Thursday, October 13, 2016

"It seemed to them an idle tale"

“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The words from Luke 24 keep bouncing around in my head as I tune in to today’s news.

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women who stood by Jesus’ side all the way to the cross, while the male disciples ran for their lives, had come to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. When they got there, the tomb was empty, and they were greeted by two men in dazzling clothes. The men told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, and remembering the way Jesus had explained how his life would unfold, they knew it was true. He had risen! So, they ran to tell the men. 

As Matthew tells the story, Jesus himself sends the women to proclaim the good news of the resurrection. Sure, the testimony of women was considered worthless back then, but Jesus entrusted them with the greatest testimony of all time.

And the men? When they heard what the women had to say… Well, these words “seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”

As a woman preacher, I’m thankful that the people in my congregation take what I have to say seriously. To my knowledge, my words aren’t dismissed as nonsense. Mary Magdalene’s problem isn’t my problem. After all, it’s 2016, right?

And yet, I watch the news of the day and I’m reminded of those for whom the testimony of women "seems to them an idle tale."

Why do so many women still have to endure this crap? Why, whenever women dare to confront sexism or misogyny, does it “seem to them an idle tale?” Why, when women speak the truth about their experience of harassment, abuse, rape… why does it “seem to them an idle tale?”

I’m sick to death of women being dismissed, discredited, and dissected whenever they dare to speak truth to power, challenging male domination and violence that is alive and well in the United States of America. Will we ever get past this?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Presidential candidates, politics, preaching, and Jesus

The 2016 presidential election has been a challenge for me as a pastor. I have never endorsed a candidate for any office from the pulpit or in any way that would be imposing my choice on others. Not only would that be illegal, but it would be unfair and unwise. I minister to and with people who take a variety of political stances. It’s important that they know I am a pastor to all of them.

That being said, I would be surprised if there is a single person in my congregation who doesn’t know how I’ll be voting in this presidential election. It’s not a secret, and if they ask me, I’ll tell them. Not many people have asked. I suspect it’s because either they already know the answer, or they don’t want to hear me give an answer. 

This is a contentious election. The bonfires of passion are burning for all candidates, but particularly for the ones representing the two major parties. Unfortunately, most of that passion seems to be fueled by an almost irrational hatred toward the opposing candidate. It’s not so much a passion FOR as AGAINST. 

Every time I hear people say that we never have had such a divisive time in our country, I don’t know if I want to scream or laugh. Such a comment reflects a narrow view of history. If you look at the history of politics in our country, it’s been one scandal after another, one challenge to the constitution after another, one division after another. Not to mention that little event we call the Civil War. So, this is nothing new. It doesn’t mean that things have never been worse, it just means we’re not progressing, which is just as troubling.

A number of people around me are lamenting the fact that on election day they will be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils. Well, when I think about all the times I’ve voted in presidential elections, and there have been enough of those that I’ve lost count, more times than not, I felt like I was voting for the lesser of two evils. In all those years, only once did I drink the kool aid. Only once did I invest myself personally in a presidential candidate. Only once did I contribute money and actively work in a presidential campaign. (That one time was in 2008 and I am already grieving the day Obama is no longer our president.) I’m usually not an enthusiastic voter in presidential elections.

This time around I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. I don’t always vote for a democrat, although lately it seems to go that way. At one time I was a big Hillary supporter, and then when she ran in the primary against Obama, she said things that I couldn’t fathom. I saw that she would do anything to get elected and it made me sick. Ever since then, I have not been a fan. I didn’t want her to run this time mainly because I know there are so many people who detest her and she has so much baggage. I voted for Bernie in the primary. But I’ve warmed to Hillary again and can say that I won’t feel nauseous when I vote for her in November. That’s the best I can do. 

I know there are people in my congregation who disagree with me and that’s okay. It’s not my job to convince them that I’m right and they’re wrong. 

My job is to show them Jesus. That’s always my job. We say we’re followers of Jesus, so we’d better be clear about what that means. Week in and week out, that’s what I hope I’m doing—showing them who Jesus is and what it means for us to follow him. 

So here’s one of the things about following Jesus that there’s no getting around. You can’t do it a little bit. It’s not just one thing in a list of many things we’re striving to do in our lives. If you’re following Jesus, you’re all in. That means that the Jesus Way determines how you do your job, how you relate to your friends as well as your enemies, how you treat the poor and the marginalized, how you spend your money, how you drive in traffic… everything. Including, how you vote. 

Some of the members of my congregation will not be voting as I do in November. I will not be disappointed in them for that. But I will be disappointed if they don’t vote as followers of Jesus.