what’s next

I didn’t grow up in the United Methodist Church.

I made my way through young adulthood and into motherhood.  While we were far from home we happened into a United Methodist Church and there I found theological and heart home.

While attending seminary I was appointed to my first church.  I have been blessed (mostly!) to serve in United Methodist churches for twenty three years.

But all along I have felt the grinding wrongness of the United Methodist stance on full inclusion.

I organized regional conferences in Duluth and Minneapolis.  I twice spoke at the state capital during rallies organized by OutFront Minnesota.  I worked with colleagues in the Minnesota Annual Conference to speak out against the (anti) Marriage Amendment in MN and have worked for a day when all people are beheld as beloveds in all aspects of their beings.

I name the above because it helps me assuage my sense of complicity in the existence of an oppressive structure through which I receive benefit.

I cannot do that much longer, that assuaging.

The global church met in 2019 and came away a declared unsafe place for GLBTQI individuals, clergy, and allies.

No place is safe when core identity is perceived as suspect.

So what next?

I am a woman of 61 years.  I find myself exhausted by the grief of these days.

And yet, there is new life aborning.  Power is rising up from the too-long silenced and this power I seek to support.  A conference held here in Minneapolis called Our Movement Forward will center discussion of the future of the UM church in the community of People of Color, Queer and Transgender leaders.  I will go to this gathering as an ally.  I will go to this gathering to learn and to listen.

I serve a courageous church.  Christ UMC in Rochester is leaning into the questions and work of this time.  We own the grief and the opportunity of these days.  Together, we seek to offer welcome and hope in the way of Jesus.

Yesterday I was in the hospital room of a young mother.  We were gathered to celebrate her baptism.  Her young son held her as she received the sign of the cross on her forehead.

The song we shared before her baptism is one she loves:  We are a Gentle, Angry People, by Holly Near.

And so we are.  Gay and straight together, singing (and organizing and witnessing) for our lives.

apples, trees and wonder

Today was the wildly joyful wedding of two people who have and will bless this world.

The service lasted nearly three hours. That was amazing.

Also amazing was the fact that my eldest daughter Leah took the pulpit.

She read from the Hebrew bible the account of how it was God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. It is a tale that calls Moses to remember that God is in all places and it ends with a recounting of how it is God was present through the generations. All those named as God-companioned were, of course, men.

Except when Leah read it. She read the account with energy and meaning and it ended with the voice of God assuring Moses that God had been present to his mother and to her mother and to Sarah and to Rebecca and to Leah and to Rachel.

And I thought as I watched my daughter launch her heart into proclamation that for too long astute and powerful women have been subjected to a recounting of God’s story that does not include them.

I have known this. I have named the scriptural and traditional gender warp that has too often cast women as bit players. I have mourned the ongoing (still???) challenge it is to find hymnody or liturgy that is fully inclusive of women as Holy reflectors.

Today, I know the enormity of woman loss in a place deeper yet because my daughter took the pulpit and made the story her own.

Isn’t that what we are waiting for?

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

From generation to generation it is our story.

It’s time for the women to speak.

in a day

This morning I was witness to holy leave taking.

A church member, vibrant of soul and young of age, breathed her last.

She was surrounded by the resonant beauty of her fine life: Her partner, mom and sister acted as resurrection midwives. She had prayed that her death might be grace filled. And so it was.

All day today the church has been alive with the sound of music.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the marriage of two amazing folk. They have collected a tribe of singers and dancers who will lead us in a full-hearted celebration of love. There is music happening in most every space available. Our day care children are in awe, as am I.

Love. It’s what life is all about.

Today as Lori let go and tomorrow as Drew and Cassie cleave it is love that moves the loosing and binding that is life.

Love.

Born in the heart of the Holy.

Savored by the wise.

Advent 5

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee. 
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

                                                                                              Charles Wesley

On Sunday our church is offering a Service of Lessons and Carols.

Through sumptuous scripture and song, the salvation song of faith and love will be spun out during our 9:00 AM worship service.

Last night during rehearsal for Sunday’s service I was moved by the beauty of it all.

In the sanctuary were some forty people who gave their voices and instruments to the intensely personal thing that is expressing faith publicly.

The organ held us, the oboe wrapped us, the strings danced us and the voices wove a witness that rolled through the sanctuary and into my heart.

Come, thou long expected Jesus.  Come, set us free!

Set us free from our so-small sense of what is possible.

Set us free to move into the huge of grace and the life-shift of fully throwing in our lot with you.

Take up the spaces in our heart colonized by cynicism and shine instead the light of hope.

As we spend this fifth day of Advent intentionally breathing Holy Presence, may we each honor the prayer of our hearts:

  • From what do we long to be set free?
  • How can our freedom spark a movement of healing in this, God’s world?
  • What keeps us from saying “yes” to freedom and why would we waste a minute more in bondage?

Light a candle, sing a song, breathe ten intentional breaths, take a walk and smell the air.  Do whatever it is that will remind you that you move and have your being in the company of a God who calls you to freedom.

Pray with heart:  Come thou long expected Jesus.

Advent Day Three

O Come, O Come Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that mourns in lowly exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

 Somehow my soul has always leaned into the mournful power of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  Even as a child growing up, I felt the shiver of mystery whenever the above song of longing was sung.

The hymn begins with a prayer so deep we seldom name its power:  O Come, hope.  O Come, deliverance.  O Come, Dayspring from on high.

To begin the season of Advent, we name our soul longings.  Surrounded by the many stuffs of our lives, we name the places of echo and want.

We name the longings for peace in our world.

We name the loneliness that sounds in our soul.

We name the hunger we feel for compassion made food for the hungry.

We name the near desperate sense we have that the antidote for all the brokenness in creation seems so long in the coming.

O Come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer

our spirits by thy justice here;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee

O Israel.

 In the midst of the bustle of this holiday preparation marathon there is melancholy.

There ought be melancholy.

The promise and the gifting that is Christ Jesus is light and witness to answered prayers and gut sung entreaties.

And we know him not; not really.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

On this day give to God these questions:

 

For what does my soul long?

 

Who will I pray for during this Advent season?

 

How will I know my own call to live the vision of Jesus?

 

 

Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay