Burying Bibles

A reflection from my dad, aka Keith Harder
We were moving to smaller quarters and needed to downsize, including downsizing our library. Books collected over years that documented my intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage and their authors who were my friends and mentors and in some cases my tormentors needed to go. Lovingly I held each book and tried to remember its impact on my life and why I kept it before it was sent to a second hand bookstore or library or the trash.

And then there were the Bibles that filled one whole shelf that were outdated or literally falling apart. There were Bibles that we inherited from our parents and Bibles that we had received as children. There were Bibles that we read to our children and Bibles that we used in college and seminary. Bibles that had inspired us, challenged us, disturbed us and bemused us. Bibles that inspired sermons and Bibles that had been marked up but also neglected and ignored.
What should we do with these Bibles? On line resources said they should be burned or buried. Making a big enough fire to burn multiple thick books was impractical. So we opted to bury them. On a cold day in November we dug a hole in the coral and deposited the Bibles with gratitude and some remorse and some anticipation for when we will join them. From dust to dust and ashes to ashes.
Click here to read more about this tradition of burning or burying sacred literature: https://collegevilleinstitute.org/bearings/blessed-and-burned/
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Sign me up!

We take volunteer leadership and involvement very seriously at Rainbow. Just ask Uncle Gottfried. (For those who haven’t met Uncle Gottfried, he’s a regular around Rainbow. He is much more than a puppet on a string! In German the name Gottfried means “man of peace” or “God’s peace.”

Want to watch more?

You can see Uncle Gottfried interacting with the WorshipArts group at Rainbow by clicking here.

Also here are a few more fun tidbits about Gottfried!

Uncle Gottfried

Mike Horner and his great Onkel Gottfried in eastern Germany. As Mike says, “Gottfried is almost 89 but still rides his bike on the cobblestone streets of his village, Gottesgnaden, to get to his garden and tend to his rabbits. My Oma, Gottfried’s older sister, was a bit taller than he is, but not by much.”

 

 

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Communal cape

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:5-7

A good friend recently asked me what this “laying on of hands” business is all about. She had never heard that phrase before and was rather wigged out by the sound of it.

In response I sent her this picture from my ordination 10 years ago as well as the accompanying reflection.

I’ve always loved team huddles. And so I figured this was just another team huddle with fewer high fives and a little less sweat. Sure, I felt awkward and self-conscious, but when I saw my family coming forward, followed by church members and mentors, I tried to surrender to the moment and let myself be crowded for a moment, and affirmed.

I felt transported to when I was a little girl, standing in worship at Fellowship of Hope in Elkhart, IN. Adults, whom I loved, were all around me with hands raised. I thought I spotted some sort of spiral thread or energy of some kind, and so I reached my four year old hands as high as they could go. Whatever the adults seemed to be reaching for seemed intriguing to me, even beautiful.

Unlike that moment 35 plus years ago, I’m kneeling here in this picture. Heads are bowed in prayer, arms and hands gently placed and/or folded in prayer. It strikes me that I’m like a child again, or I am at least the height I was when I had my earliest known encounters with what I considered and experienced as holy.

I remember falling into that place I sometimes go when I pray, or when I stand at the basketball free throw line—that place where people, sounds, and distractions fade and I’m just there, alone but somehow not alone, in an empty, but not-so-empty place.

My Alaskan friend Kara, who I didn’t even know was there for my ordination, was seated in the last row of the balcony. She said this moment of laying on of hands looked like a communal cape from where she was sitting.  I have always loved that thought. Church or religiosity is not her thing and certainly not part of her routine. But she wanted to be there for me, and that means more than I can express in words. She is part of this communal cape too, even if she never steps foot inside a Christian church again.

So what is laying on of hands you ask? Maybe it’s a communal reaching for this not-so-empty place where we reach out and seek encounters with the holy together in community.

 

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Hurry up and wait

It was July 5. I had just heard Meghan Good, teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite church in Glendale, Ariz., preach a moving message, which you can read here: Breath of God. 

