“I’M A THEOLOGIAN!!!”
Of all the things I’ve ever blurted out — and quite loudly, so I’m told — this is probably the silliest one.
In 2007, I had a very dramatic skiing accident in Colorado. I fell hard and slid straight into a tree. It’s amazing that I didn’t end up with a concussion. I did, however, end up with a badly broken shoulder.
But before we got to the hospital, we didn’t know any of that. I was just being rushed down a mountain dramatically in an ambulance. I barely remember anything from that day, including that ride, so I rely on the memory of others — namely, Ben Johnston-Krase who was in the ambulance with me.
The paramedic in the ambulance was trying to keep me awake, so he kept asking me questions. I yelled all my answers in response. “On a scale of 1 to 10, Renee, how much does it hurt?” “THREE!!!!” I screamed. “A reminder that 1 is the lowest, and 10 is the highest,” he said to me. “OKAY! FIVE!!!!” (I… might downplay pain sometimes… but hey, at least I gave him what he expected — numbers).
Then he asked me another question: “So Renee, what do you do?”
“I’M A THEOLOGIAN!!!!” I blurted out at full lung capacity.
He wasn’t expecting that one at all. The paramedic looked at Ben with surprise. Then Ben kind of shrugged and nodded. “Well, yeah, that’s kind of true,” he said. I was 25 and in seminary. I liked to speak and write words about God, so I suppose that was indeed, kind of true.
Last week, I thought about this memory all over again when someone referred to me on Facebook as “a theologian.” I smiled, and all these years later, I thought, “Well, yeah, I guess that’s kind of true.”
I do like to speak and write words about God.
I do like to speak and write words about human connections in relationships.
I do like to speak and write words about our world and our callings within it.
And by the way, my definition for theologian is very broad and inclusive. When you do these things, you are also a theologian. We live this calling together. So let me blurt it out for you today: “YOU’RE A THEOLOGIAN!!!” It’s true.
So, in that spirit, a theologian among theologians, I want to share some news today. I think I’m going to blurt out something else entirely. I say it with excitement, trembling, and humility at once (after all, this is an attempt, and I can’t fully control the outcome, you know, like if someone will publish me…) Here it is:
I am going to write a book.
I’m a theologian, and I’m going to write a book.
Or in concert with this post so far, “I’M A THEOLOGIAN, AND I’M GOING TO WRITE A BOOK!”
I am going to write a theological book about kinship —
How do we understand our human relationships with one another, that we are more deeply connected than we often let ourselves imagine?
How might we open some theological frameworks for naming a reality as powerful and life-giving as Family-of-Choice? — Expanding our visions for family and close connections? Queering family? (Thanks here to our LGBTQ siblings) Lifting up awareness that scripture is abundantly full of stories where people deeply choose one another?
How might this shape a vision for Church?
And to begin to move in this direction — that is, to begin to write in this direction — I am first going to speak. I am so grateful for an opportunity this summer.
My wonderful friend and colleague, Rev. Brooke Pickrell, is going on a well-deserved Sabbatical this summer. She’s the pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church here in Ann Arbor. This congregation is so wonderful. It’s filled with people who have richly chosen one another and people who have lived with great advocacy and choice of their neighbors too.
I’m going to be leading worship there on Sunday mornings throughout the summer, and I’m going to initiate a sermon series in these same directions. There is much I want to lift up and celebrate in this congregation. And I’m hoping that the series is a great launching pad for lifting up the themes of kinship, ultimately to begin a larger writing project as well.
Here is the outline for the summer:
I. Family-of-Choice: A Theology (June)
How might we open some theological frameworks to consider and celebrate Family-of-Choice?
June 3 “I Will Go Where You Go”
Ruth 1:1-18 (Ruth and Naomi)
June 18 “Ide!” – The Gift of One Another
John 19:16b-27 (Mary and John)
June 25 “I Do Choose”
Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus and the Unnamed Leper)
II. Belonging: The Kin-dom of God (July)
In part two, I uplift Kingdom of God sayings from Jesus and consider how they might speak to us about belonging. Then I invite us to explore stories about five women in the New Testament who illustrate these sayings and expand belonging in new ways.
“The Kin-dom of God is like. . .
July 1 “. . . a mustard seed”
Luke 1:26-56 (Mary and the Magnificat)
July 8 “. . . yeast that a woman took and mixed”
Luke 7:36-50 (The Woman at Simon’s House)
July 15 “. . . treasure hidden in a field”
Matthew 15:21-28 (The Syrophoenician Woman)
July 22 “. . . a merchant in search of pearls”
John 4:1-42 (The Samaritan Woman)
July 29 “. . .the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old”
John 20:1-18 (Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection)
III. The Household: Church as Kinship (August)
The early Church was often called ‘the household.’ How might these themes of kinship impact our vision for Church?
August 5 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people”
1 Peter 2:1-10
Acts 10:1-48 (Peter and Cornelius)
August 12 “You have become very dear to us”
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-19a; 2: 14-16 (Paul and Timothy)
IV. The Fullness of Belonging
What if we allowed ourselves — really and truly — to recognize that we are deeply chosen for a life full of expansive belonging and calling?
September 2 “That you may comprehend the breadth and length, and height, and depth”
Luke 5:1-11 (Jesus and the Calling of the Disciples)
If you are a blog subscriber or perhaps a personal friend reading this post, and you’d like weekly recordings/manuscripts of these sermons, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t be publishing them here directly, but I am pleased to send them out.
Thanks for going on this journey with me.
“I’M A THEOLOGIAN!”