Tuesday, November 28, 2006

FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY AIDS……..EVERYONE

Here is the chapel service I wrote/arranged which will take place at 10:00 PST tomorrow. Join us in prayer if you like.





For Those Affected By AIDS....Everyone

A chapel service in preparation for Advent and World AIDS Day
November 29, 2006 ~ Fuller Theological Seminary



Opening Litany
All Stand. Readers lead as congregation responds in bold.

Reader 1: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will
fulfill the promise.
Come, Emmanuel, come.

Reader 2: A righteous Branch shall execute justice and
righteousness in the land.
Come, Emmanuel, come.

Reader 3: My people will be saved and they will live in safety.
Come, Emmanuel, come.

Reader 4: As we enter the season of Advent,
May we find assurance
In the promised coming of Christ.
As we are enveloped by the darkness of winter,
May we find warmth in one another
And comfort in God’s presence.
As we enter a week of remembrance and petition
For those living
And those dying
With HIV/AIDS,
May we be mindful of God’s compassion
and the Love that rescued all of
humanity.
Then…
…and now…
…and soon.

All: Come, Emmanuel, come. Fulfill your promise.


Gathering Hymn

(“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” verse 1, verse 2) (or I also suggest Savior of the nations, come, St. Ambrose or Prepare the Way of the Lord, TaizĂ©)

Kyrie
Said by a minister, with congregational responses in bold

God calls us as a people, a whole people,
None of whom is worthless,
Each of whom was worth his coming.
We are called to bear witness to the Good News,
To sing out glad tidings of great joy,
That no-one is a stranger or an outsider,
And that in Jesus Christ
All division and separation have been
broken down.
In the face of the worldwide crisis of AIDS,
We are called to be one people, And yet hardness of heart, discrimination, and
oppression
Prevent us from being the person whom
God calls us to be.
During this Advent season,
Let us examine ourselves and our motives.
As we prepare to confess our sins,
We come to God in prayer:

Lord of compassion,
We often misrepresent you as a God of wrath,
Yet you are the God of Love raising us to life,
And so we ask, Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
You banish the fear that has often paralyzed us
In responding to the needs of all who are affected by HIV and AIDS.
When we falter, encourage us, strengthen us,
And so we ask, Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

Spirit of unity,
You build us up when we break down,
You unite us when we divide,
You comfort us when we condemn,
And so we ask, Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

Prayer of Confession
Said by All

Gracious God,
We confess to you that we are trapped by sin and
cannot free ourselves.
Though you gave the precious gift of your Son,
We have failed to follow in his footsteps.
We have failed to abound in love for one another.
We have failed to abound in love for those living with
HIV and AIDS.
We have failed to keep our promises to you.
Forgive us and free us to be alert to your will.
Fill us with your Spirit,
So that our world can see that your redemption draws
near
Through the first – and second – comings
Of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Response
Dance: “Rock of Ages”

Assurance of Pardon
Offered by a minister

Almighty God, have mercy on us,
Forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Strengthen us in all goodness,
And by the power of the Holy Spirit,
Keep us in eternal life. Amen.

Congregational Song

(“Offering” verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus) (for Episcopalians and those who do not know music that goes with guitars, I suggest: He Hideth My Soul, Fanny J. Crosby; There is a Balm in Gilead; or There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, Faber with tune St. Helena by Calvin Hampton)

Scripture Readings

Reader 1: A Reading from the Psalms (22:1-2, 6-11, 14-15, 19, 23-24)

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 6But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; 8“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver— let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” 9Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. 10On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 11Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. 14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 19But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! 23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted.

Reader 2: A Reading from the book of Lamentations (3:21-26, 31-33)
21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 31For the Lord will not reject forever. 32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

Reader 3: A Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians (4:1, 7-9, 16a)
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

All Stand

Reader 4: A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (19:18-25)
18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?”

Lighting of the Advent “Wreath”
There are four giant candles, at the four corners of the room, surrounding the congregation. Each reader lights his/her candle as they read. Reader #4 should be at the front of the room, next to the leader. The candles may be wrapped in red AIDS ribbon.

