Friday, April 25, 2008

An Old Versus Modern (Postmodern?) Friday Five

Friday, April 25, 2008

Singing Owl writes:
Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on.

As for the questions!

1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live

The microwave- hands down winner!!

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day?

The Blue tooth ear clip. They look weird and people are talking and you don't realize it is not to you. People don't think twice about answering even in church. Like it is the Holy Spirit on Line 2. I could go on but I think I will stop the rant now.

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If
so, do you use it (them)?

We still have a cassette player and a turntable. And yes. My mother in law still has an 8 track player.
My parents have a Victrola.

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or something

I think it is a mix. We have made quantum leaps in medicine and technology, and yet we now also have more ways to not be available to others. Caller ID, email, voicemail, IM, text and GPS directions are all ways of cutting us off from the connections of personal communication and contact.

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain? Bonus
points if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process.

The ability to write a really great letter and the ability to sit on the porch in a rocker with a cool drink and a friend, instead of ratcheting up the AC and powering up the on demand TV. Both of these we can still do. But they require a friend who is willing to play along.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Taking it on the Road

Tomorrow I preach for the last time in the Country Parish. They are still stuck between those who want to preserve a kind of special club and those who want to reach out. They have met about it. Including a meeting where someone said that maybe people would be more motivated if they could see how, based upon average giving, how many members would equal how many dollars. Sigh. I pray for them, for the pastor and the for future. But tomorrow I preach on John 14: 1-11. And in two weeks we will part ways.

I have a confession to make. I am directionally challenged. Give me somewhere new to go and I will probably get lost, even with a map. I am not even good at folding maps back up either. My husband will tell you that if left to my own devices, at an intersection where I have to decide which way to go, my first instinct is .. probably wrong. Even with directions. The best example of this is told in my first trip from Pittsburgh to Michael’s family home in Palmyra. He gave me directions, but I did not listen fully, or at least I didn’t get the significance of what he told me. SO when I got to Hershey, the road splits into 322 or 422. I remembered there would be a split. I knew what I would see after the split. But which road?
So I took 322, which after the Medical Center in those days was pretty much field after field. I drove for a pretty long time I thought and I didn’t see what I was looking for soon enough. I must have it wrong. So.. I drove back to the split. I tried 422 which took me through Palmdale, and then Hershey, but where was Palmyra? Eventually I thought maybe I had it wrong again. So I drove back to the split and got on 322 again decided I just needed to keep driving. I was looking for Forge Road. So I drove and drove and finally got to a cluster of houses and a Gulf gas station in a village called Leeds Corner. I decided I needed help. I pulled in, went inside and said I was looking for “Forge Road in Palmyra.”
Imagine the amusement of the man who politely comes out and without much effort pointed about a block’s distance away- “It’s right there.” Just to make this even more amusing, I had missed the entire town of Palmyra (thousands of people) and ended up in Leed’s Corner, population 22. If only I had paid more attention and then had trust and belief in what I was told. It was right there, in front of me. I sure am glad someone showed me the way.
In today’s lesson the disciples are having some trouble with directions and belief too. Jesus is saying goodbyes and tying up loose ends, speaking of going to prepare a place for them, and how great it will be. I half expect he will then ride off into the sunset, and the movie credits will start to roll.
Which is why I love Thomas and Phillip in this story. They ask the questions we want to ask. “How can we know the way?” “Can’t you just give us a sign?” They too were struggling to read the map and understand the directions. Maybe Jesus assumed his closest followers got it by now, but their faith is stuck in neutral. They still don’t see that he is not just “from” God, He is God.
I am sure they felt awkward. But then, Jesus shifts gears and begins to give the disciples a pep talk, to build up their confidence and faith. “Do not be troubled” really doesn’t quite fully express what Jesus is saying. “Don’t stress out” “Do not be in turmoil” “Don’t fall into a state of confusion” are more like it. Jesus knows the disciples will face anxiety, doubt, and fears that are real and fear of the unknown. Sound familiar?
And they will be without his physical presence- they will feel isolated. They will feel that their faith, so easy to express in the abstract, is suddenly much more complicated in a time of testing. We’ve all faced these moments- moments far more trying than getting lost in Leed’s Corner. Maybe even times when it seems like it will all unravel, or it actually has, not just as individuals, but as a community of believers. When with Thomas and Phillip we say, “How can we know the way? Just show me a sign.”
Jesus says- “I am the way.” The way to salvation, because Jesus walked the way of the cross. But this story is not just about the great hereafter, but the way for us in this life as well. Jesus is the way of truth and life. The way of understanding- Understanding how to live in relationship with God and with each other. The gospel is for us-here and now.
We are probably all here today because someone showed us the way, not with the map or the GPS, but that this way of life is the key to life. Maybe it was our parents, or a friend or a co-worker. For each of us, someone was that man at the gas station who could tell us that what we needed was RIGHT HERE.
But after that, why have we stayed? Perhaps after those first experiences, our belief has deepened. We became more in tune with God’s message. Perhaps for some of us, the road has wound through crisis that has shaped us. Times where we asked again- how will I find the way? Show me a sign. And God was revealed to us, in the Word, in the sacraments, maybe a service of healing. But also in the deeds of the fellow travelers here who asked how we were, prayed for us and with us. Who have rejoiced and cried, celebrated and supported, who remind us to believe. This is THE LIFE- the life Jesus talks about for the here and now before we are reunited with all of the saints.
When I first came here over seven months ago, I was pretty nervous, although, thanks to Norbert, I did not get lost. But I didn’t know any of you. I didn’t even know my way in the building. Jean, you showed me. Over time I came to get to know pretty many of you pretty well. To learn how proud you are of this place- the preschool, the addition, your history and your wonderful fellowship. That last part is the reason I need to go on a diet. And many of you have shared your stories and your lives. But in my time here you all showed me another step in the way- the way of a believer. Even though I wasn’t “from here” we each have learned some things from each other. This is the LIFE.

