Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bishops All A-Twitter

An Archbishop of Canada, Congo and Korea are on a panel at a House of Bishops meeting in North Carolina...

Sounds like a set-up for a joke. And it is. Because the HoB topic of the morning was the Anglican Covenant. And, unlike the typical "Spank the Yanks" we've been used to hearing out of Lambeth Palace, this was more like a round of "Kick the Covenant".

Rt. Rev. Kirk Smith of Arizona was live tweeting their comments, which the Rev. Ann Fontaine posted to The Lead, and on her Facebook page. Needless to say, I was delighted to see the following streaming commentary:

.Archbishop of Korea quoting from formal response from Korean bishops: do not see necessity for a codified Covenant.
about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbishop of Korea is now speaking (In Korean) with my old colleague Aidan Koh translating.
about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbp. of Canada is "uneasy" about possible two -tiered system proposed in Covenant.
about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbishop of Canada does not see any mention of reconciliation and mediation for those who might be disciplined by sec. IV of the Covenant.
about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbishop of Canada now speaking.
about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbishop of Congo is hopeful about the future. about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck .Archbishop of Congo now speaking in French: Does not feel that there has been adequate discussion of the Covenant among the Primates. about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck .Bp. Alexander: Can catholicity be expressed other than locally?
about 5 hours ago via TweetDeck .Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta presents opening paper. Argues that changes in polity will result in changes of ecclesiology.

"Does not feel there's been adequate discussion of the Covenant among the Primates."
"Uneasy about possible two-tiered system."
"Do not see the necessity for a codified Covenant."
Words not from the Americans. I suppose it might be safe to assume, then, that it's not just "the Yanks" who think this whole thing has been an unnecessary waste of time, and a preoccupation over things temporal!

I note, too, that the Bishops began their day with morning prayer. As such, they heard the lamentations of Jeremiah as God is laying it out for the prophet how God's people have erred and strayed... AGAIN. They also got a dose of Paul's letter to the Romans, about those who by faith (not the law) are among the nations that come from Abraham. Good words to reflect upon as one considers a document that attempts to turn faith into the law.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Are You A Homosexual?"

There are those times when, deep in processing my own thoughts, a person approaches and--wham--a new insight to what had been my own private puzzle. Such was the case as I paced about in Eve's Garden at St. John's before the service yesterday.

A woman emerged from the parish hall doors and saw me as I was on another turn of walking past the sitting benches. She strode purposely toward me, smiling the whole way. She greeted me warmly, and introduced herself. We shook hands and then, dropping her voice a little bit, she says, "I'm going to be blunt. Are you a homosexual?"

That was not only blunt; it is the first time anyone has been that direct with me, especially in a church setting, in the two-plus decades since I came out! Most people will say "Um, I kinda think maybe you might be". Even my own mother didn't ask me the question that way. Strangely, while it hit me like an "Oh, wow! OK, then!", I guess I'm so comfortable in my own skin that I answered confidently and quickly, "Yes."

She went on to explain that her reason for asking me such a bold and blunt question was that she had a family member who had just come out, and her big question is can one be gay and active in the ordained leadership of the Episcopal Church. And this is when I wanted to find that belly of the whale and leap into it rather than to talk about this subject.

In the United States, it really depends where you live and move and have your being just how far the welcome into the church will be extended to you if you are gay. I read about lots of gay and lesbian clergy all over the country, engaging the church in all kinds of ways, and bearing witness to the church that one can be part of this body of Christ and be queer and serve at the altar and... my goodness... NOBODY drops dead in the aisle! Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Table happen just like they do when straight priests are presiding. The gospel is still the gospel, even when it is coming out of the mouth of a queer deacon. In fact, one could argue, a lesbian reading the words of Christ that sing of liberation and freedom for all might seem appropriate if sadly paradoxical.

The writhing that I am witnessing in the church over issues of sexuality has been at times enormously painful. Not too dissimilar to what it is like to have my life put up for a public vote to decide whether I am fit to marry my partner, or adopt a child, or be protected from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, or employment. Most of the time, I try to ignore it and chalk it up to so much noise in the life of the institution. But, to be honest, I am fed up with being a political football. I just want to live and let live. And yet the laws don't allow me to forget that I am not equal. Similarly, there is "the law" that seems to hang like a sword of Damocles over the Episcopal Church. General Conventions can vote to do whatever they want to do, but everyone is so careful to say that there is room for "interpretation" about what the actions really mean. End result: you can have one diocese running full-steam ahead to include all the baptized in as many of the sacraments as it can while another has pulled the brake line on the whole thing... and may even try to leave the tracks.

These were the thoughts going through my head as I paced about in the Garden, examining all the dedicated spaces and crosses in memory of members of the church. My question: "Do I really have a place here?" Enter this woman with her question about the Episcopal Church and the future it may hold for her gay relative. She told me the diocese (it was one I have heard is gay-friendly) and I told her that all should be fine in that diocese. And I invited her to join PFLAG.

As we parted, I reflected on my advice to her, and a curiosity at this-- what I might call "God moment"-- where the internal struggle is met with an answer of sorts from the outside. Of course, I can't know for sure what will happen to anyone anywhere in the church. But I am aware that there are places in the Episcopal church where being gay doesn't have to be such an "issue" and that LGBT candidates for ordination don't have to exhibit a kind of "super-righteousness" to prove themselves worthy to be called.

Do I have a place here? Yes, I believe I do.

May the understanding and appreciation of all the myriad of people who God has called to return spread throughout the whole Church and the world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Talkin' to Me?? Dialogue with the Samaritan Woman

For all that the Church, the institution, has done throughout history and across the board to diminish women and keep them as far from the authority roles as possible... there are just tons and tons of examples in Scripture where it was the women who prove to be the disciples of Jesus. One such case is the Samaritan woman at the well in John's gospel. She's arriving at Jacob's well at high noon to gather water and take it back down the mountain into her Samaritan village. Jesus, meanwhile, has been on a long hike to Galilee, the city where new ideas and cosmopolitan life is thriving. He stops at the well and send his disciples off to get some food. This woman arrives, and he can't resist the opportunity before him.

Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."... The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

I can only imagine what this must have been like for her. First of all, men aren't going to talk to women this way because they just don't do that. And secondly, Jesus is a Jew. This woman is a Samaritan. This is like a Yankees fan asking a Red Sox fan for a drink. Oh, sure: we may look a like, but we know who is our kinfolk...

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."

I have a feeling the Samaritan woman wasn't counting on this kind of a conversation when she went to collect her bucket of water at the well. In her head, I can imagine her trying to put this all together: "Here's this Jewish guy sitting by the well and he has no bucket, and now he's talking to me about living water that gushes up to eternal life?!?!" In a place and time where water is as valuable and important to day to day operations as we have become dependant on oil, he is talking about something that sounds extraordinary and amazing.

The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, "I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"

Now she must be totally freaked out! He's talking to her, he has living water, and he knows her past and her present, too?! If I were in her shoes, I'd really be getting a little worried. "Who is this guy? And why is he insisting on talking with me? Why doesn't he let me just get my water and get out of here?"
This is a response I have felt before as I've tripped along on my own faith journey. Those moments when I sense that I am being nudged and poked are also moments when I want to dig my heels into the ground and say, "No, I don't wanna!"

She tries to find a polite exit from this dialogue:

The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."

Ha! And now that ought to stump the Jew. The thing that will separate these two is where they worship. And still, Jesus does an akido move and redirects her to see things not in the concrete ways she's always seen them.

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

Barrier down. And he is still there, talking to her. And so she tries again to politely end this discussion.

The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

Lucky for her, the disciples come back with the food. So she is able to finally get on her way. Back in her village though she tells people what she'd experienced:

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.

And here we see the power of this woman's testimony. She takes off without the water jar. The conversation, the longest Jesus has with anyone in the Gospels, must have done so much to her that she isn't consumed with her task of gathering water. Or maybe the conversation has made her think twice about the need for this water. After all, he's just told her that the water in the well will leave her thirsty, and what he promises is a flowing water that will feed her for her life. And she blurts it out, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" I hear in the statement a sense of wonderment and awe, so much so that she can hardly make sense of it herself. Again, this is a response I can understand. When things happen that draw my focus to God and how God is moving and working in my life... it's like having my breath taken away. A real "A-ha!" That's how I read her question, "He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" It's not so much a real question, but more one that is rhetorical. She knows what she's experienced. Has it been real? "Pinch me, fellow Samaritans!" And on her testimony, they are curious enough to trudge up the mountain to seek out this man.

Meanwhile, the twelve disciples, are worried that Jesus hasn't eaten and needs to partake of the food. What they don't understand is that he just feasted in a way that is far more fulfilling to his mission on earth, and he uses this as a teaching moment:

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, "Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, "One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."

And just to drive this point home, here comes the harvest up the hill. The Samaritans, who were on the "other side" in the split of Judah and Israel and subsequently are now considered "other" in every sense, are climbing up the mountain road to meet Jesus. In turn, he welcomes them. And he stays with them to teach them.

And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

Working through this woman, Jesus reaches another population with his message.

I see in this story the work of LGBT Christians as well. Like the Samaritans, the gay community has not necessarily been welcome to be in the pews of many Christian churches. And many Christian churches have condemned us all to hell and spewed forth so much hatred that its no small miracle that any of us have bothered to come back. So when one of our own kind says, "Hey, I have found a Church that doesn't hate gay people" this can pique curiosity. Feeling accepted by a faith community removes one of the major stumbling blocks for many in their path toward God and eternal life. The other is in the discovery that no matter what the people of God may have said or done, the truth about Jesus can be found in the reading assigned from Romans:

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Jesus meets us where we are, not where somebody else thinks we ought to be. Those who think we ought to be the super-good and super-righteous in order to be in full relationship with Christ have missed the part where Jesus was talking to the outcasts, the "others" and inviting them to come into a relationship with him, so they could share a drink with him. A drink from a spring that gushes up to eternal life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Has Bahati Been Defeated?

Slain Ugandan LGBT civil rights leader David Kato. Kato's heinous murder and circus-like funeral may have helped bring down Bahati's anti-gay bill.

A post at Eruptions from the Foot of the Volcano seems to say that the infamous, "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda has been defeated in Parliament. The bill, sponsored by MP David Bahati, would allow for the execution of some LGBT people, and jail time and fines for others... as well as punishment for those straights who don't turn in their gay neighbors. This news comes a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council reaffirmed its statement that LGBT rights are human rights and condemned of violence against LGBT people. The United States and some European nations took the lead on this at the UN.

This is great news. There has been a lot of pressure coming from outside the African country to not pass this bill. Some reports indicate officials are pulling the measure because there are already anti-gay laws on the book. If only such an argument would work in states like Florida where we not only put anti-gay language in statutes... we seal it up in the state constitution!

Meanwhile, MP David Bahati, the parliamentary leader of this "Kill the Gays" effort and who has been a disciple of US evangelicals including Rick Warren and Scott Lively, is defiantly saying, "the government is aware that 95 percent of Ugandans do not condone homosexuality."

Even if that is true, Uganda does not exist in a vacuum. There has been international outcry after he introduced the bill in 2009. The scurrilous rag, Rolling Stone (not the rock-n-roll magazine), published the photos and addresses of "100 homosexuals" who the paper said should be hanged. One of those pictured was LGBT leader David Kato. Kato was beaten to death with a hammer in his apartment. More disgrace fell upon the country when the Anglican Church of Uganda refused to allow a priest to preside at Kato's funeral, and instead sent a lay reader who launched into an anti-gay rant in the middle of the service. It would seem Bahati, and Archbishop Orombi, and US evangelicals propping up this madness overplayed their hand.

The defeat of this bill is indeed good news. But our eyes must not leave Uganda and other African nations where our LGBT brothers and sisters live in fear. Perfect love casts out fear. We need to support organizations that are offering safety to LGBT people, and keep up the demands from our secular and religious leaders to speak out against the violence and sanction governments that support imprisonment, torture and killing of gay people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Mortal Flesh Keeps Silent

I had to make a very difficult decision while leading Morning Prayer.

