Church Life, Family, Whimsy

BuildIt

A corner of my city.

My older children would be horrified to hear that the 13-year-old and I are both playing SimCity BuildIt on our iPads. Back in the day when Super NES became part of our household, I took on the seemingly innocent city planning game to show that I was a good sport, and to learn how to use the controller so I could also play MarioKart with my little guys. I loved creating neighborhoods, as long as I could avoid the disasters that were part of the game, fire and earthquake and Bowser rampaging through your city like Godzilla. All was fine until I stayed up most of one night; the next morning, my oldest, then 9, said, “Mom, I don’t think this game is good for you.”

In this generation of the game, which is much more sophisticated and complex, you have the choice of which areas of city life to develop, and unless you pay for extra SimCash and coins, those choices have to be made based on the budget you can raise yourself by creating and trading resources. I’ve been focused on ground transportation and education, versus entertainment and gambling.

Some of the in-game challenges involve choosing disasters and wars that will allow you to earn more. I’ve read that you can always rebuild. In fact, that’s the point. You achieve more by allowing the disasters and rebuilding after them, or fighting the wars and reconstructing your city. But I cannot bring myself to do it. The real world is hard enough.

We do something similar in the life of the church when we dream about what we might build, but we also consider the limits for what is possible. What can a particular congregation do well? What is needed in the community? Where can we put our limited resources to make the world we are building a little better, on behalf of Jesus Christ?

Playing the game my way, I don’t think I will ever save up enough to build the airport or the Parisian quarter my residents keep asking for in pop-up bubbles. But I am planning to stick with it at least until Level 40, when the game unlocks Worship. And I promise not to stay up all night to do it.


This post was written for the RevGalBlogPals Weekly e-Reader.

Church Life, Music, Reflectionary

Freedom’s Holy Light

Until a couple of years ago, I would have described myself as a moderate about singing patriotic hymns in church. I wouldn’t design a whole service around patriotic themes; usually I allowed time for a patriotic sing-along before the start of the worship service proper. My philosophy was to keep what was usually a communion service on the first Sunday in July separate from nationalistic themes. I would tell myself, there is no other place where people sing together anymore. And some – even most – of those songs include themes that call us to be better.

We get into trouble when we consider them descriptive rather than aspirational.

This past Sunday I worshipped at kathrynzj’s church; her attitude about those songs is similar, but for reasons having to do with the installation of a new sound system and the resulting limited rehearsal time for her musician, two patriotic hymns were part of the service.

I can remember listening rhapsodically to a broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” from Wolf Trap in which Garrison Keillor had the audience singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” a capella; I remember wishing I could have been there to feel the sound rise around me.

This past Sunday, though, I was crying by the time we got to verse 4.

Our fathers’ God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

I’m past grieving now for the idealized America my parents let me believe in, because they hope it would be true, protecting me from the racism they wished were solved, promoting values of equality and fairness and kindness to others, particularly those less fortunate than we were.

I'm crying now because when God's holy light shines bright we see every sin, collective and individual, that plagues us.

I’m crying now because when freedom’s holy light shines bright we see every sin that plagues us. Worse, we see how many people in this country positively rejoice in those sins of violence and cruelty when they serve a White Supremacist agenda. Power now seems to belong to the cruelest, the unkindest, the most selfish among us, people who understand freedom as whatever profits the individual.

Today I am looking for and finding signs of hope, not the kind of candy-coated, bunting-inspired hope of past 4ths of July, but the gritty determination of activists, pastors, moms, and many other ordinary people determined to help others, to embody the values I cherish, values I derive from my faith, values I believe will bring freedom and liberation: inclusion, cooperation, and mercy.

I pray for the day when our land will be bright with freedom’s holy light, a freedom that will no longer be merely aspirational, a freedom that makes manifest God’s commonwealth of love.

Church Life, Ministry, Reflectionary

Asked and Answered

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My favorite preacher

The question has been asked and answered so many times. At least on this occasion I knew the asker was friendly, offering an opportunity to make the case to an audience containing listeners of mixed attitudes. We had discussed a recent complaint on the matter before the recording began. Even so, I was a little surprised when I heard the question.

“What would you say to people who don’t think women should be clergy?”

He asked, so I answered, bearing in mind our earlier conversation.

“I would point them,” I said, “to the gospel stories of the Resurrection, and to the first evangelists, who were women. I would suggest they read Paul’s epistles carefully and take note of how many leaders in the early church were women.”

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Some other preachers I appreciate

My interviewer moved on to the next question, but I know that out in the ether, people will repeat the one already asked and answered. A vocal portion of humankind – which I like to think are in the minority despite the volume of their voices and the attention paid to them – continue to value women only in relation and submission to men.

They make these claims on religious grounds, forgetting or ignoring passages of scripture inconvenient to their thesis. At the church my wife serves, the staff and Session have undertaken a read-along, Four Gospels in Four Months, and invited the congregation to join them. Today’s chapter was Matthew 15, in which Jesus meets a woman who teaches him when she says, “…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables.” She asks, and he answers, and the mission of Christ expands to become a mission to the world.

Holy God, give us patience to answer questions asked again and again, and keep us open to answers that will change us. Amen.


This post was written for the RevGalBlogPals Weekly e-Reader. You can hear the interview mentioned above on Day1 in June.