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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Wade in the water

I love the quiet strength of this song in the hands and mouths of Sweet Honey in the Rock.

The readings this weekend at my church spoke to me of the ways in which we want to control God's actions in the world.  The Israelite who complain to Moses that Medad and Eldad, John who wants to stop those who were not "officially" sent from working miracles in Jesus' name.

We can be unwelcoming, if not downright judgmental, toward those who we find doing God's name outside of our institutions and with those who are on the margins.  But the prophets among us wade into the troubled waters regardless.

What challenged you in the music you sang or played this weekend?  (Musically or otherwise!)  Share with us in the comments.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Proper 21B, Pentecost 18B

Sunrise taken with the RevGals road trip to the Grand Canyon following the BE 2.0

Bless O God, all creation.
The sun that rises every morning
and clouds that bring us rain
and the moon in the dark night sky.
Bless us that we may be a blessing
to all we meet.

Heal us O God, from all 
that ails us - illness, dis-ease,
despair, hunger, thirst, all.
Heal us and all creation.

Bless the leaders of nations
fill them with wisdom.
Bless the leaders of cities
and towns that all
can work in unity
for the wellbeing 
of everyone, all

Help us, O God to be
your disciples. To listen
with open ears and heal
with open hearts.
Help us, O God to be
your disciples.

11th Hour Preacher Party: An Old Story Edition

In a week where the texts are challenging, it feels like a good idea to share a little piece of the gospel according to RevGalBlogPals.

In the beginning, it was a Saturday. One preacher emailed another, and they realized they were both online, and they kept sending little words of encouragement via the Internets. And it was good. God said so. And it crossed their minds that other preachers in the webring might need the same sort of cheering up as Saturday afternoon turned to evening, and thus the 11th Hour Preacher Party was born.

The first Antonio Banderas reference appeared in those very comments (49 in all). You see, one of the evening-long email festivals took place while my daughter and I were watching Shrek 2. Somehow the notion arose that a completed sermon delivered by the voice of Puss in Boots, Antonio Banderas himself, would be, as the MasterCard ads say, priceless.

Also in the comments at the very first Preacher Party, my email partner reassured us all with the following--

Now for the two things that one of my homiletics professors told me was absolutely essential to preaching:

1) Let it go... the Holy Spirit has got your back.

2) If you got a dog, walk it proud.

This is our old story, gals and pals. We've been throwing this party for over six years now. It's by far the most-visited feature on the blog every week. It's been a place to make friends and get help and let off steam. Thanks to all of you for your participation and contributions over the years.

We've shared many cyber-treats and I promise you, they are absolutely calorie-free. I'll supply the Holy Donuts and keep the coffee and Diet Coke coming today. Pull up a chair and get out your laptops. Let's help each other find a good word this week!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Five Ch-Ch-Changes

Change is hard. Shrek and Fiona (and Puss and Donkey) are under the influence of a spell, and time is running out to break it or make it permanent. Most changes happen a little less drastically, which is great except that it also means change is usually a big effort. For this Friday Five, please answer these five questions about change.

1) Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and seen yourself with surprise? Why?
2) Have you ever witnessed a change in routine at church that upset people? (Hahahahaha!!!! I know you have!)
3) Have you ever been surprised or inconvenienced by a change in a public setting (not church)?
4) Has the passage of time changed your understanding of something you used to think you knew for sure?
5) Is there something you're trying to change, or want to change, in your life right now?

If you play, let us know in the comments, and I'll be around to read your blog post later. If you don't have a blog, feel free to answer right here or at our Facebook group. If you haven't joined yet, click here!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Introducing New Christians to Scripture

Today, it is more common than ever to welcome persons into our faith communities who have little if any experience with scripture.  How do we do that?

 I have a curious new member who has taken it upon herself to read the Bible cover to cover.  I just received a distressed email from her as she heads into Judges and keeps bumping up against what she perceives as verse after verse of violence and hate.  I'm not a fan of reading the Bible this way, myself, and I have urged her to attend our weekly Bible study, but she has very legitimate reasons why it does not work for her.

