Ephesians 4:1- and 11-16

In light of what has been happening in our nation and also in our world, The first few sentences of Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus is pertinent in my walk with Christ this week and in the weeks in the immediate future.

4″ I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Scholars think that St Paul wrote this letter to the community of believers at Ephesus while he was in prison. Scholars also think that Paul was imprisoned in Rom for approximately two years . I imagine that Paul had a lot of time on his hands while he sat in that cell. Unlike me, Paul used his down time wisely.

This part of Paul’s letter seems to encourage the readers to maintain unity within their own community , as well as remind his audience that the Way Of Christ involved such traits as humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace. That advice, written to a Christian community so long ago in a different place; has merit now. There is no doubt in my mind that we live in a scary time in history; and many people are taking to social media, letters to the local newspaper, and cartoons to express their anger.  But Paul reminds me here that Christians are not to return hate for hate.  His words: there is one Body, and one Spirit… one LORD one faith, one baptism and one God…Who is above all and through all and in all” 

I am as frightened as the next person about the direction where our nation and world is going. Yet St Paul reminds me that it isn’t Christ like to return hate with more hate. Furthermore, hateful behavior towards the haters will only fuel their zeal for their cause. I am not saying that we Christians need to ignore what is happening right now. Rather I suggest that we seek out ways to BE Christ’s Hands and Feet in there here and now.

Fulfilling a desire to ” punch the Nazis in the face” will not change their message.  Daily I challenge myself to refrain from posting nasty counter-Nazi memes on Facebook  and think of ways that I can be an instrument of God’s Peace in my parish Diocese, city, state , nation and world.

Believe me I know how hard this idea is to put into practice, and I do NOT know what the long-term solution to dealing with militant hatred will be. I know that the collective anger that I both exhibited and now see in others has got to be replaced by loving service and joining together to work to eradicate racism. This will not be easy work, but if enough of us dedicate ourselves to ending racism we will prevail. In my anger, I had lost the HOPE that we all have in Christ. By toning down my rhetoric and speaking with others about how we can work towards ending racism; I have found peace in this mess of a society that we live in right now.

Also, I know that since I quit spreading hate to the haters via social media; I’ve been more at peace with myself . While I am not keeping totally silent on the issues; I choose to discuss and hopefully implement solutions to he problem of race and bigotry in our society.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.

The Making Of A Priest

 

On Saturday, August 19 I will travel with some parishioners for the ordination of a dear friend to the Priesthood in the one catholic, universal  Church. I’ll call her ” M”.

“M” ‘s friendship and support through the years has and continues to be instrumental for my own discernment. I am so proud of her and excited for the Church and especially her parish. She’ll be a great Priest.

I am such a church nerd and the Ordination of a Priest is one of my a” time favorite Book of Common Prayer services. Let’s take a closer look at some of the words in this rite.

By far, the part of the liturgy that causes happy tears every time is during the Consecration. the life of clergy is not easy, and the vows that “M” will take on Saturday carries high expectations. Clergy are fallible people; and I love them for their individual brokenness as a sister or fellow human. At the same time, Episcopal and Roman Catholic clergy take specific vows.

Check it out :

As a priest, it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed
the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to fashion your life in
accordance with its precepts. You are to love and serve the
people among whom you work, caring alike for young and
old, strong and weak, rich and poor. You are to preach, to
declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce
God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy
Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s
Body and Blood, and to perform the other ministrations
entrusted to you.

In all that you do, you are to nourish Christ’s people from the
riches of his grace, and strengthen them to glorify God in this
life and in the life to come.

My sister, do you believe that you are truly called by God
and his Church to this priesthood?
Answer
I believe I am so called.

{ This chokes me up every time; as discernment is a long, arduous and intensely personal process that requires someone to open up his or her life to the Bishop, the vestry of the sponsoring congregation, and the Commission on Ministry of the Diocese}

Bishop
Do you now in the presence of the Church commit
yourself to this trust and responsibility?
Answer
I do.

Wow. . Those are some intense vows.

The life of clergy isn’t easy; and those who make and uphold these vows do so knowing full well that they are human. We humans are prone to err; and clergy are no exception. I love the clergy in my life; and I honor their humanity by accepting that they will make mistakes. Clergy have answered a tough vocation; and deserve compassion when they do err.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen

 

Feast Of St Julian of Norwich AD 2017

Romans Chapters 11 and 12 { or why St Paul is ok sometimes}

 

Let me preface this article by stating that I belong to the Best Wednesday Morning Bible Study ever!  No, I am NOT kidding, I love these people. It is wonderful to walk into a parish hall and be greeted with genuine love— especially since this Bible Study occurs at my ” Wednesday Church”.

