Saturday, April 7, 2012

Audio transcription: Last week on The Exodus God chose Moses to lead the Israelites who are known in our story as the forgetful, ungrateful grumpy people. With the Israelites trapped in slavery in Egypt, God teaches Moses a few tricks more impressive than the Pharaoh’s magicians. Finally God struck the Pharaoh with ten plagues designed to use natural disasters, attack the Egyptians fertility and demonstrate that the Israelites' God was more powerful that the gods of the Nile.

Now, I’m sure you remember all ten plagues, so feel free to shout them out now.[pause]

Church geeks and those good at reading, good for you. Now everyone else, here’s a recap.

First, water is turned to blood and the fish die.

Frogs. Cute, but also smelly and slimy.

Lice, not just in their hair, but everywhere. *cough* STD

Flies. Doesn’t sound scary, but it worked… until God hardened Pharaoh’s heart again.

Diseased livestock, probably from germs on the flies.

Boils that never heal *cough* STD

Hail, fire and thunder rained down from the sky. This works too until God again hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Whose side is God on anyway? [video of Locusts plague on screen]

Darkness. So dark you could feel it. Pharaoh says that the Israelites can go, but he wants to keep their stuff. Moses says “no.”

Death of the firstborn humans and animals. Pharaoh finally lets the Israelites go, because he’s afraid he may be killed next.

And now back to our story…

On their way out of Egypt, the Israelites turn back (like Lot’s wife in Sodom) and in their fear they cry out to God, which in this story means, they grumbled to Moses.

They said, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’

Which was essentially the Israelites snarky way of mocking Moses by saying: Did we really have to go on such a long hot trecherous walk if we were just going to suffer the same fate as everyone we watched die in those plagues? This guy he never listens, we tell him over and over and he never listens. I’d rather be a slave than be dead.

Moses responds to them saying: “Do not be afraid” and “peace be still.” These words will later be plagiarized by another prophet when his 12 forgetful, ungrateful grumpy disciples become scared of the sea, but that’s another story.

Moses tells the Israelites the Egyptians will all be killed by God if they can manage to stand completely still and get out of God’s way.

Then God responds to the Israelites, which in this story means he talks to Moses, and says why are they grumbling to me? Keep them moving. Then you will lift up your staff, stretch out your hand over the sea, say hocus-pocus, divide the sea, and have the Israelites walk through it on the dry ground. Well, maybe God didn’t say the bit about hocus-pocus. But God did say that God would harden the hearts of the Egyptians so they will chase the Israelites and God will show the Egyptians, the Pharaoh, the chariots and the chariot drivers who is boss. There was an angel of God walking in front and behind the Israelites. Did I forget to mention that before? Well there was. And, it was super dark. And there was a pillar of cloud, which then moved both in front and behind them and lit up the night and kept the Israelites and the Egyptians separated all night long.

Then Moses stretched his hand over the sea and God divided the water all night long with a strong East wind. The Israelites walked across the sea, on dry land, with walls of water on both sides of them. The Egyptians went into the sea after them.

Then, either on the last military watch of the night, or the first watch of the morning, God in a pillar of fire looked at the Egyptians and it freaked them out and they began to panic and try to run away from the Israelites. But God clogged the wheels of their chariots. It does say how, but I think it was really muddy. Never the less it was really heard for the chariots to turn around and they were heard screaming “Run away, run away God is fighting for the Israelites against Egypt.

Then God told Moses to stretch out his hand in order to dump the water back on the Egyptians. So, he did and by dawn the water had returned to normal. As the Egyptians ran away from the water, God tossed the Egyptians into the sea and the water returned to its normal depth and covered them completely. Every single Egyptian died. But the Israelites were saved because they had walked on the dry ground with the water on either side of them. And that’s how God saved the Israelites and the Israelites saw the Egyptians dead on the shore.

