Posts Tagged With: blogs

Narrative Lectionary: Glory, then Guts (Luke 9:28-45)

Like eating a big pile of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, we gorge on glory before we enter the somber season of Lent.  The Transfiguration story fills us up with mystery before the Lent’s fare of sacrifice and approaching death.

Read the text here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

Death and glory mingle together in this story, as Jesus moves toward the end of his life.  “About eight days after these sayings,” our story begins, making us wonder…what sayings.  Before this, Jesus has announced that his death is coming, and that following him involves more sacrifice than anyone really wants.  Then he says, “But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  The glory at the top of the mountain foretells the glory to come, but I have to wonder if the disciples thought they were dying right then and there, on the mountain.  Looking at the glory of God embodied in Jesus, they do get a taste of death, as promised.

They’re surrounded by the cloud of God’s presence, and it overshadows them.  When the angel announces to Mary that she will have a child, the angel uses the same word — the power of God will overshadow her.  The word overshadow shows up only four times in the Christians scriptures, and two of the four are in Luke (plus another in Acts.)  Each time, there is a sense of power being transferred.  The three disciples are being prepared for the sacrifice and death ahead, but they are also being covered by the power of God.

The deep mystery of God’s presence is always fleeting, giving way to the concerns of ordinary life.  Just a day after they hear God’s voice, Jesus and the three disciples hear another voice, this time a desperate father, begging for help.  With Jesus away, the other disciples haven’t been able to heal the man’s son.  The unclean spirit within him has triumphed.   Jesus has a strong rebuke before he heals the boy, and we can’t tell if he’s talking to the father, the disciples or the whole crowd gathered around.   He announces his coming betrayal again, but the disciples don’t understand.  Perhaps they’re still stinging from being called  a “faithless and perverse generation,” and they’re afraid to ask Jesus what he means.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all preserve this Transfiguration story, with the healing story following it, but only Luke has the detail about James, John and Peter being sleepy.  Their fatigue here evokes their sleepiness with Jesus in the garden at the end of his life.  Here they manage to stay awake and see Jesus in his glory, but there in the garden they fall asleep and leave him alone in his distress.  On both occasions, Jesus sets out to pray, and from that intention, dramatic things happen.

Just like our own lives, the Transfiguration story holds a mixture of mystery, grandeur and sleepiness, followed by human need and our inability to meet it fully.  At the edge of Lent, Jesus calls us to wakefulness and prayer, and we follow him into a way of sacrifice, looking for glimpses of transcendence along the way.

Sermon possibilities:

  • As Jesus prays on the mountain, some of the disciples are left behind. The drama below starts as they fail in their efforts to heal the boy.  Jesus says later that their failure is related to prayer – this kind of work can only be done through prayer.  The sermon might look at the connection between prayer and the work we hope to do in God’s name.
  • The sermon might explore the theme of being sleepy or awake. To which parts of God are we asleep?  Where are we awake to what God is doing?   Is God waking us up, or do we need to wake ourselves up?
  • In a season of deep personal distress, Pastor and public theologian Jennifer Bailey recalls that the pain was so great that she “folded into myself: my arms wrapped tightly around my knees and found their rest on my heaving chest. Yet, as I opened my mouth to cry out to God, as I often do in moments of hopelessness, no sound emerged…Rocking back and forth on the cool linoleum floor, I finally uttered the only words that I could find, “I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe.” Like a gust of wind, I could suddenly feel the soulful presence of my ancestors surround me, holding me and bearing witness to my pain. Then I heard my mama’s spirit whisper gently, gently in my ear, “Baby, we ain’t never been safe”.  In a similar way, in a time when Jesus has announced that there is no safety for those who follow him, Jesus and the disciples experience the presence of Moses and Elijah, their ancestors in faith.  The sermon might look at how we find our ancestors’ presence and strength in difficult days.
  • Tracy Cochran writes “In Buddhism, a definition of faith is the ability to keep our hearts open in the darkness of the unknown. The root of the word patience is a Latin verb for “suffer,” which in the ancient sense meant to hold, not to grasp but to bear, to tolerate without pushing away. Being patient doesn’t mean being passive. It means being attentive, willing to be available to what is happening, going on seeing, noticing how things change. When we aren’t wishing for something to be over, or when we aren’t freezing around an idea about what it is we are seeing, we see and hear more.” How do the disciples keep their faith at the bottom of the mountain, as well as at the top?  How do we?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?  Let us know in the comments section below.  We look forward to a conversation with you!

