Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve Thoughts

I just got back from our community Thanksgiving service. It was held this year at the African Methodist Episcopal Church. I always enjoy being together with the community, being able to worship without having any real responsibility for what happens. And I always feel vaguely like an imposter among my “amen-ing” “thank you Jesus-ing” black colleagues. Coming from a catholic, liturgical tradition, we speak a different language. Or at the very least, a different dialect.

Everyone there tonight was black, except for me, and I was glad that I was there, my whiteness exaggerated by my white alb and stole. It was a reminder of how deeply segregated our religious life is, and I felt my being there was a sign of hope. And, I think the worshippers appreciated my being there too, for the same reason.

The worship was right out of the AME order, I suppose. I don’t want to criticize. I was more grateful to be able to worship tonight than ever. And there was a sense of warmth there tonight that I appreciated. It helped me ease some of the heaviness of spirit I came there with tonight.

But I felt like the proverbial Martian, seeing practices for the first time and trying to make sense of them. For instance, the point in the service where everyone was invited to come to the altar and leave their worries with God.

“The altar is now open,” the presiding minister declared, and two ushers promptly closed the rail around it. Then people came up and knelt at the altar rail, where pumpkins and squash, and apples, and bananas from last Sunday’s harvest Sunday, (for us Christ the King) were still lined up and people came and knelt at the rail with the pumpkins and the fruit and scrunched up their faces because they were at the altar and thus where praying harder.

I wonder, what was here at the altar that was not there in their seat? Is God MORE present here than there? The practice seemed to mimic the Eucharist, yet it was all up to me. Meaning that I had to come forward and FEEL something. Something only I could feel, and in that it was very private. No wonder there was all that scrunching of faces.

In the Eucharist, you come and gather around the table of the Lord for the sacramental meal. You receive the bread and the wine. The experience is outside of me. Sure it means something different at different times. Sometimes it is deeply moving and sometimes your mind is thinking of other things. But the point is, the experience of taking and eating, taking and drinking, is not a private emotional concoction. It comes from outside of me, and in that sense I can only receive it. I can't control it. Which to me, says something very important about God.

God is intimate, as near as my own heart beat, my own breathing, and still God is other than me. I come into the presence of God, and am fed by God in the process. God is not my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings. God is a piece of bread placed in my hand, a cup lifted to my lips received in the context of faith.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Right now

Right now, the rain is clattering down the wall outside my study window, where the downspout is missing. It gathers in a puddle in the yard, and it sounds like a deluge, but I don' think it is really raining that hard. As I contemplate the start of my work day, trying to decide where to begin, I wonder if there isn't a downspout missing in my psyche, as the tasks seem so difficult to plow through. Is it really raining that hard, or am I just standing in a puddle?

My prayer right now, thanks to an old John Prine song that just came to mind:

That's the way that the world goes 'round
You're up one day, the next you're down
It's a half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown
That's the way that the world goes 'round

Monday, November 24, 2008

This photo was taken by Joe Hodges at our 110th anniversary celebration, October 26, 2008. More to come on the e Star.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday night

Sunday nights are usually quiet for me. I wonder, how many other clergy feel a kind of let down on Sunday nights? As I reflect on the day, there was so much to feel good about. New people in worship again this week. The Spanish and the English combination is finding its own level in the liturgy. It was good playing the guitar after worship and developing ideas for a new bi-lingual liturgy. I am grateful for having music and the guitar back in my life again. I wish I could just play on a Sunday morning. Maybe I’ll join another church incognito, and play in their praise band or something on a Saturday night. There’s an idea.

Here at the end of the day, I feel the clashing needs of people, like a great wash of tides, or water in a bucket sloshing up against the sides. It feels unending and ungainly. We come before God to worship, lifting up our hearts to the Lord, dragging the weight of who we are like a ball and a chain along behind us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What happy people don't do

Interesting article about the habits of happy people. Or more precisely, what happy people generally steer clear of. I wonder though, does their happiness lead them to these choices, or do the choices produce happiness? My sense is that happiness leads one to make choices, but an unhappy person making those same choices will not necessarily make a happy person.

If so then, what is happiness and where does it come from?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I am not ready...

