I saw Tiffany before service and she said she was pleased to see me, that she'd been thinking of me this past week since she hasn't seen me in so long. (She's been gone a lot, traveling.)
She asked me and Beth if we would be interested in doing the Scripture reading. Beth said no, I said yes.
Prelude & Moment of Meditation
Call us again, O God, to the ministry of hospitality.Call to Worship:
You who have taken us in,
give us the grace to extend that same welcome to others,
and grant us the wisdom to come back again and again
to refresh ourselves in your presence.
May your reign come in us and among us.
- Prayerfully Out in Scripture July 22, 2007
Come from wilderness and wandering; come from chaos and from clutter.
Come and sit a while in the presence of God; Come and refresh your body and soul.
In the silence and the singing, at the font and at the table.
We know God's presence and are renewed.
Opening Hymn: "Come and Find the Quiet Center"
The tune was familiar, though I couldn't place it.
Tiffany had wanted "It is Well With My Soul" by looking at the words realized that was a no-go. Tallessyn offered to rewrite it, and Tiffany said she didn't have to that they could pick something else, but of course she did it anyway. I can see the hymn being problematic for implying that you should feel okay all the time regardless of the circumstances, but in glancing at it nothing particularly jumped out at me besides the usage of "Satan" (which I have a somewhat ambiguous relationship with, since I feel like the Bible does in fact present "Satan" as an actual figure, though that figure develops over the course of Scripture and isn't always the character we think of; plus, Jesus believed in demons more generally which we mostly don't now). Of course I took notes on the changes. Below is the hymn with changes so noted (original text take from cyberhymnal.org):
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,The last verse seemed entirely different from what was in the hymnal, so I was confused. Looking at cyberhymnal, it's because they really were different verses.
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot,
Thou has taught me toin Thy strength I can say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Satanevil should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my
shed His own bloodspread open arms for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross,In grace is forgot, and I bear it no more,
the Lordthy God, praise the Lordthy God, O my soul!
The hymnal had this one:
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,But she was singing this one:
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:The Scripture reading was Luke 10:38-42. Having done the reading at CHPC that morning I thought, "Huh, so Tiffany skipped the difficult Amos passage and is just doing the difficult Mary and Martha passage."
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
Tiffany started with "stay on target" from Star Wars, talking about how the traditional interpretation is a reminder to focus on what really matters.
Then she read a passage from Fannie Flagg's Can't Wait to Get to Heaven which says that life is a gift, is like a roller coaster and most people think they're steering so they miss the fun.
She talked about the evangelical woman conundrum -- that you're supposed to focus on Jesus/God but also be the perfect homemaker -- which whatever, I could have done without, and then she said that she felt the Flagg passage had something missing, too, that it too emphasizes a focus on one needful thing -- only its one needful thing is your own enjoyment. She went back to Star Wars and reminded us that Gold Five says "Stay on target" and in fact stays so closely on target that he gets himself blown up, and they don't succeed until Obi-Wan says: "Let go and trust the Force." She said this isn't some "Let go and let God," but a widening, deepening, broadening, of one's vision.
I'm not sold on the assertion that Jesus was criticizing both sisters, telling them both to widen their focus, but I don't know what one would do with that passage other than the traditional interpretation (which Tiffany did say in her sermon is an important reminder we sometimes need to hear).
Edit: Full text of her sermon up on her blog now. /edit
[Addendum: I was wandering blogrolls a couple days later, and I found this post which talks about how Jesus agitated for change in society, and this post which questions the either/or thinking. And this focuses on the problem of worry.]
Prayers of the People:
I think it was Adam who mentioned that Tammy Faye Messner had died. "For all her flaws, and they were... well-documented, she was the first to be gay-affirming before gay-affirming was in vogue. She said, How can you call yourself a Christian if you won't touch people with AIDS?"
In the Intro to the Passing of the Peace, Tiffany mentioned head-nodding in her list of ways we share signs of peace, which I appreciated. I mostly hug people during the Peace, but I really appreciated the inclusion of people who don't wanna do physical contact at all (hand-shaking is usual in the litany, but this addition widens the circle of inclusion to people who don't wanna touch at all).
At the Peace, I think, Linda said I did a good job reading, that it can be a hard passage.
I didn't tell her that I was very conscious that this morning I read "Martha, Martha," as kind of gently chiding, and tonight I read it as more comforting.
I just said, "This is the Cup of life, given for you." I felt bad 'cause there were so many visitors and they deserved a better Communion experience. Later I thought, I should have said "cup of love," since Tiffany was saying "This is the bread of Life, that you might have life abundant."
Reflecting later, I came up with: "This is the Cup of Love, poured out for you, because you are a beloved child of God." Not that I'll remember this next time I get asked to lay read/help with Communion, but still.
Closing Hymn: "Be Thou My Vision"
This young guy Steve (rising sophomore at Emory) has been a few times, and we chatted over supper. I mentioned having gone to Smith (I invoke it often to explain stuff about me) and hee, he knew about Smith's Convocation (Trevanna didn't). He has a friend there now. He's a chemistry/religion major, wants to go into law.
Will went back to a church he used to work at and one of the women signs and sounded decidedly unimpressed, said: What can you say?
him: "Uh, I can sign my name, and Thursday." That was the first thing that came to mind.
me: Huh. Thursday definitely wouldn't be the first thing that would come to my mind.
him: Well I know it wouldn't be the first thing to come to your mind, but this was in a church.
me: I would say, "You're so mean," but no, it's a completely accurate assessment of me. As opposed to the way I feel like I present at church a lot. Aren't you glad you took a class with me so now you know?
Someone complimented me on my reading, and I told Tiffany that even if I didn't already enjoy lay reading, I should do it just for the ego-boost.
I don't think of it as performative like a singing solo or even preaching. (Though on reflection later, okay, it totally is. Especially because I'm concerned to read the passage beforehand so that I know what it all says and can modulate my voice accordingly, instead of discovering the words as I'm reading them aloud.)
She said that I love texts, love words, love stories, and that makes a difference.
Tiffany said she's thinking about doing a 4-week book study on literature talking about God -- we wouldn't read whole books, just passages. She said she'd considered the Fannie Flagg passage she read in her sermon, but she wants passages that challenge people. She's planning on including the "Massa on the eye" passage from The Color Purple and a passage from Bless Me, Ultima.
She asked me to think about other readings we could use -- said she knew if anyone in the congregation would, it would be me. I said I didn't know if I had earned that reputation but that I was pleased with it.
I thought of Julian's Showings but didn't mention it at the time. Anyone have any suggestions?