Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Meditations

Sacred Lessons

Joel 2: 12-13

“Yet, even now,” says God, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.

Psalm 103 by Walker Percy

Repeat. Do you read? Do you read?
Are you in trouble?
How did you get in trouble?
If you are in trouble, have you sought help?
If you did, did help come?
If it did, did you accept it? Are you out of trouble?
What is the character of your consciousness?
Do you have a self?
Do you know who you are?
Do you know what you are doing?
Do you love?
Do you know how to love?
Are you loved? Do you hate?
Do you read me?
Come back. Repeat. Come back. Come back. Come back.

2 Corinthians 6: 2-3

For God says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.

Come, Come Whoever You Are by Mevlana Jelaluddin Runi

Come, come, whoever you are,
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow

a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.

A Prayer for the Day

Come, O Life-Giving Creator and rattle the door latch of our slumbering hearts.

Awaken us as you breathe upon a winter wrapped earth, gently calling to life the coming Spring.
Awaken in these fortified days of Lenten prayer and discipline our youthful dream of holiness and justice.

Call us forth from the prison camp of our numerous past defeats and our narrow patterns of being to make our ordinary lives extra-ordinarily alive.

Show to us during these Lenten days how to take daily things of life and by submerging them in the sacred, to infuse them with a great love for you and for others.

Guide us to perform simple acts of love and prayer, the real works of reform and renewal of this overture to the spring of the Spirit. Help us not waste these precious Lenten days of our souls' spiritual springtime.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Hope

"You gotta give them hope!"

- Harvey Milk

And that they did...

Last night at the 81st Academy Awards Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter for the film Milk, and Sean Penn, the actor who portrayed the legendary Milk, offered hope to the audience tuning in from around the globe.

Black, in the tradition of Harvey himself, spoke directly to the thousands upon thousands of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in his acceptance speech:

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures who have value. And that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you."

God does love you! What a perfect Sunday night Gospel lesson and from Hollywood, no less!

Following Black's speech, Penn spoke out against those who continue to support discrimination out of hate and bigotry:

"…For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect, and anticipate their great shame, and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone."

Their words helped remind the watching world of the continued injustice against LGBTQ persons in the US and around the globe and offered hope in the midst of struggle

May these words of hope be translated into action and justice!

Remember...God loves you!

Lenten Reflection

At our Bible study, we came up with questions for CWM to reflect on during Lent. I would encourage everyone to really think about and reflect on these questions as CWM reflects on its identity this Lent.
  • What is CWM's racial identity?
  • What is the racial heritage and identity of CWM's worship style?
  • How do other people worship?
  • Do we offer translation services? Do we have ways we can be bi-lingual?
  • What about our food - what racial heritage does it reflect?
  • What about the terms we use - or don't use - when talking about race? How can we have a honest and healthy conversation about race?
If you more questions for CWM to reflect on, please let me know! I will add them to the list.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Study guide

Here is the study guide I created for Chapter 7 of Joseph Barndt's Understanding and Dismantling Racism. Please feel free to post thoughts, answers, reflections, questions, push-back and the like. Keep in mind that the Bible study group has covenanted to listen generously, respect each other and that it's okay if we all do not agree.

Chapter 7: Dismantling Racism

Discussion Questions:

What is the relationship between white LGBT persons and people of color?

Was this relationship affected by the passing of Proposition 8?

A CNN study reported that 70% of African Americans voted for Proposition 8 (note: accuracy of study dubious) and that that 81% of white evangelicals voted for the passing of Proposition 8. Do you think African Americans were blamed for the passing of Proposition 8? Why or why not?

Do you think white people were blamed for the passing of Proposition 8? Why or why not?

When reacting to difficult situations, do you think white people are more likely to blame the white race, communities of color or neither? Why? What does your answer say about race?

What are challenges to white people forming alliances with people of color?

How do we as white people form alliances with people of color?

What races are reflected at CWM? Why do you think that is?

Where and who are the LGBT populations of color in Boston?

What do you think about Barndt’s suggestion that white people need to acknowledge white power and privilege in their cross-racial relationships? Do you agree - why or why not? How could we as white people do that - as individuals? - as communities?

As CWM looks at its identity during Lent, what questions about race and racial identity should we ask ourselves?

Helpful videos for understanding race and racism

Hi all!

Here are the links to the video for this past Sunday, "Race: The Power of an Illusion".

The video was created by PBS and you can click here for more information about the video and for ordering information.

