Monday, January 30, 2012

Supplications and Sodom

As part of morning prayer, I regularly read the collect of the week, the one from Sunday, as part of my practice. This one asks God to "hear the supplications of your people in our time grant us your peace."   An important phrase to have in mind as I encountered the overly-cited story of God destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Ask any gay person about Sodom and Gomorrah, and watch the eyes narrow into a fixed glare and the face harden as he or she braces for the expected diatribe about the "proof" that God hates homosexuality.  This story, and the Levitical laws about abominations are the top two portions of the Bible most often used to condemn gays to the outer darkness by those who think they get to sit in the judgment seat of God.     

For decades, Sodom and Gomorrah were supposedly about the attempted man-on-man rape of the strangers.  At least, that's what the screaming people pounding on their Bibles would yell at me and others as we walked peacefully to classes on our college campus.  In reality, the sin of the men in those two doomed cities was what seemed to be a compounded case of failing to welcome the strangers at all which is a huge no-no in Jewish culture.  I mean, Lot tells these guys that they needed to take shelter in his house because they weren't safe out on the streets of Sodom.  Obviously, the place must have had a reputation for failing to do one of the essentials:  see your fellow human being as a being of God's creation. In the past decade, there has been a movement by some in Christendom and our friends in the Jewish tradition to end the myth that this was a story of a wrathful God out to strike down wicked gay people.   They have been speaking up more and making efforts to reconcile with the LGBT community that has been so deeply injured by the misunderstanding of the lessons from stories like Sodom and Gomorrah.

This past week, one of the Lutheran churches in Tallahassee put on a lecture series aimed at examining the issues facing the LGBT community.  They held the forums in their main sanctuary amidst the altar and the stained glass as discussions about medical issues facing lesbians and transgender people were bandied about and author and Heart Strong founder Marc Adams shared his story of coming out in an extremely fundamentalist family.   Religious bigotry was acknowledged as was the realization that some places of worship are extending a welcome to the LGBT community.

May God mercifully hear the supplications of us gay people who seek Christ in peace and grant us the strength and courage to love and serve you in the midst of the noise from those who try to drive us away from you.  Amen. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Out of a Death Comes Resolve

Yesterday, many marked the one year anniversary of the brutal beating death of David Kato Kisuule, the leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Sidney Nsubuga Enoch was convicted in November of murdering Kato in his apartment and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The investigation and the trial seemed to be more about perpetuating sterotypes about gays and lesbians than actually punishing someone for swinging a hammer into the head of this gay activist. The prosecutor reportedly made much of Nsubuga's claim that he killed Kato because he said Kato was trying to push him into having sex.

Kato's murder outraged many of us in the LGBT international community. We who pay attention to not only the "gay news" but also the "Anglican news" were all-too-aware of the dangers facing Kato and others in Uganda as the church and state conspired to craft the noxious Anti-homosexual legislation, which threatens execution of LGBT people and severe punishment for anyone who doesn't report someone who is lesbian or gay to the authorities. There were emails, phone calls, and letters sent to the secular and religious leaders of the world to speak out against this atrocity occuring on the African continent. When Kato, an outspoken and visible member of Uganda's LGBTI community was executed, our concerns were sadly realized, and it ratched it up the global concern.

We must remain aware of the precarious position African LGBT people face. They're lives are in real jeopardy. They face imprisonment, beatings, and lesbians in particular are often victims of what some call "corrective" rape.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton this fall took a huge step up to tell the international community it is time to protect LGBT people from discrimination and the lynch mob mentality that comes with such legislation as was proposed in Uganda. If only now our religious leaders would be equally as bold!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Addicted to Hate

The late singer Robert Palmer hit it big on the pop charts in the 1980s with a song called, "Addicted to Love" which had the refrain, "Might as well face it your addicted to love."

But this week, I am seeing evidence of an addiction not to love, but to love's opposite, hate.

There was the story out of central Arkansas of the man managing a Democratic congressional candidate's campaign against a Tea Party Republican who came home with his children one evening to find the family's pet cat hanging on the porch.  The killers left their calling card on the animal's corpse by scrawling "Liberal" in black permanent marker on the dead cat's side.

