Thursday, May 30, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth--
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The pictures say everything. A swath, almost two miles wide, of an Oklahoma City suburb was flattened.
From the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma:
Thank you to all who have reached out to us in response to the devastating tornados in Oklahoma. We are in the process of assessing the situation and coordinating assistance to our communities.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to help in those efforts, please make your check payable to "The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma." In the notation line write "Tornado relief."
Send checks to:
Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma
924 N. Robinson
OKC, OK 73102
O God who has been our help and strength in ages past, let your loving-kindness be felt amongst those in need and pain in Moore, Oklahoma. Give those who are picking up the pieces of their lives the hope that comes from knowing that there are many there to help and care for them, to bolster them and get them through this difficulty. Comfort them now and always. Grant all those who have perished eternal rest that they may rise in glory with You. And sustain all those who are working round the clock to restore and rebuild their community. To You, I offer this prayer. Amen.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Saturday, May 4, 2013
"Welcoming" means that you presume that people have already come in through your doors. And you have had the opportunity to shower them with lots of love, coffee, and breakfast sweets. They've heard how wonderful you are. But what do you really know about them and where they came from?
"Inviting" is the real work of the people (and the clergy, too!) of being the church outside the safety and security of the four walls of your worship space. It's about meeting people where they are, not where you think they ought to be. It's the outreach effort of letting others see you being a child of God, and inviting them to a meeting or a group affiliated with the church. This is not done with the intention of making the person a "member" or a "pledge unit" (please see my previous entry about the day of the Domestic Partnership Registry starting in Leon County). Being an "Inviting Church" isn't about parochial reports to the bishop; it's about removing the obstacles that block people from seeing the Kingdom "on earth as it is in Heaven."
Truthfully, this is what it means to live and love as Jesus did. I'm struck, again, by the words we'll be hearing from John's gospel, as Jesus is doing his lengthy last will and testament to his disciples. He tells them, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world does." And then he tells them not to be troubled or afraid. After all, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will come to them and make our home with them." Better yet, the Holy Spirit is coming to make all of what Jesus is imparting in this moment much clearer after he's gone. Huh? What?
Jesus has had this group of men... and women if we count Martha and Mary... hanging around, going from here to there, witnessing his healing power, and never making any of his ministry a glorification of himself and what superstar he is. He has been on a mission to be the most transparent representation of God for the masses that they've encountered since Moses' face lit up talking to a burning bush. All that he wants anybody to see is God, and how God's power working in him can do more than he could do if he were just doing this for his own selfish pride. So, what is the "peace" that he leaves? His love. What is the "peace" he gives? How to love. These are not the tangible and consumable gifts that the world traditionally gives to people. No Hershey's Kisses here, folks; his kiss is one that is meant to transform all of us to be more like him: transparent Sons and Daughters of Man whose bodies are a home for the Spirit of God to dwell, grow and shine within us. The brighter we become, the more people who are seeking some light in their lives will come to us and want to know, "What is this light?"
Paul got that in the Book of Acts when he, and Luke, we presume, go down to the gate and find the women there. As Paul is sharing his illumined self, another of the enlightened ones, Lydia, "listened eagerly" to what Paul was saying, and opened her home to him, and Barnabas and Luke. She was clearly a woman of means (dealing in purple cloth), and thus this was an important connection for the beginnings of Paul's building of churches. Important to note, this connection was NOT made in the Temple. It was made in the space by the gate. Just the way Jesus would have wanted it. Paul didn't wait for the women of Lydia's household to come to him so he could welcome them; he went to where they were, and, in turn, Lydia, a believer, invited him to her home. And the church is on its way to kindling more Love within people; love and "peace" that they could share with others.
Showing love, being love, living in love or showing peace, being peace, living in peace. This is the way, the truth, the life. And it is far more inviting than just a welcome.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
That's right: seven civil rights. Couples who register, be they straight or LGBT, will be granted the ability to make emergency health care decisions for their loved one, be the point of contact when there is an emergency or serve as the guardian if their domestic partner is incapacitated; visit in the hospital (or jail); participate in the educational lives of the couple's children, and can be responsible for making funeral arrangements in case of death. These are all important and very helpful. I have been with friends who, in mourning and grief over the death of their partner, were not allowed to have any say about the disposition of the body or the funeral arrangements until the deceased partner's family had been contacted. And when there is discord between the surviving partner and the family who wasn't too keen on this whole "gay thing," you can imagine the agony in that situation.