Here is my dilemma.  On the one hand, I don’t want to say to her - or to any new Christian -  "don’t read the Bible."  On the other hand, I really DO want to advise her not to read it.  What advice/guidance do you offer new Christians re scripture?

Jennifer writes:

I would never suggest to anyone that they not read the Bible. Reading it cover to cover may prove confusing, as would reading an anthology of any sort and expecting everything to connect and make sense.

Perhaps suggesting a commentary would help, or finding a mentor who can help her understand the theology and sweep of the Biblical story.

Kathryn responds:

What advice/guidance do I offer to new Christians who want to read the Bible? I tell them to start with a Gospel, preferably Matthew, Mark or Luke. I remind them it is living and active, powerful and challenging. No ONE understands it all, and they should be open to the idea that they won't either.

Seriously? I would tell her to stop reading it cover to cover. It is not a manual of operations or a novel. She's right in her description of where she is in the reading, there's no arguing that, but the case can be made that she is reading it for the wrong reasons/purpose. "Stop reading it. Don't read another word until you come in to see me."

If she continues to plow ahead, that's her choice. Don't get sucked in there.

What would you suggest to this new member?  Let us know by posting a comment below.

May you live in God’s amazing grace+

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WedsFest: Comments and Community

Today's Festival post is by ChickPastor

I listen to a LOT of podcasts.

I’m picky about which ones I listen to, but it’s how I make my half an hour drive (without a grocery stop) twice a day enjoyable. I know there are much worse commutes, but I still like having something to occupy my time.

I’ve recently started listening to The Nerdist podcast. It’s not safe for work, kids, or small animals, so don’t go thinking it’s my recommendation for edifying listening. But it’s funny, and crazy, and entertaining, and this week they were talking about internet comments.

It’s old news that internet comments are the WORST. I made a new year’s resolution to not read them, EVER, two years ago, and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my soul. Pastors (and anyone who is in a public job) will tell you that anonymous comments of any kind, verbal, written, etc, have always BEEN the worst, so it’s not a surprise to figure out that when no one knows who you are, you can be truly nasty.

So on the Nerdist, they were talking about how the comments were particularly hateful for one show. It involved trying something new, a female host, and messing with something that people revere (in this case, Doctor Who). The point was that with that combination, people are truly cruel to everyone involved, in the comments. This is kind of sickening to me.

But I’ve also noticed something else happening on another site. It’s a site that’s left over from a magazine I used to adore in another life, Jane, and before that, Sassy. GREAT, women-positive, non conformist stuff, always! So now they have a website, and it’s also not safe for work or children (um, is there a theme here?), but they’ve done something interesting.

They’ve intentionally made their comments section a community. They invite people who read it into commenting, and the comments have taken on their own life and become truly a community of people who recognize each other. They also are self-policing in that nasty comments or trolls are immediately called out and are the exception.

It made me think about church. I’ve gotten my share of anonymous comments over the years, through others or on paper, unsigned. I have told and will tell anyone who will listen that I do NOT take into consideration any comments that are anonymous. Being intimidated to tell the truth is a poor, poor excuse for nastiness, and I will not accept it either.

In a community, there is conflict, and I’ve had my share of that too. Even in the worst of it, I would a million times rather someone say what they needed to say to my very own face, rather than write it down and not sign it, or whisper about it to someone else. That’s not community…that’s comments.

Facebook is made up of comments, which is why I find it a hard place to be and don’t post much lately. Someone is going to have something not nice to say about anything, as evidenced by a recent “discussion” on Facebook by two people who didn’t know each other, would probably like each other, and were convinced that the other person was WRONG WRONG WRONG. That’s not community.

Twitter is a little more like a community. I know it sounds weird, but it’s more self-policing, because it’s back and forth between a couple people or one, and it’s out there for the whole universe to see. There’s conflict on it, but there seem to be more actual relationships, more give and take versus I’m right and you’re wrong. Not always, of course, but usually when it’s nasty, it’s someone being mean because, that’s right, they’re anonymous.

