Wednesday, January 31, 2007

hollaback girl?

Ok, I admit that I've been allowing myself to enjoy a king-sized follow-the-tangents trail as I explore this week's scripture.

It all starts with the beautiful story of Jesus calling Simon, James and John to follow him. Jesus shows them that he has power--and knows to they can catch lots of fish--and Simon immediately recognizes Jesus' deeper authority. And they leave everything to follow him.

This is incredible enough.

But then, my thought continues through a question raised by Karen at a staff meeting this week: are we teaching and showing people that God is calling each one of us today? Sure, we talk about preachers, and maybe even church musicians being "called." But are we open to the callings and promptings God puts on each one of our lives?

Deep stuff.

Then, my thoughts take a sharp detour. I start thinking about the work "call." As in "I just called to say I love you," and "You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running." Phone calls, call-backs, and call-and-response singing. Which, naturally, reminded me of my foray onto to see what it means for Gwen Stefani to (not) be a Hollaback Girl. (I know, I'm slow. It's been years since Gwen first went b-a-n-a-n-a-s.)

My favorite explanation was that Gwen was riffing on accusations from Courtney Love that Gwen is a "cheerleader." And everyone knows that cheerleaders have some folks who start cheers, and some folks who lead the response (or, the holla-back girls). So, perhaps, Gwen wanted to say that she may be a cheerleader, but she's the top banana cheerleader?

In any case, I then started thinking about the older tradition of call-and-response preaching and singing. A leader calls out the first line, which brings a rousing response from the people. I know it best from our African-American musical tradition. It's the kind of singing that would lift spirits in church, and while doing back-breaking work together. It relies on a shared community knowledge, and a beautiful interplay of leadership and following.

Which made me wonder if Gwen isn't distracting us from the point: perhaps there is rich blessing in being willing to "hollaback"--especially to God. To continue the story God has begun, and to pass it along to others?

In any case...

I hope you're thinking about how God has called and is calling you.


And, as a bonus this week, we'll consider the question a couple of you asked about what resurrection means. (We won't, however, cover this topic completely...) ;) Check out Paul's first letter to the folks in Corinth for more thoughts in preparation for this...

Monday, January 22, 2007

think about what this is saying...

Reading the scripture passages for this week, my mind jumped to thought of the Yes Men. These guys have made a little career out of posing as representatives from institutions they want to criticize, using a kind of mockery that goes beyond what I've seen before... Posing as World Trade Organization representatives, they've shown up at REAL conferences, after people who visited their mock website invited them. They give presentations on utterly shameful, taken-to-the-extreme, ethically bankrupt ideas.

The amazing thing is that people think they're real. They get away with it, because no one seems to be ready to question them.

All of which makes me think how far we've come from the sharpness of that crowd Jesus talked to in Nazareth. (Or, perhaps, how easy it is to trust someone with a good website and a nice suit?)

In Luke's gospel, when Jesus spoke in Nazareth, he proclaimed, plain and clear, in the words of the Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, what he was about: bringing good news to the poor. Setting the captive free.

Then, the people quickly turn on him. They're quick to see the implications of what he's saying. It's bold and it challenges.

Perhaps the didn't look like the prophet they imagined. Maybe they could sense that he really meant it.

So he has some tough words for them, suggesting that he's not coming for their comfort, but for the lost and marginalized people. This doesn't make them any happier.

But, then, when did Jesus promise a life of easy happiness?

Which brings us, naturally, to our second text, from First Corinthians. This text may sound familiar. We often read it at weddings.

(Which, by odd coincidence some people believe might just be the happiest moments in their lives...)

It's all about love. Not just the love between husband and wife, either: it's the love that's to be shared in the Christian community. And it's not all white doves and flower petals... It's patience and it insists on the truth. It requires that we avoid arrogance, boastfulness, rudeness. I'm still working on these things.

This love, when you read the fine print, is hard stuff. I wonder if we should react more at the boldness and craziness of it all?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

power and love

This week, we get to welcome a special guest to help us worship: Lori Persons. Lori is one of our congregation's Covenant Missionaries--which means that we covenant with her to share support. Lori and her husband, David, have been missionaries on our behalf for, well, quite a while. They have spent all that time in the Congo, where they are leaders at in a place called Mulungwishi. She is director of the Women's School of the Faculte Methodiste Theologie in Mulungwishi, Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Lori will speak with us and lead us in conversation. I suspect that her life of serving God in the Congo gives her rich perspective as she imagines what God might be ready to say to us, back here in the States.

I invite you to consider what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy as we get ready to boldly welcome Lori:
"I am grateful to God--whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did--when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindly the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline."
-1 Timothy 1:3-7

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You are God's beloved

This week we consider the baptism of Jesus, and as we do, we reflect on our own baptism.

Molly's back, fresh from the shimmering waters of Hawaii, and will be talking about the role of water and Spirit in the baptism of Jesus and in ours.

The scriptures this week are
Isaiah 43:1-7
Acts 8:14-7
Luke 3:15-17,21-22

The last verse of the passage from Luke about the baptism of Jesus tells us: "the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'"

It is a beautiful moment of the presence of God, the Spirit and Jesus.

The words apply to us, too. We are God's beloved children, in whom God is well-pleased.

That is the gift of grace.
And, it is an awesome gift to live into.
What can we do to help our faith in God grow nearer to God's faith in us?

(I'm hoping Molly isn't anywhere near a computer this week, but if she is and wants to repost this, have at it.)