resurrection is not safe

christ has been brutalized and tortured for speaking against the government

MLKoscar
janani-luwum-head.t       maria

he has been murdered by those who fear him-exercising their “power”

Shantel Davis Shantel Davis shanteldavis2

trayvonmartin Trayvon Martin travon

eric garner Eric Garner eric

Mike_Brown Michael Brown MikeBrown1

and today he raises from the dead-hell harrowed, death defeated
he is not nailed to that cross–from torture and death he raises

goodson

the revolution of peace, love and grace lives. 

viva la revolucion.

christ has risen!

we have work to do.

HALLELUJAH!
DON’T SHOOT!
HALLELUJAH!
I CAN’T BREATHE!
HALLELUJAH!
HALLELUJAH!
HALLELUJAH!

we have justice to work for, easter people. hallelujah.

observing triduum “out of order”

last night, long after my neighborhood grocery store was closed i realized that i was out of coffee. pre-coffee grocery store trips are not something that i usually build into my schedule, but, i knew there was no way around it.

friday is typically my sabbath day–a day of rest that begin with waking up naturally (no alarm) and leisurely coffee at the kitchen table with a book or podcast. however, i know that without coffee for too long in the morning i get cranky, my head hurts and the no-caffeine-fog slows me down. so, i knew that i needed to set my alarm and get to the store before it was too terribly late in the day.

it also happens that, in the christian calendar, that today is good friday. the day that we observe the passion (torture, crucifixion and death) of jesus. yesterday was maundy thursday–the day that we observe the last supper and churches around the world celebrate communion and the washing of feet to remind us of christ’s grace, love and servant-hood.

the third day in the triduum is holy saturday, tomorrow, a day of waiting–a day of remembering that christ died, his body washed and laid quiet in a tomb while the disciples locked themselves away in grief and fear.

while i walked to my grocery store this morning i was thinking about easter and resurrection. i was pondering where i see resurrection in my daily life and wondering about the miraculous transformation a desert undergoes after a steady fall of rare rain. (i managed to get out of the house before the deep caffeine-less fog set in.)

i had a short list of groceries to buy besides coffee, so was making my way thought the aisles and listening to rachel maddow’s show from thrusday evening–she was talking about iran and plutonium–while choosing which instant mi goreng (thanks, kelly) to buy  when a woman came up to me and gestured for me to remove my ear-buds.

she: “do you speak english?”
me: “yeah.”
she: “okay, so, my car was just towed with my three kids and everything i have was in that car. i’m not asking for money or anything, and i’m not on drugs, but can you help me by buying these?”

she holds up her basket–lunchables, juice, nutella, baby wipes.
i think, but don’t ask, your kids were in the car? i doubt that… looking back at her face i also think: i’m not sure i believe you.

pausing the podcast and placing my phone in my own basket i just say:
“yeah, sure.”

she is clearly in a hurry–zipping up the aisle. as we walk i take her in more clearly–she smells heavily of cigarette smoke. and not just from today, but like she has been steeped in it for months. her makeup is think and cheap, an attempt to look young and it is difficult to tell her age. mid 30s like me? 40s? older?  her toenail polish is french-tip and looks perfect yet her red fingernail polish is all around her cuticles and she is chewing her nails–they are quite short.

she: “thank you for not looking at me like i look at homeless people when they ask me for money.”
me: silence
she: “i mean, i’m just a single mom–three kids–so when a grown man asks me for money, i just don’t feel bad. you know? maybe i should feel bad. should i feel bad?”

by now we are up in the check-out area.
she turns to me: “should i feel bad?”

me: “we all need help.”

she is choosing which line to stand in, i think: the contents of your basket lead me to believe your story about kids–it is “kid food” and there are diaper wipes. your lack of attachment or gratitude isn’t giving me confidence that you are telling me the truth.

she breaks into my thoughts by gesturing to the woman in front of us in the line we have chosen–she wants me to ask her if we can move ahead of her in line. that i’m not going to do. looking into her basket again it appears that she “qualifies” for the express lane–so i suggest we go one cashier over.

