Thursday, August 27, 2009

Traditions and the Heart (Mark 7:1-8,14-15, 21-23)

Grace to you, and peace from God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Traditions are everywhere. This week we honor the Grace Lutheran tradition of Rally Day. Rally Day being the day we celebrate the beginning of a new Sunday School year. We will immediately follow today's worship by gathering all children and adults to play games and sing songs together before sharing in a pot-luck in Grace Hall. It is a tradition we have all come to know and expect.

Many families with school-aged children are making the transition from summer traditions (family vacations, more time with extended family) to school year traditions. (new shoes, earlier bed-times). Some of these traditions we are flexible with. Others we are not. Take grade-level for example.

This past Friday, my son Austen (whom many of you know) informed me that he was a sophomore. Just like that.

You would think that as his mother, I would know what grade he was in. Austen informed me I have been misinformed.

It is true, that as a homeschooling family, we have a little flexibility in what grades our children are in..but we usually know what the order of sequence is and follow it somewhat.

Austen had been held back when he was in traditional kinder-garden. He has spent the past 8 years creating a lifestyle that embraces a handful of both medical and educational difficulties. Through Austen, any idea of traditional learning I ever had, was tossed aside in order to let him be...Austen. And miraculously, in the past few years, Austen has been able to do both physically and academically things that we had once been told would be impossible.

That said, as Austen's mom, I was excited that he would be starting high-school. More appropriately stated, he would be joining the other homeschooled high-schoolers this year on his learning ventures. He would finally be a freshman. I have enjoyed envisioning what these next 4 years might hold for him.

Austen was gentle when he crushed my ideas on what the beginning of this venture would look like. It started innocently enough. We were sitting in a small cafe', drinking soda and eating pie.

Austen casually asks, "So what grade am I in...really?"

"You're a freshman. 9th grade", I respond.

"Hmm." He replies. "I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I'm a sophomore."

He has got to be kidding, I think. That would mean only 3 more years at home..and he can't. He just finished 8th grade!

"You can't be a sophomore. You just finished 8th grade." I break it to him gently. "It doesn't work that way."

Austen looks at me with a patient grin. "Well, what do school kids study in 9th grade? I've studied Ancient World Lit..I've read all the epics from Gilgamesh to Homer's Odyssey. I've studied Ancient World History from the beginning of Egyptian civilization to the Fall of Rome. I've studied Biology and Chemistry. And I've written the entire scripts for my Odyssey teams for the past several years."

It is true. He has done these things. "Yes," I respond."But you are just beginning Algebra."

Austen grins again. "Okay. Than I'm a sophomore who is bad at math. Settled."

And it is. Austen has challenged my pre-conceived notions of tradition yet again. But who am I to hold him back?

In today's gospel, Mark begins with what will soon be Jesus' ongoing conflict with the Pharisees. Jesus speaks of the tradition that fails the test. He points out that there is a kind of tradition that is wrong, that gets in the way of spiritual realities rather than pointing to them. In this particular instance a tradition of hand-washing. Jesus is more concerned with the condition of their(the Pharisees and disciples) hearts than of their hands.

Someone once said, "the heart of Christianity is the heart.

But what does that look like, exactly? This heart?

As many of you know on Friday August 21st the ELCA held our National Assembly. I would like to read for you a quote from Pastor Nadia in Colorado from her Sarcastic Lutheran website...

Among the business at hand was deciding on a full communion agreement with the United Methodists, which passed. And several historic decisions to be made around what this church's stance as on issues of human sexuality. In the end, we approved a social statement as well as policy changes which now allow congregations to bless and hold publicly accountable same sex life long monogamous relationships as well as to call pastors in such relationships to serve as clergy.

The debate on the floor between those at the green microphones who support these steps and those on the red microphones who reject these steps was sometimes inspired, sometimes insipid. Those in support urged the church to be open and loving as Jesus had been. Those opposed urged the church to heed the Bible. Both sides were passionate and faithful and I'm proud to say that throughout the debate the assembly paused every 20 minutes to pray together...

I watched the proceedings with my heart in my throat. I watched people say prayerful things, hurtful things, thoughtful things and idiotic things on both sides of the aisle...

And then a young pastor got up to speak at the green microphone and the first thing he said in a quivering voice was "anyone else frightened to speak? I'm shaking. Please pray for me" and the man standing right next to him at the red microphone reached over and laid his had on him and prayed while his brother of the opposing view, spoke. Then I knew that Jesus was really in-between the red and green microphones.....Not in some sort-of 'Jesus as Switzerland' sort of way, but in the you must lose your life to gain it sort-of way.

So where do we find a pure heart?

We find this pure heart through relationship with Christ...and sometimes that is really hard because we let ourselves get in the way.

...So let us not go to ourselves because as deeply as we hold our beliefs about social inclusion, or social justice, or as deeply as we hold our beliefs about social conservatism or personal morality..we do not have the words of eternal life. We have our beliefs, our convictions, our understandings of scripture..these are not to be taken lightly or walked away from. But they are not the words of eternal life. Jesus, the true Word of God, points us to life..and life abundant.

Let's again look to Christ. To whom else shall we go? He has the words of eternal life and offers all the inexplicable gift of his own self: body, blood and word.

Let us pray that the Lord make us one and have mercy on us all. Let us recognize that he is already doing so. Amen.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Steak Night and Community Dining

It is not secret that Brian and I have very little in common. Dinner with the family, however, was a shared common value that has probably done more for our sense of togetherness as both a couple and a family than anything else. It was a value and dream that we seemed to have lost as our children became older and busier.

Not only are schedules all over the board for every member of the household, but we are sucked in by the t.v. A few nights quickly become months as we hear ourselves saying "dinner is on the stove, fix yourself a plate." We are tired, we rationalize. We are still watching Letterman together..doesn't that count?

This summer we have been able to reconnect in a very strange way. It started with Steak Night at 11th Street Bar. Yes, my family has rediscovered family dinners at the local bar. Very sad statement, I know. Every Wednesday is Family Night. Bands play music, kids and adults dance, people in the community visit with each other.

We share meals and stories together. We become unplugged and reconnect with breathing life.

This weekly bar outing led to conversations with family friends on the benefits of communal dining.

At a time when many of our friends and family are overwhelmed with job concerns, etc. We have found that communal dining gives all of us a sense of control and support that we had taken for granted before.

We start with 3 families over for dinner 3-4 days a week for community dining in our living room. We quickly out-grow the living room and move to living-room and morning room. (It is still too darn hot for the back deck!)

We are sometimes tired and grouchy. We (the families) fix food for 10-15 people, knowing that there will always be someone (usually one of the teens) missing for soccer or band or a night at the movies, etc.

It is simple, really. This small way of building community. I fix a pitcher (or two) of tea. We plan ahead what nights various families are cooking what, we set tables and everyone else brings sides. We turn off the t.v. We sometimes put on a c.d..sometimes not. Everyone swaps the ups and downs of work.Michael loves to sing Louis Armstrong at the table very loudly.We try not to encourage him. The boys steal each others food. Cody says his Aunt Sandy is assaulting her every time she hugs him. He grins saying hurts. These hugs hurt!

Yes, it's true. We still have a few nights a week where we scrounge for dinner and sit in front of the t.v. But they are becoming fewer and farther between.

I am grateful to have this time to share our lives with each other.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back-To-School Supply List

This will be the shortest blog in history. (The beauty of learning at home.)

daily use: more food
co-op at the house: chemistry set, drafting set, art pencils.
Friday School: a chemistry book
Clothing: Old jeans and t-shirts that can get destroyed.