Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Being back in Colorado's crisp, cold air has felt like a refreshing drink that has reset my mind and soul.

This past semester and fall has been chock full of moments of feeling at peace, making time to stay healthy, tailoring my learning on things I care about (feminism, liberation, clerical celibacy, the Trinity), connecting deeply with a couple of people, and continuing to feel my call to be a minister, teacher, and chaplain.

Yet I also felt surrounded by moments of lost connections, deep insecurity (whether mine or another person's), and doubting my ability to engage with others.  It's been great living into the fact that it's more important to do what I need/want to do rather than trying to be the Kaitlin that I think everyone else wants, but in living into that I find myself not being the life of the party part of me that I lean on and appreciate.  This has required a lot of introspection for me this past month.  Do I like being a jokester for myself or for others?  Why do I have this compulsion to be the go-to person for others?

I spent much of last year spending a lot of my social time laughing, joking, and feeling that I was socially connected with a lot of people in my seminary community.  But in my deep inside, I was lost and lonely and unsure of where I fit.  Now I have places to be outside of the community, boundaries that I set for myself to have time for homework and sleep, and focus on precious people rather than pleasing everyone.  Deep down, my calling is clear and I have people that I have made wonderful memories with.  Yet I'm still here, in the confusion of being comfortable with who I am enough to not try to prove myself to others and still wanting to be a person people seek out to laugh with.  I'm in the tension of what it means to be me right now.

Anyway, that was a very long explanation of why I felt cloudy recently and getting back here to Colorado has been a beautiful comfort in showing me the ways that I am me.

I have streets that remind me of a girl who learned to drive timidly; there are coffeeshops that remind me of my first employment as a barista.  There are houses that I've been to countless times that are filled with faces that are etched with lines of laughter and tears that I have been active in experiencing.  There is a church in which I showed up to church early and stayed late (not by choice...), sang loudly, danced proudly, and played games when I maybe should have been in worship.  The cold air reminds me of the winter nights I drove with my windows down in order to feel the bitterness.  The quiet, dark nights in my neighborhood beckon for awakenings not unlike those of my teenage years; my soul feels refreshed so that I can feel deeply about new things.

My mind feels cleared so that I am able to articulate my stories well and interests spring up inside of me about the people and places that are changing along with me.  The twinkling lights scattered on the trees in the gorgeous Old Town Fort Collins stir up giddiness within me and bring a smile to my lips.

Fort Collins has been my home; my place for recharging.  I never sleep better than when I am comfortably in my bed in the room I spent most of my teenage years in.  I've struggled here, I've thrived here, I've grown so much here.  It's safe here.

What will happen once this place no more is a place where there is a house that has my family name attached to it?  When I will have a reason to not spend my holidays here, since there will be no place to vacation at?  When coordinating visits will no longer be as simple as showing up with a home to stay at?  What will I do without the refreshing breeze of change that flows through this place and into my heart?

What does it mean to refresh anew?  It means holding unto the home that my family has created with each other.  This house that was called home for 10 years has been stripped bare, but the memories are plentiful.  I've leaned on Colorado to be a place where I can clearly see me for me and now it's time to see the ways that I have been created me, without borders.

But this reminder and refresher of who Kaitlin is has been so delightful and helpful during this season of massive change for my family, so I'll hold on tight for all it's worth as long as I can (which will be just another 5 days....).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Transform: (a sermon).

Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
This question feels familiar on my lips. We ask questions like this every day. Questions like:
Is this job the one that will stick as my career, or am I still looking for another?
Is this is the house for my family; is the search over or are we back to square one?
Is the person that I am daitng the one I will spend the rest of my life with, or am I supposed to wait for someone else? Or, Wow my spouse is getting on my last nerve today, maybe I was better off marrying somebody else....
As we look around us and search for things in our lives that we know to be true and right, we also turn those questions in on ourselves.
Am I good enough? Or am I a shadow of who I could be?
Is this it? Is the path I'm on the right one for me?
So many questions. They feed into our consumer-driven consciousness, telling us that there must be a right and wrong choice. This natural urge to look for a definitive answer speaks to how important it is to make meaning in our lives. We are a people that are anxiously awaiting hope amidst devastation and struggle. In this Advent season, we are present now in our waiting of the coming of Jesus. As we look forward to the story of Jesus's birth, we see that we are still waiting for the answers of the mysteries of God.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
John the Baptist is asking this not only as an important prophet who had people following him, but someone who had been clear about his belief that Jesus was and is the Messiah. Now John finds himself stuck between his strong convictions and the painful experience of prison. I find it comforting to see that even John the Baptist held a quiver of doubt and fear when he sent his disciples to go to Jesus and ask if Jesus is the one that John had been waiting for.
I have also been in that place of questioning God and Jesus: Jesus, are you for real? God, have I rightly placed my trust in you? I spent so much of my teenage years thinking that I was alone in these questions and doubts. And yet here is a prophet that Jesus describes “as the messenger that will prepare a way for him” who is questioning and searching for truth. Rather than seeing doubt as a detrimental aspect of faith, we see in John's question that to be uncertain is part of life. We cannot be sure about what happens in our lives and we are not able to tangibly see who God is. So we hold these questions together in our hearts and minds.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
John the Baptist asks his question from a place of being uncertain; he wants to know that his life of being a messenger for Messiah has purpose. This question calls for a definite answer; a yes or a no.
But Jesus doesn't give a yes or no answer, which isn't necessarily out of character for Jesus or God. Moses asks for God's name in Exodus and God replies with “I am who I am.” God encompasses all that we understand about this world and then goes beyond all of those things. God is who God is and we will never have clear answers that give us a complete picture of God. Instead, We are able to see glimpses of God; Jesus speaks to this as he answers John.
Jesus tells John to look out into the world so that he can hear and see the works of God that are everywhere in this world. Jesus quotes Isaiah in saying that the blind will have sight, the lame will walk, deaf people will hear, and the dead are raised up. Jesus is pointing not to the properties of his holiness as Messiah but rather how people are being transformed in the world. Jesus is saying: “Do not look for me but see the ways I am working in the world.” We cannot fully understand what it means for Jesus Christ to be divine and human, but we can witness the actions that Jesus did and continues to do in the world. How do we live into being a witness to the works of God here and now? We are witnesses as we orient ourselves to be open to see the transformations that Jesus is doing.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the ways that I've transformed and developed into a young adult. Sometimes I'll be walking around Berkeley and all of a sudden it hits me: Wow, I'm such a different person than what the 13-year old Kaitlin imagined I'd be. Of course, my viewpoint was narrow since my biggest aspiration as a pre-teen was to be the youngest female country music star, but instead that label went to Taylor Swift. As awesome as it would have been to be a country music singer, I think that 13 year-old me would have been astounded by how cool I turned out to be. My hair is short and edgy, I can spitfire sarcasm any moment of the day, and I even have a tattoo on my left shoulder blade. And setting aside the easy ways to see change, I've gone from someone who held all of her questions inside to someone who calls out for people to discuss the pieces of life that are unknown. I recognize the gift that God has given me to sit in the tension of the insecurity and doubt. I've walked with my own fears of loneliness and uncertainty about the future and in the midst of the pain of growing up, I'm getting closer to realizing that the more you know of the world, the less you understand it. In some ways, I'm still that 13 year-old girl trying to figure out the ways to be secure in my own body and self. In that respect, I wonder what 60 year-old Kaitlin will think of who I am now as a 24 year-old.
I've gotten pretty good about living in the questions that we cannot answer and I feel like I am a good space in my life. I have a passion for helping people and am privileged to work towards being a pastor and leader; I will soon be surrounded by my family as my parents move to San Mateo this January; and I have meaningful and deep relationships that enrich my life. Yet here I am on tip toes, waiting for a pin to drop. I feel like John the Baptist and asking: Is this it? Am I the person that is to come; am I who I am supposed to be? Are we as a church community being the church that is to come? Are we living into the future that God hopes for us?
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
When you ask for clear-cut answers from God, most likely you will not get them. God calls us instead to reorient ourselves to look for the answers out in our community. When Jesus speaks that we will know him when we see that blind will receive sight and deaf will hear, maybe it is us whose eyes can now see and ears that can hear. By the gift of grace that we have been given through baptism, we have been born into a community of God. The Holy Spirit is active in our community; Do you see it? Do you hear it? Jesus calls us to look and to listen. Someone in your home is suffering; someone is hungry for deep connection. As we pause our life to open our ears to hear the pain of others, we connect our hearts together in a way that Jesus has called us to do.
Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
I wonder what it felt like for Jesus to hear this question from John's disciples. The weight of the label of “One who is to come” is heavy; Jesus knows the Old Testament Scriptures that describe what the Messiah will look like. Jesus has this Isaiah text in the back of his mind that says that God will come with vengeance and terrible recompense; Jesus knows that it has been written that in God, there will be a Holy Way in which no fools, unclean people, or beasts will be. If Jesus says, Yes! I am the one who is to come, does this mean that he will be the one of vengeance and judgement?
Jesus focuses on the part of Isaiah that shows that the coming of God means that people are changed; the lame will walk and the dead shall be raised up. The vengeance of God looks like a tiny child in Mary's arms, borne into the world as a human and as the Divine. The vengeance of God looks like Jesus teaching people that they are to love one another as themselves; judgement looks like Jesus healing the sick. The ultimate act of vengeance and judgement that God makes is Jesus being placed up there, on that cross. Jesus suffers as Christ on the cross and in doing so, we as humans are shown that the vengeance of God turns in on itself so that all who believe are saved by grace.
When we ask if Jesus is the one who is to come, we are looking for a sure answer that Christ is the salvation for all people. Jesus tells us instead to look at the people around us and listen for the ways that we are changed by the love that God gives us. Look around you—do you see the beauty of this world? Do you see the moments of rawness in pure joy and pure pain? Is that God, who loved you before you even knew yourself? Is that Jesus Christ, who has suffered so that all have already been saved? Or are you going to wait for something else to hold you together?
God has given us grace so that we can live freely in the spaces of sacred love that are here and now. Jesus calls us to be active witnesses in Christ and be the actions of Christ as disciples in this world. Christ has freed us so that we have the ability to create opportunities of transformation for others. We are Christ's presence in the world; we have a call to be a part of giving the blind sight and helping ears to hear. We are called to ask ourselves:
Are we the ones who are to come? Or are we to wait for another?
All this time we may have been waiting for somebody to create the changes we want to see in this world, but we are those somebodies. With the gifts that God has prepared for us, we can be the future in this world.