Friday, April 30, 2010

The Answer is "ORA"

I had a most unusual... and stress-related... dream last night.

The Mickee Faust Club was putting on a show, and I was in charge of one of the musical numbers. Things had gone "OK" in rehearsal, but when the piece went up on stage, people were missing their entrances, late on coming in with their solos, or completely forgetting their lines altogether. Costumes were in disarray... and worst of all... nobody seemed to care that things were so sloppy. I couldn't stand it anymore, and I stepped out on stage and demanded that they start again and "tuck in your shirt and pull up your skirt, dammit!" Instead of respecting me and my desire for them to "get it right", the entire cast just walked off. It was clear: they just didn't care what I thought.

Feeling hurt, I searched my brain for whom I could turn to talk this out. I found myself in my parents' house in New Hampshire. In the dream, it was still a single-family dwelling. I went up to the third-floor to see my brothers... but I only remember seeing only one of them. He and I had been close growing up, but we have gone our separate ways as adults. And this "Dream Brother" was definitely not wanting to help me, or buck me up in any way. So now I felt totally at a loss and miserable.

I was sitting with a crossword puzzle in my lap when my old boss, Ben, approached. Ben asked me if I liked working these puzzles, and I mumbled some kind of response to him. He made an inquiry about one of the clues.

"Do you know the answer to that one?" he asked me.

I stared at it for awhile, but couldn't come up with anything. And so the two of us worked it out with other clues. Finally, the answer that emerged was "Ora". That's when I woke up.

When I told this dream to my multi-lingual partner, her eyes gleamed with excitement.

"Ora means 'pray' in Latin!" As in "Ora pro nobis" (pray for us).

That insight gave me pause for reflection. With all that I have experienced recently with the Human Rights Ordinance, and watching helplessly as the oil spreads into the Gulf of Mexico, a dream that ends in "Ora" only makes sense. Interesting, too, to have Ben be the one who helped lead me to that clue.

I have been thinking about Ben recently in relation to the HRO. I recall the day that he told me I'd secured the promotion from general assignment reporter at WFSU to reporter/producer for the statewide Florida Public Radio Network. It had been a horribly stressful time. There had been one search committee that I had interviewed with for this internal promotion. But that committee disbanded before the search was over, and I had to be interviewed again. Because I was an internal candidate, and others were from outside, they made me do the interviews by phone. After seven months of this nonsense, Ben was ready to make me the final offer. But the management of the Public Broadcast Center balked. The head honcho asked, "Can't we fly in Quinn Klinefelter for an interview?" (Quinn was an excellent reporter, and a friend from Missouri. If they'd flown him in, they were going to offer him the job). Ben said, "No! I want to hire Susan." After a few more words, and huffing and puffing, head honcho man said what was really in his heart. He'd promote me, BUT I was representing the Public Broadcast Center at the state capitol and I was to "dress appropriately".

Ben relayed this information to me, and I knew what that meant. The major concern about me as a candidate had nothing to do with my abilities as a journalist. It had to do with my sexual orientation and my preference to wear my hair in a flattop and sensible shoes with pants as my every day attire. Had Ben not stood up for me, I probably would have been passed over.

So it is fascinating to me that my "Dream Ben" is telling me the answer is "Ora". Perhaps "Dream Ben" like "Real Ben" is looking out for me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bill Proctor: A Study in Stupid

