When our spirits despair and we deny our blessedness, Forgive us, O God. When we ignore the mighty things you have done, When we doubt your mercy, Forgive us, O God. When we are proud
in the thoughts of our hearts, When our power rests on the oppression of others, When our wealth causes others to go hungry, forgive us, O God.
Help us, your servants, according to the promises you have made.
My stomach feels sick because I’ve been crying. Curled up in a ball under my covers sobbing. I stayed up too late and woke up too early. And I know I’ll crash and burn in a few hours, but there’s no way I can sleep right now. I could give you the litany of my fears. I could share with you the catastrophic scenarios of the future playing out in my mind. I could share the terror gripping my heart as I realize that about half of the people in this country hold values in direct opposition to my own.
The bottom line is that I am scared: scared for myself, scared for my children, scared for people who aren’t male and people who aren’t white and people who aren’t straight and people who aren’t rich (and I’m frankly not sure how even the rich straight white men are going to handle this), scared for the health of people and the health of the planet . . . The list is endless and I will stop now. Because as scared as I am, I also realize that fear is what has landed us here in the first place.
I do not understand much about what happened with the election, but I understand this: when people are afraid they cling to false hopes and make poor decisions. When people are scared enough, the truth no longer matters. Fear has a way of narrowing our vision so that only those closest to us, those most like us, matter. Fear blinds us to creative possibilities. Fear robs us of the energy we need to live well in this world.
So as we face a dark reality this morning, we should grieve; we should be angry; we should acknowledge the dangerous possibilities of the future. But we cannot be overcome by fear. Because we need real hope and we need to make wise decisions. We desperately need truth-tellers, compassionate visionaries, creative problem solvers. And we need energy—we need more energy than we will be able to muster if we let fear take hold too tightly.
I don’t mean today, friends. Today we should cry and eat chocolate and be with friends and pray deep wordless prayers and get out in the sunshine (because the sun will rise despite it all). Today, we do what we need to do to get through.
Tomorrow, or maybe the next day, though, it will be time to wipe our tears and open our eyes and get to work. I realize there is an awful lot of work to do. Perhaps we need a collective chore chart: you make sure people know that sexual assault is unacceptable; I’ll repeat “black lives matter” over and over and over again; she can work on disability rights and he can promote clean energy policies and another person can fight for rational gun laws and someone can advocate for immigrants and someone else for LGBTQ people and . . . Maybe I’ll make a sign-up genius.
It’s hard to know exactly how to move forward. But I trust there is a way. For now, (after the chocolate) I’m going to start with two of the most common commandments in scripture: Do not be afraid. Love one another.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Do not be afraid. Love one another.
I love October–cooler weather, changing leaves, apple cider . . . and, of course, Halloween. I’m actually not a big fan of the horror side of Halloween–I don’t watch scary movies or go to haunted houses–but I love the costumes. I’ve turned my kids into a princess and a dog, an alien and a cheetah, a which and a unicorn. We went to the craft store yesterday and bought the white felt, orange foam sheet, and giant googly eyes necessary to turn my youngest into a penguin. (I tried to get her to buy a foam head and be a two-headed monster, but she would not cooperate.)
The creativity—not to mention the candy—that surrounds Halloween can be a lot of fun. I know, though, that some Christians choose not to celebrate Halloween because of its connection to the occult. And some Christians try to find a middle ground by letting their kids wear only Bible-based costumes. So as a public service for those who want to have a Bible-based Halloween celebration, here are some costume ideas:
Cute Couple Costumes:
Samson and Delilah: She’s holding seven braids and a razor. He’s got a really bad haircut and empty eye sockets.
Jael and Sisera: She has a hammer. He has a tent peg through his head. (Perhaps an appropriate double-date with Samson and Delilah.)
John the Baptist and Salome: She has on a beautiful, skimpy dress. He has a platter around his neck and a black sheath covering his body.
Adam and Eve: Maybe not the best option since the pre-fall costume is illegal in most places and the post-fall fig leaf get-up is a bit over done.
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife: He should be “well built and handsome.” She should be in her nightgown holding his cloak.
Judah and Tamar: She should be veiled and pregnant, holding a staff. He should be significantly older and perhaps carrying a box of matches. (At an adults-only party you could throw in Onan for fun.)
David and Johnathan: I’m not sure how you would dress up like these two; I just think they are a cute couple.
For Inventive Individuals
Balaam’s Ass: Just wear the donkey costume and walk around saying, “Why did you beat me these three times?”
