Wednesday, June 28, 2017

You have saved us from our enemies, O God
     from the hands of all who hate us.

This is the antiphon for the Benedictus today--the canticle (ancient song) that we say each day during Matins, our early morning prayers.

Today, in light of the battle over health care that rages in the country these days, it reads differently.  Do those who "have" actually hate the "have nots?"  I thought so when I prayed this song this morning.  But I am not so sure, now.  Hatred has more energy directed toward its object, pays more attention to it.

No, those who would deny others essentials for their lives do not actually actively hate those who need a bigger share of the wealth that creation has to offer.  They simply turn their back on them.

Health care costs are not breaking the bank of the United States.  Greed--for money, for status, for power--these are what are bringing down our economy.

At this point I expect a few of you to be asking why I am getting so political here.  This is way beyond political, way beyond human policies.  This is saying that God mourns what we are doing to each other.  God is always deeply grieved and sometimes outright outraged at what we human beings find it acceptable to do and to allow.

Read the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Read the Quran.

Read the Gospels.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.      Matthew 6:24
Jesus, God Incarnate, says that piling up money and ignoring the needs of those who have less--the poor and increasingly, of late, the middle class--piling up money in this way despises God.

You will hate the one and love the other...

What if the Benedictus was to read this way:

You have saved us from our enemies, O God
     from the hands of all who hate YOU.

Different picture altogether, isn't it.

Of course it would not be complete to name this about Them without looking in the mirror.  When do I forget that what I have belongs to God?  When do I turn my back on those who need what has been lent to me?  Too often.  Mine is more subtle than trying to turn over the already inadequate Affordable Health Care Act.  Or is it?  When I walk past a person who lives on the streets who is asking for money without giving her a glance is that subtle.

We each, every day, have choices to make.

AND I don't want the place that I began to get lost.  Yes, we all fail each other.  Yes, we are all sinners.  But that doesn't mean we do not call each other to account when we see it happening.

Which brings me to my last question:  What about that past tense "You have saved us?"

I think God says I have!   I have given you each other to care for and each other to speak up and do something about it when some of you fail others.

God teach us mercy--loving, active, life-giving mercy for each other.  Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

No Stone Thrown

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone... 

Thrown any stones lately?  

Today's gospel opens this up.  Thrown any? Have I?

A woman is caught in the very act of adultery and brought to Jesus as a test case.  Her accusers think it is cut and dried.  Guilty? Yes.  Witnesses present? Yes.  Stone her, Jesus?

Jesus is between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.  The ones trying to bring him down are finally going to have their day.

Not quite.  Jesus turns it around.  
He does not acquit or condemn the woman.  
They drop their stones and slink away.  

I can't help noticing that the man caught in adultery is nowhere to be found.

Nor can I read this passage without letting my outrage at the treatment of women in this world of double standards emerge.

And then it falls away as surely as the stones that dropped.

I don't let go of my desire to get on my soapbox about injustice against women because there is none.  I drop my rock because I am not without sin either.

This is tricky.  We do need to stand for justice, but my stone does not have "justice" written on it.
My desire to accuse is not pure.  I want THEM to pay.  Their stones--and mine--have "revenge!" carved in.

But if THEY must pay for injustice, then I must, too.  I must pay for my serious transgressions.  I must pay for harboring prejudice in my heart and letting it come out in my behavior.  I must pay for the lies I have lived or told.  I must pay for the ways I have hurt others through my actions.  The list goes on and on.

Jesus does not teach us to punish each other--to make each other pay--when we fail, when we sin, when we are hurt.  He calls us to respond only after we look in the mirror.

I do love to collect stones--I have them from most places I have been blessed to visit.  

God help me to keep from throwing them. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

What does God look like?

What does God look like?  I have wandered deep and wide with other religious traditions.  I have been moved by the many faces of God they honor.  They leave me yearning for some that resonate in my Christian tradition.  Now, Jesus is a face of God for me.  We Companions have several powerful, beautiful icons of Jesus.  Jesus of Sinai is my favorite--the large one that graces our small altar where we pray moves me deeply into the mystery.  Icons offer one face beautifully.    I wonder what the other faces of the Trinity look like.  Does the Creator have a face?  How about the Holy Spirit? I yearn to see more of God face to face.  Articulating this desire could make me a heretic, I suppose, because Jesus isn't just part of God.  Yet we do say that God is one and a trinity of "persons."

