauty of all things broken.

Page 6: A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.

Page 225: I look up at the ceiling of the church. Holes from grenades appear as stars. Light is streaming down onto the pews. Empty pews. Rooms full of bones. Bags of bones, bulging, closed. Sacks full of skulls. Piles of faded clothing. The altar cloth, once white, is now brown with blood. Ten thousand people were murdered here.

Page 227: The eyes of these killers were on the eyes of those they killed. By hand. One million Tutsis were murdered in one hundred days. Their killers were neighbors with farm tools, machete, hoes. Hundreds of skulls, shelves of skulls, thirty thousand bodies – here at Nyamata.

Page 239: How does a phrase like “Never Again” uttered religiously after the Jewish Holocaust, after Cambodia, Rwanda, and now Darfur, translate to “again and again” – the mantra of our collective denial? Code terms like “Civil war” and “tribal conflict” give us license to not get involved. The masterminds of all genocides count on our complicity.

Page 238: I came to Rwanda to step over my fears and find out for myself how a people who carry the history of genocide in their hearts not only begin to heal but move forward in the name of forgiveness and acceptance. This collective crime of cruelty and complicity resides in all of us.

Page 264: Over and over again I am reminded to live and work out of my strength, not my weaknesses, to stand in the center of my most generous self and trust what is good in humanity. More often than not, we will draw the generosity of others toward us. But here in Rwanda, all these platitudes of what one believes and how one behaves evaporate on the dusty red roads. Neighbors murdered neighbors. Priests called the machete bearers into their churches and allowed them to slaughter their congregations. Nothing makes sense. Everything and everyone becomes suspect. My heart trembles. I become my own darkness. At night in Gisenyi, the only buffer between me and the haunted streets of Rwanda is a torn mosquito net.

Page 265: Because Jean Bosco is attending a Red Cross meeting, his associate, Habumugisha Michel, recounts our history:

Everyone is an ambassador of Rwanda, to build pride in our country, to forgive, to forget. This is the message Paul Kagame presented last year to the people of Rwanda. So, when Jean Bosco attended an international meeting in Barcelona, he was our ambassador, telling the people present about our past, our pain, our beauty. Lily Yeh, who was sitting in the audience was very moved by John Bosco’s story. Lily asked, ‘How can I help?’ Jean Bosco said, ‘Come to Rwanda.’ And she did. She heard President Kagame speak. Jean Bosco took Lily to the Genocide Memorial Site in Rugerero. She was very touched and asked it something beautiful could be created.

Page 270: Lily looks down and folds her small, strong, hands. She continues, ‘It is really through the depth of living, the chaos the brokenness that I find peace. Joy is rooted in the depth of our suffering. It is out of my own brokenness, and the brokenness of others in the darkest places, that I find that sense of joy. This is my special gift – to build sacred space out of the chaos of forgotten places. I feel it. The need to create beauty. We all have it, and we’ve lost it. The vehicle for joy is Beauty. Beauty is a right – an angelic quality that heals.

Page 248: I hear William Coffin’s voice: “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”

The story about Rwanda is personal for me. In my former parish we had an outreach ministry to refugees through Episcopal Relief and Development and it's local affiliate in Chicago, Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministry. One of our families was from Rwanda. If you are interested you can read about it in a sermon I preached on Pentecost, 2008: sermons that work. I hope that one day it will be true, what Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about and Lily, and Terry, and the people in that house in Rwanda sang, "We will walk hand in hand...We will all be free...Oh deep in my heart I do believe, We Shall Over Come."

Questions for our discussion:

If we believe that the mission of our congregations, even our lives, is to be the hands and heart of Christ, how might the stories in this book and its message of love, broaden our understanding of who we are and what we are to do?

Do you have an example of how you have witnessed the creation of beauty out of brokenness? If so, share in the comments or link us to a reflection on your blog.

Might it be possible, in this country, to implement a judicial process similar to the Rwandan gacaca (ga-cha-cha) inspired by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose goal is to bring restorative justice in order that communities can live in harmony (page 321)? Or do you think that our judicial process of a trial by one's peers does this?

I'll be around all day to moderate the discussion, which I hope will be lively even if you have not read the book. Terry Tempest Williams has been invited to stop by and join us. Her Literary Assistant tells me she has not been feeling well, so she may or may not. (prayers for her healing can be offered as well). - Mompriest

Sunday, November 22, 2009

prayer for Christ the King Sunday

Oh Jesus,
You are the King of Glory,
You are the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.
And we pray that your Kingdom will reign forever in our hearts and in this world.

Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come here now,
bringing a kingdom of justice, righteousness, hope, love,
peace, mercy and grace for all.
Lord, we ask that you rule in our hearts,
lead in this world and govern over your kingdom.

But Lord honestly,
We often have our own plans and agendas
And we want to be rulers of our world.
Forgive us for those times.
And Lord we live in a time that would rather idolize the King of Pop
Than worship you.
Help us to know how to live as your Kingdom People in these times.
And Lord there are a lot of Kings in this world who terrorize, over tax, humiliate,
Over exploit, and abuse those they are to lead.
Help us to spread the good news of the different kind of King you are.

Lord, thank you for being a different kind of King.
Thank you for your goodness and kindness in our lives.
Thank you for your generosity.
Thank you for loving us.
Thank you for your Kingdom that is unlike any
Kingdom in this world.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Christ the King Edition


We're closing in on the end of the church year tomorrow, and for some of us this means it will be "Christ the King" Sunday (or "Reign of Christ", in some traditions.) On Wednesday at my noon Bible study, after we got done reading Pilate's questions to Jesus in John 18, one man blurted out, "So why are we reading about this NOW?" Good question. I read him the lesson from Daniel about the Ancient of Days and the one like a human being, and asked if that was more what he had in mind.

Yup.

How about you? There was a provocative discussion of the texts here. Go visit. And tell us where you're headed on this day in late November. Where is your sermon taking you? (And are you eager or reluctant to go there?) What is urging you on, and what is holding you back?

And, while you're at it, why not try some blueberry pancakes? They're delicious, and they have NO CALORIES (as they are virtual). I also have coffee, tea, orange juice and several chairs you can pull up. (placemats are blue and white woven: shabby chic)

Join me. And you'll have to trust me on this: I could use the support today. It's our congregation's annual meeting tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Five: Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.


--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: what you want the link to say goes here For a complete how-to, click here. (Somehow my computer never lets me post the correct formulations, so you can always go to another Friday Five to discover it.)


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - When Volunteers Aren't Working Out

The work of Christ's church is carried out by faithful volunteers. But the church's ministry can also be impeded by them, even when they mean well...such is the situation presented this week:
I recently found out that our treasurer (volunteer - member of council) has not paid our preschool teachers yet this school year. The preschool should have plenty of money, they have collected tuition and had money in their account. Unfortunately their account is kept in the church's general check book, in theory so if they would ever have low enrollment the congregation would pay their expenses. And, well, the checkbook is empty... we have borrowed from ALL the funds in order to pay ongoing expenses, and still they aren't even always paid.

This is not the first time this has happened. He stopped paying the organist without telling anyone, council found out in July that the organist had not been paid since May! Council does get monthly financial reports but they aren't very user friendly and so I would have to (and now will) look to make sure checks to the preschool teachers and organists have been issued. But last year there was also problem with late paychecks to the preschool teachers where the report showed he had paid them, he just didn't get them their checks until several weeks later.

But my question isn't financial as much as it is process. I just don't think my treasurer is up to the job, he isn't a great numbers guy but more to the point he lacks follow through. It has been embarrassing and awkward for our part time employees to mention that they really do have bills to pay and need their money after months without pay or discussion of when they would be paid. There have been enough instances like this that I just don't feel comfortable with him serving as treasurer anymore, but I am not sure how or who should start that kind of conversation. I suspect it should be the council president, and if so how do I bring it up with him and coach him on handling it well? And how do we or do we not tell the congregation about this? Our financial picture is already bleak, but it turns out it's much worse than the numbers suggest.

Hoping to be paid this Sunday,
Pastor I could SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our first response comes from Jennifer,
who blogs at
www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com

There’s no doubt that you have to involve others. Your council president is a great person to start with. Ask to meet with him privately or with you and the preschool director (is there such a person?) This is a serious problem and the issues of how to replace the treasurer and if/when/how to involve the council and inform the congregation are all very important matters. Transparency in all things administrative, and especially in financial matters is crucial. As you learn more, it will be clear what needs to be shared and with whom. Perhaps it will be necessary to involve your higher governing body, but start local, treat this with seriousness and careful listening and response, and all can benefit from a new way of handling church resources.