Reader 1
We remember your servant John and the prophets of Israel, who proclaimed the coming of the Lord. May we continue in their tradition, blazing a trail of truth and calling for repentance. Help us, Lord, to banish the myths that AIDS is a divine punishment or that any group or class of people deserves HIV. May we baptize our broken world in the living water of healing and forgiveness. May we look to the horizon and behold the second advent of the Lamb of God who makes all things new.

Reader 2
We remember your servant Joseph, who heeded the voice of love and did not abandon a woman in need. May we likewise aid those who are marginalized by their communities, those trapped by violence and exploitation, those who have contracted disease by deception, those who give birth to children doomed with the virus. May we hear their cries, as you heard the cries of Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. May we always approach their pain with compassionate resources, to lift them out of shame and fear, enabling them to retain their dignity and human rights.

Reader 3
We remember the magi who brought gifts to the Christ child and the shepherds who celebrated his birth. May we not hesitate to offer our gifts of time, talent, and money to the dispossessed and outcast, knowing that in their faces we see God. May we earnestly seek and contribute towards education for prevention, comprehensive health care and medications, counseling and companionship. May we joyfully proclaim the coming day when Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.

Reader 4
We remember your servant Mary, the Mother of God. May her song echo in our hearts and radiate throughout the world. May we do our part to scatter the proud, cast down the mighty, lift up the lowly, and fill the hungry with good things. May our prayers this morning be transformed into action on behalf of the suffering. As Mary did before us, may we carry God into the world.

All Stand. The readers move toward the audience with small candles, lit from the larger ones, from which the congregation lights their hand-held candles.

Minister
The center of the advent wreath is the Christ candle. My sisters and brothers, you glow with the brilliance of Christ. You are his hands and feet – his voice and heart – on this earth. Carry his light into the world as you wait in joyful expectation for his coming again in glory.

Musical Offering

(“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” verses 1, 2, & 4) (or Comfort, Comfort ye my people, Johann G. Olearius, no 67 in hymnal, or I the Lord of Sea and Sky, or In Christ there is No East or West)

Closing Prayer
All Stand. Said by All

Loving God,
You came to our world by a lowly and humble birth,
And made your home with the poor and the weak.
You show yourself to those who are without help,
And are near to those who cry out for mercy.
Inflame our hearts with the fire of your Spirit.
Help us to accept the challenge that HIV and
AIDS presents to us.
Help us not to lose heart as we await your
coming again to heal all.

We pray for ourselves, that we may rejoice in the gift of life,
For however long it is given.
And we ask that in your strength
We may support the carers,
Protect the healthy,
Calm the frightened,
Encourage those who are in pain,
Comfort the dying,
Console the bereaved,
And commend all to your love and compassion. Amen.

Blessing

Said by a Minister

Remember, my friends,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
but is patient with you,
not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
Stand firm now, assured of the love our Lord has for you,
Knowing that you have been made whole deep within your being;
Knowing that you are called to share that healing
With those given into your care;
And may the compassion of the Father,
The tenderness of the Spirit,
And the guiding hand of the Lord Jesus
Be with you this day and always. Amen.

Reader 4: Go forth in joy and expectation, looking for the coming of Christ.
All: Thanks be to God.

Originally, the service ended with a recitation of the International AIDS Memorial and Mobilization Pledge (but Fuller asked it be removed because it was “too political”):

We subscribe to the following principle:
AIDS is not divine punishment for promiscuity, homosexuality, or drug use;

No group or class of people deserves AIDS.

People living with HIV/AIDS deserve full civil rights, including
the right to retain their jobs and homes and to travel freely;

All people should be educated and assisted in avoiding infection;
All governments must commit to assuring their HIV-infected citizens
comprehensive health care and the latest in AIDS medications.


Oddly enough, they objected not to the line about homosexuality, but to the statements that governments should take care of their citizens. Yikes.

I was told it would take us “out of a spirit of worship”. Well if worship doesn’t lead to action, IMHO, it’s worthless. Our sense of justice arises from our worship. Worship isn’t a separate activity. God help us if we want to keep our “sense of worship” in the chapel or the church, instead of taking it with us out into the world where it’s needed so badly. We gotta seriously reevaluate our tendency to compartmentalize.

