Sunday, October 31, 2010

Belief-O-Matic

To celebrate Reformation Day, Kristi and I took the Belief-o-Matic at BeliefNet:
http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx

Questions and answers and a little bit of responses:
Q1. What is the number and nature of the deity (G-d, gods, higher power)?
I chose: “Only one God--an incorporeal (no body) spirit, supreme, personal G-d Almighty, the Creator.”

Q2. Are there human incarnation(s) of G-d (or of gods/goddesses)?
I chose: “One incarnation.”
For me, this is Jesus, obviously – but Kristi and I had a good talk about choice #4: “No particular incarnations because God is all and all are God (or God is in all).”

Q3. What are the origins of the physical universe and life on earth?
I chose: “God is creating and controlling the phenomena uncovered by scientists. Or there are other spiritual explanations, but not in conflict with scientific discovery.”
This is a tough one – I'm on the side of “spiritual explanations that are not in conflict with scientific discovery.”

Q4. What happens to humans after death?
I chose: “The soul's spiritual development continues after death so that all may eventually experience the indescribable joy of closeness to God. Hell is not a place but the tormented state of remoteness from God.”
Kristi chose: “There is definitely an afterlife, but the specifics cannot be known or are unimportant--most important is one's conduct in life.”

Q5. Why is there terrible wrongdoing in the world?
I chose: “Egoism (self-importance) leads to desire, craving, and attachments, which can lead to unwholesome thoughts and behavior, i.e., greed, hate, and violence.”
This is a reasonably Buddhist view, but I think it is also a faithful picture of the Judeo-Christian tradition – that our self-importance causes us to neglect G-d and our neighbor.

Q6. Satan's presence results in much suffering.
I chose: “Disagree.”
Kristi chose: “Not applicable.”
And we agreed that our answers stemmed from the same belief: that humanity is perfectly capable of creating much suffering on our own, without the assistance of Satan.

Q7. Why is there so much suffering in the world?
I chose: “None of the above; human suffering has nothing to do with the supernatural or karma.”
Another answer, “Unwholesome thoughts and/or deeds (greed, hatred, and violence) in this or prior lives return as suffering (karma),” was close – but Kristi and I agreed that the use of the word karma made it hard to choose that answer. Since we don't believe in reincarnation (but, Kristi adds, “I don't not believe in reincarnation”), we couldn't attribute suffering to karma. But there's no question that our human sins, a.ka. bad deeds, are revisited to us or others in this life as suffering.
    
Q8. Worship:
I chose: “The Supreme Power, G-d, or Gods.”
I am not sure, at this moment in my life, that I believe in the Trinity, either as “three persons of one essence” or “each a distinct essence,” but I know that I believe in G-d, so I chose what I could surely commit to.

Q9. Baptism (or initiation) ceremonies:
I chose: “Not required.”
But I believe that they are meaningful, and I will gladly encourage and perform them when the time comes.

Q10. Regularly confess or repent:
I chose: “All sins/wrongs, but not necessarily to a cleric.”
Yeah, priesthood of all believers!

Q11. Doing good works (deeds) and acting compassionately is:
I chose: “Necessary.”
Because I don't believe you can be saved and be a sh*t. I mean, obviously we are, because we are justus et peccator, but I don't believe in cheap grace.

Q12. Choose ALL statements below that represent your beliefs.
I chose:
“All, even the wicked, are rewarded after life (e.g., go to heaven, merge with God) as God(s) is infinitely good and forgiving.”
and
“Live very simply; renounce worldly goals and possessions.”
I trust in what was revealed to Julian: “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Q13. Elective abortion should be accepted (not proclaimed or treated as immoral).
I chose: “Disagree.”

Q14. Homosexual behavior should be regarded as immoral or out of harmony.
I chose “Disagree” and gave it a high priority. Like I do.

Q15. Roles for women and men should be prescribed.
I chose: “Disagree.”

Q16. Divorce and/or remarriage should be restricted or punished or condemned.
I chose “Disagree”; I do think “restricted” might get at what I believe, but I'm not sure it was the right word.