Blessings!

One of our matriarch who recently addressed similar issues and therefore wishes to respond anonymously writes:

From another context it’s hard to comment on process , so I’ll leave that to other matriarchs – but as I have recently gone through a difficult somewhat similar situation, I just wanted to encourage you to get this sorted out as soon as possible.

I realised that lots of things were stopping me from grasping the nettle of unresolved financial problems:
  • I feared that if I disturbed things too much I might actually find that there was something improper going on and
  • I was frightened of being drawn into something really difficult and painful
  • I didn’t know who else could sort out the finances – but it certainly can’t be me! The people involved were really nice and kept saying how much they wanted to do the job
  • I worry that the minute someone shows me accounts I just glaze over (same happens with the tax return!)
But on the other hand if I didn’t get something sorted:
  • People were getting hurt and frustrated and angry
  • The church had no idea how much money they really had so they were getting mean with money!
  • The tension around the whole thing was affecting me and various other people in leadership roles
  • I felt we had a duty to account for the money people gave the church
So with the help of wise friends and having taken a deep breath, I decided to get it sorted out.
I had to set aside my feelings of inadequacy & my fear of ‘losing friends’. I had to be a real nag at times (phone calls, emails, reminders... “meeting in 10 days – we need an up to date report’”.. “what are we saying to next week’s meeting?”... “are you able to make the meeting in 3 days time or are you sending a written report”... ).It’s a good job I’m a mother, I can DO nagging.

But let me tell you, the relief when all was sorted out was amazing! – not just for me but for the whole church.

Last word of warning – don’t get too sucked into the ‘how did we get in this mess?’ conversation – remind yourself – this is where we are, but it’s not where we’re staying.

Many prayers for courage, wisdom and patience!

And from earthchick at earthchicknits.wordpress.com

There is no question that the treasurer has to go. It is completely unacceptable to have church employees go unpaid. Equally horrifying is the fact that this volunteer has had the church borrowing money from the preschool. If this sort of thing were to happen in any other place of business, the person in charge would certainly be fired and possibly even charged with some sort of crime.

Of course, it is much easier to say he has to go than to actually help that happen in a constructive way. I would suggest you have a conversation with the council president immediately. Is there a finance committee or board of Trustees? There needs to be some body of people who oversees financial matters - it cannot be left to just one unsupervised person. If there is a body who does this, they need to be brought into the loop as well. If there is no group explicitly involved in financial oversight, then that will need to be a near-future step that has to be taken by the congregation at your initiative. If your church were ever to be audited (or if the preschool were to be), you could face much bigger headaches than you are facing now. A board of Trustees or other committee like that needs to be charged with the stewardship of the church's finances and legal matters.

Dealing with volunteers who are not doing their job well or properly can be a very tricky situation. Our inclination is not to have them step down when they are performing services for free. But sometimes there is no choice but to remove a person from office, and this is one of those times. Be as gentle as you can, but be upfront too - with him, with the other church leaders, and with the congregation as a whole. What he has done has led to a dishonest picture of finances for the church. I think the congregation needs to be made aware of the true state of things - including that they now owe the preschool money. It will be hard for them to stomach, but it will not get any easier by delaying the truth-telling or by trying to clean up the mess behind-the-scenes.

I wish you strength and courage!

If you have some experience or advice or words of support for Pastor I could SCREAM!!!!!, please add them to the conversation by way of the comment function of this post.

And send up your questions...we have just one in the queue at this point!

May you live in God's amazing grace+
revhoney


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Writing and Remembering


Leah Sophia says, "This time I blogged for the national To Write Love on Her Arms Day - TWLOHAD, Friday 13 November, and intended to say a lot more about my own experiences (but didn't). Like several others, I'm also blogging for NaBloWriMo (National Blog Writing Month) and picked up Jan's idea of blogging thanks, which works perfectly with 4 days left at the end!"

Another NaBloWriMo participant, Deb, shares: "I'm one of many who are participating in NaBloWriMo, like Mindy for instance... there may be other RevGals too!! With so much going on in my life it isn't hard to find something to blog about...A fun one... how many rainy day songs do you know? See this post and chime in...AND...Would appreciate prayers and insight on our family issue - it's about the process of dealing with my mother-in-law's terminal diagnosis. Easy for no one but God's grace does cover and hold us up..."