I don’t think I’d have felt this way without having been around All Saints this fall. For that, I am grateful. It is a good lesson to have learned.

I acquiesced, but at least here I can say that I think they were chicken. Bawk bawk. OMG, I just had the image of Gob from Arrested. OK, I have to go b/c I’m in class and snorting is not appropriate!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Perspective

I went out the morning of Thanksgiving and talked for about an hour and a half with Keith, who lives outside the library. That helped me garner some perspective on this whole stupid affair. He's a freaking computer programmer, who worked on airplanes and ATMs, and he's now been on the street 12 years. He says he spends all his time looking for a job but they don't want to hire a homeless person (of course he can't get a home without a job). Or he's overqualified. Or it's in another part of the city, and getting to other parts of the city is not a simple thing in LA. So he waits. And prays. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of theology and philosophy. At the moment he's also studying patristic theology (for fun), so we had a good talk about that. It was hard to imagine much difference between us. Or him and my dad, who still doesn't have a job but luckily had my mom along. Keith's girlfriend dumped him (but says she'll get back together when he's off the streets). His parents and twin brother are dead. How does this happen? Our country is a frightening place sometimes.

Meanwhile, I'm dealing with something with my home church that's really pissed me off. Like to the point that I don't really want to go there for a while.

Last summer they threw a huge kickoff party for their building campaign. The party was quite a glamorous affair, and included a silent auction. We bid generously (beyond our means) to get a work of art by a friend, primarily because we knew we were supporting a good cause. It was really a delightful evening, and we all pledged to the campaign and had a very worshipful and fun time together.

On our last giving statement, we discovered that our donation at the silent auction was not listed in our giving to the building campaign. Thinking it an oversight, we contacted the church office. They said that the funds donated at the silent auction did not count towards our pledge for the campaign (and furthermore are not tax-deductible). Now, I can understand a portion not being so (since you usually have to subtract the value of whatever you buy) but I was a bit confused, since it was our understanding that the auction proceeds were to benefit the building fund.

Turns out, they told us, that the auction was merely to pay for the party itself. All of the proceeds from that evening went to pay for the event. They said that since at the event we all pledged to the campaign, in a way the auction supported the building campaign. But in reality, it did not. They told us that the cost of the event was very high and they used the funds to pay for the event so they didn’t have to charge admission.

Well, we got pretty angry. We feel deceived. When a nonprofit tells me they are using funds for one thing and then turns around and uses them for something else, that seems pretty shady. I worked in development. Usually for such events you get everything donated so that the proceeds can benefit the cause. If they couldn’t get donations, I would so rather have had them charge admission – then I wouldn’t have attended! Or if they’d been open about the fundraiser paying for itself, then I wouldn’t have bid at all and let the others who can afford it pay for my dinner. I mean, what do I care about giving a bunch of money to a party?? Nada. I don’t need a party to convince me to give, I will give anyway. And I certainly don’t like the idea that I bid beyond my means to support a bunch of rich people getting sloshed. I gave a huge amount (for us) because I wanted to show my love and support for my church. Now I find out that it was only used to buy a round of drinks. It doesn’t even help the building fund at all. It’s as if I never gave, and instead had one VERY expensive night out (with a cool souvenir, to be sure – we love our artwork – but we’d have never justified what we spent on it if we hadn’t thought it was supporting the church).

I wish I could tell other people around the church but I feel like it’s the church’s responsibility to make this information public (although I suppose I’m making it public here – but I don’t think many people from that church read this. If they do, oh well). I know that most of us there believed our giving was supporting the cause for which the party was thrown. It just seems so wrong. I just never, ever would have spent so much money on a party (I mean the money we gave). I would have stayed home and written a check directly to the building fund.

After we reacted, we got a response from the stewardship person (who is someone I really like and I don’t want to get him in trouble) saying that we're the first ones not to have positive things to say about the gala (hmmm....but I wonder if others are privy to the information we have?) and they are sorry that we feel misled. He checked the invites and stuff and says it didn't specifically say that the money went the fund (well, come on, what else do we expect when it says it's to kickoff the campaign? Really.) but maybe they should have included a disclaimer about the real use of the funds (ya think?). It was mostly apologetic but a little bit defensive too.

