Wednesday Festival

The world is full of suffering. This is as true this week as any other. And as happens every week pastors and preachers think and pray about how to respond to the truth of the world in which we live in ways that speak with prophetic honesty, grace and hope.

In the past week RevGals have been writing and thinking about what is happening in Ferguson and in other places in response to Michael Brown’s death.  Here at the RevGal Blog, Denise Anderson wrote powerfully in Friday’s ‘The Pastoral is Political’ feature: A Blues for Michael Brown.

Some RevGals have shared their preaching and reflecting:

  • Kara preaches powerfully ‘in need of a course correction’.  She writes: “Following Jesus, it turns out, is not about an ideological commitment, and it is not a call to hold to certain principles and beliefs.  It is a call to join your life to the One who came for us all, the one who comes for real persons, who comes into our suffering and our brokenness, and especially we who long for life so deeply we will gladly take crumbs”. Do stop by her blog to read the rest.
  • Josephine writes about the work of facing racism in our churches.
  • Teri preaches about our questions about why bad things happen to good people, and the problem of thinking that bad things should or do happen to bad people: Bad Things, Good People: a sermon

Some RevGals have shared their praying:

Some RevGals have been talking about the work of parenting and caring for children in our communities:

At her blog, Wil Gafney laments this summer of horror and prays: May the angry words of our mouths and the righteous rage in our hearts fuel the work of our hands and be acceptable in your sight O God of Justice. Amen.

If you have been writing or praying about Michael Brown and Ferguson, about Iraq, about Ebola, about the conflict in Gaza or about any of the other troubles of the world, please feel free to share a link in the comments below.

You might also like to join the #RallyRevGal blogging project, where we are writing about women who have inspired us in ministry.  You’ll find all the information you need right here: http://revgalblogpals.org/2014/08/18/rallyrevgals-blog-contest/

Categories: Wednesday Festival | 2 Comments

Wednesday Prayer: Setting Jesus Free

Jesus is still held in the captivity of middle class respectability. Christians are expected to behave according to culturally sanctioned norms of allegiance, fidelity, obedience and respect…. We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life. We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign.

 

- Diarmid O’Murchu, Catching Up with Jesus

 

Oh, God!

Today, I pray that we will have the

courage to set Jesus free in our churches,

our cities, our communities, our world.

celtic cross

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 2 Comments

Revised Common Lectionary~~Keys of the Kingdom edition

Perugino, approximately 1450-1523. Christ gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter, detail, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Perugino, approximately 1450-1523. Christ gives the keys of the kingdom to Peter, detail, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

O God,
you blessed Abraham and Sarah,
and made them a great nation.
Keep us in remembrance
of the rock from which we are hewn,
that the waste places of our lives
may blossom to your glory. Amen

RCL readings for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost may be found here.

I’ve been fascinated by rocks ever since I moved out of the piedmont south into more hilly terrain when I was a kid. Boulders protruding from the hillside, old stone walls marking boundaries, chunks of granite hewn from deep quarries have all captured my imagination. We  think of rocks as hard, impenetrable, sturdy, strong, everlasting and unchanging, but in fact  rocks began as liquids and were formed and solidified through a long process of cooling and undergoing pressure. Despite their strength, they are not indestructible. If you have sharp enough and strong enough tools you can cut them or break them; if you have explosives you can blast them apart. Exposed to natural elements over time—wind, water, the steps of humans and other creatures, rocks can be worn away, eroded, reduced to dust. In fact, the rocks we see are undergoing a constant process of erosion, much as we humans are undergoing a constant process of aging.

Barre Gray granite Barre VT revdrkris

Barre Gray granite Barre VT revdrkris

Rocks as metaphors or images of strength and stability are found throughout scripture. In Isaiah, Abraham and Sarah are compared to a rock or quarry—the foundation from which the people of Israel were hewn. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the house built upon the rock as a metaphor for those whose faith is strong enough to withstand trials and tribulations. And in today’s gospel Jesus calls one of his disciples, Simon Bar Jonah, “Petros” or “Peter”, the masculine form of the Greek word for “rock”, and goes on to say that “on this rock, I will build my community.”

