Monday, November 27, 2006

Advent/Christmas music

Stolen from Deb...

1. What are your favorite Advent/Christmas hymns?
My absolute favorite is "God on His Birthday"; everything else I love is old and traditional. Others that spring to mind: "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "Good King Wenceslas," and "The angel Gabriel from heaven came...".

2. Which are your least favorite?
I hate, loathe, detest, and despise "Away in a Manger." Always have. Don't care much for "The Little Drummer Boy," either.

3. Which secular seasonal songs make you want to run screaming into traffic?
Most of them. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is just plain evil; what idiot decided to enshrine not crying as being "good"? "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" irritates me, but it doesn't make me mad. I much prefer old/traditional/religious music at Christmas. New or quirky arrangements are fine; the Miserable Offenders did some really neat stuff, and see below for favorite CDs. Most of the secular winter songs are just cloying, to me.

4. Do you play Christmas music around the house and in the car? What are your favorite holiday CDs?
Yes. My favorites right now are by Bruce Cockburn and John Fahey, respectively. I'm going to try to restrain myself until it actually is Advent, though. (I'm in a folk/gospel/bluegrass groove right now.)

My, I'm blogging a lot. What am I procrastinating from? Don't ask.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Easy way to donate for AIDS

Click on this post's title, light a virtual candle, and Bristol-Myers Squibb will donate a dollar to the National AIDS Fund. It looks legitimate.

World AIDS day is this Friday. I'll be at my church. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, come.

Tod, Lars, I remember you. I pray for my friends who lost hundreds of their loved ones. I pray for all who live with HIV infection, and all who love them. I pray for all who work for education, treatment, and access to both.

Be safe, everyone. And while you're here,visit the UNAIDS website to find out what you can do globally.

Just for fun

The last sentence is very accurate.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PSA: Supporting Faithful Episcopalians in San Joaquin

"Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin has issued a letter in which he unfolds his plans to leave the Episcopal Church. Part of this plan involves passing various resolutions at the diocesan Annual Convention scheduled to conclude December 2. There is some question as to if these resolutions will pass. If they do, then as of December 3, many in San Joaquin will have officially left the Episcopal Church. It is fairly safe to assume that some of those who leave will also take the keys to the buildings with them, which will most likely result in long legal struggles."

Read the rest from Father Jake.

I don't live there, but a good friend does; the suggestions Jake posted are hers. The diocese covers the Central Valley of California, from east of the coastal mountains to the Nevada border, and from just south of Sacramento to just north of Los Angeles. They need support--emotional, spiritual, financial--to help them build Episcopal communities if the diocese affiliates elsewhere, and to continue in their current ministries if it doesn't. If the diocese does align itself with a more reactionary province, polity will be the least of the changes. The spirituality, culture, and ethos present in the Episcopal Church will be much more difficult to find. In its place will be the homophobia and sexism that are motivating this schism.

The bishop of San Joaquin is one of three remaining Episcopal bishops who does not ordain women. The rest of us have been doing that for 32 years. General Convention decided three years ago to affirm New Hampshire's choice to call a gay man to be their bishop. The bishop of San Joaquin believes that practicing non-heterosexuals are sinners. He is choosing to align himself with an official body that preaches the same.

We believe that God is love. This schism is driven by the desire to exclude. Please help those who may be left without a church that feels like home to them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sustainability, scheduling, and future plans

I went to a Green Festival in San Francisco today. It felt a bit like a giant reunion of food co-op types, only it was incredibly crowded and generally uncomfortable. I had a strange experience.

It was weird for me, because these people used to be my tribe. I was all about organic food and sustainable community. I still believe that way. But, I’m not into the spirituality that often goes with it. I’m not a Goddess-Christian-Buddhist-Pagan anymore. I absolutely believe in interfaith connections, and support them with all my soul. I don’t (and never did) go around with “4:20” patches on my hat. I won’t wear a T-shirt reading, “I believe in God / I just call God Nature.” Eleven years in an interfaith community, and those friendships I still hold onto, gave me an openness that I pray will always be part of me. At the same time, I myself am thoroughly Christian. It felt like there was no space at this festival for people like me.