Our group is slogging through St Paul’s letter to the Romans. I say ” slogging” because I’ve admitted many times to having qualms about some of St Paul’s ideas { Women shouldn’t speak in church—- REALLY??} Anyway, in light of what happened this weekend, I found great comfort in St Paul’s Letter to the early Christians in Rome.

Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ as an olive tree is beautiful. Furthermore, he says that those of us ” gentiles”  who are grafted onto Christ’s Body are blessed. he also admonishes those who already tied the law. { back then, the Jewish people, but this can apply to Christians who grew up in church from infancy.

I am a child of a Jewish Mother and an Irish Catholic father. Although what little religious instruction I had while growing up was from Christianity; I really wasn’t ” grafted” until my baptism at age 20.  Because I was ” grafted” I feel grateful to be a Christian; and strive to do my best to live the kind of life that St Paul describes in chapter 12 of Romans. Christ makes no difference in His followers who were both baptized as infants and those of us who came to know Christ on our own.

Romans 12 describes a ” tall order ‘ for we people of faith. St Pauk writes a litany of Christian virtues and expectations that can make even we more seasoned Christ-followers blanche.

Check it out:

“9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”

Ouch. As I said, that is one tall order for us to follow.

St Paul is giving us a guidebook for basic Christian behavior. To be honest, I have failed miserably at all of these instructions. But, as a grafted sister in Christ’s family, I know that each day I get a chance to begin anew. Especially now in this current political scene; I find it challenging { to say the least} to even follow one of these commands.  Yet especially after this weekend, we are called by Jesus { via St Paul} to not overcome evil for evil, but to overcome evil for good.

How do we do this, I ask myself every day. How do we sow love rather than hatred? Each of us is gifted by God with certain talents and abilities. I believe that St Paul is saying earlier in this passage that we must call ourselves to action; or as a friend of mine said ” become boots-on-the-ground Christians”

Look at how he introduces this chapter:

1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned”

To me, being a living sacrifice means using my gifts, skills and interests to further God’s kingdom in the here and now. I read this passage as a personal , parent-like scolding from God. God is saying to me: “Sarah Beth, get out of your head and off your tush and go into the world and DO SOMETHING.” 

I shall. God needs me, and God also needs you.

Be the Church in the world.

In the Name of  the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,  Amen.

 

No Child from my womb yet still a ” Mother”

“Being a woman is more than a mother. It’s being the person God calls us to be bringing love into the world. I have moments of mothering, and I thank Mother God that I can fill that space from time to time” ~Rev Michelle Torigan, Pastor in the United Church of Christ.  { she is one of my favorite bloggers as of late}

Motherhood is celebrated in society, and it should be. All humans have a mother. But the problem in modern Christian American society is when only women who have given birth to human babies are celebrated. Those of us who either choose not to give birth, have struggled with infertility and/or pregnancy loss or have been orphaned early in life feel left out.

As a partnered yet childless woman I feel like many in my southern, politically conservative community look down upon me because I am childless and childfree. I am no longer letting these women project their insecurities about their own femininity and self-worth onto me. 

I am not someone to be pitied.

Like Reverend Torigan, there was a point in my life when all I wanted was to settle down and have a baby  {or two or three} As my health precluded my ever becoming a biological mother, I hoped to settle down with someone and adopt a child. After all, as a woman, isn’t that what I am supposed to do: become a mother ?

Contrary to what Hallmark leads people to believe each May, the answer is no.

On this Feast Day of The Assumption of the Blessed Mother, I would like to give thank to woman who mother. This includes women who are teachers, clergy, mentors to someone else’s child, women who work as daycare providers, nannies or private babysitters. Not to mention the women who serve as doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who treat children’s’ health issues. Included in this ” Unbiological Mommies Club” are Godmothers and we child-free aunts { both roles I fill}

I am at the point in my life where I am satisfied with what I have: a wonderful man, a dog, TWO awesome parish families, fulfilling volunteer work, many true friends  and a loving extended family. Sure, I would have loved to have borne a child, but I find ways to nurture others.

At the age of ” over 40″ and with God’s help in the form of many women who ” mother ” me in faith, I am growing into the women I was originally created to be. It is my hope and prayer that I will continue the long tradition of women ” mothering other younger disciples of our Lord.

 

In the Name of the Creator, Redeemer , and Sustainer.

Tears as a Gift, not a Curse

It has been an emotionally, spiritually charged week for me. As one blogger posted yesterday, she is ” on overload”.

Yesterday I broke down and had an “ugly cry”. You know, the type of crying jag that leaves puffy, bloodshot eyes, red cheeks and a snotty nose. Yup, I cried— and it felt cleansing. After the tears dried, I felt cleansed of all the stress of the past few weeks leading up to our move to town. This move has been fraught with one challenge after another, and coupled with the domestic and world news drama– I am emotionally spent.

