Monday, April 17, 2017

Church Bullies

Do you have a church bully? (Or more than one?)
Is there such a thing?

You know, a person with good intention, at least we assume so, who always gets their way? Have you looked into the minutes to see if this special "position" rotates among a couple people? Or perhaps just one has seniority..

Or is it that we church people are so sensitive, for our jobs? for people's feelings? to eliminate all confrontation - that we ALLOW the bully to be created?
Bow to their every request.! (It avoids future confrontation)
Anticipate their needs above everyone else's. (Eliminates the late night phone calls, messages on the church machine, or sometimes emails.)
    (I remember a story of one who not only sent Monday morning emails, they sent it to the whole church email list!)

I'm assuming we all have some version of them. I just wonder how much we contribute to their development by our responses. Where and when do you drawn the line? Do you see a bully in development and stop the process? How do you do it?

It seems to be that as much as we promote healthy relationships, this is one that slips by - to our detriment and the congregation's.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Working late in Lent

It seems to be a weekly and sometimes daily theme, this working late in Lent.
I hear it again, again and again from clergy friends and then,
I echo it, as if
were were in a race to see who could be, or not be
the busiest bee that Lent could see.

It's silly really.
We who tell others to take time,
slow down,
prayer matters.
Yet find so little time for it ourselves.

"I forgot to pray," said a pastor yesterday.
(and none of us were surprised.)

This working late in Lent theme,
turns out not to be in the Lectionary - in any season.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

from @StudioPelican

I love this video and plan to use it on Sunday...along with some Mary Poppins.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Study Day in Lent, "A Jolly Holiday..with Mary"

I know that I can easily get lost while looking for resources for Sunday. Today I've sent the emails I needed to and found the resource and then some. But now it's time for plain old reading. So glad to have this time set aside. I was assisted in this routine, by a former spiritual director. When she asked about my week which had contained a funeral, she asked where I find time for the meetings and preparation. With a study day, there's always a few hours for meeting, visiting, or doing what is necessary but wasn't planned.

AND the study is needed. So back to the work. I've schedule the video I found for use on Sunday to publish on Sunday morning. But here's another I plan to use, thanks to the idea from Nurya Love Parish in Christian Century. (Be warned, the music will stick in your head for days...)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

so much for keeping up to date on blogging. Perhaps this is something to do when I have less on my plate?

I had a good run with 90s songs for sermon titles. So I've decided to give the boomers a shot at this and have suggested we use 60-70's songs. (late 50's for the older boomers) But so far, no suggestions. I will wait a bit and see if they get with the program.

Meanwhile, here's a pic from our recent (this week) little trip to 7-Springs.

Not too far above where I caught an edge and went down on Wednesday when the snow got soft at the bottom of the runs. A great and varied 3 days of skiing. A few hours of powder on Monday night, some powder then frozen on Tuesday, then frozen rain and rain, "Spring-skiing" on Wednesday. All this on January 9-11!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

update: 90s songs for sermon titles

9/11/16.   “Losing My Religion” R.E.M. (1991)  

9/18/16 "Nice Guys Finish Last" (1997) Green Day

9/25/16 "Heart- shaped box". Nirvana

10/2/16 "Don't look back in anger, Oasis

10/9/16 "Save yourself" - Stabbing Westward" (1998)

10/16/16 “How Do You Talk To An Angel” The Heights (1992)

10/23/16. Better Man Pearl Jam (1994)

10/30/16 "Take Me To Your Leader" Incubus 1996

11/6/06 "One Fine Day" Mariah Carey Boys ll Men 

11/13/16 “Paradigm Shift” Liquid Tension Experiment (1998)

11/20/16 “If you could only see” Tonic 1996

11/27/16 “Semi-charmed kind of life” - 3rd Eye Blind

12/4/16 “Long December” Counting Crows 1996
12/11/16 "Welcome To Paradise" Green Day 1994
12/18/16 "Holiday" Get Up Kids 1999
12/25/16 at AFUMC
1/1/17 "Feats Don't Fail Me Now" Little Feat

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent I - Semi-Charmed Life (Third Eye Blind)

As I indicated last week, I'm posting my Advent sermons in this series on Creation referencing Diana Butler Bass' book, Grounded.

“Advent of Creation - Grounded” 
Advent 1 - Semi-Charmed Life (Third Eye Blind, 90's songs for sermon titles)
(note, We at ACOB, tend to have some discussion and answers to questions in the message. Some are more rhetorical than others. I've noted questions in color to indicate answers were welcome.)

Immanuel, God is with us. 
These words are the centerpiece of what we proclaim at Advent. (7:14 and 8:8) 

If God is with us, —these 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus— we should spend time reminding each other of the places we ‘see’ and ‘hear’ and experience God…as being WITH us.

I have noted that here, in this congregation — as is true in many others,— the places most named when we speak of experiences of the Divine are intimately tied to creation. 
Congregation: (Name a few of them now:)
This year our Advent celebration - will also be tied to Creation!
…it’s more appropriate than you might think.
our Christmas traditions are tied to greenery and candles, evergreen trees and scenes of snow. Yet it was the bright sun of CREATION that lit the underside of remaining leaves on fire as it crested over the horizon on this 1st Sunday of Advent.

This summer just past, the ‘BookWorms’ (our church reading group) read Diana Butler Bass’s Grounded. If you didn’t read it with us, but want to, this month would be a good time.

In her book, Diana Bass makes some observations, (many of which we are already aware.) 
Observations about church and unchurched people in the 21st century. And 
observations about people who classify themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. 
(you’ve heard that phrase before..)

