Sunday, February 28, 2010

Abram Animal Halves, Genesis 15

Genesis 15: 1-18; Westminister Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe; February 28, 2010

Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them and so are you
So let's all praise the Lord.
Right arm!
Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them and so are you
So let's all praise the Lord.
Right arm, left arm!
Father Abraham had many sons
Many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them and so are you
So let's all praise the Lord.
Right arm, left arm, right foot!

Alright! I was at presbytery meetings all day Friday and Saturday.
I thought singing this together would make for a great sermon
How bout, one more verse…Father Abraham…no?

Okay.  Actually, I’m kind of wondering how you reacted to this passage Rachel read about Abram…aka father Abraham. What stood out to you from this ancient text?  What about Abram’s whining to God about his heir being a slave[Offensive to me]. What about God encouraging a colonialist conquistador attitude in Abram? Giving Abram land to possess that is already possessed?  

And how bout Abram getting his butcher groove on? slicing through animals…eesshh

You know I have options when choosing passages to preach on. But, for some reason, this was the passage that stayed with me for this second sunday of lent. 
As we are thinking about our own Lenten journeys, As we are living into sacrificing, altering, or taking on of certain lifestyle practices as a way to re-imagine Jesus’ experience in the wilderness, and understand better the way of the cross—And for many of us this has meant attempting to reduce our fossil fuel intake because we see it as an issue of justice...

This passage about Abram stuck.  And I want to share, briefly, three reasons why (unusual for me to preach a three point sermon but here goes).

A baptismal case study

We've been renting our church building to a fledgling spanish speaking congregation for the past two years.  The relationship has been pretty even keeled, but there have been a few touchy points.  They are respectful within certain cultural limitations; require a little more maintenance than I prefer; and have quite a different theological perspective from us. But generally, good people.

70gal_drink_trough.jpgOne differing theological perspective relates to our theology and practice of baptism.  They believe people are saved through baptism.  We believe people are saved through grace, and baptism is a sign and seal of that grace.  They immerse candidates, where as we sprinkle.  Our sanctuary does not have a baptistry, so they typically do their baptisms off-sight.

I found it curious last Saturday, when I just happened to be at the church, that they were dropping off  a large trough that typically is used for feeding animals or as a planter (a little more elegant than the picture here).  They were excited to share with me that they had a baptism coming up. Yes, that is a cause for celebration. Also, they were also tired of borrowing another church...

It took me a day or two to put two and two together.  They are going to try to immerse someone at the church! Where?  How much water will that require?  How will they get the water to the trough, or will they fill the trough first outside and carry it into the building?  Are they sure it won't leak?  What will the do with the water afterwards?  Do they expect us to pay for all that water? Won't it splash everywhere?

A bit concerned, I called their pastor, hermano Solano.  "Hola, hermano.  Paz de Cristo. Donde va a haber el bautismo?  En el santuario...pues han pensado en esto esto y esto?

I hated being the "gringo," but I also did not like the idea they had.  Particularly when we, during this lenten season, are emphasizing our relationship with and our stewardship of Creation.

It's easy to see why they would not have shared similar concerns as the ones I and others had.  Water usage.... Spilling on the floor...what are these concerns when compared to the salvation of one's soul.  (A theology I am familiar with, but do not share..reminds me the story of my old college soccer coach who justified a soccer mission trip to Europe that cost tens of thousands of dollars by saying. "If we save one soul, can you put a price tag on that soul? Not very biblically based rationale from my perspective).

At the end of my conversation with Solano, I made it clear that these were "our" concerns. He assured me that we need not worry, they would be careful and offer a donation to the church for the water... Did I have any trees in particular that needed watering? No trees need watering this time of year....

This Sunday after the service.  My favorite member of that church, Hermano Cruz, came by and wanted to make sure everything was okay.  He is the sweetest man; a true saint.  He is responsible for our chickens; he is the reason they are using the building.  He asked where they could put the "baptistry", and answered questions I had.  He, too, assured me everything would be fine. And that they didn't want to cause any problems.

I went out to leave when I saw what they had made for a baptistry.  They had constructed a nice wooden panel shell that would contain the metal trough.  They had build a platform for the trough so that it would be visible, and steps to reach the platform.  They even had a gas heating unit to warm the water (any fire code violation there?)