I need to explore my, and our, options around this. I now have a yoga-practicing, equality-preaching, environmentally-concerned bishop. There is support for sustainability in this diocese. (As there is in the wider church; that’s what the Millennium Development Goals are all about.) When I want faith-driven political action, I start with and go from there. If I want spiritual affirmation of the world I want to live in, without its being tied to any faith, I go to Yes magazine. The only organization I can think of that is dedicated to Christian environmental action is Earth Ministry, a local/regional project based in Seattle. I know there are more; we watched An Inconvenient Truth in the refectory last month. All of these groups need to know about each other. There should be no outsiders at an environmental festival, ever. I wonder what I can do to encourage connections?

I might have a little time to think about that, because I just dropped one of my classes. I’m only going 3/4 time for the rest of this year. I wasn’t keeping up in Modern Church History, even with encouragement to do so. I think I just needed a mental health break. I went full-time last year, and I really struggled to balance giving enough of myself both to academics and to personal growth. Honestly, I think I just need to be happy and not stressed, for awhile. I’m loving Homiletics and Ethics, and Hebrew is the easiest class I have. I’m incredibly happy with my involvement at church, and in our after-school program on Wednesday afternoons. I love the community, and that's mutual. I just want to enjoy all of this and not die, for now anyway.

I talked with my advisor, and my new plan is to do an internship the year after next, rather than to break up my academics. I don’t know yet whether I’ll want to go to school full-time next year, or keep at the current pace. If I go full-time, then I can be academically done after next year. If I continue at a 3/4 pace, I’ll have either one more semester, or a year of half-time work to do. I also want to take classes from the Social Welfare school at Cal, so this all could work out really well. CDSP accepts electives taken at UC Berkeley, if we can integrate our studies there with our vocations. I’d just have to write papers connecting the two. That’s actually fun.

I’ll have to take the Modern Church History—Constructive Theology sequence next year, instead of now. I’m truly okay with that. The work load is really heavy, and I think I’d almost have to take only 3 classes at a time to do them well. I’m excited for next semester; I’m taking Postmodern Christian Education with Sue Singer, whom I know slightly and like very much; an exegesis course on Hebrews, taught by Bill Countryman (very good, and retiring); and a reading course with John Kater on the works of William Stringfellow. (A reading course, for any other Evergreeners reading this, is our version of an individual contract. You and the faculty decide what you’re going to do.) I knew John as a person before this year; he’s a good friend of the Apostle in Exile, and I’m on his regular list of cat-sitters. He’s an incredible teacher, and so obviously loves it. He’s heading off to Asia next year, so I’m learning from him while I can.

In fact, I ought to get some reading done now. I’ve taken quite a bit of this weekend off.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Homily, Feast of All Saints

I preached this morning at St. Aidan's.

Matthew 5:1-12

Wow. It’s All Saints Day. It’s fall in California!
This is the day when we remember all who came before us.
We praise famous, and not-so-famous, people.
We think about what it means to honor them,
with our lips and in our lives.
People jump into our minds at odd moments,
and we wish them happiness and love.
We send out a quick thank-you for the ones we love,
as we go back to studying or washing the dishes.
We might notice a grandparent in a child’s smile.
We remember, in turn, who we are,
whose we are,
and how we are called to live.

The first record of a feast set aside to commemorate all the saints
dates from before the year 270,
in a work by Gregory the Wonder-Worker, a bishop in Greece.
The date was fixed to November 1 in the eighth century.
This is our way of honoring our ancestors.
We’ve been doing it for a very long time.

What is a saint?
Is it someone who lived a legendarily perfect life,
and died centuries ago in the service of the faith?
Is it someone about whom we tell miracle stories?
Is it the statue under the birdbath in the yard?

The catechism in the Book of Common Prayer says this about sainthood:
“The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt,
bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.”

Saints are the faces on the icons,
and the names forgotten centuries ago.
Theirs are the stories we tell once a year on their feast days,
and the stories remembered only by their children.
We are the babies of the family.
Ours is an ancient line of love and faith,
seeking and finding,
wrestling with and celebrating God.

