Poppa was a preacher

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books from my parents’ bookshelf was Poppa Was a Preacher by Alyene Porter. While I now don’t remember all that much of it (and would love to find it again to read), my memory of it is that I enjoyed it so much because it sounded so much like my own life!

My father was a preacher…in fact, for most of my childhood until after I was married, he was in leadership in my denomination.

There were–from my perspective–some wonderful advantages…travel to many different states…meeting people and making relationships that have lasted for years…travel abroad…a wide perspective of musical instruments (especially organs–and learning how to play different ones)…a broadening understanding of how each person’s faith journey is unique to them…

Of course, there were also some big disadvantages…Dad being gone sometimes on special occasions…getting tired of hearing the same stories and doing the same crafts at multiple family camps during the summer…people expecting us kids to be perfect examples of how children should behave…

One thing I’ve become particularly aware of through the years is that despite our best attempts, it is often difficult to let ministers and their families be “human.” When their children act out–as children will do–somehow it’s worse when your parent is a minister. When the minister gets grumpy…or forgets someone’s name…it’s an appalling failure of ministerial responsibilities.

And–unfortunately–we tend to often believe the worst. I know this isn’t limited to ministers and their families, but that’s the perspective I’ve seen it from. Sadly, there have been too many examples of ministers “proving” that they are hypocrites…becoming rich from the financial offerings of those they are supposed to serve…and so on.

Recently I saw some posts accusing individuals I’ve known for years of misusing church funds in various ways or benefitting from “insider” information about church property. I have to confess that it made me angry. These were (and are) individuals who have given their lives to bringing a loving ministry in the service of the church. They are individuals who could have had well-paying jobs in the non-church world…and some did, but left them because they were responding to a call to ministry.

Am I saying they were perfect? No. I’m well aware that no minister is perfect. Have I agreed with every decision or choice they’ve made? No. But were/are they people of integrity? Absolutely!

Why is it so easy for us to believe the worst? I’m all for healthy skepticism at times…for raising questions when there are concerns. But I am not for spreading rumors based on “confidential” information that can’t be shared. If there are questions, go to the source…or to those whose responsibility is it to ensure oversight.

Preachers are people just like all of us…with flaws and warts, with human failings. But they are also people who respond to a call to something greater.

Yes, poppa was a preacher. So was momma…so am I. And we need your support…your challenges at times…and your willingness to walk with us and our children.

Prayer

Our congregation (Open Arms Community of Christ), in cooperation with GALA and members of the Welcoming Community Network (WCN) held a prayer vigil on the World Plaza at Community of Christ Temple on Friday night, June 17.

While we were not touched directly by the shootings in Orlando, we have many friends who are part of the LGBTQ communities and who have been shaken and made afraid by the shootings.

We recognize that action needs to be taken…that far too often we say “Never again”…but do nothing to make those words real.

However, we are also a people of faith who believe in the power of prayer. And so Friday night, we gathered together…at a place where the world is laid out before us…at a place dedicated to peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit. We hugged each other…we worshiped together…we remembered the names of those whose lives were lost…and we prayed–individually (leaving written prayers on a prayer wall) and as a body.

I was privileged to offer the prayer for the body. These were my words last night, and they continue to be my words today…and for the future.

Oh, God…

There are so many names! So many families left in shock and despair. So many hopes and dreams left in ruins…

And we wonder…what can we do?

We gather together in this place dedicated to peace…healing…reconciliation…as a community in pain. So many have lost friends in the past and had begun to hope that things were changing…only to wake up to the news that hate had claimed yet more lives.

And we wonder…what can we do?

Sometimes what we can do seems so little. And yet, when we do small things with great love, we begin to heal…we begin to reconcile. We hug each other, remembering that you healed people with a touch…Give us faith that we can help bring comfort and healing into bodies and spirits that have been broken by violence.

Yet we wonder…is it enough?

When we are afraid to speak out for justice, remind us that there can be no peace without justice…and that sometimes it only takes one person to give others the courage to speak.

And we wonder…is it enough?

In times like this, it is easy to be filled with anger towards those who bring violence and oppression. Yet you call us to pray for them…and it is in that praying that we see them also as wounded sons and daughters.

And we wonder…is it enough?

Loving God, we pray this day in thanksgiving for those first responders who brought immediate care for the wounded and hurting. We pray for comfort for those who mourn the loss of sons, daughters, parents, lovers. We pray for peace for those who survived…who still see the nightmare of those hours.

And we pray most of all that we will each of us find ways to be peacemakers in our families, our communities, our world. In a time when it would be easy to give in to the toxic visions around us that spawn cynicism, suspicion, and violence, may we choose to live in the reconciling, healing, saving vision of Christ expressed through Christ-centered community…a community where tears are shared when in pain, but also a community where hope can be found…a community that can live in such a way that the day will come when we can say, “it is enough.”

May we be that community, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Amen.

Will you come near?

God has a wonderfully comic sense of timing!

This has been the week of my denomination’s World Conference–a busy week during which we conduct the business of the church…we share in worship…we talk (a lot!)…we renew old acquaintances and make new ones.

Thursday night there were two powerful sermons by Apostle Mareva Arnaud Tchong and Apostle Robin Linkhart.  Both dealt with the parable of the good Samaritan, and both challenged us in different ways. Mareva asked how we saw ourselves in the story–as the priest…the Levite…the Samaritan…the wounded traveler? Who–in this wounded and broken world–are we?

Robin shared a very personal experience of a time she found herself in the position of possibly being the Samaritan who could help…and she left. She had valid reasons for not helping, but the experience has stayed with her. Her question for us was “Are you willing to come near?”

Friday night was one of the favorite services of the Conference–the international hymn sing. It was exhilarating! After it was over, we shared in visiting (again!) with good friends…and then headed for home. It was still early enough in the evening that we were thrilled about the possibility of getting a really good night’s sleep.

However…

As we pulled out of the parking lot we saw a woman slumped on the curb. It was so tempting to keep going, but we paused and rolled down a window to ask her if she was okay. She wasn’t. She had become severely sunburned during the day and needed to get to a hospital…and not just any hospital, but one downtown…30 minutes away!

Were we willing to come near?

We looked at each other, opened the car door, helped her in, and headed downtown to the emergency room at the hospital, where she said she would be all right and her son would come and get her.

So much for an early night to bed!

But it was a good reminder. If we are indeed followers of this Jesus, that’s not for just when it’s convenient. It’s for whenever we see a need.

Are we willing to come near? Are we willing to come close to the wounded, broken people who need to know that someone cares?

 

When the thin places open…

What happens when the thin places open? when the division between sacred and secular no longer exists…and the worlds become one?

A new community is created–one unlike any seen before. A community made of people from the varying tribes and cultures of the earth…of people with widely divergent beliefs and perspectives. ..yet a community united in a desire to create a world based on God’s shalom.

That world delights in the diversity of ALL creation. It honors Mother Earth, treating her with respect.

It is a world we dream of…hope for…yet seems unattainable.  But is it?

Why are the thin places so hard to find? so hard to pierce?

Is it because of our fears? our comfort with the status quo?

The thin places are around us and waiting for us–if we open our eyes to see them…and are willing to be vulnerable to who they call us to be and where they challenge us to go.