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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

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AN HOUR OF TIME

 

 

 

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

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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.

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WHEN YOU CANNOT FORGIVE

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

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DO I LOOK ALL RIGHT?

 

“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

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…. 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

 

 

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As the heady perfume filters into my yard from the lilac hedge next door, I am intoxicated with spring. The warmer weather (although not yet muggy), the happy (although expensive) trips to the garden store, the birdsong, the tulips flaunting their flowerhood… my favorite season by far.
However, the fatigue that results from the government’s antics the past few weeks in particular can temper the perkiest spring-like attitudes. The lying, the inconsistencies, the disregard of basic human rights, the narcissism, are all deeply troubling to many of us, regardless of political affiliation.
St Paulite F. Scott Fitzgerald told us, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
I’m floundering on the balance thing.
And I’m scared. (I have a pre-existing condition, for goodness sake!)
However, when you are a preacher by vocation, you’re not allowed to wallow much. The lectionary readings come into your life, often with stunning relevance, and you’ve got to put away the attitude and get to work.
Consider some of the phrases in this week’s reading:

“But they covered their ears and with a loud should all rushed together against him…” (Acts)
“Do not let your heart be troubled…” John
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John

We have a vivid description an angry mob, a tender reminder to calm down; and one of the most divisive verses in all of Christian scripture! AND it’s Mother’ Day, always a minefield in church because of the many intense and very personal feelings about what is involved. Of course the original Mother’s Day proclamation in 1858 was a way for women to protest war. Then Hallmark intervened, the political and moral statements disappeared, and the sentiment of the day changed completely.
Returning to the lilacs, I love this from the writer Patricia Hampl. She notes that lilacs were first brought to America by 19th century Czech immigrants and that the lilacs now seen next to a farmhouse on the prairie in Minnesota or Iowa may have been there longer than any of us have been alive: “With all that immigrants had to leave behind, they valued these bushes enough to make room for a cutting or two among their baggage and bundles … They’re immigrant flowers brought here by people who loved their beauty. They survived the journey and they thrived.” (Spillville).

And reading that, my heart is less troubled.
See you in church.

Barbara

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