Just when I thought he couldn't come up with anything more absurd than to compare sewage treatment plants to civil rights, along comes Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor with another truly out there, and highly offensive, statement about the gay community.
This time, the renegade who may or may not actually live in his district, launched into a comparison of the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy with the hiding and transferring of pedophile priests to an LGBT community who are of many faiths... including none... who just want to be able to work and live in this county without fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity will be used against them.
Proctor started his political vomit by asking why religious institutions would be exempted from the anti-discrimination provisions in the Human Rights Ordinance. He reasoned that they shouldn't be... and then pulled out the New York Times... and cited the child sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church "because of homosexuals." He kept repeating this line over and over. His intent? To be mean. To be evil. To be Bill Proctor.
The tension in the room broke when my friend, Terry Galloway, finally learned what Proctor was saying (Terry is deaf, and Proctor was too far away for her to read his lips, so her wife did the interpreting). When she learned that she was being compared to pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church, she erupted in screams.
"NO! You are comparing me to a pedophile?!?!?! You should be ashamed!!"
Terry made her way from her seat across the chamber, continuing to yell at Proctor as a sheriff's deputy quickly moved in to escort her from the room. The rest of us stood up and cheered. I slapped my hands together in thunderous applause as did many. We had to. We needed to excise the poison that had been poured on our heads by a so-called political leader. I followed after her and the deputy. I knew Terry would be told to leave the building, but I wanted to make sure that the officer knew she was no threat... beyond breaking up the supposed civility of this hearing. When I returned to the room, I shed a few tears of my own.
It had been a very long meeting. Eighty speakers in all. I would say a little more than half were speaking in favor of the Human Rights Ordinance to extend protections from discrimination in employment, housing and accommodation to people based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. In addition, because the proposal will cover businesses with 5 or more employees, it would give the same protection to all the protected classes (including race, gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity, disability, etc.) and cover far more workplaces in Leon County.
Those who were opposed rolled out the arguments that this would be a burden on business. Some made a mockery of the discrimination me and others like me experience when they wondered aloud why we weren't offering protections to smokers or people who are obese.
The opponents kept insisting that they don't hate people, they don't discriminate against people, they "love the sinner, not the sin." The Frightened doth protest too much me thinks.
In the end, the Commission voted 4-3 to send this measure to a public hearing scheduled for May 11th. And we can have a repeat of the same 3-1/2 hours of testimony. But perhaps it will be longer. Perhaps more of us who have experienced discrimination will find the still small inner voice and let that become a roar for change in our community.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Clergy Speak Out for Human Rights

Rev. Mark Byrd and other Tallahassee clergy outside the Leon Co. Courthouse

The times they are a-changin' in Leon County.

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.

Say It Ain't So?! Chamber of Commerce and Human Rights

It's taken me a few days to be able to write about this because it was so devasting, and so hurtful, that I just wanted to avoid thinking about it.

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

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

Is This A Funeral?

I was scheduled to serve at St. John's this morning, and experience has told me to always be ready for anything. And with this being the "Sunday AFTER" the public resignation, and the Sunday WITH the Bishop... well, better be prepared.

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

Honoring Earth Day

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 Holiness of Human Rights

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin

I could have called this entry, "And now for something not really all that different."

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
(850) 606-5361

Jane G. Sauls, District 2
(850) 606-5362

John E. Dailey, District 3
(850) 606-5363

Bryan Desloge, District 4
(850) 606-5364

Bob Rackleff, District 5
(850) 606-5365

Cliff Thaell, At-Large
(850) 606-5367

Akin Akinyemi, At-Large
(850) 606-5369

Prelude to the Morning

I was having several weird dreams as I was waking up, but I can't recall any of them. The one thing I do remember is thinking that I can't return to where I've been. But I always have a choice: do I live as one who has experienced resurrection in my life, or do I stop this journey. Do I live as one who believes the kingdom of God is now if we'd open our eyes, or do I retreat from this belief?

I have heard the phrase to "live into the questions". I don't know that I am living "into" the questions as much as I am living "with" the questions.

O Lord, make haste to help me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Archbishop Shoots Self in Foot on YouTube

Below is the video of a taped message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, for those gathered in Singapore for a meeting of the Global South Anglicans. If you pay attention to roughly the first seven minutes of the video, he states all those those things that should bind us all together, quoting from Paul's letter to the Romans with talk of being adopted as children of God. All of this is in the context of talking about covenants, and the covenant that God has made with us. It's also the set-up for why the Archbishop believes that the covenant God has made with God's people isn't enough... and we need an Anglican Covenant crafted by "seventy people" to bind us as a communion.
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

The Centering Point of Sunday

I haven't really had much of a chance to stop and reflect here on the blog about our Sunday services, the last ones with Fr. Lupton P. Abshire as rector. We did something interesting and appropriate: instead of doing the Prayers of the People, as is customary after the Nicene Creed, we did a prayer out of the Book of Occasional Services called "A Prayer for Ending a Pastoral Relationship". It was a moment of formal, public acknowledgement that we are parting ways. There is a moment in the prayer where the congregation is asked if they will accept the resignation. The answer is the first-person, "I do". Apparently, someone refused to accept this and responded, "No!" I think it must have been the woman who exited out the center aisle as we knelt to pray.

Oh, well.