The name “Peter” is familiar to us, but “Petros” or “Peter” was not used as a name in the pre-Christian era. So what was Jesus up to when he called Simon Bar Jonah “Peter”? In Greek literature, petros was a sign of imperturbability and firmness, traits similar to those of rocks. These traits have hardly seemed to characterize Simon in our gospel narrative so far. Although he sometimes seems to “get” who Jesus is (in this passage, he seems to have a flash of insight,) at others he back peddles and flounders, and we know that when Peter will eventually deny even knowing Jesus when he is arrested.

How might Simon Peter serve not only as the foundation of Jesus’ community, the one we know as “church?” And how might he be a model for us as we seek to be disciples?  Perhaps it’s in his willingness to change, his openness to momentary insights, or his inner strength and sturdiness that eventually allows him to weather the tumultuous days of the early church.

Not only does Jesus promise to found his community on Peter and his witness, he also promises him the keys to the kingdom. It’s easy to imagine Peter with the keys to the pearly gates of heaven; what other ways might the metaphor play out? If Jesus is proclaiming the here-and-now realm of God, what might the keys to that realm look like for us? How might we use them to unlock the kingdom and help to fully instantiate it?

If Peter just isn’t your guy, perhaps you might want to consider the various gifts of the Spirit Paul outlines in his letter to the Romans. How do we identify our gifts? How do we use them in the world?

Lots to ponder! Join the discussion with your questions, your insights … whatever you’ve got!

 

Categories: Lectionary Leanings, Revised Common Lectionary, Tuesday Lectionary Leanings | 5 Comments

Narrative Lectionary- “Oh What a Night” Edition

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Photograph courtesy of Kathryn Zucker Johnston

Scripture can be found here

Kathryn Schifferdecker’s commentary at WorkingPreacher.org can be found here

In last week’s reading (Ruth 2:1-22) a corner was turned in this tale of loss turned to gain and emptiness turned to fullness. In an act of desperation, Ruth the Moabite and her Judean mother-in-law Naomi returned to Bethlehem. Ruth found both grain and favor in the fields of Boaz, a prominent man of Bethlehem who also happens to be a relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Boaz offered Ruth protection in his fields and food during her gleaning hours; as a result, Naomi and Ruth no longer live in imminent threat of starvation and disaster.

This week Naomi takes the lead. Explicitly stating that the goal for Ruth must now be marriage, she sends her daughter-in-law, washed and anointed, to the end-of-harvest celebration, with kinsman Boaz as the object of Naomi’s strategies. Naomi instructs Ruth,

“… go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” [3:3b-4].

Ruth agrees to the plan.

In God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, Phyllis Trible contrasts this encounter with Boaz and the one that took place in the previous chapter:

“The first was a meeting by chance; the second by choice. The first was in the fields; the second at the threshing floor. The first was public; the second private. The first was work; the second play. The first by day; the second by night. Yet both of them hold the potential for life and death.” ["A Human Comedy," p. 183]

And now, a word about feet. Many of us are aware that the Hebrew word can be a euphemism for genitals. In our congregations, it’s possible that folks who are part of a regular Bible study have learned about this particular usage, but it’s not likely to have spread throughout the congregation unless the preacher has brought it into a sermon. And, indeed, as Schifferdecker reminds us, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a foot is just a foot. In either case, the use of the word adds to the sexual tension present in the scene. So does the fact that the encounter takes place at night, not to mention the presence of “all that seed and all that thrashing about ” [Noam Zion in "Megillat RUTH", p. 64].