There was the way House Majority leader Eric Cantor went from wrinkled brow to sly smirk during the State of the Union address last night.  A smirk that conveyed what was likely going through his head as the President pushed for Congress to stop stalling on his plans to help create more long-term jobs in this country; namely, "Yeah, right, Nobama!  Ain't gonna happen!"

There were the homophobic and Christian-bashing comments that are now associated with a video that I made a few years ago.  If I were my teen-age self, I might have been crushed but some of the name-calling.  But I'm an adult and I know most people who comment on the internet using a pseudonym are cowards and desperate for attention.  Especially a pseudonym like "TrustinJesus."    I do trust in Jesus; hence--like the Ziggy Marley song says--"I don't condemn, I don't convert."   I don't have to because that's the role of God, not me.  I am supposed to reflect God's love and allow it to flow through me to others.  But it's the Love that works on the individual's heart and mind that will do the condemning and converting.

That's what happened with Paul.  Today was the day we celebrated his conversion to Christianity, a truly remarkable story of a man addicted to hating those who professed Christ as the Messiah who encounters Christ on the road to Damascus and is turned around for good... which wasn't just good, it was great!  Paul is one of the first to experience the risen Christ, and that encounter led to him becoming one of the early church's evangelists-extraordinaire.   He started churches, and wrote letters, and became an advocate for spreading this message of Love to the Gentile population.   Paul went from being addicted to his hatred to inescapably in Love.  He was redeemed, and his redemption tells a story of how powerful Love can be.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  once said, "Darkness can not drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that."  That certainly seems to be true.  And the only answer to those who are seemingly addicted to their hatred and distrust everyone and everything is to continue responding in love, knowing that there will be a price to pay for that.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

And God Changed His Mind

Some people have power animals.  I have a power prophet.   And my power prophet is not one of the big stars of the Bible like Moses or Isaiah or even the oh, so bemoaning Jeremiah.

My power prophet is Jonah.  

Yeah, I know.  He's a bit of a coward and a fool and a pouter and a drama queen.   Hence, he is incredibly real to me.  His reluctance to go to Nineveh and tell them that they're on a road to destruction  and his running the other way when God tells him which direction to go all speaks to things that resonate with me.  I'm in touch with my inner Jonah.   And I would be willing to bet that most people out there who call themselves followers of Christ are also familiar with their inner Jonah.

Jonah does eventually succumb and trudges in to Nineveh after his high seas adventures in the belly of a big fish, and does as God commands.  He tells them that they have 40 days before God lowers the boom and wipes them out.  Jonah expects the Ninevehites to ignore this news and continue behaving in ways that will bring about their certain demise.  But it doesn't happen.  The Ninevehites hear Jonah's words, take them to heart, fast, and they turn their lives around.  And then, an incredible thing happens...

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

God changed his mind.  At least, that's how the writer of the Book of Jonah describes it.  Since the destruction did NOT happen, God must have changed his mind.  Or perhaps it's that the people of Nineveh, having turned from their purported wickedness, no longer needed a God-whooping.   And perhaps it's not so much that God changed his mind, but the people of Nineveh came back to God. 

In my own experience, I have come to know God as one who is the constant and unchanging undercurrent in the world.  There is always a pulsing steady beat, like a heart, that tha-thumps the same song day-in and day-out to let us know that Love is always present if we will stop listening to our own monkey minds and pick up its rhythm.  I believe that is the rhythm that captured the attention of the disciples as they dropped their day-to-day habits and chores to follow Jesus as he spread the message of Love to a people desperate to hear that good news.   They felt that beat and they wanted to dance to it. 

