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For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, let the women keep silent. For it is not permitted for them to speak, but to be in subjection, just as the law says. But if they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home. For it is shameful for women to speak in church.

—1 Corinthians 14:33-35

It isn’t accidental this site has the name it has. Sooner or later, women who speak in church (in particular) have to contend with the infamous few lines in Corinthians that seem to give people with smaller hearts and minds all they need to make a roadblock to the lives we feel called to.

This is about women in professional ministry. It isn’t about your grandma’s Church Women’s Auxiliary group. That is SO last century.

So here we are, filled with the spirit and in joyful defiance. Women Who Speak In Church. Welcome!

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Living from the Heart

A sermon preached at Altadena Community Church on August 13, 2017,

Romans 10:5-10
I have to say that it is difficult to breathe today let alone preach. While the KKK is marching openly in the streets. After they attacked a prayer meeting Friday night in Charlottesville, VA.

The text we heard this morning are the right words for today.

I want to tell you three short stories. If like me, you need a break from the headlines

Let these be today’s headlines of Good News.

Last week a chaplain colleague shared a podcast at a meeting of chaplains, social workers, and music therapists. The podcast was called The Hidden Brain, and the episode was called Dream Jobs. This episode, had a researcher was discussing her work looking at how people approached their jobs and job satisfaction. She interviewed people who cleaned hospitals and she found a profound differences between them. Some, when asked what they did, provided the list of duties in their job descriptions.

Then there were others who shared that while they cleaned, they would notice which patients had visitors and which didn’t and when they finished clean they would go back and visit the lonely. One janitor shared about the work she did in a unit where all the patients were comatose.

The staff expected these patients to awake. They provided all the medical interventions for this. In describing her work, on this unit, the janitor shared how she would periodically take down the art in the paitents rooms and rearrange it. No one asked her to do this, She simply felt any change might help the patients The janitors who did a bit extra in the shared one thing in common–they extra bit they did were things most of us would do for a loved one. They behaved like human beings, imagine that today. And these people, rather than describe their role as janitorial, were more likely to describe themselves as part of healing team.

As our group of chaplains, music therapists, and social workers discussed the podcast and the approach the janitors took to their work, one of our leaders, Yelana, coined the term “positive insubordination”. The janitors had gone beyond the written requirements of their jobs and worked for and towards others with their hearts.

The second story I must warn you is more difficult. In downtown San Diego, and elsewhere, the police do sweeps of homeless encampments.In San Diego, there is a group that films these and posts them on FB. While watching one of the videos, I found myself near tears. A homeless person had left the homeless encampment for a bit and was not there at the time of the sweep.

Not only did the police put all of this person’s belongings in the trash  but the homeless individual had left their dog tied up in their tent. So the police called animal control who took the dog to the pound. In the video the dogs appeared well cared for. 

I can not imagine being that homeless person who returns to find their home and their pet gone. Most homeless persons can not afford to retrieve a pet from the pound. To find a home and loved one–perhaps your only companion–gone is nothing short of a disaster. And then I look at the video again. There are human doings this to other human beings. Yes it is the law, that the streets need to be cleaned up, and for good reasons. And yes, laws are on place protect animals from harm. But how might such situations be different if we, as society, empowered law enforcement to be “positively insubordinate”? Empowered them to act from the heart as well as from a strict interpretation of law?

Lastly, I want to tell you the story of a man who delivered produce. He worked for a produce warehouse that delivered all types of produce to high end restaurants and farm to table establishments. In his work, he found fulfillment knowing that what he did keep people fed.

After sometime, he noticed the amount of food waste generated in restaurant kitchens. He also saw the amount of vegetable and dairy waste  generated by the warehouse in which he worked. Now those of you have worked in food production, or even the food pantry, will know there are laws about giving food away. But as this man drove around town he also passed the homeless.

Soon this man quietly began to take action at work; he was “positively insubordinate”. If he saw leftover bread bagged for the trash or give aways in a kitchen e would offer to take it away for the kitchen. He would pick up a bag of baguettes, day old–but edible and often such bread would find a homeless person before the end of the of the driver’s route.

