Sunday, September 30, 2007

I am here, you are here

That was a word from this morning's sermon, a word on how to start praying if you aren't sure how (or even sure if anybody will listen).

It bookends nicely with what I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday, who offered us a breathing meditation that was (in breath) I am here; (out breath) I am now. And (in breath) I have arrived; (out breath) I am home.

Where have I arrived? In the here and now. "The address of the kingdom of God is the here and now. The Kingdom is now or never."

Incredibly astute observation from a Buddhist monk using Christian terminology. My other favorite statements were:
"Many people think they have to die to enter the kingdom of God. In fact, we have to be very alive."
"The kingdom of God is always available to us. We, most often, are not available to it."

We are too busy to notice God all around us, beckoning us to experience Him or Her in the present moment, through the beauty of creation - ourselves included - that, some theologians say, exists because the love of God was so great that it overflowed and the world was born.

Yesterday's peace walk was incredible. I had such an awareness of God's presence as I sat among several hundred Angelenos (necessarily a wild bunch) and we all breathed together, in and out, becoming aware of our bodies, letting go of our tensions, imagining our "Father within" and "Mother within" (the teacher's words). I lost it when he used that term, and I suddenly had a feeling of breathing in sync with the Sustainer of the Universe. That's heavy stuff.

Yet, it is there for the taking. The kingdom is at hand. We are welcome to its bounty. We are invited to its reality. Hanh said he likes the definition that God is "happiness" (which would include Love) (and actually, according to the philosophical definition of happiness as flourishing, may be quite apt). God is happiness. And God is available 24/7.

I have been striving to live in each moment ever since that blessed event. I find that the vast majority of moments in my life are quite benign, with nothing harming or threatening me, and thus I can be quite content if I remain in the present, not allowing the past or future to tyrranize me with worry or regret. Of course this is a huge discipline right now and will take time to make habitual. But I think it is worth it.

Part of me resists, pointing out that if we ignore the past we are doomed to repeat it (plus I love history), and if we don't plan ahead we can't get anything done. But then I think perhaps that doesn't matter all that much. Jesus seems to be about living in the moment: he tells us not to think about what we will eat or drink or wear, or to worry about tomorrow. It all seems to fit nicely.

So the service this morning was wonderfun (ha ha - I'm leaving that 'cause it's a great typo). I visited All Saints (BH) because I had to get J at the airport so I was on that side of town. Oh, it hit me hard, to be back in the full-blown liturgy. I cried during the creed of all things, simply because of the deep sense of homecoming I feel every time I am in that church. But the music was the best. Oh, I couldn't even sing the hymns, not out loud, but my heart sang and I just let the beautiful music wash over me and through me. It sang my heart's song - both the words and the ineffable quality that music - or any art - can express uniquely. Yes, it was very good to be in the temple of the Lord this morning.

After the service I was greeted and loved on by lots of people. It was just what I needed. The Holy Spirit had done some preparatory work for my visit, quite to my surprise, and folks knew about what has been going on and were ready to support me. That was amazing. I hadn't even tried to put the word there, but God blesses the words that go out over cyberspace. I'm so grateful. The fact that the rector of a huge congregation would stop and talk to me for several minutes on a Sunday morning, when she should be "making the rounds" - well that meant more than I can say. In fact, it's the point of the Good Samaritan story, isn't it? To set aside the duties - even and especially religious ones - for the needy, broken person who is before us in the moment. And now we're back to the Buddha's wisdom. I have a lot to learn from that religion, I tell ya.

Then I got to pick up my hubs, and the world seems quite right again, at least in this moment, which is where I am. I am here. And God is here too. And we are walking this journey, one moment at a time. How gracious that is. No matter what has happened, or will happen, I am blessed in this moment. Thanks be to God.

Two more things:
A book recommended in church today, "The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray," by Lindsey Crittenden, sounds wonderful. Check it out. It is where the "I am here, You are here" prayer comes from.

I joked with a reader of this blog how much we hate that J writes such great sermons; how he's so naturally gifted without any training that it makes us nuts. Well, when I told J this story, he said he wished he'd been there, because he would have told this person that the only reason he's good is that he tries to write sermons like you. He actually writes, and reads, hearing your voice in his head. I wanted you to know. :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

How the sermon turned out

So here is the sermon that my husband preached on Sunday. He had more ideas than I did about the passage, and so I figured it made more sense for him to just preach them instead of me attributing half my sermon to him. Thought you might like to see it. Another strong one from the guy who hasn't studied this stuff (outside hearing it all his life). Gotta hate him.

A Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 23, 2007

I speak and we hear in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our collect for today says “Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love heavenly things; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure.”

Fear not! You have nothing to be anxious about because “Jesus Christ our Lord lives and reigns” and his kingdom shall endure for ever and ever. Amen. And our Psalm for today tell us the source of Christ’s power to rule his kingdom is love. The Psalm for today ends with the glorious declaration that it is God’s love that endures forever (Psalm 138:9).

But the Psalm begins with a different declaration. The Psalmist says that he will worship Yahweh “before all the gods” (138:1). Before all the gods? What could this mean for us today? Who are the other gods in America today? Our gods are not Baal and Asherah as they were for the ancient Canaanites. And our gods are not Apollo and Artemis as they were for the First Century Greeks. Our gods are Mammon and Caesar – money and power.

We are like those upon whom the prophet Amos pronounced God’s judgment – those who wish they could hurry up and get worship over with so that they may get back to their everyday business of making money.

Worshiping Yahweh is all well and good, but it won’t put food on the table. (Which is, by the way, another way of saying that the food God does put on the Table during worship is not really food.) So we wonder “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?” (Amos 8:5). When will this worship service be over? I’ve got some stuff to get at the mall. When will this liturgy be finished? I’ve got work to do back at the office.

Jesus is right: “You cannot serve God and money”. Can’t be done. It’s impossible. “No one can serve two masters”. We think we’re serving God, but because we love our money so much, we end up hating God, resenting him.

What does God mean he’s angry that I’m “buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 8:6)? I really need a new pair of sandals! And its not my fault that the Nike people only pay their workers a few cents a day. Plus, these sandals are really cool. Come on, God, what’s your problem? Get with it!

“No one can serve two masters. For a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13).

