Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gays MUST be the True Chosen People

In Dallas, TX... two men who got "gay married" in Massachusetts in 2006 have, like so many people, decided they didn't want to spend their lives together "til death do us part." They filed for a divorce, which a district court judge in Dallas granted. But the Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said, "Oh, no you don't! This is Texas. We don't let people get 'gay married' here. And if you can't get 'gay married', you can't get 'gay divorced' either!" Read the Associated Press story HERE.

So, unlike straight couples who can get married and divorced willy nilly, once you get "gay married"... well, then we start applying the words of Jesus to the situation:

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.--Matthew 19:6-9

Obviously, gays are meant to live by the laws and ethics of the First Century world. As such, that would make gays God's chosen people. I imagine that next, we'll be told that in the event of the death of our "gay married" partners we will be obliged to "gay marry" one of our beloved's same-sex siblings. Their orientation probably won't matter; but it would be dishonorable for them NOT to marry the widower or widow of their deceased relative. (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

Geez, as if it wasn't tough enough to be made to live in a 'crucified place' all the time!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An Excellent Sunday

The first Sunday with our new priest-in-charge, Fr. David Killeen, was very good. How good? Well, some folks who normally look haggard and bothered were smiling and laughing. The church was so full that they actually had to put signs in the pews of the transept to keep people from taking the seats of the acolytes. There was ice cream after the service, much milling about, and mostly, an energy that has been missing from the place for a long time.

Fr. Dave seemed at home and comfortable. His sermon was personable and stressed the theme of everyone being welcomed to a banquet that always has enough for everyone. Translated into our lives of St. John's today that means that we have all that we need to be a church that can thrive and not merely survive. All we have to do is to tap into that. Couldn't have said it better, and certainly have said it before on this blog. As long as we live with the knowledge that we are loved in abundance by God who gives us what we need, then we have our fill and can be ready to share that with others. A key statement from Fr. Dave came toward the end of his sermon where he noted the gospel lesson's discussion of "don't just invite your super rich friends to your dinner table in the hope that you will get an invite to their super rich household." He noted that we need to extend ourselves to ALL people, and that no one should be turned away. And the fact that he spent three years at St. Bart's in New York City tells me he means business about being welcoming to ALL kinds of people.

He scored brownie points with me when he came to our Friday noon service to hear about Thomas Galludet. Again, I have sung the praises of our noon day services on this blog, particularly the Friday service with Fr. Lee Graham. He scored more points with me this morning when he noted the hardships St. John's has endured. But rather than rip open the five year-old wound of "the split", he talked of how the parishioners of 1879 stuck together, kept singing the old hymns and trusting in God... even though their beautiful church had burned to the ground. Still, they met. They prayed. And they rebuilt. I appreciated that he took time to study up on the history of this parish, and chose to use that example of our enduring spirit rather than remind us of all the things we already know far too well.

Fr. Dave is still a "Priest-in-charge" which means he doesn't have total authority (that still rests with the Bishop). But if he projects the confidence, and shows he can lead and work well with the other clergy that serve us, this may turn out to be a permanent gig. What a welcome and wonderful experience that would be! If today is any indication, I think we might be headed in that direction. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

True Religion

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good
things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in
us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth
in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

"Increase in us true religion". What exactly is that supposed to mean? Is the "true religion" Christianity? Episcopalianism? What I believe?

According to the master of our Book of Common Prayer, the late Dr. Marion Hatchett, this particular phrase of the collect comes from our modern day prayer book's original author, Thomas Cranmer. "True" was placed before "religion" with the intent of addressing the numerous controversies arising out of the Reformation period. Hatchett describes the collect as as "an extended metaphor of the farmer or gardener: the fruit of good works is brought forth by the grace of God who plants, nourishes and continues to care for His own."

Working with that metaphor, I think gets us a lot closer to what I believe is really behind the idea of "true" religion.

I talked about a couple of the readings that accompany this collect for tomorrow morning. In particular, the reading from Hebrews says...

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured... Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. --Hebrews 13: 1-3; 16.

When I put this reading alongside the call for an increase in us of "true religion" what I read is that the "true religion" is a move toward more hospitality, more love, more willingness to open our hearts and know that there are many who remain imprisoned, literally and figuratively, who need us to be present with them. In other words, the "true religion" is the one where we have enough trust in God's love of us, that we can be confident in spreading that love and living as freed individuals to others. That doesn't mean beating people up with the Bible. But it does mean being aware of the rest of the world around us, and approaching it with that centeredness that comes with being aware of God's love. If we meet people and the other parts of our world in this way, it can be transformational.