So I’ll end with a challenge….when you go to say or type something, anywhere, about church, about 80s hair bands, about your favorite sports team or political candidate or that cats are cute, think about it. Would you say that to the person’s very own face? Is it just a comment? Or is it building community?

(And in the interest of making the internet a positive and beautiful place, this is a little treat for you from The Nerdist. It is safe for kids, work, and FRAGGLES!)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Pluck Out My Eye?!?!?! Edition

We open our week with a prayer:
Raise us up, O Lord,
for it is you alone who restores life and health
to the suffering
and to those who wander from the truth.
By your grace,
may we offer powerful and effective prayers
for one another and the world,
in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

This week would appear to be Proper 21B, the 18th After Pentecost.  (More soberingly, this Tuesday being September 25th  means that there are just three months until Christmas--and just over 2 months until Advent begins.  On second thought, let's all pretend I didn't just say that.)

Anyway the RCL readings for this week are found here.

Esther and Haman and King Whatsisname
{beginrant} One of my ongoing irritations with the RCL is how poorly some stories (some great stories) get treated in the cycle.  This week would be one of them.  To the best of my recollection this is the only week in the whole 3 years that Esther appears.  And we get this patchwork that tells only (a very small) part of her story.  It might be less insulting to skip her altogether!! {endrant}  And how DOES one pronounce Ahasuerus anyhow?????????

Otherwise we have whiners in the desert, followed by a controversy about unauthorized prophesying.  Or you could go with James and praying for the sick and the power of prayer.  Then again there is the Gospel encouraging us to remove our own body parts (and a dose of controversy regarding unauthorized healing).  Interestingly, while former President Bush pretty much said "if you are not with us you are against us" Jesus seems more of the "if you are not against us you are for us" mindset.

Biblically Sanctioned Plastic Surgery??
It is only Tuesday.  Sermons are just a wisp in the wind for many of us at this point in the week.  SO please share your brilliant (or otherwise) flashes of inspiration, comments, questions, ideas for "must read articles" and so on in the comments.  We will be listening with open eyes.....

RevGalBookPals: Sabbath in the Suburbs

Today we have a guest review by long-time RevGal Beth Birkholz, who blogs here. Her mini-bio: Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Marietta, GA.
Mama to M and J, Wife of S.  Suburban farmer, runner, and yogi.

She offers the following review of RevGal MaryAnn McKibben Dana's Sabbath in the Suburbs, which will be released in just 6 short days (September 30th). 

On the same day in which I received “Sabbath in the Suburbs,” I also received a notification that a book on my digital library list was ready for download, after a multiple-month wait.  I don’t want to slam that book….let’s just say that it involved a Project about Happiness.  It was well-reviewed and raved about by critics, and I was excited to read it personally and as a theologian.

I never made it all the way through that book, because I was busy getting practical suggestions about the happiness of myself and my family from MaryAnn McKibben Dana.  Whatever chord I was hoping that would be struck by the first book was far and away hit perfectly by “Sabbath.”

The author and I both have young-ish children, although mine are a bit older.  She embarks on an initiative of Sabbath-keeping throughout one year, springing from time at Iona, Scotland (from what I’ve heard from her and others, one of the “thin” places where God is a little more visible and present).  I mentioned this book to a Sunday School class of young parents, and their reaction was the same as mine: “Oh no.  There is NO FREAKIN WAY.”  That’s an actual quote.

I think we are all tempted to think the same thing when we read about Dana’s ambitious project: to set aside 24 hours (or so) for doing…..nothing.  Or a little something, but no hardcore cooking, no picking up socks, no errands.  Games are okay and some TV, but mostly to set aside the time to just BE, as a family.  My first thought was the same as hers: I’m a PASTOR. How am I supposed to set aside weekend time for this, when I have precious little as it is?

MaryAnn McKibben Dana addresses this concern: “This is why Sabbath is becoming important o my family.  On one day a week, I don’t need to be organized…on one day we simply get to be…and maybe engage in a monster tickle fight with our kids. And in doing so, we make a statement of faith: the tickle fight is as vital as our work is—perhaps even more so.”