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

True Colors of Faith: Violet

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

True Colors of Faith: Blue

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

True Colors of Faith: Green

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

True Colors of Faith: Yellow

I was struggling with what to say about Yellow until I spent yesterday morning at the chapel in Morning Prayer. And then it hit me that yellow has many associations that resonate, including its place in Eastern thought as the color of the third chakra, or solar plexus, making yellow an important color in the spectrum. The seat of your soul is in the solar plexus. A swift blow just below the diaphragm can kill a person.

In thinking on associations I have had with this color... I have thought about it as the ultimate Yin-Yang color. It can mean friendship, solidarity and courage... or it can be used to describe sickness and cowardice. Those dynamics definitely dwell in many faith communities... sometimes within a single individual. Those in the Episcopal, and now the Lutheran Church, know how yellow the individuals can be... either out of the extension of friendship to those who have been persecuted and marginalized by the Church... or out of fear that to be inclusive will somehow jeopardize the Church. They forget that "the Church" is the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ has many members. MANY members.
In today's assigned Gospel, Jesus is with his disciples and gives them the new commandment to love one another, and that to do so, to lay down's one life for one's friends is one of the greatest things a friend can do for another friend. And he goes on to say...

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

True Colors of Faith: Orange

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

True Colors of Faith: Red

Unfortunately last night I had to forego the Interfaith service for Tallahassee's LGBT Pride Week in favor of going to my Education for Ministry class. With the events that have unfolded at St. John's, I felt it was better for me to be in class. Insert heavy sigh here.
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

The Secret Meditation of I Will Survive

I made it to St. John's a little earlier than usual because the kids were cooking up breakfast to raise money for their trip this summer to Cuba. I also was curious to see if there had been any thinning of attendance, since some of the grumbling I'd heard was that maybe people WON'T show up.
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

Not Only With Our Lips

Admittedly, it is with some trepidation that I will be going to church in the morning.

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

Slight Change of Plans

After further consideration, it is now clear that our Assisting Priest will NOT be going on a six-week leave of absence, and the diocese has asked her to stay at St. John's.

Yay! We'll see what happens from here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us

Just as I was writing the other day about new life rising from the dead, my church community is facing a type of death in hopes of resurrection.

Word is out that our Rector is leaving. His last Sunday is April 18... a mere ten days away. This at a time when our Assisting Priest is starting a six-week leave of absence to take care of another parish in the diocese. The timing is odd, and leads one to wonder, What now?

St. John's was in the news in 2005 when the Rector at that time, a man who I simply refer to as Evil, announced from the pulpit that he'd had enough of the Episcopal Church... with its "homosexuals" (not to mention "women")... and he AND the vestry would be departing to start services at his newly-created Anglican church down the street. Anyone who didn't join him was against him and labeled "unorthodox". The bishop then brought in an interim, who in the middle of Lent 2008, imploded and gave up his holy orders. There was much pressure to quickly "find somebody", and we called in Fr. Lupton Abshire, who started shortly after Easter. Now, two years later, he is leaving... shortly after Easter.

We've also had the full-time Assistant Rector quit suddenly with no warning, and no real clear idea as to why he left. Probably the only departure from the priestly ranks that made any sense was when my mentor accepted the call to the parish that eventually made her the Rector. At least there, we had time to process and give her a proper good-bye.

The letters were apparently written this week, post-Easter, and went out to arrive in our mailboxes today. The explanation for why this breaking in our relationship is that we've reached a time when it's best for the Rector to leave. There is much talk about what he has done to get us through difficult budget times, and such. But from the way it is written, you'd think that the vestry, the bishop and the rector believed this whole time was just "interim". Now, we're ready for a "real" rector. I think a better explanation for this latest break-up is that St. John's still is looking for an identity post-Evil. The thing is our identity and vision comes from the collection of people who are there... both those who survived "the split" and those of us who returned once Evil left the building. Together, we are the Body of Christ... and... in fact... we are Christ's Body in 'the world' today. Our biggest obstacle is the perception that only the hands of that body can do and think and build up this body. Those who are feet, or toenails even, remain untapped.
We also have some who carry "the split" as their cross. They are in the loop that traps people who have been through trauma. As long as they link St. John's in any way to "the split" and make that our identity, then Evil continues to permeate the pores of the Body. Exorcism is an archiac practice. But from my work with people in the context of a massage therapy session, there are ways to release those demons that plague the body and aid the person to move forward and stop traveling the well-worn loop of trauma and pain.

