Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Days Facebook Went Red

I used to have two facebook accounts, one for church and one for me.  It was a way for me to maintain boundaries.  I was not being dishonest or not real, I was myself in both and had many friends who were on both.  It’s just there’s something you talk about in church, and some things you talk about with your friends.

Recently I decided it was too much time and work to go on both and I was missing relationships with everyone so I switched as many people as would come over to just one.  And I learned to make lists for who would see what posts.  I have my crazy liberal list.  And my parish list.  And my no politics list.  I am kind of outspoken and like to talk about things but I don’t want to alienate people in the parish who don’t share my views.  I have facebook friends I have pretty much hidden because their political posts annoy me and I did not want to be *that* person to others.

Then came the day everyone was changing their profile picture to a red equal sign in support of marriage equality as the Supreme Court took up the California Prop 8 and DOMA .  And I had to make a decision. 

When you change your profile picture everyone sees it.  And I knew not everyone in my parish would not appreciate it.  But this is the thing.  When my former parish was all up in arms about the ELCA Churchwide decision to allow those in same sex relationships to rostered leadership I took what I thought was a measured and “neutral” position.  I did put forth the argument for full inclusion and acceptance of LGBT people but did not necessarily advocate for it.  I talked mostly about the importance of our unity being in Christ, not our position on this issue.  And I still suffered and lost my job.  Neutrality didn’t help anyone.   I might as well have been more outspoken for all the good being neutral did me.

I have a lot of unchurched friends on facebook, many of whom have had bad experiences with the church when it comes to being judgmental.  And I decided that it was more important that they see a Lutheran Pastor advocate for  rights for all people, than worry about offending some church members who think their pastor must agree with them.    So I went red, along with most of my facebook newsfeed.

Funny the only pushback I got was from my young Wisconsin Synod great-great niece.  I still used my lists because I didn’t think it was necessary to be in your face about it.  I made my stand known. 
Did going red influence the Supreme Court?  No.  Is it enough to change your profile picture or posts memes to work for justice?  No, of course not.  But sometimes a red profile can mean a lot to people.  It did this week.  And I’m glad I went red for couple of days.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Red & Scarlet are Different Just Like Pentecost & Passion Sunday are Different

The lighting makes this look pinkish but it's actually scarlet, made for Holy Week.
Every year, no matter how long I am at a church I have the same argument with the Altar Guild.  No we are NOT going to use the red paraments on Passion Sunday.  "But Pastor,  it's RED on the calendar!"

The Augsborg Fortress Calendar is the bible when it comes to church Altar Guilds.  The little strip is red so we must put up the Holy Spirit paraments for Passion Sunday. 

"No," I say in a voice I imagine is kind and patient.  "It's scarlet.  That is a different color.  We don't have scarlett and the red we have is not appropriate for Passion Sunday.  So we will continue to use the purple"
"Are you sure, Pastor?" 
"Yes, I am sure"
"But we always use the red"
"Not while I've been here"
"But the other pastors..."
"The other pastors either don't know better or don't care.  I know and I care"

Scarlet Chasuble
Yes I care.  I think symbolism and colors and vestments have value and meaning and I don't think we should make up our own rules. That's kind of why I am a Lutheran among other reasons. I think pastors should care and should explain to the people why they should care.  If you think they don't care, why is that silly AF calendar so important to them?  They care.  And you should respect that enough to help them understand why they care.

This is what happens when pastors ignore tradition and do whatever the hell they want.  The lay people stop paying attention to you because every new pastor just does whatever the hell they want. It no longer becomes about tradition and symbol and ritual that touches the deep parts of us that words cannot.  It becomes all about whatever the pastor thinks and wants.  And that doesn't really touch anyone.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Yea Yea It's Holy Week. We're All Busy. Get Over It.

Everyone is busy.  Not only that...everyone is proud of how busy they are.  Everyone is happy to moan and lament how busy they are.

Pastors are busy during Holy Week.  Some pastors like to whine about how busy they are.  Well I'm in a situation where just remaining a pastor is a precarious thing, so no, I'm not going whine about being busy.  Besides the  Holy Week I had two funerals and teenager whose boyfriend was killed in a car accident cured me of ever whining about any Holy Week ever again.

