Thursday, June 25, 2015

Waking Up White

I have been in a writing workshop all week.  Each morning, we find a prompt posted on the board.  We begin the class with 15 minutes of silence while we write in response to the prompt.  This morning, the prompt was "Waking Up White."  Here is what I wrote.

I wake up white every morning.  I go to sleep white every night.  I have white parents.  I have a white sister.  I am married to a white man.  I am white.  But, last week, when Emmanuel AME Church was shot to bits, I remembered that while white is my reality, white is not my highest identity.  That insight accompanied me into a worship service last night held in our sanctuary with our sister church, a predominantly African-American church that is quite literally on the other side of the tracks.

This service had been my bright white idea, and I was not sure what to expect.  Would the spirit be friendly?  Would the atmosphere feel forced?  Would the pews be empty?  I did not know.

I took shelter in my office to prepare.  I robed up - I love my robe - and whispered a prayer for whatever was to come next.  As I walked through the narthex, I saw right away that we were running out of bulletins.  The place was packed.

Packed with people who wake up white.  Packed with people who wake up black.  Packed with people who wake up as NC State fans, and packed with people who follow Virginia Tech.  Packed with people with ipads and packed with people toting pens and paper.  Packed with people carrying children and packed with people who were alone.  Packed with people who lead in the community and packed with people who struggle to leave home.  Packed with people who protect and packed with people who report.

And those packed people stood, at times taking each other's hands, praying and singing, "It is well.  It is well with my soul."  Over and over again.  "It is well with my soul."  Their voices repeated the phrase louder and stronger until our old church windows shook with grief and hope.

I wake up white every day.  But, last night, I woke up to so much more.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Day of Hope

Every Sunday of worship is special.  But, there are some Sundays when the Holy Spirit seems thick in the air.  Today was one of those Sundays.  For one thing, we baptized five people and welcomed them into the church.  After the tragedy in Charleston happened, I wondered how, as a congregation in worship, we could address these murders while keeping with the celebration of baptism.

As it turns out, baptism was the hopeful response we could have.  Baptism is a dip into the promises of God.  For me, our baptisms almost felt like an act of defiance against a world that wanted us to lose hope this week.  With each person immersed, our answer was, "No, we will not lose hope."  With each proclamation that someone was being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, we found a deepened assurance of God's powerful presence.  With each reminder that we are beloved children of God, we opened the doors of our hearts even wider to each other.

I was glad to be at church today.  I was glad to have the great honor of baptizing new Christians.  I am glad to have been immersed in God's love myself.

In response to Charleston, I am re-committing to my call as a Christian to actively seek ways to make this world a better, more loving place.  I am starting now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Green Bug

This morning, I visited with a church member.  As I pulled out of her driveway, I noticed this green bug on my windshield.  I thought he would hop off as I drove through her neighborhood.  But, when I got to the stop sign by the main road, he was still there.  I pulled out and drove faster and faster, and he just held on.  Within a couple of miles, I felt sorry for him so I slowed down and he still held on.  He was still there when I pulled into the church parking lot.  And, he was fluffing out his wings when I got out of the car.  Within a minute or two, he flew off to do whatever it is that green bugs do.
I wondered if the ride down the road was harrowing.  Did he think, "Wow, things got wildly windy so fast.  I'm not sure I can hold on.  Will it ever slow down?  What's going on?  I don't know how much longer I can keep on at this speed."  Who knows what green bugs think?

As we continued our drive, I found myself starting to pull for him.  "Come on, Mr. Green  Bug,  you can make it!  Just 2 more miles!  You can do it!"  I even slowed down for him - hoping to make his ride less treacherous.

This green bug was inspiration for me today.  Sometimes, life speeds up for reasons we can't explain.  We are blown about.  Out of control.  Scared.  Wondering how in the world we will survive.  Hoping that our wings don't get torn off in the chaos around us.

Then things slow down.  Maybe we feel encouraged.  Maybe we get a rest at just the right moment.  Maybe we survive, fluff out our wings, and before we know it, someone snaps our picture and says, "This is how it's done."

All I know is that after a very wild ride, the green bug found a resting place at church.  I do too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

God's Will

Most of the time, I am a lectionary preacher.  This week, the Gospel text (Mark 3:20-35) is one that I have never preached.  After reading it with it references to Beelzebub and accusations that Jesus is crazy and words about some unforgivable sin, I understand why I have given this passage a wide berth.  But, for reasons beyond my blogging ability, I decided to tackle this tough text.

In preparation, I visited a preaching blog where the discussion referenced verse 35 ("whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother") and centered around the "will of God."  Lots of questions about this will of God.  Lots of opinions on how we find it.  Lots of angst that we have not found it.

Seems like I've spent a good portion of my adult life wondering about the will of God - whether that "will" relates to my personal life, my social life, my vocational life, and I've encouraged the congregation to ponder the will of God for their lives and for the life that we share together.  On many occasions, I've said, "The question for us is not 'what do we want?' or 'what do we like?' The question is "What is God calling us to do?  What is the will of God for us at this time, in this place, with these people?"

These questions have led to some healthy conversations.

But, yesterday, as I was driving down the road pondering the "will of God" (we preachers are nerdy like that), something new hit me.  I am sorely tempted to seek the WILL of God at the expense of seeking JUST God.  I am sorely tempted to treat the will of God as something to get right - to ask questions until I'm sure, to study until I have an unwavering understanding, to talk until I run out of things to say.  Maybe I've treated God's will as a distinct entity - separate from me - something I have to achieve and do well, at all cost.  That makes my relationship with God very goal-oriented.

I do believe God has work for us to do and a direction to follow, but I'm starting to wonder if it's time to put the quest for "God's Will" on the shelf.  I'm starting to wonder if deepening my relationship with God is a more fruitful approach to my own discipleship.  I'm starting to wonder if the pursuit of God is a much richer challenge than the pursuit of some vague "will" that I may or may not get right.