Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Grocery shopping during the Thanksgiving season, especially the day before Thanksgiving is a major chore. Thanks be to God I got most of mine done on Monday. The required turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, etc are set out so that everyone can see them. But for some reason they are not on the shelf where I can find them the rest of the year. I am so used to ignoring the “special displays” that I can’t find what I need. All I have to pick up now is ice cream and flowers.

We are having over 4 women friends. This is going to be a “hen Thanksgiving” and I am looking forward to it. Nothing is too different when the group is all women except that half the group is not in front of the TV watching the traditional football rivalries. Such a group is usually missing family but we enjoy the chance to tell funny stories, argue politics without being shouted down and try out our favorite recipes with each other.

I think I want to ask everyone at the table to name what they are thankful for during the prayer before dinner. I am always thankful for my congregation and the Church. I am thankful for a warm home and good health. I am thankful that I have friends who come and help J and I celebrate the feast. But I have prayers for friends who have died this past week and other friends who have gotten bad health reports. I have prayers for people who have no possibility of having a feast or those who are lost in dementia and don’t know it is a feast. I have prayers for my nation and thanksgivings for those who have made it strong--- from those Pilgrims who feasted with the Indians so long ago to those who now stand watch all over the globe.

I am thankful for 65 years of Thanksgivings and how they have molded me to have an attitude of gratitude. But most of all I am thankful for a faith that has been flexible enough to embrace and love those who have come into my life. I am thankful for the chance to be a servant of God in the Church and the grace of perseverance to remain faithful to that God who loves me despite all the temptations to walk along other paths. And I give thanks that there will be more opportunities to give thanks.

Rest in peace, Gingie and Jim. Your thanksgivings are complete. I give thanks for your friendships.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Five: Thanksgiving Thoughts

Jan has given us an interesting Friday Five by posting this poem:

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?

Generally when I am really down in the mouth, I try to be with people. As an extrovert, other folks who aren’t blue are the folks I need to be with. Sometimes I just go out to a restaurant and eavesdrop on conversations at other tables—not in a malicious way, but just to hear others enjoying themselves, or I will read a book with other people around me where I can look up and know that I am not alone.

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
I am cooking for J and four other women I know. I love to cook and love to have friends over. It will be a good time.

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?

Typical turkey, dressing with almonds and apple, a fresh cranberry, walnut and celery gelatin relish that goes with the turkey well, a green veggy. No wine this year as I have folks in recovery coming but that is fine with me. Friends are bringing the desert and other friends are bringing something that they like.

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?

Thanksgiving is always a family day. But I haven’t spent a family T’giving since the year I went to MS to help after Katrina. My family is pretty scattered emotionally at present so I doubt if we will ever get it together like when Mom was alive. I think we gathered as much for her than anything else.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?

I am not sure at the moment. I am always thankful for my faith and the congregation I serve. I am thankful that I am well and have people who love me and who I love. But I am about to go to the Diocesan Convention at which the Presiding Bishop is going to be speaking. I am disturbed that the PB has not spoken out about the movement in Uganda to criminalize homosexuality and the voices of African bishop calling for the execution of people because they are gay. I went to a funeral last night of a colleague that was younger than I. I saw more clergy there than I have seen at any diocesan function since I have been back in the diocese. It reminded me of my ordination though it was not as joyful. But it was a strained group. We seem to have nothing in common—the Church does not sustain us as a family any more. Perhaps the Diocesan Convention this afternoon will help us find some commonality. I pray that it is so.

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.

Ginger and her sister fly into Little Rock and rent a 4x4. They stop at the local fancy grocery in Little Rock and then head to Aunt Berts and Uncle Franks’. They surprise them with turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. They spend the afternoon and evening watching football with Uncle Frank and washing the dishes with Aunt Bert. They find that the funky mood that they have been in all over the country has dissipated. It will be something that they will remember the rest of their lives.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts on being priest/pastor

I attended the ordination of the first woman priest in the Diocese of Ft. Worth, TX. For as long as I have been a part of the Episcopal Church, that diocese has said that women were unworthy to serve the people of God. I remember hearing one of the bishops saying that “For me to lay my hands on a woman would be no different than my laying hands on a cow, she still wouldn’t be a priest.” Thanks be to God, those bishops have left the Episcopal Church. They have set their ideas totally in the past, not on what is new that the Holy Spirit is doing in the Church and throughout the world.

When I was ordained in 1983, I knew I was doing something that most could not yet understand. I remember a layman on the interviewing committee of my first call fussing about having to interview a woman because “no woman was going to be HIS priest.” In the interview he did a 180 degree change and became one of my greatest supporters. It wasn’t so hard to have a woman at the altar they began to agree, it was more important to have the “right” person at the altar.

All too often we don’t get who we want when we call a new pastor or rector to the congregation we attend. We want someone who will be OUR pastor, OUR priest, OUR minister. No one cleric can fulfill that role and no one cleric SHOULD try to fulfill that role. The only thing that a cleric can do is be faithful to the God as he/she knows and share that fidelity with others. There can be no ownership of clergy by either the laity or the bishop. There can only be the invitation to share the life of Christ with one another.