That, I believe, is "true religion". And these are the seeds we should be sowing in the world.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Post Election Blahs

Today, one of the most courageous people on the Leon County Commission threw in the towel. Commissioner Bob Rackleff who would have faced a run-off against Kristin Dozier, a woman who is the vice president of a construction firm, decided not to push forward with a campaign into November. The odds of him overcoming Dozier in November did not look good. Dozier effectively won Tuesday's primary with 46-percent of the vote to Rackleff's 35-percent.

I was lucky enough to run into Bob this evening, along with his son, Durward. Bob is proud of all his kids, but is particular about singing the praises of his youngest who had the courage to come out in high school, and then lobby the local school board to adopt an anti-discrimination policy in the schools. Bob's love and admiration for his son was the thing that under girded his staunch support of the LGBT community. And it was that love for his son, and the many friends he'd made in the queer community, that gave him the freedom to speak out for our community, and stand up to the bigotry that would have derailed or weakened the Human Rights Ordinance. He has long been a champion of a clean environment having been sued by Texaco for his crusade to keep them from building a pipeline in neighboring Lloyd. In fact, that was one of the first long-form stories I worked on as a rookie reporter at WFSU in 1990. He has been an advocate for alternative energy, and was out in front speaking against the proposed off-shore oil drilling in the state legislature.

In short, Bob has done all that I would have ever wanted in a Leon County Commissioner. Many of us in District Five felt the same way. He was our Barney Frank. Unfortunately, that strong-willed no-holds-bar way of doing politics isn't "nice". And apparently, some of the people who once supported Bob were lured into voting for the candidate who maintains she has the same values, but she'll be nicer. I only hope "nicer" doesn't translate into the typical wishy-washy approach to politics that too many Democrats seem to take.

I wish Ms. Dozier luck on the Commission. She may find that those friends in the Chamber of Commerce who helped back her campaign might now want her to compromise her progressive credentials because that's not always "good for business."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eager Anticipation

There is a buzz building for this Sunday at St. John's.

It has nothing to do with the lessons, or a particularly stellar offertory anthem from the choir. It is all about the arrival of Father David Killeen as the new priest-in-charge. Father Dave comes to us from St. Mark's in Jacksonville. Apparently, his church there is very sorry to be losing this associate. That's a positive sign, I think.

Fr. Dave is now the fifth leader of our parish in five years. That's not taking into account the times when the Bishop has been the priest, or the other clergy that have come and gone during this period. It's been trying, to say the least. There's been anger, confusion, and feelings of betrayal stemming from the ultimate betrayal that came with "the split" back in October 2005. But there is still good news in all of this. Last Sunday, as the schools and universities were about to start up again, the church was full for the 10am service. There were people of all ages, and appearances. Clearly, this is not a church ready to close its doors.

Both the Hebrews and Luke gospel have good messages to greet our new priest, his family, and any more newcomers. In Luke, Jesus has gone for a meal at the home of a Pharisee and takes note of how people are choosing their seats at the table. He tells them a parable in which he explains that one should take a seat at the end of the table until their host invites them to move up a seat or two.

He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." --Luke 14: 12-14

Couple this gospel with the Hebrews:

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. --Hebrews 13: 1-3

With all the new people coming in, and especially a new priest, it serves the people of St. John's to remember that we are to welcome all equally. There is great anticipation about Fr. Dave, and we should be as enthusiastic about all new people coming in our building. To be a radically welcoming church is to imitate the love God displayed to us through Jesus Christ.

These lessons also serve as a good reminder about our treatment of the people who make use of steps and our benches to take the weight off their homeless feet. People who are living on the street, for whatever reason, need our compassion more than our suspicion. This is an area where we at St. John's could do better. Is it really too much to ask that we give a glass of water, or a cup of coffee to a person who has nothing? Are we really that different from the man who finds himself in a prison of financial trouble that has forced him to live on the street?

My hope is that Father Dave will continue to guide us toward God and the love of God for all who are part of God's creation. That will make his ministry with us successful.

