clergywomen

11th Hour Preacher Party: Holy God, Holy People

It’s not every year that we have a long season after the Epiphany and have the opportunity to preach from the words of Leviticus. Oh Leviticus, so complicated, so misused. I remember one of my classes in seminary divided the class into five groups, each one assigned a book from the Pentateuch. My group got Leviticus, lucky me. But truth be told it was lucky. At the library I found an amazing book written by anthropologist Mary Douglas, that unpacked Leviticus in a way no one else has. Although its been twenty years what I remember from Douglas is that the book of Leviticus is essentially a guide for being in relationship with God, self, and others. The  “moral” code in Leviticus may talk about blood and laws and cleanliness, but these are not the point.

The meaning of Leviticus is  to recognize what is holy and to honor the holy in one another and God. We lose the beauty of the holy relationships when we focus to literally on specific actions instead of the integrity of the self and one’s intention to live in a holy relationships.

What is a holy relationship? Well, Jesus sums that up for us in Matthew, a holy relationship is love – love God, love yourself, and love others. It’s about integrity and dignity and self worth, about being, to use a Bowen Family Systems theory phrase, “a solid self.” A solid self is clear about the values and principles that guide one’s life, is capable of introspection and self reflection, never blaming or shaming others but being accountable for one’s  own thoughts, words, and behavior, working to change one’s self, not others.

This may be pushing too much of a 21st century lens onto this ancient text, but if so, I come to it from Jesus. His life and his teachings ground me in this understanding, and the Gospel reading this week points us to where it ends up in Chapter 22 with the shema, the summary of all the law and the prophets, love God, love self, love others.

That’s kind of where my head is at with the RCL  readings this week as we draw near to Lent. What about you? What text speaks to you, perhaps the Psalm or the Epistle? Or maybe you are following the Narrative Lectionary? If so you can find a great discussion on that text if scroll down to Tuesday and the NL post.

Regardless, this is the preacher party. We’re here all day to commiserate, support, pray, inspire, share ideas, or at the very least share a cup of coffee or tea. I have plenty of both, along with some left over chocolate raspberry mousse cake (from my 60th birthday)….pull up a chair and join the party.

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The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is an Episcopal priest serving a congregation in Dearborn, Mi. She joined RevGals in 2006 and has been blogging at  Seeking Authentic Voice ever since.

 

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Wednesday Prayer

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I believe
in spite of all that is laying around everywhere in the world,
the “can’t make this up” stuff,
the angry shouts and accusations and confusion and LOUD CACOPHONY
that threatens the peace of everything,

that You are weathering this with us.
You wrap us up in your Heart.
and then You nudge us off
to do the work,
to go many extra miles in these extra ordinary times,
to persist, resist,
to heal, to listen
to give, to offer,
to welcome,
to FACE whatever,
knowing we wear Your face…
and when we are tired,

You wrap us up in your Heart
and hold us,
and we weather this together.

Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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Pastoral is Political: Massacring the Good People of Bowling Green

Okay, I totally wasn’t going to write about this. Really, I mean besides being kind of funny on some memes – is it really worth talking about? I mean should I give my time to she who speaks lies?

Unfortunately, yes, and in this instance she’s hit home for me. As this RevGal was born and raised in the town of Bowling Green.

Home to the Corvette plant, Western Kentucky University and Fruit of the Loom Bowling Green is a located in south central Kentucky about an hour north of Nashville, Tennessee. Fun fact, when I was growing up we had more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the country. AND as of a few years ago (maybe still) you could see several pictures of me in the entry way of the Applebee’s. 

Bowling Green is one of these “small cities” where housing is plentiful and there’s need for all kinds of skill sets in jobs and so resettlement works. There is a sense of community and refugees thrive, thanks to the people in town who work hard to make it happen.

In high school I was asked to show two students around who had recently been resettled from Bosnia. They were sisters. My teacher thought I could help navigate the confusion of the lunch line for them, as the teachers could usher them from class to class, but when it came to lunch time, students were on their own.

As I walked with these sisters down the hall I talked and talked until I realized, they didn’t understand a word I was saying. Wide eyed with looks of excitement and skepticism, we went through the line, they got exactly what I did. A baked potato with nacho cheese, sour cream, and “bacon bits”. They picked at it but never ate it (not that I blame them).

I tried to have discussion during lunch but not a word was understood, and I did that awkward, “talk loud and slow as if they couldn’t hear me” thing. Guess what? Not the problem.

Three years later we all graduated together, one of the sisters was in the top 10 of the class. They spoke fluent english and had thrived in our small town. I remember looking at them on graduation day in awe of everything they had been through, I remember seeing smiles and hearing laughter as they walked through the halls with friends. I was proud of them, proud of who they were and to know them.