His warehouse, would often discard dairy days before its sell by date because no kitchen wanted to buy it with so little time to use it. The driver was able to take these discards and distribute them to people who were hungry… all unofficially. The warehouse also prepared various vegetables to be use by kitchens. One day this driver frantically called his wife; it seemed 150 pounds of peeled carrots were going to be trashed as they were a few days old.  Would she please call local agencies to find someone to take them. He dropped the carrots off on the way to one of his paid deliveries. Eventually, the warehouse started diverting some its waste to Feeding America. But before the institutional shift could be made the delivery driver had a choice to make he could follow the laws strictly, protect his job and not become involved with what he saw or he could live from his heart and respond creatively to issues that stared him in the face.

So those are my stories today.

And what about our text for this morning?

I tell you these stories because they are in many ways illustrations of what the apostle Paul was writing about.

Paul was teaching the people of his time how to follow Christ….

Paul’s time was one in which people believed  that following the law exactly would lead to salvation. Paul’s task was to teach Jews and Gentiles alike  that following the law alone was not what God required. The good news according to Paul, was that the teachings of Jesus were to be lived out in daily life and that these teachings superseded the older law.  

Paul was trying to convey that the role of Christians was to exceed the law and that the heart would need to be involved in their decisions of daily living.

At its heart, the text from Paul we heard today is a call to ethics. How do we go about in the world? Are we bringing God’s love and mercy into the world for all people, or are we shutting it out and pitting people against one another with walls and tiki torches?

In verse eight of our text for today Paul rhetorically asks those who would follow Christ, saying

“The word is near you, / on your lips and in your heart”

This is the essence of the law  that followers of Christ are to live each day. It is a reminder that not only what we say but what we do shows the world what we believe. And how we live our faith teaches the world about God.

As followers of Christ, what are we teaching about God? Do we even know when the Holy Spirit may be calling us to be “positively insubordinate?”

For early the church, proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord” as this text says was not only about about personal salvation it was a pre-creedal idea that required the one who proclaimed it to first live it.

How are we, as followers of Christ, teaching our faith to the world?

This is very much a text for this day–August 13, 2017.

It calls us to ask and to answer. How we as Christians, and as members of Altadena Community Church, live out our faith…in the face of neo-fascist white supremacists hate? And while standing closer to the brink of nuclear war than we have been in decades?

How do we share our values with the world?

Church, listen to Paul; and then go forth to preach.

####

When, God, When?

My heart is broken. Again. Once again I have heard the pain of a person with autism. Pain caused by the Church. A person who wants and needs a church home but cannot find one.

A person who just wishes someone would walk alongside and try to understand.

A person who has a deep desire to serve others and yet finds only the expectation of being served.

No understanding that everyone brings a needed gift to the Church, the Body of Christ.

No willingness to receive that gift but instead only concern and fear that this new person will be just another drain on time, energy, resources.

No acceptance or willingness to include.

Just another door shut in a face.

Just another closed heart, connected to a closed mind.

“Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.”

Can you imagine? Jesus is knocking on a door and the response is “Sorry. Not interested.” The door stays closed.

Can you imagine? That what is being delivered is a part of Christ’s Body and the answer is “Sorry. Not interested.” The door stays closed.

The Body stays incomplete. And the world stays the same because the Church is not able (disabled!) to serve, to resurrect, to save, to transform?

Because the door stays closed to someone with great gifts. Because all the Church sees is the negative. A negative which may not even be real.

Fear turns us toward the negative.
Christ came to shine light on the positive, and yet we still don’t understand.

The Church needs everyone. Everyone, EVERYONE! When will we learn to open the door and let EVERYONE in?

When will my heart be healed, never to be broken again?

When will the Body of Christ be complete?
When will we be ready for the transformation of the world to begin?

My prayers arise even as my tears fall.

 

Reality Not Satan

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words* in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’~Mark 8:31-38 NRSV

Many times in Christian tradition we hear Jesus referred to as the “Great Physician”. In this week’s lectionary I think we see Jesus the Great Physician, in rare and honest form. Jesus is giving his disciples a very clear prognosis. Peter, like so many of us, responds with denial –the first stage of grieving. Peter is so like us.

