Lots of great pics on flickr from marches for equal rights across the country in protest of Prop 8. As I said before, I don't necessarily believe that marriage is a "right," but I do think it's shameful that we've come to a point where one portion of the population is voting on the other's right to marry. One of my favorites:
Nate Silver, the statistics whiz at FiveThrityEight.com, has written a fascinating reflection on talk radio and its possible role in the recent woes of the GOP.
The point worth reflecting on, for preachers -- liberal or conservative -- is the way in which our highly specialized form of communication, and our relatively limited and faithful listenership, can too easily lull us into thinking that everyone agrees with us. We start to forget the necessity of persuading those who are not already in agreement with us, of defining the terms we assume everyone understands, of proclaiming the the fact that the Gospel really is GOOD news.
Its probably no accident that the same people who listen to a lot of conservative talk radio are also those who listen to a lot of sermons. . .
Alas, I cannot personally claim credit for most of the great pictures on this blog. Most them are from my husband Will, the real shutterbug of the family. You can see more of his work -- trains, bikes, and a very happy 7-year-old returning from Get Out the Vote:
Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but
you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear
water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19And must my sheep
eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with
your feet? 20Therefore, thus says the Lord God
to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21Because
you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with
your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22I will save my
flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and
Is is not enough for you to feed on the good pasture?
There’s a good question for us, O We the Self-Absorbed!
The news has quickly turned from the wave of hope and
empowerment brought on by our election two weeks ago. Now the analysis is all
about the enormous expectations that will be placed on the new administration.
Everyone has an agenda. And make no mistake about it: most of our agenda is
A relatively poor economy makes us all turn inward.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world might well be asking, “Um, are you people ever going to join the rest of the
planet? There’s an ecological disaster unfolding here!”
And it’s not just the ecological situation that should give
us pause. It was an unfashionable question to ask, in the wake of 9/11, but it’s
still worth asking: “Isn’t this the kind of unjust violence experienced by
thousands of people around the world all
the time? Yes, we can grieve, but do re really think we’re the only ones
suffering?” The Current Occupant eschwed self-examination and asked us to go
Let’s face it, if the sheep are God’s people in Ezekiel’s
metaphor, then we, American Christians, are the fat ones. (And not just
metaphorically either. Ask any European. “Fat” is one of the top adjectives
used to describe U.S. citizens). And we’ve done plenty to soil not only our waters but those of the
rest of the world too.
Yes, we have plenty of challenges right here at home. But
let’s not forget that, on a global scale, we are still the fat ones.
It galls me a little that the military has figured out one great aesthetic that seems to have escaped civilians: a good cemetery.
We did a burial this afternoon for the wife of a veteran, so we headed out to the coldest place in Minneapolis, Fort Snelling. High and flat, this piece of land gets its winter breeze nonstop from South Dakota. But oh, so lovely.
It's ironic, but beautiful, that one of the most hierarchical structures in all of the U.S. recognizes the great equalizer of death. All the stones are identical. Every one has the same height, the same dignity.
Aside from the symbolism and timelessness, doesn't this: look much, much better than this?
Michael Kinsley has succinctly pointed out the very economic dilemma we now face. Every news story about the economy points out how bad things are, how "consumer confidence" is low, and that means a poor Christmas shopping season, and so on ,and so on. . .
Don't get me wrong. I don't want anyone to lose their jobs (OK, I'm not crying for the outgoing administration . . .). I especially want the small local retailers, like my church members who rely on a good Christmas season to make it through the year, to survive this crisis.
And yet, and yet. . . I go into a consignment store and see tons of perfectly good stuff. Why buy new? I look around at the amount of stuff we throw out and think, is this really necessary? I think ahead to the Christmas season and get much more excited about making something with my kids than simply buying something in order to "check someone off my list."
It seems that this crisis, like the high gas prices we saw a couple months ago, are such an opportunity to examine ourselves and start living thoughtfully. Will we miss it?
It's stewardship time in many churches again, which is sort of unfortunate given this week's Gospel. Here's a parable which, on the surface, appears to be about money. In better economic times, it might not be so outrageous to suggest that the Bible is encouraging us to invest. But really, given the last couple of months, are you really going to suggest that Jesus is giving investment advice?
It's an offensive text on many levels, most of all the fact that the master leaves very different amounts of treasure with different people. What we miss is that ALL of them are getting quite a bit. A talent is about 15 years of wages. No small change. One talent sounds pretty good to me.
It's pretty clear that this vast sum of riches that master is entrusting to his stewards is not, really, about money. It's about the biggest treasure God entrusts to us: the riches of God's mysteries, the treasure of faith.
And THAT is what we're being called to risk, to invest, to boldly put out there in the world with no idea when the master will return or what kind of "returns" we can expect.
Yes, Jesus seems to be saying, we're all given different amounts of faith, but the amount given is not nearly so important as what we do with it. Faith is worthless if under a bushel, or buried underground.
Thanks to Jenell for reminding me of that wonderful Annie Dillard quote, which relates much more to life and love, I think, than to money, or time, or even the writing:
"One of the few things
I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot , play it, lose it, all,
right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the
book, or for another book; give , give it all, give it now. The impulse to save
something good for a better place is the signal to spend it now. Something more
will arise for later, something better. Anything you do not give freely and
abundantly becomes lost to you – you open your safe and find ashes."
Americans are apparently in love with the marathon. More people attempt a marathon each year now than ever before. As a runner, I admit that I'm often a little sheepish when people ask if I've done 26.2 miles. No, I haven't, mostly because I have no great desire to, and that does seem -- much more than fitness -- to be the chief requirement for completing such a race.
The marathon is also often held up as a metaphor for the life of ministry. There are even books to that effect, suggesting that "success" in ministry is as much about endurance as anything else.
Given what we know about long-term pastorates, and how hard high clergy turnover can be on congregations, I'm all for talking about endurance, but the marathon analogy has its limits.
More and more in the athletic world, people are talking about training "smarter" rather than more. Runners are urged to avoid "junk miles," which is a run just to run without a specific purpose, such as tackling hills or increasing speed.
Even in sports like cross country skiing, which involve require endurance over long distances, the effort required is not even over a whole race. As Bill McKibben put it in his book Long Distance, skiing is not so much a marathon as a series of sprints. Your lungs scream as you power up a hill, but then you must -- you MUST -- allow your body to recover a bit as gravity takes you down the hill again. I would say the same thing for mountain biking, a sport which totally kicked my butt even though I'd been running for years.
A series of sprints. That, I submit, is much more what ministry is like. There are times -- Holy Week, the sudden death of a member, a capital fund drive -- which are incredibly intense. There's nothing to do but hold on and gut through it. But in between these times you must slow down, breathe, pray, and let gravity and grace take care of you for a bit before the next push. On a micro-scale, this is sabbath, a regular rhythm of time off. On a larger scale, it's allowing for a slower pace when you can, for times when it's OK that the whole congregation move a little more slowly.
The trouble is, it's easy to NOT take that recovery time in life. Gravity is less obvious to me coasting down a hill of work than it is when I'm going down an actual ski slope. Our society gives us all the tools to keep up the pace all the time, every time. We can speed up so much we don't remember what slowing down looks like anymore -- especially when it seems that everyone around us is still speeding up. We think we have to keep up the "marathon pace" and forget that we've been going much faster than that for a very long time.
No, I don't want to do a marathon. But I do still want to be able to sprint up a hill 20 years from now.