Friday, August 22, 2008

Extra-Ordinary Time

As a pastor called to four very diverse congregations (St. Francis, HerChurch, Christ Church and Iglesia de Santa María y Martha), I do a lot of preaching in different contexts, with different names for God(dess), with different liturgy, and different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

I also find myself sharing with a diverse group of people in this motley city of Saint Francis the answer to the question "what did you preach about today?" And I'm always surprised to find how different my take on the text tends to be from what people expect from a pastor.

My mom told me that if the Bible was translated the way I tell the story that churches would be packed. Perhaps this is because I have a special ability to tell the story that is written between the lines in a flip yet reverent manner that can be poetic and disarming. Or perhaps its because its because of the unique worldview I have from speaking with, to and for so many diverse folk.

So, I've decided to place some of my thoughts about the texts and how they speak to me in this blog space. Hopefully it will speak to the flip yet reverent spaces inside of you. Perhaps it will help you see a text from a new perspective.

You should remember that as a pastor, sharing the Good News of God(dess) is my passion and life's work. So, please read my deep engagement with the text as a deep wrestling of someone who is deeply committed to faith and learning about God(dess)' inter-acting with(in) this crazy and beautiful world that is already the not yet (like me and you).

Here are some brief snippets of the texts as I have seen them so far this summer:

Matthew 15:10-28:

Jesus/Christ-Sophia literally says don't worry about what you eat it just becomes poop. Why are you focused on poop when you should be thinking about what comes out of your heart?

Then, he immediately misses his own point and calls a women a b**** (the greek is the female version of the word dog which in english translates to a swear word), who asks him to heal her daughter because she is of the wrong race (ie not a Jew). The woman, retorts to Jesus within his patriarchal language and causes Jesus to change his mind. Though, he still calls her "woman" rather than learning her name - as happens when men ask to have their children healed - he does end up doing what he ought.

While originally I thought that this text was just another example of misogyny (which it is) that either came from Jesus or those who wrote the text, I came to see how subversive it is to have this story remain in the text. This text highlights Jesus' humanity. It shows even he has a hard time following his own advice. And it shows that even those that God(dess) insults are still able to get justice when they, like the prophets of old, remind God(dess) of the promise to protect and save God(dess)' people. And it shows that (like in life) a racist and misogynist character usually has a lot to learn from the person they are putting down. [Sermon preached at Herchurch in San Francisco]

Matthew 14:22-33:

Jesus/Christ-Sophia tells the fishermen not to be afraid. Yet, fishermen are probably not afraid very often on the sea, and if they are it probably helps them have the adrenaline they need to take a situation seriously. People often preach that we should not be afraid if we have enough faith.

I believe that we should listen to our bodies. The fear we feel is important and it teaches us. It helps us stay safe when we are potentially in danger. It helps us to take care of the things we ought to, like getting earthquake readiness kits, insurance and following stop light signals. Though being cautious doesn't always mean that bad things won't happen.

Listening to our fears also teaches us when we need to learn something new or shows us where we have prejudices that we need to take a look at. But if we ignore our fears, we will never take the opportunity to notice that we are afraid of people that are not like us.

Do we have different rules in our churches for people who are of a different socioeconomic class, race, membership status, etc? Are these fears helpful?

And if it is true, as the Gospel of Matthew claims, that Jesus is in the stranger, the hungry, the homeless, then are we creating rules in our church that keeps us away from God(dess)? Do the fences around our churches and locked doors keep what is sacred in or out?

Yes, we can do unexpected amazing things, beyond our expectations. But we have to go outside our churches, our boats and our comfort zones in order to do it. [Preached at HerChurch and St. Francis]

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