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Post Alt-Right Rally reflection and prayer written/presented Sunday, 8/13

On This Day, Sunday, August 13 recording

Prayer for Sunday August 13 – On This Day

Written Sunday, August 13, 2017              Let This Day Be…

This is not a day to cast stones…

Or accusations of who is right and who is alt-right… of those who risked their lives to take hold fiercely onto the definition of a country whose declaration and bill of rights was written with the intent of protecting the rights of ALL of its citizens.

Let this day not be a day to turn on our neighbor, but to love them even more.

Let this day be a day of prayer and reflection.

Let this day be a day of confession of both sins of aggression and sins of omission.

Let this be a day that we remember that years of in-fighting and defining have led us to this place of mourning and repentance.

But also, let this day be a day when people who claim Christ as their teacher, their Lord, boldly unite in saying — NO not Country First, NO not ME first, but God first.

A day when people of the cloth alongside their parishes say that on THIS day an angry mob will not define us, but God, the Son and the Spirit will emblazon us in new ways to ensure that ALL people are welcome here – in this Sanctuary, in our hearts and yes, even in our homes.

Let this day be a day of not only words but of action.

On this day…on this day…..on this day…and every day.

Amen

Post Rally Reflection:

As I consider sins of omission – when I am challenged as to why I attended the counter-protest movement = Clergy Collective.  Whenever I consider NOT choosing to stand or speak out against hatred and oppression, I remember Martin Niemoller.  Niemoller was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—,
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

 

Somebody DO something…

This coming weekend an Alt-Right group is on the move and heading my way.

 

…. great….

 

It’s bad enough to have the threat of two world leaders trash talking one another at the risk of taking the whole world into the warring arena.  I can sit and watch the news and say… somebody DO something … why isn’t anybody DOING something, rationally.  Where are all of those “moderates” from the left and the right, I cry.  Those level headed folks?!? …. and then THIS happens.

The Alt right comes rolling into town, and not ANY town, but the town in which my church is located.  And not just IN town but the demonstration is just right down the road from my church. Like, walking distance.  And I shake my fist saying, “Why doesn’t someone DO something?”  And THEN I read an article in Sojourners https://sojo.net/articles/white-supremacy-will-not-win-here-people-faith-counter-protest-alt-right-rally – and I realize….

That SOMEBODY is me…and it’s you, it’s anyone who thinks that the Alt-Right “ain’t” right.  Especially any white Christian American who says regularly…”those aren’t MY people; they don’t speak for me.”  What makes me even more, well, CONVINCED that somebody is me is that the denomination that I am so proud of, the Disciples of Christ, post on their national website these FOUR priorities to which they are committed: http://disciples.org/our-identity/the-four-priorities-of-the-church/

  • Becoming a Pro-reconciling/Anti-racist church
  • Formation of 1,000 new congregations by 2020
  • Transformation of 1,000 current congregations by 2020
  • Leadership development necessary to realize these new and renewed congregations

….great….

So tonight is the me putting my foot where my mouth has been so often – stepping into Micah 6:8.  NOT just preaching it, teaching it, but living it:

Human, the Lord has told you what goodness is. This is what he wants from you: Be fair to other people. Love kindness and loyalty, and humbly obey your God. (English Revised)

I’m here!!! But why?

What’s up, PSCC?

I thank you in advance for taking the time to learn a bit about who I am and why I’m here.

In real life, I’m a flutist. (Not a flautist, I could never get the hang of that darn flaut.) All of my education is in flute performance. I have never doubted in the last 20 years what I ought to do with my life. (Before that I wanted to be a lawyer/actress who owned a coffee shop/book store and occasionally appeared on Broadway. That just wasn’t enough for me, I needed something more complicated.)
What I didn’t expect was how much I would love teaching. I even wrote my own method books (#nerdstatusunlocked). But the thing about teaching is that if you believe that the thing you teach is a real, organic force that compels us in heart, mind, and body then it is unsurprising that seeing young people learn and grow with music as their medium would produce quite a high.

And I do love music, but I love Jesus more.cs lewis quote, christianity

That’s not to say that I show my love for Jesus more, or better, or all the time, or particularly well, but still I believe this to be objectively true.