Q17. Social betterment programs (e.g., equality, anti-poverty, education) should be fundamental.
I chose “Agree” and gave it High priority.

Q18. Nonviolence (e.g., pacifism, conscientious objector) should be fundamental.
I chose “Agree.”

Q19. Prayer, meditation, or spiritual healing practices should be favored to the exclusion of conventional health treatment (for all serious conditions or certain types of serious conditions).
I chose “Disagree.”

Q20. Revering nature or the environment should be fundamental.
I chose “Agree.”


My results – top five, plus some interesting ones:
1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
Probably because of the social justice and pacifism questions.
2. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (89%)
W00t.
3. Reform Judaism (88%)
This surprised me, and then it occurred to me that my commitment to the one G-d rather than the Trinity might be the reason.
4. Unitarian Universalism (86%)
Don't they agree with everyone?
5. Neo-Pagan (83%)
I have no idea how I got this one.

20. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (48%)

22. Eastern Orthodox (44%)
23. Roman Catholic (44%)
I wonder if it's the same 44%.
...
25. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (32%)
26. Nontheist (31%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (20%)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coffee hour as the comments section.

Allie at Hyperbole and a Half is the greatest.  She blogs & draws about terrifying or embarrassing events in her life, and has this community of readers who all shout "OMG-D ME TOOO!"  It's a big cathartic affirmation-fest.  I love it.  (Bloggess Jenny also does this.)

I am convinced that if the church could learn to do what Allie and Jenny do, but in worship, we would see attendance go through the roof.  People are hungry for a space to be themselves - their embarrassing, awkward, weird, funny selves.  People are hungry for a place to admit their shortcomings and their fears.

The church has not made a place for this.  Yes, we have Bible studies and small groups, and you might get this in those - but on any given Sunday, we gather in a big group and even though we say We are bound by sin and cannot free ourselves and Christ have mercy and Forgive us our sins, our faces seem to say that everything is hunky-dory.  We pretend like we've just won the award for having it all together:




This is baloney.  We are all hurting.  And we need space to hurt.  And I'm starting to wonder if segregating that honest, hurting time into small groups (which not all members attend) is gypping everyone.  Small groups hinder us by:

-  Allowing us to choose our own small groups.  If we make our small groups fluid (for the sake of accessibility), it becomes too easy for me to say "I'll go to the Friday evening group because Julia's going" or "I'm leaving the Wednesday afternoon coffee group because I'm sick of David's ranting."  Worship says:  tough cookies.  David is just as much worth your interest as Julia is.

-  Asking for more time commitments.  We're running out of space we can call "church time."  When I was in elementary school, there was nothing going on after school on Wednesdays because it was church time.  This was a given.  Homework was lighter on Wednesday nights, because teachers had been told that a majority of their students had other commitments.  Now I have kids who don't show up at 9:15 on a Sunday morning because they have a soccer game at 10.

I'm not saying that the secular (a.k.a non-church) culture needs to make time for us, or that we should give up other occupations to devote more time to worship.  These two things may be true, but the facts are that secular culture isn't going to give worship more time, and we aren't either.  What I'd rather argue is that if the culture isn't making space for us, and if we can't make oodles of space for ourselves, we should focus on making the space that we do have worthwhile.  That hour on a Sunday morning should be life-changing.  We should not require everyone else to plug-in to small groups, Sunday School, adult forums, Bible studies, etc. in order to get the fullness of the church - not because those groups aren't worthwhile but because not all members of the church can commit to them.


So:  What if worship - not small groups, not Bible studies, not weekend retreats - what if worship was intimate, and moving, and gave us a safe space to look into the darkness?  What if our Sunday morning experience of Jesus was one who faced that darkness with us, who said, "Hold on.  I'm here.  It sucks now but we're going to get through it."?  What if the coffee hour on Sunday morning looked like the comments on Allie's and Jenny's blogs - where people felt free to share their barrenness and need, and others responded in love by sharing their own?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I do not have much of a personal prayer life.  I know that I should, but I don't.

