Monday, December 18, 2017

ADVENT POEM (?)

Advent has often been related to “waiting”, anticipatory waiting.  Like a "loaded" waiting, a "pregnant" waiting.    Like when you're waiting for a bus you know is coming.

This idea makes me htink of the movie Forrest Gump – How Forrest ended up telling his life story to people waiting there with him; one story, one person at a time. 
 And his life story certainly did have a depth there, a sacredness bigger than words

And this makes me think of Life – and our role in it

I found this writing... I call it a writing only because I'm not sure if it's a poem or if it's prose.  Usually you can tell a poem by its style... there's a certain flow, rhythm to poetry.   Whereas prose tends to be a little more narrative, following all the gramatical rules.  But this writing, I found some time ago, and I cant identify what it is.

I don't know the source of this writing, or how I got it, or who it's about.  There’s not title or name.   My suspicions it’s from a female, for sure older person – retired grandparent  

This has proven to be not only intersting to me, but also formative.  This may have been what started me thinking about idea of “Sacred Memory”, of the sacredness of "remembering".    

And while it's not directly related to Advent per se, there is an element of waiting, and taking advantage of the waiting to listen, and prepare, and look ahead.  

Hope you like it







The morning alarm pulls me away from memories, 
       away from friends 
                                      family 
                                              past moments!  

I remember!     


Always had memories.   
         Everyone does.  
But decades of slow learnings have taught me memories are parts of our soul.  

Can’t tell anymore if the learning comes from God, or the memories themselves do. 
       Like God-seeds planted in us, 
                if watered well, 
                    they can grow to become blessings.  

Maybe it’s our job to help them 
        grow
            and blossom
                     and produce fruit 
                                beyond us.   


Memories used to be just memories to me,  
       collections of 
             events 
                  faces 
                      names.  

Back then, usually brought out of storage for a reason.  
       Usually a practical one.  

Memories turned into collections of 
          “remember when”   

They evoked smiles, embarrassment, or just shrugs.   
And they were put away again for future use.   
           Future use.            Practical.        


My first memory – my parents reading me a book.  
        I think.  

         Was I in bed?  
             Were we in the living room?  

I remember that house – my first house.  
      Outside of Pittsburgh.  
      Neighborhood sure has changed.  
            New streets
              New people 
               New names   

But that home, that life, those people 
        are all still alive.  

I remember. 
    

School days sometimes return to me.  
  Early ones
     Films of Bert the Turtle teaching 
                         “Duck and Cover”   
     Prayers to start the day  
    Everyone knew Mr. Wallace!  


Summer Church camp!   
    I remember seeing so many stars there 
            – up in that night-sky of my memory!   
Believe I heard God for the first time there!  



High school football!        Lights!
       Bleachers full of people!      Excitement! 
     Half-time bands – always a show!   

Summer nights!   
        First crushes!
 


Sometimes I hear songs that transport me back.  

The faucets of memory open wide
          flooding my mind and heart
                 with thoughts and feelings
                               still real.  

Memories with substance,
          like a well-used handbag 
                  – chock full of things.  

Elvis’s hips for sure!   
I was little,
     but I do remember the day the music died.   

Almost five years to the day, 
     The Ed Sullivan Show February 9th, 1964,
               started with “All my Lovin’”. 
     “Sorry Girls”, they told us, 
             John Lennon was already married.   

I remember Big Brother and the Holding Company.
     Janis, a troubled and misunderstood star
        under a troubled and misunderstood sky…
                     but a star in the sky none-the-less.   


I remember the music inspired us!
           It inspired me!   

Fearful days…   
     assassinations
        riots
           social change!     

But we had hope!   

I remember believing I’d see the sun rise 
        after dark days!   

             And it did!  

                         Every day!

                                      I remember!  



 I remember
       when I couldn’t wait to jump in!

A career waited for me!

I graduated college
          and sailed a sleek vessel 
                        into my unknown waters!
            I named her “Discovery”.    
     I wanted to see
         and learn
           and do
                   and be known!     