The reading assigned from Romans was Romans 1:28-2:11. This picked up two verses later than the previous day. No biggie... except I know what's in vv 26-27 of that first chapter. Most LGBT people who have encountered "Bible Bigots" know what those verses say, and in the ears of someone living in the 21st century, it's not pretty. It would appear to be an unambigous statement from Paul that same-sex relations, be they female or male, are anti-Christ. These, along with Leviticus 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10... are among the favorites to throw at LGBT people in an effort to separate us from God. They are the "No"s of Scripture as in "No, it's not for you!"

I had thought about including those verses into the scheduled reading. I have written about them before here and have talked about my frustration that the church doesn't just confront these words of Paul and talk plainly about translation... time frame of Paul... and, especially for me as a lesbian, to note that my "natural" relations are with women; hence to have sex with a man would be, for me, "unnatural".

But as the service went on... first with a reading from Jeremiah about the wrath that will come to Judah and how she, and Israel, have been playing the whore (in other words, haven't been keeping their eyes on God)... and then using the penitential canticle in the BCP... I thought, "No, not today. Today, we will go with the assigned reading." Plus, there was a new person in the congregation which made me think twice about starting with what sounds like hateful vitriol... that would have required some explaining of context. At 7:15am, I'm not ready to attempt an explaination of Paul to anyone!

I do find myself vexed by the whole thing. Ignoring these passages, and pretending that they don't exist in "the Book" when they do is not a good answer to me. Especially when they are the very words a Biblical literalist will use to assert that I am a devil.

So, was I a coward and hypocrite for not taking it on myself to read aloud these offensive words of Paul? No, I don't think so. As I was preparing to start reading, an internal check of myself told me that the question here was one of what is the wisest move: override the diviners of the lectionary or stick with the program? And ultimately this question: why am I thinking of overriding this? Am I doing this with God... or am I doing this for my ego? Again, weighing all the other factors surrounding this decision, I quickly got to "this is an ego thing." And I let it go and those verses remained silent.

Still, as I contemplate the courage of those who are trying to develop same-sex blessings for the church, I keep wondering if what we're skirting in the church is honesty. Brutal, uncensored honesty. The church, in my opinion, has never really owned up to its trespasses against the LGBT community, perhaps because it continues to commit them in some corners. One way to make amends would be to give some effort to talk about those passages in Scripture that challenge us. And, once and for all, make the point that (1) Jesus never said anything about same-sex relationships; (2) neither Jesus, nor Paul nor anyone had a concept of LGBT relationships in the 21st century; (3) the word "homosexual" is NOT in the original texts because the word did not exist until the 19th century CE.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Special Rites

Over the weekend in Atlanta, the Episcopal Church's Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music was meeting to begin preparing the texts for blessing same-sex marriages. It is groundbreaking and exciting to see the church moving on this issue. And, for those of us in places where same-sex marriage is forbidden, it is... well, interesting.
Interesting because no matter what happens with the church, marriage is a "special right" reserved for heterosexuals in Florida. Not only is same-sex marriage outlawed in four places in the state statutes, the voters made it unconstitutional in 2008. And since the Book of Common Prayer notes that a marriage "conform to the laws of the state and the canons of the church," ... well... that just makes it all "interesting".
And so, I am taking my seat in the nosebleed section of humanity and watching the church engage in another ecclesiastical political football game with my personhood.
I have read some reports of the events in Atlanta, all glowing and positive. Apparently, the SCLM did some theological reflection, looking at the liturgy of our service where we Celebrate and Bless Marriages. The opening shows where there is a bit of a problem for the LGBT community:
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of
God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and
this woman in Holy Matrimony.
(BCP, p.423)

But what if it's a woman and a woman? Or a man and a man? Even the choreography for the wedding instructs the celebrant to have the woman to the right and the man to the left. Again, what if they are of the same gender? Should we do Butch and Femme?
The group also worked on pastoral and teaching resources as well as canon law and other legal ramifications. There were surveys of Bishops and Deputies about where things stand with them now, and plenary and small group discussions.

All of this is good. But there are things about the process that bothered me when I watched the news conference.

The biggest was when I heard a question asked about "Christian marriage" vs. "Same-sex marriage".

Excuse me? Are some of us not Christians?

The fact that we would separate those two ideas gave me pause. As the news conference went on, what became clear from this consultation is that the SCLM is taking a very narrow, literal approach to the language of the C056 (the resolution asking the SCLM to embark on this work of developing rites for same-sex blessings.) And that's what they are doing: blessings for same-sex couples only, and not a service that could be used by a straight couple as well. There was great emphasis by the SCLM Chair Ruth Meyers and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson that the Committee is doing exactly as asked by the 2009 General Convention. Exactly. No deviation.

I understand that. But at the same time, I am sighing heavily at the thought that there are rites for heterosexuals and rites for homosexuals. Each of us get to have our very own "special rites" as if the language of a covenant to love and honor one another is not common for both groups.

And then, I have to pull out a tissue and dab my nose. Because, as I mentioned, I am watching all of this from the nosebleed section of the Diocese of Florida. And the last word I had, our bishop not only says, "No" to same-sex blessings by the church, it is an emphatic "Hell NO!" Someone asked Vermont Bishop Tom Ely what could be done to move the hearts and minds of those who are not willing to allow for the blessing of same-sex marriages. +Ely's answer was pretty much a "not much":

"I'm not going to pound anybody over the head and make them go where they are not prepared to go."
I have wondered as the church continues to writhe and wrestle with this Christian idea of "full inclusion of the baptized," what will happen with these bishops in places like Florida when they find themselves seeing more and more LGBT people who are married in other countries or in one of the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage show up in their pews. How long will they continue to cling to what now they seem to want to call "Christian marriage"? Or maybe how long will the church survive if it continues to tell this segment of the baptized, "You are 3/5ths a person in the church."

Maybe 3/5ths a person in the church. In God, I am whole.


