Friday, October 31, 2008

Listening for a Call

This essay by Kathleen Henderson Staudt asks the question, "How shall I respond to the relationship with God that I'm already in, perhaps without knowing it?"

It is a question that turns the business of vocation on its head. Vocation becomes not about my JOB in the real world. It is not about a super-sacred call that will lead to ordained ministry. It is about response, response to something already happening, response to something we may only just be coming to acknowledge.

How are you listening for this tiny prompting in your own relationship with God? How are you managing it, if it is overwhelming you and the Spirit has you in her beak by the nape of your neck?

These are the questions of this All Saints season, as we seek to discover how the saints of God are "just folk like me" and how "just folk like me" can actually attain the sainthood God calls each of us into.

+ Kit

P.S. Kathy Staudt will be with us for the Adult Forum on November 16. Join us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Catrinas, Calaveras, Tacos and Mariachis

Laugh at death. Cry a little as you remember lost loved ones. Dance to mariachi music and enjoy the flavors of Mexico at our second annual Day of the Dead fiesta, this Saturday night from 6-9 p.m.

This year's celebration is a joint effort between All Saints and Canterbury-MSU, the student ministry. We'll have catered food from Los Tres Amigos, Hispanic dancers, a mariachi band, and a cultural presentation on the roots and customs of this Mexican tradition. In Mexico, these days surrounding All Saints Day (November 1) are celebrated with parades, feasts, and all night vigils in local cemeteries. It is a way of saluting death and remembering those who have gone before, but with joy and celebration, not just mourning.

The centerpiece of the event is a community altar, where we can put items that honor our deceased loved ones ... a photograph, a toy, a favorite soda ... so that we remember those we have loved and lost, and invite them to our fiesta, too.

The event is free and open to everyone! Bring a friend! And bring a canned good to donate to Cristo Rey Community Center.

The celebration will conclude Sunday at 5 p.m. with a bilingual worship service held in conjunction with the Canterbury-MSU student ministry. Join us for Dia de los Muertos, this weekend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What is Church For?

This website offers the notion that Church exists so members can serve Christ the other six days of the week. Here are the basic principles they outline. What do you think? Do you agree? What can All Saints do to support your everyday ministry?

A theology for member missions

Our missiology: God’s mission and our role in it. Member mission is based on seven very critical truths about God and the relationship we share with the Lord.

1. God is on mission. God is on mission everywhere all the time. God is always working with us and through us to make the world all that it can be. Just think about it: right now teachers are helping children learn to read, aid workers are distributing food to the hungry, and people are reaching out to friends and neighbors in time of need. This is all God’s work. Wherever there is love and justice, God is at work. The Lord’s mission is to bring love and justice wherever they are blocked and to maintain or increase them where they are already present.

2. God’s mission has a church. The church does not have a mission. Rather, God’s mission has a church. The church is the visible instrument of God’s mission and, so, collaborates with any person or group working for greater love and justice. As we set about doing God’s work in the world, remember that the Lord is already at work there. We are only joining what God is already doing.

3. God is as concerned about how we live from Monday to Saturday as God is about what we do on Sunday. What does that mean? It means that what we do with our church, what we will call “congregational missions,” are just one part of our lives. “Congregational missions” are done by the congregation as a whole or by one of its committees. “Congregational missions” may include altar guild work, youth ministry, community service, operating a soup kitchen, and so on. These are critical missions, yet most of us spend the majority of our days doing other things. This is where the other kind of mission work comes in. “Member missions” are what church members do daily at home, at work, in their communities, in the wider world, and during their leisure. In truth, because the members go everywhere in the world each day, what they do can have far greater impact on the world than what the congregation does. Thus, their potential impact is unlimited! It’s about using the vast majority of our time to work for greater purposes – God’s purposes. It would seem then, that God would care most about what we do Monday to Saturday, not what we do on Sunday.

4. Today, churches are often sidelined when critical decisions are made. But, the members are not! Spirituality – our relationship with God and how it influences what we do – needs to go public. Our spirituality is often focused on our private lives and our inner struggles as human beings. Our public lives can easily be overlooked. But it is in our public lives that we can often do the most good for Christ by carrying our Christian values into the world. We do not intend to impose our beliefs on others but, rather, to allow our faith to guide our behavior in every facet of our lives. This way we can influence the political, social, and individual decision that affect people’s lives.

