Shady Ladies, Forgotten Stories, and Images of God: Casualties of Our Advent Lectionary

women Matthew1

In the preface to her beautiful children’s book, “But God Remembered: Stores of Women from Creation to the Promised Land” Jewish writer Sandy Eisenberg Saso tells this revealing story:

“Before God created man and woman, God wanted to create Memory and Forgetfulness. But the angels protested.
The angel of Song said, ‘Do not create Forgetfulness. People will forget the songs of their ancestors.’
The Angel of Stories said, ‘If you create Forgetfulness, man and woman will forget many good stories.’ The Angel of Names said, ‘Forget songs? Forget stories? They will not even remember each other’s names.’
God listened to the complaints of the angels. And God asked the angels what kinds of things they remembered.
At first, the angels remembered what it was like before the world was formed. Then as the angels talked about the time before time existed, they recalled moments when they did not always agree.
One angel yelled at another, ‘I remember when your fiery sword burned the hem of my robe!’
‘And I remember when you knocked me down and tore a hole in my wing,’ screamed another.
As the angels remembered everything that ever happened, their voices grew louder and louder and louder until the heavens thundered.
God said, ‘FORGET IT!’
And there was Forgetfulness.
All at once the angels forgot why they were angry at each other and their voices became angelic again. And God saw that it was good.
God said, “There are some things people will need to forget.’
The angels objected. ‘People will forget what they should remember.’
God said, ‘I will remember all the important things. I will plant the seeds of remembrance in the soul of My people.’
And so it was that over time people forgot many of the songs, stories and names of their ancestors.
But God remembered.”

As we approach the Third Sunday of Advent, I can’t help wondering why the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL: the list of prescribed readings for Sunday worship) have failed to remember the stories and names of our foremothers? John the Baptist will strut across the stage again in this Sunday in churches all over the planet. The followers of the RCL will not hear the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, or Bathsheba; no, even Mary is only suggested as an optional replacement for the reading of the Psalm! Unless worship planners are prepared to tinker with the lectionary Elizabeth and Mary will have to cede the stage to John the Baptist. So, all you worship planners and preachers out there, I say to you, “TINKER AWAY! TELL THE STORIES!” Continue reading

God In Between – Pentecost Sunday sermon

God In Between

Pentecost Sunday is a day for stories about the nearness of God. So we begin with the story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9, then make our way to the anonymous gospel-storyteller we call Luke’s story of the early followers of Jesus’ encounter with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-21, and then the anonymous gospel-storyteller we call John’s story of Jesus’ insistence that he and God are one, before rounding off with Sandy Eisenberg Sasso’s excellent children’s book God In Between. 

Listen to the sermon here

           There’s a children’s Book that I love. I won’t tell you the name of the book because the book’s title is also the book’s ultimate meaning. I will tell you that the book is written by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, who just happens to be the second woman to be ordained as a rabbi back in 1974. She is also the first rabbi to become a mother.  Sandy Eisenberg Sasso brings the wisdom she has learned as a rabbi to her children’s books.  As the Christian celebration of Pentecost is intimately tied to the Jewish festival of Shavout, when the Jewish people read the Book of Ruth, it seems fitting to read to you from the book of a Jewish Rabbi. Shandy Eisenberg Sasso’s story begins:

“Once there was a town at the foot of a hill with no roads and almost no windows.  
Without roads the people of the town had nowhere to go, and they wondered what was on the other side of the hill.
Whenever they tried to leave their homes, they would sneeze through tall tangled weeds, tumble into deep holes and trip over rocks as large as watermelons.
Without windows they would sleep late into the day, and they often wondered when the sun turned night into morning.
Their houses were closed up like boxes sealed with tape.
They could never look out and their neighbours could never look in.

Continue reading

Shady Ladies, Forgotten Stories, and Images of God: Casualties of Our Advent Lectionary

but-god-remembered

In the preface to her beautiful children’s book, “But God Remembered: Stores of Women from Creation to the Promised Land” Jewish writer Sandy Eisenberg Saso tells this revealing story:
“Before God created man and woman, God wanted to create Memory and
Forgetfulness. But the angels protested.

The angel of Song said, ‘Do not create Forgetfulness. People will forget the songs of their ancestors.’
The Angel of Stories said, ‘If you create Forgetfulness, man and woman will forget many good stories.’ The Angel of Names said, ‘Forget songs? Forget stories? They will not even remember each other’s names.’
God listened to the complaints of the angels. And God asked the angels what kinds of things they remembered.
At first, the angels remembered what it was like before the world was formed. Then as the angels talked about the time before time existed, they recalled moments when they did not always agree.
One angel yelled at another, ‘I remember when your fiery sword burned the hem of my robe!’
‘And I remember when you knocked me down and tore a hole in my wing,’ screamed another.
As the angels remembered everything that ever happened, their voices grew louder and louder and louder until the heavens thundered.
God said, ‘FORGET IT!’
And there was Forgetfulness.
All at once the angels forgot why they were angry at each other and their voices became angelic again. And God saw that it was good.
God said, “There are some things people will need to forget.’
The angels objected. ‘People will forget what they should remember.’
God said, ‘I will remember all the important things. I will plant the seeds of remembrance in the soul of My people.’
And so it was that over time people forgot many of the songs, stories and names of their ancestors.
But God remembered.”