The years slowly unfolded
     unwrapping a life
         boxed in layers of memories.

Nesting dolls of wonder
         of unrecognized moments.    


A career
    and a family I love!
Dinners at home
   and school meetings
      and family vacations
        and Thanksgivings
    
and Sunday church
    and Sunday drives
         and Sunday dinners!

               And wonderful memories!   
 


Weddings have come and gone; mine, my friends, my own children’s.
    Groomsmen      Maids of honor

I see them on my shelves.
         Pictures.

Mostly I walk by them --
     life’s business cutting a path through my day,
      right past these silent,
      particular sentinels of memory,
                     standing watch for me.
 


Sometimes I stop and read the signposts,
    historical markers along the road of my life.  

Yes, I remember!
         I remember.   

I’m grateful!        Again! 



Just neural patterns?!    
Really?!
Bio-electric circuitry?!
How do they account for the awe
    and grace
    and life
           I feel when I remember?!

Electrons can’t cast spells!     



Memories enter through the gate of the heart,
       decorating the landscape of the soul
               with signs of their presence

      fires that simmer
           and smolder,
                            always there,
                            always waiting
        to blossom into a bonfire of remembrances.  

A fire that ignites
          and consumes
               and re-lights

A Phoenix of Grace and God in each moment.       



I’m still busy.
     “Retirement” is a misnomer!

Life’s just as full – fuller maybe!
But I’ve learned to be still when prompted.
And remember the grace-filled moments of life.
Even the ones I’m living. 


A grandparent’s main job
       is to teach      “remembering”!

To help the rest remember.

I’ve learned to wait
                             and remember.
Remember
       as fully as possible.

Marshalling smells
     and thoughts
        and expectations
           and wishes
              and guidances
                 and discernments.

Remembering with that same hope!
Hope seasoned
   with decades of learnings,
      and holding on,
         and letting go.

To help my descendants
make memories of the moments
    – not to hold on to them
       but be fully in them,    now.

Then,
   I teach how to allow them to let the grace seep
   into every corner of their hearts,
    every neuron,
    every cell,
    every electron.
        Cast your spells of tomorrow! 



“Remember with me!”, I tell them.
Let me share with you my memories,
    my graces,
   my moments of God’s presence in each one!
             And in each one of you.     



God is a fullness…
       a fullness of Memory!


                          Memories of yesterdays
      and tomorrows
          all encapsulated in the right-now!

              A FULL-ness of space!

Like those night skies at camp.
          Filled with sparkles of light.
                 Little grace-stars lighting our nights.

        God is a grace - full - ness. 



God is a moment.  


       God is each moment.

“Remember with me”, I say.

Remember with me… 
     remember the graces,
     the light.

Remember the moments to come!
And Life.
Always life.       
 

“Come with me.  Let’s remember something.”




Thursday, December 7, 2017

WELCOME TO ADVENT



        WELCOME TO ADVENT

‘Tis the season…   for the movie “Elf”!   “Elf” is that Will Ferrel comedy about a human child that grows up in the North Pole working with Santa to make every Christmas a wonderful treat for all the children of the world.   The whole premise of the movie is his adventure in the “regular” world as he travels to find his Human father.  But because he lives in “Santa-World”, he indeed knows the secrets behind the curtain; that Santa’s sleigh runs on “Christmas Spirit” – the more people that believe in “Christmas”, the better the sleigh will fly (higher and stronger!)

This is how Santa flies around on Christmas eve night… Christmas-Spirit power.   And at the end of the movie, well, of course, people believe in Christmas!   And as an effect of this increase in “Christmas Spirit”, Santa’s sleigh picks up speed and does indeed fly strong and true! 

Here’s a few questions for you…  Is Santa real?    Do you believe in Santa?  

