working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Archive for August, 2013

A bigger vision

How many times have I deflected the blame that was clearly mine? How many times have I been quick to judge others and point fingers? I’m the mother of an 8-year-old son and often find myself in the position to discern the origin of a fight between him and his friends – when I arrive on the scene, the boys are ready with their own fingers to show who is at fault.

Today’s reading from Isaiah 58:9b-14 is a message from the prophet to people who are like me – educated, privileged, and influential. And they’re pointing fingers, blaming and most likely shaming the laborers who are just doing their job. And God has noticed. Their behavior toward people in need is pretty shabby, too. While they’re throwing parties, celebrating being home from exile, their neighbors are starving in the streets. And in the midst of the parties, they have time to complain about their neighbors’ progress in rebuilding the Temple.

To address this self-centered behavior,  the prophet shares God’s vision for life together. No more finger pointing. No more speaking evil about the laborers.

And then the prophet lays down this seemingly simple directive: offer your food to the hungry. But the Hebrew word commonly translated as “food” means much more than that (so I’ve heard from Hebrew scholars.) “Nephesh” means “your whole being.” That’s much bigger than just bringing a few cans of food to the food bank for people who are hungry. That means getting to know them. Letting them get to know me. Offering understanding and acceptance. Welcoming them into community. Helping them achieve and learn and grow. Learning from them what they have to teach me. Speaking for them when my voice travels farther because of my privilege. And making room for them at the table, so that their voices can be heard.

That’s the vision. And that’s the call. And that’s really what I hope my life can be about. When I get caught up in petty rivalries – when I get distracted by insignificant details – when I get bogged down in paperwork – when I get discouraged by other people’s opinions of me – this vision is where I return. This vision of people knowing deep down their value to God. This vision of people working side-by-side. This vision of everyone having what they need. This is the real stuff of life.

So today, I lift up the vision, for myself and for others. Let’s be about something bigger. Let’s be about God’s vision.

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a big day

I never thought it would happen. Yesterday, a woman was elected to lead my denomination. I’m a pastor in the ELCA, ordained for over 11 years now, and while I have seen several women come and go as bishops of the smaller regions called synods, I really thought it would be years, decades even, before a woman would be considered for the top post of Presiding Bishop.

It was an emotional day for me. The news was unexpected – it came via text from a parishioner (thanks, Marty!) and interrupted the very important administrative tasks I was trying to finish. And then Facebook exploded with comments from friends and colleagues, all of us celebrating and wondering how we got here and what comes next. I found my heart racing and my mind buzzing and I started to feel different about my call. Honest. There was a shift in my perception of myself as a female pastor. Just because I saw someone who looks like me with the screen showing the tally of votes in her favor.

I am so filled with hope about our Church. Having a woman at the helm makes a difference. I’ve experienced the shift every time I’ve been the first female pastor at a church. I’ve heard the gratitude expressed by so many people – women and men – who take note of our different leadership style and approach to ministry. I’ve seen my colleagues take on huge challenges and bring new health and vitality to struggling congregations. And knowing that our entire denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, is going to be shepherded by a woman – I am certain that change is coming!

 

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at the helm

at the helm

How much fun is this? The captain is letting me drive the boat!!!

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