Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
In 1992... the predominant religious feeling in the county could be seen on signs like this one that was put up along Apalachee Parkway in protest of a Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
Today, clergy representing Temple Israel, MCC, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian churches spoke out in favor of the proposed Human Rights Ordinance. And although the clergy weren't there, St. John's did express support for the ordinance which will extend protections from discrimination in employment and housing to the LGBT community.
The impetus for the clergy to speak up came as some other churches have been ramping up their anti-gay rhetoric to stop the ordinance from going forward. As one could predict, the most right-wing churches have been telling their congregations that the County Commission is planning to adopt a "Homosexual Rights" ordinance. Hence, today's news conference emphasized the proper term--Human Rights Ordinance-- with some clarity that God is still speaking, and still drawing more and more people back into the fold, and has not shooed away the LGBT faithful or left them to be devoured by the wolves. Others noted that the application of moral codes of conduct from BCE times simply doesn't work in the 21st century. And still others made the point that it was an obligation of the church and church leaders to stand with those who are the persecuted, the scorned, and the most vulnerable to attack in our society.
In short, on the issue of including LGBT people as "Human" deserving of rights, the ones on the right do NOT speak for the ones on the left... or even in the center. And the left and the center are becoming a much bolder group.
Many thanks to those clergy and churches who lent their names and their presence before TV cameras to stand with the LGBT community. With you all beside us, we know that the enemy will not triumph, and God will continue to speak.
The "it" to which I am referring is the statement the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce put out on its website, encouraging its members to contact the Leon County Commission and OPPOSE the Human Rights Ordinance. The Chamber argued about the "costs" to small businesses in these "tough" economic times if they were pulled into court on charges that they discriminate against the LGBT community in employment issues. They said there was no "demonstrative need" for this ordinance and this represented another layer of bureaucracy.
In other words: we should be able to discriminate against "those people" if we want to. And this from the group that claims to represent the business interests of our community.
As you might imagine, the hue and cry from this salvo launched across the bow resulted in the Chamber removing the statement from its website. But the "apology" from Chamber President Sue Dick was something akin to the type of "apologies" the gay community often gets: I call it "Sorry to have offended you, but...." After carrying on about how the Chamber supports the "positive principle" of respecting all individual rights... Dick added this paragraph:
Before taking any action, we want to urge commissioners to deeply
research the issue further to determine the coverage provided by existing laws,
processes and protections -- and also to provide an economic projection of how
this proposed ordinance is likely to impact local businesses. Thank you for your
thoughtful perspective about this issue. I encourage you to send your input and
comments to either me, Matt Brown or Glenda Thornton (Chair, Chamber
Governmental Affairs Committee).
The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can always write to the Chamber and tell them, again, why there is no need to continously study this issue to death. Tell them that the "economic projection" of NOT extending protections to the LGBT community will result in many Fortune 500 companies looking elsewhere in Florida or Georgia to locate because they don't want to be in a place where some of their valuable employees will feel UNwelcome. And remind the Chamber that currently in Florida, there is NO recourse for LGBT people to seek redress for being fired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. There are NOT federal protections either. In Florida, you have to live in a county that has adopted a Human Rights Ordinance in order to feel protected.
Finally, tell Sue Dick and the Chamber that this only becomes costly to businesses that insist on discrimination. It's simple: treat people right, and you have nothing to fear.
The next hearing on the Human Rights Ordinance is tomorrow at the Leon County Courthouse, County Commission chambers, between 3-6pm. If you are a praying person, light a candle for our community. This fight for our rights is not an easy one.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
As I read, I started thinking... OK, What's going on here: Tabitha, who is Dorcas, is raised from the dead... the Revelation reading has the multitude robed in white having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, wiping away every tear... and, of course, there is the 23rd Psalm. Death and resurrection, tears and still waters. Is this a funeral?
Of all the readings, I was interested that the 23rd Psalm was what "popped out" at me. It is so well known... even to people who aren't in church every Sunday. All you have to do is watch the beginning of "The Vicar of Dibley" and you'll hear a sweet young voice lifted in song: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures..."
Still, even having heard the words of this psalm repeatedly to the point of "yawn", today I couldn't help but pay attention to the message I think it is trying to communicate:
The LORD is my shepherd; *
I shall not be in want.
Let's just stop there. Who is my shepherd? Is it money? Is it my spouse? Is it my boss? Or... in the situation on hand for us at St. John's... is it the Bishop? NO! The answer is the Lord is the shepherd. Follow, and trust in, that source. Moving on...
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *
and leads me beside still waters.
3 He revives my soul *
and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.
So, those two verses speak to the nourishment that comes from a faith rooted in God... and not those things which will fail. To be made to "lie down" in green pastures has always suggested "death" to me. But maybe it's not a physical death. Maybe it's the lying down of the old self into something rich and lush that leads to the soul being revived and guided along the path that God is leading each of us on. Just my thoughts.
4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil; *
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Translation: "Life sucks, but I will not let it suck the eternal life out of me."
5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those
who trouble me; *
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.