I remember sometime in late 2002, I sat in a orthopedist’s office. He spoke to me about the MRI of my spine. He used words I did not, yet, know.  What I most remember is “by age 40 you’ll be using a wheelchair or in need of spinal surgery.” NOOOOO! My brain, like Peter’s could not process it. I could not conceive of what he said. My mind shot out firecrackers of um so I worked my way through years of painful, confidence shattering physical and speech therapy to cope with Cerebral palsy, and now you are telling me that I am going to need to use a wheelchair anyways? Then what has been the point of all the work everyone told me was necessary and good? What then has been the point of my life if not to exceed expectations? If I can no longer do that who am I?  His words could not possibly fit into what I knew of life.

Peter rebuked Jesus not out of stupidity, although the writer of Mark sometimes portrays the disciples that way. Peter’s reaction to the news that Jesus would die was not really inspired by Satan, but by the very human experience of not being able to connect new information to what was expected based on a very real and human understanding of the world. Peter could no more conceive of the Messiah dying on a cross, then some people can conceive of a woman who used to have a speech impediment preaching. Peter is not very different from the families I meet who can not believe that their loved one on hospice is actually dying.

We live in a society that teaches us that physical change and decline is unacceptable, that it needs to stay hidden or be “put away” somewhere. But that is not how real life is. We are born, we age, we decline, and we die. Jesus is stating a very matter-of-fact truth about human life. Still like Peter we resist it. We resist change. We don’t want to believe that the real plan might be different from our plan. The influence of the Greek cynics is strong, we hear it from the men who die along side Jesus “Physician, heal thy self” / “Save yourself if you can”. That is what Peter expects–triumph against the world and the expectations of history.

Jesus, however, invites us forward into the very history we resist. Jesus calls us to the new. When my chronic pain started in 2002, I hated it. I wanted to go back the time when life itself was not a struggle. I took me a while to learn that was not going to be an option. Life became the unexpected. Somewhere somehow I realized that the pain might change my life but would not end it. I lost the competitive swimming, lost some ability to do the physically taxing book art that I loved, and lost some of the activeness I was known for. It seemed like I lost me. In time I realized that was all wrong. My acquired disabilities invited me out of the shadows. I could not hide my chronic pain as I had learned to compensate for and hide my cerebral palsy. A nun who had spent most of her career working with people with developmental disabilities, and was my supervisor, thought it was great fun to fold her arms over her chest and point out to me my very CP personality traits. Then there were the old ladies who sat behind me at church, who saw how much it hurt for me to stand or hold the hymnal in worship. They forced me to try a cane. I did not like any of it, but recognizing my real needs helped. It was when I could accept my acquired disabilities that I stopped denying my native disabilities. I learned to accept myself. It has made all the difference. To come out as who I am as a disabled woman has also allowed me to become an advocate, to make the world a more welcoming, accepting, inclusive world. That is not the work of Satan, it’s the work of accepting reality and following Jesus wherever he has us go.

Praying by Singing

Bless the Lord my soul / and bless God’s holy name….

~Prayer Song from Taize “Bless the Lord”

The chants of Taize captured me the very first time I heard them. They became something I could not live without during seminary. It started with vespers. One of the most profound prayer experiences I have ever had occurred during the silence of a Taize service. I ended up leading the Taize vespers on campus.

I eventually moved from the campus to an intentional community modeled on monastic and ecological principles. In my community at Myra House we gathered in the early morning for prayer. We prayed using Taize chants often. So often that they became the natural part of life. Singing “Omni Gentes” while loading the dishwasher after community dinner seemed natural and life-giving.

The Psalm for this Ash Wednesday starts “Bless the Lord, o my soul / and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.” (Psalm 103:1). It is an affirmation of life to bless. To bless one’s creator is also an affirmation of all creation. That affirmation of life-givingness is something I want to hold on to. The Psalm does not stay in life affirmation but it does start and end there. The Psalm elucidates God’s gifts, forgiveness, salvation, judgement of the righteous, knowledge given my teachers and prophets, and yes the fact the life is short, and then, back to God’s mercy and blessing. The movement of the Psalm is also the movement of life. As we grow we experience awe at the world. Sometimes life gets messy and blessing may not be foremost on our minds, yet in the life cycle we generally return to some affirmation of life, some review of what we’ve experienced.

