water works

I get teased something fierce by my kids.  They have such great material to work with…

One of the standard teases has to do with the post-baptism glow that walks with me for days.

Being able to baptize infants and adults and toddlers and youth is Holy Spirit zap powerful.  Each baptism is different.

A few weeks ago I was able to participate in my first ever on-my-knees baptism.  We were blessed to have a family with three children come for baptism.  The eldest is wise beyond her years and she was so very present and aware of (as much as any of us can be!) the Spirit power she was sharing through her baptism.  Her  youngest brother was next. Having watched his sister, he was feeling like maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.  So he put his hand in the bowl full of baptismal water and let his fingers feel the water that was being dipped and placed on his head.  And then there was his brother.  He is four.  He wanted nothing to do with baptism.  He made like a fine escape artist and I wondered if we would need to share this holy sacrament sometime when I didn’t have to tackle him.  In order to try to connect with him I found myself on my knees on the floor.  But then he stopped.  And he allowed grace to bathe his head even as he maintained his dignity by shaking his head “no no no” with each dip.

This past Sunday we were able to welcome a four-month old as a sister in Christ.  Honestly, her eyes never left mine throughout the introductions and the asking of questions and the prayer over the water.  And when it was time to baptize her, as the cold water was gently put on her head, she broke into the biggest smile I have seen on a four-month old face.  No fooling.  She knew exactly what was going on.

I’m still filled with wonder.  To share the sacred in community is transformational good.  I know I have been transformed through the gifts of these recent baptisms.  I am a skipping, awe-full Pastor.

My heart is still on its knees.

holy chaos

Our church is alive with the sound of children.

It’s Vacation Bible School this week.  Every night we are gathered for dinner followed by fun and learning for toddlers on up.  There are familiar faces; people who have long called Richfield their home.

And, there are new faces.  Folks who are brave enough to enter the building for the first time, allow themselves to grab sloppy Joes and sit at a table and meet new people while children are grooving on the party scene.

Tonight, one of our children approached me and told me very important news:  today is her dad’s birthday.  Could we sing Happy Birthday to him?  Of course we did.

Think on it.  This young heart loves her dad fiercely and believes that such a love is shared best in a room full of people whom she knew well would want to share in the joy of his being.

It is beautiful, this coming together of new and old, young and not-so-young.

Outside the doors of the church the stock market is tanking, political leaders are dodging and starvation and want are all too real.

By holding VBS, we are living beyond despair; we are living into the vision of Jesus.  We are gathering at table with people who become kin.  We are tending the future in our children.  We are sharing a vision for living in community based upon sharing what we have because we can and because our God calls us to bless.  We are raising up disciples of Jesus the Christ in order that our children might know grounding in care for creation.

Maybe they can help us to remember.

 

prayerful dissent

I am an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church; somewhat miracle, that.

My heart got swept into the movement of people who are moved by relationship with the Christ to engage in the world in such a way that healing happens.  We touch with justice and compassion out of gratitude for our daily wash in grace;  we can’t help it.

We are an international church.  We make decisions that affect the life of our movement every four years.  At this gathering, persons come from across the world.  The numbers of delegates sent to vote on policy matters are determined by the numbers of people who know themselves as United Methodists in that area.  United Methodism is strong in numbers in Africa and in the Southern United States.  It is not as strong in numbers in areas traditionally less conservative.  In the case of Minnesota for the upcoming General Conference, we are able to send only 3 clergy and 3 lay delegates to represent our entire state.

So trying to impact church-wide policy in ways held to be crucial by many is a sometimes long and painful process.

And so it is that while the ELCA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ movements of Jesus have all voted to enflesh the meaning of baptism by ordaining persons who are heterosexual as well as homosexual and offer services of blessing to couples of the same-sex who desire the elemental good of the celebration of relationship within the bounds of community, the United Methodist Church has not been able to free itself from the bonds of a long-lived denial of baptismal and inclusive grace.

When we are ordained as UM clergy, we agree to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church.  Many of us, as we made this vow, knew that the challenge of upholding that discipline would be great, given the jangle of unjust embedded within it.

I certainly knew the challenge of it, even as I took my ordination vow.  But I figured I would work with all that I had to pray and listen and lead the church into a more grace- based embrace of all of God’s children.  I have organized regional conferences, spoken at the state capitol numerous times, been a contributor to a published teaching piece put out by the Human Rights Campaign, led two congregations through a Reconciling process, and spoken from the pulpit about this issue (some would say incessantly!).