she: “i just parked my car for a moment outside the daycare to run some pampers inside for my kids, you know… i didn’t want to find and pay for parking so i just ran in. and when i came back my car had been towed!”
me: nodding

she: “OH! I FORGOT CRACKERS FOR THEIR PEANUT BUTTER!”

she unloads her basket onto the conveyor and literally runs away.

there is a chance she’s not coming back, right? is this where i’m left wondering if i buy these and leave them for her or try to explain the cashier? what if she brings back expensive stuff? i’m pretty sure this is all a lie…

she comes running back up–her sandals smacking the tile announcing her approach, then the smell of stale cigarettes before i see her face again. one packet of graham crackers is what she had grabbed.

me: “what is your name?”
she: “charlie”
me: “my name is thera. it is nice to meet you, charlie.”
charlie: “yeah, thank you.”

the cashier beings to ring us up.

charlie: “i just dropped off pampers–those things cost so much. i need to take them this food to daycare. my three kids…”
me: “yeah-i hear that diapers do cost a lot.”

i think about asking where in the neighborhood her kids are in daycare but don’t want to shatter the illusion if it is not true. 

charlie touches the reusable fiesta bag hanging off the register. and asks the cashier,  “how much does this cost?”  pausing, nutella in hand, she replies, “ninety nine cents.”

i do not offer to buy it.

charlie: “oh, cool. okay.”

she shakes her head like it was silly to ask.

it is just ninety nine cents…yeah, but, come on. am i being rude or principled? 

bagging her own groceries, with haste charlie says, “wow. well, thank you.” she has stopped making eye contact or really looking at me.

maybe i was wrong?

i am handed the receipt. $28.35

me: “you’re welcome, charlie. i hope the food is enjoyed.”

having already picked up her bag and turned away from me, charlie turns back and gives me a quick hug–looking past my left shoulder rather than at me. “yeah. hey, thanks.”

me: “you’re welcome.”

and then she was gone. i took my basket back to where i was deciding on a mi goreng brand pondering eucharist, foot washing and taking people at their word.

we all need help.

image1 (1)

afterthought: in october i added my fifth tattoo to my collection–a raven with a communion wafer in her mouth. she symbolizes the ravens in the story of elijah (1 kings) bringing provision in the desert–in time of need. elijah would have starved to death were it not for the ravens. i do not know, and probably will not know, if charlie really has three kids or what of her story is true.  if a symbol of provision and eucharist are important enough to tattoo permanently onto my body, then the possibility of being taken advantage of will just have to be okay. either way, $28.35 was provision in someone’s desert–even if i do not know the depths or contours of that place. because easter is coming. resurrection is real. and we all need help.

truth and tomatoes. mud and jesus.

time is an odd thing.

we talk about saving and using, spending and stealing time.
we can say that we move through time, or that time moves through us.
we manage and mismanage time. we waste time and attempt to suspend it.

my default-time mode is not terribly linear–not is it “american-standard”.
i’ll spare you the philosophy on this–and the defense of a non-linear way of being. (for now)

on vacation last week my dear friend told me about this method of time-management called the “pomodoro method” i assumed this was the name of the person who created the method and held that assumption for almost a solid week until i googled it. i had to laugh at myself when i learned the pomodoro is italian for tomato. and the method is named after a tomato because Francesco Cirillo (the developer) used a kitchen timer shaped like a–you guessed it–tomato to manage his study and work time.

while on said vacation we used this method to do some shared space working and i was amazed with my improved focus the first time we tried it. i’ve used a similar method before in an app called 30/30, and that was helpful, but this seems to be The Thing for me.

and the timing couldn’t be better.

first, it is appointment season in the methodist church–that anxiety laced time of year where all appointed elders are up for re-appointment (moving). i am, indeed, up for reappointment this year–and have yet to learn where i am landing next. this is a scary place to be if one believes in the potential and goodness of the this system, especially when the conference where one belongs is larger than some states.