5. A congregation’s basic purpose should be to support the members in their daily lives. However, it may start out as just one of a congregation’s purposes. Ideally, in time, this will become its primary purpose. Now, this may be very different from the current focus of many churches. As a congregation starts to move in this new direction of supporting members in their missions, the members will come to see that it’s in this purpose that God’s greatest presence and power can be found. God’s work in the world thrives when the members move out into the world to join in God’s constant struggle to overcome evil and to bring the world closer to all God wants it to be. This new focus may seem to be a very difficult task at first for any church, but as church life moves toward this purpose, the leaders and members will feel their loads lessen and satisfaction increase as they empower others – and each other – to do God’s work every day. And, in turn, church leaders and members will be empowered as well.

6. As God’s missionaries, we remember that we are coworkers with God; Jesus Christ is the victor over evil and shares that power over evil with us. We have to choose to do God’s work. Then we look to Jesus for help to get it done. Jesus overcame evil in his lifetime through his death and resurrection. Even Crucifixion did not kill Jesus or destroy his message. His resurrection is the ultimate victory over evil. Evil will never have the final say. We are not alone when we struggle with it because Jesus shares his power over evil with us.

7. Our mission is to live the gospel. This means that we are here to love each other and to share in God’s mission by what we do and what we say. We draw on our church life and its members to provide the methods, the support, the guidance, and the power to do God’s work.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Get Ready for Action Community Problems Assembly

This Thursday, October 30, from 7-8:30 p.m., the member congregations of Action of Greater Lansing will gather to choose the issue that we will focus on for the rest of the year.

The choices are:

1) There are insufficient numbers of beds for homeless in the Lansing area.

2) There is not a user-friendly, central point for accessing social services.

3) Public transportation is inconvenient, not user-friendly, and not enough routes.

We will gather in this Community Problems Assembly to vote on one of these three issues. All Saints' participation is crucial, so anyone who can spare an hour and a half this Thursday evening, come to St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 218 W. Ottowa Street, directly across from the Capitol. We hope to turn out 30 All Saints' members to vote.

+ Kit

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Word of Hope on a Rainy Day

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

-- Philippians 4:13

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Reason Paul Was Not a Woman-Hater

I inadvertently skipped over this very important part of my talk on St. Paul last night, so I share it here ...

Another reason I don't take the "wives be submissive to your husband" verses in Colossians and Ephesians as coming from Paul himself, is because in First Corinthians, which we KNOW Paul wrote, he has advice for married men and women that calls for radical mutuality in the marriage bed.

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman." But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In a patriarchal world, where women's sexuality was widely seen as solely under the control of men, Paul's image of husband and wife as subordinate one to the other, each with his or her own rights to sexual pleasure in the marriage bed, is far ahead of his time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Very Superstitious ...

OK, whose fault is it?

You know who you are ... the person out there who watched the Spartans play, or who didn't watch the Spartans play, or who went to the game or who left the game too early, or who wore the wrong shirt, or the wrong hat, or put your shoes on the wrong way, or who made a cocky pre-game prediction.

It's your fault, you know. For not doing whatever magic ju-ju you needed to do to ensure Spartan success. It had nothing to do with oh, say ... the coaches, or the players, or officials. It was all due to you.

No, not really. But isn't that how we think? Especially about sports, which are sort of a secular religion for us. We try to appease the gods of football or basketball or baseball with the appropriate ritualistic behavior.

I think it's because -- as 21st century Americans of a certain class -- that we have an inflated sense of our own control. We honestly believe that we can control our lives, our futures, our children, our children's futures, our GRANDchildren's futures, our economic success, our health, and our old age. So when confronted with something that we really have no control over ... like a football game ... we dream up ways to "control" it.

In the end, we control very little. We control how we react to situations. We control how to plan for the future, but not how that future will unfold. We control our own morality, our own code of living, our own philosophy.

The rest of it is beyond us. It takes all the grace of God to get us through every minute of every day. It's not in our hands. Thank God!


+ Kit

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 23

In this week's readings you may be tempted to ignore the Epistle. It's from the first chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Don't skip on so fast!

This is the oldest piece of the New Testament, the earliest written part of our Christian scriptures. It predates the writing of the gospels, and the writing of any other of the epistles. Written about 50 AD, this is the closest part of the Bible we have to Jesus and his earthly ministry.

Paul did not know he was writing scripture. Paul was writing letters to the communities he had founded. In Thessalonika, the little house churches were concerned because Christians were dying, and Jesus had not returned yet. They clearly were suffering some level of persecution for their faith, and Paul called a scribe, who picked up pen and ink, and as the apostle spoke, began to take down his words. The very first words of our New Testament:

Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace ...