As the years have unfolded, the pain for me has become magnified.  Beloveds of their creator have found community in churches I have pastored and while the joining of hearts within longed-for community in Christ has been stunning in its beauty and power, the reality has persisted:  we welcome, we delight in the being of all of God’s createds, we proclaim the abundant, amazing and endless grace of God but when it comes to blessing the love work of same gendered couples and the pastoral work of same gender loving clergy, the policy of the UM church maintains that there are limits to grace and clergy are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order and Policing.

I have had couples come to me.  Couples who are in love and in the throes and celebration of mutual unfolding and they are desirous of blessing.  For whatever reasons, including taxes and inheritances and other such state-driven impediments, they do not desire legal marriage.  But they wonder: might they call together their beloveds and hear spoken over their love a blessing by their pastor?

Desirous as we are for integration of our loves into our spiritual and social lives, of course such blessing is a natural outgrowth of a fulsome life.

And yet, we deny such to persons who live and love and raise children and bless their churches and the world with the living of their discipleship.  We deny blessing.

This year at Annual Conference a petition was circulated.  The text is below.

We joyfully affirm that we will offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage. We are convinced by the witness of others and are compelled by Spirit and conscience to act.  We thank the many United Methodists who have already called for full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church. 

 

We repent that it has taken us so long to act. We realize that our church’s discriminatory policies tarnish the witness of the Church to the world, and we are complicit.  We value our covenant relationships and ask everyone to hold the divided community of the United Methodist Church in prayer. 

I signed.  I signed because in the teachings of Jesus I see the outreaching of grace and life lived in the seeking of justice enfleshed in community.  I signed because my words about the expansive grace and welcome of God are clanging gongs if I am not willing to participate in the healing good that is blessing and naming relationships that make for life.  I signed because my pastor’s heart can bear no more the double-speak of grace abundant and barricades maintained.

I do not know what this means in the living of my call.  It can mean being brought up on charges.  It can mean losing my credentials in a movement I have given my spirit to.  It can mean being booted out of the open door church.

Prior to putting my name and heart to the petition, I talked with our Staff Parish Relations Committee about my inclination to sign.  I didn’t want to sign without the blessing of the church body I am amazed to know myself a part of.

They gave their blessing.

And so, God as my partner, witness and guide; so will I.  I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.  God has graced me with a hunger for lived wholeness and hope in community sprung from the heart of Jesus.

The time for heart healing, the time for blessing, the time for prayerful dissent is now.

new life for all

I have been asked to preach at a service of ordination.

I’m terrified and thrilled and moved and honored and oh, so hopeful.  The woman being ordained has been a pastor for years.  She has led and blessed and moved and witnessed as a whole woman of God in a denomination that welcomes her wholeness.

But she had to search far from home to find that denomination.  Because she is a same-gender-loving woman, she has been forced to wander through many places of parch and pain until she found herself in the Metropolitan Community Church where she was welcomed and is welcomed and there she has been.

And, her heart kept calling her home; home to the Lutheran church which, until a year or so ago, would not welcome the full glory of her being.

She is coming home on Sunday.  She will be ordained in the ELCA, a denomination willing to pray and ground and be in the way of Jesus; inclusive and welcoming of All God’s Children.

This is weeping material for my heart.  I feel such gratitude for her courage and tenacious belief that the church can be grace.  I feel hope for a world in which the church is willing to be living grace.  I feel humbled by the preaching task and honored and I pray so very fervently that some day my church, the United Methodist Church, will allow the floodgates of grace to open for all of God’s beloveds.

We need that washing of grace.

water washed

My children tease me about many things. 

What is predictable is a tease following baptisms.  I love being able to be a part of baptisms.  The power of enfolding and naming and proclaiming grace and identity on behalf of the movement through the ages makes me near crazy with wonder.  Without exception, I believe with all I am that the babies know well that they are participating in miracle.  They are “right there” with their eyes:  open, aware, present, holy.  So I come home bubbling with the story of how it is holy communion is shared and my children know the ways that their mother’s heart has to tell the story or burst.  So they listen, God bless them.

This past Sunday has me humming yet.  Baptised in the midst of a community of grace and joy were a mom and her three-year old.  Both of them are wise beyond the ages.

The wee one was held by her mother and baptised first.  As an invitation to feel the sweet of the baptismal water, I asked her if she wanted to feel it, knowing that she would.

Her sweet palm was nestled in the water of grace as she was baptised.

And then, when it came time to baptise her mother, I asked her if she wanted to help, knowing that of course she would.

And so we blessed in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sustainer.  Water; gift of earth, flow of life, wash of grace was gentled onto the head of a woman who is already witness of the Way.

She who was nurtured in the water of her mother’s womb used water to bless and welcome her mother to life.

Water washed, wonder full.