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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Time is Near

A few weeks ago, there was little on the television, having lost access to MSNBC due to some digital event which I don't fully understand. I decided to watch the second season of Millenium, the old science fiction/theology series from about 10 years ago. At the end of the credits for each episode, the words "The time is near" appeared on the screen and after a while, I began to ponder the meaning of those words.

This evening it dawned on me (well, if that isn't a contradiction of terms) that those words had particular meaning to me.

When I began writing this blog, it was about 6 months after I had left Hopkins. I had no job, no call and, for all intents and purposes, no church. It was a few months after the most significant relationship in which I had ever been came to yet another end. Unlike the previous endings, it was not to resume. I was alone. Alone in my house in Baltimore. Just me and Lacey, Rachel's dog of whom I had obtained post-marital custody. The two cats had died. My friends distant, if not disappearing altogether. Even my therapist had retired.

I think it was Bettye (who I introduced here early on) who suggested that I was entering desert time. She was, as usual, more right than she could have ever imagined. I was being driven out into the desert for an indeterminate time. Tonight, I came to the realization that I have been in that desert all of this time.

So, as I began, "the time is near." The time to leave the desert is near. It is my intention to reflect upon that desert in the blogs soon to come. But first, I had better write my two weekly devotions for Epiphany. Chuck doesn't need any more stress.

The time is near.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday's devotion from Epiphany

Luke 10. 23Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Our “big C” church has been arguing, along with many other “big C” churches, about homosexuality. It has been, all too often, very ugly. I have often opined that it will take the dying out of one more generation before we make any progress. Sadly.

I have always had hope. I have had hope because I have watched younger generations look at this in entirely different ways. They view others with fewer barriers than have their parents and grandparents. They also, I think, understand Jesus as someone to whom they should listen and not need to protect. They take him at his word and take it to heart.

It has been more of a struggle for the rest of us. We fiercely protect the Church, the Scriptures, even God, as though we have no choice. There are many things God won’t do without our help but this is not one of them.

Jesus is speaking to us as well as to those who follow us. We must remove the blinders which lead us to fail to see those around us as brothers and sisters and not as “different.” We must stop seeing what separates us and start seeing what unites us. There have been times when we have done this, we just aren’t very consistent.

We neither listen or see very well at times, Jesus. Open our eyes, open our ears, so that we may see and hear you in the guise of those we meet. Amen

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday's Devotion from Epiphany

Luke 9: 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (NRSV)

Sometimes, I wish that Jesus wouldn’t have used so many agrarian illustrations. How does one make them relevant to a society that is largely urban, at best suburban? Most people I know are limited to growing things in pots, maybe postage stamp sized gardens but most of these people are not farmers. We tend to take larger scale things for granted as we cruise the produce sections of our mega-marts. I suppose that since he had surrounded himself with a bunch of fisherman that he knew what he was doing.

I think that Jesus is telling us a couple of things here. First, commitment to following him cannot involve a constant looking back at where we have been or what we have left behind. We most focus on what is in front of us, on that which is at hand. We can’t be thinking about what we once did, or what we could have done, but what we are doing, what we should be doing.

Secondly, most of us will never be satisfied contemplating what we have accomplished, we must be continually moving forward. Speaking of relationships, Woody Allen once compared them to a shark that must continue moving forward or it will die. So it is with Jesus and us.

The past, O Lord, is often a safe place to be, We remember the good old days and forget that they probably weren’t as good as we think. Help us, in our following to only focus on the task in front of us, the task which lays ahead. Amen

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday's devotion form Epiphany

Luke 12. 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. (NRSV)

This is not “Don’t worry, be happy”/Bobbie McPherrin nor is it Joel Osteen/God’s gonna make you rich sort of stuff. Jesus is reminding us that sometimes we spend too much time with that which is beyond our grasp. It is beyond our grasp not to tease us, not to keep us striving, but because God doesn’t think it is something we need.

The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, can be found within all of us. It’s been there all of the time even if we are oblivious to it. When we recognize it, when we become attuned to it, we begin to realize what is important and that, for most of us, what we have is really enough. If we spend as much time tending to the kingdom as we do with ornaments, we come to realize that what Jesus is trying to teach us is true.

Sometimes, however, there are those around us who don’t have enough ornaments, who are unable, on their own, to obtain that which God desires of them. We have to set aside our own stuff and spend time helping them. It’s a kingdom thing.

Help us to be satisfied with what we have and rather than seek other riches take care of the things we have, the things you have given us. But help us also to look for the stuff that others need and deserve. Amen

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday's Devotion from Epiphany

Luke 9. 20He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (NRSV)

It is a question for the ages, a question which Jesus never stops asking. An answer is required, not just of the inner circle of disciples but of all who purport to be disciples. It is not so much a test as it is a reality check. How can we truly be disciples if we do not know the answer to the Master’s question? The answer is not casual-Jesus is my homeboy, Jesus is my BFF, my superhero, my all-in-all, blah blah blah. Which isn’t to say that those things aren’t important-hey are. But what does it mean to me that Jesus is your bud?
The disciples answer Jesus’ question correctly. They do not dwell on the warm and fuzzy but, rather, point out the all encompassing-Jesus is the “Messiah of God.” Yes, I have a personal relationship with Jesus-and so should you-but who Jesus is to me is not who he is to you. What he is-or who he is-for the whole world is what is important and tells us why each of us should have a relationship with him-despite the price he tells us we will pay.
Who do you say that he is?

