Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Great Gathering Sunday"

I was catching up on FCS sermons online, and I loved the "Great Gathering Sunday" one -- which Molly and Laura Ruth co-preached, Molly's first Sunday back from a three-month sabbatical.

Molly talked about a church camp she attended one week during her sabbatical.
The conference was called “Running the Good Race,” and took as its heart the very scripture we are breaking open today. Naturally, the youth who signed up for it were all very athletic, and expected that they would be spending plenty of time outside, running relays, leaping tall buildings, choosing sides for teams, sweating and burning carbs. The problem is, they got me for a leader. The city girl. Gym in my high school consisted of walking the halls in shorts and combat boots. What crazy person named this conference Running the Good Race? Well, I did actually. I didn’t think they would take me so literally.

I had intended for the conference to be about competition and cooperation as elements of the Christian spiritual life. Does God want us to ‘be our best’? What does Jesus think about cliques and competition, about turning the world into winners and losers? I wanted to explore this with them, because I well remembered what it was like to be 12 or 13 myself—painfully so—and wanted the kids to learn that God had a plan for them, and that God and Jesus evaluate their progress by very different criteria than their peers do, or their coaches, or even their parents and teachers.

I wanted to set them up to get out of the race entirely, so to speak. But this group of kids changed the game on me—when we began to talk about the scripture, they quickly noticed that it didn’t say you should win the race, and it also doesn’t say you should get out of it—it says, what? You should FINISH the race. Just this week I heard about a woman in our church who was on her high school track team. She came in last, every event, every week. And she didn’t care. She didn’t play to compete with others. She played to beat her own time. And often she did. She knew intuitively what Paul meant, when he said he has finished the race.
Molly went on to talk about how one of her goals for sabbatical was to learn how to swim, and with the help of a personal trainer, she did. And then she went to church camp. And there was swim-time every day. And she expected the kids to keep to their cliques, because that's what middle schoolers do. Only they didn't.
Everyone piled into the water, and I started doing my laps, freestyle, breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle. And the kids, who had been in twos and threes, began to come together into fours and fives, and into eights and nines, and finally, finally, all 23 middle-school youth were in the shallow end, together, playing a game of volleyball, every single one of them. Perfect participation. It was only Monday, and already they had figured out how everybody could win.

So may all your people, from all the ends of earth, be gathered into one in You.

My son Rafe and I were the only ones who were not playing with the youth. I was doing my laps, and Rafe was being Rafe in the deep end, until he decided he’d rather be Rafe in the shallow end, and since I was his buddy I had to go with him. I walked down the dock past the volleyball game, agog at this miraculous display of unity and cooperation that had not in any way been mandated by adults; I stared at the girls I’d thought were snobby and the overweight boy, the cool kids and the bookworms, marveling, and then something even more remarkable happened.

They asked me to play with them.

I murmured the automatic response, “Oh no, you don’t want me, I’m terrible, a definite liability.” And they wouldn’t let me be, until I stepped into the game. They made me serve, a lot. And when the ball made it over the imaginary center line, they all cheered, and slapped me on the back, and when I accidentally spiked it into the head of a girl in front of me, they commiserated, and gave me a second try, and no one kept score. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. The minister shall be ministered to, and the snob and the nerd shall play volleyball together.

It was holy. And it was FUN.

How often do we hold ourselves outside of things, because we’re afraid if we get into the middle, we’ll be the weak link? We’ll be the reason why it fails? Isn’t it just better to avoid any risk of failure, even if it means withholding from ourselves the joy of belonging?

A few days later, we did an exercise in deep sharing with the youth. Each person in the circle told of a time when they’d been excluded. They told heartbreaking stories of family trauma, of feuds with best friend. And when it was my turn, I was all set to tell my standard story of the gorgeous, popular girl in junior high making me miserable with her bullying. And instead, God said to me, “don’t tell that one. You don’t need to tell that one this time. Tell them instead about how you excluded yourself, for so many years. Tell them how you told yourself for 3 decades that you weren’t an athlete. Then tell them what they have done to change that, by their kindness and their love.” So I told them.

