Wednesday Festival: Provocative Questions

Around our blogging network, many powerful reflections and thoughtful writings are regularly shared. For this week’s edition of the Wednesday Festival, I offer snippets of provocative questions from the blogging ring and encourage you to comment on one another’s blogs for further conversation:

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Here in the middle of stewardship season — that time of fundraising and/or financial pledging in many churches — a question about the place of money in church vision processes: Should budget people be kept out of church visioning processes? (achurchforstarvingartists)

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Does one owe flowers to the lawyer who, unknowingly, helps that one avoid the ire of a local judge? (a funny story from Skewed View)

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On a more serious note, what are the big questions that keep you up at night? (Las Puertas Abiertas de Par en Par)

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How do you keep your focus on Jesus? (Just Wondering)

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Whether for reasons of professional ethics or choked by tears, whether for fear or for lack of words, what is it you cannot say aloud? (An Unfinished Symphony)

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What gets you singing Jesus songs? ((im)possible things with god)

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Have a question — serious or lighthearted — that you’ve been considering in your own blog? Share a link in the comments!

Categories: Wednesday Festival | Leave a comment

Revised Common Lectionary: A Place For Us

Photo Credit: Space Safety Magazine

“You are here.” Photo Credit: Space Safety Magazine

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.” – Psalm 90:1

As I read this week’s lectionary texts, a common word/theme keeps jumping at me: place.

Specifically, the contrast between God’s place and our place. These texts paint the picture of our simultaneous closeness to and separation from the Most High. Our place is with God, and yet is apart from God — and yet is still with God!

Moses, who was unlike any other prophet and “whom the LORD knew face to face” still wasn’t allowed to cross over to the land given to Abraham’s descendants. His place was the top of Pisgah, not west of the Jordan. That place was for Joshua.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy acknowledged their place as preachers of the gospel. It was not their place to seek praise, or gain, though that might have been afforded to them without anyone batting and eye. They were firm in where they stood.

Jesus put a young Pharisee and his company in their place with a little messianic theology. Perhaps they weren’t as learned as they thought they were!

I sense this week’s readings are inviting us to consider anew that God’s thoughts and ways are so very far from ours. We are reminded in the Psalm that we come from dust and return back to that. We are reminded that “a thousand years in [God's] sight are like yesterday when it is past.” And yet, as the psalm says, the Lord has been our dwelling place in all generations. Our place is not God’s place, and yet our place is in God.

Consider the ways in which we’ve tried to assume a place that is not reserved for us. How have we unknowingly tried to stand in God’s place rather than standing in God — in God’s shelter, provision, love, and plan?

Categories: RevGalBlogPals, Revised Common Lectionary, Tuesday Lectionary Leanings | Tags: | 2 Comments

Tuesday Prayer

ok, God.
I set out to pray first thing today…
but then I hit the snooze for a few more zzz’s.
And then when I woke up, I snuggled with warm sleeping dogs who smell like grilled cheese.
Then, I realized what time it was,
so I made a cup of coffee,
popped open the laptop,
and got distracted
by a trip down the Facebook feed.
Oh, wonderful posts by beautiful friends,
thought-provoking links,
silly photos,
even funnier videos,
seeing the names and ponderings of all of those friends and pages
that for 20 minutes have enriched my life…
and others around the world…
maybe even some have evoked social change
and wrought justice
and brought forth the choice of Love above all else,
and I am grateful.
Grateful for the ways in which you reach us,
and thankful for the chance
to pray my way through this twenty minute journey,
all the while surrounded by the gentle snores
of sleeping angels who smell like grilled cheese.
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 2 Comments

Narrative Lectionary: Babies and Swords Edition

Reading for this week:  1 Kings 3:4-9, (10-15), 16-28

Old Faithful, 2007Working Preacher commentary here.

Podcast here.

I commend the podcast and the commentary both to you.

I have one written note in my Bible next to this passage, reading, “Is there actually an ironic reading on this passage, since people would have known he wasn’t wise in practice later?”

I don’t actually know when I wrote that down, but I imagine that I was reading the passage and recalling Solomon’s violent and manipulative takeover of the throne, his enslavement of Israelites to build a temple, his vast accrual of foreign wives and concubines. None of these things seem particularly wise. By the time the history of Solomon is written, most of these things would have be known. Why- therefore- is he portrayed as asking for and receiving wisdom?

The story, with the two women and two children, jerks on every human emotion we have. Children, grieving, death, frustration, fear, doubt, longing for justice, craving order… this story has it all. We can almost here the patented “chung-chung” of Law and Order in between the scenes. Thus the swift (and irreversible) judgment of the king- what the people crave.