Ash Wednesday. This is a day we remember our mortality. A day we traditionally start the journey to the cross and facing death.

What if this year, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the retelling of the Psalm? What if this year we bless the Lord ? Rather then solemnly following behind Jesus as if the journey of Lent is a tragic duty.

Life is messy. I continue to be astounded by the number of people who expresses surprise that Lent can be done differently by taking up a spiritual practice rather than giving up something. This year I am forgoing the giving up chocolate. This year I am taking up the practice of responding “yes” to God. I am seeking to bless God by following where God may lead. Thus even if the road leads to the sorrow of the Garden in Gethsemane, my journey will be a joyful one of returning the blessing of making a full life out of what I have received. On the road, I will sing and pray as if I am loading the dishwasher even when I do not know where I am going.

Bless the Lord, all you hosts,
   you ministers who do God’s will. (Psalms 103:21)

 

Human Devaluation

Like many people, I am deeply disturbed by recent events. Time after time police officers shoot at or get into confrontations with unarmed black men and grand juries fail to indict them. The response from many is “Black Lives Matter.” And I am as angry as many others that our justice system is failing time after time to produce what its title implies. I do not blame or impugn anyone who is protesting, no matter what form that protest is taking, although I believe that nonviolence will go farther to achieve the goal of correcting what is wrong with our system.

But there is a broader story here, one that indicates that there is even more happening than police brutality and racism and corrupt prosecutors.

Human devaluation. Some people are worth more than others.

The news media report far too often about children with autism being murdered by their own parents, of people tying them up and putting them in closets or basements, sometimes not feeding them or allowing them outside. Sometimes teachers and assistants have placed these children in cages. And there have been incidents where police officers have reacted inappropriately due to inadequate training when people with disabilities are involved—not prepared for someone who is deaf or has Down Syndrome or autism or mental illness. Some of these people have died at the hands of the police. Public sympathy is often not on the side of the victims.

Human devaluation. Some people are worth more than others.

Even the increase in news stories about hit-and-run accidents adds to this. People in cars are hitting pedestrians and bicyclists and not stopping to help or call the paramedics. Sometimes the drivers continue on with the victim embedded in the windshield or desperately holding on to the hood. Crosswalks and bike lanes are no protection.

Human devaluation. Some people are worth more than others.

Racism. Ableism. And what’s the third one? Transportism? People who are driving are worth more than people who walk or bike? I am not sure. But it’s clear that some people are not worth stopping to help.:

Some people are not worth treating with dignity and respect. Some people are not worth working for justice for or spending more time to arrest them uninjured than to just shoot them.

I am just thinking—–

And I am greatly disturbed, actually more and more disturbed.

Because if some people are not worth as much as others, where are we going with this?

Where will it stop? What classification will be safe?

Not poor people. Not black, brown or any other people of color. Not people with any type of disability. Not women. Not people with sexual orientations other than cis-gender. Not unemployed people. Not sick people. Not elderly.

Not anyone.

God weeps.  

Crazysauce

Another Wonderful post from Rev. Dr Sarah Lund! Gee, I wonder whom that friends she was talking with was…sources who know say it was another Woman Who Speaks In Church!

Sarah Griffith Lund

I’m listening to the audio book of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I’m in love with the voice of Hazel, the 16 year old cancer patient. Driving down Florida’s turnpike in the torrential rain, hazard lights flashing, white knuckles gripping, I hear Hazel describing what it feels like to be young and dying and in love.

Hazel says things like awesomesauce, which according to the urban dictionary means “more awesome than awesome.” As in “that home churned Georgia peach ice cream is awesomesauce!”

Does adding the word “sauce” at the end magnify a word’s meaning?

Like annoyingsauce or stupidsauce?

When things get really crazy, are they crazysauce?

What about all the school shootings that have happened like rapid fire in the past weeks?

Is that because of some people with guns who are crazysauce?

Is it primarily mental illness that causes an otherwise normal person to violently…

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