So it begins ...

+ Kit

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Children's Sabbath

Each day in America ...

• 2 mothers die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.
• 4 children are killed by abuse or neglect.
• 5 children or teens commit suicide.
• 8 children or teens are killed by firearms.
• 32 children or teens die from accidents.
• 78 babies die before their first birthdays.
• 155 children are arrested for violent crimes.
• 296 children are arrested for drug crimes.
• 928 babies are born at low birthweight.
• 1,154 babies are born to teen mothers.
• 1,511 public school students are corporally punished.*
• 2,145 babies are born without health insurance.
• 2,467 high school students drop out.*
• 2,421 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
• 2,483 babies are born into poverty.
• 3,477 children are arrested.
• 18,221 public school students are suspended.*
* Based on calculations per school day (180 days of seven hours each)
Retrieved from the Children’s Defense Fund website,

Join us Sunday for our annual observance of the Children's Sabbath. Canon Jo Gantzer, diocesan canon for life-long learning, will be our guest preacher.

+ Kit

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Please Submit Your Comments in the Form of a Question.

This essay appeared yesterday on Episcopal Cafe.
By Kit Carlson

I was on Jeopardy! recently. Maybe you saw it. I was the woman in the middle. The one with the clerical collar on.

It’s strange enough to be a contestant on this 25-year-old, beloved game show (and it’s even older, if you count the original incarnation with host Art Fleming), but stranger still to be a priest playing Jeopardy!

“Wear your collar,” advised a former parishioner, who had won three days in a row a few years ago. “Oh, please, please, please wear your collar,” urged one of my Sunday School teachers. “You’re going to wear your collar, aren’t you?” asked a vestry member. For some reason, it was very important to these people that I be identifiable to the world as a priest playing Jeopardy!

It does seem odd, I guess, to have a cleric up there, zinging one-liners with Alex Trebek and trying to take home cash in Ken Jennings-sized quantities. Not as odd as you may think, however. There has been a little boomlet in clergy contestants on Jeopardy! Yes, usually they get lawyers and librarians and teachers. The show does self-select for geeky types who love to read. But most clergy fit that exact description: geeky types who love to read. At my live audition in Chicago (at which I did wear my collar), there was a UCC pastor in the group as well. In the intervening weeks between the audition and my own taping, I saw at least three other clerics give it a run.

And I have always wanted to go on Jeopardy! My cousin Richard Cordray (now Treasurer of Ohio) went on in the ‘80s and won five days in a row, then went back for Tournament of Champions. My mother always nagged me, “Why don’t you go on that show? You know as much as Richard. Look how well he did. You should go on Jeopardy! too.” And playing from my sofa, I often figured, yes – I could do this. I could be on Jeopardy!

So when I saw last winter that there was an internet audition, I did it. Just for laughs, and for my late mother’s memory, too. Then last spring, they called me to go for a live audition. So I went. Just for a few more laughs, and to silence my mother’s nagging inside my head. And four weeks later, they called and asked me to fly to LA to COMPETE ON JEOPARDY!!!! (Insert high-pitched squeals here …)

But it also messes with your head, to be a priest who plays Jeopardy! First of all, it’s hard to just get into the greedy, greedy, give-me-more game show mentality. Did I want to win five days in a row? Did I want to go on and on and on like Ken Jennings? That would totally mess with vestry meetings and hospital visitations, for sure. And what about that money, if I did win? Yes, I have credit card debt and kids in college and I need every penny of my salary and then some. But it also seemed inappropriate to just take a bunch of winnings and keep them to myself.

W.W.J.D? as the bracelets say. In between learning in April that I had been selected to go for a live audition in Chicago in May, I went on a mission trip to Haiti. This nation, only 500 miles from Miami, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The level of poverty is beyond imagining. And the group I traveled with, the Haiti Outreach Mission () (a group of Catholic and Episcopal parishes, mostly from Detroit), has built a clinic and an orphanage and is making some real impact in the town of Mirebalais. So that answered the question for me. Whatever I got, I would give to the Haiti Outreach Mission.

So I went to L.A. I wore my collar. I played the game. I came in second, by just $100 there in Final Jeopardy! But that still meant I would get a $2,000 runner-up prize. And that, at least, could go to Haiti.