But today we hear not just of our own lives and call to belief. This is important, but it’s just the first step. Jesus also say believers ( that’s us) will do miraculous deeds. Even greater than Jesus did. How can this be? Without stealing all of the thunder of Pentecost, Jesus is here foretelling that day. The time of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who will fill the disciples. And these same confused disciples will, by the power of the Spirit bring more people to believe in that one day than in all of Jesus’ ministry. But this was just the start.
These “greater deeds” are a continuing vision, and in fact a call for all of the believers. The imperfect and reluctant believers were and are the ones chosen to carry on the mission. The mission of evangelism.
But how will we do this? In addition to the Scriptures, Jesus tells us how we can in fact do these great deeds. “ Whatever you ask in my name, I will do.” We will do this by the power of prayer.
Maybe we need guidance- ask
Maybe we need understanding for people not like us- ask
Maybe we need the energy to do one more thing in our busy world-ask.
Whatever you ask for the work of God’s kingdom, your prayers WILL be answered.
But then we must take one more step and do. Jesus says, “Believe in me.” We need to take our plan out of these doors and back onto the road. Maybe this sounds hard. But remember that all of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection says something even greater- “I BELIEVE IN YOU. And I call you to help others. Don’t be afraid. Believe.”
This is our calling, for all of us who make up Luther’s “ministry of all believers.” We all know people out there on the road of life who don’t know the way, or who have gotten lost. Whose lives are full of the turmoil and crisis we know Jesus can calm. People seeking some grain of truth, looking for a sign, hoping for life. Who can be not just fellow members, but fellow disciples.
We know the way, the truth and the life. God has spoken and through each of us, God is speaking still. So .. what are we waiting for? The key is in the ignition and the tank is full. We’ve got a map and message that can’t be beat. ( Hold up Bible) . It’s time to take the story on the road! Amen

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Viva Pentecost

Thanks to those who have offered words of encouragement. It is with great joy that I can report that the bilingual baptism, holy communion worship re-enactment went really well! We challenged ourselves as a group to take on the task of integrating an Anglo/Hispanic marriage as a springboard to the parents have joined the church and want their new son baptised by the almost exclusively older, traditional congregation located in the changing neighborhood. We not only had the parents from Mexico attending, we had the madrina y padrino, the godparents, and congregational sponsors at the font. After lots of struggles over how to be appropriate to contexts, thinking about how far we could move the congregation and yet allow every to embrace this, I focused upon the fact our service was to take place on Pentecost. I read the statements in English, immediately followed by Spanish and then collectively the respondents or congregation, responded in either language. We prepared people in the bulletin, in the announcements before the service and right before the congregation would be joining in.
Here is what I used to help them embrace this-

Today is a special day- today is the festival day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples who were called to make disciples of all nations. We will be carrying out this vision of Pentecost this day as we add a new member to the body of Christ.
Today we will baptize Emilio Bautista Edwards, the son of Michael and Marielena Edwards who recently joined this congregation. We are thrilled to have Marielena’s family and the Sanchezes, who will be Emilio’s godparents, here with us today from Mexico.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples began to speak in many languages at once by the power of the Spirit. Today we will experience a small part of what this was like. So that everyone may fully participate in the joy of the baptism, we will be using English and Spanish. For your responses, including the creed, you will hear me speak in English, then our Assisting Minister Jack will speak in Spanish and then you will be invited to respond either in English or Spanish together. I will motion to you that it is time to respond. I know this will feel different but we encourage you to allow yourselves to picture the Pentecost time and also know that we are embracing all present here today.