ASK: What would you ask someone who self-classifies as ‘spiritual but not religious’?

Bass’s observations do not bemoan the loss of these people from our congregations, 
nor does she offer suggestions to get them back — IF they were ever ‘churched’ in the first place.
Her conclusions are more practical. 
She observes a ‘shifting conception of God” in the last decade from UP THERE to …well closer. 

The shift is also From a God who is mediated by pastors and priests, or at least thru the church itself—
—to a conception of God that is “unmediated and local.” 
“One that animates the natural world and human activity in profoundly intimate ways.

The God we worship today is the “heartbeat at the center of things”.

This may not seem surprising to you. Yet it is far different than the structures of Christianity as they have traditionally been practiced.
The intimate connection to the Divine was once only experienced by the mystics YET now seems to be the dominate way large numbers of people experience the Holy.
How does Diana Bass know all this? The answer is in the words we use
“People who self-identify as #SPnotR or those who are unaffiliated with a denomination, use a vocabulary of theological intimacy…as do many of us in more traditional faiths.”

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly we don’t consider ourselves to be the gatekeepers of God, do we? 

The prophet Isaiah that we just heard from, spoke of a reality where God’s word, found in the TorAH’s instruction, “is not only for Israel, but for ALL the nations.” 
Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God 
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”

“God’s word and law are NOT the exclusive right of any particular people, but are ‘spoken’ for all who Stream towards the mountain of God.”

Perhaps what Isaiah foretold so long ago, is coming about NOW, in our time!
.  .  .
Bass says, “People are leading their own theological revolution and finding that the Spirit is much more WITH the world than we had previously been taught.”
ASK: What were you taught or what was implied about WHERE God is?

Bass also made the point that for generations past, people’s questions were about God’s intention towards them, or their people. (For instance, what does God intend for Israel?)
But since a time in the 20th century, (really after WWI and II), people began to ask, WHERE IS GOD? 
Where was God when the holocaust happened?
Where was God when Hitler was elected by the German people?
it’s a different question

Back then, People understood God to be in control of a more “vertical faith” or “elevator religion” where God is up, we are somewhere in the middle and Hell is down.
That is not the way most of us experience God today. (Even tho we still sing about God this way in our most beloved hymns and sometimes we talk about God in heaven and EVIL in hell.)

In the past, “God was omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient; 
All powerful, in All places, and All knowing. 

The God Bass now calls, “Grounded”, “is a God in relationship with space and time as the love that connects and creates all things, known in and with the world.”

(For me, these are words I’ve been waiting to hear since I first read, Gene Robinson’s book, Honest to God - written in the 60’s. A book I discovered as I wrestled with a call to ministry, 
to follow a God whom I no longer thought of as “up there,”— —
But until I could place God, in some small way of my own understanding — I couldn’t imagine following ANYWHERE.)

In spite of these modern revelations—- In advent —of all seasons, we often revert to an ancient understanding of God in order to listen again to our favorite Bible stories. 
 do we need to?
***ASK: Do we need to have a magical, ‘semi-charmed’ life in order to believe the Biblical stories of Christmas? ***
Is Advent about putting REALITY aside so we can enter the stable?
Do we merely need to open our eyes to see ALL life as ‘charmed’ and infused with the holy?

The stories all thru the Bible tell us of a “God who comes close [to humanity] who is compelled by a burning desire to make heaven on earth (up comes down) and occupy human hearts.”
In Abrahamic, Buddhism, Hinduism and Native faiths, there is a rich tradition of the HOLY coming near to touch humanity with all that is DIVINE.
From the promise to Abram and Sara to the burning bush and Moses, thru the reign of King David, to prophets like Isaiah, thru exile and return, —-again and again, 
God comes near, calls out, reaches thru, 
blinds and unblinds people to the point where they can see the Holy right before OUR EYES.

In a way, this revolution about God is a “RE-enchantment of the world” as we locate God everywhere and in everyday life.

In Advent, we again celebrate God ‘showing up’ here among us.   

ASK: isn’t it just when we most need the Lord of Hosts to be with us?
ASK: Where do you most need God to be right now?
This —is— Immanuel, God with us - 
 “God in stars and sunrise, 
God as the face of a neighbor, 
God in acts of justice, 
God as the wonder of love. 

The changes we experience “reveal not a dreadful, distant God, but that intimate presence of mystery that abides with the world
a spirit of compassion that breathes hope and healing, into places big and small. 

The 20th century horror of the Holocaust and the 21st century horrors of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Orlando and Charleston, South Carolina, and 
the injustice coming to light in our legal system that punishes people of color more than those seen as ‘white’ — 

—ALL these tragedies are not places bereft of God. Nor are they scenes of horror that a Heavenly puppet-master caused. 
But in each one, God can be found - 
among the victims and the rescue workers. 
In the small and large acts of compassion shown by human for human. 
Where is God? 
in unselfish acts of heroism or unrecognized stands for justice
THESE are the “places where faith is being re-birthed “from the Ground UP!”

It’s not just the unchurched who have discovered the intimate ‘God with us’. —We have known this God all along.
we celebrate God With Us.

God is with us as We keep moving toward the hope we have in God’s future  by the choices we make today.. 
our personal, relational, political, and communal choices …made as we walk in God’s holy light.”

I WELCOME a theological revolution that GROUNDS us in the holy one. 
God, the ‘ground of all being’.

whose coming was promised and fulfilled in Jesus
whose presence is with us still.
Come let us adore him, now and always as we celebrate the Joy that comes into THIS World!