Church Stuff-More or less

Does the church make sense or do we make it too hard for people to come in? I think yes and yes and the task then is to make it easier. Maybe for someone out there, this will be the case. I write as a Lutheran (or, perhaps a Lutherpalian) although I might seem out of the mainstream from time to time. That's okay, isn't it? Let's blog on.

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Location: Northport, Long Island, United States

Contrary to what Google will tell you, I have been blogging for several year, right here. Look for Churchstuff-moreorless. life was a hell of a lot easier when you could talk to someone to get help. Now, you can't do it on the telephone, you can't do it on the internet. Life was easier and made more sense because people actually cared. Now they will screw you as quickly as they will help you. Unfuck the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My daily devotion from Epiphany Lutheran Church

John 8. 13Then the Pharisees said to him, “You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.” (NRSV)


Devotion: There are some in the ELCA who know that, as a rule, I don’t cut the Pharisees any slack. They know that because I might have referred to them as Pharisees. Pharisees were biblically learned folk who cling to the letter of the Law at the expense of the Gospel. I have to admit that Pharisees get it right once in a while-well, half right.

            Struggling churches in Baltimore are not all that unique. We would often resort to trying to instill in them the simple mantra “it’s not about me, it’s about Jesus.” This means that sometimes we don’t get our own way in the church. So, the Pharisees, because they did not see Jesus for who he really was, came close. They saw Jesus as your average church geek, someone who was trying to recreate the church in his own image.If that was the case, then they were right.

            It has been said that if you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans. However well intentioned you or I might be, our agendas are not always the same as God’s. We tend to create God (or God’s stuff) in our own image. The Pharisees needed to learn this lesson.


Prayer: We mean well, O Lord, even if it doesn’t always look that way. At least to you. Help us to be better stewards of your creation, help us to be attuned to your plans, your will. Amen

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Postscript for Rachel Corrie

Please take the time to listen to her parents.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remembering Rachel

Today is the sixth anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie. On a Sunday in 2003, Rachel was volunteering in Rafah, Palestine for the International Solidarity Movement and was trying to prevent the Israeli Army from bulldozing the home of a Palestinian civilian. The operator of the Caterpillar intentionally drove his machine over her, ending her relatively short but meaningful life. Rachel was in her 24th year of life, a life that impacted all who knew her.
As a pacifist, I do not condone any acts of violence. Both sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are guilty of committing acts of terror on each other and civilians on both sides have suffered. Israel has been given a free pass for far too long and we do our strongest Middle East ally no favors by ignoring her acts against the population of Palestine. Now, more than ever, our government needs to intervene and bring about a diplomatically inspired peace to that region.
I felt no regret recently when Caterpillar announced economically forced closing. I feel terrible for those who may have lost their jobs but not for the company that has made a living selling equipment to Israel which has been used to murder scores of innocent Palestinians. Even though we went to York, PA and picketed them, it seemed like a hollow activity that fell on deaf ears.
We need to stand together and proclaim that Rachel Corrie did not die in vain, that the ways of peace cannot be overcome by those who chose the alternate path. Let us never forget the witness of those like Rachel who have given their lives in the cause of peace and justice. Do something today. It is not to late.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pissed Off Jesus

I have always felt that the title heading which many Bible use should be something like Jesus gets pissed or Don't mess with Jesus referencing the second chapter of John's gospel.

It all starts with a wedding. I have always found this passage most perplexing. Aside from the fact that I have never been to a reception where they actually ran out of beverages-and if they did, it would just mean that it was time to go home.   

Anyway, we have the retelling of the (only?) time when Jesus was just hanging out, no one asking him for special favors, probably not feeling the urge to teach. He did, after all, know what lay ahead. Suddenly, Mary broke the mood. I don't know why.  She wasn't paying for the wedding.  It wasn't her responsibility. Maybe it was just Mary being Mary.  "Excuse me, son, but the wine-well has run dry."

When we think of Jesus, "smart mouth" generally isn't a characteristic we might apply. But, clearly, he wasn't all that happy to have the mood broken. It wasn't just an "Awww, Mom" moment. Jesus is clearly irked and makes no bones about it.

Mary knew something we seem to easily forget. There is never a bad time to approach Jesus. Not ever. Not even for something that might seem insignificant or worth the trouble. Not only does Jesus comply, he leaves them speechless. There's a lesson there.

So, first we have one of the only times when Jesus was, shall we say, really perturbed. Mary infringed upon his space with a seemingly insignificant request. If he would give into his nudgy mom, what do you think he might do when something really big was going on in his Father’s house? Today, he is really, really pissed.

Jesus wasn’t one of the Blues Brothers but he knew better than anyone that he was, indeed, on a mission from God. When human beings were mucking up the lives of other human beings, Jesus’ intervention usually involved the restoration of the afflicted and, for the most part, going on his way, about his business. But what was taking place in today’s passage, in his Father’s house, in God’s house called for a much different response. Jesus always responds. I am not sure if “dearest Jesus, meek and mild” held anything back. 

On one level, I am in awe of him. I have observed some nasty stuff go on in God’s house. I’ve never quite known how to respond and so I’ve ignored a lot. On another level, I’d expect Jesus to be just as angry about God’s creation. Umm, Jesus, there some more work to do.....

Monday, March 09, 2009

Rome drifts further to the right

Rarely does a week go by when someone doesn't suggest that Lutherans ought return to Rome and patch things up. Over the years, I have watched some colleagues do that very thing, at least on an individual basis. I think it has been more about them than anything else. 
When I consider the strife in the ELCA these days and wonder what I might do if the inmates ever take over the asylum, I know one thing for a fact-Rome will not be that port in a storm. Personally, their thoughts on women in position of leadership don't impact me-but they sure impact some people who are pretty important to me. Big stumbling block.
I can almost admire their consistency of thought regarding death-or at least causing it. But, every so often something like this happens  and it wakes me up like nothing else can. It pushes me to the point of saying, "enough of this talk, let them come to us." On their knees.
So much of life is not black and white, no matter how much Rome's authority figures dress in it. Adults should not screw children. 9 year old children should not be forced to have babies.
When is Rome going to wake up?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Prayer

Thomas Merton wrote this before I had a chance to:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Celtic Prayer for Lent

“Remember that you are dust,
And unto dust you shall return.”

“The Old Sod!”
The precious land!
The Sacred earth!

Ash Wednesday’s smudge
Remember we are earth
And we shall return.

Jesus is of earth
Every bone and sinew
The Word enfleshed.

His beginning sacred
A holy earth birthing
A heavenly ending.

Our Lenten journey
Wednesday’s blest earth
To Easter’s blest water!

And we are more than
“Dust in the Wind.”
We are bound for glory!

O God, bless my Lenten journey.
Let me walk the blessing path of Jesus.
Blessed be the path of giving.
Blessed be the path of discipling.
Blessed be the garden of grieving.
Blessed be the mountain of the cross.
Blessed be these forty days.

May I be more loving, more generous,
More forgiving, more grateful,
As I trod the desert path
Leading up to Easter’s water‑
A fountain springing up
Toward eternal life!

from A Contemporary Celtic Prayer Book by William John Fitzgerald