Thursday, September 25, 2008

Changing My Name to ... Fannie Mae

I'll grant that snarky songs don't make for good policy, but still this old Tom Paxson song, performed here by Arlo Guthrie, has been running through my mind this week. Oh to be born with the right name!
At the end of the day, it's better to laugh and sing than to sit quietly and stew. As Emma Goldman said, "if I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution." So, stop checking the polls and listening to the spinmeisters bloviate on Bush's speech, and put your favorite tunes on for a while.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sing Out Against the Darkness

John Bell is coming to town next month and will be doing an evening of songs at my church. I sent out an e-mail blast to invite folks around the area, and one of my good Unitarian friends sent back this note:
"I believe that Emma Goldman said, 'If I can't dance at your revolution, I'm not coming.' If we allow ourselves to feed fears, bathe in despair, and join the chorus of those who know-all, see-all, and realize that all is futility, we do not serve our communities or even ourselves."
Indeed! Sometimes -- often, in fact -- singing is the best response to the darkness of the present moment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Proving We’re Presbyterian … and Killing Ourselves

I spent the day at a meeting of National Capital Presbytery, and witnessed one of those moments when we prove to ourselves that we are, indeed, Presbyterian. An item of new business was introduced by an ad hoc group of pastors coming from various points along the theological/political spectrum of the church. They recommended that Presbytery suspend its normal mode of operating for one year and use our regularly scheduled meeting times to pursue a discernment model of decision making as a fresh approach to dealing with the issues that have divided the church for decades.
After wrangling about whether or not to refer the question to Presbytery’s council – and wrangling over whether or not to call the question on that referral – we proved our Presbyterian mettle by simply referring the question to the next meeting! While we were in the midst of voting on closing discussion – and confusion reigned over what, exactly, we were voting on – I leaned over to a colleague and said, “this is exactly why we need to try something different; this way of doing business simply doesn’t work for the issues we’re facing.” He said, “get up and say that right now.” I said, “I can’t. It would be out of order.”
The irony of the moment was not lost on us, and it would have been quite funny if it were not quite sad, instead.
The larger, and not unrelated, irony of the day came in the preaching. We were reminded of the deep importance of Sabbath keeping. The irony lay in this: we met at the Presbytery’s beautiful new camp and conference center on a stunningly gorgeous early autumn day … and we spent the entire day, except for a too brief lunch on the porch, indoors. We might as well have met in the fellowship hall of a church in town. At least we would have been honoring creation by not wasting so much gas.
I've spent enough years assisting in outdoor ministries to understand this: it is never worth the trouble of going to a camp if you are not going to use the space.
If we were gathering in a discernment mode, we might go to such a place and spend the morning in silence, free to walk around the hundreds of acres of woods and rolling meadows – to truly celebrate and enjoy creation and praise the Creator. Sabbath time, as Jesus knew and as the preacher reminded us, was created for us. But it is not empty time, worthless time, wasted time. It is time spent refocusing on what is of ultimate concern, on living into our chief purpose: to glorify God and enjoy God forever.
In such joy and praise we discern our callings. Perhaps if Presbytery spent more time in that time we might find new ways of moving forward.
In the meanwhile, we'll meet next time in a fellowship hall and we'll wrangle over something, and we probably won't bring anybody any closer to clarity on that chief purpose.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Prayers for Peace

Today is the International Day of Prayers for Peace. Here's one that we used this morning in worship, and again this afternoon at the Lafayette Park Peace Witness. It comes from the Philippines.
Grant us peace that will
BREAK our silence in the midst of violence
then prophetic voices shall resonate
Grant us peace that will
PULL US DOWN from the steeple of our pride
then we’ll learn to wash each other’s feet
Grant us peace that will
EMPTY us of hate and intolerance
then we’ll turn guns into guitars and sing
Grant us peace that will
SHUT our mouths up when we speak too much
then we’ll learn to listen and understand what others are saying
Grant us peace that will
DISTURB us in our apathy
then we’ll dance together under the sun
Grant us peace that will
BURN our lethargic hearts
then we’ll endure burning and let love and justice glow