Here are some links worth checking out: Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall's two part report HERE and HERE. She gives details of what happened at the Atlanta Consultation on same-sex blessings. And then there's Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton's take on the matter at TELLING SECRETS.

An Excellent Post

I use this blog as a space to share the many firings inside my noggin, but sometimes there's another blogger out there who hits a homerun that needs to be read. Such is the case for this post on "A Church for Starving Artists". Here's a snippet:

It's tempting to be "the entertaining pastor" or the "funny pastor" or merely "the smart pastor." But the 21st C Church is sorely in need of the equipping pastor who models servanthood and compassion, the pastor who is unafraid to grapple with the deepest issues of our lives, the pastor who sees people with the eyes of Jesus.

MadPriest pointed folks in this direction, and it really is a great entry. Go off and read it... and come back here for my ponderings later! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Church Gone Crazy

I've been finishing up the section of my Education for Ministry class which looks at the Reformation in England. Oh, my!

Of course, the monarchs are key figures in the story of the birth of the Church of England as the Anglo-Catholic institution that is. King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen "Bloody" Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I all play roles in shaping the doctrine and governance of the Church of England. One of the men who wielded tremendous influence on the direction of the Church was the theologian Thomas Cranmer, author of the Book of Common Prayer... and the one who translated the rites into English so all could participate and understand the church service. It was from Cranmer that we get the Thirty-nine Articles, the outline of our Anglican faith and understanding of the Holy Trinity, the Eucharist, Salvation, etc. etc. Cranmer was particularly influential on King Edward VI, a sickly child who relied on the Archbishop of Canterbury to continue reforms that were moving the Church of England in a more Protestant direction. When Edward died, his half-sister Mary, the one called illegitimate after Henry VIII's divorce from her mother Catherine of Aragon, ascended to the throne. She threw the train in reverse and returned England back to Roman Catholicism. Cranmer was locked in the tower of London to await death. He was forced to watch his best friends and loyal supporters, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, being burned alive as part of Mary's pogrom against the Protestants. Cranmer, under pressure and feeling the obligation to honor the crown, wrote several letters to recant his Protestant beliefs. The Queen didn't believe he was sincere and refused to stop his execution. Given one last time to recant in a sermon at University Church on the day of his scheduled death, Cranmer did an about-face, and denied his prior recantations. He said he would have his right hand, which had written the letters, enter the fire first, and--true to his word--Cranmer thrust his right hand into the flames until it was charred to a stump. His reported last words were, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God!"

My feelings as I read about England's Reformation (with occasional nods at Scotland, but not nearly as much as I thought ought to be in the chapters) was like reading a much bloodier version of the politics that still seem to be wreaking havoc on the church. The pushing and pulling and tugging and yanking that still exists with those who are more Protestant (read now the evangelicals) and those who are more Anglo-Catholic in their outlook. It's church gone crazy!

We are 455 years later from when Cranmer was burned for believing the pope to be the Antichrist. But we are still in the business of burning some people and declaring others to be the Antichrist. And sometimes the burning and the accusing seem to go hand in hand. First, we label a group as the "those people" who are the cause of a "problem". And then we devise schemes to root them out. We call those "Processes" and "Covenants". Back in the "good ol' days" of the 16th Century, much of what was happening had little to do with theology and a whole lot more to do with political power. Just like today. We can pretend that there is some "Biblical" reason behind our biases. But in the end, this is all about a power struggle, and irritation with those uppity North Americans. God? God?! Why bring up some trifling thing like God?!?!

My one hope is that inspite of all the madness that seems to consume the people of God at any moment in church history... somehow, against our own wills, the whole work doesn't come unraveled, and we aren't obliterated. I believe this is because God continues to be moving along with us, encouraging us to stay on the path even when we get very close to the third rail. I really believe in that statement at the end of the Matthew's gospel, a restatement of the messages throughout the Old Testament: "Remember, I am with you always until the end of the age."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nicodemus: So Much More Than 3:16

If you've ever watched an American football game, college or pro, you might have seen that guy in the stands (it's always a guy) holding up a hand-written cardboard placard that simply says: "John 3:16".
Unless you're a Bible nerd you probably don't know exactly what that verse says. So, if you're the curious type, you might grab a Bible (or simply Google it), and-boom--there it is:

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.'

For the guy holding the sign, I imagine this is his chance to evangelize to the thousands of people who have their eyes focused on an oblong pigskin sailing through the uprights for an extra point or field goal. He's hoping that those who do not believe in Jesus might come to their senses, wipe their chins of the chicken wing sauce, and present themselves to God.

I have never understood this evangelistic approach myself. The whole taking of a single verses from Scripture and waving them at a sports event... or in protest of LGBT rights... has always set my teeth on edge. And in these last few years of deepening my own faith, I have found that I hate the pulling of the lone verse here and there even more. Because so often, the part doesn't even come close to capturing the essence of the whole.

Such is the case with John 3:16. Jesus makes the statement as part of a much meatier, and interesting, dialogue with a man of intellect and knowledge of Torah named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is coming to meet Jesus in the darkness and is seeming to presume that he is going to have an "academic-to-academic" or "rabbi-to-rabbi" conversation:

‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. --John 3: 2-6

I'm imagining that the intellectually-curious Pharisee is staring at Jesus with intensity and his head cocked. His brow is furrowed and he's trying to put these words together into something that fits with rational thought. And just as he's moving some of the puzzle pieces into place, Jesus, who knows this concept is a challenging one to this man and his mind, introduces another puzzle piece:

Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ --John 3: 7-8

Now, Nicodemus is really scratching his head.

Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.--John 3: 9-15

These are the verses that precede the most famous one of football stadium fame. And what I see in them is what I see in myself sometimes. A person, who is not stupid, is attempting to grasp what sounds like a religious riddle, and make it understandable. Nicodemus felt that he was entering into a dialogue with a peer. How quickly he finds that Jesus is much more than most of the rabbis he's run across. In this last bit, Jesus is pushing Nicodemus to move from being wedded to the way things have always been and realize that he's talking of a new way of being.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. --John 3: 17-18

One of my struggles with John's gospel, or any of the New Testament, is this idea that we fix ourselves onto Jesus in a way that nearly smothers him. I believe in a Christ who entered the world so that we may see God... literally and figuratively. I also think that his goal was not to direct attention to himself, in his corporeal sense, but to always try to shed light, as it were, on God and bringing people's attention back to God, a spirit which he embodied. And so here they are, Jesus and Nicodemus, sitting with each other in the dark. Nicodemus with the questions, and Jesus with the mission to open this man's mind a little further and push him to a new level of understanding about the Law that is at the center of his life.

And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’--John 3:19-21

This is where this encounter comes to an end, but Nicodemus will appear again, especially at the time of Jesus' death where he assists with giving him a proper burial. I've always seen his recurring presence as a sign that something started clicking in his head after that first conversation in the dark. How close he came to becoming a follower of "the Way" is unclear, but he probably moved at least mile in that direction. The fact that we even know the name of the Pharisee who came to talk to Jesus under cloak of darkness I believe is a sign of a person of some stature recognizing that there is a new thing at work with this man Jesus Christ.
"But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." I believe this is a sign that ought to be held up at a football stadium. I believe this is what is the constant invitation from God to all of us. Step out of the darkness and into the light, and let yourself be truly seen by God.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reflection on St. Patrick's Day

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my god to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
--St. Patrick's Lorica

Amidst the music, the corned beef and the beer dyed green, there is the story of the saint who gives us this holiday where we all declare ourselves Irish.
St. Patrick didn't think much about God when he was a teenager. It wasn't his thing, even though his dad was a deacon. But at 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to the Emerald Isle where he was sold into slavery. He escaped six years later, and made his way to a port town where he convinced sailors to take him back to England, a much changed man. He entered the priesthood,and was later elevated to bishop and sent back to Ireland. There, through his missionary work, he established a school and helped Christianity to take root. It was his victory over paganism that supposedly inspired the poem "St. Patrick's Lorica (breast plate)".

As I looked at the readings assigned for his day in the Episcopal Church, I was drawn to the gospel lesson which comes at the very end of Matthew. Jesus tells the disciples, "I will be with you always to the end of the age." It made me reflect upon St. Patrick's time in slavery when he really hadn't believed in God. And I wondered if in his conversion he hadn't come to see that promise as something that was for real in his life. That, even in the moments when he might have thought he would never see his family again, there was a glimmer of hope that let him know "this too shall pass".
Those words from Matthew are the ones that often crop up in my heart during those times when I am in greatest doubt or feeling discouraged. They have been helpful to me when I've been locked in struggles for human rights for LGBT people, which feels not like a literal slavery, but as if we are under a yoke of oppression from those who want to deny us our full humanity. Knowing that Jesus (God) is present and is watching and moving through the muck made by humankind to get us all to a different place is a comfort. The more I trust in that promise, the more I am able to endure life’s abundant challenges.
O God who guides us with a light upon our path in times of darkness; lead us and teach us trust in the promise that we will never be alone in this journey into eternal life; through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the blessed Trinity. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Woo-Hoo! Wakefield!!

First English diocesan vote rejects Anglican Covenant

Modern Church, Inclusive Church and the No Anglican Covenant Coalition are pleased with the result of the first diocesan vote on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

Both clergy and laity (the latter overwhelmingly) rejected the Covenant at the Wakefield Diocesan Synod meeting on Saturday 12th March.

While recognising the need to avoid the bitter controversies of recent years, we are glad that this Synod does not believe the Covenant is the way to do it. You can read the rest of the news release HERE at Thinking Anglicans.

Needless to say, this is hopeful news, especially to read that the laity were so strongly opposed to the document. And it is good to see that there is some independence of thought happening across the pond, and not just a "Oh, let's do this for ++Rowan" attitude. The Covenant, despite words to the contrary from some within the hierarchy of the Church of England, has the possibility of deepening the divisions that already exist and permanently rupturing trust. As Ms. Trentmacher in my last "Bishop Yellowbelly" series put it:

"This (the Anglican Covenant's section four which outlines settling disputes among covenant members) is like telling a mouse that is in trouble with other mice that it must go before a committee of cats."

So glad those in Wakefield understand that!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Defining A Ministry

We will be getting another priest at my church this summer, and it's a good thing. We're a downtown parish with your typical cross-section of downtown parish humanity: lots of senior citizens, college students, single people and those in relationships. The church building itself is constantly hopping with worship services, classes, lunches, group meetings. So it all makes sense that we need another priest.

Some of us were discussing what her role would be. And that's when I heard that she will be dealing with "young marrieds."

I'm not entirely sure what "young marrieds" means, except it clearly doesn't include me. I'm learning that, in church circles, I'm on the older side of "young". And I am not married, and can not be married in the state of Florida.

I understand the need to designate roles among multiple clergy members. It's a way to distribute the load of caring for a large and diverse parish. I wonder what it does, though, when a term like "young marrieds" gets used to describe a segment of the church population that are to be served? A population which includes a lot of unmarrieds, and constitutionally-banned from being marrieds? For me, I hear an unconscious heterosexual prejudice in the term. There seems to be an assumption by some in the church that anyone in the 20-40 year-old set is a potential "married". I think that's because with the potential married comes the additional title of potential "parent" which leads to the potential "baptism" and the potential report back to the diocese saying, "Look, Bishop: we're growing!!"

I don't begrudge the need to reach out and involve the "young marrieds" in the church. Certainly, families help to keep a parish growing. But I think we need a different term for who we are talking about when we we are discussing those of us in our 20s, 30s, and 40s. Otherwise, it can become a stumbling block for some, and an unintentional, if thoughtless, one at that. I think something that is a little more inclusive of all the people in that age group in their various walks of life is in order. Perhaps, "Young adults?"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alone in the Desert with the Devil

"The Temptation of Christ" by Ary Scheffer

For forty days and forty nights, Jesus fasted in the desert. At the end of that time, the tempter came. And Jesus, no doubt, was feeling his humanity. He's tired and hungry and feeling alone in the desert with the devil putting him to the test:

Make these stones bread!

