Monday, June 27, 2011

A Whole New World

In less than two weeks I pack up my lovely little Subaru and hit the open road. Five hours later, if there is no traffic, I will be pulling into Princeton, New Jersey. Beginning July 10th, Princeton Theological Seminary will be my new phone for the next three years. To be perfectly honest, this is freaking me out. I don't know which part is the scariest. It might be that everything I own is going to have to fit into a station wagon, or else I have to get rid of it. The fact that a dorm room will be my only home for the next three years. My boyfriend's family has been amazing and let me stay with them sophomore year of college, and there's where I've been going on breaks, but once I take off for Princeton I will no longer have a bedroom there. My room in Alexander Hall and then my room in Hodge Hall will be where I call home.

In less than two weeks I drive out of Massachusetts and into a whole new world. As a devote Boston Sports fan, I'll be living in enemy territory. Much to my dismay I will be amongst Yankees fans. In terms of hockey, I will be in New Jersey Devils territory, but I plan to go to the Devils vs Bruins games in January and cheer on my amazing Bruins. New York Rangers games aren't too far away, so that might be a possibility.

I'm trying to focus on all of the other things going on so that I don't freak out. I think I'll make friends and I don't think I'll fail classes, though Greek scares the bejezus out of me. I will actually have to try in classes and learn things, not too much of that happened in college. I will live on a dorm where I won't be treated as a child. I won't worry about curfews or room checks. I won't have to get permission to leave over night or for the weekend. I can go out and buy alcohol and not worry about getting kicked out of school. I get to live in the grown up world now. The male population will be allowed into the building. Going to Princeton is going to be a whole new world.

Over the course of the next 12 days I need to get a meningitis shot, come up with the $150 housing deposit, get books, pack up all of my belongings, throw away belongings, wash my car, pack my car, say goodbye to people. I have 12 days left to have the adventure I was looking for. I have 12 days to find all of the Boston memorabilia I can scavenge.

In twelve days I will get in my station wagon and drive 264 miles from Clinton, Massachusetts to Princeton, New Jersey.When I pull into the parking lot at PTS, I am pulling into a whole new world. I am scared but I know that everything will be okay. I look forward to July 10, with great anxiety.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Role Model

In the summer of 1996 I began attending a summer day camp called the Summer Meals Program. It was at this tiny little Not-catholic church in my neighborhood, Fourth Presbyterian Church. Prior to coming to this camp I didn’t really ever do church, it was something that simply wasn’t in my family’s life (I still believe it had something to do with the Boston priest sex scandals, but I digress). I came home from camp and told my Dad about everything that happens at camp and I told him about Pastor Burns. My Dad informed that I could not call a pastor by his first name. You’re supposed to call them “pastor so-and-so”, to which I promptly responded, “No, his name is Pastor Burns. That is what everyone calls him.” By the end of the summer, I got my father to come to church on a Sunday and he got to see all that I was talking about. He got to meet this amazing Pastor I was talking about.

My dad and I came back week after week and he eventually joined the church. We fell in love. Summer after Summer I went back to the Summer Meals Program. Someone once joked that I was the poster child for Fourth. I started coming through the SMP, which was set up so that kids from low income neighborhoods would have breakfast and lunch during the summer. One summer, a new program was started, an extended day program called Mazemakers and I was the first one there. I went from being a camper to a teen helper and then a Shepherd (counselor). I was in countless plays, took piano lessons, guitar lessons, painting classes, and was a part of the homework help program and an active member of the youth group. Anything that was offered, I participated. Church was the first place I felt at home and it was my safety net.

When I was in 8th and 9th grade my life was pretty much in shambles. I had returned to Massachusetts the day before school started, having fled to Ohio for the summer to live with my aunt’s family after my mom left, and I had nowhere to live. Pastor Burns (who had evolved into simply Burns) and his family welcomed me into their home and I stayed there for months. The following year was difficult because of an intervention and my Dad subsequently going to rehab. Burns, his family, and my church family were there for me every step of the way.

