Friday, March 30, 2012

Spreading the Presbylove

I'm afraid I've contracted a serious case of senioritis. I'm not sure there's a cure for this, other than finishing classes on May 4th.

I've been doing a lot of things other than homework these days. Read the Hunger Games. Knit cute baby clothes. And mapped out the church deserts in Austin, TX.

That last one is the result of what happens when a would-be cartographer/demographer goes to seminary.

Here's the PC(USA) church desert map I created:

View Presbyterian Churches in Austin in a larger map

Anyone else notice how dense the churches are in white west Austin? There appear to be a few PC(USA) deserts in East Austin, where there are more communities of people of color. The socio-economic level is also much lower on the east side of town.

My map is by no means scientific. I just put some blue shading in neighborhoods which have a high density of minority communities without a PC(USA) church.

The PC(USA) has more money per capita than any other denomination in the U.S. What if we used those resources to plant churches/community programs in neighborhoods that could use some Presbylove?

Now, who wants to convince the Presbytery to devote some funds for this church development plan?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hippy Grocery Store Heaven

I just found out two of my favorite hippy grocery stores are merging. Sunflower Farmers Market and Sprouts Farmers Market.

This is going to be the Brangelina of grocery stores. I'm psyched.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Just want to give a shout out to women on this International Women's Day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Money Schmoney

I just sat in a 6 hour seminar on the Board of Pensions. My brain is a bit fried on the topic of finances, so this seems like a brilliant time to write about it.

I confess I've never put much thought into saving for retirement or having an emergency plan. As a single person, I've always had these romantic notions that I would just work until I keel over. But now I'm getting married and I am forced to consider another person's desires. And our future children's desires. That's kind of a big deal.

I happen to be marrying this really great guy who is really great at money stuff. I'm pretty sure he's been contemplating his retirement plan since he was five years old. That may be an exaggeration. He and I are coming from very different places when it comes to money, so those conversations are hard. I find myself maintaining a tension between holding to my dreams and respecting his dreams. It's a tricky thing which will require patience and listening.

After this seminar today, I feel slightly more prepared to have those conversations and move from the "lets give away most of our money and live in poverty" mode to something more like "lets give away a lot of our money but be smart about it and make sure we can provide a safe and decent home for our family" type of mode.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sermon Tears

A professor preached at chapel today. It was one of the most stirring sermons I've ever heard. His words continue to resonate in my heart this afternoon, but I'm sure that will soon fade. In a few weeks I'll forget the words that he said. I may even forget what the theme of his sermon was. But I won't forget his tears. He was making a connection between the scripture (Mark 8:31-38) and his father's battle with cancer. The emotion of this situation caused him to cry, which caused many of the hearers to cry as well. I was struck by the intimacy of this moment. How he let us in on a very personal situation. All the while, drawing the Gospel in as well. The preacher's tears weren't cheap or used for dramatic affect. I know his tears were genuine.

This is something I hope to accomplish someday.

I hope to preach a sermon that conveys deep, rich emotion. To have words that will move the hearers and emotion that will stir them. I am still very much an amateur preacher and I still struggle with the disconnect between myself and my words. I usually pick illustrations that aren't emotional, that don't really make me that vulnerable. I have no doubt I'll grow and learn much in the coming years as a preacher. I'm grateful for good preachers in my life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Theology of Marriage

For my Pastoral Celebrations course, I had to write my theology of marriage. This task is especially relevant as I prepare for marriage. Here is what I got.

My Theology of Marriage

Marriage seems to be a process. In the Christian life we go through the lengthy, never ending process of sanctification. In a similar manner, marriage is a process in which two people grow together and learn to love and respect each other over time. I write this reflection as an engaged woman, set to be married in 3 months. There is no doubt my thoughts will change once we have been married for 3 days, 3 years and 3 decades. But for now, this is my theology of marriage.

My theology of marriage starts with who we are as creatures and what we are designed to do. Genesis tells us that we are created in the image of God, both male and female. So then, to understand ourselves we must look to the triune God for answers. In our tradition, we recognize a God who is three in one and one in three. The three persons of the trinity work together in relationship, a perichoritic dance of self-giving love. God does not exist as an isolated being, but is in constant relationship. If we are created in the image of God, then we too function in relationship with others, not as isolated beings. Thus the need for marriage. When two people join together in marriage, they are living into the way God intends us to be. They are making a commitment to living in relationship, where both parties offer that self-giving love.

