Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Short One

A short sermon this week, reminding us all that we have work to do in the world. At the end of the service, I charged the congregation to listen for prophets in their everyday lives and especially in the places they least expect to find a prophet. So that's your assignment too.

Our collection of supplies for Haiti continues through Sunday. If you'd like to contribute items or donate money for Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees to help with costs, send me an e-mail. I'm dropping off the supplies in Manhattan next week. If you need a copy of the list of supplies, here is a link to the original blog post that inspired our collection by @profsusurro on Like a Whisper.

And truthfully, my silence the last couple of weeks has been rooted in a persistent awareness that I am not doing enough work in my corner of the world. It was another of @profsusurro's blog posts that hammered this home: Want Ad For Feminist Revolution.  Go read this. Ponder it. And then make some changes in yourself and the world around you.

Here's that sermon.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
by Katie Mulligan

First Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Second Scripture Reading: Luke 4:16-30

I did not grow up in a church.  So whenever I read Jeremiah, all I can think about is this song:

Jeremiah was a bullfrog; he was a good friend of mine. I never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine.”  Now you may have heard these words sung by children in church, but I looked it up, and church folk change these words to eliminate any talk of wine! The “kids” version says "And he always had a real fine time.” And this is a pet peeve of mine; this habit of Christians to pretty up their words for church. The fear and desire to put one’s "best" foot forward in a house of worship, as if our every day lives were somehow not good enough for God.  But since God sees all anyway, I’d venture to say that our worry is that our lives are not good enough for each other.  And in churches, we have a habit of twisting God’s words to make it seem like there are levels of goodness and levels of God’s grace, and as if one’s good fortune in life comes about as a result of one’s own personal holiness.

I think what I am saying this morning is that we miss out on God’s prophets all around us, because we expect those prophets to come to us in certain packages with certain education and clothes and grooming and manners.  We do not expect them to be young people, like Jeremiah. In fact, young people get patted on the head and told “This fire you feel is all nice and good, but when you get older, you’ll understand the complexities of the world better and you won’t be so passionate.”  We wonder as we tell our youth these things, why they don’t come back to church. We wonder why we’ve lost our young people. And I say it’s in part because we’ve changed the words to make it all look like a pretty package--a package that ignores the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. that went into the definition of pretty.

Years ago I worked in a church where the folks who prepared communion cut the bread into tiny squares a month in advance and froze the bread. The next month, any of the bread that was unused was refrozen with the new bread, so as not to waste it. You can imagine what happened to that bread after months of this habit—that some of the pieces had been frozen, thawed and refrozen several times.  I began to sneak the bread out of the freezer and feed the ducks.  I was younger then, and didn’t realize what the process was.  This drove the poor ladies who prepared communion up the wall, as they had no idea what had happened to the bread. The pastor caught me one day in the act, and asked very kindly if I would please no longer do such things. I explained that the bread did not taste good, and that I was doing the church a favor, but I sure wasn’t doing him any favors having to listen to complaints from the church ladies month after month.

So I stopped stealing the bread. But a couple of months later, while I was sitting with some jr. high students during communion, the plate came around with the bread. A young girl who generally spoke her mind took a piece of bread and popped it in her mouth. Moments earlier she had been whispering to a friend and passing notes, kicking the chair in front of her, and otherwise doing the things teens do in church that get them a talking to. As she chewed the bread, the taste of mold overwhelmed her and she spit the bread out noisily. In a stage whisper, she said “Ewwwwww! It tastes like poo!!!” This was not well appreciated by the older folks around us, but it was the last time we froze the bread.

This morning’s short sermon is this: Prophets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are clean, some are dirty. Some come from within our community and some come from marginalized peoples. Go out and kick up the dust. And if you find a prophet who is stepping on toes and causing a ruckus, before you give that patronizing lecture about proper behavior and decorum, consider just helping her drink the wine and encouraging her in her passionate defense of the marginalized and oppressed in this world.  Follow that young person or homeless person or person from another culture than yours; follow him or her off their ideological cliff, put on your overalls, and get some work done for good. And whatever you do, don’t dress it up pretty for church. Let’s do God a favor and bring our every day lives to church as our offering.

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