Friday, February 25, 2011

"becalmed instead of stuck; drawn instead of driven"

Through a series of links, I came to a blogpost titled becalmed instead of stuck; drawn instead of driven. (The synchronicity was kind of amusing, since we just assigned Chapter 3 of Pink's Drive for the day before yesterday's class).

Stuck is an extension of our metaphorical drive thinking, it implies a linear process. Imagine a car stuck in the snow or mud - what do you do? You spin your wheels, you try to force it out by pushing from behind. You gun it, pressing down on the gas pedal as fast and as far as you can.

There is power in the words we use - the way we talk can bring us freedom and open us up, or it can close us down. To quote James Flaherty again, "Please start to notice when you begin speaking in a way that ties you up in knots, that leaves you with few options for action, that leaves you estranged from others [or from yourself- L], that leaves you distraught." I think that's what happens when we talk about being stuck.

I'm proposing an alternate metaphor to describe this state/process. In sailing the term used when the wind dies down such that the boat stops moving is becalmed. Becalmed. Be. Calmed. Whoa, how cool is that? That's a world away from stuck. Completely different energy in that word.

And what do sailors do when their boat is becalmed? Well, first of all they recognize that it's a partnership - the boat is not completely under their control - it moves due to a partnership between the wind and the sailor.They have techniques for ensuring they can make the most of any light wind that comes up, for allowing themselves to be drawn, rather than driven.

1. Lighten the weight - the heavier the boat, the more drag. What's weighing you down?

2. Move towards the centre of the boat. How can you move closer to that which moves you?

3. Seek the ripples - little ripples on the water tell you where the slightest wind is. What is making your heart flutter?

4. Minimize unnecessary movements - they rob you of momentum. Rest.

5. Use the current. Where is the deeper flow that you can tap into? Create rituals and routines that can act as your current.

6. Keep all movements slow and steady - quick, jerky movements keep your boat from gliding. Small steps.

7. Remember that even on the calmest days, a slight breeze always comes up as the sun begins to go down. Don't panic.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

[28] "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." [Luke 7:36-50; H!PS: Luke & Us; Feb. 22, 2011]

My friend Rae let me know about Hosanna! People’s Seminary, and so I’ve been a part of their Luke and Us women’s preaching circle since September. It meets once a month via the magic of technology, and I preached tonight.

Luke 7:36-50

36One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and Jesus went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that Jesus was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind Jesus’ feet, weeping, and began to bathe them with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing Jesus’ feet and anointing them with the ointment.

39Now when the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw it, he said to himself, “A prophet would have known who and what kind of woman this is—a sinner.”

40Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”

41 “Two people owed money to a creditor. One owed the creditor the equivalent of two years’ wages; the other, two months’ wages. 42 Both were unable to pay, so the creditor wrote off both debts. Which of them was more grateful to the moneylender?”

43Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the greater debt canceled.”

And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

44Then turning toward the woman, Jesus said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49But those who sat together at the table began to ask among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

     -NRSV, edited with help from The Inclusive Bible and my best friend
A religious leader invites Jesus to dinner. While Jesus is reclining at the table, a woman identified only as a “sinner” shows up. She stands behind Jesus’ feet, weeping, and her tears fall on Jesus’ feet -- which are still dusty from the outside as we learn later that Simon was remiss in his host duties and didn’t offer Jesus any water for foot-washing (desert plus sandals? you get the picture). She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and then dries them with her hair. She then goes on to kiss Jesus’ feet and anoint them with ointment.

This is a strongly embodied interaction. The woman doesn’t come to Jesus with an eloquent plea for forgiveness -- or an eloquent screed against the Pharisee -- or an eloquent statement of faith. She just shows up.

She draws near to this person Jesus, even though the atmosphere is hostile to her.

She stands behind Jesus, perhaps feeling hesitant, but she also doesn’t hide. When her tears fall on Jesus’ feet, she doesn’t apologize for the interruption, she moves with it into an offering of love.

Simon is appalled that this sinful woman is behaving so intimately with this rabbi, especially in public, and thinks this must be a sign that Jesus isn’t really a great prophet, because of course a prophet would have recognized her sin and recoiled from her touch.

Jesus, of course, has a very different perspective.

A couple chapters earlier, some Pharisees and other religious scholars asked, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” and Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:30-31a).

Of course, all of us are in need of healing and forgiveness, but unlike Simon, the sinful woman in this story recognizes her need.

Whereas the woman experiences Jesus’ forgiveness like the debtor who had two years’ wages worth of debt forgiven, Simon would have experienced a statement of forgiveness as a much smaller burden relieved -- and, actually, I think it equally likely that Simon would have been insulted by the idea that he had anything he needed to be forgiven for.

