I got a call this morning from my daughter.

I am in Australia.  She is home in Minnesota.

She wanted me to know there was no emergency but there was this:

Poet Mary Oliver died.

Knowing my heart as she does, she wanted me to know.

The melody of my soul is woven with Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose.

I was able to be in her physical presence once.  She did a poetry reading in Minneapolis.  The church where the event was held was full of those who, like me, came to pay homage.

I wept through most of it.

Some things are just too holy to behold.

I am far from my community and far from my books.  I am far from the round table at our cabin that always held one of her books.  I am left with Facebook as facilitator of communal testimony and grief and it is enough, I suppose.

The power of a soul compelled to sing is miracle.

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver







Today I am so tired.

I cannot much fathom that our nation is running up to the brink of electing to our highest office a man who has held no office.  None.

This is a man who has insulted and demeaned and fomented and this is a man who seems to revel in the bizarre theater of buffoonery.

I am tired of the barely veiled woman-mistrust that under-girds the unlikeliest of presidential contests ever held.  In the race is a woman who has been consistent in her concern for and advocacy in regard to children and community and decades of work and philanthropy are also-ran material in the circus of misdirection and media clowning.

The circus seems to be the desired reality show of our day.  How can this be so?  The implications are staggering.

Gone with the stroke of a pen would be environmental protections and choice and health care coverage and most terrifying of all?  Gone would be our sense of who we are as a nation.

I am tired of black people being gunned down in the streets. I am tired of the stifling of outrage and I am tired by the sense that somehow it is wrong to name the injustice.  It is as though naming the mattering of black lives equals disdain for the police and isn’t that a convenient way to silence allies?

I am tired of navigating Sunday morning preaching.  I am tired of knowing that there are some who will pounce on the opportunity, any opportunity, to feel affronted by what is preached or named in God’s house.

I am tired of the sniffing around of others as though a different view point or world view is affront.

I am tired of the repeated trope that politics don’t belong in church.  You’re kidding, right? Everything we do is political.  Jesus was intentional about the fact that black lives matter and poor lives matter and women’s lives matter and all lives matter to the Holy and they must matter to all of us or surely we are destined to wander this world broken and afraid.

Such insistence upon the sanctity of each life was dangerous for Jesus.  It seems dangerous yet, God help us.

I am tired of “broken and afraid” as the seemingly inevitable harvest of this season.

On this day I give thanks for the solace of work that matters, a community that is courageous, and the ongoing compassionate invitation of Jesus the Christ:

“Come onto me” says Jesus.  “I know what loving costs.  I’ll give you rest”.

There is so much pain.  Being tired makes sense.

So too does believing that God is far from finished with this world and we are walking miracle and there is  Spirit movement in the midst of despair and that movement is about coming together and learning through differences and allowing ourselves to hear the pain and naming tired for sure but also naming the power of love and hope and a conviction that we have the courage to live love.

We have that courage.  Through the heart of the Christ, through the unity of the Holy Spirit and through the stunninng gift of those who hold us when we are so tired, we have that courage.








Yesterday the Governor of Minnesota signed into law a bill making it legal for same-sex couples to celebrate their love through marriage.

The signing of the bill represents the heart longing of legions through decades of cloaked love and hurtful distancing of same-gender loving people from full participation in communal grace.

I am still not able to name my joy around this wild and wonderful thing that happened in Minnesota; it is too big, too long in coming, too beautiful to speak.

I’m a preacher. I shared the sermon below on the Sunday between the House and Senate votes. It is no small thing to lay the power of the gospel over the raw hopes of those longing for justice.

It is a good church I serve.

Ascension of Jesus
Luke 24: 44 – 53
Ephesians 1: 15 – 23
Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay
May 12, 2013

There are emotional strands aplenty to name on this Sunday. I will name three.

First, It is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a jumbly sort of holiday, dense in so many emotions.

The early intent of Mother’s Day is that it be a day set apart to honor mothers.

And, it grew to be a day on which mothers, tired of sending their children to die in war joined together to organize a witness for peace. Sprung from the heart of a belief that God’s vision is that swords would be made into plowshares and that war, and the mangling of children it brings with it, would be no more.

