Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fair Warning: Hamster Wheel of Climate Denial is Shutting Down

Fair warning:  If you post something on my Facebook timeline, my blog or my twitter feed (@LeahSchade) that perpetuates the denial of climate disruption, it will be removed and you will be unfriended.  This goes for posts, responses, or shares within the jurisdiction of my page.  Climate denial is costing lives, property and money.  I will not allow my social media sites to be a platform for that hamster-wheel conversation. It’s time for accountability, creativity, community and solutions. Anything else is a distraction and wastes valuable time and energy.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pivoting on the Fulcrum of Gratitude

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
Text: Luke 17:11-19

“Your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19

In this compelling story from Luke, ten people afflicted with leprosy - a contagious disease that affects the skin - approach Jesus and call to him from afar (knowing the strict rules about avoiding contact with the unclean).  Without even a wave of a magic wand, Jesus says the word and they are cleansed of the disease as they walk . . . skip  . . . run! to show themselves to the priest and be declared clean and acceptable once again. 

But one man turns.  It's not the kind of metanoia that indicates a 180-degree turn away from sin.  This is just a pivoting pause.  But it makes all the difference for what Jesus sees about the state of this man's soul.  Because this pivoting pause turns on a fulcrum of gratitude.  He turns back around and drops to his knees in thankfulness.  Jesus then declares that his faith has made him well. 

There are three different words used in this passage to indicate wellness. In verse 14 when the ones with leprosy realize their affliction is gone, the word is katharizo.  You can see the basis for the word catharsis, meaning purged or purified.  In verse 15, the Samaritan realizes he has been cured, and the word is iaomai, which means healed.  But in verse 19, Jesus says that the man's faith has made him whole.  The word is sozo, from where we get the word soteriology, meaning salvation.  In other words, this man's faith - which is based on his thankfulness (v. 16) has indicated a certain quality within his inner being.  And this quality indicates a wholeness that is more than skin deep.

What is it about gratitude that is so healing?  Evidence is growing about the positive ways in which gratitude affects your state of mind.  Cultivating thankfulness increases your level of happiness and satisfaction in life, your ability to reach your goals, and the quality of your relationships.  But studies are also showing that high levels of gratitude also correlate to increased health on both the physical and psychological level.

Apparently what happened with this man - a Samaritan, who was not only afflicted by leprosy but also looked down because of his status as a foreigner - was that his faith on the inside, pivoting on that fulcrum of gratitude, mirrored the healing that Jesus had caused to happen on the outside. 

But was it this one miraculous act of healing that caused him to suddenly be oriented toward gratitude so much so that it affected his faith?  That's certainly possible, but not likely, given that the other nine had the same experience and had no pivoting pause.  It's more likely that this man had cultivated his gratitude for many years, so that even in the midst of his affliction he found reason to be thankful.  So when this miracle of physical healing occurred, his spirit was already oriented in such a way that gratitude naturally followed. 

As Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances."  Notice he didn't say give thanks for all circumstances.  Because certainly there are things that happen to us that we are neither happy about nor should we force a fake air of humble thankfulness for our affliction.  Rather, giving thanks in all circumstances means that no matter what happens we give thanks that God is still with us, and is still working in and through us and others to bring about healing and wholeness.  Giving thanks is about trusting that God is still present, still cares, and is still active, even if we can't right away see the way in which that action is manifesting itself.  That kind of trust is what we call faith.

Who is the most grateful person you know?  Who for you exemplifies the kind of faith that pivots on a fulcrum of gratitude so that no matter what happens, they are able to trust the goodness of God and take appropriate action that aligns to this goodness and trust?  Who is that person who inspires gratitude in you?  Have you shared with them how much they inspire you?  Have you taken steps to follow what they have modeled for you?

I was in a pastor's Bible study about this text and one of my colleagues shared with me a question that had been once been posed to him: 
What would you have this morning if all you had was what you gave thanks for yesterday?

