Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Politics of Internship

The Democratic National Convention is in full swing, and the Republicans come on the stage next week. I’m mostly drooling over all of this, as my political science self kicks into high gear.

And then I remember where I am, and what I’m doing this year. Most of this identity comes in the negative format: I’m not in Chicago anymore, and I’m not a student anymore. I’m an intern, working with people at this church – and as I drive to work each day, I pass home after home with a simple sign displaying proudly in their green lawn: John McCain, 2008. Obama is nowhere to be found.

Here I am, trying to minister to – and, simply, love – the people who have accepted me so fully and graciously into their midst as vicar, and I am coming to the realization that many of them do not share my own political views…at all. It begs the question – how do I stay committed and authentic to the worldview to which I subscribe, while at the same time affirming these people as wonderful and beloved children of God?

There’s an “easy” answer, of course: Don’t talk politics. Obvious enough, it seems.

But what about the alternative? Is there one? A way to be honest about how I feel, and how much I’m passionate about this issue, especially as we inch our way toward the first Tuesday in November? Is there a way I can refrain from hiding the fact that my entire being is wholeheartedly connected to the intense hope that McCain is not elected in the fall?

The truth is, this passion is most likely shared on the other side of the aisle by many folks in my congregation – by many people with whom I worship, to whom I serve communion, from whom I have received so much already. “God is NOT a Republican,” the bumper sticker on my car shouts, “…or a Democrat.” But I am most certainly driven by a certain way of viewing the world, and it is a deep and sincere part of my very identity.

At the same time, my identity is also tied into that radical notion: I’m a child of God, made in God’s image. As are the rest of the people in this congregation.

So, what’s the answer? Luckily, I’m Lutheran. We don’t have answers – we have paradoxes. I love these people, even when I vehemently disagree with them.

And I pray for the same from them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Radical Presence

I gave my first sermon as “Vicar Jason” this weekend, preaching once on Saturday and three times on Sunday. This will be my task for every other weekend this year on internship. Luckily, I do not require sleep. ;)

I thought about posting my sermon on this blog, but it is quite long for an online post. Plus, I gave the sermon without notes, so it really isn’t what’s written down. It was so much different once I got up there, once I let go, and started talking. It was actually a rush, to be honest.

What hit me from today was the response from people in the congregation. Standing there after each service, shaking the hands of the different people in line, I was given a snippet of lives lived, each in their own unique way, as they continued my sermon in their own words. It was like the body of Christ – that which we proclaim to be – in action. People had taken my imperfect sermon and applied it to their own lives, taking my inadequate words and, with the Holy Spirit, made them real.

“Good sermon, Vicar. I’ve been going through some tough changes lately myself, having been laid off from two jobs. Just know that I take comfort in the presence of God in the unexpected places, too.”

“Thank you for your words. God continues to be present in my life, after 106 years.”

That’s right, there’s someone in our congregation who is 106 (and a HALF, as she makes sure to mention). There’s also someone who’s recently lost their job. There are people who are in every stage of life, dealing with every kind of problem, reveling in every kind of situation life throws at them. And we have the audacity to get up and proclaim God’s radical and sustaining love for each and every one of them…including us. I mean, wow.

How could we do any of this without God’s help? It would be egotistical and condescending to imagine we could. Yet pastors get up and proclaim in the pulpit, speaking God’s word to us today.

That great Lutheran response, “I will, and I ask God to help and guide me,” is our confession of faith. Who are we to get up and proclaim? We continually ask. And God answers from the depths of time and eternity, echoing through the millennia, “Who are you not to? I am with you. This is all you need.”

Saturday, August 09, 2008


So, I just got back from a 4-day conference on Biblical storytelling in Atlanta, walking into the apartment, sitting down at my computer, and having it all sink in at once: I live in Florida, now. Alone. And I’m an intern. Wow.

The storytelling conference – run by the Network of Biblical Storytellers (http://www.nobs.org) - is a fantastic annual gathering, in which 150 or so storytellers descend upon Atlanta, to, basically, hear and tell stories. Mostly Biblical ones. Without notes. By heart. I'm telling the Gospel tomorrow - Jesus walking on the water, from Matthew. I never think of Matthew having good stories, but this one is pretty sweet.

Right, so. I was the emcee for this particular shindig in Atlanta, mostly because I’m under 40, and, therefore, a celebrity. However, more young people are coming every year. But, yeah, I’m kind of their golden boy. I’m okay with this.

Tomorrow I’m getting to the church at 7:15am (is that actually a time? I thought everything before 8am was a blur in the space-time continuum) to go over my assistant minister part. I’m going to dress in a collar, for only the second time in public. I’m going to try not to scream – I don’t think that’d go over too well.

Yeah. That’s it. I’m Vicar Jason now. Watch out, world. Or, at least, watch out, this particular congregation that has me for a year.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Transition Tension

So, I sit here, having successfully made the move to Florida, and waiting for my first introduction to the congregation at this evening’s worship service. I have to echo my colleague Rachel’s response to my Facebook status of “I’m now a vicar. Holy. Crap.”: “This. Is. Terrifying.” I’m not sure what to do right now, oscillating between unpacking some more; staring off into the deep blue yonder, pondering my place in the cosmos; or simply vocalizing my transition-tension with blood-curdling screams. I think my new neighbors will appreciate that.

I won’t be taking part in the service tonight; I’ll most likely just sitting there and doing some form of looking pretty. I’m okay with this.

I have the largest amount of space I’ve ever had to myself, complete with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, AC, and a washer-dryer unit. Nobody else lives here except me – I might have to resort to having conversations with myself in different rooms in the condo.

I now have a bedroom and an office. That’s right – two separate rooms in which to do two separate things. I don’t really know what to do with all this space. It feels like I’m staying in someone else’s place, and any moment they’ll show up and demand that I explain myself. I’m working on my explanation right now.

Umm…yeah. Maybe I’ll have more to say about something other than my apartment soon. You know, vicar-like things.