The mission of the United Methodist Church is to, “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  And now, perhaps more than ever, this mission has taken on a new and stinging urgency as the United Methodist Church (and all churches, really) is facing significant declining membership.  We need more disciples of Jesus Christ or else our Church as we know it will not be sustainable–will not be able to support full-time clergy or buildings or have the resources to carry out the myriad missions of every individual church.  And the church needs more disciples of Jesus Christ because does the world ever need transforming!  So, our United Methodist Church has taken on this making disciples things seriously and strategically so that we are trained at clergy gatherings with charts and graphs and best practices and programs and swag (#seeallthepeople) (i can get for you sunglasses! and pins and pens) and charts (i’m serious about the charts) and I get it.  I want more people to love Jesus and live a life of Christ-likness; I think the way of Christ is the path of peace.  And, something in me just can’t handle this discipleship “program.”  it feels janky.

So, I want to explore discipleship (and we will for the next season at NEUMC–this sermon was the first in a sermon series exploring discipleship), and I want to have a conversation that takes seriously these questions, “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?”  and “what does a disciple of Jesus Christ do?” and “how DO we make disciples of Jesus Christ?”  But first, I want to explore an idea that comes to me from reading the book, “Seeing the Lord: Resurrection and Early Christian Practices” by Marianne Sawicki (buy this book.  https://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Lord-Resurrection-Christian-Practices/dp/0800627091/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1492727041&sr=8-2&keywords=marianne+sawicki).  She is a genius and uses the Bible and the Common Sayings Traditions to parse out early Christian practices around topics such a discipleship (or paideia, literally the greek word for the training and shaping of individuals).  In order to pass on belief in Jesus, whom we believe to be the love of God made manifest and unleashed in the word, early Christians (and us) had to in a real way capture Jesus in the text in tradition and in belief.  In so doing, we fundamentally changed Jesus–he is, in a sense no long unleashed and unbound, but relegated to a text paralyzed in order to be easily consumed–in a word, no longer spirit but a thing to believe in.  This is poeisis or the act of making something out of nothing.  Jesus is, in the early Christian church, poeisised.  It helps us then, to think about the ways in which Jesus is poeisised and to think about the choices our ancestors made when crafting Jesus to be captured in the Gospels.

So, let’s take a look at this text.  Get ready.  roll up your metaphoric sleeves and let’s Bible study and compare the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Matthew.  Take a moment to read the passages:

 Matthew 19:13-15

13 Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them. 14 “Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” 15 Then he blessed the children and went away from there.

Gospel of Thomas #22

22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom.”

First, The Gospel of Thomas (GoT).  (Now, I want to make clear that I have never nursed and I try to make it a practice of not talking about something with which I do not have personal experience.  I draw freely from Sawicki’s book, so read it, and then feel free to comment about your nursing experiences!!)  Jesus using nursing moms and babies to illuminate the paideia of the realm of God.  Nursing is outside control.  From what I understand, a mom cannot control her body when she nurses–sometimes (I have heard) a mom can hear a baby cry or smell a baby and her breasts begin to produce milk.  Nursing then, is certainly outside the control of the dominant culture–for example, no one can tell you to nurse or not or tell you how much milk you can produce or what to do with it.*  In a religious sense of say the Ancient Near East, breast milk cannot be tithed.  Nursing, then, falls out of the law and ritual of religion; it is completely natural and as we confirm now, to be desired.

Nursing babies are too young and too ignorant to do anything with (other than love).  You can’t train a nursing baby–you can’t really do anything with a nursing baby except nurse and get them to sleep!

Who nurses?  Is it the baby or the mother?  Moms and babies nurse simultaneously and it is completely reciprocal.  It is just so with God’s kingdom–you enter it and it enters you.  easier done than explained.

Who remembers a story like this?  Who can grasp the analogy between nursing moms and babies and God’s kingdom enough to write it down and attempt to share it?  Probably nursing moms and the people for whom nursing moms is a regular occurrence, or the village people and the community in which nursing moms live.  So, let us imagine peasants (composed of lots of moms and babies) are carrying forward a tradition of Jesus in the GoT and well, that just can’t be.  So, more educated folks, or men, step in a create or start to create narratives using the earlier framework provided in the GoT, but also shaping the story to be more palatable, didactic, and moral or more in line with common understanding and expectation.  We get, then, the development of the canonical Gospels. Let’s compare:

 

Gospel of Thomas:

These nursing babies are like those who enter God’s kingdom

–entering is easy and natural;

–to enter is to be entered;

–the kingdom is tangible, available and free for the taking;

–kingdom entry does not require education

–Jesus is the observer

 

Gospel Development Mark 10; Luke 18; Matthew 19

–the feeding metaphor is suppressed;

–mothering metaphor is suppressed;

–babies become children;

–kingdom becomes subjective and something that can be hindered–someone or something can get in the way of you and the kingdom;

–Jesus is the center of attention.

