witness

The church, writ large, is the Body of Christ.

We do many things as that Body.  We visit the sick, hold spaces for life passages, feed the hungry, and provide community from which to draw meaning and heart.

Being church is a verb-y kind of thing.

We are both a building and a story, a place full of persons and a movement grounded on the teachings of Jesus.

During these days when children are being separated from their parents and housed in holding pens, the Body of Christ is pierced.

Jesus was a refugee.  Jesus fled with his family to safety.  He and his family found asylum in Egypt.  They stayed there until it was safe to return home.  The body of the Christ was saved because his parents summoned the courage and grit to get their beloved son to safety.  They were not turned away or separated at the border.

While children’s lives are being scarred on our Southern border, the Body of Christ called church cannot remain silent.

Remaining silent condones desecration of Holy teaching.

Remaining silent denies the story that Jesus taught, lived, and lives yet.

The Body of Christ cannot remain silent while the civic-authority-challenging apostle Paul’s words are used by government authorities to stifle outrage.

This issue cannot be muffled by the finger pointing theatre of  partisan politics.

The jousting and howling over who has done what in the political arena is meant to distract.  The prophet Isaiah speaks to the nation of Israel with clear reminder of the gratuitous distraction provided by mud-slinging and moral trumpeting:

“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom be like the noonday. ” (Isaiah 58: 9b – 10)

There are children and mothers and fathers and a nation calling for the people of Jesus the Christ to stop the pointing of fingers.

We have so much work to do.  There are systems of oppression to dismantle, light to shine into the caged places in our own nation and hearts, and voices to raise.

Let’s be about that.

 

 

energy

Pastors and church building managers have an important relationship.  I have been blessed to work with some of the finest.

One of the managers I worked with was from Laos.  He was new to the country and new to Christianity and Kevin made home in our church.  In the most important of ways, building managers understand that people come to church seeking a place to call home.

Kevin sought to create harmonious space.

After working at the church for a few months, Kevin asked to speak with me.  He had a worried look. on his face.  His concern?  The energy in my office was all wrong.  The color of paint – yellow – was too vibrant and the placement of my desk was all wrong.  My desk chair was in a straight line path from an outdoor scene featuring a cemetery and the main office door out to the commons area.

There was too much energy flowing in that pathway, and I was right in the middle of it.  He worried for my well-being.

We made changes.  We painted the walls a soothing sage green and moved my desk so that I wasn’t in the midst of energy onslaught.

I was so touched by his care and I felt the effects immediately.

It’s a new year.

Last year felt like an energy onslaught.  My soul often felt sliced by forces that felt run-amok.  National politics, the distress of the earth, the tiresome wrangling of the United Methodist church over issues of full inclusion and the desire to do something to witness for hope and in order to provide some home for those seeking it in Rochester made for sometimes bad Feng Shui.

Maybe you felt it too.

This year I want to rearrange the furniture.  I want to be wise about where I place myself and what it is that surrounds me.  There’s enough jangle in the world.  I don’t want to amplify it or be sliced by it.

There is powerful work to do.  We get to do it together.  The energy of the Holy is breathing us into being the kind of movement that creates welcome and grace.

We can do this in ways that bless.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

sad sad sad

A beloved children’s book taught our family the power of Koko the signing gorilla.

Koko signed a three word litany when her beloved kitten Ball was killed.

She knew the way of grief. She knew how to express it:

Sad sad sad.

I know the way of grief, but I struggle in these days with how to express it.

The money and power grab evidenced in the recently passed tax bill bespeak a nation made belligerent about being morally compromised. Folded into the removal of supports for college students and the poor is the agreement that our nation will now allow drilling in the Arctic Wildlife refuge.

Turns out there is no refuge from those who must drill drill drill.

The phallic imagery is intended.

There is a close race in Alabama between a man accused of drilling into the future of girls running against a man who sought to bring to justice Klan members responsible for the bombing of a church that killed four black girls. This is a contest?

Our nation’s president, forever caught on tape boasting of perpetrating violence on women because he is rich and powerful and can do as he likes is championing the man who has helped himself to young girls because a despoiler of girls is better in the halls of power than a Democrat.

And where are the people of Jesus the Christ as this is happening?

How are we speaking out against the violence against women and against the poor and against the earth and against communal compassion?

When do we become willing to explore the violence that has been folded into our faith narrative?

The raw power of “sad sad sad” is holy necessary work.

And, it is not sufficient.

Marge Piercy in her poem “The Art of Blessing the Day” puts it this way:

“…Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.”

Find a church or an organization or a people.

Cursing is necessary.

And, it is time to make this nation new.

me too

I’m doing one of my favorite things:  looking at scripture texts for a season to come and seeking a theme to draw them into the hearts of those who come to worship.

Our church Sunday School follows the inter-denominational selections of scripture called the lectionary.  By encountering the same stories on a given Sunday, we like to encourage families to discuss what they were intrigued by in classes and through worship.

But today?  Today these stories burnished by time make me so very tired.

The scripture texts in January and February are some of the foundational stories of our faith.  They are the stories of men made heroes by the telling of their exploits.

They are the stories of men.

