First Sunday in Lent
Somerville Community Baptist
After I got up this morning (after having snoozed my alarm a bit) I realized that SCBC Adult Ed starts at 9:00, not 9:30, so I ended up being about 15 minutes late, which was fine.
We were in the "Prayer Changes God" section of the Prayer handout.
The handout mentions Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: "he threw himself on the ground and prayer that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, 'Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want'" (Mark 14:35-36). I find this really interesting, because what does that do to notions that Jesus is wholly divine?
We talked about physical vs. emotional pain (I appreciated that Owen pointed out that Jesus was not the only one to die a painful death on a cross), and Ross said that Jesus knew that God the Father was going to separate himself from him, and I asked him to say more about that, and he explained about the tradition of offering up an animal without blemish for sacrifice and how Jesus took on himself all the sins of the world and how God, being holy, couldn't be that, and I said, "We'll have to discuss blood atonement theology over coffee, because your theology is not my theology, which I knew coming in, and this would be a real tangent from the topic of prayer."
I talked about how Jesus' prayer gives us permission to, even when we know what we should do, to go to God and be honest about our pain and even our anger at God. I said that of course no one knows exactly what Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, but this story provides a model for us, and somewhere in there as like an aside I said, "We can argue biblical authority over coffee."
After Adult Ed, Ross asked if I was staying for church, and I said that actually I was going to Clarendon Hill Presbyterian through Lent, so unfortunately when I said we should discuss over coffee I didn't actually mean coffee hour. (I think going to service there with any regularity would be too much for me -- though during Adult Ed I heard the choir rehearsing "Shine, Jesus, Shine" and was sad to not be going to worship there -- but I really would have liked to stick around today and see if anyone chatted me up afterward before service or during coffee hour about my apparent problematics with their theology.) He said he'd be in touch about finding a time when we could get together, 'cause he really likes discussing this stuff.
The handout for next week is titled, "Appreciating Spiritual Gifts," which I'm not feeling all that excited about, though admittedly I haven't even looked at the handout yet.
***Clarendon Hill Presbyterian
I hustled to CHPC since I've been underestimating how long travel is going to take me recently, but I got there in only 15 minutes, so I was 10 minutes early.
As I was sitting in a pew reading, Katherine came over and said hi to me.
Katherine said, "We missed you last week*, and we hope you'll join us this Wednesday for Taize -- unless Taize is too quiet for you." *In the moment, I totally thought she was referring to the fact that I was slated to be the lay reader last week.
me: "The punchline to that is that I've been going to Rest and Bread service Wednesday evenings at First Church UCC, and they're actually doing a Taize style service during Lent."
Katherine: "Why didn't we know about that? We could have done it together."
me: "I'm not the one who goes to the Ecumenical Clergy of Somerville meetings -- you know that if I were in charge there would be a lot more ecumenical..."
I continued talking to her as she walked to the church office, and she told Karl about how I was doing Taize at the UCC, and when I went to leave she said I could stay and pray with them (the choir and worship leaders apparently do a joint pre-service prayer).
Karl: "I don't know that I'm all here yet this morning."
me: "That's what God is for."
The Scripture readings were Psalm 15:1-10 and Mark 1:9-15. The sermon was titled "Hopeful Realism," and I was unimpressed. Karl opened by talking about Fmr. Pres. Clinton's criticism of Obama not being optimistic enough and said that he (Karl) draws a distinction between hope and optimism -- that hope is reality based, while optimism is often based in illusion. He said that he would prefer a somber realist to an optimist, because he thinks the realist is more likely to understand the current situation and thus to understand a possible solution. Blah blah blah. He enjoined us to not succumb to despair or be seduced by the preachers of optimism. He made one mention of wilderness (metaphor) but mostly I didn't see that he was connecting it to the Scripture at all, and even the broader theme the connection to Lent was rarely made explicit (though arguably it didn't really have to be).
The Lenten Adult Ed series is titled "The Way of Discernment."