Every concern I had, every snarky comment in my mind, she addresses them in the book in a way that shows me she struggled with them too and came out in a place where the Sabbath is still gifting her and her family with something that is worth every bit of the struggle.  I am hoping to use this book as a point of discussion with that same Sunday School class, to help us to view this commandment as they all are; something GOOD for us.

At the end of the book, I was so satisfied with where she ends up, and will end up referring back to this book if I dare take on this project.  After reading it, I cannot think of Sabbath in the same way.  It IS do-able, even for a pastor mama of two or three who is married and has a house to clean (what blessings! She is not unaware of this either).  And it’s do-able precisely because God gives us freedom.  She writes,

“True freedom, it seems, comes from participating in a particular pattern of life that seems restricting but is actually life-giving.”

Will my family engage in a Sabbath project?  The excuses are already crowding into my brain.  My kids are older.  We already take enough time away from them by being pastors on weekends.  Etc.  Etc.  But I can definitely move into what Dana describes as a Sabbath state of mind, even if it’s only for a few hours, an afternoon, a day.  The work of the Sabbath is life-giving, and MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s work on this book was life-giving and hopeful to this pastor mom in the suburbs.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Proper 20B, Pentecost 17B

Holy One, you are always
more compassionate than we can imagine,
full of kindness and wisdom.
You, O God, are justice
 and justice is You.

Watch over us, God of all creation –
Those who are suffering for any reason –
For want of food – deliver us from hunger, famine, dirty water, poor soil,
From too much – deliver us from greed and selfishness.
For those who are ill in body, mind or spirit
May your love bring healing and wholeness
The well-being that only you can bring, peace.
Over all creation, O God, give watch.
You, O God are justice, and justice is you.

Be with leaders of provinces, nations, states, cities, villages
May all civic leaders be filled with wisdom
May our leaders have a mind for all people.
May our discourse be civil and our compassion endless.
May we set aside bitter envy and selfish ambition.
May we listen deeply and respond
with hearts full of God’s wisdom and justice.

We give thanks, O God
For all the blessings of this life
For life itself.
For sun, moon, and stars,
For enough food, clean water, and fresh air
To sustain a healthy life as you desire.
For patience, the ability to grow in wisdom
For your mercy, alive in Jesus
For your tenderness embracing
Our vulnerabilities like children
Seeing into our lives, with love.

You, O God are justice, and justice is you.
You are always more compassionate than we can imagine,
full of kindness and wisdom.
You, O God, are justice
And justice is you.

11th Hour Preacher Party: Choosing Greatness Edition


Remember back in gym class when the class needed to be divided into two teams, and the two team captains got to form their teams by taking turns choosing who was the best ... then the next best ... and so on?

Do they still do that?   

Still, judgments do get made, and people get ranked and chosen (or not).  Even Jesus reveals what it takes to get to be (chosen?) first in his realm.

So ...

Are you taking the measure of the good woman (wife?) in Proverbs?

Are you challenged to reap the harvest of righteousness recommended by James?

Then there's Jeremiah's advice to let God be the judge!

Great scriptures this week -- you choose!

WELCOME to the 11th Hour Preacher Party!

If this is your first time here, please let us know. New friends are always welcome!

If you are a regular party guest, we have been expecting you!    

The coffee is hot and Fair Trade. Help yourselves!

The snack table is open for treats -- sweet or savory.

Please share great (you judge!) illustrations, stories, children's sermon ideas and connections to current events.  Post a link to your sermon if you would like us to take a look.

Let the party begin!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Five: Blogging

Blogging at Google's Blogger, I recently was boondoggled by the new designs of the site, which includes my blog. I felt like I had lost track of all the blogs I daily check so that I asked for help both at my blog and on Facebook! Still trying to learn the ways of these new ways of blogging, I am turning our minds to blogging for this Friday Five.

1. When did you start blogging? What/who prompted you?

2. How often do you post? How often do you visit blogging friends and/or other blogs?

3. Why do you keep on blogging?

4. What do you like to write about?

5. Have your blogging habits changed--or are they changing?

Bonus: Recommend a blog or two.