To watch on-line, click here. Scroll down to Race: The Power of an Illusion and choose from part I, II or III (part II is the part that coincides with this past week's Bible study discussion on the definitions of race and racism).

For the transcript of part II, please click here.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Food for thought

Hi all,

As we move forward towards our third week of our Bible study on race and white privilege, I would encourage everyone to continue to look around in the news and in their world for everyday examples of racism (even first time blog readers and those not attending the study - I invite you to share your observations in the comments section). I would also invite everyone to continue thinking about the question: How is everything about race? (Push back question: Is everything about race?)

That said, author Joseph Barndt remind us in Chapter 3 of Understanding and Dismantling Racism that if we want to study the results of racism we can turn to people of color but if we study racism itself white people are the ones "who need to be investigated carefully" (p.85). Of course, this is remembering that Barndt defines racism as prejudice + the misuse of power by systems and institutions (for more background on his definition, check out chapters one and two).

So that said, we are turning to study Barndt's chapter on white power and privilege this week. As homework, I am posting one of the exercises he uses to help white people think about these concepts in their lives. If you have push back please post it. Thinking about being white can be really challenging - how often do we, as white people, really talk about it? Yet what is striking is, as Barndt says "being white is probably the most significant feature of our identity that makes it possible for us to live the way we do, even more so than gender, class and nationality" (p.88) - and yet how often do we talk about it at the dinner table? Personally, I may talk about being female (especially when I am around feminist friends), I talk about being straight and having a male partner, I can tell you I am going to college and am middle class - these are all prominent parts of my identity that I can name and talk about. Yet, when it came to identifying myself as a "having a white racial identity" (what, white is a race?), it took me twenty years to be able to understand that being white was part of my identity. The key question here then is: What does it mean to name and claim our individual identity as white persons, and our collective identity as white people? What does it mean to say: "I have a racial identity, I am part of the white race"? What makes us white? If we continue with our definition of race as a social construct, this means we have had similar social experiences as the "white race". We lets continue to dig deeper, what are our similar social experiences??? If you say you are white and I say I am white, how can we relate, what can we relate to? These are all questions I would challenge you to think about this week.

Below I am quoting Exercise One: Tracing your Family History from Understanding and Dismantling Racism. It can be found starting with the last paragraph on page 100 and it continues to page 102.

"This exercise is designed to help white people get in touch with the benefits and advantages we are still receiving as a result of the momentum of history. Chances are, whatever you and I have in life - our educational achievements, our economic class, our social position, our community status, our professional competence, our attitude toward life, and our self-esteem - are all tremendously influenced by our inheritance of white power and privilege.

[Barndt - white power "is held collectively and passed on collectively from generation to generation as an inherited birthright"; it is " the product of historical intentional design, and is still inherently present within our systems, institutions and culture today" (p.90). Barndt defines white privilege as the individual result of white power (p.90)]

For many people this exercise is not overly difficult. There is a direct correspondence between with their parents and grandparents had and did and what they as the inheritors have received and what they have been able to do. For such people, white inheritance is easy.

Other people are not able to see the correspondence quite as directly. They may have made great advancements in educational, economic, or societal achievements far beyond those of their parents and grandparents. For those people, it is easy to deny the white inheritance. They may say things like, 'I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps,' or 'I earned everything I have in life by hard work and personal initiative.' Even if such direct inheritance is not obvious, we need to see that the collective power and privilege has made possible these great strides forward over the last generation.
1. The first set of questions is based on your family's history and status in life. How far back can you trace your family history? Choose from the following scenarios the one that most fits your reality and answer the questions connected with it:

-You have inherited wealth and position because your forebearers arrived in this country as rich immigrants, or they became well-to-do long ago in past generations. If this describes your history, here are some questions: If they arrived rich, how did they use and pass down their wealth? If they arrived poor, how many generations did it take before their descendants achieved greater status in life? Did anyone in your family ever have slaves? Did they take advantage of westward expansion and homesteading on Indian lands? What other historical factors in their lives have brought you advantages in your life?

-Your family is relatively well-off, but it was only in this generation or in recent generations that they escaped from lower-class status or from poverty. If this describes your history, here are some questions for you: How did that escape take place? What advantage did being white play in those achievements? Did they get housing through the G.I. Bill?

