homily: Abide Here

church pews

The Reading (John 15:1-11):

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed* by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become* my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Homily: 

In John 15, Jesus uses an agricultural metaphor to describe the Christian life. He tells us that he is the “true vine” planted and tended to by God. He goes onto say that we are offshoots, or branches, of that “true vine” and that we only live abundantly through our connection with Him, saying “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Well, that’s all well and good, but, practically speaking, what does it look like to “abide” in and with Jesus when he’s not exactly walking around on earth waiting to come to our dinner parties and church services?

Though it may not be immediately clear, I think this passage is rooted in a simple concept:

Growth happens in relationship.

I’m not presenting a new theological idea here, but I think it’s one we often take for granted. Paul helps us understand what relational faith looks like in 1 Corinthians 12, when he tells the people of Corinth that God’s church acts as the “Body of Christ” on earth.

He says: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” He ends this section with this: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” I love the phrasing of that last verse – though I read this passage over and over in my daily devotions as a young Evangelical, I’d taken it for granted. We don’t lose our individuality when we join a community, but we do become something different – and better – as a collective. Like the human body, we work together to survive and thrive. But we’re not just any body – we’re the Body of Christ – and we do His work when we band together.

That understanding helps clarify John’s passage – it helps us find a way to put into practice what Jesus suggests. Jesus is not present on earth as an individual entity – we can’t hold onto him like branches on God’s vine – but we do have the church. Through the church – Christ’s Body – we may find a life source, and a connection to God our planter and sustainer, while simultaneously offering the love of Christ to others.

A rewording of John 15:1-11, replacing the pronouns for Jesus with “the church,” becomes a powerful statement of the church’s relationship to us:

“Abide in the church as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in the church. The church is the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in the church and the church in them bear much fruit, because apart from the church you can do nothing.

…if you abide in the church, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you

…abide in the church’s love

…I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

God can work through you or me on any given day, but the work God does is always relational. God’s children must join together for the work of the Kingdom to be done. We prune off the bad fruit in each other’s lives when we ask hard questions and hold each other accountable. We bear new fruit by creating welcoming spaces for everyone – not just the people who are easy to get along with – and by joining together to solve issues within our congregations and the larger community. Conversely, when we resist relationship, we stunt our growth.

I thought for a long time that I could go off by myself with my beliefs and convictions and be just fine, but that mindset fails to grasp the awkward, fulfilling, annoying, life-giving power of church. And I don’t just mean the formal church – I mean the miraculous spaces that allow us to be seen for who we are, to hurt and to hurt others in our confusion, to just be – that don’t give up on us. We cannot fully participate in the Christian life – we cannot build a Kingdom! – apart from Christian community.

My own life is a testament to the church’s work. I attended a highly patriarchal evangelical church through much of college. Though I majored in Religious Studies, I was barred from teaching Sunday School classes if men were in attendance. It was a congregation that privileged the opinions and perspectives of men over even the informed perspectives of women. It tore me apart. I had decided to major in Religious Studies precisely because I wanted to understand my tradition and share it with the church, but everywhere I turned, I saw people who once seemed to love and welcome me slam the door in my face.

I wanted the church, but it didn’t want me. It was a horrible loss; the worst kind of break up. I wasn’t wanted, so I left.

When my husband and I moved to Charlottesville in 2012, we hadn’t been attending church for over a year. We haphazardly church hopped once we arrived in town, but I knew there was still a lot of pain and bitterness in me and I wasn’t sure I was ready to come back.

Ultimately, it was the newly formed Women’s Prayer Group that restored my soul. For the first time in a long time, I was experiencing Church. Not the smug, scared, resistant face of some organization calling itself church, but the welcoming, intentional, safe haven I needed to come back to life. I was free to ask hard questions or say nothing at all. I was allowed to be vulnerable, to be human. But I was also a part of this tiny Body of Christ in the basement of the Canterbury House, and that meant I was called to give the same love and offer the same restoration to other members. We couldn’t do it alone. We had each come as individuals to be healed by one another, but we had also become something different, and better. We had become church.

The church is why I left and the church is why I came back.

