Thursday, December 22, 2016

On Why Powers Fear Our Children: Brief Reflections This Last Week of Advent

In many ways, to bear a child is a subversive act. To deliver new life into this world- a move of defiance. It says to the powers-that-be, you cannot and will not slow the birth of resistance and the dawn of God's movement of justice and peace.

The irony that those in power the first Christmas were so threatened by young ones of the same age as my children, whose greatest weapons are legos left on the floor, temper tantrums provoked by age-appropriate irrationalism, and a rank diaper, reminds me how truly weak and insecure these tyrants are. Despite their over-compensating rhetoric, they are fragile and fickle.

Yet they must be resisted. Our children depend upon us as we imagine and dare to construct a reality contrary to their versions of empire, which are dark and futile at best.

Actually, these little ones are the agents of change the Christmas story proclaims will lead us forward.  They are the incarnation of our resistance. That just may be the reason the powers fear them most. 

These are the things I think about this final week of Advent, as I hold our newest little one- whose name means "close to God."

Praying, wherever your spirit may be this time of year, you feel such closeness in the midst of a world threatening greater and greater divisions.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

On Advent, Infertility, and Finding Space for the Other*

In a Christmas sermon delivered to inmates at a Basel prison, twentieth-century theologian Karl Barth commented on the journey of the holy family, "Thanks be to God the parents and the baby for whom there was no room in the inn found this other spot where this could happen, and indeed did happen” (Deliverance to the Captives).

They found this other spot. In this alternative space, the unexpected happened to the unlikely. 

The entire Christmas drama hinges on surprise and the unconventional. The lack of vacancy at the local inn only reinforces this truth. 

This Advent is unlike any other for our family of five. That is because we are about to become a family of six- with a due date of December 24th In many ways, the Christmas narrative has become our personal, real-life pageantry.  

It would be an understatement to say this pregnancy was an unexpected surprise. Our first three children, to include twins, were born after years of painfully battling infertility and navigating through the complexities of reproductive technology. Until their arrival, Advent was a darkened four weeks. As someone in congregational ministry, I remember fighting my way through the liturgy. So many of the stories and sacred imagery were reminders of the void we sensed and the dreams that became all the more faint with each visit to the doctor. We felt as though we did not belong in the narrative happening all around us, a narrative I was proclaiming through my vocation.  

This Advent, however, my wife carries the unexpected and the improbable. We await the birth of what we previously believed and, on many occasions, were told was unlikely to be possible…ever. As we anticipate the arrival of this little girl, who has defied all odds through her very existence, we do so with a fair share of angst, mixed with gratitude, uncertainty, and a growing list of questions. One of the more pressing logistical questions, “where will this child sleep?” There is not much room left in our over-crowded inn. We are looking for this other spot, too.

God’s preference throughout the biblical story is for the other- those who dwell on the fringe of society, the margins of communities, and are dismissed by conventional wisdom and systems of power. This includes the religious. God's self-revelation happens alongside those who cry out for deliverance, long for hope, and plead for comfort in the midst of increasing despair. The activity of God occurs in these other places like arks and parted seas, prisons and deserts, lions dens and shepherds’ fields. It even happens in the midst of battles with infertility and deep longings for children- Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth among others. 

The church must make space for those who presently battle such darkness.

As Mary and Joseph journey towards their makeshift delivery room, she sings the song she composed in the midst of a prolonged visit with her previously-barren cousin who knew such pain and void now redeemed. 
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant...He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly." (Luke 1:46-47, 52)
Mary knows it is not only the coming of Jesus that announces God’s solidarity with the lowly, but also the way in which the Christ child comes- in the womb of one marked as ‘other’ only to be born in the other spot behind an overly-crowded inn. Mary sings of the incarnation as God finding a spot among the other, the hungry, poor, exploited, and shamed, who now take center stage within this unfolding drama of deliverance.  

Mary’s song is a challenge to each of us at Advent. The Magnificat dares us to keep our eyes and ears open to the other spots whereby God’s love and grace may be both born and affirmed. The chorus challenges us to look out for those who feel the weight of being the other, especially in this season whereby voids and a sense of belonging are most vulnerable. The echoes of Mary’s song nudge us to find space for those frequently dismissed and ignored, who look for refuge and sanctuary among us. Even more, Mary’s song is a word of comfort to those who may wonder whose side God is on in the midst of a world most favorable to the powerful and privileged. So sing this Advent and Christmas, but sing in a way that elevates the voice and value of the other. After all, this is the song that has been sung by God’s people throughout the ages. This is a soulful song that magnifies the Lord who draws the other to the center. 

