Think Differently – Support RevGals 2015

At this joyous and expectant time in the Christian year, my parish is preparing to welcome a new rector. Fr. Scot will begin with us in February 2015, but last night we had a brief introduction. He celebrated and preached at the Saturday evening service, and joined the congregation for dinner afterward.

We are VERY excited about his new ministry with us: the time is ripe! Change has been challenging, and all of us have grown through it. We think of ourselves in different ways than when our last rector retired.

One of Fr. Scot’s comments to us was a reminder that the parish is closing the year with a budget shortfall. He submitted his own pledge envelope, and challenged us to prayerfully consider raising our 2015 pledges, which have already been submitted.

And I thought, “Yes! That’s MY leader. Tell me what you need. Be transparent. Tell me how I can be a part.”

In the same way, RevGalBlogPals is a living ministry, constantly changing and growing. Old things fall away and new things come. Our fall series of stewardship posts, which you may review by clicking here, reflects some of our growth and changes, along with the new challenges we have faced.

When we formed as a group, never did we imagine how we would grow in ten years. That the time commitment we happily gave as volunteers would grow exponentially, and the needs of RevGalBlogPals (a real ministry) would grow to require a fairly compensated staff member. We must think of ourselves and this ministry differently.

I was a lurker in the pre-RevGals group back in 2004, having Googled “women in ministry” and found a group of smart women talking seriously on blogs about theology and the life in Christ. They were funny, they were welcoming to me as a non-clergy-person, and they helped me think of the world, of the church, of God, in different ways than I ever had before.

I’ve been a member since before we had members; on the board and an officer of RevGals since we incorporated. I am devoted to this ecumenical ministry of women, ordained and lay. I am committed to helping provide a place where the tough questions that face female clergy can be teased out with support, humor, and grace. Where our members can test ideas, study scripture, discuss leadership, and learn to think of things differently than we ever have before.

Last night in his homily, Fr. Scot reminded us that repentance is a re-orientation away from the ways of the world. As I prepared to write this post, I thought of repentance further, in the sense of metanoia: that mighty change in mind, heart, and life wrought by the Spirit of God.*

What mighty changes are coming about in your heart? In what ways are you thinking differently than you ever have before? If RevGalBlogPals has been a part of that, I ask you to prayerfully consider a pledge. I’ve just pledged, myself, for the first time. Why did it take me so long? Well, I think perhaps it’s because we haven’t been really good at telling what was needed and asking for it. Now we are asking. Now we are standing together. Now we are prepared to think differently.

Our campaign will run until December 21st.  RevGalBlogPals is a non-profit organization, so financial contributions are tax-deductible. There is a PayPal button on the right sidebar that will allow you to make a one-time or a recurring donation. You may also send a check to RevGalBlogPals, 2101 W Oak Street, Denton, TX 76201-3722. Some of our donors send checks monthly through their banks. Please contact me at RevGalBlogPals@gmail.com to get details on the latter option.

Be blessed!

Mary Beth Butler

 

*Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament

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11th Hour Preacher Party: Purple, Purple, Pink, Purple Edition

Cajun Christmas Tree

Cajun Christmas Tree

Welcome to the Advent 4 Preacher Party!  We are up to our clergy collars in living nativities, carol sings, Christmas Eve tweaking, and next-few-weeks’-sermons peeking.

How are you doing?

I wish for you a good-natured Governing Board (of whatever kind), an out-of-town trip for your chief church antagonist, and a few days free of pastoral care emergencies. Be cheered by the promise — soon and very soon — of couch naps, a massage, chocolate, &/or whatever else says self-care to you.

Meanwhile, there’s yet a purple candle to light and a corresponding sermon to write.

How are you doing? (repetition intentional)

I’m so glad you stopped by the party today. Please introduce yourself if you are a first-timer. Feel free to offer Christmas goodies and words of encouragement for the weary among us. We love humor and snacks and ideas for children’s worship. Whatever you have to offer,  your gift is welcome.

Let’s party like Christmas is nigh!