[The G.I. Bill is a bill following WWII that offered returning soldiers some of the lowest credit terms for houses in our nation's history ... relators refused to sell to people of color and so, because of this overt racial discrimination, it was only white people who became home owners and moved out to the newly built suburbs ... these white people were then able to build collateral and transfer both the house and capital to future generations]

Did they move into white suburbs that were designed to exclude people of color legally [think redlining]? Did they enter professions that discriminated against people of color and in favor of white people? Are there other advantages designed primarily for white people that helped our family in this recent entrance into greater security and stability?

-You are among those white families in this country who are still either poor or relatively poor and whose lives are insecure and unstable. If your history fits this description, here are some questions for you to work on: On whom does your family blame their condition? Who are the models that provide images for their aspirations to be other than poor or lower class? How do they relate to people of color who are also in struggle against the same forces of poverty and oppression? Even in their insecure setting, what advantages does your family have over families of color?"

Interesting that Barndt says that, just by thinking about and analyzing white privilege, the system of racism starts to fall apart ... Does that mean that the system of racism need us to be silent and unaware? And, if so, are we going to comply?

Food for thought. I am really looking forward to our Bible study discussion this week.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Bible Study: Racism and White Privilege

From Joy... I wanted to thank everyone for a good Bible study on Sunday. It was an "intro" session and I think we were able to ask some really important questions. I would invite CWM to continue to reflect on these questions.
-What does it mean to support the "status quo" as white people? What does that status quo look like? What privileges might white people receive? What does it mean to be white in a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender context?
-Question to ponder this week: In White Like Me author Tim Wise claims that people of color think about race all the time. In what ways is "everything about race"? Is it a privilege for white people to walk away and only think about race when it is convenient for them?
Homework: I would encourage people to continue to look in the news and in their everyday life this week for examples of racism (in what ways is "everything about race"?). I will invite you to share these examples at Bible study on Sunday.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Actively Waiting for the Divine

The power of scripture—the reason that God is not dead and that the Bible is not just another ancient book among many, despite scholarly deconstruction and even considering the Bible’s use as a tool of oppression—is that certain words and images and ideas still come alive to us thousands of years later. The particulars are different for everyone. What means something to me will not necessarily have the same significance for you. And when we read passages that make no sense in our contemporary contexts, we know that the values and practices of the ancient writers do not and should not necessarily translate into values and practices for today. It might seem then that all meaning is relative, that there can be no substance greater than or beyond what is understood and assigned by the individual. But we gather together in community to share parts of ourselves and receive the stories of others—narratives both old and new—in order that we might know and celebrate the Divine that is so beautifully and colorfully manifested in all creation. In unexpected ways the words or actions of another can stir in us experiences of the Divine presence that are so deeply personal and at the time orient us to turn outward beyond the self.

I was already formulating a sermon on the Gospel lesson when I finally looked at the other lectionary texts for today. All stopped with the first words of the Isaiah passage. I knew what was coming: words that would cut through all my intellectual-scholarly-pastoral musings to awaken feelings at the core of my being—words that would still my body and mind in heightened awareness of the Spirit pulsing through me. The rest of the text flowed freely across my mesh of thoughts and emotions because I knew it well after months of rehearsing and performing a musical setting with the Luther College Nordic Choir. Music has a way of endowing words and images with meaning that comes to life again and again with each new playing, reading, or viewing. But the breathtaking sounds of the Nordic Choir only served to reinforce the true power of the Isaiah text for me. As I came to the last lines of the passage, I saw my Grandpa Betts, and I knew what it is to “mount up with wings like eagles.”

Isaiah takes me back to a very particular moment on a bright summer day in July 2007. To return there, I should explain the factors that combine to bring this instant into being and make it so deeply special. My grandpa loved sports. He fondly shared memories of playing them in his younger days and always thoroughly enjoyed watching athletic events, especially those involving his family. My younger brother Johnny shared this passion from the time he first had a ball in his hands and became very active with local sports teams. While Grandpa made sure that he never missed a home game, he had given up traveling for out-of-town events by the time Johnny’s teams hit the road. There would be only one exception. As a youngster with big aspirations, Johnny asked Grandpa, “Will you travel if I ever make it to state?” And a deal was struck.

This pact between grandfather and grandson would be tested in the summer of 2007. A very promising baseball season was in full swing when my grandpa had a heart attack. Though he survived, the damage significantly slowed down a man already physically limited by a previous heart attack, an incidence of cardiac arrest, and congestive heart failure. Simply standing up and moving around was a struggle. But as the baseball team headed out for the sub-state game, Grandpa renewed his promise to Johnny. That night he took the short trip to experience the team’s victory, and nothing could keep him from going the distance for the next game. And so my mom, dad, and I helped Grandpa into our car and headed to Principal Park, home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, in Des Moines, Iowa.

