Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trinity Sunday Sermon

Nicodemus has a question for Jesus, one he never gets to ask, but the setup suggests a common theme:
The question is likely something like “Who are you really, Jesus?” or “What's going on here, Jesus?”
Regardless of the question that never get's asked, Jesus obviously wants Nicky to think, not to just give him an answer that he can agree or disagree with. I think that's true most of the time we come to God with “big” questions, we don't get an answer, but rather new challenges and questions that make us think, work, create, and move from where we're comfortable.

Today is trinity Sunday, and while we see the words, Jesus, Spirit, and God in today's text, the idea of trinity isn't as simple as seeing the words and believing these three beings, who are also a single being are sitting around a table talking about life like on our bulletin cover.

A discussion of the trinity is best done in a similar way to our text this morning. A look at what we know, what connections are to be made, and most importantly how that affects us going forward.

The base question behind the trinity is “Who is God, really?” or “What is going on here, God?” We ask these questions hoping to understand the world and our place in it, hoping to be let in the mystery that seems beyond our understanding. At the end of the day the trinity is a mystery, but searching for information and understanding is obviously part of this walk of faith, even if certainty never can be.

So where to start: The best place to start is the Abrahamic understanding of God as ONE, we cannot be faithful to the God we claim to follow if we do not understand God as a singular entity. With that in mind, we have to seek what is most universal about God. The one expression we have that seems most universal is:

God is Love.
God is Love, we see lots of meanings behind this, God provides, God saves, God seeks Justice, God is I AM, God is filled with Mercy, God provides Manna, God is Love. Love, another of those words that we think we understand, but time and again we can't seem to fully express love. We build beautiful monuments, both physical and in our lives, we sing and study with all we have, we through all our emotions into what we believe, but just like in scripture, the monuments fall, the songs and learning are for naught as God calls us to actions, and the emotions change as God calls us to Grace, Justice, Manna, Mercy time and again, challenging us to move further towards our intended image of Love. We always seek to live in the Image of Love, yet we fall short time and again of our created intent.

Jesus Is The Word.
The Word is Love fully expressed.
God on earth can only be one thing, Love expressed in human form. The Word of God brings all things into being, and this same word walked a human life in the form of Jesus. The Word is the stuff that we're all made up of. When we are made in the image of God, we're also told we can move mountains, we can create, we can walk the life of The Word. We often get caught up in what we think scripture says, and pick and choose what we want to use within this book, but when we speak of The Word of God, we need to remember that it is not words on paper, but the life of Jesus, and the eternalness of that life continuing to interpret scripture, life, and all of creation just as The Word did when it created every part of existence, and created us in that very same image. The Word is always creating, recreating, and living within each and every one of us, seeking universal reconciliation that will resurrect God's reign, as it conquers even death.

The Spirit Is The Wind of Wisdom.
The Spirit is Love moving throughout all things. The spirit may have landed on the church at Pentecost, but The Spirit has always been here. The spirit blows through the world enveloping all things, changing them like the wind. Jesus has some great wordplay in our text today, as the word for spirit and wind are one and the same. Yet, it is fitting to compare the two, because the wind cools us on a hot summer day, but it can also move trees, bridges, and even mountains. When we talk about faith, we really are speaking about listening to and discerning what the spirit is doing and joining in that. That's why we are able to move mountains, because they are going to be moved, we just get to join in. This means though that we don't get to choose which mountains move, or where they move to, the Spirit is doing that, because the spirit isn't a single flame on my head giving me wisdom, but it is spread out among all of creation, enveloping ALL parts, and filling the world with Love irresistible.

We often speak of the relational nature of God, how these three parts relate with each other and how that means we're also relational by nature. Humans, always seeking to escape aloneness because we were created to be relational in the image of a relational God. Yet, when we see God as ONE, it goes deeper than that. We are created in the image of LOVE, Love that creates ALL, provides for ALL, connects ALL, gives ALL, reconciles ALL, and moves ALL.

We must always remember, that no one sees God except in expressions of love, that to be born of the spirit is to be born of this love, and love, and thus life, is made up of Grace and Justice, Manna and Mercy, the universals of God's reign. We must though also always remember that no matter how much we know, how much we remember, how much we learn, that God is always there challenging us to move beyond our selves, beyond our understanding, and into the newness of Love, continually being born again via the spirit that is always changing the creation of LOVE.
Amen

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Simple Comissioning Liturgy

The call of Christ is to a willing, dedicated apostleship. Our apostleship is a manifestation of the new life we enter through baptism as we travel through the world. It is both a gift and commitment, as well as an offering and a responsibility. Today Alex Gilbert comes before us, as she begins her role as intern at the CROSS ministry of Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. At this time I invite Gail Gilbert and Brooke Bazemore forward to join me in commissioning Alex.