 

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Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church, a diverse Presbyterian church in the city of Detroit.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time about her Detroit adventures at Stained Glass in the City. The image above is from the Jesus MAFA series from Cameroon, and is from the Vanderbilt Library of Art in the Christian Tradition.  See more: http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/diglib-fulldisplay.pl

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Festival: Desires

February is the month of longing.

In a long winter, we long for sunshine.  In unusual political times, we long for clarity.  Valentine’s Day can leave us longing for love, companionship, or just a really fantastic cupcake.  If we raced straight from Advent to preparations for Lent, we long for quiet, and a moment to breathe.  If surgery has been on the schedule, we long to move without pain, and to feel energetic again.

Our wise bloggers write about different desires this week.

New mom Traci Smith is longing for us all to have some sense when we talk to pregnant women.  We’ve all learned not to pat pregnant women on the belly (we have, haven’t we?) but we haven’t learned what to say.  Smith says that people still say things like “Wow, you’re enormous!”  Or, perhaps, “Wow, I hope you don’t have the baby right here!” “Are you sure there’s only one baby in there?” “You’re gigantic!” “You look like you’re about to pop!”  Smith adds, “Unsolicited comments about the size of one’s belly are never welcome, but for some reason, people feel like pregnancy is an exception to this rule. Few people would walk up to an overweight person and say “Wow, you’re ENORMOUS!” Yet to pregnant women, it happens all the time. Baffling.”

Spoiler alert:  Smith advises that the proper comment, for all situations, even when something else pops into our minds, is: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

Valentine’s Day can be blissful – or hard.  Tara Ulrich longs for a wider understanding of the day, and for us all to see our worth outside of traditional romantic pairs.  She reminds us, “today especially I need each of you to continually remind me that I am one of God’s beloved. I need to know that my life isn’t wrapped up in my singleness. I need to be reminded continually that I’m not past my prime. I also need to be reminded that there is even beauty in the uncertainty of it all. (So much easier said than done)…I’m single. Not sick, not a problem and not past my prime. So please don’t pity me on Valentine’s Day, because today of all days, I need your help to remember that my value doesn’t rest in a relationship status, in a box of chocolates or in a red rose. It rests in the fact that no matter what lies ahead of me, I am God’s beloved and His plans for me far exceed the feelings of a day.”

A longing for certainty leads us to interpret some scriptures as fixed, set as guidance for all times and places.  Professor Wil Gafney sets that aside and begins with the provocative title “Jesus Rewrites Scripture and So Can We.”  Looking at the scriptures from Matthew 5 where Jesus says things like, “You have heard it said…but I say…” Gafney reminds us that Rabbi Jesus is interpreting the scriptures as he teaches.

She adds: “Jesus is our example in all things. He is out teacher, our rabbi. We are to do what he did to the best of our ability. In this case, that means we are to wrestle with scripture, wrestle with the meaning, and when necessary, wrestle a blessing out of it, which means wrestling with those bruising passages that have been used to hurt us and so many others. That includes some of today’s lesson, verses of which have been used to keep folk in unsafe marriages, or ostracize other marriages, even in church.”

A longing for perfection leads Rachael Keefe to reflect on her lack of singing ability, and then to realize that the desire to sing is part of a deeper issue.  She shares with us that “It was the desire to be perfect that was my personal demon. If I’m honest, it still is on occasion. During my teen years, I was so enamored with the idea of perfection that I nearly traded my life for it. I was driven by the idea that if I were perfect, then I would not feel pain and I would be loved.”

In a stable job, we long for room to be creative.  As freelancers, we long for stability.  MaryAnn McKibben Dana explores the different joys of being, as she calls it, “a free-range pastor.”  For anyone pondering a change of vocation, she says, “I love my quirky unofficial parish. I’ve been called upon to pastor people in a whole range of settings: walking the kids home from school with a gaggle of parents, via Facebook message, and even while running—trying to explain the Reformation while running a hilly eleven-miler was a special challenge.”