May this question give you a pivoting pause and help you to find your own fulcrum of gratitude.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review: Fracking America by Walter Brasch

Walter M. Brasch
Greeley & Stone Publishers, 2016
Reviewed by:  The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship, Lexington Theological Seminary, Lexington, KY

When future generations look back in confounded horror at the sordid history that led to the devastating effects fracking has had on their country, Walter Brasch’s book Fracking America will surely provide them with a detailed compendium to help them understand. 

Walter M. Brasch
Weighing in at over 600 pages, it is not a book that one will necessarily read cover-to-cover in one sitting.  This is not due to the quality of the writing (which is both meticulous and engaging), but instead due to the nature of the topic itself.  Reading about the ways in which industry executives, lobbyists, and both elected and appointed  officials at all levels of government have colluded to exploit the land, water and communities of this nation is infuriating and distressing.  And so it is recommended that this book be taken in small doses.  But do, indeed, take the doses. Because Brasch’s book, which represents nearly seven years of research, is a necessary antidote to the toxic effluence of advertising and public relations campaigns spouted by the oil and gas industry over the past decade meant to fool the public into thinking that fracking is a safe, “homegrown” energy that will miraculously grant America energy independence.  Fracking America, with its exhaustive research (supported with 70 pages of endnotes) and first-hand accounts of people on the front lines dealing with the deleterious effects of the fracking boom-and-bust cycle, testifies to the truth about the shale gas and oil industry often ignored by mainstream media.    

As an ecological theologian with many years of experience as a “fractivist” in Pennsylvania, I especially appreciated Brasch’s inclusion of the chapter “Theological Perspectives on the Environment.”  It is not often that journalists and secular writers recognize the important role religion plays in public policy and environmental consciousness.  Brasch not only realizes why the theological angle is important, but touches on several different perspectives, including the Roman Catholic stance articulated by Pope Francis, several Protestant voices, and the Jewish perspective.  He also includes the ways in which religion is being manipulated and twisted by several right-wing radical Evangelical organizations and politicians to justify the use of fossil fuels, discredit the science about climate change, and undermine efforts to care for God’s Creation by casting aspersions on Christian environmental efforts. 

Perhaps the greatest value of Brasch’s work is as a reference book for those needing to find information on aspects of the fracking phenomenon largely overlooked by most journalists and writers.  The index alone is 25 pages and carefully catalogues the topics and subtopics of this medusa-like topic he has taken on.  Brasch’s book is the mirror we need in order to see the fracking industry for what it really is without getting mesmerized by the corporate advertising that lure us into petrified silence.  I, for one, am grateful that Walter Brasch has cared enough about the injustices committed against Earth, children, women, men and communities to bear witness to this painful history as it is unfolding.  And my hope is that armed with the information Brasch has provided, these children, women, men and communities will align with Earth and rise up to take back their rights for clean water, air and land.

The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade is the author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press 2015) and blogs at www.ecopreacher.blogspot.com.  
Leah Schade at an active fracking site in Tiadoghton State Park near Williamsport, PA in 2012.
The shirt reads: Where Would Jesus Frack?

Thursday, September 29, 2016


The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

Today I heard the news that parts of Pennsylvania’s Act 13 which gave unprecedented power to the oil and gas industry for fracking have been ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL! I wrote about our interfaith protests against Act 13 in my book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).  Here’s an excerpt:

Just below Shikellamy Point, at the site of Shikellamy Marina on the southern tip of Packer Island, on February 17, 2012, a group of members from the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition (a group that I helped to found in January of 2012) held a press conference to protest the passage of Act 13 in the Pennsylvania legislature, the so-called “fracking bill,” which critics decried for its numerous inequities and failures to protect environmental and public health while ensuring the profitability of the oil and gas industry. According to Jan Jarrett of PennFuture, there are “seven deadly sins” in the legislation: the removal of the rights of municipalities to use their zoning powers to dictate if and where drilling may occur; failure to adequately protect groundwater; limitation of the power of the Department of Environmental Protection from adequately regulating the drilling industry; failure to provide for adequate set-backs of wells from residential areas, schools, or hospitals; failure to protect small, ecologically sensitive intermittent streams or small wetlands; limitation of DEP’s ability to put conditions on gas drilling operations that may harm a public resource such as a park or state forestland; and failure to establish a public record for tracking where gas drillers are disposing of the waste flowback water from the wells. There is also controversy surrounding the law’s provision that health care providers treating people exposed to drilling-related chemicals must sign confidentiality waivers to protect companies’ “proprietary rights.”[1]