 

In the canonical Gospels we begin to understand the kingdom of God as something to attain rather than a ubiquitous reality which confounds ownership.

We start to get a king of a kingdom who monitors access–a place and a program for discipleship.  And then, fast forward 2000+ years and we still have a place and a program and charts and graphs with deliverables and outcomes and giving units–guess what?! that’s you!–and this is where my stomach starts to hurt and I seriously think that I can’t do this job anymore because what little I know about God and the more I know about the church I see these two realities as so far out of alignment that I truly despair for the life of the church. I can’t help but think that that someday, somehow, God is going to whack us back into alignment. I anticipate radical changes in our future church.

And, I’m sad–because I love the church. I am who I am today because I have gone to church. I don’t know who I am outside the church and I am a pastor–that’s kind of it for me–this is who and what I was made by God to be and do.  And, I want to pass on our faith to our kids.  I am giving my life to pass on the truth I know to kids that are not my own.  I weep, like ugly tears, in my office when I get to sign the 3rd grade Bibles.  I am overwhelmed by the honor of being the one to write my name in the book of these kids lives–praying, praying that the word of God will translate into the love of God for them; that all of our kids will know how much they are loved, that they will be rooted and grounded in the great love of God no matter where they go.  And I know, every time I go to the thrift store I go to the book section with its rows and rows of Bibles and see it is populated by one after the other after the other of donated 3rd grade Bibles.

And, you know, we all know of people, of kids who grew up in the church, or are now grown ups who never come back because they just simply don’t care what we do in here or what are trying to live–they don’t want to go to church, so they don’t.  I’m so sad about that.  Because, we’ve got good stuff!  bread and juice and water and wine and love and justice peace inclusion and diversity, community, service, meaning in the face of life and death, lives lived without fear and and life lived with great, great joy  and I want that! The world wants that!  I want to share it and yes, I want more people to love and live Jesus.  I really do.

But, something about what we are doing now, and how we are living together is not working.  Something there is that does not love a program and that’s kind of great because I hate it, too.

And, it could be that we in the church have a lot, still, to learn about Jesus and his wild ways–that maybe we don’t have all the answers or the monopoly on the truth.

Maybe it is that the whole of our lives and the life of our church is a learning process–that we don’t ever arrive but are continually called and implored to keep going and growing.

Isn’t that terrifying?  and freeing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

*http://nypost.com/2017/07/26/woman-spends-10-hours-a-day-pumping-breastmilk-for-other-peoples-kids/  Just one of many stories!  google breast feeding and bad ass or breast milk and donation

 

 

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As I type these words, I am getting ready to ride a bus to Washington D.C.  In a few days, I will join hundreds of thousands of people as we march on the Capitol and in places all around the world in the People’s Climate March.  You may wonder why I am doing this; and frankly right now as I’m scurrying around amidst a ceaseless to-do list (which is always just about half done), I am wondering, “why exert the expense– both physical and fiscal?”

Simply, I feel I am called to march with people for love of the planet; God is asking me to go and engage in this work.

God so loves this world; this earth and everything, everything in it belongs to God.  God gave and continues to give the world to us so that we might live and learn to live together, abundantly.  We have yet to do either of these; the way we live on this planet destroys the gifts that God gives us.  We kill, as we have always done, the very sources of life (both spiritual and physical) which sustain us.  We continue to hang Christ upon acres of trees, we decimate the butterflies and bees of resurrection and regeneration while we poison the flowers they live to nurture, and we contaminate the waters of our baptism with plastic, microfibers, bottle caps, toys,bags, our daily practices indicating less our faith than our hubris.  Then as now, today as ever before, we know that God gives a resounding, “NO!” to our death-dealing desires.  God longs to plant life, and new life, regeneration, healing, growth, and evolution in our hearts and bodies. We believe, “God became flesh and lives among us, and we have seen the glory of God–full of grace and truth.”  We believe this is our home and God lives with us; God stays among us; God dwells within us.  “Earth is crammed with heaven and every dang bush and bee and bear alive with God!”