At the end of the service, she gave us all paper seed cards with the hand-written words, “I wait for you.” Trusting Meghan, I did as I was instructed; I rushed home and planted this seed card.

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Every day since July 5, I have waited. I’m still waiting, no longer with patience or with much anticipation.

I’m to the point of second guessing myself: Too much sun? Not enough sun? Too much water? Not enough water? Was it all a fraud? Did Meghan not expect someone to actually plant it? I demand answers.

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I know it’s not Meghan I should be blaming, although I have a feeling she, being the wise and faithful person she is, has thoughts on the matter. Instead, I’m demanding answers from this sad-looking, empty flower pot.  Why aren’t more things blooming around me and in this world? Why is there so much pain and conflict? Why is there so much mistreatment of others, animals, the environment? Why are good intentions sometimes misunderstood or misconstrued? Why so much illness and disease and devastation? Why so much injustice? And where do I/we even begin to address these difficulties?

Kind of like my empty flower pot, a lot of environments don’t seem habitable for growth and vitality right now. Whether it’s due to discriminatory or unjust policies or attitudes, a lot of people are suffering in this country and in the world. Environmental disasters are reaching such scary levels, creating additional hardship and loss of life. And I know this all too well as pastor, sometimes our church communities aren’t healthy environments for growth either. Whether its abuse, other misconduct or misdeeds, misunderstandings, conflict, violations of trust and respect, loss of accountability—you name it, it’s probably (and unfortunately) here in the church.

So yeah, I’ve been having words with this flower pot. I’ve even kicked it in frustration on a few occasions.  Today, after my husband caught me pouting by this lifeless flower pot,  I came across the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” Perhaps this is the change in attitude that I’ve been waiting for, or better yet, the change God wants me to discover and practice.

Relando Thompkins-Jones writes this:

When I say hurry up and wait, I do not mean be complacent, I do not mean do not act. I mean go boldly. I mean be brave. I mean act with urgency. I mean be great. I mean work with others, and build coalitions. I mean all of these things and more. Because some things can change quickly.

Hurry up, but also wait. In your passionate haste, take care of yourselves and your comrades. Recognize that you will encounter things that may shake your very core, and that in order to keep going you’ll need to remember where you were before you started, how far you’ve come, and why you chose to start. Know that seeking support and taking time away to recover is necessary for your own survival.

Hurry up, but also wait. Whatever your area of practice and passion might be, situate yourself as being a part of a long continuum of folks who’ve dedicated their lives to pushing the needle for justice a bit further than it was before, and remember that the work towards transformational change is more of a sprint than a marathon. Consistency is key.

 

May it be so.

 

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Why we (Don’t) build the wall

My summer music listening list has included an album written/produced by a friend of a friend, Anias Mitchell. It’s called Hadestown. It’s more than an album—it’s also musical theatre. It’s basically a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus, the great musician and poet who tries to rescue his lover from the Underworld. In Mitchell’s retelling of this age-old myth, the Underworld isn’t the land of the dead, but rather, a walled city underground whose citizens engage in mindless, soulless work in exchange for the financial security promised by their boss-king Mister Hades. The citizens of the underworld aren’t dead, but they are lifeless as a result of being indoctrinated by Hades and his obsession with the Almighty dollar. 

There is one song from this album that I can’t get out of my head. It’s called “Why we build the wall.” Apparently Mitchell began writing this song in 2004, but given our nation’s current conversation about wall-building, you’d think she wrote it today. 

If you take a listen in the link provided below, you’ll hear slick billionaire Hades sing first. (It’s more like a growl.) And then you’ll hear the indoctrinated citizens of the underworld respond in this interesting, rather upsetting, liturgical call and response.

 

A song like this has potential to stir up many, contentious ideas and beliefs about border security, identity, nationalism, and culture.

Speaking personally, the temptation feels strong to spend all of my energy pointing fingers at others—being critical of citizens today who are chanting things about wall-building. But this song has actually caused me to reflect more critically on how I/we have all been indoctrinated to some degree by the powers that be. We all have fears and insecurities and desires for safety and well-being, and the lure of the Almighty dollar is strong.

