Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Resurrectionists

I was listening to a great episode of RadioLab the other day, and they were talking about the occupation of "resurrectionist" that sprang up with the invention of modern medical schools.  Basically, the schools needed cadavers and somebody had to go and dig them up- rich people got fancy triple-layered-and-locked "resurrectionist-proof" caskets, but the paupers' fields were more, well, accessible.  Riots ensued.

Anyway, I got to thinking about this, and wrote this poem, on my way to my wonderful Together In Ministry group meeting.

The Resurrectionists

Up all night, we toil, not understanding.
With shovels and our own weary backs, we dig for the dead.
To pick up again what everyone else wanted not-picked-up;
    we start riots because of it, and the crowds chase us.
We don't know anything but the job, the smell and ache of it.
    And our companions, beloved, dusty with the dust of graves.

Let us break every coffin: the poor woman's burlap sack
  and the rich man's velvet majesty.
Until all are risen; or until the mobs catch us.

"The church is dying," she says, "or maybe it's already dead."
That's okay with us.  Nodding, we take up our shovels.
    Dead we can work with.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Zeke 37

A couple of folks commissioned songs from me as an AWAB fundraiser.  Here's the chords and lyrics the first one I wrote.  Not sure how to post an mp3 here, so let me know if you want the recording and I can email it to you.

Zeke 37
G / C/ Am/ F D

The little church's coffee hour
is fifty minutes out
a few people stand and argue
but I don't know what about

well the choir sang like angels
and the message it was fine
and the children were so precious
and it ended just on time

chorus: Em G/ Dm/ Dm/ F D
But the valleys in my world
are filled up with dry bones
and God's children wander hungry
and too many have no home

The church sign is freshly painted
with words of welcome without price
but I've never found much welcome
where everybody is just nice

And the preacher leaves the building
locks the door and turns the light
wondering as he finds his car keys
where will Jesus sleep tonight

And the valley of my city
is filled up with dry bones
and my friends wander hungry
and my people have no home

The deacons meeting is on Tuesday
and we'll talk about the plans
for the rummage sale and picnic
for the boiler and the cans

Wednesday night we come for dinner
and we cook a pot of soup
and we hear from some missionaries
and we hear from some youth

They bring us so many stories
show us pictures of such pain
as we're reaching for our checkbooks
we wonder if it's too late

And the valley of my family
is filled up with dry bones
and my heart is wandering hungry
and my sorrow finds no home

But tonight the wind is blowing
one of the deacons is up late
she's praying for her daughter
wondering how to stop their hate

And not too many miles distant
a kid is also sitting up
and he's reading in the Gospels
and wondering can he drink this cup?

And when it's time to choose the music
the choir director picks that song
that will only lead to trouble
but she can't reckon that it's wrong

And the guy who runs the diner
wakes up once again in tears;
when it's his turn to give the welcome
he will know to start from here

and the preacher doesn't know it
but the scripture coming round
is the one that lights the fire
is the one that breaks the ground

and sure enough on Sunday morning
three more strangers come in back
and one's sick and one is tired
and one's expecting an attack

and the table on that morning
is the same table as all these years
but it's a different invitation
and the bread casts out our fear

And in the valleys of our world
the wind blows once again
and our dry bones come together
and our hearts begin to mend

And a church that once was dry bones
picks up hospitality
and it turns out this band of pilgrims
could welcome even me.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Settle it: Baptists vs UCC

A facebook post that got away from me. Reposted here so I can share it more widely:

The debate rages on- who is more awesome: the Baptists or the members of the United Church of Christ. Many who are my facebook friends are firmly in one camp or the other, but let's settle this once and for all. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Every year in Oberlin, there's a CROP Walk. The two top fund-raisers are often Peace Community Church and First Church in Oberlin, UCC- Baptist and UCC, respectively. These are both great congregations: First Church has been a voice for justice and service in the community since the town was started, and PCC is the scrappy bunch of hippies that ordained me.