secondly, in this appointment season i have been learning what others think and say about my perceived work-ethic and work-style. a lot of this learning has been through second-hand tellings which made it twice as hard to hear. and a lack of perceived time-management is one of those things.

however

i learned of the brilliant tomato-method, and am incorporating it (as we speak!) into my life in a slightly-militant way. overcoming the perception of my work-style is by far secondary in reason as to why i am clinging to this tomato and far more about holding anxiety, the unknown and frustration lightly.

as i mentioned in suffering and happiness i am reading through thich nhat han’s _no mud no lotus_ with aforementioned dear friend. the past two days have been full of contemplating what it is to “suffer well” and to feed love rather than feeding suffering (anxiety, worrying, ignoring the body). what does it mean to not “cover up” suffering but to “say hello”, and embrace it? what does it mean to not cover it up with food, facebook, email or other distractions?

yesterday in a conversation with our bishop my anxiety and frustration and hurt feelings (mud/suffering) manifested in tears. she answered my questions and offered advice–all of which was good–and then said something that, for me, is the best way to “say hello” to my suffering and to “take care of the suffering inside [of me], [to have] more clarity, energy, and strength to help address the suffering violence, poverty, and inequity of our loved ones as well as the suffering in our community and the world.”

she said: “remember, easter is coming. it’s real. resurrection is coming.”

thanks be.

mud, perception, and hurt feelings

late afternoon reflections on standing in the mud of suffering. 

perception is not always true. how do we balance knowing others have false perception of us and not react out of hurt or fear or anger? how do we balance our truth and goodness with humility and grace? (all while being painfully aware of false perception of who we (i) are (am)?)

heard a hard perception of me this afternoon–regarding my professional life–i wish to stand in my truth (gifts and talents) and not be defensive of how other perceive my work and yet work to show that this is a false perception (while still being humble).

we really need to talk to each other more and about each other less. a lesson i am continually learning from both sides of the situation. what i hope is that i can turn this desire to be defensive into a conversation. that i can take this feeling of hurt and see what facets are true and grow into them. and to know what to let go of.

there is mud beneath my feet.

suffering and happiness

for the next while i am reading thich nhat hanh’s __no mud, no lotus: the art of transforming suffering__ in a long-distance conversation with a dear friend. we have decided to read small sections every morning and communicate how it is setting our daily intention, or what gives us pause, or what will be something to think on today, etc. i might sometimes expound on what i’m thinking and feeling here. 

light and dark

“you cannot have light without darkness”
“darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”

confused yet? i am.

growing up among different denominations, learning about different religions, and entering the clergy all provide multifaceted thoughts on light and dark, on good and evil, on suffering and happiness. while reading the first two sections this morning my mind had to pass through a few crowds of belief:

1) the “god didn’t bring me this far to leave me” theology. in my understanding, to ascribe to this belief necessitates belief (or at least entertaining of the belief) that god has given you this suffering. and if you stay in it long enough you will find happiness or fulfillment when god is ready for you to have it. (if god is ready for you to have it.)
this is harmful. personally, considering a deity (that when creating called all and everything Good) that would hand out suffering to humanity and the earth like a mystical grab-bag is beyond my understanding. there is such deep and great suffering within each of us all over the world. and many suffer at the hands of dictators, through the terrors of war and violence, at the hands of partners and loved ones, and through chemical imbalances and misfiring in the brain that we call mental-illness.
to consider that my friends in karamoja (uganda) have been chosen to suffer drought and famine is too much. not only can i not stomach it, i cannot tell them that god brought them specifically to a place of pain and hunger because god wants them to be happy.

