Saturday, June 6, 2009

Something gracious

[creative commons image from Ottoman42]

Alternative title: Oh shit... (grace)

(I accidentally hit "publish" before changing the title, but both apply, really.)

A week ago I helped out with worship at a conference that the Metro DC Synod of the ELCA was putting on for ministry among young adults (check out their website here-- it looks pretty good). Once again, my anxieties about "church people" were eased by really engaged, thoughtful, nice people (what a concept... I probably need to start making that my expectation). The worship was shaped around the Pentecost experience of the Spirit breaking in on the scene and messing us up in all of the good ways: joining our perfectly comfortable (if complacent) dry bones into one crazy, beautiful, living body; breathing in new ideas about worship and leadership; and "renewing the face of creation"-- always creating, re-creating, making sure that apathy and entropy don't have the last word.

A lot of really great things happened, some very beautiful. A pastor who has been without a job for a while read the story of Ezekiel prophesying new life to dry bones with such magnificent weight to her voice. During prayer, a man gave thanks for the diversity of the church, and for a few moments I was sure that I would start crying. As we received communion there wasn't any music; instead, the walls resounded with the soft, holy murmur of "The body of Christ, broken for you" and "The blood of Christ, shed for you." At one point we even re-wrote Psalm 104:24-35b and volunteers came up for each verse so that our re-reading was a crazy-quilt of folks striving to keep the faith. (Mine is below.)

I still have a lot of doubts about whether or not I belong in the Lutheran Church-- whether I could ever get used to conservative worship, whether I would need to throw out the insights from my Presbyterian Book of Confessions and claim to believe a single word of the Athanasian Creed. And, of course, I shouldn't kid myself-- the ELCA is most likely going to split over human sexuality soon, and it has the same problems of the other mainline churches: decreasing financial security, traditionalism, and trouble reaching out to young adults. But then again, last Saturday I brushed shoulders with people that have a yearning to follow the leadings of the Spirit, wild and free and wise-- the same Spirit who, as Peter in Acts quotes from the prophet Joel, is poured out on both old and young alike.

If anyone's interested, DC Young Adults is having a Happy Hour on Monday discussing one of Luther's favorite pickles: Law and Gospel. Some folks from Mason and I are going, and if you're in the area it would great to see you there, too. Details and such can be found at the facebook event.

Here's my re-write of psalm 104:24-35b. You can find another version, as well as another reflection of the conference, at Ben Buss' blog: A Musing Revolutheran.

24 Looking around me, God, the world is full of wonders that you have made, and the crazy thing is that all of these people around me and all of the geological features and the animals and the oceans—All of them—are in tune to your deep Wisdom. Every one of them belongs.

25 Wherever “over there” is, I’m blown away by the incredible diversity of life. In the ocean, in the rain forest, on a college campus—innumerable ways of living your Wisdom.

26 Ships and cars travel water and road, and beyond them people run, walk, bicycle, dance, skip, and swim.

27 All of this is dependent on you, your grace (whether we know it or not) preserves us and pervades us.

28 And what a grace it is! Whenever I see it, your gift freely offered in laughter, in vulnerability, in courage, in celebration, I am filled to the brim with joy.

29 And yet too many times your face is hidden, God. Where are you? I am dismayed at your absence in injustice, in destruction, in disease that withers the ones I love.

30 Send forth your Spirit, God! Renew the whole of creation, give us all—people and animals, forests and oceans—new vitality.

31 So may your love and power echo throughout the universe, Oh God, you who rejoice in this festivity of wonder!

32 You, Oh God, are the One who can shift our lives as the earth shifts; our lives are not placid, but on the edge of volcanic possibilities.

33 So, with all of this ringing in my heart and mind, I will sing to you, O God, as long as I have breath in my lungs

34 May this rambling reflection please, God, for it is in the Eternal One whom I rejoice.

35b Shout the good news of God’s covenanting love, O my soul, now and forever!

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