My senior year I met another refugee from Bosnia, he was in my youth group at church. On a retreat he once described what it was like to live under a hostile regime. He had gone to the market one day, at just a few moments after arriving men with machine guns appeared and killed everyone in the square.

Except him.

Somehow he had survived. After that his family moved to a refugee camp and after a long vetting process, to the U.S. and were resettled in Bowling Green. He wept with survivors guilt, wondering why those people died and he had lived. Wondering what God’s purpose was for his life. Wondering how his family had been so lucky to get out when so many others were left in camps. We all wept and wondered in awe.

And if these two experiences weren’t enough for me to care about the refugees of my hometown (besides the fact that my faith calls me to care for all refugees) then one more experience would.

My former mother-in-law, Patricia Meacham, taught citizenship classes and is now an ESL teacher for Western Kentucky University. She also helps orient international students to the culture of the city as well as helping them with their English.  She has countless stories – some sad, some funny, all inspiring – about the people she serves.

According to her, about 10% of BG’s population are refugees. The International Refugee Center of Kentucky which is in Bowling Green and Owensboro have taken in around 10,000 refugees over the years. And she’s right.

So currently, in a town of about 60,000 people 5-6,000 are refugees and even more have already become citizens (some thanks to Patti!). But it’s not just that refugees randomly appear with everything in place. There is a whole system of townspeople who donate beds, clothing, linens, cars, offer jobs and safe haven. And not all who help in the resettlement are paid, hundreds of volunteers make this happen. Last year they resettled over 400 refugees, 40 of them from Syria.

The town of Bowling Green is a shining example of caring for the stranger in their midst when it comes to refugees. Could they be better? Sure, everyone can. And in 2011 when two men went to trial and pled guilty to terrorist plots, our country temporarily paused it’s resettlement until adjustments could be made and they were. So even if KellyAnne misspoke, she’s still wrong.

In the almost 20 years since I left for college the town has grown almost 25,000 people, it has thrived and expanded and become widely more diverse, some thanks to refugees. 

There are many things about the city of Bowling Green I could complain about but their example of a refugee city? Not one of them. I am proud of that fact and will stand up to anyone who disagrees.

I like to think that my teacher entrusted those scared young women in my care, because she trusted that I would be welcoming. I grew up with resettled refugees all around me and their stories are part of me today and has helped shape my faith and my humanity.

I welcome refugees into this country and into my life because my ancestors were once strangers in a strange land and someone welcomed them. I welcome them because radical hospitality is the way of Christ. I welcome them because my life has changed for the better by diversity, of race, creed, sexual orientation, and human experience.

So thank you Bowling Green, keep up the good work.

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Photo by Becca Schimmel

The Reverend Shannon Meacham is the mother of two exhausting children Maggie and Gus, and she currently serves Ashland Presbyterian Church in the safest part of Baltimore, the suburbs. You can find her musings about any and all subjects on her personal blog pulpitshenanigans.com.


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Saturday prayer – Blessing 

Women’s march in Portland Oregon January 22, 2017.


Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.

What does our God require of us? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.  

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.  

Blessed are the peacemakers. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God. 

Blessed justice. Kindness. Our God. 

Blessed God. 

Jennifer Garrison Brownell serves as designated term pastor at First Congregational Church -UCC in Vancouver, Washington. She contributed to the Revgals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and is the author of the not-really-about-a-triathlon memoir Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath. She blogs at There Is a River.
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Sunday Prayer

img_1786Traveling God,
You find us,
wherever we are,
when we are toiling,
numb to the possibility
that we might be called
to belovedness and belonging.

Your call is so urgent, so clear
to leave what we know
to discover that what seems impossible~
justice, mercy, love,
equality,
kin-dom
is your complete and possible dream,
and we can be a part of it as we follow You.

Gather us up
as your disciples,
Bind us
together in peace,
Irritate us
so completely
that we give all we have
to be healers
of the breach,
the offerers
of grace,
the voice
of hope.

We pray, O God, for those
so broken,so longing
to heed your call,
but simply can’t because of what oppresses them.

We pray, O Christ, for those
so disempowered and angry and hurt,
that all they can do is defend and perpetuate.

We pray, O Spirit, for those
who have no heart or hands or will
save our own, as your disciples.

We pray…
for our world.
for our country.
for our earth home.
for our children.
for the sick and lonely,
the disengaged and angry,

Help us to remember
that we belong to You,
and we are beloved,
and we are Love.

In the name of Jesus our brother and friend,
Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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Sunday Prayer

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Holy One of Sabbath and Struggle,
We come before you this morning,
mindful of of your presence with us and in us,
mindful of the connections we share
with whom we worship.

