Thursday, July 5, 2012

First Year in Ministry or Why I’m Learning to Fly

Nope, this isn’t some sort of bizarre nod to 90’s R & B, because I am actually learning to fly. 

This morning, I had my first flight lesson.    It was incredible and I can’t wait to get back for more.  It uses completely different parts of my mind than I stretch most days at work, it’s a challenge, and it’s fun.

Now the literature geek part of me loves the metaphor of flight, particularly for a first year solo pastoring.  There is nothing about my job that isn’t, in some way, learning to fly.  Things I have some experience doing – preaching, youth ministry, visits – I’m doing with a totally new group of people.  And things I have never done before – running session, long range planning in Christian ed, concerning myself with things like the budget and a beautiful but aging building and all the millions of details – are a total wilderness.  So, a lot like flying -- there isn’t much to do but try to learn the vehicle, rely on the system and your lay-leadership / co-pilots, and trust that God’s got you in the right place at the right time.

              The slight thrill seeker in me (hidden pretty deep) loves the adrenaline of both adventures, but most of all, the faith part of me loves the freedom, the jaw-dropping beauty, the wide-open possibility of being up, up, and away.

Friday, June 8, 2012

At the request of a few friends, here's the manuscript of the rhyming sermon I wrote for last week.  It was a whole lot of fun to write and I'm grateful for a job that lets me be creative!  Thanks for the support, friends.  Coming soon - reflections on my first quarter-year as a solo pastor.

Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8

John 3:1-17

Commissioned by Confusion

Ah the trinity.
The great mystery.
The nature of God and of who God might be.
The question that’s plagued the church from the start,
Just whom do we mean when we say “that thou art”?

Trinity Sunday has arrived now and here,
And I, like most preachers, approach it with fear,
But still, undeterred by trepidation and doubt,
I’m determined to grasp it, and sort this thing out.

So what is the Trinity and why should we care?
Should we try to uncover it? And do we dare?
Isn’t God simply… God?  Isn’t that all we need?
What’s the point in exploring our source and our creed?

Yet again and again on the same old church calendar,
Appears the Trinity, making us all feel like amateurs.

We need to know, both small and grand,
Who our God is, and where we stand.

Like many before us, the question is what beckons,
God’s playful interaction, with which we must reckon.

We are each of us commissioned to this confusing situation
That causes all seminarians such frequent consternation
Who are the three persons of this God unseen?
What does it mean to be “homoousian”?

It means of the same essence, in case you were wondering,
This trinity business leaves much room for blundering…

So perhaps a metaphor can help, if we might,
Jesus certainly loved a good parable, right?

Is God really a butterfly – caterpillar, cocoon, and wings?
Is God instead like water – ice, liquid, and steam that sings?
Is God like in the Shack – the sassy lady, the carpenter, the sprite?
Is God like an egg – with shell, yolk, and white?

What about the naming ?  Where does that fit in?
Do names truly reflect God , or can they only  begin?
Do all three parts create, redeem and sustain?
My gosh this Trinity stuff hurts my brain.

Do all three persons bring all God traits we trace?
Does each part of the Trinity bear fellowship love and grace?

What of the gender?  Is God really a girl or a boy?
I feel like Nicodemus here… simply put, just “oy!”
What about Mother, son, and holy feminine divine?
Is that just confusing, or does that suit us just fine?

Should we follow our creeds and be doxological,
Leave room for the Spirit?  Be more Christological?
Perhaps this whole conversation is just plain old illogical?

That first part, the traditional God the Father,
Is “he” the most-God?  The most in charge?  Why should we bother
Trying to rank them when the Nicene Creed
Helps clarify that it’s all three we need.
Is this God the creator?  God at the start?
Or just Old Testament God, the hardener of hearts?

And if that’s what’s first, and to Christ it gave way,
Does the Son then matter the most to us today?
Is the new birth of covenant, betwixt us and God,
Created in love what defines us here on the sod?
Does this personal connection mean we know that God cares,
And stays directly involved with our human affairs?

The holy Ghost, that’s a fun one… just what does that do?
The unseen and unheard and yet still shining through,
The Holy Spirit which enables us to keep fresh today,
Reading scripture and listening for what God now has to say.

So we’ve plenty of questions but no sure answers in sight,
The sermon’s half over!  This can’t be right!
If we’re solving the trinity in a few easy moves,
Surely the great theologians can give us some clues.

There’s the ancient Tertullian, from the second century BC,
Who wrote often and much to defend Christianity,
He wrote that the trinity is the pattern of salvation,
He wrote with such passion as to give palpitations,
He insists it is Three,
 Not in dignity, but degree,
In form but not substance,
A challenging idea perchance,
Not in power but in kind,
Of one essence and of one mind,
All degrees, forms and kinds devolve in their Holy name,
At least that’s Tertullian’s trinity of fame.

Now Augustine would go on the defense,
For the trinity, which really makes sense,
You need both body and soul to truly be,
Hence I Am is a trinity”
The corporal presence of a God with a body,
And the breadth of eternity – not too shoddy,
Affirming too the eternity of Christ,
Augustine shows some serious fiest,
And for him scriptural evidence abounds
Affirming God of the past, future, air, flesh, and grounds,
So three of one and the same essence is the way he conceives,
Of the Trinity in which he also believes.

And at the start of the Church Dogmatic,

We learn Karl Barth was a true Trinity fanatic,

We are only Christian because of our Trinitarian view, he insisted,

And that keeps our concept of revelation consistent,

Therefore, without the Trinity, God just isn’t God,

As we understand God.  Lost yet?  Just smile and nod. 