Now, if you listen to some, especially during this political silly season in the states, there is a feeling that we in this country have "forgotten God" and we, like the people of Nineveh, need to repent.  The ones sounding this alarm are often those who identify as "evangelical Christians" and, as evangelists, they believe it is their duty to take on that Jonah role, screw up their courage, and tell us all how debase and horrible we are and it's time to get on our knees and pray to God.   I agree: when we make laws that punish the children of illegal immigrants and make it impossible for those kids to obtain citizenship, and when we continue to fight over whether LGBT people should be allowed to get married, and when we blithly go along with the idea that our healthcare delivery system is the best in the world, even though millions of Americans can't afford the insurance to access that system, then--yes--I think we need to ask God to forgive us our sins that we are committing against God and each other.  Because when we intentionally inflict pain and suffering on those who are a minority or in need, then we are persecuting God.  Remember Matthew 25?  "What you did to the least of these you have done to me"?  

Oh, wait: I think the things that I believe are reasons to repent are not the same ones that the "evangelical Christians" have in mind.  Oh, no: I think the things that I say are wrong in this country are the things that "they" tend to think are right.  Uh-oh!  We're at odds!  What are we to do?

We could fall back on our inner Jonah.  Jonah sulked and pouted when God didn't destory Nineveh.  Afterall, he hadn't run so fast and furious in the other direction only to wind up in the city to do what he was told to do to then see that nothing bad happens to the Ninevehites.  This was supposed to be doomsday.   And since things didn't turn out as he wanted, he sits down and pouts and is angry at God for ruining the fun.  Sounds like the type of response one so invested in a particular outcome, like a political issue, would have.  But God answers Jonah's pouting and kvetching with a shade bush to keep him comfortable as he grumbled.  Jonah was happy to have that to protect him from the heat of the sun.  Once he was satisfied, God took Jonah's shade bush away by means of a worm, and a sultry wind blew on him making him swelter.  Now Jonah was angry again.

God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’ --Jonah 4:9-11

Who has the ultimate say here?  Us or God?  Like Jonah, we want to have the last word and be in control of all things and have justice meted out in a way that pleases us.  But that isn't always go to be the case.  The rhythm that beats and moves this world and calls people to join in the dance is setting the tempo of change, growth and evolution of our minds and nature.  Any repentance, or rethinking as I like to call it, will happen at the time when it needs to happen.  And if something is out-of-sync with that rhythm, the correction will happen.  This should be the hope of all people who follow Christ, and it takes the same faith and trust exhibited by those disciples who dropped their lives to tag along after Jesus to trust that God will work God's purpose out.   God will have the final say, and the last dance.  And that is something God won't change God's mind about.     

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Partiality: The Confession of St. Peter

These lines from the Book of Acts were like a balm to my ears this morning:

 ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

This is Peter professing, or confessing, the great "a-ha!"  that says it is God who is the host of the banquet and it is God who invites us to the party, and in God's own way, we will likely find ourselves sitting next to people at the table who we surely thought were not going to be there with us.  Republicans and Democrats will be made to break bread with Independents.  Gays and straights will be bumping elbows and immigrants of all kinds will be clinking glasses with natives.  All because, when offered the invitation to this party, they said "Yes."  

This is not an exclusive club as some have tried to make it out to be.  And it's not some dry boring no-fun-at-all kind of party either.  It is the party called life.  It is abundant, eternal, and the music plays on and on.   We can either get up and dance to the beat, or sit it out in the corners of the room.  If we leave the dance hall and slam the door behind us, that's when we've lost out.  Lots of people do that, and it's a shame.  The good news is that the band doesn't stop playing just because some don't want to stick around to listen.

Some folks can get hung up on the term "fearing God."   

"Why would I want to worship a God that wants me to be afraid?"  

It's not that we are "afraid" in that way that we might fear an axe-wielding murderer or a sadistic and abusive parent.  "Fear," in this sense, is to be in awe, or totally wowed, or left dumb-struck because you just can't believe how God can be so good.  It's in this place that any of us, and in this case Peter, are left slack-jawed and saying, "OK, this is amazing!"   Peter, who had up to this point thought that God and Jesus were just for the Jewish people who kept kosher, now knows that God intends this message of Love to extend further.  And--yes, Peter--you can eat the shrimp!

It's an eye-opener for Peter, and it continues to open the eyes of many in the world to the knowledge that there is a Love that is universal and desires to be one with us in our lives as shown by the one sent to live and die as one of us and deliver us the invitation.  All we have to do is say, "Yes" and let the party get started. 

Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Rock on!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Appreciating the Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.

Being in Year 4 of Education for Ministry, I am in the midst of reading short snippets about the lives and introspection of philosphers and theologians of mostly the 18th-20th century.  Some of the material doesn't feel like enough for me, and so I have gone back to my old college textbooks on philosophy to find other writings to help fill in gaps.   Yes, I do have my textbook still from my senior-level philosophy class at the University of Missouri.  For reasons that I can't explain now, I remembered thinking that I wanted to hold on to the book because I thought it might be useful in the future.  How prophetic, right?
When I opened the book, what fell out were the photocopies of Jesus' sermon on the mount from Matthew's gospel and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.  The assignment had been to do a comparison of the two texts and discuss them in class.  I never spoke in that class.  Instead, I sat on the back row trying as best as I could to make sense of Satre and Kant and taking in the existential angst of the philosophy majors on the front row.  But then we had this assignment.  And as I read the two pieces, I was fascinated by the way King really had used the rhetorical style of the man he called "Savior" to bring the basic understanding of the Gospel message to a practical, and important, political and cultural point.
As always, I sat on the back row in that class, figuring I would just stay mum and let the budding philosophers give us all the meaning of these two speeches.  But I was stunned and shocked when one of them, the guy with the scruffy beard and long hair and pasty white skin, opined that there was no comparison between the two.
My hand shot up, and the professor looked like he'd been zapped by an electric shock.
"Yes?" he called on me to speak.  And spoke I did! 
"Oh, there is sooo much here!" And I rattled off all the rhetorical points that seemed to line up with each other, the repetition of the phrase "I have a dream" and "Blessed are the fill-in-the-blanks."  And, looking at those on the front row,  I noted, "Dr. King was a preacher.  Of course, he would have known this stuff and been influenced by it!"
I find very often that the "Reverend" part of Dr. King's title is often overlooked.  As we come to have the annual celebration of a man noted for his impassioned speeches and crusades for civil rights for African Americans, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for where that passion was grounded. Rev. Dr. King was about truly living the values of Christianity, and it was his Christianity that guided him to the place of knowing that his efforts were absolutely right, just, fair and of God.  Why then are people so reluctant to make that part of his title?
It seems to stem from the idea that someone like a King and the ideas that he advocated transcend all labels and markers that set him apart from other religions.  In fact, the Rev. Dr. King's ethic of non-violence was learned from one of his top assistants in the civil rights struggle, a gay man named Bayard Rustin, who spent time in India learning from the master, Mahatmas Gandhi.  So, yes, King was influenced by practices outside of Christianity and by Rustin who, at that time, was reviled by most in the civil rights struggle as a "pervert" because of his homosexuality.   Rustin may have kept a low-profile, but his savvy helped King lead. 
The fact that King kept Rustin as an advisor and was willing to learn from a Gandhi, shows him to be a broadminded person.  And being broadminded is not contradictory to being Christian.  In fact, Christians should strive to be open-minded and curious and willing to learn from what others can teach them.  That is part of being able to see God in action in the world today.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

God's Glory in the Body

I was scheduled to lead the Prayers of the People this morning, which I did.  However, as is the case at times when you serve as a Eucharistic Minister at the 11:15, you are drafted to read a lesson... or two!  Luckily, I was only asked to read the second lesson which was from 1 Corinthians.  And, as I discovered, it was an example of God's choreography putting together an interesting dance.  Put aside all of Paul's prelude to his complaint about fornication, he gets to a point that I was thinking about on the way to church this morning.

[Or] do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. --1 Cor. 6:12-20

I note, this statement of Paul's comes after the verses so oft quoted at me (yes, at me) about who will inherit the kingdom of God.  It's usually a biblical literalist-type who likes to latch on to Paul's laundry list of the "unwelcome" so they can tell me and the others like me why we're not worthy.   Of course, one of the other readings today was Psalm 139, which negates all the noise of the literalists with the overwhelming message that "God made me, loves me, and I can't get away from that Love no matter what I do."   So much for being unwelcomed!

