Sticks and stones may break my bones…

… but words– oh the awesome power of words– words can cause me to hate and fear and kill.

Reflecting today about the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. A virtual friend of mine, Terry, points out that we often tolerate hateful and violent words by people in the media in our country, claiming that because it’s ‘satire’ or ‘commentary’ that it is harmless.

Words are not harmless.

And we all know this, especially those of us who, one way or another, devote our lives to the awesome power of words. I bet my job, my vocation, my ministry, my spiritual journey, in many ways my very life on the transformative power of the word (and The Word), for good or for evil. If words are toothless, then what is preaching? what is reading? what was the Sermon on the Mount?

No, words are not weak. Words create meaning, and community, and vision, and worldview, and context. Words inform behavior, and can shape that behavior to be life-giving and compassionate, or fear-filled and violent. Words can inspire, like King’s I have a dream and, sadly, like Hitler’s rallying speeches. Words, spoken, preached, downloaded, written, published, read, can create the reality in which one operates, and can shape that reality as a peaceable kin-dom, or a civilization threatened by liberals, upon whom one must take revenge, with a baseball bat (as recommended by Ann Coulter) or a shotgun.

In the midst of the power of words– words of welcome and love spoken by a congregation, and words of condemnation and distrust, written by media personalities and interpreted by a twisted and broken mind– an act of violence erupted in a community, killing two and wounding seven.

Those wishing to express words of blessing and hope and healing for the Tennessee Valley UUA can do so at a webpage set up for that purpose.

wow moment

Mentally running over my sermon ideas for the rest of the summer, I realized: I have three more Sundays at St. Paul’s.

Three.

I’ll be in the corner in a fetal position.

Sermon: Miniscule Muscle

“Miniscule Muscle”

( July 27, 2008 ) The coming of the kin-dom of God, in the world and in our own little microcosms of the church, is not a top-down power-grab, but the infectious grace of the powerless, unsuspected, small yet subversive yeast, mustard seeds, and people of God.  (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52)

Just Say It.

If there’s a pastor in town who doesn’t have a funeral this week, I want to know who it is (because s/he must have some magic protection on the congregation, and I want it). It’s a bad week, especially for unexpected deaths. Especially for young men. And the funeral director’s own father, the former funeral home director and a pillar of the community, also passed away.

Tomorrow I am celebrating the life of a young man who died of massive heart failure at 39 (so this is my reminder to all of you to practice good health and see your doctor regularly). The night before his death, he spoke to his mother on the phone and told her he loved her.

A simple, from the gut reminder: got a friend? a parent? a child? Take a moment today and give a call, stop by, send a flower, give a hug. Tell them you love them. Don’t wait. Don’t dally.

Just say it.

Nope. I really can’t tell.

Please note: there is no way on God’s green earth that linking to this site is in any way an endorsement.

One of my friends told me about this site, and I spent a lot of time clicking through it.

It’s called “You’ve Been Left Behind,” youvebeenleftbehind.com, and here’s the thing: I can’t tell if it’s legitimate or not.

So here’s what they say they’ll do: they’ll give you some encrypted storage space and some non-encrypted space and up to 62 email addresses you can store. You upload documents or chose from their sample ones (which I haven’t been able to see), and they’ll hold onto them for you. For just $40 for the first year (and the re-subscription price will ‘go down as more people subscribe’), this website will store your documents, and then, send them to the specified emails after you have been raptured.

That’s right. So you can tell your friends how to get saved before it’s really really too late. So you can tell your enemies haha i told you so. So you can email the Pope and see if the Catholics really did get Left Behind like Tim LaHaye always claims they will.

How will they do this? If their team of five couples of Christians doesn’t log in for three consecutive days, it’ll apparently trip some sort of fail-safe and send emails three days later (assuming no one resets the system, or the antichrist doesn’t destroy the internet).

On the one hand, it sounds wacky enough to be something people would do. On the other, the language doesn’t smack quite enough of LaHaye jargon. And yes, I’m being pretty cynical about that particular brand of ‘theology’, mainly because I think it’s, well, not. I’m all for theological diversity (heck, I chair the team), but Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are not theologians. Nor are the folks who run this website, and refer to Christ as the “third person of the Trinity.”

You can log in and pay through PayPal.

But I didn’t. My friends and I tried entering information from a dummy account, but the site was smart enough to know the account was outdated. That lends a shred of credence to it. Well, at least to the fact that they actually are taking people’s money.

But I really want to know. Are these people for real? Because it also sounds like a really devious way to swindle fearful folks out of $40/year. Bad (or non-existent) theology aside, I’m not sure that anyone deserves that.

On the other hand, Rapture-oriented theory (which, I must stress, has no basis in either the Bible or Christian theological history) is one that preys on people’s deepest fears: fears about death and pain and being the slightest bit wrong about the nature of the Divine. This just adds one more layer of fear– fear about your loved ones. And so it attempts to take advantage of people’s fears to make a buck. LaHaye’s been doing that (somehow!) for years.

Title help!

Okay, this week’s lectionary is all about the power of little things, the subversive might of potent mustard and hidden treasure, and yeast kneaded through unsuspecting dough.

But I’m already having a hard time with the title. I can’t get away from referneces that are either very Star Wars (and I don’t need to continue to date myself!) or references that are even less appropriate.

So what’s a church-friendly, multi-generational way to say that size is not important?

And, without using Frodo, Yoda, or Mighty Mouse, what other ways might you communicate that little things and little people can be the might that topples the Empire?

When Hollywood Preaches

I made it through another tough morning– I couldn’t say the closing prayer at the end of my last Church Council meeting because I was getting choked up (over church council? yes, hush!).

My sermon was okay. Not the best–I’ve certainly spoken more convincingly about the way of nonviolence before.

Then, my husband and I went to go see The Dark Knight. Between the explosions and fight scenes and the general oh-my-gosh-Heath-Ledger-is-amazing-and-gone-forever I realized, this is actually a really thought-provoking film. I won’t ruin it for you, but go see it and reflect: where is the line when one crosses over into revenge, preemptive violence, and retaliation? Should one ever cross that line? When have the characters gone too far? Which ones, if any, embody Christ’s Third Way of creative non-violence? (and, to apply to American foreign policy, shake, pour over ice, and discuss)

This is why I should go to the movies Saturday nights. Sermon fodder.

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