Now on the other hand there’s Schleiermacher,
And what he believes is a real shocker,
Forget the creeds, and focus on the healing,
What matters  'bout God is that religious feeling.
Yes Nicea in 325 gave us some ideas and a frame,
But religious type feelings is what gives God the name,
Through the existence of Christ we know that God is necessary,
And too much credence on dogma and such left him feeling wary.

Moltmann takes an approach more Romantic in tone,
With a capital R, he calls it a love story of one,
The gospel is a great love story he claims,
Of Father, Son, Spirit – a plot still remains,
Involved in the story of both heaven and earth,
All intertwined eternal, present, and birth,

Are we any closer to understanding
Just who God is, and what God’s demanding?
Now I don’t want to be a Pharisee
But I’m pretty sure Nicodemus knew way more than me,
And like Nicodemus we arrive – not with hunger of the physical kind,
But instead with hunger of the spirit and mind,
We want to know, though timid and worried,
Which is why he showed up at night and hurried,
And, though he came at night, God didn’t smote
Nicodemus, and listen, I quote
Everyone who believes has eternal life”
But believes in what, Jesus?  That’s what gives us strife.

But we ought to be calm and remember the promise,
Salvation, not condemnation, Christ didn’t come to con us.
It’s not a trick or a trap or a puzzle to solve
God so loved the world, the Son came to absolve,
And through the Holy Spirit still,
We know our hope can be fulfilled.

Isaiah’s promise that we are commissioned
The priesthood of all believers, set out on a mission
All of us asked for, each of us sent,
To a personal journey, on a road often bent,
Made difficult with twists and turns and stones,
But knowing we never walk it alone.
The call is simple and hard as can be,
And involves bearing witness to the full trinity,
To bring the kingdom closer, a Holy kiss,
Between justice and peace, it’s not to be missed,

The humbling that happens as a result of the call
Is enough to make any of us feel quite small
But we turn to face God with our questions and hopes,
Moving out in the world, and learning the ropes,
Send me forth, though I haven’t a clue,
I’ll trust that God will know what to do,
And if this is indeed God’s specific plan,
I’ll try to trust you, you Great I am.

For life has  little such reason or rhyme,
Unless you view it with infinite time,
And as ever our form remains in God’s hands,
Where we can leave our questions and plans,
Three in one or one in three,
I think God’s less worried with the trinity,
Than how we care for one another,
And live as though we are sister and brother.

So solutions and answers, I have very few,
But a commissioning charge, that we can do,
Go out into the day beyond and ahead,
And live like God is alive and not dead,
Live like the command to love with grace,
Remains alive in this time and this place,
And know that no matter your age, creed, or size,
God’s promise  to you lasts, God’s love is your prize.

For God’s love is one thing we all have in common,
And with that, there’s no more, so let’s end with Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Back to It

Hello family, friends, and future friends - 

Holy week, which is arguably one of the busiest weeks in the church year and a special kind of chaos for solo pastors in the first few months of their first call, seems to also be the time that the universe is prodding me to explore new projects and resurrect old ones.  God's funny like that.

Since Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter sunrise services are locked in and the Easter sermon is underway, now seemed like a good time to pause and update this little exchange with people I love near and far.

I'm absolutely loving life in Colorado and the adventure of serving a new community.  The building in which we seek God and community is a beauty and a beast - 100 + years old, full of memories and possibilities.  I'm currently working with a few brave and dedicated souls to sift through the paperwork of the last many decades, figuring out the history, the historic registries, the grants, the ghosts, and all the rest.  My understanding is that it's pretty impossible to move forward if you don't know where you've been.

I'm also working with some talented minds and compassionate hearts on a project I've been pecking away at for a few years - building a road map for churches that want to commit to being Slave Free.  If you're interested in helping out as a part of that, let me know.

Finally, I'm gaining clarity just by virtue of how challenging I sometimes find it to focus on week-to-week tasks.  I love the people.  I love preaching and listening and learning.  It is hard for me to quiet the fact that I get quite revved up (ha!) about the idea that the church is a necessary vehicle for radical love, for absolute inclusion, and a voice for justice that rolls like a river.  Maybe that consistent call to act, and help others to act, in the name of justice isn't a distraction at all.  Maybe that is the call.

I guess we'll find out.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Hello friends!  The long silence has been marking time of my call search process - one defined largely by joy, and a bit of anxiety, and most of all, the inability to speak openly since it was not a done deal and Presbyterians can be a bit fussy about these things.  (Us?  Particular?  Never...)

It is with joy that I can now share that I've been voted in as the new pastor at First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland, Colorado!  I'll be heading out next weekend to appear on the floor of their Presbytery for final examination and, if approved, I will be ordained the following weekend at my home church.  I'm still processing the implications of that identity shift - actually becoming the Rev. Laurie - but that's for another blog post.

For now, I simply want to share my sincere thanks to those who have partnered with me in this process.  Non-church friends who listen with bewilderment at the papers and committee meetings and endless processes that make up the walk towards ordination.  Family and dear friends who gather me up when I felt discouraged.  Mentors and colleagues in ministry, justice, and compassion who gently correct my mis-steps, and who provide encouraging feedback.  Seminary friends for 3 am conversations figuring out exactly how little we knew and know about life.  All of you who stood beside me in helpless awe at how well things work out, sometimes when we least expect it.

So it is with joy and optimism that I step into this next chapter of a pretty wild adventure - solo pastor serving a vibrant little community in the nearby cradle of the Rocky Mountains.  Thanks for joining me.  Allons-y!