Book of worship, book of memories

The Presbyterian Church (USA) published a new version of our Book of Common Worship, an optional resource many pastors use to plan services for the life of the church.  When our copies arrived in the office, my colleague, Melinda, and I ripped off the plastic and started thumbing through the 1,100+ page book checking out our favorite services and looking for new additions. The marriage liturgy has been updated to take into account the couples may be of the same sex. Several liturgies are now available in both English and Spanish. New services were added to provide guidance for special occasions like services for justice and peace, ecumenical gatherings, or dedications of new buildings. Some of the language has been updated so that it can be spoken more fluidly.  Overall, I love the new book because it has maintained the core of our traditions and theology while being open to the newness of the Spirit.

As I went to put the new copy on my desk near my computer, I noticed my original Book of Common Worship.  The original book was published in 1993, but I bought mine in 1999 when I started seminary.  The hard cover started to rip away from the binding a couple of months ago. The ribbon bookmarks are all crinkled because someone tied them in knots when the book spent a couple of months out of my possession after I left it behind at my brother-in-law’s wedding. When I thumbed through those pages I saw the penciled in names of couples I have married, saints I have buried, youth I have confirmed, and babies I have baptized.  There are juice stains on the communion pages and crumbs in the crack. The baptism pages are wrinkled from the overflowing drops of grace that have been sprinkled on the pages. I had no idea this one book was carrying so many memories of so many people who have been dear to me for the past nineteen years, three years of seminary and internships, and sixteen years of ministry.

I’ll move the old book to a shelf in the office; I won’t let go of it just yet.  Who am I kidding? I probably won’t get rid of it ever. The new one will make its debut in worship in the coming weeks, something people probably never would have noticed if I hadn’t just announced it here. And throughout this summer and into the fall I’ll probably start staining the pages with grape juice, scribbling names in the margins, and dousing the pages with water from the font. I’m looking forward to that, praying new prayers and offering ancient blessings, making new memories as I worship with the people of God.

Happy New Reading Year!

I’m not usually one who takes on New Year’s Resolutions for any number of the usual reasons related to them not lasting passed week 2. I’m giving it a shot this year, though. I used to be an avid reader but that has just fallen off for me in the last decade or so. Such an embarrassing thing to admit. Anyway, I want to get back into books, and as much or more than that I want to be more intentional about reading the works of people of color.

My resolution, therefore, is to read at least one book each month, fiction or non-fiction, for work or for pleasure, written by a person of color. My line up for the first few months:

I haven’t picked titles for the rest of the year so that I can pick up recommendations along the way. I’m going to need some more fiction, and there is a need for some LGBTQ+ voices in my list, so I’d love your input there in particular.

Happy New Year!


photo credit: El s@lmón Libros via photopin(license)

We have work to do – a sermon for the funeral of Linda Williams, Micah 6:1-8, Mark 11:15-19

Micah 6:1-8
OI1575133924_apictureofLindaWilliamsPortraitjpegMark 11:15-19

 

Yesterday morning in worship, when I gathered with the children of the church on these front steps of the sanctuary, I asked them how they thought it feels not to know if there is enough food in the house to feed the family.  We were dedicating the non-perishable food collected by our congregation and donated to the Salvation Army for families that need assistance, and I wanted to engage them in what these donations would mean to the people who received them. The children offered beautifully empathetic answers – sad, worried, confused, scared. It went about how I thought it would go. Right up until one of our fourth graders declared, “Angry!”

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A Cross-shaped Life: a sermon on Matthew 16:21-28

Sometimes when I’m leading a new Bible study I’ll start with some variation on a game I like to call “Shakespeare or Scripture?” Let’s play a little bit of it now.

shakespeare-bible

You can find an on-line quiz with these examples and more at Oxford Dictionaries

  • “Tell truth, and shame the devil” – King Henry IV
  • “Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” – Jeremiah 31:30
  • “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” – Measure for Measure
  • “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” – Proverbs 23:2
  • “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” – Isaiah 22:13

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She Keeps Shouting – A sermon on Matthew 15:10-28

Last week as we began worship, I took a few minutes to speak to the horrors of the white 36371223632_d7c043678e_bsupremacist rally and counter-demonstrations that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia that weekend.  The news and the shock many people were feeling was still so very raw. I promised that while our worship was not changing in light of the events that had been taking place over the last 36 hours or so, we would be revisiting it in the weeks and months to come. We are this morning, and we have to continue to as we move forward.

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Who’s on your tour?

Hey ladies, I’m wondering — Who is on your tour?

I’m sitting on a train heading back out to the ‘burbs from downtown Chicago where I just saw an amazing concert – Four Voices. Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, have joined artistic forces for this 11 city tour. As soon as I saw it advertised I knew I couldn’t miss it for anything. The women did not disappoint. 

Early in the show they noted that among the four of them they represented more than 170 years of music-making. They first met 25 years ago when Baez invited the Indigo Girls to participate in a fundraiser concert. Saliers and Ray agreed to participate and brought Carpenter into the event, too. Their friendship was born and has included mutual support and admiration ever since. 

The women on stage tonight represented two or three generations of American music, at least three different genres, and several discographies worth of life experiences. Some might try to describe them as competitors, but I don’t think they’d stand for it. At one point tonight, Baez said, “I love these women and I love the work we do together.”

As much as I loved the music, and I loved the music, I think I loved this witness even more – women supporting women across generations as they move through their careers and callings. Women across generations supporting each other, learning each other’s songs, singing together sometimes and at other times letting each one shine on her own. 

Which brings me to my question, a question that doesn’t have to be exclusively for women, but one that I think is particularly important for women in a culture that still leans heavily toward patriarchy — Who is on your tour? Who are the people on stage with you – sometimes singing along with one of your songs, sometimes sitting behind you in the dark, sometimes letting you add your voice to their art? Who is in your multi-generational support team? Who reached out a hand to help lead you along and to whom have you offered a hand as well? 

One of the women on my tour, the Rev. Carol McDonald, was with me tonight, and I couldn’t have been happier than I was sharing the evening with her. She invited me on her tour a while back and has been a friend and mentor ever since. She prayed me through difficult times and pointed me in new directions when the time was right and I didn’t even know it. She has introduced me to women of all ages who are smart and faithful and hard-working, many of whom I consider part of the tour, too. Best of all, I know she isn’t just doing this for me. There are so many of us who have been blessed to join this particular tour.

Do you have people you’re on tour with? Do you a group of friends and colleagues who help you navigate your career and calling? Pastors and preachers, musicians and artists, doctors and teachers, mothers and executives — we all can benefit from supportive colleagues and friends as we go about our work of changing the world. 

The God Box – a sermon on Matthew 17:1-9 for Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus 24:12-18
Matthew 17:1-9Alexandr_Ivanov_015

“It is good…” Peter says when he sees the face of Jesus change before his very eyes. It shone like the sun; his clothes began to dazzle, bright white. People appear out of thin air and start talking to Jesus, and Peter says, “It is good.” I’m not so sure I would have gone to “good” first, personally. I think I would have jumped straight to the fear the disciples moved to when the voice of God spoke on the mountaintop, but Peter knew it was good. Continue reading