We cast ourselves into roles, sometimes when we are very very young, and then find it darned hard to get out of them. We are the deciders in our own lives, and we decide ourselves into a corner. But God keeps giving us a way out of that corner. God puts the right person into our path, the right volleyball game, and before we know it, we are playing. The indwelling Christ, who has been living in our hearts all along, sees the opening, and takes it.

Even if it’s taken you 30 years to do it: you can change the game, you can rewrite the rules of the race; you can get off the bench and into the running, not to compete, but to feel the exhilaration of being part of something bigger and beautiful, to live up to not just our human potential but our Godly potential. God is waiting to set us free, because we are meant for freedom. One day, as Rafe and I were walking up from Davis Square, I suddenly started to run, out of sheer giddiness. My son, not used to displays of spontaneous exertion from me, started jogging along beside me, his face filled with light. “Mom!” he panted. “Mom! Why…are…we…running? Why…are…we…running, Mom? Is…it…for…the…feeling…of…freedom?”

What a terrible thing, to live your whole life without that feeling of freedom.

The good news is, you are not the person you think you are. You are the person God thinks you are.
She closed with reflecting on the phrase, "I have fought the good fight."
So I have finished the race, and you have kept the faith. There is one more phrase here that God is turning our minds to, the first one: I have fought the good fight. What is the good fight? How is it even appropriate for Christians to talk about a fight, we who are supposed to be people of peace?

Whenever I am stumped about what some part of the Bible might be trying to say, I go right back to the Gospels to see what Jesus was actually doing, and how it might shed light on the rest of the Bible. In this case, I think about the fights that Jesus fought. Every one of the fights that he fought were for somebody else. When there was a fight about him, he didn’t fight—he’d change the subject, or he’d disappear from their midst, or even allow himself to be crucified, rather than fight.

Laura Ruth: But he fought plenty of fights on behalf of others, people in no position to fight for themselves. He fought for the blind, the lame, the poor, for those in prison. He fought for women and he fought for children, he fought for the chronically ill and the mentally ill, and he fought for immigrants from other countries. He fought to keep some things sacred, like the Temple, so that God wouldn’t die on the altar of capitalism.

Molly: The race we race is fundamentally for ourselves. We do it to develop endurance, to build muscle, to feel the feeling of freedom and belonging. But it has a higher purpose. The muscle it builds, God means us to use in the service of others. Because of the gift of sabbatical and the people who were in it, I am now a swimmer who can perhaps save my own life, and, more importantly, may be called upon someday to save someone else’s.

Laura Ruth: The good fight is a fight to be fought for others. Church, it is fall, a time of fresh energy and commitments. What will we do this year? What fights will we fight so that others may be free? We can’t fight every good fight, but what if we fought a couple fights, really well? Can you imagine, if this year every single person in this sanctuary committed their spiritual strength to fight ONE fight that Jesus would have fought? What kind of power will we unleash, if we have perfect commitment, perfect participation, in unleashing the reign of God in this world?

How often do we hold ourselves outside of things, because we’re afraid if we get into the middle, we’ll be the weak link? We’ll be the reason why it fails? Isn’t it just better to avoid any risk of failure, even if it means withholding from ourselves the joy of belonging?

This resonated with me a lot. I recurrently get really avoidant -- not wanting to do any of the things I'm supposed to be doing -- and it's been worse this year than usual, and I was telling my best friend earlier this week ('cause I was really feeling it on Monday) that part of that is a fear of doing it wrong, of upsetting/disappointing people, of failing to live up to expectations, of showing people that I'm not actually as awesome as they think I am/I would like to be.

(I am also a really risk-averse person and want Molly's personal trainer to teach me to swim.)