On a far more serious note: There is another way of understanding Ruth’s approach to Boaz. In the world of the story, women alone (i.e., without the protection/ patronage of male relatives) had very few options. One of these was prostitution, a fact that would have been well understood by the original hearers and readers of the story. Ruth’s actions of lying down quietly at the feet of a man who had been drinking and celebrating could easily have been understood by both parties as a solicitation. What occurs when Boaz awakens makes it clear that neither party understands it that way. But the specter of that other reality lies over the scene as well.

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant; spread your cloak over your servant, for you are next-of-kin.” [3:9]

Ruth makes a bold request of Boaz: by asking him to “spread his cloak” (or wings) over her, she is asking him to marry her. And she is explicitly invoking the law of Leviticus, which requires the nearest male relative to redeem an Israelite who has fallen on hard times (Schifferdecker, Leviticus 25:25, 35-38, 47-49). Ruth asks Boaz to step up.

Boaz agrees to the plan.

He said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter; this last instance of your loyalty is better than the first; you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not be afraid, I will do for you all that you ask, for all the assembly of my people know that you are a worthy woman. [3:10-12]

Because the author of Ruth is a brilliant storyteller, the happy ending- the fullness and healing the reader is longing for- is not so quickly or easily accomplished. There is another who is a closer relative; this must be dealt with. Still, the atmosphere is light and the symbolism heavy: Boaz loads Ruth down with grain to take home to Naomi. Seed and fertility- fullness of every kind- is promised.

Naomi’s question to Ruth upon her return home is translated “How did things go with you, my daughter?” but the Hebrew is  a much more spare and enigmatic, “Who are you, my daughter?” Has Ruth returned home a woman promised marriage or not? Ruth’s response, if the text actually reports it in total, is equally enigmatic: “He gave me these six measures of barley, for he said, ‘Do not go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’” [3:17] If Naomi’s question (and ours) is, “What happened, exactly?” it goes unanswered.

Preaching thoughts:

1. The radical nature of Ruth’s character and actions- the selfless love with which she acts- continue to be revealed in this chapter. After binding herself in covenant commitment to another woman (against her own self-interest and outside her religious and ethnic group), Ruth provides for both their well-being and takes the initiative in securing herself a promise of marriage (going beyond Naomi’s instructions to her).

2. The opportunity arises for the preacher to talk about sex, within and outside the covenant of marriage. This chapter also provides the opportunity to speak of how scripture portrays marriage, and what values are upheld in its portrayal.

3. The story turns on the laws for caring for those who are in dire straits. Ruth gleans, a right established in scripture for the poor, the immigrant, the widow and the orphan. In an era in which the poor are so often demonized and blamed for their circumstances, the story offers a window on an attitude of communal responsibility for one another.

How about you? Where is your in-depth reading/ preaching on this tiny but wonderful book leading you this week? I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

Categories: Narrative Lectionary, RevGalBlogPals | Leave a comment

#RallyRevGals Blog Contest

Have a case of the Augusts? Not ready for the program year to start? Thinking about how you can’t save the world, or even your little corner of it? RevGals can’t fix it all either, but we can give you a reason to post to your blog!

The #RallyRevGals Blog Contest will run from Tuesday, August 18, to Sunday, August 31.

To be eligible:

  1. be a member of our webring,*
  2. write a blog post about a woman who has been a positive influence on your ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor),
  3. use the tag/hashtag #RallyRevGals in your subject line as well as categories or tags on your blog,
  4. share the link in the comments on this blog post, in the comments on the accompanying Facebook group post, or on Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag so we can find your blog post).

Everyone who participates will be entered in a random drawing for three prizes from our Cafe Press store.

 

#RallyRevGals prizes

If you haven’t joined the web ring yet, apply by emailing revgalblogpals at gmail dot com. Read more about the requirements for membership on our Join page.

Bonus prize:

Comment on each other’s blogs, just like the good old days of blogging! For every comment made on another person’s contest entry, you will have an entry in a bonus prize drawing for a much-desired RevGalBlogPals ball cap! (In your choice of white or khaki.)

