Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday Five: Blogroll Spotlight

Revgals was quite late in getting out its Friday Five so I am doing a Saturday special. --Muthah+
Mary Beth writes: On my blog sidebar is a list titled, "Blogs I Read Every Day." After my mother became a blogger, she asked me how I could possibly read that many blogs daily!? I had to confess it then: Okay, I don't read them all every day! I have over 100 on there! But I have favorites, and you do too.
Some of you probably use feed readers to let you know when your favorite bloggers have posted...not me, not yet. I just have folks who are part of my day-to-day.

So for today's Friday Five, give us five blogs you visit regularly, and tell us briefly WHY you like them. These can be RevGal and Pal bloggers and others ... or news sites, knitting sites, etc. Who are you showing the love to on a pretty constant basis?

Hopefully we will all get to know some new bloggy friends this way!

My blog sites (and they are relatively few) that I read regularly are mainly to keep me up with what is going on in the Episcopal Church while I work in the ELCA. Since I cannot join in on the “internal politics of Lutherlandia, I mainly keep up with ELCA issues through contact with my Lutheran colleagues at local ministeriums, or bible studies.

1. Far and away the most intriguing and challenging daily walk with my church and my faith comes from my friend Elizabeth Kaeton. She is deeply immersed in TEC but mostly deeply immersed in Jesus Christ. She helps me deal with LGBT issues that I would not have thought of, she looks at political issues through the eyes of faith, she is funky and fun and one of the best story tellers I know. She is faithful to her daily sharing and I usually can’t wait to see what she has come up with that day. I feel privileged to call her my friend.

2. Katie Sherrod’s Keeps me up with the goings on in the Diocese of Ft. Worth, TX. She is a mild, mannered reporter (NOT!) from my home town who tells it like it is. She has been the sole voice from that diocese that has been worth listening to for the past 30 years. It has been her single voice saying No to those who would separate the diocese from TEC that has helped those in the diocese keep fixed on faith through all the machinations of the past leadership there. She is the Molly Ivins of the Episcopal Church and I try not to miss her ‘column.’

3. Mark Harris from TEC’s Executive Committee writes a good blog that keeps me up on what is current in the TEC. Mark was one of J’s classmates so his hermeneutic is a known quantity. The fact that he can write well doesn’t hurt either.

4. Madpriest’s is the single most zany, ribald, snarky, irreverent Anglican blog I know. For the photoshopping alone this blog is worth it. There is a population of bloggers who visit there that I enjoy and sometimes follow. His ‘amurika’ following stay up with ‘mother church’ and remind the MadOne that we are a single people separated by a common language.

5. And finally, Fran is a Roman Catholic struggling to stay faithful to her heritage and loving her church when the leadership does so much to tear at the fabric of the faith. I know her struggle and I am startled with the depth of her loyalty in the midst of inanity. She has been willing to find Christ in the many different denominations found in the blogosphere. She is preaching a gospel of inclusion that is so silent in the RCC these days. Good on yer, Fran!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Five: Mid-Lent Check-In

Sophia at Rev Gals has come up with a tough Friday Five. It is tough because I am afraid I have not been very good about my Lenten observance this year. It is time to get back at it. At least I didn’t have dessert with lunch today!

The pastor of my grad school parish once gave a fascinating reflection, at about this mid-point in the season, called "How to Survive the Mid-Lent Crisis"! As I recall, his main point was that by halfway through the season we have often found it very challenging to live up to our original plans....But, he suggested--on the analogy of the healing and reframing of our life plans that can happen during a mid-*life* crisis--that that can be even more fruitful.

So here's an invitation to check in on the state of your spirit midway through "this joyful season where we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed" (Roman Missal). Hopefully there's a good deal of grace, and not too much crisis, in your mid-Lenten experience!

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
I try to give up sweets most Lents because they are so difficult for me to avoid. At least during Lent I have an excuse when someone offers me some tidbit that adds to my girth. I also try to take on some kind of study. This year I have not only taken on the book of Revelation, but I have been preparing to teach the Gospels as a part of a Deacons’ training program.