Sad as this all is, I am trying not to give into despair. From death, resurrection does happen. I remember telling my mentor that part of this new leg in my faith journey is the understanding that my relationship with God has nothing to do with who is in the pulpit on a Sunday morning. But that person in the pulpit can aid in my journey, or can be the one trying to push me off the path. I hope that whoever takes over as interim and whoever accepts the call to this parish will be a person who recognizes that the Body of Christ that is St. John's does, indeed, have many members... and could stand to have a few more with energy and enthusiasm to live out our liturgy.

Fr. Abshire and St. John's might not have been a good fit for one another. I do wish him and his family well, wherever they are going from here. In the meantime, I ask your prayers for our congregation that this latest opening of the wound will finally receive the proper cleaning and bandaging and emotional release that will allow this body to heal from the woundedness inflicted by Evil... and become the downtown church God desires for us to be.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Biblical Lesson for Mississippi


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

The Dead Rising

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. --1Cor. 15: 16-19

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?

Marking Sad Moments

It was on this date a year ago that a young Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, took his own life rather to take another day of bullying and harassment. Carl's classmates picked on him, calling him a "faggot" and "gay". How sad that those words beat out of Carl the will to stay alive.

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.

Let's learn something from Carl's death, and put an end to the benign neglect of school administrators to anti-gay slurs and harassment and bullying of kids.

I Am A Social Justice Christian

A great response to Glenn Beck's accusations that "social justice Christian" is code language for "Nazism and Socialism".

Monday, April 5, 2010

As the World Turns...

I have been relatively quiet on all the shenanigans going on in the news with regard to the latest round of scandal involving the Roman Catholic Church. I decided I would rather spend my Holy Week on the blog focusing on things eternal, rather than temporal.
But all bets are off now, especially after the Archbishop of Canterbury has weighed in on the scandal in Ireland, which is the scandal in Germany, which is the scandal in the United States, which is the scandal in.... (OK, you see what I'm saying). It is far too easy for me to launch into my own criticism of the Roman Catholic Church, good little Episcopalian that I am. I think the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd put it best when she quipped that the Roman church had given up credibility for Lent.
Honestly, the closing ranks to defend the Pope from those meanies in the media who wouldn't stop asking questions about the hide-n-seek method of dealing with priestly pedophiles reached the height of absurdity on Good Friday when the Pope's priest at the Vatican actually compared the reporting on the scandals to the persecution of Jews. Wow! Jews have been killed and tortured for who they are, for their religious beliefs. Is pedophilia an immutable trait and a religious doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church?

(See, I said it was too easy!)

But let's get back to ++Rowan. He criticized the situation in Ireland on the BBC. He bemoans the "loss of credibility" of the church there, and he is pretty sure now that all those conservatives who've been so hopping mad in England aren't likely to defect from Anglicanism to align themselves with the RCs now. I agree with Archbishop in his analysis that what this scandal in the Roman Church does is taint just about everyone who is Christian just because Roman Catholicism is so pervasive as the "face of Christianity" throughout the world. Still, I scoff at the Archbishop making any noise about anyone else when he must look at himself in the mirror knowing how he has lost credibilty amongst many of us on this side of the pond. He will sputter and stammer on about +Gene Robinson and soon-to-be +Mary Glasspool... but give only very lukewarm commentary on Uganda. He has offered an apology to the LGBT faithful for any appearances of not respecting our human dignity. But continues to offend with suggesting that we are not worthy of the office of bishop. Sadly, the ABC keeps falling short. He is, in my mind, a little like the apostle Peter before Pentecost: opening his mouth, and just when you think he's 'got it', he says something that makes you shake your head and say, "Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter!"

It will be interesting to see what happens when the Pope arrives at Lambeth Palace. Wonder if we'll see a different photo emerge than the one in this entry?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter 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

This Is The Night....

Tonight, the "Alleluias" returned. The celebration of Christ's victory over the brutish nastiness that led to his crucifixion marks the beginning of the light that should be kindled in the hearts of all Christians. The bullies don't get the last word. The powerful don't get to gloat that they put down the rebellious and relentless messenger of love. The question, "Where is your God?" can be answered: Here with us.... again! So, take that!
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
of life.

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!!

Holy Saturday Tiredness

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

Good (Grief!) Friday

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

Maundy Thursday

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

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.
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?