I've had a rough couple of weeks.  Integrating into a new community is hard for me.  (This is one of the reasons I write things down now:  I had forgotten until just recently how long it took to hit my stride at Olaf.  I do not want to forget again.)

Yesterday morning it occurred to me that, yes, yoga in the morning and better meals for dinner would be good, and would lower my anxiety, but - what about prayer?

So I'm tossing in a prayer in the morning between toast and coffee.  These prayers are nothing elegant.  They consist mostly of "I'm screwed.  Please help."

And ... oooh dear.

I forgot the reasons I don't like to pray.  First:  because it opens a channel for Jesus to speak into my barrenness, into my absolute crap of a self.  The crap me does not like Jesus interfering.  He's into accepting everyone and pursuing justice and it's just not fun or easy.  I do not particularly care to hear over my cup of coffee that I need to pay more attention to the problems of those around me than to my own -- even though I know this is true and good.

But second - I am bothered by prayer because it does change me.  I've felt extraordinarily better the past two days.  I've felt peaceful.

And this bothers me.  A lot.

Why should I receive anything?  Are Adam and Sarah comforted as they pray in the midst of the loss of their twin boys?  Are the children in Haiti filled with an inexplicable peace even as the cholera racks their bodies and families and communities?  Are my friends and compatriots at Luther any more soothed, any better able to sleep or to wake?  If not for any of these, then why for me?

I do not like this.

Yet it is the only way I can survive.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three years ago, a beautiful light in this world was destroyed.



Katherine brought light and joy to everyone she met.  I knew her only as an acquaintance, but even our short encounters were filled with her kindness and intentionality.

Katherine is now more widely known as "the Craigslist nanny," the girl who answered an ad in Minneapolis, and whose body was later found in a trunk.  The facts of her murder are gruesome and sickening.  Her murderer is now in prison, for life, with no chance of parole.

Katherine's little brother, Karl, was married this past weekend.  I know Karl also as only an acquaintance, but we have several mutual friends, so my Facebook feed has been filled with photographs and congratulations.  Yesterday I was meditating on the beauty of this:  that a month and week and days so filled with pain, death, and grief are now colored with joy and celebration.  Katherine would want it this way.

Then today, Adam (of pomomusings.com) and his wife Sarah had to see their twin baby boys born - at twenty weeks old.  They survived for an hour.

How do I force myself to care about Hebrew verb tenses and creatio ex nihilo vs. primordial soup and the meaning of "pistis" in Mark's gospel when the world is so full of absolute despair and barrenness?

I know that all I am learning now will help me to stand in the midst of darkness and nothingness.  I know this.  I do.  And I believe it.  I simply do not believe it at this present moment.

Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I'm starting to suspect about church...

I met with Dr. Zscheile last week to talk about the Congregational Mission and Leadership concentration.  The intent is to develop "new missional leaders", which is a fancy way of saying that you spend time learning how to start new churches and how to redevelop stagnant ones.

This is really, really interesting to me, because I've become convinced in the past five years that the way we "do church" right now is killing pastors, congregations, and people - and is entirely antithetical to the body of Christ. 


I don't just mean "American Christianity", where Caucasian Jesus nukes the Arabs while holding an American Flag and riding a triceratops (although obviously that is antithetical).  


I mean the programmatic life, the insistence that if we "do" worship or Bible Study or Sunday School or youth group or whatever "correctly", then we'll get more members.  I mean the idea that these things can  be done "correctly", and that more members is the ultimate goal of the body of Christ.


I think the truth is that the church is an assemblage of absolutely horrific, idiotic, flawed people, who are required to love each other because Jesus said so - and you make a family out of that, and you go through pain together and you get in fights and work them out and you stick it out not because you "get something out of it" or because "we need more members" but because it's just so beautiful.  


So I'd like to learn how to do that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Barefoot, naked, trapped, and free.

