Category: ‘Church’

Black Friday (in more ways than one)

28 November, 2014 Posted by liascholl

Black Friday 2014

I made the mistake of going to Target last night. I needed toilet paper. Seriously.

There were no carts. There were tons of people blocking aisles, as if they were the only people in the store. People were concerned with themselves and no one else. I’m not saying people weren’t friendly. Many of them were. But people were there on a mission.

Black Friday kills me.

First, because some people in this nation are so poor that they must save up to shop on the cheapest shopping day of the year.

Second, because many of the people working on this Black Friday are themselves facing the poverty line.

Third, because even with the sales, the great divide between rich and poor, white and black, is evident in full baskets versus spare ones, big purchases of luxury items versus small purchases of necessities, and sense of glee versus a sense of gloom.

Finally, because I believe that those who can afford things on the day after Thanksgiving, who haven’t been saving all year for the big sales, are there because they want to numb out, to disengage from the bad things happening in the world, to assuage their own feelings of helplessness, guilt, and anger.

Shouldn’t our mission, as the church, be different? Shouldn’t it be standing with the poor? Shouldn’t it be staying awake, as Advent calls us to do? Let’s quit disengaging by buying. Let’s start engaging by listening. Let’s stop numbing out by over-eating, over-buying, over-drinking, over-thinking and start staying awake to our habits, feeling our feelings, and pushing to do better. Let’s turn our feelings of helplessness into action for right. Let’s turn our feelings of guilt into repenting from our sins. Let’s turn our anger into compassion.

My Brother’s Keeper

26 November, 2014 Posted by liascholl

Based on Genesis 4

You’ve probably heard this story before.

An old grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story…”

“I, too, at times have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do…It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wold, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so grewat. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

The grandfather continues, “Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The grandfather smiled and and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

They had a crazy childhood. Just after Adam and Eve got kicked out of Paradise, they had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain grew up to be a hunter. Abel grew up to be a gatherer. They were as different as daylight and dark.

But surely you understand their differences. Cain was the first born, born just after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise. Adam and Eve must have been traumatized. Trying to find a place to live that was safe for animals. Trying to understand how to hunt, and how to gather. Trying to figure out how to build some sort of place to live.

And surely, while Eve was pregnant with Cain she worried. Cain was the first child ever born. She and Adam must have had no idea how pregnancy worked. Not to mention the fact that she had just been cursed with pain in childbearing. Do you know that stress pre-natal stress hormones affect our whole lives? You know that current trauma studies believe that what happens in the womb creates our beliefs about the world.

Abel, on the other hand, was conceived when his parents were working hard on the land. They were used to life out of the Garden. Perhaps he was more settled than Cain was. Calmer.

What does trauma do to the brain? Many of you know this… but here is a layperson’s understanding:

The traumatized brain responds to stress moments in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. When triggered, either by external or internal stress, a part of your brain gets activated that sends out messages to your entire body. Your heart rate increases, your knees become weak, you begin to sweat. I know you’ve felt this way—think about the last time you were pulled over by a police officer for speeding.

And when you feel that way, you do one of three things. Fight, flee, or just stop. And note that I said internal or external stress. Cain’s stress was internal—a feeling of now being good enough, again. It set him off and he fought. Viciously. Until he killed Abel.

Let’s look at the text again:

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Why do you think the writers would have said that God was unhappy with Cain’s offering? I believe it’s because they needed to understand, just like we do, someone’s bad behavior. We tend, all the time, to come up with a reason that someone behaves badly. In the Ancient Near East, the reason could be that God was displeased. In our times, it’s because the person has stress triggers that made his brain behave badly.

And perhaps Cain believed that God did not love him as much as God loved Abel. Perhaps Cain believed that he had never measured up. Perhaps Cain always felt like the bar was just a little bit away, just out of reach, and he never reached it. Perhaps felt like Abel easily surpassed people’s expectations, but he always fell short.

But let’s look at God’s response after Abel’s death:

hen the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asks. And God’s response, in so many ways, is YES! You are your brother’s keeper. Pastor Charles Ewing, uncle to the slain Michael Brown asked this question, too. Am I my brother’s keeper? And the response is still a resounding YES! We are our brothers’ keepers. And we are our sisters’ keepers. And it is our responsibility to… hmmm. Well, it’s our responsibility to follow God’s admonition to Cain, “And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Now I know that talking about sin is not one of our favorite things. But let me give you a definition for sin in this context. Sin is bad behavior toward another person. And if we do not tend to the violence of our own souls, we will act out that violence as sin. But we have the ability to master the sin.