The good news is, you are not the person you think you are. You are the person God thinks you are.

I talk a lot about how each one of us is a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God (and you are beautiful to behold), but I'm not so good at TRUSTING in God (see above re: risk-averse). "Stubborn, independent baby -- I can do it myself, maybe," to quote a poem my mother wrote about me when I was small. I freely admit that believe in a benevolent Creator because I want that to be true, that I want someone I can hand all of my prayers over to -- but I still hold so very fast to controlling my own life.

I appreciate the reminder that God loves us and wants us to be free.

I also really like the emphasis on the fact that we are called to be strong for those who cannot be strong for themselves.

The muscle it builds, God means us to use in the service of others.

"melech": king, mother, abundance

I recently read a Velveteen Rabbi post on Yom Kippur 5770, and I was struck by her section on king:
The word מלך, "king," is a prevalent metaphor in the High Holiday liturgy. We can see this through a new lens if we unpack the individual letters of the word:
  • מ / mem: this letter can be found in the mmm of mama and ima, the m-sound at the beginning of the word mayyim (waters, both cosmic and otherwise). Mem is a letter of motherhood and water.
  • ל / lamed: this letter begins up high, then takes a crooked path to reach the ground below. Like the flow of divine abundance which begins on high and divagates as it reaches us; like our lives, which start out straight but always wind up complicated. Lamed is a channel from high to low.
  • כ / chaf: this letter is cupped, like hands brought together to receive.
These three letters flow together sequentially in the alef-bet. Here in our liturgy they speak to us of divine kingship or sovereignty -- and they also speak to us of the root metaphor of motherhood and divine flow, coming down through its crooked channels into our hands.

Before reciting the ha-Melech prayer on Yom Kippur morning, Simcha Zevit gives over this teaching in the name of Reb Marcia Prager, and then invites us to rise and embody it: hands waving above our heads like the rish-rush of the waters, then twisting and flowing down toward the ground, then cupped to receive abundance and then to offer it to someone else in the room. Suddenly melech doesn't seem to be so much about power-over anymore.
My primary church is really uncomfortable with hierarchical language for God, and I have come to internalize that discomfort to some extent -- though at the same time I think the idea of God's sovereignty can be really useful. I really like this meditation on so many of the ideas that are included in this God we worship.

"And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."

Last Friday I was having a conversation with a friend about the Book of Revelation, including a Shiva analogy, and I went to capitalize "Destruction" and "Rebirth" and I thought of the Endless and realized that all of the Endless are White. Admittedly, making them racially diverse would come with its own host of problems (tokenism, stereotyping, etc.), but it still makes me uncomfortable.

Folks with better familiarity with Sandman than I have (it's been years since I read the books) suggested that the Endless appear as whatever the viewer's default is, which I had kind of been suspecting, and which is apparently supported in the text by Dream's appearance to a particular character in one story arc -- though problematically the follow-through on this is incomplete, as Dream appears as White in modern America, regardless of the race or culture of the person he's appearing to.


In my conversation about the Book of Revelation, I got into the OT/NT dichotomy, which I've come to really problematize in recent years, and how I now see the Bible as a record of a people's encounters with the Divine, mediated by their sociohistorical context, which reminds me of something I saw excerpted recently:
In March 2007, a reader left the comment: "Would you folks please stop putting the word 'Christian' in front of the name 'Ann Coulter' as an adjective? Those of us who actually do practice our religion would appreciate it."

My answer was no, I wouldn't stop. And my answer about distinguishing between "real" and "unreal" Christians, beyond noting that there are Christians who try to impose their beliefs on others and those who don't, is also no.

[...] Yes, I have personal opinions about how closely self-identified Christians of all stripes hew to their own religious text, but it's flatly not my place to kick someone out of the Christian community, even semantically.

