The Opposite of Fear is Faith, a Sermon on 1 Peter 3:13-22

All readings from the day can be read here. Preached at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

1 Peter 3:13-22 Common English Bible (CEB)

13 Who will harm you if you are zealous for good? 14 But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness! Don’t be terrified or upset by them. 15 Instead, regard Christ as holy in your hearts. Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to defend it. 16 Yet do this with respectful humility, maintaining a good conscience. Act in this way so that those who malign your good lifestyle in Christ may be ashamed when they slander you. 17 It is better to suffer for doing good (if this could possibly be God’s will) than for doing evil.

18 Christ himself suffered on account of sins, once for all, the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous. He did this in order to bring you into the presence of God. Christ was put to death as a human, but made alive by the Spirit. 19 And it was by the Spirit that he went to preach to the spirits in prison. 20 In the past, these spirits were disobedient—when God patiently waited during the time of Noah. Noah built an ark in which a few (that is, eight) lives were rescued through water. 21 Baptism is like that. It saves you now—not because it removes dirt from your body but because it is the mark of a good conscience toward God. Your salvation comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at God’s right side. Now that he has gone into heaven, he rules over all angels, authorities, and powers.

“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do good?”

So opens our reading from 1 Peter today.

“Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”

While this letter is attributed to Peter, the Apostle famous for denying Jesus and then walking on water with wobbly feet, this letter is from the first century – some fifty years, or so, after Jesus’ resurrection. Continue reading

Committing + Confirmation: On Finding a Church Home

We’ve committed. Hell, we had our first confirmation class this morning.

After years of waffling, of hurling insults of elitism and masculine language, of denying the abiding current of the liturgy – a current that sustains and challenges – Jonathan and i are committing to the Episcopal Church.

I am not a commitment phobe. I am not afraid of routines or weekly commitments or sharing the peace with people i don’t agree with. I use a label maker for my bureau drawers to delineate socks from underwear, for Chrissakes.  I’m not the cliché anti-labeling (as much as i believe in the danger of a single story).

But i am very, very opposed to monogamy when it comes to church denominations.

It’s not a moral thing. It’s not even really a result of theological meandering rooted in my confused Protestant-Catholic dualistic upbringing. I don’t think any one person believes every facet of the catechism of their denomination. I’ve long accepted that part of being in the Church (and a church) is that i’ll never 100% agree. There are too many people in one community to ask for conformity. As deeply as i want a community to universally support feminism and such, i also know that this desire itself can be skewed to be a desire for conformity of mindset. It is the lack of conformity that challenges me to go beyond my own limited scope.

Continue reading

God as a Child

We moved eight times before my seventh birthday. Chapel Hill was the pin on the map my mother pressed into concrete, telling my father Switzerland and Singapore were perfectly commute-able for him, but her children had friends, and so did she, and that was the end of her moving.

Still, i’d spent hours in the stratosphere, legs dangling over the seat and nose pressed to the oval windows of airplanes. I thought if i looked hard enough, i could see angels in the clouds.

Continue reading

The Sisterhood of the Crapping Pants.

A few days ago, i hurled myself off a (metaphorical) cliff in one of those Lifetime-movie Leap-Of-Faith moments. It kind of made me want to hurl in a definitely non-metaphorical way.

The 24 hours leading up to the Big Announcement (which, in case you haven’t heard, is that i’m being published in an anthology called Talking Taboo) involved a lot of frantic Skype calls to J, juxtaposed to dancing around my room in my underwear. Mostly to Whitney Houston. Sorry, flatmates.

My oscillating between paralytic fear and booty-shaking happiness basically boiled down to two things. One: i was tea-totally-terrified of what was about to happen. Two: i was ecstatic with possibility-itis. It’s a frightening and beautiful thing to realize a dream. It’s effing overwhelming to share that dream with the world as you know it.

The book itself asked its contributors to be vulnerable – imperfect, honest, and fierce in conviction. “Truth-tellers,” is the phrase our fabulous co-editors use. So, on a basic level of the material itself being published, i was nervous. My essay is tremendously imperfect. Imperfect because writing is a malleable and elusive art, but mainly imperfect because what i have to say centers around my own fallibility. In some ways, my elation came from a sense of release. It’s a weight off to own what everyone else already knows: we’re all imperfect, no matter how hard we may not want to be.

While i was – and am – obviously thrilled to share the news with people, i also wanted to accompany every proclamation of excitement with: “but please tread carefully! That’s my naked heart you’re going to be handling!”

And then the emails and facebook messages started to pour in with congratulations and we-believe-in-you’s. My dancing turned into hands-hiding-weepy-eyes laughter. Teachers from years ago, friends of my parents, people i never expected to take notice. It’s been humbling and beautiful and the best kind of response i could hope for, naked heart and all.

