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.

grief

I live in these days with a pervasive and powerful sense of grief.

I love the vision of the nation in which I live.  All are created equal, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are certain inalienable rights.  But the whole precious – and who knew how fragile? – vision of what I thought was shared and sacred has been huckstered and profaned through and certainly beyond this past election.

What to make of a nation squandering its heart in fracture?  What to do with earth and women and the poor and the vulnerable collateralized by powerful elite who have no concept of what it is to be other than privileged by gender, race, orientation or social status? What to do with the falling-in-behind the dismantling of compassion by those people who espouse the teachings of Jesus as bedrock in their lives and hearts?  How can Jesus be used as mascot for the impoverishing of millions and the despoiling of this precious earth?

I love the vision of the United Methodist Church.  Transformation of the world is sore needed and the hope of the living Christ as lived through the followers of Jesus is call to lived compassion.  We are called to be antidote to fracture.

What to make of a denomination that condones hate speak?  How can we be about transformation and open hearts, minds, and doors as we participate through our polity in the shutting of doors to the called and the beloved?  How do we preach the Jesus message of dismantling systems of oppression whilst enduring the realities of ministering through a denominational structure bound by just such oppression?

Grief is real.

I’m choosing to feel it.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.  Pentecost celebrates the ways the Holy Spirit took up dancing on the heads of the fractured and frightened.  Through the power of that Spirit barriers were eradicated and people could hear the hearts and behold the sacred humanity of those they never thought they would understand.

Oh come, Holy Spirit, come!

We are sore in need of the dance.

 

 

holy fool

“…As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why we are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always a deep goodness, or what Merton called “a hidden wholeness.””  Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr writes a daily message that arrives in my email box.  The quote above was today’s bit of wisdom.  And, the above quote represents today’s bit of challenge, truth be told.

On a regular basis I get to sit at table with beautiful souls.  On Wednesday nights I am part of a Covenant Bible Study.  We are making our way through scripture through reading and great discussion.

Last night, one of the people at the table made a comment that provoked a snap response from me.  What I said in response to said comment was not out of line, but the speed and intensity of my response let me know that my sense of equanimity (“Okayness”, as Rohr names it above) is far from matured in me.

In truth, I agree with Rohr and Merton that a hidden wholeness grounds all that is.

And, we live in a fractured and fracturing time.

Author Barbara Kingsolver says that the time for speaking up has come:  We must name the things we can no longer countenance.  Instead of politely nodding assent (implied through our silence) to statements and actions that harm the hidden wholeness God’s heart has created, we need to find ways to come to voice in cadences that challenge oppression and build community and wholeness.

I apologized to the individual and to the group for my quick response last night.  I named my desire for the foolishness Rohr names above.

And, as an aspiring holy fool I wonder:  How do we ground ourselves in wholeness and hope whilst challenging systems, words and actions that create fracture?

God has given us this day and this time.  What deserts are crying out for voices?

Grounded in goodness, how will we witness to the light?

 

 

 

tired

Today I am so tired.

I cannot much fathom that our nation is running up to the brink of electing to our highest office a man who has held no office.  None.

This is a man who has insulted and demeaned and fomented and this is a man who seems to revel in the bizarre theater of buffoonery.

I am tired of the barely veiled woman-mistrust that under-girds the unlikeliest of presidential contests ever held.  In the race is a woman who has been consistent in her concern for and advocacy in regard to children and community and decades of work and philanthropy are also-ran material in the circus of misdirection and media clowning.

The circus seems to be the desired reality show of our day.  How can this be so?  The implications are staggering.

Gone with the stroke of a pen would be environmental protections and choice and health care coverage and most terrifying of all?  Gone would be our sense of who we are as a nation.

I am tired of black people being gunned down in the streets. I am tired of the stifling of outrage and I am tired by the sense that somehow it is wrong to name the injustice.  It is as though naming the mattering of black lives equals disdain for the police and isn’t that a convenient way to silence allies?

I am tired of navigating Sunday morning preaching.  I am tired of knowing that there are some who will pounce on the opportunity, any opportunity, to feel affronted by what is preached or named in God’s house.

I am tired of the sniffing around of others as though a different view point or world view is affront.

I am tired of the repeated trope that politics don’t belong in church.  You’re kidding, right? Everything we do is political.  Jesus was intentional about the fact that black lives matter and poor lives matter and women’s lives matter and all lives matter to the Holy and they must matter to all of us or surely we are destined to wander this world broken and afraid.

Such insistence upon the sanctity of each life was dangerous for Jesus.  It seems dangerous yet, God help us.

I am tired of “broken and afraid” as the seemingly inevitable harvest of this season.

On this day I give thanks for the solace of work that matters, a community that is courageous, and the ongoing compassionate invitation of Jesus the Christ:

“Come onto me” says Jesus.  “I know what loving costs.  I’ll give you rest”.

There is so much pain.  Being tired makes sense.

So too does believing that God is far from finished with this world and we are walking miracle and there is  Spirit movement in the midst of despair and that movement is about coming together and learning through differences and allowing ourselves to hear the pain and naming tired for sure but also naming the power of love and hope and a conviction that we have the courage to live love.