This verse was a particularly stirring one. I have this image of a huge banquet table with all the best food and wine... and it is there with a seat that is for me to sit in... while on the other side of the table, I see the ones who do not welcome me to this table. And yet, they are there, too. And I know that they are seeing me... and having the same response to me that I have to them. And yet both of us have been anointed on the head with oil (perhaps the seal as one of Christ's own forever?) and our cups are full to the point of over-filled. I also thought of "my cup is running over" as being a good line for how I've been feeling lately: overcommitted and stretched thin. And yet still finding the sustenance to keep extending.
6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life, *
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
With all of the above, if I am true to my end of the bargain, then I will feel that goodness and mercy that God is always giving and granting and delighting in when we discover it. "Dwell in the House of the Lord": this is a phrase that could go to so many places. But my immediate vision is that I will be filled with God's love... and live that love out loud through my body (the house).
Suddenly, a Psalm that I thought was such a downer becomes a real upper. Or more than that: a reminder and a touchstone to never forget God, and to do what I can to live a life that celebrates the Divinity within.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I had an interesting thought this morning while reading the Exodus lesson during Morning Prayer. It centered on the part of the Ten Commandments where God says, "Honor your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
For the first time, I saw a possible new meaning to what God is saying here. A much more pagan reading of the line. Instead of "father and mother" meaning your earthly parents, could God not be saying to us to honor "Father Sky and Mother Earth"? It made me wonder. Wouldn't it make sense in this moment at Mt. Sinai for God to reassert that through God all things were made, and that we are to treat all things as gifts and not just plunder and reckless take of the land? Makes sense to me. And as Mrs. Slocumb would say, "I am unanimous in that!"
If nothing else, this thought about Father Sky and Mother Earth gave me pause to reflect on Earth Day, and to give thanks for the air we breathe, the land we share, and the water we drink.
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--Prayer for Joy in God's Creation, Book of Common Prayer, pg. 814
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Leon County Commission will be reviewing the proposed Human Rights Ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, April 27th at 3pm. There are amendments to the ordinance to expand its reach to protect the LGBT community from employment discrimination, and to extend housing protection to people based on their gender identity. As one might expect in Tallahassee, there are people of faith who are for it... and then there are a whole lot more who are against it. And the opponents aren't afraid to pick up a phone and call their county commissioners. Nor are they afraid to make an appointment to talk to them. And they are definitely going to make the time to be present at the County Commission's meeting, armed with their KJV and NIV Bibles and breathing threats of God's impending wrath if the Commissioners allow even the smallest crumbs to fall to the floor for us "dogs".
Sadly, this is nothing new. It is not new for some people who label themselves "christian" to attack the LGBT community with words from Scripture, carefully culled to take them out of the original context and use them in ways that I believe turn them into stumbling blocks, and weapons of spiritual mass destruction.
A favorite Bible story these folks like to tell is the one from Genesis where Lot takes in two "strangers" and the men of Sodom come pounding on his door demanding that he turn them out, so that this gang can "know" them. This is the biblical euphemism for "rape". Lot begs them to go away, "how 'bout my virgin daughters?", etc. etc. The "strangers" turn out to be angels who blind the crowd of men, allowing Lot and his family to escape, and God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those who like to quote this story inevitably get fixated on the gang rape part... and that it would be man-on-man sex. What they never acknowledge is that the threat of rape is just a symptom of the bigger sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. The real sin is that the inhabitants of these cities had a reputation for being unfriendly, and not welcoming strangers.
Which brings us to the gospels. What did Jesus say to the disciples about what to do when they enter a town that does not welcome them?
"Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town."--Matt 10:11-15
Strong words, and that brings us to the 21st Century in Tallahassee. If we fully understand the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, then it would be wise for the Leon County Commissioners to think about this quote from the Matthew gospel as they consider the kind of "welcome" the LGBT community has received in certain quarters of the county. That "special" feeling of a promotion denied, of an application turned down, of the cold hard stare when inquiring about housing and being told there is nothing available, even when there are clearly vacancies.
In the Episcopal Church, we vow with each baptism to respect the dignity of every human being. What could be a more tangible example of that respect than to declare that it is wrong to use the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person against said person in matters of hiring, firing or housing?
I have said all these things before in many different variations on the theme; hence this is nothing different from anything I've said on this blog. What will make this situation new is if there is a critical mass of Christians who voice support for the ordinance, and if the County Commission comes through and adopts these changes. That would definitely be a "new thing".
The supporters of the ordinance at the last meeting on March 23rd were Commission Chair Bob Rackleff, Akin Akinyemi, Cliff Thaell and John Dailey. The opponents were Bill Proctor, Bryan Desloge, and Jane Sauls. Here's their contact information:
Bill Proctor, District 1
Jane G. Sauls, District 2
John E. Dailey, District 3
Bryan Desloge, District 4
Bob Rackleff, District 5
Cliff Thaell, At-Large
Akin Akinyemi, At-Large
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
And then the Archbishop loads up a rifle at roughly the eighth minute of the video, and aims it directly at his foot. See, I am willling to accept the first seven minutes of what he has to say because I buy into the belief of being a child of God. But ++Rowan continues to see me and other "mes" as embodied now in Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool as somehow not really part of that adopted group of children. (Please note: the Archbishop refused to even acknowledge that she is "Reverend Canon"!) We are the cause of pain, and suffering for the Global South... and Lambeth Palace. Our presence and our desire to claim the blessing that Jesus Christ so generously offers to all people is something that requires a new covenant to deal with us.