Throw yourself from this pinnacle of the Temple!

Rule over all the kingdoms of the world!

"You can have it all!" says the tempter. "Just fall down and worship me!"

That really is the crux of where the devil is headed in this scene with Jesus. The temptations are one thing, but ultimately it's the "fall down and worship me!" that is the ultimate goal.

These are the same temptations that we face each day. There is the desire to eat our fill (and then some). The craving to feel immortal. And then the crown jewel of them all: to be ruler of everything and totally in control. It's greed and pride and gluttony all rolled into a fine package. And it's all about who and what do we place first in our lives. And what God will we serve.

One of the most popular of the "other Gods" is money. We need money in order to buy stuff. And even if we have plenty of stuff, sometimes there is the temptation to buy more stuff. Because this extra stuff will make us feel younger, look thinner, and is just plain better than that other stuff we already have. The God of Money offers security, and not having money can make us anxious or depressed.

This is where we have the collapse of the kingdom. Because of our worship of money, we fail to see how money traps us into behaving in ways that are far from being reflective of the God that promises eternal life. In fact, money leads to death. When we withhold tax dollars from funding services such as schools, for example, we are choking off our future. Rather than building up our communities, we are ripping them apart. Our temptation to hang onto "our" money will leave us as a society alone in the desert.

If we are in a position of power in our jobs, how we handle that responsibility may be another moment that we find ourselves alone with the devil in the desert. Back when I worked in radio, and I was in the thankless job of interim news director, my superiors asked during my interview for the permanent position about one of the people in the newsroom. She had secured a grant to do some important environmental reporting involving the tri-state water wars. My managers suggested to me that perhaps I should take that grant away from her. They were ostensibly worried about whether she was up for the task (she had issues with depression). But what I saw in their request had nothing to do with caring for her mental health. This employee was a bit of tinderbox who already suspected I was out to do her in and one of the managers was encouraging that paranoia in her. I knew this: she already had the grant and was the most knowledgeable person in our department on the issues involving the water wars, and I knew that this grant was a big win for her. To take it away might have caused her to snap.

"No," I said, "I think she can handle this assignment, and we've been working on a schedule to allow her time to do the reporting." And the tempter in the form of those managers glared at me, but could do nothing. Well, almost nothing. They passed me over for the promotion. But the reporter completed the radio special on the tri-state water wars.

Jesus rebuffs the temptations laid before him at the time when he was most likely to stumble. He finds his strength in the surety of God, and is now even more prepared to embark upon a mission where he is the embodiment of this extraordinary and unconditional love. We, like Jesus, are going to find ourselves alone in our most desperate moments facing the temptation to give in to our weaknesses. That's the rub in this human business. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to not lose sight of God.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Prayers for Japan... and the Pacific Rim

This is the English-language version of Al Jazeera's report on the tsunami. An 8.9 earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan, triggering the massive wave that has engulfed homes, ports and farmland. In Tokyo, most structures have kept in tact but others have been damaged and fires are breaking out.

Tsunami warnings have been issued to other Pacific areas from the coast of Russia to Hawaii. Prayers ascending for the safety of the people and animals in the warning area and for those affected by this natural disaster.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Balm of a Psalm

We are back to doing daily Morning Prayer at St. John's, and not a moment too soon. The timing of Lent falling completely within the 60-day legislative session when things seem to be in a free-fall of madness in the city is perfect. Today, as we gathered as a community in prayer, I had the images of Tuesday on my mind, along with what I saw playing out in Wisconsin on Wednesday.
Here enter Psalm 37. Just a portion of it read:

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash at them with their teeth.
The Lord laughs at the wicked,
because he sees that their day will come.
The wicked draw their sword and bend their bow
to strike down the poor and needy,
to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart,
and their bow shall be broken.
It has often been the case that the psalm assigned for the morning has a way of tapping into the reality of either what I'm feeling personally or what I'm observing. Today, it was both. I've listened to my friends and my clients as they unload their fears of what they are seeing happening all around them in the state agencies. People joke about whether this state department or that one will be in existence by the end of the 60 days. They're joking... sort of... because with a state legislature that is seriously contemplating putting golf courses in the state parks... nothing is beyond the realm of the possible. As I listen, I can feel the grief. And all I can do is be an empathetic ear. Yes, I will go hold a sign on a busy street corner, decrying the works of "the wicked." That's the least I can do. But I also know that this is not the time to hardened my heart, and for every moment that I stand with union organizers, teachers, students... I know that I also need to sit with the person who feels the weight of the situation as a jabbing pain between the shoulder blades.
The psalms provide me with "the message" and the words of wisdom that I need to both act as a protester and a peaceful listener. Because what is going on in the world is beyond me, and in the hands of God. And this is where I have to place my hope and my trust.

The little that the righteous has
is better than great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.

I pray for the patience to stay with the trust that God has all of us in hand and is moving in-between the poles of our debates.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spare Your People, O Lord

The latest out of Wisconsin where Republican lawmakers have pushed through a bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights. Will we see such a circus in Florida, where we too have an open government law? We'll see.

Approaching Ash Wednesday

I have given up my palm cross that has been tucked in the corner of my car dashboard as a kind of good luck charm. It's off to be burned and made into ashes. So, if I get a speeding ticket during Lent, y'all will know why!

There was a bit of magic involved in having had that cross with me, beyond just superstitions about "good luck", like a rabbit's foot. In a way, it has served as an outward and visible sign of what is internal and invisible, known to me on one level... and God at many layers. And it's been in a place in my car where I will see it, and reflect upon it. One of the hallmarks of this journey I'm on has been the odd times of day and places where I find myself contemplating God and the way God has become ever-present. Red lights seem to be particularly good times for me to make connections between my observations of the world and how Scripture speaks to whatever it is that's happening, not in a factual way, but almost like a poetic commentary, and definitely not linear.