Fourth Presbyterian Church is an amazing church. It is a medium sized church (of a little over 100 members) from all kinds of backgrounds. The members represent many different cultures and age groups. It is located in a low income neighborhood (with a lot of unfortunate problems like violence).The church is actively involved in all kinds of social justice work. This is the kind of church I want to work in when I’m done with seminary. Burns was one of the huge reasons why I decided to go to Seminary in the first place. After spending years of watching how he changed and grew the church and how he led them is a great inspiration. Burns is an amazing Pastor, Leader and Teacher. He recently celebrated twenty years of Pastoring Fourth and has touched so many lives over those twenty years.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boston Sports Lover

This is a tale of love. This is a story about sports. This is a story where two opposite worlds come together. This is my story ;) <3

Those of you that follow me on twitter, have had your timelines filled up with randomness about the Greatest Hockey team in NHL history. Whether I tweeted it myself or was retweeting someone, there have been a lot of tweets, from me, about the Boston Bruins. In some ways I was raised by my dad. Our love of sports, a love that he instilled in my from an eearly age, brought us together on many an occasion. Whether it was going to Fenway Park to see the Sox live or watching sports on tv, there was a lot of sports in our relationship. I was born a red sox fan and will root for the Sox until the day I die, no matter where I relocate. I have always been a Bruins fan but during college my commitment and love of the Boston Bruins intenified immensly. I will always be a Bruins fan, no matter where I live. In fact, I have plans to go to the NJ Devils Vs. Boston Bruins games while I'm at Princeton cheer on the Bruins. Clearly I have a deep love for sports. I'm a patriots fan and Celtics fan as well, but my love of those two teams pales in comparison to my love of the Bruins and Red Sox.

My love of our Boston Sports teams is evident. As a child I played for the South Boston Soccer teams and the Little League. I was the only girl on my Baseball team. In middle school I played on the school football team. In High School I was the manager for the Boys Varisty Baseball team. I think sports are important. When I have children I plan to encourage them to play sports. Whatever sports they want, but play sports.

I love my boyfriend to death. David means the world to me. We get along amazingly well and we have a lot in common. Sports is not one of those things we have in common. Whereas I am a Rabid Avid fan he could care less. He is a black belt in Karate. That is a sport you do all on your own. That he enjoys. It's team sports that he hates! He hates it when athletes display poor sportsmanship. He hates it when atheletes get away with things that ordinary citizens wouldn't. He hates the amount of money that professional athletes are paid. He hates organized sports. When I turn on the game, he pulls out a book.

At this point David has gotten used to my psychotic fanatic sports love. When I scream and cheer for the Bruins until I have no voice left he just shakes his head and smiles. When I miss out on sleep because the game went late he leaves me to sleep. This morning he listened to me as I explained everything that happened in last night's game and how we became the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. He tolerated me as I explained why different players were awesome. And accepted it when I declare my love of David Krejčí.

I love Boston sports (emphasis on the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins). I love my boyfriend (David Dickinson). Those two worlds do not go together at all but it works. :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Modern First Pentecost

So today is Pentecost and as is expected the Pastor lady preached about the first Pentecost. There was the swooshing of spirit, flames and everyone speaking in many different languages. She spoke about how everyone would have been praising God in a language they understood but there would be many languages all at the same time. What I instantly thought of was an experience I had last summer. Last sumer I served as a Steward for the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The official languages of the WCRC assembly were English, Spanish  French, and German. The vast majority of our printed materials were in all four of these languages, including the worship materials. For close to a month I got used to hearing everything in these four languages. However, during worship people would speak in their own languages. At one point during a worship service I looked around and heard people praying in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Hindi, and other languages I couldn't even begin to identify.

To me, this is a small glimpse of what I can only imagine the first Pentecost was like. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

He Went Poof!

Finally getting around to posting Sunday (June 5th)'s sermon!

So there we were at Passover. Peter and John went and got all of the things required for us to eat, like the lamb. We got the room ready and prepared for the feast. Here we are getting ready to enjoy the Passover meal when Jesus drops a bomb on us. He informed us that it would be his last meal. He wouldn’t be eating again until he was in the Kingdom of God. Then he broke bread and we ate. Like it was No big deal! After dinner he dropped the second big one of the night. He decided to inform us that one of us would betray him. Obviously, all of us fought about it. Why would any of us betray him? In the end, of course, he was right. Judas betrayed him and Peter disowned him. The next day, Jesus was beaten and crucified, died and was placed in the tomb. And then, something crazy happened. Days later he was back with us. We all got back together in Jerusalem and he showed us his hands and his feet to prove to us that he was Jesus. We had 40 great days with Jesus. He was back with us again and it was fantastic. Everything made sense again. And then he went poof.

I mean he told us that everything that was written about him would come true and that he would send what his father had promised but I wasn’t expecting him to just disappear. He brought us to Bethany and blessed us and then all of a sudden he was taken up to heaven. He was right in front of us and then he ascended into Heaven and all that was left was a cloud. It was like he went poof.