Israel saw what God did to the Egyptians, so like the Pharaoh who had been afraid God would kill him, the people saw God’s great works and were very afraid. But it also caused them believed in God and God’s slave Moses.

And so this episode ends with Moses and the Israelites singing this song to God: I will sing God, for he has triumphed gloriously, horse and rider he’s thrown in the sea.

Or perhaps it was it bit more like: Nanner, nanner, nanner our God is cooler than yours.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

COT featured on Living Lutheran

The most unusual prayer I’ve ever written was a blessing for fertilizer. This was one of many prayers I wrote for the blessing of the Free Farm, where both Bishop Mark Holmerud of the ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod and Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California declared the site a church.

Created from materials diverted from the San Francisco dump, on the site where St. Paulus Lutheran Church burnt down in the early ‘90s, the Free Farm is an assemblage of motley farm folk, hipsters, faith leaders, professors and hippies.

While the work that happens at the farm may not seem like typical church, the medical herb labyrinth created from the bricks of the old church and the fact that the farmers have grown and given away nearly 6,000 pounds of produce to local neighbors revives ancient Lutheran practices.

Read the rest at Living Lutheran

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lent 4B: Change the World - a response to the Christian PTSD of Lent

Today's Gospel text in John (3:14-21) is talking about making tough dark and light decisions. As Jesus moves closer and closer to his death, the question of who is in and who is out become more important. Like times in our lives when we have felt on the margins or close to an all or nothing, life or death decisions it is very human to limit ourselves to the company of those who agree 100% with us. In times of life and death it is important.

Nellie McKay's "Change the World" draws out the way it feels to be in the midst of this kind of decision.

Her political satire and playful humor also reminds us that this is not a way to live every day. As the community trying to live ethical Christian lives in the aftermath of Jesus' brutal death, we must be aware of the PTSD that we care from reenacting and retelling this Lenten story every year. Most importantly, we must remember that this act happened in the past and it is not happening now.

While it may be easier to justify decisions that are all or nothing in times of war, terror and trauma, Lent should be a time of remembering, not retraumatizing!

So this Sunday, we take a peak into what it is like to make decisions in Lent, but we also stay in touch with our present realities, families, communities and remember that this is a story about Jesus - not us or our church. While the words of the Gospel text may speak to a much more emergent time, it is not a life or death decision for others to agree with us, believe just as we do or to hide away in dark rooms only with people who agree with us.

In fact, if we don't want to get into a Lenten situation again, where people are required to agree to religious and political ideology or end up on a cross, it would seem that tolerance and compassion would be our way to avoid that fate.

I've always wondered why people have tried so hard to do exactly as Jesus did, when the story so clearly ends badly for him (at least in the story that ends at Good Friday - as the oldest version of the Gospel of Mark do).

God is dynamic and learns by interacting with creation. I propose that we follow that example. Let us be people who are dynamic and learn by interacting with God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why You Will Need a Priest (if You’re Lucky)

by Michael Jennings

In the early 70’s I went to a hippie funeral for a fallen fellow hippie. It may still be going on. We wouldn’t hear of anything organized or structured – we’d just gather and, you know, follow our hearts. And we did, wearing our most somber flowing shirts and cleanest jeans.

It was horrible. First we all stood on the dirt in a circle and held hands. Then someone started singing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. That’s a sweet song, right? Until we got to: “I told the undertaker, please drive slow. For this body you are haulin' Lord, I hate to see her go". So that petered out quickly. Then came the personal remembrances, consisting of three people trying to speak at once, interrupted by long silences. Then some dreadful improvised free-form “Goodbye” song that finally, finally ended. Followed by the obligatory ghastly potluck (short on luck).

My wife’s mother died. It is not the first time we lost a parent – actually it was the last. But my initial reaction was the same: we needed a Grownup to show up and take care of this. Then the sinking realization: I’m the Grownup? Pathetic. We needed to make Arrangements. Who do we tell? How do we dispose of the body? I felt like a character in a Sarah Glover Mystery. Where the hell was that Grownup?