Job and Me

If you have been following the Daily Office, then you know that we are into the sad story of Job, a good guy who has had one calamity after another as Satan and God have it out over whether Job will be able to withstand the temptation to turn away from God. If you had your family and livelihood wiped out, and were covered in boils and sores, you might be tempted, too!

I have not had it as bad as Job, but my recent bout of health problems involving my stomach coupled with much stress from some of my extracurricular doings with PFLAG and Faust, and the usual tension that arises from being self-employed in this economy has given me a keen appreciation for poor Job. When things are going poorly, and they just keep looking bleak, covering yourself in ashes and crying out to God may seem like the only thing one can do.

I haven't done the ash business, but crying, pleading, in hopes that I will see some light in the darkness... yes, I've done that.

One of Job's buddies, who initially was sitting shiva with him, tries to offer some insight to his friend.

‘See, God will not reject a blameless person,
nor take the hand of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter,
and your lips with shouts of joy.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the tent of the wicked will be no more.’
Job 8: 20-22

OK... Bildad the Shuhite maybe shouldn't have opened his mouth. "God will not reject the blameless person"? I could see Job asking, "What? Are you saying I'm to blame?" But even in his bumbling attempt to "help" his friend, the idea that God will "yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy" is hopeful. And hope is the one thing you can't lose when you're depressed and down in the dumps.

As Jesse Jackson says, "Keep hope alive!" And keep looking for the light in the darkness.

Monday, August 23, 2010

From Golden to Goat

Paul's life has some good lessons for politicians, or anyone who has ever taken a hard line stance on an issue: when you make a major shift in allegiances, you're going to piss people off.

In the Daily Office, we've seen the conversion of Saul as he becomes Paul. It's a really dramatic scene... with the booming voice from Heaven, blindness, fasting, a reluctant but obedient follower of "The Way" who heals him, and a 180-degree turnaround of a notorious persecutor of the Church to being one of it's most prolific apostles. What follows is a story many of us today I think can relate to in one way or another. Now that Paul has joined "them", his one time admirers in the majority are at first confused, and then they want to kill him. How dare he! Belief in Christ as God and Messiah must be stopped, and now the chief bounty hunter has switched sides. Get 'im, boys!!

Have you ever held a position or an opinion that was in keeping with the majority but, upon some light bulb going off in your head, you realize that maybe the opposite is true? I imagine this has happened to some of the parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people . Even the ones who maintain that they are politically liberal when it's their kid who turns out to be queer suddenly find themselves facing unknown prejudices they might have been holding. I've seen this phenomenon happen with ministers in some denominations. They were content with "not seeing" the LGBT people in their midst. And maybe they told a joke or two about "those people" amongst their friends. Then--whammo--they learn that someone close to them (usually their child) is gay. Suddenly, the derogatory jokes and calling something "so gay" takes on a completely different flavor now that they've seen the incarnation of the very thing that they thought of as "other" and it looks remarkably familiar to them.

It happens in politics, too, where an elected official takes a stand on an issue. But then they do a swift turnaround... and it is usually because of something or someone in their personal life who has made them see that their hard and fast position might be doing more harm than good. In this country, especially today, that often spells political death. Political parties will turn on their own and start to devour them alive for having left a party line. And you wonder why Gov. Charlie Crist became an independent?

But, as with Paul, what the person with new eyes, and new perspective often finds is that once those in the formerly persecuted camp see that this conversion is the real deal, they will come to the aid of the convert and shield them from the wrath. Not all will do this, but enough will. And for Christianity, this is a good thing. Had there been no Paul, who knows how far the conviction of Christ as God incarnate would have moved and spread. And had Paul not gone through the steps he went to come to his belief in the resurrected Christ, who knows how passionate he would have been about the message delivered to the world through Jesus.

Stuff to think about on a Monday morning in mid-August.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Impressions on a Sunday Morning

The gospel of Luke starts this morning with this story:

And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.--Luke 13:11-13

What strikes me immediately in this moment is that Jesus, noticing this woman, called to her... and healed her (on the Sabbath... we'll get to that) without asking her questions or giving her a 'Do you believe in me?' quiz. We don't know what's wrong with her to make her crippled. We just know that she is. I don't think it matters what has got her bent over this way. It could be a physical ailment or it could be depression. The important point is that Jesus (God) comes to her without her asking, and removes whatever the burden and frees her body, mind and spirit. Again, on the Sabbath. What would this always be true for all people that, being in their place of worship, they'd have contact with God and that would free them from their burdens! Come on to me all ye who travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you...

