He Is Risen!

We went to the tomb early that morning….

The Sabbath had been so long. I was grateful that Joseph had had the nerve to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body–and grateful that he had offered his own tomb. But I was sorry that we had not been able to say our last goodbyes to Jesus…to anoint his body and prepare it as he deserved.

At least we knew that his body would be safe over the Sabbath. Ironic isn’t it? that the very people who had crucified him would now be the ones protecting his body…

Anyway, as soon as the Sabbath ended, we hurried to the tomb with our spices and ointments. As much as we did not want to see the soldiers, we still hoped they would be there and would be willing to roll the stone away from the tomb for us. If they weren’t…if they were just going to stand and watch–making rude comments–I didn’t know what we would do.

Then we rounded the corner–and there the tomb was. But the stone was rolled away…and the soldiers were gone! What did that mean? 

We started running, still clutching our bundles of spices…hoping his body was still there…hoping we could still honor him.

When we looked inside…nothing…

The tomb was empty. The cloth in which his body had been so hurriedly wrapped was laying on the shelf, but that was all we saw. At first, anyway.

Then we became aware of a bright light. I don’t know why we didn’t see it at first. Maybe our eyes just weren’t open because we were so focused on looking for Jesus’ body. But when we finally looked toward the light, we saw a being sitting in it…almost shimmering. Somehow he emanated power…and love…and healing…

Then he spoke. His voice was powerful yet gentle. There was a hint of laughter in it as well. “What are you looking for here? Jesus? He isn’t here. He’s risen, like he said he would.”

We looked at each other in amazement. Then the being continued. “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

He is risen? We almost couldn’t believe it–and yet we had to believe it. The one who told us left no doubt in our minds.

And so…I am telling you. He is risen. Jesus is risen! And he goes before you. Watch and see–Jesus is risen indeed!

risen

What are we being proud of?

There have been a couple of stories in the news recently that have really made me wonder.

First was the news that Victoria’s Secret (not a store that I particularly care for anyway) has decided to create a line of sexy underwear for young girls called “Bright Young Things.” I am old enough that I have no desire to wear thong underwear or other skimpy underwear with suggestive (almost obscene, to my way of thinking) statements stamped on them. And while young adults may choose to do so–albeit with this mother/grandmother’s disgust–I think it is utterly irresponsible to market that same type of sexually-oriented material to girls who are still learning who they are.

Then there was the news that there’s a new movie out starring some young actresses who have had “clean” reputations…but who are now starring in a movie that focuses on the worst of spring break activities…parents’ nightmares. I briefly saw them on an interview when they all indicated they were “proud” of this movie. Proud? of portraying law-breaking young women in an R-rated movie? of making drinking and unprotected sex seem appropriate behavior?

One would think that we would have learned (as a society) that our “me-first” hedonistic-oriented society has created many problems–with the most recent example being the trial (and conviction) of two young (16-17 years old) high school football players for rape of a 16-year-old who was so drunk she didn’t know what had happened until the next day when texts began to fly…and the number of other people (young and adults) who either saw what was going on or who created that environment and did nothing to stop it or to protect the young woman.

A friend sent me this blog shortly after that trial. Our kids want to know the right things to do, but we’ve been failing them.

What are we teaching our kids? that it’s okay to “objectify” women? that a woman’s main function is to provide sexual outlets for boys/men? that it isn’t rape if a woman doesn’t say “no”? 

What about teaching our girls that they are people of worth? that they have the right to protect themselves? that they need to make wise choices–in clothing choices, in the parties they choose to attend, in the kids they hang out with–so that they can become all they have the potential to be?

What about teaching our boys that they have responsible choices to make as well? that might does not make right? that being “big men on campus” doesn’t give them the privilege of doing anything they want?

Whatever happened to living by whatever version of the Golden Rule your faith tradition teaches? They all teach some version of “doing to others what you would want done to/for you.”

What are we proud of?

Best Coin Ever Spent

Have you ever put a coin in a machine and gotten more than you expected? Watch what happens when this girl puts a coin in a street musician’s hat…

Best Coin Ever Spent

Watching this reminds me yet again of the importance of music in our lives. We need it! It speaks to us in so many ways…nurtures our souls…prays for and with us in unspoken ways when we cannot find words…rejoices with and for us when there are no words…

In my last post I talked about what I think it means to become like a child, as Jesus challenged us. That was also a story about music–and children. Watch the children in this video–the absolute joy in their faces…their involvement in what is happening…

We live at a time when funding for the arts is so often among the first things to be cut when budgets are tight. I wonder what those cuts are doing to our souls. What are we missing? What are our children missing?