That's how I'm feeling as I approach Ash Wednesday. Whatever is stirring inside me seems to be poetic and non-linear. I was contemplating the imposition of ashes. Instead of retracing the cross made on our foreheads at baptism with oil, a priest will be reminding us that "you are dust and to dust you shall return" as the sign of the cross is made with the ash of the palm crosses. This is a moment when we've been conditioned to remember that we are going to die, we are lowly, we are sinners, etc. etc. All of these things are true. But there is another truth that seems to belie the tracing of the cross on our foreheads. We are being re-membered, even in our mortality, to Christ. The oil at baptism, which is invisible, now becomes a visible marker on us that we belong to this body of Christ's people. There can be no doubt of that.

As this rattled around in my head, it struck me that instead of seeing this as an imposition, this moment in the Ash Wednesday service is another anointing. Again, I'm being made whole and being brought closer to God through, in and with Christ. I may be dust, but that dust is imbued with a spirit. And that spirit has been sealed and marked as Christ's own forever... again. With this cross comes responsibility to live into the commandment to love God with all my heart, with all my strength and with all my mind. If I am following that, then it naturally flows to what Christ was giving as a new commandment in John's gospel: to love one another as I have loved you. When we see the light of God in everyone, and treat them with the love that God has shown us, we are bringing ourselves full circle to "loving God". This requires a surrendering of the Ego, that desire to see our selves only... separate and apart from all that is around us. It requires an understanding that while we may be great... we are made greater in God. We are made stronger in God. And we are made brighter in God.

John Lennon's "Instant Karma" has in the chorus, "Well we all shine on! Like the moon and the stars and the sun!" Maybe then we are really stardust. And perhaps this Lent, I am to realize that through this anointing and remembering in Christ, what may be weak and lowly is again revived through the power of the spirit.

Bless the Lord, all my soul
And all that is within me,
bless his Holy Name.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Awake the State!

We came, we sang, we wore Groucho Marx noses!

The Mickee Faust Club was part of the evening Awake the State rally, singing a song I wrote ten years ago on the tune of "Anatevka" from "Fiddler on the Roof".

Tallahassee, Tallahassee
Underwaged, overworked Tallahassee
Where Jimbo Fisher is a star!

Tallahassee, Tallahassee;
Intimate, obstinate Tallahassee
Where no one ever goes too far.

Soon I'll be a number in the jobless line
Searching for all those old friends of mine
From Tallahassee...

I belong in Tallahassee!
Governor: Fuck* yourself! Tallahassee.
Dear little city, little town of mine.

*for the purposes of this performance, we blew a raspberry and flipped him the bird.

Our performance was met with laughter and applause. The noses, which we wore in an effort to protect those state employees in the troupe who are feeling particularly vulnerable at this time, added another layer of the message: folks are having to put on a mask in order to remain employed in this state government town.
A reporter from the Orlando Sentinel asked me why I was out protesting on this opening day of the state legislative session. And I told him the truth. I have friends who are scared, and clients in my massage practice who are anxious about their futures. I knew they were not going to be standing up for themselves, and since I can, I did. I gave up all my other activities I would have been doing today for the sole purpose of standing by the road, holding some signs and waving to motorists. And as I said in my earlier post, I did this with joy. My signs, seen here, were meant to evoke the ire of those who voted for the high-speed rail amendment nine years ago... and to call upon a hero to save us from the Dark Lord Voldemort who has bought himself a state.
One person remarked, "It's gonna take more than Harry Potter to save us!"

Pancakes and a Protest

pancakes brokencountry.com

I've been jamming this morning to Wardell and His Slammin' Big Band, JB's Zydeco Zoo and a little Celia Cruz. It's Mardi Gras Day. Time to enjoy the party of life before we recognize all good parties come to an end with Ash Wednesday.

Yes, I will be eating pancakes for dinner. This is a must in the ritual of the day. All good Episcopalians know that for Shrove Tuesday, you eat something sweet and fattening like pancakes. And for those who plan to give up some vice or another for Lent, be it chocolate or alcohol: better get in that last one before tomorrow. :)

With my pancakes this year, I will be engaging in a protest. You might say this is my act of standing up to the man who believes himself to be a new Roman emperor, namely our Governor. I've been hearing too many tales from clients and friends about the way this administration is randomly off-ing people and whole bureaus. Folks who are serving in federally-mandated jobs are being told to pack up the things in their offices: their services will no longer be necessary because apparently Governor Lord Voldemort doesn't care what the muggles in Washington, DC say. Well, clearly he doesn't since he also told the Obama administration that Florida has no need of the billion+ dollars prior Governors and lawmakers worked to obtain to build a high-speed rail in this state. The New York Times reports that the Dark Lord is at odds with the Death Eaters in the legislature. Wonder if any of them will cross ideological party lines and join our protest? Doubtful, but one can always hope that they might do it in a more meaningful way by not simply doing as the Governor wants. Trouble is in Florida, when you start looking to the Florida legislature to be the saving grace... you're in biiiiggg trouble.

My spiritual director and I were talking about the state of affairs in Florida and elsewhere. I agree that God is holding all of this in a way that God can contain the crazies, the cunning, and the champions in the same stewpot. Because of this, the trust can't be placed in the hands of the rulers, but in the hands (heart, head, mercy) of God that "all will be well."

In the meantime, today is the day that I must figuratively unsheathe the sword and stand with my fellow Tallahasseeans who are in fear and feeling more demoralized than I have seen them before. And I plan to do it with the party spirit of Mardi Gras because no governor, no state legislature, no state supreme court can rob me of the joy of life. That's truly a God-given gift and it's mine to share.

So pile on the pancakes and make me fat for a fight. Tomorrow I will repent and remember that in the end, I'm just dust.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white...

As I listened to this passage being read today at St. John's, I had a flash of another one of those "A-ha's" Earlier, we had heard about Moses going up the mountain, into the cloud, where he would spend forty days and forty nights in an ongoing lecture from God. At some point, in the return to his people, Moses' face will shine so brightly that the Israelites are afraid, and he has to wear a veil.