And our own violence is created by trauma.

Many of you know that I worked in a transitional home for women exiting prison. Their charges ranged from petty theft to embezzlement, to armed robbery and drug charges. I would say that 99% of them had faced violence in their lives, if not prior to being incarcerated, certainly after.

So we had a program full of shell-shocked women. Loud noises could set people off. Heck, a clap could set people off. Not to mention someone yelling at them. Or someone requiring them to do something that they didn’t want to do. Or asking a difficult question. Or just feeling like someone wasn’t listening to them. Anything could set them off. Sometimes it made no sense.
Short of padding the room, it was necessary to give the women (and ourselves) some life skills in not getting hooked into their past by something that was happening today.

And the reality is, we live in a society where everyone needs these life skills. We live in a time that is anxious. I believe it’s because we’re in a hinge moment where the world is making a substantial shift, and we’re in the middle of it. We’re learning that capitalism and democracy don’t make everything perfect. We’re losing a sense of privacy as our nation is become more militarized. There are more and more things that we don’t know about what’s happening in the world, all the while we’re inundated with violence on our TVs, computers and gadgets.

This is where the ancients have it right, and didn’t even know it. There’s a way to return your body to even at any given moment. There are ways to relieve your stress response.

Breathe. When your amygdala goes crazy with a fight, flight or freeze response, there’s one way to tell your body that everything is okay. You breathe. Take a deep breath with me now. Remember to make it a belly breath.

But breathing doesn’t come naturally. We have to practice it. And whether you practice it through meditation, prayer, or yoga, you have to learn to breathe. And in moments when you feel your hackles coming up, you remind yourself, BREATHE.

Second, we have to practice sitting in discomfort. I’m reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark right now, and she talks in there about “Entering the Stone,” or going into unexplored caves. This is what she writes about being in a tight cave space: “Learn to watch your thoughts…Notice how your mind leaps from thought to thought, creating emotions as it goes. Pay attention to which thoughts give rise to which feelings, and what causes them to recede again.” I like to call this “only noticing.” Not acting, just watching.

Let’s go back to our text:

And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Was Cain unloved? This, too, is where the writers of the Bible seem to miss the mark. Was Cain unloved? Absolutely not. We know from our perspective of God as a loving God that Cain was loved. Did Cain face the natural consequences of his actions?Absolutely. Exile, broken relationships, exclusion. Yes, they are natural consequences of his actions. But did God stop loving Cain? Absolutely not, as it’s proved by God’s protection of Cain’s life. Cain went on to have a wife, children, build a city.

We know that God didn’t abandon Cain. We know that God didn’t stop loving Cain. And we know that God forgave Cain. We know because of Matthew 18:21-22 says:

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

And you heard me right. The Greek says “my brother” which, of course, would be inclusive of sisters, too. Not church member, like it says in the New Revised Standard Version, although it has a broader scope, too. If my brother or sister or friend or neighbor, or fellow church member, or mother or father, or anyone else sins against me, how often should I forgive? And, by the way, the Greek also says seven times seventy times. Not seventy seven times. But 490 times.

Barbara Brown Taylor says, “Every human interaction offers you the chance to make things better or to make things worse.” Forgiveness is how you make things better. Kindness is how you make things better. Respect is how you make things better. Humor is how you make things better. Love is how you make things better.

And, frankly, love is hard to do. Because our brains have survived trauma, too. Our bodies go into a fight, flight or freeze response, too. We put up our dukes, say “feet don’t fail me now,” or we stop, drop and roll. And it’s exhausting.
Now you know there’s a different way. Let’s feed the right wolf together.

Let’s pray:

Loving God, there are two wolves scratching at our hearts. We are at once Cain and Abel. Help us to feed the right wolf. Teach us to love. To forgive. To be kind. And to laugh about our foibles and other’s foibles, too. Most importantly, let us remember how much you love us. You love us deeply, perfectly, and wholly. Thank you. Amen.

Sometimes We All Need a Pep Talk, a sermon

2 March, 2014 Posted by liascholl


I know that I’ve talked about Kid President before here. If you haven’t looked him up, please, go home today and google Kid President, and watch his pep talk video. Kid President is a young African American kid who says brilliant things. Like, “We were made to be awesome.”