*This post was originally written for The presbytery of Philadelphia: 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What I Would've Preached Today: On Subversion through Not Being Afraid

We don’t fully know what’s ahead. We don’t know what campaign promises the president-elect will act upon in his first 100 days. 

We don’t know what will happen related to immigration policies, foreign wars, ISIS, international trade, domestic infrastructure, law enforcement, relationships with our Muslim and LGBTQ neighbors, etc. We have about 70 days to make speculations, some more accurate than others, but we don’t really know. 

And when we don’t know, we fear. Our speculations lead us to imagine the worst. Frankly, the rhetoric of this recent election season has given the American people more than enough warrant to do just that. It’s also part of the game politicians play- even those who claim to be outsiders and anti-establishment. 

There’s really no such thing. 

What we do know, we are called to embody the same witness to the gospel alongside those who are on the margins of systems, the fringe of our communities, and the targets of abusive language of ignorance and offense that has gained a renewed platform in recent days. 

In the midst of it all, we also know we are called to echo the compassion of Christ, "do not be terrified.” (Luke 21:9). 

This is not to say there are no reasons for concern. For there are many.

Rather, this message subverts the powers-that-be and their patrons as we dare proclaim, live into, and link arms in solidarity with those who tremble in the midst of uncertainty and the crumbling of what is. We assure one another we belong to the One whose reign is always on the side of margin dwellers.

We also know we are to act in the face of our darkest fears, no matter what the law of the land may say (Luke 21:12-18). If we as the church feel so strong about gender equality, dismantling racism and all phobias, providing sanctuary for the refugee, prioritizing economic justice, leveraging peacemaking initiatives, strengthening interfaith relations, and reducing the polarization and characterization of the other (even those with whom we disagree), we must work towards these things even now. Especially now. We must ensure our own ecclesial institutions and communities model what we hope and lobby for in the State. We must beware of and reduce the plank-eye syndrome. 

This is hard yet honest work.  

When our theological convictions, which frame our witness in the world, are not shared by those in power we dare not shrink back. This is true regardless of who occupies the Oval. As some say, we hold the line and continue to carry cross. We bear witness no matter the cost. We endure, assured that in so doing we gain our very souls. 

Church, we don’t know much about what’s ahead. We can merely speculate and anticipate. 

But be careful not to fear. May we also not become that which we condemn. Rather, embrace the call of Christ that is as urgent now as it was when the earliest saints were first bid to follow. 

They endured. So must we. 

"By your endurance you will gain your souls." 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Give Me Jesus: Brief Post-Election Reflections and an Alternative Pledge of Allegiance

I fell asleep last night to the lyric, "in the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus." I woke up to the same internal melody. For many, today is a day of great lament. Fear and angst realized and amplified in a way that deeply affects their lived realities and the concerns of their friends, family members, and neighbors near and far. These must be heard and given space to breathe. For others, today is a day where they believe a particular age of reform or return is about to come. I am doing my best to hear them, too.

But I find this quite difficult.

While I woke in a fog and continue to wrestle with what may be ahead, especially for my children, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in this nation, one thing is certain, I pledge allegiance not to a nation or an office, a political dream or a flag. Rather, this personal anthem, written eight years ago, holds just as true now as it did then and will tomorrow and for the next four years, too.

Church, God is with us and the Spirit inviting us still. People of God, Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Confession Before Heading to the Polls on Tuesday

“If the Church is a Christian community it will not need a Christian party. If it is a true fellowship it will perform with its words and its whole existence all the functions which the disastrous enterprise of ‘Christian’ parties is intended to fulfill. There will be no lack of individual Christians who will enter the political arena anonymously, that is, in the only way they can appear on the political scene, and who will act in accordance with the Christian approach and will thereby prove themselves unassuming witness of the Gospel of Christ, which alone can bring salvation in the political sphere no less than elsewhere.”
Karl Barth, “Christian Community and Civil Community."

