Jesus Brunch is moving

Gentle readers,

Some of you know I’ve had several blogs for the past few years, devoted to different facets of my life. In an ongoing effort toward integration, integrity, and all that good stuff, I am striving to weave together these various facets of my life: work, faith, family, writing, reading, playing, and exploring, by consolidating blogs.  Going forward I will be posting only to the new blog, Daily Cup. I hope you’ll find me there, subscribe, and enjoy!

Many blessings,
Sara

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The best strawberry shortcake ever

When my son was little and in that maddeningly wonderful phase of never tiring of hearing the same book read over and over and over and over and over again, one of our favorites was “Cook-a-doodle-doo,” by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, about the baking adventures of Big Brown Rooster, the great-grandson of the Little Red Hen. The story is filled with colorful characters all living and life lessons about community and cooperation, failure and redemption. These characters remind me of some of my friends and relations. There are also cooking lessons along the way, for the inquiring three- or four- or five-year-old mind. But the strawberry shortcake itself….to die for. The best ever.

I made that shortcake tonight, using the recipe from the back of the book. Simply delicious. I took it to our friends’ house, and she and I cleaned about 5 cups of strawberries to go on top, strawberries fresh from their weekend farm, real Oregon berries with bits of straw, still clinging on. They tasted like the sun and the mountains.

Even more delicious was the time with dear friends sharing good food and our own stories of the colorful characters in our lives.

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Why Pray? A villanelle of sorts

Why Pray?*

Someone asked me just the other day—“why pray?”
To re-align our own intent or seek to change God’s mind?
Our measure here as ever is “what does Jesus say?”

I have always reasoned praying as the faithful way
to sing along in steady tune with plans divine.
Then someone asked me recently: why pray?

Does the Holy One take attendance day by day,
counting my requests like mileposts in a line?
Is this how Jesus urges us to pray?

The monks before me paved the way,
petitionary hours their cloister walk entwined.
Did anyone inquire of them: why pray?

Acres of print ‘cross ancient pages splay,
prayer-filled tomes for every day designed:
To all of this loquacity, what would Jesus say?

We beg our God for daily bread, not offer it as pay,
our asking not ourselves to fetter but unbind.
Still someone asked again the other day: why pray?
Plead your patient unrelenting need for mercy, I hear Jesus say.

* This poem was inspired by a rich and multi-layered Wild Goose conversation with Tony Jones, in which he challenged us to discuss the purpose of prayer from a particularly Christian apologetic perspective. The villanelle form (like much liturgical prayer) provides a set structure inside which one can find a lot of freedom for adaptation and exploration, but which (also like set liturgical prayer) can have its limitations.

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Dear Diary, It gets better. Or: Joyfully denominational in a post-denominational world. Or: Day 3 at Wild Goose

Dear Diary,

The last full day of the Wild Goose Festival was as full as a day can be of great conversation, music, sunshine, and more. Highlights of today were

If I weren’t so exhausted I could write for hours.  Instead, I’ll just write about one thing.

During the first evening, Nadia Bolz-Weber explained Christian denominationalism this way: she said that each strand of Christianity “care-takes” one aspect of what it means to be Christian for the whole body. For example, Anabaptists and Mennonites are the caretakers of the peace tradition for the whole body, which does not mean that the rest of us don’t work for peace but rather that there’s an emphasis there that creates identity and serves the whole body. Similarly, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics are caretakers of ancient liturgy on behalf of the whole body. I’d never heard it put that way, but it makes perfect sense, right? And of course we Episcopalians are all about ancient liturgy. That’s our thing, right?

So, this afternoon and evening, the huge undercurrent of pain and tension in this festival finally hit me, an undercurrent of which I’d hitherto been blissfully ignorant because….well, because I’m an Episcopalian. This painful tension is one of the marks of “emergence Christianity” as it manifests in non-mainline churches, that is, in the evangelical tradition all along the spectrum from conservative to progressive and beyond. It’s all about sexuality. Not just same-sex marriage, not just LGBTQ people in church leadership, but the whole ball of wax: does God’s grace extend, or does God’s grace not extend, to EVERYONE? My sense is that 99% of folks here at Wild Goose believe that it does extend to all, but many of them continue in churches and faith strands whose leaders are not so sure.

