Thursday, May 29, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
But I have noticed that it seems more frequently than not that I will have to wipe my eyes during the middle of a church service. And it could be anything: there might be a lyric in the hymn, or something in one of the readings, or even the sermon, that zings me. I’ve described it as feeling like there’s a sling-shot…and I’m the target for the message coming out of the sling-shot and flying at warp speed, nailing me right between my eyes ricocheting into my heart. Unfortunately, I never have Kleenex with me, so I’m forced to resort to the back of my hand or my fingers to wipe away the tears.
And really: Episcopalians aren’t known for getting emotional over these things. So what’s the matter with me?
The matter with me is, I think, two things. First there’s the realization that what I’m hearing is truly a beautiful message for me as much as anybody. It feels like receiving a love letter from God where he’s reminding me how deep and abiding His love truly is, was, and will be forever. And then there is the other realization, which I’ll call growing pains. Those are the moments when I’m hearing something that snaps me to attention to some details in my life that I’ve been overlooking, or attempting to ignore. Those moments are the ones that don’t make me feel “good” all over, and yet it’s not like I feel “bad” or like a horrible person. More like I’ve been stopped in my tracks and I have to say, “Oh. Oopsah.”
A gospel reading for this past Sunday, from Matthew 6: 24-34, was a little bit like that for me. Jesus seems to be on a roll. He has already given his Beatitudes. Now he’s talking about how “No one can serve two masters…” He goes from that to:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what will you wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Jesus goes on to talk about the birds not having to reap and sow…yet God cares for them and provides them access to food. And lilies that are beautiful and grow, yet they don’t do any “work” to be adorned so well. And, in the end, Jesus is telling his audience that rather than focus so much on material, tangible, mundane things…instead seek the kingdom of God because God takes care of you. And he closes with this:
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Ping! Wait, she’s still upright. Let’s do that again: Piiinnnngggggg!!!
I kept my tears from flowing…a little. There were a couple that escaped, but I didn’t have a major meltdown. But I could have. Simply because that slice of Biblical advice was coming at a time that I really needed to hear that. I had had a pretty stressful week, trying to produce a cabaret show and deal with egos and off-stage drama that come with theatre. My business has been a little slow lately, which directly affects my personal income. Some close relationships have been strained. And I’ve had other things going on that have made me look closely at my future….read fret about things that may come to be.
And here’s the message: “Stop looking at things that are down –the-line and instead pay attention to the here and now. That’s plenty! You have what you need!” I believe all God wants me or any of us to do is to recognize the abundance we have…both in terms of the food and clothing aspect…but the concerns and cares that we have in our lives. We are not going to get from God more than we’re able to handle (afterall, God learned a lesson when He left Adam and Eve to the abundance of the Garden of Eden, and then they just had to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Clearly, humans could only responsibly handle so much abundance at a time).
Even when we feel overwhelmed by things, the overwhelmedness of the situation is really in our own heads. And even when life seems to be spinning out of control, or we feel as if we’ve been given a spoon to bail ourselves out of a sinking ship, rather than giving in to despair, those are the times to ask for help. And help may come from your family, from a friend, from a relief agency, from an anonymous stranger. But I believe all of it comes from the workings of a God who does not look the other way when needs must be met.
“Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”
Those words from the Gospel of Matthew have been with me since childhood and have become an important phrase for me as I have been walking in closer step with God these past few months. And yes, they’ve made me cry. They are part of the love letter that tells me God’s ready to offer me a drink when I am parched and have no water of my own, so don’t fret the lack of water in the refrigerator. If you have abundance of any kind, be ready to share. And if you are in need of sustenance of any kind, ask. Help is always out there.
As Jesus reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I move in circles populated largely by agnostics or atheists. And for all that an atheist will profess to be above the hate-spewing vitriol of a Pat Robertson or a James Dobson, I have found many atheists to be just as bad as a Robertson or a Dobson….only difference is the message. But it’s still venomous speech. And I find it harder and harder to listen to it. The deeper I dive into my own faith, the less I’m willing to listen to someone who wants to attack me and accuse me of being delusional. So I pull away, and look for people a little less strident who might be willing to have a conversation instead of a confrontation.
I’m not out to “convert” anyone to my way of thinking. As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, I don’t think there is any one “correct” path to God. My joy comes from knowing that people are discovering for themselves what it means to live into “the light”. As promised to Christians, this is what is meant by the promise of eternal life, and we in the Episcopal Church, are pleased to let everyone know eternal life can happen now. Today. And there is no need to have your references ready because God already knows who you are, and can’t wait to meet you wherever you want to meet up. And, if you’re an Episcopalian, He’s already got your cocktail waiting for you!
