Monday, November 29, 2010

Virtual Advent Retreat at RevGals - Part III

I'm back to drinking tea, very delicious tea that I wouldn't normally drink in my hurry to get some coffee and get to work. This "difference" seems to fit into the way Joseph responds in Matthew's story.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
LutheranChik writes,
How easy it is to place parameters on our acts of mercy; to measure out our compassion in easily manageable units, according to our own comfort level, at our own convenience; perhaps, deep down, according to our own sense of competence: "I can go this far; no farther."

By the standards of his own time and culture, Joseph exceeded most people's expectations of how a prospective husband should treat a fiancee' found to be pregnant. He would have been within his rights to publicly denounce Mary as an adulteress and let the community guardians of morality deal with her in the way that patriarchal societies have traditionally dealt with women deemed to be sexually compromised. But no, he decided; he would take the high road: He would quietly call off the marriage, let Mary's family deal with the problem of her pregnancy, and walk away -- embarrassed and disappointed, surely, but blameless; and free to start over. There; he'd do his duty and then some.

What were Joseph's thoughts, one wonders, when he realized that God had a different plan -- one that would presumably implicate him as father of Mary's child, bringing his morality as well as Mary's into question; one that would additionally place on his shoulders the enormous responsibility of raising a child not his own, a child whose origin he could scarcely imagine? Did Joseph feel a hesitation, a catch of uncertainty, as he weighed the consequences of assenting to the task assigned to him? 
 Joseph risked the different way. I remember times when I took that path and spent the time to drive someone to the auto-parts store so I could buy her brake shoes. (With the church's emergency fund.) And I remember the times I didn't go, or didn't pick up the phone because I was sure it was a late Friday request for help from the network of people who call churches and know how to time the call so their need can't be verified before the deadline for weekend housing is here.

How can I find the courage to take a different path when presented with it? "Another Way of Living" is what the Brethren call it. Joseph did it and that had to take major courage. How might I even discern the path? Perhaps all I can do is pray LutheranChik's prayer:

Prayer: Loving, gracious and merciful God, help me make room for Christ in my life by making room for risk on behalf of others. Help calm the fears that separate me from others. Let me say "yes" to the next right thing I'm called to do on behalf of my neighbors -- even when it's difficult, even when it comes at a cost. Help me do these things for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Virtual Advent Retreat at RevGals - Part II

 It's not easy retreating at home, but easier than making time (& money) to go somewhere. Part 2 of this excellent virtual retreat brings me to Matthew's story connection John and Jesus later in life.
Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
 Mary Beth writes
John the Baptist is having a bad, bad time. He is stuck in prison, after all. And the faith and passion with which he proclaimed the coming of Jesus as the Messiah seem to be gone, or at least stretched very thin.

It’s understandable, really. Jesus is not doing what he should be doing, in John’s estimation. He is, in fact, doing everything WRONG. I imagine John thinking, “This is crazy! Jesus can’t be the one, because everything is so screwed up.” He must have felt very desperate to send this message to Jesus.. . . It’s sometimes easy to feel that way in today’s world. We get frustrated at the gloom-and-doom news channels, the machinations of the institutional church and some individuals representing Christianity. Wars, violence, starvation…the list could go on and on. We get stuck in our own self-righteousness and sin, and wonder where God is, and whether we’ve made a mistake. Like John, we get rusty in our faith.
  She challenges us to think about something different this year and not get stuck in rusty old (busy, busy) habits.
This time last year I was packing boxes like mad while I limped around on an almost healed, broken ankle. The moving van came on the 1st. It was a crazy time, far from today's quiet and peaceful dining room where I sit, listening to Christmas music and watching the last of the leaves blow off the trees. I am grateful to be here. Our move has had some surprises, mostly monetary. We expected utilities and taxes to be higher. We didn't expect to pay so much more in taxes by having a parsonage instead of a housing allowance. ah well. There is still so much for which to be grateful. Our son got into grad school and is finishing the frantic end-of-semester papers. He also sold his first written piece this year. Our daughter completed her Masters and got out of the program that seemed to be killing her. SIL is now living with us and she will be too in about 6 weeks or less. Husband has made an easy transition to the new territory and is enjoying a successful hunting season. Life is good.

