Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Devotional from team member Brandon Ward

Three more days! When Cindy asked me to write the devotion for today I realized that June 28th is three days before July 1st. We will all finally meet to begin our fun, exciting, and exhausting work at General Assembly in three more days. This brought me to think of all the important “threes” in the Bible. Most importantly, of course, the Triune God comes to mind right away. Our belief and prayers to God, our faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit working with us as we struggle toward an inclusive Church are the most significant “three” we will have guiding us and our work.

Threes exist all over the Bible: Noah’s three sons, Job’s three daughters, three day journeys, three month visits, Jesus’ three temptations by Satan (which appears in three of the four Gospels), Peter’s three denials of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection on the third day. Yes, three is a very significant Biblical number; yet with all the three’s I’ve listed, there is one set of “three” that really speaks toward why I am going to General Assembly.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

We all know this passage well. Being in a string quartet and having performed at many wedding ceremonies, I have this passage nearly memorized word for word. Yet, it means so much to me that I think about it often. Faith and hope drive our work at GA toward an end we pray to achieve – acceptance and inclusion. Yet for me, love, as Paul said, is the greatest motivator. I want to love openly and happily and not be judged or excluded for loving. It seems so contradictory that loving someone, be it of the same sex or opposite, would keep a person from being allowed to do the work of God. How can love be a bad thing? My faith in Jesus led me to the Presbyterian Church which led me to TAMFS and the work we’re doing. I hope not only that LGBTQ people can be ordained, but that those who are ordained in the Presbyterian Church can perform wedding ceremonies of LGBTQ people as well. I hope to one day stand in my Church with the man I love and have my pastor perform the ceremony. This is why I’m going to GA - because I have faith in Jesus and the work we’re doing, I hope to achieve our goal, and we should all be free to love. See you all in three more days!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Devotional from Matthew Dimick

There is something about the ABC salvation mentality that lead me to believe as a child that faith in God meant simply believing he existed. In some way or another, it's a mentality that i've carried with me to this day. Sort of this idea that faith in God didn't mean he had to be active or do much in particular--just be.

But God isn't inert, inactive, or disinterested. He is living, working, breathing life, and shaping the world. We don't place our faith in simply his existence, we place our faith in His active work.

1 Samuel 17 include the narrative of David and Goliath. The scene takes place in a valley with the Israelite army camped on one side and the Philistines on the other. The story is familiar: Goliath challenges the army, only the young David accepts, he slays the giant and victory ensues. But it's more than a children's story--it's a story about faith. Yes, the Israelites "believed" in a God, but only David, an errand boy, had the faith that God would prevail.

Here is where i meet this scripture: as an activist, as a social work student who aspires to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and as a member of a socially conservative church and family, sometimes i am burdened. I look back and i see all the failings, and the mistakes. I know the pain of the loss of marriage equality in CA, and i was there in Portland, Maine when activist, students, and all of us who went door to door--having those conversations--discovered we had lost equality. I look ahead and see how impending the challenge to equality and peace are. I know that the HIV infection and death rates are still increasing and far from plateauing. Do i fight because it's a fight that just needs to be fought? Or do i believe there is hope?

Not content to remain an errand boy as the battle wages on, as the enemy taunts--young and perhaps naive, i enter the battle.I know it will take miraculous work to get us though this. So i pick up my faith, in an active loving God, and i move forward, trusting He will prevail in all things.

This I commend to you as well.

-Matthew Dimick

A Devotion from team member Jeannine Oakes

I anticipate that the next few weeks will be a little like Advent and Lent for me. That may sound weird but hear me out. This is a period of waiting, longing, hoping for our time to meet one another and seek some radical change in the church we all love so dearly. As such, it feels a little like Advent to me and during Advent I like to add something to my daily routine. So I would encourage you all to add some spiritual practice, as brief as it may be over the next 2 weeks. I personally will spend 10 minutes in prayer every morning at 7am CST specifically for our TAMFS GA team and that our work at GA will be memorable and transformative. You are welcome to join me. I also plan on giving something up, thus making this journey a little like Lent, as a way of reminding myself of what is lacking in the church namely a love that transcends the binaries of gender and sexuality, a love that is so inclusive and welcoming that JC would smile down upon us. So I will be giving up desserts. By giving up sweet things these next two weeks I will be reminding myself of how sweet it will be to finally meet with you all in person to do God’s work for our beloved church. Blessings to you all as you prepare in your own ways for GA.