And, truth be told, even if I did feel like it were my place, I wouldn't stop identifying as Christians people like, for example, Ann Coulter, anyway—because Christianity is about culture as much as it is scripture no matter on what part of the Christian spectrum one falls.

-from "On "Real" Christians and Christian Privilege" posted by Melissa McEwan on Shakesville
I clicked through and read the whole post before posting here, and she talks a lot about privilege, which I found really interesting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

women in sports; the people whose stories get told

I was catching up on Justine Larbalestier's blog and read her post "YA & Girls Playing Sport":
Back in early August, Doret Canon of the wonderful blog, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, wrote to thank me for linking to her and ”put in a request for a YA novel featuring girls playing sports. Any sport will do.” I misread her as asking for recommendations for such YA novels when she was in fact asking me to write ‘em. (What can I say August was kind of mental for me.) I was ashamed to discover that all I could think of was Catherine Murdock’s Dairy Queen series and my own How To Ditch Your Fairy. It transpired that Doret knows more about YA sports books than anyone else on the planet. We soon got to talking about books, sport, and YA about girls playing sport.


Justine: What do you think of the theory that girls who like sports don’t read? (I’ve had several girls write and tell me that they loved How To Ditch Your Fairy despite all the sport in it. On the other hand, I had another girl write and tell me she loved it because she’s a point guard. She comes from a family of basketball playing twins.) There does seem to be a conviction that girls have zero interest in sports books.

Doret: I haven’t heard that theory. Though I have heard that sports books featuring girls don’t sell. How can girls buy books they don’t know about. I always feel bad when a girl comes into the bookstore still in uniform mind you, searching for sports book and I have nothing to show them. It totally sucks. Also it sends an awful message to girls who play sports, that they must hunt down stories that reflect a big part of who they are. Let’s just hope that sports self esteem is working because under representation is bad for anyone’s psyche.

Justine: You said it. I can’t think of any girl sports books that have sold really well. I’m hoping that’s just ignorance on my part. Can you think of any really popular girl sports books?

Doret: No, you’re right there aren’t any sports books featuring girls that have sold really well. But, they haven’t been given a chance. It seems like such an obvious market and I don’t know why it’s being ignored. There are readers waiting and wanting and I am not just talking about the athletes. There are others like myself who simply enjoy and appreciate the games.
The bolding is mine. I was so struck by the phrasing because it so reminds me of conversations about lit with GLBTQ characters, characters of color.

Stories about who we are are so important. I remember during one of the rounds of Fail, Catherynne M. Valente wrote (and yes I know that not being able to find books about women playing sports is at a rather different level than what Cat is talking about):
Stories teach us how to survive. They tell us that our lives can be transcendent, that we can overcome almost anything, no matter how strange, that we can go into the black wood and come out again, that the witch can be burned up in her own oven, that we can find someone who fits a shoe, that the youngest, unloved child will find their way in the world, that those who suffer can become strong, can escape, can find their way into comfort and joy again. That there are secrets, and they are always worth discovering, that there are more and different creatures in the world than we can ever imagine, and not all want to eat us. Stories teach us how to win through, how to perservere, how to live.

As a child of abuse, fairy tales kept me going when I was a girl. Because Gretel could kill the witch, because Snow White could come back from death, because Rapunzel could live even in the desert--then, well, I could too. I could dry my tears and clean up the blood and keep living. This is what stories do. They say: you are worthy of the world, no less than these heroes.

And when we see story after story that has no one like us in it, a book entirely without women, a TV show where white people speak Chinese but there are no Asians visible, a movie set in California without Hispanics, image after image of a world where everyone is straight, and when we are told that it's no big deal, really, there is no race in future societies, that it's not anyone's fault if all the characters are white, that's just how they are, in the pure authorial mind, that we have no sense of humor, that we are ganging up on people because we speak our minds, this is what we hear:

You do not have a right to live. There are no stories for you, to teach you how to survive, because the world would prefer you didn't. You don't get to be human, to understand your suffering or move beyond it. In the perfect future society, you do not exist. We who are colorblind, genderblind, sexualityblind would prefer not to see you even now. In the world we make in our heads, you have been obliterated--even better, you never were. You are incapable of transcendance. You are not worthy of the most essential of human behavior. If you are lucky, we will let you into our stories, and you can learn to be a whore, or someone's mother, or someone's slave, or someone's prey. That is all you are, so pay attention: this is what we want to teach you to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"They were off my path so I never had dared"

(1) This post makes me want to see the movie Jennifer's Body.

