The System is Rigged

It’s been a while, but this got too long for Facebook, so here is a real, live, non-sermon reflection.

51okqZTgxwL._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_The System is Rigged: Some thoughts on diversity of voice in the new book, to which so many of my spirit-led and talented friends and colleagues contributed:

We Pray With Her: Encouragement for All Women Who Lead is a compilation of devotionals co-authored and edited by young clergy women, and springing out of the Young Clergywomen Project (Young Clergywomen International). This book is important, because it is a collection by women and for women, and celebrating the gifts of young women in particular. A previous iteration of this compilation was undermined by political shenanigans and by the misuse of material by the (male) co-author and editor of that version, so I celebrate the amazing and resilient triumph that this release accomplishes.

However, like so many of the efforts of my sisters and I, there is room for improvement. A wise colleague pointed out that the editors and contributors are overwhelmingly white (and I suspect overwhelmingly straight and middle class). We– white, well-meaning, middle class women– have to always be aware of feminism’s oppressive history with women of color. Too many (read: all?) of the “advances” feminism claims leave out or leave behind women who are not white, and often those who are not straight, not middle class, and so on.

In this case, I look to the Young Clergywomen Project as well, a group that knows it needs, and and therefore strives for, greater diversity. I am not a member of the Young Clergy Women Project (open to people who minister and are recognized in some way as clergy and are under 40). At the time I was invited to consider it, there was a maximum age by which a person had to be *ordained.* That has since changed, but at the time I was unsure about my eligibility. Truth-telling: it is hard to get ordained, and it gets harder if one is not straight, or doesn’t have a solid financial cushion, or, I presume, doesn’t swim in the sea of white privilege. In fact, most of the women I know who are not white and/or not straight, not middle class, not a whole slew of things that our racist, ableist, heterosexist, classist church structures and their credentialing processes expect, most of these women are/were ordained later in their thirties and into their forties, and would be ineligible. I’m more intimately acquainted with how challenging a process like ordination is for queer people than for people of color (and, while I identify as queer now, I navigated my candidacy wrapped in the protection of straight privilege). I see how a process that is for some 3-5 years can stretch over a decade or more, simply because of one’s standard deviation away from the expectation– a disability, a sexual orientation, a marital status, a skin color, a language, an experience of poverty. The path is longer and harder into any space that white supremacy has controlled. And white people always forget this. That’s definitionally privilege.

The Young Clergywomen Project, the authorship of this compilation, any of the numerous groups I’m part of where we look around and say “shoot, we did it again; we’e all white,” these places are not intentionally exclusive. There just aren’t as many people to self-select into a group like this, because the system is rigged against anyone who isn’t a straight white man– something white feminists know and yet don’t know as we scrabble to be part of that system. White women, including me, know how hard it is to fight and to have any resiliency left for community-building, creativity, collegial relationships, and so on. But we have still got to check ourselves and our privilege. And it’s not enough to simply realize we’re all white and confess our racism. That won’t change anything. We have to– all of us have to– ask ourselves whose voice is missing and why. It’s time to do more than lift up all of our voices; we have to dismantle the rigged-ness of the system, and be willing to see and support new systems, ones in which we might not have as much power or voice.

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Sermon: Become Like a Child

Are you Kidding

“Become Like a Child” 

(August 5, 2018) We long for easier, simpler times, and our faith is no exception. Children have a natural wonder and simplicity about faith, about the stories of the Bible, and the worldview of right and wrong. How do we let go of our “grown up” sensibilities and rediscover the faith of a child? (Hosea 11:1-4, 8b-11; Matthew 18:1-7).

Series: Are You Kidding?

Are you Kidding

Are You Kidding?
re-discovering childlike faith

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:1-3

All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten… or Sunday School?

While the faith and the lessons that we learn as children are just the beginning, the foundation they form lasts our whole lives. Lessons about imagination, kindness, giving thanks, and helping others are true at any age. Why is it that some things seem simpler through the eyes of a child? What can we learn when we look at the stories of the Bible, or of our own lives, through a child-like focus?

Jesus states that unless we become like children, we will never enter the kin-dom of heaven. In this series, we’ll look at Jesus’ parables through the eyes of children, discovering a surprising wisdom in them that adults frequently miss… until we become like children.

Sermons in this Series:
August 5 – Become Like a Child 
August 12 – Be Nice? 
August 19 – Thank You and Please? 
August 26 – Play Fair? 
September 2 – Share and Share Alike? 
September 9 – Say Nice Things? 
September 16 – Mind Your Manners? 

Sermon: Bullfrog Spirituality

Slide2“Bullfrog Spirituality”

(May 13, 2018) God calls all things holy– and is present to us in all kinds of ways that are also all holy. Sometimes, we find God in surprising places, a reminder that everything, yes even a bullfrog, is holy. (Luke 24:44-53)

At the conclusion of the sermon, I played this video of the song “Everything is Holy Now” by Peter Meyer.

Sermon: Make it So

Roll Down promo sm“Make it So”

(March 4, 2018) The church of today is not necessarily the church of which Jesus dreamed– or we might dream. How can we become a church the lives out Jesus’ call to feed the hungry, visit the lonely and sick and imprisoned, and work together for God’s vision of the world? (Matthew 25: 31-40)

Sermon: Nothing Can Separate You

Roll Down promo sm“Nothing Can Separate You”

(February 18, 2018) When we baptize a person, regardless of age, we proclaim God’s love of them and our support and love for them, almost always before we know anything about them. Nothing can separate us from the truth that we are all beloved children of God. (Mark 1:9-15; Romans 8: 31-39)

Series: Roll Down, Justice!

Roll Down promo smLenten Series: Roll Down, Justice! 

“let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
        – Amos 5:24

Lent is a season of remembering who we are called to be in this world, and renewing our baptismal identity. In the early church, it was a time of preparation for new believers and rededication to the Gospel message.

Worship alone is not enough; our prayer, praise, and song must move us to action, seeking transformation in our own lives and the life of the world. Otherwise, our worship becomes empty, and as the prophet Amos reminds us, God will look away from empty offerings and shallow festivals. But if we attune ourselves to God’s calling, then we produce an offering acceptable to God: justice flowing like waterfalls, righteousness rolling like an endless stream.

In our worship this Lent, we will hear and be moved by the powerful music of Mark Miller, we will be connected to our identity as God’s claimed and baptized children, and we will be inspired to live so that our lives proclaim God’s justice, righteousness, and love.

What prejudices are we challenged to “give up” this Lent? How will we be moved to “give” of ourselves to the world? Where will this journey take you, as the current of God’s love sweeps you along?

Our adult Sunday School class will be using resources from the General Commission on Religion and Race’s Lenten Study by the same name– you are invited to join the study, Sunday mornings at 9 a.m., and/or you can learn more about this study and Mark’s music in it at the Religion and Race website for Roll Down Justice.

Sermons in this Series: 
February 18 – Nothing Can Separate You
(Child of God)
February 25 – Planting Seeds of Justice,
Guest Preacher (How Long?)
March 3 – Make it So
(I Dream of a Church)
March 11 – Choosing Love
(I Choose Love)
March 18 –
(God Has Work for Us to Do)
March 25 – Palm Sunday
(The Day is Coming)
April 1 – A New World, Easter
(Welcome!)