In the book of Acts, Luke gives an official account of what happened, but Luke was a well-educated doctor. That is what I think it would sound like if one of the other, not as educated, disciples narrated what happened during the ascension.

Ascension Sunday is not one of those days on the liturgical calendar that I get excited for. It’s not like Lent or Advent where there is a whole season for it. It’s not like Easter or Christmas where there is a whole lot of attention given to it. Heck, it’s not even like Pentecost where there are special pageants or special clothes. It feels like it’s just a random day. Some random Sunday between Easter and Pentecost without any flair added to it. When Cindy asked me to preach today I said sure but once I realized that it was ascension Sunday I regretted it a bit. Ascension Sunday? Why? Is it really all that big of a deal? Maybe I should leave the lectionary and preach on something I want to preach on. The way we thought in Jesus’ times and the way we think today are totally different, does it even matter anymore? But, No. It is ascension Sunday and that’s what I’ll do.

Alright, so picture this. The world is flat. We all believe that the earth is simply a flat surface. We know this to be truth. Our parents knew this to be true and so did their parents. But there is a dome over us. This dome covers all of the earth-disc. It prevents all of the waters circling our disc from crashing in on us. It keeps all of the chaos out. Everything is simple. We are here, on our disc, and God is above us, outside of the dome. In a way, God is the dome because He holds the chaos away from us. In a world that had almost no scientific knowledge…this made perfect sense!

When European missionaries first arrived in Africa they faced many obstacles. In South Africa they faced a particular issue that was difficult to overcome. The natives of South Africa, the Zulu, Xhosa, and Sotho believed that God, whom they referred to as Nkulunkulu or the biggest one, lived in the ground. Caves and holes were known sacred spaces and were decorated to show respect. Whenever a villager was faced with an obstacle they would go to a cave in their homeland, and in order to ask for advice they would pour beer to the ground. This was very difficult for the missionaries who were to preach that God lives in the sky and that there is actually a place called Hell (something that these tribes had never heard of) and it is deep in the ground, not God.

That makes teaching the ascension rather difficult. I’m guessing that they were as confused as I was. When I think about it, God being in the ground makes sense to me. Man was made in the image of God, man was made with dust. All things beautiful grow out of the ground. Nkulunkulu makes sense. But the European missionaries did not feel that way so the notion of God in the sky, right outside of our lovely little dome spread.  

The Acts account of the ascension has Jesus literally being swept out of sight. One second he is there praying with his friends and then the next poof he’s up in the clouds, above the dome. Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen anyone poof out of sight. None of my friends have managed to figure out how to ascend into the clouds. It is hard to relate to this whole notion of Jesus ascending into the clouds. To the first century thinkers,  it made total sense. They thought heaven was directly above the earth. In that case it would only make sense that Jesus would be swept up into the clouds to return to God. Even though we still point up when we talk about Heaven or look up when talking to or about God, we know that you can’t just float up high enough and reach heaven…just the stratosphere. This just makes everything even more difficult to understand, which makes me like it even less.

I read the Acts passage over and over trying to break it down. Trying to understand what this whole ascension business means and then finally one line got my attention. So right after Jesus goes poof, the disciples are staring up at the sky and two men, dressed all in white appear and say “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Right, duh, we knew that. Jesus said that the Kingdom would be restored but not when. Well, Jesus ascended, will come back at some point and the Holy Spirit will be with us in the meantime. We should probably get down to business and keep doing all of the things Jesus told us to do.

In a way He did leave a to-do list. He wanted the disciples to continue doing the things they were doing while He was with them. There is preaching and converting, baptizing and teaching. They’ve got to continue spreading the Good News. As Christians we need to work on that to-do list as well. While, all of us are not expected to go travel in pairs converting, preaching and baptizing, spreading the good news is on the list. Acting justly, being loving, being merciful, and walking humbly. Yeah, those are all things on our to-do list.

Now, I think of the ascension as the kick-off of our preparation time. It’s sort of like a huge rally day. We aren’t sure how long out preparation time is, but we know that we are preparing for Jesus’ return. We are making ourselves and the world better so that when Jesus returns we will be ready. Enough looking at the sky, time to roll our sleeves up and love our neighbor. Our tasks are pretty simple. They are really things that we are all ready doing. I guess in a way, Ascension Sunday is our yearly reminder: Jesus is going to return and we’ve got things to do to get ready but the Holy Spirit is with us to guide us every step of the way.