Rise up

Here is a juxtaposition.

I was recently in Norway.  Part of our experience was spending twenty-four hours on a ship.  We were on a fjord.  The sun was shining, the waterfalls cascading, the wind was whipping and whilst bundled in blankets to keep warm I tuned into a soundtrack I had heard a lot about but never had the time to listen to.

Alexander Hamilton.

Oh.  My.

Instantly I was taken into the story of hearts, ambition, and freedom fighting.  A new nation was born through so much violence and hope.  I cannot shake the soundtrack.

On the same journey I was reading a book called “The Nordic Theory of Everything:  In Search of a Better Life” by Anu Partanen.  The author was raised in Finland.  She moves to the US and comes to ask why it is a society that is built upon the belief that all people are created equal would institutionalize disparity.  Partanen speaks of the supports for new parents in the form of child care and paternity and maternity benefits.  She goes on to speak of the educational system in Finland that seeks to create excellence in all schools; private schools are nearly unheard of.  And then, there is the access to college because tuition is free or very very low cost.  And health care.  For all people.

In 2017 there is no less passion in the hearts of those who long for freedom.  This past year has brought so many summons to awareness:  Charlottesville, growing financial disparity, earth distress and chicanery in Washington DC haunt our sense of well-being on a daily basis.

Who are we, anyway?

Days after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, people in Rochester gathered under the big top of this church.  We were brown and white and Muslim and Christian.  We were heart broken and shaken and needful of a place to remember who we are.  We heard each other’s despair and hope.  We spoke prayers and intentions about working for a world where we ask – as the musical “Hamilton” does – who it is who lives and who dies and who tells the story of a life and a people?

How will our story be told?

We cannot pretend that what currently exists is working, save for a very small and privileged few.

I am one of those privileged.

Through my work as a minister of the gospel, I am part of a movement grounded in the belief that all people are sacred and invited to partake of abundance.

We have work to do.  I have work to do.

Who lives, who dies, who tells our story?

not sure

I don’t know.

Maybe it is because the earth is moaning through hurricanes and wild fires.

Maybe it is because our president continues to desecrate sacred truths.

Maybe it is because I miss my children and my mother and my cabin and my naiveté.

I don’t know why I am polishing silver today, but it helps.

Oh the privilege of bequeathed beauty.

Oh how needful it is to provoke shine somewhere.

Somehow.

 

 

 

heart place

All of my life I have been a two-world dweller.

One world has been governed by schedules and expectations.  Shoes were obligatory and cultural assumptions and tasks shaped the days.

The other world featured wide open barefoot living.  The song of water moving and the particular of the light set the stage for exploration.  Schedules were set by flesh needs. Lights got turned off when books were ready to be put down for a time.  The day began with the dance of light reflected from the lake onto the oak leaves outside my window.

At the cabin, I was immersed in wonder.

I lived sanctuary as a child, and I have savored it into my adult life.

I am going through deep soul change.  The cabin is soon to be adopted by a new family. Others will learn the rhythm of the days and the protocols of communal life (don’t make noise before nine AM, honor the privacy of neighbors, realize that if you get a jet ski you might be shunned).  The cabin will be inhabited by a different branch of the clan Macaulay.

I pray that it will be sanctuary and wonder-full for them.

My soul is paying attention during this time of transition.  Who will I be without the place of my heart?

I’m praying plenty about how it is that sanctuary is not containable.  The peace and freedom nurtured by the logs in the cabin breathes in all places.  The soul hum of full welcome lives beyond Sand Lake.  I know this in my head.

And, my heart knows that the sacred of the particular is real.

Letting go, blessing, and living into being an integrated one-world dweller are work for these days and beyond.

Perhaps it is time to bring my worlds together; to realize that the sun-dance on water and the treasured smell of a place are witnesses to something so much larger.

I live in God’s expansive world.

I don’t have to own a piece of it to know the peace of it.

 

 

Day by Day

When I was a new pastor, there was a tradition at our yearly gathering at Annual Conference.

Each retiring pastor was given three to five minutes to address the plenary – some 800 people. 

I was so moved by the power of that witness.  Here were women and men who had given so much to the movement of United Methodism.  They were eloquent and boring, pedantic and poetic.  I savored it all and wondered what it would be like to speak a whole lifetime of ministry in three to five minutes.

