server

I was a really good waitress.

Every good waitress knows that the front of the house and the kitchen have to work in harmony together.  It is probably best that diners in fine restaurants are blissfully unaware of the heat and the unloveliness of the kitchen.  Good chefs make great meals.  Good waitresses serve up great meals while creating a sense that there is nothing but peace in the kitchen.

So now I am a parish pastor.  It is a job not unlike that of a waitress.  My desire is that people who worship at the church I serve can be undisturbed by the clank of the liturgical pots and pans that go into cooking up worship and life together.

I am glad I am in the front of the house in this ministry business.  Because truthfully, after three days of being at General Conference, I am not sure I ever want to enter the kitchen of the United Methodist movement again.

Today Rule 44 was defeated.  After hours of technical difficulties with voting apparatus and points of order and amendments and heart-felt testimony, it seems the people called Methodist are not willing to talk to each other.  We seem more inclined to talk at each other using Robert’s Rules as shield.

So it went.  I only wept once.

The rest of the day was spent in legislative committees.  That Book of Discipline that we turn to in the ordering of our life?  Every line of it is up for editing and polishing and so committees are digesting thousands of legislative petitions and after sitting on the floor of one of the break-out rooms (there was no room in the inn for the curious) I fled.

I admit it.  I got out of there.

It turns out I don’t have the stomach or heart for the work in the kitchen.  I am glad that others do.  I am glad that others can craft words that can somehow invite people to taste and see the goodness of our God.  I pray that inviting and inclusive and delicious words flow from this time.

As for me, I went out for ice cream.

Here is what I know.  I am blessed to serve a remarkable church in Rochester, MN.  My sense of doing church there is that the kitchen and the front of the house are all seeking to do the same thing:  we want to serve up grace to the hungry of soul.  I get to work with people who are huge of heart and excited by God’s stirring in our midst and I left the convention center today so grateful for my local church and my place in it.

Christ UMC in Rochester is where I am called to serve up the Body of Christ; in the midst of the hungry and the seeking and the hopeful.

I’m hoping I am still a good waitress.

 

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.

helter shelter

The anxiety is ramping in our lives and surely in my belly.

We have a signed purchase agreement on our home. All will be well and good pending a thorough inspection. Someone just spent five hours inspecting our 100-plus year old home.

Now we wait.

In Rochester, our realtor is fielding a counter-offer to the offer we made to buy a home. It was the first one we saw lo those many weeks ago, and it has lived and breathed with us since. We believe it is so very right.

Now we wait.

Oh but I am a crabby woman; thin of skin and jumpy-antsy because this thing called home is a morphing thing.

And in the midst of my crabby, I am chastened by awareness of my staggering privilege.

I have a larger-than-I-need home and I want to purchase same and what, oh what of all those who feel anxiety every day because they are assured of nothing in the way of home.

What of those who are children and teens and adults and elders who have no home?

Our church is working with an organization called Beacon in the metro area. Beacon is an interfaith housing initiative seeking to eradicate the all-consuming misery of soul and body that is homelessness. Through one of their programs called “Families Moving Forward” we will house four families at our church for a week.

It is a monumental undertaking. We are organizing to make sure that we have a welcoming space and food to offer and hospitality to bless but really, one of the most monumental things we privileged folk are undertaking is the willingness to face the reality that the families we welcome live without what we take for granted: home.

We have become willing to encounter our neighbors. We are a ministry outpost in the way of Jesus.

I know myself to be needful of perspective in these days.

I surely want to let go of the soul-roil engaged in fretting about the more-than-I-need.

Time is better spent in pondering what to serve our guests for breakfast on Saturday. Time is better spent thanking God for the volunteers who are committed to showing up. Time is better spent being open to what the Holy has for me to learn.

good news

 

The United Methodist Church is in the news these days.

We are not in the news for the ways we reach into places where typhoons decimate and poverty gnarls, though we could be.

We are not in the news for the ways we have fought for justice through a conviction that we are called to “be in ministry for and with all persons” (Para. 161F, Book of Discipline),  though we long to be.

Instead we are in the news for the ways our church polity trumps gospel imperative.

At Richfield United Methodist Church we have sought to listen deeply to the heart of the Holy.  In our discernment we have turned to scripture, tradition, reason and experience to lead us to the recognition that we cannot collude with the barricading of grace.  We desire to welcome all families into a transformational relationship with Jesus the Christ.  We want to provide a church community through which people are held and known as they move ever deeper into communion with a God who welcomes and sustains love in all its manifestations.