I believe that Jesus is the most real thing there is. More real than this computer I’m typing on, or this  cup of coffee I’m drinking, or my own flesh. Without Him I believe there is literally nothing, and that everything ultimately glorifies Him.

I believe that He is BIG and He is GOOD. Big enough to handle our questions, frustrations, confusions, anger, sadness, joy…and sin. Good enough to not only forgive but understand, fulfill, and nurture.

In my Sunday School and youth groups growing up, I did not always experience the reality of this Jesus. Sure, yeah, the teachers were human (as am I, try as I might to run through Platform 9 3/4 or become invisible with the help of a ring). But still. I feel that they did their students a disservice by shutting down questions rather than engaging with them; by telling us exactly what to believe if we are to call ourselves “Christian.”

I know what I believe (let me rephrase. I know in WHOM I believe. What all that means? Sometimes unclear).

It’s not all exactly the same as when I was a child and it might not be the same as when I’m 50.aslan, christianity, cs lewis, king

Okay so let me tie this all together. Music is my job, but Jesus is my Source. Teaching young people about music is supremely awesome but joining young people in learning about Jesus is Supremely Awesome.

I am SO GLAD you’re here and that we get to know each other. Please know I am a safe place. Please know I am available to you. Please know that if you ever bring me ice cream, it must be chocolate. (These are equally important facts.)

Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us – Book by Christine Pohl

http://hyobook.com/ipd2.php?code=QjA2WEcyWVQ5WQ==.aspx

I am entering my 3d year as pastor at Park Street Christian Church.  A lot has happened to this small community in its history, yet it survives and holds on to itself.  It is a beautiful thing, when you think about it.  But with a great loss (some four years ago), its members have to work hard to step out of the shadows of hurts and sting into the sunlight of its bright purpose and future.  I have watched the loving people of this place do this, but I have also seen how the walking wounded struggle with even a bit of slight.  My husband always says to me, “people are always looking for a reason NOT to go to church these days.”  But I kind of think it is more than that.  Culturally we are terrified of surrendering even the slightest bit of control over our freedom of choice in any given moment.  What if something better comes ’round the bend and I’ve committed to this event OR that place…FOMO (fear of missing out reigns).  Put that in combination of fearing what people think about us, and our sensitivity to any sort of disagreement requiring something more of us than a simple cordiality leaves many with the temptation to walk away from or never even walk into a place, especially a place of so-called faith.  No thank you, it’s easier to do things on my terms with whom I feel like, thank you very much.

I guess you can say that is okay, but when it comes to family and faith community – Christian family and faith community, Jesus requires a bit more of us.  In Christine Pohl’s book, Living Into Community, she talks about what it requires to sustain the gathering of people of faith.  One of my favorite quotes: Good communities and life-giving congregations emerge at the intersection of divine grace and steady human effort.  I love that.  Humans mess up, God forgives.  God’s people are called to forgive, too.  Work things out for the God’s sake!  It is what I have seen in the legacy of PSCC, and it is what I hope folks who spend time with us will walk away from believing…and practicing wherever they end up.

So I am beginning a series of sermons based on Pohl’s book.  I told the congregation last Sunday that this is either the best or the absolute worst time to do this.  Summer is upon us.  Our Sanctuary was filled to the brim on Easter Sunday and each Sunday comes signs of summer decline.  It makes pastors worry, even tho’ they know it happens every summer, but with culture continuing to define priorities of even the most faithful, I think we all wonder if there will be day when the books inspiring us to gather will be renamed: When We Used to Live Into Community, the practices that no longer sustain us.  But until then, as one who believes that people, deep down, want to believe IN people…I will preach it and teach it, be there 2 or 200 with ears to hear.  It’s a practice that sustains me, and may be, even you.

There is Room in the Manger

There is Room in the Manger

To hear the audio recording please click arrow below

Ephesians 3:1-12 in Part:  All this is exactly why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Jesus the Anointed, His representative to the outsider nations. You have heard, haven’t you, how God appointed me to bring you His message of grace? And how the mystery was made known to me in a revelation? I briefly wrote about it earlier. When you read what I have written, you will be better able to understand the depth of my insight into the mystery of the Anointed One, a mystery that has never before been shown to past generations. Only now are these secrets being revealed to God’s chosen emissaries[a]and prophets through the Holy Spirit. Specifically, the mystery is this: by trusting in the good news, the Gentile outsiders are becoming fully enfranchised members of the same body, heirs alongside Israel, and beneficiaries of the promise that has been fulfilled through Jesus the Anointed.