In these days, the anxiety levels swirling around Election Day 2016 are higher than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Some are suggesting they are higher than they have been in our nation’s history. And this includes the age of duals we now know well, thanks to Hamilton.

The rhetoric of candidates and pundits, backyard conversations and on-line rants are laced in hyperbolic fear tactics that perpetuates unparalleled dis-ease and presumes what happens on November 8th could prevent a sun rise on November 9th. Through it all, the American electorate are mere pawns in the political game of chess and quest for public allegiance. 

The church is not exempt from this scheme. 

While our votes matter and the impact of this year’s election will bear consequences for generations to come, in many ways we have forgotten the Christian confession echoed throughout centuries and in the midst of even the most tyrannical and oppressive rulers- Christ is Lord.

This loaded political statement has been lost, for some, in a church wed to privilege, power, political wooing, and the allure of Christendom now dead. So we are dared to reclaim the confession in the days ahead. Not because we are standing on soapboxes with bullhorns bent on converting the masses; rather, we need assurance that no matter who sits in the Oval now or in the next four years, our hope resides in the Elected One whose name is Jesus.* This will be true whether Trump or Hillary, Gary or Theo Epstein (who many may write in post Cubs victory). We are not saved by the faulty promises and broken policies of those who lobby for our votes. Our hope does not rest in political figures, be they Caesar or President. This is a truth both the religious right and left have forgotten these days, myself included, as if we needed further reason to testify to the world the church is as divided and confused as Washington. 

So while we must exercise our right to vote, may we do so aware our first allegiance is pledged to Christ and no other. Regardless of the results, may we dare to live into our Christian witness that speaks truth to power, extends welcome to foreigners, elevates the cause of those on the margins, advocates for just economics, protects those profiled due to their race or ethnicity, values the sanctity of life, cares for the earth we call home, prioritizes peacemaking, extends love to enemies of all kinds, and lives into the hope for a day surely coming when God will make all things new and right again for all nations, peoples, and the creation God made as good.

This through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, God’s Elected One.

To cling to this confession neither minimizes nor dismisses our responsibility in this election or any matters related to politics. On the contrary, what we believe to be true about the gospel and the witness of Jesus as Elected One becomes the lens by which we view candidates and the conscience that undergirds our votes.

In this sense, this confession is as urgent in 2016 as it has ever been previously. 

So may we be so bold to follow the Elected One at our polling places and everyday thereafter. Still more, may we remember the sun will rise on November 9th and our call as the church will, too. 

Related Links and Notes:

*Karl Barth once wrote, “Jesus is not merely the Reconciler between God and man. First, He is Himself the reconciliation between them. And so He is not only the Elected. He is also Himself the Elector, and in the first instance His election must be understood as active…It is in Him that the eternal election becomes immediately and directly the promise of our own election as it is enacted in time, our calling, our summoning to faith, our assent to the divine intervention on our behalf, the revelation of ourselves as the sons of God and of God as our Father, the communication with the Holy Spirit who is none other than the Spirit of this act of obedience, the Spirit of obedience itself, and for us the Spirit of adoption. When we ask concerning the reality of the divine election, what can we do but look at the One who performs this act of obedience, who is Himself the act of obedience, who is Himself in the first instance the Subject of this election." (Church Dogmatics II.2 106)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

His Name Is Zacchaeus and Mine Is, Too: Lectionary Reflections on Luke 18:9-14

From 1956 to 1964, Karl Barth preached among those incarcerated in Basel. In many ways, these sermons most faithfully capture the vast volumes of theology Barth wove throughout the twentieth century. At the center of each homily, which began with prayer and concluded with the Eucharist, was the confession that all of us stood in need of God’s grace. Here is where Barth found common ground with those he considered fellow congregants. 
“Has [God] really made things right for all of us? Even for the most miserable, the most afflicted and the most embittered of human beings? Yes! Even for the most grievous offenders? Yes! Even for the godless- or those pretending to be godless, as may be the case with some of your fellow-prisoners who declined to be with us this morning? Yes! Jesus Christ has made things right for them and for us all. He is willing to do it time and again” (Ascension Day 1956).* 
Barth recognized the mercy and grace of God were the great equalizers and levelers for all of humanity. In confession, he recognized each of us plays some part in the world gone rogue. The forgiveness of Christ then sets us free to view our neighbors, whether they are behind bars, a political debate podium, or this blogpost, through the lens of the gospel and God's promised reconciliation of all things. 