My husband the Rev. Cooper Wiggen is retiring this year at Annual Conference.  He has not been given three to five minutes to speak.  Apparently many felt that the utterances of pastoral hearts made for a long listen, so we don’t get to hear those speeches any more.  More’s the pity.  Instead, Cooper and his wife will be given corsages, Cooper will be given a plaque, and a scant paragraph will be read sprung from the heart of God’s called preacher.  There will be cake to eat and hands to shake.  

Oh, the lives that have been touched by those retiring: Baptisms and weddings and bread broken and tears shared.  How is it that any one soul could be called to be so faithfully open to the souls of others?  How is it that Cooper said “yes” to the call to ministry and continued to say “yes” for 42 years?  Where does such steadfast faith and tenacity come from?

 God calls the craziest souls into community.  God calls us each and all to say “yes” to showing up to our lives and to the world.  God calls us to offer water and bread, forgiveness and laughter to each other and through that offering our very lives are made whole and alive.

What a wonder.

This I know:  I will water my corsage with my tears.  I will weep in honor of my husband’s courage and grace. I will thank God for the boom of Cooper’s voice as the gospel was preached and the tender of his soul as he unpacked with others the gift of being human.  And, I will thank God for that which is yet to come.

Ministry is a life-long endeavor.  We are each forever called.

My favorite poet asks it best:  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with our one wild and precious life?”  (Mary Oliver)

Through the grace of God we answer the question day by day.

For the newly retired there is a piercing spaciousness to the question.

What is it we plan to do, each and all, with this wild preciousness called life?

Praise God for questions worthy of our heart’s work.

grief

I live in these days with a pervasive and powerful sense of grief.

I love the vision of the nation in which I live.  All are created equal, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are certain inalienable rights.  But the whole precious – and who knew how fragile? – vision of what I thought was shared and sacred has been huckstered and profaned through and certainly beyond this past election.

What to make of a nation squandering its heart in fracture?  What to do with earth and women and the poor and the vulnerable collateralized by powerful elite who have no concept of what it is to be other than privileged by gender, race, orientation or social status? What to do with the falling-in-behind the dismantling of compassion by those people who espouse the teachings of Jesus as bedrock in their lives and hearts?  How can Jesus be used as mascot for the impoverishing of millions and the despoiling of this precious earth?

I love the vision of the United Methodist Church.  Transformation of the world is sore needed and the hope of the living Christ as lived through the followers of Jesus is call to lived compassion.  We are called to be antidote to fracture.

What to make of a denomination that condones hate speak?  How can we be about transformation and open hearts, minds, and doors as we participate through our polity in the shutting of doors to the called and the beloved?  How do we preach the Jesus message of dismantling systems of oppression whilst enduring the realities of ministering through a denominational structure bound by just such oppression?

Grief is real.

I’m choosing to feel it.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.  Pentecost celebrates the ways the Holy Spirit took up dancing on the heads of the fractured and frightened.  Through the power of that Spirit barriers were eradicated and people could hear the hearts and behold the sacred humanity of those they never thought they would understand.

Oh come, Holy Spirit, come!

We are sore in need of the dance.

 

 

anniversary

mom and sibs hands

I am feeling this anniversary.

A year ago at this time, my mother was touchable.

A year ago at this time my mother Barbara Jane Fawcett Macaulay Forrest had determined that the pain and the ongoing struggle of remaining alive was no longer her calling.

A year ago my mother turned toward death.

My siblings and I and our children gathered by her side over the course of three months. We respected her sense of her own life and her own death.  She had trained us well in this way.  We wanted to hold onto her with all that we had:  Her wonderful laugh, her titanic power, her tiny frame.  The way she cleared her throat, her soft hands, her delight in savoring morning coffee and the newspaper, and dearest of all gifts, the way she took us all in with her eyes and heart.  My mother was the center of our family.  No question, ever.

She had a gentle death.

And of course, it was a precious piece of us all that passed with her into death and resurrection life.

No more are we children of a living parent.  There is no grandma to mend and fuss and offer correction.  There are no bran muffins and no one standing by the window to mark our comings and goings.  I cannot pick up the phone to share with her a sunrise or a heart break.