I became a servant and preacher of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace as He exercised His amazing power over me. I cannot think of anyone more unworthy to this cause than I, the least of the least of the saints. But here I am, a grace-made man, privileged to be an echo of His voice and a preacher to all the nations of the riches of the Anointed One, riches that no one ever imagined. I am privileged to enlighten all of Adam’s descendants to the mystery concealed from previous ages by God, the Creator of all, through Jesus the Anointed.

Poem used to close as prayer was written by Roy Whitlock of Charlottesville, Virginia

The inn is full and the roads crowded, your feet are tired and the burden heavy.

There is room in the manger for your love for your life, there is room in the manger for your heart.

There is comfort to be found in wood shavings and lowing, there is room in the manger.

A single star points the way; Jesus came for me. There is room in the manger.

 

The world’s pace seems ever quicker, more to do more to carry.

There is room in the manger for your hope for your peace, there is room in the manger for you heart.

There is comfort to be found in wood shavings and lowing, there is room in the manger.

A single star points the way; Love came for me; love came for you. There is room in the manger….for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding our way to the manger – Ghost Busting as we go!

We are on way to the manger – figuratively, I know.  That’s been PSCC’s theme this Advent:  Finding Our Way to the Manger.  And I am sure that there are countless blogs and posts, and years worth of sermons claiming these are the darkest days… there is so much we CAN be afraid of.  There are so many reasons we CAN be sad and overwhelmed.  But, really, our days, our times are no more intense as any other, we just are bombarded by how horrible it is today especially in the media and social networks.  Violence in the streets, wild cards in leadership, children and youth out of control, families dealing with death and addiction – to quote Bill Murray and crew in the original Ghostbusters:  ”

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?

Dr. Raymond Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr. Raymond Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

And I guess we should…or possibly could just lose our minds about it.  Strap on our proton packs and stampede in a rampage.  Then there is always hiding fearfully in a corner behind the tinsel laden Christmas tree – like Ebenezer Scrooge quaking as he waits for the next ghost to appear.  Ooooor,  we could continue on our journey towards the manger, in a steady and slow Advent sort of way.  Keeping our eye on the manger and the promise it holds in the life of Jesus.  The Prince of Peace the Radical Rabbi, who calls us and leads us to where God needs us to go.  Sure, we may get spooked, or surprised…but we can regain our senses and take the next best step towards the light.  Shoot, we may knock our knee on the coffee tables of life, the big shin ding.  Go ahead and holler a bit, but we can’t forget that God’s got this, especially when folks like us keep moving steadily towards and in the Kingdom (it’s even better when we do it together).

Too simple?  Too naive? Too sweet like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man covered in gum drops?  May be, but for me in this Advent season, with God leading me EVEN in the shadow of death – I will fear no evil CUZ

I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

 

Glad to be Called to Disciple Church

I am back from a quick run to Roanoke where I “manned” the Virginia Baptist Women in Ministry Booth http://www.vbwim.org/ at an annual gathering of The Baptist General Assembly of Virginia.  I have served as the moderator of the VBWIM for two years, and now my tenure is coming to a close.  I was also pleased to lead a break out session focusing on the challenges of Women in Ministry that still exist in ALL denominations.  It was the first time in the nearly 30 year history of the VBWIM that we were actually invited to lead a break out session at this state-wide gathering.  The stories we heard about the challenges professional women face in 2016 is at times overwhelming. Yet, I walked away thankful for the goals I personally set and accomplished in my role as moderator, but especially being called to denominational and pastoral work with the Disciples of Christ.  In my conversation with many people, I heard over and over how the Disciples were the place where discounted women of faith and ministry have found a home.  Hospitality and welcome to the outsider, the marginalized is nothing new to the Disciples – and certainly wasn’t to our teacher, example and Lord Jesus.  Jesus reached out to those others rejected…and often was a bit harder on those on the “in” for their ongoing activities which excluded the “outs.”  We welcome ALL people:  the stranger, the immigrant, the recovering, the impoverished, the single, the single parent families, the blue, the red and the rainbow. We make room at the Welcome Table for all believers.

