God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ruth, a woman of valor

10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. 15 She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. 22 She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her: 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates. Proverbs 31
I am nearing the end of my study of the book of Ruth. I think I have more appreciation for the book than I did when I began this preaching series. One of the interesting tidbits I learned about Ruth has to do with it’s historical context. Ruth, in the Septuagint comes right after Proverbs. The idea is that the designated author of Proverbs (Solomon) wrote the last chapter about his great, great grandmother Ruth. Who is the only woman actually called Eishet Hayil, a capable wife, a woman of valor. a warrior. I think it is an interesting story for in 1 Kings 3:16-28 we are told that “Ruth the Moabitess, did not die until she witnessed Solomon, the son of her son, sitting in judgment over the case of the two prostitutes.” Whether real or apocryphal (a story to explain a history or make sense of what is written), this gives a different impression of Ruth based on where you read it in the cannon. When it comes before David as it does in the current ordering of the books of the Hebrew Scripture by history first, the story is a nice introduction to how King David’s line came to be. When it placed after Proverbs, we experience an example of a real woman of valor, a woman who takes the law and challenges people to live beyond common practice, to live as God intended not as it is written. Ruth is a woman who pushes us to believe that the world can be different and then set out to see that it happens. Ruth is a woman who comes to believe in God and then challenges others to be better in their faith. “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all (Proverbs 31:29).”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Does you heart break?

Does your heart break when you hear that yet another young person has killed themselves because they were bullied for being gay? Does your heart break when you hear about the vicious and cruel beating of two teens and a thirty year old man in New York by a gang because they thought them gay? Does your heart break? My heart hurts for anyone who is purposely discriminated against and targeted for abuse because of who they are or who they are perceived to be. I have never understood bullying, what brief transitory power does it give you to make someone else’s life hard, at times even, impossible.

When I became a United Church of Christ pastor at my first Open and Affirming Congregation I had a huge learning curve. While I was proud of my tradition and was glad to be part of a community that said everyone was welcomed and then worked to make that welcome real, I had truly not had a lot of experience practicing being open and affirming. So there was a lot I needed to learn and for the first time make my words align with my actions. During my first month at this congregation the church decided to be came a safe place within their community by providing PFlag (Parents, Family and Friends of Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered, Bisexual people) with a place to gather once of month. As I attended these meetings and becoming friends with all who attended, my life and understanding began to change. My heart began to open to a group of people that before had been an objective yes of course they are welcome, can be pastors, will be married by me. Now I saw children of God wherever I turned, real people, with real, needs and issues. I learned about the heartbreak and heartache of growing up gay in America. My heart grew and expanded. I met and encountered so many amazing people there at my first congregation who taught me so much.

In my position as the United Church of Christ pastor, I was given into my charge people who had questions about their sexuality but where scared they were going to hell because of the religion they had grown up with. I got to walk with them as they found their way. I remember an encounter with a young person who knew they would be kicked out of their house if they came out, a young person with a strong faith that was against these feelings inside toward the same gender. I got to walk with the gay person who brought his friend to church for pray when she was in crisis for an illness because he knew we were safe. I heard the stories of leaving home and being without family.  I worked with gay and straight teens pasionate about educating people about aids and suicide.  I saw the hope of a new family, a community of people that took care of each other and were the church in ways that the church never was.

So when these latest news stories occur, my heart breaks. Because in a different place someone could have been there providing hope, but there was no hope. Life had become too unbearable, without hope. How many more young people do we have to let die before we say enough, before we stand up and say to every LGBT person you are a child of God and you are welcome, wanted, and loved here.  I will stand beside you and with you through whatever you are going through.  I will be there for you always.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Going Home

I'm staring out into the night, trying to hide the pain
I'm going to the place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing
And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain
Well, I'm going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I'm not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don't regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
So I'm going home, well I'm going home
                               Daughtry, Home

I was watching Chuck on Monday Night. In this episode Chuck and Sarah are living together, but Sarah being a spy constantly sent out on missions has not unpacked her stuff she keeps it in the suitcase ready to leave. Chuck, through the concern of his best friend saying this lack of unpacking is the disaster that will break Sarah and Chuck up begins to worry that there is something wrong. Sarah has never had a home. After all of the drama at the end of the episode Sarah declares that Chuck is her home. He is the place where she belongs.

Because I have been spending the last few weeks absorbed in Ruth, I was struck but this imagery of being someone’s home. When Naomi leaves Moab after the death of her family, she tries to send her daughter-in-laws home. Orpah follows her advice and heads back to her mother. But Ruth says, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!" (Ruth 1:16-17). In essence like Sarah, Ruth is saying to Naomi you are my home. Wherever you are, wherever you go, wherever you die, I will be with you. She is pledging to always be there. Even when times are looking especially bleak, Naomi doesn’t express the same sentiment. She is still searching for home, “So they went until they were come to Bethlehem” (Ruth 1:19). Maybe she hoped that being among her people there would be a healing that occurred. But what she doesn’t realize is that God is working through the lives of those around her to help her finally feel as if she belongs. After having fled home for fear of hunger and starvation, Naomi returns empty hoping that but not expecting something better. Yet her steps lead her back to God and to her people. Her steps lead her back home, to a place where she will once again have family and be filled.
I've spent 20 years tryin to get out of this place
I was looking for something I couldn't replace
I was runnin' away from the only thing I've ever known
and like a blind dog without a bone
I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone
I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold

I went as far as I could try'in to find a new face
There isn't one of these lines that I would erase
I left a million miles of memories on that road
and every step I take I know that I'm not alone
You take the home from the boy but not the boy from his home
these are my streets the only life I've ever known
Who says you can't go home

who says you can't go home
there's only one place they call me one of their own
just a hometown boy born a rolling stone
who says you can't go home
                                                        Bon Jovi, Sugarland, Who Says You can’t go Home