Interfaith protest of PA’s Act 13 (the “fracking bill”) followed by water blessing at Shikellamy State Park Marina, convergence of the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna, 2012
According to StateImpact reporter Scott Detrow, “[T]he legislation requires drillers to provide the state with a list of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, with the exception of chemicals the energy companies deem ‘trade secrets.’”[2] The concern is that this puts a “gag order” on doctors that will negatively affect public health and leave doctors unprotected should they choose to reveal the chemicals to their patients or in research publications. With all this in mind, members of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition gave several speeches by the riverside (including one given by me, which can be read in the free Appendix download available at www.creationcrisispreaching.com) calling for the bill’s repeal on religious and ethical grounds. The group then held an interfaith water blessing ritual to recognize the sanctity of the river’s water. After pouring water from the river into a large bowl and saying a blessing over it, the water was ceremoniously returned to the river. The event was featured on the front page of two local newspapers in what may be seen as an example of public theology, wherein faith, religion, and the social movement of environmentalism converged. This is just one example of the ways in which religion and the environmental movement inform, shape, and influence each other, like different tributaries converging into one larger confluence.

Now we have learned that provisions in the natural gas and oil drilling law known as Act 13 were ruled unconstitutional Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2016 by Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This verifies what I and other fractivists have been arguing for years!  According to The Washington County News Observer-Reporter:  “The case, Robinson Township et al v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was challenged primarily in four areas – a medical gag against physicians; a provision that only public water customers would be notified of spills or leaks at gas drilling sites, not those who use private water sources; Public Utility Commission’s ability to withhold impact fee money if local ordinances didn’t comply with state law; and eminent domain privileges for natural gas companies using private land for storage of natural gas. All were struck down as violating either state or U.S. constitutions."  Read the rest of the article here.

Four years is far too long for this ruling to have come about.  And the oil and gas industry will certainly fight back with appeals.  But the lines of justice have been firmly drawn

ISEC Members 2012

[1] Jan Jarrett, “Seven Deadly Sins of Hb 1950, Http://Pennfuture.Blogspot.com/2012/02/Seven-Deadly-Sins-of-Hb-1950.Html,” in A Bear in the Woods: Environmental Law Blog (Pennfuture, 2012). The state Commonwealth Court struck down the zoning regulation portion of Act 13 as unconstitutional on July 26, 2012.
[2] Scott Detrow, “What You Need to Know About Act 13’s Confidentiality Requirements, Http://Stateimpact.Npr.Org/Pennsylvania/2012/04/19/What-You-Need-to-Know-About-Act-13s-Confidentiality-Requirements/,” StateImpact: A reporting project of local public media and NPR (April 19, 2012).&quot; <style face=”italic”>StateImpact: A reporting project of local public media and NPR</style> (April 19, 2012)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Salvaging the Squandered

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

How a strange parable from Jesus can give us the wisdom we need to address the environmental/climate crisis - and any other crisis of our own making.

Text:  Luke 16:1-13

On the surface, this parable looks like one we ought to hide in a box called “Things I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said.”  But as we’ll see, this confounding passage from Luke has a very important lesson for us as caretakers of God’s Creation, and as stewards of other responsibilities entrusted to us as well.

It’s the story of a rich man’s household manager who squandered his boss’ property, much like the prodigal son wasted the inheritance from his father in the previous parable (Luke 15:11-32).  The manager is brought before his boss to answer for the way he misused and neglected what had been entrusted to him.  And to be told to pack up the trinkets on his desk because security is ready to escort him from the building.  In a moment of devastating clarity, the manager realizes what a mess he’s made for himself, his boss, and for his future. 