You have gifted us with this hour
of worship.
You have shared your Sabbath rest,
pouring it upon our hearts and souls,
bathing us in love, in prayer, in song, in silence.

You have challenged us to struggle,
with the contradictions we face everyday.
You ask us to question, to dig deep,
to remember Justice and Mercy and Love
must prevail,
if we are to be Your disciples.

In the quiet of the next few minutes,
we pray for all that weighs on our minds
(and there is much)
that need your Grace and your Peace….
(Silence)

We lift up these prayers,
in the name of Jesus, our Brother and Teacher,
Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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Wednesday Prayer

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There are days that I don’t know how to address You.
There are moments that I don’t know how to serve You.
There are times that I don’t know I believe You.

In this moment of the hour in this little room where I am praying,
I wonder about You.
What are You doing?
For whom are You praying?
How are You speaking…
to me?

Do You know this deep longing within me?
Is it You, longing within me?
There is so much inside
I can hardly bear the worlds within my heart~~
the sharp joys,
the hollowing griefs,
the unrealized art,
the floating silence that stretches,
the cacophony of a million instruments tuning, seeking the true note.

Reach inside me,
Pull what You want out,
Give me courage
to
Be
Yours.

Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA.  She is a contributor to the RevGalBlogPals book, “There is a Woman in the Pulpit.”  She especially loves Advent.
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Wednesday Prayer

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Ah Holy One,
There is much despair in the world,
Unholy devastation,
Relentless and indiscriminate.

Yet in all of the pain,
and around it, there are crazy shimmerings of grace,
tiny pin-points of hope
that leave me breathless, guilty and skeptical,
as I scramble to gather them up,
unbelievingly holding them close
to my heart.

Amen.

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Wednesday Prayer

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photo by Meg M. Arbo (used with permission).

 

The moon set this morning, as the sun came up.
A long illumined night giving way to the brief shining of this day.
Help me God,
to  hold the dreams of my sleeping,
and sift through the message your angels wrought last night.
Help me God,
in the blue bright of daylight,
to be your Message of awareness, love, and hope
in all that I say and do (o.k., at least most of what I say and do, because, you know, human).
Help me God,
through the daily grind, the musts, the should, the need to-s
to give over to Mystery and Delight, to Sorrow and Ache,
and all that is in the exquisite in-between.

Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.
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The Pastoral is Political: You trumped us!

Dear USA,

Was it a case of anything you can do we can do better? Did you see what happened in the UK in June and think…mmm we can match that…no wait, we can raise you? Well you sure managed that.

From over this side of the Atlantic Ocean we have been watching you for this last year. We watched your presidential debates, we watched the news reports, we read the social media stuff and we thought, “no, it’s ok Donald will not become President, it’s not going to happen, no way!” We even went to sleep on your election night still confident that this would not happen. Some of us couldn’t sleep with the excitement and anticipation of another glass ceiling being smashed. Most of us sat up bolt right in our beds when waking to the news that Donald had trumped Hilary.

It was the same here in June when most of us went to sleep confident that the UK would vote to remain part of the European Union. That didn’t go to plan either.

So we, that’s you and us, have a new world order taking shape. And as far as I can see it’s not a world that I like the sound of.  Yesterday in church we heard the words from Isaiah that Jesus read when at the Synagogue. Now that is a word I like the sound of. But sadly, it’s not a world view that Donald shares. Or many of the Brexiteers, as we fondly call them. Instead we have a world taking shape where there is no good news for the poor; where those trapped are to be allowed to rot; where the oppressed find a boot firmly keeping them down. The world seems to be becoming even more selfish and more suspicious, fearful even, of those not like us.

How on earth have we come to this? And it is not just you and us. The signs across Europe are that right wing extreme views are growing. Who would have thought that the leader of the French National Front would ever become a serious contender in their Presidential race? We have seen refugee camps in Greece attacked by fascist thugs – men, women and children for crying out loud, attacked at night. People who have already faced danger and traumas we can only imagine scared for their lives in a place they thought was at least safe, if not comfortable. How have we come to this?

I don’t know. But I do know that we have a Gospel to proclaim that runs counter to all of this. And we much preach it.

So my dear friend USA, I write to you in the hope that between us we can stay strong in our faith, stay true to the Gospel and resist that tide that we face. Surely between us, with a mighty army of RevGals and Pals, we can stop the tide from becoming a rip tide that drowns out our voices.

Yours with much love

The United Kingdom


Rev Shuna Dicks is a Church of Scotland minister based in Speyside in the heart of the Malt Whisky Trail. She lives with husband Neil and their two dogs and a cat. They have two grown up children who live and work in Aberdeen.


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