Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Porch Story :: Church

porch story 26 September nearby church


Last Saturday was the autumnal equinox; in southern California, September and October tend to be our hottest months, though this has been the third overcast day in a row instead of fulfilling predictions of near 90 along the coast and beach, close to 100 inland. As much as I love the poetic light and shadows of late summer and early fall, shorter darker days affect me physically and psychologically as they do most people. I've begun my dance of almost October ... Reformation again ... Advent's near ... then the shortest day ... followed by Nativity's bright winter lights. Then days get longer!!!!!

For her Wednesday blog, Porch Stories host Kristin reveals her September Highlights. For the first time in almost forever, nothing bloggable happened during my September, but I'll post an October summary because at the end of October we'll celebrate Reformation 501, and I anticipate other eventful activities, so stay tuned.


April asked the question on her Facebook page; she also has a standalone site—April Fiet. What question?

If you had a church located in your immediate neighborhood, what kinds of things would you love to see that church doing? What might a church in your neighborhood do that showed the church was present and cared about the people around them?

Immediate neighborhood. When I read Kosuke Koyama's Water Buffalo Theology and discussed the book on a long-ago iteration of the United Church of Christ forums, little did I know the neighborology concept would stick closely to me as I later (that later is this now) facilitated the mostly-lectionary adult forum, a.k.a. "Sunday School" at the church I attend. That word – the logos – about the neighbor was central during Luke's lectionary year C that included so much Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. For the past few Sundays we've had a semi-continuous reading through the epistle of James, though last Sunday, Pentecost 18, was my first time talking about it because we have time to consider only a single lection each week. James wrote to an experienced Christian community, and despite popular impressions of Martin Luther's not liking James because he emphasized works rather than grace, Jimmy's not about works-righteousness, but about walking the talk, living the word about the neighbor out loud. Remember, he wrote to mature Christians.

Mr. Rogers always asked the question and offered an invitation, "Won't you be my neighbor?"

The guy asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Where We Live

Everywhere you look they claim the year 2018 is post-Christian; stats all over the place show a low rate of weekly worship attendance, despite people continuing to check the "Christian" box on surveys and questionnaires. You've heard a one-on-one invitation most often gets people to at least visit a church? Not the pastor, not the building, not the programming.

Before saying more about what I'd want a church to do to prove its interest to the surrounding community, I'll describe how the first church of my involvement achieved local creds. Because it was very small, everyone could hold each other accountable. A person pretty much had to attend worship, go to bible study, participate in "Holy Club"—a small group that studied a book, chapter, sermon, or other document and met at someone's home with all of us taking turns hosting and providing yummy snacks. We casually called it holy club because activities for kids and teens all had the "club" designation. In addition, we got involved in local civic affairs, sometimes with more than one entity. They expected everyone to choose a political candidate or broader cause and get their feet on the ground or hands on the keyboard for whomever or whatever it was; Christianity was a lifestyle. Being a Christian meant being a neighbor by walking the talk. Their worship and study informed their public witness, so it wasn't a matter of glancing at the 'hood and deciding to do something random. I'll end this paragraph by adding that church met some of my unique needs by giving me a chance to teach piano as part of the affiliated multi-service center's programming and design some event posters and fliers.

So he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" A guy was going down to Jericho.... Technically and theologically, every human, every creature, every part of nature is our neighbor, but practically and realistically, we need to concentrate on people God's places physically closest to us. My current church doesn't remotely meet my needs to work with youth and kids or to teach art; in fact, a couple of families with young kids (young kids aren't my specialty, but all of us get older) moved far out of the area because of high housing costs. My current church can't respond to my sense of call to do any of the pocket of poverty inner-city ministry I've prepared to do, so I need to continue looking elsewhere for those things.

As examples of what a local church can do to demonstrate their presence and their care about the people around them, I'll cite my Current Church's outreach to surrounding ethnic communities, particularly several families from nearby Little Tehran. The church has provided scriptures in farsi as well as (English-language) instruction in Christian basics with an overview of the apostle's creed and the commandants, has explained why we follow Jesus, what it means to be Christian and counter cultural in twenty-first century southern California. Every other Wednesday evening they host a pro bono immigrant law clinic with legal counsel in Persian, Spanish, and English languages. Those actions directly meet obvious needs and will attract people who have those needs. Kosuke Koyama asks, "How can anyone be a teacher of religion unless he is at home with the language of the people?" It doesn't take many if any semesters of cultural anthropology to realize languages go beyond words spoken and read.

In a pocket of poverty urban or rural setting, it would be wonderful if a church could provide more than occasional fill in today's hunger food, if it could offer tutoring for students and recreational, social opps to help connect humans with other humans, to help individuals belong to community. Needless to say, wherever they are, people need to abolish typical church insider activities and insider language, to invite newcomers to take part in all aspects of ministry, even to join committees that have consisted of the same people for eons. I'd specifically like to see a church in my neighborhood say "yes!" to my offer to offer some art classes or workshops, but at least current church has been happy with my posters and bulletin covers—a distant second.


