Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pastoring A Congregation: 10 Commandments

Rating: TFPC, ES

  1. You are right. No exceptions.

  2. Do not neglect your duty, in every situation, to tell a story about your time in seminary.

  3. Never, ever allow yourself or others to become amused at your own expense. Remember at all times your obligation to regard yourself, your beliefs, your words, and your actions with deadly seriousness.

  4. Be sure, when preaching, to aim low enough. Remember, they're not as smart as you are.

  5. It's your parish. You are responsible for keeping your people under control. See item 1.

  6. Stack the board/vestry with people as much like yourself as possible. You don't have time to waste on a bunch of back-chat.

  7. And speaking of the board/vestry--they work for you, you don't work for them. After all, you're the one getting paid--obviously, you're more important.

  8. Make a daily discipline of pondering your authority. See item 1.

  9. Do not laugh or look sheepish if you pass gas in church. Glare at the acolyte instead.

  10. Humor your altar guild. They are misinformed, maladjusted, miserly, and miserable, but they are also lunatics who will poison you without turning a blue hair.

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This is a joke. This is only a joke. If this were an actual set of commandments from the Almighty, your keyboard would burst into flames yet your connection speed would be unaffected.

The Final Frontier

Rating: GRG, B*

My cousin and I, ca 1969. I really really really wanted to be an astronaut.

The fact that my eyesight began to seriously suck at about age 8 was the first clue that perhaps this was not to be.

As my sister--as well as the cousin pictured here, which I think is just mean--have pointed out to me, my complete failure to grasp even the rudiments of calculus as an undergrad confirms that it was for the best that I chose a different life path.

But we sure look ready for the final frontier here, don't we?

*I'm just so proud to have created a post that merits both a "B" rating and a "GRG" rating.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"All That Would Do Me Harm"

Rating: GT, ES
Today I am grateful for both Sir Thomas More and John Prine.

John Prine is just an amazing singer and songwriter and storyteller. John Prine wrote "Angel From Montgomery," made famous by the great great Bonnie Raitt. If you're not familiar with the rest of his work, get your hands on one of his CDs right now. Seriously. This post will still be here. I defy anyone to listen to "Dear Abby" and not feel better about your own life, to listen to "In Spite of Ourselves" and not grin at your significant other, no matter how close you were to killing him/her five minutes ago.
But the John Prine nugget o' wisdom I'm rubbing in my palm today is this:

Father, forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us, we'll forgive you
We'll forgive each other 'til we both turn blue
Then we'll whistle and go fishing in heaven

("Fish and Whistle," Bruised Orange, 1978)

If you're horrified by the arrogant presumption of even daring to speak of base humanity extending forgiveness to the Almighty, then I politely request that you climb down off your high horse for just a couple of minutes in order to listen briefly to lowly little me.

I don't think God is need of our forgiveness. I do know that I, for one, am in desperate need of relinquishing the resentment I hold about the fact that God doesn't seem to arrange things the way I would most like. Yes, I'm fully aware that I am not equipped to run the universe, but that doesn't prevent me from wanting what I want and getting mad when it doesn't happen that way. What's more, I am fully aware of the foolishness of this exercise, but that awareness has yet to reform the constitution of my psyche. God doesn't need me to forgive God--I need me to forgive God. And I am confident that the One who made me, the One who loves me, the One who saves and redeems me, will forgive me this as well.

OK--that wasn't so long, was it? Feel free to mount your tall steed again, if you are so inclined.

Sir Thomas More composed this prayer about forgiveness:

Almighty God, have mercy on ______,
and on all that bear me evil will and would do me harm,
and on their faults and mine together.
By such easy, tender, merciful means as your own infinite wisdom can best devise;
vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together.
Where we may ever live and love together with you and your blessed saints.

I have a long list of names with which I fill in the blank. Archbishop Peter Akinola. Osama bin Laden. Pat Robertson. The colleague I offended. The former boss who felt threatened by my attempts to help.
All those brothers and sisters, fellow children of God, of whom I am terribly, terribly afraid.