(2) A friend of mine recently linked to this this NY Times article on prayer which has one paragraph which, as she put it, "basically plagiarizes inaccurately paraphrases closely adapts an excerpt from this 2008 news article" (and I'm here quoting from the 2008 article):
Among the most innovative -- and controversial -- aspects of the Siddur soon to be released by San Francisco's main gay synagogue is a prayer for "unexpected intimacy." The new prayer is intended for meaningful encounters with strangers, including, according to some involved in the project, anonymous sexual relations.

It is featured in the forthcoming Siddur created by Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, a 31-year-old synagogue in San Francisco affiliated with the Reform movement.

"In the dark, in a strange place, our father Jacob encountered a stranger with whom he grappled all night," the prayer begins, referring to the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. "He never knew the stranger's name, yet their encounter was a blessing, which turned Jacob into Israel and made him realize, I have seen God face-to-face."

The prayer, titled "Kavannah for Unexpected Intimacy," goes on to ask God -- "who created passion and wove it throughout creation" -- to permit the encounter to be a blessing "that allows us to both touch and see the Divine."


Ramer, who describes himself as "fiercely monogamous," stressed that the prayer was not intended solely for gays and lesbians. He also emphasized that it need not refer solely to encounters of a sexual nature, but to any exchange with a stranger that was deemed meaningful.

"Isn't this one of the things we're told the most, to honor strangers?" Ramer asked. "In an anonymous act, this is our chance to recognize the sacredness."
I have thoughts on the NYT prayer article, but I'm much more struck by the stranger-encounter prayer idea.  My friend suggests that the question we ask (and not just about sexual ethics) shouldn't be about Right/Wrong but rather should be, "How can this activity reflect and deepen the presence of God in my life and the world?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Also, Rosh Hashanah

Possibly the first Rosh Hashanah blogpost I saw this year was Rosh Hashanah + Talk Like a Pirate Day.

More seriously:

I really like this interpretation of the death litany:
The prayer itself is a list of ways people die. It purpose isn’t to scare you, but to get your attention: “Hey! This could be your last year on earth. How do you want to live it? Enslaved to old habits? Obsessed with trivialities? Self¬–absorbed and clinging? Or is this a time to turn, reflect, and let go?”

You are going to die. If not this year, maybe next year, or the year after that. So death isn’t your problem. Your problem is how to live until you die. Unetanah Tokef challenges us to live with teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah. Teshuvah, weakly translated as “repentance” literally means “turning,” and is the act of turning from evil and doing good, turning from self to others, turning from fear to love, turning from self to God. Tefillah is prayer, and in Hebrew the act of praying (hitpallel) is reflexive: true prayer is seeing who you really are as the image and likeness of God and then acting accordingly. Acting accordingly means practicing tzedakah. Tzedakah, from tzedek, justice, is the act of uplifting the poor and enfranchising the disenfranchised. The highest form of tzedakah is seeing that people are gainfully employed and self–supporting. Tzedakah means earning your money honestly in a manner than does no harm, and using your money wisely in a manner that does great good.