Is his decision actually wise? What would he have done if the woman hadn’t cried out- actually divided the remaining “property”?

If thinking of the baby as property gives you the cold shivers (and it should), it might be time to have a conversation in your congregation about the commodification of people in our prison system. (Just a side note from me.)

Solomon’s future seemed bright, at least in this story, in that God is granting him favor because Solomon has all the right words in all the right places. However, is that true wisdom? Is that applied wisdom? Do Solomon’s later decisions reflect on his desire for God’s will and the flourishing of the Israelites?

Solomon’s later actions (prayer to foreign gods, building the temple after his own house, conscription of Israelites, foreign wives being allowed to persist in worship of foreign deities) do not seem like wisdom or valor, but fear. Solomon’s CYA (cover your arse) policy belies the impression here that he trusts the Lord with his whole heart.

What are our own superstitions, our own failures of wisdom, our own quicks justices that fail to fully rely on grace?

What is the wisdom we should be seeking now as the communion of saints and as members of the body of Christ?

What is Solomon’s legacy to us- deep trust in God’s faithfulness or a hasty application of our own wisdom and a CYA prayer policy?

What’s your direction this week? Please share in the comments.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary | 3 Comments

Monday Prayer

Autumn leaves are falling
Reminding me that everyone needs to rest
The earth is getting ready for the long sleep

And yet, in other places the earth is wakening…
And so it goes again

As I awake, others sleep,
As I stir and plan and begin to work
Others’ days are closing
Thus it is, and thus it has always been

O God of wonder
Your world is amazing
Truly amazing
Help us to remember
Our small corner is just that
A tiny part of creation

Each is essential
Each is needed
Each is important

That, we O God
Are yours
And we O God
Have our part to play

The world prepares
For rest, or action
And we too
Prepare
To serve
To share
To love
All those you put before us

For we O God
Are yours
And we serve you

Autumn leaves are falling in our world
We prepare
Every day
For God – Mother, Brother, Breath
Amen

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Categories: Monday Prayer, prayer, RevGalPrayerPals | 2 Comments

Sunday Prayers: RCL 24A and Narrative Year 1

Sunday Prayer
Proper 24A /Narrative Year 1

RCL Exodus 33:12-23

Holy One,
You call us up the mountain,
to be in communion with your Presence,
and to learn from you on how to lead
your people and how to love your world.

You listen to our complaints, our needs,
our wishes, our wants,
with patience and perhaps a bit of wry wit.

We long for your Glory, and yet we do not really know
what we ask for—but you do, and you know it might kill us.
So, instead,
you protect us in a safe place
as you sweep by us in brilliance,
your Presence a dazzle all around us,
a shimmer and a sparkle remnant remains as You pass by.

May we not let the glistening remnant be covered in the dust
of daily life,
hidden under the burdens we struggle to bear and or let go.
May we be aware
of the reflection of Your glory
in every corner of the world…
and seek to share it with others,
the whole of all your creation.
Amen

Narrative: II Samuel 12: 1-9 and RCL: Matthew 22:15-22

Holy and loving God,
Your very presence in our lives
is so much more than enough,
it is everything.

We give you thanks, for the abundance of your blessing,
for our relationships that enrich our beings,
for this community, and for the ways in which we strive to
be your mercy, love and justice in your world.

Forgive us when we forget
that all we have and that that we are
belongs to You.
Hold us accountable, when in our privilege,
we decide everything belongs to us,
and others suffer because of our disregard and wantoness.
Call us out, humble us…
Remind us that the greatest gift and salvation
is to know that we Belong to you.

Teach us, oh God,
to be persistent
in finding ways to share this Good News
of belonging and abundance
with the places and people and beings of this world
that are lost, sick, lonely,
at war, in desolation,
disgruntled,
and bewildered by stress and loss and pain.

Lead us, giving God,
Open our hearts to your guidance
and may we not rest
until what we have
is shared, measure upon endless measure
with all of your creation.
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 1 Comment

11th Hour Preacher Party: Glory of God is….

Duststorm sun2

Both the Narrative Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary point us to ponder a bit about the glory of God – where, how, what, when, who – are some of the ways we might consider God’s glory.

In my context we are thick in the season of Stewardship and considering how all that we are and all that have are gifts from God, from which we give back to the church for God’s work in the world. Or at least that is the subtext of the season. We are focusing on the many ministries we have in the world and how those are building transformational relationships.

Perhaps the readings have you thinking about how we live in the world? Maybe you are wondering how as Christians we strive to balance what it means to live in the world and our relationship to God and how these need not be at odds with one another? If I consider the readings through these questions, I would also think about the many spiritual practices that help us maintain a healthy perspective on life, the world, and our relationship with self, others, and God.

