Wednesday, October 31, 2007

deep like the ocean

This year, we're celebrating a *new* season in the church year. (I know, I know--it feels weird to be both turning to ancient habits of following church year seasons AND revising them...) The movement to add a new season into the mix started in Australia. We're calling it the Season of Creation.

For us, it will fit into this month--here at the end of the church year, before we start things anew with Advent, in December.

All this month, we'll celebrate the presence of God in creation. This world is an amazing, wondrous home.

This week, we celebrate Ocean Sunday.

In Psalm 104, we read an ancient song of praise for creation. This world is an amazing place, and gives us ways to know God.

In the Gospel lesson, we hear of how Jesus calls those first disciples while they're out fishing on the sea. He invites them to cast their nets into the deep, and they find more fish than they could have imagined catching.

I'm caught on this image, of casting out "into the deep." Maybe it's because I know more scuba divers than I ever have... Maybe it's because things get rich when you dare to "dive" deeper into the realities of the world and the presence of God.

In any case, I hope you'll come dive deep with us on Sunday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

a prayer as the fire rages

I meant to post this week's blog about our scriptures for Sunday, but got distracted with by the fires that rage around San Diego.

I pray this night for all those affected--for peace, for hope, for safety. As evacuated families, seniors, individuals and animals seek refuge with friends and family, in hotels, high schools and stadiums, I pray that they will know God's presence in their midst.

God, who goes with us through evacuation and exile, I pray that you would calm the spirits of all who live in uncertainty about whether they will have a home tomorrow. And, I pray that your Spirit would come to sustain all who face loss these days.


If you're looking for a way to help, here's one for Tuesday, October 23:
Come to Qualcomm Stadium, Gate A at 9 a.m. to gather with other United Methodists in the area in volunteering to support all those who have sought refuge at the stadium.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

healthy communities, even in Babylon

We've been reading through Jeremiah for the last several weeks--following this prophet through his warnings and into exile for the people. This week, Jeremiah sends a letter to his community, in exile.

He tells them something that seems unlikely and beautiful: to seek the welfare of the city where they are in exile.

(Last week, perhaps you remember the depth of grief that exile brought to the Psalmist? Weeping, refusing to sing songs, even dreaming of ugly violence against the captors.)

Jeremiah asks the people to work for the well-being of their captors.

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

Jeremiah refuses to let the people get caught in anger, or in fear, or in isolation.

What an incredible vision for what we're called to: even as we are distant from the world that God intends for us, we are invited to invest in things that are good. (For Jeremiah, that list includes building homes, planting gardens, committing to partners and families, and seeking the welfare of others.)

This is a dream that enlivens me. It's part of what makes me so energized to have moved to Mid-City--as my husband and I are building our home (and planting our garden) and building our relationship, we are also hopeful that we can be a part of seeking the welfare of the community. Now, Mid-City isn't exactly Babylon, but it is home to a lot of people from a lot of places and cultures. And I believe God is calling our church to seek its welfare--the wellbeing of diverse and often poor people. Imagine what might be possible if we were not only to figure out how to live in proximity, but how to form community?

In seeking that, I believe we will find the welfare of ourselves. And our church.

I'm inspired also by people who've been doing this in other ways, elsewhere around the country. Many folks are part of a movement often called "new monasticism." You can see a website here and an interview from public radio's "Speaking of Faith" here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

thinking globally

This Sunday, we celebrate "World Communion Sunday," and remember that our communion table spreads all around the world. And, I've been feeling especially called to remember that our faith makes us claim citizenship in God, rather than any nation, lately.

This week, our scripture includes a famous passage from the Psalms, captured often in song. It sings about stopping by the River of Babylon, and weeping.

There, the song mournfully sings, we remembered Zion. Divided off from the promise we'd hoped to live into, we sing a lament to God.

Now, in my mind, "Zion" can mean a lot of things--certainly, it has meant the land of the people of Israel. Wikipedia can tell you more about that.

The meaning that has my heart this week is to understand "Zion" as a way of naming the promise of a world that reflects God's intentions and dreams. Like the bold hymn that comes out of the African-American church, "Marching to Zion." Beautiful, beautiful Zion.

If Zion means, for us, the world as God intends it, and, if (especially this week) we remember that the world is big and diverse and full of people (young and old, rich and poor, women and men) who all belong in those dreams and intentions of God...then, I think, we get drawn toward something truly incredible.

Most days, this means I'm going to have to change a lot--to refocus my own hopes and work to reflect God's hope that all people might be well. And, I suspect it's going to mean change for all of us in the US, as we claim belonging in God even more fully, and dare to put that above the interests of our isolated group, state or nation.

Perhaps that's why we sing a sad song--Zion feels so far, far off.

All this is starting to sound big, and difficult.

Which makes me grateful for this week's Gospel story: even though it seems crazy (that's my addition, not Jesus' words), just a little bit of faith--say, faith that, if you could hold it in your hand, would look as little as a mustard seed--can do dramatic things.

May it be so.

(And, to help encourage us all, I'm told there's to be a bit of banjo in the band this weekend. So come ready for toe-tapping. Or more.)