Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I am going to throw a party

Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
- John 2:3

The jury has ordered Frank Schaefer to be suspended from ministerial duties for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days if Frank Schaefer cannot agree to follow Discipline in its entirety, he must surrender orders.
I am going to throw a party.   I want it to be a place where people sit together, eat together, geek out about John Wesley, make potluck jokes, and never consider self-editing the gender of anyone’s love or spouse.  

It’s going to be in a brightly lit room on a warm night.  People will come in out of the cold, warming their hands in mugs of hot cider. More and more people will come in, welcomed by the radical hospitality of long hugs and noisy appreciation.  Those walking by will look in and see all the glowing faces, and, if they are exceptionally brave, know that by knocking on the door they will be welcomed with open arms too. 

All of us will be every inch ourselves and glory in that great gift of being alive, being lovable, being loved, and loving in return.  The cold chill of shame will be forgotten in the warmth of this home. 

I know that some of you will not take me up on this invitation.  Instead you’ll be clutching a book you and I both think is holy, but in different ways.  You’ll march away from my home.  My heart will be sad at the empty spaces around this table, wishing that the ones I love wouldn’t be left out in the cold.

And when the moment comes, we’ll all gather together in one room.  We’ll break out the bread and the cup and we will gave thanks to the one who created us, the one who taught us to love, and the one who brought us together.  All who wants to partake will be offered it, without hesitation, without qualification.  Bread, wine will be offered with dignity and compassion. 

You see, this isn’t my party, and this isn’t my table. 

And because this isn’t my party, and because it’s not my table, it won’t stop.  God’s invitation to come on in and participate in the work of love never ends.  

Those who think they define United Methodist might throw us out of the label, but they can’t throw us out of this party.  They might try to drown out our singing with their shouting, but they can’t overcome the party.  They might try to distract me or scare us from our love and our gentleness, but they can’t stop the party. 

I am going to throw a party.  Do you want to come? 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The First Baptism

Of course it would be a baby baptism. 

Until yesterday morning I have held precisely two babies.  Last year during communion at First a baby was placed in my lap.  The one before that took place approximately a fourteen years ago at a family reunion.   Each of these times I was handed a baby while I was sitting down, with a lap, and a nearby adult to hand off any disasters (crying).   

So when I realized that my first baptism would be “simply” a matter holding an infant, pouring water over his head, and standing up in front of an entire congregation in a confident and holy manner, I may have lost some sleep.  I’ve been praying the same thing for weeks: “Don’t let me drop the baby, don’t let me drop the baby.” 

Yet when I met the baby, I immediately relaxed.  He was a curious child and smiled a bubble of joy as I peered into his carrier.  I practiced holding him and we both realized this was a bit scary, but he was willing to work with me.  The pastoral calm front was well in place.  

I offered him a finger and he held fast and bobbled it through the whole prelude to the baptism.  The congregation was distracted with giggles and joy – as it should be.  When I put the water on his head “I baptize you in the name of the Father,” I stopped for a moment.  I lost my ability to speak as I held this wonder of a new life and performing one of the most sacred acts of my church.  

He turned back at me and made eye contact with large eyes.  They said: “This is new, this is weird, this is kinda … AWESOME.”  He clapped his hands in the baptismal water bowl, sprinkling it all over me. 

Ah.  Remember my baptism and be thankful.  Thank you God. 

“I baptize you in the name of the Son.  I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit.” 

And although I wanted kiss this wonderful, patient, giggling, splattered boy on the head, I said a small prayer instead:

You know kiddo, it’s a big family.  There are more than your fair share of embarrassing uncles and hard family secrets.  Despite that I want you to  know that God loves you - absolutely, thoroughly, ungrudgingly, unconditionally loves you.  I hope you will help join us in the work that God has laid out before us, by loving your neighbor and working to bring about justice, peace, and hope for all.

Yet, even as I say this I realize that your work has already begun.  You’ve given such joy to me and to this congregation through your excitement.  I cannot wait to see what beauty you will bring next. 

God, be with this child, and help him teach us more about this love, curiosity, and bravery he’s already got in spades. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Transformative Power of Praying for Kittens

When I was little I wanted a pet all of my own.  I prayed for a kitten, but my parents never got me one.  I prayed for kitten, but my parents would not be swayed.

We already had a cat, but she was a grown up cat and I wanted a kitten.  A nice, small, cuddly kitten with a pink nose.  I asked my parents for a cat, but they said no.  I prayed and prayed, asked and asked, but I still only got noes. 

I asked over and over, and one day the answer changed and I knew that I had an in to getting my cat.  Instead of no, they said I needed to show that I could take care of the cat that we had already.  So it became my responsibility to feed her dinner every night.  Even if I was tired.  Even if I didn't want to,  I still had to feed the cat.

Well one day the stray cat outside my grandparents house gave birth to kittens.  There was one kitten that was the color of cream.  He was a rascal and would pounce on his siblings.  Immediately I fell in love with him and said: "Please God, let me take this kitten home!"  I dragged my dad outside - he was the one who was holding out, in large part I think because he was the one who needed to clean the litterbox - but when I put my kitten into his hands the kitten instantly began to purr and nuzzled against him.  His heart grew three sizes that day and I took him home. 

I thanked God because I finally had my cat!

But then something funny happened.  That older cat, the one I showed that I was responsible enough for a new kitten? When we brought the kitten home, she started to follow me everywhere.  She began to sleep with me every night curled up on my feet.  She even would stick her cold nose against my leg, make me jump and get under the warm covers.  The kitten and I became friends, but the cat that loved me the most was the one that I had already. 

I got my cat! And my prayer changed, from please god to thank you God!

You see, my was  not the cat that I was expecting. And God answered my prayer for a cat all of my own, with the cat that I formed a bond with proving that I was ready for my own cat. 

But you know what, here's one of the amazing ways prayer works. Because I was praying for a kitten, I learned how to take care of the cat. Because I showed I could take care of a cat, I got to have one.  Sometimes we change and learn so we can have those things we ask God for all the time, because the things we ask for are important and big responsibilities.  So all those times we ask God to give us peace in the world all the time, we get more peaceful hearts to show we're ready for that peace.  Or if we ask for more love, our hearts become more loving.  And if we ask for a cat all of our own, our hearts open up better to the new cats around us, but also the cats that we already own.

Let's pray. 

God, help us ask for big things, like love and hope and kindness.  Help us ask for those big things, so we can have bigger hearts ourselves. Help us remember to ask all the time for these big things, so we know what is important, and can live our lives with those important things. 


--- This was the children's sermon for our March 9th worship service.