And what exactly does he mean at the end by "a new Pentecost"? Is that one where the Holy Spirit settles on only those who sign the covenant of Anglican exclusion?
Think what you will about the Archbishop's comments. I wish he had stopped at the seven minute mark.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Besides the sadness mixed with tiredness and maybe even a dose of relief from all of this, I found God was back to poking me in the ribs, plunking me on the forehead, and otherwise making the point that the center, the focus, of all things is not on a rector, but on God. There was an interesting juxtaposition that all of our Easter music was celebrating the joy of Christ's resurrection from the dead... amidst a situation that felt like a death. But, almost like a hand placed upon the shoulder, our processional hymn contained lyrics for reflection:
Not throned above, remotely high,
untouched, unmoved by human pains,
but daily in the midst of life,
our Savior with the Father reigns.
In every insult, rift, and war
where color, scorn or wealth divide,
he suffers still, yet loves the more,
and lives, though, ever crucified.
("Christ is alive", Hymn 182, 1982 Hymnal)
I wanted to halt the choir and the organ and tell everyone to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this information... please!! These words not only speak to the situation on hand at St. John's, but it speaks to our broader world. It is the music to counter the mayhem caused by Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church goons every time they show up in a town with their lies and deceit about "God Hates Fags". Such "insults, rifts, and war" that we commit against one another are nothing short of nailing Christ back up on the cross... and refusing to live into the resurrection. And it is the resurrected Christ that is the one who has redeemed us, all of us, no matter our color, wealth, sexual orientation or any other label we can come up with to divide ourselves.
It is that resurrected Christ who turned Saul from a persecutor of the church to one of the most prolific writers in praise of Christ in the New Testament. It is that resurrected Christ who the disciples encounter on the shore and gives them the instruction to drop their nets on the other side of the boat and--voila--fish for breakfast! It is the resurrected Christ who takes the terrified and ashamed Peter aside, and in an act of loving him more than Peter could imagine... asks him three times to say that he loves Christ... an undoing of the sin of having denied knowing Christ three times. And in so doing this, in so acknowledging and deepening his "knowledge" and love of Christ... Peter is given the most important task: to feed the sheep and tend the flock and become the first ordained priest for The Way.
These acts of turning us from persecutors or self-pitiers into pioneers of the faith are not just the stuff of tales from our Biblical ancestors. These things continue to happen to this day. God continues to work on people for the purposes of achieving a greater good in the world. So, as I contemplate the observation that "St. John's lacks a center", I think that the starting point for finding that center is right before our eyes in the resurrected Christ... in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the scales fall from our eyes to see that truth and live for that as the center from which all blessings flow. Amen.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ --Isaiah 40: 3-5
This passage from Isaiah is often heard in our liturgical calendar during Advent, a season in the Episcopal Church where it's customary for the clergy to be in purple stoles (although in my recent experience they are opting for blue, and using purple during Lent).
Regardless, these are words that have become imprinted on my brain and, like the vine, are a source inside me, especially when the winds of change begin blowing at near-hurricane force. I think of the upcoming consecration in Los Angeles of Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool and, in my heart, I know that means that a valley has been lifted up and a mountain made low. Things really are changing in the Episcopal Church... no matter what any individual bishop or priest may want to believe.
This change, I will call it a "purple change" (or violet, or lavender), is not without pain to some. But then, in my own experience, I think that the Holy Spirit doesn't always push lightly. Sometimes a gentle nudge here, and then sometimes a full body slam. Or blindness inflicted on the road to Damascus. And yet, the mantra that is repeated from one end of the Scriptures to the other is "do not fear":
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God!’--Isaiah 40:9
Here is the God who will gather all the lambs and lead the mother sheep. And not to be slaughtered by the enemies of Love. The roaring lion does go on the prowl looking for the lamb that has wandered away from the flock. The wolf will dress up in the clothing of a sheep in an effort to deceive and devour the flock that was to be tended. All the more reason for us to place our belief not in people, but to remember that it is God who has given all things. In this God have I trusted. In this God am I tested. And in this God, have I known the realness of God's unconditional and multi-colored Love. May you know it in your life, too.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Everybody's saying that hell's the hippest way to go
Well I don't think so
But I'm gonna take a look around it though
Blue, I love you
I've mentioned before that I often have hymns running as the background sound track to my life. It isn't quite as frequent as it once was, but it is often there, and making itself known. But when I started thinking about the color blue, "Come, Labor On" had to give way to one of my favorite divas of the Sixties and Seventies fame: Joni Mitchell and her song, "Blue".
The searching of the self does involve a lot of blue. At least it has for me. When I receive massage, blue is often the color that predominates the kaleidoscope visions that I have. And the blue has spoken to me as a representation of whatever might be melancholy in my life. Or it has been the insight into one of my own core issues: communication. Odd, maybe, to think that someone who was a public radio reporter for as long as I was would have trouble with communication. It's not that I have trouble as much as it is the tendancy in the past to have my fifth chakra, the throat chakra, close down and prevent me from speaking my truth.