At a recent interview I was asked about how I "balance" work and family or personal life.  My answer was that losing my husband when my children were young cured me of ever being tempted to neglect my or my family's well being for church "stuff".

 The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. ~Thomas Merton

I don't like this quote.  I get what he is saying but it's not "violence" when you make choices that make you too busy.  I don't like vocabulary that trivializes the real violence real victims experience.  I don't like this tendency of us well fed, well housed, educated folk to make out like we are powerless victims.  Being too busy does not make you a victim.

We live in a society that values busyness and so everyone feels obligated to be busy and then complain about how busy they are.  

I call bullshit on that.  You don't need to be busy.  The church doesn't need you to be busy, your family doesn't need you to be busy and you don't need to be busy and you know it.  You are not the only one in the world that can do all that stuff you think you have to do, and in the rare case that you are the only one that can do it, the world won't end if it doesn't get done.

Note - I'm not talking about single parents who have to work 3 jobs.  That's not "busy".  That's trying to survive.  God bless you and I pray that it changes soon for  you. 

But life goes in cycles.  You aren't "balanced" every day.  Some days are crazy busy.  Some weeks are crazy busy.  But if everyday and every week is crazy busy, you are making bad choices.  Period.  Stop whining/bragging and change something.

Growing Up with Ben Hur Theology

And here I bet you thought Ben Hur was just all about Charlton Heston's bare chest.  

My mom grew up Roman Catholic but when she divorced and married my father that was the end of that.  Then she got into Norman Vincent Peal, power of positive thinking and all that.  Which is really odd because she was not a positive person at all.  But enough about her.

I like to think of Ben Hur as her other theology.  Her answer to all adversity was to remember how he was condemned to be a galley slave and how hopeless that seemed but he escaped and when it came time for the climax of the movie, the chariot race, it was his time as a galley slave that made him strong enough to win the race.  And that's all I ever remembered about that movie.  When there was another important theme of that movie, you know, the futility of vengeance, power of forgiveness, that kind of thing. But the lessons of the galley slave is not a bad lesson to teach your kids.

So last night I was skimming through the channels and discovered a new Ben Hur on a channel I didn't even know I had, "Ovation".  They kept showing commercials for the premier next week on Easter, but they showed the whole thing last night.  It's more based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace.
Look!  It's Sir Robert Crawley as Pontius Pilate!

It's very good and if you get this channel, I recommend you watch it, or DVR it as there is also the return of "Call the Midwife" and "Game of Thrones" to look forward to.

This Prayer is NOT by Oscar Romero

You have check EVERYTHING you see on the internet.  And check it again and you still may get it wrong.  In 2009 I posted this prayer attributed to Oscar Romero.  It was not written by him.  It was was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.  It's still a very beautiful poem.  But let's give credit where credit is due.  AND DON'T JUST REPOST EVERYTHING YOU FIND ON THE INTERNET!

A Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:               
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Now about that Women & Gay Marriage Thing

I really owe Pope Francis a debt of gratitude for getting me back into the blogging habit.

So after giving him a pass on the whole military dictatorship thing... What about the fact that he believes what his church teaches?  Namely, that women do not belong in the priesthood and gays should not be be allowed to marry each other or adopt children.

Well on the one hand, DUH.  At this point in history, with *that* conclave of electorate, nobody pushing for radical change was going to become pope.  It hardly seems fair to blame the Pope for well, being Catholic.

On the other hand, I have no sympathy for those whining about the media constantly bringing up those issues.  Would it be nice if the press were a little more informed and educated about the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity in general.  Well yea.  But this is the thing--  The Roman Catholic Church wants to be a player in the secular world.  The Vatican is a "country" after all.  The Pope is a world leader.   You wanna play in the big playground but play by your own rules you are going to get some pushback for that.  So, no the Roman Catholic Church, nor Pope Francis, now it's Head and spokesman don't get a pass on that.   As the rest of the world (and even most of their own members) sees nothing wrong with birth control and are willing to concede some instances where abortion is moral option, want to see women leaders in the church, favor gay rights and even marriage, these questions and critiques of the church are not going to go away.  And nor should they.

Bergoglio & the Third Way

 I've been looking more into the accusations of Bergoglio's relationship with Argentina's military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s.  
A colleague who was in Argentina and knows and trusts Adolfo PĂ©rez Esquivel takes his word that  Bergoglio had no links with the dictatorship.