2) the “if you are suffering you must have brought this on yourself–“you clearly haven’t prayed enough” theology. many find the evidence for following this theology in job-when job’s friends ask him questions of “well, what did you DO to deserve losing your home, cattle and entire family?” by my best reading, this theological stance puts all of the pressure on creation to behave exactly right, no matter what, or it is your own fault you are in pain.

this is harmful. considering this theological stance paints god as a cartoon magician-villain lurking in dark alley-ways and slinking along the side of a building just waiting for someone to mess up. but to think that someone suffering from depression or deep anxiety somehow brought that upon themselves? how cruel. to blame a child who has suffered abuse of any form that they brought it upon themselves by their behavior? unthinkable.
i do not deny that our actions have consequences, of course. but acknowledging cause and effect does not affirm that ‘if you just believe” or “if you just pray more” or “if you just pray more honestly” is a healthy theological stance.
having passed through those grasping crowds of theological understanding i can read thay’s words through the delicate lens of:

3) suffering and happiness are inextricably bound.

this understanding is remarkably close to the previous two points–which is why it is so easy for each of them to pull on my consciousness, and pull at my shoestrings trying to win me to one theological stand point or another. but my theological stance here is somewhere near the middle–not entertaining the other stances mentioned as my base, but knowing that they are close enough to this center that they are heard.
the writers of that great theological play “avenue q” address a related concept of the closeness of suffering and happiness in addressing love and hate (in a romantic relationship):

note: i’m not advocating partner-violence, nor is this necessarily sound relationship advice. also, its racist. 

“love, and hate–are like two brothers that go on a date. where one of them goes, the other one follows…”

this is really what i’m getting at here. perhaps suffering and happiness are like two brothers that go on a date. (only less creepy.) they are bound together in partnership.

what a fine balance between the first two theological stances and this third one! as we humans try to make sense of the world around us we like to add qualifiers and rules to aid our understanding. this is not wrong or inherently bad, but rather quintessentially human. the difficulty is to rest somewhere in the middle while asking questions and seeking understanding and not becoming legalistic or militant in our reasoning. to rest in the middle and acknowledge all the questions and perhaps a gray-at-best understanding can be a difficult place to be–but being able to rest in this liminal space of knowing and unknowing opens up a world of wonder and depth.

flowers and clouds

in this space of depth, and of wonder that we can see clouds in flowers.

“if you look deeply into a flower, you see that a flower is made only of nonflower elements. in that flower there is a cloud. of course we know a cloud isn’t a flower, but without a cloud, a flower can’t be. if there’s no cloud, there’s no rain, and no flower can grow.”

it takes some mental work, intentional stillness and mindfulness to hold two things lightly in two hands:

first- that “a flower is made of only nonflower elements” (clouds/rain, sunshine, earth, minerals). “a flower can’t be by herself alone. a flower can only inter-be with everything else.”
and
second- that “if you don’t have mud, a lotus won’t manifest.”

it takes holding onto these things lightly–not grasping or clutching–to avoid the perils of the first two theological stances listed above. the voices of those two stances are quite loud (they are in the culture of the church in the united states, and in many ways latent in american culture) and vie for correctness and our ascribing to them. acknowledging their existence and choosing to hold flowers as clouds in one palm and no mud, no lotus lightly in the other palm the sharp edges of the two stances crystallize into a third way:

recognizing that suffering is going to happen.

acknowledging the mud of suffering and where i am standing in it.
(am i at the edge of the mud? the center? is it up to my ankles? knees? chest?)
practicing seeing clouds in flowers, especially when the mud is not deep enough to cover my toes so that when it is quite high my mindfulness muscles remember  that somewhere there is a lotus.

but also not glorifying suffering. it is not a badge of honor to suffer–nor is someone’s suffering “better” than mine. what if rather than comparing suffering “you have suffered more than me” or “my suffering is greater than yours” we acknowledge that we all suffer, and that that suffering manifests in different ways. the depression and boredom found in the united states is not “silly” compared to the suffering that comes with drought and famine. this framework allows for your suffering to be Real while someone else’s suffering is also Real. no comparisons-just acknowledgement and then the seeking of the lotus.

it is a hard balance. at the same time i am saying that suffering of famine and suffering of depression and boredom are the same. but i am also saying that they are not–each is unique in its own way. but they are also connected–“a flower can’t be by herself alone. a flower can only inter-be with everything else.”

sometimes, to hold things lightly means to hold them with no concrete answer.
truth is often made of gossamer.