The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you.  And I say, "Amen and amen!" to that statement.  This is why taking care of the body and loving the body is important and--yes--holy.  This is what I try to communicate with my clients every day.  Massage therapy is much more than just "bodywork."  It is soul work.  It is the maintenance of the temple that houses the spirit within.   So, when I hear Paul say, "Glorify God in your body," I hear him saying, "Get a massage!"   Take care of yourself, and don't abuse this body that you have.  Because proper care of your body is also a way of being a steward of what God has given to you.  It's not just your money.  It's not just how you treat the others sharing this planet with you (people, plants and animals).  Are you eating foods that can then be generated into energy for the cells of your muscles, or are you eating empty calories off the fast food menu all the time?  

If we treat the body well, the spirit within will thrive.   Get a massage.   Drink a smoothie.  Feel better in your skin, bones and muscles... and your spirit will be lighter.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Right-wing Boycott of Thin Mints

I am not a fan of the Girl Scouts of America.  Not that I think there is anything wrong with the organization necessarily, but I had a pretty lousy experience in my youth with scouting.  Our camping trip had to end early because it was cold, raining and miserable.   The one thing I learned as a Brownie (the precursor to Girl Scouts) was a legal term: embezzlement.  It's a noun that can be used in the sentence: "Susan's scout leader was arrested on charges of embezzlement when the cops discovered she'd taken all the Girl Scout Cookie money collected by her troop." 

Didn't make scouting a particularly fun experience for me.

But I like the cookies:  Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Does.  And they make some good shortbread and lemon cookies, too.  When I worked in radio, me and my colleagues would buy boxes and boxes of cookies as comfort food during the legislative session.  They went really well with coffee or tea.

And it's that time of year again when the young girls and usually one or two moms will set up shop outside a grocery store to help drive down the sales of Pepperidge Farm and Keebler with those enticing boxes of cookies.

So, it was a bit alarming to see the video circulating on the internet made by a 14-year-old girl in Ventura County, California urging the public to boycott the Girl Scouts of America cookie drive.

Her name is Taylor, and she's on a tear about the Girl Scouts of America's policy that allows transgender children into scouting.   In a seven-plus-minute video, Taylor manages to rattle off some of the most offensive nonsense and anti-trans propaganda that is out there.   She worries about the sleep-overs if there is a boy who identifies as a girl allowed to be in the sleeping quarters.  She equates this to allowing a male chaperon in the cabin with the young girls.  Because those two scenarios are, of course, the same... NOT.   She worries that the GSA policy toward trans children, adopted when a Colorado child who is MTF asked to join the Girl Scouts, is undermining the sanctity of this "all-girl" organization.   And, after watching all seven minutes and 55 seconds of this scripted and nauseating diatribe, she directs the viewers to, where you can join in the boycott of Girl Scout cookies and read more anti-LGBT, anti-abortion material.  Yes, a 14 year-old is a cynical front for right-wing homophobia and bigotry.

The video has now been made "private" meaning that only the select (or is that "the elect"?) can see it.  That's fine.  This kind of unwanted bashing of the trans community needn't be spread around.  Especially since Taylor's crucifix is so prominently displayed around her neck.  Just what Christianity doesn't need: another person claiming the mantle of Christ and then mangling the message to the point of it being unrecognizable as they take another swing at the LGBT community.

Unfortunately for Taylor and her mommy and daddy who likely supported her in this effort, I and many others have now been inspired to add another box of GSA cookies to our shopping lists.  Just what my waistline didn't need! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Too Much Tebow

Americans love their football, but the worship of a mere mortal as the "Mile High Messiah" makes me want to dump chicken wings and beer all over those who genuflect at the altar of the pigskin.

It hit a new low when I saw the article speculating about the numbers Denver quarterback Tim Tebow posted in Sunday's wild card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.   Tebow passed for 316 yards.
He set a playoff record with an average of 31.6 yards completed.  And the TV rating for CBS at the time of the amazing one-play, one-80-yard TD pass: 31.6.   These numbers apparently set the wacky wheels in motion:  3:16... as in John 3:16, a favorite of football fans bent on holding proselytizing posters for the TV cameras at football games.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to the end that all shall not perish, but have everlasting life."   That's your John 3:16.   It occurs in a heady exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus.  And they were not talking about an American football game!