But the best part of this whole process hasn’t been the ego-boost (though let me be perfectly clear: that is really, really nice!). It’s been reading the blog posts of my co-contributors, hearing and feeding off of their excitement and buzz for the Big Day.

In a multitude of ways, this book is the perfect authorial debut for me. The essay is compact, the editors fabulous, and the book’s premise is a belief i 100% uphold. Most of all, though, there has been such a sense of community in the truth-telling from the get-go. Grace Biskie, one of my co-contributors (and one of the ladies featured on the cover of the book!)  said in her blog she felt like crapping her pants, her piece in the book was so vulnerable. I left a comment saying we could form a Sisterhood of the Crapping Pants.

I’ve known, from day one, that this writing-from-my-core was risky business. People will not universally love what i have to say – even people whom i love very, very much. But whether they toss it out with the rubbish or not, i know i’m not alone in being brave. And that is the best kind of consolation.

So, thank you. Thank you for your reads, views, comments, liked statuses. Thank you for your thoughtful and uplifting messages. Thank you most of all for the outpouring of love. It means the world.

preorder the book on amazon here!

current jam: ‘summertime sadness’ lana del rey.

best thing: friends in all the expected and totally unexpected places.

Talking Taboo: The Big Announcement!

I’m seated in the church pew, unsaid words pressing against my clamped teeth. I’m chewing instead of talking for any number of reasons; i’ve had this experience so often i can’t delineate which memory belongs where. It could be a flagrant disregard of the female characters in the lectionary reading by the pastor. It could be a subtle refusal to even consider female pronouns for G-d in Sunday School. It could be when a member of the congregation makes a combo homophobic-sexist comment about a woman in leadership needing to be “straightened” out by a man.

I’m not in an obvious rage. It’s not always a rage – sometimes it is a thoughtful frustration. But the most important thing is that it’s quiet – i am quiet. I might rant, later, to my ordained-minister mother. She’ll remind me that women have come a long way since the days she couldn’t be a pastor by virtue of her gender. I’ll nod, but exclaim: “we’re not done yet!” If i’m being particularly good that week, i’ll pray. Pray for my anger, pray for the reasons i’m angry.

But i don’t start a conversation. My anger turns into silence, and this silence becomes the taboo i never dare to bring up with anyone who i suspect might disagree.

And the thing is, i know i’m not the only Jesus-lovin’ lady out there who feels this suffocation. I can’t speak for all women who encounter such prejudice – i can only speak for myself. And this what i have to say, boiled down to the basics: i have enough faith in Jesus and the Church that we, people of all gender identities, are capable of confronting the everyday sexism in Christian communities. Capable of engaging compassionately and critically in dialogue with one another about faith and feminism. I am capable of voicing my frustration, even when it requires boldness . It is time i stopped staying silent in the pews.

Because when a chorus of individuals share personal narratives, i think a truly transformative space for conversation can be created.

And that, i hope, is exactly what my co-contributors and i have done in a stupendously exciting new book. It’s called  Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith, and it’s set to be published in October of 2013 by White Cloud Press!!

Forty women under the prowess of two fabulous co-editors, Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, have each contributed their own story. An essay that embodies the marginalization they have faced because of a clash between our gender and our faith. In the spectrum of women represented there is an equally wide spectrum of perspectives – some claiming feminist as an identity, and some decidedly not. Women of many denominations, races, backgrounds, long publishing resumés and shiny-eyed newbies (like me!). Women coming  together to instigate a taboo dialogue.

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

A proper book! With a proper cover and everything!

But having a Big Conversation like this requires a lot more voices than the 40 contributors, which is why today we are kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to help launch Talking Taboo with a bang. It would mean the world to me if you would make a donation to the campaign. Your support helps generate conversation, and the conversation works to end these silences. As an added bonus, we’ve chosen May 7th because it is the feast day of Saint Rose Venerini, who was a teacher of girls & women.

As the youngest contributor to the anthology, i stand on the precipice of my adulthood filled with explosive hope because of my co-contributors’ courage. Having my own story shared in the company of women who have paved so much of the road before me humbles (and, if i’m frank, terrifies) me. Their courage leaves me cracking with expectation for the kind of boundary-transgressing dialogue this book will generate.

Mostly, though, i want to say thank you.

I said yesterday i have always wanted to be a published author. By the grace of G-d and some wonderful mentors, this book is making that happen. It’s people like you – friends, faithful readers, neighbors, kin, and internet-passerbys that empower me to keep writing in the spaces of silence. You are wonderful, and sharing this news with you wonderful people makes the excitement tremendously tangible.

So let’s go shatter some stained-glass ceilings, shall we?

For more information about the book: check out the campaign’s website!

Pre-order your copy of Talking Taboo on Amazon!

Like Talking Taboo on Facebook!

A prologue to today’s announcement.

current jam: ‘i wanna dance with somebody’ whitney houston!