We don’t hear so much about that facet of Mother’s Day. Instead, Mother’s Day has been domesticated and Hallmarked into sweetness and that which can be marketed and consumed.

The second strand present this morning is that this Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday is a day when followers of Jesus mark the forevermore movement of God in this world:

We remember the ongoing movement that is Jesus: the heart of God became Flesh through the body of a young mother – Mary, by name. When Mary found she was to bear the holy one, she sang a song of revolution: a song that spoke of how it is God’s vision for the world means that those who have power at the expense of the poor will have it no more.

In Mary’s song, she speaks of the brining down of the powerful from their thrones and the lifting up of the lowly.

Jesus, Mary’s son, nurtured by that justice song, grew and taught and sought out the marginalized and said “come in. God is especially excited to name YOU as beloved and welcome.”

Jesus, whose message of love got him killed. Jesus, who could not be silenced. The love of God in Christ bursts any bond – even death. Jesus rose and appeared to his disciples and reminded them that his teachings were ALL about taking up and sharing and living his teachings: together they were called to building an ongoing movement for justice and communal grace.

Jesus taught his disciples that discipleship must be shared and when he knew he was to complete his time on earth he took the opportunity to open the minds of his followers in order that they understand that God’s heart desires this:

that they – that God’s people throughout time – would give to the Holy our brokenness – our fears, our addictions, our inability to see the pain of others, our unwillingness to welcome all to fullness of life. Jesus taught that we are to open to our God those places that cause us so much pain.

We are to name those places – some call those places “sin” – and ask God to help us with them in order that we might move into the expanse of wholeness and grace God longs for us to live – what we in the church call “forgiveness”.

On Ascension Day, Jesus calls his disciples to witness to that kind of revolutionary love – a love in which the poor are fed and the vulnerable tended and the wounded made whole.

Jesus calls his disciples to organize a witness of justice and love lived by all of God’s people.

But like the original intent for Mother’s Day, the world often doesn’t much associate Ascension Sunday (or Christianity writ large, for that matter) with witnessing for peace and grace because Christianity, like Mother’s Day, has all too often been Hallmarked into sweetness and that which can be marketed and consumed.

Heaven knows I savor the sweetness of honoring the many women who have stood as mother to me – including my own mom. And I love the ways my kids mark this day with me.

And, Mother’s Day is made even more meaningful to me when I remember the heart-wail that led to a movement of women using Mother’s Day to demand peace.

And, heaven knows I savor the sweetness of sharing Sunday worship and life with beloved community.

And, being a Christian is even more meaningful to me when I remember the Holy heart-wail that led the Word to become Flesh and dwell among us in order that we might live peace, one with the other.

There is a third emotional strand that needs to be named on this day. On Thursday of this last week, Minnesota lived communally caught breath.

The House of Representatives voted on whether all couples – same sex or heterosexual couples – be accorded equal rights through legal marriage.

The result of the vote was that the House passed the bill and it will go to the Senate on Monday where it is assumed it will be passed and then it will be sent to the governor to sign into law – something he has already said he will do.

The vote taken Thursday raised the roof of the state capitol and that vote has the state resonating yet.

A number of the Representatives named their faith as a reason for voting against the measure. Their understanding of scripture holds that God’s word is static and must be interpreted literally and immovably throughout time.

And, a number of Representatives named their faith as a reason for voting for the measure. One quoted the prophet Micah about God’s most passionate requirement being that we would do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

Their understanding of God’s vision as voiced in scripture is that God’s word is alive and especially directed to the plight of those marginalized and oppressed.

They see the denial of marriage to same-sex couples as the sort of oppression their faith calls them to challenge and work to overturn.

In today’s scripture, Jesus tells the disciples that they are to be witnesses to the vision of God.

Paul tells the church in Ephesus that they are called to “open the eyes of their hearts” in order to know the powerful working of God in their lives.

In today’s world, we are called at just such a time as this to consider what it is we witness to with our words. our lives, our actions.

What does it matter?

I have heard horrible things said in the past week. People naming their faith on both sides of the issue have bashed each other with hate speak.

We all have endured this toxic wash. But for some, the collateral damage is heart-wail.