Telling a coming out story is an act of coming out itself; it reveals not only who I am now, but where I've been, and what scars and blessings mark me now.

My story is impossible for me to tell, yet; there is too much still to unpack.  But I can give one snapshot, one hour my life:

I am seventeen years old.  Raised Episcopalian, but now wandering in the wilderness of who G-d is and how to worship.  This wandering has brought me here:  Threshing Floor, the Abundant Life Assembly of God youth group.  Bekah, a close friend from school, brought me.
I've been attending for a year.  Mom says "Don't."  Mom says "When they know who you are, they will not welcome you."  I tell her, with infinite teenage wisdom, that she is wrong.  But I do not tell anyone at church who I am.  Bekah knows, because everyone at school knows; but at church I am silent.

It is October 16th.  Tonight we have a special youth group:  pastors-in-training from a seminary with ties to Abundant Life are coming to preach.  I am excited, because I have felt a call to ministry since I was twelve.  Maybe this is how I can live it.  Maybe they will show me the way.

A young man gets up to preach.  He has a different style than our youth pastor; angrier.  He begins to rail on drug and alcohol abuse among teenagers in America.  I nod, along with the rest of the group.  Yes.  This is evil.  This is sin separating them from God.

He moves on to abortion.  The rest of the group nods.  I hesitate.  I do not know much; I am only seventeen; I am the daughter of liberal parents.  When he moves on, I am grateful.  I am not sure where I stand, and I am glad not to have to worry about it.

He says, "But the greatest threat to our teenagers today..."

I hope that he will say depression, or anxiety, or loneliness.  I am fighting all three.  I think everyone is lonely.  Maybe if we admit it, we can defeat it, together in our loneliness.


"The single most sinful threat to their very lives...


is homosexuality."

My throat closes.

I see Bekah's head turn.  She is looking at me.  I cannot move.  I cannot think.  Everything is slowing down and speeding up.  I hear his words but they have become an angry babble, a hellfire spreading through my heart.

He condemns them, and condemns me.

I close my eyes, praying for something, anything to happen.  Please G-d, please.  But nothing happens.  He continues - his voice louder - his shouts beating down the pulse of my heart.  I am naked before all of them.

Without knowing that I am, I am standing.

He pauses and looks at me, but continues preaching.  I am standing, silent, and then I am turning and walking out.

I have taken off my shoes, as many of us do to start worship; I am barefoot, my sandals left in the sanctuary with my Bible and purse.  I cannot turn back.

I push open the door to the lobby, and stand in the light there.  Finally the vise around my heart releases, and a flood of tears overcomes me.  My bare feet carry me to the girls' bathroom.

I weep.  Oh G-d, oh G-d.  I do not even know what I am crying for; only that I feel so impossibly and irrevocably broken that even G-d will not hear me.

But someone does; there is someone else in the bathroom now.  I hope that it is Bekah, and it is - she calls my name.

But when I come from the stall, there is someone else with her - one of the youth leaders, J.  J has dark hair and bright blue eyes, and I've never talked to her before; tonight, she is full focused on me.

She begins barraging me.  What is in you that made you abandon worship?  I cannot answer. She assumes, and continues.  What kind of wicked temptation is this?  I cannot answer.
She softens a little.  I was tempted too, you know, when I was your age...


And so begins a story I only half-hear, about temptation and sin and damnation.  Her words pound against me.  I am no longer in myself; I am floating above, trying to escape.  Bekah stands, unsure, seventeen years old, powerless.  J leans closer, nailing the words of condemnation against my skin.  I am trapped.  Everything I have ever learned about G-d and Jesus and love falls away.

J wants me to pray the sinner's prayer, to turn to Christ and accept salvation.  I hear the words but I am stone.  She lets my silence hang in the air.

And in the silence, I know what is true.

I feel my heart.  Not pounding; not stopped; not choked -- a steady, sure beat.  Tears fill my eyes again.  J, seeing that the moment is at hand, jumps at my emotional wreckage and says:

"What do you want, Emmy?"