As we approach the Season of Advent, I can’t help wondering why the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary (the list of prescribed readings for Sunday worship) have failed to remember the stories and names of our foremothers? John the Baptist will strut across the stage again in this Sunday in churches all over the planet. We have begun a new cycle in the RCL in what is know as Year A the lectionary Gospel readings will focus upon readings from the Gospel according to  Matthew. But followers of the RCL will not hear the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, or Bathsheba; no, not even Mary will put in an appearance despite the fact that all of these women are mentioned in the very first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew! Last year was the same even though the RCL focussed upon the Gospel according to Luke, neither of the women of the Luke’s first chapter make an appearance without a great deal of effort. Unless worship planners are prepared to tinker with the lectionary Elizabeth and Mary will have to cede the stage to John the Baptist. So, all you worship planners and preachers out there, I say to you, “TINKER AWAY! TELL THE STORIES!”

As this is the year of Matthew, why not invite onto centre stage those “Shady gospel of matthewLadies” from Matthew Chapter 1: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, verses 1-17 make an excellent reading! John Shelby Spong is an excellent resource, you can find a transcript of his excellent sermon here. At Holy Cross we will use Matthew 1:1-17 as our first reading and Matthew 18-24 as our Gospel reading. This will allow us to usher Mary onto centre stage. Then on the Fourth Sunday of Advent we will switch over to the Gospel according to Luke for all three readings: First Reading – Luke 1:26-38, Second Reading – Luke 1:39-45, Gospel Reading – 1:46-59.  

I am forever hearing people despair about biblical illiteracy as clergy and church-insiders bemoan the collective forgetfulness of our culture. I suspect that the snippets of readings that we hear year after year may be a factor in the gaps of our collective memory when it comes to the women of the New Testament. Let this Advent be different. Invite the women of the gospels onto the stage. John the Baptist will be happy out there in the wilderness until his feast day in June!

God In Between – Pentecost Sunday sermon

God In Between

Pentecost Sunday is a day for stories about the nearness of God. So we begin with the story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9, then make our way to the anonymous gospel-storyteller we call Luke’s story of the early followers of Jesus’ encounter with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-21, and then the anonymous gospel-storyteller we call John’s story of Jesus’ insistence that he and God are one, before rounding off with Sandy Eisenberg Sasso’s excellent children’s book God In Between. 

Listen to the sermon here

The Truth Will Set You Free: a Homecoming sermon

truth

Homecoming after a splendid summer respite. Readings Proverbs 1:20-23; Ephesians 4:11-13 and John 8:30-32. I am indebted to Peter Rollins for his excellent insights into the need for church to be a place where we consult our suffering. I highly recommend the short video from which I have quoted which you can view here:  Peter Rollins video – Giving the Three Fingers. The story about the starfish on the beach is one I first heard many years ago. There is a version of the story in Marc Gellman’s book “And God Cried, Too: A Kid’s Book of Healing and Hope”

Listen to the sermon here

 

Shady Ladies, Forgotten Stories, and Images of God: Casualties of Our Advent Lectionary

women Matthew1

In the preface to her beautiful children’s book, “But God Remembered: Stores of Women from Creation to the Promised Land” Jewish writer Sandy Eisenberg Saso tells this revealing story:

“Before God created man and woman, God wanted to create Memory and Forgetfulness. But the angels protested.
The angel of Song said, ‘Do not create Forgetfulness. People will forget the songs of their ancestors.’
The Angel of Stories said, ‘If you create Forgetfulness, man and woman will forget many good stories.’ The Angel of Names said, ‘Forget songs? Forget stories? They will not even remember each other’s names.’
God listened to the complaints of the angels. And God asked the angels what kinds of things they remembered.
At first, the angels remembered what it was like before the world was formed. Then as the angels talked about the time before time existed, they recalled moments when they did not always agree.
One angel yelled at another, ‘I remember when your fiery sword burned the hem of my robe!’
‘And I remember when you knocked me down and tore a hole in my wing,’ screamed another.
As the angels remembered everything that ever happened, their voices grew louder and louder and louder until the heavens thundered.
God said, ‘FORGET IT!’
And there was Forgetfulness.
All at once the angels forgot why they were angry at each other and their voices became angelic again. And God saw that it was good.
God said, “There are some things people will need to forget.’
The angels objected. ‘People will forget what they should remember.’
God said, ‘I will remember all the important things. I will plant the seeds of remembrance in the soul of My people.’
And so it was that over time people forgot many of the songs, stories and names of their ancestors.
But God remembered.”