There will be pain in this place. There will be hurt feelings and rash decisions and ignorance. But we are called to ABIDE here, in each other, in Christ. We wither and die when we go it alone. In her book, Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans says it this way: “Like it or not, following Jesus is a group activity, something we’re supposed to do together.”

I need you to be Christ for me and, though you may not always feel it, you need to have access to the tangible, living Christ on earth, here in this community and in the universal church.

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Good Friday

In 2011, God was silent. I didn’t stop believing, but I was numb. Numb like cold fingers in the middle of winter: on the brink of frostbite. I was terrified of losing the religion, the community, and the language of faith that had been central to my life as a child and young adult. The stillness made me feel unhinged.

Perhaps as a way of coping with not knowing what the future of my faith looked like, I found other practices – other rituals – to fill the void. And in retrospect, the quiet cleared the clutter, opening up space for new ways of thinking and being.

I also read Still by Lauren Winner, a book I’d recommend to anyone feeling existentially lost. I realized I’d been waiting for my faith to return or to grow back to just the way it was before the silence when I should have understood this dark period as part of the path.

There is nothing wrong with feeling numb. There is nothing wrong with stillness. Nothing is lost in the process – you are still you, God is still God (much different and much more complicated than we can imagine, I’m sure), a community is waiting somewhere to love you for who you are, not what you profess on any given day.

Today I feel stable, but not always certain. I feel loved, but I’m not always sure it’s unconditional. But what I know is that living with grace and intention will never be the wrong path. See people and love them anyway. Forgive. Work toward justice. Leave yourself vulnerable to the fulfillment and pain of love.

do not take

The earth moves
Did you know?
It pulses with intention.

Birds free fall in aerial feats
The hive hums
The dry leaves whisper
their ancient chant

And we,
We move, too
Building, working,
fighting, dreaming –
not always with intention.

But noise, always noise.

The earth knows –
do you?
Our performative toiling
is Being,
a loud inhalation,
a boisterous sigh

We tangle fingers
and join
the chant “We are alive”

Do not bring the silence.
Do not take.
The earth, though
It Takes.

This is the one truth
we were born knowing.
We move – before
it’s too late.

In memory of Judy Neumeyer

untitled

Let me die
in the summertime
by a window, with
the warmth, pushing
through the fragile skin
of my eyelids

Let me die
in a quiet
room; with the
tea kettle on
in the kitchen and
the laundry spinning,
pulsing like
blood through beating hearts.

Let me die
with a cat
at my feet and
a hand holding mine and
a smile tracing
my lips
And the sunshine –

Oh, please let me
die in the sunshine.

mansplaining: a definition and how to avoid it

Mansplaining in Four Points

1. Women are often socialized to approach their opinions passively by prefacing them with “I think” or “I feel” to lessen the blow of their words and distance themselves from potential controversy. When a man responds to a woman in the way men are often socialized to do by saying “This is how things are…” many women feel like they’re being bossed around or that the conversation is being hijacked by the man. This is often unintentional, but it’s still worth paying attention to, particularly when the woman is trying to share a personal anecdote rather than have an academic discussion.

2. Mansplaining as a term can only be used to describe a man’s conversational tone and behavior toward a woman or women because it results from the power imbalance between men and women in patriarchal societies.  Women can certainly be demeaning and callous to others, but this behavior does not fall under the category of mansplaining.

A man who mansplains is likely to use a patronizing, instructive tone with women that he doesn’t use with men. Or, as often happens in forums and comments sections of blog posts, he will specifically choose to address the comments made by women and avoid confrontation with any men involved, perhaps because he feels his arguments will hold more weight with women. He will often talk at instead of conversing with and will bring information into the conversation that derails it altogether instead of moving it forward.

(A friend pointed out that some men, rather than engaging with women in a condescending manner, will ignore women’s comments altogether. I’d say this is part of the same problem. In both cases, the woman’s comment is taken less seriously than the man’s.)

3. Mansplaining is a useful term for addressing this problem, but I don’t find it productive to call a man out for mainsplaining when I’m in conversation with him, especially if the incident occurs in a public setting (or on a public post on social media). It’s not helpful (or gracious) to use dismissive language like this because it cuts off the line of communication. It stops the conversation dead in its tracks, which makes it impossible to effectively address the problem. If you know the man involved, it may be best to take it up with him privately and preferably in person. If he is a stranger, just get the heck out of there (and maybe write a blog post about it!).