In Luke 18, Jesus illustrates a likely foundation for this theological and practical center through the contrasted prayers of a Pharisee and an unnamed tax collector. The piety of the Pharisee elevates the self at the expense of neighbor and constructs a faulty religious wall of ignorance, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector."

But he was just like them. And so are we.

So Jesus shares the contrasted prayer he may have personally heard from an unnamed tax collector, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." 

The humbled other confesses his need for God's intervention in the midst of human brokenness. The "sinner" confronts his participation in dysfunction only able to be remidied by the One whose mercy overcomes even the worst of human dealings or politics. The unnamed refuses to compare himself to his neighbors or to Caesar, who was at the helm of the corrupt socio-economic policies that underwrote his vocation. Instead, the unnamed confessor looks to be made right and whole so he can participate in a better economy and more just reign than that which has framed his lifework. 

If we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and jump a chapter over in Luke's gospel, we just may notice this tax collector “standing far off” has a name- Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).  After much contemplation and confession, Zacchaeus has ventured from temple to tree, climbed down from his elevated perch, given reparations for his unjust and oppressive deeds (i.e. repents), and identified with the poor he once exploited. It is only after this sort of repentance that Jesus says salvation has come to this son of Abraham. Said differently, salvation in the economy of God happens in our concern for, identification with, and solidarity alongside the poor, oppressed, and neighbors on the margins. As Luke says elsewhere, "blessed are you who are poor…woe to you who are rich" (6:20,24); "some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last" (13:30); "for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted" (18:14). 

Zaccheus was only able to do this as he shifted his narrative from one of "us and them" and treatment of persons as collateral to one of solidarity with neighbor and those exploited by systems bent towards the rich. In a sense, his prayer in the temple was fully realized as he ventured to the streets of Jericho. Here he would find jubilee, reconciliation, and salvation. 

In the midst of the hostile rhetoric that consumes all arenas for public and personal discourse, the witness of Zacchaeus dares us to embrace a sobering narrative that binds us all together and see one another through the lens of God's mercy and grace. Zacchaeus' temple prayer combined with his offering of reparations in Jericho, point to salvation coming when we as the church, versus any presidential candidate, are willing to come down from our privileged perch in the tree and make amends with brokenness of the world we have allowed to happen.  After all, we are not only contributors to the fracturing of God’s world, but also paradoxical agents of wholeness, hope, and redemption. 

Each of us are mirrors of the sinner and saint whose name is Zacchaeus. 

This is likely what sent Karl Barth into the Basel prisons. 
May we make similar confessional journeys from sacred spaces to whatever cities, communities, neighborhoods, digital spaces, God calls us. May we do so aware we are all wrapped in the love and grace of Christ able to reconcile all things- even each of us. 

*Read the collection of these sermons in Deliverance to the Captives. The most pertinent sermon for this lectionary text would be the one delivered in September 1957, "All!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Psalm 66 and Contentment of Creation: A Lyric for Seasons of Angst and Uncertainty

“All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)*

without fear
worry nowhere present
only worship in the air
creation not naive
the earth fully aware
still content, unwavered
assured of God’s tender care 
listen to the birds
consider lilies in the fields
amidst chaos and confusion
not phased by despair
each tree a proverb
landscapes as parables
wisdom in their spoken words
if we listen, they are there
fear not
fret not
God is here

*This was the lectionary Psalm for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Proper 23 of Year C. Photo taken at the Colombia River Gorge in Portland, OR after the 222nd General Assembly. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Lord's Prayer for Days Such as These

Written after reading Julia Esquivel’s, "Lord’s Prayer from Guatemala" in Threatened with Resurrection.  Esquivel's contextual and liturgical expansion of Jesus' prayer provides a framework and formative praxis for individuals and communities called to prayer in the midst of the varied human struggles and related incarnations of the gospel. Work through each movement of the Lord's' Prayer and add what the Spirit may draw to the forefront of your heart and imagination...

