Monday, July 21, 2014

Called to Proclaim Belonging: A guest post for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

Photo credit to Emily Ann Garcia
A few weeks ago I was asked to write a guest post for the Proclaim blog on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries site.  The post can be viewed here in its context on that blog or appears in full text below.  

As I write this post I am just a few short weeks away from finishing my internship at First Lutheran Church, in St Peter, MN. I am the first intern for this congregation. When the congregation began discerning the possibility of having an intern long before my arrival, they compiled a profile that said, “We believe that our conviction of welcome and designation as a Reconciling in Christ congregation makes us makes us an ideal site for an LGBTQ intern.”  My interview went very well, and as I walked home, I thought, “I have found my internship site.”  On that very same day, Pastor Alan stated to the congregational council, “I have found our intern.” 

One of my fears prior to internship was that I would be known only as “the gay pastor.”  I was afraid that all of my work and my pastoral formation would be filtered through that part of my identity.  In a world that so often forces LGBTQ people to apologize for who they are, before they can even begin to live into their vocation, I have seen, heard, and experienced something exciting at First Lutheran Church.  This congregation’s convictions about hospitality and welcome are real, and they are living out the Gospel. In this place, I am Pastor Amy first, and a gay pastor second.

Like most LGBTQ people I have struggled with belonging.  Belonging in our families, churches, communities, and workplaces. The church is a particularly painful place for many of us. In representing my congregation as a Reconciling in Christ site at the Southwest Minnesota Synod Assembly, I had the opportunity to talk with many people about what it means to be a safe place of welcome for all people. As many lamented that their congregations might never openly welcome LGBTQ folks, and tears were shared for family members and friends who left these congregations, I was able to share some hope that there is a new day dawning in the church.

 Part of my sense of call is to unceasingly proclaim to all the beautiful, broken, and beloved people of God who feel pushed aside by our culture or the church itself, “You already belong.  You may feel like you are on the margins, but you are part of the Body of Christ.”  My call is also to baptize and serve Holy Communion to equip this Body for their own work for justice, peace, and mercy in the world.

My experience as an intern this year, as well as my participation in Proclaim, has given me the confidence to live boldly into my calling to ministry.  I no longer apologize for being who God created me to be, but instead give thanks that I am who I am, that I have this call and have this sacred task before me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Highlighting the Bible Part VI: The Psalms (Year A, B, C)

A.Hanson, Belle Plaine, MN, 2013
The Book of the Psalms is a collection of 150 songs that are attributed to various authors.

]The longest psalm is 119 (176 verses)
The shortest psalm is 117 (2 verses)

The following are psalms that do not appear whole or in part in any of the three lectionary years:

Psalm 3
Psalm 5-7
Psalm 9-14
Psalm 18
Psalm 20
Psalm 21
Psalm 28
Psalm 35
Psalm 38-42
Psalm 44
Psalm 45
Psalm 48
Psalm 52
Psalm 53
Psalm 55-62
Psalm 64
Psalm 73-77
Psalm 79
Psalm 81
Psalm 88
Psalm 94
Psalm 101
Psalm 102
Psalm 105
Psalm 106
Psalm 108-110
Psalm 113-115
Psalm 117 (the shortest Psalm at two verses!)
Psalm 120
Psalm 124
Psalm 125
Psalm 127-129
Psalm 131
Psalm 132
Psalm 134-137
Psalm 140-144

A.Hanson, 2013
There are a number of psalms that appear in two or more of the lectionary years:

Psalm 1 (Years A-B)
Psalm 8 (all years)
Psalm 15 (all years)
Psalm 16 (all years)
Psalm 19 (Years B and C)
Psalm 22 (all years)
Psalm 23 (all years)
Psalm 24 (a portion in years A-B)
Psalm 25 (all years)
Psalm 27 (A-C)
Psalm 29 (all years)
Psalm 30 (B-C)
Psalm 31 (all years)
Psalm 32 (A-C)
Psalm 34 (A-B)
Psalm 36 (all years)
Psalm 46 and 47 (all years)
Psalm 51 (all years, used on Ash Wednesday)
Psalm 65 (A-B)
Psalm 66 (A-C)
Psalm 67 (A-C)
Psalm 70 (all years)
Psalm 71 (all years)
Psalm 72 (all years)
Psalm 80 (all years)
Psalm 84 (A-C)
Psalm 89 (A-B)
Psalm 91(B-C)
Psalm 93 (B-C)
Psalm 96-98 (all years, used during Christmas)
Psalm 99 (A-C)
Psalm 103 (A-C)
Psalm 104 (B-C)
Psalm 111 (B-C)
Psalm 116 (all years)
Psalm 118 (all years)
Psalm 119 (portions used in A-B)
Psalm 121 (A-C)
Psalm 126 (B-C)
Psalm 130 (A-B)
Psalm 138 (A-B)
Psalm 145 (A-B)
Psalm 146 (all years)
Psalm 148 (all years)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Highlighting the Bible Part V: The Gospel of John

Amy Hanson, Minnesota, 2014
Portions of John's Gospel are scattered throughout the three-year lectionary cycle. Also, because John's Gospel has the highest Christology, we read the texts for Holy Week and the Easter story from John's Gospel.

