Sunday, August 31, 2008

To: God. Help!

As we remember Hurricanes Katrina and Rita...let's hope the people of the Gulf Coast areas are better able to escape to safety from Gustav. And keep all of us who live in the southern U.S. in your thoughts and prayers from now until November 30th...the official end of hurricane season.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

OK, So Who's Your Daddy?

I'm not going to go into great lengthy analysis of the latest round of communication from the Archbishop of Canterbury because it reads like more pandering to the mob in Africa. And I don't understand why the ABC can't leave well enough alone the good things that seemed to be happening at Lambeth. Others in the blogosphere who pay attention to all things Anglican may have a different take on the bishops meeting. Certainly, some of them were a lot closer to the ground than I was. But from the bits and pieces I was gathering via the Internet, the indaba discussions seemed to be key and critical for there to be a dialogue about tougher issues for the attendees. Millennium Development Goals, of course, were important. Fighting global poverty, better education, curing HIV/AIDS....those are all causes that any bishop anywhere in the world ought to be able to rally around. Human sexuality isn't comfortable because then we have to think about the fact that some people might be (gasp) having sex.

But, as I said, I am not going to get into this because it occurs to me that to waste time, energy, and space on the ABC and his angst is pointless. And getting all wound up over the machinations of humans does one thing and one thing only: it makes us sink like Peter because we've taken our eyes off of God as we walk out onto the water!

And so, realigning my focus, what I look at is the power (again) in the words of Paul's letter to Romans 12:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

To me, this is like the ultimate: "We're all in this together, and we all have something to contribute to the make up of the whole". And, another way I took this passage: we must be ourselves, and in being true to who we are, we contribute to the completion of the whole. When I meditate on those two thoughts, what comes to me is the importance of those of us who seek God and a deeper knowledge of God to recognize that there are other seekers of God who share that bond with us...even if they have no other commonalities with us. Each one of us is being invited into a place to bring all of who we are to bear because the whole of who we are may be the very necessary component to complete the wholeness of the community to which we belong.

Simple translation, from my lay lesbian perspective: gay people of faith have gifts...both because we have certain skill sets acquired from learning...but we are people who, many of us, have endured a great deal of pain and rejection and thus bring to the mix a sensibility and sensitivity that the majority may simply not be aware of because they haven't walked in our shoes. In a similar fashion, gay people can gain a lot from their straight brothers and sisters...starting with an appreciation that not all straight people of faith view us as pariahs. And each of us, gay and straight, have the common experience of being human and can be there for one another as part of the human family. That's what I believe it means to "love one another as Christ (God) loved us".

OK, let's say you're still fuming about the ABC and his insatiable appetite for an Anglican Covenant to define "Anglicanism" and risk excluding some members of the body, and his insistence on moratoria.

Last time I checked, the Archbishop of Canterbury was still a mortal. He hath eyes, and he doth bleed when you cut him. And the more we care about his pastoral letters, such as they are, the more power we vest in him as if he had any sway over us to begin with. The power, the focus, the important "thing" here is the love of God. And that is the more important pastoral letter that we should be following in our own lives.

In the words of St. Porky Pig, "Th-th-that's all, folks!"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anybody Got An Ark?

Tropical Storm Fay paid a lengthy visit to Tallahassee this weekend, and apparently enjoyed Lake Ella so much that she thought she'd help its banks overflow into the cottage businesses that surround it! Below are some pictures I took standing in the dry portion of the Black Dog Cafe's parking lot. Believe it, or not, there are normally sidewalks, picnic tables, benches....

Above: Head Over Heels Dance Wear is now dripping underwater...

Dead End is right! Few of the streets around this mid-town spot are passable.

Umm....what happened to the sidewalk? Oh, yeah: it's by the fence posts with the floating trash can!
And some people just want their privacy. Nobody's gonna fight her for a seat on this bench behind the Black Dog!