In one Pep Talk, Kid President says:

A poem: “Two road diverged in the woods…” “… and I took the road less traveled.” “AND IT HURT, MAN!” Really bad. ROCKS! THORNS! And GLASS! … NOT COOL ROBERT FROST. But what if there really were two paths? I want the one that leads to awesome.”

He follows it with:

What will you create to make the world awesome? Nothing if you keep sitting there. That’s why I’m talking to you today. This is your time. This is my time. It’s our time, if we can make everyday better for each other, if we’re all in the same team lets start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it. We were made to be awesome. Lets get out there. I don’t know everything, I’m just a kid. But I know this, its everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance. So get to it. You’ve just been pep talked. Create something that will make the world awesome.

You’ve all been pep talked.

Picture it. Moses has gone up the mountain, Mount Sinai, to receive the Law. He comes back down from an amazing experience with God to see that his people have turned to a golden calf, worshipping it, and praising it for their release from Egypt. Seriously, people. Where does a calf even come into play in the text? How could a cow have gotten them out of Egypt, parted the Reed Sea (or the Red Sea, whichever), been a cloud of fire in front of them? They are so willing to settle for less.

But Moses begs for God to forgive them. And after pleading for the lives of the Hebrew people, this happens in Exodus chapter 33:

The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.”And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses goes up the rock. God and Moses hammer out the Law on the new tablets. And Moses sees God. 

Why do you think that God might have shown Moes his glory? When he returns, the people see this:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Moses comes off a rock with his face shining. The rock and the light are signs that Moses has been pep talked.

Why would Moses need a pep talk? Well, think about it. He’s disappointed in the people in the desert. They’ve lied. Made idols. Complained. A lot. Moses is they’re leader and he feels responsible. But they are a tough people.

Not only that, but the sins of the people keep Moses from reaching his promised land, too. Remember that he dies looking at the land of Israel. He doesn’t get to cross over.

Wouldn’t you need a pep talk?

Then let’s flip to our Book of Luke and see the story of the Transfiguration. 

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Do you see it? Jesus goes up the rock and his face shines? He’s meeting with Moses and Isaiah. 

Why would Jesus need to meet with Moses and Isaiah?

Imagine. Jesus is heading into the tough last days of his ministry. He’s going to be cursed and mocked. Beaten and flogged. Then hung on a cross to die. Wouldn’t you need a pep talk? And who better to pep talk Jesus? Moses and Isaiah. What do you think they said? Anyone have any ideas?

Maybe they said, “You can do this.” or “God will be with you, even when you’re scared he’s left.” “We’ll be praying for you.” “You are going to make lives so much better for people living on the earth.” “You are in the midst of creating something awesome.”

And maybe even, “Remember, it’s all about love, brother.”

Jesus went up on the rock, got all glowy, and received a pep talk.

Today, you have been given a rock, as a symbol of the rock that Moses and Jesus found themselves on. As a visual representation of the pep talk they received.

So tell me. What’s the pep talk that you need? How can this bread, this wine, and this rock make a pep talk you need?

Have you ever heard of a worry stone? They stones that you carry in your pocket to help you when you are worried. This morning, you’ve all received a worry stone. Take that stone, keep it in your pocket, and when you need a pep talk, remember our Rock and our Redeemer. Remember, you can do this. Remember that God will be with you, even when you’re scared that God has left. Remember that we as a congregation are praying for you. Remember that you and God are creating something awesome. Remember that it’s all about love.

Now you’ve been pep talked.

The Practice of Gratitude, a sermon

24 November, 2013 Posted by liascholl


Things I’m grateful for, on this the 22nd of November, 2013.

Grateful, for the first time in a long time, that I don’t have to make a list to be grateful.
Friends around the world.
My family. 
And the love that we share.
That my friend Sohini’s son, Ethan, asks when I’m coming home.
That I have something like 47 amazing plants in my yard.
That one of those plants is mother in law’s tongue–a plant that is a houseplant at home.
That my floor tiles are pink, my favorite color.
That I love every person I have met here at Gateway Community Church. Even you.
That my friend Shelley felt so loved here.
Books to read.
Television to watch.
Taxis to call.
Sweet little children to get to know.
For preaching.
For thoughts of home of people who I love, who got me here.
For work that I love.
For a lovely helper who cooks me delicious food.
For the beauty that is Bali.
For watermelon juice.
For geckos.
Hmm. For geckos who eat the mosquitos in my house.
That I haven’t seen a snake yet!