It worked out that the baseball coach was able to procure tickets for one of the skyboxes. That way my grandpa could at least escape the sweltering heat of the July afternoon. Still he opted to be closer to the action, choosing to sit in the shaded outdoor seating in front of the box. And when I say sit, I mean just that. Getting there was a challenge and standing up again would not be an easy task. From his perch above the general seating, Grandpa took in what turned out to be a fiercely contested game between the opposing team, rated number one in the state, and the young Coon Rapids-Bayard squad, led by a lone senior who would later be named the best pitcher in the state for all classes. CR-B had made it to state multiple times in baseball and other sports but had never won its first game and advanced to the next round. As this game stretched into extra innings, excitement and anxiety rose. And in the bottom of the ninth inning (only seven being played in regulation in high school), the best hope of getting past the top-rated team was on the line; a tenth inning would mean that, by rule, the starting pitcher—CR-B’s ace—would have to give up the ball. With one runner on third base after a walk and two passed balls, Johnny came up to bat. It’s a Hollywood scenario, right? Big game, tense moment, and the outcome rests in the hands of the protagonist’s grandson. And in this story, the outcome is joyous for the featured team. My brother drove the ball between the center and right fielders, giving more than enough time for the star pitcher—what poetic justice!—to touch home plate and deliver CR-B its first-ever state victory.

At least half of the largest crowd ever assembled for a 1A state baseball game erupted in jubilation. After hugging and high fiving everyone around me, I turned around to look up at my grandpa. There, with the sun behind him enhancing the aura of radiance, stood Grandpa with arms raised and the proudest smile spread across his face. It is an image that will forever be etched in my memory. Yes, the moment depended upon the game, the big hit, and the victory, but the deep significance for me is that something was so special for my grandpa that he could do no other than be brought to his feet, no matter how worn and tired was his body. That fleeting instant is frozen in time as emblematic of my grandpa’s resilience and his profound pride in and love for his family.

Grandpa would recover relatively well for an 84-year-old man who had suffered from numerous heart-related issues. His mobility improved so that he was able to be independent and get around without major struggle. But then last April when doctors replaced Grandpa’s defibrillator/pacemaker—what should have been a routine procedure—they nicked a valve, and the resulting complications led to the rapid deterioration of his health. He survived the hospital, and he even made it out of the nursing home, but with just a fraction of his heart working and fluid on his lungs, Grandpa was always tired. He lamented being unable to do anything beyond the simplest activities. I would talk to Grandpa on the phone, and he’d say, “I just want to be able to get up and run around.” I joked with him, “Grandpa, when was the last time that you could run?” but we both knew that running really meant just getting around with ease. When his heart finally wore out this past November, my mom asked me for suggestions as to what Bible passages to have read at his funeral. I heard Nordic Choir singing out Isaiah’s words: “But those who wait for God shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” I saw Grandpa standing at that state baseball game as if lifted up on the wings of eagles. And Isaiah spoke to me across the centuries, stirring within my heart recognition of God’s presence. Whatever death means for the person who has actually died, waiting for God meant for me to be comforted in memories that could run and not be weary. The words from Isaiah directed my attention away from a worn out body now laid to rest toward the enduring image of resilience, pride, and love that so much defines my grandpa for me.

I share this with you today because I can no longer read Isaiah 40:21-31 without seeing my grandpa. It is a reading that has nothing to do with God and everything to do with God, nothing to do with community—having no particular relevance for Cambridge Welcoming—and yet everything to do with community. And it is this paradox that for me characterizes the impulse of faith: that in valuing the dignity inherent within each individual we are called to look beyond ourselves and participate in the divine work of healing and sustaining creation. But only through my grandpa am I able to get there with Isaiah because in the passage for today, it actually is all about God. “Have you not heard? Have you not known?” God is fantastic! God is powerful! If God so chooses, God can uproot and dispense of earthly rulers. “Lift up your eyes and see.” Direct your attention upward from your lowly state toward God who reigns above the earth. If you wait for this everlasting, creative God, you are going to take flight. You will run and not get tired. No more weakness. No more fainting. God has the ability to empower anyone who recognizes God’s awesomeness.