I also obtained a fair trade Peruvian stole which was mainly red but with the many bright colors woven together that are common for that culture. In my abbreviated sermon, I thanked the "family" for giving it to me. Not only did the stole represent the fire of Pentecost, but in all of the many colors, we can see that though we may seem different, in our baptism we are all bound together in the body of Christ.

It was a wonderful, albeit stress-creating project. I hope to do it again in an actual setting someday.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Running the Gauntlet

My fellow seminarian calls this time running the gauntlet. I have a Systematic theology paper (done); a paper on two of Luther's works (done); a complete exegetical analysis of a Matthew text, including narrative, form, redaction, text, sociohistorical criticism of my tranlation with sermon (done). Preaching this coming Sunday in Teaching parish ( sermon done).
This week I am stressing about our group project on Wednesday to enact an entire service with an infant baptism, bilingual, in a traditional congregation with an east wall altar, which includes Communion. I am the presider.
But I still have a paper for my Worship class, a paper for a preaching class on Matthew's Christology, a final paper about my teaching parish, another sermon for my preaching class, and an integrative project for my Gospels class. And these need be done by April 28th. Then I get two take home exams due the following week for Reformations and Systematic Theology.
Plenty to do. But I can still laugh and especially at myself. I was leading morning prayer at the seminary and I intended to say a prayer that begin with..
"Lord, wherever two or three of us are gathered.."
But in my mind, I converted to the way this phrase reads in the Bible, so it came out-
"Lord, wherever two or three of YOU are gathered."
No good way to fix it, so I just kept moving.
But I am not, for the record, polytheistic.
Instead of being embarassed, I wanted to laugh at myself in the service.
I wonder if this ever happens to others?
I hope God, ( and all the other gods;) ) laugh too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Remembering To Live Life

Lately I have not been blogging because there is a veritable mountain of stuff to get done in the next couple of weeks. One group project has been dominating alot of time and I had to stay over the other night so we could practice in the chapel at night. I am generally territorial about time on campus versus time with the family. Being at school five days a week and away on Sundays and needing to do work on Saturdays, I struggle with how my family sees me at all. Add a couple needy group members who always lose every copy of every paper and "seem" to have complicated schedules, and it is hard to maintain a pleasant disposition. My "crash room" was great as they go, and friends on the floor are a plus. I did not have to share my bed with a snoring dog or spouse. I had the space all to myself. It was SO quiet.

When I came home, I realized yet again, that the drone of bickering teenage girls, fighting for the shower, the dog under my feet in the kitchen and having to create a quick meal that can get a "that was good" - IS GOOD. The other day I bought a new washer and did not get the super sized model because- in a couple of years the girls will be in college.

Next Sunday I am preaching from the Johannine text about "I am the way, the truth and the life." Much of that sermon is about the way, but today I am thinking about the life. So often we put off things for some other time when we will have more or less of something. Just like the early believers who were busy waiting for Jesus to come back, that someone has to say- wait, life starts now!

So I was already thinking about all of this, when I read an article and ended up visiting the website for a CMU professor Randy Pausch who was asked to give a "Last Lecture" which a chance for a professor to give the " everything you wanted to say" lecture. In the midst of this planning, he learned he is terminally and incurably ill with pancreatic cancer. So this really is the last lecture. This is his website. You can watch the full lecture or some shorter versions as well as learn about a print version of this lecture.

I do not know anything about this man and what role faith may play for him. But I urge you to check this out. Whether it is papers, or work stresses or trying to keep track of the schedules on the refrigerator, or whatever it may be, Life really is here and now amidst all that God has provided. Today, I went to look for my favorite birds on campus and to wonder that all God has done and is doing. I encourage you to do the same and to give thanks for the life that is now.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Enough Already!

I often get to listen to various "news" channels on my sojourn to and from LTSG. Today I heard something I found very disturbing. Since the media refuse to let the Jeremiah Wright story die, there has been reporting upon how the story will not die, and the effects of this upon Rev. Wright and his former flock at Trinity United Church. I became livid when I heard...
Reporters trying to interview people as they came to the church to worship, staking out space in the parking lot.
Then I became more piqued when I heard that reporters used the list of hospitalized and shut-ins to make contacts for interviews with members.
As if that was not enough, reporters "snuck" into services and tried to interview people worshipping- DURING the worship services.
AND just in case all of that was insufficient to get you feeling a little antagonistic, this was DURING HOLY WEEK SERVICES!
All of this was reported by a perky CNN reporter who opened her report by telling us she had asked and was given permission to report on this from the sanctuary where she dramatically noted the very pulpit from which Reverend Wright delivered his controversial sermons. OOOoooh! See it LIVE!
The comment from the anchor at CNN was something like, "Gee I am sure the members of the church had a rough time." Oozing with sincerity.
This rant brought to you by one "church person" who thinks the sanctity of worship, any one's worship should not be destroyed for "Film at 11"
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program...