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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Further reflections on Abraham and Isaac

The following pieces were forwarded by Barbara to me for posting as further food for thought on the Abraham and Isaac story.

The attached piece comes from Andrea Polvino, seminarian at Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary in Rochester (upstate New York).

2 Lent Year B

Here is a thought sent by the Rev. Julie Christian:

I too have pondered the meaning of the story, because on the surface it seems like such a horrific image of God.

I’ve come to believe that even more than ending human sacrifice, there may be more to the story. We see all too often children reach that age of striving for independence from the family and its traditions, faith and otherwise. They stop coming to church, and too often never return.

Isaac grew up accepting his father’s leadership, his father’s version of faith and trust in God. But the promise between God and Abraham, the covenant was his father’s, not his. Now he was reaching an age of adulthood, the time to separate himself from his authority and assert himself as a man. One concern of Abraham’s and/or God’s would be the possible rejection of his father’s faith in favor of one of the competing versions. How is Isaac to develop the same abiding trust and faith that led Abraham and Sarah halfway across the (known) world? If my father, whom I trusted with my life, were about to kill me, and God intervened and saved me, I think I’d have an immediate and full faith in my father’s God that I had never had before! The covenant is renewed with each generation and it seems to me, this may have been a dramatic demonstration of the covenant for Isaac’s sake.

I offer this as a both/and option because I agree that ending human sacrifice was an important part of God’s purpose.

Thank you both Andrea and Julie for sharing your reflections with us. DJ

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Mothering Experience

Let me be perfectly clear up front. I have never borne a child. When growing up I did not do the dog thing..... nothing more than a parakeet or a turtle crossed our experience as being a caretaker. The lone exception would be when one or other set of our aunts/uncles would call the house to see whether Janet or I could come over to babysit the younger cousins. Later on we would get hired for feeding and cleaning up after dogs or casts after school. Later on yet it was 'freelance' (read lucrative) babysitting jobs which might pony up a few extra coins if the toys were picked up, the dinner made, fed, cleaned up.

Having said all this, a kind of motherhood emerged with the arrival Emmy Lou and her needs and training.

The mose recently, in the last year, I have become involved in a mothering experiment/experience that I could never have predicted.

First came Stephanie - just 22, still in college. She is equal parts conventional 'good kid' and multipierced rebel; a bundle of energy and a three toed sloth. Stephanie has been renting a room in my home for a year now while she finishes college. I met her in the grocery store, having heard from the head cashier that she was going to have to move back home and daily make a harrowing commute from Staten Island to St. Thomas Aquinas College about 1.5 miles from my home. I had a room.... and I can remember being that age: I would have been grateful if someone had showed me this kind of generosity and kindness. So we did it. Put down a few ground rules in order not to create chaos. This being my first up close and personal long-term 24/7 exposure to a young adult I am periodically mysified by Stephanie's thought process or sense of logic..... I'm beginning to believe that no young person will automatically leave a bathroom sink and faucet as they found it... without toothpaste, hair, hair "product" or shave cream. Even after written notes and verbal reminders. Perhaps there is an age-specific short term memory deficit for these types of things... ah, well. File it under the mysteries. She has in the last year fallen in and out of love three times with two individuals. I had forgotten what a fierce roller coaster of emotions and hormones a young person contains. I have rubbed her shoulders, fixed her soup and listened. Do I have the 'mommy gene' after all?

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. I'm doing my scant late night shopping at the grocery store. Stephanie uncharacteristically offers to carry my bags to the car. How is that retirement thing going? Well, no response yet. Oh, well.... see I was wondering... my class president has a friend and the friend needs a place to stay and you could use the money and he would really appreciate it and can he like stay in the basement 'cause you have a bed down there?

I decide to meet the cast of characters in a local diner after returning from all Sunday services. In the booth is Stephanie, her friend Andrea, Jonathan (Johnny) the class president.... and Johnny's boyfriend Julian (JuJu). As it turns out, JuJu is looking to be my second boarder. He is only 19 and from California. Slowly but surely the story is unfolding why JuJu is here, his family is there and he needs somewhere to live. It's a story that has been told many times over the years. Julian is 19, a high school graduate, estranged from his family and living in an environment completely foreign to him. More house rules, more rules of conduct, the respect I will pay to him and the respect for my home and belongings I expect from him. I was moved by moral obligation to have the safe sex talk.... including abstinence. It all unfolded and, with the exception of an errant sock on the 1st floor, is going along quite well.

As a baptized Christian I have promised to reach out to the homeless, the outcast, the rejected. As an ordained deacon, I have been ordained by the church to minister to these same people. It would never had occurred to me that later in life I would be providing shelter and compassion and words of wisdom to a 22 and 19 year old. Just goes to show you, God will provide us with opportunities to grow, be challenged, show what we believe in....

....... and now I have a new nickname, courtesy of JuJu............ Mama Muffin. Who knew!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Maintaining Life

I was channel surfing as I was half dozing off the other night, doing a fast-forward through the reality (?) shows, the music videos where young women are absolutely oblivious to something known as 'low back syndrome', the info-mercials for: ladders, diet plans, rotisseries, knives, makeup, anti-acne regimes, CD complilations by era and four different products with "Ab" in the title.

After so much as imitated left-over cold oatmeal I came upon a documentary in which a son was interviewing his octogenarian + mother and several of her fellow residents in a nursing home.

Mother, let's call her June, was amazing- she had only one of her own legs, the other was, in her words "bionic". Having outlived her family, friends, husband and a child, she still maintained a zest for life. There was a thread through her story and all the other stories. Although none of them had ever been wealthy, incredibly handsome/beautiful, professional scholars or professors of philosophy, each (despite cataracts and advanced years) had a spark, a zest, a thirst for knowledge, allegiance to community and showing compassion and concern beyond their own day to day living and limitations. The read voluminously. They listened to the radio or books on tape. They made a point of meeting and greeting the visitors that came into their home - whether to visit them or another of the residents. Even as the outward frame that held their organs was failing or frail, they were intentional about showing their faith by extending their spirits far beyond any limitation of their finite mortal frame. According to June , "I pray for them, you know. The boys that deliver the meals, the cooks, those sweet nurses, the young man that comes to play the piano for us, Mrs. Sullivan who comes with her dog sully. Mr. Jenkins granddaughter who is giving a dance recital next week......" She just went on an on. Her job now was to pray. Her job was to reintroduce younger people into the experience of gratitude. [It seemed to me that June was a natural at this kind of work - she had done it for years and would continue to do it as long as she could] As she went through her day showing kindness and blessing, blessings and gifts have been showered on her.... and her gratitude is real and heartfelt.

Growing and maintaining life in a parish is so far beyond the roof and the leaking foundation.... or the grandeur of the stained glass or the grounds or the sound system. Maintaining a vital community demands some attention to the physical plant.... and far beyond that to the discipline of personal and corporate prayer.... in word and deed. Having and maintaining parish vitality is dependent upon outreach, evangelism, identifying a local social/charitable need and gathering forces to address that need.

Like a Chinese menu, make a selection in each column: education, evangelism, local cause/charity, diocesan cause/charity, world-wide church cause/program...... and then make certain that the buildings (and leadership) you have are supported and maintained in order that they may be used for works of both praise and mercy.

June, the videographer's mother was pretty down to earth in her philosophy: "Any day I get up is a damn good day" "Smile when you see someone else - you both have wrinkles or you both will" "A good attitude lasts longer than a good drink". Thanks for the wisdom, June... if we're smart we will consider applying that wisdom to both our community and private lives!

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