4. You’re much more likely to get called out for mansplaining if the woman you’re talking to doesn’t know you very well (or if you’re legitimately a jerk). It’s hard to read tone when you can’t envision what it would be like to talk face to face or when the woman has no sense of the assumptions you’re making about her during the conversation. For this reason, it’s important to articulate your point clearly and with kindness, especially if you insist on having the conversation online. Otherwise, try to meet up in person. Treat each other like adults who deserve to live in the world and have opinions and you’ll be okay.

Mansplaining is real, but it doesn’t justify women being jerks. Men and women are both guilty of  interrupting. Sometimes women say dumb things. This isn’t about refusing accountability, it’s about having productive and meaningful conversations that help us understand each other and the world a little bit better. Sometimes – oftentimes – that means checking our privilege. It means hearing each other out, respectfully.

thanksgiving in the valley

snowy path

We spent Thanksgiving at my stepmother-in-law’s house in the Shenandoah Valley. Daniel’s dad grew up in this area, so he took my sister-in-law and I on a walk down to the river. The town was quiet, blanketed in fresh snow.

winter tree in snow

snowy field

haint blue roof

At about this point on the walk, I realized I couldn’t feel my toes.

snowy path

winter river

They have a lovely dog I enjoyed petting while we waited for the turkey to finish cooking. Donna, the aforementioned stepmother-in-law, makes delicious brussels sprouts with bacon, which I greedily ate with a heaping mound of mashed potatoes.

dog face

candle bokeh

platinum & rust update and sale

etsy cyber monday sale

Hello. Long time, no mention of Platinum & Rust. But the little shop is still running! Right now everything is on sale! Plus, get free shipping on orders over $35.00 with code, blackfriday. I’ve added a lot of new stock since my last update, so it’ll probably look like a whole new store.

Something Rotten at the University of Virginia

“Still Your children wander homeless;
Still the hungry cry for bread;
Still the captives long for freedom;
Still in grief we mourn our dead.
As you, Lord, in deep compassion
Healed the sick and freed the soul,
By Your Spirit send Your power
To our world to make it whole.”

The Next Great Adventure

rotundamyrotunda

I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2012.  I can’t help but grin when I reflect on my time in Charlottesville, remembering a vibrant academic atmosphere that included lasagna dinners at professors’ houses and debating with Senator Bob Barr while swilling bourbon in Room 7, West Lawn, with the Jefferson Society.  And then there was the social environment, just as robust, which included “Friday Wineday” car rides over the rolling Blue Ridge hills to go “vineyard hopping,” streaking the lawn, date functions, and belting “God Bless the USA” while swaying atop tables at the Virginian on Thursday nights.

And did I mention Thomas Jefferson?  Each day I walked past the Rotunda on my way to class or to grab some Bodo’s, I swelled with pride, gawking at the centuries-old architecture that was supposed to be Jefferson’s answer to the Pantheon.  Nevermind those bricks were…

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month in review: 10/14

When’s the last time I did a Month in Review post? Why, it was January 2013!

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and in it she cites research that indicates that those who are acutely aware of what they’re grateful for are more contented. That makes a lot of sense to me, but often I’d rather not “waste” time contemplating the good things; I’d rather distract myself with activities or blogs or online shopping. But I’ve been feeling awfully restless and discontent for no real reason, so I think it’s time to give this another try.

fg2

In October, I (often with Daniel in tow):

  • coordinated the thrift shop’s anniversary sale
  • attended a beautiful wedding
  • partied it up at a friend’s birthday party
  • visited with college friends who came to visit
  • picked apples at Carter Mountain Orchard
  • ate delicious, home cooked apple pie thanks to the friends who came to visit
  • sight saw on Skyline Drive on a foggy day
  • sang a solo part in the church choir
  • moved my fair trade blog over to Blogger (and got 1,070 views in the first month!)
  • wrote about lessons learned working at a thrift shop
  • went on my church’s 2nd annual hike
  • helped secure funding for the thrift shop’s maintenance fund
  • watched Fright Night with friends on Halloween
  • started reading Silence by Shusaku Endo