A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

These Are Days Sermon on Mark13 November 27, 2020

This sermon was preached on Nov. 29, 2020 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT. It can be viewed on our YouTube channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19
Isaiah 64: 1-9
Mark 13: 24-37

I’m a date person, and by that, I mean that I am typically fairly conscious of special dates, either as anniversaries or in anticipation of a significant date. This has its pros and cons. In the “pro” column, I’m a planner and I’m rarely caught by surprise of something happening that I wasn’t in some way ready for. In the “con” column is that I can become so hyper focused on what’s coming that I’m not fully present in day to day life. I suppose I could be accused of “wishing days away,” from time to time and waiting “for the day to come.” Such as I couldn’t wait for the day to come when four years of graduate school would end (who can blame me?) Or couldn’t wait for the day to come when pregnancy would end and I would hold my babies (again, who can blame me?). Or today, waiting for the day to come that ends the COVID19 mess and we’ll be able to get back to living our lives the way we want. It doesn’t seem all bad to look forward for the day to come does it? There are sometimes that waiting for the day to come is exciting and expectant such as holidays, graduations, weddings, or births, but for most of our lives that “waiting for the day to come” is much more nebulous and anxious, such as the waiting for the day to come when children are grown and moved out, or when age or disease might take a loved one, or we ourselves will die. In many ways, the harsh and frightening days to come are the ones that preoccupy us the most, as we try to predict when that day might come, how to avoid it or make it less devastating. We can be so preoccupied with the days coming that we forget to notice the days that are already here. Worrying about the days to come can cloud our vision of the right now and paralyze us from living today. We miss the joy and wonder that is present. We miss the people who are right in front of us. We turn the days we’re in into nothing more than obstacles to be overcome. Yet, when I look back to graduate school, or pregnancies, yes, the day mattered, but the days leading up to it are also precious in my memory. All those days made the culmination more meaningful. To quote singer/song writer Natalie Merchant “these are days you’ll remember.” (10,000 Maniacs, “These Are Days” 1992)

We’re in a liturgical and a cultural season where we can easily become focused on the day to come, that is December 25. From Thanksgiving Day forward the whole trajectory of the next four or so weeks points to that day. We light candles each week as a way to mark the time, we might have a chocolate Advent calendar to count down, we check to do items off our Christmas lists, all in view of a day to come. And yet, often that day comes, we wonder where December went, or why we’re so tired, or behind in other tasks. I can get to Dec. 25 unable to really remember much from the previous frantic month. I wonder what it would be to mark this season without being preoccupied with the end date to come.

As humans, worrying about the day to come, the end, is well documented. In our Isaiah passage, the Israelites are preoccupied for the day when God’s presence will be known in their midst. They are concerned about the day when God will show up and make everything the way that they want it to be. They wanted God’s hand to cause the mountains to tremble and quake, the earth to boil, and for God to perform wonderous and mighty deeds such as in the Exodus story with plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. They wanted that day to come when other nations will be at the Israelites mercy, and they were vindicated. They wanted no more days in exile and only looked for that end day to come.

The gospel writer of Mark’s fledgling community of Jesus followers were also looking for an end day to come. They were living through an extremely violent and volatile time when the Israelites had won some independence from Rome for a bit only to have Rome come in and completely devastate Jerusalem, including destroying the Temple. Mark’s community was in grave peril, low on life’s necessities, safety and hope. Mark bolstered his community with the words and stories of Jesus. Many in the community were simply passively praying for Jesus to return, for God to take care of all this, for at this time many people believed that Jesus’ return was imminent.  And some were growing discouraged of waiting and completely gave up on following Jesus at all. These two responses to the day to come when Jesus would return, Mark knew that wasn’t the point of Jesus life, death or resurrection. So he recounts in chapter 13 a corrective to what Jesus says we do while we are waiting for the day to come.

