My friend and colleague, the Rev. Molly Baskette invited me to share a mini-sermon on the occasion of her installation on Wednesday May 31st, 2017 as Senior Minister of First Church Berkeley and they are extremely happy to have her!
She is really awesome and I was honored! She asked a few of her minister friends to respond to this:
When you think about the moment the world and the Church are in, what IS The Pearl of Great Price? What is the great treasure to be grasped? What does the world most need that a good church and pastor can offer?
We are in quite a moment in our human history on this planet.
Many smart people, many deeply spiritual people agree that our world is in a time of multiple emergences and a moment of mass rethink. And that was even before you know who…
So much of how the world has been constructed is being undone, reformed, disrupted, causing both suffering and destruction as well as incredible possibilities for connectivity and shared prosperity.
It’s all happening so quickly and it seems that the speed of technology and globalization has outpaced many of our human capacities.
When we think about this moment, what is the pearl of great price for us as people of faith and conscience, as people investing our lives and vocations in communities devoted to love and kindness, as things change so fast, what is worth holding onto, what does the world need most that a good church and pastor can offer? What is the great treasure to be grasped? What is the pearl?
I have always had a thing for pearls because in the 1980’s it was fashionable among middle class white women to host pearl parties. At least in our little corner of the Pacific Northwest, the neighborhood moms would occasionally get together to sell makeup or kitchen stuff or candles, but I loved the pearl parties the most. Because the incredible thing about the pearl party was the element of surprise. When that oyster was pried open, the ladies would ooh and ahh, would it be two small pearls or a surprising grey pearl?
A pearl is special. It is the only jewel, which is a product of living matter. You have heard how a natural pearl is formed, it begins as something that is unwanted, like a parasite or a piece of sand…this irritant causes the oyster to secrete something called nacre, which is the outer coating of the pearl and it becomes strong, resilient, and iridescent.
So here’s the thing: The beauty that will emerge, the strength that is yet to be, the colors that will eventually show up, the special thing, It all starts with the irritant, it begins as an irritant, and with time, it becomes a precious gem.
This tells us that whatever God is, It is in the business of going to the heart of things and loving irritants, using irritants, transforming irritants into something else.
In this great book called Real Good Church, a wise woman and beautiful pastor wrote, “ the main thing to remember is this: look for the action in your community, and be in the middle of it.”
The worlds needs our churches to be oysters, to be right in the middle, loving irritants, hosting the irritants, the holy irritants.
So to your courageous and creative leader and to this progressive and engaged church here in this place, in this time, here is the charge:
Let your leader be an irritant, a holy irritant. And let this place be an oyster for the irritants. To love the irritants. Host the irritants. Be the irritants. Be a place to counter all the militance and stand up for immigrants. Be the irritants. Holy irritants. Be in the streets demanding peace, be the irritants. Be the stirring trouble, all are welcome, irritants. Be in the middle, praying little irritants. Be God’s faces in messy places, be the irritants. Love the irritants. Host the irritants. Because we know that Jesus was an irritant. A holy irritant. So plant the seeds for gems yet to be, be the strong, resilient, iridescent irritants…
Be the irritants in the name of God…and you’ll get pearls.
 Nacre (/ˈneɪkər/ NAY-kər also /ˈnækrə/ NAK-rə), also known as mother of pearl, is an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it also makes up the outer coating of pearls.