But when he goes back to his desk he quickly makes some calls to every one of the clients who owe his boss money.  He makes some fast deals for them to pay fifty or eighty cents on the dollar, and to pay it now, in cash, and he’ll mark the debt as paid.  What would have taken years of trickling repayment took minutes instead, and resulted in a huge chunk of funds on the spot.  The full amount he lost in the long run was compensated by the immediate inflow of cash.  The clients are happy, the boss is happy, and (presumably) the manager gets to keep his job.  Everybody wins! 

Then Jesus follows up the story with these words:  “Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes,” (Luke 16:90).  Huh? A dishonest man who cheats his employer and is then commended for having acted “shrewdly” (NRSV) becomes an object lesson for the Kingdom of God?  What’s going on here?  Is Jesus actually advising us to scam and cheat and swindle our way into salvation?

Hardly.  Part of the problem with this text is the way the Greek has been rendered in some translations.  The word “shrewdly” in verse 8 is phronimos, which translates to “wise” and “prudent.”  Phronesis was one of the virtues extolled by the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said that prudence is the virtue of practical thought that involves the application of wisdom, intellect, forethought, investigation, deliberation, calculation, and judgment. According to Aristotle, “all the virtues will be present when the one virtue, prudence, is present,” (Robert C. Bartlett and Susan D. Collins, Artistotle's Nicomachean Ethics; Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2011; 134). 

So what we are seeing here is a man who had squandered what had been entrusted to him, but in a moment of crisis redeems himself by following the most prudent course of action.  Does it make up for the sins of his past?  No.  But he has at least salvaged what was left and made the best of a bad situation.  This crisis was a teachable moment.  The manager had a decision to make.  He could have broken down, he could have given up, he could have panicked. Instead he did some fast thinking, came up with a plan, reached out to others, and showed what kind of person he could be when it came down to the wire.  Now his boss can say: See what happened here?  See what you’re capable of?  This is the kind of person I want you to be.  I now know you can be better than you have shown yourself to be thus far.  Keep doing this – being resourceful, networking with others, taking care of the resources with which I have entrusted you.

Humanity has been like the manager in this parable by the ways we have squandered the household of Earth and Earth's resources.  Everything from forests disappearing, to species of plants and animals going extinct at alarming rates, to island-size mounds of trash floating in our oceans, to a climate that is being devastated by the use of carbon-based fuels are all clear evidence that we have misused and neglected what had been entrusted to us by God. 

And now we’re being held accountable for what we hath wrought.  Massive hurricanes and typhoons, rising sea levels decimating costal habitations, earthquakes and contaminated water from fracking, simultaneous floods and droughts, bleaching coral reefs, and countless instances of environmental devastation are just a few of the myriad consequences both of our actions, and our refusal to act to head off these disasters. For millions of people across the globe this is the moment of devastating clarity realizing what a mess we’ve made for ourselves, for God, and for this planet’s future.

But here’s the thing – there is still an opportunity to salvage something.  Individuals, communities and organizations are working feverishly to raise awareness about what’s happening and to do everything possible to preserve what’s left, to stem the flow of garbage and fossil fuel emissions and self-serving greed that has impoverished so many.  And these people and groups are networking with each other, combining their know-how and resources and creativity in ways that show us what humanity is capable of when we answer to the angels of our better nature (as Abraham Lincoln put it).  When faced with this crisis, we are seeing phronesis – prudence and wisdom – guiding our long-term planning, as well as our short-term decisions and actions.

Does what we’re doing make up for the sins we have committed against God’s Creation?  No.  As Josh Fox's film How to Let Go, starkly shows - we can't ever get back what we squandered.  Earth has changed forever and we are now living on a different planet than we did before the Industrial Revolution, even before the last decade.  

But there are ways to creatively salvage what's left.  As Bill McKibben so rightly asserts, we need to mobilize ourselves for this crisis, indeed for this war, just as the previous Greatest Generation did with World War II.  “We’ve waited so long to fight back in this war that total victory is impossible, and total defeat can’t be ruled out,” he observes.  So now is the time to marshal all our powers of wisdom, intellect, forethought, investigation, deliberation, calculation and judgment.  Now is the time to take action, to connect, to make the sacrifices in order to salvage what is left. (Two sites I recommend are:  http://www.howtoletgomovie.com/action.html; and https://350.org/).