I called our church. Sally, the parish administrator, picked up on the first ring. Moments later, Fr. Don, one of our associate priests, was on the line, getting info. Elaine was at her mother’s side when she died. Our two girls showed up immediately, and all three sat in a room with a dead body. Now what? Here’s what: the priest arrived, gathered them at the bedside, and offered prayers. Prayers that said: this has happened, it’s final, it’s terrible, we’re still here, please help us. We went home, cried a little, and ate spaghetti.

Next came daily phone calls. How are you feeling? What do you need? We are praying for you. And my favorite from Fr. Don: “I’d be happy to go to the funeral home with you – those bastards are sharks, and I know how to handle ‘em.” (I paraphrase.)

We met with Fr. Tommy, our parish rector – Sally took notes. After we mumbled about what we thought we wanted, he smiled sweetly and said, “We can do anything you want. But let me tell you what you want.” And then he did.

You want a Eucharist, you know why? It allows Pearl to join us. Noon is a good start time. Yes, the photo of her will look nice there. Shall we configure the altar and seating thus? This psalm reminds me of your family. How about these hymns? Sally will print the program (and Deacon David will come downtown and pick up the photo). Sure, a meal following would be lovely, set the tables Friday if you want. By all means, serve wine. Now let’s pray you out of here; you have my cell number.

The overwhelming, formless task was now finite, scheduled, codified. We went home and ate spaghetti.

On Saturday our people showed up. Lifelong friends, family, surprises from the past, a few whose last names we’re uncertain of. They came to share our burden. And it worked. Elaine sang, and the sorrow in her voice grew into an aching blessing, a farewell, a thank you. Clergy, six strong, choreographed as tight as the Pips, dressed the altar. Fr. Don directed his homily right to us, addressing us repeatedly by name. The girls offered tender remembrances of a doting grandmother, and Elaine spoke from her heart to her mother’s. We took communion at the altar, and then sat down and took it again: Pearl’s pot roast, mashed potatoes, and ambrosia. We sat for a long time, eating banana cream pie out of jars like baby food.

Our ceremony was not an exorcism of sadness, and may do little to ease the lifelong sorrow we will feel at her loss. But dwelling so attentively on the ritual of a loving, shared farewell has helped us hold her absence as a part of the great turning of the wheel. In a palpable sense it answered our prayer: this has happened, it’s final, it’s terrible, we’re still here - please help us.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Emerging and Missional Church Seminars at St. Aidan's

All are invited to come to two seminars at St Aidan's led by Ian Mobsby, from the Church of England, on new ways of being Church in the 21st Century.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

AIDS QUILT MEMORIES: Recalling Tom Tell And Ron Washburn, With Sister Butch, Peat, And Queeni

By Patrick Hall

The return of the AIDS Quilt for Advent brought back many memories of those members of St. Aidan’s, and friends of St. Aidan’s, who died of AIDS.

Many of them were VERY involved in our parish, serving on the Vestry, including Kenneth Buckley, Ron Washburn, Peter Hayn who later became ordained, Fr. Jim Markunas, etc. But this remembrance is about Tom and Ron.

In the late 70’s, Rev. Lin Knight asked me to be the Bishop’s Representative to The Parsonage, which was the first official presence of the Episcopal Diocese in the gay and lesbian community. The Parsonage was established by Bishop Swing, at the urging of two gay priests, Bernard Mayes and John Williams. It was located in a small rental home behind Herth Realty, at 555A Castro Street. Soon after I started attending Board meetings there, I met Ron and Tom.

At about the same time, HIV was discovered and AIDS became a death sentence throughout the gay community (and among our St. Aidan’s community).

