Hurricane Season, Pride Month, and Shifting Into Summer
1 June 2023 | 10:09 am

Today is June 1, which means different things to different people.  Let me write a collection of snippets loosely connected by the fact that it's June 1.

--Hurricane season starts today.  I am glad that I'm living in the mountains.  Last year I wrote that I was glad not to be a Florida homeowner, and that was before Hurricane Ian.  I am still glad to be a homeowner of a house in the mountains.  I know that when a storm like that hits the state, or even when a small storm hits the state, insurance rates go up for everyone.  I look back at what we paid for homeowner's, hurricane, and flood insurance, and I am astonished we could stay there as long as we did.  It required us to work a lot of jobs to keep our financial heads above water, even as the water (both literal and metaphorical) was rising below us.

--It is the start of Pride month.  What does this mean in a time of legislatures that are bearing down on transgender people?  I listened to a great episode of 1A that explained that many of the things that legislators say they must prevent, like genital surgery of minors, simply isn't happening.  Here, as with many issues, I firmly believe legislators shouldn't insert themselves into medical decisions when they aren't trained physicians/clinicians.

--It's a month of Synod Assemblies for some Lutheran synods (ELCA brand, the kind of Lutheranism that is more inclusive), and I have no idea if any of them will be addressing any type of oppression at all.  I know that my home synod, the Florida-Bahamas Synod, has a bishop election, and often other items get put aside so that elections can move forward.

--I will not be going to any synod assemblies, although there are several that hold my interest (I live in the North Carolina synod, I have an internship this school year with the Southeast Synod, I go to a school that's part of the Metro DC synod, and I have had a scholarship from a church in the Virginia synod).  I begin my part-time preaching job in Bristol, Tennessee this Sunday, so getting away for a synod assembly doesn't make sense.

--Yesterday I sat down to write my sermon for Sunday--what a delight.  I know the writing process won't always be this easy, but I am writing about God the Creator as a focus for Trinity Sunday, the creator in the first Genesis story that's part of the Revised Common Lectionary selection for this Sunday, the one who declares everything "good and very good."

--I am reminded of what I wrote with chalk on a sidewalk last month:

--Last night, we went to a picnic at the lake at Lutheridge, a picnic to introduce the summer counselors to the people of the residential section.  Here's a picture taken by my next door neighbor:

--It was interesting to reflect on our various ages.  Most of the counselors are fresh from a year or two of college, and only a few of them are people who have been a counselor for more than two years.  Most of the residents are 15+ years older than my spouse and I am.  I think we baffled both sets of people at the picnic last night:  you're living here full-time, and you're not exactly retired, and one of you is in seminary?

--Forty years ago (I first typed thirty years ago, and then did the math), I graduated from high school, at the end of May.  Part of me feels it's impossible that so much time has gone by.  Part of me is astonished at all I have accomplished.  I am interested to see what happens in the next 40 years (while also realizing that I am likely to be dead at the end of those 40 years; next month I will celebrate my 58th birthday).

The Feast Day of the Visitation and the Reminder that So Much More Is Possible
31 May 2023 | 11:25 am

Today is the Feast Day of the Visitation, the feast day that celebrates Mary, pregnant with Jesus, going to be with Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist.  We could celebrate this feast day in any number of ways:  we could celebrate intergenerational support for each other, the ways that God doesn't abandon women who are on the margins of society, the ways that improbable situations can be harnessed for hope, and the hospitality that is evident on so many levels (the wombs of the women, Elizabeth welcoming Elizabeth).

The story in Luke leaves questions, of course.  Did Mary travel alone?  How did she stay safe?  What did Mary and Elizabeth talk about in the month (months?) that she was there?  Why did she leave before Elizabeth gave birth?  What did Joseph think about all of this?  Was Joseph even part of this narrative?

We get more of Joseph's perspective in the gospel of Matthew.  What I love about this feast day, however, is that it's focused on the women.  We don't have much celebration of women in the Christian tradition.  We should hold on to what's here, in addition to looking for ways to add more women to our celebrations.

