December 14th, 2008

hipster me

Grace is not a Sunday in Advent. (no flamewars yet)

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Saturday, as I got in to Norwood Central to wait for my train, I was like, "Is that Jackie?"  And indeed it was Jackie and Terry [different person, obv., from the Terry I'm usually talking about], who were heading in to the city to do Christmas shopping (the weather having thwarted their plans to do so in Portsmouth).  I totally didn't know that Terry's teaching 8th grade social studies at the junior high.  It was nice to catch up with them, and in theory we'll make actual plans someday.  They said to say hi to my family for them.

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GinnyC sent me a Christmas card:
    It's good to get a chance to chat with you every once in a while.
    You've changed a lot since the trip to N. S. in the motor home.  Life goes by much to fast.
[We went to Nova Scotia when I was 9.]

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Excerpt from Diana Butler Bass' Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith:
Although hospitality at Cornerstone is free, it is not without cost.  Indeed, Christians who enter into the practice of welcoming the stranger know that it is risky---and sometimes dangerous.  Hospitality is not a tame practice, an option to offer only to those who are likeable.  As the ancient Christian theologian Gregory of Nyssa reminded his flock, "The stranger, those who are naked, without food, infirm and imprisoned are the ones the Gospel intends for you."36  Hospitality can be frightening at times.
    The people at Cornerstone know this.  One man shared a story about Rick, a man who challenged the congregation's hospitality. "He comes with tattoos, addiction problems, and even long braids of different colors all over his head."  But, he insisted, the congregation accepted Rick as a human being in need of God's love: "People still saw HIM."  Still, it is risky welcoming Rick because "he continues to struggle with life issues and is in and out of jail because of his addictions and inappropriate behavior."  Yet the people at Cornerstorne know and accept him, holding him accountable for his faith journey and actions.  "This is not the kind of miracle story people like to hear," the Cornerstone member admitted, "but it is a part of the real world."
    At Cornerstone, they speak of living out the "apostolic core" of Christianity, a reference to a brief sentence in the Book of Acts: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers."  An essential part of that early Christian teaching and fellowship was hospitality, a practice that awed even the Roman opponents of Jesus' first followers.
    A few centuries later, as the Roman Empire broke down amid social chaos and violence, Saint Benedict charged monastic communities to "receive guests as Christ" and to embrace the poor, outcast, strangers, and pilgrims.  The heart of Benedictine spirituality is hospitality: a Christian community is not a closed community but extends welcome and shelter to all, regardless of class, status, or respectability.  Joan Chittister, a contemporary Catholic writer says, "Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts.  Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves."37  Or, as two Roman Catholic writers put it, "Guests are crucial to the making of any heart."38
    -p. 83-84 [Chapter 5: Hospitality]

36. Gregory of Nyssa, "As You Did It to One of These" (homily), in And You Welcomed Me, ed. Amy G. Oden (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 59.
37. Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 130.
38. Father Daniel Homan, OSB, and Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2002).
hipster me

Advent 3: Joy

I feel like I got cheated out of my Sunday of Joy.  Laura Ruth preached on spiritual purpose [John 1:6-8, 19-28] and Tiffany preached on wilderness [Mark 1:1-8].

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The First Congregational Church of Somerville

So, about 10am, the Prelude begins.  And then the folks doing the Lighting of the Advent Candle go up and we all sing two verses (plus refrain after each one) of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and then they say stuff and light the candle and we all sing the refrain and THEN is the Call to Worship and Welcome.  This seems so awkward to me, and the hymn wasn't actually asterisked for "Please stand as you are able" and I saw Macha (who's blind) in a pew and with a congregation of this size it's not hard to hear everyone getting up, but _I_ felt really awkward not quite knowing when I was supposed to stand for the hymn so I feel like it must have been so much worse for her.

Unison Prayer of Confession
    Loving God, we confess that we don't know very much about your light.  We confess that we are often too occupied to care -- preoccupied by plastic light we generate with new things, old grudges, and the stuff in our closets.  We confess that we complexify the simplicity of living in your light.
    Be a lamp for our feet as we walk our journeys into your light, we pray.  Teach us the pleasure of using our spiritual gifts.  Give us courage to step into our purpose.  Replace our fear, disguised as indifference, with love.  Forgive us when we fail., Forgive us when we forget, when we get tired, when we are cranky.  Remember, you created us.  We are not gods, but humans who long for you.

Sermon: "Room In the Inn: Spiritual Purpose"
    Laura Ruth talked about how we can be attentive to our Spiritual Purpose by practicing our Spiritual Gifts.  She said: stay away from what dims your light; it will light up someone else.

After her sermon, she said something like, "Please rise and join us in singing hymn number 217," and I thought, "Yes!  Am I wrong in thinking that was probably because of me?"

At the receiving line, Laura Ruth said, "Did you notice I announced the hymn?"  I said, "Yes!  I was all excited and wondered if that was because of me.  I remembered on Saturday that you were giving the sermon today and so I wasn't gonna get an email response any time soon -- which is fine."  [I emailed her Friday morning, because after discussions with Ari and Adelheid I was curious as to her stance, though I think at Rest and Bread I told her about my conversation with Keith.]  She said, "I read your email, and was intrigued, but I don't remember what it was about."  I said, "Oh, it was just about directive worship."  She nodded as if remembering and said something like, "I think anything we can do to make it more welcoming is a good thing."  I said, "I figured that would be your stance."  (At Rest and Bread, my critiques at the very beginning were most all along the lines of "You should be clearer as to what's happening" and she was really responsive to that and seemed totally on board with that sort of concern, and at the beginning of service she always says, "In this community it's important that we know each other's names, because we serve communion to each other, from left to right, so let's go around and say our names," and anytime Macha and/or Al [who are blind] are present she describes the set up of the room -- and yes, that service is aimed more at reaching out to and drawing in the community than regular Sunday service is, but still.)

From the Announcements:

They're doing the Advent Outreach Table again this Thurs. Dec. 18 from 5-7pm.  (They were rained out this past Thursday.)

Interfaith Winter Solstice Celebration -- Join Rev. Kerrie Harthan, fab flutist Elke Jahns, some friends of Kerrie's from the Cambridge Mosque, and others on Sunday, December 21st at the meadow abutting the bike path behind the Alewife T garage for the sixth annual Friends of Alewife Reservation Interfaith Winter Solstice Celebration.  The celebration is from 2:00 - 3:00 pm, followed by a tracking walk with wildlife tracker Dave Brown at 3pm.  We'll make the longest night, the coming of the light, and pray that this urban forest continues its long history of sustaining Boston's Common Good.  If you'd like to be a part of the service or have questions, call Kerrie at [phone number redacted].

First Church Winter Solstice/Merriment/Glögg Party -- You're invited to a First Church Somerville winter solstice/merriment/Glögg Party at the home of Kerrie [surname redacted] and Gloria [surname redacted] on Monday, December 22nd at <time?> [ed. note: I think the flyers I saw during Coffee Hour -- Tara or someone commented it was like being back in college, and Meghan said there should be table tents -- said 5:30-7:30; and SCC will be on midseason break at that point].  Solstice is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year.  We'll sing, light candles, and celebrate the light and the dark, for both have much to teach.  For more information, contact Kerrie at [phone number redacted].