As always, please leave a link in your comment if you play this Friday Five:<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
I am looking forward to reading your thoughts about blogging!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ask the Matriarch - Pastor's Kids and Church Youth Groups

Dear Matriarchs,

I have a different kind of youth group issue.  My son is youth-group aged and I am wrestling a bit with where he should go to youth group.  In a perfect world, he would go to my congregation's youth group - which is what we have done for the past year.

However, it is not a perfect world, and after a year, the parent in me is thinking about allowing/encouraging him to attend another church's youth group (same denomination).  Here's the reasoning in order):

1.)  The other congregation is in the town where he attends school.  He has friends in this youth group.

2.)  My congregation's youth group members are entirely from that town's school (with the exception of my son).  It's been that way for years uncounted, hence it's a 'closed' group.  He doesn't really fit in and hasn't really been able to make friends in the group.

3.)  The group meets once a month, for a meal and fellowship and to plan fundraising for summer mission trips.  The only observable faith component of most meetings is the grace before the meal.

The pastor in my knows that he should attend our group.  He needs to participate in the fundraising activities to prepare for next summer's mission trip.  And there's the spectre of how it would look if the pastor's kid goes somewhere else to youth group.

There are issues with the youth leaders which don't really allow me to do much in the way of making the group more inclusive and open.  The current leaders are stepping down in 3 years when their last child graduates - but that doesn't help my son.  I'm doing what I can to expand the group to 'outsiders', but it's a delicate situation.  It doesn't help that I'm new and the youth leaders have been doing this for 26 years.  There's a lot of re-organizing and re-building to do in this group, but it's going to be VERY slow process as we allow the current HS kids to age out and the current youth leaders to retire.

In the meantime, my son is caught in the middle.

The parent in me wants my son to be able to go to a youth group where he is actively included and not grudgingly welcomed.  I want him to be in a youth group where he feels comfortable and where there is a faith component of some sort (beyond grace before the meal) at every meeting.  

What do you think?  Can I get away with sending my son to the other youth group?

Thanks for your advice!

Muthah+ writes:

Dear Pastor-Mom,

I don't have kids and never had to worry about part of ministry, but I would suggest that you ask your son which group he would rather hang out with.  I think that is an important thing that PKs need to have -- some control over their own faith lives.

It is all too easy for us preacher types to allow the ministry we are called to become the ministry our whole family must subscribe to.  Before I was ordained, I heard many women bemoan the fact that they were living out their husband's vocation even when it was not theirs.  And in my tradition there was even a phrase in the ordination service that the ordained would submit the behavior of the whole family to the Church.

Please God, we have come to the place where we are beginning to understand that kids often need to be able to practice their faith differently than their parents in order to deepen their relationship with God.  You can explain to your son your concerns but let him make the choice.  It will be healthier for your kid and for your youth group.

Crimson Rambler notes:

I hear that this is a conundrum for you.  Some circumstances aren't spelled out -- what about his transportation needs, for example?  (Is he old enough to drive, that is).
I think I would be fairly hard-nosed about allowing him his choice of which group to attend -- this may be an area where he sees that his mother stands between him and congregational criticism, which is inappropriate and intrusive.  And people who are looking for reasons to find fault with you will not be placated by your son's suffering in a closed and unwelcoming youth group, after all.

That said, it might be an opportunity for you to promote some combined activities between the two groups?  perhaps an occasional swap of venues and activities?

what does HE want to do?

blessings on you both, and all the young'uns and their leaders.

Kathryn offers these thoughts:

I think not only should you let your son go to the other youth group, but you should also step away from this youth group until those youth leaders do, in fact, retire. There is no reward in you continuing to try to interact with them. You name it as a delicate situation, but it sounds like it is delicate for you, not them. They have nothing to lose, they are the ones who have been willing to do youth group for over 20 years! You are the newbie = no win.