The only issue then became dancing this strange dance of publicity and notoriety. Because after all these years of wanting to go on Jeopardy!, I did want people to know that I had finally made it on, and to watch the show. But it’s vaguely embarrassing to be calling attention to myself. Everything I do I want to point not to me, but to the gospel and to the joy of knowing that God loves us, and to the things that are good and strong about the Episcopal Church.

But Lansing is a smallish city, so the newspaper wanted to interview me. And the local affiliate that airs Jeopardy! wanted to interview me. And so I put the collar on again, because this time I also wanted the world to know that I was a priest who plays Jeopardy!

I wanted to see printed very boldly in the paper, and filmed very prominently on TV, the words ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH, so that people in our region would know there was a community that went with the collar, a place they might want to explore on a Sunday morning (if only to see if the sermon is delivered entirely in the form of a question).

But more than that, I hoped that people would stop for one second and think about that disconnect – a priest playing Jeopardy! I hoped they would think about what happens when a person who stands for God also stands in the crack between the church world and the secular world so that each can see the other. So that each might speak to each other. So that each might, a little bit less, stop fearing the other.

Answer: A priest and Jeopardy!

Question: What are two things that maybe do have something to do with each other after all?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Church Signs ...

People have definite opinions about church signs. Some hate the "cutesy" sayings that some faith communities post. (Come inside, we're prayer conditioned ... etc.) Others despise the new trend in flashing message boards that tell you more than you can read as you drive by.

But an email joke making the rounds has caught my eye. Do dogs go to heaven? In this series of signs, Catholics and Presbyterians appear to duke it out over whether or not dogs have souls. It's good for a laugh, but alas ... you can go to Church Sign Generator and see how the little joke came to be.

But you can also ... make up your OWN. Prizes for the best signs. Email them to me.

+ Kit

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thinking about Home-going on Homecoming

When I did funerals for African members of my former congregation, they were often referred to as someone's "Home-going" service. The person had finished their exile on earth and was returning home to Jesus. The observances began with a wake on Friday night, with prayers, speeches and lots and lots of singing, as the body lay in repose at the front of the church. The funeral services themselves were filled with full-throated singing, with tears and wailing, with powerful sermons and testimonials to the person's life. They were followed by hearty repasts, where hundreds of people gathered to eat, laugh, drink and enjoy one another's company.

Going home to Jesus was a major and significant event -- not just for the person who had gone home, but for the wide and extended community. It was an occasion for people to demonstrate the depths of their faith, their grief at losing a beloved companion, and their joy that someday they too, would go home to the loving arms of Jesus.

If you ever wondered about the phrase, "faith in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead," going to an African funeral would eliminate all doubts. We do go home to Jesus. And it is a homegoing worthy of celebration.

+ Kit

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reading Ahead -- Pentecost 21

In this week's lessons, we get the BIG TEN. No, not the conference, the Commandments.

I often think that people don't really believe in the Ten Commandments. They believe in the Four Commandments: Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not bear false witness. (I have to use the old-fashioned language, because isn't that how God spoke to Moses ... in Elizabethan English?)

Sometimes, we'll consider two others: Honor thy father and mother, and thou shalt not covet. We don't find those two quite as binding, because you know, our parents can be really irritating or seriously messed up. And coveting ... well, without coveting, we wouldn't have much of an economy. So we dance around those two.

And then we basically ignore the rest. Which I believe we do at our peril. I believe the commandments we tend to shelve for later consideration are the most important ones on the list. And perhaps we ignore them for that very reason. They are the harder ones to follow. And if we actually took them seriously, following them might change our lives.

You shall have no other Gods but me. (But that would mean displacing our selves, our children, our jobs, our football teams from their vaunted places in our souls ...)

You shall not make for yourself an idol. Not an idol of our politics? Or of our bank accounts? Or of our carefully constructed lifestyles? Or even of the Spartans?????

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord. And I don't think God means shouting out the name of his Son, using the middle initial "H." I think this refers to using God's name to justify our position ... on political issues, on issues of religion, on issues of ethics. When we say "God wants," we usually mean "WE want ..." but we want to cloak it in that sacred veil.

Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. God asks of us one uninterrupted 24 hour period a week. Seriously. One complete day to rest, to enjoy our families and friends, to worship, to read, to simply BE, to exist outside of human time and human economy and to exist on God's time, in God's economy.

As Paul would say, "God is not mocked." But how often do we mock God by picking and choosing our way through our covenant responsibilities? How hard is it for us to take those other commandments as seriously as we take the Big Four?

+ Kit