When I reach for an image of God in my mind's eye it inevitably comes up "Father," and likely a great white and bearded one like Michelangelo's.  Try as I might, nothing else comes from my memory banks.Seeing The Shack this week offered a deeply satisfying possibility.  Not a white God, not an exclusively male God, the images in this film based on a popular book fed and enlivened me.  Long have I needed an image of God that would include me.  "Created in the image of God" has been important in my journey, yet I did not grow up seeing myself reflected in the masculine images that were present.  The Shack imaged the three Persons of God as masculine and feminine--and multi-cultural.  I could breathe in a new way and I wept with relief at the gift.  The dialogue theologically resonant, too.  I'd like to hear some of it a second time.

I do recommend it--perhaps as part of Lenten practice.  I found it a great way to seek God's face--and to ponder that question "What does God look like?" as a way to wake up to more.  The possibilities for imagining God's face are as infinite as God is.  S/He has many faces.  I think it is one of the ways God enjoys being with us, playing with us and stretching us.

For some of us the stretch will be too great.  The question of God's gender rocks the boat.  For some of us seeing God as a different race has never occurred as a possibility.  There is a great invitation in it for all of us, though.  We are called to remember that while we may experience a sense of increasing closeness and "knowing God" over the course of our lives we also cannot fathom God, really.  God is beyond whatever we may cook up on a good day or concretize God as on a bad one.

What does God look like?  Ponder away, but know that S/He is always lovingly present, infinitely accepting of our attempts (which can never honor the fullness) and, I would bet, gently amused as we grope around.  Many blessings in your musings this Lent!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Be Holy

Be Holy, for I, the Lord your God, am Holy!

Fifteen “Thou Shalt nots” to only 3 “Thou Shalts!”  That’s there in today’s daily Lectionary reading from Leviticus.  But look: “shalts” frame the “nots”.  “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy” appears at the beginning and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the Lord” concludes it.  

YES to holiness. No no no no no…to theft, lies, murder, grudges, and judging, just to name a few.  YES to love.  

The passage tells me what I know in my bones to be true.  Holiness and Love are intimately related.  It has been easy to get confused about this.  With Bishop Michael Curry and countless others I am part of the Jesus Movement.  This is not my childhood Christianity—not primarily centered on trying to be a good girl—or nice.  It isn’t “Be holy…be pious” or “Be holy…be perfect.”  “Be holy: Love (like me!)” says God.  

bell hooks calls it out:  our culture is mostly embarrassed and down right bad at loving.  She counters our “isms” that keep people down based on race, gender and class with a love ethic.  all about love: new visions lifts up love as a life-giving way.  She debunks the assumption that being ethical takes the fun out of life.  Love is what we “DO,” not so much what we feel. It transforms our lives.  She says “I know no one who has embraced a love ethic whose life has not become joyous and more fulfilling.”   

That’s what I want: love, joy, freedom.  Lent is a season to “go for these,” but not without cost.  Jesus, God enfleshed, loves with no limit.  He loves even on the cross. He teaches what his Jewish roots did and do.  Become love-able.  

We are able to learn to choose love, to become Holy.  God would not ask us to do what it is impossible to do.  Becoming more love-able means looking at where I fail at it.  Ouch.  The point isn’t the focus on failure.  

I am heartened by a story told from time to time. When asked what about life in the monastery, a monk answered, “We fall down and we get up, we fall down and we get up.” The point is not that we fall down on loving, but to keep getting up.  Let’s dust ourselves and each other off and claim our love-ability this Lent.  Dare to be holy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Uncommon Cold

I have a fresh, rare cold and am oddly grateful for it.  It slowed me enough to perceive some things the Spirit has been trying to get through for quite awhile. 

I am waking up to a call to be vocal--again.  This page has been silent from quite some time--since the last time I wrote on God calling me to speak.  Oops!

I am waking to the seemingly relentless horrors we as humans visit upon each other, to the glory of God and Her creation, and yes, to the glory of being human.  The glory of God is the human person fully alive cried Irenaeus.

Do be advised.  Being awake means being fully alive to it all: the glory of creation, of our potential, and the disaster that looms as a result of repeated forgetting.

We forget that we are not the apex of God’s overflowing love into creative power.  We forget that we are not the center of the countless universes. 
We forget we are boundlessly loved—and empowered to love boundlessly.
We forget, even, that we are created.

Our careless crashing about is devastating God’s beloved creation. It is crucial for us to see and name that within ourselves and to each other.  This is not what we are being created for, and is so much less than we are capable of being.  It is crucial to name: we have the power to choose, and so are accountable.

This wave of waking brought me to my knees this morning.  Weeping-laughter of a deeper yes and deeper trust in the One I call God/dess came as my eyes were opened to more than ever:  the glory, the horror and many shades in between.

The incredible gift and privilege of being call out to me: Live with open hand, open mind, open heart and let this amazing life overflow as much as you can bear—and then allow more flowing because we do not bear it alone.