Speaking one's truth is never, ever easy. Because too often, the hearer isn't interested in "the truth". How many times have you answered the question, "How are you?" with a smile and "Oh, fine."? Secretly, though, you are anything but fine. Maybe you're angry, or frustrated, or nervous, or just tired. Regardless, "fine" ain't what you are, and yet that's how you've answered the question. Often times, I think we say "Fine" because we don't want to have to explain the rest.
But to those of us who are LGBT, how many times did we answer questions about our lives where we deliberately hid the truth? Or how many times did we see the truth of ourselves right before our eyes, and deliberately shoved it under to prevent dealing with it? And at what personal cost to ourselves and our friends and family?
How many times did we or do we continue to answer that we're "fine"?
The prophets in the Old Testament are great teachers to us of what it takes to speak your truth... or rather... the truth of God. The story of Nathan dressing down King David for setting up the death of Uriah so he could have his wife Bathsheba to himself comes to mind. It takes some guts to tell the King, the handsome King, that he's been a no-good philandering jackass (OK, that's not how Nathan said it, but he might have done it that way if he lived today). Many of the prophets, worried about how to speak, found that God gifted them by putting the words in their mouths.
Thinking on blue, think of how God could use a few more in the world communicating the message that this Love is for real. And it really, truly is free... and it really, truly, absolutely includes all comers... no matter their race, gender, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. And then speak your truth!
Friday, April 16, 2010
Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory. --Prayers of the People, BCP, pg. 387
For me, it seems pretty easy to direct my intention and attention on the color green to be a reminder of all the living things that are around us in our environment. And with Tallahassee in full-bloom, green is very much alive!
The prayer I quoted at the opening is one that grabs me every time we use it in Church. I always have an image of garbage cans, and compost heaps as I meditate on what the prayer is saying, and how I try to remember not to put things into the trash that are better sent to recycling, or back into the earth itself. I credit my years living on the goat farm in Gainesville for making me hypersensitive to the needs of the planet, and everyone and everything that shares this place with me.
Green is the color of the fourth chakra, the heart, which given its connections to the earth seems logical. If we are, as we say "dust and to dust we shall return", then it would seem we have a strong connection to the ground on which we walk. It also is the term we use for things that are "new" as in this person starting a new job is "pretty green." In that sense, I see it as the patron color of all "beginners". This includes those people who are beginning to discover their true identity and accept their "otherness". So for any of you who are just coming out, this "Green" is for you.
"Coming out" is often met with some pain as well as pleasure. For those who find their true identity as one of God's gay children, it's a whole lot easier than for those who come to it later in life who are emerging after being locked in a closet for decades. At any age, there is often the uncertainties of how 'the world' is going to respond. For many, it has not been positive. Churches and other religious institutions have been particularly ugly, and some remain so.
However, the Holy Spirit... or as Wiccans might say "The Magick"... is afoot, and will not be denied. And as such, God's love is not going to die but will spread and will pump the greeness of the heart to the ends of the earth, and continues to plant that seed of unconditional Love into the souls of many. This, to me, is the pleasure part of "coming out". Acceptance of one's true sexual identity... no matter what it is... and the acceptance that this discovery is part of the workings of God to free you from a prison of fear, deceit, and hurt.
Go green! Not just for the environment outside, but the environment inside.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
I don't know if the whole group of them turned yellow in that moment... and if they did, it was again both out of courage to be friends with Jesus... and out of cowardice of being identified as a friend of Jesus in a world that punished those who proclaimed Christ the Messiah. As my mentor is wont to say, "The both/and".
Any one of us can live into our yellow tendancies to either be a friend or a coward. Any one of us can step out of our closets to be in solidarity and friendship with Love, or continue to hide ourselves out of fear of the cost that might be incurred by living into that Love. I hope our yellow is the one of friendship.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ --Gen. 9: 12-16
And there you have it: proof that God loves gay people because God put a rainbow in the sky to prove he won't drown us again!
Seriously, God is love. And God's love is given freely without black-out dates, or expirations. And one can feel that love in the core of our creative and sexual beings. Which brings me to the color orange. Again, pulling from the Eastern traditions of the chakras, orange is the second chakra and governs our creative and sexual expression... or creative sexual expression. This would be the place where I see the Church falling down on the job because now we are getting into a place where, let's be honest, there has been a tremendous amount of abuse and misuse of this gift given to us by the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. Please see all the headlines in recent weeks.
A while back, long before my wake up call, I realized, through listening and contemplating the words in the Song of Solomon, that God has gifted us with our sexuality. It doesn't matter what that sexuality is, be it straight or gay or both. God gave us the ability to be intimate with another so that we don't have to go through this world alone. And, like all things that God has given freely to us as gifts, the expectation is that we will understand that this is a special gift to us, and we are to be wise in how we use it. Looking to the apostle Paul, he notes that the commandments that pertain to do not murder, do not covet, do not steal... all fall under the commandment Christ gave to "love one another." In loving, you do not use another person as a means to an end. That's how I take the message of our sexuality as well. Like all things, we are to see the Christ in the other person, and treat them with the love, honor, dignity that God has shown us.