“we don’t have to create more”

there is enough suffering already. the universe does not need me to add to my own suffering, the suffering of any other person, nor to the earth herself.

what does it mean to not create more suffering within myself? to acknowledge that i have access to both suffering and happiness in my daily life? without reaching over into the second theological stance of not doing enough, i am considering what it means to choose happiness even in the midst of suffering. this is a harder task than to choose to stay in the suffering . (i do not mean that suffering is bad and that we should never acknowledge it or shun suffering as something to be avoided. but rather approaching with honesty and seeking to understand. i am not advocating for ignoring the suffering of those around the world nor of those in our communities, nor the suffering that resides in each of us. this is not a call to plaster a smile on when we need to grieve, or experience a dark night of the soul, or are in a time of depression. no white-wash, no fake happiness. this is different.)

also, what does it mean to not create more suffering for others? how would my interactions with people, animals and the planet shift if my focus was to not create more suffering? but to acknowledge the suffering of all–including my own–and to also acknowledge happiness. (i am reading happiness here as joy — for me, proof of the work and beauty of the holy spirit) as somehow connected to suffering. (but not because of it or necessarily in spite of it.)

for now i will let these ponderings continue to rest gently in my two palms, and in my mind, as i go about living. and will look for clouds in flowers, and try to tend the seeds of the lotus blossom in the mud of life. i will seek to understand the suffering of christ with the happiness of christ. and i will always return to rest in the Goodness of creation–” and god said, ‘it is good.'” for if god created all things Good, even mud must contain happiness.

afterthought: what is happiness, anyway? and who gets to decide?

intention: i will not create more suffering but will seek to create happiness in my own life and in the lives of others around me, for the earth and all in my care. what creates your happiness does not have to be what creates my happiness. i will listen to what makes you happy and honor that. i will listen to what makes me happy and honor that–even when standing in mud that does not smell very good.

intention 

the pup, julian, and i watched a dove make several trips between the yard and a nearby tree this morning. the dove was crafting a nest–a sure sign of spring!

as she flew back and forth both julian and i were transfixed watching her journey and progress. 

the difference is i was in awe of instinct, flight and the weaving of a tiny home. julian? i think her thoughts revolved more around doggy brunch. 

into what then were you baptized? or, birds–baptism–birth [a sermon]

a sermon preached for the texas youth academy reunion 2015 and submitted to the texas annual conference annual conference board of ordained ministry in consideration for ordination this year.

acts 19:1-7 while apolos was in corinth, paul passed through the interior regions and came to ephesus, where he found some disciples. he said to them, ‘did you receive the holy spirit when you became believers? they replied, “no, we have not even heard that there is a holy spirit.” then he said, “into what then were you baptized?” they answered, “into johns’ baptism” paul said “john baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in jesus.” on hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the lord jesus.

mark 1:4-11 john the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. and people from the whole judean countryside and all the people of jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river jordan, confessing their sins. now john was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. he proclaimed, “the one who is more powerful than i is coming after me; i am not worthy to stoop down and untiethe thong of his sandals. i have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the holy spirit.” in those days jesus came from nazareth of galilee and was baptized by john in the jordan. and just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the spirit descending like a dove on him. and a voice came from heaven, “you are my son, the beloved; with you i am well pleased.”

into what then where you baptized?

