A Very Advent Spice Rack

Last week I installed a wire spice rack on the door of our pantry. All by myself. Judging by the unimpressed looks I’m seeing, I don’t think you yet know about me that I am not particularly handy in that way. Ryan is the Mrs. Fix-It in our house. I am quite proud of my handiwork mainly because I stocked the spice rack with maybe 20 spices, opened & closed the door to the pantry many times… and guess what? That rack is still screwed in AND level!

 

In order for the rack to be able to hold what it needs to hold, it is supported by 4 anchors. On each corner of the wire rack is a clip & a screw to give the spice rack stability even under significant weight.

 

I don’t know about you, but this season of waiting, this season of Advent is weighty. Whether you are one of those people who enjoy shopping at those special year round Christmas stores in March & Christmas songs are permanently on your playlist, or you frankly feel a bit grouchy & out of sorts during this month because of grief, or stress, or difficulty with less daily sunlight, here we are. We are in this season together.

 

Advent is anchored by 4 Sundays including today. Sundays of considering hope, love, joy, & peace. I don’t know about you, but reflecting on these gifts feels a bit out of touch with reality. Has Advent read the headlines? Has Advent sat down to talk to real, living people? Does Advent know the real pain & struggle of each allegation, of each bombing, of each destructive new policy, of each memory of a deceased loved one, of each demand for more or better during this season of expected perfected hospitality, of each day or night of loneliness, of each overwhelming social invite?

 

I struggle with Advent. I struggle with Christmas. One of my favorite seasonal songs is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[1]:

 

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to all…

And in despair I bowed my head:

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to all.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to all.”

Till, ringing, singing, on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,

Of peace on earth, good will to all!

 

I love this song & poem because it describes this struggle between current reality & faith for a different, restored reality.

 

In 1 of our passages this morning, the Psalmist in Psalm 80 repeats the refrain, “restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved”. In this season of Advent, consider, in what areas do I need restoration? In what ways can I join God’s restorative work?

 

My hope & prayer for you & for us all during this season is to find resolve & restoration, & an audacious hope while simultaneously looking directly at your current individual & our current shared reality.

 

I hope you will find these 4 Sundays of Advent to be anchors for whatever spices this season holds for you- whether sweet spices of dill, nutmeg, sesame, or bitter spices of horseradish, bay leaf, cloves, or a combination of something in-between.

 

I encourage you to try something new or different during this season to add tools to your spiritual tool box & to anchor Advent, maybe even find or create some restoration. Amen.

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Elevators & Staircases

Last year around Halloween Saturday Night Live featured a creepy & hilarious skit with Tom Hanks through a haunted house called Haunted Elevator. Watch the skit here. Mark, the bell hop says,”The scariest thing to the mind is the unknown.”

When Pastor Elijah & I came to Calvary in 2014 there was plenty of uncertainty about how exactly our residency would go. This theme continued, even through these days, fall 2017. Even if I had a crystal ball then, it would have been cloudy. So much has happened during my time at Calvary, much of which could not have been predicted. and much of which was honestly pretty scary and/or stressful.

Yet, here we are. We made it through!

This Sunday I look forward to giving thanks for our time together on my last Sunday with you all. More details on festivities can be found below. This Sunday we also have opportunities to remember & give thanks for saints who have gone before us, especially those saints & loved ones who have died this past year on All Saints Sunday.

If “the scariest thing to the mind is the unknown,” then death can be pretty scary. At its core, the fear of death, thanatophobia, has roots in fear of the unknown. Part of what makes grief so hard is the level of imagination required to consider what life will be like without that loved one.

Imaging life after a loved one’s death requires faith. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” When you remember a deceased loved one you might feel a little flutter in your chest kind of like when you miss a step in a staircase.

Wherever you are in your journey- concerns about your future, grieving a lost loved one whether by death or conflict, wondering where is God when you suffer, and more- ask God to guide your steps on life’s staircase as you put one foot in front of the other. If you’re not sure how, or you don’t find that type of courage within yourself, come this Sunday to borrow a little communal courage as we reflect and give thanks together as we are inspired by the saints who have gone before us.