The following are passages from John's Gospel that do not appear in the three-year cycle (Years A,B,C) of the Revised Common Lectionary.

John 2:23-25 (Commentary on Jesus cleansing the Temple)

John 3:22-36 (Jesus and John the Baptist, The One Who Comes From Heaven)

John 4:1-4 (Commentary on how Jesus made his way back to Galilee through Samaria)

John 4:46-54 (Jesus Heals an Official's Son)

John 5:10-47 (Commentary on Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, The Authority of the Son, Witnesses to Jesus)

John 6:22-23 (Commentary on Jesus being alone on the Shore before the story of Bread from Heaven)

John 6:36-40 (Jesus talking to the disciples about being the bread from heaven)

John 7:1-36 (The Unbelief of Jesus' Brothers, Jesus at the Festival of Booths, Is This the Christ?, Officers are Sent to Arrest Jesus)

John 7:40-52 (Division Among the People, The Unbelief of Those in Authority)

John 8:1-30 (The Woman Caught in Adultery, Jesus the Light of the World, Jesus Foretells his Death)

John 8:39-59 (Jesus and Abraham)

John 10:19-21 (commentary from the Jewish crowds that Jesus must have a demon)

John 10:31-42 (more of the story of Jesus being rejected by the Jews)

John 11:45-57 (The Plot to Kill Jesus)

John 12:12-19 (Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem)

John 12:37-50 (The Unbelief of the People, Summary of Jesus' Teaching)

John 13:36-38 (Jesus foretells Peter's denial)

John 15:18-25 (The World's Hatred)

John 16:1-4 (Jesus speaking about the tribulations that will come to those who follow him)

John 16:16-33 (Sorrow will Turn into Joy, Peace for the Disciples)

John 21:20-25 (Jesus and the Beloved Disciple)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Highlighting the Bible, Part IV, Year B (Mark 2015) Gospel readings

A. Hanson, Minnesota, 2014
Part IV: Highlighting the Bible, Year B

The Gospel readings for Year B include readings from Mark's Gospel, as well as a substantial amount of readings from John's Gospel. As far as Gospel's go, Mark is my least favorite.  It is abrupt, hurried, and brief.

Here's what doesn't appear from Mark's Gospel in Year B:

Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus cleanses a leper)

Mark 2 (Jesus heals a paralytic, Jesus calls Levi, The Question about Fasting, Pronouncement about the Sabbath)

Mark 3:1-19 (The Man with a Withered Hand, A multitude at the Seaside, Jesus Appoints the Twelve)

Mark 4:1-25 (The Parable of the Sower, The Purpose of the Parables, A Lamp Under a Bushel Basket)

Mark 5:1-20 (Jesus heals the Geresene Demoniac)

Mark 6:45-52 (Jesus Walks on Water)

Mark 7:9-13 (an admonishment about rejecting the commands of God)

Mark 7:17-20 (Another admonishment)

Mark 8:1-26 (Feeding the Four Thousand, The Demand for a Sign, The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod, Jesus Cures a Blind Man and Bethsaida)

Mark 9:9-29 (The Coming of Elijah, The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit)

Mark 10:32-34 (A Third Time Jesus foretells His Death and Resurrection)

Mark 11 (Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus Curses the Fig Tree, Jesus Cleanses the Temple, The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree, Jesus' authority is Questioned)

Mark 12:1-27 (The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, The Question about Paying Taxes, The Question about the Resurrection)

Mark 12:35-37 (The Question About David's Son)

Mark 13: 9-23 (Persecution Foretold, The Desolating Sacrilege)

Mark 14 (The Plot to Kill Jesus, The Anointing at Bethany, Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus, The Passover with the Disciples, The Institution of the Lord's Supper, Peter's Denial Foretold, Jesus Prays in Gethsemane, The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus, Jesus Before the Council, Peter Denies Jesus)

Mark 15 (Jesus Before Pilate, Pilate Hands Jesus Over to be Crucified, The Soldier's Mock Jesus, The Crucifixion of Jesus, The Death of Jesus, The Burial of Jesus)

Mark 16: 9-19 (This is called the "Longer Ending of Mark", and includes Jesus' appearance to Mary Magdalene, two disciples, the commissioning of the disciples, and the Ascension of Jesus)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Missional is not a word, but missionary is….A sermon on Matthew 10:40-42

Preached at First Lutheran in St Peter, MN on June 29, 2014

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the Triune God who sends us forth to serve.  Amen. 

