Unicorn, Meet Human Being With Spiritual Needs

“After 12 different phone calls I could not even make contact with a “unicorn.” When someone did FINALLY call me back 3 hours later, I suggested they start promoting women in their order as maybe that would help them become more organized and enable them to provide services for people which they insist people need. You can image how the rest of the phone played out. :)”

Its not all old hymns and prayers, folks!

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Ordination for Another WWSIC

We’ve just gotten word that Karen Clark Ristine, one of our Advent Contributors, and a woman highly gifted by the Holy Spirit will be Ordained to Christian Ministry in the United Methodist Church this Saturday in a service at Redlands University in Redlands, California! Karen is currently the pastor of Mission Hills United Methodist Church in San Diego, California.

Congrats Karen! Come Holy Spirit Come!

SHE Will Be Ordained

We a WWSIC are happy to announce that our co-founder Amanda Kersey has been approved for ordination by the Southern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ!

We must say it was a historic day. Amanda presented her faith journey and theology to the gathered clergy and lay persons, and when the time came to question her so as to further examine her fitness for ministry….there was utter SILENCE!

No question about it, she is fit for ministry, she is called by God, and SHE will be ordained!

Congratulations Amanda!

UPDATE: Amanda’s Ordination service is set for 3pm, Sunday, July 22, 2011 and will be held at the Mission Hills United Church of Christ at 4070 Jackdaw Street in San Diego, California. Ya’ll come!

Does God Care About the City?

And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it.

~ John 19:41, RSV

If nothing else, God cares about the cities because they have people in them. That’s what makes them cities.

In 1994 Bruce Winter wrote a book he titled Seek the Welfare of the City, a title taken from Jeremiah 29: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”[1] Winter is writing about first century Christians, but the welfare of the city ought to be a real concern to Christians in this twenty-first century, too. Even in cities where it seems as if there is a church on every corner, we have problems: crime, pollution, traffic, unemployment, homelessness; the list goes on and on, and you probably have your own ideas about “what’s wrong with the city.”

Los Angeles is the city and context where I do ministry.  I can imagine Jesus here, stopping to pray with and heal a homeless man on Skid Row, or chatting with a prostitute on Santa Monica Boulevard, or sitting down to dinner with a high-powered Hollywood executive. I can imagine Jesus kneeling to pray in our little sanctuary in South Central or in the ostentatious but still holy Cathedral of the Angels.

God cares about the city – not just Los Angeles, but every city – and because God cares, I care.  I don’t care only because God cares, but also because this is where my own life unfolds, and because people are fun and fascinating, and because in every person I meet I see reflected some little piece of Jesus, or my own mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter or grandchild. Sometimes I see a reflection of myself.  How could I not care?

I love the sometimes dirty and gritty but always interesting and diverse City of Angels with its Tower-of-Babel- and-Pentecost-all-rolled-together mix of languages and cultures and skin tones and traditions. (I also love my hometown city, Long Beach, twenty miles away from my church, a kind of mini-LA with its own history and culture.) I want to understand what works and what doesn’t work, the complex interaction of people and politics and systems, and I want to understand how we can make it all come together in a way that benefits the entire community – all the people who live and work and pass through this crazy pueblo known as Los Angeles.


[1] Jeremiah 29:7, RSV.

The Wisdom of Women

I must confess, Epiphany is my favorite day of the Christian year. It is ripe with possibilities that often go overlooked. It also has deep personal meaning to me because of the tradition my family of origin created to celebrate the arrival of the “kings.”

The three kings, found in only one gospel, add a mysticism to the Christmas story that I venture to say we find no place else in the entire Advent-Christmas-Epiphany story. It is the kind of mysticism that may only exist in one other place in Christianity, namely the Resurrection.

Epiphany—realization. It’s the story of the arrival of the “kings” into the presence of the babe called Jesus, and his parents. It’s a story not only of realization but one of being equipped for the holy journey. Here we have the three “kings,” scholars from afar, arriving to welcome the child of a young and unknown Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph we know had been told in visitations and dreams that there was something of celestial destiny associated with their child. But the then there was the arrival of these strange kings who had held audience with the local ruler in their search for Jesus. It does not seem strange to me that scholars, kings, paying attention to the signs of their time and heeding the leading of the divine in their own lives would seek Jesus out. Indeed, I think the grown Jesus once spoke of the need to heed the signs of our own time.

