Thursday, May 24, 2007

Speed Dialed

"Honestly, I have a problem with Christians sometimes. Some of them are self-righteous and judgmental. But no one here is like that. You have taught me that Christians can be cool people, and that's what I like about this church."

I asked the graduating high school seniors to say a few words about what they're doing next year and something about their faith or what they appreciate about being part of our congregation. I didn't know what I was in for--how honest, how profound, how important their words would be. I'm not surprised that these words came from the person who said them, but again I sat in awe that I get to be part of something as life-changing as this--this congregation, these words, these people.

Honestly, this is why I stay. Despite other bad, cruel, hateful words that come from parishioners sometimes (fortunately, not my own, but *somebody* has to deal with those people at the microphones at synod assembly!), here we stay, because one young person who "gets it", as this one does, is worth all the days of wondering if anything's getting through. God must know when I need to hear this message, for She always sends an angel in the form of a young adult to remind me that this church is messy, but it's our church and it's our mess and it's worth sticking around to see how God will clean it up.

So thanks to all of you who remind me that we're in this together, and that this church is a good place to be when we remember who else is here, and thanks for leading such interesting lives that I enjoy being part of. You know who you are, and YOU ROCK. And together, we are the church, and we're cool.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What We Really Need

Badge-a-minit. Acrylic podiums. Padded chairs. Kitchen cutlery. The incredible digital hymnal. And, of course, a free Reggie Racoon hand puppet. Apparently these are things I need, according to the "Pastor Resources: serving those who serve" catalog. It goes without saying that congregations spend much money and energy on gadgets and gizmos that aren't entirely related to the gospel, even small ones like ours that really have no extra money to spend.

What I really want in a catalog are some words of healing for the families who are struggling, reconciliation for that which is irreparable, hope for the sick, courage for the dying, excitement for the graduates (and their parents). I need to know God is present in ways we can't imagine, to trust the Spirit moves and breathes through us even when we resemble dry bones at the end of the school year. In the midst of transition by graduation, divorce, death, mid-life, menarche, and humidity, I need to know God is holding it all together.

I'm not having a faith crisis, or wondering whether any of this is true. I just marvel at the chasm of difference between what I perceive to be real needs and what someone wants to sell me so I can be a more effective pastor. Thankfully, I'm not much of a shopper, especially by catalog, so I'll take what God has to offer instead, and save our budget for something else. Maybe portable, lightweight Greek-style columns for weddings and baptisms.

Or not.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Good Question

"If God has given them the same gifts [he] gave us when we first believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?"

So asks Peter of his companions in Acts 11, who challenge him about "eating with uncircumcised men". It was a compelling argument; Peter was fairly persuasive, after all.

In these days (before synod assembly, where we will consider 3 LCNA resolutions; see for the texts) I ask this question in regard to ordination of glbt people. Indeed, if God has given them the same gifts God gave me for ministry, then who am I, who are we in the church, to hinder the work of God by establishing policy? Or, refusing to alter policy, as the case stands. There are many very gifted and certainly called glbt pastors-to-be. I was in seminary with some of them, I have served in ministry with some of them. Some are living by the rules, even if the rules are unreasonable. Some have chosen not to try to fit in to a church that is sending a clear message that they are not welcome, that their calls are not valid, that God must want them to serve somewhere else if they can't manage to BE someone else and serve here. Ours is the loss, and, I believe, the sin. Who are we to hinder God, when God has gifted and called servants for ministry? When they have responded to that call, some at great risk, some with the sacrifice of their integrity. Some have attended and even graduated (!) from seminary, some "pass" as acceptable human beings by not correcting any assumptions that they are heterosexual.

My other favorite line from Acts is an observation by Gamaliel in chapter 5: "...if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them--in that case you may even be found fighting against God!" I like to think of my ministry of advocacy on behalf of glbt as a movement in the church, rather than as a plan or undertaking, but we do approach with strategy and hopefully some measure of finesse. *I* feel called to serve the mission of the church in this way; it is indeed a holy thing to me. If I can be faithful and do it well enough, and be patient (there's the rub!), perhaps others will be able to serve according to their calling as well, sooner rather than later. Who are we to hinder God?