So what about the parable of the dishonest steward? Many people have a hard time understanding this parable because it seems to make not only wealth but dishonest wealth look good. The manager goes around cooking the books and the master ends up praising him for it. It looks like Jesus is commending greed and theft. How could that be?

Now, we do have a bad habit of interpreting every parable allegorically so that God is always the master and we are always the servants. But not all parables are supposed to be allegories where every character is a symbol of something.

Sometimes Jesus is just illustrating a simple point -- in this case about how shrewd businesspeople are. He says the world’s businesspeople are much more shrewd about money than most Christians are. Maybe that’s his only point.

And yet, there is a way to hear God giving us a word about our role in the parable. What if the rich man in the parable is not God. What if the rich man is Caesar? The guy who owns the dishonest wealth.

“Dishonest” here is a misleading translation of the original Greek word that means “unrighteous”. Jesus isn’t telling us to be dishonest or to steal money. He is telling us how to use “the mammon of unrighteousness”. The dishonest wealth here is literal monetary wealth. Money. It is called unrighteous wealth, because it is the kind of thing the kingdom of this world cares about. Money is what unrighteous people are anxious to get and keep because it is considered wealth in their unrighteous kingdom.

Look at that dollar in your pocket or purse. Whose face is on it? Render to Washington what is Washington’s and to Christ what is Christ’s.

Money belongs to the ruler of this world. And here we are “squandering” it. We refuse to play Ceasar’s game. We refuse to buy the sweatshop sandals. We care more about worshiping God than about shopping. We complain when Caesar uses our tax money for war instead of healthcare. So we’re trouble-makers. Caesar’s got his eye on us.

And the spirit of Caesar lives not just in the heart of the George Bushes of this world, by the way. The spirit of Caesar lives in the heart of the Bill and Hilary Clintons, too. Both American parties serve money, and so neither can serve God.

It is the fault of no individual person. It’s just a law of nature. In Physics Isaac Newton taught us that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” And in politics, Jesus taught us that “Those who seek worldly power serve money, and those who serve money cannot serve God.” Two plus two equals four.

So if the rich man in the parable is Caesar and we are the managers entrusted to invest his property, you can see why he wouldn’t be happy. We don’t play by his rules. We don’t share his values. So, to him, what we do with his money – the money with his face on it – looks like squandering.

“What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer” (Luke 16:2). What do you mean you took Sunday off to go to church? What a waste of time! What do you mean you won’t buy sandals made in a sweatshop? You’ll undermine the economy! You’ve got to shop or the terrorists win. “You cannot be my manager any longer.”

What do we do in this situation? What do we do when the world hates us on account of our righteousness? We do what we always do. We worship Christ.

In today’s Epistle, Paul tells Timothy to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” so that they may “be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Likewise we are told in today’s Psalm that even “the kings of the earth” will praise God when they have heard his words and seen his ways (Psalm 138:5-6).

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise. … All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord, when they have heard the words of your mouth. They will sing the ways of the Lord, that great is the glory of the Lord” (Psalm 138:1, 5-6).

So what do we do? We pray for “kings and all who are in high positions”. We sing our God’s praise “before the gods” of this world. And we preach the Gospel of the Lord so that when the “kings of the earth” have “heard the words of” God, they, too, can praise him. In other words, we worship. The way we respond to Caesar’s threats is through our worship of Christ: re-presenting God’s story through prayer, praise, and preaching. That is how you put food on the Table. You worship the one whose flesh is food indeed.

Of course this worship must be “not only with our lips but in our lives”. And this is what we can learn from today’s Gospel. The parable of the unrighteous steward shows us how our worship of God can win over the heart of Caesar. This miracle happens when we worship God by means of unrighteous wealth.

When Caesar is finally fed up with us and decides to terminate our employment in his kingdom, he will look and see what we have been doing. We’ve been squandering his property, but how? By forgiving people’s debts to the rich man. By using the world’s tools against it. Money is the world’s primary tool. But God can redeem even unrighteous wealth.

As Jesus says, we are to use use our “unrighteous wealth” to “make friends” who will be able to “welcome” us “into the eternal homes” when our money “is gone” and we are economically bankrupt and physically dead (Luke 16:9).

His point is this. Money doesn’t last. If that makes your feel anxious, that’s because you’re still thinking like an American. Money doesn’t last. That’s supposed to be good news! “We are placed among things that are passing away.” But fear not! “Hold fast to those that shall endure.”

The kingdom of heaven has its own currency. Instead of money we have things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are what are really worth something in heaven, the things that will endure.

“But if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” We still face the question of how we can be faithful with our money. How can we be “faithful in very little” so that we may learn to be “faithful in much”? How can we be faithful with “what belongs to another” – what belongs to Caesar – so as to be given what is our own – the fruit of the Spirit?

What does God want us to do with our money? Jesus says we’re supposed to use our money to make friends – friends with the children of this age – thereby creating “true riches” that will endure unto the next age, the age of eternal homes.

Well, brothers and sisters, the next age has already begun. We have been bought by the Christ whom Paul says “died as a ransom for all”. The powers of this age were defeated at the Cross of Christ and now our God reigns and his kingdom will have no end. But if we want to be welcomed into eternal homes, we need to use our money accordingly. We need to forgive our debtors as God has forgiven our sins. We need to use our money to love one another.

Try this. Every time you spend money this week, ask yourself whether your transaction is one that serves God or Caesar. When you buy coffee, gasoline, groceries, clothes, whatever you buy this week, ask yourself where the raw materials came from. Were they grown or mined from the earth in a way harmful to the environment? Were the workers who made and sold the materials treated well? What happens to the waste from the products? Who benefits and who is harmed by your purchase? These are things we don’t often think about.

When Jesus contrasts “the children of this age” with “the children of light”, he is contrasting two whole nations, tribes, or families. (Luke 16:8). So the word “generation” does not mean age-group so much as it does people-group. The point is that people of the world know how to deal with their own kind of people better than we know how to deal with our own kind of people. They can use their money to win friends in their kingdom, but we don’t often use our money to win friends in our kingdom. We don’t often use our money to accomplish things that will endure.

And if it is in this place, gathered around that Table that we learn what things will endure, then it is here that we learn what to do with our money. This is why we have an offering each week. It’s not just a way to get money to run the church. It is an act of worship. Just as we bring our offerings of earthly bread and wine so that they can be broken and poured out and transformed into heavenly food and drink, so we bring our unrighteous wealth so that it can be turned into true riches.