2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?

Sophia has reminded me to get back on track with my sweet abstinence—limiting sweets to Sundays only. The study part has been absolutely exhilarating.

3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?

I have begun to be much more creative in understanding the difference between “once-born Christians” and “twice-born Christians”. I am working on an article for my blog on the vantage point of these two groups.

4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?

I need to find a bit more time to be quiet. But on the whole, things seem to be going quite well. I still have some planning to do for Holy Week but the broad outlines are in place.

5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?

There are a few places: I would like to see some resurrection in house cleaning. I long to see some resurrection within the Anglican Communion, especially around the issues of human sexuality. The pronouncements of the Archbishop of Nigeria are positively obscene.

Bonus: Share a favorite scripture, prayer, poem, artwork, or musical selection that speaks Lenten spring to your heart.

“Be not afraid.” This scriptural admonition is found always when God is doing something awesome in Scripture. At the moment, my life is going along quite nicely. God is speaking in the rather exciting Bible study and Church History studying I am doing. But I am a bit too comfortable. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, sort of. At the same time I am giving thanks for the calmness of my life. Part of me is in denial about the losses in my retirement account. But I refuse to worry about such things. Things are just things—and money is just a thing. Part of me tells me that I am being foolish, but the other part of me wants to truly trust in God.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sermon Lent 2 Cross of Glory

You have made public profession of your faith. Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God's faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?(ELW)

Last week, on the first Sunday of Lent we renewed our baptismal vows. Sometimes it is good to remember how we got into this Christian life and so I am taking the promises made at our baptism as the theme for Lent. Also the Lenten readings work quite well into this baptismal covenant we have made. Today we center on “to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper.”

Our reading from Genesis is the story of Abram and Sarai, a couple who have come to know God as the only God. Abram is an old man and has no heir. Yet they are granted a child even in their old age. God promises them that their descendents will rival the stars in the skies. The covenant they make with God calls for Abram and Sarai to worship God. As a sign of their covenant, their names are changed from Abram, meaning ‘exalted father’ to Abraham meaning “father of nations”. Sarai comes from the same word for law in Hebrew. It meant that she had control of the household, but her name was changed to Sarah, which meant “princess”. She was to become the mother of the tribes of Israel. Change in the name in Hebrew culture always meant a powerful change in one’s life. One lived out the reality of one’s name. If one was named Joshua—it meant “God saves.” If you were named “scoundrel” you usually were one.

Baptism too, changes our lives, gives us our name to live out. Do you know what your name means? Mine means ‘victory’ and ‘grace.’ I don’t know that I have lived out the grace part too well but I do feel like my life is a victory. Our names are the sign of our covenant with the God who loves us and claims us as God’s own. We embrace the same covenant that Abraham and Sarah promised—to listen to God, to worship God and to live our lives respecting others and God’s creation.

This covenant is not merely some rules to obey. This covenant is a way of life with God at the center of our lives. It is a change in orientation and a giving of ourselves to love as God has loved us. Our baptismal promises call us to hear God’s word and to share in the Lord’s Supper. We are baptized into the life of Jesus who came to share with humanity the reality of God. We come to church to hear the Word and celebrate signs of God’s presence to us in Christ Jesus. These are aspects of life we really can’t get anywhere else. We can see those sacraments in other things in life but only after we have had the experience of them in the sacred setting of our faith. It is hard to see Christ in every glass of wine we drink until we have had years of sharing the wine in the liturgy of the Church. We have a hard time hearing God in the words of political leaders, our teachers, our friends and family if we have not had the practice of listen to God in the words of Scripture, the exposition of sermons and the sharing of faith.

I have told you before that I heard Alec Baldwin say that he went to church nearly every Sunday because he wanted to hear what “professional thinkers” had to say. At first, I was kind of interested in that term “professional thinker”’. But I don’t think that that is what is important about sermons and church attendance. What church attendance does for us is help us recognize God when God comes into our lives.
No, I do not believe that God only happens in church. No, I don’t think that sacraments (the outward and visible sign of God’s grace) happen only in the religious setting. Life is much too full of God’s manifestation than that. But most of the time we are not prepared to see God’s presence. Church gives us the practiced eye so that we can see Baptism in each shower and each confession or Holy Communion in each cup of coffee we share with someone we love or are striving to love. It is this practice in church that we vow at our Baptism so that we can be prepared for the coming of Christ in each moment of our lives.