The first step of respecting another is learning to respect ourselves, and acceptance of ourselves for who we are. Another reason to come out of the closet. If you are living as if you are straight, you are lying to yourself and to others. If you are attempting to change yourself to be straight... when your natural attraction is to members of your own gender, you are not using the gift God gave you, and you are going to create more hurt for yourself and others in the end.
Take time to tap into the orange energy of creative sexual expression and know that this too, like all things, is God-given for our good use.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
So, I missed the presentation about our colors of faith... which took place at Temple Israel, and included Pagans and Buddhists and Christians and Jews. Don't know if there were any Muslims or not, or how many Christian groups were represented but I imagine most were what I would call "the usual suspects".
Even though I wasn't there, I know that the general theme of the evening was "True Colors" and that different faith traditions took a color and did a little reflection on said color. I loved the concept, and had toyed with offering to stand in as the representative of Tallahassee's Episcopal Churches and our all-inclusive welcome of "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You"... which today in our fair city no longer needs an asterisk. But since I wasn't there, and have free reign over this blog, I figured I would take this week to reflect on ALL the colors of the rainbow... beginning with "Red".
For those of us in the Episcopal Church, red is a special color. Red stoles and red altar decorations signifies special events in the life of the church, most notably the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit blows into the upper room and settles on those present to give them tongues on fire with the word of God in every language of any hearer in the place. It is the opposite of what happens in Genesis when God smacks down the Tower of Babel and scatters the people to and fro and confuses their language. Now there is a common bond, many languages that are as universal as notes on a page of music. All are gifted with the Word.
Likewise, God is continuing this work of gifting all people and calling us to see each other fully and completely as members of the human race... connected and undivided by labels and artifical barriers. The Holy Spirit blew away the fear that kept those in the upper room huddled together, and gave them the new breath they needed to go out and be their true selves as advocates for the unconditional love of God as was expressed through Jesus Christ. We are still being called by God to come out of our closets, our rooms, our prisons of fear, and show our true selves as believers that this Love, this God, is for everybody.
It is appropriate that red is also the color for priestly ordinations and the beginning of new ministries. It is the root chakra in Eastern traditions. Red is the starting point. It is about grounding. Grounding in the Divine, and embracing the essence of that divinity planted in each of us.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Of course, they did. And of course, they should. Again, the unpleasantness of learning that the Rector is leaving pronto not withstanding, church and worship on Sunday should not be about the Rector. It should be about God. That's the point! In fact, I was so into that point that I kept saying "Thanks be to God", even during the gospel reading.
But where the priests become the "make or break" point in the service is during the sermon. If the person in the pulpit delivers a mealy-mouthed message of platitudes... then I will tune them out. Sometimes, I'll see if there's a Bible in the pew, and do a little "additional reading" around the the verses that had been culled out for the lectionary of the morning. If the sermon is hitting on things from the Scripture, and making a point... I'll hone in and be all ears. If the sermon has nothing to do with the readings of the morning... I'll get agitated.
Unless, there is good reason to stay away from the lessons because there is a bigger lesson that needs some teaching and reflecting. Such was the case with today's sermon. And, in something that rather surprised me, not only did Mtr. Phoebe acknowledged what has transpired this week... she did so reminding us that God is still with us even as we wonder, "Wha' happened?" She told the truth: that St. John's is lacking a center. Lots of people doing. Lots of good things springing up. But there is still secrecy, and closed-door sessions, and lousy communication. And a lack of a clear, defined eye in the winds of Hurricane Doing. Perhaps with the departure of our Rector, we can take the time to figure out who we are and what we want to be, and get ourselves organized.
And another pleasant surprise: as almost a nod to those of us of the "other" set in the church, Mtr. Phoebe recalled the words of the song I have dubbed "The Queer National Anthem"... Gloria Gaynor's disco hit "I Will Survive".
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart
And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry, but now I hold my head up high...
After the service, two of the gay gentlemen of the church got to talking and we laughed at how we'd never expected to hear Gloria Gaynor quoted from the pulpit! It was, for me, a moment of levity without being flip or unfeeling about the rockiness of the situation.
I took action on her words, and made sure the head verger and the Senior Warden knew that I was there to help them to build our community. The Sr. Warden said, "I may well end up calling on you." To which I replied, "That's why I am offering. I wouldn't offer if I wasn't sincere."
And so it is true: I will survive. As long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive. And the same is true for the community of St. John's. Let's get to work.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I don't know how many will be there. I only hope it is at least ten. In Judaism, that counts as a minyan and we can have a service.
I'm not really sure what all will be said.
I will be there... in body certainly. I am pretty sure in mind and spirit, too.
I have had some talks with other members of the St. John's parish community. I have listened, and heard the questions... and seen the heavy sighs of their bodies. In turn, I have spoken my truth... meaning I have spoken about my experiences of our Rector, the Church, and the Bishop, and in the sharing, I keep it in my head and my heart to remain true to God.