However, I welcome the person, be they friend or stranger, who is willing to hear me out on my beliefs. Someone who will listen to me speak my truth about how I find joy, strength, courage, and compassion through the knowledge that there is a God, and His love for me and everyone is never-ending. Those people don’t crop up in the LGBT-community very often. But I won’t give in to despair. And I refuse to think that I’m the nutcase for believing in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel of Matthew from the Trinity Sunday readings, Jesus is instructing his disciples to go out and baptize people in all the nations, teaching them to obey the commandments that he had given to them…the two biggies: Love God and Love Thy Neighbor. And he closes this reading with what I call “comfort language”: I am with you always, to the end of the age. The orders he’s given his followers are ones that will (as you later find out when you read the Book of Acts) get them into a whole lot of trouble, and not end very nicely for the likes of Stephen. But Jesus (God) wants them to know that no matter what happens, good or bad, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The same applies to us who take up the challenge to live out our faith in the world in our communities populated with people who think we’re weird for believing in a God of love, peace and harmony. We may be standing alone in the room in our belief, but as we stand our ground in the face of hostility, God is there. Maybe we'll speak up, or maybe Wisdom will advise us to hold our tongues and save our message for somebody who’s more able to hear what we say.
How willing are we to take the risk to be seen? How able are we to live out that other part of Matthew’s Gospel, which is echoed in the words of the Buddha, to be a light in the world and not to hide our lamp under a bushel?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Here in the blogosphere, I have a right to speak. And the opinions I express are mine, and mine only, unless I offer attribution to other people far wiser, or at least folks who have a slightly different take than I do. If you read the profile description of me, you’ll see I have no theological training. And what I’m speaking about, for the most part, is this ongoing process of becoming reacquainted with God and what all that has meant to me coming from the perspective of being one of His creations who also happens to be queer. To read more on my journey toward acceptance of myself as a creation of God, and not some experiment gone awry, look under the entries under the “Faith Journey” label.
Who gives me the right to speak out here on matters of faith? No person, that’s for sure. Not the Episcopal Church. I’m doing this all on my own. And I hope that for someone (or more than one someone out there who posts replies to my essays) that this blog is sharing some insight into how the God I believe in…the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…is working in triple-time to get the Word out: there is no one denied eternal life who wants it. And this message is brought to you at this blog from one who is a most unlikely messenger!
Up until about six or seven months ago, I didn’t read the Bible, or the Book of Common Prayer, or contemplate the nature and workings of God in the world at all. Ever. In fact, if someone had told me that I would be writing a blog such as this one, I would have laughed in their face while calling in the men in the white coats to haul away the lunatic who would suggest such a thing. I wasn’t an atheist or agnostic. I still identified as Christian, but I kept it quiet, and wasn’t exactly practicing the rituals of my faith…save for at Christmas and Easter. I had a Bible and a BCP. But I figured with the prayer book that my years of serving as an acolyte had exposed me plenty to the language of "the red book" and there was nothing there for me.
What changed everything was the death of my father. His dying forced me to go back to church for not one, but two funeral services. And that would have been fine except for the hymns that started playing over and over in my head. Each song had a particular message and each time I tried to find ways to drown them out, the hymns only came faster and with more insistence. Then there was the Sunday morning when I was “summoned” with some kind of very strong voice in my head that told me I had to “show up” at church. I thought it was crazy. I thought I was crazy! But I went, and I am still going. And I’m increasingly fascinated with the passages that are read each week. And every Sunday it seems I come away with lots and lots to think about.
I’ll try to get some of my “thoughts” posted up here in the next few days. And just remember: these are my thoughts, my contemplations of scripture, my understanding of God which is limited by the borders of my brain, borders that are capable of expanding as I annex new places in my mind that had previously been happy to live in the dark. Stay tuned! And if anything I say here moves you positively or negatively, feel free to comment. You have a right to speak, too!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
In case you haven’t heard this secular version of “The Good News”….the Supreme Court in
Meanwhile, California Episcopalians, both straight and gay, have cause to celebrate. Blessings to all in the
Statement from the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Episcopal Bishop of
I welcome the ruling of the California Supreme Court affirming the fundamental right of all people to marry and establish a family.
All children of God should be afforded the same rights under the law, and this decision recognizes that all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation, have equal access to one of our fundamental human institutions.
This decision gives our church another opportunity to partner with our state to ensure that all families have the support they need to build relationships that strengthen our communities, state and country.
