holy wholeness

I am praying this week.

I am praying for the hearts of United Methodists to be strangely and profoundly warmed.

The notion about living with a strangely warmed heart comes from the experience of John Wesley. Wesley lived for decades as pastor and child of God without a clear sense of his full welcome into God’s embrace.

Through a heart warming experience, Wesley came to know the power of holy wholeness.

That heart warming brought Wesley and the movement now called United Methodism alive.

It has brought me and so many alive, this astounding good news that we are beloved, known, and made one with God’s heart.

United Methodists from around the globe are gathering in St Louis this weekend. They are gathering for a specially called conference. At the conference delegates will engage with each other and with the Holy Spirit to determine the future of the movement sparked by a man who knew what it was to feel doubtful about being fully welcomed into God’s grace.

United Methodists have been wrangling around this issue for decades. Countless hours, resources, passion and energy have been poured into how it is the people of Jesus the Christ are called to discipleship in the company of all.

There are plans being presented, talk of schism being bandied about and hearts feeling exhausted and near broken by the continued insistence on the part of some that GLBTQ children of God are blessed and beloved; well, kind of. Sort of. Not really.

Legions of others are fully exhausted by the continued profanity of exclusion currently articulated in our Discipline. The thought of another “not yet” in regards to living congruency with the gospel is unbearable.

So I am praying.

I am praying for the delegates and the bishops.

I am praying for the children I have baptized. I want them to grow up in a community of faith that welcomes them wildly and gratefully, with all varieties of being celebrated as God gift.

I am praying for the too many who have felt unwelcome by the people of Jesus.

I am praying for colleagues who have been mandated by our current disciple to closet living. My heart cannot go too near the cost of practicing subterfuge around holy relationships.

I am praying for my church: The United Methodist Church and the church I am appointed to serve. Both are full of people who have found welcome and invitation into the good-news-making of Jesus. I love both the larger and my local church. I believe in the power and the promise of the strangely-warmed.

The Holy Spirit is a force for love in this world. This I believe.

This is a pivotal time.

I am praying.

Please join me.

I got a call this morning from my daughter.

I am in Australia.  She is home in Minnesota.

She wanted me to know there was no emergency but there was this:

Poet Mary Oliver died.

Knowing my heart as she does, she wanted me to know.

The melody of my soul is woven with Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose.

I was able to be in her physical presence once.  She did a poetry reading in Minneapolis.  The church where the event was held was full of those who, like me, came to pay homage.

I wept through most of it.

Some things are just too holy to behold.

I am far from my community and far from my books.  I am far from the round table at our cabin that always held one of her books.  I am left with Facebook as facilitator of communal testimony and grief and it is enough, I suppose.

The power of a soul compelled to sing is miracle.

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.