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party, Advent | 8 Comments

Pastoral is Political: Peace vs the Right to Bear Arms

 

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 CEB

The news this week is sickening. Schoolchildren in Pakistan. Domestic violence in Pennsylvania. And another week of reports of police clashing with persons of color.

My heart hurts.

My heart hurts because while I believe in the right of individuals, I know that this runs smack up against the needs of a peaceful and just society.

My heart hurts because innocent lives are lost, and prejudice and racial profiling are proliferating.

Into this third week of Advent, the cry for Peace flows over the miasma of human suffering. It speaks to our deepest felt needs of security, comfort and meaning. It forces a re-examination of where the Church will come to speak against the norm of violence.

Speaking out against gun violence, especially if you suggest a common sense action like background checks, is a chancy proposal. Pro-firearm lobbyists are well-funded. They motivate the rank-and-file gun owners to protest their perceived violation of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms).

I respect their rights. But I have sat with far too many families who have lost someone because of gun violence.

I believe in ensuring a secure and peaceful society. But the reality is that persons of color are being shot not because they are a threat to society, but because there is a pervasive mistrust of what they look like, rather than what they are doing. And there is an escalation of responses to any confrontation.

The peace we preach in our churches is not one that proclaims an absence of conflict. Rather, it is one that bears testimony to the ravages of selfishness and sin, the destruction of dignity and compassion, and the rending of our attempts to bring unity and harmony between diverse groups of people.

From the first moments of the First Century Church, there were disagreements. What about the widows? Shall we eat meat sacrificed to idols? And what about those chatty Corinthian women? Yet in the final words of instruction that Jesus gave those assembled on that Passover evening, there was a challenge to find our peace as a people… in the Prince of Peace.

As a pastor, I sit with the broken-hearted and fearful, and I pray for God’s Peace to reign… in our hearts, our homes, and our world.

The Church no longer has an option to change the subject or look the other way.

peacecross

We stand together
in the Light God gives
to speak Peace to the abused among us
to speak Peace to the defensive and angry
to speak Peace to the hurt and defenseless.
We do not speak for ourselves,
for our “rights”
but for Justice to prevail
and the cries of the broken-hearted ones eased.
We cry out for Peace.
God’s Peace.
So may it be.

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Friday Five: Christmas Soon!

Margaret Fitch's nativity setThis was the first Nativity scene I ever had. My cousin Margaret sent it to me from France when I was in first grade. I still put it out every year, a tradition I love. (Notice how Mary is holding baby Jesus!)

For today’s Friday Five, choose any five things about this upcoming Christmas that comes to mind, such as memories, traditions, plans, worries, whatever you wish. Add a favorite recipe, song, or tradition that you would like to share as the bonus category.

Please play and leave your blog’s address in the comments section. We want to be sharing at this time of year!

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 6 Comments

Thursday (Night) Prayer

Thou son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, be born again into our world. Wherever there is war, wherever there is pain, wherever there is loneliness, wherever there is no hope, come, thou long-expected one, with healing in thy wings.

Holy Child, whom the shepherds and the kings and the dumb beasts adored, be born again. Wherever there is boredom, wherever there is fear of failure, wherever there is temptation too strong to resist, wherever there is bitterness of heart, come, thou blessed one, with healing in thy wings.

Saviour, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who thou art, knowing only that thy love is beyond his knowing and that no other has the power to make him whole. Come, Lord Jesus, to each who longs for thee even though he has forgotten thy name. Come quickly. Amen.

Frederick Buechner

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 1 Comment

Ask the Matriarch: When they slam the door on the way out

The Reverend Stacey Simpson Duke preaches at First Baptist Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Reverend Stacey Simpson Duke preaches at First Baptist Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dear Matriarchs,

I’ve been preaching a lot of prophets lately, and their connection to our current situation, which has caused some direct feedback from members of my congregation including shouted disagreement and a door slam while walking out in the middle of a service. How would you handle these things, and the inevitable emails that follow?

Signed,
Suburban Preacher

Dear Suburban Preacher,

God be with you as you have the courage to preach the gospel truth. Sometimes shouting and slamming doors are the only sign that you are preaching the truth! Even so, it is hard when you are in the midst of it. Maybe you could address the concerns and frustrations in a smaller group setting such as a Christian Education class or small group discussions. With certain individuals could you meet with them with one other mediator type person (a trusted parishioner)?

