Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Hunger Site

Between Rachel Ray, my "Loaves and Fishes" show idea, catching up on old Cooking Light magazines, and tomorrow sermon on Matthew's version of the feeding of the five thousand men, I really have food on the brain. So, of course, this headline from the BBC news on relief aid for the famine in Niger has me thinking about hunger. I'll post my sermon for this week for more complete thoughts. But, for now, I just want to point out the new link in my side bar to the Hunger Site. There are so many things we can do - as individuals, as families, churches, and as a country - to help people who are hungry. This has got to be one of the simplest. I know I've mentioned it before on this blog, but its been a while. If you aren't familiar with the Hunger Site (or its five cousins: the Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest, Breast Cancer and Animal Sites) - click on over. If you are familiar, and haven't been there yet today, click on over. And keep clicking every day. Somewhere, a child will be glad that you did.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Loaves & Fishes

Those of you who know me well probably know of my love for Rachel Ray and her 30-Minute Meals show. My favorite way to de-compress at the end of a day is to come home, grab a snack and the remote, and watch the back-to-back episodes of Rachel Ray that are on every night. The show is truly inspirational: after watching her make two easy and healthy meals in under 30, I can't seem to find an excuse to eat a junk dinner out of a box.

This week though, I found a different kind of inspiration - maybe even a new excercise for my vocation. I want to have a lectionary-based cooking show! It would run once per week, and the recipies would tie into the upcoming lectionary. An hour long episode would include cooking a meal (duh, thats why it's called a cooking show) as well as commentary on the upcoming lessons - highlighting themes, that sort of thing. So, for example this week's lectionary might include a recipe like this Sicilian Fish Stew, and some quick dinner rolls. In the midst of chopping, we could talk about abundance, about hospitality, about physical needs and spiritual hunger. I just think it would be so much fun! And yes, Tripp, you could be a guest one week.

Micah though I should shoot an episode and podcast it - but I have a galley style kitchen, which would never work for a show. Maybe Rachel will let me borrow her kitchen?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'm preachin' in the rain, just preachin' in the rain

What a glorious feeling, I'm... oh, wait. Nope. It turns out that when you get into a pulpit, and the congregation is looking up and around and at each other instead of listening to your sermon, well, its not actually a glorious feeling.

This past Sunday, I thought I had a decent sermon - telling the whole story of Solomon, and talking about our need to nurture and cultivate spiritual gifts over our whole lives. I even began by talking about Aladdin and some of the similarities, in order to get at the distinctly non-happy-ever-after part of the Solomon story. It wasn't my best sermon ever, but I thought it was at least vaguely interesting. Only a couple sentences in however, I noticed that the congregation was clearly not paying any attention.

Now, to be fair, there was a huge thunderstorm going on overhead. The thunder made it hard to hear, and the PA system tended to crackle when there was lightning - so I was willing to cut them a little slack. But c'mon - at least listen the first paragraph before checking out!

Then, the ink on my page started to smear, and I realized what was happening. My church is a beautiful, traditional looking church - wooden pews, lots of stained glass, choir stalls in the chancel - and absolutely no air conditioning. We do have overhead fans, by pulling on these long ropes, you can open the highest row of stained glass windows - and together, it makes the church almost bearable in summer. Of course - open windows in a thunderstorm are less helpful: the poor congregation was getting rained on!! Since I had been sitting up in the chancel, I hadn't realized it. Thankfully, my ever-ready husband and another man got up and started closing the windows. But as I mentioned before, this requires pulling on long ropes - and you need to stand in the center aisle of the church. Distracting, to say the least, but it did put a stop to the spontaneous baptisms going on! Maybe next time, we'll just stop what we're doing, stand up, and reaffirm our Baptismal covenant.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Lost In Thought

You would think, wouldn't you, that the state which is home to the Big 3 car companies and the Motor City, this state where public transportation is about as common as the actual wolverine - that we, of all places, could manage to have a highway system that is driver-friendly. The kind of highway system where you don't get lost - twice- at the same interchange. Apparently, we are not so far evolved. On my way to, and on my way back from a monthly gathering of my ordination "class" I got lost. At the same stupid interchange! Well, misplaced is probably better - I knew where I was, it just wasn't where I was trying to be.

