Archive for February, 2011

Yesterday my Yahoo! account was hacked. Everyone in my address book was sent an invitation to “date” me. Even my husband was sent an invitation. My husband, by the way, is the only on one in my address book who actually has dated me (and enjoyed it so much he married me); other than him, however, I have no real desire to invite others into a dating relationship. But the hacker didn’t care. As of midnight last night, everyone from the Conference Minister (sorry, Rich) to life-long friends to the dog’s veterinarian, are all receiving emails from me and an invitation to date. I’m wondering what kind of response I’ll get. Probably a lot of rejection, but you never know.

I thought about getting hacked when I read the scripture for this week. The text is the continuation of the very long Sermon on the Mount and Jesus is telling his disciples to “not worry.” The birds of the air don’t worry, he says, the flowers of the field are clothed more beautifully than Solomon in his palace, none of them worry so why should you?

Good point, Jesus, but you were never hacked. Jesus never faced anything that we face. He was never in danger of losing his job, or his mortgage being foreclosed, or his identity stolen, or his retirement savings diminishing with the fall of the market. Jesus does not live in our world. We do not live in his. So we have to ask, “Is following Jesus a crazy thing to do?” Can we honestly take the advice of a person who lived 2000 years ago, preached on top of a mountain to a bunch of people who lived lives utterly different than ours, and offered aphorisms such as “don’t worry – the birds never worry and look how happy they are?” Is that really smart?

Occasionally, I am told by people in the world outside the church (and sometimes inside the church) that religion, especially organized religion, is no longer relevant. It is ridiculous, they will tell me with a knowing look as if waiting for me to catch on and roll my eyes and agree. I am usually told this by individuals upon hearing that I am a minister (if you haven’t already read it, This Odd and Wondrous Calling has a delightful chapter on responses to hearing that one is a minister). Usually when I tell people I am a minister, they respond with one or two phrases, my favorite being that organized religion is irrelevant/corrupt/unfair/prejudice/etc, etc. My response is to look them in the eye and tell them that they are right. Absolutely correct. Organized religion is desperately full of problems. And, among other horrific flaws, it has a disturbing history of oppression; absolutely no sane person would willingly enter into it. Often just the shock value of my statement allows me to go back to reading my book if I am on an airplane or mingling with the other guests if I am at a party, or wherever I was when accosted by the person who wanted to make sure I knew I was misguided, misled, and certainly, to put it nicely, intellectually superficial.

When I was a senior at Hiram College, I took the honors exam for the History department—it was an oral exam– just me and four professors. I was a double major in Religion and History and the professors for the history department knew I was headed for Divinity School in a few months. The only question they asked that I really remember was one of the professors asked me in a somewhat sardonic tone, “Wouldn’t you agree that throughout European history, religion has simply been the opiate of the people?” If a room could smirk, that room did. I remember thinking for a moment and then asking him if he wouldn’t agree that when Dietrich Bonheoffer was executed at gunpoint by the Nazis for refusing to back down from his beliefs, he probably wasn’t feeling a lot of “opiate”. That was my first encounter with religion being made the victim of intellectual snobbery.

Are smart people acting stupid when they follow Jesus? No. Here’s why: even though Jesus was never hacked, foreclosed on, or filed taxes on April 15 at midnight, he did know what was true and what wasn’t. He knew that loving one’s neighbor created a world a whole lot better than the world of hate. He knew that walking a second mile, refusing to retaliate, and giving more than expected results in a community of support and compassion where one does not have to worry all the time about where the next meal is coming from or what to do about the wolf at the door. He knew that for all of our intellectual snobbery, our powerful words, our ability to conquer and control individuals as well as countries, we are still at heart lonely and needing the reassurance and comfort of a loving God and a supportive community. Yes, following a person who lived 2000 years ago seems a little ridiculous. Until you try it. And then it seems like the smartest thing anyone could do.

See you in the church.


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As the investigative process for the Open and Affirming process gets under way at Zion United Church of Christ, members of the congregation will have several opportunities to view the film, “For the Bible Tells Me So,” about the intersection of faith and homosexuality. Watch the trailer at zionuccnews.wordpress.com. From forthebibletellsmeso.org, in describing the film: “Through the experiences of five very normal, Christian, American families – we discover how people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child or family member.”

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Before you come to the OA meetings

We all bring different viewpoints to the idea of Zion becoming an “open and affirming” congregation. No matter your opinion, consider going to http://tinyurl.com/openandaffirming for a guide to what it is all about. Hope to see you Wednesday or Thursday night.

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Church office closed Friday

Marilyn will be on vacation, so the office will be closed Friday, Feb. 25. Deb will be in from 9 to noon for Bridging the Gap.

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Bible study

When reading this text (see the Facebook Bible Study), think about Matthew’s intent. As the author of this gospel, Matthew wants his reader to walk away with certain beliefs about Jesus. What do you think those beliefs might be?

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Youth Group Laser Tag

Youth Group event on February 19 at 4:30. Meet at the church and we will go to Fun City together for Laser tag! Bring a friend and a little spending money. See you there.

For all upcoming youth news go to the Zion youth Facebook page.

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Open and Affirming meetings

There has been a great deal of interest in the first Open and Affirming Discussion group so to accommodate everyone, we are splitting up into two groups. Please plan to attend whichever night works best for you.

February 23 at 6:30

February 24 at 6:30.

All meetings will be held at the round tables in the narthex.

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Volunteers needed

Volunteers are needed to help prepare simple, kid-friendly meals for our NOIZ Nites. If you would be able to help prepare a meal for March 2, April 6 or May 4, please contact Janice Gibson at janice@zionuccburlington.org, or leave word with Marilyn in the office at (319) 752-2305, or office@zionuccburlington.org.

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ONA meeting still on

Tonight’s ONA meeting will not proceed. With the snow, there’s no place to park. We’ll try again at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24. Hope to see you there.

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ONA meeting still on

Tonight’s scheduled first meeting of the Open and Affirming study group will be held as planned. See you at 6 p.m. in the narthex!

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