Jesus tried to free his disciples from a narrow definition of what it means to be his follower. In Matthew 10:42, Jesus says “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward. God affirms the good in the world outside the boundaries of religious creeds and dogmas. In this spirit, we also affirm and rejoice in this decision by the California Supreme Court precisely because we are Christians.
Clearly, this momentous decision will have ecclesial implications for the Episcopal Diocese of California. I intend to be in prayerful consultation with the people of our diocese to see how we can use this decision to strengthen our support of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers, and our witness to God’s inclusive love. The Diocese of California will issue an appropriate statement in due course.
From Integrity President, Rev. Susan Russell:
Integrity applauds the California Supreme Court for ruling today that it is unconstitutional to bar same-gender couples from marriage.
"The California Supreme Court today ruled in favor of marriage and against bigotry," said the Reverend Susan Russell, President of Integrity. "Integrity is proud to have signed the interfaith amicus brief that helped influence this decision, which we celebrate as a giant step closer to "liberty and justice for all."
Russell continued, "In 1976 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution expressing its conviction that 'homosexual persons' are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens. We applaud those who are working hard at the state and national levels to make that equal protection not just a resolution but a reality and we salute today's decision as a huge step forward toward that goal."
"As we rejoice in this movement forward on civil marriage equality, Integrity is working hard as to move the Episcopal Church forward on sacramental marriage equality," concluded Russell. "Although same-gender blessings are permitted by the Episcopal Church and are performed in a many dioceses and parishes, we believe the time has come for an official rite for blessing same-gender couples. Committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments, we will be asking General Convention to authorize such a rite a year from now in
Go forth in peace to love!
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
his the scepter, his the throne
Alleluia! His the triumph,
his the victory alone;
Hark! The songs of peaceful
Jesus out of every nation hath redeemed us by his blood.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
It is a good letter. It is an attempt to find that common meeting place where the Church (the Communion) can come together as one in the Spirit, one with Christ.
One without the one who is that one.
As I noted in the prior posting, I do not support the idea of straight people talking about us and not with us. And while the focus of the church should not be solely on lesbians and gays, our continued exclusion and second-class status within the church is a problem that the Episcopal Church has been wrestling with and in discernment about for a number of years now and it is an important issue, and it is time to stop the nonsense. The fact that gay Anglicans in Nigeria face possible death and the Primate in that country seems content to let such violence go on is an indication that there is a need for some serious soul-searching and reconciliation with the lesbian and gay community of the world.
It is awfully hard for me as a "queer" who believes that Christ died and rose again for my sake to hold my own in my largely agnostic-to-atheist LGBT-community and remain true to my beliefs when the leaders of my faith are content with letting me sit on the outside of the gate while they sip cocktails and talk in lofty terms about the "oneness" of our mission in the world. What am I to say when my gay brothers and sisters point to such hypocrisy as reason enough to remain hateful toward Christianity? What am I to say when the loudest voices in Christendom are those of the liars and cheaters and deceivers of the true message of God's love for all?
Again, my "gay agenda" is an inclusive and loving Jesus who challenges us to be as equally inclusive and loving. Tough to do, but it is what he asks of us. I'm game. Sure wish the ABC would let us play along!
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Come on! Open the gates and let us in! We want to be in communion with you!
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I suppose the best way to describe how I’ve been feeling at this time of Pentecost is edgy, and uneasy. Not in a bad way, mind you. But more in that way of when you can just feel something is going to break, and you’re hoping that it’s an opening and opportunity, and not a shattering and catastrophe.
I wasn’t in the room when the Holy Spirit arrived in a big gust of wind and fiery flaming tongue that granted each disciple with the gift of multi-lingual speaking and hearing. But I can imagine that such an event would have left me awe-struck. I don’t know that I’d be wondering if these guys were drunk (as some witnesses to the scene apparently did), but I can only imagine what it would be like to be in a room with a bunch of foreigners and suddenly—whoosh--I could understand the words they’re saying. Sort of like somebody decided to turn on the Star Trek Universal translator device so the humans could understand the Klingons and vice versa.
In this case, the translator is the Holy Spirit. And I think that Spirit is still in the world and attempting to move us to a new level of understanding one another.
Certainly, I think of myself as a new Susan, eagerly anticipating the next bold steps of the Church. As I’ve noted time and time again in other entries, the desire for many of us who are distinguished as being “Gay and Christian” is for the dialogue about human sexuality and inclusion of LGBT-Christians to happen with us, and not just about us. I am anxious for us to find a way of transcending the anger, and the bickering, by coming back to what makes us all believers in, as spelled out in the service of Baptism, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We are a small “c” catholic (meaning universal) church.