Whom do you fear?

yours in the struggle,

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fully Human

Rating: GT, QT

Related Post: Milk and Cookies
While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24:36b-37)

What is it about this story that is so important?
We see almost the exact same story in the Gospel according to John:
Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:26b-28)

In both of these stories,
Jesus is fully human
and he is unrelenting in his demonstration
from pointing out the wounds in his body
to asking for something to eat
and then eating it.
Fully human.

Why is that so important?
Why is it important for us?

The issue of “full humanity” is front and center for us today.
Full humanity is front and center for us as citizens of the world.
Full humanity is front and center for us as residents of the United States.
Full humanity is front and center for us as Christians, as Episcopalians, as members of this diocese who are
engaging in discernment about God’s will for us
in the upcoming election of the bishop who will be our pastor, our shepherd,
as we journey together through this world.

Oh yes
the issue of what it means to be fully human
of who is considered
fully human
is most urgently important.

Give a mouse a cookie, and it’s going to want a glass of milk.
Start ordaining women, next thing they’ll want to be rectors and vicars.
Baptize a small child, tell her that she is sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever, and pretty soon she’ll expect you to treat her that way.
Affirm LGBT people as full members of the body of Christ,
and next thing you know, they’ll want to actually live out their baptismal covenant and be ministers of the church—
ministers of the church being defined as
“lay people, bishops, priests, and deacons.”[1]

Give a mouse a cookie, and it’s going to want a glass of milk.

The issue here is not the mouse’s greed or ingratitude or lack of understanding. Of course it wants a glass of milk. Who doesn’t want a glass of milk to go with a cookie?
The issue here is the sheer lunacy
of thinking that there is such a thing as
partial inclusion.

People are either fully human or they are not;
it is neither logical nor practical to act as if it is possible
for a designated group of people to be fully human but only at certain times, or in certain places, or in reference to certain topics.
It makes no sense; besides, it never works.

But there is a level on which
I can sympathize with those in this world
in this country
in the church
in this diocese
those of my brothers and sisters in Christ
who want to count some of us as partly human, partly Christian
perhaps a half-sister in Christ? a stepbrother in Christ?
I can sympathize with how hard it is to change
because I do the same thing right back at them.
It is hard to treat someone as fully human
when I am afraid
of that person.

And I am afraid. For myself, for the people I love and who love me.
I am afraid for this parish and for this diocese
and for the Episcopal Church.
I am afraid, and so I begin to count
those whom I blame for my fear
as less than
fully human.

Did you know that any two human beings
“have the vast majority of their DNA sequence in common”? Genetic fingerprinting—the way in which DNA is used as evidence in court—is all based on a tiny percentage of our DNA.[2]
The overwhelming majority of our DNA
is exactly the same.
We actually are
all related to one another…

People are either fully human or they are not.
Today’s Gospel reading places the issue of full humanity
right at the heart of who Jesus is
and who we are
and the substance of our relationship with the Incarnate Word of God.
The substance—the material, the matter—of our relationship with Jesus is DNA.
The meaning of that relationship
is that
humanity is not a burden to be overcome—
humanity is a destiny to be fulfilled.

Humanity is a destiny to be fulfilled—that is the meaning of our relationship with the risen Christ.

We embody that relationship and move into our destiny as humans every time we participate in the Eucharist, as Christ is known to us in the breaking of the bread. When we recognize
that the living Jesus is present
in the body of the person next to us
and that that presence is permanent,
it is there in every one, every moment, every day.

The purpose of the sacrament
is to teach us to recognize that presence here and now,
in order that we may learn to recognize Jesus’ presence out there,
in the world, every day, in every one.

To recognize Jesus
who was and is fully human.
To recognize Jesus in ourselves,
who are also fully human.
To recognize Jesus in one another
as fully human.

Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the breaking of the bread;
in our eating and drinking;
in our breathing in and out.
Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in the touch of hands and the meeting of eyes;
in those we love and in those we fear.
Be known to us, Lord Jesus, in those who fear us
and in those who walk beside us.
Be know to us, Lord Jesus,
opening our eyes to behold you in all your redeeming work.[3]

[1] The Book of Common Prayer, “An Outline of the Faith, commonly called the Catechism” (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1986), 855.
[2] Wikipedia,
[3] paraphrase, Collect for Third Sunday of Easter, BCP 224.

yours in the struggle,

Prophetic Speech: Jonah

Rating: SL, TFPC, ES, GT, B

“This Is Not The Life I Ordered”

Let me tell you something: it is close and hot and stinky in the belly of a big fish. You might not think it would be hot, but it is. And loud. And so dark you cannot find your own ass with both hands. The other thing you cannot find is any spot to lay down and rest for a minute; there is some freaky shit in there. Man, a big fish will eat anything. In the words of Shakespeare, it is “most foul.”

Yes I know about Shakespeare, I am a prophet OK, get off me.

I am telling you I spent 3 days in the nasty-ass digestive tract of a fish and all you can think of to say is How do you know about Shakespeare, fuck you, shut up.

And getting puked up is no picnic either. You are in there with shit a starving dog wouldn’t touch and you are what gets rejected? Nice.

And by the way, your wardrobe does not survive the experience with any grace at all.

So now I am dragging my sleep-deprived, raggedy ass up in Ninevah and just try getting a room when you’re covered in whale vomit. I am so tired of hearing y’all go on about poor Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a stable ‘cause wouldn’t nobody give them a room, boo hoo.

Yes I know about Jesus, I am a prophet OK, get off me.

Enough with the chronology bullshit, what does the word co-eternal mean to you, fuck you, shut up.

So I’m all Yo, in forty days Ninevah shall be overthrown, and when I turn around they are playing dress-up with the livestock. Why would anyone put sackcloth on a pig? He’s already eating garbage and sleeping in shit, sackcloth and ashes is an upgrade, dumbass.

I did not tell you to put clothes on the barnyard animals.

Let me tell you something: there is nothing a big fish won’t eat and there is nothing so stupid that some asshole somewhere won’t think it sounds like a good idea. Sackcloth. On a pig.

Now after all this shit, what do you think God does?


Excuse me? What did I come here for? We could not have sent a note?

So now I am sleep-deprived, homeless, still covered in whale vomit, and a guy who puts sackcloth on a pig thinks I’m a lunatic.

Why do I let You talk me into this shit?

Yes I know You’re God, I am a prophet OK, get off me.

Y’all think this is funny? Yeah, when it happens to somebody else, fuck you, shut up.

I’m going back to Puke Beach, pick up some driftwood, build me a little lean-to, and sit my tired ass down and not move. God can do whatever God wants, I did not ask to come here, bunch of shit-crazy people, forty days, forty days and oh never mind, hahahahahahaha, meanwhile I’m over here with fish juice in my sinuses and my ass flapping in the breeze, another jam-packed day of wall-to-wall fun, brought to you by God Almighty, the Deity who put a foreskin on the penis just to make you cut it off.
Oooo, too bad, Jonah, that was not the prophecy we were looking for, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you, what do we have for Jonah, Bob? It’s a castor-oil plant! Yes, soon you’ll be luxuriating under your very own shade provided by this lovely little tree, and if you’re feeling a bit bloated, it will take care of that for you too! Castor oil, the gift that keeps on giving.

OK, that at least was a good idea. The people here may be ignorant as dirt—Shakespeare again, don’t start, nnn-NNN—but the animals at least are not my problem. Everything on four legs has the sense not to eat a castor-oil plant.

Yes I know a worm has no legs, I’m a prophet OK, and sometimes I cannot think of every fucking thing, so get off me. Fuck you, shut up.

I’m going to feed this worm to a big fish and watch the whale shit fly, that’s what I’m going to do.

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