Discernment

“I don’t know how to love him”
plays in my brain
as I read this week’s lesson.

“A woman of the city,
who was a sinner”
and I stop to think
of my own sinfulness.

George Herbert asks,
“She being stain’d her self,
why did she strive
To make him clean”?

Yet I find myself with Mary
stain’d my self
not knowing
“What to do, how to move him”
“Should I scream and shout?
Should I speak of love,
Let my feelings out?”

On Facebook
a friend shared a link
“Thinking about ordination?
Think again”
and the soundtrack
of Jesus Christ
Superstar
swells in my soul:

“Yet
If he said he loved me
I'd be lost
I'd be frightened”

“Entering this ministry
will be one of the hardest things
you will ever do”

After fifty six years
I’m still trying to find
the ministries
I’m called to.

In our Baptismal Vows
we are all called
to seek and serve Christ
in all persons.
That is hard enough

But when and why
are we called
to be
deacons,
priests,
bishops,
or other roles
in the church?

The article warns
that for the ordained
“You’ll be made to feel insignificant…”
“You will feel a deep sense of loneliness…”
“You will have friends who will walk away from you…
“You will disappoint people…”
“You will disappoint yourself…”

Even just in discernment
I have felt most of this.

Another song from
Mary in
Jesus Christ Superstar
comes to mind.

“Can we start again please?”
As I wander down
this discernment path
when it gets tough
and I know that I cannot do this
alone
I long for the days
when I could blissfully
convince myself
I had not heard God’s Call.

Then an upcoming lesson
responds
“No one who puts a hand
to the plow
and looks back
is fit for the kingdom of God”

I am not fit
for the kingdom of God.
I have disappointed people
I have disappointed myself.
I have disappointed God.
I am not worthy
so much
as to gather the crumbs.

“But thou art the same Lord,
whose property is always
to have mercy”

The article ends,
“Maybe you can’t do this.
That’s okay.
Because God can.”

And Mary’s lyrics come back
“He scares me so
I want him so
I love him so”

Blame

If you blame the gorilla
you’re part of the problem
If you blame the parents
you’re part of the problem
If you blame the child
you’re part of the problem.
If you blame the zookeepers
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
a former first lady,
a senator,
or real estate developer
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
the refugees
the immigrants
single young mothers
struggling to get by
you’re part of the problem.

If you blame
the victim
the system
the lawyers
or press
you’re part of the problem

If you blame yourself
but do nothing
to address the wrongs
you’re still part of the problem.

We are all part of the problem.
Too often
we don’t love
our neighbor as ourselves
especially
if the neighbor seems
blameworthy
marginalized
or simply
different from ourselves.

We find
those parts
of ourselves
we don’t like
in others
and blame them
instead
of seeking to repair
what we don’t like
about ourselves.

A Reflection on Mary Magdalene

I’ve been thinking a lot
about
Mary Magdalene
recently
ever since
stumbling across
George Herbert’s poem
of the same name.

As a straight white cis male
in the established church
I have the privilege
to not worry
about
the concerns of her sisters.

When I go to the bathroom
that matches
my gender identity
and gender expression
no one questions
my decision.

When I go out for drinks
I don’t have to worry
about someone
roofying my drink
or being found
behind a dumpster
raped
by a swimmer.

I don’t have to worry
about getting paid
seventy percent
of what my coworkers make
or about a glass ceiling
limiting my career.

Yet there is all the more need
for me and my brothers
to wash our Savior’s feet
with our tears.

Ours is not the sin of commission,
through any fault of the victim.
Ours is the sin of omission,
of benefiting from injustice
and saying nothing
doing nothing
to correct
the wrong.

These Bones

These bones
are the young black men
killed by excessive force.

These bones
are the refugees
washed ashore
fleeing war.

These bones
are the students
and movie goers
of mass shootings
in America.

These bones
are the homeless
freezing to death
the transgendered
beaten to death
God’s children
who have not been shown
God’s love.

The bones
are the marginalized.

Can these bones live?
Prophesy to these bones.

Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining S2S Communications - #eform16 @shamikalashawn @padrealberto @sspellers

Yesterday, during brief breaks from my work in social media at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Connecticut, I found moments to step into the social media stream flowing out of the eFormation conference at Virginia Theological Seminary.

I had thought about going to this conference. It seems right up my alley as a social media professional seeking to proclaim God’s love in new ways. I thought of the great Missional Voices conference I had attended a month or two ago at VTS. But the price of the conference was too much for me, and I’ve often been disappointed with social media conferences.

I understand why people charge for things. We need to make our ministries sustainable. So, I thought about what sustains me. I understand the role of money in our society, in needing to pay for food and housing, but when I think about what really sustains us, the Sustainer, and that “all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above”, I rethought what sustainable ministries really means. I sometimes think that the gift economy and paying it forward are some of the best expressions of grace we see today, expressions we see outside of the traditional church environment.

I watched part of the beginning worship. It started with the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel. This is a story that has really grown on me over the past few years.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’

The service started off with a bunch of people lying around the base of the altar. When I first saw it, I didn’t think of dry bones, I thought of a ‘die-in’. Is the church learning from the Black Lives Matters movement, I wondered to myself? Is this a statement about refugees washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea?

I saw what looked like Stephanie Spellers trying to get others to join her in prophesying to these dry bones. Her enthusiasm for bringing others into God’s work is what resonates for me. We were invited think about prophesying to dry bones in the 21st century. Shamika Goddard tweeted, “I don't always prophesy, but when I do I prefer to use Twitter.” I joined in with “Tweet, Rap, Freestyle, Free Verse, Free the oppressed, Declare Jubilee Show God's Love”

There were some good comments tweeted about flipped classrooms and audio story telling.

Yet some of it felt a bit too much like a social media marketing class. Creating a Church Social Media Plan: How do you get your message through in a media that is already over saturated with distractions? As I thought of the Sustainer, I also thought of the Creator. What are we creating?

In crafting media plans, you need to be aware of your audience. Is your communications Business to Business (B2B)? Business to Consumer (B2C)? Too often, it feels like people talking about church social media are talking about business to consumer communications. I think we need to be in the business of sinner to sinner and saint to saint communications (S2S). We need to weep with ‘Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Killed by Guns’. We need our communications, whichever medium is being used, to be redeeming.

Are our social media plans about getting butts in pews on Sunday morning, making sure that our metric of Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is supported by new metrics of Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers? Personally, I dislike the ASA metric. Sunday morning is important to me. The buildings I worship in are important, yet as Shamika Goddard tweeted, I suspect quoting Father Albert Cutie, “Ppl are afraid for their church bldgs but they need to remember that the church started in the streets.”

We are created in the image of God. We need to reflect that image in our social media, not as part of a marketing plan, but as talking sinner to sinner and saint to saint, in seeking our voices to be creating, redeeming, and sustaining.

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