For my part, I told him they should make it crystal clear in the future what they are using gifts towards. And it still wouldn't hurt to make public what happened last summer. Then at least we could see if anybody else cares or if we're just being nuts. He offered to return our money but I told him just to put it toward the building campaign. That's where it belongs.

So anyway, after the robbery and Keith's predicament and this church thing, life feels a little crappy. Still, chin up (I just watched "Saw" so now am afraid to show my disappointment with life!). Life's really not bad at all. And another quarter is almost over. Hard to imagine!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bad afternoon

Well my holiday season kicked off early when I got home and discovered our Christmas decorations have been stolen. Ho ho ho. We kept a box of our stuff in an outside storage space, and it's been taken apart and gone through (they also took a sleeping bag...good move, since it's turned chilly again). They basically took only the really sentimental stuff that really hurts to lose. Stuff like my grandmother's 12 days of Christmas bells, which I only got last year after she died and was hoping to keep as a family heirloom. And our Celtic nativity from Ireland, which John's mom has been sending us piece by piece each year we've been married. Just last year we completed the set.

We also lost all our cards (our tradition is to buy them at the after Xmas sales), all our Xmas music & movies, our stockings, lights, the stocking hanger which was like the first thing I bought in LA, and several little things my folks have sent over the years (tapes of the music from my childhood Christmases, a DVD of their fireplace - you know, like the yule log). Mostly it's not worth anything. It's just stuff that we liked but didn't have room to store in this goddam tiny apartment.

Mostly I am OK. I actually kept it pretty cool until I realized Granny's bells were gone. That hurt. I have some beautiful photos of them (and the nativity) from last year, though. But yeah, it's gonna be awfully bare around here this year. And I don't have the heart to replace any of it. If you usually get a card from me, it's probably not going to happen this year.

The longer this night wears on the worse I feel about it. It's a lot of irreplaceable stuff. It's just gone. I mean, we'll try calling some pawn shops on Friday, but that's just so we can feel like we tried. It's pretty disheartening.

All in all, my original reaction: "Oh well, it's just stuff" still holds true. I really wasn't that attached to it and even knew that it was risky to leave it where it could be taken. But still, I don't think it's right to say I'm somehow to blame. Our culture loves to blame victims, especially because then you can feel like you're somehow safer because you'd never do something so stupid. Ha. You don't have to do anything stupid. Someone else just has to be mean.

Like my ma said, even if you leave something sitting right out it doesn't give anybody the right to steal it. People just shouldn't steal. It's mean and stupid. And to steal Christmas decorations is just wrong. It's so dumb.

Well, I hope whoever winds up with the stuff is happy. I think I'll let myself cry a little and then suck it up. It's just stuff, after all. It's just stuff.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hiya hiya

let's get sauced! Cranberry sauced!

OK, I'm a little happy at finishing my paper. I wound up pretty much on Pelagius' side, but I have to say the poor guy was an intellectual nincompoop next to Augie. He didn't really stand a chance with him. Augustine is a philosopher, and you can really tell because his arguments hold together so well. They're wrong, but they make sense.

Poor Pelagius. He has the right ideas but he makes mistakes. Even as I supported him I could find huge holes in his logic. Sigh. No wonder my prof was pretty much mercilessly mocking him in class the other day. I'm hoping we can throw down tomorrow.

So have a super Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I probably won't write again for a few days. Be sure to knock a couple back for me. Or better yet, send me the money and I'll knock a couple back for you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another BIG recommendation!

Well Friday night's foray into LA's live theatre scene - taking a group of 30+ Fuller folks to see "Grace" - was a smashing success. The discussion was really outstanding...just the kind of thing I wish I could do more often. And, the actors helped me understand the ending, to my satisfaction. In fact, they helped me see so many more interesting elements that I hadn't understood or noticed the first time around. It's still playing for two weeks (in Pasadena). I can't recommend it highly enough. You can get half-price tix on Goldstar.

Flush with the success of that rec, I'm going to throw out another one, this time open to the wider public. Oh, first, I just noticed on Ebert & Roeper that "Who Killed the Electric Car" and "An Inconvenient Truth" are both out on DVD this week...so check 'em out.