We need to change how we live together on this planet; we need everyone to do everything we can, but we are totally okay with that!  God has forever and always asked us to change—we are easter people, you know.  This is the core of our faith—change your hearts and lives.  (And we can! because God loves us).  God’s call in our lives is nothing new.  So we are!

So many of us are changing our lives and our lifestyles—we are learning more and as much as we can about how to live healthfully and in balance with God’s creation.  In our church we have a mission to be environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just on this corner in Northeast Minneapolis.  And so we’re learning how to eat organically, locally, and in season, we’re learning about the soil around our church and our homes, we’re learning how to share the things we have, we’re learning about permaculture, and how to better give away what we have.  in our church and in our homes we’re learning about compost, carbon emissions, energy consumption, personal consumption of goods, we’re planting seeds and watching them grow.  And I can see every single one of you offer compassion, forgiveness, understanding and love to the people around you.  We’re learning about our privilege as white people, and we’re learning about our place in the Gospel story.  Thank you!  All of our efforts and good work matters.  I hope you know that.
And, we are also learning about the urgent imperative to change how we collectively live.  Our human existence on this planet is unsustainable; we need to learn how to live together.  This is really hard work.  God is working to regenerate our common life on this planet which means we need to work together across divisions of race, and class, faith, and geography.  I am not sure we know how to do this.  Yet, we know, to have peace on earth, we must make peace with the earth.

For all these reasons, I march in non-violent resistance, looking to Jesus as the author and perfecter of our call.  Our faith teaches us the tools (in fact, as you know, Jesus is the inventor of non-violent resistance) and the church guides us to offer our lives in our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to the Justice, Peace, and Power of Christ.  So, I join thousands of others to witness—to resist the forces of evil, oppression and death in whatever forms they present themselves (and this is so tricky, because we kind of like the powers of evil oppression and death right now, we benefit from the systems of stuff we’ve set up (who doesn’t like a good sale?)).  I join with thousands of people to speak truth to power, that we may “forswear our foolish ways.”  I join, with my whole heart, to march, and shout, and sing, “God so loves the world!!”  I willingly join my heart with the heart of every species, biome, wave and blade of grass, I join my heart with people standing near and so far away. I open my heart to the heartbeat of God—the one who creates, owns, and claims everything I so love.


I can remember the first time I heard the story of the Syrophonecian woman.  I was in seminary–an adult in seminary by the time I heard it. for the first time.  The story was so surprising, so shocking!, and unlike any other story I’d heard about Jesus that I had to make sure, for myself, that it was actually in the Bible.  I went home and double-checked my Bible.  How had I missed it, all those years growing up, going to church going to Sunday School?  go ahead; look it up (Matthew 15:21-28).

I can understand, now, why pastors may not want to preach on the Syrophonecian woman.  She’s an immigrant, or migrant (whatever it is we are calling them these days), she’s a woman, she’s poor, she’s probably a single mother.  She talks back to Jesus.  and she starts a revolution.  Have you ever heard a sermon preached on the syrophonecian woman?  If you’ve been to my church you have, a few years ago when I was mad about the lack of universal health care, she spoke so strongly the most amazing advocate from our holy texts for universal health care.  and now, she also is a witness to the plight of her grandchildren in Syria.  The un-nanmed Syrophonecian woman speaks so loudly on issues we can’t afford to ignore anymore.

This is what the Syrophonecian woman is saying to me today:

I don’t approve of you. 

You don’t need anyone’s approval.  You don’t need my approval.  You don’t need their approval.  You don’t need anyone’s approval.

Do you need anyone’s approval?

I don’t approve of you.  and I’m not asking you to approve of me.  at least I’m trying to live a life like the Syrophonecian woman.  I want to live a life that is seeking the truth and not approval seeking.

I knew this.  When I was a kid, I knew this.  I was a weird little kid (surprise, surprise): solitary, bookish, sarcastic.  I went for long walks spent my time alone.  I went once to a football game, thought it was stupid to sit on a bench in the cold and I never went again.  I did not care what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t do what everyone else was doing–the thought never crossed my mind.

And, then, I wen to college, and miracle of miracles, I started making friends.  I started being liked, and I liked being liked.  I began to want to be liked.  and things began to get confused.  I began to worry and think about myself. I began to confuse being good, doing good, with being liked. Being liked is seductive.