So on this birthday of humanity, take a moment and remember your mortality, examine your life, and where necessary turn toward a deeper act of generosity.
And from this post on tshuvah:
The word Tshuvah doens’t really mean “repentance,” but “return.” “Return” means that rather than saying one is sorry and moving on to the next wretched remark, one has to realize that one has walked way off the right path, turn around and walk all the way back. It is insufficient to apologize and move on, becasue usually, the things that we do wrong are not single mistakes in an otherwise unblemished life. No, we humans are creatures of pattern and habit, and that eans those mistakes that we make aren’t just about a one-ff. THey are usually part of a larger pattern of behavior which we need to observe and reform. That is one of the reasons why Judaism is based on laws - halakha- not feelings: tzedaka, not caritas, for example-
psychology confirms what the rabbis have been telling us for centuries: peoples’ behavior is not driven by rational choice making, but rather by impulses often driven by habit, which are then after the fact justified. Which means that more important than good intentions are good habits, good patterns.

BUt there’s one more thing to add here. Sometimes one really does do wrong by accident, or by mistake. In our society today, we often try to emphasize intent and show tht our action was not intended to do harm - that is, in part, the origin of the non-apology. BUt in Judaism, accidents, too require tshuvah - how do we know this? In the Torah, sacrifices are offered for unintentional sins, moreover, check your high holiday liturgy - you may notice that accidental sins are listed there too. In our society, that is counter-intuitive - if it’s an accident, why do we have to say sorry? BUt accidents too, are often not done in a vacuum - they, too, often result from patterns of behavior that result in outcomes that - while we may not have intended them- are inevitable, and results of our actions.
You may not have intended to fall off the roof and land on someone and kill them- but why were you up on a roof without safeguards? Do you tend to behave in risky ways? YOu didn’t intend to get drunk again? Well, why were you hanging out with your drinking buddies and depending on them for a ride?
From a poem Velveteen Rabbi wrote:
In Hebrew, “compassion”
shares a root with “womb”
and God is the One in Whose womb
creation is nurtured.

On Rosh Hashanah we say
today the world is born.
Or: this moment right now
is pregnant with eternity.

[atonement theology] still working it out

I've internalized a lot of CWM's discomfort with atonement theology (how much I have internalized so much of CWM's theology was made particularly clear to me at the RMN Convocation this year), and various (non-CWM) friends (plus my mother) have pushed back about this, so I've been thinking a lot about it, trying to figure out better what exactly it is that I believe.

I think it is True that Christ allowed Christself to be executed, that Christ shed blood and tears, that Christ was willing to suffer all this for the disciples who didn't understand and for all humanity. I think this willing sacrifice is really powerful. What I'm really uncomfortable with is the idea (which I think is perpetuated in a lot of the ways that the story is told) that God REQUIRED this sacrifice in order to reconcile Creation to Godself. What does it say that the spilling of innocent blood is necessary to bridge that gap between Creator and Creation?


I recently came across a blogpost titled "Vampires & crosses." An excerpt:
Vampire stories tell us, for example, than any of us can have great power if only we are willing to prey on others. Feed off the blood of others and great power will be yours. This is demonstrably true. It's how the pyramids were built. And Standard Oil.

The stories also tell us that there's a downside to this predatory choice. You become a creature of the night, unable to stand in the light of day.

And crosses will confound you.

Some mistakenly think that this is because the cross is a holy symbol, imbued with religious power. But this is wrong. The symbol, like the thing itself, is powerless. And that's the point. That is why vampires can't tolerate it.

Most vampires don't believe in the cross, but that hardly matters. It's the idea of the thing that gives them fits. The cross confronts vampires with their opposite -- with the rejection of power and its single-minded pursuit. It suggests that no one is to be treated as prey -- not even an enemy. The idea of the cross, in other words, suggests that vampires have it wrong, that they have it backwards, in fact, and that those others they regard as prey are actually, somehow, winning.

