“My concern is this: a church that grounds its praxis in the maintenance of big empty buildings and the socioeconomic status quo will either ultimately crumble, or fully align with abuser over abused. I personally love big pretty church buildings, so I don’t say this out of malice. It’s just what’s coming down the line. Conversely: a church that grounds itself tenderly in the streets, for the survival and dignity of all people–particularly the poor and the young– will explode with an abundance of Spirit. I know the Episcopal church is capable, in tangible ways, of becoming the latter. But she sure is taking her sweet time getting there. And in the meantime, people are suffering and dying in droves. I am baffled. We claim a resurrected life. How can we wait?”—A., “Dear Bishop”
Remind me, remind me of the vision you gave me. Remind me, remind me what anointing oil is for. I need to know you’re near me. I need to know you’re holding me just as closely As the day you took my life and gave me a vision As the day you poured the oil and gave me a dream I can’t believe this is happening— how does a shepherd become a king
“I loved you from our first date at the batting cages
when I missed 23 balls in a row
and you looked at me
like I was a home run in the ninth inning of the world series”—Andrea Gibson, “Maybe I Need You”
“But the fact of the matter is this: as much as I love theology, most everything I’ve learned about God and how God works in the world and in my life I didn’t learn in seminary. I learned it from sober drunks. Most of them don’t go to church but I’ve never met a group of people who talk more about God. Not ideas about God. And not feelings about God, but God as a real and solid part of life, not in lofty terms, but in a “if I don’t turn my life and my will over to the care of God, I’m screwed” type of way. It’s amazing what kind of faith comes out of desperation. These folks aren’t choosing God as some kind of self-improvement guru. They know that God can do for them what they cannot do for themselves and it’s rely on God or drink.”—Nadia Bolz-Weber, “Twenty Years Without a Drink”
“I suggest that the shit has hit the fan in Luke 2, and the angelic host is startled into uproarious and impromptu praise by the event of God’s ingnominious incarnation into human history. Gabriel is perhaps chuckling up his sleeve, but also shaking slightly because even the Angel of Annunciation doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.
This “Birth as Baby” thing is unprecedented, you see, and the usually well-composed heavenly host is stymied. Normally, angel song follows on themes of God’s holiness, and might, such as that you’ll find in Isaiah’s smoky temple scene. Now, though, God is tabernacled among the heifers and hens, and wrapped in some fabric to help keep the flies off. How do you even start singing about that?”—Pastor Marc, “Some Dirty Thoughts About Christmas - A Speculative Essay and NOT a sermon”
So the baby is born, and they place him in the manger.
Which, by the way, I told them not to do.
Because how unsanitary is that? Do you know what a manger is?
As far as I know, it’s the place you put infant messiahs.
It’s a food trough for animals.
“Oh, interesting” is right. Let me ask you. So your baby is born, and the first thing you do is put him in an open container filled with grain and covered in oxen drool? Does this seem reasonable to you?
You did have them out with the animals. Their options were limited.
I rented cribs. I asked Joseph, do you want a crib. And he said, no, we’re fine, and then sets the kid in the food box. And I say to him, you’re new at this, aren’t you.
The divinity of God is on display at Christmas in beautiful creche scenes. We sing songs of babies who don’t cry. We mistake quiet for peace. A properly antiseptic and church-y view of birth, arranged as high art to convey the seriousness and sacredness of the incarnation. It is as though the truth of birth is too secular for Emmanuel, it doesn’t look too holy in its real state. So the first days of the God-with-us requires the dignity afforded by our editing.
But this? This creating out of passion and love, the carrying, the seemingly-never-ending-waiting, the knitting-together-of-wonder-in-secret-places, the pain, the labour, the blurred line between joy and “someone please make it stop,” the “I can’t do it” even while you’re in the doing of it, the delivery of new life in blood and hope and humanity?
“It’s Okay to be Neither,” By Melissa Bollow Tempel
Alie arrived at our 1st-grade classroom wearing a sweatshirt with a hood. I asked her to take off her hood, and she refused. I thought she was just being difficult and ignored it. After breakfast we got in line for art, and I noticed that she still had not removed her hood. When we arrived at the art room, I said: “Allie, I’m not playing. It’s time for art. The rule is no hoods or hats in school.”
She looked up with tears in her eyes and I realized there was something wrong. Her classmates went into the art room and we moved to the art storage area so her classmates wouldn’t hear our conversation. I softened my tone and asked her if she’d like to tell me what was wrong.
“My ponytail,” she cried.
“Can I see?” I asked.
She nodded and pulled down her hood. Allie’s braids had come undone overnight and there hadn’t been time to redo them in the morning, so they had to be put back in a ponytail. It was high up on the back of her head like those of many girls in our class, but I could see that to Allie it just felt wrong. With Allie’s permission, I took the elastic out and re-braided her hair so it could hang down.
“How’s that?” I asked.
