Reflections on Chapel Today

For the first time in quite awhile I was really moved by the chapel service at school. The sermon was excellent, communion was done in a way that embraced completely the theology of those serving the elements, even the prayers were deligently decided upon for their value. The overarching theme was to not give into fear, even when the cloud of fear is completely surrounding us.

The message was on Matthew 25:14-30. Here is a small excerpt of that passage:

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This slave lived in so much fear that he was not willing to even attempt to invest or expand on what he is given. This fear is so much that it actually pushes him to not act at all. How often is that the case in our lives? I know the fear of the results push me to not act many times. The fear of the unknown can debilitate us in so many ways. This message of overcoming fear continued at the Communion Table. We were called to come and partake in the meal, as Jesus and the Disciples did, without fear of there not being enough. Jesus allows there to be enough of him to go around all the time. During communion, the pianist began playing the song, “Give Thanks.” There was no intention for the congregation to sing along at this point, but slowly we all began singing with the music. As I was walking up to receive Communion, the lyrics really started to speak to me.

AND NOW LET THE WEAK SAY
I AM STRONG
LET THE POOR SAY
I AM RICH
BECAUSE OF WHAT
THE LORD HAS DONE
FOR US

I began to choke up for no apparent reason at that point and really felt vulnerable as I came to the front of the line to receive the elements. It was extremely powerful moment in a time where I needed to know about the hope and love that is still present in the church. I also want to share the prayers from the service today.

For all that we have been given, for the many gifts with we have been entrusted, O God of Abundant Life, We give thanks. For the many times we have failed to respond according to our ability, for the many times we have been paralyzed by fear and insecurity, for our complicity in the unjust distribution of weatlh, O God of Mercy, we repent. For the many who live without, for the many who live with too much, O God of Compassion, we pray. For wisdom and courage, O God of Sustenance and Grace, we hope and trust in you. In the name of Christ, Amen.

May many blessings be upon you in your life!

-z

Prop 8 in California

I haven’t updated this in awhile, but finally something has come through that has forced me to post. In California, voters voted to define marriage between only a man and a woman. In a monumental election where Barack Obama is elected president, Californians voted to take away civil rights to a group of people. Usually I would have a long, emotional response to this action, but Keith Olbermann really got it right with this one. I don’t always agree with Olbermann’s thoughts or emotional responses to everything, but this is one time I couldn’t agree more. The YouTube video is below of his monologue on Monday night.

Really? Comments That Make You Think

The below article is one that I saw while surfing news sites. The article does not bother me, but a comment posted below it did. The comment was:

“It seems that Obama is letting people who lost their right to vote, a chance to vote without giving Republicans the chance to challenge the voter?”

Now, I do not know the election laws of each individual state, but this angers me to no end. Just because a person does not own a piece of property, or does not rent a place, this means they have no right to vote? If any group of people in this country is affected by this election, it is people who are homeless. I don’t think that just because they may not be voting your way means that they have lost the right to vote. Also, does the Republican Party really embrace the needs of the homeless community? I really have nothing insightful to say about this right now, just wanted to pass the article along, but more importantly the comment.

-z


From New York Post:

Homeless “Driven” to Vote Obama

By JEANE MacINTOSH

Last updated: 10:27 am

October 7, 2008

Posted: 9:34 pm

October 6, 2008

CLEVELAND – Volunteers supporting Barack Obama picked up hundreds of people at homeless shelters, soup kitchens and drug-rehab centers and drove them to a polling place yesterday on the last day that Ohioans could register and vote on the same day, almost no questions asked.

The huge effort by a pro-Obama group, Vote Today Ohio, takes advantage of a quirk in the state’s elections laws that allows people to register and cast ballots at the same time without having to prove residency.

Republicans have argued that the window could lead to widespread voter fraud because officials wouldn’t have an opportunity to verify registration information before ballots were cast.

Among the volunteers were Yori Stadlin and Vivian Lehrer of the Upper West Side, who got married last week and decided to spend their honeymoon shepherding voters to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

Early today, Stadlin’s van picked up William Woods, 59, at the soup kitchen of the Bishop Cosgrove Center.

“I never voted before,” Woods said, because of a felony conviction that previously barred him from the polls. “Without this service, I would have had no way to get here.”

My First Interesting Experience

I had an interesting experience a week ago after the first of two services I was leading that week. It was only my second Sunday at this particular church, and I was still getting to know people and couldn’t entirely tell who were guests and who were members. After the service, as I was greeting everyone that attended the service, a man came up to me and started a conversation.