Part of the process toward making that happen, however, I believe rests with those who have been in the majority. A minority group can make itself known, and we can make noise and ask for an audience. But whether we’re heard and granted our chance to present our case rests with those who have enjoyed the perks of being in the majority. I see this process starting. I sense that under the leadership of our Presiding Bishop, there are slow, cautious, but not retreating steps toward a more inclusive church. And it is not happening because of a “gay agenda” being pushed by Integrity, or Gene Robinson, or some other “shadowy” figure. Instead, I think it is being guided by what already exists in Scripture. That the message repeatedly from God, as articulated by Jesus and followed on with the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, is a love that encompasses us all…no matter who we are. And if God loves all of us, then there is no one…gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, black, white, human, animal….that can be denied entrance into the
If the Church continues to prayerfully, and with clear purpose, pursue the path that I believe the Spirit has put her on…there will one day have to be full inclusion of LGBT-people in the Episcopal Church from our places in the pews and up into the pulpits as priests, and—yes--bishops. I believe this is what is meant by the ever-present number one hit of hymns in my head that “God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.” The purpose is to make us truly one body in Christ. All of us. Period. Amen.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I’ve gone around and around on this topic of what Mtr. Lee Shafer at
I’m not so bold as to guess what other parts of the Bible Bishop Robinson might want to talk about. But I’m going to dive into a passage from 1 Peter which was part of the readings this year for the Seventh Sunday in Easter. Because I think it highlights what is the real problem facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
“Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” 1 Peter 5: 8-9.
I believe that the roaring lion…the devil…that is on the prowl right now in the Anglican Communion is fear. Fear of change, fear of western thinking on human sexuality, fear that somebody somewhere is gaining equality and the fear of those who believe that when the “other” gains…the fearful somehow lose their superior position. The lion loves nothing more than to see the prey run about frantically and become increasingly nervous and confused until the hunter can pounce and devour its captive. And frankly that is my perception of those who have become so vehement in their anger and hatred of the Episcopal Church and the LGBT-members of the Anglican Communion. This fear of homosexuality has crowded out their faith that the Holy Spirit is still alive in the world, and moving God’s story forward. Without leaving anyone out who wants in. I believe that if God did not intend for Gene Robinson to become the bishop of
For me, Gene Robinson’s consecration not only made me think, “That priest who talked so candidly about faith with me as a teen-ager is gonna be the bishop of
The fear of change has become so great a force and such a “thing” that it threatens to distract from the true mission of the church to bring God’s message of loving redemption to the world, and continue our commitment to pursue justice, freedom and peace, and not forget the needy nor take away the hope of the poor. Certainly there are those, including Robinson, who want to get on with business already. And I believe if the Archbishop of Canterbury had included Robinson in the Bishop Bash at Lambeth and if people hadn’t made a big ol’ fuss when he was consecrated, we might be further along toward more light and less dark in the Episcopal Church.
“Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” Don’t give into the fear because fear of “the other” is what drives a wedge between us: gay vs. straight, male vs. female, Christian vs. Jew, black vs. white, fat vs. thin, citizen vs. immigrant. Fear and hatred of “the other” is exactly what the devil wants.
“Fast on fear and feast on faith.” Amazingly, that simple rule spelled out in a sermon on Ash Wednesday is more than just a directive for Lent. It is a lifetime lesson for all of us.
My favorite theologian, Rev. Robert F. Capon, has a great quote in his book, “The Mystery of Christ…and Why We Don’t Get It”:
“The truth that makes us free is always ticking like a time bomb in the basement of everybody’s church. And that truth isn’t a bunch of ideas. It’s Jesus. Sooner or later, if we just sit still and listen, he’ll blow the lid off of any prison we’ve built.”
Don’t become imprisoned from the fear, people! Sit still and listen for God. His will is at work.
“...the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5: 10-11.
Monday, May 5, 2008
The above statement was one made by Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson on the Diane Rehm Show.
How simple. How to the point. How true!
Those of us who live in both worlds of being queer and Christian have had to deal with the inevitable questioning of what our “agenda” is. And when we say that our agenda is to worship in our traditions, and hear the Word of God, there are those who insist on quoting one of the seven passages in the Bible that are quite often used to say, “See? God doesn’t like you!”