Alex, we commission you, representing your family, your friends, and your church:

We send you with the knowledge, the grace bestowed on you in Baptism is sufficient for your calling because it is God’s grace. By God’s grace we are saved and enabled to grow in the faith and to commit our lives in ways that serve Christ. God has called you to particular service. Show your purpose by answering these questions.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, showing his love in word and action?
I will
Do you welcome the responsibility of this service, To love neighbors, And to work for the reconciling of the world?
I do
Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love,
Relying on God’s mercy and rejoicing in the power Of the Holy Spirit?
I will
Do we, the congregation of Harbor View Presbyterian, confirm the call of God to our sister to this service?
We do
Will we support and encourage her in this ministry?
We will
We send you not away from us, but as part of us, loved by family, friends, and faith. We send you with prayers, with promises to be here as you need us, with our blessing. Go forth and do that which God has called you to do. Amen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

No Choice

There is so much wrong with the recent posts making the rounds about kids and choosing church over sports and other things (or not letting it be a choice at all).  Issues include a twisted focus on family in faith, unhealthy parenting, and even some mixed signals regarding child development theory.  The biggest issue though is the focus on church or no church as a CHOICE, or a singular way. 

I have to say that the fear written into the post in question seems to be that of someone who spent most of their life in the modern paradigm and the post-modern transition.  The way the world works is not the same as those time periods and the fear of the author is one that echoes the anxiety of our culture that has yet to come to terms with how the world now works.

So, before we get into how the world works now, let's look at how the term "choice" came to be at the center of this issue.  For the sake of simplicity let's look at life as if it was literature.  In modernity we acted as if we were all in one story, one great novel, where all things were working towards one great end and all we had to do was find our place in the novel and play our part.  The problem is that at some point it became clear that there wasn't just one single ending, and we weren't all really working on that same story.  This is where Post-Modernity stepped in.  Suddenly we were all in choose your own adventure books. The choices we made created a story and once we made a choice we had to play out that story before starting over, or finding out what our ending was.  We were each working on our own story and those who chose like we chose were on the same path to the same ending. 

Of course, you can see where I'm going, can't you?  The thing is that the idea of this bianary choice (this or that) or even other limited in the moment choosing (this, or this, or this, or that), doesn't work when put to the test.  Life isn't about the choices we make.  Yes, they play a part, but the road we take isn't what gets us places, it's the traveling.  So as we travel we create the world we live in, that is the definition of the new paradigm, it is a place of convergence, a relational paradigm where whatever we create relationally defines our world.

That means that it's not about choosing something over something else, and that's hard because that means we have even less control over the outcome than we thought we did.  Yet, God time and again reminds us we're not in control, nor should we try to be.  We live, we interact, we create, we relate, just like a God who does the same things.  The fact is that the world is not a choose your own adventure book for each of us, nor is it a novel where we must find our place, it is an endless sketch book, full of blank pages. Each page we start working on may get finished or it may not, we may come back to it or we may rip it out, but each page we work on influences what we work on later, but there are no rules as to what we are to work on, we each get to create that, with the help of the Spirit of God. 

There is great freedom in this, and even greater faith.  We've treated faith like something akin to anxiety for so long, we've created a world where we compare stats, ask for choices to be made right here and now, and remove all context from everything we do.  Life isn't about this or that, it's about whatever we create and the God within that creation.  We need to stop worrying about the church's place in that creation.  Stop worrying that God can't create in ways we don't understand.  We need to embrace the beauty of a paradigm where a Creative God's image in each of us can come through without fear, without anxiety, without bounderies, but instead filled with the confidence to risk, to fail, to have to rely on grace, manna, and mercy and not on our own "Choice."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Confirmation over 2 Services (with session meeting in middle)

9AM – Bibles
At the 11am service these confirmads will receive stoles that represent their roles people doing the ministry of God. But first, now, we will present them with their bibles. The bible represents each confirmand's role within the ongoing story of God's love, a god who created and cares for all things. As scripture was quoted on the day of Pentecost, we likewise hold scripture close, to be read and re-read, reflected on in times of need, to interpret and reinterpret through honest conversation with community, to follow in discernment. It is true as Paul tells Timothy that:
Congregation: Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.

Friends: Chris, Jackson, and Sammy have been baptized and are members of the body of Christ. They have been nurtured within the Christian community and instructed in the belief and practice of the church. They come before us today to be confirmed in faith and affirm their bapism. Remember your baptism and give thanks.
By the waters of baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit God claims us and calls each one by name. God unites us to Christ in his death and resurrection and grafts us into the body of Christ as members of the church. God washes us clean by forgiving our sin; commissions us to be a royal priesthood with Christ in his ministry to the world; empowers us to live in newness of life as people of the Word; and invites us to be renewed at the Lord's Table until we feast with him in glory. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.