For the record: my house and neighborhood got through this storm in one piece. Many others did not. There were at least 2,000 city utility customers without power, and there are several streets that remain closed. Send us your best energy....and maybe some towels, too!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Why Evolution is Biblical*

It's ark time in North Florida as Tropical Storm Fay is currently dumping a ton of rain on Tallahassee. The ground outside the front door of our house is a sopping wet mess, and I can hear the sirens of fire trucks and police cars off in the distance. And I'm sure the cat has curled up in the corner figuring there is nothing better to do than to sleep and hope this storm ends soon.
I'd join in her that, but I am wide awake, and energized, and will more likely do some "not so light" reading for my Education for Ministry class. Nothin' like reading about the Priestly creation story in Genesis with its "waters of chaos" while there's rainy wind gusts of 30 miles per hour blowing against the windows!
And speaking of that particular creation story...let me launch headlong into that heated topic of evolution.
For reasons I don't really understand, as a species, human beings really want things to be black or white, right or wrong. To entertain the idea that there could be a middle path seems to cause a great deal of discomfort. I know. I was up close and personal with the 2000 presidential election in Florida. People don't handle messy very well at all.
The same seems to be true with evolution vs. creationism. Understand, I don't think one should read the creation stories in Genesis as being absolute literal truth of how things happened. I believe these stories are told, and were told by the people of that time, to make sense of the world and why things were the way they were. But I also see in the P story of creation at the start of Genesis a description of evolution.
If you read it, you'll see a progression that seems to track how the world evolved to the state of us having human beings. Ah, but wait: in the P story, the writer never says that God created the apes which then evolved into human beings. That's true.
In the First Chapter of Genesis, God creates living creatures, and birds, and sea monsters and orders them to go forth and multiply on the fifth day. Then he creates cattle, creeping things and wild animals...and once he's done that, now it's time to create humans in "our own image". Do the animals "evolve" into people? No, not in the writings here, but I am not focusing on that. What I think is more important is to see how this progression of creation takes place. And it happens in an order that would seem to follow the course of events as understood by science. All things came into being over a period of time (and God's idea of evening and morning are probably eons as opposed to hours) with humans being the last to arrive on the scene.
Sounds like a description of evolution to me!
Yet it seems those who are firmly in the scientific camp and those convinced creationism is the only right answer can't, or won't, entertain the possibility that they both are right at least in the P story of creation. The sides dig in, and lob hand grenades at each other. Because we humans seem to want winners and losers, black and white, right and wrong. Sigh.
By the way, I do think we evolved from the "wild animals". I can't look at the skeleton of any number of animal species and not see how closely we resemble them in structure. But even in my belief in evolution, I don't think these are just random mutations or experiments gone awry, but likely part of a plan that we can not comprehend, but isn't it fun to try. Recognizing the evolution of the various species doesn't take anything away from a power greater than ourselves that made it all possible.
Speaking of which, I have some "not so light" reading to do.
Sometimes the Universe is just a little too cosmic for me! I wrote this post this afternoon, and the New York Times ran this article on its website tonight. A Florida-based story no less. Ha!

Monday, August 18, 2008

North Carolina Notes

Hello friends in the blogosphere! I am back from my travels to the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham, NC, and I am quite tired. It's a long drive between here and there, but the trip was well worth it! I had a great opportunity to re-connect with my former chaplain and religion instructor from prep school in Hendersonville. And the drive from Western Carolina over to Durham was full of mountainous beauty. Ah, bliss!

My movie, "The Weimar House", had the same sort of reception it did when it played in Tallahassee: there were those who loved it, and those who seemed to not find the humor in its "fiery" ending. I don't know what to say except, "To each their own." Although I have a suspicion as to why this film...which mocks the mockery that is the gay marriage debate...didn't get the kind of laughter at the end that I would have expected. And to understand the reticence to laugh, all I had to do was look outside the Carolina Theatre on Saturday.

The festival, now in its 13th year, drew five protesters. One had his huge wooden cross. Another couple appeared to be in their teens. And there was the one African-American man in his "Jesus Saves" T-shirt who continuously screamed at people walking to the theater:

"Repent! Repent means to turn from your wickedness to Jesus! Your wickedness of man lying with man and woman lying with woman!"

