Saturday, June 14, 2014

Long Lost Pals

So there is a big fiesta in the center of San Miguel de Allende tomorrow--so big that the major streets in that area are more or less impassible all morning.  This means that the Unitarian congregation in town won't be able to get to the place they rent out for worship.  They were going to just cancel, but then someone from the Community Church of San Miguel (where I'm visiting pastor during my sabbatical), decided to invite them to join us for worship since our gathering place is outside the center of town and so not impacted by the big parade/procession.  

Do you know what that means??  Sure you do.  That means that the Unitarians are coming to worship with us on, yup--that's right--Trinity Sunday!!  

And the name of the fiesta that has created this amazing coincidence?  

La Fiesta de Los Locos:  Festival of the Crazies

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Doesn't Speak the Language...

Yesterday I went to the San Miguel de Allende TEDx event.  I've been to one of the TEDx events in Claremont, so I knew a bit about what to expect, but this event was bigger and more complex.  For one thing, it was in two languages.  Some of the presentations were in English and some were in Spanish.  They gave out little headsets so that you could listen to a simultaneous translation of any presentation that was not in your language.  I took one, but I stubbornly did not use it.  I am trying to work on my receptive spoken Spanish comprehension.

At first I was very pleased and proud of myself.  I seemed to be understanding a good bit of the Spanish talks.  "Wow!" I thought,   " I've only been in Mexico ten days and already my Spanish is improving by leaps and bounds."  Then one of the Spanish speaking presenters gave a talk in which he used no power point slides or accompanying video.  Ooops.  My un-visually aided Spanish comprehension skills turn out to be much less impressive.

Which brings us to Pentecost.  It turns out you hear that story a bit differently when YOU are the foreign visitor in a city and cannot readily understand what the folks around you are saying.  A mighty act of God that overcomes the language barrier sounds really, really good. When can we start?

  I remembered the old debate among biblical scholars about whether the miracle of Pentecost occurred in the ears of the hearers or the mouths of the speakers.  In other words, were the disciples speaking in the same old Aramaic they always spoke and the visitors to Jerusalem could somehow miraculously hear them speaking in their own language?  Or were the disciples really able to speak in other languages?

The reformers, at least, seem agreed on this point.  The Calvinist commentators in The Geneva Bible insisted:
Not that they spoke one language, and different
        languages were heard, but the apostles spoke with
        different languages: for otherwise the miracle would
        have been in the hearers, whereas it is really in the

And later John Wesley agreed:
The miracle was not in the ears of the hearers, (as some have
unaccountably supposed,) but in the mouth of the speakers. And this
family praising God together, with the tongues of all the world,
was an earnest that the whole world should in due time praise God in their various tongues."

I think most of us still wish the miracle took place in the ears of the hearers. That way, we're off the hook for changing how we communicate; for communicating in any way that changes or stretches us. 

 But I don't think that's how Pentecost works.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Street in a Strange World

So--I have now been on sabbatical for one whole week.  I decided to give myself permission not to start blogging right away, but right away has now passed so it is probably time to break the cone of silence and share a bit of what I've been doing since wheels up at LAX last Thursday.

"Wait, what?"  I hear some of you who don't see me in real life that often asking.  You're where?

I'm on sabbatical.  For two months.  In Mexico.

I've been Pastor at Claremont Presbyterian Church for eight years.  I had been thinking vaguely about sabbatical since year seven.  I've known many Pastors who have gone on sabbatical, including one Head-of-Staff at a church where I was an Associate, but I had never been in one place long enough to consider one for myself.  There are big sabbatical grants that some people I know have gotten--but one of those got phased out by the grant giving organization and one of them doesn't work for folks in California, so I knew I would need to think of something else.

Then, one day, I noticed a tiny ad in The Christian Century.  It was from the Community Church of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico inviting retired pastors or pastors planning a sabbatical to apply to come be their "Minister in Residence" for two months.They provide travel costs to MX and a nice condo to live in.  You preach weekly and act as pastoral support to their lay led ministires.  I quickly sent an email to the address provided.  After a few emails back and forth and some phone conversations, they invited me to come for June and July.


Some of my pastor friends have wrinkled their noses and shook their heads and asked me, "How can it be sabbatical if you're still doing pastor stuff--even if its only part time?"

To which I can only respond, "Are you kidding me?  Two months.  In Mexico.  In a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and Best City in the World for 2013 by Conde Nast Traveler.  Are you seriously kidding me? Who wouldn't jump at the chance to do this?"

Not everyone, I guess.

It's possible that it's partly genetic.  My grandmother liked to travel, my grandfather not so much.  Whenever the travel bug hit and she began plotting a potential excursion, my grandfather would grumble, "Erma-you were born with wheels in your butt!"  To which she is at least once reported to have responded, "Well, Clayton, you were born with lead in yours!"

So I will tell you why this is sabbatical.  It's sabbatical because, after a couple of hours of writing and reading this morning, I got to walk the mile from my place into the center of town.  I got to sit in the main square and people watch for a while before taking a table at one of the outdoor cafes that line the plaza.  I got to order jugo de naranja and cafe; then I got to survey the list of various egg dishes on offer.  Huevos --and then a number of options, none of which were rancheros.  The names of the dishes all seemed to be either people's names or place names: nothing which would give a clue as to the actual ingredients.  I trust myself to say "Que hay en eso?" but not to understand the waiter's reply in rapid Spanish, so I just pointed to one.  When it arrived it was softly scrambled eggs, pinto beans and chiles in a delicious, spicy broth.  Nothing I would have thought to order, but wonderful.

That is why it is sabbatical.