Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preaching "Don't Worry" after facing the Board of Ordained Ministry

So God has quite the sense of humor. I have been doing a series through the Sermon on the Mount on Sunday mornings--interrupted here and there by a special speaker. The Sunday after I meet with the Board of Ordination--my scheduled section of the Sermon was on Matthew 6: 17-34--you know, the section about worrying and seeking first the Kingdom of God. After I have spent the past few months wrestling with the stress and anxiety of ordination, I get to preach "don't worry."
So it was an honest discussion--not quite a sermon. It didn't feel right to "preach" this sermon since I myself had been anxious at times. After months of wrestling with this passage and failing at times, here are my thoughts on "seek first the Kingdom."
1. I have always interpreted "seeking first the Kingdom of God" as spending alone time with God--devotions, meditation, prayer, Scripture reading,etc. I still get anxious. I still worry. Do I need more alone time? or do is there more to seeking God's Kingdom? I concluded there is more than personal devotions involved in seeking God's Kingdom.
2. Seeking God's Kingdom is seeing in every event or circumstance which causes anxiety the opportunity to experience God. My faith is being pushed to the edge. God promises to meet me there. When I am anxious, seeking the Kingdom means I will believe God and look to see God's provision in the midst of the circumstance.
3. Seeking God's Kingdom means every circumstance is an opportunity for me to join Christ's redemptive work. How can I reflect the Kingdom of God in the midst of this circumstance?
So what does it look like for you to seek the Kingdom of God first?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How can I pastor?

My call into ministry began as a child. I sat in the pews and heard/felt/sensed a small inaudible voice say, "you are not meant to be in the pews forever, you are called to the pulpit/altar." And all my life, I have been drawn to the Communion Table and to the pulpit. But I ran into the cultural arguments against women in ministry. There were those who "corrected me" and I believed them when they pulled out Paul's letters and pushed me back into my "proper place." But here I am having been approved for ordination, pastoring two churches, and looking forward to June 11 when Bishop Marcus Matthews lays hands on me and tells me to take the authority given to me to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and lead the church. How do I reconcile my new found freedom? This is not going to be a scripture by scripture account but this is my reasoning.
1. There are women in leadership throughout Scripture. Deborah, Priscilla, Junias..etc. The Proverbs 31 woman was not a "stay at home mom" like we know today. She bought and sold land. At that time, the whole family was "stay at home and all work for the family". Why are the women in leadership in Scripture considered the exceptions to the rule? When I watch my friends who are parents work with their children, the exception to the rule is not freedom but limitation. If one child is doing well in school and the other is doing poorly, the limitation on after school activity, friends over, video games is the exception to the freedom. As they improve, freedom is restored. Paul's letters are to particular churches with particular problems. Perhaps, like a parent, Paul is imposing restrictions because there is a problem in those particular churches.
2. What are we saying about God when we limit who God uses and in what way? God's grace was strong enough to save men from their fallen nature and weaknesses, restoring them to a place where they can fully participate in the work of God. Paul states there is no male or female in Christ. Is this only for salvation? So God's grace is only strong enough to save women but we cannot be fully restored to the partners with men and with God in the work of God? I would argue that in his letters, Paul is not talking about salvation only but living out the Christian life. I believe this is the biggest issue--what does our restriction of who God uses say about the God we serve?
3. I discovered those who told me women cannot be used in pastoral ministry by quoting Scripture were misquoting Scripture. These people who proclaimed to have a high regard for God's Word were not using Scripture honestly. The story of the Fall is one area. Women were deceived and so we cannot be trusted to rightly divide the Word. In Genesis 3, Adam was right there with Eve according to Scripture. He never raises an objection to Eve's taking and eating the fruit nor to his own eating the fruit. He is mysteriously silent. No one ever mentioned Adam's role despite the fact Paul himself talks how sin came through Adam. The other Scripture I found mysteriously changed was the story of Deborah. I was always told Deborah was a prophetess/judge because there was no man who would step up to the job. Because no man would take the position, Deborah is an exception. But that is not how the story goes. She is a judge and all come to her. The exception comes later when the man of God would not lead the people to war without the prophetess going to battle with him. And so the victory will not be given to the man of God but to a woman. the victory is given to Jael who kills the enemy of Israel.
4. There are issues also with the Greek in the Timothy passage which states women cannot teach---the Greek word is never interpreted as teach except in this case. If I recall my Kittle and Dr. Mullholland lecture, it has more to do with making a decision outside of your authority which affects your family--like Eve did in the Garden. That is my summary, I cannot find the word for word lecture of Dr. Mullholland nor do I have the luxury of owning Kittle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Exhaling and Inhaling