For more than four hours, anyone trying to go to the theatre from the street entrance off West Morgan had no choice but to come under the verbal assault of this man trying to communicate a message of he interprets that message. Even an elderly lady making her way to the McDonald's up the street came in for his proselytizing message. And she snapped back at him, "I'm going to McDonald's, God dammit!"

The sad part of this display is that as much as this man claimed to be speaking of the love of Christ, he had an odd way of displaying that love himself. I wondered how he thought he could make headway with people when he started from a place of telling them they were going to burn in Hell...and, oh, by the way, Jesus loves you? It reminded me of the passage that is in Mark's gospel in which Jesus explains that it's not what goes into the person that defiles, but what comes out. And, as much as this screaming man may believe himself full of the Holy Spirit, his words of harsh judgement on the strangers in his midst betrayed his arrogance at thinking that he has a place to decide who is in and out of the kingdom of Heaven.

OK, so how did this dampen the humor of my movie? Well, "The Weimar House" is a mock horror film, in which the horror is the presence of a married lesbian couple in the neighborhood. The "christians" of the neighborhood decide they must protect the sanctity of their own marriages by driving out the lesbians. They assemble as a horde that marches on the lesbian's house, the Weimar House, and the clash between the two sides ends with hatred going up in flames in the face of love. Trouble is, when you have a real life representation of the 'christian horde' standing outside a theater, the absurdity of people chanting, "Onward Christian soldiers!" and threatening to burn the lesbians with their tikki torches suddenly becomes a little too real.

Folks from the festival saw me taking notes on this ranting man (who isn't just opposed to homosexuals and lesbians; he also doesn't like Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, lukewarm Christians, Masons, Shriners...). They're now looking forward to what I do with this material for the next Mickee Faust/dwp film short. And I'd like to write something, but what? All I can think of is Mr. T's famous line: "I pity the fool!"

For me, the antidote to this man's screaming tirade came on Sunday morning during a simple, wonderful service at St. Philip's Episcopal Church on E. Main Street in Durham. The words of Paul in Romans 11 hit home:

"I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all."

This message, accompanied by the gospel story of the Canaanite Woman in Matthew which is similar to the Syrophoenecian Woman story recounted in one of my other entries, is a reminder that the one you may not think is worthy of God's redeeming love may very well be a most worthy recipient of that love. It is not our place to judge. And it certainly is not the place of a man screaming, "Repent and Return" on a sidewalk in North Carolina to tell any person from the LGBT community that they are the dogs of "christian" society.

Yes, screaming man: repent and return to your own faith...and don't judge mine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Weirdly wonderful dream

My partner informs me that I have weird dreams. I don't know why she thinks that. Doesn't everyone dream that the Florida Senate President had redone the legislative chamber to make the room "Bigger and Brighter"?

OK...that dream was a little weird. But no stranger than some of the others I have, or written about here on this blog. The dream I had recently definitely scored high on the strange-o-meter. But some of the ideas as to why I might have had this particular dream were really wonderful.

In this dream, which occurred a few days ago just before I was waking up, I saw one of the final scenes from my favorite film, "The Wizard of Oz". It's the moment where Dorothy learns from Glinda the Good Witch that she's always had the power to go home. If you remember, her traveling buddies are standing around her, and now she must say good-bye to each of them. She starts with the Tin Man, who tells her he knows he has a heart "because it's breaking." Dorothy tells the Cowardly Lion she'll miss the way he used to call for help before he found his courage to which he says, "I never would've found it if it hadn't been for you." And finally the Scarecrow, who's got his brain, and Dorothy hug each other with little more than, "I'm going to miss you most of all." Having said her good-byes, Dorothy taps her heels together three times and repeats the famous mantra, "There's no place like home."

So, I woke up with this scene having played in its entirety with all the full-color images and dialogue in tact, and was again reminded of the phrase from this past Sunday's gospel:

"Get out of the boat!"

What's that all about?? Why did I experience this moment of movie memories and then one more round of "Get out of the boat"?