What are you longing for in these February days?  Let us know, and share your hopes, in the comments section below.

 

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Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Festival: Storytelling

The annual RevGalBlogPals’ Big Event (BE 10) has just concluded, with this year’s program on storytelling led by Casey FitzGerald.

Sidebar: If you’re a member of RevGalBlogPals and you’ve not yet attended a BE, make a note somewhere on your Summer 2017 calendar with this reminder to yourself: “Register for BE 11!” and plan to attend the 2018 Big Event.

go-and-tell-by-marci

photo/meme by Marci Glass

To continue BE 10’s storytelling theme, here are stories currently being told across our RevGalBlogPals’ blogging network:

+ Kathy of God of the Sparrow wonders if it’s time to learn to be a risk-taker, as she reflects on growing up “under my skittish grandmother’s care … she gave us each only one skate, fearing that to skate on two would land us face down on the pavement.”

+ Aileen of Aileen Goes On is sharing her stories of depression, beginning in the early years: “The first memory I have of profound sadness…begins on one unforgettably horrible night in 1971.”

+ Derek of Tales from the Great Adventure tells the story of a recent moment in an adult Sunday School class: “A couple introduced themselves this way: ‘We’ve been church members since around 2006,’ they said; ‘disciples for the past year.’”

+ Cindy of The LaJoy Family shares a beautiful appreciation that she received from her sons, and she reflects: “We don’t often think of people as sanctuaries, and yet we have all had them. … I can’t help but wonder if what we really need is not a ‘safe place’, but for each of us to step up and be Sanctuary People for others.”

+ Kimberly at Consider the Lilies gives thanks for the voice of a good book “that calls to the reader, perhaps makes the mind move in ways it almost but not quite moves on its own, or proposes something totally other, adding depth, perspective, new swaths of horizon, to the ways in which a reader things, creates, acts.” Which prompts the question: What books’ voices are accompanying your life these days?

Have a personal story you’ve blogged recently? Add a link in the comments. Provoked by one of these stories and inspired to share your own? Tell your story in the comments and offer your appreciation on the blogs linked above.

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Friday Festival: Something to Hold onto

''Tis the season to ponder the season. Really.

”Tis the season to ponder the season. Really.

With Advent beginning on Sunday, many church pastors (and ministers of various vocations & locations) find themselves in a last-minute scramble: for liturgies, for volunteers, for calm, for inspiration, for endurance, for comfort. Around the RevGalBlogPals’ network, our blogging colleagues offer reminders and prayers that give us something to hold onto as we step into this holy season.

+ Be Thou My Vision centers us in prayer: “Let us remember how love has blessed us in our lives, and let go of discontent and rancor.”

+ Sometimes in the holiday rush of church life, our personal lives suffer from a lack time & intentionality. Liberation Theology Lutheran encourages us with practical reminders, such as: “Make a budget before you buy a thing.”

+ The holidays do not guarantee glad tidings for all; many of us experience interpersonal strain during holiday seasons. Michelle Torigian offers this prayer: “Through the radical acceptance of Christ, may we open tables that have been closed, add seats that have been taken away, and may the food multiply as our meal-sharing grows.”

+ Write Out of Left Field urges our spirits toward Advent courage: “It’s easy to get lost in the swords and spears and wars. We can easily give in and let bleak despair fill us. Advent is a time to raise our heads and look for God’s steadfast presence and take up the work of peacemaking and justice-seeking.”

What wisdom are you holding onto this Advent? What resources are you still seeking for your ministry setting? What good news keeps your heart & mind encouraged through the busyness of the season? Share your thoughts, your blogpost links, your requests, your prayers in the comments.


Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Friday Festival: Shiny! And Other Distractions

Need a little distraction to your day? Me too. Check out some recent blogposts of RevGals & Pals around the web, and enjoy their good words of — oh look, shiny!

I recommend starting with earthworms, male seahorses
and Greenland, courtesy of Aileen Goes On.

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Looking for an earworm to occuy your thoughts?
Derek of Faith & Thinkology can hook you up
with some familiar lyrics … as well as
discussion ideas on hymns.