Absalom: You’ll need a long-haired wig, and somehow you have to get the hair to stand up straight and support a tree branch on top. Bonus points for three javelin’s sticking out of your heart.
Lot’s Wife: If you can pull off a costume that makes it look like you are turning into a pillar of salt, I want to see pictures!
The Lamb of Revelation: Seven horns, seven eyes, looks like it has been killed–again I want pictures.
Ezekiel: Just wear sackcloth and stick a scroll in your mouth. (Though I will not be wearing this costume as it would impede the eating of candy.)
Leviticus Prohibitions: There’s a lot to choose from. One option would be a tattooed menstruating lesbian eating shellfish. But don’t limit yourself here. Be creative.
When we are kids, we color pictures of a guy sitting up in the branches of a tree. But when we get older, we know that the really important part of the story comes at the end. When this very wealthy tax collector declares to Jesus, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I pay back four times as much.”
Giving to the poor is an important part of following Jesus. And without diminishing this point about holding our worldly possessions lightly, I would like to re-visit the childhood fascination with the short little businessman perched in a tree. So back up with me, if you would, to verse three: “He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not.”
All those years of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, all I ever got was that Zachhaeus wanted to see Jesus. Like the tourists want to see a movie star in Hollywood. Like my kids wanted to see Donald Duck at Disney World.
But the text doesn’t say he wanted to see Jesus. It says he wanted to see who Jesus was. This wealthy tax collector has questions about Jesus. Who is this guy? What does he look like? What does he sound like? What is it about the way that he looks at people, touches them, that stirs up all of this energy, this excitement?
Zachhaeus knew that the crowd was in the way, obscuring his view. So he climbed up a tree. Zachhaeus doesn’t care how ridiculous he looks or if he might rip his new toga. He wants to see who Jesus is. I am struck by this image of climbing the tree. Of putting ourselves in a place of perspective.
And I’m thinking about what our sycamore trees might be. Because I have to say that the crowds are pretty distracting right now. It would be nice to find a place of perspective, a place where it is possible to see who Jesus is in the midst of the chaos.
Worship is a sycamore tree for me. And morning prayer, when I manage it. And reading thoughtful, spiritual books. And listening to others. Those are all ways I can put myself in a better position to see who Jesus is. Those are some of the trees I need to climb.
What are yours? Where are the places of perspective to which you need to go?
I know there is more to following Jesus than climbing the tree. More than simply putting ourselves in a place of perspective. This following Jesus business is hard. And complicated. Still, I trust this story of Zacchaeus.
If we have the desire to see who Jesus is, if we have faith and courage and disregard for the crowds enough to climb the tree, Jesus will show up. He will look us in the eye. He will call our name. And our lives will never be the same again.
This post is excerpted from a sermon I wrote in 2009 and focuses on Luke 19:1-10.
Women who attend meetings with men are often frustrated by the sexist dynamics in the room. Some men tend to interrupt, repeat women’s ideas as if they were their own, explain things they don’t really understand, and just generally not listen well. Women often want to advocate for themselves, but it can be hard to know what to say. And it can get wearisome saying the same thing over and over again.
So, as a public service (and because my friend on Facebook asked for it and I’m trying to put off doing real work), here is a four-week rotation of phrases women can use in meetings when men seem to be taking over.
Monday: Please listen to me.
Tuesday: That idea was much more interesting five minutes ago when I [or a female colleague] said it.
Wednesday: . . . And your time is up. My turn.
Thursday: I realize you were talking. I just thought we were doing that thing where we interrupt each other with redundant comments.
Friday: Well bless your heart.
Monday: I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people will listen to me.
Tuesday: I do have a masters degree in that area, but if you read a Wikipedia article, by all means, share your insight.
Wednesday: Based on my calculations, the men have used up their share of the speaking time for this meeting. Women, let’s get stuff done.
Thursday: Knock, knock. [Who’s there?] Me. [Me who?] Me, the competent woman with good ideas that you’ve been ignoring this whole meeting.
Friday: You should know it really pisses Jesus [or another deity of your choice] off when you are dismissive of women.
Monday: I realize you are trying to interrupt me but I’m just going to keep on speaking and gradually increase the volume of my voice until you stop talking and let me finish.
Tuesday: I will listen to you for two full minutes. Setting my timer . . . and . . . go!
Wednesday: If you could answer the question I actually asked, that would be great.
Thursday: Let me expound on my own idea.