So here's the challenge: if you'd like to vote for the Baptists as more awesome, please donate to the PCC "Thundering Herd."
If you'd like to vote for the UCC as more awesome, please donate to the First Church Team

None of the other denominations have teams online yet, but I hear First United Methodist raised quite a bit last year.

If you donate, reply to this post, and I'll track whose in the lead. May the greatest denomination win.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Falling in Love with Roger Williams

Falling in Love with Roger Williams
(A mid-February essay for AWAB.org)

I really resist any attempt to link Valentine's Day with the Christian
tradition. I mean, sure, by some accounts, it comes from a Christian
saint, or at least it's named after one of them. But I think too
often Valentine's in our society privileges a certain kind of love to
the exclusion of other loves. Sometimes, it's romantic love
celebrated as holier than neighbor love. Sometimes it's straight love
celebrated as holier than queer love. Sometimes it's love manifest in
consumerism celebrated as holier than love manifest in... you know,
actual love.

But this year, there's a thing I want to say about it.

When people talk to me about why I'm Baptist, I don't usually talk
about particular hymns, or even particular denominations. More often,
I talk about what are, in my beginner's mind, the foundational
commitments of the Baptist movement. Things we call “soul freedom”,
and “congregational polity.” I try to explain these to people, and
sometimes they get it. More of them get it when I talk to them about
the 'Roger Williams' school of Baptists, like the believers who will
faithfully vote to accept a congregation like mine into their
fellowship, not because they agree with us about sexuality, but
because they so emphatically proclaim our own right to make these
decisions as a local congregation. People who will fight for your
right to be wrong, for your right to proclaim the Gospel as it has
been revealed to you, as wonky or as incorrect as it seems to them.
Baptists who start with a certain kind of humility about God, a
certain commitment to a diversity of tactics and theologies and
congregations and, well, Baptists.

This is a movement that I think, starts at what I believe. And how I
live out my faith. The unique way in which I engage with the matrix
of scripture, and my congregation, and my experience, and hopefully
and faithfully the Holy Spirit. The unique way that I come to Jesus.
It's not like anybody else's way, sometimes. Often, it has
similarities. But sometimes its way off.

Maybe you see where I'm going with this, and please forgive the sappy
language, but I must proclaim: this foundational moment, when I choose
to love Jesus, and make my commitments and get dunked in the water:
it's not like a lot of other things, but it is like falling in love.

Those of you who are lovers: remember, if you can, falling in love.
Maybe it was with your lifetime partner, maybe it was with your
current favorite date, maybe it was the ridiculous crush that hit you
out of the blue last week. I don't know about you, but here are some
things that I name when I remember falling in love: it is wild. It
has so much to do with all of my thinking, but maybe it doesn't
finally turn on making sense. It is about my body. It is about my
heart. It made me want to talk to everyone I know, both to celebrate
and to have some other voice of wisdom to curb or encourage my
hard-to-understand passion. Other people could understand it, but
only kind of. They could support me, but they couldn't take the
plunge for me. Nobody else could say yes to that first date, to that
marriage proposal, to that every day choice to stay in it. It was
(and is) finally my choice.

Why do I stand in this tradition? Because it's not like joining a
committee. It's not like getting my desk in order. It's not like
stillness or incense. (Though these are all things that I actually
like to do!) For me, this tradition celebrates, first, that mad
impulse to commit wholeheartedly to the Lord of Love, in a way that is
different from everyone else who does it. It is a celebration of a
unique and ridiculous and often-stupid kind of love. It makes us
fight, and it makes us crazy. It makes it so that many of us have to
qualify our religious commitments by saying, “Not that kind of...”
But I'm a Baptist, I think, because it is like falling in love.

I wonder, what else, in this season of stupid cards and worse
advertising, I can learn from the romance of the Spirit? Where will
my crazy body lead me next? Where will my intimate relationship with
that heartbreaker Jesus take me, on this lifelong improvised date?

May I let this love, the love of Jesus- foolish, dangerous, powerful,
courageous, unstoppable love- lead me in all things.