The gospel reading continues with what you would expect out of the nay-sayers of that time:

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." --Luke 13:14

Picky, picky, petty, and stupid. This recalls other recountings of Jesus' healing on the sabbath where the ones in charge cry foul. And, as with those other stories, Jesus responds with calling them hypocrites.

Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?"--Luke 13:15-16

As I said, if only all of us could be freed from bondage on the Sabbath day! Isn't that the point? When we go to the table, are we not sharing in that opportunity to be freed? I think so.

And with that, I am off to St. John's to experience the opportunity to be set free... again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bigotry in A Black Church

A young man who was on a panel of students at one of our PFLAG-Tallahassee meetings addressed a note to me on Facebook via his status that was out-of-the-blue:

"Do you need a permit to picket an establishment? Say a church."

Whoa!! What now?

Searching back through his posts, I came upon his blog entry, "My Homophobic Experience at New Mount Zion AME." I read it and was appalled yet, sadly, not really surprised. Black churches seem to regularly churn out homophobes. Those who do not want to be a party to this hatefulness usually leave and might land in a white church. That works for some, but there are still others who enjoy the charismatic worship style of the black church which is something that they usually won't find in the more accepting white churches. And so these are the folks who feel cut off from a faith community of any kind... which can translate into anger and hatred of Christians or a misplaced anger and hatred at God. This same phenomenon holds true for whites (I know; I lived that scenario). But still, we seem to have some mainline denominations who hear and adhere to the principle that Jesus didn't come into our midst to pick and choose who would be invited to the banquet of Love. Good for us.

I don't understand anyone who calls themselves "Christian" who has such a virulent hatred and vicious attitude toward LGBT people. I don't understand anyone who calls themselves "Christian" who sits by and allows a preacher to rail against one segment of humanity, and doesn't ask the question, "Why are you so upset by this? Got something to hide?"

I'm in no position to have a say in what happens at New Mt. Zion AME. But I do hope that the gay and lesbian members will find it in themselves to say something about the hurtful words of a visiting pastor. And if they can't feel welcomed there, then shake off the dust of that place, and move on to another AME Church, or some place else. Meanwhile, I encouraged my Facebook friend to gather with others for a face-to-face with the head pastor of New Mt. Zion AME. Diplomacy first. At least before picketing on a Sunday.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bad Poetry Day: A Tribute to California

I am delighted that August 18th is recognized in some corners of the planet as "Bad Poetry Day." If you appreciate good poetry, and if you've written poems that aren't half-bad, then there is nothing more silly and fun then to write something that's just dreck! And I can't think of a better subject for "Dreck" than the recent decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to put Judge Vaughn Walker's order for California to resume marrying same-sex couples on ice... with promises of "fast-tracking" a hearing in December. If you think "God time" is slow... try "Justice time"!

O, California!
You lift me high.
You make me see the promised land.
You allow me to taste the sweetness of victory promised
to those who wait.

And wait.
And wait.
And wait!!

The weight of the wait is a heavy load, brother,
You, with your courts in one camp,
Your government in retreat,
And your people confused
have left your observers confounded,
Bewildered and broken-hearted.
Are you the bell weather of this nation?
Are you just a noisy gong?
Your latest court ruling clangs like a toddler beating on pots.

O, California,
Is love in the land of the flower children of old
so foreign to you now?
How you have forgotten freedom!
Justice delayed is justice denied;
Or maybe your message lies elsewhere:
is it "just us" who need not apply for
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

O, California,
Land of golden gates,
Tall redwoods,
Glitter, glitz and glam...
You aren't so hip after all.

I Thought We Were A "Christian" Nation?

The issue that seems to be all-consuming in this country is the story of the proposed Islamic prayer center two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood. The opponents keep calling it the "Ground Zero Mosque." They are upset that Muslims would want to have a place near this "hallowed ground." Really, what they don't like is Islam because Islam is "furrin'". People who are "those people" are not welcomed by many in this country. Republicans are proposing to cut off governmental services to the children of illegal immigrants. Never mind that the people who sweep the floors of Congress, pick the tomatoes, and wash the hotel sheets in this country are mostly Mexican, and in many cases, illegal immigrants.