Susan Bond reminds us:

Salvage work is messy, risky, and subject to failure.  Salvage work necessitates coming into contact with what is corrupt, touching the unclean, risking contamination. . . To say that Christians are involved in salvaging is to understand our own character as a being-salvaged community committed to the salvage of the world.  We are not somehow above the debris, but are part of the material being salvaged.  We join God in the ongoing salvage of the world.  To salvage involves getting dirty, taking risks, courting failure and social rejection. (Susan Bond, Trouble with Jesus, St. Louis, MI: Chalice Press, 1999; 142.)

Which means that salvaging efforts can work in other areas, too.  In your marriage, in your relationship with your sister, in your church, in your relationship with God . . . if you’ve messed up, if you’ve squandered and neglected and wasted what was entrusted to you – there is still an opportunity to take what remains and make the best of it.  The phronesis – the wisdom and prudence of God – is already at the desk making those calls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Lost Sheep, Lost Coins, Found Faith

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin in Luke 15:1-10 are well loved because of the message of hope implicit in each story.  The picture of Jesus with the lamb on his shoulders, rescued from the jaws of death, is a favorite in religious artwork. 
And how beautiful for Jesus to lift up a common woman doing common housework in the context of a strongly patriarchal culture as an illustration of God’s kingdom.
The Lost Drachma by James Tissot Overall-Brooklyn-Museum.
The text begins with Jesus asking a question:  “Which of you . . .?”  Who would actually leave behind the ninety-nine sheep to look for just one?  Who would expend so much effort for one coin?  It’s likely that not many would have raised their hands in Jesus’ original audience.  They’re just not valuable, so the effort doesn’t seem worth it, some would say (including the Pharisees in the crowd around Jesus).

But there are those who are indeed compelled to look for the lost.  And there are others who are extremely grateful for those who do that kind of seeking.  Just ask those pulled from the rubble in earthquakes, or on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington, DC.  Just ask the miners who were rescued in aChilean mine in 2010. 

Or ask someone who knows what it’s like to be lost – losing one’s way in life, straying from the path and vulnerable to all manner of threats, or inadvertently left behind.  It is a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach realizing that you are in a state of lost-ness – both for the lost one, and for those who are desperately seeking the one who has disappeared. 

So the relief and joy that comes from being found, or finding the one who was lost, is cause for celebration.  Books, movies and television shows are replete with this story line of the one who was lost finally being found.  It is the famous line in the hymn “Amazing Grace” – I once was lost, but now am found.  It is this kind of joy that we hope for when we take the time and effort to seek out the one who has slipped off the radar, the one who has gone astray, the one who has vanished from a relationship, or a family, or a congregation.  The stories of their homecoming celebrated by loved ones injects us with renewed energy and hope.

But what about those for whom we have been seeking for a very long time, and still there is no trace?  What about those on Sept. 11 whose lives were indeed lost and whose remains have never been recovered?  What about the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from violence who become lost along the way and are never found?  What about the relationships that we have tried to recover, but for whatever reason, seem to be gone forever?

I once ministered to the family of a man who had disappeared without a trace.  He simply kissed his grandchildren good-bye one afternoon, texted his wife not to look for him and that his leaving was not her fault, and was never heard from again.  His picture was shared across the Internet and across counters at stores near where his cell phone was last pinged.  The family searched everywhere they could think of to find him.  The police and local media did all they could to find a clue about his whereabouts.  Not even his vehicle could be found.  They did not know if he had taken his own life, or had gone into hiding, or had been kidnapped.  All they knew was that he was lost and could not be found.

After many weeks we decided to gather the family together.  We could not have a funeral.  But we gathered around a bonfire in the backyard for an evening vigil and prayer service.  We sang hymns and read Scripture – including this story of the lost sheep.  Then friends, neighbors, church folk and family members took turns sharing their thoughts, their anger, their confusion, and their pain – all in a circle of prayer around the fire, lighting candles in the gathering darkness.  Then we commended him to God and consecrated the ground – wherever he was – asking God to bless that place.  While he may be lost to us, he is not lost to God. 

