2010-08-12 by Rina Terry
Each Christmas morning, during my years in prison ministry, it became the tradition that I would rap at the close of the worship service. No one outside the wall seemed to understand why I would spend Christmas morning doing worship services when I was not required to work that day. Actually, it was my gift from God and I unwrapped it, admired it, savored it, was humbled by it and felt incredibly thankful for it.
There were always new men who had not had the dubious pleasure of hearing that “old white lady preacher” rap. So, each year, it was a well circulated secret and the chapel was packed on Christmas morning. The tradition began because I wanted the men to leave the chapel laughing and have something to distract them their gloom on Christmas morning. I tried to make it something fun and with a message but really didn’t take it too seriously that first year. The praise band rolled their eyes, looked at one another with that OH NO look when I told them and said, “Come on, Rev, you can’t rap.”
Undaunted, I wrote the lyrics—there was a Christian message at the end, revised and perfected, and then the praise band put music to it and we rehearsed until we had it down.
They were a bit embarrassed, I think, but I was the boss. The first year, we were waiting for the hoots, the laughs, the head shakes, but God had a different plan. I got through the first few phrases and suddenly, the entire 150+ inmates were on their feet, moving to the music, and chanting, “Go Rev, Go Rev, Go Rev.” I turned around and looked incredulously at the men in the praise band, and they were lovin’ it. “Keep going,” they yelled; “just keep going!” Who knows why this became such a powerful thing.God calls us to people and places and situations for which no seminary education can prepare us. God equips us for those callings. By faith, the people passed through….By faith the walls fell….by faith a prostitute does not perish….And what more should I say?By faith, Rina rapped.
Just A Guess
2010-08-12 by Rina Terry
For several weeks, I have been printing consecutive phrases of the UM Social Creed in our worship bulletin. On the back of the bulletin has been a paragraph or two of something relevant to that phrase. This week, it will appear in its entirety and, next week, be part of the worship liturgy. The hope is that folks will genuinely reflect on each phrase and consider how they might live into it as those called by God.The final phrase is: We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
This is an enormous statement. When we are honest with ourselves, how much confidence actually do we have in the PRESENT triumph of God’s Word in human affairs? We may believe it with respect to the kingdom coming in its fullness—that eschatological pay dirt date; yet, how strong and deep is our conviction that it is happening, let alone that it will happen.
From time to time, I believe each of us needs to settle in, go deep, meditate on the here and now presence of God. Keeping silent before God and asking to be touched, inspired, equipped and motivated according to God’s will so that we might “gladly accept” our vineyard employment. We accept it with trepidation and pray for younger parishioners, a miraculous big giver, a resurgence of religious interest, a renewal of the American economy. We have perfected faithful waiting…. to a fault!
The texts this week are throbbing with “Don’t wait!” They are pulsating with “I Have Loved You and Love You Still.” They are booming the gospel made manifest by such a “great cloud of witnesses.” If we tire of waiting for others to join us that does not mean that we are justified jogging in place. Pick up the torch and move forward with a fiery hope. Yes, perhaps you will create some controversy. Yes, it may be that you will be unjustly maligned. No, it most assuredly will not advance your institutional church career. No, you probably will not be asked to speak at the annual community prayer luncheon. Just a guess, but I believe God prefers turmoil over stasis.
Take Me Out To The Ballgame
2010-08-11 by Rina Terry
Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit in a Hall of Fame seat at the Phillies game. And, yes, I am one of those—a Philadelphia Fan. I had on my World Series jersey and I was primed for the game. Actually, it was the worst game the Phils have played all season and the end score sounded more like a football game than a baseball game. I had a great seat for a terrible game.
There is no better seat for a Christian than in a fruit-filled vineyard. What if ones seat is in not in a flourishing vineyard? In Todd Blake’s sermon in Lectionary Homiletics this week, he speaks of the church’s calling to bear sweet fruit. How many times, when people learn that you are a pastor, do they tell you why the church puts a bitter taste in their mouths? There are times when the complaint are legitimate and other times when the lamenter has never even tasted the fruit yet declares it bitter.
At the ballgame, my generous Hall of Fame season-ticket holder host kiddingly told me that I shouldn’t drop a cursing bomb as that is no longer tolerated even at Phillies games.
Just about that time, the fan to my right, in frustration over Kendrick’s seeming inability to throw a strike, took Jesus Christ’s name in vain. Without even thinking, I told my host that I was better able to tolerate four-letter flamers than hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain. The man next to me didn’t curse for the rest of the evening.
By the sixth inning, with little for a Phils fan to cheer about, the man asked if I worked for the church. I told him I was a Methodist minister and we had a lovely conversation. We talked baseball mostly, not church, but it was a “sweet” conversation.There is a children’s song, I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All God’s people, all around the world, we are the church together.
We carry the vineyard within ourselves wherever we go. It’s a sweet calling and we can bear fruit individually and corporately just about anywhere. I had a great seat at a terrible game. I think Christians can have lousy seats and still enjoy a good game. Play ball!
Discord and Division
2010-08-11 by Rina Terry
David von Schlichten’s analysis of Do The Right Thing, in this week’s Lectionary Homiletics entry, was of great interest to me. Since coming to a congregation that claims the Mason-Dixon Line to be on the bridge one crosses to enter their small city, I have been astounded at the blatant and the latent racism I have noticed and encountered.Recently, a rumor circulated through the congregation and the community that I had been married to someone of another race. While it was not true, I was appalled that anyone would think spreading such a rumor might “discredit” the relatively new pastor. In my mind, it should not have been an issue in a Christian congregation even if it were true. At first, I was angry and then devastatingly sad. Actually, I began to yearn for retirement. Now, I feel God has given me an opportunity to bring a different sensibility both to this community and this congregation. My passion for restorative justice ministry may be an oddity here, and my comfort level may never go beyond that of a spiritual stomach ache; yet, as long as my Bishop chooses to appoint me here, I will gladly remain.
Often, I have heard pastor’s say they were being moved because it wasn’t a good fit. I spent my first few months here lamenting that it might not be such a “good fit.” Perhaps God does not always intend a neat fit. After all, we hear the Lucan text say quite plainly that there are times when discord and division are divine will.
Perhaps a bit of discord and division are occasionally necessary to put the Body of Christ, the church, back in line with all that God wills.
Thank you, Rev. Rina Terry
2010-08-11 by David Howell
The Reverend Rina Terry is currently pastor of Cape May United Methodist Church in Cape May, New Jersey. That's Exit Zero on the Garden State Parkway. She is a published author and former college administrator.
She spent much of her clergy career as Supervisor of Religious Services at Bayside State Prison, an adult male facility with a population of 2,400 men.
Jazz is Rev. Terry's primary spiritual discipline.
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