I am beyond fed up with the hype around Tebow and his one-knee-to-the-ground-head-on-curled-fist showmanship of prayer.  I am also annoyed that if one criticizes this public display of prayer some will accuse you of being "anti-Christian."   On the contrary, I am Christian.  I believe in the Trinitarian God.  I also like pro football and I believe in sports as a fun activity, and a break from the every day to cheer on a bunch of grown men who like to run around with an oblong piece of leather and get paid to tackle each other.  I do not believe that Jesus is the reason for the football season, and the Almighty doesn't favor one player or team over another.  So all the religious symbolism being attached to Tim Tebow is ridiculous.  And looking for signs in statistics?  Oh, puh-leeze!

I am a New England Patriots fan.  Our team got off to a slow start against the Denver Broncos last month in their regular season match up.   Hopefully, they won't need to wait so long to bring Tim Tebow back to earth and remind him that there is one Son of God... and it's not him.

NOTE: Tom Brady and the Patriots took care of football business by handily defeating the Broncos in a game that seemed like a scrimmage.  As Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy described the 45-10 game, "It was a beating of--dare we say-- biblical proportions."  Yes, it was.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Baptism and All That Goes With It

The Baptism of Christ by Giotto di Bondone

Today, we marked the baptism of Christ.  The Holy Spirit descends like a dove from heaven as Christ is emerging from the water, and he hears the voice saying, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased."

Most of us don't get to hear that voice.  Most of us, if we are Episcopalians, were baptized when we were infants and the only thing we might have heard was our own screaming as the priest dribbled water on our heads in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But implicit in that moment of our own baptism is the same absolute and total love of God for who we are, who we were and who we will be.  No booming voice, and no dove, but the same sentiment is expressed for each of us. It was noted by the rector of St. John's this morning in his sermon that nothing separates us from the love of Christ.  Nothing.

After this period of experiencing death upon death in the lives of my friends, I am keenly aware of this connection between baptism in this life and the resurrection that comes at the end of life in this realm.  One of the things I appreciated in the Roman Catholic funeral service I attended was the explanation that the white pall laid over the cremated ashes of my friend's mother was a symbolic connection to her baptismal gown she no doubt wore when she was a baby. It was a visual reminder that the resurrection is like the baptism into the next adventure and the continuation of our life in Christ.  We go on... only without a body.

So what are we doing with this life while we are in the body and existing between the two poles of  baptism and resurrection?  When we are baptized, our body becomes connected with many others.  We are brought into a larger community with its different members, each of us making a contribution to this body of humanity.  Part of what we must do is to be aware of those other moving and growing parts of the body.  That's more than just within the church community.  It's looking at what's happening in our cities and townships and responding to people who may be hurting or in need, as well as celebrating triumphs and joys.  The body isn't just the body of our churches.  It's everyone we are in contact with in the world.  It's about understanding how what we throw in the garbage can has a potential effect on our planet.  It's about how and where we spend our money effects our neighbors both inside and outside the city limits.  And it's about living.  Living fully, and as people who are free and very worthy of love.  When we live that way, we are more able to love that way.  And when we love that way, we are more reflective of the light of the Divine Love.

Baptism not only marks us as Christ's own forever; baptism requires us to live and love as Christ's own.  Forever.  Nothing can separate us from this love, so let's ride the wave and share our selves with those around us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Epiphany of Aging Parents: Marion, Edna, Jacques, and Richard