I'm grateful to the county government for doing what they could do given our state constitution, Florida statutes, not to mention the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The laws, specifically and pointedly targeting the LGBT community, have hemmed us in to such an extent that we're lucky to get anything at all. The commissioners who were on hand for this morning's inaugural registering of the couples are aware that what they've done with this DPR is given us a slice of bread, and not the loaf we would like to have. Or, as I noted after Morning Prayer today, I feel a bit like the Syrophoenican woman looking at Jesus and saying, "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from Israel's table."
Morning Prayer, on the saint day of Philip and James, was a perfect prelude to today's festivities. The collect for these two disciples reminds us that they were given strength through God "to bear witness to the truth." And that is exactly what I, and others with me, before me, and even in the years to come after me, have been doing: bearing witness to the truth of who we are, whom we love, and how we are part of the creation that keeps unfolding before us. And we keep bearing this witness, over and over, in our work places, in front of governmental bodies, both secular and religious, and our families.
Being that witness is a long slog through unbelievable muck at times. In fact, I had hoped to be able to use the prayers that are part of the newly-approved same-sex blessing rite in the Episcopal Church as a way of celebrating those couples who planned to register their relationships. However, I received word back that, because the Bishop of Florida has not authorized usage of that rite, I was to refrain from using any part of it. Instead, I could let people have intercessory time in the service to offer up their own prayers and thanksgiving... a practice we already do in Morning Prayer. I wanted something more special. The words from the reading from the Book of Job felt very real to me:
Today also my complaint is bitter...I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
I feel a bit like a broken record when I say the church in general, and the Episcopal Church in specific (especially in Tallahassee), could do a lot to atone for the sins of the church in the way it has treated the LGBT community. One of the things it should be doing is outreach and making concerted efforts to show the gay community that they are really welcome in our houses of worship. We shouldn't be concerned with whether or not they'll become "members" or "pledge units." The first step is to let them know that they can come as they are, and find rest from the chaos and demands of the world. And that no one is going to condemn them to hell for being gay, something too many of us have had to endure. Doing something simple, like a service in which we honor the events that have meaning to our lives and relationships, like registering our partnerships with the county, is part of that outreach. That really was my intent in wanting to use the prayers this morning.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.
I sought advice from my spiritual director on how I could honor this occasion at our weekly service. She pointed me to the "Prayer for Families," #45 and suggested I make some revisions. And so, in addition to the other collect read at this service, I included the following words:
Almighty God, our creator, redeemer and sustainer of life, who grants us the gift of human love and intimacy. We commend to your continual care the homes in which your people dwell. Put far from them, we ask, every root of bitterness, selfish desires and arrogant pride. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in commitment to one another, have made a covenant known to you. Turn the hearts of parents to the children, and the hearts of children to their parents; pour out your Holy Spirit upon their relationships, and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I then offered a prayer for those who suffer for the sake of conscience because many are still in that boat. And there are those of us who are not in prison for our beliefs, but we suffer for the sake of conscience nonetheless.
Sadly, there were none of the LGBT couples of St. John's, or anywhere else, present for this service. But there were some new people who showed up because they are allies and survivors of the horrible years of homophobia that gripped St. John's in the late 1990s up to 2005. For them, this was an opportunity to offer up their prayers for the community on this joyous day, and support the LGBT people they've come to know through the church and elsewhere. I know I carried their energy with me as I walked down the street to the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
As my partner and I stood listening to the speakers, I thought about the distance we've traveled in Leon County to get to a day like this. We've had outrageous battles over movies and video stores. Pipe bombs at night clubs. And countless laws adopted by the state legislature across the street that feel like a thousand paper cuts. But now, in our county, we have a human rights ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and a domestic partnership registry. The overcast skies felt about right. It wasn't storming, but it was still gray.
"Dark clouds will break up if you will wake up and live," are the lyrics of the Ella Fitzgerald song where I got the name for this blog. They'll break up eventually. With God's help, and our willingness to remain true to being instruments for Love in the world... and in the church.