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WEATHER FEAR

The guys at the old Twin Cities radio station WCCO elevated “weather fear” to an art. (Yes, they were all guys except the recipes/cooking lady.) If there was any possible threat of rain or snow or drought or heat or humidity (“It’s not the heat, it’ the humidity “), the announcers intoned the danger several times an hour, getting more worked up as the day went on. The implication was that it would be safest to just stay home – preferably in the basement — until the danger had passed. And if there was a tornado warning, there was shouting and a play-by-play worthy of NBC sports.

Yet my brother and I were sent out to play in any weather – we liked it. We walked a mile or so to school (uphill both ways, as I remember), although my mom consented to drive us if it was way below zero and if she was sure the Studebaker wouldn’t get stuck. Usually we walked with friends but sometimes alone. Yes, by ourselves, even in elementary school.

It was the rule that girls wear dresses or skirts to school EXCEPT when it was really cold. Then we could wear “snow pants” or pants UNDER our dresses. Of course, we would remove the offending garments before class started.

Weather is only one of our concerns now and we are pretty well equipped to deal with the extremes, although having the car get stuck remains a primal winter fear for me. If this happens, you have to depend on “the kindness of strangers “to get out. Even the most independent spirit realizes how much you need other humans at such moments. As I think ahead to the snow predicted for Saturday night and the fact that I need to be at St. John’s by 7:45 a.m., I am grateful that the rector lives two blocks down the street and give me a ride if the Civic gets mired in the driveway. He’s dug me out before…

Weather fear is generally seasonal, but other kinds of fear are not. The fear inflicted on our children that they are in mortal danger in their classrooms is beyond comprehension. This is also a stomach-turning, gut-level fear for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. We are sacrificing our children because we as a country can’t solve a problem that many other countries have dealt with long ago. I’ve been a teacher and the idea that I should be packing heat appalls me.

This Sunday’s Gospel is about fear. Jesus and Peter both are terrified about what will come. The ruthless Roman Empire had their boot on the neck of the Jewish population and executions could be ordered if a particular ruler was simply in a bad mood and wanted to punish someone. And the preferred method of execution was a cross.

I don’t know if the Romans crucified children, but we are.

So we turn to our Scriptures, as if our lives depended on it.

See you in church.

Barbara

WOUNDS

 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

 Winston Churchill 

 

 

I can’t keep my mind on my work today. The atmosphere is electric.

The President’s vile slurs keep ringing in my ears. A crude damnation of a country and a continent.

Is this really happening?

And then there’s Oprah’s speech? Imperfect, to be sure but a rousing call to personal responsibility and to working for a better world.

And Martin Luther King Day next Monday – honoring the inspired leadership and vision of one of the greatest of Americans.

And the lessons for Sunday asking how do we know things? Jesus? God? What to do next? What to say and not say?

Maybe more attention than ever has to be given to gestures of decency and respect. As Nancy invited me to consult with her about hymns for Sunday, we two white women had a difficult conversation about race and respect: Should the congregation sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (called “The Black National Anthem”) on Sunday, in honor of King? Or is it more disrespectful and even silly to have a group of mainly white people sing about oppression and the battle for racial equality that they haven’t experienced? If we sing it, should we sing it slowly – as it is done in many black congregations – or should it be speeded up so as not to” drag”? Should we ask one of our black members about this? Or is that condescending and inappropriate by asking them to speak for their race? Is it worse to sing “Lift Every Voice” only once a year or not at all?

Nancy made the call and said no. I agreed but still am not sure.

Are good intentions enough?

To sing or not to sing? To speak or not to speak? How to call out the name-callers, even the President? These are urgent questions.

No matter how wounded we feel – because of racial slurs, gender shaming, personal insults, political affiliations, or the fear that our attempts to be respectful might be labeled inappropriate, there is no choice really but to move ahead by speaking the truth as we know it. To go with our gut. To put our own stories and experiences out there and trust our listeners.

See you in church.

Barbara

 

 

 

Right now we need stories about good people more than ever.

A while ago I used to write a series of articles for the Diocesan magazine (when we had one) called “Family Portraits.” I interviewed a wide variety of people and wrote their stories. One of my favorites was about Tela Burt, a 104-year-old jazz musician who made me fried chicken and peach pie as he talked about his time playing trumpet with the Ellington band. Another was about George Metcalf, a retired priest of the Diocese who had served in World War II as a chaplain. In a small boat, he rowed between the great ships waiting to invade Normandy, bringing Communion to the soldiers. He also served as chaplain to the famous general George Patton and co-authored the “Fair-Weather Prayer,” asking God for good flying conditions for the Normandy invasion.

For the past two years I have been writing about people at St. John’s. You’ve been them in the Evangelist but now we have gathered them together, along with short biographies of new members and are offering them to you to read this Advent. They’ll be available at the Advent wreath workshop this coming Sunday and also after both services at the back of the church. And watch for the next Evangelist and read about Wuyah Coroma’s epic journey from Liberia to Atlanta to the Twin Cities.

Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the Gospel warns us to keep awake and pay attention, even when we want to turn off the news in despair.

Episcopalians don’t like to be told what to do but I will take a risk here and suggest an Advent discipline for each one of us: Church each week, an hour of your time. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus returns from prayer and finds his disciples sleeping. He asks Peter, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?”