Have you heard the one about how to eat
an elephant? Michelle of Quantum Theology
shares her method for writing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of eating elephants, Mags Blackie
offers some similar encouragement about
how to acknowledge and sit with anger.

Rosa of Las Puertas Abiertas de Par en Par
shares the bravery of roses;
maybe you need that courage too.

Have your own distractions, reflections, or writing to share? Add your thoughts and/or blogpost links in the comments! Be sure to read the full text of the above links too, and show some love to these colleagues by leaving a comment on their original posts.


Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Wednesday Festival: Standing in the Need of Prayer

This week, the words of friends & colleagues & strangers from across the RevGalBlogPals’ webring knit themselves together to hold each and all in prayer and to encourage our faithfulness in living:

O God, the great Creator of all that is,
the Lord of life and love,
we give you thanks for all of your goodness.
(from April Yamasaki)

Teach us to reveal your holy, tender love
throughout all we do and say:
open our hearts like children to your wisdom.
(from Be Thou My Vision)

May light rest within [our] words
as air is within the balloon.
(from Consider the Lilies)

[Hear] us when we cry out,
when we are silent, and
when we use groanings too deep for words.
(from matterofprayer)

Make our breath today
a giving and receiving of love.
(from Janet Salbert)

Amen.

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Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ (US) minister, soccer mom, blogger, and author. Her book Sacred Pause plays with words to refresh our relationship with The Word.
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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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March Meet-n-Greet

IMG_4783Here in northwest suburban Chicago, March has come in like a lion, with snow and roaring winds and temperatures up and down and all around.

Which makes it the perfect time to settle in to check out some new blog-ring members! Today we have a festival of Lees…or Leighs…

 

 

 

Take a moment of your March, whether it is lion or lamb, and visit:

Lee and Leigh!

Lee is blogging at “Notes from One Lee Botha: theology meets daily grind meets geek meets coffee.” She’s a Presbyterian young adult, seminary graduate, writing beautiful weekly devotions for the season.

Leigh is writing at “Finding A Way,” which began as a Lenten discipline/devotion last year, and this year has blossomed into a multi-seasonal reflection space. She is a pastor in the United Church of Christ.

 

Welcome to our new Lee/Leighs! We are glad you are here! I look forward to reading your writing in days and months and years to come.

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Wednesday Festival: For Love of Words

“Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.”
E. B. White, as quoted in Microstyle

I love language. Love. It.

I’m fascinated by what language can accomplish, intrigued by what we can do with words and by what words can do to/with us. There’s music in the spoken word, art in the written word, dance in the signed word. In words I test and examine my faith, turn it around and reshape it, build a ladder out of consonants and vowels to try to get to God, listen for the vibration of syllables that resonate in my soul. I just … yeah, I seriously geek out over language.

Marketing consultant & linguist Christopher Johnson wrote in his book Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little, “When people relax and get playful with language, they dip their toes into poetry without even knowing it” (134). I feel the same way about faith and the Church: when we relax, when we shake loose our shoulders that have been drawn high to our ears in tension over orthodoxy and salvation and institutional survival, when we smile and play and wonder, then we begin to make poetry in our spirits and in our faith communities.

Scrolling through the recent posts around our blogging community — in these days when pastors are fatigued but digging deep to craft a meaningful Advent/Christmas season; in these days when the world’s fears are incited continually by politicians; in these days when the open wound of racism continues to take its toll on Black and brown bodies — I found in my scrolling that the poetry & playfulness of blogpost titles were a boon to the spirit. The lilt of alliteration. The juxtaposition of words. The suggestion of a story. Titles that tease and titles that think. Words that invite and words that dream.

Maybe the word thing is just me. Yet I pray this feast of words will shake loose your stressed & weary spirit:

Soup Season

Recipes and Cookie Cutters

On Standing and Flying

Of Faith and Faeries

How to Talk Back to Jesus and Win

False Kindness

Life Lessons from a Scout Labradoodle

It’s Not Really about the Waffles After All…

Back to the Garden

Freckles and Short-Shorts

Have a blogpost title of your own that particularly pleases you? Have some dancing words to share? Join the festival and share your blogpost link in the comments!

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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