And then it got worse from there.  I started working in the Church and the boundaries got all messed up from there.  A supervising pastor gave me 7 pairs of pantyhose for Christmas one year.  What kind of a gift is 7 pairs of pantyhose?  –a guiding gift.

not all guidance is a gift.  not everything everyone gives you is a gift.

So many slow-witted, hard hearted disciples have offered such gifts over the years.

I don’t approve of you.   You don’t need my approval.  stop asking for it.  stop seeking approval.

We do it to ourselves, and we find that people around us are all to eager to tell us what we should or shouldn’t do.  for good reason, i might add.  What would church look like if everyone approved of everyone else–if we all just got along?  would my job be a lot easier?  Yes.  100%.  yes.  i tell you, i would be sitting in my office drinking pina coladas and reading the Bible all day.  That is what i would do if we all got along.  Why can’t we all just get a long.  for, like, a week?

We are not ever going to all get along.  I tell you. we have got disciples over hear always giving helpful advice, and syrophonecian women all over the place screaming about healthcare and I don’t know what all, and Jesus.  at the center.  he’s the worst.  saying things that just bug me.

No, I’m not asking you to all just get along.  God is not asking you.  I don’t even care if you are all best friends.  I am asking you to be yourself.  and to love one another.  That is how we become the Body of Christ.  We are not the Body of Christ because we’re happy all the dang time, and everything is fine and it’s all just so neat!

We are the Body of Christ because we will not kill each other or resort to violence when we get hurt or mad.  We are the Body of Christ because we refuse to build or even fantasize about building “big, beautiful walls,” to keep out people we don’t like or don’t know–contrary, seemingly, to the rest of the world.  We are the Body of Christ because we learned somewhere along the line that working together is preferable to working and ranting all by ourselves.  We are the Body of Christ because we accept and embrace diversity–even if we don’t always like it.

We are the body of christ because you are here.  So you.  whoever you are today.

you don’t have to work so hard.  you don’t have to smooth things over or make sure everyone is okay.  you don’t have to like everything or everyone in this room.  Be yourself.

Be loving.

keep active and engaged that part of you–seek out the core of you–that does not give a shit about what other people think of you.  I don’t even know how to say that in adult.

Seek out that place in you that when you touch it, you touch rock.  or that pure, pure light that’s within you (like we sing).  Find that place in you that is inviolate.  the place where you know.  where you can say to the world, “this far and no further.  this is me.  I AM.”

seek truth and speak it.

It may not make any difference.  good people all over right now are speaking truth, in righteous protest or in so many ways, putting their lives on the line in Charlotte and in South Dakota, and I have no idea what difference it will make.  But i am in awe.  what a brave, courageous step.  to know and speak truth.  your truth.

You could speak your truth and maybe nobody cares.  it could be.

yet, when you gather your courage and say what you need to say, the heart of God is moved.  In any case, the truth will set you free.

 


People are lonely.  I know this because of my job.  I encounter many lonely, hurting, listless people (not just old people) on a regular basis.  I also read the paper, and I’m finding that loneliness has become something of an epidemic

Also people don’t know what to do with their lives–life is devoid of meaning.

and frankly, i’m kind of sick of it.  You’re lonely?  Don’t know what to do with your life?

go to church.

I love being a Christian.  I love Jesus, for that matter.  I love the spiritual journey, I love the intellectual, spiritual, physical, and emotional challenge, nourishment, and growth of a life of faith.  If you’ve come out of a Christian tradition or the predominantly Judeo-Christian culture of America in recent history you really do not need to co-opt any other religious tradition to find depth and meaning.  The Christian tradition is deep and wide; there is water in this well and it is sparkling, lively and sweet.  Search the depths of our Christian tradition; they are as glorious as any other.  really  (i’ll take your Eat, Pray, Love and Tibetan Book of the Dead and raise you a Tales of a Magical Monastery  and The Spiritual Meadow. or any of the desert mothers and fathers or Julian of Norwich or Hildegard of Bingen or Macrina Wiederkehr or Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr, or Martin Luther, for god’s sake!  you’ve got to know this shit is good.  it changes the world.  and maybe more difficult, it can change your world.).