I talked it over with people. My friend Diana offered that each of the characters represent elements of God, and elements that are within me that I am discovering. My partner thought these were also the pathways to God (through the heart, through the mind). But in my own thinking I was also interested in the connection back to Peter getting out of the boat and walking toward Jesus (God) which he is capable of doing as he keeps his eyes forward and on Jesus....and then sinks the minute he feels the wind blow and lets fear overcome him.

The thoughts I have on this dream go in lots of directions. One thought is that each of these characters had to go through a lot to discover those powers they always had within them. And now that they've got them, they are ready to "get out of the boat"....the boat being the "old and familiar" way that they had been before they embarked on their yellow brick road journey.

But dreams aren't about the characters, they are about the this case: me. And so another one of my reflections is on the elements each were seeking: heart, courage, brain, and home. Going back to what Diana noted, these are parts of me that have all become more engaged in the past nine months as I float along on this boat ride. Similarly, Isabelle's observation about how one seeks God reminded me of those times when I have had fleeting glances at the "who" of God...mostly through dreams. And then there is the prayer we say in the Episcopal Church following the eucharist:

"Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. And you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his body and blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart through Christ our Lord. Amen."

You figure this is the "going home" prayer, the very time when we must "get out of the boat."


Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving Right Along

I think I am done with talking about Lambeth, Archbishops, Bishops, Episcopolitics, etc.

In other words, I'm going to try to avoid the bright shiny objects and return to more introspection and reflection.

And goes:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." --Matt 14: 22-33

I will get to the "why I marked that line in blue" in just a moment. First, let me say that when I read this (which I ended up reading it twice because I had already seen it once earlier in the past week) I was choking up with tears again in reflecting on how in those moments when I think I'm about to sink and drown, I have been made safe through the loving hand of God. So this particular Bible story "feels real" to me.

So, why the blue highlight amidst the red text? Well, while I was thinking about the above situation, yesterday's sermon by Rev. Denson Franklin (father of Mtr. Lee Shafer of St. John's) zeroed in on that line. That Peter, when beckoned to come, got out of the boat and started walking. Jesus didn't walk to him; Peter was walking toward Jesus. And then, the wind blows, and he gets scared and that's when he starts to sink. The repeated message in the sermon became "Get out of the boat." And, just in case I had missed it, Mtr. Lee said it one more time to me before I left the church.

Get out of the boat. How interesting, and appropriate, and......


Scary because I have felt (and described here and here in this blog) that my journey at this time feels like I am in a boat...a strange and foreign place for me to be because I don't swim and so sea-faring isn't one of my hobbies. Nonetheless, that's been the inner sensation. I have certainly at times wanted to exit the boat and go ashore and hang out anywhere but on the water. And each time, I have felt this tug that tells me to "Sit down and stop trying to leave the boat!" I have also tried to commandeer the wheel of the boat and take command of the direction. Again, I have been told to "Sit down, be still, pay attention, and stop trying to put your hands on the wheel." All of this has left me amazed, awed, confused...and sometimes downright frustrated. If this is my boat ride, then I want to set the course!

But what happens when the day comes that I am invited to leave the boat and come out onto the water? Not by a priest, but by God? Where will my focus be? Will I be able to do it? Will I flinch at the first breeze that blows by (because there's always going to be wind)? Will I have the ears to hear the call to "come"?

I wonder.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Will the Real Rowan Williams Please Stand Up?

The Tallahassee Democrat today ran a story that is, in fact, a week old now, on the closing day of the Lambeth Conference, and the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The ABC, whose picture in the local newspaper makes him look like a hairy ET, is quoted as saying:

“If the North American churches don’t accept the need for moratoria (on blessing same-gender marriages and LGBT ordinations), we are no further forward. That means, as a communion, we continue to be in grave peril.”

Interestingly, what resurfaced this week are comments made to a reporter with The Times of London by the ABC in 2000:

Gay partnerships pose the same ethical questions as those between a man and woman and the key issue for Christians is that they are faithful and lifelong, he believes.Dr Williams is known to be personally liberal on the issue but the strength of his views, revealed in private correspondence shown to The Times, will astonish his critics.....