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Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace

A whirring grogger silencing evil

A twinkling triangle turning from one page to the next

A vibrating gong announcing newness

A jazzy piano dancing through the night

A defiant snare drum marching forward

A strumming ukulele mellowing in simplicity

A tolling bell reminding all to give generously

A sorrowful cello making space for grief

An echoing cymbal crashing to awaken

A cow bell calling the herd homeward to have their fill

A triumphant trumpet proclaiming victory

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace

One shaky voice among a diverse choir

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Upside Down; Right Side Up

For many of us, the world has never felt more upside down than it does in these days. I struggle to make sense of current events. A solar eclipse this past week felt well timed. The past 9 months or so have felt particularly upside down in our political world that impacts each person quite personally, though sometimes disproportionately.

In The Queer Bible Commentary, scholar Timothy Koch refers to Isaiah as one of the “queerest” books in the Bible because of Isaiah’s ongoing themes of unexpected and strange realities, especially “a little child will lead them” and “the wolf will lie down with the lamb” from chapter 11, and God’s declaration that God’s house that was formerly exclusive will now be “a house of prayer for all peoples” from chapter 56.

Isaiah is all about a not yet known reality. This may appear upside down and backwards from the ways we know chains of command, food chains, and self-imposed religiously based exclusivism to work.

Maybe Isaiah’s vision is not upside down. Maybe Isaiah’s vision is the world right side up- a vision of God making a new Heaven and a new Earth restored to shalom for all.

Even in these tiresome and frightening days, let us continue to find ways to partner with God in making the world a little more queer with uncommon chesed, loving-kindness, and a little more right side up with justice.

“I [God] will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters [to those who have been previously excluded]; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” -Isaiah 56:5, NRSV

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art by Eric Carle

A Litany Against White Supremacy

Pastor Jennifer Preaching

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-white-virginia-rally-20170811-story.html

As Charlottesville, VA becomes the focal point of white supremacy and those who stand against it, this litany was prepared by myself and Pastor Elizabeth Rawlings for use in worship.

Litany against white supremacy

Gracious and loving God,

In the beginning, you created humanity and declared us very good

We were made in Africa, came out of Egypt.

Our beginnings, all of our beginnings, are rooted in dark skin.

We are all siblings. We are all related.

We are all your children.

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are all your children.

Violence entered creation through Cain and Abel.

Born of jealousy, rooted in fear of scarcity,

Brother turned against brother

The soil soaked with blood, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

We are all siblings, we are all related, we are our brothers keeper.

When your people cried out in slavery,

You heard them…

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Where I’m From

So, where are you from?

 

I am Erica, daughter of Rebecca,

granddaughter of Jimmie & Judy,

great-granddaughter of Fay & Marion.

born in Miami, Florida, raised in Houston, Texas.

My religious heritage is a recipe for disaster:

1 Cup Baptist

1 pint Mennonite

3 Tablespoons Episcopal

a sprinkling of agnostic

with an attractive garnish of Judaism

Simultaneously Enneagram 1 & 6,

touchy-feely,

pastor, partner,

writer, right-er of wrongs

vegetarian, bleeding heart,

gay, straight edge,

Eco-Feminist,

Texas ex-pat down with the struggle of minorities,

recovering passive aggressor,

Type A minus,

survivor

woman-human

divine-bearer of Light & Good News

 

Wayfaring Friends- social media bilingual

Family Trees Blessing

Blessing originally given at Hyattsville Mennonite Church on Pride Sunday, June 11, 2017:

May God awaken us to the beauty of Creation-the beauty of ourselves, the beauty of our neighbors, the beauty of God itself.

May we resist apathy and falling asleep in the theater as the epic story of creation plays on. May we join God in co-creating a new heaven and a new earth. Let there be light for our paths & darkness for resting. May the sky be large enough to make you feel small. May the stars been numerous & bright enough to make you proud to share carbon with them.

May the vegetation of the earth be bountiful on your table. When you marvel at a fish or a butterfly or a dog, may remember that you too are beautifully & wonderfully made. Whatever season you find yourself in, may you know that God is with you at this very moment & that very season too.

If you wonder what your life is worth, may remember that you were made in God’s image-mysterious, complex, lovely, and created for community and co-creating.

May you live well & rest well. May we always remember one of our purposes is to be a good neighbor, to more deeply and widely love our relatives on the family tree of creation. Amen.

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