Welcome Back!

WOOHOO!!! Ok, everybody, head on over to the church lady cooks, and welcome Charlotte back to the fold.

It's fabulous to have her great sense of humor and generous theology back in the blogosphere.


Brown Shoes.

Alright, ladies. I know that those who are most knowledgable about shoes may be off at the Big Event, but I need Pump help.

Here's the situation: I'm looking for a pair of medium-brown (not dark, but not pasty-Anglo-flesh-colored, either) heels. I think I'd like them to be peep toes, partly because I don't want them to be too staid. (I've spent every year out of college buying things that my grandmother would be completely comfortable wearing. As I'm learning not to apologize for my age, I'd like to start presenting an image that's still professional, but doesn't say that I'm praying you don't notice that I'm not on the verge of retirement.) I want to be able to wear them with my navy skirt suit, but also with various summer dresses. (Ergo dressy, but not uber-dressy). Here are the options I've found on Zappos. I'm more than open to other suggestions.


What, This Old Thing?

I think we may have addressed the fact that I can be a little slow on the uptake in previous posts. If it's just me being stupid, I don't mind so much, but I hate when it affects other people.

I'm horrible at taking compliments. I've gotten so that I'm not quite as outwardly un-gracious anymore. I've learned to smile and say thank you. Inside, however, I blow off whatever words are offered as soon as they're spoken. They're just being nice.

This is, when I think about it, an appallingly disrespectful perspective. All of the people around me are fundamentally insincere? All of the people around me have time to waste offering praise they don't mean?

It's even more disrespectful when I blow off praise for sermons. This is what got me thinking about it, actually. I am very, very uncomfortable when I'm praised for a sermon. (And, since I'm still In The Process, people tend to be much more vocal and encouraging about my sermons than they might be for a full-time pastor.) I don't really feel like I "do" the sermon. I mean, obviously I write it, and certainly any flaws or weaknesses in it are mine, but I really try to just share what I'm given. (God's not holding the pen, but I try to be attentive to the Spirit. What touches me is what I share.)

So, people have given very positive feedback, and I have felt very awkward. I realized yesterday (after Good Friday, I'm sorry to say) that awkwardness gets in the way of pastoral attentiveness. Wouldn't it be better to ask in reply, "Was there something in particular that spoke to where you are right now?" Nurturing conversation instead of hiding. Or, instead of asking a question, sharing that it's personal for me, too. That I need the messages I find as I preach.

So, something to think about. A new way to grow.


Good Friday Sermon

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hebrews 10:1-25
John 19:1-37

We, as Christians, come to Good Friday in a fragile state. We come into this service weighed down with the knowledge of Jesus’ death, weighed down with our Lord’s violent, cruel, humiliating execution. We come sad and scared—if our Messiah can be killed, nothing is safe. We’ve heard this story before, we know how it ends on Sunday, but we still feel the pain of Friday. We know that a good man, even the Son of God, has died.

We may need to remember that he went willingly. Some of us come to the crucifixion with old feelings of guilt and shame. We may need to remind ourselves that Jesus knew the message he spread in his life to be worth his death. So often we refuse to accept that God in Christ genuinely believes that we, all of us, are precious, and worth the sacrifices he made. Our collect this evening reminds us that “our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed.” Jesus carried out the ministry that led to his death freely and generously.

We cannot understand Jesus’ death as an isolated incident, as an event unrelated to his ministry. It simply would not make sense to do so; this was not a random act of violence, but an execution. As we grapple with this death, as with any loss, we ask “why?” What harm was he causing? What threat did he pose? How can we make sense of this? Where is God in this?
In John’s account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion, the part of the answer to our “why?” lies in the power structure of the time. Everyone is talking about who holds authority: Pilate demands to know if Jesus is King of the Jews. Jesus challenges the source of Pilate’s power. The chief priests are eager to declare that they have no king but the Roman Emperor.

This is the one time of year that I wish we could rearrange the lectionary, and observe Holy Week after we’ve spent the long weeks of Ordinary Time remembering Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has been going around preaching about the “kingdom of heaven” while living in a real, earthly, very authoritarian kingdom. Jesus has been teaching that the humble will be the heirs of the kingdom, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God elevates the rank and worth of many people who had no value to the Roman authorities. Jesus has been talking about a kingdom where the powerful are no longer dominant, and the weak finally become visible and relevant. Hundreds of peasants being told that they deserved more than they were receiving; that’s a dangerous message. That message has started more than one revolution. We arrive at the crucifixion because the Roman and Jewish authorities alike were scared and angry. There was not room for Jesus’ broad compassion and overwhelming love in their system.

We often experience stories of Jesus’ compassion from a third person perspective: there are other characters involved, and we’re looking in through the window of scripture on their scene. How do our feelings change when we listen to the stories from a first person perspective, as one of the characters ministered to by Jesus? If someone unpopular is treated kindly, we might speak well of the person extending the kindness. When I myself am treated generously, particularly when I don’t expect to be, I am not so mild in my response. If I am lonely or embarrassed, I am shocked and deeply touched by the compassion. We have all been in places where we desperately needed that kind of love. We have hurt others, made bad decisions, been the least impressive person in a room for any number of reasons. Jesus’ ministry demonstrates time and again that these things are not obstacles to his love. The authorities of his time saw no value in these people, but Jesus showed them respect and love. Jesus encouraged them to see themselves, not as their society saw them, but as their God saw them.

The tenderness of Jesus’ ministry was revealed even in the intense moments of his suffering: protecting the disciples when he was arrested, going willingly to court rather than engaging in violence with the police, even rebuking Peter for violence, showing love for Mary and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross.

