Friday, November 27, 2009

black friday -- now it begins

One hour and one minute ago, it started.

Stores across America opened at midnight -- if they closed today at all -- in order to rope in desperate shoppers and convince us that, yes, you really can buy your way to joy and intimacy. Please, don't believe the hype. By all means, find concrete ways to express your love for the people who have blessed you all year long. Find real ways to show your gratitude for the gift of Jesus' life among us (alleluia!). But don't feel you HAVE to jump into the fevered mall/online frenzy later today or this weekend or this Advent season. And don't feel bad if you don't have the money to jump in, even if you wanted to.

Instead, I'm wondering what it would be like to fast this Advent. To shop less. To read more. To spend less. To sleep more. To drink less. To laugh more. To eat less. To care more. To pray more. To love more. Basically, to create a gracious space where Jesus can come and dwell as fully in me as he wants (one of the real points of the spiritual practice of fasting, as I understand it). Would you join me in the fast? I'll still go to the holiday parties and have a blast, but the fun would come from the relationships, the hope, the sweetness, the light, the stories of the people around me ... and not just from the excessive consumption that strangely leaves you feeling more hungry than when you started.

I could go on. Instead, I'll include a link to our page on how The Crossing community is engaging The Advent Conspiracy this year -- a counter-cultural approach to the season of prayer and preparation for Jesus' birth. If you're hoping to take part in the Conspiracy, now is the time to take up the four commitments, all of which should help each of us to shift gears and engage in something like a fast this Advent.

So when you feel tempted to watch that 3rd hour of television this weekend, instead find a way to pray and worship fully. When you're at the mall buying multiple gifts for someone who's already got plenty, remember you could spend less. When you've spent hours online shopping for that perfect gift, remember that people usually want your presence more than any present, and instead give moreof yourself and your time (and maybe make a relational gift instead). And when you look at your gift-list, imagine how you could love all by expanding the circle to include people who are poorer and hungrier than most of us could imagine. Maybe even set aside some of the money you're saving by spending less, and join others of us in giving to the Mothers' Union in Maseno, Kenya.

It's going to be a struggle. Every message you hear between now and Christmas will say Jesus wants you to have more stuff. I think he wants more from us, more space within us. Let's give that gift first. The rest of them will just fall into place.

Giving thanks for each of you and for the unspeakable joy that is God's gift to us all,
Rev. Steph

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this must be special

(sent to the crossing community via email on nov. 21)

It is rare that I send a mid-week Crossing blast, so you might be thinking this must be special. And it is:

1. OPEN MIC GRATITUDE & POEM TO SHARE: I was heartbroken to miss Thursday night's Open Mic Night @ The Crossing, which was apparently Spirit-filled, mind-blowing and life-changing for many, many people. What a joy, to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week in the house of God! Huge gratitude to Penny and Alana and Justin and more. When you're ready to cry and praise God at the same time, scroll down to read a poem by Crossing member Michael Zahniser, shared during the Open Mic.

2. 4th SUNDAYS @ 6-8pm: EVERYBODY DOES THEOLOGY! Tomorrow is the 4th Sunday, which means it's time for "Everybody Does Theology", our community exploration of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. This month's focus is The Creation. Next month, The Incarnation. Come share deep thoughts, deeper curiosity and a passion to dive into the big questions that would've gotten you thrown out of Sunday School at age 10. CONTACT Keith at: DETAILS: 6-8pm @ The Cathedral (enter via side door -- 27 Temple St.)

3. THANKSGIVING @ THE CROSSING: It's a holiday, but it's still a Thursday. So please join us:
** Thanksgiving Day @ 10am-1pm at The Cathedral: Help with set-up at 10am, take part in a holiday worship service at 11am, and stay to help to serve Thanksgiving Dinner to hungry neighbors at noon. The Cathedral community partners with our Muslim friends to provide the meal. Sign-up to bring food or volunteer to help with serving -- contact Bob Greiner

** Thanksgivng Orphans Dinner @ 7pm at Rev. Steph's home: Rev. Steph and her mother Phyllis Spellers (flying in from Kentucky!) invite you to Cambridge for an amazing Southern feast. RSVP by Monday, Nov. 23, to Rev. Steph at or 617.482.4826, x318 1) to say you're coming or 2) to volunteer to make/bring food or drink. All are welcome, even if you come with a full belly from an earlier feast :)

4. ADVENT CONSPIRACY: By the time most of us gather again on Dec. 3, the Advent shopping season will be in full swing. Do you cringe as you imagine the consumer rat-race and busy-ness that mark the season of preparation for Jesus' birth? Then do something scandalous! Join The Crossing as we partner with friends around the world in The Advent Conspiracy. Read all about it at or contact Bill Comer, our local coordinator, at Here's how we're taking part:
  • THE CONSPIRACY: The heart of the conspiracy is four commitments: 1) worship fully in order to truly create space for Jesus in our hearts and lives, 2) spend less money on gifts and tell others they needn't purchase multiple gifts for you; 3) give truly relational gifts, the kind that share our presence, not just presents; and 3) love everybody, especially brothers and sisters living with extreme poverty.
  • THURSDAYS IN DECEMBER: Each Thursday after worship, we'll share a simple meal, learn about the Advent Conspiracy (including watching a video that members of The Crossing community helped to make), and share table conversations around reflection questions. If you would like to make/bring soup or bread, contact Travis at
  • (OR) SUNDAYS @ THE CATHEDRAL: The Cathedral Sunday morning congregation will also be making the Advent Conspiracy journey. If you can't attend The Crossing one night, consider going to The Cathedral: worship at 10am, formation at 11:30am.
  • GIFT-MAKING PARTY: Our final Thursday together (Dec. 17), we will stop talking and start doing. Bring your supplies and we'll eat soup and bread and make presents together.
  • LOVE ALL TOGETHER: Please consider setting aside the money you'll save buying fewer gifts or making gifts, and instead contribute to the Mothers' Union in Maseno, Kenya, an Anglican women's circle that is creating sustainable crafts and providing meals for AIDS orphans. This summer we sent two of our members to build relationships in Maseno, and we want to keep nurturing the link with sisters and brothers in that extraordinary community.
And now, as promised, the poem from Michael Zahniser, a straight ally who shared at the Open Mic Night celebrating the lives and ministries of queer folks:

"Household of Prodigals," by Michael Zahniser

I rejoice to be part of this household of prodigals,

these wanderers and squanderers welcomed home.

And I'm awed by this faith that believes, when the world

and even the church has shut its doors,

that the heart of God is still open.

But the truth is I have been the elder brother,

who stiffened at the sounds of celebration inside.

And the world is a wasteland when your heart is so hard

that you cannot rejoice to see a brother loved.

And to those who curse God's children, God

is a thick and dreadful darkness.

No wonder we thought God was angry - but not at you.

And those were dark days, desert days,

when I spat out words like a bitter taste,

drunk with self-righteousness and lonely as all hell.

But I'm here because of a brother who said,

"Michael, look in my eyes and see

the hurt, the fear, the fury, and know

it's there because of you."

A brother in pain who trusted me to care.

I'm here because God, when my mind was shuttered,

spoke to my heart and said, "I disown

your words. I disown

your works. I disown

the wounds you've inflicted in my name."

But I'm here because I could not survive,

I could not believe God's love

if not for you,

if not for your stories, where I've learned

that the heart of God is simple: love

its only substance, love its goal,

love its means and love its end.

So keep believing.

Keep celebrating.

And help the doubtful ones like me to see.

And know that the God you were told to fear

is on your side, and always near,

to love, to heal, to bless, and to set free.

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