FrogBlogger says, "Here is a post for Wednesday. Several of the bloggers on RGBP are impacted by this tragic loss. Please be in prayer for the immediate family and extended family/friends/colleagues at this time."

and for more memories...with Veteran's Day as part of our last week, be sure to read Songbird's Remembering.

Lorna introduces us to a blogger friend, Olive.
Sally has a rant. "I will say no more."

What's in your writing and prayers these days? Are you participating in NaBloWriMo? Let us know in the comments! Link to your posts and those of other ring members using this simple formula: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: What is the Truth About Our King?


Lessons for the coming Sunday can be found here.

The Church year ends this Sunday, for many of us, with the declaration that Christ is our King; Lord of All. We may sing "Crown Him With Many Crowns" or "Praise To the Lord, the Almighty"  or other "royal" hymns. We think of the symbols and pageantry associated with earthly rulers, and may appropriate them in our own paraments and ritual.

But what does our King really look like?

Our texts juxtapose the terrifying theophany of Daniel and the equally frightening image of Christ at the Last Judgment with a scene that's quite different -- an itinerent country preacher, now a tortured prisoner, standing broken and bleeding before a representative of the greatest empire on earth.

"What is truth?" asks Pilate.

What are some truths that speak to us as we read these texts with an eye to Sunday? What is true about human exercise of power? What is true about the Kingship of Christ? What happens when, as in Psalm 93, worldly power assumes for itself the mantle of divine approval -- when, as someone once put it in regard to the United States, it comes wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible? And how do we keep the day from turning into a "Yay, Jesus!" pep rally that misses the irony and profundity inherent in the texts?

Great stuff to think about.  Please share your thoughts here.

You may, of course, be preaching on something else entirely. Let us know about that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Meet n' Greet

Good Monday to you all, RevGals and BlogPals! We have new members to welcome today.

First we have a BlogPal, A Reformed Catholic in the PCUSA:
"I grew up Italian R.C., fell away from the church, then married my wife, who brought me back into the church as a Presbyterian. Oh yeah, did I mention I'm a Computer Geek?"

Next, please welcome Liane at On the Road:
"I am a first year seminarian at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. I am recently married and living in Rhode Island with my wonderful husband and two cats. I have spent far too long in school already, earning four degrees thus far: a B.A. in English Lit, a B.A. in Human Services, an M.A. in Mental Health Counseling, and an M.A. in Pastoral Care and Counseling. I hope this degree (an M.Div will be my last for awhile!)."
Liane is a postulant for priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.


Finally, meet Freddae, who blogs at Coffee, God and Me:

"I'm an almost 30-something independent woman of God. I'm a mother to a miracle who is now a handsome 3 year old, a wife, a friend, a daughter, the neighbor lady, the girl next door, a graduate student, a philanthropist, a theologist, a missiologist, a woman in ministry, a sinner, a saint, a sister, an aunt, a leader, a modern day women's suffragist, a freedom fighter, a writer, a fashionista, a dreamer, a realist, an optimist, a poet... I am a woman of worth far above rubies; the way God created me to be."

Welcome to all these new members! If you are a blogger and interested in joining the ring, you can find our membership criteria in the sidebar.

And now, a plug for next Monday, when mompriest will lead our RevGalBookPals discussion of Finding Beauty in a Broken World, by Terry Tempest Williams. We'll take a break from book discussions in December and instead ask you for recommendations in a discussion format on the 4th Monday. Watch the sidebar for books we will discuss in the New Year!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

prayer for Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 24

Lord,
We long for your simple gifts for our lives.
We long for your peace.
We long for your joy.
We long for your hope.
We long for your love.
We long for your touch.
We long for your grace.
We long for your healing.
We long for your touch.
O Lord, open a spring in our lives that daily refreshes us with your simple gifts.

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and revabi's long and winding road

Saturday, November 14, 2009

11th Hour Preacher's Party: Where Are You, Lord?

At a conference I attended a few weeks ago we spent some time discussing Christian Formation and Faith Development. Part of the discussion focused on John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, and his three step process of Christian Formation. In this process one begins as a newcomer to faith - filled with "Desire" for God. The next stage is one of "Conflict" - the dark night of soul where faith is deepened and matures. Most Christians spend the majority of their faith formation in this second stage. The third stage is "Contemplation" and it is marked by a person being so grounded in their faith and trust in God that the dark nights no longer feel dark. A person in the stage of Contemplation is able to maintain an emotional sense of peace even when confronted with a spritual challenge. Maybe Hannah and her silent prayer to God represnt a person in this third stage. Or maybe she is well into the second stage approaching the third? photo credit Anyway, our process of faith formation might be one avenue to consider...