Today’s Gospel comes from the end of a portion of text from Matthew’s Gospel known as the Missionary Discourse.  It is a sending out of the disciples.  Jesus is equipping them to go out into the world for the sake of the Gospel.  It is a benediction of sorts, both a blessing and a call to action. We heard previously in the Missionary Discourse, in last Sunday’s Gospel, that the work of being a disciple is very difficult.  There will be trials, there will be persecutions, to be identified with Jesus was politically, religiously, and socially radical, even dangerous.  To welcome one of these disciples into your home was also radical.  To follow Jesus at this time was to turn against the empire, a dangerous move indeed. It was to turn against those things that the world dictates as valuable (wealth and power) and instead focus on serving the least of the world, and following a God who commands us to love our neighbor more than we love ourselves.
            But this text is so much more than a superficial command to be hospitable or welcoming.  Being of service to others is certainly a commendable thing, but I am not convinced that is what is going on in this text.  Jesus is equipping his followers to get out into the world and do something.  This text is not a command to “go and do likewise” while welcoming others, but rather, an assurance of blessing in the course of discipleship.  Jesus is saying,  “I am with you, even as I send you out.”
We so often want to see ourselves in the role of providing the hospitality or extending the welcome.  In our homes we maintain nicely appointed guest rooms.  In our office buildings we provide water coolers and magazines.  In our congregations we devote entire committees to this work of welcome, making sure that those who visit us feel comfortable.  And all of this is commendable work.  But it also keeps us in a privileged position.  Because we get to stay home.  We get to stay on our own turf, in our own comfort zones.  We welcome people into our world on terms that we have created.
How might this text change if we view ourselves AS the disciples rather than as those providing hospitality TO the disciples?  If we view ourselves as the missionaries rather than those receiving the missionaries?  What might it mean if we are part of communities that are sent out into the world to be missionaries of the Gospel? If we view ourselves as the ones being sent rather than just being willing to receive or support those who are sent by someone else?
In our world, we want to see missionaries as special people who are able to drop everything and go serve in some far off country.  We send our youth on “mission trips” across the country or across the globe.  Mission work becomes something for someone else to do.  In this understanding, mission work is confined to certain times and places.  Two weeks ago, representatives from the Southwest Minnesota Synod gathered at Gustavus for the annual Synod assembly.   The theme throughout the assembly was looking at our local contexts in light of the needs of the world. The world with all its needs is at our doorstep, right now.  We were challenged to think about how mission and discipleship is being lived out in our communities right now, because we are all missionaries and we are all disciples. I commend your work of welcoming our Methodist brothers and sisters into our building, as well as numerous community groups.  I commend your work of welcome as a Reconciling in Christ congregation.  But I also challenge you to continue to imagine all the ways that we can turn outwards towards the other.  We are living in a time of great possibility for mission work and our congregation is excited about discipleship. We like the disciples are sent out for the work of proclaiming the Gospel.
But it costs us something to be a disciple.  It costs us our very selves. It costs us our comforts.  To follow Jesus even means to lose your own life.  In the Gospel text read today Jesus talks about rewards. The ways that we serve others do not help us rack up heavenly bonus points that will pay some great dividend someday.  That is applying the values of the world to God’s kingdom.  The reward that Jesus speaks about is not about something that will happen some day if we do all the right things now.  Nor is he talking about a life full of happiness and contentment from the sheer joy of altruism. Instead, we have already received the blessing that Jesus walks among us.  God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, and as we testify to that good news, we know that we are blessed with abundance beyond our imagining. 
People of God, we are all missionaries.  That is the charge that we are given by Jesus Christ.  We are called to serve one another and we are called to bear witness to the creating, redeeming, and sustaining work of God in this world.  We do not have to do it alone, but we are commanded to do it.  God bears with us even when the work seems impossible.  God shows up again and again to walk with us.

We as individuals are called to be disciples, but we are also part of missionary communities.  As we go out from this place today, I challenge you to think about how you are living out YOUR calling as a missionary.  How are WE as a congregation living out our calling to be a missionary community?  Go therefore and be disciples AND make disciples.