It is important to note that there is no hierarchy within the trinity. One person is not dominant over the other, and so it should be with marriage. The relationship in marriage should be an equal partnership, one in which both people are given voice and value and are accountable to serving the other. The idea is that both people should offer themselves to the other in an act of love. Romans 12 is a helpful passage to explain how this should be when it says “offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” It goes on to speak about humility and not valuing yourself over another. Thus marriage should be an act of mutual submission, where both people are putting the needs of the other first. This is a challenging task to balance, but is an example of the complexity of marriage.

The act of mutual submission can only be accomplished when the relationship is grounded in love. Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Thus, all that we do should be grounded in love. This is something much deeper than lust, which is shallow and temporary. The love we are to have for one another is a spiritual love. We know what love is because God first loved us. 1 John 3:16 says that God’s sacrificial love is the source for our understanding. We are to imitate that love by laying down our lives for one another, something that is accomplished in marriage through the sacrifices the partners make for each other.

Finally, discipleship and community are crucial for marriage to be sacred. “For Christians, marriage is a covenant through which [two people] are called to live out together before God their lives of discipleship.” (Book of Order, W-4.9000) This notion of discipleship tells us that marriage is a form of vocation. Understood it in that way, we realize that we are not just called to “put up with each other” in marriage. Instead we are called to work on the marriage and see how each person grows and matures in their faith through that partnership. But the couple are not in isolation, because the marriage is something that is witnessed and nurtured by the worshiping community. Worship and glorification of God is best done in community, and thus married partners are able to fulfill that call together. Thus the reason the wedding ceremony is witnessed by the body of believers and the marriage partners are held accountable by the community as they grow in their love and commitment to each other.

So then, marriage is to be understood in light of the Trinity, as a partnership for love and humble service. It is an opportunity to grow with one another and more fully live in to our humanity. It is a vocation that we are called to, one which nurtures a life of discipleship. When done in community, it will thrive. Despite the celebrity world making a mockery of marriage, the church still has an opportunity to display the sacred call of marriage as it encourages its members to approach marriage with deep respect and honor.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Preacher Wives

TLC is coming out with yet another reality TV show. This one is called Preacher Wives which will feature women who preach and lead churches. My concerns with this are many. First of all, why do we need another reality TV show? Second, why is the title Preacher Wives and not just Preachers? I'd even be okay with Preacher Women. Is our society still convinced that women have no identity apart from their marital status? While I think it is wonderful that the media is highlighting women who preach, I have a feeling this show will make me cringe. You're not going to find it on my Tivo. If I had a Tivo.

Check out the blurb about the show here at CNN.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Biblical Censoring

I'm currently taking a Judges exegesis class. If you've never read the book of Judges in the Old Testament, you're missing out. It is filled with adventure and murder and rape and horrific tales. You know, pleasant things to read in the Bible.

We're working on translating chapter 4 which is the story of Deborah the judge and how Jael kills Sisera. She drives a tent peg through his temple which is not a cute way to die. I was curious how The Picture Bible (comic-book Bible from the 1960's) would portray this story. I was very disappointed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chocolate Shavings

One of our homeletics (preaching) professors talks about chocolate shavings in the sermon writing process. Whenever we preach, there is bound to be material that just can't find its way into the sermon but is still good. Like when a chocolate bunny is made, there are shavings left over from when the bunny's figure is formed. It is still perfectly good chocolate, it just isn't necessary for that bunny. Here are some chocolate shavings from the sermon I'm currently working on. The passage is Mark 8:31-38.

In the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, we see God reaching into humanity. Wanting to be in solidarity with us. To reconcile humanity in our broken condition. This is God’s great gesture of love. God’s way of saying “yes” to humanity. Martin Luther says that through Jesus on the cross, we are liberated to become “imitators of God.” Not as a requirement for righteousness, but as a response made in love. When we understand the love of God, we respond with love.
When Jesus calls us to pick up our crosses and lose our lives, he’s telling us that to follow him requires radical discipleship. But it isn’t just to follow. Not just to be with Jesus. It is to do as Jesus does. Mimicking, imitating the actions of Jesus. When Jesus says to pick up our cross, he is calling us to stand up against the wicked forces that oppress. Those forces that cause poverty, suffering and injustice. That is the cross Jesus calls us to pick up and bear alongside him.
These crosses are heavy and burdensome. They are filled with splinters that pierce our skin. But as we pick up these crosses we are abiding with Christ. Christ beckons us to join him in the work for justice and peace. We have a mutual responsibility that as Christ comes to be in solidarity with us, we are asked to bear crosses to be in solidarity with him. As we look to Christ on the cross, standing in opposition to the wicked forces of his time, we are strengthened for the task of standing up to the wicked forces in our own day. As we pick up our crosses and bear the resulting suffering, we know that we are abiding with Christ. Amen.