And that’s just the start of the list. It could go on and on, with specificity—for the friends and mentors who got me to the point where I am today, I could make a list of at least 100 people. For the moments of my life that have taught me what I know today, I could make a list of 1,000 things. For the feelings that I’ve had that have made me who I am today, I could make a list of 2,000 things.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Annie Lamott, an American Christian humorist and writer used to say that there were only two kinds of prayer: Help me, help me, help me and Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I am most grateful for that first one on the list. The one that says, “for the first time in a long time, that I am grateful without having to make myself list the things I am grateful for.” 

Sometimes I make thank yous to readjust myself. To have a better attitude. I’m good right now.

Let’s look at the Deuteronomy text. What do you know about the book of Deuteronomy? First, time-wise, it’s a post Exodus book (you know, the Hebrew people were in Egypt in Pharoah’s land and Moses led them out of captivity, through the desert for 40 years, through the people turning away from God, to turning back to God, and for the second generation of the freed Hebrew people, who were able to go into the land). Second, it’s the second book of the Law (Leviticus is the first), and it’s a recounting of the Law prior to this second generation entering the land. Coming up after today’s chapter, Moses will pronounce the curses that will happen if the people do not keep the Law, and the blessings that will happen if they do.

And then Moses goes up to the top of the mountain to look into the land, and dies.

So the text tells us this:

You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.

When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.

The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

Do you see what they did there? They brought their offering, and then remembered their story. THen kthey shared it.That’s what gratitude is doing–offering thanks for the good things that have happened.

Like many of God’s commandments, there’s a good reason to practice gratitude. It’s not just what it does for our relationship with God. It’s also about what it does for our relationship with ourselves. 

I read a book this week by Joan Didion. She’s an American writer who has written several novels. and as few non-fiction books. A few years back, her daughter Quintana had a massive stroke, then not a few weeks later, her husband John fell dead from a massive heart attack. Quintana lived another couple of years, but died, too.The book is called Blue Nights and starts with her telling the story of her daughter’s wedding. Then moments of her childhood. And her strengths. 

At one point in the book, Didion begins to talk about the mementos she has. She writes:

In fact I no longer value this kind of memento.

I no longer want reminders of what was, what got broken, what got lost, what got wasted.

There was a period, a long period, dating from my childhood until quite recently, when I thought I did.

A period during which I believed that I could keep people fully present, keep them with me, by preserving their mementos, their “things,” their totems.

She lists many of those objects and continues:

The jet beads.

The ivory rosaries. 

The objects for which there is no satisfactory resolution.

In the third of the boxes I find skein after skein of needlepoint yard, saved in the eventuality that remedial stitches might ever be required on a canvas completed and given away in 2001. In the chest of drawers I find papers written by Quintana when she was still at the Westlake School for Girls; the research study on stress, the analysis of Angel Clare’s role in Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I find her Westlake summer uniforms, I find her navy-blue gym shorts. I find the blue-and-white pinafore she wore for volunteering at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. I find the black wool challis dress I bought her when she was four at Bendel’s on West Fifty-seventh Street…

Other objects for which there is no satisfactory resolution…

I find many engraved invitations to the weddings of people who are no longer married.

I find many Mass cards from the funerals of people whose faces I no longer remember.

In theory these mementos serve to bring back the moment.

In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.

Moses wants the people to appreciate, in fact God wants us to appreciate the moment when it is here.

There are a few ways to be grateful in the moment. The first is to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” 

The second is to bring an offering to God. We commonly call it our tithe, but it’s a thank offering of 10% of what God has given us. This is the offering we bring on Sunday mornings. 

And finally, our thanks are shown through what we share. 

Anne Lamott recently changed her mind about the two kinds of prayer. She says that there’s another one, similar to the Thank you, thank you thank you. And it’s Wow, wow, wow. Since being here in Bali, I have had these moments of Wow, wow, wow. Just looking out in the yard, or out on the beach, or out at all of you. It’s beyond gratitude, to simple amazement that I’m here.

Let’s take a look at our Gospel text this morning, only let’s back up a few verses. Let me set the context. Jesus fed the 5,000, then wants to get away for a bit. He heads out on a boat, and the disciples follow him. A gale comes up, and Jesus walks on the water to calm the water and the disciples.