What I keep trying to hold onto these days, not always successfully,  is Jesus’ call or way of life through the various obsessions, temptations, lures, and fears. I hear in Jesus’ message a persistent call to keep building rituals, friendships, and connections that help us find our way toward abundant life that isn’t based solely on material possessions and self-security at the expense of other people’s suffering.

These summer months at Rainbow we have prayed the following call and response prayer. How I hope these words are not only prayed, but lived.

From greed and selfishness, from a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…From racial prejudice and religious intolerance, from a society which makes its weakest and most recent members into scapegoats…From indiference to the needs of other countries, from the delusion that you love any other nation less than you love us…From self-indulgence and indifference, from a society in which fidelity and responsibility have little place….

Everyone together: Compassionate God, deliver us.

 

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Kansas City here we come (again)!

This article is adapted from a piece I submitted to the Kansas City Star four years ago, the last time the Mennonite Church USA convention was held in Kansas City.

I wish I had a field guide to give Kansas City residents and businesses on how to spot, feed and care for the close to 3,000 Mennonites who will attend the biennial Mennonite Church USA convention July 2-6 at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Of course no such guide exists, nor could it exist. That is because the denomination I belong to (MCUSA) is made up of geographically and theologically diverse conferences, churches and peoples.

One cannot and should not make sweeping generalizations about membership within Mennonite Church USA. Our denomination is made up of urban, rural and suburban congregations. Every Mennonite has a different story of how they or their ancestors became Mennonite. Some of us have belonged to a Mennonite church all our lives, and others of us have come to the Mennonite church by way of a partner, a friend, a book, a website or by mistake.

Some Mennonites will arrive to Kansas City on trains, planes or bikes. And just in case there are any rumors going around, no, there will not be an increase in horses and buggies downtown.

MCUSA is made up of Anabaptist Christians. Amish, like Mennonites, trace their history to the 16th-century Anabaptists, but it would be erroneous to conflate Amish and Mennonites today. Some refer to Mennonites and Amish as distant denominational cousins.

There is nothing about our physical appearance that will identify us as Mennonites. That being said, some of our theological convictions do sometimes make us stand out in the Christian denominational landscape. Like all Anabaptists, we believe that Jesus was the one who transformed worldly greed, power, violence and ultimately death. The Mennonites I am most inspired by are those who take seriously prophet Isaiah’s vision: “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (2:4)

We struggle, just like all people of faith, to respond to the injustices and human suffering experienced in this world. And despite our commitment to peacemaking, we experience conflict, division and controversy within our churches, conferences and denomination.

For example, just like a lot of Christian denominations, Mennonites are not of the same mind when it comes to LGBTQ justice. Personally speaking, I am supportive of the Pink Menno movement, and the way that movement has been a visible, vocal, and nonviolent presence supporting sustaining and furthering witness to the goodness of LGBTQ people. Next week at convention many of us will celebrate the 10th anniversary of this transformative movement.  http://www.pinkmenno.org/

So with that, I invite you to check out this video about Pink Menno. It was created by another organization many of us at Rainbow support, Brethren Mennonite Council.

 

 

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Forged anew

This coming Sunday, June 9, we will dedicate a gardening tool (pictured below) for use in our Rainbow garden. It was forged just this past April by RAWtools , using guns donated by Rainbow community members.

Click here to read an article written by one of the gun donors: Dad’s gun

Garden Tool

Etched at the bottom of this tool is the RAWtools logo (see below).

As RAWtools Director Michael Martin writes, “it represents an olive branch, like the dove carried after the flood–a promise of hope as well as a nod to never again.  Its the same shape as the olive branch in our logo inside the anvil. The anvil is the Christ figure for me, the forge is God/Spirit.  I love Pentecost for all of this. The best thing about the fire of the forge is that its not allowed inside- it forces us to go out.”

For these reasons and more, this gardening tool will be present in our Pentecost worship this coming Sunday, June 9. We will place it on the communion table along with this gardening tool blessing lovingly written by Lonnie Buerge:

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May it be so.

 

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