I share with you the the words of a past parishioner, a man who anchored the church band with his amazing talent. A man whose heart speaks in this way, after encountering yet more hate speak shared this past week in the name of Christ Jesus:


I am a spiritual being… do not think that violating my spirit is ordained by God. Nor is the silence of our family, friends, and colleagues. Silence is a passive embracing of every day attacks on my spiritual being.

For my hundreds of friends and family… take a stand. Speak up… and don’t tolerate spiritual attacks in your name. None of us owns the market on faith, love, prayer, or belief in Christ. As Christians, and as my loved ones… take a stand. Will you continue your silence because you think it keeps ‘peace in the family’? Is that justice?

For those of you who have spoken up, thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who will publicly speak up for the first time, there is not better time to do so than now. For those of you who continue to speak against my being, or equally so through silence, know that it hurts every time it’s done.

Take a stand. Speak up.
Timothy M Robinson, Christian

As Jesus was ascending into heaven he reminded his disciples:

You are witnesses to the healing power of God.

Share that good news.

Know that the movement of Jesus is not Hallmarky sweetness:

The movement of Jesus is:

working for justice.

It is organizing for peace.

It is speaking out.

It is choosing love.

It is using the power God gives us each to witness to the movement of Christ Jesus; among us yet.



I thought I was done, except in a bittersweet way.

Preparing for a sermon this past Sunday, I was thinking a lot about heritage and the presence of the unseen guests at all of our Thanks Giving tables.  The text had to do with a faith forewoman so it gave great opportunity to consider witness and how it sounds through the ages.

I had my sermon set to go and had the perfect ending for it.  Some thirty years ago, my dad was interviewed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It was a column about Thanksgiving and in it he reflected upon being a pastor and the gratitude he felt about being able to love and be loved wrapped in community.

The long ago article ended with a Thanksgiving prayer.  It hangs on my refrigerator at the cabin.  I knew that Leah was there and could relay it to me.  Except that she didn’t have her phone on.  As the night dwindled and there was no word, I knew that I was not going to be able to speak words written by a heart I so miss.

And then the grief swooped.  The ache in my heart over my dad’s death was so raw.  It has been sixteen years ago but I so wanted to “hear” his voice and share it with a people I get to be in ministry with.

And the empty place of his friendship and his not knowing of my beloved and and and all those things fell into my heart and I missed my dad and mourned the huge space left by his death.  All the little and large sharing of life we don’t get to share; it hurts.

It hurts.  And, it humbles.  I barrel along my days and sometimes I am brought up short and reminded that life and love are tender precious fierce things and I am blessed to live them, I am.

So may I share his prayer with you?

Dear God it’s me.  Remember?

And it is Thanksgiving time and turkeys and football games and family gatherings and all sorts of special things are here and so am I and so are you.

I know that we must be an abomination to you.  Our existence is a continuing, helpless pollution of your world.  

We are terribly concerned with messy affluence, the insane rains of our bombs keep falling.  It’s easy to mask who we are.

We clatter with heavy shoes over the lives, the sensitivities, the joys and heartaches, the realness of our brothers and sisters.

Appearances, of color, of dress, even of hair have a strange importance to us.

We talk of love and forget to do it.

But it is Thanksgiving time.

And I would like to thank you for everything I have and everyone I know.

For family and home in now and past, for friends.  For those who touch my life with love.

For letting me love others,

For a world of maybes,

For smells and touches and eyes that meet.

For my job, my car, the little things I take for granted.

And they are all from you, and thank you God.

Can I ask a little favor?

My thanks are so special, so big, so real –

Will you arrange it so I won’t have to say a table grace right out loud?

That would be so predictable, so polite.

I would far rather babble and shout.

Rev. George Macaulay








sermon interruptus

At Richfield UMC we offer three distinct worship services.

One is a “traditional” blended service held in the sanctuary.  We have a magnificent organ and lush music program.  We sing songs mostly out of the hymnals.

One of our services is held in that same space on Sunday morning and it is led in Vietnamese.  They too sing mostly out of the hymnal – traditional tunes with Vietnamese lyrics.

Our other service is called “Living Waters”.  We set out to create a worship service for the many who have been “painfully churched”.  So very often people have encountered boredom in church; a sense that they are to be passive consumers of someone else’s thoughts and convictions.