Besides the general accusation that he and the church in general did not oppose or even distance themselves enough from the dictatorship (see my previous post on the Pope re the church and government since Constantine) the main accusation that seems to be floating round is that the had something to do with the arrest of two Marxist priests who were dismissed.  There really seems to be no real evidence of this.  He insists he actually tried very hard to get them and others released.

It looks like much of this ill will comes from those who are unhappy that although Bergoglio advocated for the poor, he rejected Marxism and liberation theology because he saw it as too wrapped up in Marxism.  There are many people who see things in black and white, right or wrong, pick a side.  If you are not on the Marxists side, you are on the dictator's side. 

It looks to me like Bergoglio chose a third way - the Gospel and that just wasn't good enough for some people.  Kind of like how Jesus let down the zealots.  

Lean in, but Don't be Surprised if it's Women Who Try to Smack You Back Down Again

So  a successful woman writes a book advising women they might take some responsibility for their own success.  And all hell breaks loose in a storm of controversy, and "HOW DARE SHE!" outrage.  And where is all this outrage coming from?  Pretty much women. 

HOW DARE SHE suggest women can be responsible for their own success?  Which is really saying "How dare SHE take responsibility for her own success?"  She's just LUCKY.    And the rest of us are still victims who if we aren't lucky can't do anything.  What a pack of bullshit coming mostly from other SUCCESSFUL women.   Really I am ashamed for my sex.

"Lean in"  I love that phrase.  Lean into your opportunities.  Women do tend to hold back.  Sometimes it is for reasons of family and I think that's a good thing.  I think men should do that more.  But more often I think women hold back for lack of confidence, fear of claiming authority and most of all fear of not being "liked". 

Nobody, not even Sandberg said there is not still sexism and barriers for women.  But when those barriers are not there or soft and fluid, she is encouraging women to "lean in" and push back.  YAY!  I say.

There is another strand of criticism.  She's just a privileged white woman talking to other white women.  Yea and so are some of the women criticizing her.  Successful  white privileged writer Susan Fauldi wrote an article complaining that  Sandberg left single mothers behind.

Where was all the criticism of Steve Jobs when he wrote motivational books that he didn't address ALL of the problems addressing women in the world?  Oh, I see.  The requirement that every book you write must address all the issues of oppressed women only applies to....women. 

Seriously this not what women should be doing.  We should not be attacking women for not addressing our particular issue.  Women are allowed to be successful.  In fact I think this attack on Sandberg for daring to suggest women can claim their own power is an example of that resistance to "leaning in"  that she writes about.  

Seriously ladies, if she didn't write about what you want ... LEAN IN AND WRITE YOUR OWN DAMNED BOOK!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Well, not being Catholic maybe I don't get to say "We" have a pope.  But still it was all very exciting yesterday.  Social media just makes these events so much more fun.

I have to say I wasn't too excited before this as to who they might choose, it all sounded like so much same old same old from grumpy old men.  And many will argue that Argentina's cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is more of the same. Certainly he's not going to move the Roman Catholic Church forward when it comes to women or gays.  But seriously did anybody really think THAT was going to happen?

But a cardinal from South America, known for his simple life style and care for the poor, who calls himself Francis, I think that has to be about as best as *that* conclave could have come up with.  Right away there was some confusion as to which Francis he was taking, as there is also the missionary Francis Xaiver, a Jesuit, which Francis is.  But soon the Vatican came out saying he had taken the name Francis of Assisi because of his love for the poor.   A very good sign.

There is some grumbling because of his relationship with the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 70s.  He should have been more outspoken against them.  If you don't want to be a persecuted minority you are always going to risk getting your hands dirty and looking complicit in things Jesus never would have done.  But that was the choice the church made back in the time of Constantine.

Like I said it was all very exciting and I felt very hopeful.  But in the end, it is still a church run by old men who still rely on smoke signals.  Most of my gay and unchurched friends on facebook did not share my giddiness.  And the truth is, it's like the English Royalty.  I love to watch and follow their pomp, but I don't want royalty in the U.S.   And while I love that there is a Pope but I don't want one for me, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Iowa Lutheran Day at the Hill

I think this is a great idea and think every synod should do something like this.