So what shall I "think about" that is different than the usual fare this year? As I contemplate those for whom life is not-so-good, and the places where there is no peace on earth, I wonder what small thing I could do to make a different for peace. Perhaps it will come in stages. First, I think locally, maybe I can visit a few people who don't ordinarily fall on my list but would enjoy a visit and conversation. What if everyone in the congregation visited just one other person this year? That could make for peace right here because I know there are people who are in stressful situations and would really enjoy a visit to talk.

Perhaps, as today's "retreat" continues, other UNusual ideas will arise for being part of Christ's peace.

Virtual Advent Retreat at RevGals

After a night of coughing, getting up at 5 to see daughter off, taking more cough medicine and trying to sleep, I have no voice and little energy. It's a perfect day for a "VIRTUAL" Retreat. So I'm drinking tea, honey & lemon, reflecting and perhaps some sewing repair while I think. Thank you RevGals!
Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. . .
SingingOwl asks:
For Reflection
Worshipful submission: Am I submissive and worshipful on the outside while the inside is anything but? Or has submission to God become a genuine joy? How does worshipful submission look in my life at this moment and time? Is it a delight or a chore? Why? 
 I don't like the word submission. Of course I don't need to tell this to anyone who knows me. There are moments, truly worshipful moments when submission seems to be the only response to God's awesome presence. Yet I know myself well enough to find my will seeps into any sense of submission to God's will. (As if I really know what that is.) I loved the recent article in Christian Century about finding God's will, or not needing to. I usually speak of God's will for wholeness & peace for all humanity. It's a large concept to bring down to my everyday living.
Obedient respect: Philippians 2:12-13 says, “So...just as you have always out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose.” In what areas do I need to cooperate with what God is doing in me? Am I willing to obey, even when it costs me? Why "fear and trembling?" Why is it such serious business? 
At times I wish God was doing more of a physical weight-loss-thing in me. I'm not really sure at this time what God is doing. I have been in another and different kind of learning for the last 2 years and God's spirit has felt with me in most places. Previously I thought I couldn't come up with "vision" only the practical application for things. But here, where it seems to be needed, the ideas and thoughts come. I guess that's a good thing. I just hope I can keep listening. It is so easy to get distracted with work.
Reverential awe: How long since I was genuinely in awe of God? What did it look like? Feel like? Sound like?

I'm reading The Pillars of the Earth and it has me wanting to visit a cathedral.
National Cathedral is close so I may just do it soon. Meanwhile, I revisit the Florence Duomo and Milan's Duomo, and St. Peter's in my mind quite a bit while I read. In those places I felt AWE. St. Peter's really is amazing. I guess the old Brethren wouldn't think much of it, but I can really see why these places were built. (Altho reading, I wonder about some of the motives. Great book tho!)

There's another section to the Advent Retreat already posted so I will do a little quite work then perhaps come back to more reflection.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Playing at Pies

I rarely get around to playing the Friday 5 but since I'm home fighting a cold, I'll have some fun.

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?

Yes, especially if I don't have to make them! Although I usually make a sugar free pie with pudding and coolwhip for my husband that we ALL end up eating.

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
News to me, my daughter had pie at her wedding reception instead of cake because she prefers pie. So do I, again, especially if I don't make it. I don't make crust but love other people's homemade crust. My son-in-law's father made yesterday's pies and the crusts were whole grain and DELICIOUS.
3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?
Yes, I'm a cherry pie fan, but haven't tried the cherry-rhurbard variety.
4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
Lemon meringue, I prefer my chocolate "straight" and the lemon and meringue just seem to go together.
5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
I hope our English gals answer some questions about meat pie. I have had "chicken-pot-pie" with the traditional peas and carrots but think any vegetable will do. I usually keep my pies for dessert.

Looking forward to replies. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grateful a week ahead of time.

I realize it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving to be grateful but today I am especially grateful for a congregation who acts like we are all in this together (duh). I am losing the battle against a cold and suspect my voice to be limited tomorrow. I've lined up four people to help with the service. How awesome is that?

The choir is singing "Jesus Remember Me" interspersed with the gospel reading from Luke and a few more verses. I think it will be the high point of the service. I've posted my sermon at another site that seems to accept the paste in from Word easier than Blogger does. If you are interested look here.

Council meeting is after church and I have all but one thing in my Keynote presentation. The commissions have created "board games" for their report.
Witness - the Game of Life (of Outreach)
Nurture - Nurture not Monotony
Stewards - Have been working on the Railroad

Since hardly anyone reads written reports, these interactive creations will be a lot more fun to see. They are quite impressive also as you get a visual sense of all the work that was done in a year.