What’s the difference between     Is “Santa“ real?...   and…    Is Santa “real”?    Is there a difference between    Do you “believe” in Santa?    and      Do you believe in “Santa”?    Is there an actual guy who wears the red outfit and rides in a sleigh and takes presents to children all over the world (in one night!).   Is that Santa real?    Or…  is the idea of Santa real?  …The open heartedness of the season, the sharing of gifts, the “Christmas Spirit” of it all.   All this is personified by the person Santa.     You’d have to be a Grinch to not believe in this kind of Santa, right?!

The idea of that simple thing called “Santa” reflects a deeper truth. 

I’ve been watching some episodes of the new version of Cosmos, the remake of the Carl Sagan version from the 1980’s.  This version has the telegenic and equally qualified astrophysicist Neil 
DeGrasse Tyson.  It’s about the wonder of creation; the universe, the galaxies, our galaxy, the stars… our star, life on earth… how science explains life on our planet, and possible life on other planets.   


This is all explained through the lens of science, but still very awe-inspiring!



Now, I’m a Lutheran pastor, a representative of an institutional Christian religion, and I very much have an appreciation for the “Sacred”, for the Mystery of God, for the Mystery of Life!   I call all this, all this behind the “veil”… but also…  what’s under, around, and in our world too… a Sacred Mystery! 



The show Cosmos reminds me again that our world – the world we live in daily – is filled with knowledge, facts, information, reality… all combined to help us recognize we are all a part of this grand wonderful mystery of life!  

This Mystery, the Sacred Mystery, is always there… but we don’t always notice.  But there is enough there to remind us there is a deeper truth that underlies our world – that’s just under our normal attention.  Sometimes we stop at the facts of our lives…  the Dragnet/Joe Friday/ “Just the facts” kind of facts… but we forget that just behind the facts there’s the wondrous depth of Sacredness, mystery… the “well” of Deeper Truths!


Sometimes we look into this “well” through the eyes of science     or also    through the lens of religion – “theology”.   The word “theology” is a misnomer.  It literally means “the study of God”.  But think about it… we’re not actually studying “God”.  We’re more accurately studying our perception of God, our understanding of God.   We could better say, “theology” is our attempt to look into this “Well of Mystery” through the conscious perspective of the divineness-of-things.  


An we humans are part of this “Divineness”, part of this deeper Sacred story.   Our human experiences are recorded in the earliest cultures, and they also tell of these deeper truths.  Sometimes these truths, are hidden from us – from our consciousness – but these Deeper Truths are still just as true!    


For example, let’s look at the cosmic struggle between Light and Dark.  Every culture, every time, every place… this theme of the “struggle between Light and Dark” has always existed.  Story after story, culture after culture, across time – until today, we’ve all known this struggle of the Darkness inside and outside of us and around us – the forces, energies, and (especially) tendencies of the baser parts of our human natures; fear, laziness, apathy, anger… struggling against the forces, energies and tendencies we all have of bringing Light into the world.

Stories from the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Israelites, and countless Indigenous cultures across the globe, this struggle of the Darkness and the Light accompanied our ancestors in the past.  And still accompanies us today – through stories like the Star Wars series, and many of the books of writers like Stephen King and Dean Kuntz.   This struggle is very real!   It’s deeply embedded in our human experience.    

We celebrate the birth of Christ – the “Light of the World” – at the end of December.  Our Christian Christmas is another expression of the “Light and Dark” theme.   We don’t really know when Jesus was born, but we celebrate his birth on December 25th.   Why would we do that?   Why that date?  This only works in the Northern Hemisphere, but by December 25th, we’ve passed the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year.  After the 21st, the days start getting longer!  And more than a few “Sun God” religions of the Ancient Near East celebrated the birth of their god either on the 21st or just after as well.  

The Persians celebrated the birth of their “Sun-God” Mithra then too.   So too did the Roman Sol Invictus cult celebrate the birth of their Sun-God then.   

Another theme transcending place and time has been the idea of “Resurrection”.  There are the religious expressions – from the story of the Phoenix, the mythical bird, that rises anew from the ashes of the old, to the Ancient Near Easter religions celebrating the re-birth of the crops and vegetation, to the Anglo-Saxon Fertility god Eostre, and quite a few others – to the theme of “resurrection”… these all have at their core, the underlying theme of New Life!  