This was truly a contest of theological perspectives and cultural norms.  In the end, I did not think it was a good idea.  It was with great reluctance that I told hermano Cruz that it would be alright.

As I made my way to my car to go home.  He backed his truck up to the parking space closest to the sanctuary, opened the bed, and began to take some of the many parts off the truck.  He was by himself and there was the large wooden frame and trough yet to be lowered.  I put my bag in my car, and gave him a hand.  

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Questions of Life Development

Right now, it's really cute when Ruby Eugenia, 13 months, poops her pants.  She consentrates very intensly, and makes grunting noises.  This has been cute since she was born.

When will it not be cute anymore?

Or what about throwing food "on the ground"?  Brinca's there to faithfully gobble it up!

Ruby's front teeth started to come in last week...4 of them.  As a result she was:

Drooling like crazy, Coughing more than usual, but it's kind of cute to see her do this fake cough, aaha aaha, 
biting and gnawing more than usual, especially on cereal box/ toilet paper roll type paper, 
pulling at her ears, 
rubbing her cheeks and eyes; 
she had diarrhea (which is starting to stank), chin rash and pimps type bumps, 
and a runny nose (yellowish mucus), 
and, needles to say, she didn't sleep well.
What's that all about?
Growing up. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

And then...?

Turns out, that line at the drive through line, "And then...?" from "Dude, where's my car" was not original with that movie...who'd of thunk it. 

Here's a story told about the famous fourth century philosopher and orginal cynic, Diogenes in an encounter with a young Alexander the great, from a program on doubt:

Diogenes asked Alexander what his plans were. Alexander answered that he planned to conquer and subjugate Greece. "Then what?" Diogenes asked. Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate Asia Minor. "And then?" Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate the world. Diogenes, who was not easily dissuaded from a line of inquiry, posed the question again: "And what next?" Alexander the Great told Diogenes that after he had finished conquering and subjugating, he planned to relax and enjoy himself. Diogenes responded, "Why not save yourself a lot of trouble by relaxing and enjoying yourself now?"

Monday, February 22, 2010

The absolute worst thing became the best thing

Peeking toward Easter: Richard Rohr speaking on the central symbol of the cross

"Most moral religions assume that there is an absolute dichotomy between good and evil. There is no faith required in the place where one may say, "I know I'm right, and I know you're wrong."

The cross undid forever the seemingly total dichotomy between good and evil.  Because what happened was, the absolute worst thing--the killing of God (inside of the Christian metaphor)--became the redemption of the world.  The absolute worst thing became the best thing. Now if that doesn't relativize  your absolutist intellectual thinking....
If God can use the absolute worst symbolically worst thing possible and make it the redemption of the world then be careful when you talk about things that are bad things and worse things.
And it's more complex:
Those who did it were supposedly the good people,  the leaders of church and state. And those who first of all allowed themselves to benefited from it were the seeming losers and outsiders, and those considered evil.  This says at a central level, be careful how you see, things are not what they seem.
The things that look like the worst became the best. The people who look like the holy ones become the bad ones. The people who look like the bad ones ended up being the ones most open to it.

This is not an attempt to lead us into relativistic moral thinking, but rather into discernment. Because discernment isn't choosing between a good and a bad, but choosing more often than not between two partial goods.   Holding seemingly opposing sides seriously...that is the space in which we go deep and you learn spiritual mystery.  It is not rushing to closure and judgement.  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