(birds—baptism—birth)

the lectionary texts that we will be engaging this evening in worship are taken from the future–two sundays in the future, to be exact. so i will ask that you enter into a space of suspended lectionary-time tonight and tomorrow–you may return to your regularly scheduled lectionary saturday evening. secondly, i will be submitting sermon to the board of ordained ministry in the texas conference and am honored, again and again, to bring a sermon to the youth academy family.

let us pray: creating god, who hovered over the formless waters-come and hover over us here, now. birthing god, who cares from us as a hen for her chicks, brood over our lives. god of baptism continue to send your holy spirit to be among us here this night. and may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, o lord, our rock and our redeemer–amen.

a reading from genesis:

genesis 1:1-5 (niv) in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth. now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of god was hovering over the waters. and god said, “let there be light,” and there was light. god saw that the light was good, and separated the light from the darkness. god called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” and there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

the word of god for the people of god–thanks be to god, amen.

there are three images from scripture that strike me to the core of my being each time i hear them-one is that of moses turning aside to see the burning bush, one is of jesus surrendering to arrest in the garden, and the third is that of the spirit of god hovering over the waters or formless void of the earth before god speaks day and night into order. it is that last image that i want to dwell on for a while.

in this creation story-while the whole of creation is still formless and empty, god, the creator, is about to name light and darkness into existence. god’s presence hovers over the waters. when a bird hovers it is not a noisy and flapping mess but, rather, it is a steady, quiet endeavor. have you ever watched a bird ride a current of air? the wings are not flapping but rather are out stretched out fully and making tiny adjustments to stay aloft.

creation hover

i once observed a bird of prey that appeared to be suspended mid-air so perfect was her placement. you cannot really tell from this photo that this is not merely a lucky capture of flight but is a capture of a perfect hover. but i promise you not a feather moved.

from this high and still vantage point she can observe all below her in detail. because she is so still, all things below her may not be aware of her presence until she decides to move. but there she rested–floating and upheld by air above the earth.

the earth she sees here is neither formless nor void like the earth in the genesis creation story. but she does teach us about the holy spirit–and has a lesson about baptism for us, too. the spirit of god hovered above the earth before it was ordered and formed. it is from this vantage point–poised above the waters–that god begins to create.

and this creation, as it turns out, is 70% water. 70% of the earth is made up of water. and scientists and physicists tell us this is the same water that has always existed. so the water that you drink, bathe in and sweat could be the same water that the spirit of god hovered over–the same water that god spoke into being.

water is present at the beginning of all created things.

so, too is water present at the beginning of human life. poet john o’donohue writes that “water is our first mother.” when each of us was knit together in the womb of our mothers it was water that surrounded us as we grew–it was water the incubated us in warmth, kept us safe and suspended as our mothers moved around and went about their lives.

the waters of creation and the waters of the womb mirror one another. the waters of creation were full of new life–the womb of our creating god from which all things spring, and the waters of the womb–also shrouded in darkness–bear the weight of new and growing life.

water is present at the beginning of the earth, water is present at the beginning of our life. it is about to become clear that i am a theologian and not a scientists–you have been warned–but is it not interesting that water is what holds us and protects us as we grow in our mother’s womb and that we humans are made up of 60% water? not only is our body 60% water, but 73% of our brain and heart is water. 73% of your brain–that thing you use to think and learn…73% of your heart pumping blood through your body, giving life–that thing that quickens when you see someone you love and aches when you don’t–is made up of mostly water.

you are made up of holy water. think about it–all of the water that has ever been is still here-and it has all been pronounced good by god, is blessed by millions of people the world over since the beginning of time, so that must mean that by now there is not a molecule of water that has not been a part of someone’s baptism, that has not been a part of a cleansing holy ritual of our brothers and sisters of different religions, that has not been made holy by the gratitude shown when rain falls in a dry land. you are made up of that water. you are made of holy water.

this means that your bodies are holy.

paul asks, in our acts reading for tonight, “into what then were you baptized?” the people had not yet heard of the holy spirit–they had heard of john the baptizer’s baptism of confession and had received the new cleansing ritual of followers of jesus (that most likely resembled a cleansing ritual jews of the day would have been familiar with). john had taught them well–they knew that the baptism of john was to prepare for being baptized in the name of jesus.

baptism hover

and in mark we heard of jesus coming to be baptized by john–and the spirit descended like a dove and again hovered over the created waters of the earth. from this high vantage point the people heard the voice of god saying, “you are my son, the beloved; with you i am well pleased.” a second time we see the spirit of god hover and for second time an act of water is pronounced Good by god.