That is what I think is meant when I pray the General Thanksgiving each day with the words that I will show forth my praise of God "not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days."
Our readings slated for Sunday emphasize this point... from the collect all the way through the Gospel which includes the scene of Thomas the doubter. After Thomas claims he needs to see the wounds on Jesus' hands and side, Christ appears and challenges him to touch him. It is then that Thomas believes that Jesus has been resurrected with the exclamation, "My Lord and my God!" But Jesus reminds Thomas "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
At this point, the evangelist John notes that Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
This is the truth of us today. We don't have the physical Jesus in front of us to show us the scars on his hands and his feet. None of us were there when he was crucified. And yet, we have come to believe. Perhaps through repetition of prayer Sunday after Sunday... or perhaps because we have felt the life altering touch of God. Regardless, we have come to believe that this crucified and resurrected Jesus is "My Lord and my God". And through God, we have life... in all its abundance.
"Abundant" life includes the nice and the not-so-nice times. The not-so-nice times as in the lives of the apostles documented in the Book of Acts, where they are hounded and tossed into jail and brought up on charges of continuously proclaiming Jesus Christ as the son of God. They are being told to shut up. And they are refusing to do so. Led by Peter, the apostles insist that they "must obey God rather than any human authority." And by yielding to the will of God, they are on a mission to tell the Israelites, "The one who was crucified is the Messiah... the chief cornerstone." Suddenly, the Temple authorities have more to contend with than just Jesus!
Fast forward 2,000+ years to today. The "now" of our lives. For the LGBT Christians, there is tremendous strength to be drawn from the belief in Jesus Christ. To know that an advocate for the unconditional love of God was not defeated... even by death... is extremely potent and powerful stuff. How often have we experienced the pain of what feels like a death... either from loss of friends or families who have rejected us... or by the soul-punching words "Faggot" or "Dyke" yelled at us, or written on our property? And yet, these "things" will not defeat us. Because our mediator with God went through this same pain, and gave as an example of himself, proof that out of death comes life... even if it means a period of lying in the ground.
This is true of St. John's Episcopal Church, too. We are experiencing a death, but ultimately, life will rise up from this death. We need to trust God and truly turn to God to be our strength and our song because God is the one constant force that is unwavering in support. There will need to be a period of being "in the ground" before that resurrection. But even in death, God did not desert Jesus.
Interesting that Jesus' greeting to the apostles is "Peace be with you." In the world of John's day, there wasn't a lot of "peace" to be found for those who believed in Christ as the Messiah. But the greeting was also perhaps a command: "Let my peace be with you." As we move forward in our lives, let's remember that we carry God's peace in us to meet and greet the uncertainty and disruption in our world.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Yay! We'll see what happens from here.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
A lesbian student in Mississippi who sued her school for the right to bring her girlfriend to the prom said she was sent to a fake prom instead.
Constance McMillen, 18, told The Advocate that last month's invitation to an alternate prom was a sham, saying that most students attended another dance organized by parents at a secret location.
"They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen told the magazine. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to."
"It hurts my feelings," she said.
Itawamba Agricultural High School cancelled its prom over the controversy sparked by McMillen's attempt to overturn the school's policy banning same-sex prom dates.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that the school district violated McMillen's constitutional rights, though did not reinstate the prom.
According to McMillen, the prom she attended was at a country club. She said of the five other students at the country club, two had learning disabilities.
"They had the time of their lives," McMillen said. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."
So, young Constance McMillen finds the upside of this nasty trick. And she and her girlfriend found common ground with the disabled in the struggle to be accepted for who they are.
As for the other students and parents of Fulton,MS no doubt they are "good christians". Hence they would be familiar with what Jesus had to say on their behavior, found in Mark's gospel:
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. -Mark 6:4-12
Shake off the dust of this hometown, Constance. And may those who have needlessly hurt you repent. For if they don't regret and apologize for what they did, justice may come in something more terrible than what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (yeah, that's right, 'christians'; you could go crackle, crackle, crackle!)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
This passage from today's morning prayer daily office has been nagging at me all day. Probably because it is one of those Paul statements that reads like a riddle or something. The kind that I tuned out routinely while sitting in church as a child with a shrug and a "Whatever!"
But I think what Paul is saying here, in defense of the resurrection (and, no doubt, to correct for whatever theology he's heard has been pulling the Corinthians astray)is a key element to what I think happens in this time of Easter. Namely, whoever we were before Easter Sunday, we are not the same person after the resurrection. We are changed, just in the same way that Jesus has changed from the man everyone saw before to the man who has been raised from the dead. I mean, he keeps showing up to people and at first they don't recognize him until he says or does something that is reminiscent of Jesus.
Now, before you accuse me of blogging while intoxicated, there is a logic to what I'm saying. Think about Paul. Paul never met Jesus Christ, wasn't there on the day of the crucifixion, but was a self-described "persecutor of the church." When he had the big encounter on the road to Damascus, he was meeting the resurrected Christ. And when he met that level of incarnation... the old Paul, named Saul, underwent a sea change... beginning with blindness, regaining his sight, and now having new eyes, he is no longer the person he was. The old "Saul" has died and has risen as "Paul", the biggest contributor to our New Testament writings.