Our Father of the human family
whose image is reflected in every person
young and older
here and there
across all nations, neighborhoods, colors, and class
Be near.

Our Father of children who walk into schools each day,
of teachers who guide and instruct them
of youth who do not have access to quality education
or the arts
vulnerable to a life of less and not enough
Be near.

Our Father of those who only know of violence and war
who flee countries
mothers and children
looking for refuge in a land not their own.
Bear near.

Our Father of those who know guns are too readily accessible 
whose loved ones have been killed
their bodies lay in the streets 
taken by weapons purchased with great ease
to others profit. 
Be near.

Our Father of First Nations People
those who have been forced to live as strangers 
Water Protectors who care for creation
more than oil, innovation, and profit margins
Be near.

Our Father of those who fear the red and blue lights 
who have to speak with greater caution when stopped
afraid they will be perceived as threat because of their pigmentation 
many slain by those called to serve and protect
in front of their children
Be near.

Our Father in heaven
your name is not hallowed on this earth.
But the names of the fallen are.
The endless names attached to hashtags and movements
headlines and calls to action
Hallow your name in the wake of their suffering.

Hallowed be your name through the witness of the persecuted church
the faithful present and in ages past
who have remained true to the call
even at the expense of their very lives 
claimed by those whose god is Terror
whose faith is Vengeance
whose doctrine is Hate. 

Hallowed be your name through the bodies of the oppressed
the wounds of the neglected
the cries of those who have struggled for far too long 
in neighborhoods quarantined from opportunity 
fenced off from privilege
brushed under the rugs of the elite.

Hallowed be your name in young people who struggle with visions of the future
who take on debt just to keep up with the new normal
youth who are uncertain about what is to come
yet know what is cannot remain
Hallowed be your name in their voices that long for change
seek a better way.

Hallowed be your name in the work of teachers and activists
doctors and lawyers
pastors and church leaders
theologians and contemplatives 
social workers and peacemakers
artists and writers
protesters and community organizers
leaders in political office who dare to see their work as truly serving the public good. 

May your kingdom come where there is malnourishment in the developing world
and in our own nation
where food banks have surplus in preservatives and nutrition comes at a high cost
May your kingdom come through urban gardens
Your will be done in community dinners.

May your kingdom come in calls to peace
your will be done in non-violent means to conflict resolution
May your kingdom come through the church willing to surrender old programs and paradigms
as we develop holistic initiatives that benefit those beyond our buildings
your will be done in faithful use of the arts alongside those in recovery
others re-entering after years of imprisonment

May your kingdom come in parts of the earth
Baton Rouge
San Diego
Mexico City
Tel Aviv
As it is heaven.

Give daily bread to those hungry for medical care
steady employment
fair treatment
women who long for equal pay and equal opportunity
immigrants looking for housing, employment, and full-inclusion as citizens in this nation.

Give daily bread to those unable to make mortgage payments
who fear foreclosure
cannot make rent
others whose families are torn by addiction and infidelity.

To children who wonder their worth
sit alone at lunch
whose mothers or fathers are absent
Give them their daily bread of love and comfort
adults who will remind them they are valued and mean something to somebody
to You.

Give daily bread of freedom to those who live under surveillance
hear sounds of war out their bedroom windows 
who have lived under the thumb of dictators and leaders thirsty for more power
protect us from the threat of tyranny.

Give daily bread of liberation to those who have remained behind closet doors
in house
where orientation is used as yet another means to exploit
exclude, and rob another of their dignity. 

Give daily bread to those who truly need a slice of bread
or fruit
or fresh vegetables
that many of us waste without conviction
Give them our daily bread when we have weeks worth of sustenance 
taken for granted and left to rot. 

And forgive us when we ignore the cries and concerns of our neighbor
forgive those who have not heard us when we have been in need
move us towards the day when debts do not lead to another’s capital gain
Forgive us for the way we have constructed systems fueled by debt
worked by indentured servants
who go from earned degree to endless streams of bills never to be fully paid. 
Forgive us our debts.
Lead us to jubilee rooted in more than enough for all. 