So, in addition to ancient liturgical tradition and sacramental theology, there’s something else the Episcopal Church care-takes on behalf of other parts of the body, care-takes with the care with which someone might hold something delicate and unfamiliar, for some, unsought. I felt proud, on Day 3, to stand up in an emotionally charged conversation about LGBTQ rights and social justice and say that as Episcopalians, we’ve been there, done that and, to borrow a phrase, it gets better. I know that some of my friends will say we’re not as far along as we could be or should be, but in our own institutional, hierarchical, tradition-laden way, we are, with blessed assurance, on the right trajectory. I want my friends at this amazing event to know that they are, too, and that it gets better, it really does.

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Dear Diary: Day 2 at Wild Goose Festival

Dear Diary,

Today, the weather lived up to Yahoo’s promise of being truly hot and humid, but I was pleasantly distracted by the presence of my dear seminary friend Mary who came to check out the festival and check in with me. As an added bonus, she brought an extra chair with her so I didn’t have to spend another day of hoisting my airplane-bad-bed-creaky hips up and down off the grass. We took in as much as we could of the festival (Jim Wallis, Phyllis Tickle, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Paul Fromberg, and more) talking and walking in between. The festival is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of justice, spirituality, and music, all day long. It’s fair to say we both ended up quite stuffed. Rather than recount the day’s events, I’ll share one highlight: hearing John Dear speak about the nonviolence of Jesus. He is energetic, inspiring, and incisive (like a knife), and it was a privilege to hear him speak. My friend Kerlin is a huge fan of his and so I was thrilled to take this picture and post it here:

A student of Jesus, Gandhi, Daniel Berrigan, and other famous nonviolent peace activists, he left us with ten keys to being disciples of the nonviolent Jesus. I share them here for anyone who missed his talk:

  1. Claim your core, fundamental identity as a beloved daughter or son of the Prince of Peace.
  2. Be a contemplative and a mystic of peace. Spend enough time in quiet to look deeply at the violence within your own heart, and give it to Jesus.
  3. Be people of personal nonviolence. Think about ways to be nonviolent toward yourself (e.g., don’t beat up on yourself).
  4. Practice meticulous interpersonal nonviolence.
  5. Be students and teachers of gospel nonviolence.
  6. Be activists of nonviolence: “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.” Do two or three simple things every day to work for justice and peace.
  7. Be prophets of nonviolence: listen to the God of peace in prayer, and hear that God saying “be outrageous in the name of the Prince of Peace.”
  8. Be visionaries of nonviolence. Reclaim imagination through the peace of God.
  9. Take up the cross of nonviolent resistance to the empire. Be willing to die for peace.
  10. Being people of the cross means being people of the resurrection. Hope beyond death and see our way into the reign of God.

It was hard to listen to anyone else after listening to John Dear. We heard portions of a few other talks, and then took a lovely drive in the countryside (my way of saying I got lost again while looking for a place to buy a cheap camp chair), and then went out to eat in lovely Pittsboro, finishing the evening with a walk through the village watching the fireflies and talking about the importance of theological discourse, communities of accountability, and the Holy Eucharist. A perfect end to a great day!

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Dear Diary: Day 1 of the Wild Goose Festival

Dear Diary,

I arrived at the site of the festival around 3:30, in time to greet Matt, Jen, Katy, Brittany, and Lindsay, who all arrived together around the same time, and to go with them to Kerlin & Adin’s campsite where they unloaded and set-up. (This middle-aged priestess chose to sleep in a B&B in nearby Pittsboro.)

Shakori Hills Farm is a lovely rolling place filled with trees, shaded meadows, and cool breezes. So far, the weather has been more heavenly than deadly. (We’ll see what the weekend brings.)