Last night we watched a film that was barred from theatrical release in the United States, supposedly because the material was too sensitive. It's about post-9/11 America, and a conspiracy theorist, and the troubles we are all facing and the fears we continue having. I don't think it could have been more respectful. It was utterly true.

It's called Land of Plenty and is directed by Wim Wenders, from a story by him and Scott Derrickson (who went to Biola and is sort of an acquaintance of my husband's - a good Christian guy, himself a fine director who did The Exorcism of Emily Rose). The film stars John Diehl (who was OK) and Michelle Williams, who is always so interesting - and was outstanding. She was probably the least messed-up MK I've ever seen (that's "missionary kid" for those out of the lingo), but her character was sweet and honest and really genuine. You just wanted to know someone like her.

The film starts on the streets of Downtown LA, so I immediately felt a kinship. Its mission setting is at Winston & Los Angeles, which is right where I used to live (I was a block west at Winston & Main). I don't want to be a conspiracy nut myself, but honestly if most of America saw the poverty in this area (and it is shown in the film), they would be downright shocked. Remember how awful we all felt after Katrina, when we saw the images of people that looked like a 3rd world refugee camp? Welcome to Downtown LA. Every day.

Anyway, from there we follow Michelle as she searches for her uncle, who is a Vietnam vet caught up in stress, guilt, and recurring nightmares from his service time that were triggered by 9/11. He overcompensates by being a one-man Homeland Security agency (or attempting as much). His story becomes a bit predictable, but it's OK, because the relationship between him and his niece is what you're really watching.

The film was wrenching my guts the whole time - about the irony of our "Land of Plenty" when you pull back the curtain. But also about how beautiful it can be. And how God catches us when we fall. And the importance of family.

Did I mention it has some beautiful prayers in it? Some really real talking to God?

Just see it. Please. It is so good. I want the word to get out so Harvey Weinstein or whoever will be sorry he didn't let us all see it on the big screen. It was so wonderful. Really.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Random connections

I think going to grad school is a lot like having a baby.

You start off with all this expectation of wonderfulness,
All this potential,
All these prayers and dreams.

But then you figure out pretty quickly that
it's way more work than you anticipated.
And you're not getting any sleep.
And you've lost your figure.
And you can't afford anything anymore.
And you're going to be paying for this for the rest of your life.

You find yourself, at turns,
tremendously happy,
absolutely terrified,
deeply depressed,
and completely fulfilled.

Though you may try to steer things one way or another,
oftentimes you are surprised by the way things turn out.
It starts to take on a life of its own.

And in the end, all you can do is hope that this thing you've created
and nurtured
and given life
and put so very much of yourself into
will somehow make the world a better place.

But really, that's out of your hands too.

Thank goodness I believe in a higher power.

I might give up.

And I might never even try the baby thing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No more waiting...exhaling now...

Well a lot has been going on. This has been a very busy week. I’m technically supposed to be reading Augustine, so I’ve got to make this quick.

But I have to tell you that I’m transferring my internship from All Saints to St. Barnabas, a much smaller parish also in Pasadena. I feel that I’ll gain valuable experience from being at a tiny (1 priest, less than 50 people) parish which is more diverse racially and socio-economically and also is primarily older folks. Since most Epis churches in the US seem to be small and elderly, it will be useful to have experience there.

Plus I’m really looking forward to working with the rector, who is very centered. I need that right now. He told me the internship is “all about my formation,” which sounds pretty great to me. Since he’s the whole staff, I’ll be able to get a hand in most everything that happens to run a little church. And I’ll definitely have more opportunity to counsel, preach, work on the worship services, and so on.

My experience at All Saints has been valuable but the overall culture was not a great fit for me. I will be happier at a slower pace, at least at this time in my life. It feels good. So did yoga today. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The more things change...

I just had a most enlightening couple hours in Patristic Theology. We learned about the Donatist controversy. It was mid-4th century, following a persecution during which some had apostasized and others not. Those who were more rigorist in their definition of church rejected the apostates after the persecution ended. Others, the Catholic church among them, believed that the apostates could repent and return to the flock. Their baptism made them members of the Church, and their sin, horrible as it was, didn't change that. Basically it came down to what sins can be forgiven.