Women are near invisible.  They are seeming bit players in God’s sweeping story.  When on the stage of story-telling consciousness, women are often possessions to be managed or acted upon – sometimes with unspeakable violence.

In headlines and in conversation circles this past month the stories of the near-invisible are being told. Stories of abuses of power perpetrated by the predatory privileged are being told. Women and men are speaking of the shame and soul-warp of sexual violence perpetrated upon them.  Those who say “Me too.  This happened to me, too” are breaking silence.

And you know the two are related.  The silencing of women in our core faith stories is no mere oversight.  We have lop sided faith story for centuries and we who tend religious institutions have all too often colluded with a culture that has storied abuse of power into assumed life.

Patriarchy kills.  It kills futures and it mangles girls and women and all who have the audacity to embody a gender identity that is not binary.  Patriarchy harms all who are objectified and it contorts the souls and hearts of men and I don’t want to collude any longer.

Not in my heart, not in my body, not in my soul, not in “my” church.

I choose to mindfully work for a day when the church stories faith in such a way that “Me too” has to do with how it is all are welcome, safe, and celebrated.

 

 

 

moorings

My mother lived for most of her life within eyesight of the greatest of lakes.

The comings and goings of ships into the Duluth/Superior harbor was information she filed in her heart.  She was Duluth.  From the crest of the big hill to the shoreline of Lake Superior, she lived and moved and had her being.

A number of years ago – in 1985 – a freighter by the name of Socrates grounded on Park Point.  The storm that tossed it onto the sand bar was the stuff of legends. My mother was one of the many who were drawn to the incongruous sight of that mighty grounded boat.  It was evidence of what wind and water can do to the best-laid of plans.

And so it was yesterday.

Yesterday a storm hit Duluth that rivaled the power that tossed the Socrates.  Winds in excess of 60 mph whipped the snow that fell.  The temperature was in the low 30s.

After 19 months of somehow not being able to release my mother’s earthly remains to the elements, my siblings and I had determined that yesterday was the day.  We discerned that mom would want to be released in (at least) three places:  her beloved church, her beloved lake, and in the cemetery where her parents and siblings are buried.

When we made these plans we joked about snow.  It’s Duluth, after all.  Anything is possible in late October.

It was an epic day.  The wind howled.  The waves were so high that the road to Brighton Beach was swallowed by the lake.  The snow pelted.  We shivered and hugged and wept and laughed and here is what we learned:

She who has always calmed our storms is with us yet.

As we committed her body to God’s earth, we laughed about the tough, scrappy children who learned by their mother’s example that whining about cold is no way to behave.  We were out in the elements that she taught us to love:  wind and water, tree song and wave crash.  We held each other and gave thanks for the tiny immense scrap of a woman who gave us more than we will ever know or name.

The lake roared.

Our family is no grounded boat.

We are afloat and alive and she is in it all.

Well done, mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise up

Here is a juxtaposition.

I was recently in Norway.  Part of our experience was spending twenty-four hours on a ship.  We were on a fjord.  The sun was shining, the waterfalls cascading, the wind was whipping and whilst bundled in blankets to keep warm I tuned into a soundtrack I had heard a lot about but never had the time to listen to.

Alexander Hamilton.

Oh.  My.

Instantly I was taken into the story of hearts, ambition, and freedom fighting.  A new nation was born through so much violence and hope.  I cannot shake the soundtrack.

On the same journey I was reading a book called “The Nordic Theory of Everything:  In Search of a Better Life” by Anu Partanen.  The author was raised in Finland.  She moves to the US and comes to ask why it is a society that is built upon the belief that all people are created equal would institutionalize disparity.  Partanen speaks of the supports for new parents in the form of child care and paternity and maternity benefits.  She goes on to speak of the educational system in Finland that seeks to create excellence in all schools; private schools are nearly unheard of.  And then, there is the access to college because tuition is free or very very low cost.  And health care.  For all people.

In 2017 there is no less passion in the hearts of those who long for freedom.  This past year has brought so many summons to awareness:  Charlottesville, growing financial disparity, earth distress and chicanery in Washington DC haunt our sense of well-being on a daily basis.

Who are we, anyway?

Days after white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, people in Rochester gathered under the big top of this church.  We were brown and white and Muslim and Christian.  We were heart broken and shaken and needful of a place to remember who we are.  We heard each other’s despair and hope.  We spoke prayers and intentions about working for a world where we ask – as the musical “Hamilton” does – who it is who lives and who dies and who tells the story of a life and a people?

How will our story be told?

We cannot pretend that what currently exists is working, save for a very small and privileged few.

I am one of those privileged.

Through my work as a minister of the gospel, I am part of a movement grounded in the belief that all people are sacred and invited to partake of abundance.

We have work to do.  I have work to do.

Who lives, who dies, who tells our story?

not sure

I don’t know.

Maybe it is because the earth is moaning through hurricanes and wild fires.

Maybe it is because our president continues to desecrate sacred truths.

Maybe it is because I miss my children and my mother and my cabin and my naiveté.

I don’t know why I am polishing silver today, but it helps.

Oh the privilege of bequeathed beauty.

Oh how needful it is to provoke shine somewhere.

Somehow.