“Yo Quisiera Taco Bell” Luke 4:1-13; Deut 26:1-11

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe,  February 21, 2010
First Sunday of Lent
“Hey Mom, what do you know about the devil?"  The 4 year old asked my colleague after hearing of Jesus’ temptation.[1] How does a mother, or Father, or anyone begin to answer that question?  Draw upon Augustine?  Or popular wisdom? The mother said, "Well dear, what do you know about the devil?"
"Well," he began, "the devil talked to Jesus."  “And The devil was mean..." Mean, she wondered.  Does that describe the devil’s actions? Leaning closer to his mother, he dropped his voice down to a loud whisper, "If we were at a store, and you and Dad were on one aisle, and I was in another aisle, and"..." and there was candy..."  (pause)  “The devil would say, "You should take some!"
Hmmm.  What was she to say to her son? 
The story isn’t so much about temptation, as it is about how Jesus shows his faithfulness to God, setting the stage for all of his ministry, and ultimately, his sacrifice and resurrection.  The devil tests Jesus' identity, his self understanding and his mission—if you are really God's son, perform a miracle...make bread..  I know you're hungry...If you're really God's son, claim your royal power...worship me.  If you're really God's son, push the limits of God's love...throw yourself off the temple. Jesus refuses, claiming scripture as his guide, and the devil departs...for a little while anyway. 
"Honey," She says to her son, if we were in the store, and Dad and I were in one aisle, and you were in another, and there was candy, and the devil said, 'you should take some.' What would you say back to the devil?" 

The little boy smiled, and said, "Oh! I would say thank you!" 
It's not hard for a little boy to miss the point of the temptation.  It's not hard for us either.  

This story of Jesus and the devil in the wilderness for 40 days, happens before his ministry formally begins…when he has to ask himself…Is the way of the Messiah...the way of the cross?  Jesus succeeds in passing the devil's tests...Do his followers? 

2010 Lenten Journey

2010 Lenten Journey
Querida Familia en Cristo:
Because of an increase in the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the world’s climate is changing dramatically.  There are more regions in the world experiencing severe drought. And, by contrast, there are more areas in the world experiencing severe flooding. The number of hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and cyclones is more frequent.  The number of known animal and plant species is lessening faster than ever. The world’s most poor peoples suffer the most, and they have contributed the very least to the problem of climate change.
When we consider our responsibility as Christians, we must consider this injustice.
God has entrusted the earth to our care.  We are to be stewards of creation. Therefore how might we examine our practices to help taper off the devastating effects of climate change?
Our overall objective during lent is to grow closer to God.  It is to examine our lives and consider ways in which our current lifestyles and practices keep us from being in right relationship with God.  It is also about seeking right relationship with our neighbor and God’s good creation.  It is our hope that, through fasting, altering, or taking on new practices that might help reduce our carbon footprint, we may discover what it means to be loved and claimed by God, as well as loving neighbors.
To compliment the primary objective, our Lenten theme this year is “touching the earth lightly.” We will strive to reduce our carbon footprint, namely by reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use. Please consider these areas of your life.  Might you commit to reducing your carbon footprint by focusing on one area?  Or maybe challenge yourself to do a little (or a lot) in each area?

Home Energy use:  How much energy do you consume in your home?  Consider turning off lights you are not using.  Replace light bulbs that are not energy efficient with compact florescent bulbs.  Unplug chargers that are not in use. Watch less TV, and turn it off when you’re not watching it.  Turn down you thermostat 1 degree.  Recycle! Someone (Anu) suggested taking cold showers! Maybe shower less frequently or for a shorter period of time. Cut back 3 minutes to reduce carbon dioxide by up to 715 lbs each year!
Basic challenge:  Be aware of what it takes to heat, cool, and live day to day in your home.  You may consider a home energy audit.
What might you fast, alter or take on in the area of home energy use?

Transportation: Can you drive less?  During lent, consider driving less by taking public transportation, or even better walking or riding a bicycle to your destinations?
Basic challenge: Ride the bus or the train and see how you are connected to community while reducing your carbon footprint.
What might you fast, alter or take on in the area of transportation?

Food: On average, the food that arrives on our plates has traveled 1500 miles to get there. During lent, reduce your meat consumption by half and save approximately 1600 lbs/CO2 per year.  Eating lower on the food chain will greatly reduce your carbon footprint, and is good for you.
Long-term:  examine your food budget to see if there is a margin to spend a little more money to buy:
Organic, or even better, food from a food co-op, or even better, seasonal food at the farmers market.
Consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).
Basic challenge: Get to know a local farmer, as part of getting to know your neighbor.  Say a prayer before each meal and consider where your food has come from, who has grown it, and what it took to get it to you.
What might you fast, alter or take on in the area of food?

Product Choice:  How many of the labels on the products you buy say: “Made in China”? That product has traveled half way around the world for your enjoyment or use. Could you choose products that are made somewhere closer to home?  What about packaging of products you use?  If you have a choice, choose less packaging or buy in bulk.  Basic Challenge:  Do you need as much stuff as you have? 
De-clutter you home during lent as a spiritual practice–give away or sell stuff you don’t need.  Buy less, and buy used products whenever possible.
What might you fast, alter or take on in the area of product choice?

Want a wide variety of options? Follow the Lenten calendar that is in the back of the sanctuary
For more information check out (even if all you do is check out these sites it will help!):                      (find out how big your carbon foot is)                
Read: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
Add to this list…email your suggestions
May God bless your Lenten journey!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Warrior Song of King Gezar

"Our earth is wounded. Her oceans and lakes are sick; her rivers are like running sores; The air is filled with subtle posions. And the oily smoke of countless hellish fires blackens the sun. Men and women, scattered from homeland, family, friends, wander desolate and uncertain, scorched by a toxic sun...
In this desert of frightened, blind uncertainty, some take refuge in the pursuit of power. Some become manipulators of illusion and deceit.
If wisdom and harmony still dwell in this world, as other than a dream lost in an unopened book, they are hidden in our heartbeat.
And it is from our hearts that we cry out. We cry out and our voices are the single voice of this wounded earth. Our cries are a great wind across the earth."

Three Cups of Tea is floating around various circles at church.  It was passed along to me, and I'm looking forward to reading it.  Erik suggested the quote on page 314 would relate well to the theme we are reiterating during lent: taking (light) steps to reduce our carbon footprint.  Really looking forward to seeing how we might encounter and learn from God through this experience with one another.  More to come...  

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Rabbi is calling you

February 7, 2010
Have you been called by God or not?
It’s stories like Isaiah’s story that kind of freak me out when I think about having a call from God.  I mean flaming six winged creatures are flying around, singing very loudly: Santo Santo, Santo es el Señor.  The building shakes, smoke fills the room, Isaiah falls to his knees, “My lips aren’t clean. Woe is me!  And just as those words are spoken he’s assaulted by the flaming flying creature who scorch his mouth with burning hot coal!  

God was really trying to get a Isaiah’s attention.  And I’d say it worked. Is this what a real call by god is like? If so, have any of us really been called by God? But to be sure God’s call is scary…it’s scary because, it means….that I am no longer in control….
It means that I submit to God, God is in control of my life now, flaming creatures and hot coal to boot

Jesus is certainly in control of the scene when he calls his first disciples. Crowds are all around; he’s teaching on a boat; Then he decides to do a little fishing.

I love that this story is told like a classic fishing story.  Did you catch anything honey?”  Did we ever!” 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The faith of the poor; the faith of the rich

Hasidic quotation [Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, Later masters (New York, 1947), p. 92]:

"How easy it is for a poor man to depend on God! What else has he to depend on? And how hard it is for a rich man to depend on God.  All his possession call out to him: 'Depend on us!'"

Oh, and those possessions call so loudly...and incessantly...

Highlights from the first week of Feb 2010

-Going with Suegros to pick up Butch's tombstone...(sorry for sending you the wrong way!)
-Riding on a functional bike as I get ready for the quad.  FINALLY!
-The snow, this was the prettiest it's been so far this year.
-Midnight walk in the snow, which led to seeing two great horned owls, hoo hoo hoooo hoooo hooooo.
It didn't take long for it to be confirmed that these owls do some early year nesting;...
and hearing coyote howls invade the pervasive silence of the night after a fresh snow fall.
-Seeing Gov. Richardson talk at the Bishop's luncheon....and sitting with Ben and Bev Larzalere, Sue Bresluar, and Marvin Schwab.  Pretty sweet we overturned the death penalty last year.
-Discovering a new nickname for Trasie!
-Ruby Gene's motivational speech....take a hungry baby on a hike without food, you'll get up and down real quick-like
-Nancy Deever...I got your back
-Hearing Fr. Roy of SOA
-Nursery team...getting busy
-Phoebe b-fast, deacons are going to take WPC to a whole new level
-sitting on our new couch, love it.
-Grace prayer