This would seem to be that same incredible light that is transforming and transfiguring Jesus. God has come in such close contact with him... joining him with Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) on either side... that he is burning as bright as the sun. If Jesus, the man, hadn't realized who he was before, there can be no doubt of who he is in this moment. And from here, Jesus launches into his ultimate purpose to bring a new way of being to an oppressed, hurting, and struggling world.

This, I believe, is still happening amongst us today in the 21st century.

It may not happen in the same way as with Jesus. We aren't likely to take our closest associates with us to a mountain top to be greeted by a thunderous, booming voice announcing that "We are God's beloved with whom God is well pleased. Listen to us!" Still, I think God has the power and the ability, and definitely the will, to transfigure those of us who are willing to give our selves over to this Love.

Note: I separated "ourselves" into "our selves". This is an important distinction. Because I believe the only way to allow for the transfiguration to happen is to give up the self, the ego, to something larger. Ego... the "me, me, me" and the thinking that we have some kind of control, is one of the biggest barriers we have to God. The focus on "me" and the amount of time spent thinking about "me" blocks the way to God. And the ego seems to love to "think" about all kinds of things. In the thinking, it also gets to feel as if it's in control. But, in my own experience, the more I get caught up in my thoughts, the more I try to control and force things to bend to my will, the more likely I am to move away from Love. And the further I move from Love, the more anxious I get. Depression and despondency soon follow suit. And my light grows dim.

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid."

The brighter we become, the more others will look at us oddly, and perhaps even be a little afraid in the same way that the Israelites needed Moses to veil his face because he was just too bright and shiny for them. But becoming brighter is what I believe God is intending for all of us, and especially those who are truly seeking God and a deeper knowledge of God. We're to let our light shine and illuminate those places where it's dark. And we are to lead, even if it means taking our own cautious steps toward a showdown in our own version of Jerusalem. That's coming this week as the Florida legislature gathers and our Governor turns the screws on state agencies and employees. Those of us who have worked in "the system", and are no longer bound by it, understand the rampant fear and desire to lay low and hope to survive. This is why I am willing to take a stand for those too afraid at this moment to do so, while encouraging those who are fearful, but willing, to stand with me and others. The light of Love will transform us and make us brighter than those who would rather see us stay in darkness.

Shine on! Shine on! Shine on!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Lenten Lesson

As always, our dear Bishop Yellowbelly finds himself locking horns over the Anglican Covenant. This time, it's with Ms. Trenchmacher, just your every day lay leader who has been with the church for several decades. She is questioning the proposed study guide for Lent. He is questioning her intelligence... and her heritage. And the beat goes on...

As I've said, I will not be studying the Anglican Covenant as a Lenten discipline. Although it would be a kind of penance to do that, wouldn't it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have this stained glass ornament in the window at my office. Every so often, particularly in the late afternoon, the sun hits the glass just right to send streaks of blue, red and yellow across my table onto the opposite wall.
Yesterday, as I was working on an older client, I noticed the light from the ornament was hitting me in the chest at my heart. And I thought, "I've been marked!"
Marked, in this instance, in a moment of communion, and sharing in a connection that is God-like. At that particular moment, I was reaching this client in a place that was necessary for her. It was the true sense of meeting somebody where they are at, and I was being "marked" in the moment.
This was happening in the context of my massage practice, but it makes me reflect on how important it is to have such shared time with all people. I think the cashiers and baggers at Publix deserve this same intention of meeting them in the eyes. Ever since that was first brought to my attention in massage school (I believe it was in the second week of classes), I have been aware of the person checking out my groceries over the scanner, and the young teen or older retiree dilligently putting my food into bags. Sometimes it's easy to overlook them, especially when other things are more pressing on the mind. But no person should be seen as expendable. And meeting them in the eyes with a "Thank you!" may be all that's necessary to make them feel as if somebody noticed they existed.
May we all have more moments where we are marked and reminded of the communion we share with the many people we come across in the course of a day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Prayers of Grief and Gratefulness

I'm sad this evening. Earlier today, I learned that the father of one of my childhood friends passed away a few weeks ago. His obituary didn't land in the local Exeter paper until today, and his funeral is set for next week. It seems Jerry died in his sleep. A good way to go, but it now leaves my friend Leonita fatherless and motherless. Her mom, Ellen, of whom I wrote about on this blog, died last September. Perhaps Jerry's heart was too broken from the loss of his soulmate that he decided to follow after her. It's hard to say, but that certainly would not be far-fetched.
While going to the funeral home site to put up a note to the family, I learned of the death of another person from my childhood. Rosemary Coffin, who I remembered as the lady with the British accent at our church, died last week. Her memorial service is set for this coming Saturday. I shared that news with the Anonymous Peggins who will be home in time for it. Rosemary, besides having a British accent, stands out in my memory because she started Seacoast Hospice in 1978. I remembered hearing about that, and as a ten year-old, being very impressed with the concept. It would be almost three decades later, dealing with my dad's death and the decline of other people, that I experienced first-hand the compassion and wisdom of Hospice care. It gave me a whole new sense of how special Rosemary was for seeing the need, and working to start such a helpful program in my hometown.
And then there was the news that Reverend Peter J. Gomes, a rarity of black, gay, Republican and Harvard Professor who was dubbed "the Bishop of Harvard" by Massachusetts Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, had died of complications from a stroke suffered last December. He was 68. I never knew him, but I have seen him interviewed and he had a commanding presence, and a matter-of-fact way of basically saying, "God made me and I'm gay. Next question?" He came out as a gay man in the 1990s when a conservative publication at Harvard put out a gay-bashing issue that caused an uproar on campus.

"I do not know when the quality of life has been more violated," he told a crowd of about 100 as he stood on the steps of Memorial Church, setting off sustained applause when he added, "I am a Christian who happens as well to be gay. ... Those realities, which are unreconcilable to some, are reconciled in me by a loving God."
I could not say it better myself. And the fact that he did say it with the possibility that it could have injured his career shows that he had the strength and courage which comes through God to do what is right. We need more of that in the world!

I pray for the repose of all three of these souls, and give thanks for their presence in the life of the world, and of me. personally. May light perpetual shine upon them as they enter into eternal rest.