Led by our confirmands let us profess our faith together:

Do you believe in God the Father?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

If we the church affirm these confirmands as essential in their roles within God's story, let us do so using the words that echo those of God as Jesus began his earthly ministry:
Congregation:You are our beloved sons, in whom we are well pleased.


10AM – Statement of Faith
Jackson: We believe in the creator god, who acts as nurse and loving parent to all creation. It is in the image of this god, known as love, that we are each made. Being made in the image of love means following the guidelines of manna and mercy in all we do, making sure each has what they need and treating all with respect and grace.
Chris: We believe that Jesus was this god showing us what it means to live as the image of god, how to live as love, not in fear. Jesus lived like us, fully human, but as a miracle worker showed himself to be fully connected to god. He showed us the path to redemption, how to overcome fear and selfishness even unto death. So, through Jesus we know that a life of love has no end, not even death can contain it.
Sammy: We believe in the spirit who is found in all things, and who is always with each of us, reminding and guiding us as we discern that which god would want from us.
We believe that god, as shown through the life of Jesus, and guided by the spirit wants us to live our lives to the fullest, taking risks without fear, living out love for god as seen in our treatment of others.
We believe in a church made up of diverse people, who find their unity not in uniformity but through compassion and grace shown to one another. In doing so we form a community which seeks to discern and learn ever more about god while sharing in one another's burdens and doing what we can for those who cannot do for themselves.
We believe that we are ever seeking the mysteries of life, but that we wish to do that as people of god, created in god's image, and living out god's life of manna and mercy, justice and grace.



11AM – Stoles
In the 9am service these confirmands received bibles of their choice. These bibles represent their role in the ongoing story of God's love in the world. We now will present them with their stoles. The stole is a symbol of ministry, and as these confirmads have presented their own statement of faith they now are ready to tell their own story and follow in the words that Jesus read in the temple:
Confirmands: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. You shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be ministers of our God.

Blessed are you, most gracious God, for you have given to us the gift of baptism. Through water and the Spirit you have claimed us as your own, cleansing us from sin and giving us new life. You called us into your church to be your servants in the world in the name of Jesus Christ. You promised to be present among us, to direct and defend your people by the power of your Spirit. And now we give you thanks, for your faithfulness to us and to these, who come to be confirmed and affirm their part in the covenant of baptism. By the power of your Spirit continue in them the good work you have begun that they may willingly serve you in love and joy with courage and truth.


Along with our confirmands let us confess our faith together:
1: We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for his Church by his Word and his Spirit.
2: God has done this since the beginning of the world and will continue to do so to the end.
1: We believe in one holy, universal Christian Church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.
2: We believe that Christ's work of reconciliation is made manifest in the Church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another.
1: We share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind.
2: We have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptised with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one Name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope.
1: Together we come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ.
2: Together we are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity.
1: Together we acknowledge and bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ.
2: We need one another.
1: We need to build one another up, admonishing and comforting one another.
2: We also suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness.
1: We pray together.
2: We serve God together in this world.
1: Together we fight against all which may threaten or hinder our unity.
2. Our unity appears as we obey Christ's call to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another for mutual benefit and blessing.
ALL: For Jesus Alone is Lord. To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honour and the glory for ever and ever.

If we as the church now affirm these confirmands as they go forth to meet God and join in the work of God let us do so with words that echo those God met Jesus with at the beginning of his ministry:
Congregation: You are our Beloved Sons, in whom we are well pleased.

Let us pray that those affirming their baptism may go into the world, giving witness to God's love and grace.
Silence.

Let us pray that, Chris, Jackson, and Sammy may know the peace of Christ in times of trouble, doubt and sorrow.
Silence.

Let us pray that they, with all of us, may remember our need to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Silence.

Let us pray that we may grow together in the knowledge and understanding of God's Word.
Silence.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Femininity

A friend of mine is doing a research project on femininity and asked for stories, the following is mine:

When I was 5 years old, someone stole my hat on the playground, and a girl named Ethel Lucas punched the boy for me because I said I didn't believe in violence. The jokes about her having a crush on me and my own masculinity in many ways would be the inception of how I would identify myself and understand others throughout my life. I have never had close male friends or mentors, I have found my life surrounded by femininity and have found myself at home with my own.

I was born male, and in a lot of ways I fit that stereotype (athletics, slack clothing, hairy, etc.), but more often than not even my wife would say I am feminine. One friend even once used me when trying to explain the complexities of gender, sexuality, and relationships by saying “He's a lesbian feminine male.” I don't know if I'd go that far, but in spending a life with females has certainly impacted my world view.

