Last Sunday morning, Tiffany's facebook status
was "Tiffany is journeying through the wilderness to the water's edge."
She preached (sacred texts: Baruch 5:5-9, Luke 3:1-6, and an excerpt from Three Dreams in the Desert
by Olive Schreiner) about preparing the way and those who go before us and talked about CWM's founding and the people in those very first weeks who had such a profound impact on how CWM is today and invited us to recall those we remember who no longer worship here with us, and then she segued into saying that her path is diverging from ours and we will continue to do great things and the stones that have helped build this path will always be there -- and one day someone else will be preaching in this pulpit and will invite the congregation to remember those who went before and they will name us :)
I had known since Tuesday's Charge Conference that her last Sunday as our pastor would be February 14. (Her appointment as Dean of the Chapel at Syracuse begins March 1.) But it wasn't to be public knowledge until she announced it in person to the full congregation, which was really hard for me. I expected to feel grief all over again at her announcement, but the only thing I felt was relief that I could grieve publicly now. (Admittedly, I was also spent from the week.)
We're doing Advent Bible Study at CWM, and last Sunday we did the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79). In talking about light in the darkness and preparing the way and all that, Tiffany mentioned that Mary Daly often asks her why she stays in the church, and Tiffany's response is to invoke the story of Plato's Cave -- the church is in darkness, and so she feels called to go back and dwell in the darkness to tell people of the light. But in talking with us she talked about how leaving the darkness of the cave the light is overwhelming and so maybe we want to go back into the comfort of the darkness. I thought of Ian's concern about my playing it safe re: my career choices. I still stand by all the things I have said in pushing back against his concerns, but I also continue to think about his concerns.
Transforming worship space into fellowship space before dinner that Sunday (Bible Study was after dinner), Carolyn and I were carrying a table and then realized there was stuff on the floor in our way and someone joked about "make the paths straight" or something, and Carolyn said, "Prepare the way for Elizabeth -- oh wait, we can't say that until she answers her call to ministry." (I was like, "Hush, you -- what are you, the
voice of God?")
Monday morning before prayer service, there was something FCS-Ian couldn't find in the chapel, and I said there might be some in the pulpit 'cause I knew there were some the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent -- I explained that I knew because I'd been helping to decorate the sanctuary for Advent; "I forget why I was in the pulpit..."
Ian: "Getting a feel for it... Is that still funny? Is that obnoxious now?" (I assured him it wasn't obnoxious.)
At SCBC Adult Ed last Sunday, Owen said they got my invite and are looking forward to coming to hear me preach. I referred to Borg and Crossan's The First Christmas
during Adult Ed at one point and afterward, Betty asked me for the title again so she could write it down, so I handed her the book. (She was surprised that public libraries have books on religion -- because of the separation of church and state? I dunno and I didn't ask. I am amused that my ILL copy is from Norwood.
). I said, "I can't believe I'm inviting people to hear me preach at my radical, queer, progressive church." (Yes, I said all three of those words. \o/ ) Betty said she's looking forward to it and said she's going to ask Margaret if she wants to come.
At morning prayer service on Monday, I said I wanted to do one of the readings (which is an optional/encouraged way for attendees to participate in the service), and FCS-Ian asked which one, and I said I didn't know what the Old and New Testament readings were because I hadn't read the daily lectionary
because I haven't finished my sermon for yesterday and so in my head I'm not allowed to read the next week's lectionary yet, only I forgot that of course I'll read it at morning prayer because we're doing daily lectionary
The texts were Isaiah 40:1-11 and Romans 8:22-25.
I liked them both, but I chose Isaiah because I liked it better and because it's longer (and it's more important that it be read dramatically).
And after I finished I said, "The word of God, for the people of God. (Thanks be to God.)" Because I have turned into that person. I did the Old Testament reading on Tuesday, and I almost prefaced it with "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" -- which is what we say after the Sacred Text reading at Rest and Bread.
(Later in the week I was rewriting the Scripture I read to use gender-neutral language.)
At CHPC last Sunday, we started our three-week Advent study on Borg and Crossan's The First Christmas
, and Karl wanted us to start with actually reading (aloud) the Matthean and Lukan birth narratives (Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1:5-2:40), starting with Matthew. "Are we really going to read the entire genealogy in Matthew?" I asked, looking at how it took up an entire column of text.
Karl said to just read until I got tired and then someone else would read some. I am of course am stubborn (and love lay reading), so I read the whole Matthean genealogy. (I think some people clapped after I was done.) After we'd finished Luke, Karl said, "Luke 3:23-38 -- that's all you, Elizabeth." So I read that aloud. It's actually much harder to read aloud than Matthew's, despite being shorter -- the "son of" repetition meant I started to stumble over the vowel in "son;" plus I think Luke's names are harder to pronounce than Matthew's.
I told Ari about Annie's Year A liturgy proposal for CWM.
Ari: "I assume she's doing this for seminary rather than for fun" -- because it is totally the kind of thing we would do for fun, because we are
Those People. I assured her that Annie's doing it for her D.Min. I was telling Jason about this Monday night, and he goes, "demon?"
At Charge Conference, the D.S. [District Superintendent]
asserted that pastors really value getting to create worship
Apparently the Book of Discipline says the pastor is responsible for worship. I was telling Ari this and of course found myself wanting to look up exactly where that is and what else it says. Apparently I need my own copy of the UMC Book of Discipline?
[I assumed one would just order a copy from Cokesbury
, but apparently it is also available in ebook
Ari and I were talking about the Creation Museum woman at the UCN church fair
, and I said that after my brain stopped being stuck on "I believe the Bible is [a creationist]" being such bad grammar, my next thought was, "But there are two Creation stories in Genesis." Ari pointed out that there are also Creation stories in Job, Proverbs... "Almost as if it weren't a factual history, but expressing the idea of God's powerful, creative, generative, love for all creation."
She talked some about mothering love and whether that was problematic terminology because not everyone has a good mother (so not everyone would have positive associations with the term "mothering love") and immediately she thought, "But everyone has [a good mother in] Jesus."
Jesus as Mother of course makes me of Julian of Norwich which makes me think of my mom (and sk8eeyore
In talking about gendering Jesus, Ari mentioned the historical Jesus as being "read as male," and because I've been reading Borg and Crossan I thought, "Yes, I suppose that is more accurate -- since we are getting the Biblical author's understandings of their experiences and their attempts to articulate those experiences, rather than literal historical fact." It wasn't until we were talking later that I consciously registered that she had posited Jesus as trans.
We talked about how "Away in a Manger" is problematic because the statement about baby Jesus not crying at the disruption implies a supernatural creature rather than a wholly
human one. I said to Ari, "I don't know if that makes my Christology higher or lower [because my instinct is to say it's a higher Christology, but that can't be right because I'm emphasizing the "fully human" aspect rather than the "fully divine"]." She provided the word I was looking for: "orthodox."
So I am becoming more orthodox at the same time as I am becoming more radical. Ari said, "Because orthodox Christianity IS radical."
This reminded me (from Latin 1 class) that radix=root, and yeah, digging into the texts (and the traditions) to find what is at the root, to clear away what has been built up over it which is obscuring our view, to try to be transparent to the Ground of Being.
I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) that I don't actually like "Away in a Manger" until we sang it at morning prayer service one day the first week in Advent this year. I also think we shouldn't sing Christmas carols during Advent. Rev.S. had mentioned a piece from Working Preacher
about how singing Christmas carols during Advent is legit. We think she probably meant the David Lose
piece rather than the Marc Kolden
, but they are both rather failsome.