Anyway - with all that extra time, I got to hear to great radio programs. The first was the Diane Rehm show. They were talking about "The Study of Happiness" and some recent scientific research into the brain. I found it absolutely fascinating, and I recommend it to you. I'm pretty sure you can get it online. The second was an interview with Jon Stewart (of Daily Show fame) on Fresh Air. He is just so darn funny. I loved it. But, what caught my attention was his take on being in comedy. He noted that being funny - the way his brain just always goes to a joke - is a gift, but one that has to be cultivated. He had to learn (sometimes the hard way) that there are ways and times to use his wit.

Isn't that the way of it with all our spiritual gifts? Sometimes it feels like God hands us some awfully raw materials that we use to build our faith. Thank goodness Jesus has some carpentry experience, because some days, I just don't feel up to the task. But its great fun to learn how to use the tools, and find some materials I didn't know I had.

So: a new tool in this work is the RevGalBlogPals blog ring. I haven't joined one of these before, but I'm now a part of this one. Its a group of "women in various stages of their lives who are living out a call to ordained ministry" and friends. Thanks to Jane for the set up!

later edit: woot! got the code, and the ring is there for your enjoyment. thanks jane!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Home Cookin'

So, one of my idiosyncracies in today's mobile society is that I am only living in my third town ever. I lived in the same town until I left for Chicago to go to seminary, and as much as I loved Chicago and seminary, the transition was pretty rough. I hated not knowing where to find a drugstore, what restaurants to eat at, and getting lost on the way home from the airport. Well, actually, that one time getting lost with Stephanie was kinda fun... but I digress. Last night was a great triumph in the area of adjusting-to-the-new-city. While looking in the phone book for a pizza place, I discovered that my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant - Pizza House - has a branch up here! So, I looked up the address online, and I even knew how to find it without getting mapquest directions! Within the hour, Luke and I were eating chapatis and discussing the new Harry Potter. I couldn't have done better if I'd made it myself.

In my book - as long as it reminds you of home, its home cookin.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wheat and Weeds - Sermon for July 17, 2005

Luke and I have been spending some of our free time trying to get to know our new community. So, last weekend, we went to the Lansing City Market with a friend of mine from college who was visiting her folks in Mason. My friend, Adrienne, is a great person to go to the farmer’s market with. She just loves produce, and loves to wander around and look at all the fruits and vegetables, and chat with the people selling their crops. She majored in natural resources in college, and has worked in outdoor education since then – she just knows a lot about plants, especially compared to this city girl. So, after we were about done shopping, we went to the center of the market where there is an outdoor area with displays of flowers and plants. The flowers were blooming, it was a beautiful day, so we spent some time wandering around and just enjoying the displays. Adrienne and her mom, who had joined us, would stop and say things to each other like “oh, did you see the ones over there” and they would use all the names for the plants, because they knew them. Of course, my level of appreciating flowers and plants is at the level of “I like the purple ones” or “I don’t like the spiky ones.” As much as I like the idea of gardening, I wouldn’t be very good at it – I just can’t tell any of the plants apart!

While this may be out of place here in the shadow of one of the best agricultural schools in the country, I am thankfully right at home in today’s Gospel story. On its face, the parable of “the wheat and the tares”, as our lesson is often called, seems to be about sorting things out – separating the good from the bad. But in the story, it is only the servants who want to separate out the weeds from the wheat, while it is the master of the garden who lets the weeds grow. Why would the master do that? Because tares are a particular kind of weed. Today they are known as darnel, and it still grows in the Mediterranean region. It is a particular nasty and poisonous weed. The roots of the weed tangle into whatever plant it grows with, so that as the parable says, pulling up the weeds would mean pulling up the good plant along with it. Even worse that that, it is very difficult to tell the young weeds apart from wheat until they are fully grown and the seeds have developed. The slaves in the story then reveal themselves as the unskilled laborers that they are. Despite their good intentions, their plan to gather the weeds would destroy the crops.

Even with two thousand years of experience, we are no more skilled at sorting out the weeds than these servants – and this parable comes around in the lectionary every three years to remind us of that fact. Have you noticed how our Gospel lessons for last week and this week have both included explanations of the parables? Now, Jesus doesn’t normally do that for us. Part of the gift of a parable is the layers of meaning available to us as we explore and interpret the stories and metaphors. But Jesus explains these to us – perhaps because today’s story so easily leads us into the temptation of casting those Other People – whoever that may be – into the starring role of the tares, and by doing so, we cast ourselves as the wrong character too – we make ourselves the one who sorts. But Jesus makes it very clear who the master gardener is – and it is not us. The job of judging the weeds, of gathering and sorting is reserved for Jesus, and for Jesus alone.
And, my friends, that is an absolute blessing! Really, none of us are quite as skilled in this area as we sometimes like to think. I am all too aware of the times when my own judgment – even with the best of intentions – has failed me. I am simply not always right about who or what will help me grow, and who or what will bring me down. And, I suspect, that I am not the only one here who can recall times of mistaken judgment and the inevitable problems that follow close behind.