This idea of resurrection shows up so often in our past religions precisely because it is a classic human theme, expressed not only in our human religions, but in our human lives!   From those successfully negotiating drug and alcohol abuse, divorce or the break up of a long-held relationship, the death of someone we love, or the ending of a job… all these are examples of people coming from and ending, a death of some kind, to living life anew!  These are indeed examples of Resurrection!


These are all part of the human experience… always have been… always will be. 



And Advent… this is another of those classic Human Themes!    Advent – the beginning of something, the coming of something.  We humans have always “marked” time; we’ve “marked” the beginning of things, the coming of things.  Whether “good” or “bad”, we’ve always taken notice of certain starts, certain beginnings – either by looking forward with excitement and anticipation, or dreading what’s coming.


We wait with anticipation, apprehension, or with hope…
…Waiting with Hope – we’ve always done this!  …Waiting with Hope – this is part of this Grand Sacred Mystery, part of the Deeper Truths of us as Human Beings!


The Churches traditions often reflect these deeper truths.  “Waiting with Hope” is one of them; through the centuries, the millennia, we humans always had the tendency to wait with expectancy – with hope; for new births, for new family members, for a brighter tomorrow after a dark night, for a better year, for successful crops, for better, more fair leadership, for a new world.   



The Church year starts with waiting!   With hopeful, expectant, waiting!    Waiting for the Advent of a new day, a new year!    In our Advent… in our waiting, we’re tapping into the Deeper Truth of “human-ness”.  We’re invited to prepare, to make some space… some Sacred Space… in our lives.

Noticing these Deeper Truths, these deeper Sacred Mysteries doesn’t come easily to us.  We have to prepare… and it starts by paying attention. 



One of my High School years I spent in a country bordering the Indian Ocean.   I went on a class trip to the ocean, and for the first time went snorkeling.  I got in the water, took some bread down with me, crumpled it up so the bread broke into many, many small pieces.  These pieces floated all over around me, and attracted fish.  And boy did it!   Fish of all kinds surrounded me; the colors and styles were just amazing!  I could feel their fins, their tails on my body as they turned and darted around me, competing for the floating pieces of bread.   They were so close, all around me.  I wanted to grab one.   I tried – first this one, then that one, over and over again… they were just too fast!    I couldn’t grab, much less touch, any of them.  But I found if I left my hand open, the fish would swim just above my open palm.  The more open my palm was, the more likely they were to swim there. 

I learned, sometimes this is the same with God – same with the Deeper Mysteries – sometimes we have to allow space… then sit and wait…   and pay attention…  and God shows up!



This too – Advent – waiting for a new coming, a new day…  for the coming of Christ…    is another part of the Deeper Truths of the Human Experience!            


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reminder - Stary Olsa Concert this Friday Night!


Reminder that this Friday is our Stary Olsa concert at 7pm. Great time for the entire family!

From their website,


STARY OLSA is a mediaeval Belarusian music band. It was founded in 1999 by its present leader Zmicier SasnoŇ≠ski and now consists of six musicians. It takes its name from a brook in the west part of MahilioŇ≠ Region (Belarus).

The band's repertoire includes Belarusian folk balladry and martial songs, Belarusian national dances, works of Belarusian Renaissance composers, compositions from Belarusian aulic music collections (e.g. Polack Notebook, Vilnia Notebook), Belarusian canticles of the 16th - early 17th centuries, as well as European popular melodies of the Middle Ages and Renascence.

STARY OLSA cooperates with many knightly clubs from Belarus and Europe, museums and research centres, masters of early instruments, bands of folk, aulic, sacred and city avital music, as well as with solo performers using old instruments, as well as with fire show theartes.