Interestingly, then, we have the language of the collect for this week:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a
sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us
grace to receive thankfully the fruits of this redeeming work,
and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

If we look at the life of Jesus, we would see a man who would be the first to welcome the Muslim and the illegal immigrant to the table with him. It is through Jesus that we are supposed to understand that, once we remove the labels, we are all one. If we "follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life," we'd be more careful about who we are condemning as unworthy. If we were to love our fellow human beings in the same way that Jesus modeled for us, how different would the world be? Would we be able to see love as abundant rather than a scarce resource to be guarded?

For the record, the "hallowed" ground that was the World Trade Center has already been defiled. I have seen on another blog photographs of what else is within two blocks of this monument to a horrific historical moment: a McDonald's, a Burger King, a Dunkin' Donuts, a pizzeria with the kosher symbol, and many street vendors hawking tacky New York City crap. If the Muslims can't have their prayer center, then perhaps Jesus needs to do a little tossing over of some tables and such.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Centering on God and Basketball

I love basketball. I would play for hours shooting hoops at the basket set up on our barn, and coming up with scenarios of "the final minutes" and how I could out play some of the biggest women's basketball stars. Cheryl Miller and Nancy Lieberman had NOTHING on me!

So, it was odd the other day when I found myself visualizing a basketball court as I sat in prayer. I could feel the roughness of the dimpled synthetic leather ball. And I remembered the sounds of my sneakers squeaking on the floor as I would drop step into a defensive position and cut off avenues for my opponent to drive to the basket. I couldn't put together how centering prayer on God and basketball came to get married in my brain. And so, I've been letting it alone, allowing it to have its time to percolate. And now, I have a couple of thoughts on it.
My spiritual director has noted that doing centering prayer is a little like practicing your tennis serve. It takes practice to get it right. I can appreciate the metaphor because I've seen tennis, and my mom played tennis. But I'm not a tennis player (I have an unfortunate knack for hitting a tennis ball as if it's a baseball and I don't think sending the thing flying over the fence is the point!) So, giving myself a metaphor that works for me: centering prayer is like practicing foul shots. Like a tennis serve, one must learn the rhythm and the ability to focus on the basket against all other distractions in order to shoot well from the line. With enough practice, the art of shooting a foul shot becomes second nature. The same is true of centering prayer. With enough practice and discipline to sit and allow an opening for God, the more this will be part of my everyday experience.
This is not only an adequate description of practicing centering prayer as a specific opening of one's self to God. The same goes for having faith in general. Through the ritual of prayer, or singing, or the weekly or daily prayer and Eucharist, these are means of making intentional time with God and prepping ourselves for the possibility that God really will be with us in all times and in all places and under all circumstances. To me, having faith in God means that we will accept that there is something greater than ourselves who keeps holding us and unfolding before us new paths to tread.
The basketball imagery also sparked a thought about team work. We've been talking about stewardship at St. John's and the need for everyone to pitch in to help keep that community alive and moving forward. The most successful basketball teams are the ones that do not rely on one person to carry the load. In fact, those are the teams that fail. The same is true of the church. It is not realistic to sit back and expect the rector to make wonderful things happen in the church, or a fantastic assistant to keep the fires burning and the youth happy or a few lay people to do the heavy lifting. It takes the whole community being willing to participate in the life of the community. With a new priest-in-charge coming on board, this would be the time to consider if there is something more that each of us can bring to that life.
Can we commit some more money to our pledges?
Can we volunteer where it's needed?
Are we over committed and need to make room for someone else?
Can we add some depth to this team by extending the reach of welcome to those communities of people who may be looking for a spiritual home where they can worship God through Christ without somebody swinging a Bible across their heads like a baton?
Can we offer a cup of coffee to a person in need of kindness?
As a team, we can continue building up our community. That, I think, is what it means to live into the body of Christ.