So by the time Augustine came along, the Donatist church had become this place where holiness was held as the standard and any person not baptized into their holy, pure church by their holy, pure priests was not a true Christian. Their Church was the one true body of Christ on earth.

Augustine argued against them that the unity of the Church is more important than the sin of individual members. He had the Donatist's favorite guy, Cyprian, on his side here - Cyprian actually said that schism is a worse sin than apostasy. A crime against love for another brother or sister in Christ, no matter what he or she has done, is the worser sin.

And this just got me thinking about my church worldwide, and especially those congregations in my diocese who have decided that the rest of us aren't holy enough for them anymore and have split off into a "true" "pure" church. Now we know who won in the end back in the day (that would be Augustine and the unity folks), but what I can't figure out is how to actually resolve it this time, without an Augustinian authority, without that voice that both sides would listen to.

It is also extremely difficult to woo back those who have left because they think you are not a Christian anymore. How do you love them back into unity? They are the ones who left. It would seem they have to choose to return. I don't know. I want us to be a unified communion. But how can we be when people don't stay and discuss the issues - they just up and leave?

I guess I could quote Augustine at them: “Whosoever has separated himself from the unity of the wheat on account of offenses chargeable against the tares . . . will be unable to defend himself from the charge of murder which is involved in the ‘mere’ offense of dissension and schism, as [1 John 3:15] says, ‘Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.’”
[Contra litteras Petiliani Donatistae 2.21.46, in NPNF 4.541.]

I mean, I'm not trying to be a jerk here. This kind of talk is what kept the church together. It sounds offensive to our ears, because we don't like being told what to believe and we'd rather avoid conflict than possibly admit we are wrong (or admit that we can live together in disagreement). Of course lots and lots of groups throughout history have separated over some sin or another and determined that God is only with their group. But that feels like an awfully small God.

Ah, the one true thing is that really it was us Episcopalians who schismed first. The people leaving our church are (attempting) to return to mother Anglican church. Fair enough. Perhaps we shouldn't have done what we did, that upset so many people. But then again, we never wanted to leave the Communion - we just got shut out. I suppose one answer would be to deny our changing congregations and return to the conservative beliefs. Perhaps that would be the loving thing to do.
(except it wouldn't be loving to our own people...argh!)

This stuff is really hard. I guess what I'm aiming for is an agreement to at least sit at the same table - and eat at the same table/altar - instead of leaving the room (or diocese). Those of us who offended others with our "sin" have not left the discussion. We are open to the discussion. But how can you discuss when the offended party won't speak to you?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Who am I?

I swear, if one more person tells me I need to "find myself" or asks, "Who are you, really?", I think I'm going to scream.

I can tell you what I believe in. I can tell you what I'm passionate about. I can tell you about what I feel called to do and what I'm gifted at. I can tell you what I love.

But there's supposed to be some nebulous "me" apart from any of that, and I'm supposed to gaze at my belly-button until I can find it. I don't even know how I would recognize it, since I have no idea what these people are talking about.

John thinks its based in the Romantic idea of the self, of there being some perfect path that is fulfilling. And as I think about it, the people who are bugging me with this are all baby boomers, folks who went through the 60s when it was all hip and cool to "find yourself", when Romantic literature was popular again. He even said, and this sounds right, that the reason it seems they have so many divorces and career changes is that anytime they are unhappy they think it's because they have to go "find themselves" and whatever relationship/job they are in obviously is not contributing to the all-important search, so they must abandon it. To put it really simplistically.

(note that we have a decent dose of hostility toward baby boomers in this house and are pretty ready for them to go senile so they'll stop running the world)

I find myself to be more of an existentialist. I believe my life is a work of art that I am creating. There is not some perfect path or person that I'm supposed to be finding - there are infinite possibilities. I am what I make of myself. And God and I work together to make a good me, but that's an amalgam of my doings and believings and hopes. It's not somehow separate from them. It's not find me first, then do something. It's do something, and the sum of what I do becomes the life I lead which is essentially who I am.