jesus’ body is holy. jesus’ body is also made up of the same water and dust and microbes as yours. your bodies are holy. holy bodies made up of holy water.

the water of earths creation, the water of your mother’s womb, the water of jesus’ baptism all of it is the same water that washes over you and your water made body at your baptism.

into what, then, were you baptized?

in the united methodist tradition we believe that “baptism anticipates a lifetime of further and deeper experiences of god, further acts of christian commitment, and ministries in the world.” all other steps in ministry (both ordained and lay-no one is excluded) “grow out of what god has done as declared and signified in baptism.”

if you attended academy in a year that rev. dr. warren smith delivered the baptism and covenant lecture you may remember a story that he told of the early church and baptism–how those submitting to baptism entered into the baptismal font shaped like a coffin walking backwards, at the easter vigil. you may remember how in immersion under the water our death to the flesh is symbolized and being raised from below the waters represents the new life in christ. the ritual and symbol of baptism mark a new beginning, a new birth, for these holy water-bodies of ours to continue to grow deeper in our faith–weather we are immersed or sprinkled.

when baptized, this represents an initiation into the adoption, into the body of christ–into the church universal. it marks our saying ‘yes’ to the invitation god gives us. and, in turn, when we have publicly made our pronouncement of “yes” we then become part of the welcoming for those who are baptized after us.

in our methodist baptismal liturgy the pastor gives incredibly important directions–it is not a question, these are instructions: they say, “members of the household of god, i commend these persons to your love and care. do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.”

and the congregation has a response, which we will get to in a moment. first, though, consider these short instructions–in the book of worship they are only 4 lines long and yet contain some of the most important rules for the body of christ. we are commended to one another’s love and care. we are to do all in our power (which means this is more than a one or two times a week endeavor) to increase one another’s faith, confirm one anothers hope and to perfect one another in love.

this is no small task and it is my hope that when you are instructed, as members of the household of god, to care for one another in this way that it is not just something that goes in one ear and out the other. i hope that when you hear these words, from now forward, that you are reminded of the responsibility to love.

ending hover

our community response is: we give thanks for all that god has already given you/and we welcome you in christian love./as members together with you/ in the body of christ/ and in this congregation/ of the united methodist church,/we renew our covenant/ faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church/ by our prayers, our presence,/our gifts, our service [and our witness]/ that in everything god may be glorified through jesus christ.”

every time someone is baptized and you participate in the liturgy you are renewing your covenant and promise for yourself, but also on behalf of the entire community of god.

so, i ask again, into what, then, have you been baptized?

your holy body made of the holy waters of creation has been born of the holy waters of your mother’s womb. likewise, “god’s redemptive, all-encompassing presence/…/is seen to be like a mother’s womb, the life-giving embrace in which she carries her child. baptism, then, as god’s claiming our life, can be seen as an expression of god’s maternal, all-encompassing compassion.”

baptism is a beautiful gift, and we have created a beautiful liturgy to accompany this sacrament. the beauty and grace poured out in these congregational moments are not self-contained. you are baptized into action, not into finality and complacency.

jesus walked on water and beckons us out to join him–how is this different from our baptism? come out here upon this water, the same water that makes up your being–the same water that god created and called “good,” the same water that has filled a mother’s womb, that has crossed the lips of a thirsty person and saved their life–the same water that falls as rain on the just and the unjust alike–you are made of that water. you are literally made of the waters of baptism.

it is the beginning of a new year, and in a moment we are going to remember our baptism together as a body of christ and remember the breaking and resurrection of the body of christ in the eucharist–this seems like a perfect time to consider where it is that god is calling you today–out onto what water is jesus beckoning you? where do the waters of baptism want to carry you in 2015?

with whom do you need to reconcile? who do you need to forgive? who do you need forgiveness from? how do you need to forgive yourself? where is god calling you that seems impossible? what water is jesus beckoning you to step out and walk upon?