The band's music makes it possible to restore sounds of many forgotten instruments. STARY OLSA uses for its performances maximal exact (in appearance, technology and materials) copies of old aged Belarusian instruments such as Belarusian bagpipe, lyre, gusli (Baltic psaltery) , svirel (reed pipe), jew's-harp, ocarina, Belarusian trumpet, birch bark trumpet, hudok (Belarusian rebec), tromba marina and drums.


We look forward to seeing you on Friday night!  Refreshments and fellowship to follow the concert! 









Sunday, September 10, 2017

A sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber


Here's a Sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  She brings a very different perspective based on her life-experience and ministry - one I find worth delving into.  You may agree or not, but it's worth engaing with her words... like a modern-day prophet.       
She gave this sermon the day after the Charlottesville violence.  Truth is... Racism is something many White people just don't want to address.  Maybe they see no problems.  And if they see no problems, then there are no problems with race, and it's just the problem of those radicals and trouble-makers.   
There's more to say, but I'll let this be a good place to engage.   



Lord, Save Me! 
      (A Sermon on Christianity and White Supremacy)

         August 15, 2017 by Nadia Bolz Weber


When I was in Australia recently, I was taken aback once again at how they start meetings there. I had forgotten that when there is a large gathering of people in Australia, it is a common practice to begin, not with their pledge of allegiance or their national anthem, but with what’s called, an acknowledgement of country.
A leader addresses the gathered people by saying “I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of the (for instance, Ngarro) people, and pay my respect to their elders both past and present.”
When I first encountered this, I thought it was amazing and maybe something just the women’s group I was about to address had decided to do – but when I spoke to some Australians afterward, I learned that no, this was a common practice in Australia and I told them that I literally could not imagine this happening with any regularity in America.   They asked why – and after a moment of thought, I said “because our countries started out differently – like you know how that joke goes – You know why America got the Puritans and Australians got the convicts – because Australia had first pick” In other words, the difference is that our country started with the doctrine of manifest destiny, the doctrine of discovery and the belief that slavery was God’s will.  In other words, this country I love and which has given me (as a White Christian) so much protection and opportunity and education and wealth – was able to do so because of the belief that God has ordained Christian White people to claim as our own any land we so-called “discovered”. If Native people (who were brown and not Christian) were already here for thousands of years when Christian white people arrived, God wanted the White Christians to own the land. And this country I love and which has given me (as a White Christian) so much protection and opportunity and education and wealth – was also able to do so because of the belief that God had ordained Christian White people to sail to the shores of other countries and steal black human bodies. The belief that slavery was not a sin and was not only morally reprehensible it was taught as a Christian idea – slave-masters quoted scripture at their slaves to prove to them that the institution of slavery was the will of God. So why is it possible for Australians to acknowledge whose land they are on – to give honor to the elders of that land past and present? Because while they have their own problematic history around immigration and race relations, their country was not established with Christian doctrines of white supremacy.
Now, some of us were raised in homes in which racism was overtly condemned and some were raised in homes where racism was overtly condoned.
Dick and Peggy spoke often about the sin of racism. I was raised to believe that all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. But my daughter was raised to believe that her body is perfect and she is powerful and yet every time she turns on the TV and every time she looks at a magazine or walks out the front door she is bombarded with messages otherwise. So while I believe racism is wrong – and while I was taught that all people are equal in the eyes of God, the society in which I was raised bombards me with messages otherwise: and those messages are that I am superior by accident of birth. And since it feels super easy to just point our outraged fingers at the overtly racist groups like the ones who marched yesterday in Charlotesville, perhaps church should be a place where we dig deeper than that.