And that's the thing nobody - well, nobody over 40 - seems to understand. They tell me that is backwards, but honestly, I do not understand what they are asking me to find. I really don't even comprehend the question, "Who is Stasi, really?"

I mean, why are people so afraid when I explain myself by what I do? They act like that is so offensive, like I somehow must get past doing. But really, what we do reveals who we are, what we believe, what we privilege. That's the whole basis of character ethics.

I dunno, maybe one of you can explain to me what I'm supposed to be looking for. Apparently I'm just horribly out of touch with my real self and not nearly introspective enough (of course, none of these people read the blog...). But would I even recognize the "real self" if it showed up in the mirror one day? Ack, I just had a flash of the woman from Heroes with her evil mirror self!

I think this must be a generational thing. When I discussed it with John and other people younger than me, they all thought the question was weird. Apparently, to the horror of boomers everywhere, the younger generation is much more about getting up and doing something rather than spending a lot of time in self-reflection hoping to discover what to do. Not that boomers didn't do anything - they did a lot of great stuff. And not that we don't self-reflect - but I almost feel like we're better at focusing on the communal identity rather than just the almighty "me".

Well, these are my musings for this morning. Take 'em or leave 'em. I'm sure I'll hear from the boomers. S'okay. I'd be particularly keen to hear from other young people, though, as to whether you actually buy this "finding yourself" stuff or agree with me that it's weird.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

For an Election

Almighty God,
to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges:
Guide the people of the United States
in the election of officials and representatives;
that,
by faithful administration
and wise laws,
the rights of all may be protected
and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

(from The Book of Common Prayer, 822).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pointers

Well today I don't have much of my own to say, but I must point you to this post by my friend Kent. It is totally intriguing. The title pretty much says it all: "Jesus as Yahweh’s Holy Warrior: A Peace Church Reading of the Old Testament". Check it out.

We went to see "Borat" last night and I split my gut, I do believe. It was interesting - you laugh outright at a lot of it, other times you laugh because it's so outrageously offensive you don't know what else to do, other times you laugh because you're so extremely uncomfortable you also don't know how else to react. And really, it was cathartic. I can't recommend it to everyone universally, but if you've watched the sketches and find the character funny, then you'll probably find the movie hysterical. I spent some moments in reflection on the state of humor in our country and especially among young people (who filled the theater - although it was the over-30 and even over-40's who laughed hardest, or at least at different moments). It's definitely gotten grosser and baser, but it's also very much in the vein of the old slapstick silents (just taken to a "Jackass" level).

As Mario Van Peebles said on Ebert & Roeper, it's like our country taking down its collective underpants and examining our skidmarks. Indeed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Enough!

OK, that's it, no more whining. I'm done complaining. Negativity is no good, neither is all the drama. Life was hard and now it's mostly fixed. Things are falling away - things I really thought there was no way I could get out of. I thought I was locked into a life this year, but it turns out you're not really ever locked into anything, outside of God's love.

I will not live the life the culture expects. My seminary culture, the church culture, the work culture, they all expect a level of commitment that is simply not healthy for the human body (at least not at my age...maybe in my 20s). I will no longer play the game.

I told someone the other day that I understand once I'm in ministry I'll be always on call, 24/7, and she said she didn't agree with that system, and I realized, wait, it's actually not required. Of course there are things - hospital visits, deaths, weddings - that cut into otherwise "off" time. But there's no reason to answer the phone on your day off. If you have available time that is truly available, then people will get used to that and honor it.

Or so she claims. I know that it will be an uphill battle because our culture expects everyone to work harder than she should. So why should the priest be working fewer hours than the banker or the insurance agent? Well, maybe because she is supposed to be modeling life in God, and life in God necessarily includes healthy periods of rest and work. For crying out loud, GOD took a day off!

If it means I can't be a priest, oh well. I am not going to sacrifice my health for the priesthood, or for seminary for that matter. Our campus paper had an issue about burnout this week, and someone wrote about how he just can't turn down any opportunity and thus chooses a life of burnout. Great, dude, except one day your body is going to give out, or you'll be less effective as a minister, or you'll just lead one more of those churches where nobody is modeling the life that God desires for his creatures.