First off, he stood much closer to me than I was comfortable, and he began to tell me a bit about himself. He informed me that he was not United Methodist, but had taken part in the Walk to Emmaus program and found that to be very good. Here is where things got interesting. He then began to tell me that the United Methodist Church has been out of touch with “true biblical teaching.” He stated that as a denomination we have tried to wiggle and justify our positions, but continued to teach people the wrong way. He informed me that I needed to forget and throw-out everything I had been taught, and reread the Bible with a much more literal mindset. This “conversation” only lasted a few moments, but it seemed to happen in slow motion. The entire thing appeared to be rehearsed and went quickly as to not give me a chance to say anything. Afterwards I simply thanked him for sharing his feelings with me and he bolted out the door.

It was very apparent that he only attended the service that morning to tell the new pastor this message. I blew it off at that moment simply because I had others waiting to see me at this church, and I had to then go to another church afterwards for a second worship service. After looking back, I began wondering if this kind of thing would happen more often to me. I asked the senior pastor if he had ever experienced this, and he hadn’t. In 8 years at these congregations, he had never had someone come up to him like that.

I began to think a bit on whether this man was going to say this to me anyway, or was it something in my sermon that made him feel that he had to say it. I thought my sermon was pretty sound. I preached on why Jesus taught in parables and the importance to us as a community. I made no radical social or political statements other than we should be gentler in how we reach out to people and not condemn or judge right away. If that was a radical statement, then I’m in for a long 40-plus years of ministry.

I’m sure this may only be a one time thing to happen, but thought that it was interesting it happened to me in the first couple weeks of my first appointment. I’m sure there will be more stories of interesting interactions in the years to come.

A Few Different Things

A lot has happened since my last blog update, and I should be in a position now to update on a regular basis. I’ve had much to say, but had to let some of it simmer in my head for a bit so that I didn’t write out of anger.

The first big event is that I attended the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in Dallas. I was a lay delegate from Nebraska, and it was my last thing I’ll ever do as a lay person in the United Methodist Church. I entered this conference with some high hopes for the leadership of our denomination. We were there to elect 3 new Bishops to serve the church. I was very hopeful that this would be the conference where our jurisdiction would finally elect an African-American female to be a Bishop. However, this did not happen. This conference was a struggle for me to be a part of. It was draining physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I don’t want to write every detail here, but the obvious part that sexism and racism played in this conference was very disheartening to me. I had a couple conversations with people from different conferences about how an African-American woman wouldn’t fit the culture of their conference. This one conversation put me over the edge and created a anger inside of me. How is this even a valid reason to prevent an election of a gifted leader to be Bishop, and how is something like that even have a place in the church? I became more and more disillusioned at this process as it went on. Just to set the record straight, I have attended this conference before and I was aware of it being overly political, but I still hoped that this time might be a little different. I left this conference more committed to social justice ministry within the church, and with a deeper understanding of my call to ministry. I also came away with new friends in the progressive movement in the church, so I suppose some helpful things did come about.

On to another event in my life recently, I began my first appointment on July 1. I am now serving 3 rural congregations near Lincoln, Nebraska, as an Associate Pastor. So far everything has gone smoothly, and I’m still feeling things out. It’s hard to get to know people when I am not preaching in the same church every week, but I’m starting to remember people now. I’m excited for the ministry that has gone on in this parish, and am hopeful for the future. I don’t plan on moving to a new appointment for 3 years, which is when I graduate, but I’ve learned that you can never be too sure of anything in this system.

I’ve also settled into my new apartment in Lincoln, and really enjoy living on my own know. I’ve established my residence here, and even got my new driver’s license this week. For the first time since I was 2 years old, I am not a resident of Wahoo, Nebraska.

I’m looking forward to getting back to Kansas City and seeing everyone at school. I’m sure we all have tons to talk about, and I’m ready to get back into the swing of classes.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Just Read It, That’s all I’m Going To Say

Pope Benedict: I’m praying for Anglican church

  • Story Highlights
  • Pope Benedict XVI says that he is praying for the Anglican community
  • Pope prays after Church of England’s ruling body voted to support women bishops
  • Benedict says he doesn’t want to see more ‘schisms and fractures’

(AP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that he is praying there will not be any more rifts in the Anglican community following the recent Church of England decision on women bishops.

Answering questions from journalists aboard his flight to Australia, Benedict touched briefly on the turmoil in the Anglican church.

“I am praying so that there are no more schisms and fractures” within the Anglican community, Benedict said.

On Monday, the Church of England’s ruling body voted its support for women to become bishops. That stance risks causing further division among Anglicans, since traditionalists are opposed to that idea.

The Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the U.S., is led by a woman, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

The Anglican Communion, a 77 million-member family of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England, is also wrestling with other contentious issues — gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Benedict said he did not want to “interfere” in the debate.

Still, the Vatican on Tuesday said the decision by the Church of England to allow women to become bishops will be an obstacle to its reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican does not permit the ordination of women.

Anglicans split from Rome more than four centuries ago, when English King Henry VIII bolted in 1534 after papal refusal to grant him a marriage annulment.

Catholics and Anglicans have been engaged in talks to overcome theological divisions.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/07/12/pope.anglican.ap/index.html