Lead us not into the temptation of individualism 
separating ourselves from your call to the common good
to the needs of our neighbor
Deliver us from the evil of hoarding what we have for ourselves 
Deliver us from the evil of us and them language
from religious language as undergarments of political systems, 
legislation, and powers bent on the privileged
quests for empire expansion
Deliver us from the myth of national security that leads us to build higher walls
wield more weapons of war
and label persons of varied ethnicities and religions as perceived threats.

Deliver us from the evil of greed and rhetoric that bullies our opponents 
those with whom we disagree.
Deliver us from the temptation to seek the destruction of our enemies
versus pursue reconciliation, redemption, and diplomacy
at. all. costs. 
Deliver us from divisions in church and home, 
neighborhoods and nations. 
Lead us out of the temptation to despair alone. 

For yours is the kingdom of dreams and new possibilities
welcome and universal love.
Yours is the power that leads others towards wholeness and hope, 
not leveraged at the expense of another.
Yours is the glory that draws all towards a brighter day when all will have enough 
when the one human family will gather together
to worship
to work
to embrace
to celebrate
that our labors were never- not for one instant
in vain.
All will be well.
All will be right again.


Friday, September 30, 2016

A Litany for Conversations on Stewardship of Money, Mission, and Media

What is below was used as part of closing liturgy for the recent Money, Mission, and Media Seminar, a collaborative and ecumenical conversation among ministry leaders in the PCUSA, ELCA, and more.  Details here.  Other Resources here. 


Voice 1: Creator and Sustainer of us all, you made goodness out of nothingness, breathed life into what was once dust, and invited us into your creative work of caring for and nurturing all creation. This story of collaborative care, creativity, and holy possibility binds us one to another.

Voice 2: Alongside the invitation you have extended over and over, you continue to call, equip, and empower us to tell the story of your love for all creation, in word, in image, in action.  

All: May we respond to your invitation with courage and imagination. May we respond to your generosity with generosity, giving of ourselves and our resources freely and without conditions.  

Voice 3: In the midst of frequent narratives of scarcity and perceived limitations, remind us of your call to abundant life and gratitude. Where we are shaken by despair and tempted to pursue self-preservation and isolation, turn our eyes and ears, open our hearts, to the concerns of our neighbors.

Voice 4: Re-frame how we understand money, investments, and invitations to give so we and those we lead can fully live into our call to serve with imagination and love. Where our imagination fails us, show us how all we have can be transformed into resurrection hope alongside our congregations and communities.

All: May we be faithful stewards as we work within economic systems, contextual leaders as we equip others to give in new and old ways, and creative collaborators with new and existing partners for ministry.

Voice 5: Inclusive and loving Christ, you broke conventional understandings of who is in and who is out. You viewed every place and each person as a channel of God’s grace and redemption. Help us to do the same.

Voice 6: In our own time and place, enable us to see local businesses, digital platforms, social networks, community parks, and various places beyond the walls of our church buildings as cathedrals in its fullest definition: sacred spaces for conversation and community-building.

All: May we be faithful servants to our neighbors outside the church walls: those in our neighborhoods, main streets, work places, schools, and all the “third places” in our midst.

Voice 7: Holy Spirit, you dwell within each of us and send us to be both a gathered and scattered people. When we limit your mission only to worship and not community engagement, reduce the gospel to well-crafted theological statements, and become comfortable with variations of privilege and power, confront our conscience and call us back to the vision you have for the world, for the Church, for us. .

Voice 8: Make us cultivators of community and gardeners of justice. Empower us to be agents of welcome and hosts of the stranger. Stir our hearts and minds to ask faithful questions as we extend solidarity alongside our local and distant neighbors.

All: May we listen to and uplift voices long silenced and those who have been marginalized for far too long. May we link arms and join the cause of those labeled least and last among us.

Voice 9: God who includes, who provides, who loves, who guides, who challenges, may our understanding of who you are and how you relate to us frame how we view and relate to one another.

Voice 10: Unify us amidst the divisiveness of both church and world, and guard us against confusing sameness with oneness.

All: May we be faithful stewards and caretakers of the varied gifts and stories, histories and cultures, ministry dreamers, and community leaders in our congregations and communities. May we listen and may we tell the story of how you are at work in the world with imagination and joy.

Voice 11: May we be faithful stewards of our money. Remind us that everything we have is a gift from you. Our money does not own us. Quiet the voices of scarcity and remind us of all the times you have provide for us. Give us the courage to practice unclenching our fists and give our money in ways that are creative, daring, and enlivening. Bless our gifts, multiply them, so that all may know your love for them and this world.