On Facebook the other day, I saw this picture:

Music is

Funding for music is the best coin we can spend!

Becoming like a Child

You may very well have heard this story–it happened in 2007 as an experiment by the Washington Post newspaper. At a DC Metro stop during rush hour, a violinist positioned himself by the entrance door and played for about an hour. He didn’t look like anyone special–he wore jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a baseball cap.

I don’t know how many people passed him by–but a lot. Most didn’t even seem aware that he was there, much less that he was playing. A few stopped…some dropped in a few cents, some a dollar or two, one person dropped in a twenty. His take for the hour? $32.17

One person who stopped–or at least, wanted to–was a 3-year old boy. His mother was in a rush and didn’t have time to stop. But as she pulled her son past, the boy kept turning around to look at the violin player. According to the story of the experiment in the Post, “…the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”

Why the kids? What did they see or understand that almost all the adults didn’t? Again, the story says “The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.”

Joshua Bell was the violinist…a world-famous violinist who plays on an incredibe violin…and–if you’re fortunate enough to hear him in concert, you’ll pay big bucks for the privilege. Yet here he was, right in the middle of a part of the city that many people pass through…playing for free…and almost no one–no one but the kids–“got it.”

At one point in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples that unless people become like little children, they won’t enter the Kingdom of God. What exactly did he mean by that?

I don’t think he was talking about the selfishness that children sometimes show…or their temper tantrums. I think he was talking about what this experiment showed–that we have to become open to seeing/hearing/finding beauty all around us…to opening our eyes and ears–and our souls. Yes, there is a lot of ugliness in our world, but if that’s all we focus on, that’s really all we’ll see. Yes, we’re all busy–but are we really busy with things that count?

Next time you see a street musician playing, take time to stop and listen. When you walk by a beautiful garden, take time to stop and look–and smell.

Don’t let life choke the poetry and music out…but let’s follow the example of the kids.

“All truth”…

As I’ve said before, my dad was a full-time minister in my chosen faith tradition. I grew up totally immersed in “church stuff”…every time the church doors were open, we were there. (Even if my dad was out of town on church business, we were there–my mom made sure of that!)

It was more than just Sunday school and church…it was my social group, my everything. A lot of that was healthy; some my folks would have changed if they had had a do-over chance–as I think is true of most parents. I think they would have encouraged me to be involved in more non-church-related activities. I did that on my own later, and I think I’ve turned out pretty well.

But that’s not what I was thinking about today.

A lot of churches have formal creeds that are part of their belief system. Mine doesn’t, even though there are some things that some members think ought to be required. We have struggled with that through the years–and are still struggling with it.

But I remember my dad saying that if we did have a creed, his belief was that it ought to be simply two words: “All truth.” He believed that none of us can have a lock on knowing everything about God–and that we all have more to learn. As our relationship with God grows, so does our understanding–and we come to see that what we thought was completely true may, in fact, not be.

“All truth”…that is what we seek. It’s a goal…an acknowledgment that we don’t have it now…a statement of the journey that we’re on.

There’s a song that we’ve sung (with various adaptations) for many years in my faith tradition–one that many of our members are surprised to find was not written by a member of my religion. It was written in 1835 by George Rawson, and I think it really catches up what my dad meant when he said that our creed was “All truth:”

We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind
By notions of our day and sect, crude, partial, and confined.
Now let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred–
The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word.

Who dares to bind to their dull sense the oracles of heaven
For all the nations, tongues and climes, and all the ages given!
The universe how much unknown! That ocean unexplored!
The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word.

O Father, Son, and Spirit, send us increase from above;
Enlarge, expand all Christian hearts to comprehend Your love;
And make us all go on to know with nobler powers conferred:
The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from His word!

Whose voices are we missing?

First of all, I am not Catholic. However, I have been following the news about Pope Benedict’s resignation and the selection process for the new pope with interest.

I think there are some significant possibilities with the first election of a cardinal from outside Europe…the first Jesuit…a man who has lived simply and whose focus is on ministry to the poor…a pope who has taken the name Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi.

However, I have a friend who said this: “I can’t but help think the Catholic Church is poorer due to the absence – no, exclusion – of women from the process of selecting their new leader. And humanity is impoverished by women not being eligible for the role.” That statement got me thinking…

In my own faith tradition, women are involved in active ministry–and have been in significant leadership roles for the last 20 years or so. I know–not a long time in the scheme of things, but still, it was a step forward when ministry was opened to women. When that happened, we began to see new ways of ministry…new ways of relating…new opportunities…and began to realize the important voices we had been missing for many years.