I’m not yet sure where I am going with the readings. Maybe you have some ideas you will share with us? Or maybe, like me, you feel plum out of ideas? Maybe you are weary and tired of the Gospel of Matthew or what ever readings you’ve been contemplating for a time? May we be here a source of inspiration or at least a place of prayer support.

Pull up a chair, grab a mug, I have plenty of Kona coffee and Tazo “Awake” tea to share.

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | 92 Comments

Friday Prayer: Now I Lay Me Down

Now I lay me down…

Not to stare at the ceiling or toss and turn or sit up again in an hour, but to rest and to sleep.

I pray the Lord…

To surround me with peace, to calm my thoughts, to lift my worries away from me, to increase my awareness of the Spirit’s intercession, my soul to keep.

If I die before I wake…

Be with those who mourn, those who cannot perceive the light that shine in the darkness, those who wander- unmoored by events.

I pray the Lord my soul to take…

Into a peace that passes all understanding, to a place with answers, but where questions no longer matter, to a reunion and reformation of perfect love and healing.

Amen.

Categories: Friday Prayer, Prayers and Prayer Requests, RevGalPrayerPals | 1 Comment

The Pastoral is Political – “Polite” Conversation

Lately, my work has steered me to reflect on a topic that doesn’t often come up in “polite conversation” and certainly not in polite religious conversation. And yet, there’s a deep theological undercurrent to this work. I’ve been talking, writing, and speaking about access to abortion care. Or, more specifically, the lack of access to abortion care that many low-income women experience because of two federal amendments. The Helms and Hyde amendments prohibit U.S. federal aid from funding abortions both internationally and nationally, and by doing so create an economic injustice for low-income women.

The Helms amendment (1973) prevents federal aid from funding abortions internationally “as a method of family planning.” In practice, overly cautious enforcement of the Helms amendment has prevented support of abortions even in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother. The Hyde amendment (1976) prevents Medicaid in the U.S. from paying for abortions except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother.

My organization, the Religious Institute, takes the position that abortion is a serious moral decision, and that women are moral agents who have the capacity, right and responsibility to make the decision as to whether or not abortion is justified in their specific circumstances. (See our Open Letter on Abortion as a Moral Decision.) But what happens when the right to “choose” an abortion is subverted by laws that effectively deny that choice to low-income women, women of color, and women whose reproductive healthcare is provided by Medicaid or U.S. foreign aid?

What happens is that we end up with a double standard. If you can afford to pay for an abortion (or if you have private health insurance that covers the procedure), if you are able to take several days off work, if you can wait out the “waiting period,” in general if you are able to jump through the hoops of a system that assumes you have not thought through, prayed through, and talked through your decision, then you are able to get access to a legal medical procedure. Otherwise, not so much.

Back in 1994, black women activists coined the phrase “reproductive justice” to highlight the intersectionality of issues such as race, class, and poverty on the struggle for reproductive health and rights. As SisterSong says, “Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.”

While some “pro-life” politicians have made it clear that they seek to ban abortion entirely (and restrict access to contraception to methods that are acceptable to them), what they have succeeded in doing with Helms, Hyde, and myriad state laws restricting access to abortion is to ensure that low-income women are denied access to abortion care. Justice demands that access to a legal medical procedure should not be compromised by how much money a woman has or where she lives.

I know that it’s hard to have conversations about abortion because it has become an “issue” that is highly charged and politicized. But I believe that people of faith have an opportunity to change that – to move the conversation from one about rights to one about values like justice, individual conscience, and moral agency.

Categories: The Pastoral is Political | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Friday Five: Jury Duty!

Jury Duty

This week I spent the first 1 1/2 days on a jury panel being questioned so that the formal jury could be formed. This being a murder trial, there were eight rows (of ten seats) in all. I was #67 out of 80. It was interesting to see how the potential jurors answered the questions, especially about their occupations and high schools graduated from.Not chosen, I came home Tuesday afternoon instead of spending the next 2-3 weeks in a courtroom.

With this on my mind, as well as a jury notice for Federal Court for November 4, I am wondering about your experience(s) with jury duty.

1. Have you been called to jury duty? How many times? Did you excuse yourself or show up at the courthouse?

2. What were the results of your call to jury duty?

3. What does your state base its candidates’ list from?

4. Have you ever served on a jury? What was that like?

5. Have you ever had a jury summons to a U. S. Court? What was it like?

**This is an early FF, because I will be out of computer range for most of the morning. I hope you’ll play! Please share your experiences on your blog and leave your blog address in the comments section.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 7 Comments

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