But oh, the ways she lives and the ways we each live are forever more the fruit of her being.  When we gather together, she is in our midst.  When I pray for courage or strength, she is one of the guardians I feel amplifying my prayer.  I catch glimpses of her in my mirror and I see her in the creping of my hands.

I walk these days in grief and in wonder.  How is it God sparked me into the womb of my mother?  How is it we raised each other?  How is it I learned so much and chafed so much and wrangled so much and was blessed with so much through being my mother’s daughter?

I encountered the living Christ in the company of the woman who gave me life.

May God continue to bless and keep you, Barbara Jane.

We miss you so.

 

 

Struggle

 

…Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Jesus, Luke 9:23

Day by day we make choices.  We discern how it is our words, our actions and our thoughts are cross worthy.  On an individual basis, this makes for daily discernment.  As a people who are citizens of a larger world, our decision to take up the cross of Jesus the Christ matters; it matters greatly.

This is a challenging time to approach a pulpit, brothers and sisters.  I want to share a bit about that.

The UM church teaches that the world is our parish.  John Wesley and United Methodists who followed espouse a faith that is individual and communal.  There is no such thing as a private faith.  Wesley taught that the cross of Jesus must be taken up by the people of Jesus as we together work for the teachings of Jesus to be made tangible here, in this world and in this life.  There is no holiness but social holiness.

Jesus, good Jew that he was, echoes the teachings of the prophet Micah.  It turns out the Lord requires of us that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.  (Micah 6: 8)

Scripture is full of teachings about how it is we are to care for the poor, the immigrant and the refugee.  Scripture is full of admonitions for a people who forget that God’s vision for full life is not found in our own individual comfort.  God’s vision for fullness of life is lived when we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly knowing that God is the ethical and foundational ground of our being.

During the month of February, when our president was issuing orders that will scatter families and deeply impact the lives of countless human creations of God, we followed a series of readings from scripture used by people of many denominational affiliation.  Our scriptures have been about tending the needs of the poor, about making sure that the poor and the immigrant are fed, and about turning the other cheek rather than nursing outrage.  Those readings are being shared in congregations and parishes across the world.

As an ordained minister of the gospel, I simply cannot ignore the teachings of scripture and the ways our world has yet to learn and live them.  The world is our parish.  The teachings of our faith are not meant to be cloistered in our sanctuaries, they are meant to be taken up daily as we seek to follow Jesus.

There are those who visit our church or who have long shared community here who bristle at what they term “political” sermons.

There is a difference between partisan and political.

I seek with all the wisdom I can to craft sermons that are not partisan.  To endorse one or another political party from the pulpit is a misuse of the privilege of preaching. Neither justice nor Jesus belongs solely to Democrats or solely to Republicans.

And, I will not and cannot preach the gospel of Jesus the Christ without considering what it is to deny self and take up the cross of Jesus in this day and this time.  I seek to follow Jesus and I keenly seek to unpack what it is to take up the cross of Christian discipleship as we encounter questions of the life we share.  How will we name the challenge of racism, violence, oppression and poverty?  How can we “resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” (UM membership vows) if we are not willing to name them and voice the pain of those too long oppressed?

Taking up the cross of Jesus means we Jesus followers are unwilling to go along. It means that we will suffer the pain of knowing that we have participated in systems that oppress. To take up the cross means that we pledge allegiance to Jesus the Christ before any power or principality, including our nation.  It means that we are willing to hear voices and opinions that are not our own and we are willing to bear the discomfort of being a cross bearing people.

I know that across this city and across this land each preacher tussles with what it means to bear the cross of Jesus.

Here at Christ UMC, bearing the cross of the Christ means that we will not pretend that systems and humans have been redeemed and that all is swell in the world.  We know that systems and humans continue to harm each other in ways grievous to the heart of our God.  We believe that we are called to take up the cross of Christ in order to learn and live another way – in our hearts and in the polis.

We know we need each other in order to live the message of Jesus in this church and beyond this church.

We trust that God is in this with us, breathing and leading us to the living of justice, kindness and humility.

Come to church.  Struggle in community as we seek to lift high the cross of Jesus the Christ.