We hear in today’s Gospel reading that Peter tried to get Jesus to quit talking about his death. Jesus is quite harsh. He calls him Satan—the tempter. Peter is like many of us when someone is speaking of hard things. We want to ignore the tough things in life, to discount them. It is called denial.

God does not want us to live in denial. Our faith is not designed to keep us from all the things that are painful. God’s job is not to keep us from harm. God’s covenant with is to be there when things do go wrong. Jesus understood that his journey would put him in opposition to the powers of his day. He knew his faith was what would carry him through, but it would not circumvent the eventual confrontation with the power of evil. For Jesus to have accepted Peter’s trivialization of the suffering that he was going to endure would have denied the ultimate encounter with his Father. In order for us to recognize Christ in our suffering we must be familiar with the word of God and we need to be supported by the sacraments.

At the same time we are confronting evil, we must be willing to embrace the peace with which Jesus went to the Cross. The call of a Christian is not to be defeated by evil, but to stand peacefully against the powers that would make selfishness, greed, dominance, rigidity, and death the end of human civilization. We stand against such things with the knowledge and faith that God will overcome those things in us. If we deny these confrontations, we become inured to the power of evil. Then evil can triumph. It is only through confrontation with the evil in our lives that we grow in holiness and righteousness. It is only when we triumph over it do we get any hint of what the resurrection means.

Like Jesus, we who call ourselves Christians stand trusting that God will triumph over the evil in our lives. This does not mean that we do not have to face it. The meaning of the word and sacraments of the Church is that we have accepted the support that such grace gifts us with so that we can face the events and temptations that are in our path. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The happen to the bad people too. But because we are made capable of handling them by grace, we are not defeated by them.

God covenants with us not to save us from ourselves. God has entered into a relationship with us because we are loved. We are cherished but not overly protected. God does not smother us. We must meet the tough things in our lives armed with the word and sacrament of our faith so that we too can love.

When I am threatened, I am one of those who whose first inclination is to fight rather than flee. Many, I know, are more likely to run or avoid. In either case, we are called by God by our baptism to stand—to neither fight nor flee –to stand and love.

Friday night J. and I went to hear Joan Baez, the great folk singer and peace advocate. I came home and read her biography on Google. Both her grandfathers were clergy. Her father was a nuclear physicist who refused to be a part of the atomic bomb development in the ‘40’s and who suffered from the fervor of McCarthyism in the ‘50’s. Many of Joan’s songs speak of the struggle to create peace: To stand in opposition to those who would dominate, who would coerce others. In that standing-room only theater I listened to a group of people much my own age listen to a woman who has been singing these songs for over 50 years. We cheered and applauded the songs of struggle knowing that we are not winning the battle but stood trusting that God was. She ended the evening with that whole auditorium with Amazing Grace. Thousands of voices, I would guess most of them not church goers, raised and harmonized that humble hymn of an ex-slave trader who understood that it was God who saves us from the evil of our lives. It was a prayer of hope. It was a prayer for peace. It was a recognition that it is through the cross that we come to know resurrection and it is through the cross that we will know glory. But we cannot avoid the confrontation and be faithful.

I would invite you this week to think of the temptation to take the easy path by denying the suffering in your life. I would ask you to offer to God your sorrow for diverting yourself from God’s path. I would also ask you to reflect on the times you have stood for peace, justice and love and thank the grace of the Word, Jesus Christ. This is the daily journey of our lives as a people of the Covenant. It is the stuff that glory is made of. AMEN.

Friday Five: Hasty Pudding Edition

I have gotten a late start on this Friday Five. Revgals was late in posting it and last night J and I went to hear Joan Baez. Sooo wonderful!