As we approach the Third Sunday of Advent, I can’t help wondering why the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL: the list of prescribed readings for Sunday worship) have failed to remember the stories and names of our foremothers? John the Baptist will strut across the stage again in this Sunday in churches all over the planet. The followers of the RCL will not hear the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, or Bathsheba; no, even Mary is only suggested as an optional replacement for the reading of the Psalm! Unless worship planners are prepared to tinker with the lectionary Elizabeth and Mary will have to cede the stage to John the Baptist. So, all you worship planners and preachers out there, I say to you, “TINKER AWAY! TELL THE STORIES!” Continue reading

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green: Teen Fiction for all ages

TFIOS pastorDawnIt has been a very long time since I read a novel categorized as “young adult” or “teen” fiction. But when a fourteen-year-old goes out of his way to recommend a novel to his pastor, I pay attention. I was delighted to discover that The Fault In Our Stars portrays young people living with big questions without resorting to easy answers. Indeed, the characters in John Green’s account of living with cancer, refuse to accept easy answers and learn to live with the ambiguity of life’s deepest mysteries even as they cope with the realities of impending death. This is a splendid read for all ages, especially for those of us who have long since left the coping strategies of the varieties of Christianity that are trapped within the limitations of a three tiered universe.  Green brilliantly captures the gallows humour of those who must endure the efforts of care-givers while steadfastly refusing to “buy into the cancer-book genre.” Green’s time as a chaplain in a children’s hospital shows as does his ability to live in the questions. Following the success of the book, which debuted at #1 on the New York Best Seller list, has opened at #1 at the box-office.  But, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this book which will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and think!! I have not yet experienced the movie for fear that it will interfere with my appreciation of the characters who live on in my imagination. Enjoy the first chapter, read by John Green.

Valentine??? Who Knew???

rainbow heartsLegends abound! There are three individuals who over the centuries have been credited as being the St. Valentine for whom the upcoming saint’s day is named. My favourite Valentine legend concerns the radical Valentine who ran afoul of the powers that be when he insisted on preforming marriages between pagans, literally someone who lives in or loves the the country or nature, and a Christians. These kinds of marriages were illegal at the time. Other versions of this legend suggest that during the reign of Claudius II it was illegal for soldiers of the Roman Empire to marry. Valentius, a bishop, is said to have conducted secret weddings for Roman soldiers. However the story is told, the idea of a priest preforming marriages which the state and the church refuse to endorse speaks volumes. Cheers and blessings be upon all valentinian priests and officials who continue to engage in courageous acts of love.

Children Praying a New Story by Michael Morwood

Children PrayingMichael Morwood is an “Adult Faith Educator” whose various books help adults to “re-imagine and re-evaluate their faith in light of the contemporary ‘story’ about our universe.” In Children Praying A New Story, Morwood turns his attention to the task of education children from the perspective of a thinking twenty-first century Christian. Morwood offers insights about teaching children to pray, not to an external, listening Deity but to the Source and Ground of our being. This book has helped me as I craft the prayers of our congregation and I know that parents, grandparents and anyone who is engaged with children and their spirituality will find inspiration in Morwood’s approach. We are looking forward to hearing from Michael Morwood in person; when he visits Holy Cross the weekend of May 2-4. 

Children and the Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the kingMarcus Borg is often quoted as having said something to the effect that the average adult has but a grade five understanding of Christianity. Which is okay if you are in grade five but it won’t sustain you through a lifetime of questions. While I agree with Borg that a good many people have rejected Christianity on the basis of what they learned as children and we have a great deal of work to do to educate adults about the breadth and depth of the Christian faith, I wonder what it would mean for the church if we stepped up our game when it comes to the education of children.

I can still remember taking my first religious studies class as an adult and being The Last Quest of Gilgameshblown away by the revelation that so many of the biblical stories that I was struggling with actually had their origins in tales that were told long before a wandering Aramean went down to Egypt. I remember being both fascinated with the story of Gilgamesh and angry at the Church for failing to let me in on the reality that human’s have been myth-making since forever. I’m sure that I would have been far less traumatized by the realization that the biblical writers engaged in the ancient art of myth-making had I been introduced to it in my adolescence. Needless to say, since I have been teaching Confirmation classes (ages 11-15) I have taken the opportunity to introduce the Epic of Gilgamesh as a precursor to discussions on the book of Genesis.

revenge of ishtarSeveral years ago, the task of introducing Gilgamesh to young people was illuminated by the discovery of a two of books by Ludmila Zeman designed to bring the tales first carved onto clay tables in Mesopotamia to life. Both Gilgamesh the King and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh are beautiful illustrated and even though they are recommended for children ages 8 and up, provide an engaging experience for adolescents. For those Confirmation students who are particularly keen, I have added Zeman’s The Revenge of Ishtar  to the Confirmation class’s collection of resources. I have even been known to use this speeded little tomes in Adult Education Classes.  Ludmila Zeman emigrated to Canada from Czechoslovakia and lives, works and creates in Vancouver.