The readings from Samuel offer some compelling thought for a preacher this week. Hannah, a named woman in the Bible, expresses a profound faith, pointing us to the faith that comes later with Mary, and the coming season of Advent.

Now, admittedly for me it would be a bit more of a challenge to write a sermon on the Gospel. Maybe it's just my state of mind these days? Case in point - my initial response to the Gospel: "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings..." immediately brought up the image of Little Red Riding Hood, "Oh my what big...." photo credit here

Obviously I'd find another direction for my reflection...but, I'd probably carry an inner giggle with me to the pulpit.

Anyway. What are you thinking about? Where is the Spirit leading you this morning? I hope it's not into the woods....but definitely toward some good food and fruits of the Spirit. And, if you find yourself in the dark woods, or lost, we're here to help.

I have a busy day and will be in and out as I go to a series of workshops and then dinner out with friends. But I'll be around often enough to keep the party going. Now, what can I get you? Coffee? Tea?? Scones?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Five

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). The term triskaidekaphobia derives from the Greek words "tris", meaning 'three', "kai", meaning 'and', and "deka", meaning 'ten'. the whole word means three and ten. The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953. (Wikipedia)

With thanks to my dear spouse TechnoGuy for the great suggestion, it's a Friday the 13th Friday Five!

1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you?

2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th?


3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions?


4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background?


5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"?

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - It's Not Easy Being New

It's demanding enough to be a newly-ordained pastor, but even more difficult when you are a new pastor in a challenging parish. Such is the situation presented to us today...

I am in my first call in a rural congregation where I have been serving for a little over a year now and well its been rough. Most experienced pastors hear my stories and cringe, this is not an easy place to be the pastor. I have tried hard to understand their unique church culture but a year into things and I still rarely know which end is up. The expectations are plentiful and very high but are at the same time completely un-articulated and therefore unknown to me.

I just had two concerned members come and visit me and they spend 2 hours talking to me first about the ELCA Sexuality stuff and then they moved on to voice their concerns about what people are saying and how the congregation experiences me as their pastor. I won't go into detail but according to these people who I truly believe came trying to help me I am not involved in the congregation, am not making any effort to get to know people, am not friendly, and frequently blow people off on Sundays. And well I don't know what to think or feel. What was offered as constructive criticism leaves me asking what MORE I could possibly be doing to be involved in the congregation, get to know the people, be friendly, and talk to more people on Sundays. I am just in shock. I am not perfect, I am a brand-new pastor who has a lot to learn, but I question whether anyone could be seen as a "successful" or "good" pastor by the congregation.

I am not really sure what my question is beyond "what would you do?"


Jennifer who blogs at www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com) was the first to respond:

Dear One:

You’re right—this sounds like a very difficult situation. Are the two who visited with you people you trust, and are they perceived by the congregation as trustworthy? (I’m asking if their comments are unique to them, or if they’re folks you would expect would represent the general feeling of most folks.)

Second, are there safe places in your congregation and your higher governing body to air concerns and receive support? A well-constructed pastor-parish relations or personnel committee can be really helpful, especially if there are expectations, as you say, that are high, but unarticulated. You shouldn’t have to guess or wonder—those expectations should be clear and measurable.

If you have a higher governing body ministerial relations committee or committee on ministry liaison, they, too, can provide a sounding board, and a wider perspective on your ministry and the congregation’s personality as a whole. Even a local colleague in ministry—maybe even another clergywoman, who has been in ministry for a little while, could provide you with some perspective and support. It’s so hard to sort out what’s constructive from what’s just snarkiness, and help in discerning that cannot be overrated.

It sounds like there’s some anxiety in your congregation’s midst about the recent actions of the ELCA. Is there a place and time for your congregation members to talk about what they’re learning and feeling? Would it be helpful to air some of that, apart from these two individuals’ comments about your leadership?

May you find peace and confidence as you pursue help in calming anxious folks.


Earthchick, who blogs at http://www.earthchicknits.wordpress.com adds:

Oh, UGH. This sounds very painful, and I'm sorry for what you're dealing with. That kind of general negative feedback, without specific positive suggestions, can be debilitating.