Reflections on Assumption Day

In Laruns in the Pyrenees of France, the town will gather in period costumes and much festivities to celebrate "Assumption Day" and the town's patron saint, the Virgin Mary. I have been to Laruns and seen the sheep, down off the mountain with their shepherd, drink out of the fountain in the town center. I think about them every August 15th.
The way I used to mark Assumption Day was to send an invite to my friends who were ex-Catholics and invite them to my house which we'd call "Our Lady of S. Meridian Bar and Grill." We'd have wine, wafers, and tell jokes about famous assumptions made by the Roman Catholic Church, like "Don't worry; things will blow over in England and Henry VIII will be back in our pocket! You'll see!"
The actual celebration is about the belief that the Virgin Mary was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven at the time of her death. The holiday took on more meaning for Roman Catholics in 1950 when Pope Pius XII made it official infallible dogma of the Church. Anglicans and Episcopalians believe that the BVM was assumed into heaven, but the day is not part of our official doctrine. We aren't celebrating "Blessed Virgin Mary" until Monday. That leaves room for the Luke gospel reading where Christ says he came not to bring peace, but division. One might say that there's not a lot of peace around the doctrine of the Assumption (was she dead before she was assumed? Had she died and been resurrected? Do we know this really happened?)
Happy Assumption Day to the sheep in Laruns!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A March for Martyrs

We don't often hear about martyrs in our modern times, but today in Hayneville, AL, there is a march and commemoration of those who sacrificed their lives for the civil rights movement in the 1960s... including Jonathan Myrick Daniels. Ruby Sales, who was the 16 year-old girl that Daniels died to protect from a shop owner with a shotgun, is among those taking part in today's pilgrimmage. You can read more about it on the Diocese of Alabama website

I'm glad they're holding this celebration in Alabama. I'm glad that the actions of one Yankee in pursuit of God's desire are not being forgotten, but being honored and recognized not only as martyrdom but as reconcilliation. Daniels had reached that in his own life before his death. His is a story worth remembering in the Church... and in the world.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

California HAS Equality Begining August 18th

Judge Vaughn Walker has allowed the other shoe to drop in the saga of Prop H8 in California, issuing a ruling today that will allow LGBT couples to obtain marriage licenses beginning August 18th. Judge Walker looked at many factors in arriving at his decision: the lack of support for keeping Proposition 8 from either the Governor or Attorney General of California; failure to show that the proponets or others will be harmed by lack of a stay; and there was no demonstrated public interest for the court to continue to stand in the way of LGBT couples getting married.

My favorite statement in his ruling in answering the claim that lifting the stay would somehow do harm to the supporters of this bigotry:

Proponents also point to harm resulting from “a cloud of uncertainty” surrounding the validity of marriages performed after judgment is entered... Proponents have not, however, alleged that any of them seek to wed a same-sex


Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Meaner Than The Other Guy

"...I really do not think that we should have homosexuals guiding our children. I think that it’s a lifestyle that I don’t agree with. I realize a lot of people do. It’s my personal faith, religious faith, that I don’t believe that the people who do this should be raising our children. It’s not a natural thing."

That's what Republican Attorney General and candidate for Governor Bill McCollum told the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper, which is the main publication of the the Florida Southern Baptist Convention. It was in answer to questions about gay adoption (which he opposes) and, in this instance, whether he thinks the state should ban LGBT persons from being foster parents. You can see how he answered that question. Estimates are that there are more than 30,000 children in the state's foster care system. God forbid any of them find a home with a gay or lesbian couple!

McCollum's statements come as early voting commences in the state in advance of the August 24th primary. McCollum, who was supposed to be knighted the GOP nominee, has found himself in a dog-fight with Rick Scott, a Medicare fraud crook, who touts that he wants to bring Arizona's anti-immigration fervor to Florida... a state where people from elsewhere far out number those who are true natives. I guess after wasting $87,000 on George "Rentboy.com" Rekers as an expert in the gay adoption case, McCollum feels the need to prove that he's truly homophobic and will be much more draconian on those queers than his opponent who is appealing to the basest instincts of the Republican party's base.

I feel a collect coming on...

O God, the one who knows the true hearts of all people and knows the longing and loneliness of children left unloved by parents, grant that as we make decisions on our future leadership we may discern in the words of candidates who will best carry us closer to realizing a world of kindness and compassion, so that we may better honor your message of Love. We ask this in your Name. Amen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Burden of Faith

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker: "Jesus is coming. Look busy!"? I have a feeling this joke has its roots in the gospel reading from Luke assigned for tomorrow. Jesus is telling parables and preparing his followers for what is to come by telling them not to worry.