And I say:


"I want to leave."

I walk from the bathroom.  I hear J call my name but I do not turn.  Bekah catches up to me, says she'll get my shoes, says she'll meet me in the car.  I walk outside and sit in her Crown Royal until worship is over and we leave.

I know that J thinks that I turned my back on G-d.  What J does not know is that I have no such option.  I am dead without G-d; I know this, for I nearly died the year before.  Now, my only choice is to submit to the terrifying truth:


I am a beloved child of God.


I am gay.


And in the truth of these, I am called to preach.

This is all my little self knows.  I knew it at seventeen when the preacher-in-me took the scared-and-scarred-girl-in-me by the hand and walked her out of a place that would have killed me.

I knew it at nineteen when I opened my first theology book - Martin Luther's Three Treatises - and felt my heart expand in the joy of coming home.

I knew it at twenty when I was confirmed in Boe Chapel, and later that year when I met Kristi.

I knew it at twenty-four when finally, finally, finally, the scared-and-scarred-little-girl saw a church stand up and say "Yes" to me and my queer brothers and sisters.

And now I see it every day, in the place where I will be taught to live out the promise of preaching in the midst of my absolute brokenness.

I know the truth; and it has set me free.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yesterday I confessed (perhaps foolishly?) to my precept group in Systematic Theology that I don't think I believe in the Trinity.

This is kind of a big thing to admit, especially for a kid raised in a high-church Episcopal congregation and a pastor-in-training who hopes to never have to skip the Nicene Creed in liturgy.  (I love the creed.  I absolutely do.  It connects me backward and forward to Christians in time, and I believe what it confesses.)

I think G-d is G-d, who has been manifest & known to us in three ways:
- the Father/Creator/Y-h/G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
- the Savior, Messiah, and Christ: Jesus of Nazareth
- and the Holy Spirit present at creation and at Jesus' baptism and now running rampant through the world.

I do not necessarily subscribe to an understanding of these three manifestations as "persons."  Once a liberal arts religion major starts breaking down one's ability to conceive of G-d as male, and then as a deified human, and then as really anything that can be conceived...talking about three-persons-in-one-essence doesn't necessarily stick to the wall of one's mind.

Maybe I just don't know what is meant by "persons".  Maybe when the Church Fathers have said "persons" they meant "manifestations."  I may not know enough definitely don't know enough to know.

May G-d bless me to know what I need to know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I cannot even begin to write about Seth, Asher, Justin, Billy, Tyler, and Raymond, but to say:

This is my family.  The world kills them.  And my heart is too heavy to speak.

At the moments when I let my mind & heart awaken to the absolute terrifying darkness of what is going on, I feel absolute despair.  How long, O LORD, how long?  If you had been here, they might not have died.

When I cannot speak except for words of lament, I let my soul run and hide itself.  I've been carrying Manna and Mercy in my backpack since Monday; just knowing it's there soothes my heart.

And I've been reading blog posts; I try not to read the comments, because it seems that even in the face of six queer boys dead there are people trolling the Internet to proclaim God's salvation in hate.  But I read - I am thankful for Twitter where good blog posts are offered up and the Outlaw Preachers sing loud and clear - and I am pulled to the surface for a gasp of air.

May G-d have mercy on my weak and tired soul.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

HaShem

Several months ago I had this conversation with Anna, one of my dearest friends whose faith has completely changed mine.  (I call her Hannahla, for reasons unknown to her or me, but I'm so used to doing it now that it feels odd to quit.)
--------------------------
Hannahla,


Now that you've opened yourself up to more communication from me, I'll be pelting you with questions.


Question about using G-d instead of the full name:  how do you pronounce it?  Do you say "the LORD" instead, like saying Adonai instead of Y-h?  Or is this a written based situation only?  Google is inconclusive on the subject.  Although I learned that orthodox Jews say Ha-Shem, for "The Name," which I like.  