I am not ready for this:
the cold
the dark at 4:30
exaggerating the sense of refuge
in this room where I write this.
I have gone through this entire day
tailed by something like sorrow.
In the twilight it crosses the threshold.
The wavy glass in the window
drifts closer without the light behind it
to hold it back.
Soon there will be nothing
but HERE.
The clock ticking on the wall
is final and unforgiving
The lamp on my desk
burns brighter
with each thunderous stroke.

copyright Charles Oberkehr

Friday, November 14, 2008

The evil still among us

As hopeful as the last week has been, evil sends a reminder that it is still present among us, and will have its say. I am wondering how to deal with this story in church on Sunday? One thing, it shows how important kindness is. How those that take on the task of reconciliation and choose the difficult work of living together are desperately needed now. We must look evil in the eye, even when we see our own worst selves looking back at us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What is wisdom?

Sent from a friend, an intriguing study....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And then overnight, the world changed...

As I do most mornings, I went to the gym the morning after the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. I was going up the stairs to the locker room and a black guy was coming down on his way to work out. We passed each other and our eyes met for just a moment. We nodded, exchanged a brief howyadoin and continued on our way.

But there was something different about our exchange now. We both knew it. In the space of even those few seconds you could measure easily just how much the world had changed. It had happened literally, overnight. In the space of a casual glance, an innocent pleasantry that happens without a second thought a million times a day between strangers, we both had an “aha” moment. Everything was different now.

It felt like getting a pair of new glasses. I remember when I would put a new pair of glasses on and the first thing I would see was how much I had been missing. The edges around everything were suddenly sharp enough to cut. The world is wavy in its clarity and your legs feel wobbly until your brain acclimates to the flood of visual information your eyes are feeding it. A new world bursts open and while the brain struggles to process it, the eyes can’t get enough. Everything is there in its glorious splendor and it’s all waiting to be seen.

With the election of Barack Obama, the country and the world have just gotten a new pair of glasses. We are all walking around now marveling for a moment at how much we were missing. New maps need to be drawn to accommodate this new territory. New assumptions need to be made about each other and most importantly, about ourselves.

In time, we will acclimate to the new world that has blossomed right before our eyes. The ground will firm up beneath our wobbly legs. But for now, every casual meeting is full of a spontaneous humanity and a marvelous potential. We have stepped out from behind the tedious roles of our history. We have lowered the familiar mask of expectation behind which our humanity is demeaned and dismissed and for this one moment at least, we have seen each other. Who are we now? What will we become? The question in all its glorious potential, is asked now even in a casual nod. A routine howyadoin?

This is where the work begins and yes, this is where the fun starts…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Laugh Lines: ‘Endorsements Are Important’

Aired Monday night on CBS: Congratulations to everybody who ran the New York City Marathon yesterday. And a special congratulations to this year’s winner, Joe the runner.Tomorrow marks the end of the presidential campaign, and Sarah Palin decided to celebrate early by charging one last $1,500 blouse to the campaign.By the way, they’r

read more | digg story

Samuel Wurzelbacher Vs. CNN's Rich Sanchez

Sam Wurzelbacher, AKA "Joe the Plumber", gets grilled by Rick Sanchez after weeks of essentially stumping for John McCain.

read more | digg story

Waiting for results...enjoy this Daily Show clip

Voting Report

My wife Gloria and I had about a 30 minute wait this morning to vote for Obama. An eclectic group of people were on line with us. Many first time voters. Touching to see how they dressed up for the occasion. The man in front of me wearing a new black cord shirt with fresh jeans and a new black Nike baseball hat to match. ANGEL was tattooed in faced blue ink on the back of his neck under the collar.

An elderly man in a blue suit and tie, with a brown knit ski cap and snapping his fingers by the ear of a little Hispanic boy, looking away when he turned around. He is holding a brochure in Spanish for new citizen first time voters.

Epiphany is right across the street from the polling station, so I put out our welcome table, some chocolates that didn't go at Halloween, and information about the church. Oh yes, and our torture banner was moved front and center.

The world is changing. (The banner is part of our participation in the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It reads, "EPIPHANY LUTHERAN CHURCH SAYS: TORTURE IS WRONG"