We too, I believe, are each in some way to be equipped for the journey ahead of us, be it a journey we anticipate or not. There are signs of our coming reality that we may not always see for what they are. Perhaps one of the reasons I love Epiphany so much is that each January 6th of my school age years, I would awake to find three wrapped gifts at the foot of my bed. They were not Christmas gifts, and although they were wrapped, they were never shiny toys designed to delight. No, they were shoes, socks, a shirt…usually things that needed to be replaced at that time of the school year. I looked forward to these gifts sometimes more than gifts from Santa, and often I was allowed to discover what lay inside the wrapping in the privacy of my own room—no family snapping photos, no requests to model what might lay inside. Simple gifts designed to equip me for the journey ahead. It would be some where in my twenties that I would realize one of the reasons behind my visits from the wise men was the fact that—living paycheck to paycheck—my mother could not always buy what she wanted to get me for Christmas at one time and this was her way of “making up” for what seemed to her—not me—as meager Christmas mornings. Mother’s wisdom.

As I think about the story of the three kings, it really is strange that they would give Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What strange gifts. Yes, we get that they were valuable, but what is a baby from a poor family to do with those? Ah, yes, the family was soon to flee into Egypt to escape from Herod. Gifts of wealthy to empower refugees fleeing for their lives. The gifts the wise men gave equipped Jesus’ family for the journey but the gifts were also over-the-top extravagant. They were gifts in the ancient tradition; gifts of tribute given to a king—a person of great power in the world. And in this sense the gifts were ones of recognition of the arrival of the person come in the form of a babe to live among the marginalized in an occupied land.

—A babe whose ultimate omnipresence in the world we just celebrated at Christmas. Wait, what? Usually we think of God as omnipresent in the world, not Jesus. Yes, I hear the theologians among you complaining. And I protest. My thought for Epiphany 2012 is this: the gift we received in Jesus’s birth was Jesus bringing God to us and showing us how to bring out the recognition of the Holy Spirit into the world in return. It was the gospel and work of the grown Jesus to invite in the poor, the disabled, the women, the children, those who had no voice in society into the conversation, to demand that they be heard and that they be fed both literally and with justice. Christmas is the beginning of that, Epiphany the recognition of it, and the rest of the church year is a discussion on how to live into and out of the babe recognized by kings.

This is hard work. It is being shaken to the core, ceased by the spirit, and acting upon completion. As I write this, I am returning from a denominational meeting in which the discussion of diversity and inclusion not only left out but further marginalized people with disabilities. In the meeting, I was sitting and processing how to respond. But then a lone woman stood up, interrupted the meeting, spoke out for justice, and sat down. Then I stood up and spoke on the same topic. Then a third. And the church was silenced into the realization that Jesus is still present and calling for the inclusion of the marginalized, and the Spirit is still moving within the church with an overpowering wind when necessary. Woman-Spirit in partnership with wisdom.

As we close this devotional season at Women Who Speak in Church, I invite you to take this realization of the omnipresence of Jesus calling for liberation of the marginalized, and the knowledge that the Spirit is still blowing the winds of God’s justice with you into this new year. May we all live fully, knowing that we have been somehow equipped for journey ahead.

Amen for Epiphany!

What’s On Your Bucket List?

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.’

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

—Luke 2:23-38

One of the things I love about this passage is the visualization I get when I think of Anna and Simeon holding the baby Jesus. Old hands embracing a newborn child. An old religion embracing the coming of a new one. That is what Luke is trying to tell us.

Anna and Simeon represent the faithful of Israel: those who keep the covenant day and night, those who worship God with praise and prophecy. Both are rewarded for their faith with God’s promise that they will see the coming of the Messiah.

Simeon says, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” The long awaited promise has been fulfilled and now he may die at peace.

A movie called “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman came out a couple of years ago. These two men facing terminal cancer make a list of items they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” from which the list is named. We all have things we want to do before we die. Perhaps they are listed in some journal or are set back in your brain. Regardless dust them off and get to it.

What is on your bucket list? What will make your heart satisfied that you have really lived? Don’t worry that some of the things you list will never be accomplished, just listing your desires in life is living. So what are you waiting for? It’s never too late to start appreciating all the life around you, and live.

***

Rev. Jeri Wilkerson is a native to Florida and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Nursing from the University of Florida before expanding her call into ministry and completing her education at Claremont School of Theology. Jeri is passionate about preaching, worship, and the arts, where she finds that people can explore their faith as they find new ways of experiencing God. She is appointed at First United Methodist Church of Mesa where she has been instrumental in the church’s involvement in homelessness programs and other mission activities. She currently serves as the youth leader, expanding the program to include a missional focus.