into what, then, have you been baptized?

how will you, oh members of the household of god, care for those commend to your love and care. how wil you do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love?

how will you use your holy-water-made-holy bodies in 2015?

reflections on the first last midwinters

i usually reflect on my midwinter experience, but this weekend and next have been/are my last ignite*midwinter retreats in my current appointed position–so my reflections have felt more pressing and weighty. endings are interesting things.

a few thoughts:

thursday afternoon and evening i found myself printing student and adult curriculum, stuffing them into folders and sticking stickers to those folders. when i began that task i was admittedly grumpy about it. i internally grumbled about a 90 hour masters degree and dealing with low toner, and an embarrassing phrase about pay grade crept into my monkey brain.

but then.

i caught a glimpse of the list of registered students for this weekend–and i turned aside, picked up the list and started to read the names aloud in the copy room.

and suddenly, printing hundreds of copies of curriculum, stuffing them into folders and sticking stickers on them transformed from a task i would rather not be doing into a sweet blessing.

as i stuffed each folder i said a prayer of thanks for the hands who would receive it-for each student to have moments of clarity, transformation and deep comfort while learning about the lord’s prayer. that each student would ask questions and wonder and grow into their own faith.

what a blessing. what a privilege it became to fuss with toner, hole punches and paper cuts.

a moment of deep beauty:

during a workshop on works of piety we ended in serving one another communion–there were two young students (middle school aged) who served the oldest of the adults in the room.

watching the youngest in the room serving the oldest brought tears to my eyes.

into the desert

[[a couple quick lenten announcements: a) rethinkchurch has provided another 40 day photo opportunity, so you will find my #40days tab contains new activity throughout this season. all will be posted on social media on their day and will follow as time allows in the tab. b) i hope to be writing more throughout lent. not because it is lent, but because i just hope to be writing more in this season of life. PSA this is not a promise, but a hope.]]

determining lenten practices and new year’s resolutions happen very much the same way for me. i realize that new year’s eve and ash wednesday are coming–and hear and see many around me either belaboring their choices, or making last second resolutions or determinations for their fastings/takings on. i have participated mostly in the latter–making last moment decisions because THE MOMENT IS ALMOST HERE!

a few years ago i began naming my new year–attempting to look into the future, or at least taking a good hard look at a growing edge–in hopes of stretching toward being a better human and more kind to myself. taking on that practice has helped me view the “deadline” of new year’s eve as really more of a suggestion, or a reminder that it is that time of year again.

and so it is also with lenten practices. truth be told, i’ve always been a “i work on thera time” sort of person–less of a working on “the world’s time” sort of person. i felt pressure from those around me, and the church, to know exactly what my lenten practices would be the moment ash hit my forehead on ash wednesday. or, preferably, before.

this is not a diatribe against being “on time”. nor is a snub of conventional time keeping. rather this is my attempt to be honest with myself and with you. today is thursday, the day after ash wedensday, and i am still not concrete on what this year’s lenten practices will look like.

and i’m okay with that.
you don’t need to be–that’s fine. although i wouldn’t waste energy on worrying about someone else’s lenten practices–but that is entirely up to you.

my plan this year, as with many years of my lenten journeys, is to wander out into the desert with the great cloud of witnesses–mindfully–and see what i see.

some of this wander will be with old friends–embracing and working with anxiety; tempering loneliness, desire to be alone and desire for community,  owning and using rather than fearing my gifts.

this wander may involve writing, it may involve fasting (food? things? unsure), perhaps creating and perhaps taking things on as mindful spiritual practices to carry through easter and into the next season.

the israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.

i’m not really in a hurry.

and besides, i enjoy the landscape.

metamorphosis

your air, your earth–
woven into the tapestry
the tapestry of my being

the more i linger–
the more of you
grows and takes root–
like a protected acacia
tall and strong:
bold.

the equatorial sun casts
deep shadows–
of a love i do not understand
upon my
heart.