Does your congregation have a Pastor Relations Committee in place? If not, I would recommend working to put one together as soon as possible. I am betting that the ELCA has some resources to guide you and your congregation in the formation of such a committee. A PRC should be a small (ours is 3 members) group of people that both you and the congregation trust. The PRC should help facilitate communication between the congregation and the pastor - church members can bring concerns about the pastor to the PRC, and the pastor can also voice concerns about the congregation to the PRC. You could be honest with them about some of what you have said here: "I am a brand-new pastor and am unclear about what is expected of me. I feel like I am doing my best, but I am getting negative feedback without suggestions for how to improve. Could you help me figure out how to deal with this feedback?"

You could probably find more information about developing this sort of committee from your denominational offices, but http://www.mmbb.org/clergy_relations.cfm is a resource from my denomination.

In the meantime, hang in there. Try not to be reactive or overly anxious. If more people approach you with similar feedback, consider asking them if they could be more specific about what they'd like you to do. Then decide for yourself whether their specific thoughts are reasonable. Talk to a mentor. Talk to a judicatory supervisor. Develop as much support as you can beyond the congregation. Keep saying your prayers for the people you serve and for your own ministry.



And from Mompriest, who blogs at http://seekingauthenticvoice.blogspot.com/.

Comments like the one you received from these concerned parishioners lead me to wonder if what they really mean is you have not been friendly enough with the "right" group of folks in the parish. This then is a narcissistic injury issue. Most churches have a strong matriarch and patriarch group who have led the parish for years. These may be the old lay leaders, now "retired" but still acting through others. Sometimes they are the silent leaders, the one who lead from the fringes, but who are nonetheless in charge. I'd ponder about the congregational groupings and see if this might be true. Then I'd invite these key folk to have coffee with me and spend time listening to what they are thinking about. That doesn't mean I'd do everything or perhaps anything they suggest, but I would meet with them and listen and say back, "So I hear you saying...." I'd do this more than once. I'd also invite them to consider with me anything I might ponder implementing, any change.
Also, I'd create a team of people to help me listen more carefully to the congregation. This team, call it something like, "The Pastor Guidance and Reflection Team" would be comprised of key folks from every grouping in the parish. So for example: one person from the search committee that called the Pastor, one person from each service (assuming there is more than one service on a Sunday), one person who was previously a primary leader in the parish - in my denomination that would be a warden, one person who is a member of the matriarch/patriarch leadership, one person who seems to be new and not part of anything else - until I had a team of about 5 people. I would ask them to meet me with me weekly or at the very least monthly to talk about how things are going in the parish: concerns, questions, celebrations, hopes, and as a sounding board for where the congregation needs to go.
I suspect that it is true that the parish does not know what it really wants and the confusion you feel reflects their confustion. There may not be anything you can do about this if they are resistant to doing discernment with you. It may be that all they want to do is tell you what you should do...but that will not be helpful. They need to take ownership of the discerning, and the doing, with you. Some books that might help: William Bridges, Managing Transitions; Peter Steinke, Healthy Congregations; and Roy Oswald, New Beginnings...other resources are available at the Alban Institute including weekly email newsletters on parish issues. Prayers for you!



Finally, I (revhoney) am wondering if you are involved in a First Call Theological Education experience in your synod or region? Are you assigned a mentor with whom you are comfortable discussing these issues?


Do you have some insights or words of support for this new pastor? Please share them in the comment section following this post.

And, as we are down to one question in the queue, now is a great time to submit your question to Ask the Matriarch at askthematriarch@gmail.com

May you live in God's amazing grace+
revhoney

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday Festival: Living in Ordinary Time


Ah, the quotidian joys of life together. MaineCelt shares a reflection on marriage.

See-Through Faith writes that the Bible will never be the same again and shares a poem which linked with her thoughts at into the Bible.

Sally over at eternal echoes writes about an unlikely partnership and shares some wonderful pictures.

I always like to check in with the Crimson Rambler...thoughts on life, ministry, technology, and World (ok, Diocesan) Domination through Knitting!

RevDisco's family had a real scare, a vaccine reaction. Prayers for you all.

Here's a post from LutheranChik about what's going on in the Lutheran Church. And Wounded and Healing shares Infuriating things About the Local Church (part 1).

RevMibi has a wonderful first coming up.

Songbird is considering the joys...and sorrows...of being the Minister of the Meantime.

