Confirmation Conundrum
2010-05-10 by David von Schlichten

We have confirmation this Sunday, May 16. What do you think I should proclaim on that day?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Embrace the chaos of the feminine
2010-05-08 by Leah D. Schade

There is still entrenched resistance in our congregations to explore the feminine face of faith and of the Divine.  I wonder if there might be a visceral explanation for this resistance to the feminine.  Think of what traits are typically attributed to the feminine side -- emotions, creativity, compassion and . . . chaos.  Consider the chaos of pregnancy, labor and delivery.  Not to mention what women and those around them experience about 5 days out of every month.  Chaos. 

When you’re in the midst of chaos, there seems to be only two ways of dealing with it.  One option is to avoid it.  Leave, tune her out, find some way to escape the overwhelming chaos that threatens to overtake you like a tidal wave.

The other option is to beat the chaos into submission.  Take away her power by ridiculing her, bullying her, dominating her, threatening her, striking her, raping her, killing her. 

Fight or flight.  Those have seemed to be our only ways of dealing with the chaos that is womanhood.

But there is a third way.  It is the more challenging way.  But in the long run, it offers a way through to new possibilities.  The third way is to step into the chaos.  Engage yourself in the process.  Pay attention, listen to this woman who is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Be curious as to what creativeness may come out of the confusion.  Join with her and open yourself to the chaos that may be giving birth to something new in you or in the world around you.

You can do that through reading the stories of women in the bible.  Step into the chaos of Miriam whipping the women into a frenzy of song on the banks of the Red Sea.  The chaos of Hannah, an emotional wreck because of not conceiving a child.  The chaos of Deborah on the battlefield.  The chaos of Abigail, stepping between two hot-headed men ready to duke it out.  The chaos of Ruth dealing with the death of her husband and distraught mother-in-law.  The chaos of Esther facing a king ready to massacre her people.  The chaotic life of Lydia, balancing home and career.

Why do we do this?  Why do we intentionally lift up the faith and witness of women?  We do it because Jesus did it. 

Over and over again, Jesus stepped into the chaos of women’s life.  The list is long - the woman with non-stop menstruation for twelve years.  The woman at the well.  Then woman with the spine affliction at the temple.  The woman accused of adultery.  At the home of Mary and Martha.  The widow putting her offering into the plate.  Mary Magdalene afflicted with seven demons. 

Jesus showed us that by embracing women and the feminine aspect of God, we do not immasculate the Divine.  We affirm the humanity of women.  And we expand our understanding of God.

Ascended Christ Our Mother
2010-05-07 by David von Schlichten

Scroll down to read Stephen Schuette's post, which begins with a reference to Saturday Night Live. Stephen is always astute.

The ascended Christ is a mother-figure in that she is in a position of power and authority but, at the same time, is close and intimate. Ascended Christ our Mother gives us the freedom to make mistakes but is also there to pick us up when we fall onto the pavement. Christ the Mother also feeds and washes us. as well as teaches us. Christ the Mother sends Sister Spirit to help us along.

Something like that. What do you think?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

No Plans
2010-05-04 by Stephen Schuette

You may recall the Saturday Night Live skit where the motivational speaker hired by the parents warns the children about a future of living in a trailer down by the river.

They’re not in a trailer, but the Christian movement seems to find itself in similar straits, outside the city gate, down by the river.  Inside the gates are the Roman forum and the impressive buildings of Philippi connected to the wealth from nearby gold mines.  But the Christians are outside the gate down by the River.

They get there in the same manner that other things seem to happen in the Book of Acts.  They “suppose” that there’s a place of prayer (and baptism?) there.  In other words they bumble along and, surprisingly, wherever they go they find the Spirit of God already at work opening hearts and opening doors.  Lucky thing, because they don’t seem to have a strategic plan about this.  They didn’t even have a travel account for accommodations.  They are dependent on local hospitality.  In other words they not only lack a strategic plan, they basically have no plan.

How different from the Roman Empire!  They have a plan.  They know how to conquer a region, subdue the people and collect taxes, manage revolts and other threats, construct roads (which Christians use!), establish colonies, transport wealth back to the homeland, and even utilize a PR department to sell the whole project as the Pax Romana.  Meanwhile, right under their noses, outside the city gate, down by the river, something’s happening with some folk who don’t even know where they’re going to stay the night.

Rather than operating by a plan these Christians seem to operate out of the trust that God will lead them.  And in that trust they know a different kind of peace than Rome can offer, a trust that allows them to be free and live incredibly openly with hearts untroubled and unafraid.  And it could be that what appears to be their outward bumbling is exactly what makes them so completely open to the leading of God’s Spirit and makes of them the living fulfillment of Jesus’ own desire for them as expressed in John.

It’s all so simple, isn’t it, this matter of trust?  And yet I have so far to go…

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Motherhood, and the Gospel
2010-05-04 by David von Schlichten

Ninteenth-century American author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps often warned in her writings that being a mother meant that a woman would not be able to pursue a passion such as a career. She was not opposed to motherhood. She just recognized that the patriarchal society in which she lived demanded that women sacrifice their career aspirations in the name of motherhood.

For instance, in her novel The Story of Avis, Phelps tells of a young woman who studies to be a painter but ends up permanently deferring that dream when she gets married and has children. Phelps herself did not marry until she was forty-four and never had children. She knew the price. 

Today, of course, there are more opportunities for women, thanks be to God. Even so, our society expects more from women than it does from men. If a man who is a father neglects his children, it is a shame. If a woman does the same, it is an abomination, or so we tend to think.

As we contemplate how to preach on Mother's Day, it would be wise for us to consider these dynamics. Perhaps Lydia provides a helpful example of a career woman (dealer in purple cloth) who cares for her family (she and her household were baptized) as well as ministers to people in need ("come and stay at my home"), while also being someone who RECEIVES care (from Paul and God).

How do we celebrate mother figures of all sorts, including by helping them to realize, not just family goals, but careers goals, while also tending to their needs, just as they have tended to ours?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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