Now I just need a couple paper dolls for the children's story and someone is even helping me with most of that. #awesomecongregation

So I'm going to rest for the rest of the evening. THANKS BE TO GOD.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Long Week: Weary with Nothing To Say

2 Thessalonians has a lot to say, but today I don't...and I need to. It's been a long week and tomorrow I have an afternoon conference with a 2 hour drive each way. So I need to say something about 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 TODAY and get it on paper.

For all I'm worth, the only thing I'm coming up with is complex and not something I have the energy to preach. A warning to seriousness and boundaries while remaining open and affirming and welcoming will not come across well. At least not unless I can really preach it, and I can't, not this week. I know I'm too tired to make the case well with clarity. There are so many pitfalls for mis-hearing.

How about I just chill, watch Harry Potter movie re-runs and Gilmore Girls and hope the Holy Spirit delivers a type manuscript this week?
Or does that sound too much like the idleness 2 Thessalonians is warning against? (And could someone deliver a pizza?)

I'm left with verse 13,
Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Quick Reflections

Today I see why some pastors take Monday off. My usual Sunday is now quite different from the years that included late Sunday evenings in Youth Ministry. Although I miss youth ministry, I usually am glad to have Sunday evenings at home. Yesterday was different since it was COB re-licensing day and I was on the team to do a couple interviews. Add a meeting to it and the fact that it was up in Md. and I didn't get home until after 10 pm. Meanwhile, someone went to the hospital immediately (EMTs) following church. (My sermon has never made anyone that sick before.) Traffic was so heavy I couldn't get there before needing to leave for the afternoon meeting. Others from the congregation went to check on this person, as they'd promised and between texts and messages to the house, I learned that it was eventually decided that a night in the hospital was needed. Fortunately, the patient seems ok.

So this morning, I need to run over there. I have an appointment and meeting tonight and a little prep-shopping for the meeting. I made myself stay in bed (not hard) when I first woke up and now have been reading and reflecting a bit. It's time to move on. I feel the longing to sit in a cathedral. I must need the special "sanctuary" that such a place provides. Perhaps tomorrow will include a trip to National as that is so possible living here!

I want to walk today and to read. I hope I manage to at least get one of those accomplished. Yesterday was a special day in many ways as we lifted up our seminary during the worship service and heard from one of the congregation's seminary grads. It was a good day also, just to hear about others' ministries in the district and to see a few friends at the interviewing event. But we heard a brief presentation on Self-Care, so I think I'll make room for a little of that at some point today.

Ah Mondays.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Time To Right

I'm off lectionary this week back to 2 Timothy for a Bethany Seminary Sunday. Meanwhile the congregation has thrown all their efforts into making everything right for our annual bazaar called "Soup & Pie". I just got back from making the signs listing all the soups and pies to be sold tomorrow. WOW, it will be hard to stick to just the healthy (mostly) soups and stay away from the pies. #NOT

Timothy's challenge is to "Preach The Word" (or proclaim it as the NRSV says) and make your living right. I'm not sure what our soups and pies proclaim, but the table full of Servv International Products, Fair Trade Coffee, recycled items at the craft table and White Elephant sale, and the donation table for Heifer all say something about keeping our priorities right.

So I hope our actions and especially our welcome to the neighborhood, proclaims the word tomorrow. (And maybe this sermon will get right and 'write'n by Sunday.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Mourning After

"Despite the financial hard times felt across the land, a virtual fire hose of cash has fueled this year's races -- $4 billion, all told. That's an 80 percent jump in congressional campaign contributions from just two years ago, according to NPR's Peter Overby." NPR News

My political loyalties are out today in mourning. I can't help it. I don't believe the way through the rest of this recession is a return to the policies that aided the crash. I think it takes longer than two years to turn things around. AND I don't want my adult children to lose the health care they were just guaranteed. #yespoliticsispersonal

We shall see what comes next.
-My hope is that the proponents of this "new change" will hold all elected officials feet to the fire.
-My hope is there will still be policy makers who care about ending hunger.
-My hope is -for hope- to still exist in the legislative world so we can have change not just bickering while people go without income, without food, without health care.

The quote with which I began shows there is money among the rich or those powerful enough to seek changes that protect their interests. Will any money make it to places of real need? 'Trickle Down' has never worked before. There's too much greed at the top. We need open pipes to pour. Pour your blessings down O Lord, we need them!

"You will save a lowly people, but you will humble the haughty eyes." Psalm 18:28