Archive for September, 2011

Sharing struggles

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Two of my friends who are being treated for cancer have chosen to blog their experience and we have all been blessed by sharing their struggle.  They do not always put a happy face on their illness.  They don’t need to.  Sharing their difficulties seems to provide some pleasure for them and for us reading along in sharing their deepest fears and anxiety.  Today’s entry from Cynthia has relevance for our series on lament.

Quote of the day from Pema Chodron‘s  book, The Wisdom of No Escape.

“There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable.

A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. “

Even the name of the book is wonderful.  There is no escape from the dailyness of this journey, no escape from the process.  But I look for, yearn for an “interesting, kind, adventurous and joyful approach to life” so let me be curious and open to the mystery and wisdom of no escape.

This Sunday, we’re exploring our desire to deny our frailty, vulnerability and pain on the way toward discovering the wisdom of no escape.



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Remembering …

The week of the anniversary of 9/11

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Remembering the attacks 10 years ago, there are lots of opportunities to process our nation’s collective grief and anger. Television specials, media outlets, a remembrance at the fire station, even our own worship and “GPS: Grow Pray Study” this Sunday will address the subject.  I’ve appreciated the varied and thoughtful voices at The Christian Century this week.  I’ve tried to post the links to the full articles on the ELUMC Facebook group “Lit from Within”.

Author of Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear and seminary professor Scott Bader-Saye says

Many commentators said that the world changed for America on 9/11, that we “lost our innocence,” that we needed to find a “new normal” to accommodate our heightened sense of vulnerability. Some said we had woken from a slumber and that this attack would give us a new sense of clarity, focus and unity. Ten years later, I think the most significant change that occurred on 9/11 was that America became a victim, and since that day we have faced the moral hazards of negotiating that status.

Pastor Michael Lindvall of Brick Presbyterian Church in NYC, has members building the 9/11 memorial:

Human beings are united by a great many things, many of them perverse. People are united by race and language, sect and geography; too often they are united by hatred and anger. To be united by hope would be exceptional. The 9/11 memorial seeks to recall the spirit of exceptional unity in the nation and world in the days just after 9/11—not wistfully, but in a way that dares to hope that such a spirit is ever a possibility. Our Sunday morning service that day will bear witness to what a member who serves on the memorial staff calls “our collective capacity to come together.”

Stephen Paul Bouman, executive director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has seen Muslim, Jews and Christians come together in the aftermath and he’s more convinced than ever that the church has a mission to work with those of other faiths for:

a church that turns its face toward the poor and the stranger and to those hungry for a story and a vocation, a church that lifts up its voice in lament and that is rooted in community, will always be a church in renewal.

Robin Lovin, who teaches ethics at Southern Methodist University, offers a cautionary word about the work of discourse that lies before us still:

Like an individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, we may be collectively unable to see what is happening to us. Americans responded well to the initial shock of 9/11 with a reaffirmation of our unity and our most important values. But fear and uncertainty have taken their toll. Ten years later, we find ourselves less clear about who we are and less able to envision a common future than we were before.

John Paul Lederach, professor of international peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, responded to the question of  “How do we pursue justice and love those who wish us harm?”

If 9/11 changed anything for me, it was to lead me back to the essence of peace-building. The profound truth of Jesus’ life came home in the form of his simplest yet most radical act: befriending the enemy. To his disciples’ consternation, Jesus ate with his enemies and he went to their houses. None of this implied that he changed his fundamental beliefs or values. It implied, rather, that he wanted to build relationships with those deemed untouchable and a threat. He chose love over fear, engagement over isolation and separation.

May our thoughts this week turn to gratitude for the responders and volunteers, to comfort for the friends and families of those who lost loved ones, to healing for those still suffering from the effects, to thoughtful discourse rather than fearful rhetoric, to a prayer for those who think themselves our enemies, and to a commitment to reconciliation and peace.

Shalom, Pastor Kelly
[ Above quotes excerpted from The Christian Century.
A subscription is required for the complete articles. ]

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Sing a New Song

Dear Kindred Spirits,

Back from the “Sing a New Song” Convocation in Ohio sponsored by the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Ministries Network, I’m still processing all the phenomenal speakers we heard.  I also got to spend time with Rev.  Jim Cox (an Associate Pastor at ELUMC years ago, now appointed to Provincetown)–we were on the chaplain corps together.

Mark Miller led our worship music including several selections from the new “Worship and Song” green hymnal supplement that we’ve been sampling– so we were ahead of the curve and recognized the “new music.”  Dr. Joretta Marshall (now at Brite Divinity School at TCU), who was my professor at Vanderbilt, lead one of the largest workshops on getting beyond the need to defend our faith and rather experience it deeply within and live it boldly from a place of authenticity rather than argument.  The McGowans plus Steve and I all signed up for that class! Our Bible Study professor from Drew University brought Jamaican insights and wisdom.  Our plenary speakers/preachers included a Native American deacon, a transgender pastor, a national general agency executive, and Bishop Joseph Sprague (who always brings a provocative and inspiring word).  Below is a sample and a link to the transcript of his speech–it’s long but comprehensive, thoughtful and challenging.

Why “Sing a new Song?”
Because the loss of that ‘gone up in smoke’ $4 trillion, which was utterly wasted in 10 years of senseless war making, is at the heart of the much ballyhooed federal budget deficit and is desperately needed to repair our broken cities where 84% of the American people now live and where at least 20% of our adult population is either unemployed or vastly under-employed and woefully under-paid.
“To do Justice,” as a faithful United Methodist Church, requires actually, not merely rhetorically, that our hearts, minds, and doors be wide-open to all God’s precious children in order that from one hospitable and open table we might help to transform the world for Jesus’ sake as, with communal integrity and recovered prophetic pluckiness, we dare to encourage and prod our nation to embrace once again the angel of its better nature, as it seeks the wisdom and bi-partisan states-person-ship to transform spears into pruning hooks, thus to make jobs for sure, but war no more.

Why “Sing a new Song?”
Because our church’s rhythm of kindness is out of step as we waste countless hours, not to mention innumerable dollars and vast amounts of energy, tripping over the need to honor sacred relationships between same sex partners or of homosexual clergy with their sacred callings and congregations, but cannot find the required time, renewed energy, and a vibrant beat to dance to a new world order in which Palestine is welcomed to the panoply of nations, as Israel’s survival, but no longer its imperialism, is assured.

We’ll share more this Sunday and in the months ahead as we prepare for General Conference 2012 in April. For now, it’s Labor Day Weekend…. why not offer a prayer for the great variety of labor and for those who are unemployed and underemployed?

Holy God, You gave dignity to our labor by sending your Son to labor with us.
Through our work, you made us co-creators with you, shaping the world in which we live. 
By our labor, you enrich the world.
By our labor, we enjoy the fruits of creation.
By our labor, we find direction and purpose.
By our labor, our families are made secure.
For providing varieties of work and for blessing us by our labor, we give you thanks, O Lord.     Amen.

May we work for justice and may our labor offer a “new song” to the world.


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