I am so proud to be part of not only our loving faith family at PSCC but our covenant tie with the larger Disciple family (www.disciples.org).  May we continue to consider how we as a local congregation live this out – by involvement in our local agencies and communities, but also in how we keep our doors open to those seeking sanctuary and spiritual fellowship.

“Mental Illness and Ministry” by Dr. Mark E. Poindexter

In the Virginia Christian last month, Dr. Mark E. Poindexter of West Side Christian Church wrote an insightful article (pdf linked: mentalillness-article) which I found not only moving but informative. As part of the Park Street Christian family now for over a year, I have been humbled and enlightened to walk along a fellowship who has faced the challenges presented by mental illness, especially depression.  This is an invisible affliction for many.  It seems if one is not curled up in a ball unable to move – their issues remain overlooked.  And if, indeed, they do ball up in a corner, they are often stepped over, or gently patted on the back encouraged to “get over it” with the sweetest of intentions [oh, please get over it].

Though I have not struggled (as of yet) with depression, my strong, stoic mid-western German father did…as did his mother.  The dark shadows that only the depressed see are crippling and often left my dad in bed for days at a time.  Then, there are others in my life who self-medicate to keep the darkness at bay, but sadly it still lurks, and is often complicated by substance abuse.  Depression, mental illness, just like alcoholism is therefore truly a family disease.

One of the most devastating results of hidden, cloaked and deep depression can be attempted or completed suicide.  Yes, for some, depression (and other mental illness) is indeed a terminal illness.  There is much research to be done and much public education required to help rid us of this sad ending.  One way to help promote gains in this arena is helping fund the fight.  On October 22 there will be several from our fellowship participating in SPARC’s walk for suicide awareness.  You can find more information on http://www.sparchope.org/

In the meantime, if you or a loved one is struggling with emotional strife, please seek the help that is available and know that there are those who deeply and prayerfully care.

Considering the Sojourner

Though often found in Christianeze – sojourner‘s closest Greek and Hebrew word-cousins refer to the alien, the traveler, the UNlocal just passing through.  In 3 John, a small and often overlooked epistle – we find celebration and praise of the believer who truly gets what it means embody hospitality.  No, not just to friends and family, but to those who just may be passing through, the sojourner.  The word sojourner is powerful, I believe, because if we are honest – we all are sojourners on this big blue marble.  Yes, there has certainly been a time in most of our lives when someone has welcomed our weary bones well, and boy, didn’t we appreciate it?!  That soft pillow, that warm meal – even a simple hug and prayer.

So this coming Sunday we’ll be considering the sojourner and that 3 John text – especially as it ties to a young military family ready to leave their hometown of Cville and begin their trek as full-time sojourners.  When they leave they will take their two young sons (toddler and infant) but before that happens they seek the blessing of their temporary faith community, PSCC.  It is such an honor to love and embrace this family, sending them off with our blessing to love and live well as Christ followers and sojourners.

So as a pastor, I am currently obsessed with this idea of investing in the passer by?  Well…because it has been part of our North American Christian community to seek growth in membership. Snag ’em and tag ’em not only for God’s Kingdom, but especially as invested, long-term members and contributors to our local church.  Look, I am not saying that membership and commitment to one’s local congregation is a bad thing.  I love me some dedicated hard working church members…don’t get me wrong.  But if we only invest in those who we think will stick around the longest – …what are we to do with those just passing by?  Ignore them?  Just give them a quick hand shake and pat on the back?  In 3 John the answer is clearly, no.  As in Mosaic law – the theme of caring for those passing through continues –  leaving enough of one’s bounty/harvest/field for the widow, the orphan and the sojourner/alien.  Giving to someone who may never give back is tough for the best of us…. but until we all remember when those arms of simple welcome wrapped around us, and blessed our journey – we most certainly will miss the opportunity to bless others…as they sojourn on.

3 John 1:5-8

Model the Good

5-8 Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. They’ve made a full report back to the church here, a message about your love. It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself! They set out under the banner of the Name, and get no help from unbelievers. So they deserve any support we can give them. In providing meals and a bed, we become their companions in spreading the Truth.