Blessings as you seek to be faithful in your preaching and leadership.

Rev. Kelley

Dear Suburban Preacher,

The Bible is an equal opportunity offender – in terms of politics, theology, etc. But we have to love our people as we share prophetic words. That doesn’t mean watering down the message but it does mean sharing the message in a way that it can be heard. As for slammed doors and contrary emails, I would definitely contact the door slammer – assuming you know the person – and offer to have coffee and talk. Conversations by email are also better done in person when the topic is heavy. And while Advent – and our news outlets – are full of prophetic voices, try to balance those hard words with some softer words as well. Bless you, Pastor.

Peace,

Jan

Dear Suburban Pastor-

Not knowing all the details, it is difficult to know what course of action I would take. By “current situation” do you mean the national conversation about race and justice or is there something specific to your congregation? If it is the first, perhaps this is the time to invite someone from outside the congregation to moderate an Adult Forum.

Is there consensus in the feedback that you have received or are a variety of opinions being expressed? Is there polarization going on between you and members of the congregation? I would hope that you have had some conversation with leaders in your congregation and perhaps colleagues so that you do not feel isolated in this situation.

I would not make public statements about the shouting or the door slamming. I would keep a written record of everything that has happened. I wouldn’t make any immediate responses to email. Quick replies often make troubles worse. If you have notes or manuscripts of your sermons, reread them. Most importantly I would want to have a conversation with individuals as to why they are so angry. What did they hear that caused them to be upset? What feelings were triggered? I would set a goal of clarity and understanding.

Praying for peaceful resolutions.
Heidi aka RevHRod

I think that preaching prophetically can be uncomfortable in many contexts, Suburban Preacher. I think it’s important to remember that preaching is a monologue, and a privilege. Providing opportunities to allow the voices of our people to be heard is our job as leaders…and pastors.

I think it’s imperative to acknowledge that those listening to a sermon are especially challenged to have to endure a single voice on a topic. (I would certainly say that to those who are e-mailing and approaching you.) I would thank them for caring deeply, even if they have reached different conclusions. I find it helpful to remind people that people of good faith can disagree, that my door is open, that I’d love to hear their take on the passage or on current events, and will be available following worship for conversation or to make an appointment for private conversation.  When we have very charged topics, I work with our staff to ensure that there are opportunities for roundtable discussions or a special guest star to help us converse about something challenging.

With prayers for all who are called to pastor in these very, very challenging times.

Jennifer
***********

Readers, how are things going for you in this season of prophetic gospel texts in a world where justice and the need for more of it are in the news every day? How do you handle it when your words rile up a member of the congregation? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Ask the Matiarch will be on hiatus over the holidays and return on Thursday, January 8th. Our queue is empty, so please send your questions for our panel to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.

 

Categories: Ask The Matriarch | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Wednesday Festival: The darkness shall not overcome it.

Whether you live in the Northern Hemisphere’s diminishing daylight hours or in the summer of the Southern Hemisphere, it’s been a dark week in the world already. This week’s Festival highlights our prayers for those most affected by tragedy as well as our hopes for new life and our own attempts to cope with fatigue, stress, sadness and grief.

First, here’s a Sermon Short video from kathrynzj, a weekly ministry from her church used to share the good word with and beyond the congregation.

MPC SERMON SHORT: Christmas Fatigue from MechPresby on Vimeo.

How are you reaching out to the wider community? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Longtime ring member and BlogPal Milton Brasher-Cunningham blogs about the service his wife, Ginger, has planned and his own growing understanding that “the sadness inherent in life is intrinsic to the story” of Christmas.

Next, Deborah Lewis at Snow Day acknowledges how hard it is to tend to our own spirits in “What an Old Monk Can Teach.”

Denise Anderson holds a luminary in her arms as she takes part in a vigil on 16th Street near the White House in Washington. Thousands of demonstrators were expected in Washington and New York to protest the killings of unarmed black men by US police and to urge Congress to protect citizens. – Reuters pic, December 13, 2014.