But what happens when a person waits… and waits… and waits for God, but there is no healing, no restoration? Can God really be so great if there are so many people suffering? What do we make of a God who promises through Isaiah to renew the strength of those who will but simply rely upon God when their weary, hurting lives remain unchanged? And what about Jesus? In our Gospel lesson, Jesus is on the move, healing and exorcising demons everywhere he goes. But where is Christ today? What of those who are in need of his restorative touch 2,000 years later? We hear stories of present-day miracles, and in many instances there is little reason to doubt a person’s experience of the Divine. But is this divine power that is extolled in Isaiah and exemplified in Mark really for all who wait for God, or is it only experienced by a special few?

I would venture to say that these are questions that many people grapple with, and I’d assume that quite a number have found the answers in church to be unsatisfactory, walking out the doors and never coming back. If the God about whom Isaiah writes is not going to show up, the thinking must go, why should I? In my own reading of the Isaiah passage, God is actually not an actor at all. My brother’s baseball team wins their game. My grandpa, though feeble, is on his feet in triumph that represents far more than a sports win. And in light of his longing to be able to get up and run once again, in death I imagine my grandpa as free from the limitations of an exhausted body; forever in my memory he is standing tall and strong. Then in the context of selecting a biblical passage for a funeral, Isaiah’s words speak poignantly to a particular vision engraved in my heart and mind. But God does not need to be present. What begins in Isaiah as praise of God ends up having nothing to do with God at all, and yet the experience of reading the text is profoundly meaningful and quite spiritual for me.

The significance goes beyond even the connection that I feel with my grandpa. “Have you not heard? Have you not known?” does in fact stir in me a heightened awareness of something greater. As I read Isaiah’s description of the awesomeness of God, I begin to sense that the Divine cannot be confined. It is not a satisfying answer to me that horrible things happen in the world—even to those who “wait for God”—because God has foresight that humans just cannot comprehend. To envision God as a singular, anthropomorphic character—the old, white, bearded man in the sky pulling countless puppet strings that direct the dances of humanity—seems to me to limit the depth and breadth of the Divine. I am compelled to believe that when Isaiah says, “Because God is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing,” the infinite reach of God says more about what the Divine has invested in all that God calls by name than it does about God’s self. Here again we encounter the paradox: to direct attention away from “God who sits above the circle of the earth” and toward humans is to say nothing of God and yet everything of God as reflected in the lives of all creation.

I do not even have to stray outside the tradition to get to this place. We know that some early Christians—a significant enough to number to warrant strong reaction from dominant church leaders—considered divine salvation to reside not in the body of a crucified martyr but within each individual. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus answers the question of what it means to be saved by saying, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Jesus is describing the Divine as light that has no bounds, light that shines deep within all persons, and to be saved is to most authentically express the Divine as it is uniquely reflected in one’s self. Even if we cast aside the Gospel of Thomas as heretical, “more mainstream” Christian thinkers understood humans to be elements of the Divine whole. Clement of Alexandria, as I discussed a few weeks ago, proclaims that humans are living, breathing statues that are the very image of God, fully capable of acting as God’s likeness in the world. And if we still must solidly locate ourselves within the authority of tradition, in the first chapter of our scriptures we have the idea that God created humans in God’s image and likeness. Indeed, God is not confined to God’s roost above the circle of the earth, but the Divine is ever moving, ever present in the lives of all people. To speak of God is to speak of all creation that is in God’s image and likeness.

Taking this conception back to Isaiah, we might better answer why there is not always rest for the weary and why those who wait for God are not necessarily lifted up on the wings of eagles. The Divine is present in and through human failings. We see every day that people systematically fail to take care of and nourish one another. We do not always act as God in the world. We can call upon a mighty and powerful God to enact justice and bring restoration, but to take seriously the notion that we are God’s image and likeness in the world is to take responsibility for carrying out the Divine work of healing and building up our neighbor. When we read Isaiah and ask, “Who is this God of infinite capacity for good that sits above earth and watches people tear one another apart?” we ultimately reflect back upon ourselves. Who are these people created in the image of the Divine who behave so unlike their own descriptions of God’s likeness?

