Monday, March 31, 2008
Here's another take, from the current president of Chicago Theological Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite. She warns us against what she calls "thirty second theology," and invites everyone to consider the entire sermon from which the controversial bits were lifted.
Susan is RIGHT!
Thursday, March 27, 2008
original image of the Pettus Bridge, Selma, AL, by earthbound spirit
Where have I been? Where am I? On the road, journeying with a group of wonderful people to view civil rights movement monuments, converse with movement veterans, and ponder where we've been, where we are, and how far we still have to go. We've laughed, we've cried, we've sung, we've prayed, we've cried some more. Still on the road. More later, maybe...
Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
image borrowed from the Jesus in Love blog
This year, I invite you to look at something different, something more serious: the
Jesus in Love blog. Beginning today, there will be an entry each day of holy week featuring art depicting "a queer version of Christ's passion," as well as book excerpts from Kittredge Cherry's Jesus in Love: At the Cross. Note, also, that another of Cherry's books, Art That Dares, is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.
No, I don't know Kittredge Cherry - but the art is fine, and I found another of her books, Equal Rites, valuable as a resource for a worship class.
h/t to the MadPriest, too
Friday, March 14, 2008
So... this week my practicum class celebrated communion, and did we ever celebrate! Seven of us presented liturgies, none of us went strictly "by the book," according to our respective traditions. There was an abundance of bread, wine (red & white), and grape juice for those of us who wish to not drink alcohol. And we still didn't get to all the class members who were assigned this worship element, so there will be more communing next week!
Because this is a Christian seminary, the elements of worship that are being studied and practiced in this class are based in the Christian liturgy. There is a general expectation that prayers and liturgies will follow some predictable patterns, which is reflected in the texts and "workbook" our class is using.
On the other hand, we have a very creative professor who is open to experimentation. He encourages us all to write our own liturgies instead of using the standard pieces that exist (if any)- because he finds most of the standard pieces too dull. This is the prof who, guest lecturing in another class of mine, demonstrated how worship should be a sensory experience - heard, smelled, felt, tasted - by pouring water from a pitcher held high into a basin sitting on the table in front of him. The resulting noisy splashing inadvertently "baptized" those of us in the front row!
Our communion rituals were quite diverse. One classmate offered milk and coffee cake in his ritual - and it was wonderful to partake of comfort food with each other. Most of us opted for standard elements of bread, wine & grape juice; but the particulars of those elements varied greatly from sweet Hawaiian bread to crusty sourdough, from hearty Merlot to Riesling, from organic Concord grape to store-brand white grape. Most of us used platters for the bread and goblets of some kind for the liquids; again, the particulars of these varied widely, from a sturdy, attractive hand-thrown goblet found at a thrift shop to a commemorative communion cup borrowed from a church to a multi-hued tumbler. A couple of us brought fabric to decorate the table. I brought a chalice to light as well. One class member is from another country, and he explained that his liturgy was quite traditional for his church back home - except that he sang most of it, which he said was not traditional at all. Pushing the edges and being experimental is often in the mind of the celebrant! What one person perceives as "pretty traditional" another may see as "out there."
My ritual ended up being "pretty traditional" in form, though the theology expressed in it was more humanist than Christian. It worked pretty well for our relatively small group. The logistics would need to be reworked for a congregation larger than about 20 people, but I think that was one of the lessons we were to learn - that how we decide to share has to be appropriate for the group's size.
Language in the liturgies was very important to me, as a UU. In some traditions, the communion table is not open to all, and the language of the ritual reflects that. I'm also uncomfortable with much of the cross-resurrection imagery, as are some other UUs. Some specific words are triggers for me: "body - broken," and "blood - shed." These will cause me to step away from the table, as I see them as exclusive. There are really two issues - one is my sensitivity to language and my own theology. The other is my sensitivity to those who, because this is a central ritual of their tradition, really believe I should not partake as a non-Christian.
I opted out of two rituals, and would have opted out of one other had I any warning. In the first two, the language used was exclusive, and it was easy enough to simply take a step backwards out of the circle we were standing in, to let the bread and the cup pass me by. In the third instance it wasn't until I was standing in front of the table, with the celebrant who was saying "the body of Christ, broken for you," that I realized she was going to be that traditional in that section of the ritual. Her language up to that point had been wonderfully inclusive. There is no graceful way to step out of a line filing forward for communion at that point. (If you know of one, tell me.)
Believe me, I've wrestled with the issues surrounding the trinity and I understand how it is understood by most liberal Christians as a way of seeing the relationality of the divine. I also understand how important the traditional language is to so many, who truly believe humanity was in need of salvation from original sin, and that Jesus' death and resurrection provided redemption. I've thought long and hard about these things, and I don't believe in original sin or the fall, I don't believe in the bodily resurrection, or that Jesus atoned for anyone's transgressions. I don't believe in celebrating the death of a man who died at the hands of an empire as a political prisoner. I do believe that the teachings of Jesus, particularly in the synoptic gospels, help us figure out how to live. I believe in the divine we find in relationship with each other, as in Sandy Eisenberg Sasso's book.