And what do we find when our unrighteous wealth is turned into true riches? We find that “very little” has been turned into “much”. We find that what once “belonged to another” has been turned into “our own”. By giving them away, we can turn some worthless green pieces of paper and silver coins into joy and peace. By refusing to use our money to support injustice, we can turn dishonest wealth into kindness and gentleness. By giving up our earthly treasure for the work of God’s eternal kingdom we can invest in faithfulness and self-control. By making friends through unrighteous mammon, we can turn money into the love of God that endures forever. [i]

Even “the kings of the earth will praise” the Lord “when they have heard the words” of his mouth. How is your money speaking the words of God’s mouth?

[i] And what will happen when Caesar sees what we have done with his property? What will happen when the rulers of this world see that we have made friends by means of dishonest wealth? They will commend us for acting shrewdly. Because in their world, only money talks, this is the only way to make them hear the Word of the Lord. And so we are told to take the unrighteous wealth Caesar offers to let us manage and to use it to make friends. “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” What we do with our money doesn’t always make sense to the world. But even they can understand the value of friendship. When he takes account of our management, the rich man will see in some incomplete way what true wealth is about and will commend us for acting shrewdly. Caesar will allow us in this world to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity”. For he will begin to understand the nature of true power. He will have a hunch that when the next age comes in all its fullness and the kingdom of heaven replaces the kingdom of the world once and for all, even Caesar will have to bow before the throne of Christ and that all the kings of the earth will praise our Lord when they have heard the words of his mouth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now they are shooting the monks

Update from this morning:

The Burmese protests are widening, the international response is building--and the Burmese generals are panicking. Today, the Burmese junta banned gatherings of more than 5, and sent thousands of troops to take control of the streets -- but still the monks and protesters march. Desperate officers have beaten, tear-gassed and fired on their own people, reportedly shooting five monks in Rangoon. The next 36 hours are crucial. Leaders have called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council-- but only a decisive initiative will prevent a massacre like the one from 1988. Already, 75,000 people from 192 countries have signed our emergency global petition.

If you are in the LA area, Thich Nhat Hanh is leading a peace walk on Saturday morning at Macarthur Park, 9:30 a.m. This seems all the more important and poignant now. I hope you can join me and do a walking meditation on peace.

Petition for Burma

I received this appeal from a friend on Facebook (incidentally, there's a facebook group about this issue). I have been reading about the movement of the religious over the last few days - it's quite an astonishing work they are doing (I would say) on God's behalf. May God hear their prayers and those of the world in this situation! Here's the appeal:

Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world. For decades the Burmese regime has fought off pressure--imprisoning elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy activists, wiping out thousands of villages, imposing forced labour, creating refugees-But last Tuesday Buddhist monks and nuns, revered in Burma, began marching and chanting prayers. The protests spread as hundreds of thousands of ordinary people and public figures joined in, finding the hope they’d lost. Now they’re facing crackdown – so please, show your solidarity to this movement towards reconciliation and democracy and sign the emergency petition supporting the Burmese people -- it'll be delivered to United Nations Security Council members and international media all week:

In the past, Burma's military rulers have massacred the demonstrators and crushed democracy. The world must stand with the Burmese people at this time, to show the military rulers that the world will not tolerate repression and violence. Right now, global leaders are gathering in New York for the annual United Nations summit. In speeches, press interviews but also in real actions, we need them to show Burma's military junta that the global community is willing to act in solidarity with the protesters. Show your solidarity to this movement for peace and democracy and sign the emergency petition supporting the Burmese people. It'll be delivered to UN Security Council members and the UN press corps all week:

Thank you for your help!

Monday, September 24, 2007

This is becoming a pattern with you, girl

Well, as anyone who has watched my life over the last four years knows, I have the ups and the downs in the ordination process. We have hit another wall, my friends. Yesterday I learned that I have been assigned a new clergy contact and my process is on hold. IF it continues, it won't be before January. I no longer have a committee nor the promise of one.

So that was kind of shocking, but then, I could also accept it. I mean, I didn't really believe it could work out so easily. I guess there is more to be done - on me, in my ministry - and that work will now happen. I didn't really get a straight answer about why, nor do I really expect to. I can only believe that in the end God has all this in Her hands, and we're just on this crazy journey together.

There's a longer story but rehashing it won't really do us much good. The fact is that my process has derailed again (for once not by my choice - yay! I'm learning not to sabotage myself!), and now we are back to plan A, the phd thing, and probably will be better for it. Plan B is on indefinite hold as far as I'm concerned. And I'm really OK with that. I am blessed to have a number of wise women as a support system and they are walking with me through this. And I sense that the process, if it happens, is really not to happen here. And that's OK. The phd thing is exciting - wish I could have dealt with it during my break, but c'est la vie.

Anyway, here is my favorite reaction quote from a friend:
"think about it this way, the devil is working overtime to keep you out of the ministry - i would consider that a compliment. : )"

Yes indeed. Up yours, Satan. You keep doing your best work. We know Who wins in the end.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My new life psalm

73 Quam bonus Israel!
1 Truly, God is good to Israel, *
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; *
I had almost tripped and fallen;
3 Because I envied the proud *
and saw the prosperity of the wicked:
4 For they suffer no pain, *
and their bodies are sleek and sound;
5 In the misfortunes of others they have no share; *
they are not afflicted as others are;
6 Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace *
and wrap their violence about them like a cloak.
7 Their iniquity comes from gross minds, *
and their hearts overflow with wicked thoughts.
8 They scoff and speak maliciously; *
out of their haughtiness they plan oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens, *
and their evil speech runs through the world.
10 And so the people turn to them *
and find in them no fault.
11 They say, "How should God know? *
is there knowledge in the Most High?

12 So then, these are the wicked; *
always at ease, they increase their wealth.
13 In vain have I kept my heart clean, *
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 I have been afflicted all day long, *
and punished every morning.
15 Had I gone on speaking this way, *
I should have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 When I tried to understand these things, *
it was too hard for me;
17 Until I entered the sanctuary of God *
and discerned the end of the wicked.
18 Surely, you set them in slippery places; *
you cast them down in ruin.
19 Oh, how suddenly do they come to destruction, *
come to an end, and perish from terror!
20 Like a dream when one awakens, O Lord, *
when you arise you will make their image vanish.
21 When my mind became embittered, *
I was sorely wounded in my heart.
22 I was stupid and had no understanding; *
I was like a brute beast in your presence.
23 Yet I am always with you; *
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me by your counsel, *
and afterwards receive me with glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? *
and having you I desire nothing upon earth.