Yet modern society wants us to believe that tears are for weak people . I disagree. Tears are a healthy and natural way for we humans to release pent-up anger, fear, , aggression and other negative emotions that can chafe our soul.

Scripture tells us that Jesus wept but what about the tears of His Mother? She bore God-as-Human, all the while being totally human herself. Our Lord and Savior, though fully , God, was born of a woman just like any human. He, King of Kings, has a mother .

On this Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven, I cannot help but reflect on the Blessed Mother, and the tears she must have shed during her earthly lifetime.

Scripture is silent on this matter, but I cannot help but think that Mary Mother of Christ, had many occasions to cry throughout her adulthood.

For instance, when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she, who had never ” known” a man, is pregnant via the Holy Spirit what do you think she did? After she said “YES”  I am sure her worry and fear for her unborn baby was many times greater than any other human mother. I am sure she cried tars of joy and tears of anxiety. After all , her baby was to be Emmanuel, God Incarnate! That is so much responsibility for any woman to bear; especially a poor young Jewish woman in a land occupied by Romans.

Perhaps she cried when Jesus ran off  and she and St Joseph could not find Him for three days. I am not a parent but every  I get an ‘ Amber Alert’ about a missing child in Florida my heart leaps in concern.

We know she wept when Jesus was put to death on the Cross. For a parent to outlive a child must be one of the most horrible things to happen to some. This Mother saw her Son mocked, beaten and eventually murdered as a common criminal.

Today, the Church Universal celebrates Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, where she is with her Son, our Savior forever.

We too, look forward to that Promise. I am sure there will be happy tears.

 

In the Name of the Father, Son , and Holy Ghost.

 

Amen

A Gentle Reminder that God ‘s Got This

Say what you want regarding the evils of social media; generally I will agree that social media can be detrimental if not used properly.

But this morning I was reminded via Facebook of the knowledge that God is in the agape LOVE that we have for each other. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia still have my soul aching and my mind reeling.

I was reminded on Facebook that God HAS NOT abandoned Charlottesville, that evidence of the LOVE that God has for humanity remains there. The mainstream media may focus on the chaos , but Christians know that goodness, and the LOVE of Christ are there too.

We Christians are the ” helpers” in this hurting world and nation; and although most of us do not get time on the nightly news , our actions count. We are all supposed to be the helpers and the DOERS to bring healing to society.

In spite of everything, there is LOVE. And we need to tell others about the LOVE that we spread via our actions. If mainstream media won’t tell our stories of hope and helpfulness; we must tell these stories. Evil needs to know that they will not win. 

God’s got this, too.

 

Amen.

 

 

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus , in the Gospel reading for this morning, is on a boat with His disciples.

Yet the passage does not start out with all of them together on the fishing boat. Take a closer look :

”  Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go one ahead to the other side…After He dismissed the crowds, He went up to the mountain by himself to pray.”

According to Scripture: “…. He came walking towards then in the sea”

Whoa! This is no ordinary person. Have you ever tried to walk upright on water? Nope, neither have I.

The disciples see Jesus walking on water towards them and they are afraid. Even when Jesus told them it is Himself, they refused to believe Him. They were so afraid, they could not, or would not see their Savior right in front of their eyes.

The Charlottesville, Virginia race riots have me afraid for the future. I fear what will happen to my sweet niece and nephew, will they be judged just because they are multiracial? Is the Charlottesville riot the beginnings of the Nazi takeover of my beloved nation?

Later on in today’s lesson Jesus chastises His friends. He says : “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Ouch.

Jesus is talking to His disciples, but He is also talking to me.  His words, spoken over two thousand years ago in a different culture in a land across the globe still are pertinent right here and now.  As a favorite priest of mine said in one of her sermons: Jesus extends a ‘tether of Love’ to Creator God. Because of Jesus, God will never abandon God’s people.

There will always be evil. But God has promised that we, by virtue of our baptism, will never be alone. That ‘ tether’ will anchor us to the One Who loves us so much that God became human. As a human, God faced evil every day of His Earthly life. he stared evil in the face and challenged it.

Today that same Jesus Who chastised His disciples for their lack of faith also chastised me. God has a plan for each of us, and no evil can stand in the way of us if we cling to that tether that is Jesus.

I will not fear the evil that is sexism as I move forward in my walk with God. I will cling to the Love of Jesus as I continue to be that example of a good person for my niece and nephew.  Because God loves all God’s people; I will be the best ally for my GLBTQ friends and work with them to ensure justice and safety for their community. I will call out racial bigotry when I hear it.

I will not fear.