I chose to write a communion ritual that celebrated life - and the teaching that in sharing and recognizing our dependence upon one another, life could be full and abundant. My Christian classmates were comfortable with the familiar form and the part about Jesus, my own theological leanings are expressed in the rest of it.
Here's what I wrote:
We gather in community grateful for our time together.
We give thanks for this day.
We know that life is a precious gift, to be sustained and enjoyed.
We give thanks for the gift of life.
We know that life is to be shared, in community, in faith.
We give thanks for this faith-filled community.
Remember the gospel stories of food and sharing?
Jesus fed the multitudes with five loaves and two fish.
The people were traveling in a deserted place. Jesus and his disciples shared the little food they had.
And all were fed, none left hungry.
And at the wedding in Cana, all enjoyed the best wine.
Jesus showed that life was to be celebrated!
Friends, some believe these stories are true, and call them miracles. Some believe these stories point us toward a larger truth, the miracle of caring, sharing community. The miracle is in the sharing – in sharing resources all have enough. And the miracle is in expecting joy – for our expectations often color our reality.
Spirit of life and love, known by many names, we are gathered to celebrate this life and this food which is the gift of the whole universe. In this bread and this wine are the sun, the rain, and the good earth.
Wheat was planted and nurtured, then harvested. Separate grains were ground together to form this loaf, as separate people come together to form this community. By the work of living yeast, and through human endeavor comes bread for the sustenance of life.
Grape vines are also planted, nurtured and harvested. Separate grapes were blended together and produced juice. By the work of living yeast, and through human endeavor comes wine for the celebration of life.
We give thanks to the spirit within and around us for the abundance before us this day.
Let us sing together: “Spirit of Life,” by Carolyn McDade
Now, let us share in the abundance of the earth and the fruit of human labor together. All are welcome to share, regardless of creed or class or any other division, for the Spirit of Life knows no such boundaries.
This food is the gift of the whole universe,
the earth, the sky, and much hard work.
Let us honor those who helped bring the grain and grape to table in this form.
May we always be mindful of our dependence on the earth, and on each other.
(ALL): Let us celebrate, accepting this food in the spirit of community.
(raise bread) Blessed is this bread, all its ingredients and all who labored to produce it. (break bread)
(pour wine and juice, raise glasses) Blessed is this wine and juice, their ingredients and all who labored to produce them. (replace glasses on table)
Please pass the bread to one another, sharing so our lives will be sustained.
And offer the cup to one another, sharing in celebration of life and community.
(allow time for bread & cup/s to circulate)
We have shared the bread and drunk the wine and juice. As our bodies are fed, may our hearts be also by the warmth of this community.
May peace be with you all.
And also with you.
Let us enjoy the blessings of the day.
 These two lines = the first of “Five Contemplations on Food,” from the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh.
The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
|Purgatory (Repenting Believers)||Low|
|Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)||Very High|
|Level 2 (Lustful)||High|
|Level 3 (Gluttonous)||Very Low|
|Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)||Very Low|
|Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)||Low|
|Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)||Moderate|
|Level 7 (Violent)||High|
|Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)||Low|
|Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)||Low|
"Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad."
Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test
h/t, The Pageless Book
Thursday, March 06, 2008
One of the classes I have this term is a practicum in writing and performing/presenting elements for worship. This is not a class in preaching - we're not writing and delivering sermons. Been there, done that, got the credits. This is a class that's known as a "fun" class at my seminary. I'm happy I have the opportunity to take it before I finish, as I've spent the last two years hearing how wonderful this class is. There's one major problem - there are too many of us in the class! Imagine being assigned to write & present a wedding ritual, knowing that you will have 6 minutes to present it and receive critique. You see the problem? I'm tempted to be very flip and present a Vegas-style wedding that consists of:
"You want him?"
"You want her?"
"Okey-dokey, I pronounce you married. Pay the cashier on your way out.
All joking aside, my assignment for this coming week is to present a eucharistic rite. I'm wrestling again with my theology of Jesus, and my theological integrity for this. I want to be true to my own interstitial theology, and create a ritual that's accessible for my (mostly) Christian classmates. Perfect challenge for a UU who identifies as mostly humanist & Buddhist, but honors the Christian tradition, right? Well, I will not do the "body broken, blood shed for our redemption" thing.
It would be easier if I could just pull something out of The Communion Book, but we're supposed to write our own material. (And to bring our own bread, wine, and grape juice.)
I'm thinking... joyful occasions: loaves and fishes, wedding at Cana, Thich Nhat Hanh's Five Contemplations on Food... and emphasizing the life-giving and life-affirming aspects of these, "from the earth and elements and by human endeavor, this bread is created so we may sustain our lives; this wine is created so we may celebrate our lives..."
I'll let you know how it goes...
I'm a Porsche 911!
You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.
h/t Ms. Kitty, of course!