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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Resurrection Happened, Happens and Still Needs to Happen

A very long time ago, I was on staff at the Community UCC Church of San Carlos, CA.  I worked for any amazing woman who was the pastor there, the Rev. Diane Dulin.  I've often mused that while I was there as both youth director and church secretary, I learned more about ministry and the life and role of the pastor than in any seminary course or workshop or training session.  One of the things I remember in great detail is my own role of typing  her sermons for her every week.  She was meticulous, organized and I could sense the care and heart that she put into all of her sermons.  One week, when we were conversing, she mentioned to me that one of the parishoners commented to her as they were exiting the sanctuary after a Sunday morning worship, saying in a rather skeptical and chiding tone, "You preach these sermons like you really BELIEVE that stuff in the Bible."  (a bit of a paraphrase after all these years, I'm sure)  She was somewhat bemused but also a bit saddened by the comment.  In my naivete and late-20s, I was horrified!

Well, that was over 25 years ago.  Since then, I've seen a lot more that would argue against what is in Scripture, lived a lot more life that would suggest that most of the Scripture is hogwash and wondered a lot about the role of miracles and prayer and all sorts of theological doctrine in our everyday lives.    On this weekend, I find myself wondering about the Resurrection.  When I preach it, do I have people out in the congregation who could exclaim to me, "You preached that sermon like you really believe the Resurrection!"?  I hope so, because, I really do believe it is the core and center of all that holds our lives and our faith together, my life and my faith.    When the disciples and the women reached the tomb, their own lives were crumbling, and they were probably asking a lot of the same questions we were asking.  It wasn't just that their best friend, teacher, brother, child or mentor had just died.  The world around them was in turmoil.  Their own lives were threatened.  They probably didn't know what to think or say or believe.  Some ran scared, others betrayed, others denied and some returned to tell the story.

Today, we see evidence of the need for Resurrection nearly everywhere we turn.  All creation moans and groans and waits for new life.  Wars and rumors of wars seem never to cease.  Walls divide and look impermeable.  Diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS and heart disease appear nearly incurable.  Addictions, abuse, and mental illness gets mentioned in hushed and secretive tones.  Droughts, unseasonable storms and all types of severe weather phenomena are commonplace.  All of God's children are still not treated as equals and their love is not honored as equal love. 

We also know stories where the impossible and improbable overcome light in the shadows, tales of empty tombs, and witnessed accounts of love defeating hatred and fear.  This very day, the Klan scheduled to march in Memphis and just across town people are meeting at an anti-racism conference.  All over people are marching, running, biking, hiking, walking and pledging to fund research and treatment for diseases like AIDS, cancer, MS, ALS, Diabetes, etc.  People like Rosalyn Carter speak up for people with mental illness and speak to the systems that can provide assistance and interpretation.  Physical walls like the Berlin Wall and virtual ones like Aparthied in South Africa have crumbled into the past.  Wars have ended.  Warring neighbors have reconciled.  Love has found a way where there has been no way.

Tomorrow, I hope and pray that someone, anyone, if even just one, will in some small way, hear the meager and frightfully inadequate words of this preacher and be able to say "It sounds like you really believe this Resurrection story." and "Christ is Risen!  Christ is risen, indeed!"  Past, present and future....

Friday, March 15, 2013

March Madness

If you come to our house in the next several weeks, there is a pretty good chance that you will find us watching a college basketball game, or at least that one is playing on one of our two televisions as background to something else that we are doing.  Yes, as a Christian pastor, I know that we are in the season of Lent, but we are also in the season most commonly and fondly known as March Madness, leading up to the Final Four tournament and the crowning of the NCAA Division 1 basketball champs. 

Another thing that you will figure out, if you spend any time in conversation with me, is that I am going through my own March Madness.  There has been a lot of transition in my life in the last year, and I and God decided that we should just turn everything upside down and inside out all at once.  Some of my closest friends have suggested that the last year and a half since my cancer and staph infection have made me much more definitive and decisive when it comes to how I will spend my time remaining on this earthly plane, regardless of the length.  I think that is probably true. 

This week, a letter went to my congregation letting them know that I will be ending my five and a half year ministry there and that I am moving into a 3/4 time interim associate position at First Presbyterian Church of Livermore.   I have wrestled with the uncertainty of this but the theme of joy that I am carrying with me through this Lent was actually one of the biggest deciding factors.  When I met with the search committee at Livermore, the resounding theme of our conversation was genuine, free and infectious laughter.  I still hear it echoing in my soul.  If you know me at all, you know that I require a certain amount of laughter in my day. 

Don't get me wrong, there has been joy in my current call.  However, in the last couple of years, grief and loss have been a more predominant theme.  I have been so privileged to walk with so many people in their times of illness, loss and recovery.  It just is a lot to carry alone.  I've learned in this solo pastor call that it is not for the faint of heart and it probably is not the role best suited for me.  I sincerely like being "the boss" but I don't like doing the job alone.  I need other peers around me who compliment my own gifts and growing edges and people who will collaborate with me on a regular base to plan, solve problems and, yes, laugh!

I had no idea when I put on this bracelet this Lent, that God would use the word "joy" to change my life in such profound ways.  I am thinking God might have a slight grin on Her face as well!