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. --Luke 12:33-34

He launches into a parable about the slaves waiting for the master to return from the wedding banquet:

Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. --Luke 12: 37-38

Peter wants to know if this message is for the disciples or the crowd. And after another parable involving a master and slaves, in which some who failed to keep up their end of the bargain in the absence of the master get greatly punished, Jesus finishes by saying:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. --Luke 12:48b

The way I read this, Jesus is emphasizing the point to all who have ears to hear and are listening. And the second part of his admonition carries a special weight for those who (in the very near future) will be entrusted to tend his flock and feed his sheep. I've said before that I don't think Jesus is looking for a fan club; he's looking for followers, people who will take their Mary-energy and apply Martha-like action. These are the people who, when the chips are down, put their trust in God and lose their attachments to "things" in the process. These are the people of faith, not the people of fear.

That sounds all well and good. But doing it (really doing it) is not always so easy. I know in these past two weeks, as I have encountered some sudden symptoms that caused me tremendous discomfort in my body, I found myself slipping out of that place of trusting in God, and instead, becoming consumed in worry, fear and hopelessness. I never went to the place of thinking that God had abandoned me, but I certainly was wondering if this was some kind of test of my willingness to ask for help... and trust those with the ability to help me. I did get to that place of praying for God to not only be with me, but my nurse practitioner, the nurse, the phlebotomist, the receptionist. There are serious medical issues involving the GI tract in my family history, and without insurance, I was panicking... needlessly. Trust God.

People of faith carry a heavy burden. Putting trust in something that is indescribable, untouchable, and so unearthly is a sign of faith. And it makes one an oddball because "the world" operates in the concrete and not the conceptual. And when you add an extra layer of "gay" on top of it... yeah, then you're REALLY strange for having faith. And yet it is this crazy faith in God that has allowed me to keep a lamp of hope lit that "things" such as Prop H8 would come crashing down. Faith in God means knowing that justice will come... even if it comes slowly and with much pain along the way.

Among the people of faith are those who have been called into the role of the ordained priesthood. These are among the "entrusted" to whom I believe Jesus is speaking. Of this set "even more will be demanded". Ask a priest--they'll tell you, they're in demand! This week, National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" did a segment on the problems of burn out among the clergy. The accessibility with all the means of communication alone makes priests and ministers more available than they truthfully are. And, like any job that is high stress and public profile, it can wear one out... or drive one to deal with the stress through chemical means. What makes clergy stress different from other occupations is that the clergy are saddled with such tasks as explaining the Trinity. And they have to be an administrator. And they have to be a counselor. And they have to be a teacher. And they have to be the complaint center. And they have to do all of that while God keeps them in the oddball camp.

Yet, people do get ordained. I imagine because they trust God. Or maybe it's that God trusts them because God knows them and is prepared to keep the promise of not revoking the covenant with Noah. If they find the flood waters rising, God will get them safely to a different shore.

Have faith. Trust God. All will be well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Too Much for Words

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’ When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.--Luke 9:35-36
I chose to do the Morning Prayer readings for the Transfiguration rather than continuing the trek through Judges and Acts. And an interesting thing occurred to me as I contemplated the above line from Luke's gospel. Peter, James and John had just been through something extraordinary: they found themselves enveloped in a cloud and the majestic voice had spoken to them. They had seen their teacher, Jesus, placed between the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). And they have been let in on the mystery as to who Jesus is. Big stuff!
Like when Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets and his face was so bright that it frightened the Israelites, I see this moment with the three disciples as one where they have been exposed to something so phenomenal that they simply can not put it into words. I've had those moments where, especially following time spent in prayerful meditation, what I have been engaged in can not be described. This is not to say that I'm having amazing awesome experiences of God every time I sit for twenty minutes in prayer. But I do feel that an exchange has occurred and I can't really put into words what it was.
So, I'm left wondering about the three disciples. Others who were healed by Jesus during his ministry, even when told to keep quiet, couldn't do it. They had to run out and tell everyone what had happened. But here, the disciples are given something few had received: an unveiling of God. I wonder if this was so huge that the best thing, and the only thing they could do, was keep silent? Is there a level of maturity in their faith that led them to that, or is it simply that God zipped up their lips for this occasion? I can't know the answer to these questions. But they interest me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Marriage: That Special Word

In the aftermath of Judge Walker's decision, my wall on Facebook has been a running commentary on Prop H8. One of my friends seems to have some friends who are not that friendly to the landmark decision out of California yesterday. Their objections fall into two basic arguments: 1. "Marriage is a special term set aside for heterosexual couples and you LGBT people are stealing our word." and 2. "Marriage is our special word, and if all you want are the rights and privileges of our special word, why don't you draw up various legal contracts to get those rights and leave our word alone."