If we can attribute suffering to God, we have a figure against which we can cast our anger. We can walk away in disgust. Or we have a space in which we can fit all that we cannot understand, trusting that everything really does have meaning and purpose. If we think about the Divine as manifested in the individual, we can have faith in ourselves, trusting the lone character whose thoughts and actions we can actually predict and comprehend. But these ways of conceiving and knowing God are insular; the relationships are entirely personal. And it is against this kind of solitary, self-centered spirituality that John Wesley wrote in 1739, “The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness, but social holiness. Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection.” He went on to say (in androcentric language that I have edited), “This commandment have we from Christ, that one who loves God, loves the neighbor also; and that we manifest our love by doing good unto all people…” I would go a step further to say that acting in faith is not just manifesting our love of God but actually bringing into being the Divine in our midst. Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of not just a human, Christian perfection but of God. God is present when the Divine within us is made social. To read Isaiah and wonder at the magnificence of God is to know that same God as alive in humanity and to turn outward from the self to participate in God’s healing and restorative activity.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is doing all the healing work. And at this time in the church calendar, we focus on Jesus as the primary actor in ministry. But as people living 2,000 years later, we are left to wonder what happens when the leader is gone. Is healing still available? Christians talk as if it is. We speak of Jesus’ ministry as if it continues into the present, but when faced with practical reality, we ask as we did with Isaiah, “What does it mean when there are those who still cannot walk without being faint?” John Wesley answers again, “The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social.” Jesus is the dominant figure of the Gospels, but he gradually directs his audience outward from himself and toward the world. The stories reach their climax with central focus on Jesus and the cross, but this moment has nothing to do with Jesus and still everything to do with Jesus. Laying aside all the issues regarding how Jesus got there and what it means, the crucifixion scene requires those faithful to Jesus to reinterpret their own lives. What are we to do when God made flesh is gone? The Christian narrative is clear to me. After the resurrection, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, and followers are empowered to be as Christ in the world. The whole Gospel of Christ, centered on an individual, points away from singularity to entirety, teaching what it is not just to believe in the length and breadth and depth and height of God’s love but to be God’s love, to be the social Divine. And so when we ask where is Christ’s healing touch today, we are called to turn to one another, to continue the ministry of Jesus told by Mark and the other Gospel writers, and to care for and nourish and build up and sustain our neighbors.

The burden may seem too great. To be God in the world? To participate in Christ’s sustaining work? We have our own suffering, our own need of healing. But the message is not that we are or at all times can be the Christian perfection of which John Wesley speaks. We have our own pains for which we must take time. To be socially minded, we must take care of our own spirits, be for ourselves what we need to be. There are times when we must wait for God—for God lived out in the activities of another human—in order that our strength be renewed. And it is the heartbreak of the world—the reality of injustice—that a helping hand and rest from weariness will not always come. So we gather, and we pray, and we strategize, and we speak out, and we admonish and correct, support and encourage, deconstruct and re-imagine, and we call upon the Spirit that we might recognize the Divine within ourselves, acknowledge the image of God in others, and actively participate in the healing and sustaining of all creation.

Reading Isaiah conjures for me an enduring image of my grandpa, one etched in a moment that did not depend upon God. God did not cause my brother to hit the ball that won the baseball game that brought my grandpa to his feet. It was not waiting for God that brought a renewed instance of strength. But something bigger than my grandpa, greater than my brother, and beyond myself moved my grandpa in an unexpected way: deep and abiding love for another, pride in another. Love that goes beyond the surface, that identifies with and rejoices in and wholly respects and admires and celebrates another human being. Love that is communal, that is social. Love that lifts up, that causes one to mount up with wings like eagles. Love that must sometimes be those wings. Love that is God. And when I hear Isaiah’s words and I do not necessarily see God, I know God’s presence. I feel the Divine revealed in deep connection with another. I understand that faithfulness to God means not simply waiting for God but participating in God’s work in the world, being Christ for others. Have you not heard? Have you not known? We possess the Divine for which we wait.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Love Will Prevail

These days, the final words of a typical United Methodist wedding has a special poignancy to the people of California:
Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.
To the 18,000 couples married during the brief time equal marriage reigned in California, the fears of their marriages being annulled, cancelled, or, in other words, put asunder, are becoming more and more real.

I would invite readers to watch this collection of images and video of those 18,000 couples, made by Courage Campaign...then take action!

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Remember: let no one put asunder.  Not Ken Starr.  Not even 600,000 people's votes (the pass margin of Prop8).    No one.

Let's Get Real

I am really looking forward to Coffee and Conversation on February 15th and talking about real events in the news! I would really appreciate if people used this blog post to copy and paste (and discuss if you want to) recent news articles that have struck their interest. Personally, I am a fan of but there are lots of good news sites (feel free to recommend one as well!). Also, feel free to indicate topics you are interested in talking more in depth about -- politics, veganism, our war in Afganistan, the situation in Thailand with the Burmese refugees, etc. Please post early and post often :)

Peace, Joy