It would be good for Christianity to be more intentional about things.  I feel like if I adopted saying Ha-Shem or anything besides God, I'd spend a lot of time explaining it and sounding pretentious rather than inspiring/reminding others to be respectful of the name.  But this could be fixed if a large part of Christians would spend more time UNDERSTANDING WHERE THEY CAME FROM and less time hiding pedophiles, converting "pagans," or protesting at military funerals.  Sigh.


from your dear gentile friend.


----------------------------------------


Hi Em,


Pelt away! I look forward to any questions you have for me, and I'll answer them as best I can. 


We write G-d instead of "God" because anything that has a name of G-d written upon it is considered holy, and therefore we risk desecrating the name of G-d if the paper we wrote on is ever thrown away or destroyed. There is a process for properly disposing of holy items such as prayer books that have worn out or become unuseable, much like there is a process for properly disposing of a tattered American flag. But as a rule, even non-religious Jews don't write "God," and default to the G-d in writing. 


In terms of pronunciation, G-d is pronounced the same as "God." It is spoken as well as written. Commonly, as you said, folks will say HaShem instead of "God," mostly because it is the title G-d refers to him/herself with in the Bible. Even non-religious (secular) Jews will say HaShem, but for them (us) it is a comfort issue. When spoken, "HaShem" feels more like a name than a title, like Adonai, Elohim, etcetera, and in general folks are more comfortable saying it than they are saying "God." 


There are many sayings that use Hashem, such as Baruch Hashem, a catch-all phrase. It can be used in greeting:
A: How are you?
B: Baruch Hashem. 


Another saying is B'ezrat Hashem, with G-d's help:
A: We will have the SQL server up and running again by 4pm, B'ezrat Hashem.


Jews rarely use the English word "Lord," which in Hebrew is Adonai or Elohim. Although, I think it's funny when someone is saying "Oh my G-d" on English TV the Hebrew subtitles say "Elohim!" Also, the Jewish equivalent of the phrase OMG is "Oh my gee-dash-dee!" It's mainly a joke, I don't know how many folks actually use it. But I think it's funny. 


So anyway, there you have it. G-d is pronounced "God," and Hashem is a delightful, catch-all phrase which is applicable in just about any situation. I'm all for you using the term if you like it! It's fun and will be a conversation starter! 


I hope this has helped! Please bring me all your questions!!! I love being religion-geeky with you!!! 


Your She-brew,
Hannahla


------------------------------

This question - of what do I call God - has been bothering me for months.  On the plane to the Leaders in Ministry conference in Boston this June, I was scrawling Greek letters in my journal, trying to figure out how to write "The revealed in-Christ God" because it was all I felt I could confess to:  I know God because I know Christ.

Today (right now, actually...this is sort of an "extended work break" if you will) I'm working on my paper for Systematic Theology and arguing that Ted Peters, in his book God -- The World's Future, fails to make a good transition between talking about the "ontological shock" experience of God (similar to Otto's numen, I think) into the biblical God.

And I wrote:


"The experience of the numen is terrifying precisely because it raises ontological questions: who am I? who is God? what is my purpose? The God testified to in Hebrew Scriptures and embodied in Jesus of Nazareth does not ask these questions - this God raises them and then answers them!"

This string of words bugged me.  It was clear - to me, anyway - that the God I talked about when I said "who is God?" is not the God I talk about when I say "the God testified to in Hebrew Scriptures".  The first God is a descriptor for the terrifying numen, a sort of general bigger-than-self thing.  The second God is the God who tore open the sky and descended like a dove and went around for three years saying "Please be a little bit nicer to each other."  (And we killed him for it.)  I know this; I hope Professor Hansen can tell; but the word is the same.  And I do think words matter.

So, for today, I resolved it this way:


"The experience of the numen is terrifying precisely because it raises ontological questions: who am I? who is God? what is my purpose? The G-d testified to in Hebrew Scriptures and embodied in Jesus of Nazareth does not ask these questions - this G-d raises them and then answers them!"