Friday: Take the day off. Ask a guy who gets it to speak up for you today.
Monday: Let me repeat what I just said so you can listen this time.
Tuesday: Before the meeting starts, I just wanted to check. Will we all be expected to talk about things we really understand, or just pull words out of our butts because we like the sound of our own voices?
Wednesday: Let’s play the quiet game. First one to talk loses. [This can be accompanied by flicking the lights on and off until everyone quiets down.]
Thursday: Please tell me more about what I’m really thinking.
Friday: Last night some aliens took me up in their spaceship and told me the solution to all of our problems.
Last weekend, I was honored to attend the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Bay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests. The theme of the gathering was “Walls to Tables.” I connected with good friends and got to know acquaintances better and met many wonderful new people. As much as I hate to promote stereotypes of the gay community, I have to admit that the singing—mostly four part a capella—was AMAZING. And the laughter. One thing about people who have stuck with the church despite decades of harassment and shaming and systemic oppression—they have wonderful senses of humor.
I am grateful to the LGBTQIA Mennonite and Brethren community for allowing me to be with them and
learn from them during their celebration. I learned how difficult and fearful it was for gay Mennonites to find each other and form this network of support in the 1970’s. I learned that in earlier years of the organization, BMC began board meetings by naming those who had died from AIDS. I learned the history of Germantown Mennonite, that has been kicked out of MCUSA for its open and affirming stance. I learned the phrase “lipstick lesbian.”
Most importantly, I got a brief sense of how it feels to be a minority in terms of my sexual identity; and I got a glimpse of the depth of my own heteronormative assumptions.
It was a wonderful weekend that concluded with a prophetic and celebratory worship service that focused on Psalm 23 and led us to a communion table laden with bread and juice and fruit. Below are three pieces written especially for this service. I share them here with deep gratitude for all who were gathered around that spectacular table with me this past Sunday.
A Call to Gather by Annabeth Roeschley
Welcome to this place — a place where all are welcome. Welcome to this sacred place, the walls that invite in, the table of abundance, the house of the holy; A house made ever more holy by our persistent presence. Welcome home.
You who have come home often, and you who have not been for a very long time; Welcome home.
You who saw the early walls, who have dismantled, who have danced in the margins, You who are still resisting, who are dancing even harder; Welcome home.
You who have gone before, You who have left, who have been left behind, pushed out; you who are dancing elsewhere; Your spirits are remembered in this home.
We have walked in the valley of shadows. We have seen evil. For forty years (and more!) we have wandered, and found, wandered, and found. And where we have gathered, we find —
beloved friends, the finest foods, cups pouring over, the anointing oil. We find the most colorful god who welcomes with reckless abandon. May we be blessed in this home!
May our bodies be blessed and at home here. Our born bodies, Our reclaimed bodies, Our transitioning bodies. May our inner selves be blessed and at home here. Our whole selves, Our partial selves, Our questioning selves.
May joyfulness, passion, and love meet us here; may this house of abundance be our dwelling forever. Welcome, and blessed be!
Litany of Prayer
by Lisa Ann Pierce
Gather at the Stonewall. Come as you are, you bright, wild, beautiful children of God, for here we will not be policed. At the Stonewall, your outrage is as welcome as your joy. Your desires are as welcome as your generosity. Your pride is as welcome as your humility. Bring your whole, holy, queer and queer-loving selves, for we are about to pray. Holy One, hear our prayers.
Holy One, hear our rage and peace, our longings and belongings, our brokenness and our fierce resiliency.
We thank you, God, for those who, with wisdom and courage, created BMC. Against all odds, they created a community of love and justice. They forged a path out of isolation and into possibility, out of Egypt and toward a land of milk and honey.
Thanks be to God!
We thank you, God, for all those who have followed, each injecting new hope and vitality in their own way, some arriving, some parting, all keeping BMC on the path through these 40 years of wilderness travel.
Thanks be to God!
We thank you, God, that we meet your love in the power of community to break down shame, to bind up wounds, to strengthen us for the hard work of desert living.
Thanks be to God!
Holy One, hear our rage! While you send manna in the desert, our denominations continue to build walls! Sometimes we have bloodied our heads on those walls. We have made ourselves vulnerable, shared our stories, pleaded for change. In response, denominational leaders have asked us to wait, to be patient, then to be vulnerable again and again, to put on sack cloth and ashes, to exhibit our pain for their examination, then sit in silent moratoria while they wait for their terms to end.
Hear us, Holy One, in our rage and pain!
