Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ni de aquí, ni de allá (repost)

Tiny Church is beginning a discernment process, and my sermons are beginning to focus toward that. This results in an internal conversation that is about as interesting to folks outside that process as watching paint dry. So here is my sermon from last year on the Slaughter of the Innocents and God's transgression of borders. May we remember that God transgresses more than just physical boundaries--none of our assumptions or hopes about God are safe from the Holy Spirit.

A prayer from Gideon Addington, my twitter friend who took his own life last week (Dec. 2009). He would have liked this sermon.

"Let us be still, O Lord, let us dwell in the gentle silence of your approach.  You who lift up the weak who repairs, the broken who heals the sick; we await You.  We struggle to remember that Your Kingdom is at hand.  Guide us Merciful Judge, in being instruments of your peace. 
May grace more abound within us!"

Sermon by Katie Mulligan
December 27, 2009
First Sunday After Christmas Day

(Audio recording of the service can be found here: )

First Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
Second Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:13-23

There is a LOT to unpack in these 28 verses of scripture.  But let me say this up front: I won’t get to it all. AND today’s scripture reading is about movement and borders, violence and refuge, remembering the past and visioning the future.

Let us begin with movement and borders.  From Luke’s gospel, we know that after Mary conceived a child, she traveled to see her cousin, Elizabeth. Then after returning home, she and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census, where Jesus was born. Next, Matthew tells us, three wise men from the East came following a star in the sky, leaving behind their home and comforts to see if their astrological predictions had come true.  They stopped in Jerusalem, a center of power, in the same way that one might stop in the state capitol if one was looking for the governor.  But the only King of the Jews to be found there was King Herod.  Fearing for his own power and authority, King Herod set the priests and scribes of the kingdom to the task of figuring out where the baby Jesus would be born. And then he sent the wise men on their way, wandering toward Bethlehem with instructions to return to Herod with additional information.  The star in the sky went ahead of them, perhaps a bit like the pillars of cloud and fire went ahead of the Israelites in the wilderness, guiding them along their way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Single Parent Christmas

A quick shoutout to the single parents trying to pull together Christmas this year. Whether your tree looks like this:

or like this:

I've always found Christmas a bit hard to manage. There are expectations swirling in the air. I started to list them for you, but then I hit the backspace. If you know what I mean, you don't need the list. If you don't get it, you don't want to hear it.

I think the hardest thing about Christmas the last few years has been the break in our family rituals. We used to always get our Christmas tree on the 10th of December (give or take a day). Very important was a straight tree. There were different things we each did that had become ritualized for us, and they signaled the beginning of the Christmas season.

I am known in my family as not liking Christmas much. Which is why I find it ironic to now be the keeper of the Christmas rituals. We get a tree all right, but usually within days of Christmas. Frankly, I didn't even realize Christmas is this week until yesterday. And we go to the same single lot to find a tree: the guy who runs an A&W a Stewart's root beer stand in the summer imports trees at Christmas. And we never get a straight tree--never. I gave up that first year when I realized that by December 23rd, all the straight trees are gone. And anyway, I can't tell if it's straight or not until I stick it in the stand.

Last year, when we got our tree so late, I brought it home, only to realize that the Christmas tree stand had a hole in it. I realized this after all the water leaked out onto the carpet. I ran about town trying to find a new stand, but every store was sold out, so I used a variety of household items to make do (after trying to caulk the hole w/bathtub sealant). This year we got a stand, but the tree leans badly. I have tied it with ribbon to the curtain rod.

I have, for nearly 20 years, been in charge of putting the lights on the tree. Once upon a time I wrapped them painstakingly around each branch. At this point in my life I sort of throw them on the tree. Oldest refuses to assist with the ornaments. The Little Guy is very enthusiastic for a while; every ornament goes on the same three branches (which doesn't help much with the leaning problem). Tonight the cats will jump on the tree and shake everything lose, and in the morning I'll put the fallen ornaments back on more securely.

I like tinsel, but the cats eat it, and it comes out in interesting ways.

So I'm hitting the liquor store in a bit to grab a bottle of wine. And I'll raise my glass to you a bit later, as I think about what's important this year and what's not. The year I was pregnant with Oldest, I did nothing for Christmas except vomit. And that was alright too.

Love to you all.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chosen Families

Dedicated to Gideon Addington, known to my Twitter community as @gideony, who took his own life a year ago today on December 12, 2009. We miss you and love you and wonder how it is that you're gone. And to all of my chosen family on Twitter, my love to you. Gideon would have loved to see how we have grown together.

Sermon, Sunday December 12, 2010
by Katie Mulligan

Scripture Readings: Psalm 146 and Matthew 1:18-25

We are coming close to Christmas Day. Can you feel it yet? The air is pregnant with the coming of a child, a tiny infant who will enflesh divinity, fulfilling prophecies and toppling kingdoms. Stars will fall out of alignment and angels will sing to shepherds. Bells will ring and the glorious song of olde will creep upon the midnight clear. But a little longer—we’re not quite there yet. The trees are everywhere with their ornaments and stars. My email inbox is stuff full, alternatively with advertisments for more stuff I can buy for my loved ones and inspirational yuletide chain letters. It’s the most wonderful time of the year—or at least the busiest. So much to do. So much to do. So much to do.

In a sleepy village in Palestine, there was a woman named Mary and a man named Joseph. They were engaged to be married, and before they lived together, Mary became pregnant. And Joseph was sure it was not his child. We do not know much more about Joseph and Mary except for that: a man and a woman engaged to be married, and the woman got pregnant. Tradition makes Joseph to be a carpenter, although he could have been any kind of craftsman. Some say Mary was a child bride—12 years old, too young to marry right away and so still living with her parents. They say that Joseph was an old man, a widower, with children from a previous marriage. Some say that he died at the age of 114. But the truth is that we have no record anywhere of Joseph’s age or Mary’s, nor do we know when Joseph died—he simply disappears from the scriptures after Jesus was 10. We can infer a lot, we can guess a lot, we can read a lot into the text. But what we know for sure is very simple: a man named Joseph was engaged to a woman named Mary. And she became pregnant with a child who was not his.

I attended a worship service recently where this same passage was preached. And when the preacher came to this point—that Joseph was confronted with the fact that his fiancé was pregnant with someone else’s child—everybody laughed a little along with the preacher. Truly a dilemma, you see! What was Joseph to do? And the laughter in the room was connected to a sense of scandal, a delicious sense of moral certitude which made each of us nod knowingly. A young woman pregnant, and the fiancé is not the father? We know how that conversation went! The shame! The scandal! The indecency! And even though we as readers are given the knowledge in advance that this child is the responsibility of that tricky and irrascible Holy Spirit, Joseph didn’t know that. We watch him, fascinated, mulling over the options. What would we do? Would we keep the wife? Put her out on the street? Sue to see if she is not a virgin so we might keep the dowry? Chase after the other lover? Perhaps these days hire a private investigator or check her facebook. At the very least we imagine the conversation: the angst of infidelity, her protestations of innocence, his confusion and disillusionment, her stubborn refusal to be shamed. All this and more fluttered through our imaginations as we listened to the preacher laugh softly at this confrontation, and our own laughter reflected moments of discomfort, disillusionment, betrayal. Most of us have been on both sides of that story at some point—the one betrayed or the one who betrays. Oh yes, we know how that conversation went.