I exhale. I exhale the years of oppression, the years of fear, the years of "no, you can't."
And I inhale once again a sweet fragrance which expands my imagination and frees my spirit. Grace has never smelled sweeter.
Each step of this journey from being a little girl in a cage to ordination has had this lingering aroma of grace. At first it was a small scent which drew me out of my cage. Yesterday it was as if I dove into a field of lilies. And life blooms around me and in me.
God's grace was strong enough not just to save me from sin and from eternity apart from God. God's grace is enough to save me fully to serve God not as a second hand citizen but as a full child. I am not inferior. Nor am I superior.
For so many years I was second class because I was a woman. I was saved by God's grace. But somehow to those who taught me, I could not hear God as well as a man. I could not teach men because I was a woman. God's grace was not strong enough to restore me to equality with men--one created in the image of God, created to be a partner with men in the work of God. And so I had a lesser place.
But this journey to ordination has offered me the opportunity to experience the grace of God in a new way. God chooses whom he will to use and work through.
So I exhale all the years of being told no and all the years of fear and inferiority. I inhale the Grace of God.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The journey to ordination

Tomorrow I meet with the Board of Ordained ministry to seek approval for ordination. This journey has been long, tiresome, affirming, marvelous, exciting, stressful. I have plunged to the depths of my fears and risen to the heights of hope in Christ.

As I have written my answers, submitted my work, and prepared for tomorrow, I feel naked and exposed. I am opening myself up for critique, evaluation, and hopefully affirmation. I am risking everything, it feels like. I am jumping off the cliff of the known and praying God will catch me. So here I go...................

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A different peace

John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift-- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid.

You promised peace.
I looked for the absence of conflict. I found shallow relationships and pent up emotions.
I looked for live and let live. I found disconnection.
You promised peace.
You promised peace.
I realized my own brokenness and found You still loved me.
I heard you calling me to seek forgiveness of others whom I have wronged.I found Emmanuel, God with us.
I heard you calling for me to forgive those who wrong me, even when they do not admit wrong. And I found freedom and peace.
You promised peace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Forgiveness is a dish best served.....

I have been pondering the Lord's Prayer in Matthew.

Matthew 6:9-15 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. 10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. 11 Give us our food for today, 12 and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. 13 And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

While I find many parts of this prayer to be challenging at times, forgiveness seems to be emphasized in this section of Scripture. How is it that God forgiving us is dependent upon us forgiving others?

The picture I have of unforgiveness is Marley from the Christmas Carol. He drudges through eternity tethered to all his wrongs. Unforgiveness tethers us to all our pains and all the wrongs done to us. We are held back in relationships, in trust, in our attitude, in our life by withholding forgiveness from others. Our pain, our recounting the wrongs done to us became walls between us and other people. It can become a weapon to hurt others before they can hurt us. Unforgiveness is a poison which infects us and those around us. And perhaps this is why God forgiving us depends on us forgiving others.
God's forgiveness is ever flowing. His mercy is new every morning. But when we are too busy dragging our hurts around with us, building walls around ourselves, and using our pain as an excuse or a weapon, we create a barrier from experiencing God's forgiveness. It is like God's forgiveness is a river and our unforgiveness is the sandbags to keep ourselves dry.
Perhaps we cannot experience God's forgiveness when we withhold forgivenss because forgiveness is best experienced in community. God chooses human beings to be the tangible conduit of forgiveness. When we withhold forgiveness, we keep others from experiencing God's pardon completely in their lives. Forgiveness is best served in community and best experienced in community.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayer for Japan and those touched by the Quake/Tsunami

Dear God,
Tonight I go to sleep in a house which will keep the weather out. I have food in my refrigerator. My water is drinkable. I go to sleep not fearing the ground will move underneath me. I do not fear the water will sweep me or my loved ones away. But my brothers and sisters in Japan do not have safe structures to sleep in, food in their refrigerators, drinkable water. And their world is shaking, a lot. So I pray, Lord, have mercy. I cannot do much to ease their suffering. I cannot offer them a place to sleep in peace. So I pray, Lord, have mercy on the people of Japan. May aid get to them quickly. May peace once again come to their land. And may your people share love and grace as they bring food, clothing, and other aid.