God is the woman sweeping the house, shining her lamp in the darkest, most out-of-the-way places.  And one way or another, we will be found.  Because we are more precious than even a silver coin.  We are more cherished than even the lost lamb. 

This does not mean that those of us left with nothing but grief and anger and loss do not still feel the anguish of not knowing what happened, what went wrong, forever wondering where the person is.  But God will not stop looking for us either, in the midst of our despair.  The pain does not go away.  But neither does God.  The lost will be found. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Women's Power in Preaching and Ministry - Guest Sermon by Elise Kohler

August 14, 2016
Schwarzwald Lutheran Church in Reading, PA
Texts: First Reading: Luke 1:46-55; Second Reading: Acts 16:13-15; Gospel: John 20:11-18

Elise Kohler, TEY Scholar, budding preacher!
[I met Elise Kohler at a summer program for young theologians called Theological Education with Youth (TEY) held at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (PA), where I served as one of the faculty in the Lilly Endowment-funded program.  Elise is entering her junior year at Exeter Township Senior High School in Reading, PA.  She’s involved with Fellowship of Christian Students, orchestra, concert, jazz band and marching band, and Girl Scouts.  She and her brother Lukas, along with their parents Stephanie and James Kohler, are members of Schwarzwald Lutheran Church in Reading.  Elise is a member of the Mutual Ministry Committee, Youth group, Youth ministry committee, choir, and Sunday School.   

Elise was one of 18 scholars who spent nine days delving into deep theological discussions and developing leadership skills.  This was her second year attending the program, and upon her return home, her pastor asked her to preach a sermon about “women’s power in preaching and ministry.”  Elise and I brainstormed about women in the Bible who model the kind of leadership qualities that are important to her and we worked on crafting her sermon.  Below is her fine sermon – just one example of what is possible when we train young people to think theologically, equip them with the skills needed to proclaim the gospel, and set them loose!]

 [Watch the video of Elise's sermon here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6uuYDWCjoI&feature=youtu.be

When Pastor Staub asked me to do a sermon about women’s power in preaching and ministry, I said yes immediately- even though the idea of speaking in front of the whole church was a bit intimidating!  There are so many powerful women in the Bible, it was difficult to choose just a few.  I decided to focus on a few women in the New Testament - ones who used their God-given gifts and skills to help proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ.  Studying these women the past few weeks has opened my eyes to how strong they were.  As you will see, these women are a huge inspiration to me.  My hope is that you will find something in their story - and maybe even my story - that rekindles your own faith and a desire to act on that faith in a powerful way.

One of the reasons I was so excited to preach on this topic of powerful women of faith and their impact, is that two weeks ago I was a scholar at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg for a summer program called Theological Education with Youth.  For nine days, 17 other high school students from around the country and myself gathered to worship, learn deep theological concepts, develop leadership skills, and living in a safe and intentional Christian community.  Of course this also included just hanging out and having fun.

It just so happened that during our theology courses some of what we learned about was women’s power, ecofeminism, and how the world views women.  In the past often times women were thought of as lesser than men.  In the chain of command they were viewed on the same level as an animal.  Obviously the view of women is still changing.  We learned how important it is to look to the Bible and examine the strong women throughout the stories.  Through all of the years God has used not only men but women and children too.  We also learned that oftentimes women are viewed as the “mothers” and the “care takers.”  We also learned about how different parts of nature are feminized, such as “mother nature”, or the “mama bird.”  We discussed the importance of being aware of and having an opinion on how girls and women are viewed in society.

The three readings for today give us just a few examples of the ways in which God calls women of faith to use their skills, gifts, bodies and minds to proclaim the Good News of Christ and build the Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ mother Mary, for example, proclaimed that kingdom which was just a seed of hope planted in her womb.  Her Magnificat which we heard today is a bold declaration that God is continually reforming our world and righting the wrongs of injustice.

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ disciples and sat at his feet to learn – just like the men did.  I think it’s amazing that it was Mary who was the first to proclaim the risen Christ.  That means that the first preacher was a woman!