However, we're talking about church, and cannot stray so far the church turns into another social service agency. Claiming the authority of scripture, the Reformers insisted the church was the assembly gathered around Word and Sacrament, so that's where we need to begin, that's where we'll always return. If there's not sufficient energy, time, personnel, or budget for anything else, available resources go to worship. This liturgy – laos ergon, literally work of the people – models the words and the actions we need to repeat when we venture into the world after the Sunday assembly.

April asked how we in the church, we who are the church, can convince our immediate neighbors we care about them? How do we offer the invitation, "won't you be my neighbor?"? We need to acknowledge, maybe learn their spoken and written languages. We need to learn how some of their cultural habits and symbols speak a vibrant language of communication and meaning. Food, anyone? Of course!

I'm an Amazon Vine reviewer and get my choice of cool products I can keep for the cost of a timely, intelligent (whenever possible) review. A few days ago I received a copy of Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood…and Beyond by Jeannie Marie. I'm excited to start reading, and I'm excited my church invited me to serve on their newly-formed evangelism committee. With my lifelong passion for cities and The City, I tend first to think of street evangelism, but there are other-than-that approaches and I suspect Across the Street and Around the World will be inspiring.

More Chances

The font I used for the word Church in my header porch picture is Second Chances Solid by Kimberly Geswein. She has a lot of theology-tinged font names; I used her "Be Still and Know" for my Reformation Sunday 2016 worship bulletin cover. Be still and know is verse 10a of Psalm 46 Martin Luther loosely paraphrased for his hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." The Revised Common Lectionary that provides the Sunday scripture readings we use most weeks always appoints Psalm 46 for Reformation Day/Sunday, so Be Still & Know {the font} added up to a theological, liturgical, ecclesiastical triple win.

Will we as the church provide those second chances, a third chance, sixth and tenth chances just as Jesus did, those chances to reclaim disarticulated lives and fragmented humanity and show our neighbors we are with them and we care for them? It's not about scoping out the scene, picking an interesting activity off a menu, and trying it out. We faithfully can provide second and eleventh chances to our neighbors and for ourselves when our worship and study inform our public witness.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Porch Story :: Green Team Talk

porch story 18 May Green Team Talk

porch story 18 May Green Team Talk

Porch Stories host Kristin's younger daughter Rachel is three years old! Happy Birthday, Rachel!


September and October typically are our hottest months in southern California. Two more days until Saturday and the autumnal equinox. Water year begins 01 October, the rainfall year—01 July; both are at historic southern California lows. Meanwhile, Florence has sent floods, devastation, and grief along the Eastern seaboard and she's become another hurricane name that will be retired forever. Today, September 20th, I'm finally blogging my Green Team talk from May 18th, Friday of Easter 7, the 48th day of Easter, two days before the Festival of Pentecost. Although I kept my six pages of notes, I'm reconstructing what I said from my single page outline.

Green Team Talk

Today is the forty-eighth day of Easter!
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
response: Christ is risen indeed; Alleluia!

Today is the forty-eighth day of Easter! In a couple of days the church's year of grace will cycle into the green and growing liturgical season of Pentecost, and we'll begin counting Sundays after Pentecost. Even Trinity Sunday can be called the first Sunday after Pentecost, or the octave of Pentecost. The church long has celebrated important events in octaves of eight days...

During this season of the Spirit, time of the Church, we act upon and celebrate the reality of the Holy Spirit of life, the Spirit of resurrection from the dead that fills all creation and that we specifically receive as a gift of our baptism.

A month after the Day of Pentecost, the wheel of the year will welcome another summer solstice; summer's unfolding parallels the early part of the Sundays after Pentecost. Long ago the band Spirit sang, "I've Got a Line on You" because "the summer, she's coming on strong." Spirit! Just listen to that name! During the great fifty days of Easter, the lectionary gospel texts have showed us quite a few misunderstandings of Jesus' call to serve, and by extension, confusion regarding our baptismal call to life as God's servant people in Christ Jesus.

I love reminding my adult Sunday School class Romans 8 reminds us all creation waits for us to be revealed {to all creation} as true offspring of God, as people who authentically reflect and embody God's image as careful stewards of all the earth, all creation just as Jesus would. In fact, that passage is the appointed second reading or epistle for Trinity Sunday in this lectionary year B:

Romans 8

19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God...
20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

I love reminding my class when we claim our divine image in the Spirit, creation itself will be set free from death and decay and enjoy the same bounded freedom we humans do as God's presence on earth. I frequently point out the same Spanish word – esperar, espero, and cognates – means hope, wait, and expect.

The days and the nights of summer convey a sense of lush, full, completeness. Spring's yellow-green has turned richer and darker; seeds have displayed their once-hidden promise in fruits, veggies, berries, and blooms.

The late James Agee {A Death in the Family; Knoxville, Summer of 1915} wrote about summer with a poem later set to music for a solo vocalist by Samuel Barber, for mixed choir by Morten Lauridsen:
Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far
Of shadows on the stars.