I think he asks the same of us.

See you in church.
It will be around an hour.

Barbara

TAKING A KNEE

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I admit I’m something of a political animal. I’m also ordained clergy in the Episcopal Church. Sometimes this gets dicey.

I would never advocate for or against a candidate from the pulpit.

I would never intentionally say anything that would hurt someone in the congregation.

However, I am also called to preach the Gospel and to follow Jesus, or “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” As are we all. We may need to take a knee, as in prayer, to figure this out.

Jesus, it seems, could be ruthless against the ruling class of his own Jewish faith: The Pharisees and the Sadducees. He called them hypocrites. He criticized their greed, their self-indulgence, their failure to have mercy and be just to the poor. He called them out for lying.

One of the Biblical statements used to justify “separation of church and state” is in this coming Sunday’s Gospel: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

When it comes to church and state, Jesus tells us that everything is given us by God, and under the purview of God. Even Caesar, even government.

The church has a history of political advocacy: against slavery, for and against war (think World War II, Vietnam), against suppression of some people being denied full membership in the body of Christ by their sexual orientation. In fact, the church has led the way on some of these issues.

Today even professional football has been politicized to some degree. “Taking a knee” is criticized as being un-patriotic. Yet this is hardly a new method of protesting injustices against black people – which is what the action really is, rather than a blatant anti-US statement. I recently ran across the picture above from 1962. Interesting, isn’t it?

What is the church to do? Remain silent on the issues of the day? Walk some middle ground between saying something yet not offending anyone? Or doing what Jesus did? Is the church to be a spiritual refuge from the world – or something else? And as part of the church, what are you to do?

I have really loved researching the sermon for Sunday. I found out some fascinating things about money that have challenged me, inspired me, and scared me. On Sunday I will talk about them.

I’m still praying about the political thing…. I hope you are, too.

See you in church.

Barbara

Above: future congressman John Lewis (left) and others demonstrate at the swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois, which did not allow blacks. 1962.

Forgiveness is for grown-ups. Those who are mature enough, evolved enough, generous enough, to let go of something that was done to them or to the world.

There are plenty of people I have trouble forgiving: those who deny that humans are responsible for the vast majority of climate change, even though the science is conclusive. Those who abuse animals for sport. Those who walk away instead of staying in the game. My father….

The Gospel for this Sunday presents us with the topic of forgiveness. It is not as simple as “just do it.” Far from it…

By way of background, please look at this short video. It is from the movie “Smoke Signals,” the first film made by and about Native Americans. It is about two Native boys – and then men—who have a friendship and go together to retrieve the ashes of one of their fathers. It will pierce your soul if you let it.

And it’s not just about fathers….

See you in church.

Barbara

 

“She really lights up a room.”

Said no one ever, about me.

“Serious.”
“Gets the job done.”
“Outspoken.”
“Tall.”
Maybe “Funny…”

Those were more likely.

Like many of you, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I appear to other people. The impression I make. My appearance. From the agonizing adolescence years to the grandmother years, there have always been cultural standards that I’m pretty sure I haven’t met. At least in my own estimation.

When I was teaching at The Blake School, I remember how much physical appearance affected student perceptions when watching a movie from an earlier era:

“Geez, look at that hair!”
“Could his tie be WIDER? That is hilarious.”
“That dress! Could there be MORE ruffles on that thing?”

When I told them that years from now teenagers would be laughing hysterically at THEIR hair and clothes, they refused to believe it. Because their look was definitive. Forever.

Right.

I have been wrestling with Moses this week, and how he looked to his followers coming down from the mountain after receiving the Ten Commandments. In a lot of Renaissance art, he is depicted as having horns but this appears to be a possible mistranslation by St. Jerome and the word in question actually means “shining.”

Talk about being misunderstood…

The theologian Richard Rohr gives this interpretation of the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3): “We are called to let go our our self-image, our status symbols our false self. It will die anyway. So don’t make anything absolute when it is only relative.”

The right physical appearance seems to be an absolute in our culture. What are the absolutes in your own life that are really only relative? That you have elevated to an almost godly status?

And how’s that working for you?

See you in church. (I’ll be wearing white.)

Barbara

 

…. So says Archie Bunker, as he sneaks into church and baptizes his grandson in secret because his father is a “dopey atheist”. On the pioneering television sitcom “All in the Family,” Archie’s theology is refreshingly direct, while politically incorrect, at least by today’s standards.

How comfortable would you be labeling yourself publicly as a Christian? Would you prefer to call yourself a seeker? An Episcopalian? A, member of St John’s? Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the whole idea because “it’s complicated.”

Much about our faith IS complicated, including Scriptural passages that make us cringe. One that is cringe-worthy for me appears this Sunday, “The Great Commission,” calling the disciples to go forth “to all nations” and baptize everyone in the name of the Trinity.

Politically incorrect? Oh yes. Outrageous? Probably. Nonetheless, the rallying cry for countless number of “missionaries” over the years and for many Evangelicals today.

As husband Desi says to his wife on another sitcom from the era (“I Love Lucy”), “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”

More on Sunday….

See you in church. And check out Joey’s Baptism

Barbara