So, Jesus gives us this parable – and its explanation – to show us a better way. We are to leave the sorting to God, because it is God’s job. And God cares so much about the wheat, that God allows the tares to grow right along with the wheat, rather than risk the potential crop. And what good news that is! We are in the hands of a loving God, who will not give up on us – even on those days, weeks or years when our lives look more like weeds instead of good grain. What would it look like if, in our efforts to imitators and followers of Jesus, we tried to imitate God’s patience and care, rather than God’s ability to judge?

So, here we are in the summer. And while the heat in here shows that I mean that quite literally, I also mean it in a spiritual sense. Seeds of all kinds have already been planted, and the springtime promise of new life has begun but not yet been fulfilled and the harvest has not yet come. Summer is the time for watering and feeding crops, and waiting for the harvest. Christians are forever living in these in-between times, tending the crops as best we can. And while there is plenty of work to be done as laborers in the fields, we still have a choice. We could spend our time and energy pulling up what seem to be the weeds in our fields – but in doing so we run the risk of destroying what might have turned out to be wheat. Instead, we could tend to and care for all that might become wheat. – even if this means doing our best to care for the plants that we think are harmful – because we could be wrong. And if some do grow up to be weeds, then so be it. A gardener far more skilled than ourselves will sort those failures out in the end.

Because when it comes down to it, our hope is not – and cannot ever – be in our own ability to sort the weeds and wheat, and the good from the bad. Writer Sarah Dylan Breuer comments that “The mature know that they are not the judge of the nations because they know the judge personally. It's Jesus. And we're not Jesus, as we know when we're following him.” We are invited – called – by this parable to do just that. To follow Jesus into the harvest, to devote our energies to helping the wheat thrive in the world, and to rest in the true hope – and the promise of Jesus – that God is in control of the harvest – the weeds, the wheat and everything in between.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Calling All Inventors...

Would somebody please invent a machine for me? I'm really not all that mechanical. You see, I have this problem when I am writing - especially sermons. I'll go for a while without any ideas or direction, and then suddenly I'll have twenty million ideas all at once in my head. Of course, by the time I focus on one, I've forgotten all the rest, and sometimes, I just forget all of them. Its really quite frustrating.

So. I would like a machine that could go between my brain and either my computer or a piece of paper. It would just download the ideas from my head into a document so that I could look them over without forgetting them. Thank you very much. I will pass along my address when you are finished making the machine.

P.S. If you could manage this soon, it would make my sermon writing move much more quickly, so that I could open my new copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'd really appreciate that.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Procastination, Vol. 46

Well, not even the Episcopal laying on of hands has cured me of my procrastinating habits. At least Cliff shared this fun website - I can amuse myself while I'm supposed to be writing my sermon, and celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince all at the same time!

Want to Get Sorted?

a Gryffindor!

Also, the webpage has "final exams" about each of Harry's years at Hogwarts. Happy distraction to all, and to all a good night!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Maxin' and Relaxin'

Today is my first day off! Well, I guess not, really I had a day off last week too, but I was so overwhelmed that it was not a particularly relaxing day. I am discovering that "days off" are really "get things done" days. Today we are getting our new phone installed, we're going to the bank to set up new accounts, to the Secretary of State office to tell them where we live, and to Home Depot to buy some paint, and perhaps there will be grocery shopping and a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond in our future as well.

And yes, I said paint!! One of the joys of home ownership - besides the conspicous absence of cinderblocks - is the ability to paint whatever we want. So, we are starting with the dining room. We have chose a color called "Roasted Pepper" from Behr paints. Then, I think we're going to take a tip from a friend, and see what colors they have already mixed that they couldn't sell, and get one of those for the downstairs bathroom. Its just so exciting!

Then, tomorrow, back to work to finish Sunday's sermon... more on that later perhaps.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Such A Lovely Blue

Before I left seminary, people warned me how much I would miss the regular worship life. I already knew they were right - I missed the worship life just over Christmas break! Now, I was one who tried to take advantage of the wide opportunities at Seabury. For those of you still there, I truly hope that you will do the same. The chance to have daily communal prayer and worship is simply an amazing gift and powerful spiritual disicpline, and not something to be taken for granted.