26 Though my flesh and my heart should waste away, *
God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
27 Truly, those who forsake you will perish; *
you destroy all who are unfaithful.
28 But it is good for me to be near God; *
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge.
29 I will speak of all your works *
in the gates of the city of Zion.

A Sermon Unpreached

So I was supposed to preach this Sunday. I was really struggling with the lectionary gospel text. J found this very astute interpretation over at my bud Dylan’s website. So I’ll let you read her if you want to know more about the parable.

As far as me goes, I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I have talked with J about co-preaching, I’ve talked with my priest about trying that too, with him. We’ve had some really good talks lately, and some misunderstandings as well. It’s been one of those weeks when I felt like I was really riding a rollercoaster with the Church – going back and forth between grace and insecurity. Not only my own little church, but the whole shebang. It’s really hard to jump into this ministry thing when you start seeing what might lie ahead: confusion, misunderstandings, criticism. It’s impossible not to be on display as a priest or pastor. And it’s something I’m figuring out I will struggle with, because I’m quite thin-skinned. I don’t mind not being strong: my weakness just offers God the opportunity to shine through. But I wonder how it might affect others’ view of me.

At any rate, I had written the following sermon (which has been revised somewhat to take out personal information) a couple days ago, and at the advice of others have decided that now is not the time to preach it. I love much of what I say, though, and I want to preach it – not exactly as is, but bits of it – at some future occasion. A lot of what I say I’d like to tell Fuller. And a lot of it is a love letter to my church, though they may not have interpreted it that way right now. What I didn’t wish it to be was something that would focus on me instead of God, but I guess that’s where it strayed to. It’s not gospel-centric enough to work in my current context. But maybe someday I can put these ideas out there. And in the meantime, I offer it to you (the beginning is a bit rough because I chopped up my intro; just enjoy the liturgical stuff, that’s the main meat of it).

Liturgy with Crash Helmets

Our collect this morning reminded us “not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure.” What shall endure? What are the heavenly things we should love?

The things that endure are the things that are essential to our life as Christians, to us as a community. Without them, we do not function properly as God’s children, and we do not show evidence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Jesus tells us “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” How we handle these essentials is the clue, for God, to how we will handle whatever “true riches” he may give us.

Two weeks ago you’ll remember that I left during the worship service, during the creed. You may also remember that on that Sunday, things had gotten experimental as we changed the order of the liturgy. After the processional we were led directly into the reading of the gospel, and then invited silence and listening to the text. I want to explain to you what happened for me that morning.

What had upset me was that we had skipped the part of the service in which we ask God to be there. We had skipped the invocation of the Holy Spirit, which we usually say in the first collect, the one that asks God to “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your name.” And we had skipped our blessing on the Lord: “Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” And we had skipped our opening collective prayer, before which the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” and we all respond, “And also with you,” which is our way of telling him or her it’s okay to pray on our behalf. With those powerful words we are calling down God to be in our service, to come alive in our hearts, and to be on the lips of the one leading us into worship.

We didn’t do any of these things. And consequently, we didn’t publicly invite God to join us in our time together. If we are going to have private prayer time, we can do that at home or anywhere. There is no reason for us to gather on Sunday morning for personal quiet time with God. We gather together to do the things we can’t do alone: those essentials that are not possible except with one another. Things like publicly invoking God’s Spirit into our midst. Like hearing the Word of God proclaimed in our hearing. Like saying the psalm back and forth to one another. Like offering our petitions and intercessions, so that they become the burdens of all of us. Like celebrating one another’s birthdays and anniversaries. Like sharing the bread and wine that forms us into the body of Christ. Like singing together. Like passing the peace. We can even share a silence together that is qualitatively different from what we experience on our own.

The things we do together before the gospel reading and homily are the things that set the stage for us to be able to hear the Word: We gather. We ask God to be present with us. We pray for guidance. We set the gospel in the context of the Old Testament and epistle. We offer praise or lamentation with a psalm. All of these are setting the stage: they are preparing our ears and minds and hearts to hear from God. Without them, we hear from a human being. I know that I don’t want to be that person. None of us up here wants to speak on our own behalf. We only want to open our mouths and allow God’s words to come out.

The reason I was troubled was because we had not invited God to be with us that morning. We had not been brought into the time of worship with a public invocation and the words that bind us together. We did not do the liturgy: the liturgy which is the work of this people, the life-giving words and actions which have grown up over 75 years. The liturgy isn’t something that reflects any one person’s personal tastes. It has roots in this community. It has been born of decades of faithful listening and responding to the presence of God in the midst of this place.

When I came here, I joined the flowing stream that is the Spirit’s movement at this church. I ride along on the current of what you all have created together. And when we did not have that, I felt lost. I felt as if the liturgy – which comes from a Greek word, leitourgia, which originally meant “work of the people” – I felt as if your work had been lost. What God has done in our midst over seven decades is reflected when we pray our way. We are a people with history. And it’s not just this parish’s rich history – it’s a history that goes back 2000 years – no, actually, back to the beginning of time, when God first conversed with human beings. Some of our liturgical prayers and blessings are from the Roman era, some of our practices come to us from Judaism. We have a lot of history.

And when we wait for the truth – when we sit through these other parts of the service – we acknowledge our place in history. We recognize that others came before us. We listen to them in the words of the prayers and the scriptures. When we do not, we lose their community – we lose the community of saints, the great cloud of witnesses around us who cheer us on as we journey through this life. Without acknowledging our history, we are in danger of elevating one person’s preference above the whole great communion of Christ’s Church, worldwide and across time. I left, because I was hurting for our lost work and our lost community.

We need context in the Service of the Word, and to remember always to offer the prayers and readings which have become the lifeblood of this community’s worship. They are the context in which this community prepares itself to hear the Word proclaimed, to be confronted with the truth of the gospel. That morning had a difficult gospel; so is this morning’s. But the steps we take together, on our journey to the gospel reading and the homily, prepare us for what we will hear, prepare us to hear and wrestle with the text together.

