The blessing of Zoom worship (there are one or two) is that it is easier to capture a video of just a sermon. This morning I stepped into the virtual pulpit (sat at my kitchen table in front of my laptop) to preach about racism and white privilege and lament and protest and to imagine what the Spirit is telling us our congregation’s role is in this movement of anti-racism justice. When I edit up my manuscript I’ll put it here as well. The reading of scripture (Lamentations 1:8-22; 2:10-22) is about half the video. I just didn’t want to make any cuts. #BlackLivesMatter
I wonder how Paul found out about Aquila and Priscilla. Were they the friends of a neighbor he used to pass on his walk down the street to the market every week back in Tarsus? Were they the Hebrew school classmates of his sister’s husband with whom he had recently connected when they ran into each other unexpectedly in Athens? Continue reading
I wonder if Jesus would be the kind of person who googles himself. I mean, if this story were taking place today, of course. I mean, instead of asking his disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” I wonder if today he would have just popped open his laptop, pulled up a browser, and typed his name in the search bar to see what showed up, to see who the people say that he is.
This started as a Facebook post, but it kept going and going. So now it’s a blog post on a blog I haven’t touched in over a year. Don’t think this means I’ll touch it again after this trip. 🙂 This sounds sort of strange, but I really don’t like writing much. Anyway…
My (not so) quick run down on my day in DC, a trip I’m on in order to go to the National Prayer Breakfast tomorrow morning as the guest of my congresswoman, Rep. Lauren Underwood:
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.
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:
- January – finish Roots by Alex Haley which I started last year, but have about half of the book to go
- February – The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology by Grace Ji-Sun Kim
- March – Vintage Hughes, selected poems of Langston Hughes
- April – Living Water, Living Stories: African-American Women and their Biblical Sisters by my former Twin Cities colleagues Bebe Baldwin and Alika Galloway
- May – Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throneby Wil Gafney
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!
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!”
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.
- “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
Last week as we began worship, I took a few minutes to speak to the horrors of the white supremacist 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.