I love this story because it reminds us that God doesn't choose those who are already ready and waiting for the call.  Imagine how many lives could have been changed if the earliest Church had emphasized this aspect of a call, this being worthy in God’s eyes even if one is not worthy in the world’s eyes. Imagine if we had centuries of the message that God loves us before we’ve done anything special at all, and even if we never live into our full potential in the eye’s of our society, God will see our value. 

Imagine if the church had given emphasis to Elizabeth, along with Mary.  I love the message that we're not too old, that our hopes and dreams might be answered after all.  We're not cast away if we're not a young woman, like Mary, with years ahead of her to be of service to God.  The definition of fertility enlarges.  

On Sunday, we heard that God doesn't call the equipped, but God equips those that God calls.  There's a bit of troubling theology here.  I believe we're all called, over and over again, a wide variety of calls.  God offers us invitations, and even if we say no, God will return with more invitations.  And when we say yes, God has resources, even if we don't.  We might even discover that we have all that we need.  God may not need to equip us at all.  Our weaknesses might turn out to be strengths.

It's a great day to celebrate those possibilities.  And even if we've been feeling like our time is passed, that it's too late for us, it's great to remember that God doesn't see us that way.  If we feel like we're too inexperienced, that we don't know what we're doing, it's great to remember that God doesn't see us that way.

It's great to remember Elizabeth's blessing:  "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill the Lord's promises to her!” (Luke 1:  45, NIV, gendered language corrected).  Elizabeth gave Mary this blessing, but I believe it extends to us all, if we're open to the idea that with God and community, so much more can be possible than if we rely on our solitary selves.

Camp Counselors, the Young and the Old
30 May 2023 | 11:14 am

On this past Sunday of interesting juxtapositions, our regular church service was a celebration of Pentecost and a blessing of/introduction to counselors from the nearby camp, Lutheridge, where I have a house in the residential section.  

The church sanctuary was full, even fuller than it had been the week before, when we celebrated 60 years of the church's existence.  Part of that was the presence of all of the counselors, about 60 in all.  Some of the people at church seemed to be visiting--it is a holiday week-end, after all, the 3 day week-end kind of holiday.

Some of us in the congregation had worked at Lutheridge, and many of us have supported Lutheridge in a number of ways.  Given that, I was surprised by how many people in attendance on Sunday hadn't been involved with Lutheridge, even though the entrance to the camp is less than a mile than the entrance to the church.  Not for the first time have I thought about how all the various types of church work live in siloes that never interact and how sad that is, how those siloes never communicate except for asking for money.  Sigh.

But today, let me not unpack that idea further.  No, today, let me celebrate these camp counselors.  I am awed that there are still people who make the decision to spend a summer at camp, living in such very different circumstances than their peers (eating camp food, sleeping in tents, hiking all day, going up and down and up and down the hill, working/living with children).  When I was young, my dream was to work at Lutheridge--back then, there weren't enough counselor spots for all the people who had those dreams.  Now the situation is different.

I found a counselor job at a Girl Scout camp, Camp Congaree, which gave me similar but different opportunities.  I got to be a backpacking counselor.  I spent the summer with mostly women and girls, which is a kind of community that works for me, although I didn't realize it then in the way that I do now--and to be fair, we weren't living in that community in the best ways that we could, not living it in the ways I idealize now.  

Maybe no community is living its best self--that's probably the lesson I should remember from all of my years of studying and creating intentional community.

But camp counselors have a head start, in that they're a self-selected group.  And the group that we blessed on Sunday has an additional motive--they're here at Lutheridge to help with the spiritual formation of children, in addition to all the other kinds of formation that they will do.

They look so young to me, and yet, at the same time, in my head, I'm closer to their age than my own.  In real life, I am the same age as their parents, many of whom were also camp counselors.  Those camp counselors are just starting life as adult selves (adult-ish?).  I am having a hard time believing I am as old as I am, but I am much closer to my senior years than my childhood years.  Time in my head wrinkles and crunches and has a few rips here and there.

This summer, I will do more at summer camp than attend a week as an adult or a camper.  I'll deliver mail, lead middle schoolers in a week of Bible study, and perhaps assist in the camp store.  It's going to be an interesting summer, a mix of a seminary class that I'm taking, online classes that I'm teaching, and camp life.  It will be the first summer where I won't be suffocating in the intense heat.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many magnificent mountain summers.

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