What is it about straight people that they get so uppity about the word "marriage"? Why is this so important to them that allowing other people access to the word is like peeing in their bathtub?

I blame the church for some of this. People associate "marriage" with "church steeple". I don't know when this practice began, but somewhere along the way, somebody must have seen a way to make an unholy alliance between church and state by allowing priests and ministers to sign off on marriage licenses. Signing the paperwork, and having it notarized, is what legally binds a couple in marriage which is really all the state cares about. The state doesn't care what color the bridesmaids dresses are. It doesn't care if there's a Eucharist at the wedding. It really doesn't care about the poetry of the vows. All the state wants is a signed and notarized piece of paper with the names of the happy couple... and $92.00. Thanks. Next...

The trouble is, the happy couple and all their friends and family believe that the priest or minister is instrumental to the marriage ceremony. And certainly, if there's going to be a wedding in a church, it helps to have a person of the cloth there to officiate. But the role of the priest or minister is to bless the marriage before God and God's people. Then, once all the pomp and circumstance is over, the priest or minister signs the certificate... thus satisfying the state requirement. And this is where I want to blow the whistle and scream, "Foul!"

I believe that by doing this final act... the church has now stepped into the role of the state. And, as long as the laws in places like Florida uphold discrimination against some couples, I don't think the church ought to be a party to that final act. Bless the marriages. Deliver a wise sermon on that famous 1 Corinthians passage about "Love". Sanctify this union, and then direct the couple to the appropriate state authority to get their papers signed!

Somehow, in some way, we have to be able to teach people that the "special word" is a synonym for a not-so-special word: "contract". That's what marriage is; a legal contract. As Judge Vaughn Walker noted in his ruling yesterday:

"Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s
choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one
another and to form a household based on their own feelings
about one another and to join in an economic partnership and
support one another and any dependents." Walker ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, p.67

Why is this "For Heterosexuals Only"? It isn't. Where is God in this definition? I believe in a place beyond this definition, and not getting bogged down in the details of "economic partnership". I believe that God is interested only in how we love God and how we love our neighbor. And the genders of the couple at the altar is immaterial.

God is love and where true love is, God himself is there.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Yay, California!!! Prop H8 Found Unconstitutional

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional."--Judge Vaughn Walker

Strike up the band and let's have a round of "California Here We Come!" This is very exciting and good news! As always, the courts in California can see the meaning behind the phrase "with liberty and justice for all!" Not "some". Not just "heterosexuals". While this ruling has no direct effect on my life in Florida (remember, our voters passed Amendment Two... an even more draconian measure than Prop H8), this conclusion by Judge Walker gives me hope that if the opposition continues to press this point all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amendment Two may one day fall by the wayside.

Speculation and dreaming aside, I am thrilled for this victory tonight. Praise God from whom all blessings flow (and God's blessings also flow for all!) and hugs and kisses to the happy couples of California!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Prayer of Thanksgiving

The priest with whom I serve on Fridays at the noon day eucharist is celebrating a major milestone today. Fr. Lee Graham is 90! To mark this occassion, I ask that you pray this thanksgiving from the BCP:

O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we
pray, on you servant Lee as he begins another year. Grant
that he may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his
trust in your goodness all the days of his life; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now Fr. Graham is a veteran of the Episcopal Church in Birmingham at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.and the civil rights movement. In fact, he was one of the ministers who went to visit King in the Birmingham jail. The experience did much to shape and change this white native Southerner. So growing in wisdom... wow, he has a lot now. But I will trust that God has more to give him... and to give all of us.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Getting to the Point

Thumbs up to Jackson Holbrook, the protestor of the protestor! I got tagged in this photo on Facebook. The corner is Duval and Eaton in Key West, FL. And really, the guy with the "God Hates Fags" sign seriously needed a compass. I can't imagine standing on the street with a sign like that in one of this country's gay Meccas. The city motto is "One Human Family", no doubt written in rainbow colors! I'm guessing his choice of street corner was intentional: this is outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church, a welcoming congregation. Anyway, word is that other people joined Jackson, and eventually the "God Hates Fags" man literally ran away. Good! Thanks to Laura Mann for the photo.