This notion is incomprehensible for vampires. The one thing they're certain of, the thing that drives them and tells them who they are and how the world works and that they've got it all figured out is that the key to immortality is in choosing to be the predator rather than the prey. The idea that this might be wrong is so befuddling, so contradictory to everything they have chosen to be that it forces them to recoil. They can't get past it.
This is somewhat reminiscent of part of a post I saw on the "when love comes to town" blog about what happened after the September 11th attacks:
  • And that is precisely what [Renee] Girrard describes in his work regarding scapegoats: pinning all of our hatred and fear on the scapegoat always unifies a society - but only for a season - and then more violence is needed to bind people together. Further, societies rarely consider the consequences of scapegoating - history is never told from the perspective of our victims - so we rarely feel remorse or act in repentance.
  • Which is why the story and reality of Jesus is unique: for the first time, Girrard suggests, history is told from the perspective of the innocent scapegoat. For the first time we can see the horrible consequences of our violence. Indeed, what makes the passion of Christ so important in NOT the horrible violence a la Mel Gibson. That, sadly, is all to ordinary. No, what makes the passion life changing is the awareness that Christ died to expose this horrible sin and invite us - with God's grace - to stop it.
[Pedantic me would like to point out that blogpost to the contrary, the correct spelling is René Girard.]


After Convo, I've been paying more attention to Communion liturgies, and below is an email I wrote to Laura Ruth (hyperlinks not in original) after Rest and Bread this week:
I really like using the traditional Words of Institution (or a close approximation thereto), and it sometimes makes me uncomfortable when we rewrite them so wholesale at CWM (though it feels organic and appropriate to CWM, so even when it does bother me, it bothers me less than it would in other contexts). But I want more. If all we say is, "This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins," then I'm left saying, "So God requires innocent blood in order to forgive? And what is this new covenant anyway?"

I went to Sunday morning service at Somerville Community Baptist this past Sunday, and in their Communion liturgy they used the phrase, "Proclaim Christ's death until He comes again," and in thinking about it today, I thought, "But Jesus says "Remember ME," not "I'm going to die soon, and you should remember THAT." " (Okay, okay, when I actually Googled "Words of Institution," it's all "do this in remembrance of me," which sounds very much like a memorial... which just doesn't sit right with me, since WE ARE A RESURRECTION PEOPLE *cough* I have perhaps internalized Tiffany's Easter sermon ... anyway, the relevant chapter in Mark Allan Powell's book Loving Jesus has given me a lot to think about re: the idea of expectantly waiting for Christ's return, but I still incline more toward a focus on "Christ is with us now" than "Christ will come again" -- when we sing "Christ has died, Christ is ris'n..." that's CWM's alternative for the third phrase.)

In my various churches, I hear a lot of talk about coming to the Table to be nourished -- both spiritually and physically. I've never actually experienced this at Communion, because it's a bite of bread and a sip of juice/wine (not an actual meal) and the story doesn't tell me how it is that I am spiritually nourished/fed (or reconciled) through this experience -- I who grew up very low church Protestant where God is ALWAYS accessible to you. And I'm not asking for Communion to become a meaningful powerful experience for me. I have a Bible full of texts to wrestle with, and I live in a world full of grace and full of pain. (Earlier today I came across a quotation I'd forgotten -- "If the world was merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. That makes it hard to plan the day." –E.B. White) I have so so much.

But I so want church to be accessible to and meaningful for people, and I think, "What stories are we telling people? What stories are we embodying? How are we helping people to touch the face of God?" (Did I ever tell you that my best friend's pastor once said, "we go to church every week because we touch the face of God"?)

And so I think, What if after we recited the words from the Bible (the Words of Institution), we said, "And Jesus said: Whenever you do this, remember me. And so we do remember. We remember Jesus' ministry of sitting down at table and sharing a meal with the outcasts and the religious elite. We remember Jesus' body being broken by the authorities, and we remember the tomb being broken open. We remember the suffering and the resurrection. And in this meal, the fruits of the earth broken open for us, we remember and we are nourished for the journey that lies ahead."

Um, I'm not sure when I turned into someone who actually writes liturgy?