Back to your son, if anyone asks you why your son is not attending youth group there just keep it simple, "His friends from school are in the other youth group." Every parent gets that. As for the fundraising piece, if he wants to go to the mission trip, then offer to pay the full rate or have him participate in the fundraisers. OR, he could just not go and stick with the other youth group's activities. I can tell from your email that your gut is telling you to allow/encourage him to go to the other youth group, and that's ok.

You don't owe the church your son or your son's faith journey. I encourage you to ignore the voice in your head and those that may be in the congregation, and do what you think is right for your son.

From Martha, blogging at Reflectionary

Dear Mom of Teen,

That's a lot of change you're hoping to lead in an established group.  

As a mom, I've been in a similar position, while working as an Interim. The youth group was a very closed system. The kids were nice, and the adult leaders were *very* welcoming to my child, but the group had no way of making space for her. So I let her off the hook. It was probably easier for me as an Interim, although I was disappointed that she wouldn't have the chance to make church connections with other young people while we were there, and we had no other available group for her to join. 

I think it's okay to have your son go somewhere else to youth group. Here's my suggestion for handling passing the word to the leaders: make it a family thing. Say, "It's better for him to be in youth group where his mom is not the pastor." That buys you the time to get to know them better before addressing the issues around the closed system and the content of the meetings. You need to establish trust with the leaders and be their pastor. 

The more prickly question is the mission trip. Does your son really need to go? Does the benefit of his participation (for him or for you or for the project in question) outweigh your other concerns about the closed group and the content of the meetings? If he needs to go, then you're right, he also needs to go to the meetings and be part of the fund-raising. But if you can let the trip go, then let him go to youth group with kids he knows, and take the long view where the youth ministry in your own church is concerned.
My 2 cents worth,

And from Sharon, blogging at Comfort and Joy:

You are both Mom and Pastor.   That's a fact.  Take both of those roles seriously, separately.

To you, Mom:  Of course, if he wants to go there, you will let your son go to the other youth group.  You seem clear that the other youth group will meet his needs better.  You will also have the opportunity to be "mom" to him there.  At the same time, he has the chance to relate to another pastor and a faith community where his mom is not the pastor.  At a critical time, he can grow his faith without having to be a PK all the time.  This is golden.  You already know that.

To you, Pastor:  If a mom came to you with this dilemma, I hope you would help her to figure out what was best for her son and support her to do that. As a pastor, you don't owe your congregation your son's presence if God's Spirit is calling him to another community and inspiring you to make that happen.  As for how it "looks": You can help people "see" how not being his pastor is good for your son, for you, and even for your own faith community.  In other words, take this decision out of apology / guilt mode and put it in a cute frame.

A loose thread perhaps: Please make it clear to your son and to your church's youth group leaders that he will not be going on your congregation's mission trip or other activities with them, even if / when you go.

You are not "getting away" with anything.  You are leading and teaching and loving, PastorMom.  Be bold!

Thanks to all our matriarchs who have responded with words of grace and experience.  Now, readers, it's your turn.  Join the conversation by posting your comments below.

May you live in God's amazing grace+

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WedsFest: Top Ten Blessings of a Church Yard Sale

A fresh look at the parish yard sale from Living Water(town):

Treasures earthly and spiritual — at the CGS Yard Sale

10. A room full of perfect strangers all searching for a little girls shoes (She took them off to test drive a little toy cart).
9. Watching a mother’s happiness at unexpectedly finding just the right winter coat for her son, for just $3.
8. Giving a widow an excuse to finally clear out things she has held onto since her husband died (“It’s for a good cause, after all.”)
7. Seeing the oldest and the youngest members of the parish discover and value one another’s talents as they work together.
6. Meeting a family who live up the street, and watching them hang out all day talking to people, eating hot dogs, and relaxing.
5.  Standing on the street corner holding a “Yard Sale Here!” sign, mentally organizing my sermon for the next day.
4.  Enjoying 21st century baked sale delights: gluten-free cupcakes, vegan banana bread, and legume-free cake.
3. Making over $1,300 for the church (which we really need!).
2. Learning about people’s lives through their donations (“I made my wedding dress and all the bridesmaids’ dresses using this sewing machine.”)
1. Knowing that the “Lots More Inside” sign refers to more than stuff:  Lots of caring, lots of hospitality, lots of learning, and lots of blessings.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings-- Capable and Wise Edition

Jesus Welcomes the Children
The RCL readings for this week (Proper 20B, 17th After Pentecost) can be found here.