Each day it is incumbent upon me to remain faithful—to serve as Christ would have me. Sometimes I don’t do it very well but that is my prayer each morning and my confession each night. Sometimes I can fulfill some folks expectations and sometimes I don’t even come close. And then there are the days that I don’t even fulfill MY expectations, but that is always the plan for the journey.

As I share this ministry with others I listen to so many who are discouraged by the loss of membership and the shifting understanding of the meaning of Church. Some who are close to retirement or who are in retirement mourn the loss of status they once had. They grumble about expectations of the faithful or the passivity of the laity. And yet it is often the clergy who have initiated that passivity by taking over or micromanaging things. It is tempting to catch this malaise of clerical attitude. But for some reason I can’t. Yes, the Church universal is taking a beating at the moment. Mostly because we (clergy and lay) have become passive rather that taking responsibility for the faith we have been invited to share. But God is still present in the world and in our Church. Watching a fellow sister become ordained in a place where it has been verboten for years was thrilling. It says that God is working; God is still raising up those who will share the message and God will raise us up to do the work God has given us to do. Halleluia!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Five: What's New?

Songbird has provided a new Friday Five.

There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.

Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new.

1. New Clothes- I love how they fit and how they look. They generally don’t look the same after a wash—atleast in our washing machine.

2. Fresh Veggies—I like to go to the market or the grocery the day I am going to cook them rather than put them in the frige.

3. A new book—the crack and the smell of opening a new book. But then again I love to open old books too.

4. New Resturants—I love to try out new places. I am glad I live in a small city. If I lived in NYC I would be broke. But new resturants are fairly uncommon here so I don’t break the bank.

5. New car. I am not crazy about the new car smell, but I do love the way it handles and the quiet way it moves on the highway.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Saints’ Day 2009

A colleague went to Israel some years ago. While he was there, he had to have his car tuned. It was in those days when it took only a screw driver to and a gap gage to tune the sparkplugs. The mechanic adjusted the car by the sound until all the coughing and sputtering of the idle moved into a place when all the cylinders began to work together and began to purr. The mechanic stepped back with satisfaction. “Tsedek” he said in Hebrew. “It is righteous!”

It was a use of the word “Tsedek” I had not ever heard before, because the word in Hebrew is usually translated “Justice or Righteous”. But I believe that it is the mechanic’s understanding of the word that helps us understand what the Wisdom reading means this morning.

When I read that “…the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them…” I want to know what it means to be righteous. In western Christianity we often translate “tzedek” as “saint”, often giving the ‘righteous’ all kinds of miracle working powers or extraordinary abilities or talents that perhaps the majority did not have. But St. Paul writes to the various churches in the epistles and usually calls the people who follow Jesus “saints” and then he chastises them for all the things that they are doing wrong. So we need to find another way to understand what the word means.

The best way of describing a Tzedek is one who tries to make the world a better place by trying to bring the world into harmony. They may be called the Righteous or Saints or just plain “good folks”. But they are the ones who understand the joy of knowing and being known by God in Christ Jesus.

Personally I have been in the presence of those who I know will be considered a saint sometime in the future. One was Mother Theresa of Calcutta and the other, Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Both of these people were just plain ordinary people whose mission in life was to “make things right”. There is an aura about them that exude peace and a deep sense of hope. They are people who have suffered, and seen suffering yet knew that suffering is not the end.

All Saints’ Day celebrates that sense of hope—that sense that life can be “tzedek”, “in tune”, righteous or holy when we allow God’s love and peace to guide us. This does not mean that we become doormats, or opt for ‘peace at any price’. ‘Tzedek’ is quite the opposite. It calls for an honesty that brings us into harmony with those around us.

In the reading from Revelation we find John the Divine explaining his vision to a people who suffered being conquered once again, whose homeland has been savaged , who have lost their sense of themselves through the Jewish Wars. He sees in his vision, new hope, a “New Jerusalem”, without a Temple. It will not be a city where there are those who fight about who has the right to live there or visit there. GOD will be there. As Pastor Marilyn Sanders taught us last Lent, this is not a reading about heaven, but of the kind of life that God can help us create in this world. God makes all things new—God is the beginning and the end. The New Jerusalem is not place where people rule—it is any place where God’s “shalom” and “tzedek” are lived out.

But it is in the Gospel reading from John that we hear of what it means to be raised from the dead. The story of Lazarus coming forth from the tomb is a foretaste of what is to come in Jesus. This story tells of Jesus raising one who is truly deceased, his friend Lazarus. It is this miracle which is at the center of Christianity. It is reminds us that resurrection is not just for the Son of God—it is for those who are his friends. It is a reuniting of a man with his family and friends. But most of all, this story tells the followers of Jesus that Jesus is the Son of God. The miracles that are worked by Jesus focus on his loving-kindness but most of all on his ability to “make things right”. Like God, it is Jesus’ righteousness that is to be seen, he is ‘tzedek.’

Today we remember those who have become “Tzedek” who have entered into the realm of God who know the harmony of God’s presence as they have never known. Today we remember those who have died and who have entered into that presence and we name them. During the Intercessions we will repeat those whom we have lost their physical presence but who are among the righteous, among the saints. I invite you to name and give thanks for those who taught you righteousness, who taught you to be ‘in tune’ with your life and your God.