Voice 12: May we be faithful stewards of media. Remind us that the Good News is a story, a Story you have been writing since creation, a story of love, redemption, and reconciliation. Give us the skills or send us the right people to help us tell that story in word and in images, across contexts and platforms, with authenticity and love.

All: May we be faithful stewards of God’s mission in and for the world God so loves. May we encourage God’s people to live into their call as disciples who extend love and tell the story of the Gospel. Amen.

Written and Developed by Rev. Greg Klimovitz and Rev. Rebecca Blake, 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Money, Mission, Media: The Beginnings of an On-Going (Ecumenical) Conversation

What would it look like to host a conversation on the varied intersections of stewardship and media and all things ministry in the twenty-first century?

How could we as Presbyterians and Lutherans model ecumenical collaboration critical for church witness in our local cities and neighborhoods?

Would it be possible to host a conversation that would at least acknowledge, if not reduce, the anxiety that surrounds new media and the here-to-stay digital world?

Dare we suggest the possibility of stewardship and digital platforms for generosity and community formation as sacramental, means to encounter God's grace and proclaim the gospel?

As local PCUSA and ELCA ministers, we raised these questions and more to one another over coffee and the occasional beer. We also knew these were questions others in our synod, presbytery, and related congregations were asking.

So, with the respective support of our communities, we recruited voices in the church who are exploring the edges of ministry in a digital world, Adam Copeland, Mihee Kim-Kort, and Keith Anderson, pulled together a panel of practitioners for a fishbowl discussion, and launched #MoneyMissionMedia: Insights & Strategies for 21st Century Ministry.  Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia even graciously offered to host.

We initially targeted 75 conversation partners across both the local ELCA Synod and the Presbytery of Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, over 200 showed up.

I learned much. What I most valued was the praxis of ecumenical collaboration that continues to deconstruct any territorialism that impinges upon our larger Christian witness in and for the world. Even more, the conversations were raw, honest, deeply theological, and rooted in a commitment to contextualized expressions of the gospel.

As our Presbytery's own Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace noted in the opening remarks, "We are indeed in a new Pentecost moment."

May the church dare embrace it.

Here are a few resources from the gathering:

My tweets from that day.
Summary article from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (ELCA)
Adam Copeland Presentation (Facebook Live)
Mihee Kim-Kort Presentation (Facebook Live)
Fishbowl Conversation with Local Practitioners (Facebook Live)
Keith Anderson Presentation (Facebook Live)
Closing Liturgy

Article by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

Related post:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Turn and Wonder: On Our Kids Beginning Kindergarten

Every morning, as I watch our #Twinado walk from car to school entrance, I am reminded of just how many hours they will spend with classmates and educators. 

2,400 days and 16,758 hours to be exact- not including snow days, sick days, and early dismissals. 

Then, as I drive away, I say a few prayers. I also give a wave and drop a word of thanks to those faculty standing at the crosswalk who make sure our kids are safe and have the space to learn and grow into the people they were created to be. I even fight a few tears, reminded both how quickly time has gone and how much of parenting involves entrusting our children to the love and care of others.

This last part is especially difficult. 

So I pray again and again that God’s Spirit would hover over the sacred chaos of their education years. 

Turn and Wonder

You turn and you wonder
what might lay ahead
in the classroom
bus ride home 

16,758 hours of possibility
to learn
to discover
to fear
to struggle
to encounter others

Each day a canvas
each moment a drop of paint
bright colors
dark shadows 
a gallery in the making
who you are and yet to be

You are loved
to love
we say as you walk out the door
into the care of others
sisters and brothers 
new friends and neighbors

Ask questions
then ask another 
each mystery not to be solved
a nudge forward
to what has yet to be uncovered

You are not alone
will not define you
you were made in an image
unable to be assessed

Remember this 
when you see her seated next to you
gain a glimpse of the child alone
could be you
looking for a friend 
welcome and belonging 

You are just beginning
faster than we imagined
more brilliant than we could have hoped
unfinished still

Turn and wonder again
each day  
every day
You were created for this
for tomorrow

and every day to come.