Above is a picture of Marion Kelley Nudd who, at 93, decided it was time to take the ride of her life in a helicopter over Orlando.  A few days after this picture was taken, she died of a stroke with her family around her, including her youngest daughter and my friend, Donna.  Marion's funeral is this morning.
Her death comes a month after Donna's partner, Terry, lost her own mother, the feisty and funny Edna Geneva Galloway.  Terry and her sisters were with their mother as she slipped away following surgery to unclog the arteries in her neck.
Both of these ladies now join the communion of saints... which includes Jacques, father of my friend Beatrice who died in France this fall.  And before them was Richard, father of my friend, Dona, who passed away on this date one year ago, a fitting date for a King of a man.
I know what it means to lose a parent.  My dad died in 2007, and my partner's father, Arthur, died a little over a year later.  Even when your parents are showing signs of decline, there is an eerie feeling of being un-anchored from the dock when death finally happens.
And still, there is life that comes out of a death.  I sensed that even though my father was no longer here with me in this realm, there was something more that came afterward for him.  What it was, I had no idea.  I just was left with a sense of growth and grace that said this cycle of loss really was OK.   And most importantly, living on earth was also OK; better than OK.  Because the freedom I felt that was there for my father was also available in a different way for me now.  That's the taste of God that is eternal life.
Happy Epiphany.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Prayers Ascending for Friends... Again

This has been a rough several weeks for my corner of the city.   Last month, my friend Terry's mom, Edna, died following surgery in Texas.  This morning, my phone rang.  It was Terry.

Her partner's mother, Marion, was dying.  She'd had a massive stroke early this morning.  They kept her alive on a ventilator for a few hours, allowing family to gather and the last rites.  And then she passed away.

The wonderful thing for Marion is that she went out flying high... literally.  Just a few days ago, this 93-year-old lady boarded a helicopter to get an aerial tour of Orlando.  Life was an adventure and full of family for her all the way to the end.  And that's the kind of life we should all hope to lead.

R.I.P. Marion.  And prayers ascending for Donna and her siblings, and their loving husbands, wives, partners and children.

The Ordinariate Arrives in America. Yawn!

Somewhere... Queen "Bloody" Mary Tudor is laughing.

The Roman Catholic Church, in a move of tremendous concern for the well-being of distressed Episcopalians, has launched a new nationwide diocese that will allow disaffected priests, bishops and congregations of the Episcopal Church, to join the Roman Catholic Church.  The upside for these Exopalians is that the Vatican will allow their married clergy to remain betrothed, and the Pope has said they can use "cherished" passages from the Book of Common Prayer.  The headquarters for this Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, is in Houston, Texas.

I would say, "Houston, we've got a problem," except I don't think we do.  Those who are leaving the Episcopal Church are the malcontent mumbling grumblers who have no use for women in ministry which always begets a string of complaints about LGBT people in the church.  These are people who have been miserable as the Spirit has directed the Episcopal church to open its doors to more people and be the fully inclusive love of Christ in our world.  They are the ones who bristle at the idea that the bishop standing before them in what is essentially a dress may actually be wearing a dress underneath those vestments.  That part of the Baptismal Covenant that talks about respecting the dignity of every human being has challenged them one too many times to face the undeniable truth that the word, "every" means... well... "every."  

England has already been through this.  And it didn't make the Archbishop particularly pleased.

Some may want to crow that this is "proof" that the Episcopal Church is dying, but I predict this will be the beginning of a renewed interest in the church of Richard Hooker's Scripture, reason and tradition that didn't get frozen in the 1928 prayer book, and welcomes anyone wanting to think about what is it that Christ is calling us to do in the world now and put that mission into action.

Good-bye, Exopalians.  We'll leave the lights on for you should you change your mind.   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

More Than A Reading

I have basically been living at St. John's during this Christmas season.  Morning Prayer, two noon day services, the comfort and healing service on Christmas Eve Eve, the late service on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day... and finally this morning.   The head verger, who is responsible for scheduling the Eucharistic Ministers, joked that I would be ready for ordination by the end of today.

Funny joke... especially given what I was assigned to read:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, 
The Lord bless you and keep you; 
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
(Numbers 6: 22-27)

This passage is identified as "The Priestly Benediction."   It's one of my favorite dismissals that Fr. Lee Graham would use on Fridays at the noon day service.  Funny, then, that the head verger said that my service today would qualify me for ordination!  I think it will take more than just a reading on the Feast of the Holy Name.