 

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

 

 

Prayers for C’ville.

I am angry, hurt and baffled.

Are will still in The Year Of Our LORD 2017 or did we take a ride in a time machine back to prewar Europe?

Honestly, I am not sure. The images I see on my TV and computer remind me of a time when my Mother’s ancestors were arrested in the middle of the night and whisked away to death camps.

” White Nationalists” are NAZIS. Nazis are dangerous. Rather than Jewish Europeans these Nazis target non-white Americans.

Call a spade a spade; or in this care Nazis as Nazis.

As an American Christian with European Jewish heritage; I do not use the word ” Nazi” flippantly.  But take a look at the Charlottesville marchers and tell me that they do not follow Herr He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.

KKK meets BLM

What is even scarier is that many of them engage in this hatred in the Name of Our Lord, Emmanuel. The Lord Whom they say they follow is one Who came to this Earth in the Person of a brown-skinned, poor, working-class  son of an unwed teenager.

Newsflash : Jesus was NOT WHITE!

My prayers are with the city of Charlottesville and her people. Yet I have no warm feelings for the Nazis and those who silently condone their actions. The Charlottesville Nazi demonstration is just a small part of a BIG race-relations.

No, I shall NOT be silent on this matter. If I had a pulpit from which to preach, I would talk about how we followers of Jesus owe it to our Savior to work towards racial reconciliation. Christ was not born, lived , died a cruel death and was gloriously resurrected so that only rich white and heterosexual people. 

This is NOT a movement about ” heritage “. It is a racist, hateful movement that is truly neo-Nazi. White Nationalists are the worst kind of threat to the “shalom” that we Christ-followers are working towards. They seek to divide humanity and will use propaganda in order to call attention to their twisted version of America.

Resist!

 

In the Midst of Chaos…. be a Helper

One of the few TV shows that my parents would allow me to view as a small child was PBS’ Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  This gentle, fatherly fellow Pittsburgh native was instrumental in reinforcing the values instilled in me by my parents.

I am too old to remember the exact context, but I remember one show when Mr Rogers was talking to his TV audience about bein scared. He said something to the effect of :

“When things are scary in your life look for the helpers”

Look for the helpers. While this is very good advice for a small child, as mature Christians our duty is to be a helper. Look for helpers and join them in their efforts.

In the crazy  and unstable world in which we live, I am reminded that there are good people in our midst. While some people preach division and hatred; others are countering that message with one of total love and reconciliation. While some seek to divide humanity into factions based on race, gender economic status, sexuality; there are those of us who actively seek to unite the human race.

In this political climate I find myself both looking for the helpers and seeking ways to BE a helper.

My former boss, second father figure and lifelong mentor is fond of saying :

“No one will do it for you, Kiddo”

Lately I have been meditating on what the next step in my walk with Christ shall be; and I know that God will show me how I am to be a helper. Like Queen Esther it is now my time to stand up for what is right. We can’t let the darkness win and all of us are called to be helpers. Like my lifelong mentor, Bill, I hear God clearly telling me ” No one will do it for you, Kiddo

I am called to be a helper. And I trust that the Holy Spirit will guide me in discerning exactly what that means for the second half of my life.

Work towards SHALOM, y’all.

Amen.

 

 

To use or not to use….cosmetics .

A discussion popped up in a group of which I am a member . The burning question of the day was: should female clergy wear makeup?

Seriously— I am shocked an appalled at this being a discussion point.

Now what I want to know is why is this even being discussed?  Men, of any job description or vocation, are not pressured to paste their faces with gooey cosmetics in order to appear ” better-looking”. So, why are we still talking about women and our choices to either wear or abstain from make-up?

For the record, I am a cosmetics minimalist.  I always wear a bit of foundation { with sunscreen to protect my skin} and occasionally a bit of lip gloss. I have not gone with a full face of make-up since high school. Granted  I am blessed with some great genes , but even if I had not hit the skin-health lottery I would be a make-up minimalist. I do not tolerate the heavy feeling of eye makeup, and most foundation is too oily for my sensitive Irish-American complexion. As a matter of fact, I am also picky about which lip gloss brands I can tolerate; and I never, ever wear heavy lipstick.

If women want to go with a full face of make-up every day; that is their choice. If we hate make-up and choose to bare our facial skin every day, that s fine . Some of us, such as myself, get by with the absolute minimal of facial products.

The following photo is one of me and Best Dude at the ordination of a dear friend of ours back in 2013. Even in my ” special occasion” dress, I get by with the minimalist look

sarahandbrianinred

Of course, Best Dude is wearing no make-up. Which brings me to another point: why can men NOT wear facial cosmetics if they so desire? But that’s another topic for another day.

Come on people, this is 2017!