RevGals ball cap

 

Winners will be announced in a blog post on Monday, September 1st. Happy Blogging!!!

Categories: #RallyRevGals, RevGalBlogPals | Tags: | 6 Comments

Monday Prayer

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

O God!
If only life were that easy, that simple
We try our best to shine for you
For truth
For justice
For mercy
And yet, all around us there is hatred, and lies, and injustice and persecution.
What are we to do O Lord?

If I stay in my (relatively) safe small corner, watching and praying
Is that enough?
If we all stay in glorious isolation in our own small corners of the world
We will never meet, or move, or grow, or engage, or truly know your world, your people…

Because people, are people
Your people
Known and loved by you
Without labels, or conditions, or special identification tags
Help us. O. God
This day
To shine your light in the dark places
To be your light in the dark night
Make us bold and courageous
And bless us with vision and purpose

To have answers when needed, to speak out when we can
But always to shine your light, in every corner
Not just my small corner

Amen

Categories: Monday Prayer, prayers, RevGalPrayerPals | 1 Comment

Sunday Prayer

Ah Holy One…
We have so many prayers with which to supplicate to your heart,
and even so,
no words.

We long for a peace, a world, where all might drop all difference and heartbreak and see one another as family. Instead, we rout out innocents and chase them to mountaintops to starve, in terror, and all hell breaks loose.

We long for a peace, a world, where racism is not reality, where college bound young black men are not shot down for walking down the middle of the street. We pray for the mothers, the mothers who worry their frayed hearts for the safety of their children, who in spite of being called dogs, they still insist that their babes are precious, and deserving of crumbs of grace and hope.

Oh dear God,
we have no idea.
No idea.
Some of us try,
We work at it,
and yet there is so much more healing work to be done,
and our hearts shatter with inadequacy.

May we listen to Ruth,
whose courage
led her to make a counter-cultural choice,
whose depth of soul
made a way for a new way of being,
whose faith
helped her bring forth Love into her world,
and into ours.
In the name of our Christ, we pray,
Amen.

Categories: RevGalBlogPals | 4 Comments

11th Hour Preacher Party

We’ve got a difficult selection of readings from the RCL–Canaanite women, irrevocability in Romans (I think I just made up that word), the providence of God in Joseph’s story, an alternate reading from Isaiah…and whew.

Narrative Lectionary folks are in the midst of Ruth.

Not to mention that there is more than a person can quite absorb in national and world events–I think we are all feeling the impact of this week on top of recent weeks. It’s enough to make a preacher stop and take a deep breath. In fact, that’s a great idea. Let’s do that…deeeeeeep breath and exhale.

All of those readings and events lead me to think a “the kingdom of God is for everyone, yes even those people” sermon is in order, so I think that’s where I’m headed with the Romans and Isaiah passages.

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What’s on tap for you? The party is here, with suggestions and distractions and funny stories and sad stories and children’s messages and probably a snack or two.

Categories: 11th Hour Preacher Party | 94 Comments

The Pastoral is Political: Watching Our Step ~ A Blues for Michael Brown

Now the Lord is the Spirit,

and where the Spirit of the Lord is,

there is freedom.

-2 Corinthians 3:17

Photo Credit NBC News

Photo credit: NBC News

When I was a child, I would accompany my mother as she did her weekend shopping. I would always ask for a candy bar, and she’d buy it for me. But even after paying for it, she wouldn’t let me have it until we left the store. We had to be in the parking lot before I would even see that candy, if not in the car. I always wondered why that was. Why couldn’t I eat it right there in the store? We paid for it — er, she paid for it. As I got older, I understood why.

My story is nearly identical to that of my peers and elders. Whether we were taught not to put our hands in our pockets while in the store or to keep our receipts in plain view, these are the innate teachings of black and brown parents to their children: never give anyone a reason to suspect you.