In an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, Dr Williams describes his belief that Biblical passages criticising homosexual sex are not aimed at people who are gay by nature.Instead, he argues that scriptural prohibitions are addressed “to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience”.
He says: “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.”Although written before he became Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, Dr Williams describes his view in the letters as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer. He refers to it as his “conviction”.

I understand the Archbishop desiring to take a position that doesn’t lean too far one way or another. But the fact is he apparently does have a position which is not too unlike what some in our own Church have concluded on this side of the pond. Now, he’s trying to back-peddle up a hill.

So, wha’ happened? Is the prospect of an angry Archbishop of Nigeria forming his angry off-shoot of angry people so frightening that we must sacrifice LGBT people, and shake our crook at the North American churches? Is Bishop Gene Robinson’s consecration such a threat that he bans him from the Lambeth Conference, and won’t even meet with him, but the ABC does apparently talk to the Bishops in the USA who are threatening to break away from our national church?

And is he really that concerned with keeping communion with the Roman Catholics….who not only don’t like our gay priests…they really are uppity about our women in collars? The Church of England has agreed women can be bishops, a big no-no with Herr Pope. How concerned are we really with having a relationship with a Church that can’t even have an honest discussion about their major cases of sexual dysfunction?

Please: will the real Rowan Williams stand up?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Mighty Fortress

A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
--Hymn 687 of the 1982 Hymnal, Ein feste Burg

I’ve stopped trying to scrutinize why certain hymns start playing on the jukebox in my brain, but this old familiar tune kicked in at the end of today’s webcast featuring the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Bishop of New York. The camera person focused on a crucifix in the room, zoomed in, and my brain began the soundtrack. The only thing missing were the rolling credits!

The webcast was the opportunity for those of us in Episcopaland to pose questions about the concluded Lambeth Conference to the Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori. Also on hand was Bishop Mark Sisk of the Diocese of New York. Each gave their opening statements, and talked about the deepening of conversations and contacts made with their brothers and sisters from all parts of the globe. And they both reiterated the importance of everyone to finally put a face to a particular name, or a particular province. As Bishop Sisk noted, the conference helped “incarnate the (Anglican) Communion”.

As a lesbian, the issue of the Anglican Covenant…and most especially the Archbishop's strongly-held desire for the moratoria on same-sex blessings, and ordinations of LGBT people has been on my mind (and in this blog). Both Jefferts-Schori and Sisk noted that almost all the bishops at Lambeth desired a co-operative spirit in the Communion, and not very many wanted to push for decisive votes to “kick out” anybody. Again, so much for the schism. But when it comes to this idea that the Episcopal Church here, and the Anglican Church in Canada, should adhere to the moratoria and exercise a period of “gracious restraint”, the Presiding Bishop noted: “We’ve been living in the season of gracious restraint.” She said what seems lost in translation is that the Episcopal Church in the United States has been wrestling with the issues of human sexuality and, specifically, homosexuality for more than forty years, and the conversations are not going to stop. And Bishop Sisk followed up with saying that in his discussions at Lambeth he found the problem was that most of the world was really uninformed….or misinformed….about the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts-Schori noted that one bishop from outside the United States spoke his truth about how difficult the consecration of Gene Robinson had made his job in his country where perhaps homosexuality…and sexuality….is simply not discussed, and dialogue on the topic is taboo. But she said this bishop also told her, “Your job is not to be making my job easier.”

As for part three of the moratoria….which calls for a halt to other Bishops coming in from the outside to ‘pastor’ the disaffected Episcopal Churches…Jefferts-Schori said there was no plan discussed for dealing with these incursions, and she is “not terribly hopeful it will stop.”

So…in summation: Lambeth did nothing to change the status of LGBT people in the church, and yet it did do something that may prove much, much more important in the long run. It gave leaders of the church time to reflect, to study, to pray together, and to see each other as members of the Body of Christ, and not the devil in their midst. A bishop from the Church of North India recently wrote:

"As for me I have decided not to be hasty in judging the gay and the lesbians. I wish to learn more about their life and problems."
Let's hear it for more dialogue and less demonizing!