I've been enjoying the PCUSA's Daily Office app that follows a 2-year, standalone {not related to the Revised Standard Lectionary} daily lectionary. This morning's psalms were 96 and 148; both psalms are appointed for all the Christmas/Nativity liturgies in all three lectionary years!!! Psalm 96 charges humans and "all the earth" to sing a new song to the Lord, with happy skies, singing trees, rejoicing prairies, roaring waters. Psalm 148 demands sun, moon, stars, mountains, fruit trees, cedars—and people, too praise the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer God.

During this season of the Spirit, time of the Church, we act upon and celebrate the reality of the Holy Spirit of life, the Spirit of resurrection from the dead that fills all creation and that we specifically receive as a gift of our baptism.

This denomination emphasizes God's Work, Our Hands. Does everyone have a chrome orange slogan t-shirt? {I have two: one from one of my churches in Previous City, one from my church in Current City.} In the SS class I facilitate, we've talked a lot about neighborology—the word about the neighbor. Especially during these great fifty days of Easter, particularly in John's gospel and Luke's Acts of the Apostles we've considered the shape, form, and function of the servant church God calls and enables us to be. Now we're moving into another Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church.

Now we're moving into another Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church. God's promises in the Spirit through Paul of Tarsus' letter to the church at Rome, the psalmist's word imagery of creation fully alive look exactly like the realization of God's work done by our hands, voices, hearts, and feet. Like the band Spirit, in the power of the Spirit of Life, we've got a line on all creation.

Amen? Amen!


This typescript of my page of sparse notes probably is close to what I actually said four months ago; like most people, I tend to say the same things over and over. When I assembled this talk, summer with its long, sun-filled days officially was four weeks on the horizon, only ten days out in the popular sense. As I blog on this September Thursday evening, late summer's shadows, shortening daylight, and a settled sense of completeness rivals James Agee's whole hearts of earth in the grasp of high summer.

Recently admitting I'm doing less with my gifts and education, participating less in church and world, even earning less in my design endeavor than during my last bleak year in Previous City has made me weary and thoughtful. Like someone in a small town with declining population and departing industry, I relocated north to Current City because I'd mined all possible opps where I was. Like Mary Chapin Carpenter's sibling in "Only A Dream," I departed Previous City leaving no sign of someone who expects to be back, though I left the bed in the old condo, gave the desk to the son of a good friend.

Please tell me all this was only a dream and I'll wake up to something new?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Season of Creation 2B • Humanity

Season of Creation 2B - Humanity

You have made them
a little lower than God
and crowned humanity
with glory and honor.
Psalm 8:5

Original B&W faces art by Prawny via RGB Stock; recolored by me in my suntreeriver design identity.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Season of Creation 1B • Planet Earth

Season of Creation 1B - Planet Earth

Then God said,
"Let the earth bring forth grass,
and the fruit tree yield fruit,"
and it was so. Genesis 1:11

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

It's Momplicated :: Debbie Alsdorf & Joan Kay

On Amazon—It's Momplicated: Hope and Healing for Imperfect Daughters of Imperfect Mothers by Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay

It's Momplicated front coverThis is a most amazing book! Co-authors Debbie and Joan have solid psychological and scriptural backgrounds, so "It's Momplicated" is super-sound in terms of contemporary psychological practices; it's firmly grounded in Old and New Testament scriptures. Everyone needs to read it and gain more wisdom regarding relationships, though authors and launch team particularly focused on women because even mother-daughter relationships that have experienced lifelong sweetness never are quite perfect. As a grateful member of the launch team, for me the best aspect of the book (so far) are short case studies or vignettes that help clarify what's within a normal range and what's way far outside normal, expected, and acceptable.

Without delving into much of my own pain or history, I've previously mentioned learning about some of my late mother's history and struggles has helped me understand her in general along with providing perspective on her often outrageous, hurtful, treatment of me. Though like every human she had her faults, my maternal grandmother was an almost constant nurturing presence from my early years until her death at 96 years old; by the time I reached high school, she'd often comment on some of my mother's – her elder daughter's – out of line behaviors. Page 33: "When we realize our mothers faced difficulties, we may think it insensitive to acknowledge our wounds. ... However, the fact your mother faced personal trials does not remove the reality your needs were not met." We can carry over this realization to all sides of all our relationships.

Ideas I plan to start implementing right away include: page 54–realizing when we're not doing something or thinking about something in particular, our minds return to a default network; page 64—not so much focusing on my mother's mistakes as on my needs as a daughter and taking positive steps toward healing; page 72—when an event or rejection triggers negative feelings, ask if it's a legitimate concern or not.It's Momplicated back cover

Besides rich revelations related to both authors' mom-daughter situations and those of anonymous others, we get many opportunities to put the Serenity Prayer into practice, an "Explore Your Story," and a written "Connect with God" prayer for each of the dozen chapters. It's Momplicated is a prayer book, a journaling opportunity, and a workbook. As I plan to do my second time through, I'd strongly suggest starting a new journal book or spiral-bound notebook (my choice for serious life reflections), or whatever format works best for you to take best advantage of the content.

Notice of material connection: I received a free pre-publication copy of this book from author, publicist, agent, or publisher with no obligation to write a positive review. As always, I've expressed my own opinions in this review.

my Amazon review: relational wisdom