Sophia is reflecting on the intense and converting spiritual experience of working for justice and protection of the innocent in her now former church body.

St. Casserole reminds us about the importance of grace.

An unbloggy update: Looks like it is B-Day for Gallycat...that is, Baby Day! I know this from Facebook, not from her blog...Keep her in your prayers, please.

November 11, it's Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day. Jan at A Church for Starving Artists has an important discussion. Go weigh in. And My Internet Pastor, Questing Parson, gives a beautiful remembrance of his first time to realize the meaning of the word Veteran.

And what are you reading and thinking about? Link to your posts and those of other ring members using this simple formula: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: "It's the End of the World As We Know It" Edition

Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday can be found here .

Wow. Reading our lessons for Sunday, I momentarily thought I'd been time-transported a few weeks ahead to Advent and its attention to the end of all things.

What are you thinking about as you pray, plan and/or prepare to preach this Sunday? Are you going with the Mark text, or one of the others? How do you think the lessons "read" to congregations who are experiencing high anxiety these days because of the economy, the war and other stressors?

As always, please share your thoughts here. And, as you ponder, some musical accompaniment courtesy of REM: "That's great/It starts with an earthquake...



"

Monday, November 09, 2009

2009 Virtual Advent Retreat

On Monday, November 30th, RevGalBlogPals will hold our 2nd Annual Virtual Advent Retreat, facilitated by Juniper, mompriest and Songbird.

Over the course of the day (early morning, late morning and mid-afternoon, Eastern Time), three facilitators will post reflection pieces on texts for Advent 2, 3 and 4. You may use the materials for contemplation or as writing prompts.

All are welcome to participate by leaving comments or to link back to responses you post on your own blogs. It's a way to connect with one another and we hope will create both a "quiet day" and provide some resources and inspiration for the Advent season.






Scroll down for more on Advent at our 2nd Monday Discussion!

2nd Monday Discussion: Advent-ures


There are only 20 planning days left until Advent.

Yikes!!!

As an interim pastor, I've been in four different churches in the past four years, and I have to learn a new Advent routine wherever I go. I know some churches have moved to blue instead of purple as the liturgical color, and the Christmas Carol battles are waged everywhere even if the participants differ.

Tell us, what are your Advent traditions?

Do you have a wreath-making party or some sort of Advent workshop? Who lights the wreath during worship (if you light one)? Will you sing carols or have a Christmas pageant during Advent? When do children in the congregation get to hear the story of the baby in the manger? And if you are in a church that does not observe Advent, what is December like in the life of your church?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, and if you haven't found/bought/ordered the candles for your Advent wreath, consider this your reminder!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: All That is Hidden

I went to see my spiritual director, a Jesuit priest, last week. There were only a few people at Mass that morning, but as always he preached with care. It was The Feast of All Saints and Blesseds for the Society of Jesus, for which the Gospel is taken from John: "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

One of his points was that we are all the seeds of the saints - the dozen of us sitting in that chapel were seeds planted by Jesuit saints in particular. And as Bernadette Farrell's makes majestically clear in this piece, "There is no harvest without sowing of grain..."


What seeds did you sow with music this week? What did you reap? Share with us in the comments!

Prayer for Sunday Pentecost 23

Lord of us all,
Who loves with an everlasting love,
We bring our prayers to you now for
The concerns and needs of those near and those from afar.

First Lord, we pray for the shooting victims at Ford Hood and Orlando.
We pray for their families and loved ones who grieve and those who await their recovery.
We pray for the shooters who were tormented in some way to choose to take the lives of their fellow humans.
We pray for these communities and ourselves that there not be blame placed on those of another belief system.
We pray for healing, understanding, and also safety.
We pray for those who may feel the heat of rage and/or harmful thoughts that they would seek help and support for themselves that no more shootings like these will occur again.
And we praise you Lord for those who bravely stopped the shooting and for those who are counseling and leading the people now.

We pray for those among us who are the widows and widowers,
We pray for those who live lonely lives with families who live far away.
We pray for those whose incomes have stagnated or depleted to put them in difficult financial situations.
We pray for those whose health has faded with age.
We praise you for those whose love for you and faithfulness to you and the church has remained strong.