The festival officially opened at 5 pm.  In the space of five hours I

  • Listened to the United Voices of Praise Choir
  • Heard the history of the festival: a group of people sitting around at Greenbelt in England several summers in a row asking: What if….? And then they did!
  • Listened to Jim Wallis and T. Bone Burnett talk about the relationship between the arts and faith activism
  • Ate fabulous organic Indian food
  • Met a whole bunch of great people, including two priests from Texas who are both doing intentional redevelopment work similar to our work at St. David’s
  • Was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of ages at the festival, ranging from 8 weeks to 80 years. Not so pleasantly not surprised by the lack of racial diversity.
  • Bought a t-shirt
  • Participated in a conversation led by Eliacin Rosario-Cruz about the Kingdom of God while Agents of Future played on the main stage.
  • Listened to Nadia Bolz-Weber talk about the changing role of authority in a post-modern church
  • Drank about 5 quarts of water
  • Saw a whole bunch of fireflies!
  • Listened to Michelle Shocked on the main stage before driving back to Pittsboro

No wonder I can’t sleep! More tomorrow….

 

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In the Beginning….the Nicene Creed (really??)

In the beginning God created.

In the beginning, a beleaguered band of Israelites were carried off from the land they loved by a tyrant. They gathered by the rivers of Babylon, in the middle of nowhere. They asked themselves hard questions: how do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? We thought our land was our identity. Who are we apart from our land? The answer they came up with was to tell a story that was bigger than the land.

The story starts like this: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. Those Israelites sitting around the campfire in Babylon six hundred years before the birth of Jesus found their identity and their meaning in a loving, generous God who created the world in an orderly fashion, step by step, day by day. They could have chosen any of a number of creation myths floating around, but this story was the one that helped make sense of who they were and what had happened to them.

In the beginning, my great-grandfather on my father’s side was a rabbi named Jacob, who lived in a small village in Latvia. He had two daughters; one of them was my grandmother. As a young child, she believed that she would be struck dead if she did certain things after sundown on a Friday, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. She was very afraid, and very careful. Then one day, the inevitable happened. She was out after dark doing something she shouldn’t be doing. God did not strike her dead, and so she decided there was no God. Later she regained a very different faith in something—she could never put her finger on it—but when I was a little girl I grew up hearing this story and hearing her say she didn’t believe in God for a long time but became convinced that something was in charge, and it was something good.

In the beginning, my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, who was a landscape painter, was riding his horse along the seashore about 35 miles north of Boston. He saw a dramatic rocky ledge jutting out over the sea and thought: I want to paint that shoreline. I wonder whose land that is. He fell in love with the land and the ocean view. Then he found a daughter of the landowner to marry. He knew God through the beauty of creation, and he told his story through painting upon painting of the ocean, and also through paintings of his wife and their five lovely daughters. His middle daughter grew up to be my grandmother. If I ever asked her about God, she’d sing, slightly off-key, “for the beauty of the earth….”

In the beginning, my own spiritual life was formless and void. I stumbled into church in my early twenties without a clue what I was looking for, but I knew I was looking for something. The church I went to was a huge, crumbling, drafty old building in Boston, a beautiful place with big marble statues behind the altar and music to die for. For the first year or so, all I did in church was cry. It was all very powerful and mysterious to me, even my own tears. My own nightmare mysteriously became the beginning of the journey that brought me here.

When I go back and look at the “in the beginning” stories that have formed me, I find God’s fullness active in every one of them, not just God, but a three-person God. When I look at my crazy family, agnostic to the core on both sides, in them I see a generous creative force, a mysterious spirit, and behaviors that were clearly patterned after God’s likeness, even if none of them would’ve named God’s likeness Jesus.

In the beginning, a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. God’s wind, God’s Spirit, God’s life-force, whatever we call it, is present in creation, is part of creation, and part of us.

In the beginning, our first-person-plural God said: Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. God does not say: “I’ll make humans to look just like me,” God says, according to our likeness. Jesus is God’s likeness, God whom we can see. Jesus is the likeness after which God patterns humankind. The Gospels are instructions on how to pattern ourselves after Jesus.

For me, the Holy Trinity is not about doctrine, it’s about God with us from the beginning of creation and in all of our beginnings.

The amazing thing is that we affirm and celebrate the fullness of God week after week when we recite the Nicene Creed, that text people either love, or love to hate. The Nicene Creed is another “in the beginning” story.

In the beginning, God was present as he had been and shall be eternally. God’s Son came into the world as one of us, died, rose again, turned the world upside down, and sent the Holy Spirit to keep us together.

What is your creation story? What happens when you go back to the beginning? Where in your own story do you find the Creator, the Spirit, and the likeness of God who calls us to follow him?

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