Jesus welcomed all to the table of grace.  We believe we are called to do the same; in fact, we feel powerfully blessed to be able to do the same.

Our conversations, prayers and deep listening prompted us to adopt the statement shared below*.

We pray that through this United Methodist Church the wildly inclusive love of God in Christ will be proclaimed, lived, shared and celebrated by all.

We would like for that to be good news of great joy.

How else would we live the gospel of Jesus?

RICHFIELD UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Commitment to Marriage Equality

As a church in the Methodist tradition since 1854, Richfield United Methodist Church’s ministries are grounded in Jesus’ call to love both God and neighbor. We acknowledge that we have often failed to extend the radical hospitality that God asks of us, even as we continually strive to do so.

In 2007—seeking to open our hearts, minds, and doors—we publicly welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families into full participation in the life and ministries of the congregation, and we continue to do so today.

We recognize that when two people come together to form a primary committed relationship, they often ask the church to bless their wedding. With due consideration, the church responds by celebrating, in the presence of their families and friends, the work of God’s Spirit in their lives.

We lament that in our time, so many courts, legislatures, and religious institutions still deny same-gender and transgender couples equal access to marriage and all the blessings, rights, and responsibilities thereof.

We rejoice that at this point in history, the arc of justice now bends toward equal recognition of marriage for all couples.

Today we affirm that God’s grace is open to all, and we witness to that grace through our commitment to justice and equality in our congregation, the state of Minnesota, the United Methodist Church, and the world. We will honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in Minnesota, who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage.

Approved by the Administrative Board of Richfield UMC

Signed on September 17, 2013 by

Sue Restemayer, Ad Board Chair, Nick Dewey, Trustees Chair, David Couillard, Lay Leader, and Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, Pastor

*We are grateful for the work of Dumbarton UMC.  Our statement is patterned after theirs.

invisible

“When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game done with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul – and not just individual strength but collective understanding – to resist this void…and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard. Adrienne Rich

I have been blessed with powerful teachers in my life. One is a seminary professor who has written extensively and agitated consistently about the issue of language, particularly language used for the Holy. She is a part of the church community I serve. Amazing grace, that.

Her wisdom is with me as I write worship week after week because I know so very well the psychic disequilibrium that has been perpetrated against women through the ways we name God as male male male. The United Methodist hymnal – all three iterations currently in use – has perhaps a handful of hymns that name the sacred using feminine imagery or pronouns. This from a denomination that proclaims a desire to welcome all into transformational relationship with the Holy.

Parker Palmer maintains that “the soul is shy. It won’t show up unless it feels safe.” How can soul show up in a culture that asks it to participate in “a game done with mirrors”?

Every week this tension of finding hymnody capable of inviting embodied praise. Every week the realization that the soul crush of non inclusion is perpetrated in uncounted sanctuaries.

According to Adrienne Rich, it takes individual strength and communal understanding. As community, will we welcome those who stand up and demand to be heard? Can we unpack the depth of woman-demean that provokes disgust at the very notion of feminine divine?

I’m tired of psychic disequilibrium. I’m tired of trying to choose the least offensive hymns when song is meant to sing – not silence – the soul.

Words matter. Mirrors contort.

This is no game.

don’t know

I don’t know much about a lot of things.

I don’t know how it is governments can poison their own people (or any people).

I don’t know how it is children are victims of gunshot wounds at the hands of those who are barely out of childhood themselves who are armed with metal death.

I don’t know how as the planet continues to wobble in ways more and more dramatic there is a continued unwillingness to claim culpability for global warming.

I don’t know how it became politically incorrect to share sorrows and questions.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that there is Holy Heart beating in the midst of the pain.

I do know that when people come together to remember who they are the world breathes hope.

I do know that what I can do is “love from the center of who I am” (Eugene Peterson’s voicing of Paul, Romans 12) and trust that in so doing I am naming and claiming the source of life.

I do know that in our flailings we are not alone. We can chose love and resistance to thuggery and we can use the wonderings of our heart to get us out in the world in order that grace might be communal heart beat.

Is there any other way?

What would we live that does not have hope in it?

I don’t know.

wow

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:

IN MY 50 YEARS, EVERY DAY I HAVE ENDURED INTOLERANCE PURELY DUE TO ONE ELEMENT OF MY BEING… of being gay.

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.

Amen