One writer says, “Christians believe that truth always needs an introduction.” The gospel needs to be couched in prayer, praise, blessing, thanksgiving, song, history, and mystery. The Truth of God can be a hard pill to swallow; and the harder it is, the more important the preparation becomes. We put the words from the preacher, and the words from Jesus, into the context of worship, of praise, of God’s faithfulness, by inviting the Spirit, blessing God, praying together, and listening to the scriptures.

These things matter. They are what we have created together, with God, to prepare us to meet God week after week. What any one of us wants or prefers – that’s not essential. That’s not what matters. What matters is that which brings us closer to our heavenly Father.

The time of preparation is not peripheral. These elements are not window dressing. They are not things we do to pass the time, or because we’ve always done them. They are taking us, step by step, closer to being prepared for a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. They open our ears and our minds and our hearts to Him. We cannot jump straight into encounter with God – that would be like diving into a very cold pool. And we can’t demand instant access to God – God will only come when invited, when asked. It’s a dance, really: an intimate series of moments in which we draw ourselves close to the Lord of the Universe. Who also happens to be our Abba.

And really, we need all this preparation for our own safety. The writer Annie Dillard says if people really expected to meet God on Sunday, we’d all be wearing crash helmets in church. Like I said last time I preached, God isn’t safe. But God is very good. And we come to God through a series of signs, words, and gestures that remind us who we are, who God is, and how that incredible, mysterious connection happens between us. And then it does.

And in a very intimate way, God reaches out to us and offers himself for our taking. We hear the gospel, in the scriptures and homily. And we enact the gospel, as we pray, forgive, reconcile, and pass the peace. But we see the gospel, and we touch it, and we even taste it, when we come to this altar and eat and drink. When we join the heavenly banquet, which is God’s love made visible. Made accessible. Made free and bountiful. When you are handed the elements of communion, you hold God’s love – God’s deep, abiding, undying, unfathomable, unbreakable love – in the palm of your hand.

And then you put it in your mouth, and you swallow it, and that love quite literally becomes part of you. God communes with you, physically, spiritually.

Jesus is God’s Word become Flesh. Jesus’ Flesh is Food indeed.

The Eucharist meal is God’s Word to our bodies, just as the Scripture and homily are God’s word to our minds. Our fellowship is God’s word to our hearts, and our praise and petitions are God’s word to our spirits.

All around us is the Word of God, the utterance of the Holy One that makes all things new. We cannot escape it, here in this place.

We should all be wearing crash helmets.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Measuring up

So I ran across my "spiritual gifts questionnaire" when cleaning, and decided to take it for another spin, just to see what's changed. I originally took it before my internships - before I'd even taken preaching - so I figured it would really be different. And definitely my new loves have come through.

Before my "primary gifts" were Knowledge, Music (vocal), Wisdom, and Faith (in descending score order). Not too surprising for someone who, at the time, was primarily engaged in seminary study and working part time as a singer at church.

Now, 2 years of seminary, hundreds of blog posts, and 3 internships later, it was quite a different story. It's changed to a tie for maximum score (which only knowledge hit before) between Prophecy, Exhortation, and Teaching. Well there ya go. And the next two highest were Faith and, of all things, Mercy. Ha! I'm merciful now! Whoda thunk?

These tests, of course, are only good to a point, and the discernment of a community, IMHO, is far better. But it is fun to watch your interests and perceived strengths change over time based on new experiences.

I didn't write about what a fantastic time I had Sunday with Louis Weil. What a wonderful man! You CDSP/GTU folks know what I'm talking about. I got to have him to myself at lunch, and we hit on so many common passions: food, all things French, and of course everything surrounding Eucharist. It was such a delight to chat with somebody who could really challenge me and get into this discussion with me. So many Fuller people (being good Evangelicals) just don't get why I care so much about this rather peripheral part of the church's life. Even my priest thought my food ideas were "sexy" whereas my liturgical theology interest was "boring." Sigh. People don't get it.

But then you get with somebody who does and it's like the world lights up, it's like you suddenly realize you're not the freak you were thinking you were. OH, he made me want to go to CDSP. Maybe I can convince the bishop to send me there for my Anglican studies stuff (and get an MA in liturgy on the side). But then he also talked about his time in Paris at Catholic U and THAT really got me excited. Imagine: living in Paris! What a dream!

So now I have to revisit the idea of CDSP/GTU. I was discouraged by those I contacted earlier, but that was because I was pushing my food/interfaith agenda. When I get down to what I really want to do, it's change how Christians use food: it's to convince people to bring more worship into their meals and more meal into their worship (that's gonna be my catchphrase). The latter is a perfectly acceptable topic for liturgical theology, because it is about Eucharist, and who doesn't love Eucharist? (besides the people at Fuller, I mean!)

Anyway I have to run. Antony wants to meet and discuss exciting plans for reinvigorating worship at St. B's. It's so cool that he called me about it! Finally I am able to put some of this stuff I've learned into a real life situation.

Oh, if you find yourself chatting with God this week, ask her about my sermon on Sunday: I'm not sure if I can find a sermon to give, and I'm thinking about asking J to do it instead (he'll do great). It's not happening with me right now. But maybe that's something I need to work through - practice getting over preacher's block. Dunno. Input welcome. It's a nasty ol' passage to work with - very difficult to interpret. The gospel anyway. The epistle is fun b/c it's one of the primary passages used to support universalism. So maybe I'll just preach on that!

One more thing: yesterday was Pusey day for us. He's the guy who helped get the Oxford Movement going, and he made the most impact with his preaching (until he was told not to preach anymore). Maybe in the end the preacher can do as much or more than the academic. Maybe I'm not selling out - wasting my brains - by going with the preacher's path. Maybe these new gifts are something to pay attention to. It's an interesting question.

How funny that my blog posts are becoming all about what I want to be when I grow up. But that was bound to happen at this point in the game. Seminary's nearly done. The Feminarian must move on to some new adventure. God only knows what that will be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've found it

This is exactly what I want to create for Christians:

I am now overwhelmed and terrified. There is so much to do! I'm gonna need help.