The sad fact of life is that we do have to make choices, and turn down opportunities. We can't do it all. But that's why it's delightful to live in the community of saints - because together, we do it all. If you are the hand and I am the foot, then you doing something I wish I could do - well, it's a bit silly to think "I wish I could do that" since another part of my own body is doing it! The individualization of our culture has led us into the lie that each of us must do it all. The truth of the gospel is that we are meant to live life together, in communion with sisters and brothers, and we act as one body to accomplish the purposes of God on earth. This means we each of us have a job to do, but none of us has to do more than that. No matter how many opportunities present themselves.

What if we thought of opportunities that come our way as a chance to offer another sister or brother something that would really give their life and ministry meaning? We don't have to selfishly hoard - we can say, I know I'd be good at that, but so would John over here, and I'd like to tell him about it. That way, the good thing still gets done, I stay healthy, and John's life is also enriched.

Sounds like a pretty great system to me!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 4

That’s how long I’ve been attempting to be a sane seminarian. People have a lot of advice for me. So far I’ve been instructed to:

  • Eat better (meaning: shop more often, since veggies go bad; and plan meals instead of eating whatever’s in the fridge; and oh, yeah, plan meals too, since leftover takeout is too fatty and fried to be your friend) - including chewing slowly and taking at least 20-30 minutes for meals, sitting at the table, not in front of TV or computer
  • Work out (preferably an hour a day; join a gym; swim; “whatever you like!” “how about nothing!”)
  • Read these (insert crazy number) books because they’re oh so helpful and good
  • Make sure you take a good chunk of time for daily relaxation (meditation, yoga, prayer, contemplation)
  • Oh, and be sure to get enough sleep at night and take naps during the dayAnd take a quiet day once a month and at least 1 day off a week
  • And go on retreat every couple months

Does anybody realize that these things require not only inordinate amounts of time (I don’t think I would actually be able to continue being in school or interning if I did it all) but money? And really, how great would it be to have finances to worry about on top of all this – sign me up!

I mean, I really don’t think offering me a huge to-do list is the answer to my need for less to worry about and accomplish. I am dying to just crawl into bed and watch a sappy movie. Or read the bible. Or read the Sunday paper still sitting unopened on my couch. Or go see a movie with my husband. Or go to Disneyland (I think my friend who works at Disney is making that one happen on Saturday, God bless her).

I want less not more. I want fewer responsibilities and definitely way less guilt about not accomplishing enough - even if it's stuff that's good for me. I’m talking about guilt for not walking an hour a day, for drinking a glass of wine with dinner, for staying up late to watch tv or blog because it’s my only outlet for these feelings.

Much of the time I wish I could just quit everything and start popping out kids, like my sister is doing, and just live that life – house, kids, days at the park, hell, even cleaning house and cooking! I know, I know, I’d be bored. I’m not one of those people who gets to have a “normal” life, free from the weight of the world or the weight of my own passions and dreams. I have been given much and much is expected. It’s just so fracking tiring.

I’m still really really tired, even at day 4 of “Stop the Insanity!” Will I ever not be tired?

Probably not as long as I’m worrying about how to have time for 2 trips to the store a week, and how the hell to pay for a gym and yoga and actually find time to go!

Last week Lauren Winner spoke in our chapel. I thought, here’s a woman who writes books which are basically about herself, her spiritual journey and all that. Then she goes around and talks about her own ideas. My God, this woman has my life. How did she get it before me? So now I have to find something else to do. Bummer. I want that life.

I’m leaning so hard on John, poor thing, who is beyond stressed on his own and unable to do anything – he can’t just drop a class like I did. I’m so worried about him, too. His BP is higher than mine, and he eats worse than I do, and he definitely would never exercise. At least I make a slight effort.

This is such an unhealthy life. But you know what? I know that. I don’t need to be told again. I’m doing what I can about it but I can’t snap my fingers and change it all at once. Wish I could, though.

Damn, I’ve got to get some homework done today, or I’ll fall behind again. I can’t believe I thought I could add a 2-week class on top of this!

Just keep praying. From where is my help to come? My help comes from you, O Lord, maker of heaven and earth.