We have that courage.  Through the heart of the Christ, through the unity of the Holy Spirit and through the stunninng gift of those who hold us when we are so tired, we have that courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mercy

I needed a word.

This morning, I heard the Word.

We are blessed in life with people who teach us the importance of leadership.  Pope Francis is such a one.  Pope Francis has spoken words that have sparked hope in such a way that the whole Christian movement is awakened to possibility.

One of Pope Francis’ admirers preached this morning.

Bishop Sally Dyck was one of my teachers.  She served as bishop in the Mn Annual Conference for eight years.  During her time in God’s country she provided me with a model for what it is to be a woman in leadership.

It was amplified grace that she preached so powerfully this morning at General Conference. Bishop Dyck preached about our shared need to live mercy together.

She wondered how it is we singularly call out homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.  (That statement in itself is without mercy – my words, not hers).  To further compound the pain of that statement, the UM church is woefully silent about other things that are incompatible with Christian teaching – things like racism and gun violence and desecration of the earth and, well, you get her meaning.

We heard a word this morning at General Conference.  Thanks be to God.

I’m done with my time at General Conference.  I will go to a fundraiser tonight and thrill to the music of the Indigo Girls.  The concert is given to support the vision of full inclusion in the United Methodist Church.  It will be so good to be in a place where mercy is sung.  We need those words.

I will get on a plane at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning and happily resume my life.

And the work of the church will go on.  Legislation will be brought to the floor of General Conference next week.  We will learn more about the future of our United Methodist Church.

Pray for our delegates.  Pray for all who are gathered in Portland – the volunteers and protesters, the hopeful and the dispirited.  Pray for our bishop Bruce Ough.  Pray for the Good News Movement and pray for the too many who have been hurt by the language and silence of our church.

Mercy.

Let us pray and live mercy.

 

 

 

 

server

I was a really good waitress.

Every good waitress knows that the front of the house and the kitchen have to work in harmony together.  It is probably best that diners in fine restaurants are blissfully unaware of the heat and the unloveliness of the kitchen.  Good chefs make great meals.  Good waitresses serve up great meals while creating a sense that there is nothing but peace in the kitchen.

So now I am a parish pastor.  It is a job not unlike that of a waitress.  My desire is that people who worship at the church I serve can be undisturbed by the clank of the liturgical pots and pans that go into cooking up worship and life together.

I am glad I am in the front of the house in this ministry business.  Because truthfully, after three days of being at General Conference, I am not sure I ever want to enter the kitchen of the United Methodist movement again.

Today Rule 44 was defeated.  After hours of technical difficulties with voting apparatus and points of order and amendments and heart-felt testimony, it seems the people called Methodist are not willing to talk to each other.  We seem more inclined to talk at each other using Robert’s Rules as shield.

So it went.  I only wept once.

The rest of the day was spent in legislative committees.  That Book of Discipline that we turn to in the ordering of our life?  Every line of it is up for editing and polishing and so committees are digesting thousands of legislative petitions and after sitting on the floor of one of the break-out rooms (there was no room in the inn for the curious) I fled.

I admit it.  I got out of there.

It turns out I don’t have the stomach or heart for the work in the kitchen.  I am glad that others do.  I am glad that others can craft words that can somehow invite people to taste and see the goodness of our God.  I pray that inviting and inclusive and delicious words flow from this time.

As for me, I went out for ice cream.

Here is what I know.  I am blessed to serve a remarkable church in Rochester, MN.  My sense of doing church there is that the kitchen and the front of the house are all seeking to do the same thing:  we want to serve up grace to the hungry of soul.  I get to work with people who are huge of heart and excited by God’s stirring in our midst and I left the convention center today so grateful for my local church and my place in it.

Christ UMC in Rochester is where I am called to serve up the Body of Christ; in the midst of the hungry and the seeking and the hopeful.

I’m hoping I am still a good waitress.

 

alone together

I went to church every Sunday while I was growing up.

Rarely did I get to sit with my parents during worship. My dad was up in the pulpit preaching and leading worship and my mom was in the choir lending the gift of her voice to the mix. Often I was in the pew company of my siblings. My older siblings tolerated the presence of my younger sister and me. We were preacher’s kids: watched and alone together.

When I did get to sit by my mom for worship, it was a treat. She smelled good. She sang harmony on the hymns. She did more than tolerate me. I could mold myself to her side and play with the rings on her fingers and when it was time for offering, she gave me a dime to put in the plate. I was no spectator. I was a contributor.

My mother’s birthday is this Sunday. She will be 85. What I came to realize is that more than anything else I wanted to sit by her side during worship. I never get to do that, since I am now the one in the pulpit and she lives four and a half hours away. On her birthday I wanted to be next to her in worship savoring her good smell, her fine harmony, and the unnameable gift that is her presence in this world.

I took Sunday off. I will be by my mother’s side as we share a pew and our gratitude to God for the brambles and beauties of life.

And maybe, just maybe, she will give me a dime to put in the offering plate.