We have never met you, we have never walked with you, we have never sat at your feet yet we still proclaim you “Messiah.” Help us pick up our crosses and follow you daily. Amen

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday's Devotion from Epiphany

Luke 7. 44Then turning toward the woman, he 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. (NRSV)

Jesus is speaking to his host, Simon, an overly pious man. He is speaking to a religious leader of his time, a time in which women were treated as second class citizens, at best.

“Do you see women? Do you see them not as objects to abuse but as human beings to honor and cherish? ? Do you see how you have hurt them? Do you see how you have terrified them, punished them, oppressed them, starved them, raped them, and killed them? Do you see the presence of God in women?”

Jesus is speaking to us because times have not changed all. I doubt we would be anymore comfortable than Simon. Both in church and society, women are all too often treated as second class citizens, at best.

In my life, the most significant woman (my most significant partner) I have known was sexually abused as a child from the time she was nine until she was old enough to escape the house. Yet this woman has been able to show me a God who I never could have imagined without her help. As rocky as our relationship has been (people who have been abused have a great deal of trouble with the issue of trust), I still cherish her and all that she has taught me. Yes, Jesus, I see her.

You created us equal in your sight but we have failed to live out that equality. Forgive us our sins, increase our faith that we might truly go in peace. Amen

Friday, May 08, 2009

My friend, Calvin Moreland

If, by chance you read this today, and it is before 7:00 pm Baltimore time, stop and say a prayer for my friend Cal. I got to know Cal at St Mark's Church in Baltimore when I started attending their Thursday evening Eucharist. St. Mark's is a wonderful old church, steeped in Anglo-Catholic Lutheranism. The congregation is probably a 50-50 mix of gays and straights, young and old. Cal wasn't straight nor was he young although he once may have been both. Or at least acted that way. Every Thursday night, Cal would greet me, call me "Padre" and ask how my week had been as though he actually cared. Truth be told, he did care and I appreciated it a whole hell of a lot and more, I think, than he knew.
Back in the day, Cal started out as a Lutheran pastor. I don't know if he was aware of his homosexuality or not then because, like many gay pastors, he married, had a family. Like some gay pastors, he finally got to the point where the church and he parted ways. He divorced, maintained a good relationship with all and eventually settled down with Billy Slaughter. On the surface, they seemed an odd couple but it was evident to all who really knew them that they loved each other deeply. Through it all, Cal never left the church, it left him. Cal never stopped serving the church, the church took his service for granted
I regret never really learning Cal's story when I lived in Baltimore. I guess it was enough at the time just to know he was my friend. I hope I was his, too.

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

May angels lead you into Paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

Rest in peace, my friend Cal.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Luke 6. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. (NRSV)

These are, indeed, difficult words to hear from Jesus. It seems that he is setting the bar out of reach, too high for us to cross. Of course, it really doesn’t come as a surprise, it’s just that we really rather he didn’t.

All too often, in these days and times, we look to do as little as possible and hope that it is enough. We look to spread the wealth around as thinly as possible so that it can cover as much area. We put band-aids on broken bones and hope it is enough. We give the beggar a quarter as though he or she might actually be able to do something with it. When someone asks for a minute of our time, we get out the stopwatch.

Things are quite different, however, when the shoe is on the other foot. When we are the person with the need, we expect, we demand, that the person who we have called upon meet our needs entirely. And that is Jesus’ point. Even if it is not our experience as a recipient, we had better bend over backwards for the person who comes to us.

Time, time, time. Give, give, give. It is so hard Lord to do that these days but we know you expect it of us. Help us to go the extra mile even when we might be to tired. Amen

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday's morning devotion

Luke 6. 2 and 9: 2But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”…9Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” (NRSV)

Even I will admit, perhaps grudgingly, that societies need to set parameters. Communities call these parameters “laws.” Whether it be the church community or a world community, these things are needed, laws are needed. Sometimes we find them limiting, sometimes we find them stifling. Sometimes we find them just but other times they are tried and found wanting, found to be unjust. Just as we need laws, we also need to uphold those which are good and just but we also need to confront those which are neither.

It is no surprise that Jesus knew the difference. Jesus knew that, no matter how well intended, people don’t always do the Godly thing. We don’t always do what God intends because we are human and because we often think we can do better. Jesus shows us that, sometimes, doing the right thing isn’t always right.

If someone is hungry today, do we tell them to wait until tomorrow, the kitchen is closed? Is someone is sick today, do we tell them to wait until tomorrow, the doctor isn’t in? If someone is suffering, do we tell them to grit their teeth, grin and bear it because tomorrow will be a better day?

We want to do the right thing, O Lord. We try, honestly we do but sometimes we don’t get it right. Inform our hearts that we might do your will. Amen