You may or may not find this stuff at your local church. local churches are different; they shaped and framed differently as each pastor is different.  really.  But that’s cool, because your spiritual journey is your own–none can walk this road for you.  also this is kind of a bummer, because the life of faith is not the easiest thing you can do.  as one spiritual guide is noted for saying, “if you haven’t started a spiritual journey, don’t.  but, if you have, you better finish it.”  so a pastor maybe can totally help you with your spiritual journey, or maybe not.  you and your pastor maybe in very different places.  It helps to listen to what your pastor says, in and out of worship and notice how things play out from there (by this i mean more than noticing just how they look).  I’m not talking about this right now, though,  I love talking about this kind of stuff,  I am talking about loneliness and meaning in life.  If you are feeling lonely and you don’t know what to do with yourself, go to church.

A church is an instant community, made up of people who maybe look like or maybe look nothing like you, who may think like you or not at all like you, but who want to get together, regularly, to make community again and again.  I’ve seen a lot of churches, some big and small, some friendly and some not, some i’ve attended as a church goer and others as some kind of pastoral presence and the truth about churches is that they just are.  and they are so that people will enter them.  and i know it takes a lot for someone to walk into a room full of strangers (and believe me, some churches are strange), and I know that not every church is right for everyone, that there are real differences between churches and that’s fine, isn’t it?  and i’ve known people who have attended church FOR YEARS despite changes in pastoral leadership and theology and what-not and i’ve known people who have lived through wide changes in theology and perspective and not really known the difference. because that’s not really what it is about.  the church is about people. and for that reason, alone, the church is really not that bad.  the church is really not any better or worse than any other organization.

The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.  I am the church.  you are the church.

and one thing I know, for sure, is that the church, any church is never, ever boring.  okay, maybe there are folks who sleep during worship, who cares?  try living together, day in and day out with a group of diverse yahoos and not strangle anyone.  that is what i am talking about. all the churches i’ve attended have make me laugh out loud, cry out loud, yelled once, jaw droppingly weird, heart-warmingly tender, made me work my butt off, or fed me til i hurt, people in it.  If you are lonely and want to meet people, go to church.

if you don’t know what to do with your life, give it away.  yes, follow your bliss and be happy. and happiness is giving your love away.  fall in love. go to church.


During this season of “ordinary time,” we follow and learn from Jesus as he does his work.  He’s not being born or suffering or dying or being raised up, but working. He’s telling stories, healing people, calming seas and walking on water–ordinary stuff.

Typically, in the summer there is a whole slew of healing stories in the lectionary–Jesus heals the man born blind; Jesus heals the man who is deaf and dumb, the paraplegic (the one lifted down the roof and the one by the pool of Bethsaida) Jesus heals the hemorrhaging  woman, raises several kids from death; Jesus heals the Geresene Demoniac and many more that couldn’t fit in all the books in the world.

As a preacher, all this makes me a little nervous as I encounter yet another miraculous story of Jesus’ healing ministry.  What more could I say about it next week that I didn’t say this week?

As a pastor, I get antsy around the healing stories as I live a life almost entirely the opposite of Jesus’ healing ministry.  My life is full of stories.  Stories where people get sick all the time and sometimes get better and most of the time get kind of better, but aren’t really the same.  I know stories where people live the end of their lives in a nursing home and have to adjust to radical changes in body and in spirit.  I live in a world where sometimes the cure is really complicated–like she has cancer and she’s alive, but doesn’t have vocal chords anymore.  I live in a world where people are blind and it’s really okay.  Or, where people trip and fall or get hit in a weird way and they are paralyzed forever–a life where people refuse to take their meds.  I live in a world where people get shot and then a few days later a few more get shot and then some more and then some more.I live in a world where people younger than me die everyday.

I made the mistake one time where Bob Clark asked me to pray for him to die and I said, “O no, you’re going to live!”  I will never make that mistake again.

all this leads me–leads us to a deeper wrestling with the text as we peel back the layers of what healing is and who God is.

For many, Jesus’ healing ministry is a capstone and a comfort–a very present help in a time of trouble.  For many, healing is evidence of Jesus’ power, a sign of victory over the power and forces of this world and a sense of meaning and hope in the face of meaninglessness and hopelessness.  I respect that.  Hell, I want that!

I believe, God is powerful. God is alive and active in this world.  For sure, God is beyond anything I can put my finger on and all my talking and pontificating (i do love to pontificate) about God is so much as straw in the grand scheme of things.  God can be anything God wants to be.  And, I do think the images we have of God impact us and these images influence what we do and say about God.