Look at their Faces

I got this from True Majority today, and I think it's a fine idea. The link below takes you to California's page, but there's a link directly below the senators' names to choose another state. If nothing else, it's quite heartbreaking to look into the faces of those from home who've lost their lives. Whether it was for a good reason or not, they are so young and seem like they should be beginning life, not ending it. The church I attended Sunday named the dead from the week (including ages, most were 19 and 20) and then gave the total tally (3783). God, I remember standing vigil when it hit 2000. How much longer?

Look at their faces. And think about the thousands and thousands more who we have no pictures for. Who we are to love as much as our own - at least if we choose to follow the way of Jesus. Tough, tough, tough.

Here's the message:

Last week in Washington, while General Petraeus was showing his charts, and the Senate and the President were busy putting on a little bit of political theater, Sgt. Nicholas J. Patterson of Indiana was dying in Baghdad.

As of today, 3,783 soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq. This week the Senate is debating a slew of amendments to tweak this deadline or adjust that benchmark in Iraq, trying to "look like they're doing something." They need to forget the politics and remember this reality.

Let's take this moment to remind the Senate of the true cost of this war and why it is so important that they bring our troops home. We've prepared an individual photo memorial for every American from your state who has died in Iraq, including their picture, name, age, military unit, hometown, and the circumstances of their death. We're asking TrueMajorityACTION members to send these memorials to both of their Senators urging them to put a stop to this war.

Can you join them? Mail a memorial to your Senators today.

It's so important that our government remembers that this war is costing us the lives of our men and women, and they have a responsibility to take the right steps to start bringing our troops home. It's about time the Senate focus on what's really important. And it isn't politics.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Naming the blessing

Yesterday I got to go calling on people with our priest. It was so great. He actually asked me how my "comfort level" was with this sort of thing, and as it turned out, I'd been sitting there during visit #1 thinking how amazed I was that not only was I completely comfortable, but I was honestly and truly enjoying myself. I was thinking what fun that this was actually Antony's job! What a cool job it is to be a priest. He gets to hang out with such cool people.

Yesterday I met David Lee Donald Ray Williams. Apparently his father wanted to call him David Lee and mother Donald Ray, so they both called him different names all his life, and now he goes by both! He was such a character. We talked about his family farm, and about his work at PCC, and his very big family (9 siblings), and about the deep south where he's from. He has alzheimer's but was quite sharp yet. And he was in great spirits. I found him to be such an inspiration.

And then we talked with Sarah Elizabeth, whose 92nd birthday we had just celebrated at church. She's my best sermon critic - everyone's, really. She was giving us great suggestions for our preaching. She keeps up on world events, loves baseball (she said her team is the Giants, because she and the Dodgers had a falling out years ago), and told me all about her children and grandchildren. And would you know, she invited me to her 95th and 100th birthday parties! I really will be surprised if she doesn't make it to them.

It's funny - I was exhausted at the end of the day, but tremendously happy. I spent a few hours last night and this morning writing. The book is flowing out of me and the visits were another one of those experiences where you realize you are doing exactly what you're meant to do in the universe at that moment. Had a great lunch with Antony, also, and we chatted all about my ordination and next steps. He thinks my food topic is "sexy" and I should keep pursuing it. He's right - it's definitely hot. But it's also just so freaking interesting.

I finished Plenty, which is a book about a couple living for a year on a 100-mile diet. I recommend it. Also Leon Kass's The Hungry Soul, although that is a serious read, definitely not for the beach. Reminded me of my heavy philosophy reading over the summer. Good stuff, but the kind you need to savor slowly; whereas Plenty can be gobbled up.

School will start a week from Monday. I'll be truly busy again. Which is kind of a bummer, because at the moment I'm so content. I'm just writing my ideas down and doing my church stuff, and I really have all I need to be happy. Well, except that my wrist/thumb are killing from too much knife wielding (have been cooking since I'm the one with time) - my tendonitis is flaring again. So I really should lay off the typing for the next week. Yeah, right. Since handwriting is out of the question, this is my only outlet for self-expression!

Oh, I did want to say that I signed up for the AAR annual meeting today, so if any readers will be attending I would very much love to meet you. Maybe we can all have a meal together or something. Since I'm just going for fun now (not to network, at least not overtly), I'm thinking it will be a really good time.

Well I should go, give me'hands a rest. There's never much to report in summer. But that's why it's good. I'm going to hear Louis Weil speak on Sunday, and preaching Sunday after next, so I imagine there will be more posts surrounding those events. 'Til then...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Day One (officially)

OK, people: I am officially starting to work on my book about the spirituality of food.

Wish me luck.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Not for Sale

As a devoted coupon clipper (frustrated but not foiled by my recent switch to organic/local foods!), I was touched by this post:

Count me in among the modern-day abolitionists. For more info, check out the profile of the "Not for Sale" campaign on the CBS EVENING NEWS tommorrow night and the CBS MORNING SHOW Wed-Fri, or join the cause on Facebook.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Trying to get some church

So we went to church this morning, as usual, and it was so weird. We did the procession and opening hymn (#1 in LEVAS, great song), as normal, and then we were told to remain standing for a reading from the gospel. The day's gospel was read, and then the priest led us into a time of silent meditation and then open sharing (this is something he sometimes does instead of preaching). Nobody said anything. Well, of course not - it was the perfect example of the Holy Spirit not showing up because she wasn't invited.

I was just sitting there, tears running down my face, thinking, "What happened to church?" We weren't gathered in God's name, nor did we invoke God's presence, nor did we read any of God's word save for a few verses from the gospel (and the readings were really good today - I was supposed to read the OT, and it really helped contextualize the gospel, as the lectionary choices usually do). We were simply asked to walk in off the street and fake it. Just immediately hear from God without context, without being invited into holy space or time, without explanation even of why we skipped half the service.

After there was some silence, the priest did wind up speaking for a few moments, on a topic somewhat related to the gospel but that honestly came out kind of as a rant. It was like he had personal thoughts raging in him and just gave them free reign, without thought as to how the congregation - already perplexed and out of whack - might take them. I know what he said wasn't very coherent because I got a completely different - almost opposite - message out of it than J did. It was clearly off the top of his head, but it was very vehement, to the point of almost sounding angry and definitely chiding. And I'm sitting there thinking, "Wait, I haven't even gotten to pray yet, or praise God, or hear Scripture, and you're yelling at me?"

