Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No One Expects Nothing From a Pitcher

Tonight, my colleague Don Guest and I went to a SF Giants game. The game was a perfect place to reflect on our shared ministry, banter about the game, and just relax a bit. Watching the pitchers on each team strike out at bat, we both commented, “No one expects nothing from a pitcher.” The pitcher is usually the last person in the batting order because he is usually the weakest hitter. While he might be an ace pitcher, most pitchers are lousy at bat. So no one expects much when they enter the batter’s box.

Earlier in the evening, we attended Glide’s Speak Out. This is an hour of open mic. People from the streets, members of the congregation, and Glide staff have the opportunity to share what’s on their minds. It is an hour of powerful and honest sharing. Tonight, a young black woman shared a poem about how she exceeded society’s expectations of her. Raised in one of the poorest neighborhoods in SF, her skin color and class status placed her in a certain demographic. Her poem was a defiant yet celebratory self-affirmation about how she beat the statistics stacked against her: she did not become pregnant at 17; she did not drop out of high school; she did not wind up in a low income job; she graduated from college; she is now a web designer. She refused to let the weight of society’s expectations keep her from attaining her dreams.

Imagine a world where our children and young people are not pigeon-holed into boxes because of race, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, but instead are encouraged to be their highest and best selves. Imagine a world where every child receives a consistent message that she is worthwhile, capable, creative, and beloved. Imagine a world where we really do expect the very best for and of each other…

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is Your Health Insurance Making You Sick?

When vacationing in Nova Scotia this summer, we were amazed, as we listened to CBC radio, how seriously the country was preparing for a swine flu epidemic. Every day, the radio featured lengthy programs on various aspects of the flu, from deciding at what point public events would be cancelled to detailed information on the transmission of germs. It was all there, including information on how schools were preparing for the epidemic (teachers were pre-recording class sessions, which would be televised to students in case of school closures).

Swine flu concerns even had an effect on churches: one Sunday, we went to an Anglican Church, and the priest said that, under direction from the national office, communion would not be received through intinction (dipping the bread in the cup). Also, a bottle of Purell was strategically placed at the altar rail. Instead of preparing our souls to receive the meal, we had to purify our hands!

Here is one person's view of communion in swine flu season:

While a humorous response to the possible epidemic, I am more fascinated by the relative lack of discussion in the US about Swine flu. When arriving in Canada, we found Purell dispensers at the airport, at the gym, at shopping malls...well, any place people gathered in public. There was constant discussion in the town square about how to avoid the flu.

It feels as if we in the US have barely started the conversation. But then again, consider the difference in health care: when the (Canadian) government is providing (and paying!) for health care, it has a vested interest in keeping people well, because then it keeps the cost of health care low. Prevention is paramount. In contrast, the privatization of health care in the US means that insurance companies want to have diseases treated because that is when they can make money. Treatment = profit.

Is your health insurance making you sick?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guilty Pleasure

I confess that one of my guilty pleasures occurs every Sunday morning on the way to Glide: I listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on KOIT. I do feel guilty about listening in to what is being sung in Temple Square, particularly after the Mormon Church's contribution to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. And it feels like a lot of cognitive dissonance, listening to the MTC on the way to listen to the Glide Ensemble, hearing a message from the Church of Latter Day Saints as I am preparing to offer a message at Glide.  Could the two churches be any further apart, theologically and sociologically?

One of the reasons why I enjoy listening to the MTC so much is that I know many of their anthems.  I grew up in the Babylon United Methodist Church (NY) which had an amazing music program. I grew up marking my age with the corresponding choir I was in.  I didn't so much read the bible as a child and teen, I sang it through all the music we covered over the years.

So it makes me wonder: how is it that the same songs that the MTC and the Babylon choirs sang resulted in such different faith expressions? These songs became the bedrock of my faith, which calls me to participate in the liberating work of God's love. The music communicated to me a commitment to be in community with all of God's people, to seek release from all forms of oppression which place God's people in bondage, and to love and protect the earth in all its glory.  How does God speak through music in ways that lead us to such radically different actions in the world? 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Finding Time

One of my colleagues from the East Coast asked me via Facebook, “How do you find time to blog.” Since this is only my second post, I guess I don’t know the answer to that question yet! But here is another reason why I want to blog and am hoping to turn it into a daily discipline: I miss preaching weekly.

When I left the local church to be the associate dean at Pacific School of Religion, the biggest grief I experienced (besides leaving a community I dearly loved) was preaching every week. Preaching offered me a lens through which to encounter the world. Throughout the week, I would grapple with the text, wrestling like Jacob with the angel, trying to find out where the word was taking shape and form as the Word in the world. Where was God at work, providing hope, grace, Good News? That’s what preachers get paid to do: to notice where God is at work in the world and to point it out to a group of people who gather each week, waiting and wanting to see and hear a little Good News.

Returning to the local church has meant I get to flex these spiritual muscles again. Our preaching rotation, however, means I only preach once every 3 weeks. That’s less than a weekend warrior workout! Whenever it is my turn to preach, I feel those flabby spiritual muscles groan. My vision feels cloudier than when I used to preach weekly. Where is God these days?

So my hope is that these regular posts will be a way for me to spiritually exercise. Being a Methodist, I hope to carve it into my day most methodically, like my daily gym workouts and prayer times. I figure if I can manage to box with my trainer regularly, I can box regularly with God as well.

Friday, September 25, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I have been wrestling with the question of blogging for several months. When you get to have a weekly public platform from which to air one’s thoughts, is blogging overkill? Preaching is such a privilege, because I get to share with a community my faith musings, my own wrestling with angels, the Good News I hear. And folks in the pews have two choices: to listen or leave (or nap, as some have reminded me!).

The more I thought about it, the more I became excited about blogging. Feedback on preaching is usually limited to “Great sermon”, “Thanks”, or “You really made me think” as people head out the door. There is little opportunity for in-depth conversation, or even to hear from those who disagree. Blogging, I hope, can be a way to engage in conversations in which we all might learn something from each other, even when we disagree, because it allows for us to have dialogue, back and forth (with no interruptions!).

At least that’s my hope.