I think this same dying and rising again is true for many people today. I think there are many who, at one time, might be characterized as persecutors of the Church, who are now incorporated and re-membered with Body of Christ. Certainly, from the outside, one might have thought me one of those types.
I think it's true, too, of what happens when a gay person finally comes to accept their sexual orientation. So many of us spend years and years struggling to "fit in" by pretending to be straight, and surpressing our God-given sexuality. We deny it, we hide it, we try to kill it through drugs or alcohol, we pack it down so hard that we become walking powder kegs ready to blow. But the day does come when we can no longer keep up the act. And-shazam-when we finally accept our queerness, and die to the "pretender", a new self, a more authentic self, rises from the ashes. And it is good! Good for the self, and good for God, who has known all along the true heart of the queer, and has been waiting for the real child of God to come alive!
So, during this Easter Week, think about who you are now as opposed to who you were. How have you grown and changed? Where are you now in your relationship to yourself and to others? Your relationship to God? What has died and become new?
To mark this sad date, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network (GLSEN) is asking people to contact their U.S. Representatives and urge passage of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. GLSEN has set up a web site which you can get to HERE to get specific information about this anti-bullying bill.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.--John 20:15-18
I have said that I think trying to preach a sermon on Easter Sunday must be a huge task. I mean, what is there left to say? What more can a person offer other than a shout of "Hallelujah!! And Thanks Be to God!!"?
God has done the impossible. God has taken death and turned it on its head. The Romans (Pilate) and the high priests (Caiphus) and Jewish leadership (Herod Antipas) had become friends in their common desire to crush down this rebel for the cause of love. For Rome, Jesus would be the warning to all the Israelites; any uppity Jew is going to be killed in a painfully slow and excruciating death.
So, imagine what that must have been for Mary Magdalene and the others to discover that their friend and advocate for another way, the way of love, had been resurrected. Not only has he burst the prison of the grave; he's blown it to smithereens!
Still, the interesting statement I see in the passage from the John gospel is when he tells Mary, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father." This feels to me like Jesus is saying, 'I've still got more to do... and I can't be kept here.' And he tasks Mary Magdalene (yes, a woman) to be the one who tells what is the very Good News that Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!
I've also understood that statement from Jesus as the warning to all of us who have come to believe in him; do not hold me in the human, solid, flesh and blood form, especially in that crucified form. Know that I have been that... and I am that and much more. And the "much more" will come with the ascension into Heaven, where he will be joined again with God and where he can do even more for us by being that link for us to God, a window in which we, those who are Christian, will see God. Besides, he is not the end of God's purpose. He has promised that God's purpose will be worked in the world when the Holy Spirit comes.
On this day, the Lord has acted. The joy and rejoicing of Easter comes in knowing that Love is alive and reaching out to continue touching and changing lives. Love is calling back all those who were driven into the wilderness. Love is reviving the dead and giving them new life.
Is it any wonder that the song that was on my lips this morning wasn't a hymn, but the Beatles?
"All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, Love. Love is all you need."
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I participated as a Eucharistic Minister and lector during the Great Easter Vigil at St. John's, which is one of my favorite services in the whole year. I was thrilled to be assigned again the reading from Exodus about the moment when Moses stretches out his hand, and God parts the Sea of Reeds and allows the Israelites to escape. There was one line in the text that really grabbed, particularly as one who is among the lesbian faithful in the Church. The Israelites were complaining (again!) and protesting to Moses that they would have been better off remaining slaves in Egypt rather than escaping to the wilderness:
But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.--Exodus 14:13-14
"The Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again." Those of us from the "other" status have faced so many Egyptians in our lives. I felt it again a few weeks ago sitting in the Leon County Commission meeting about the Human Rights Ordinance. All we want is protection from being fired or denied housing based upon our orientation... and there were three Pharoahs who, listening to the Egyptians, believed that the way to settle the issue was to put the lives of LGBT people up for a public vote.
So, when I hear Moses... a servant of God... saying "Stand firm. Don't be afraid. You won't be seeing these Egyptians again!", I hear a pledge of protection and an enormous amount of help to see that what is old will fade away... because a new thing is coming. I hear in that statement what all my elders in the LGBT community keep saying: the change we want to see is coming. Be still because God (and many others) are fighting for you.
That fight for Israel's freedom continued with Jesus Christ, the son of God. And his knock-out punch was to burst his three-days prison of the grave. This was done for the whole world, absolutely, positively every living, breathing piece of creation... be it flora or fauna or human being. For gay people, there is an enormous release when you contemplate the contempt Jesus experienced in the name of love... only to come out on top at the end. We know his struggle all too well in our own lives!
This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children
of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the
Red Sea on dry land.
This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered
from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness
This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell,
and rose victorious from the grave.--BCP, pg. 287
Therefore, let us be glad and rejoice in it!!
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the
crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and
rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the
coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This morning as I went through the ritual of Morning Prayer I could feel how tired I am. So this idea of resting, so that I might rise in the newness of life sounds like a plan to me!