Sadly, those passages have become quite tiresome to hear over and over again, especially when they are used in ways in which I’m not sure the authors had intended. I believe that if the apostle Paul knew that he was being quoted so often and used as the man who stands between Christ and a truly penitent (albeit gay) heart, he’d probably have to write a whole new letter to a whole new church. And I imagine that letter would reiterate a point he has tried to make in the other books of the New Testament: “I’m a messenger! I’m not the one who died for your sins!”
On the Diane Rehm Show, there were those callers who chastised Robinson and asked him about the Old Testament passages in Leviticus and the story of the destruction of
And perhaps that is what makes gay and lesbian Christians (or LGBT people of any faith) such a different people. We have had to wrestle with staying open to the love of God and remain true to the nature of how He has created us in the face of a world that doesn’t always love us back. We have had to listen more closely for the call of our shepherd amidst the cacophony of the culture that says we are not worthy of such love, or that we are delusional for our belief in God. In other words, complexity doesn’t faze us because we are complex creatures! And that’s probably why I remain an Episcopalian. As the Bishop noted, our particular brand of Christianity encourages thinking.
Thinking. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. And when I have more to say, I’ll add another post. But right now, I have to go perform my “laying on of hands” ministry…aka massage therapy. Stay tuned!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
And so while the Episcopal Church struggles with sexuality, the United Methodists have slammed the proverbial door in the face of the LGBT-community by saying, again, that the national Church finds homosexuality to be incompatible with Christianity.
The debate over how to treat and what role gay Methodists should have in the church went on for two days at their General Convention. And the outcome was overwhelming defeats for various petitions aimed at making the church more welcoming. Not surprisingly, the Reconciling Ministries Network, the group that was trying to change the church’s teachings on homosexuality, issued a proclamation marking the pain of the moment.
And then, they had a celebration! Two women who met in a Methodist Bible study class 25-years ago walked through the area where the convention was going on, and across the street to a public place to get married. You can read it here.
As a final note, it’s interesting that all this went down in
Friday, May 2, 2008
And that’s when the Presiding Bishop so nicely provided some words to capture what’s been banging around in my head for the past few days. PB Katharine Jefferts-Schori was in Dallas and visited The Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, a church apparently with a large LGBT population…and a garden that needed blessing.
From the Dallas Voice:
One audience member asked Jefferts Schori how openly gay Episcopalians should respond to church leaders, such as Stanton (Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas), who aren’t supportive.
“Recognize that people come to different conclusions out of a deep sense of faith, and honor that,” Jefferts Schori said. “I think a lot of our difficulty right now is because we’re assuming the worst of people who disagree with us. When we can recognize another person as a faithful Christian who’s simply come to a different conclusion, we start at a much better place than we do when we assume that person is our enemy. So pray blessings on people who disagree with you.”
This is where I’ve been trying to go in my own thinking. I’ve been trying to figure out how those of us who are gay and Christian can sit in the same room with those who are Christian but don’t like gay people. The way I see it, speaking strictly in terms of the Episcopal Church, the progressives and the conservatives who are sticking with the Church have to start from our common denominator…which is laid out in the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God
The Father, the Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth
Of all that is seen and unseen…
If we can stand together on a Sunday morning, and say this prayer—and mean it---then my hope is that even as we disagree on matters of sexuality, we can do so without the condemnation and accusations that seem to have peppered the debate up to this point. I would like to believe that those who are unwilling to have these discussions have left already (as in Rev. Eric Dudley’s temper tantrum and bolting along with the vestry of St. John’s to form St. Peter’s). For those of us who have chosen to remain Episcopalians, I would like for us to find a way to talk to each other, listening and hearing each other. I want full participation in the Church, not just for me but for all who want to be there. We are all members of the body of Christ, and we all have a place in that body. As we talk through our differences, I hope that the words from Morning Prayer will be at play:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Meanwhile, back in Dallas…
Another gay audience member who said he met his partner of 10 years at St. Thomas asked when the couple will be able to walk down the aisle together and have their relationship blessed by the church.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen this year,” Jefferts Schori said, adding that the national church’s General Convention undoubtedly will revisit the issue when it meets again in 2009. “I think it certainly will happen in our lifetimes.”
I think the PB might be right on this, although she was speaking in Dallas and not Tallahassee and it might take my lifetime plus half of the next before there’s a sea change of that nature in Florida. Still, I am encouraged that Jefferts Schori believes the Church will one day see the light on this issue. And should some say that the blessing of a same-sex marriage would further tear at the fabric of the Anglican Communion, I say let us simply re-stitch it into a new garment to reflect the true love of Christ for all people. Can we agree on that?
If yes, then let us go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord in a world that needs love and help from on high!