As a romance writer and Episcopal priest, we really should just have Amber Belldene write the definitive Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day mash-up sermon and then preach it as our own next week. That would be plagiarism, however, and plagiarism is bad. So we won’t. But who wouldn’t want to be a vampire on the wall when Amber gets in the pulpit on February 14 this year? Okay, we’ve squeezed enough blood out of this topic. Go read about Amber. Better yet, go read her books.
In other news, Lent Madness 2018 has gone global with an article appearing in the Anglican Communion News Service.
The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a book-loving Episcopal priest. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons — an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber believes stories are the best way to examine life’s truths, and she is passionate about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality — namely, that God made people with a desire for love, and that desire is the heart of every romance novel. Her sexy Hot Under the Coller Series features Episcopal priest heroines finding love and learning to be inspiring church leaders. She loves cocktails, history, heirloom tomatoes and she lives with her husband and children in San Francisco. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com.
1. If you could have dinner with any saint, who would it be and what would you serve? (and, duh, why?)
I’d like to meet St. Peter, who is to me the most relatable of Jesus’ disciples. I’d serve lobster and maybe some delicious fried prawns. Here’s why: one of my favorite Bible stories is the one in Acts, when Peter has the vision of all the unclean animals coming down on a sheet from heaven. God tells him to “Kill and eat.” Peter kind of freaks out, because he’s always kept kosher, and now God is telling him nothing that God has made is unclean, so Jewish and Gentile Christians can eat together.
I love the theology of this moment, this recognition that a community focused on sharing the Lord’s Supper must be able to eat together. However, I also sympathize with Peter and the ick factor of what God is asking. Eat reptiles!?! I grew up eating all kinds of seafood, and I love me a raw oyster. But I’m not very adventurous about delicacies I didn’t grow up with. So, if Peter is still feeling icky about the unclean things, maybe I can help with a truly gourmet meal. And if he’s over it by now, we can simply enjoy a feast.
2. What hymn would you pay money never to hear again? And which hymn are you convinced is on the play list in heaven?
I can’t think of any I’d pay not to hear again, but I would like to strike verse two of “O Come All Ye Faithful” from the 1982 Hymnal. That’s the one that reads, “God from God, Light from Light eternal, lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb; only begotten Son of the Father.”
Many hymnals from other denominations omit that verse, presumably because it’s very confusing. Why would anyone abhor Mary’s womb? Or does He abhor non-viginal wombs (which are most wombs in the world, BTW)? Research suggests this verse is a reference to early church heresies that objected to the idea of incarnation because women’s bodies, even virgin ones, are icky. So orthodoxy insisted the savior-embryo did NOT abhor Mary’s womb. Good job, embryo-Jesus! This is fascinating stuff if you’re a geeky feminist theology nut, but unless the priest is willing to preach that on Christmas, maybe best to skip the verse in our next version of the hymnal.
There are oodles of good hymns for the heavenly playlist! But many of my favorites are about heaven, (or the kingdom), so that gets a little meta. When the kingdom comes, will we still be singing “Lo, he comes” and “Come thou fount of every blessing?” That said, I vote for “What Wondrous Love is This,” for mood music up in the clouds, because, “when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on.”
3. You’re busy during Lent. Why do you make time for the Saintly Smackdown? What do you get out of it personally?
One thing I enjoy about the Saintly Smackdown is seeing what my fellow celebrity bloggers find to be relevant in the lives of the ancient saints. Their lives were so radically different from ours, and what the church who deemed them saints considered holy often differs from what we moderns think makes a holy life.
As one of the bloggers, it’s also fun to explore those historic versions of holiness. I learned so much about early Christian sexual ethics when I drew Mary of Egypt one year and kept diving deeper into rabbit holes on the Internet. As a romance writer interested in contemporary Christian sexual ethics, that research fascinated me.
Lastly, I’m interested in what the voters find moving and relevant, from what are clearly gut reactions in some of the comments to the profoundly thoughtful voting rationales. As a pastor, it’s a window into the way people think about their faith that folks at my church don’t often reveal at coffee hour.