Denise Anderson holds a luminary in her arms as she takes part in a vigil on 16th Street near the White House in Washington. Thousands of demonstrators were expected in Washington and New York to protest the killings of unarmed black men by US police and to urge Congress to protect citizens. – Reuters pic, December 13, 2014.

On this blog, T. Denise Anderson recounts a vigil in Washington, D.C., and shares her perspective on what “works” look like.

I as a minister cannot write or pass a law, but I can appeal to those who can. And if it is the law that is endangering the “bodily needs” of a brother or sister — i.e. their right to have a body at all — then my prayers and well-wishes are worthless if they do not move me to do everything within my power to change that which threatens them.

Mary Beth Butler tells a story of stepping out of her comfort zone and attending an unfamiliar church to show her solidarity. She was reminded, powerfully, “This is Not About You.”

In another blog post about where we end and others begin, Carol Howard Merritt at Tribal Church has wise words for authors new at navigating the Internet: “It’s None of My Business.”

Marci Glass practices hospitality as a tonic for the demands of the season, using her grandmother’s china her way.

Sally at Eternal Echoes shares an image of new life.

And two of our prayer posters share their prayers for the world this week:

Julia at Faith, Grace and Hope ~ Prayer in the Aftermath of Pakistan School Shooting

Rachel Hackenberg ~ Certainly There is This

I hope you’ll visit these blogs and leave a comment for the authors. It helps to know others are reading. Blessings, RevGals, in these last eight days before Christmas.

Categories: Wednesday Festival | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Wednesday Prayer

open bookMy Friend,

Today I am praying to stay open.

I have new pages, gifts from you,

What will we write on them together?

What new work do you have for me?

Yesterday was so hard, for the world, for my friends.

Lift our hearts.

Make us ready to step forth.

Amen.

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Two Prayers for Tuesday.

First, if you are looking for words in response to Peshawar, you should go to RevGal Julie Woods blog and pray with her.

http://julie-acountrygirl.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-slaughter-of-innocence.

Second, another prayer:

Holy One,

It’s unusually quiet where I am right now.   I find myself with a few minutes of simplicity and silence.

Oh, what a grace, what a mercy, what a peace.

I pray for this for all who need a moment.

Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals

Revised Common Lectionary: Whose House?

loirewine

Every year I salivate over a specific wine: a Mâcon-Charnay from Domaine Renaud. Since I can’t order it because wines can’t be shipped to my state in the U.S., I try to keep an eye out for it at local wine dealers. Sometimes I luck out. Most times I don’t. But it’s my favorite wine and it’s a special treat when I can score it.

Every wine is a product of a house (domaine) and there is just something about Domaine Pascale et Mireille Renaud. They produce from their vineyards in Saône-et-Loire, and because they produce in small batches I can’t always find my favorite wine! I was an exchange student when I first had my taste of wines from the nearby Loire Valley, which has a flinty soil that gives all its wines a distinct flavor. A house’s product is its signature.

Believe it or not, that leads me to this week’s RCL readings.

We’re in Advent 4 — the home stretch! From the OT reading to the Psalm to the two texts from Luke, we are taken for a ride down memory lane, when God established for Godself a house. Who could build this house for God? Could the great King David? No. In fact, God would build God’s own house, not with David or by David, but of David. David would be the soil from which the True Vine would grow. God would establish a unique signature — a distinct flavor — that would be left with all who drank of it from generation to generation.

That leaves me with some preaching questions to ponder: what is the signature of God’s house? What makes this specific domaine unique? What makes it relevant? In a sea of houses — houses of power, privilege, authority, ambition, attraction — what about this house stands out?

For me, that is the question of Advent. When we taste of the Lord’s arrival, what will be different about it from everything else we’ve sampled?

Where are you headed with your preaching this week? Have I been drinking too much wine? Let’s talk… 

Categories: Advent, Revised Common Lectionary, Tuesday Lectionary Leanings | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Dreams and Adoption, Rooted in Faith

The text for this week is here.

The Narrative Lectionary commentary and podcast from Working preacher are here.