And what about the Bishop of New Hampshire? Y'know that one, the only one, not allowed to play at Lambeth with his fellow purple-shirts? Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s “outsider” status provided something very important to the process as well. Those who made the effort to meet him saw him for who he really is…a bishop with a passion for the Good News as revealed through Jesus Christ…as opposed to whatever warped vision was being presented by people with an agenda to discredit him, and the Episcopal Church. That testimony speaks volumes to me, and I hope other LGBT people of faith; we must continue to present ourselves and not hide who we are...even if it means standing as strangers at the gate.

As the Presiding Bishop notes, “We are converted in incarnational encounters.”

So if we stay away, or if we pretend we’re not gay so we ‘pass’, how do we ever expect anything to ever change? And who do you really think you’re fooling? God knows your heart, and knows your desires. And you can forget about keeping secrets—God’s figured those out, too.

I can not tell anyone to go to church. I certainly can’t make anyone do it. But I will say that if you are a queer and identify as Christian, you can believe that God is not the one keeping you away.

So, what are you doin’ on Sunday morning?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting in Touch

Pinch me, I think I’m dreaming.
I thought I saw a fire moving on water.
I thought I felt it move through me,
Blowing heat into the bones of my arms,
As the sun seals the sensation with a kiss.
--Susan sitting at Profile Lake in July 2008

My experiences when I’m in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are, often times, too odd for me to express. Profile Lake is one of the places where I have strongly felt the presence of God, where I feel I can fully open up, send out intentions, and have ‘answers’ come back to me. The ‘answers’ are not always straight-up, “Here’s how to solve this dilemma in your life” kind of ‘answers’. Usually, I’ll get a phrase, or an image, or the sensation as I felt it this last time. And then I’m free to now go, and do what I will with this new knowledge.

So what have I done in the past month since I had this experience? Well, I have been paying attention to my tears which have been many. As I noted before, I am not the type of woman who cries at everything. But lately, I have been finding the readings in the Daily Office to be so incredibly moving (and in the OT so incredibly bloody!) that I am often trying to catch myself before I dissolve into a sobbing, blubbering, mess. I’ve been reading in Acts how Peter….the one who denied Jesus three times, almost drowned when he tried to walk out on the water to Jesus….finds his power to profess that Jesus is the Messiah. Then Peter is able to heal people. This is really amazing stuff. It tells me that you have to keep plugging at getting past your fears…and once you do….you have the potential to be “the Rock”. But first, you have to have faith. And even the smallest amount of faith can grow into bush that will support the birds. Add to this the story of Jesus’ feeding the five thousand, and having leftovers, and I am astounded with the bounty of God’s love for everyone….if they just have faith and can believe.

Thanks be to God…and pass the Kleenex box please….

Monday, August 4, 2008

All Means All

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a
deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so
that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them,
“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have
nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to
me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five
loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the
loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the
crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over
of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. Matthew 14: 15-20

As a child, one of the television shows I enjoyed the most was “Sesame Street”. I liked the creatures, and I liked to mimic the characters. That, of course, was part of the intended learning from the show. I also used to enjoy how shows on this Public Broadcasting Service program were brought to you by a number and a letter in the alphabet. I would then spend the next half-hour noting how much “product placement” they’d do, again, part of the intended education.

So this Sunday’s readings, coming in juxtaposition with the close of the Lambeth Conference in England, had somewhat of a Sesame Street feel to them. Because this week, the Extraordinary Love of God was brought to you by the word: “All”.

“All” could be found everywhere! It was in the Isaiah 55 passage with the invite to “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” In other words, all thirsty people…come drink this living water.
The assigned Psalm 145: “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.”
And then the real kick in the pants: “And all ate and were filled.” Not a few. Not just the disciples. All. Everyone. And it numbered five thousand (plus the women and children who…oddly in the NRSV of the Bible seem to get tacked on in the translation). Stopping, listening, paying attention to what God seems to be saying in today’s episode of My Big Fat Love:

“Everybody’s going to be fed.”