But you, Holy One, cannot be contained by walls. You meet us at these walls, erected in fear. You tend our wounds, call us out of suffering, and invite us to dance. So we have learned to dance at the walls, watching the walls shake with every footfall. We have learned to celebrate the church we are, claiming our God-given gifts. Now we dance and play, finding joy, like Jesus, in resistance to injustice, in subversion of hatred.
Holy One, we dance with you!
Let this be our most joyful dance! Let us dance with such bliss that the walls shudder and fall. Let us take up those broken walls and transform them, that they may never be repurposed. Let us build a table for all, a table of welcome, joy, justice, and peace–a table to transform the world.
Holy One, your Love transforms the world!
Spread the table in beauty and in love. Fill it with abundance. There we will break bread, drink of the cup, remember Jesus and our cloud of witnesses. There we will look backward upon oppression and forward toward a just world. There we will look one another in the eye and know God’s greatest gift is love.
Holy One, your Love transforms the world! Amen.
Expanded Psalm 23
by Joanna Harader and Ruth Harder
The Holy One is our shepherd, we have enough: enough love and longing enough community and compassion enough sacred and sassy enough fierceness and fabulousness
They make us lie down in green pastures and lead us beside still waters and restore our souls: at BMC gatherings at Connecting Families at Pink Menno rooms at this place, right here, right now.
Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death where we are talked about, but not to where our giftedness is not received where our relationships are not honored where we are labeled and cast aside
We will fear no evil, for you are with us; your rod and your staff, they comfort us. We lean on your Word that speaks love and justice We lean on your people, who speak acceptance and life We lean on your church where it is open, affirming, and welcoming of our whole selves We lean on your Spirit of praise, protection, and protest
You prepare a table before us this table made from fallen walls this table covered with all the colors of the rainbow this table of fountains and fruits and abundance this table where we are welcome
In the presence of our enemies people and principalities polities, procedures, and processes “dialog” and “discernment” resolutions and yet another task force
You anoint our heads with oil the oil of blessing for lives that are holy and whole, sacred and fabulous the oil of commissioning that we might go forth in our fierceness to tear down walls and set spectacular tables
Our cups overflow our joy overflows our hearts overflow our queer and queer-loving selves overflow with the abundance you pour out
Surely rainbows and unicorns will follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the fabulous house of the Divine forever.
If you are Mennonite, you may have noticed that my last name contains an extra “a”–it’s not “Harder,” but “Harader.” And no, I did not add an “a” for fun; it’s always been there. My extended family is not Mennonite and I did not grow up in the Mennonite tradition. Like many who have been drawn to the Mennonites, my journey began with that most radical and dangerous book, Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre.
As a pastor, Moses addresses this question from a theological and biblical perspective. The book brings in a range of biblical teachings from creation and Exodus, to the Psalms, to the words and actions of Jesus. And it presents insights from many contemporary theologians such as Walter Brueggemann, William J. Barber, Barbara Brown Taylor, Ellen Painter Dollar, Rebecca Todd Peters, and Marva Dawn. Despite the obvious research and scholarship that went into this book, Moses’ writing never comes across as academic or preachy.
As a parent, Moses sustains a conversational tone throughout the book as she connects our personal and family lives with larger issues such as global economic realities, systemic injustice in our communities, and globalization. In sharing concrete examples from her own life, readers are nudged to consider the decisions that we make about what to buy and where to shop and how to vacation and what to wear. I personally can relate to her angst over buying sleds as Christmas presents—we don’t want cheap plastic stuff but the quality local option is more expensive and may not be available by Christmas and do the kids really need another gift anyway? I can relate to feeling guilt about vacations and wondering if it’s really worth it to buy organic and trying to balance a faithful awareness of the injustices of the world with my own need for basic household maintenance.
More than Enoughwill engage and challenge readers to consider how our everyday choices can contribute to—or thwart—a more just world. The book’s brevity and thematic chapters make it particularly well-suited for use in Sunday School classes or other small group settings. Moses has created a free study guide and worship planning guide to use with this book.
Whether you read it alone or with a group, I highly recommend More than Enough.
The book does not hand out easy answers, but it does offer encouragement for those of us who want to live abundantly in a culture of excess. In my personal efforts to live more faithfully in this world, I carry with me these words from Lee Hull Moses:
God calls us to lives of enough.
Enough is not nothing.
Enough has no winners or losers.
No one goes hungry, no one gets lost.
Enough, with grace, is abundant life. (14)