But she certainly wasn’t the last.  Lydia was another powerful woman who used her influence to bring people to Christ.  She was a successful business woman who sold purple fabric to wealthy clients for their expensive clothes.  When she met Paul at the river, she convinced him to stay at her home, and her whole family was baptized.  God was calling to her through Paul, just like God called to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus.

In my life there have been many instances when I have felt God calling me in some direction. I believe that there are no such things as coincidences in life.  We are all living the lives that God set us out to live.  I also believe in an inner sense of calling. Whether it’s getting a good feeling when you talk to someone, or that idea that just seemed to “pop” into your head out of nowhere and you can’t get it to go away.  Everyone has that little voice.  That voice is usually God.  In my own life I’ve found not to ignore that voice.

For example, this past year I considered joining a group called Fellowship of Christian Students at my school.  The only problem was every time they had a meeting I came up with an excuse not to go.  “It’s too early, I have to talk to a teacher, I have to finish my homework.”  The truth was, I was avoiding it.  I didn’t want to be looked at as that girl from the church club.  Finally one day I sucked it up and went.  I had been hearing about it and seeing posters for it, I felt the overwhelming call to go.

In a way it was like when Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Christ child grew in her. The seed of something new being planted.  The idea was small at first but it just grew until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  When God plants something in you it’s impossible to get it out of your head.  It’s constantly on your mind, until it gets to a point when you have to do something about it. So I went to the meeting.

I got there and there were only two other people.  After attending the next few meetings I watched those two people turn into one.  Then it was just me.  I started thinking about what changes could be made to the club to make it more inviting. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Just like Lydia, I knew it was important to reach out to other people with the amazing news about Jesus’s love.  She learned about Jesus from listening to Paul.  I, along with many others, have learned about Jesus right here at this church listening to sermons, going to Sunday School and Confirmation, going to VBS, and helping and participating in youth events.  Going to TEY took my learning to a new level.  God had already prepared Lydia to be a proclaimer of the Gospel when she when she met Paul at the river.  Looking back I can see that God was already preparing me as well.

It happened the day the teacher in charge asked if I would lead the club.  I said yes and asked a friend for help.  We both co-lead the club now.  There are about 10 members and it’s still growing.

But it wasn’t easy.  We had to plan meetings that sparked people’s interest, and fit their schedules.  We had to find a place in the school to meet.  We had to continue to push events, and there were a few failed ones along the way.  Overall, the trials were all worth it.  It wasn’t until our very last meeting that we finally had about ten people show up.  Everyone said they were excited for next year.

Just like Mary Magdalene learned, being the first apostle to spread the news of Jesus’ resurrection is sometimes met with resistance, ridicule and downright hostility.  But when God calls you to preach, sometimes you have to go against the grain to deliver the powerful message to God’s people.

My point in this is, God calls everyone, men, women, children.  God calls everyone, but you have to listen and accept the call! Where is God calling you?
          You might be like Mary, Jesus’ mother, and you have an idea for ministry that is planted in you.  How will you nurture the idea so it can grow?

          Or maybe you’re like Mary Magdalene at the tomb and you’re being called to spread the good news about Jesus, but you worry about how people might react.  How will you find the courage to share the Good News which might be just the thing someone needs to hear in their lives?

          Or maybe you’re called like Lydia, the seller of purple cloth.  Has God given you a network of people, or a set of skills, or a particular talent that is just right for reaching out to people to do the work of building the Kingdom of God?  Who is that one person you can ask for help, like I did, to help you take on a project that you may have thought too big for you to handle?

          These powerful women of faith are can be seen as models for us of what can be done when we open ourselves to God’s power and use our minds bodies, talents, skills and resources to proclaim Jesus Christ and build ministry in his name.  These women (along with many others) have been extremely influential on me and my life and choices.  My prayer for you is that a seed has been planted, or you've formed an idea, or a spark of faith has been kindled that will not let you go.  Listen to that little voice that’s telling you to go and do.  Amen.
TEY 2016 Scholars, faculty and staff