The next morning, the people who were fed came looking for Jesus. They went to a couple of places to find him. And Jesus says, “The truth is, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you saw the miraculous sign. But you shouldn’t be concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you…the story goes on, and Jesus continues, “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. I am the bread of life.”

The people came to hear Jesus speak because Jesus had fed them fully the day before. When we share our thank offering, and the basic needs of life are met, then, and generally only then, can we share the Bread of Life. And the Bread of Life? That’s a Wow, wow, wow. It comes from saying Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And we share our thank offering so that others can share in the love of the Bread of Life, too. 

May we pray:

Loving God, you are the Bread of Life. Our lives overflow with your love and your goodness. We are grateful for all you have given in our lives. Allow us and help us to always show that Wow, wow, wow that you have shared with us.


A Late Sermon for Pentecost—Nondum (Not Yet)

3 June, 2012 Posted by liascholl

This sermon is based on Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:22-27, with a little Acts 2:1-21 added in. But mostly, it’s based on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, Nondum (which means “not yet”).
Gerard Manley Hopkins was born in 1844 and died in 1889. He converted to Catholicism in his early 20’s, just after writing this poem that we’ve read this morning. Hopkins was artistic throughout his life, and apparently suffered from some melancholy most of his life, too. There are those who believe that he would have been diagnosed either with bi-polar disorder or with chronic depression had he been alive today.

Hopkins studied at Oxford, where he became friends with Robert Bridges who became the poet laureate of the UK. He was also influenced by Christina Rossetti. You can see the thematic influence in her poem A Baby’s Cradle with No Baby In It:

A baby’s cradle with no baby in it,/
A baby’s grave where autumn leaves drop sere; /
The sweet soul gathered home to Paradise, 
/The body waiting here.
-Christina Georgina Rossetti

When Hopkins was 21, he met Digby Mackworth Dolby, who was his true love. Hopkins was gay, but there’s no evidence he ever acted upon his homosexuality. His journals are full of thoughts about Digby, though. A few years later, when he was accepted into the religious life, his confessor forbade him from contact with Digby except by letter. (more…)

Subtle Messages of Not-as-Good

13 May, 2012 Posted by liascholl

I attended a church today, at the Seaside Interfaith Chapel in Seaside, Florida. The building is stunning, as you can see by the photo above. The architecture is simple, and everything is white, which gives it a beach feel, but it also gives it a graceful feel, simple even.

Inside, and the service was packed. I don’t know if it’s usually packed, but Mother’s Day may have been one of the reasons. The interior of the church is as beautiful as the outside.

I sat in the back, like any good Baptist would, right by the door, just in case the pastor said anything that would make me very angry. Of course, I didn’t leave. I even talked with the woman sitting next to me—she told me that she hadn’t been to church in years, and that she was feeling a little empty. Through the sermon, I thought about her.

The music leader opened with his guitar. He strummed gently and sweetly. I was nearly lulled into submission.

And then the preaching began. The pastor asked, “How many of you have mothers?” Then he said, “Fathers, remember that you are the first view your child has of God.” To the mothers, he said, “Mothers, you are the model for relationship that your children will have.”

What? Fathers, you have the image of God? Women, you don’t?

He went on to tell the story of a nagging mother. Then told dads not to be absent. Then talked about God as father. He added that sometimes mothers can show us Jesus’ love.

It was not a bad sermon. There was no discussion of women being subordinate. There was no discussion of men being the head of their household. It was friendly. Grace-filled even. But it seems to me that nice, grace-filled sermons are probably worse than the mean ones. Because, no matter what, the message he said was, “God looks like boys/men. Not like girls/women.” It was a subtle message of not-as-good.

The Congregation

26 March, 2012 Posted by liascholl

I’m always amazed at how big my congregation is. It’s not just the people who show up each Sunday morning or at the potlucks. It’s bigger than that. It’s the fathers and mothers of the individuals who show up on Sunday. It’s the children of the people who show up on Sunday morning. It’s their friends. It’s their coworkers. It’s their dreams. It’s their hopes.

My congregation is all the people who are touched by the love that we feel on Sunday morning.

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    Lia practices radical acceptance for those who the church has vilified and shamed. It's not just something she preaches, but something that she really tries to reflect in her life.

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