Jesus is clear that God’s kingdom is indeed coming but in focusing on the end, like the Israelites, we actually might miss what God is doing in these days. Preoccupation with Jesus’ return date, or for a date of a vaccine or a date of change of leadership, will seduce us to thinking that today, these days, don’t matter. But these days do matter, Jesus says, as these are days when we can see God’s work continuing around us. These are days we work with God to ensure that no one is denied adequate healthcare, housing, or food. These are days when we do God’s work to amplify marginalized voices whom some in power want silenced. These are days where we work with God to reveal where God’s kingdom is already here: in the Holladay interfaith worship service, in Crossroads Urban Center distributing over 3000 turkeys, in OSLC supporting ELCA Good Gifts, in writing cards for immigrant children with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, in Zoom calls with loved ones, less focus on materials things, and more focus on people. Jesus says be awake, aware to these days and notice with our eyes, our ears, and our hearts God’s work in our midst and join in. Don’t wait for the end days to experience and share God’s love, hope and mercy, that’s already here in these days. God is here in these days for us all.

 

Does God wear dangly earrings? November 18, 2013

So I have to admit that I rarely, if ever, listen to “Christian music.” It’s fine, I suppose, but I find that most of the music on the common Christian music stations lacks depth, authenticity and is trite. (Plus, musically its typically uninspired.) Most of it is also written by people who have conservative and fundamentalist religious leanings. So what that means is that there is nearly exclusively “Father God,” language and God is male in this music . Period.
Now, you might ask me, “Brigette does that really matter? Of course women are created in God’s image. It’s just easier and more comfortable (or less controversial) to use “he” to refer to God. Don’t stir up trouble or be one of those female pastors.” Well, I don’t want to be obnoxious, but I think I actually might be one of those female pastors. And I don’t care.
I talk to many women who nearly all have some piece of their growing up in some church (denomination doesn’t always matter but there are some that are more consistently misogynist than others) who no matter how educated and intelligent, still harbor a feeling of not really equal to men and not really created in the image of God the same way that males are. I know because I am also one of them. Now, I was brought up in the Lutheran church but God was clearly explained to me as male in one breath and then in the next told “but girls are made in God’s image too.” So I am kinda a “he?” Or does God like nail polish, high heels, skirts and dangly earrings too?
The music that I tend to listen to can best be categorized as alternative I suppose. I resonate with Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachan, Alannis Morrisette and Natalie Merchant. All women who write music and words about being female, owning one’s femininity and sexuality and what that means for spirituality. They have a particular voice expressing who they are and their experience in the world: struggling, questioning, lamenting, loving, celebrating. No sappy “if you just believe in God then everything is alright.” Everything is not always alright.
Tori Amos in particular works out much angst in her music. Her father was a fundamentalist Christian pastor and she was brought up that God is male, her sexuality was not of God, wrong, that women cause men to stray and it is women’s responsibility to keep men in line. She explores ideas such as how Mary Magdalene was a scape goat, God needing a woman (great song called “God”), the tendency for women to believe everything a man tells them about themselves, social norms around women and sexuality, religion and sexuality and how at the end of the day, men and women fall into the same cultural traps with one another. She points out the lasting danger of women thinking that if God is male and male is God, then a man can save you if you are a woman. Then when that doesn’t ultimately work out, somehow you must have messed up.
I don’t want to be an extreme feminist but I have seen study after study that let us know that if girls hear only male language for God, then they don’t truly believe that they are made from the divine, even if they are told that is true. Are we, as the Church, setting up girls to have low self-esteem and fall for every line some boy tells them? I do not want this for my daughter or my son. I want them to know that they are both equally created in God’s image, as is the girl my son might someday date and the boy my daughter is currently dating (yes, she has a boyfriend, prayers are welcome).
What I really long for is for this conversation to no longer be relevant. I look for the day when no one thinks twice that I am a pastor (or when my kids say they are PK’s the assumption is not that it is their dad), that religion and God are not used to keep anyone (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.) “in-line” or in a certain position in society. I don’t like that I have to point out the exclusively male language. If you come to my church, you will find that I do use male language; I am not against it. But I also use other images and nouns for God-female, creator, redeemer, sustainer, comforter, sender, savior, mother, father, rock.
I have many wonderful men in my life (my husband for one!) who treat me as a complete equal, whom I cannot imagine life without and I don’t want to diminish who they are in the life of God either. This is not about one against the other. It is about radical equality that perhaps we as broken people are not even capable of. I am aware of that possibility. This could be as good as it gets. But I am more optimistic than that. I believe that God is moving among us and that he/she wants us to live in radical love, equality, mercy and grace. As people of God, we are capable of this sort of relationship with one another. We can ensure that men and women both view themselves as God sees them: good enough as they are, equally lovable, whole and redeemable.