 

I think most of us have a few sermons in our memory wherein the work of the Spirit is bright and memorable. I don’t mean sermons we heard. I mean, sermons we preached, delivered, wrote, sweated out, birthed. One of those sermons for me was about Joseph- about this passage- from December 2010. I went back and looked at it now, for the first time since. Some of it is a little me, but some of it is definitely the Spirit- shining on the text:

[This] is why Joseph is important, as important as Mary, maybe more. God could make a virgin pregnant out of nowhere. That’s no problem. If you recall what Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.” But God won’t raise up a heir to the house of David from nowhere. Jesus is adopted into the House of David through Joseph. Jesus becomes the fulfillment of God’s promises throughout the Hebrew Scriptures of a David Messiah… through Joseph.

             Mary’s faithfulness allows Jesus to be born as the Son of God, but Joseph’s faithfulness makes the way for Jesus to be born into the line of David, which is what was promised over and over. And Joseph didn’t feel a baby moving inside him. Joseph didn’t get the full-blown angelic visitation. Joseph had a dream and then moved in faith, believing that somehow, in some way, he was doing what God wanted. Joseph raised Jesus in righteousness and taught his son what he knew of the law and the prophets.

             We read about Mary, pondering things in her heart. But Joseph didn’t get to ponder. He had to act. Find a place for Mary to have the baby. Get the baby to Egypt so he doesn’t die. Teach the boy the lessons of faith. Find him when he wanders off. Teach him the family trade- shaping and creating from wood. Joseph’s faith is laid out in actions- actions that are at first obedience and, maybe, became love. We don’t see Joseph at the cross. Maybe he didn’t live to see what happened. Maybe he died wondering what he did it for.

            It makes me wonder, then, what Joseph thought when he encountered Jesus in Heaven. “Son?” “Dad… welcome home.”

             When you look at a nativity set and you see the glowing looks between Mary and Jesus, take a look at the man standing in the corner. Pay some attention to the man standing behind the manger. Charged with protecting and training the Son of God and having just helped his wife deliver a baby in a barn, he probably doesn’t look anywhere as tired or apprehensive as he should. But there he is, Joseph, a model of faithful action, in spite of doubt and fear.

            Joseph’s faith adopts Jesus into the House of David. And through Jesus, we’re adopted into the House of God. Because of Joseph’s righteousness, because of his faith, all people ever after, including us, especially us, are able to understand and see that God keeps God’s promises. And if God keeps God’s promises, then we can believe in Immanuel… God with us.

 

It takes some serious ovaries to quote oneself to this audience, but there they are! I still think about this with regard to Joseph. You could take this Sunday to say more about the man behind the manger and his example of faithfulness.

One might remark that Joseph might have heeded the women of his own history- Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah)- in heeding the dream and guidance of the angel. Knowing what God had done before might have made the confusing present easier to process.

Do you have time on Sunday to review that genealogy? The podcasters from Working Preacher suggest that genealogies tend to be boring, but that’s all in the perspective and the presentation. After all, if we are brothers and sisters in and of Jesus, then this is the history of your family and mine. Growing up in the South, I have been asked more than once who “my people” were. Sorting out who was related to whom and how was the regional pastime, during commercial breaks. Discussing what it means to truly be histories together, with all people, would be interesting sermon fodder in a church with a more open-ended proclamation time. In our history, there in Matthew, are torture victims, immigrants, persons who sold sex, adulterers, rape victims and rapists, torturers, illegal census takers, slave owners, and people who ignored the voices of prophets. How is God-with-us revealed through our mutual history and our responsibility for the body and the bodies?

Lastly, I’ve been thinking about the Eucharist and the words. I mostly say, “The body of Christ, given for you” when I distribute the host. However, I know some parishioners prefer “broken for you”. “Given”, for me, goes with the totality of incarnation and its fullness for atonement. What is the Immanuel that we witness in the sacrament (and sacramental) life of our congregation? Are there stories that might be shared from two or three gathered that might shed light on dreams, living in faith, and the lived experience of God-with-us?

 

What are your thoughts for the week?

Categories: Advent, Christmas, Narrative Lectionary | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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