There are no exceptions. No hidden clauses. No denials to a spot at the table. Anyone with thirst, anyone with hunger will get fed. The pantry is open to all.

So what in the world does this have to do with the end of the Lambeth Conference in England? What strikes me is that there were some strides made amongst the bishops from various parts of the Communion to ratchet down their rhetoric and listen to each other. Certainly, the biggest accomplishment is a better understanding that to walk away from each other in a huff will not benefit anyone, especially as the Church continues its social justice work on issues such as poverty.
But there is still seemingly a hang-up about sex. And, sadly, it seems to only be about homosexual sex. And, even sadder, it seems to be only about the church in the United States and Canada and our willingness here to recognize that all of God’s children have a place in the church…and sometimes that place evolves into leadership. The Archbishop of Canterbury absolutely insisted that there continue to be a moratorium on the ordination of partnered LGBT people…as well as no blessings of same-sex marriages. He also doesn’t want to see any more African or South American bishops big-footing their way into the dioceses in the US. When asked about “the gay issues”, the ABC argued that while some see full inclusion of LGBT people as “simply a human rights issue” that’s an assumption he “can not accept.” He explained how the church must define itself and its rites. And he added that in saying these things he wasn’t arguing against the rights and dignity of lesbian and gay people. What if the Episcopal Church doesn’t comply with the moratoria? The ABC cautioned that this would cause further strain in the communion.

Also speaking in favor of the moratorium was the Archbishop of Hong Kong, who noted that the Church in South China in 1948 had to sacrifice the ordination of a woman to the priesthood. When that action caused too much strife in the communion, Florence Li Tim Oi gave up her license as a priest, but retained her Holy Orders as a deacon. What a pity such a thing happened! But, the Archbishop notes, it preserved the Communion. For the record, LGBT Anglicans in Hong Kong are not welcome in their own church, and must meet in private to worship together. It’s in Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s book. Go read it!

Perhaps some might view me as selfish, or un"generous", for not wanting to see our Church back track away from the direction we’re moving in toward full inclusion. And I’m not convinced that the Episcopal Church is going into retreat. Nothing in the final report from Lambeth is written in stone. But it does make me wonder, “What part of ‘all’ are the bishops not getting?”

To the ‘traditionalists’, I ask, “Do you really think your piece of bread, or slab of fish, is going to be diminished if I get some, too?” Oh, ye of little faith! Trust God.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Canterbury Blues

OK...again with the "things". I've been reading, and trying as best as my brain can decipher, what all is this "fourth draft" coming out of the Lambeth conference, and what does it really mean for me, simple little lay lesbian in the hot and humid city of Tallahassee.

The portion that gives me the greatest pause, as I noted in my previous entry, is the continuation of the Windsor Report 110 which places a moratoria on same-sex blessings, ordination of openly-gay people, and incursions by outside bishops into the USA and Canada. For a really good analysis of this particular part...go look at Rev. Susan Russell's call-and-response about The Wheels on the Bus. She captures well the frustration of the LGBT faithful, and certainly what I was feeling as I scanned through the "fourth draft" of the Reflections paper from Lambeth.

All of this coming on a day where, again, the Daily Office readings, I think, do a better job of articulating God's message to anyone paying attention to God. The gospel reading was from Matthew 28...which ends with the greatest "comfort language" I've run into in all of scripture:

And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

"You" is me. "You" is Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson. "You" is Rt. Rev. Gregory Venables. "We" just need to trust in that. "We" need to quit the addiction to who has more authority on the Word of God and being right. And "We" need to stop looking for ways to have winners and losers to hold a Communion together. "We" must let God work his purpose out...and if his purpose is to bring lesbian and gay people back into the church, then so be it.

In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit sweeps in and gets the talking party started amongst the disciples. Those witnessing this event think they've stumbled upon a bunch of drunken Galileans. And then Peter, in an act of courage, stands up and professes that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord and Messiah. In many ways, I have often hoped that our bishops of the Episcopal Church would do much the same for their LGBT faithful; have the courage to profess that we are a part of God's plan for this communion. Here's hoping they do it.