She smiled. “Good,” she said and skipped off to join her friends in art.
This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults. Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.
Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal.
Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?”
Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe … life is a grand adventure. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.
“Santa is real and I believe in him. Because I am him. And when my daughter is old enough I’ll explain to her that Santa is real because his magic was strong enough to encourage anonymous generosity in others over 1,000 years after he died. And when she’s old enough to know that Santa isn’t alive in the technical sense of the word she’ll be old enough to know that she’s now ready to be Santa herself to those less fortunate than herself. Santa never dies because we pick up the mantle he left.”—The Bloggess, being serious in a mostly un-serious post, “Santa Cures Assholes. How Can You Not Support That?”
This was the minute no one speaks of, when she could still refuse. A breath unbreathed, Spirit, suspended, waiting.
She did not cry, “I cannot, I am not worthy,” nor, “I have not the strength.” She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced. Bravest of all humans, consent illumined her. The room filled with its light, the lily glowed in it, and the iridescent wings. Consent, courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.
Of course repentance CAN look like a prostitute becoming a librarian but repentance can also look like a whore saying ok I’m a sex worker and I have no idea how to get out but I can come here and receive bread and wine and maybe if only for a moment I can hold onto the love of God without being deemed worthy of it by anyone but God.
Repentance is a con artist being a real person for the first time ever without knowing who that person is anymore but knowing he sees it in the eyes of those serving him communion naming him a Child of God.
Repentance is realizing there is more life to be had in being proved wrong than in continuing to think you’re right.
Repentance is the adult child of an fundamentalist saying I give up on waiting for my mom to love me for who I am so I’m gonna rely on God to help me love her for who she is because I know she’s not going to be around forever.
Repentance is unexpected beauty after a failed suicide attempt.
Repentance is a couple weeks ago when the clerk at the Adult bookstore on Colfax teared up and said “your church brought me thanksgiving lunch?”.
Repentance is what happened to me when at the age of 28 my first community college teacher told me I was smart and despite all my past experience of myself I believed her.
See, repentance is what happens to us when the Good News, the truth of who we are and who God is, enters our lives and scatters the darkness of competing ideas.
In my sermon last week for Biblical Preaching, I tried to say (I’m not sure if it was clear, but I tried) that the words we use in Scripture and in singing write a particular kind of canon on our hearts. So we should take our words — and particularly our songs — very seriously.
To close, I had the members of my preaching lab sing “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” but with words from Isaiah 40:1-11 as I’d rewritten them.
Last night at Trevor, there was not a dry eye within reach when the family of Jamey Rodemeyer came out to support their brother and son. He was fourteen-years-old, and a victim of bullying. Jamey was a fan of Lady Gaga, he listed her as one of the main reasons he felt whole. Sadly, after consistent torture and bullying, he made a choice that leaves him no longer here with us in body.
If it’s never been something you’ve contemplated, think of what it would take for you to feel so helpless that you would consider taking your life? What if your Mother felt that way? Your Father? Brother? Sister? Best friend? How could you wish that upon anyone? Why would you want to be a force of evil when you could be a force of good? If someone has been mean to you, trampled on your heart, be the bigger person.
BE LOVE. Do you know what that means? Think about how you can BE LOVE. It is something that is on my mind every day. How can I be more appreciative or thankful? How can I pass on positive affirmations to those around me that so greatly deserve to know…they are special.
Last night, a straight father come up to me with his son, and he proudly exclaimed, “We’re from the Bay Area like you, this is my son, and he just came out!” His son stood next to his sister, smiling, and I felt so happy to see that he was excepted in their family. I know this is not always the case. It is on nights like last night that I am reminded of the extreme gift one is given when they are allowed to be themselves.
If you’ve read this thus far, thank you for giving me your time. I always feel compelled to write about moments in my life like last night, because they make me want to use my voice to tell other people how much these things means to me. And it was so lovely to see all the people that this means so much too. Including “GOD” or “The Wizard” played by the genius that is Amy Poehler, our invisible MC last night. She had everyone “in stitches!” I was so proud of Adam Shankman for recruiting all the amazing and talented people who performed, presented and aided towards the heartwarmingly inspiring night.
“You can expect Christmas trees and those puffy Santa and snowmen blow-up yard dolls to appear in the stores in August. Soon after, the Salvation Army kettles show up at storefronts (and drop a few dollars in - they do a great job of caring for the least of these). And then, like clockwork, the beleaguered voices shouting about the war on Christmas appear. They argue that store clerks wishing us, “Happy Holidays!” is tantamount to saying Jesus really did mean all that stuff about caring for the poor and forgiving our enemies and we should follow it to the letter. When Target and Wal-Mart put up signs for “Holiday Sales,” those special interest groups have won, because in this country, we have “Christmas Sales.” And don’t even get them started about the lack of a nativity on the courthouse square. The next thing you know, women will want the vote.”—