Calling God “Healer” without talking about how God heals can lead to some challenging beliefs about God.  Claiming God heals, attributing to God healing and curative power is straight forward enough until we start to realize that some people are healed or cured and others are not. Does, then, God choose to heal some and not others? Does God allow dramatic, miraculous recoveries for some and not others?  I am not the first person to question this, nor is this the first time I have said this aloud (I say stuff like this a lot in church).  I invite you, actually, to contemplate the ways you have encountered healing God’s or otherwise, in your life or otherwise, and maybe push open a little further what healing means.  And that’s where I realize the image of God as Healer that I’ve been holding onto–the image that we uphold–is really my longing, our longing, for things to be different.  The notion of God as Healer is perhaps a cry for disability and death and chaos to make sense.

And, really what I want is for none of this bad stuff to happen in the first place.  Really what I want is for God to intervene and prevent accidents, stop cancer cell in their growth to malignancy and keep men in their pants behind dumpsters.  That Gd in Gds almighty wisdom and power would look out and fix this shit.  That Gd would heal our human condition because we seemingly can’t.  And, this is where I usually go watch tv or go back to bed.

And, the truth of the matter is that humans are working on healing the most devastating and debilitating diseases, making ways out of no ways.  Human scientist, doctors, nurses and care-givers are saving other humans’ lives and making life meaningful and worthwhile.  Humans are living longer than we ever have.  We are caring for and thinking differently about aging, dementia, mental illness, developmental disabilities and diversity in ways that are inclusive, healthy, and compassionate.  Now is a great time to be alive.  for real, yo. And, the truth of the matter is that as scientists learn more about the diseases and maladies that afflict us, we learn that our cure continues to elude us for as our medicines and treatments get better and more effective so, too, do our illnesses.  As our cancer treatments evolve so, too, do our cancer cells.  or as Siddharta Mukherjee, the author of Emperor of All Maladies:Biography of Cancer, writes: “Down to their innate molecular core cancer cells are hyperactive, survival endowed scrappy, fecund inventive copies of ourselves…Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life.  Its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

Science is showing that cancer infections and parasites and other forms of death bugs are living and changing with us.  We cannot eradicate diseases and aberrations because they are a part of us or, rather, we are a part of them.  Perhaps, rather than wiping out all our maladies like a flood, in one fell swoop and we’re all better, God is complicating things blending malady in us–with us.

I can’t help but wonder if God is more tightly winding and binding life and death together–keeping us human, mortal, fragile, hungry–even as we seek the keys of superhuman age-defying health and success.  I can’t help but mention that all things around us, whether we like them or not, come from God.  All the people, all the animals, loves, losses, money, houses, toys, clothes, food, everything.  All this belongs to God.  The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (that’s from the bible).

and so, Gd can have it all.

I’m learning–slowly–that I do better when I stop trying to control things and simply follow where Gd is guiding me.  And so, i’ve changed how i pray–less intercessory prayer–prayers for this or that or that and this and more breathing.  walking.  listening.  Not that intercessory prayer is bad or wrong, but my understanding of what God does , what Gd want and needs is changing.

God is leading me to a place of less anxiety about fixing things.  God is helping me accept things.  maybe even myself.  It seems that acceptance is foundational to Jesus’ ministry–both on a personal and political level–that a major part of Jesus’ healing work is Jesus encouraging and empowering wholeness in individuals:  “what do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks.  “Do you want to be made well?  spend time apart to figure out how you’re going to live now that healing has happened.”

in equal measure, Jesus worked at changing society’s perceptions of health and wholeness–practicing radical comensality–a wide open table where all are welcome: men women children queers tax collectors prostitutes terrorists abled disabled the dying the rich the poor.

Jesus questioned, where does the sickness lie, in the body or in the heart?  challenging us to think, how do we live with difference and how do we live with the most vulnerable in our midst.  It is not clear at any point if Jesus is trying to heal individuals or if Jesus’ work is to heal a societal matrix that is seriously out of whack.  In fact, in the divine scheme of things, what difference does it make?  The person and the world–the individual heart or the heartbeat drum  we are all the same.  We are making the world we so desperately want to fix.

Perhaps then, it is our ultimate human expression, maybe even our deepest sin that we individualize everything, even our diseases.  We focus so tightly on my sickness, my arthritis, my cancer my life my death that we lose perspective on our life our death our health our wholeness.  that-while we spend billions of dollars and so much time and energy trying to feel better and be well.  O God, helpmehelpmehelpme takeitawaytakeitawaytakeitaway. That we lose perspective of how God is working and moving and healing all of us.