So we have the Proverbial (literally) description of a capable woman  Although she is assumed to be a wife and not simply a capable woman in her own right, as I quickly read through those verses I have to wonder if the husband is really needed for this woman? I also wonder what our current descriptors of "capable" (for either gender) would be and how our list would match this one.

Looking at the rest of the passages, it appears that being wise is tied to being capable.   Even if that draws us into the upside-down wisdom of the kingdom, or the wisdom "from above".  Which then begs the question of what does it mean to be wise?????

I can relate...
That seems like too many heavy questions for this early in the week.  Time to pause and pray...
God, in the midst of the busy-ness of the world we take a break to rest, to reflect, to re-energize.
In a world where all to often we feel inadequate or in over our heads, we wonder what it means to be capable,
In a world where there are so many voices claiming to share wisdom, we wonder how to recognize what is truly wise,
In a world which repeatedly tells us we have to try to be first and greatest we wonder what it means to be last and least.
As we work our way through this week,  open our eyes and ears that we would see and hear the world as you do.  Open our minds and souls that we would be ready to be transformed by your wisdom.  And when we feel wholly uncapable, remind us that we do not need to get it all right, but that with your help we can get the important stuff right.
These things we pray, trusting that we are not alone.  AMEN.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Extra: When Good Worship Goes Bad

From the marvelous David Hayward,
This fall I'm teaching a seminary class, Introduction to Christian Worship. We're reading, alongside more academic books, a very practical guide for new pastors. In the reading for this week there was a story much like most of us have.

At the time for the offering to be presented, Carol stood in front of the altar, waiting. The ushers with full offering plates stood at the back of the sanctuary, waiting. Finally, the ushers, still looking as if this were not the right thing to do, approached the altar; Carol said the prayer, the congregation sang the doxology and the service continued. Only in a conversation after the service did she discover that normally the pastor gave the prayer before the ushers brought the gifts to the altar. *


My first week gaffe had to do with passing out and collecting Communion trays, so I can identify. And there's also nothing more idiosyncratic than the Offering.

For the sake of my students, who are UCC, UU, ABC and Episcopal, will you share some of your stories? Write them in the comments, or leave a link to a blog post if you write one.

May your Monday be free of the unexpected!

* Miller, Barbara Day. The New Pastor's Guide to Leading Worship.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sunday Prayer: Proper 19B, Pentecost 16B


Gracious God
Thank you for the gift of life
for all the blessings of this life
For hope unexpected,
Grace always given,
and hearts always open
to receive your love poured out -

In your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Holy One Comfort and heal -
Strife between nations, cities, people
Anger birthed by certainty, entitlement,
due to justice or injustice actions.
Pain:inflicted - me, you, us
the cause, because or for no cause.
May your Grace, oh God, prevail.

In your mercy, hear our prayer.

God, Mother with tender strength
and mighty compassion -
Tend our wounds:inflicted as we are from
War - innocent lives lost, violence toward the meek,
Hate: - bitter, unseeing, closed, overwhelmed by
Other-ness, grief, abuse, hurt, change,
In all our broken ways, mend us and make us whole.

Be especially with those who have died and those who are dying,
for any reason, illness, famine, violence, war, abuse
Comfort the afflicted, tend to the weary, bless the dying, 
soothe the suffering. Soothe our suffering, for we all do
Soothe us as only you are able.

In your mercy, Hear our prayer.

God, Father enlighten all people to see as you,
Or at least to try to see as you, or at least to hope
to see as you do - with open heart, arms wide for
a full embrace of love and compassion
In you mercy, Hear our prayer.
God, Sister, God our brother
Open our eyes and ears,
open our minds and hearts
Fill us, we pray, with love. .
Lord, in you mercy, Hear our prayer.