Monday, June 05, 2006

Obstacles

I spent a lot of the week-end writing, or trying to write, a sermon for two weeks from yesterday. I wrote meandering permutations of four of them. The ideas were just too jumbled. For this summer's lay preacher series, which I am participating in for the second time, our pastor decided to focus on a theme, Faith Matters, rather than the lectionary. She wants us to talk about our personal lives of faith. I have concluded that the lectionary is infinitely easier to wrestle with, no matter how unappealing the texts.

I spent time on the North Carolina trip reading Do You Hear What I Hear? It's a slim memoir by a secular Catholic/Jewish woman exploring her 60-year-old father's call to the Episcopal priesthood and its denial at stage three of 45 by his local discernment committee. An illuminating but disconcerting story, to say the least.

I stayed up night before last to read in one fell swoop Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor's memoir just out on June 1. I have been a Barbara Brown Taylor groupie for years, ever since my stepsister, a parishoner in the Georgia Episcopal church where she was a priest, introduced me to her preaching. She was my first news that preaching could be narrative rather than exhortative, the first person who made me think, "Oh. If that's a preacher, then that might be who I am." She and I seem to be journeying in opposite directions (that are probably leading to the same place), as she has moved from what ultimately felt like the straitjacket of the church to the wider world beyond, and I am moving from a world that is nothing if not diverse into what seems to me to be the framework of a church that encompasses a spacious place. She writes a LOT about burnout. She gives me pause.

Yesterday I was at church for more than an hour after it ended, talking with a friend, a woman my age, who is in seminary and facing a staggering financial setback. Among the challenges of starting over at our age, beyond the struggle to learn those languages made up of little symbols rather than familiar combinations of letters that merged as outgrowths of Latin, are the very real difficulties posed by aging parents, young adult children, and money. She definitely gives me pause.

Now that I read most of the blogs found via the Presbyterian Bloggers linked over in the sidebar, I am getting a much broader view of my church than the one from what is apparently our progressive and liberal little corner out here in the hinterland of extremity. There is a lot of anger and righteous indignation out there over issues that seem to me to warrant somewhat different responses.

It's probably a good thing that the sermon is finished (sort of), the presbytery paperwork toward a life in ministry isn't even started, and I have to spend my day grading papers on World War II. A girl can manage only so much bombardment.

10 comments:

Kathryn said...

Lots to think about and many issues to carefully weigh. Religion would be much less problematic if there weren't people involved.

I hope you'll post your sermon once you have finished it. It is an interesting assignment.

Lisa C. said...

Sure, there will be obstacles on your path. But you have to go with your heart.

Paul said...

I give you credit for caring about so much so deeply. It must be exhausting.

Faith Matters? I think I dated her in college. Did she go to Mt. Holyoke?

peripateticpolarbear said...

I haven't read leaving church yet, but I have it. I can't wait to dig in. Any BBT is good to me!

Quotidian Grace said...

The majority of Presbyterian churches are more conservative than their pastors and WAY more conservative than the denominational leadership and staff. This is the source of a lot of conflict--and its not unique to the PCUSA, either. It's certainly something to consider.

Lisa :-] said...

Hmmmm.... All good things to consider in light of the commitment you are thinking of making. I'm considering many things too, at this juncture in my life. Many are legitimate, and many feel very much like me trying to talk myself out of taking the plunge. I'm trying to address the legitimate points, and ignore the others...

Judith HeartSong said...

you are doing good things..... I am glad to know you. judi

LightYears2Venus said...

It is good to consider the experiences of others, but it sounds like you are being bombarded by more negative experiences than positive ones. Go ahead and get started with the packet! Maybe when school is out. As Lisa R said, she is wrestling with a big step she went ahead and took--perhaps you already read her current entry, which describes the fears so eloquently. Take courage! Your sermon is the key to your heart, not church politics and others' disconcerting/burned out/struggling stories.
*debbi*

Cynthia said...

I would be overwhelmed by all of that. Good luck sorting it all out. I'd love to read your sermon.

sunflowerkat119 said...

This overwhelmed me. I am in awe of your commitment and passion.