The woman is transformed by this forgiveness. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” She has been saved. The weight of all that sin and guilt has been lifted from her. Like the woman in Luke 13 [verses 10-17] who had been bent over for 18 years, this woman has been released from her bondage.

Being “saved” is not a simplistic transaction -- insert repentance, or statement of belief, or whatever … receive free pass to Heaven. Rather it is a transformation. We are released from the death-dealing forces which have kept us trapped, released into abundant life. The stress and turmoil which have weighed us down, which have confused our path … these are wiped away, like water washing dust and dirt off our feet. We are given a new lease on life -- except that a lease implies debt, and this new life is a gift, no repayment required.

However, while nothing is required of us, it would be inappropriate for us to sit smugly with our gift, making no motion to behave in a similarly gracious fashion toward others.

Jesus reminds us, “the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” It is easy for us to feel like the debtor forgiven of a relatively small amount -- and to therefore be stingy in our generosity toward others. Who invited you to this party? What will you buy with my spare change if I give it to you? We erect barriers to keep people in their place, administer tests to decide who goes where...

But God meets us where we are, just as we are -- and calls us to meet others likewise. God meets us in the dusty, dirty feet of Jesus. God meets us in the tears of an unnamed woman.

God meets us in all the mess of our bodies, in all the mess of our lives. And all God asks is that we show up, that we allow ourselves to touch and be touched in return -- to be transformed by that connection … and to live out that peace in our lives.

“Your faith has saved you” isn’t about statements of faith you sign onto, it’s about faith in the transforming power of God … faith in the power of that connection.

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


Thursday, February 10, 2011

I have ALL of the excitement about this! \o/

From: Marla
To: Samuel; Pr. Lisa; Elizabeth
Sent: Thu, February 10, 2011 10:33:11 AM
Subject: FYI: Disability Committee (NEUMC)

This went out in the weekly e-news from the Conference:
News from the Disabilities Committee

Stories Wanted!
We at Annual Conference are always looking to hear about how our conference is working to help reach out to more people as we Open Doors and Open Hearts in order to Open Minds. One way we do this is by making ourselves more open to the disabled populations and their families and caregivers. Recently, I heard on The Light (A Christian Radio Station in Vermont) on Jonnie and Friends that many disabled people do not attend church due to their disability.

Yet, churches are doing more to make themselves more open all the time and we don't hear about it because we tend not to advertise ourselves. Not this year! We are looking to hear from you about what you have done over the past two years in overcoming barriers to the disabled. We would like to hear from you about your story. If you have pictures, please include them. You may mail stories to Michael McShane at [email address redacted] or Bonnie Marden at [email address redacted]

Help Needed!
Do you have a background that can help people with disabilities? Would you like to be a resource the Disability Committee can use? We are looking for people not only to help with helping churches adapt to the physical structure but also think of what people with disabilities need. We are not looking at membership unless you have an interest in it. We are looking for the occassional helping hand. If you are willing to do so please contact Michael McShane at [email address redacted]. Thank you very much for your interest.

Submitted by: Michael McShane

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

on pastoring

From "Practicing Resurrection - part three" (When Love Comes To Town blog):
The wisdom of Eugene Peterson's to pastors - your work is to be unbusy, subversive and apocalyptic - has been on my mind of late as another week of ministry comes to a close and I settle into my Sabbath.


Peterson writes:
People are not comfortable with God in their lives. They prefer something less awesome and more informal. Something, in fact, like the (traditional) pastor. Reassuring, accessible, easygoing. People would rather talk to the pastor than to God…

So (often) pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the Cross can be bypassed since we all have such crowded schedules right now. People love us when we do this. It is flattering to be put in the place of God. It feels wonderful to be treated in the godlike way. And it is work that we are generally quite good at.

A sense of apocalypse (urgency) blows the whistle on such messianic pastoring. The vastness of the heavenly invasion, the urgency of the faith decision, the danger of the impinging culture—with these pouring into our consciousness accompanied by thunder and lightning, we cannot stand around on the street corners of Sunday morning filling the time with pretentious small talk on how bad the world is and how wonderful this new stewardship campaign is going to be. If we have even an inkling of apocalypse, it will be impossible to act like the jaunty foreman of a home-improvement work crew that is going to re-landscape moral (or immoral) garden spots. We must pray. The world has been invaded by God and it is with God we have to do.
We are NOT called to waste God's time. We are NOT called to distract our congregations with meaningless busy work that sounds holy but is all empty calories. No, we are called into the fierce urgency of now with tenderness and patience - trusting all the while that God is in charge and we are not.