Jeannine Oakes

A Devotional from team member Kate Trigger

I suppose I should begin this devotional by making a confession. My name is Kate and I am a GA Junkie. My parents began dragging me to General Assembly at a very young age when they decided that was the appropriate thing for Louisville seminarians to do. I don't think they realized the addiction that they would instill into their child, perhaps they would advise some sort of rehabilitation program now, but alas here I am, arriving in Minneapolis on Wednesday. General Assembly for a child is not necessarily a bucket of fun. Sure, I was able to teach adults the macarena at the Witherspoon dance and find free pens throughout the exhibit hall, but all in all the dealings of committees and plenary sessions were not terribly appealing to a kid. Yet, here I stand as an adult returning once more. I have often been asked why I continue to come back well after my attendance was deemed necessary by my parents. As I walked through the halls of the San Jose Convention Center two years ago I kept coming back to that same question. By then I had found myself passionate about several of the issues coming to the assembly and was feeling frustrated by what seemed to be the constant tabling of overtures that I wanted to see passed NOW! I asked myself why I kept coming back to this place to fight these battles, why not take up with my home church or school, or why not even a secular national group? It was one thing that I witnessed in San Jose that provided my answer and led me to be writing to you all.

As I returned to the Convention Center in San Jose on one particularly sunny day I was greeted by a group of picketers. I had heard that they were coming and had been somewhat skeptical, as if these people would travel all this way just to hold a sign in front of us. Yet there they were with signs of hate and curses, enforcing a view of a God that not only disowns, but damns some of his/her own people. It was in my state of anger and confusion that I saw gather a group of people wearing rainbow stoles, people from TAMFS as well as other associations. Instead of fighting back, instead of making even a playful and somewhat taunting snarky remark, they surrounded the protesters and knelt in prayer. Each one connected to the person next to them, bowing their heads in front of people who would be happy to tell them they are hell-bound. It is then when I realized why I return. General Assembly has become a family reunion. We all gather, some family members closer than others, some distant relatives you've only heard of. Usually you meet one or two people that it turns out you should have met by now since you seem to know all the same people or go all the same places. Sure, there are some family members who don't agree with your views. Maybe there's a crazy aunt that you just can't seem to come to any sort of agreement with. But ultimately, we are all part of the same family. We will see it as we hold hands and bow our heads in prayer and as worshipers gather and committees break free. YAADs running around laughing despite voting differently in committee.

I share all this to hopefully quell some fears. We may be faced with what seems like unchristian behavior but it is important to remember as those in the prayer circle last assembly did, that we are all children of God bound together and chosen to be adopted into an infinite family. And with families comes love. (After all that is what we are fighting for isn't it? The right for all forms of love to be recognized!)

With the following scripture I wish you all a peaceful time until we see one another and a calm heart with which to approach the assembly. For those of you who are both new and old alike, this is your family too and I cannot wait to take all of our places at the table and hopefully remind the rest of God's children that this table is larger than we realize, large enough to fit each and every one of us and fill us all with love for one another and Christ.

1 John 4: 18-21:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because God loved us first. If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates their fellow Christian, they are a liar, because the one who does not love their fellow Christian whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen. And the commandment we have from God is this: that the one who loves God should love their fellow Christian too.

Meet Lisa Larges, TAMFS Organizer and Team Leader

So, hello, I’m Lisa, and I work here. Not here on this blog, but for That All May Freely Serve, the organization that thought it just might be fun to bring together a group of people and turn them loose at the 219th General Assembly, to practice hilarious feats of hospitality, and occasional provocations to laughter, and a totally earnest love for the church and for God’s people, just to see what could happen.

But, let’s refocus on me, for a minute. We thought we would use some of this blog real estate to introduce our team members, so, I agreed to try.

Me? I’m a lifelong Presbyterian, and a candidate for Ministry. I’ve been a candidate for Ministry since 1986, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

I’m a member of Noe Valley Ministry, a lovely, eclectic, faith-seeking, justice-loving Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. Come visit!

More about me

Likes: San Francisco fog, the perfect 20 minute nap, history, old game shows, and people singing together.

Dislikes: funny movies that aren’t (they just infuriate me!) Cheerios – another long story, and not much else, really!

And, here’s the most important thing: I grew up in Minnesota, and I’m so excited that General Assembly is going to be in my home town.

Here’s the thing about Minnesota, from an insider’s point of view: people in Minnesota are really nice – in line at the grocery store, on the phone, stuck in traffic, at coffee hour – even if you wake one up suddenly in the middle of the night, a Minnesotan will be nice! “Minnesota Nice” it’s called. First they made it in to a joke – in that kind of self-deprecating way we have, then they started marketing it. You can get “Minnesota Nice” on T Shirts, and oven mitts, and coffee mugs and other stuff like that. Please don’t buy me any, ok? Thanks!

And here’s the thing about “Minnesota Nice.” I’ll admit it, I used to make fun of it; used to think it was artificial, and superficial, and co-dependent, and frankly annoying, which, sometimes it is. But, now that I’m an old lady, and now that it seems like the rest of the world is bent on being un-nice, I really appreciate some Minnesota Nice!

What I appreciate more than nice is “kind.” Kind is nice, but without the superficiality. You can have an open disagreement with someone, but still show deep generosity, caring, openness, and courtesy toward one another. So, if we can match “Minnesota Nice” with “Presbyterian Kindness,” I think it will be just about the best General Assembly ever!

But that’s just my opinion.

Have a nice day!

Hey, and thanks for reading!

~ Lisa Larges ~

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Welcome Revolution welcomes you to the table!

Stay tuned to this channel for more information coming soon . . .