Lord we pray for those whose countries and lives already have so little have been devastated by the recent typhoons, tropical storms, tsunamis and earthquakes.
We pray for those whose countries have been torn by war and acts of terrorism.
We pray for those whose countries and lives are in the midst of poverty, and famine.
We praise you Lord for those who have helped make changes for the better in these situations, and for those who have continued to give and donate to help in the midst of these crisis.

Lord, we pray for our friends and families who may be suffering from acute, chronic, or terminal illnesses.
We pray for those who have may lost jobs, lost income, lost savings, lost their homes, lost their families in the recession and financial crisis.
We pray for those who have been searching for jobs and have had trouble finding one.
We praise you Lord for those who have taken time to help these in their need, who have been advocates for, supporters of and stood by them.

Lord, all these needs and more sometimes overwhelm us and we often feel helpless, and powerless to help.
We don’t think we have enough to give.
Lord remind us that you took the widow’s mite and saw it as something good.
Lord remind us that when we all give together we can do so much more.
Lord remind us that we have not just money to give.
And Lord remind us that you are the God of all the resources and there is much in your storehouse to be used for good in the world.
Lord remind us that in our giving we are witnesses to your great generosity and love for all.

cross posted at revgalprayerpals and rev abi's long and winding road

Friday, November 06, 2009

11th Hour Preacher Party: Biblespeak Edition


Widows, feet, the threshing floor - Caela used the term in Tuesday's comments to talk about the meanings under the words, and I loved it. "Biblespeak." It reminded me of the job 2 of my favorite radio show hosts do every day when they translate the "Hollywoodspeak" in press releases for those of us who aren't as close to the action. They always seem to be right on with their interpretations even though it seems like it comes from left field to me. Translating Biblespeak or at least sharing the meaning under the words is part of our job, though, isn't it? Geez, I hope it doesn't seem like it's coming out of nowhere when I do it, though.

Anyway, the Biblespeak is all over the lectionary passages we've got before us this week. Ladies and Gents, there is PLENTY with which to work! What are you translating?

Join us for the party in the comments. We love to have you!

(The cartoon was taken lovingly and hopefully legally from the Christianity Today blog, originally posted on June 23, 2008. It sort of fits, but even where it doesn't, I thought it was funny. Do you know that guy in your church? I sure do!)

Friday Five: What's New?


There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.

Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new.

As ever, let us know in the comments if you play at your blog. And you'll get more visitors if you add a direct link, thusly:   <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.

Please visit one another to read answers, because you never know when you might discover a kindred spirit!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ask the Matriarch - Lay Leader Burn-out

With apologies for our late posting today, here is this week's question:
I am 2 months into my first call to a family size church (worships ~ 90 each Sunday and 20 children in SS) in suburban community. The church has been through 5 pastors in the past 5 years and has been on 'survival mode'. Many of the officers and active families are experiencing burnout. It would be so helpful to hear some thoughts from you all on different ways to approach these symptoms of the bigger systemic issue facing our church. The ever-changing church in today's society facing so much 'competition' -- i.e. sports, work, family - that there isn't as much energy for church.

What are some options to resolve the symptoms (short term) while focusing on the larger, long-term issues?

Matriarch Jennifer writes:

Your question has several facets. You ask about how to help active church folks with “burn-out” and you raise some cultural issues (priorities and cultural demands) as well something that’s particular to your setting (5 pastors in as many years).

Don’t know your denomination, but I’m wondering what kind of resources, support and background you have regarding so much turnover. It sounds like a draining situation for a congregation to have almost constant change. Perhaps consulting some folks who know your setting, but are one step removed would be helpful.

Spending time listening to those who have invested time and effort within your church family will be important. What brings them joy? What is energy draining? Are there programs and activities that have run their course? Is it time for your governing body to have a thoughtful conversation about what’s most needed, and what can pass by the wayside as you grow in strength and energy is restored? Are there people who are being overlooked for leadership? Could they make good leaders while some others take a rest? Can some programs take a rest while your congregation assesses what comes next?

Ultimately, I think it’s very important for your congregation’s members to voice what they need most for their souls to sing. When folks are invited to identify what they think are the highest priorities, often the energy to pursue them follows. If “musts” and “shoulds” are imposed upon folks, generally speaking, energy wanes.

Best to you!

Jennifer offers a lot of good thoughts here. This is a tough situation! What else would you have to say to this minister?

We only have one more question in the queue at this point, so as usual, if you have a question you'd like the matriarchs to discuss, please send it our way at askthematriarch@gmail.com