Shady Ladies, Forgotten Stories, and Images of God: Casualties of Our Advent Lectionary

women Matthew1

In the preface to her beautiful children’s book, “But God Remembered: Stores of Women from Creation to the Promised Land” Jewish writer Sandy Eisenberg Saso tells this revealing story:

“Before God created man and woman, God wanted to create Memory and Forgetfulness. But the angels protested.
The angel of Song said, ‘Do not create Forgetfulness. People will forget the songs of their ancestors.’
The Angel of Stories said, ‘If you create Forgetfulness, man and woman will forget many good stories.’ The Angel of Names said, ‘Forget songs? Forget stories? They will not even remember each other’s names.’
God listened to the complaints of the angels. And God asked the angels what kinds of things they remembered.
At first, the angels remembered what it was like before the world was formed. Then as the angels talked about the time before time existed, they recalled moments when they did not always agree.
One angel yelled at another, ‘I remember when your fiery sword burned the hem of my robe!’
‘And I remember when you knocked me down and tore a hole in my wing,’ screamed another.
As the angels remembered everything that ever happened, their voices grew louder and louder and louder until the heavens thundered.
God said, ‘FORGET IT!’
And there was Forgetfulness.
All at once the angels forgot why they were angry at each other and their voices became angelic again. And God saw that it was good.
God said, “There are some things people will need to forget.’
The angels objected. ‘People will forget what they should remember.’
God said, ‘I will remember all the important things. I will plant the seeds of remembrance in the soul of My people.’
And so it was that over time people forgot many of the songs, stories and names of their ancestors.
But God remembered.”

As we approach the Third Sunday of Advent, I can’t help wondering why the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary (the list of prescribed readings for Sunday worship) have failed to remember the stories and names of our foremothers? John the Baptist will strut across the stage again in this Sunday in churches all over the planet. We have begun a new cycle in the RCL in what is know as Year A the lectionary Gospel readings will focus upon readings from the Gospel according to  Matthew. But followers of the RCL will not hear the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, or Bathsheba; no, not even Mary will put in an appearance despite the fact that all of these women are mentioned in the very first chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew! Last year was the same even though the RCL focussed upon the Gospel according to Luke, neither of the women of the Luke’s first chapter make an appearance without a great deal of effort. Unless worship planners are prepared to tinker with the lectionary Elizabeth and Mary will have to cede the stage to John the Baptist. So, all you worship planners and preachers out there, I say to you, “TINKER AWAY! TELL THE STORIES!” Continue reading

Stellarella It’s Saturday – A Book for “Progressive Little Thinkers”

Stellarella thinkers

The newly published, “Stellarella It’s Saturday”, story by Deborah W. Dykes, illustrated by Christina Mattison Ebert-Klaven comes with ringing endorsements from John Dominic Crossan and Joan Chittister.  With progressives of this calibre singing its praises pre-publication, I ordered several copies sight-unseen for the little ones in my life and I haven’t been disappointed. It is a rare think to find God imagined as a woman!!! So, imagine my delight when I discovered that the shero Stellarella is portrayed as a strong, intelligent, brave little girl! This little book would be a valuable addition to any child’s library. Enjoy!

God In Between

Over and over again, I am asked about Christian resources for children that do not re-inscribe old damaging theologies. The questions often come from progressives who are searching for gifts for their grandchildren. Having experienced the challenge myself, I fully understand their frustration.  So, over the course of the next few weeks I’ll try to post a few good books that are currently on the market. These suggestions will be posted here on the home page and on together on the new page which you will see above “Children’s Resources”.

God In BetweenLet me begin with an old favourite:  “God In Between” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Sally Sweetland. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso is the first woman to be ordained a rabbi. She serves a Reformed congregation in Philadelphia. She has written numerous children’s books (some of which I will post about soon), of which “God In Between” is by far my favourite! The book tells the tale of a town’s quest for God and their delight at finding God in the very midst of life.  I discovered the book shortly after it was first published in 1998 and over the years I have given numerous copies to the children in my life. I have also used the book during worship in place of the dreaded children’s sermon. I’ve read it to children from four to eighty!