So, I was very happy to learn that at my new church, we have a Tuesday noon Eucharist in the chapel. I was a little less enthusiastic when I discovered that the altar is attached to the wall, and the it is really a Mary chapel... but still, I'm glad for the extra worship during the week. Last week, the rector presided, and I did the deacon's role - and observed him doing the whole "east-facing" thing. Today was my turn. Even though the rector is still here (he leaves on vacation later this week), I was going to do the entire service on my own. I chose to transfer yesterday's feast of Benedict of Nursia, marked my BCP and the Bible, found a nice reading from Sam Portaro's book Brightest and Best, and even had a good chat with a friend on some liturgical points. At noon, I was ready to go. Alas... I was the only one ready to go. No one came to the service this week. Now, east-facing altars and Mary chapels are a bit beyond my piety but I was willing to go with it. I am not, however, willing to stretch that to private priest Eucharist. I said noonday prayers, read the Gospel for Sunday (I"m preaching), put my vestments away and locked up.

Seminary changes you. Three years ago I couldn't possibly imagined myself excited to celebrate an east-facing service in a Mary chapel - heck, I'm not sure I was really aware there was such a thing. But I hope that as my ministry progresses, I never stop feeling a twinge of disappointment when the chapel is empty, even if I did need the private prayer time.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

An icy hot day at the end of the beginning

Since we last talked, there have been ordinations, mortgages, hellos and goodbyes, beginnings and endings. I'm sure you will get all caught up over time, and if not, then there will be more stories to share when I see you the next time. For now, I'm just going to share a bit about my day.

Today was my first Sunday as the curate in my new church home. I've been working in the office all week, getting settled and stuff like that (lots of organizing! yay!) but today really felt like my first day. I got to preside at the Eucharist at both 8:00 and 10:00. At 8:00, the lovely gentleman serving as acolyte and chalice bearer said to me during the setting of the table, "Stop shaking. You're doing fine." I replied that I was pretty sure it would take a few years for the shaking to stop. In the meantime, I hope I don't knock over a chalice. Ah well. Presiding is simply wonderful, I am quite sure already that I will never get tired of it, and if it involves shaky hands, well, God knew what we were getting into.

Then, I drove to a planning meeting for a celebration that is to happen sometime in the next couple of months. The church camp where I grew up, and then spent several summers as staff, is being developed and sold. Our diocese is no longer able to afford its upkeep, there have been a lot of maintenance problems, etc. It is incredibly sad. Those of you who have had the privilege of camp ministry know that camp is a sacred space. I cannot even begin to count the number of lives changed in that place: the number of children who learned that God is not only for their parents, the number of youth and young adults who discovered that with God's help they could love even the most difficult campers, and the number of people who learned that God loved even them. This place has been central to my formation for nearly twenty years - and it does not cease to amaze me how people are surprised by the deep grieving happening with those of us whose faith journeys are woven into the fabric of this place. Grief cries out for a way to say goodbye, to celebrate what has been, and to gather with those who share our memories so that we can remember that hope goes on, life goes on, and God moves in other places. So, a group of us gathered to plan just such an occasion. I hope it will be helpful to see the buildings one last time, and perhaps discover that we can say goodbye to things and places without losing what they meant. I hope that this gathering will help us move to new opportunities for youth ministry - including a more sustainable camping ministry. It is a celebration, not a revolution, we are planning... but you never know what might happen when people come together to talk about their encounters with God, Christian community and the power of love. At least, thats what I decided on the way home while I listened to this song.

We’re trying to see beyond
The fences in our own backyards
I’ve seen the kingdoms blow
Like ashes in the winds of change
But the power of truth
Is the fuel for the flame
So the darker the ages get
There’s a stronger beacon yet

Let it be me
(this is not a fighting song)
Let it be me
(not a wrong for a wrong)
Let it be me
If the world is night
Shine my life like a light

In the kind word you speak
In the turn of the cheek
When your vision stays clear
In the face of your fear
Then you see turning out a light switch
Is their only power
When we stand like spotlights
In a mighty tower
All for one and one for all
Then we sing the common call

Let it be me
(this is not a fighting song)
Let it be me
(not a wrong for a wrong)
Let it be me
If the world is night
Shine my life like a light

-"Let It Be Me", Indigo Girls (of course)