So, since the only leadership I know how to undertake is a form of leadership I call, “screw it, I’ll go first”  – Here are 3 examples of how I’ve benefitted from white supremacy :
  1. African americans and whites use drugs at the same rate and yet the incarceration rate for African Americans for drug related crimes is 6x that of whites. As a former drug user – if I were black I’d be 6x more likely to have been arrested and thrown in prison, and yet not 6x more likely to have broken the law. Slavery was a cash cow for white folks as are private prisons today.
That is white supremacy.
  1. Redlining was a common practice a generation ago where African Americans could not get loans to buy homes. As a white person I am significantly more likely to have parents and grandparents who owned their own homes – which means I am more likely to inherit money – which means I am more likely to own a home which means my children are more likely to inherit money.
This is White Supremacy.
  1. When I see a police officer I assume they are there to serve and protect me. When my black friends see a police officer they assume they are there to harm them.
This is white Supremacy and I condemn it and yet I have benefitted from it every day of my life in ways that society tries to keep hidden from me so that I can keep believing that I deserve the life I have and so does everyone else – good or bad
This is white supremacy and I have benefitted from it every day of my life even though I smile at black folks,
and even though I have never worn a swastika
and even though I have never marched holding a tiki torch
and even though I never owned slaves
and even though my parents taught me that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.
Not only that, but the roots of White Supremacy took hold in this country through the mis-use of the Bible and in the name of a religion I am a representative of.
And what do I do with that? How do I fight against something I hate and yet which has loved me back my whole life?
Because let’s be honest – white guilt does nothing. White guilt makes us look for exoneration. White guilt leads to changes of only optics in which people of color are the object and not the subject. Once again. White guilt leads to me trying to figure out how to relieve my white guilt and once again it’s all about me. So let’s let White Guilt go.  It doesn’t work.
And yet I believe that it is the will of God that as the Prophet Amos wrote – that justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never ending stream. And I believe that Jesus desires his name be associated only with love and mercy and justice and kindness….and I believe the Lord has sent us out in these waters
But I just don’t think I can trust myself to navigate this storm.
Like the disciples, we are in a small boat in a stormy sea and I hope to God that figure I see on the horizon is Jesus and not a Ghost.
And the reason I hope it is Jesus is because it is in his name that Christians must speak and act to name and dismantle that which was demonically established in his same name.
So I know it’s stormy right now, but let’s take a minute and look at this Gospel reading for today.
Jesus sends the disciples out in a boat and then there is a terrible storm and the wind is against them and they are scared. I don’t think the failure of the disciples was that they found a storm at sea to be terrifying because that shit is scary. I think their failure was not unlike ours: they didn’t trust that God would make it possible for them to do what was asked of them….meaning Jesus was the one who sent them in that boat – he wasn’t going to send them out just to sit by and let them drown. If he sent them he would shield them – not from danger but from failure.
It’s stormy and we are scared and Jesus walks toward us saying Take heart, I am here, do not be afraid.
So people of God, I believe that Jesus sends us out in these little boats of ours to be agents of justice and love and reconciliation and mercy. But he does not send you out on perilous waters and not also provide you with what is needed to do his work.
This isn’t a test of faith.
Because reaching for God and saying Lord save us – that IS faith. Like, that’s on a basic level, what it means to be in right relationship to God – knowing that God is God and we are they who are in need of God. And if we are not in need of God when it comes to racial justice in America then where are we?
In all these years of showing up at marches and trying to root out the sin of racism in my own heart and attempting to call a thing what it is when it comes to white supremacy, it feels like trying to do the impossible – it feels like walking on water and only drowning and in all these years I must confess this: I don’t know that I have just called on the name of God.  So here today I say this, Lord save me.
Let us pray,
God whose name was called upon by Moses and Miriam and Martin Luther King Jr and Sojourner Truth,
God whose name has been used to enslave those who bear your image, God whose name has been used to steal this land and kill those who bear your image,
God who came to us as the Prince of Peace, God who raised up poets to speak truth to power and prophets to speak truth to stupid,
We call on your name to bring your fierce mercy upon us and remove our complacency and our complicity.
We call on your name to heal. We are drowning Lord. And yet we believe that the true name of God is stronger than what has been done in God’s name.  So we call on you. Come to us in the storm.
Lord save us. Amen.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2017/08/lord-save-sermon-christianity-white-supremacy/#pty6ZfEkpZ35XK7r.01