There are great things that come with femininity (and I'm not talking nail polish, skirts, hair chalk, or heels – though I love those things). I love how the women of my life are able to be both strong and beautiful. I love how the feminine allows for claiming self identity. I love how femininity cannot be simply defined as it seems masculinity can be. I could go on and on, but I feel this space is best spent talking about some of the women who inspire me. There are three kinds of women who have influenced me most:

My mentors, Dr. RP, Colleen, Linda, Dorothy, Kat, and others are people who helped pave a path that has allowed me to do the things I do, and be the person I am. They all epitomize femininity, both because of how they carry themselves and because they can speak to the experiences of being a woman in a way that anyone can understand. They are those who will put me in my privileged place, reminding me how my feminine side may get me strange looks, and occasionally bad service, but that I'm still able to do things in ways that they aren't free to do.

My friends, “Sis” Michelle, Tot, Ethel, Anne, and others are those who have allowed me other the years to be feminine without questions. They are the ones who never (as far as I know) felt like I was around them as anything but a friend. They didn't treat me as a threat but rather let me join in the fun of painting nails, prom dress shopping, sleepovers, and other girly things. Without them, I would probably still be trying to be “manly” and wondering why I hated having to do things the way guys were doing them.

The third group of women who influence me are “My Girls.” “My Girls” are what I call the girls I work with, either through volleyball, musicals, or at church. Many of them are still minors, so I wont put their names in this, but they change me on a daily basis, they refuse to be defined by others or by the actions of others. The stories they tell me of things that have happened to them already in their young lives alone are reasons we should all be feminists, but how they maintain an elegance through their strength and their willingness to be weak with one another is inspirational. I remember when two of my girls were going to get married and one of their fathers had to quit his job for this to happen. The pain on her face when she told me was clear as day, but her dad came up and told her that he was not going to let anyone else define him and that he had learned that from watching her grow up. That is the core of femininity, it is the ability to be put together, beautiful, inspirational, all while being weak enough to ask for help.

I have been fortunate to not be locked into gender roles, girls like Ethel Lucas beating a boy up, Heather Sullivan pinning me up against a wall, Mini-me stepping in and doing my job as well as I ever could even though she was just 15, Brooke and Alex challenging the status quo and not taking no for an answer, Irene and Nat struggling with sexuality and taking the risk to ask the team to support them, Dr. R-P making choices that others would question but she knew were right for her, Nancy and Natalie being honest and raw about their experiences and letting others in while also saying No More and becoming voices that changed me and the world around them, Kat ever having fun while also standing for the equality of all even when it comes to being able to have fun, Michelle struggling through loss and faith along with me as two only children who became siblings, Anne never letting me go as friend even after I hurt her, Tot withstanding rumors to be my friend, Linda never taking no for an answer, Emma reminding everyone she was “a kid” when we all looked at her as an adult, Dorthy being the example of what a minister should be, Case dumping her date for me and then making me say I was sorry, Syd and Kris being willing to work to become what I saw in them but eventually choosing where their own limits were, and many others have defined the world for me. Just by being around these women, I have found the strength to wear nail polish to church, to stand beside them, and more than that behind them in the struggles that they are passionate about.

The thing is that I never heard things in gendered tones growing up. I know they were said, and I'm sure there were people then and still are people who see me with my hair, painted nails, all female friends, ability to walk in heels, focus on issues of equality, and the ilk and make judgments about my gender roles or sexuality. Yet, it has always been just me being me, I'm the guy who had a girl (or 3 or 4 over time) fight his fights as a kid, who often hates his gender, who never really understood (due to asperger's syndrome and experience in part I'm sure) why any of it mattered. Of course, now due to all the women listed above and many many more I know it does matter, because for most being seen as feminine has contentions of weakness, of others expectations, of objectification, and of all types of inequality. Feminine may not be any of that to me, but until it isn't any of that to anyone, it's all the more important to claim it and work to change the world's view on it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

10 Commandments

In an effort to both talk about God's law and biblical interpretation, the 10 commandments were taken to their logical inverse and then back.  Here is the "final" interpretation:
1. Place the purpose of the creator above all else
2. Do not limit who God is or what God does
3. God can only be used for love and to build up
4. Honor God and care for Self
5. Pay attention to those who care about you
6. Don't Kill Anyone PERIOD
7. Think about others first
8. Give freely
9. Love and Care for others according to their needs/desires
10. Be who you were created to be, not anyone else.

I think maybe I'll try to live by them a bit. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Blessing for Supply Pastor Leaving

From Psalm 145: The Lord is loving to everyone; God's compassion is over all God's works. All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you. We thank you God for your goodness and loving kindness as seen through Clark's time with us here at HVPC. Through our partnership, for the Spirit that has empowered us to witness and we give you praise. Praise for the the Good News Clark has proclaimed through his leadership, care and support. We now send him forth with our blessing: May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace both this day and forever. Amen and Godspeed.