So basically a bunch of Lutherans are bussed into the state capitol to talk to their representatives about important issues.  They handed out blue T shirts for everyone to wear.  It was cool to see all the blue shirts around the capitol but my mama didn't raise me to meet my representative at the Capitol wearing a T shirt.  To me this was a collar day. 

Ours was sponsored by Lutheran Services in Iowa, and funded by a grant from the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.

Monday we were asking our legislators to increase funding for Human Services by 5%.  Which isn't much to ask, considering it was defunded by 5% in 2009 during recession and now we have a budget surplus.

We got a little pep talk before hand and were encouraged to talk about how we are doing this because of our faith.  I took a little different tact.  Yes my faith compels me to care for my neighbor but I don't know that is a good reason to convince my government to take care of my neighbor.

I argue that it is in our best interests as a country and state, city, community to take care of the most vulnerable in our society.  We are all better off when nobody goes hungry.  It is good for us when addicted people get treatment, troubled youth get counseling, dysfunctional families have resources, disabled get job training, refugees get help adjusting to a new country.  This seems really obvious to  me.  You don't have to be a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Wiccan to see how this is a good thing.  Yes it is costly, but not addressing these concerns ends up costing us a lot more, if not in prison costs, but potential loss of contributions by people who just needed some help. 

So I got to see my state senator and I didn't have to do much convincing.  "Oh I absolutely agree" she concurrs.  Then she points across the room - the the State House.  "That's your problem.  We put together a budget including increases for human services.  They have a different budget"  Need a say the Iowa Senate, like our Congress is mostly Democrat and our House is Republican. 

There was at time when this was NOT a partisan issue.  When everyone agreed it was good provide human services.  Now even though we can afford it in Iowa anyway, partisan ideology is getting in the way of helping people.  That sucks.  It also sucks that my Republican representative did not answer my email when I told him I was coming, nor was he available.  A lot of representatives were not available.

Anyway I think this was a great experience for people.  Very educational to learn how our government works.  To have an opportunity to speak for people who don't have lobbyists to represent their interests.  To let representatives know there is another Christian lobby that is interested in something other than abortion and gays. 

For more information about Lutheran Day at the Hill.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Don't Usually Use Movie Scenes in my Sermons but....

In Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett is caught in an embrace with Ashley, the whole community is outraged at her for Melanie's sake.  However when Rhett forced Scarlett to attend Melanie's party, expecting Melanie to shut the door in her face, Melanie takes firm hold of Scarlett and insists her guests welcome her.  If they will be Melanie's friend, they will be kind to Scarlett. 

This is what happens when the father runs in such an

 undignified manner to meet his returning son outside of town.  The town is outraged at the son for how he has treated his father but the father will escort the son back into town telling all that his son has returned. "Love me, Love my son!" he tells them all.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

White Bean & Ham Soup

I told myself I was going to blog more in Lent.  Not ranting but deep profound spiritual stuff.  I did pretty well on Ash Wednesday.  Then that was kind of the end of that.  I am writing Lenten Devotions for a Facebook Group on Fridays so that's something anyway.

So here's a recipe anyway.  

1 bag of dried white navy beans

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
4 or 5 carrots, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
4 slices of bacon
1/4 Cup white wine
2 Tbl (or so) Balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1 Ham shank

Cover the beans with water.  Bring to a boil.  Let them soak for an hour or so.
Fry the bacon in a big ol cast iron pot.  Take the bacon out and use it for broccoli salad.  Saute the onions, 1/2 the peppers and garlic in the leftover bacon fat.  You might have to use a little olive oil if it's not enough fat.  When the onion is translucent, add the vinegar and wine and simmer that for a few minutes.

Add the beans in the same water they've been soaking in,  and the ham shank.  Add more water to make sure the beans are covered.  Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low simmer, cover and let it do it's thing for a few hours.  You can also add it to the crock pot if you want to go out and don't want to leave the stove on. 

After the beans are soft most recipes will tell you to blend half the beans and put them back in.  Well, I don't like the consistency of beans so I put an immersion blender in the pot and mush them all up.  Then I add the rest of the peppers and the carrots and keep simmering for another hour or so.  

When it's done, the ham should be fall off the bone.  Take it out, cut the ham up and put it back in the soup.  Really nice for a snow day.  Serve with corn bread.