I think we’re at a similar crossroads today in my faith tradition.

Right now, my faith tradition does not allow members of the LGBT community who are in monogamous, committed, long-term relationships–even if they are legally married–to be ordained into formal ministry. Depending on where they live, individuals who may have been previously ordained can have their ministerial credentials removed if they enter into a same-sex relationship. Legal marriages can be recorded, but ministers can not currently perform them (or civil unions), even in areas where that is legal.

And I wonder…

How poor are we because we have not allowed ourselves to hear their voices? to be involved in ministry? How many opportunities have we missed–and are we continuing to miss–because we do not allow some individuals to reach out to others whose struggles they know intimately?

We say that we believe God calls individuals to ministry. If that is indeed true–and there are individuals in our congregations who have had strong testimonies of God’s ministerial call to members of the LGBT community–then I wonder at our arrogance at telling God that those calls are a mistake…that God can’t really mean that.

How many voices are we missing? And how much longer will we miss them?

Young adults and religion…

Senior members of my faith tradition (along with many others) seem to spend quite a bit of time wringing our hands and wondering how to engage the next generation…the young adults. There are many–and varied–ideas out there, but I recently found this post by a young adult and thought his points are important and valid for many of us, regardless of where we worship.

I’d be interested in your ideas and responses.

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1. Be a community, not a religion. I’ll be honest, the “religion” part of church is not why I’m there. It never has been. Sure, that’s important (and as I get older it is becoming more important) but I believe that the conversation that takes place AFTER church is more important than what happens during the service. I would make this time something your church focuses on. Focus on your community, not just your worship and you’ll attract new members more easily.

2. Sunday school should be an opportunity for supporting each other. We’ve recently made our Young Adult Sunday school time into a discussion group. One week we’ll discuss a current issue in society and then alternate the next week with a discussion of our own lives. This turned Sunday school time into a much needed support group for our young adult families. I now look forward to Sunday school, something I never even used to attend.

3. Be even more accepting of young kids. Sure every church thinks they’re accepting of kids but there’s a difference between tolerating a child in a service and actually gearing your service or other activities to include young children. The entire service doesn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t have to be every week – but kid friendly moments (not just story time) during a service make a huge difference in the way I, and frankly my kids, feel about church.

4. Use technology (audio/video/internet) in your church. If you’re not at least on the road to modernizing and using technology in your church, you might as well give up now because you’ll be obsolete in 5-10 years – tops. If you don’t have a young adult helping with this stuff in your church – ask. In my case, this was exactly how I wanted to help in my congregation. I saw this as a way I could contribute to a need the congregation had.

5. When you want me to help with something – make it easy for me to sign up. Don’t call me on the phone in the middle of the day and talk for an hour about what you want. Be specific, give me a quick way to sign up to help and I’ll let you know if I can (this is actually one of the main reasons we built the product we did recently at Opus).

6. Don’t hit me over the head with money or time commitment requests. If you are doing the steps above – creating a community, giving support, being accepting of kids, the money and time commitments will come because you’re creating a relationship with me. As me time frees up (basically as my kids grow older and more independent) it will be difficult for me to turn my back on that relationship. Everyone knows they should give some time and money to their church. In fact, most young adults admit to feeling guilty if they aren’t. It’s ok to ask for help and it’s great for everyone to know the budgetary needs of the congregation – but don’t make it seem like it’s the only reason I’m there or you’ll drive me away.

7. Allow casual dress. Sometimes people want to dress up, sometimes they don’t. You don’t want to have a church that judges others based on what they wear. Let people wear what makes them comfortable, especially if they’re not participating in the service. Many will choose to dress formally, some will dress more casually but you’ll make people more comfortable and thus, feel more positively toward your church.

8. Stop judging my friends. I grew up with several gay friends – which is not uncommon these days. If my denomination doesn’t support my friends’ right to love the person they love or marry the person they want to marry – and ESPECIALLY if my denomination won’t allow my friend to participate as a minister – then my denomination doesn’t accurately represent me and it makes it very difficult for me to support it with my time or money now or in the future. I’m sure people disagree with me (or have the exact opposite opinion) but look at the world around you and ignore this at your own peril. I believe that the churches who focus on acceptance and community over division and requirements will be the most successful in the end.

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