Ron and Tom were very active in publicizing the AIDS epidemic, as well as quelling rumors regarding its transmittal. When the Episcopal National Convention was held in Anaheim, Ron and Tom enlisted a group from the leadership of the Parsonage to travel there to raise awareness of AIDS within the Episcopal community. They would gather the latest articles and statistics about AIDS, and then each morning Marilyn and I, and Ron and Tom, and Bill Lorton and others, would hand out “The Daily AIDS Update” to the conventioneers as they entered the convention center each morning. Marilyn would especially target those with a purple shirt. Ron and Tom also began handing out small swatches of rainbow ribbons, with straight pins, so you could pin it on your shirt or blouse, to show your support of those with HIV/AIDS.

Finally, Ron and Tom became HIV positive themselves. During their illness, they continued to be active in AIDS awareness, helping to establish the first World AIDS Day, and attending, as I recall, the first three World AIDS Conferences. Ron succumbed first to the disease, and a few months later, Tom.

Before they died, Marilyn and I had planned a trip to Italy, and included Assisi on our itinerary, intending to go for the day. Tom and Ron said, “If you are going to Assisi, you really must stay overnight.” We did, and it was a magical, spiritual night to be in the quiet realm of St. Francis after all of the tour buses have taken the masses back to Rome.

If you look at the medium size panel in the middle of the bottom of our Quilt panel, you will see “The Bickersons” [Bill Lorton’s nickname for them] “Ron Washburn, Tom Tull, Sister Butch and Queenie (their two cats) and Peat” [their dog]. We miss them all.”


by Judith Lavender Dancer

The new year feels refreshing and a starting over again that we repeat often, not just every year, but there are events and times in our lives that point to a refreshment, a starting over that can be restorative and helpful in modern times of busyness and loosing connection to the Sacred.

I love a good soak and a scrub in the New Year, cleaning off the dead skin and allowing the natural glow to become restored. The scrubbing also awakens part of me that may have forgotten that it feels good to be touched and cared for. One year, Kabuki Hot Tubs was the answer, with hot Japanese noodle soup afterward. Yum.

One year, we gathered up all the rocks we had collected over the years, living just 3 blocks from Ocean Beach at the time, and went down to the beach to release them back into the environment they came from. When we got there, someone or ones had made a reclining 8-10 foot woman out of sand, so we delicately laid the rocks all over her body. The surf came up to her, lapping away at the rocks and carrying them back to sea.

When we are back into our lives, Chinese (or Lunar) New Year sneaks in with a roar of a dragon and special food and celebrations inhabit our fair city. I especially like the red envelopes the elders used to give me with a dollar or two inside, good luck for the new year. My colleague is Chinese and he has two young children, so now I get to give the envelopes to them, which I bought today in Chinatown. The cycle continues...

I was baptized 7 years ago this Easter, so the Lenten journey always feels as if it is a gathering of

energy and intention into such a special time in the church year, the death and resurrection of Christ. The poignancy and weight of Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Day are rejuvenating and so sacred. Yes, another form of new year, rebirth and a recommitment to being Christian in the 21st century.

Spring, Summer and then in the Fall we have the Jewish New Year. I am a September baby, so I feel very connected to the timing of this event for my sisters and brothers, my birth starting a new year, plus respecting and noticing the rituals of others. My birthday has always been important to me and I celebrate it with relish (not the pickled kind, Jack!).

Advent—the start of the liturgical year—has become a magical time for me as I explore the imagery, the story and the symbols of light and dark. I cherished this time and felt a refreshment I have never felt in this season before this year, moving away from the party and shopping frenzy and deepening into the understanding of its sacred meaning.

I know other cultures and religions have their New Years but these are the ones that have affected me. What I notice is I am able to start again in so many ways throughout the calendar year and it gives me an opportunity to rejuvenate (we say re- judith-ate at our house), take stock and begin again. My energy does not need to get stuck (although being stuck might be what I need sometimes, too) but I can be on the journey of newness and deepening into a new understanding of myself and how I can contribute to the world.

What are your New Year points and how do you celebrate and open into the journey of this sacred life? Let’s continue this celebration and opening together.