All of this leads me to believe that Good Friday is not about Jesus’ powerlessness, but rather about the strength required to show deep love and compassion. We’re so horrified by the violence enacted on our Lord that it’s difficult to completely buy into the idea that Jesus gave up his life willingly. The prophet Isaiah speaks of one’s “life as an offering for sin,” and that’s a very different thing than offering one’s death for sin. In the face of injustice, ignorance, and cruelty, Jesus offered a different kind of life: one that was full of hope and love to those who didn’t have much of either. A good friend said to me this week, “isn't it interesting that people have a harder time with the idea of being freed from sin than they do with clinging to the pain of their sin?” It’s right that on Good Friday we feel sorrow for the suffering of our Lord, but it’s also right to be aware that our sins are remembered no more.

Take that gift of freedom, it’s being offered to you. Take Jesus’ enormous love. Take Jesus’ radical examples of love and extend them to your brothers and sisters. Take the gift. Love the Lord your God, and take His gifts.


Good Friday Five

RevHRod gives us this thoughtful Friday Five:

As a child the designation "good" for today confused me. How could we call such a somber day, good? Holy, yes. Blessed, yes. But, good?As an adult I understand the meaning of good for this day. It is a solemn day of remembrance but it is also a time for us to stop and recall the great gift of love that we received this day. And that is most certainly good.Our worship today will differ from place to place. Some services will focus on the great litany of prayers. Others will use the seven last words of Jesus. Some of us will walk the stations of the cross. Others will participate in a Tennebrae service of shadows and light.I hope that this Friday Five will be a meaningful part of your Good Friday. God's blessings to you on your journey.

1. Our prayer concerns are as varied as we are this day. For whom would you like us to pray?
For all of us, that we move lovingly and peacefully in our worlds.

2. Are there things you have done or will do today to help the young ones understand this important day in our lives?

I suspect I am one of the young ones... but I don't have much interaction with children right now. It's certainly something to think about for the future, though.

3. Music plays an important part in sharing the story of this day. Is there a hymn or piece of music that you have found particularly meaningful to your celebrations of Good Friday?

Starting last night, when I was working on my sermon for this evening, I couldn't get an old baptist hymn out of my head. "Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me." The link below is just about how I heard it sung when I was tiny. (You get a different kind of hymn in Memphis than you get in PA.)

4. As you hear the passion narrative, is there a character that you particularly resonate with?

Peter. Always Peter. Enthusiasm, no sense.

5. Where have you seen the gracious God of love at work lately?

All over the place. God is slipping in through all the cracks and crevices lately.


Blogger Meet-Up?

I'm sending my check to GTS this weekend for the April 14 Prospective Student Conference. Any NYC/General RevGals interested in lunch (or something)?



This is a beautifully crafted, complex, insightful speech that takes the risk of placing a higher value on integrity than on simplified sound bytes. St. Casserole's Aunt Bostick pointed out its loving nature, and the Post gives several perspectives that praise the Senator's choice to directly address the complexity of race relations (and perhaps the complexity of all relationships).

Updating to add that this NY Times Editorial had some good things to say about the speech, too.


Friday Five: Palm Edition

This week, Bishop Laura starts her Friday Five with Palm Sunday, but mercifully steers us away from this crazy week ahead of us, and into a fun discussion of time.

And can you believe that in two days it will be Palm Sunday for Western Christians? Our Lent is almost over, while our Orthodox sisters and brothers, whose liturgical year follows the older Julian calendar, are just starting theirs. Nicholas did a recent book report on George Washington, and we were surprised to find out that our first President's birthday was originally Feb. 11, since he was born just before the change to the Gregorian calendar. Apparently the change almost caused rioting, as some indignant people were sure that they were being cheated out of eleven days of their lives! To help you adjust--and enjoy the process--here's a Friday Five about time and transitions....

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?
I'm not usually indecisive, but I love history, and have SO many answers to this question. I'll try to at least narrow it down: I've been paying a lot of attention to the election lately, so I'm thinking a bit about past administrations, and about the founding of our democracy. I'm torn between FDR's first hundred days, Lincoln campaigning, or (and I think this one is winning) the writing of the Constitution.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?
Paid parental leave.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?
I lean toward dreaming ahead, but I think I do that best when I'm inspired by what's come before.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?
This year's Lent had a letting-go theme for me. (With luck and effort and grace, that theme will continue.) It's been so helpful, and I'm getting some joy and lightness back.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?
I love Holy Week. It's so busy, but it's beautiful. In my parish, we observe Tenebrae on Wednesday, and then have services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I'm preaching on Good Friday this year, which is daunting, as I've long felt it to be the most powerful service of the year. I'm might be looking forward to Tenebrae the most, though, as it's a service carried by liturgy rather than sermon. It's unusual (for me) in that respect, and it's a striking service.



You know, I could post on something intelligent and edifying. But I'm a little tired, so we're going for the smutty pages of the paper. Still, I think my theory is worth mentioning.

I believe that, in general, men are more likely to cheat on dynamic, attractive women. In every case that I've known personally, the Wife/Girlfriend/Partner was more interesting and more attractive than the Other Woman. Maybe I've known a disproportionate number of insecure men, but it's always looked like the man was looking for someone who wouldn't outshine him.

Silda Wall Spitzer is one incredibly attractive woman. Dina McGreevy is strikingly pretty. Neither of these women are empty-headed arm candy, either-- they're very bright, successful women. These are interesting women, people who didn't need their husbands' importance.

So I'm lifting my glass to Ms. Wall Spitzer, and praying she has people around her who hold her up.