Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sermon's Up

I struggled this week to respond to last week's shootings in Tucson.

Believe me, I pretty quickly passed judgment on what had happened and why. But I kept reading and reading all week-- all the coverage and commentary I could get my hands on. I read this on Thursday, a statistical analysis of where one is most likely to be shot in the United States-- very interesting, I highly recommend it. I also read this, a Jewish scholar responding to the phrase "blood libel." I started writing Friday, and finished this morning. This was my response, for better or for worse: a sermon on Isaiah 49:1-7.

Stars of January (So Far)

(Not so interested in "bullets" at present.)

I am gazing at my Christmas tree. I'm having another of those "years of not letting go," in the Christmas department. I said to Beloved not too long ago, "I just love my tree this year." She answered, "You always love your tree." You know, I think she's right. I always love my tree. I think this is the result of not having one, ages 8 through 16 and 18 through 20. Ever since I was first married (age 21) I've had a tree, and it has delighted me beyond all rationality.

And, aside from the Christian meaning of Christmas-- which, for me, is Incarnation, the astounding notion that God does not leave us alone on these dark shores but shows up and lights a candle for us-- there is the pre-Christian, still applicable celebration of the lightening of the days after the darkest and longest night, which we celebrate with lights, and, darn it, I'm still celebrating. It's still dark and cold out there.

Still, there are things happening other than my holding on to my Douglas Fir.

* Petra finished her college applications. The angels wept tears of joy and relief. I'm pretty sure.

* Petra also completed her first college audition at Big City U, in the aftermath of a big snowstorm. We drove towards the storm last Tuesday night but arrived there before the snow fell. (Evidently, it fell throughout the night and cleared off before daybreak). She auditioned Wednesday, and felt good about it. It was a remarkable privilege to be there with her, and to remember accompanying Larry on auditions five (!) years ago.

* The leadership from my church participated in a presbytery-wide day of learning, as we have the past three years, and, as usual, came away energized and refreshed for our work together. And I once again said, God, you are so cool. You put me here. With these fantastic people.

That said, there are little issues here and there at work. I still feel an energy about my work. But I do believe the congregation has relaxed a bit. Maybe a bit too much. I'm starting to feel that some entropy has set in, and that makes it harder to move forward programatically. But I still leave every Sunday grateful for our worship together, and that's the key-- the cornerstone. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

* Beloved and I had really lovely weekend together, in which nothing much happened except enjoying one another's company (and some good movies). But it was rich beyond description. Last night, after one of said movies, we huddled together on the floor under a blanket, in front of the fire, and talked about some hard things. (Stuff going on in my family.) Her love and kindness sustain me in ways I can't even fathom.

That's all for now. I'll try to be a better correspondent. Stay warm. Listen to this, and look at the scenes from my hometown (the outdoor shots, all from 'round these parts).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Hello!

I have exactly fifteen minutes to write this post, before I must leave for a meeting.

I'm reminding myself of my friend Stacy, who blogged about this busy-ness thing here. There is a way in which it's tempting to measure ourselves by how busy we are.

I know I've been thinking about this a lot as 2010 turned to 2011. There are a lot of things to do at church (surprise!), and in a way, at the end of those weeks in which I work more than the prescribed 48 hours, I feel smugly self-justified. Justification by works, baby! As if, NOW everything's going to be ok. You'll see!

But that's not how it works at church, I find. Church is about connection-- people connecting to God and to one another, and through the strength gained in those connections, making more connections, to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the imprisoned-- you know the ones. And relationships, connections, are not things that happen because we put in the hours being busy. They're things that happen because we resist the temptation to scurry around and decide to be willing to linger, to listen, to ask another question, to laugh, to make some coffee, to put off the administrivia.

Problem is, the administrivia isn't going anywhere, is it?

I've noticed something about my work. I feel sure I've mentioned this before. Home visits are something I love to do-- when I'm doing them. When I feel the pressure of creating the bulletin, studying for the sermon, writing the sermon, submitting my mileage, organizing the event, etc etc, home visits feel like the last thing I should be spending my time on. But then I go.

Yesterday I sat down with a beautiful elderly gentleman. The first words out of this mouth? "What is the soul?" And we were off on a wide-ranging conversation the likes of which often cease after they give you the paper with the M. Div. on it.  Moments like that, and I am mentally down on my knees saying a little prayer of thanks that I get to do this for a living. How lucky can you get?

The internet is filled with lists pertaining to the turn of the calendar from 2010 to 2011-- top ten movies (read the hilarious conversation over at Slate-- you know you want to), most memorable news stories,  people who died, and, of course, resolutions.

Used to be I had one New Year's Resolution every year: lose weight. Since 2008 I've been embarked on a healthy program that makes that resolution feel unnecessary--it's happening, I'm getting healthier, I'm doing it, thanks be to God. But I have so many more things to think about than my avoirdupois. Like-- my soul. My relationships. My call. My family.

So, I'm going to copy my dear friend Martha and say I think I'll make one resolution that will positively impact all the others-- I know it will, because it always does. I'm going to put prayer at the front end of my day, every day. Meditation, quiet time, time to connect-- the Big Connection. When I do, all those other things fall into place. All those other connections happen more organically. I am held in a great reality that requires my acknowledgement. That's my resolution. That's my plan.

Happy New Year everybody.