My tiredness isn't just a physical one brought on by the abundance of pollen in the Tallahassee air. I am tired mentally. I am tired emotionally. I have had a lot on my mind and my heart during this Holy Week, some of which I have expressed here. Some of it has to do with the Church (universal and local). Some of it is has to do with my many secular activities. No matter the cause of my tiredness, I feel it and I know that at various times during the week, I have wanted to hide in a cave.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. --Hebrews 4: 15-16
In discussing some of what has been ailing my mind and spirit during confession yesterday, I was told to remember that important part of the passion play in the garden of Gesthemane. Jesus, knowing what is coming his way and the pain he must endure, demonstrates his full humanity by begging "let this cup pass from me." He "gets it". He knows that there are those times when life and 'the world' can feel too heavy to stand up, and that the responsibilities we're asked to shoulder may seem like they're too much. And yet he still says, "Not my will, but thy will be done."
I do not know, nor do I presume to know, what God's purpose is for me and my tiredness. I feel that God's presence and persistence in my life is for a reason. I feel as though all things that I am doing, and facing, are all a part of a greater plan which will be unfolded at the time when it needs to be unfolded. There is a legal term for that: "ripe", much like the fruit on the vine.
For now, I need to rest.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.--John 13: 36-38
Hearing this story now, 2000 years later, we all know what Jesus meant and we all know that eager Peter meant well, but could not take that extra step of denying his own life to be with his friend for a miserable, bloody ending. We call this day "Good Friday". It hardly feels "good" when we contemplate the events of the day that took place way back when in Jerusalem. It can hardly feel "good" for anyone who has been feeling the weight of the world this week. Truly, it feels as if we ought to call this "Grief Friday". Or "Good Grief! Friday".
The "Good" part, though, is not the act of brutally killing Christ on the cross. The "Good" is in the meaning of that act. Jesus didn't subject himself to this death for his own sake. Like that of the footwashing, this is the biggest example of "not for self, but for others" servitude. Jesus, following the will of God (a will he is intimately familiar with) is making this sacrifice of his human body as a means of, once and for all, taking away the sins of the world. He takes them away by taking them into his skin, into his heart, into his mind, into his entire being and allowing them to die with him. And from out of that death comes the salvation which he promised to all of us... even those who hadn't come within his reach during his ministry.
But back to Peter. He wants to know "Where are you going?" and Jesus tells him "You cannot follow me now, but you will afterwards." Peter insists that he'll lay down his life. But Jesus already knows THAT isn't true. What is true is that Peter will deny him three times.
This moment gives me pause. Day after day... and week after week... we pledge to give up our selves to follow God in righteousness and holiness. But to really do that means to be willing to go this way, the way of living for God, and not for our selves. Do we really do that? How many times do we say we will, but then we deny God? And I'm not talking about in the way Peter did it. That's different. I'm talking about the way we put objects of our desire first in our lives. The way we allow fear to govern our actions towards others.
As lesbian, as one who has taken on roles of leadership in my community that I wasn't really prepared to get into, I know I have felt that loneliness of living in "the crucified place". But I'm also painfully aware of my Peter tendancies. Probably more so on a day like today than most others. And so I look to God and say, "I'm sorry."
Thursday, April 1, 2010
It is interesting that for the evangelist John, the biggest moment at the Passover meal was not the words of Jesus declaring the bread his body and the cup of wine his blood. Instead, it's the washing of the disciples feet, done in a way to make them understand that to lead means to serve... not the self, but others.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.--John 13: 3-17
Much is made on Maundy Thursday about how, in this moment, Jesus humbled himself and took on the role of a servant. But as I thought about that, it would seem that this is merely an easy "paint by numbers" illustration he is giving them when, in fact, this is hardly the first time he has humbled himself to serve. The first time would be with his birth... as a baby human boy. God, the one whose thoughts are not our thoughts, nor God's ways our ways, became a servant by being born to a young girl and her not-quite-yet husband. His service continued through healing, through feeding, through teaching. This mission was never about Jesus saying, "Look at me!" This service was about "look into their eyes and have compassion and love."
And so, in case they haven't "gotten" it yet, Jesus washes the disciples' feet. And Peter, the eager one, insists on getting a full bath (what did I just say about "getting it"?) But Jesus insists that there's no need to clean the whole body, when its only the feet... which had been trodding about in the dust and dirt of Jerusalem... that needed to be cleaned. This is the city in which Jesus is going to be betrayed. Time to shake the dust off of the feet in the face of such a brutal "welcome".
During this Holy Week, one of our retired priests, Fr. Harry Douglas, has been talking about feet during our Evening Prayer service. As he noted, Mary anointed Jesus' feet. We were invited to consider our own feet, and our attitudes about our feet, and how our feet help us to take a stand. And then to consider that Jesus cleansed the feet of the disciples. Given the task ahead of them in the coming hours, days, weeks... ages... their feet were going to need to be ready to take difficult and important steps for the kingdom of God.
We are into the final hours of Jesus' time among us. In many churches, we are being asked to wait an hour with him. But what about the walk? Will we keep walking with him? Or, to put it another way, will we allow ourselves to accept the guidance from God, so that our feet may walk in the way of peace?