The lessons  were taught without using many words. It was in the way mom would spend all day cooking before a family road trip so that we would have food for the voyage. That wasn’t just to save money, although it certainly accomplished that end. It was also because when she was a child pit stops could prove deadly for a black family. They learned to travel at night and keep it moving, stopping only when absolutely necessary. Of course she knew how much times had changed since she was little, but she also knew how much they hadn’t.

If you grew up black or brown in this country, you, too, were probably taught in some way to watch your step. You were taught how to smile at people to disarm them and let them know you were one of the “good ones.” You were taught the rules of the traffic stop for when (not if) you were pulled over by the cops. Your mother worried that your Afro or dreadlocks might keep you from getting that job you were interviewing for. She might have begged you to press your hair or wear a wig so you didn’t stand out as much. They taught you all of this to keep you safe, to make sure you had a chance. As proud and smart and wonderful as they may have been, they still knew that wherever they went, they had to watch their step.

Everywhere, that is, except for the few safe havens where they could be themselves. The barber shop. The front porch or stoop. And, of course, the church.

I always thought the reason African-American church worship is so characteristically uninhibited isn’t just due to our inherent “Africanisms” (sorry, Herskovitz), but because everywhere else in American society Black folks have to be so soul-crushingly careful. Not so with God. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom to shout. Freedom to cry. Freedom to dance. Freedom to run. Freedom to speak. Freedom to mourn. Freedom to celebrate. Freedom to be.

And it was only fitting that this freedom would spill outside of the church doors and into the streets of New York City, Montgomery, and Chicago. It was only fitting that it would ring out on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and reach the doors of the White House. But even as it rang and even as we marched, we would learn that we still needed to watch our step.

Rodney King taught us.

Yusef Hawkins taught us.

Amadou Diallo  taught us.

Sean Bell taught us.

And the lesson continues. It continues on the front porches of private citizens who too quickly assume the worst of someone who comes to them in need of help. It continues on BART train platforms. It continues on the sidewalks of a gated community in Sanford, Florida. It continues in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

Trayvon, Oscar, Rekia, Jordan, Renisha, Michael — I’m so sorry. If only teaching you could have saved you.

Howard University students standing in solidarity with Michael Brown. Photo credit: Urban Cusp.Howard University students standing in solidarity with Michael Brown. Photo credit: Urban Cusp.

******

Denise AndersonDenise Anderson is a Presbyterian Church (USA) Candidate living in the Washington metropolitan area. Not being a “cradle Presbyterian” herself, she also spent some time in the Baptist and Methodist traditions and so has a passion for ecumenical dialogue. She’s a proud graduate of Howard University School of Divinity, where she developed her interests in social justice, liberation theology, and feminist/womanist religious thought. She is happily married to the unspeakably awesome Carter and together they have a little girl who aspires to be a shifu in kung fu one day. Visit her at Soula Scriptura, where this post originally appeared.

(Editor’s note: Denise is joining our Revised Common Lectionary team in September; we’re glad to have her voice at RevGalBlogPals.)

Categories: The Pastoral is Political | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Friday Prayer: How Long, O Lord

Death stalks your beloved creation.

How long, O Lord?

Brown and black-skinned children are not valued, are afraid.

How long, O Lord?

Mothers and fathers wail in grief over fallen bodies. 

How long, O Lord?

False wars are declared, arming brothers and cousins against one another. 

How long, O Lord?

Lives trickle by, potential yet undreamed, never to be reached. 

How long, O Lord?

How long until we dare to dream something different? 

How long until we say, “Enough”? 

How long until we refuse to feed Death’s insatiable hunger, Fear’s unending drive? 

How long until we stop the machinery that allows the bodies of black Americans to be the grist that feeds money machines?

 

We pray for a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness and peace are at home. 

The tools, Your tools, for that are in our hands. 

Let us recognize them. Let us employ them. 

Let me join into the chorus, the drumbeat, the dance that answers, “How long?” with “No more!”

Categories: Friday Prayer, peace, Prayers and Prayer Requests | 4 Comments

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