Our regular poster, Sally, having been oppressed by Blogger today, I bring you a hasty Friday Five on the subject of pudding. If you are not a fan of pudding, then you will feel solidarity with Sally, except that you will be oppressed by pudding instead. ;-)

1) First of all, thumbs up? or thumbs down? Do you like pudding?

I am not much of a pudding person. I do like rice pudding upon occasion. The kind of pudding I like is Yorkshire pudding which isn’t sweet at all.

2) Instant or cooked? (Does anyone make pudding from scratch?)

If I am pressed into a sweet pudding, mine comes from a box. Yorkshire pudding is made from scratch (recipe below)

3) If you had to choose, would you prefer corn pudding or figgy pudding?

I don’t like either one. We used to have a figgy pudding and plum pudding on Christmas day more for the sake of tradition than anything else. It generally was a mail order acquisition, I think, from relatives in the Midwest. We eventually went with pie as I got older.

4) Have you ever finger painted with pudding?

Can’t say that I ever did. Food was not something you played with in our house. It was too scarce.

5) Finally, what is the matter with Mary Jane?

I don’t know this poem. I don’t remember having difficulty eating anything but canned peas so I seldom had a problem at the table. The expectation was that you had to eat “three Girl Scout bites.” I don’t know where the Girl Scouts got into the mix but it would shame me enough to eat the damned 3 mouthfuls to move on. Oh, yeah, I got the ‘starving children in China or Armenia’ story but not often.

Bonus: Share a favorite recipe that includes pudding!

Traditionally this pudding was in lieu of potatoes. It was served with roast beef and gravy. It was and still is a holiday treat in our family. It was rare to have a roast of beef so it made the day even more festive.

Yorkshire pudding
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 eggs
• 3/4 cup milk
• 1/2 cup pan drippings from roast prime rib of beef
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift together the flour and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until light and foamy. Stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Pour the drippings into a 9-inch pie pan, cast iron skillet, or square baking dish. Put the pan in oven and get the drippings smoking hot. Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour in the batter. Put the pan back in oven and cook until puffed and dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with gravy instead of potatoes. Some people make these like popovers in muffin or popover tins but we always had a metal pan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A group of women in the congregation are discussing the book, The Friendship of Women by Joan Chittister. I had wanted to give this book to them at Christmas time but they didn’t come in time. For the past year I have found myself looking forward to this group of women, most of whom are older than I. They have become friends—that special people that give life and meaning to our lives.

Friendship is an interesting thing. I have long found that women are more likely to have friendships outside of their marriages. My 96 year old mother’s best friend who is 95 misses each other terribly now that Mom has had to move to an assisted living facility. They cannot hear each other on the telephone anymore. Mom can’t see or speak, but when I talk of Mary K. her face lights up and then there is a look of great sadness on her face.
That friendship began when they had just moved to the same town in 1949. For 50 years they have shared each other’s joys and sorrows. They both had difficulties in their families and I am sure that they shared at the deepest levels.

Over the almost 30 years of ministry I have had, I have found that women depend upon their women friends. We are allowed to have friendships much more than men. I have always thought that it was probably of the nature of women to have close friends. But Chittister’s book explodes that myth.

In Roman times, friendship was considered the greatest acts of the human soul. In fact, it was thought that women were incapable of the deepest friendship that men had. Today however, I find that straight men are often bereft of the deep abiding companionship except for those who are friends with their wives. Male friendship is rare in an age when any companion is considered a sexual partner. What a sad commentary on our society!

“Cicero, the great Roman orator, wrote his classic essay “On Friendship” not as a tribute to personal affection, but as a final attempt to save the failing republic of Rome from the encroaching monarch and dictatorship by reviving democratic networks that rested on shared ideals, on personal relationships.” (Chittister p. xv)

I wonder if it isn’t about time that we start affirming friendship all around. It there is anything that is necessary in the renewal of the Church, the renewal of our democracy, the renewal of families; it is when the great value of friendship is raised up. The trust needed to make our human institutions work must begin in the trust that is learned in close friendships. It is the glue that makes society stick together and respect one another.