The awareness of the glory and horror brings me to bursting, pulls me to write, leads me to sound a call for all:  Dare to be dreamed by God and wait.  Only when that waiting is ripe, let God’s dream come through you.

It is worth it, so worth it, to know the bittersweet agony of becoming human, that my soul says a holy MORE to life, to love, and to the hope—the promise—that is our legacy as people of God.  “Yes! More!” was not always so for me. I’m waking up!

So with God’s angels, with Jesus, with the wisdom of ages I call Wake up! Fear not!  Do not fall prey to despair, especially in these days that bring new injustices ordered daily.  God is ever-dreaming us and inviting us into the sacred dream of a life of love and flourishing for all beings.   Each of us is essential.  All of us are needed. May we be co-creators in birthing God’s dream for this world She so dearly loves.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

     Language is the house of being.  In its home wo/man dwells.  Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home.
                                               Martin Heidegger

Breaking Silence:

I Create as I Speak...

Mastering breaking silence--mastering coming out of myself powerfully and with clarity in speech that integrates what I think and feel, and expresses what I care deeply about (and have yet to learn, when I have the humility to admit it!) is one of my primary aims for this time in my life.  I aim for powerful speech because of a firm commitment to giving voice to what will make a difference for us as a species, and so for the planet and beyond. 

I am with Martin Heidegger.  We don't simply speak. We create with words. That makes us accountable. We are responsible for what we say and how we say it--responsible for what our language creates.

What we speak matters a great deal.  This year's election discourse has stood for a stark example of what language can create.  Discord, suspicion, increasing prejudicial language violence, and so many twists of what is true encourage the exclusion of some and create a climate in which outbreaks of violence--verbal and physical--have become commonplace.

What do we desire to create together--as a country of a multiplicity of communities with deep needs and drives?

I will say it again, drawing from an ancient source: speaking is a creative act.  God spoke and the heavens were made.  "God said" and there was land and water, light and dark, flora and fauna--and us.  Humanity.  Made in God's image.

We are given the power to create through our speech.  

With my contemplative bent, I note that speech emerges from silence.  
Choosing silence is as important as breaking it.
Listening is as important as speaking.
Listening to God, listening to one another, listening to creation and listening to our hearts may be MORE important than speaking, though we need do both.

I recently preached on a passage from the Gospel of Luke (12:54-56). Jesus chides some of his listeners.   Able to watch the clouds and expect rain they were, he said, unable to interpret the present time.

I have been among those he would chide many a day.  I can create quite a discouraging list of realities that make it imperative in my mind that I speak.  They are only partial reports of what is truly present,what is real, what I long to create with my words and my life.  This creates a distortion that is not at all life-giving.

Because my list is partial it is a failure to interpret the present time.  When I break silence I want my speaking and listening to make a difference.  I want to participate in God's wild, abundant, beyond our capacity to grasp creative adventure, not detract from it.

So what do I want to say as I break a year plus silence here?

We are a people that are deeply troubled. Much is troubling.  That is true.  
We are created to be troubled when violence erupts--in whatever form.  
We are in line with God's intention for us when death-dealing realities dominate.

When Jesus calls us to an accurate interpretation of the present times that is definitely part of the picture.  But his very life gives lie to the utter discouragement that arises from seeing the troubles only, and to interpreting them as signs of doom alone.  These signs of the times I believe he was calling us to interpret differ in their meaning from what many would have us see.

He would not paint a picture that is grim alone.

NOT:  The church is dying!  Civilization is crumbling!  I am a hopeless mess!  End of story.

What if we were to language differently? What if we were to be even more bold and speak another possibility, a different future, into being?

Let us listen to the times with a different ear.
Consider the birthing process!

The church, the world, you and me--are undergoing a profound transformation.  Transformation is messy and painful.  Some things are, indeed, passing away AND a new creation is promised.

An ancient message echoes in our times:  God will not keep silent. Death will not have the final say,
but "It does not yet appear what we shall be." We have God-given power to make choices and take actions that manifest God's dream for us.

It is possible for everyone of us to know abundant life and love, here and now.

This is not an empty hope but a true potential.  There is enough for everyone.  Now is the time to create the future where that is manifest.

God help us to recognize the openings for life-giving action--action that forwards God's dream of a world full of peace and justice, love and laughter and confrontation that leads to reconciliation.
God empower us to choose them.

God help us to keep and break silence--both!

I am indebted to the Mastery Foundation and its School for Leadership for their work with some of these core ideas.  It is quite a gift to be a participant in the School, and to stand with many others for creating a future that will make a positive difference.  As a Companion of Mary the Apostle, the future I stand for is one in which "all people flourish in bold, loving community."  What might yours be?