After the speech he went into the creed as if nothing weird was going on. As if we were somehow now in that holy place, just because he'd spoken. As if church had commenced with his word. As if the liturgical rhythm that this community has grown into and uses weekly to meet God - with much success - could just be tossed aside by his own agenda. It didn't feel like God was speaking when he spoke; it felt like he was. Like we'd happened upon a street preacher who just calls out words from the Bible that have no context and mean very little in the present situation, both because you are not ready to hear them and because God hasn't been publicly invited (or at least, you weren't there when the Spirit was invoked). I was listening to a man. I have huge respect for the words from the pulpit - but there has to be some kind of prep, you know?

God, it's almost like there was a requirement for intimacy with no foreplay! And I really did feel like if I'd said anything, I'd have been faking it.

It was just so weird. And I couldn't take it. I couldn't deal with it supposing to be normal, that there was no effort made whatsoever to explain, to be pastoral, to offer to the body why they were being shaken up in this way. I'm not against shaking things up. But it can be done in such a way that the proper elements remain - the narrative of God's story, the move into the holy of holies, the transition from our self-concern to becoming the Body of Christ and listening to our Lord together.

And that just didn't happen because it wasn't allowed to. For no apparent reason. I couldn't deal, and I left. I was a mess. It was so liturgically wrong. There's no other way to explain it. I can tell you in all kinds of jargon why it was wrong, but most of the people there probably just knew in their guts that it felt wrong, and that's what happens when you fuck with the liturgy.

Anyway, J came out, saying since we weren't having church today there was no reason to stay, so we left. I was considering going back in for communion, but I honestly didn't feel welcome (that goes back to the speech he gave, but that's another topic, and apparently I might have misunderstood or at least what I took from it is not what J did, so maybe he didn't say what I think he did).

We're going to check out All Saints BH's new service tonight, so at least we'll get a little church in (and I hope to God we'll get Eucharist, but we may not). It was so strange. I don't feel like I got to go to church and I'm sad. It just elevated the sermon too much, it even, I daresay, elevated the gospel too much. I love the words of Jesus as much as anybody, but they are not the only words of God. And when we selectively read scripture - or selectively perform liturgy - we are on shaky ground. We are messing with not habits, not preferences, but the work of the Holy Spirit, what she's inspired in her Church throughout centuries, and even in the decades this one body has been there. What we've created together is important. And it is not the prerogative of any one person to change it without some assent from the Body. Or at least, the person leading must explain and make clear that God has laid this on their heart, and invite input. I chose this kind of church because pastors can't do whatever they want.

Well I have to call my mother and get ready for this service tonight. We did wind up helping friends move most of the day, and that felt really good. At least we got to go serve someone. It made me feel a lot better.

Has this ever happened to you? Complete weirdness or switching things with no explanation or warning? How did you react? Did it eventually make sense? Did God use it? (btw I know it's not just me being overly crazy/emotional b/c everyone I've talked to had the same weird feeling)

post-priest-meeting update, Monday morning:

So the priest called this morning to say he was "grieved in his spirit" when we left yesterday and would I please meet with him to talk about it. Great start, esp. considering at the moment he was leaving the v.m. I was praying that God would lay this on his heart. Neat when God works stuff out like that.

So we met and had a really wonderful, productive discussion. He felt awful after the service - even during it, knowing that it was not working at all. Many of the folks there just choose to ignore it when he does something they don't like, figuring that's his prerogative (and they'll outlast him anyway). But he was really grateful and thanked me many times that I did call him on it. I simply explained why there needed to be context for the worship to work, why I didn't feel invited or feel as if God was, and how I sensed some of his personal issues coming out perhaps inappropriately. I also had the opportunity to remind him that we must always preach hope when we proclaim the gospel, not just the hard stuff. And that the people there are God's, ultimately, and he must put them in God's hands.

Well he took it all fabulously and said it was confirmation of what he already felt. He, I think, was more distressed about the "sermon" he'd given (more like a rant) and how his anger had gotten the better of him. But most impressively, he was humble enough to thank me for giving him tough feedback. It was such a blessing to have that kind of conversation with him, and to honestly be told I'd done the right thing in leaving and that my feedback was, to him, God's spirit nudging him about his failings.

I gotta say that, as difficult as this experience was, I learned so much about listening to the promptings of the spirit and about how to handle criticism graciously from watching how he did it. And I learned that no matter how careful I am, I will undoubtedly make mistakes like this, and that it is so valuable to have people around me who will be honest with me when I mess up. And I really realized how important all what I've learned in seminary has been - a lot of people leave seminary complaining that they didn't learn anything they really needed to know. Well I have. Just to know why a properly crafted service is necessary, and why giving hope always always is paramount - those are two things I was taught in lecture classes and have bourne fruit in practice.

In the end it has been extremely educational, fruitful, bonding, and affirming - I feel closer to my priest, to God, and to the church to which I've been called. I now understand that this is a big reason why God brought us to St. B's. I'm humbled and honored to offer this feedback and to have such a gracious recipient. And I'm really blessed to be learning how to be a priest - including how to stumble and get up again - from him. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prayer or Action?

This comment on my last post (go read the Prayer Surge post below for context) really got me thinking:

I have never seen a christian take this approach to activism in regard to war (in a blog, that is). Weird...shouldn't it be the first approach. Instead of bitching, moaning, and ad hominen attacks, you want to pray. Thanks, your blog encouraged me, and I will send in my prayer through the link you have provided.

This was my response, and I am serious about hearing from you on this:

I'm delighted that it was encouraging! Thank Jim Wallis - he's the man.

I must say that at least in the churches I've attended, we've prayed about the war every week since it began. Even the really liberal bitchy-moaney activist church never neglected to lift up the war and our president by name each and every week.

I learned in class once that this was the traditional Russian Orthodox response to the violence raging around them as well: to enter the church and pray. Now, it didn't work out great for them much of the time (from the world's perspective, that is), but even though their bodies and churches were harmed, their souls were not.

It's really hard to know where to draw the line between praying for peace and acting for peace. Thoughts from others? Do we intervene when injustice is being done? Is our intervention to be anything beyond putting ourselves in harm's way instead? (and if so, how can that really change things, in the long run?)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and really crave some discussion on it. I had a debate with a friend over whether we should have a military at all. In the end, we decided that what the state does, really, isn't much of our business, since we have our primary citizenship in God's kingdom rather than America's or any other nation (thinking this way causes a paradigm shift on many issues, particularly immigration, but also it allows us to let go of a lot of anxiety about politics in general).