"God" is a word used to cover everything - every deity, every concept of every deity, every thing bigger than ourselves.  (And it gets used as a swear.)  "G-d" is something altogether different:  it is my God, the One who creates, the One who redeems, the One who sanctifies; and it reminds me that this is not just "my God" but the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


May G-d make me worthy of trying to understand.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I love what I do.

I woke up totally exhausted today.  I've napped something fierce this weekend, but I'm still only clocking in five hours a night, and it's showing.  I had a throbbing headache and real attractive dark bags under my eyes.  I considered staying in bed.  But when you're the children's education associate, you don't have an option to not clock in.  So I took a hot shower and chugged some coffee and prayed for grace.

A lot of my kids come in with sleepy eyes, so I try to get them up and moving as much as I can.  Today:  yoga stretches to start.  Charades and singing in big group.  Storytime with actions (the Spark curriculum + Story Bible is SO AWESOME at prompting this).  Charades in small group.  Drawing.  A little dance to end the morning.

I felt exhausted when worked this out last night, and feel the same when I think about it now, but in the moment, it worked.  And my head stopped hurting.

Our Gospel lesson today, Luke 17, tells us to acknowledge our absolute undeservedness:  "So you too, when you've done all you were told to do - say 'We're worthless slaves.   We've done only what we were told to do!'"

This week, in discipleship group, we talked about how the same words can be Law to some and Gospel to others.  I can definitely hear "worthless slave" as a condemnation - especially in my many works-righteous moments.  I can be insulted, angry, hurt - after all the time and energy I put into this, I'm supposed to write it off as "only what I was told to do"?!

I can write about that another day.  Today, these were words of grace, the Gospel thinly veiled.  Yes, I'm exhausted.  But this isn't about me.  I'm not doing children & youth ministry for me.  I'm not going to seminary for me.  It actually doesn't matter if I'm exhausted, as long as I'm willing to commit myself to do what I'm told to do.

Another day, this will be law - condemning and painful.  Today, it's grace, and I rest in it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Just a reminder: God is not a man.

Every single day in chapel, we are sent off with this blessing:

"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,"

and we all answer:

"Amen."

Now.  I grew up high-church Episcopalian.  Up until I started going to Teens Encounter Christ and listening to the (slightly nutty) leaders who got worked up about God-language, I had absolutely no problem with Father-language for God.  I didn't really think about it, y'know?  I didn't think my father was God, but Jesus called God Father, and it means He cares for us like a father does, & yadda yadda yadda.

And I am still a high-church Sunday morning gal.  I don't like it when we skip the Kyrie & go straight to the Gloria.  I'd prefer we chant pretty much everything we can.  And it bugs me (just a teeny little bit) at daily chapel when everyone on the altar has the same green and gold three-ring binders to hold their service notes, but the hue of their stoles doesn't match.

So, unto those preparing the daily worship at Luther Seminary chapel, I say with hat in hand:


When the kid who would prefer a little more plainsong-chant and incense in her service is starting to grimace whenever you get to the Benediction, there's a problem.

I have absolutely no problem with Father-language, still, even though I know much more than I did when I was seventeen.  My problem is when I am always and only blessed in the name of the-Father-who-is-male and the-Son-who-is-male and Holy-Spirit-who-is-undefined-but-two-out-of-three-is-a-majority.

I acknowledge that the common runner-up of Creator-Redeemer-Sustainer has its own baggage and limitations.  But this is a seminary, y'all.  If we have a dearth of anything, it is not highly intelligent people training additionally highly intelligent people to talk about God to the world of the 21st century :)  Surely one or two of the same can come up with a couple of alternatives.  Ruler of the Universe.  the Alpha and Omega.  Kurios.  El-Shaddai.  Pantokrator.  Eloheim.  Adonai.  Sophia.  Adonai-Shalom.  Kadosh.  El-berith.  Ruach-HaQodesh.  Lord of all hopefulness.  Shepherd.  The Lover, the Loved, and Love.

And definitely HaShem.  Because all of this is pribble, and the more we can remind ourselves of that, the better.