Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 2

Matthew 1:23  “Look! The virgin will conceive child!
She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

God is with us. That is good news. And if we ponder the name Emmanuel in light of the Scripture from Romans 5: 6 “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” it takes on a new depth.  While we were busy running our own lives, keeping God out, Christ was born in a manger, walked among us, ate with us, and died for us. While we were enemies of God, busy building walls to keep God and others at a distance, Jesus entered our world, invaded our space, and loved us with his life.  While we were slaves to ourselves, to sin and death, God came to be with us.
Yet the message I hear sometimes from Christians is  “God is with us but not with you.” Oh, we don’t say it so blatantly but we say it nonetheless in word and deed.  In arguments or debates, we say God is against you because you are a sinner, a democrat, a republican, fill in the blank ____________ by calling them heretics, sinners, unbiblical. I wonder how many times when I pulled back from someone’s touch that was homeless or sick, I sent the message “God is not with you.” Yet the message of the Incarnation is “God is with us.” Christ came and touched the untouchables. I wonder how many times I have placed boundaries between me and someone else because of political or theological differences, sending the message “God is with me but not you.” Yet when Christ was on earth, he bridged those divides, tore down the walls which separated humanity and God, as well as people from each other. By being in his presence, the people were called to new life and changed. They were not required to change and then God would be with them. The Good News was and still is---“hey sinners! God is with you!”
We celebrate the Incarnation—God chose not to allow our sinfulness to keep us from him. In fact, while we were yet sinners, the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.  May we reflect the truth God is with us—sinners and saints, republican and democrat, homeless and middle class and upper class, sick and healthy, imprisoned and law abiding, straight and not. God is with us.  Let us journey deeper into that truth. Let us live like God is with us and with those who are not like us.  Let us trust God to bring us to life again.  I want to declare with my words and my life “Immanuel!”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent--Day 1 Isaiah 64

Isaiah 64 
1 Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
      How the mountains would quake in your presence!
 2 As fire causes wood to burn
      and water to boil,
   your coming would make the nations tremble.
      Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
 3 When you came down long ago,
      you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
      And oh, how the mountains quaked!
 4 For since the world began,
      no ear has heard,
   and no eye has seen a God like you,
      who works for those who wait for him!
 5 You welcome those who gladly do good,
      who follow godly ways.

Yes! Open the Heavens and come down! Let your salvation spring up from the ground. Let nature declare you are God. Set things right! Let those who mock me, who hurt me, who hurt my friends, my nation know I was.....I mean....You are right! Show them all God!! You welcome those who follow your ways and do good. So come, Lord Jesus, come! Set everything right.

But you have been very angry with us,
      for we are not godly.
   We are constant sinners;
      how can people like us be saved?
 6 We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
 7 Yet no one calls on your name
      or pleads with you for mercy.
   Therefore, you have turned away from us
      and turned us over[c] to our sins.

Yes, show those ungodly people we, your people, are right.......wait, what? "we are ungodly?" Excuse me, Isaiah, but I think you made a mistake. We are the people of God. And when Christ comes back all those who are not part of "us--godly people"--you know, those who are ungodly-- will be shown the error of their ways and God's people will be shown to be right. How can we be part of the ungodly?
Ok, I will admit that I haven't forgiven that person yet....but she hasn't asked for forgiveness. But that is such a small thing, isn't it?
And, yes, I guess sometimes my "prayer requests" are bordering on gossip, but if it gets others to, its not justifiable.
What? My attitude about those in poverty or those of the opposing political opinion? Well they are just lazy and ignorant......oh, you're right, I am generalizing and not hearing their story. I could probably be a little more Christ-like in this area too.
Now, yes, I am angry and bitter towards that person but he acts like he has the perfect theology and uses Scripture as a weapon against me. I mean, does he not see that I Corinthians 13, the fact we see things dimly now means he sees things dimly now?!? What? That verse is for me too? I see things dimly too and probably should be a bit more humble? Well, I can see your point.
Well, you're right, I am quite impatient, judgmental, selfish, quick to talk, slow to listen....ok, ok.
I am ungodly and I don't call out for your help but rely on my own strength to be a good person. I am comfortable as I am. I want you to right this world but let me be. I am part of the ungodly.

8 And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
      We are the clay, and you are the potter.
      We all are formed by your hand.
 9 Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
      Please don’t remember our sins forever.
   Look at us, we pray,
      and see that we are all your people.

So when you come in your glory, don't forget me, please. Please don't leave me in my sin and brokenness. As you make the rest of the world whole and right, please make me whole and right. Don't just rend the Heavens but rend my heart too.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Assumptions about a woman in ministry

Being female and an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church I have found that people assume a lot about me.
~it is assumed that I am liberal in my theology. I have been accused of hating Scripture or when people quote Scripture. In fact here is a quote from someone’s message on Facebook: “Just stating God's word, and liberal preachers don’t like it.” 
            ~Well, I actually read Scripture regularly. I love to study the Bible and hold Scripture in high regard. I want to find where each Scripture fits into the whole picture of the Bible. Most people who consider themselves liberal theologically consider me quite conservative theologically.
~people assume I have a rebellious spirit. I have heard people say anyone who supports women in ordained ministry are in open rebellion.
            ~You are assuming I didn’t spend lots of time in prayer, Scripture reading and study. You are assuming I didn’t struggle with what I felt God was calling me to do. I spent decades studying, praying, fasting, talking to pastors and other Christian leaders.  I tried to do other things. God closed those doors but opened every door into ministry. In the end, I felt I was in open rebellion not following God’s call to ordained ministry. 
            ~You are assuming that I am simply ignoring the “catch” Scriptures on women in ordained ministry. You don’t even consider that I have done studies on these Scriptures and have read Church history on these passages and read scholars from all sides on these Scriptures –and have come to a different understanding than you on them. Yes, we disagree on the interpretation of these Scriptures. I disagree with the conclusions some powerful theologians have come to on these Scriptures. But here is the thing, there are amazing, powerful theologians on both sides of this issue. The Church doesn’t seem to fully agree on this issue. Church history and Biblical history is replete with women in the position of bringing the Good News, preaching, judging, teaching, leading.
Sitting in discussions with most male pastors I find no one assumes where a man stands theologically. Instead they enter into dialogue.  As a woman, I simply ask for the same courtesy. Please don’t assume.