We read Mark 12:28-30, and Karl talked about heart, mind, soul, strength, and asked us to reflect on which one for each of us individually is the primary way that we enter faith. After we had talked about that some, he said that since everyone's different, it can be hard to create a worship service that's meaningful for everyone. I said that the liturgy includes most things -- music, prayer, the speaking of the Word, reflection on the Word... He said that one thing that we don't do, probably on purpose, is exuberant ecstatic worship. I said I thought that was the kind of thing you really had to have the congregation want in order for it to work, and we agreed that that's really not this congregation's style. I said that, while we're talking about liturgy, we're not good at silence either -- that the times in the service when we're invited into a time of silence, I barely have time to get myself centered before we're moving on. He said he thought the congregation would probably be okay with more/longer silence/s, which I was glad to hear.
***Cambridge Welcoming Ministries
Up on the watershed, Standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize Till your agony's your heaviest load
You'll never fly as the crow flies Get used to a country mile
When you're learning to face The path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while
-from "Watershed" by The Indigo Girls
The Scripture reading was Mark 1:9-15 and then the Special Music was "Watershed." Trelawney talked about how Endelyn can walk if she's holding onto your hands, and how she loves to walk to the other parent and is all excited lunging, but as you pick her up to celebrate and snuggle, she's squirming to get down and do it all over again, and she's choosing to look at this as a lesson about how it's about the journey.
I'd forgotten until I walked in before church and saw the setup, that last week Tiffany had said this week's Reflection was going to be we the congregation going to various prayer stations.
The questions were:
Who are you? What marks you as the Beloved?
What brings you to this place? To this fork in the road?
What do you bring with you on the journey? For strength? For comfort?
What do you expect from the journey? What do you fear from the journey?
Where are you going with God? Who are you called to be?
The Lenten study after dinner, we did the prayer stations again but reflecting on CWM, and instead of writing things down on pieces of paper to leave at the prayer stations, we wrote them on easel paper, and then when we reconvened we went through them and distilled them (and sometimes added new things) to three new papers: Who we are, Who we want to be, and questions/obstacles/etc. on the way there.
At the end, Tiffany asked about turning these into blogposts, and the volunteer response was really slow (I think everyone's swamped), so I volunteered to do the third one, and Tiffany said that since I don't have posting access to the blog
she would Invite me.
Doing the self-reflections, I felt like, "These questions are way too big for me to be able to think about nevermind articulate," and doing the CWM version I felt like, "I already did thinking and discussion at the Lenten Worship Planning meeting; I'm done," but I'm sure the self-meditations were helpful for lots of people (and I will probably return to the questions myself later) and the CWM discussion was good. And involvement in the life of the church at so many churches seems to be increasingly What I Do. I told someone during coffee hour at CHPC today that I go to like five churches, and really that's true since SCBC Adult Ed has become a part of my weekly routine. I like going to these various places and being nourished and challenged in different ways, and also in developing communities and making/growing relational connections.
I chatted with Marla some afterward (and Sean a bit) and it was later than I'd anticipated when I finally got home (at which point I still had a bunch of stuff to do). And I am up so past my bedtime. I have really got to manage my time better (this largely involves sitting down and actually focusing on a single task).
***"Joy Sadhana is a daily practice in the observation of joy."
-mylittleredgirl [more info]"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Five good things about today:
1. When I left my house the first time this morning, a little before 9, it was snowing lightly.
2. There was a veritable lunch at CHPC coffee hour (focaccia bread pizza, quiche, brownies, oatmeal raisin cookies, baby carrots, etc.)
3. CWM had tasty (vegan) soup for supper. (And this apparently is the plan for the duration of Lent.)
4. And I got sent home with the leftovers.
5. The closing hymn at CWM tonight was "You Are Mine."
Three things I did well today:
1. I cleaned off my housemate's car. (She's sick.)
2. I participated in various church discussions.
3. I did dishes, and laundry.
Two things I am looking forward to (doing [better]) tomorrow:["anything that you're looking forward to, that means you're facing tomorrow with joy, not trepidation," as Ari says]
1. Getting to have real food for dinner that I don't have to prepare myself.
2. Getting to go to bed early.