We didn’t want that.  So we set up the room with round tables and we meet in the Fellowship Hall with coffee cups and we welcome dogs and any other warm body seeking community and mind and heart stretch.

Our shared music is eclectic.  We use hymnal tunes, and we also use current and past secular music that brings the message of the day into our hearts.  We have a superb music leader, Victor Zupanc.  Victor is the Music Director at the Children’s Theatre.  He brings to our worship life a delight in working with different musicians, and a theologically questing spirit.  The man is poetry on the keys, and his spirit infuses our shared song.

One of the things that makes the service so fine is the people who gather.  We know each other, we like to play and question, and the work of the Spirit isn’t just about right answers, it is about finding our own answers to holy and vital soul questions.

Sharing a “sermon” in this context is not a one-way experience.  We share it.  Yesterday was an excellent reminder to me about why I love this service.  Twice during our sermon-slated time together, different members of the gathered asked a great question.  What this does is take us into the place where meaning is made.  Things get real fast when they are taken from one heart into many hearts.

In offering different sorts of worship, our church is seeking to live into transformation.  A great pulpit preach in a sanctuary where the gathered are active participants in the unfolding of the Word is pure gift.  I get to share that every Sunday.

And, I get to share the Word in a setting where collaborative unpacking of the Word is practiced.

So many gifts.  Blessed among women am I.




what is (?)

There are dramas aplenty for the living.

Republican candidates are posturing, the President is mingling, protesters are gathering and the polite veneer we put on being community in these days is being fissured but good.

We are what we read and believe, aren’t we?

Charts are flying through cyber space indicating that the economic well-being of many is in worse shape than it has been since before the Great Depression.  Corporations are flourishing while actual earning power is languishing for those who are working.  The number of those who cannot find work is dismally high.

Facts is facts, right?

Except that facts get spun, depending upon ideology.  Whether liberal or conservative, we latch onto the “facts” that support our perspective.  And if those facts get our hearts racing and our sense of umbrage pumping, they are precious indeed (evidently).

I’m aware of the power and privilege of preaching every Sunday.  I’m aware that every time I approach the fear-and-trembling task involved in weaving Holy teachings into the plot of daily living, I’m coming from a perspective molded by which facts I cotton to.

Facts don’t lie, right?

But whose facts?

I was in conversation recently with someone working in a drastically changing profession (so say we all, right?).  The benchmarks for what makes for professional integrity in her field are shifting.  She is doing her work grounded in what she holds to be basic tenets of competency.  Others have tossed off those tenets as expendable.  It is wracking her.

As Wesleyans, we are called to assess our preaching, our living, our giving and our being through the lenses of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

Nothing I have encountered through any of those four lenses prop up the gouging of the poor. Nothing.

Nothing I have encountered through any of those four lenses prop up the notion that God and God’s people are to dismiss and seek to silence the crying out of the oppressed.  Nothing.

Which tenets are expendable in the practice of Christianity?

The question is wracking us, but good.

It ought.







call and response

Having no sermon to write tomorrow, I spent Saturday morning on a city stroll.

The Uptown Art Fair is going on a mile or so from my home.  It was pure pleasure to hop on the pink scooter of happiness, zip down to the happening, park at a bike rack and wander the streets.

The most fascinating art on display was of the human variety.  Folks were dressed in their beat-the-heat best.  Hand in hand, in groups or alone, the beauty hunters were fine to behold.

Also fine to behold were the various artists in their booths of soul work.  I’m not sure how they have the courage to sit and watch people pick over their offerings.  The appreciation shown would be wondrous.  But how to summon the strength to watch people walk on by without stopping to soak in the gift of your offering?

I found myself thinking about artists of many stripes;  preachers and worship leaders, for example.   Every time we pray over, craft, and offer the art of worship and preaching, we are vulnerable to the reactions of the community.  It’s hard not to take it personally.

But there is in us each a longing for soul expression.  So we muster the courage to nurture it and share it.  We bring that expression to our parenting, our loving, our writing, our painting, our lives.

We cannot believe that sharing such expression will not be met with at least one soul who recognizes our song.

On a hot Saturday in Minneapolis, the air was ringing with the power of call and response.