My husband is a full-on pacifist whose answer to tyrants is to literally lay down our lives. Well first it's to call Christians to their true nature, which is not to kill. That would take care of a lot of the wars, if Christians refused to fight each other (in the name of a state or a cause is not an excuse - no more than "I was only following orders" - that's just ignoring your role in the systemic sin). Seems like our armed forces would be quite depleted if Christians stopped joining up, or if they joined up, refused to carry weapons or use them.

But let's say that won't happen - there are only a few of us who really believe that's the way Jesus calls us to anyway. So what can we who believe that do? We can go stand in front of the tyrant's armies and let them mow us down until they get tired. Gandhi used a similar tactic that led to many of his people being beaten brutally until the British realized what they were doing to fellow human beings and stopped (this is very well-portrayed in the movie, btw). I know most people find this masochistic and depressing. But is it what Jesus wanted - is it what turn the other cheek meant?

I don't know. I've heard a lot of rationalizations of that command that explain it away as not actually laying yourself down. But I see what Jesus did - dying - and things he said like "do not fear those who can harm the body, only the soul", and I wonder. I really wonder. Would we be in the right place if we actually had no attachment to even our own health and body? If we recognized that everything should be laid down for the kingdom, and in the grand scheme, WE are not important - God can accomplish God's purposes without our help, or our help might just be that we stand before the tyrant and be killed. Martyrs are powerful witnesses. Just look at the Muslim world, or early Christianity.

Isn't this what this week's gospel text is about? Not holding on to anything - ANYTHING - on this earth? Ah, it's Jesus at his most Buddhist. What are we supposed to hold on to? The only thing he says to carry is the instrument of torture and death. When he says to take up the cross, what else can it mean?

But in the end, if they kill all the people who believe this way (since there's not many of us), then what?? Everybody is left with dictatorship, tyrants. Have we done right by them? By God? we really believe God is in control? That if I lay down my own life, God can still somehow manage to make things right even without me living? That's a humbling thought.

Or maybe the armies of freedom do win, and our own sacrifice didn't much matter in the war, or wasn't necessary. Can we just stay out of it, like we probably should stay out of politics? Do we have to stand up for injustice? If so, how? Prayer is a good start; is it enough? Will God actually answer our prayers using the armies we don't belong to? Or will God interfere at all? (probably not if we don't ask)

I know we hate to hear these things - nobody says such things, not out loud, not in print. Telling Christians, stop killing other people - anyone, not just other Christians, not just other Americans. Christians, if there is a tyrant, you may be called to die alongside others so that the witness of martyrs will prevail. What would have happened if all the Christians in Germany had quit aligning with the Nazis or running from the country or plotting to assassinate Hitler and instead insisted that they go to the gas chambers with the others? Even the darling of the Christian resistance, Bonhoeffer, sold out to the "kill one for the sake of many" idea. He died for it. But could his witness have been more powerful if he'd not tried to kill, but rather tried to die?

I think about these things. I don't have answers. I push hard against the excuses others give me. I challenge and question a lot. Rarely do I come to conclusions, except the nagging feeling in my gut that what Christ has asked of us is usually the last thing we think of and are willing to do.

I am often told something new I hadn't thought of, which I always appreciate. That's why I open this forum to you. I know it could devolve into ugliness (why do intra-religious debates always do that??), but I'm hoping we can keep it civil, biblical, thoughtful. Emotional is OK, but we have to recognize when we're thinking with our hearts and admit it, and then really try to overcome both hearts and heads when they are against the way of Christ. When Jesus calls us to something that our emotions or our logic rail against, we have to sort out what is human, selfish, frightened, angry....from what is loving, merciful, just, humble, and in all other ways like God.

A Prayer Surge for Peace

I received this from Sojourners/Jim Wallis:

Next week, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will report to Congress on the troop "surge," in which the Bush administration has escalated the war in Iraq by sending an additional 20,000 American combat troops.

As people of faith, we believe in the power of prayer to soften the hardest of hearts and open the way to peace and reconciliation. So, as General Petraeus testifies, we're planning to match his surge with one of our own–20,000 prayers for Congress to bring an end to this war.

Click here to share your prayer with Congress–let them know that you're praying for their courage and wisdom to end this war.

We are at a critical moment, as the House and Senate decide on our nation's continued involvement in Iraq amidst a frenzy of swirling accusations and partisan rhetoric.But while the Bush administration has frequently abused the language of scripture to justify this disastrous war, a growing number of Christians from across the theological and political spectrum are coming together to oppose it.

And our nation's political leaders are listening–in fact, we've spoken to several members of Congress who are considering reading a selection of your prayers for peace into the Congressional Record.

Like many of you, I've opposed this war from the start, and together we've raised a prophetic voice against it–marching in the streets, writing letters, and much more.

We'll continue to do all of that, but I believe it will also take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a revolution of love to end it, because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and the Bible tells us that only perfect love will cast out fear.

Will you be a part of this surge of prayer for peace? Click here to let your Senators and Representative know that you're praying for them.

In times such as these, we ought to remember the words of the Apostle Paul:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Jim Wallis and the rest of the team at Sojourners/Call to Renewal

P.S. To reach 20,000 prayers by next week, we'll need your help. Can you share this message with 10 of your friends, family, and congregation members, asking them to join us in this campaign?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Ruminating on Rumi

I love this poem. It's a great one for writers.

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.

- Rumi (239)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A cool & sweet idea

For all you sweet-tea lovers out there, this came in my Daily Candy tip today:

I Like Cold Beverages

When they hit the switch in the movie theater, you know it’s time to get busy. Shoving a licorice whip into a jumbo soda pop is something anyone over age 12 must do in the dark.

Iced Tea Sippers, however, were made to see the light of day. Old-fashioned white hard candy sticks striped in preppy citrus shades really put the soggy, sticky Red Vines mess to shame.
Handmade in copper kettles, the sugary Sippers come in three flavors: lemon (look for sunny yellow), orange (more of a clementine, really), and Key lime (think kelly green). The straws are porous so they dissolve at a reasonable rate, enhancing your frosty beverage all the while.

We’re betting you’ll be very happy with the result.
You are a sucker for those things.
Available online at