This is a time to honor our own pantheons,
as well as those individuals specifically mentioned by the church.
Not only Aidan, monk, missionary bishop, and generous soul,
but Dymphna—patron of madness and also, for us, of creative chaos,
amazing organizational skills, drag-queen nuns, and children.
Not only Francis, who loved peace, practiced radical poverty,
and kissed a leper on the street—
but all who have lived and died and worked and played
and loved in this city.

I honor friends right here, who have welcomed me, laughed with me,
taught me a new skill, and helped me through a difficult time.
I honor a woman I never knew in the town I came from,
who roused her friends to create a flock of doves out of paper mache,
old sheets, glitter, paint, and glue.
They marched in an annual street fair celebrating life,
the year before she died on Palestinian soil.
I honor her parents, who carry on Rachel’s work
and who have become good friends to me.
I honor a child I cared for when I was just out of college.
She’s a self-conscious thirteen-year-old now;
she no longer jumps into my arms when she sees me.
But she taught me more about joyful assertiveness than anyone has,
before she even turned two.

I honor Mary, the bearer of God, saying yes to wild possibility.
I honor Mary Magdalene, first, vocal, witness to the resurrected Christ.
I honor Thomas, who honored his own need to see and touch the resurrected Christ for himself.
I honor all those who serve the San Francisco Night Ministry,
and who give their time by volunteering anywhere
in the service of God’s people and creation.
I honor those, too numerous to mention, following their faith
with thoughtful abandon,
stepping out bravely and joyfully into new ministries,
serving the God who calls us all to be our true selves.

Who do you honor today? How do they help you hear the call of God?
How do they encourage you to shine your light for others?

Saints are the holy ones, and saints are all of us. What is holiness?

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Blessed are the ones who are not attached to material things,
or financial security,
for they will find freedom in the generosity of God.
These are the ones who can share what they have,
with others who need even more than they.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Blessed are those who can feel their true feelings,
who can grieve and cry without shame.
They have the courage to ask for the comfort that they need.
When others need to be held, or rocked, or listened to,
these are the ones who have the strength to give that.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Blessed are the ones who meet anger not with posturing and threats,
but with openhearted, unreserved love.
These are the ones who can heal the ruptures in this world.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Blessed are those who seek God through working for justice on this earth.
The power of God will be with them
like a mighty stream.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Blessed are the ones who can reach out with love and offers of forgiveness,
for they too will be loved and forgiven.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Blessed are the ones who are not complicated by greed,
hunger for power,
or any wrong attachments.
These are the ones who can pray in silence.
These are the ones who can be still, in their bodies and souls,
and make space for the love of God to fill them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Blessed are the ones who work to heal divisions
between all peoples of the earth.
This is the work of shalom to which God calls us;
when we do it, we live into our call to be co-creators of the Kindom.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
God is with us in our hurt and fear and pain,
as much as God is with us in our joy.
God knows our deepest intentions, and God loves us immeasurably.
God “gets” who we are.
In a time when it was physically dangerous
to practice a countercultural faith,
Jesus was assuring his listeners that God was present with them,
even in their suffering.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The work we do here matters.
Our lives matter.
The love of God, shining through us, matters.

Shalom is a Hebrew word that means more than peace;
it means wholeness, completeness, union with one another and with God.
Our new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori,
preached yesterday on what it means to embody the concept of shalom.
She said,

“The ability of any of us to enjoy shalom depends on the health of our neighbors. If some do not have the opportunity for health or wholeness, then none of us can enjoy true and perfect holiness. The writer of Ephesians implores us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – to be at one in God's shalom. That is our baptismal task and hope, and unless each of the members of the body enjoys shalom we shall not live as one. That dream of God, that word of God spoken in each one of us at baptism also speaks hope of its realization.”

We are given the work of holiness at baptism,
the very moment at which we enter the communion of saints.
When we do this work,
we affirm the love, the creativity, and the reconciling power of God.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.
Our cloud of witnesses is right here with us.
Let us do the work that God has created us to do.
Let us be who God has called us to be.
We are the family of God.