Maybe we could spend a lifetime talking about and realizing all the dimensions of healing in our midst.

Each moment is an intense opportunity for connection, acceptance, and growth.  God is so with us and always just out of our grasp.  This is life.

“There are no promises.  Look deeply at joy and sorrow at laughing and crying at hoping and fearing at all that lives and dies.  What truly heals is gratitude and tenderness.”  ~Pema Chodron

Be tender.  be grateful. love-even that which persecutes you.

 

 


The United Methodist Church is fighting for its united life.

Fighting, that is, in the way that we do which is to strongly urge people to not fight.  And, by that I mean, we threw a party this year at Annual Conference.  Which, given the news these days, is a totally not bad idea.

This is not to say that the church has never, you know, stood up for something–“sometimes the church is marching, sometimes it’s bravely burning, sometimes it’s riding, sometimes hiding, always it’s learning…”  Nor, is this to say that we are not plagued by “many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without,” for we really and surely are.   as you know, I am not merely talking the vast array of experience, background, lifestyle, and religion like me surveying my wonderful clothes in my closet.  I am talking about our daily, earthly struggle to figure out what we value and how we should live as humans on this planet.

In the midst of this, between bombings, my church, the United Methodist Church in Minnesota, decided to take a break.  I did not like this.

In fact, I was fairly upset that we did what we always do and formed a committee. I do not ❤ meetings.  I’m not sure that anything new will come of this committee over any other meeting of the minds; we’ll kick the can down the road and justice will not come and nobody will be happy.  Maybe though, this discomfort, this unhappiness is the better way.

Taking a break, forming a committee, letting go of the issue is better than killing yourself in an airport–if those are our options.

Perhaps staying quiet and waiting for a year is a prophetic witness in a world that is really yelling at each other right now.

I know this is hard. and, i stay fairly easily able to work myself up into a lather–  I don’t understand what it means to compromise, honestly, about the things that matter to me. In fact, I do not believe I can compromise on GLBTQ inclusion, the environment, and the achievement gap.  And, I am beginning to think my inability–our inability–to compromise is creating a culture of violence–such violence that I am almost numb to the killing. I don’t want to rant anymore. I don’t know a way forward in an increasingly divided world.  Neither, I am delighted to say, does my church.

The United Methodist Church did not split at this General Conference. And in Minnesota, we popped kettle corn, and drank $5 lemonade.  Take that, world.

 

 

 


The Minnesota Annual Conference started today.  It is the yearly, mandatory, meeting of all United Methodist Clergy and representatives from each United Methodist Church in the Conference, or geographical region. Every conference around the world has these every year.  And, every four years we all get together at General Conference to make legislation, set the budget and orient the vision and direction of the conference and the church.  At Annual Conference we commission, ordain pastors and this year the whole church is engaging serious questions facing every one on the planet.  I love Annual Conference!  Not only is a great reason to buy a new dress, but I get to see all my friends.  All of them.  even the ones i don’t like.

This afternoon, for example, we all gathered to eat and commune.  We were all seated at great banquet tables, eating food family style, centered around bread and juice.  Sitting next to my mom, clergy friends I couldn’t live without, friends from my church, and friends I just met was great!  But, as I looked around I saw that one–that  one–I totally don’t agree with them!  We’re on opposite ends of every spectrum!  and there’s another one!  i’m completely surrounded!  friends, opponents, old folks, young folks, babies, pastors, geologists, farmers, the bishop and who knows what all!

But, when we started to sing (one of my favorite hymns) I couldn’t help but sing at the top of my lungs:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.

(it’s great!  in such a big group of people you can really, truly sing at the top of your lungs!  I LOVE IT!!)

and i looked around at all those guys who drive me crazy and they were singing at the top of their lungs, too!  maybe we have something in common!

and even if we don’t–doesn’t matter.  we are all

Standing, standing,
standing on the promises of God my Savior;
standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

i get to live in and witness to the deep promises of God; we are one.  even if we don’t look like act like it, live like it, or want it; God has bound us together.

“The only things constraining us from unleashing God’s gifts are our own impoverished imaginations, our fear or disdain of change, our scarcity thinking, and our tendency to limit who we embrace as our neighbors,”  ~the Bishop