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?

 

 

 

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.

 

well

“Everyone here is a child of God.  Hard stop.  Period.”  Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

We were gifted with a fine preach this morning.

We who gathered for 8:00 AM worship on day two of General Conference were the tired and the dispirited.  A new rule, number 44 by name, had been brought before the body as a way to participate in one of Wesley’s Means of Grace:  Holy Conferencing.  The gist of the rule was that Roberts Rules could be put aside while considering challenging issues.  Perhaps, given the clear challenge of discussing issues regarding sexuality (why is this so very hard???) people could speak heart to one another and learn from one another and allow for decision-making to be shaped by listening to one another.

This is clearly an uncomfortable notion.   It is clearly uncomfortable because Rule 44 is not being readily adopted.  Rather than agreeing to enter into holy discourse, the chains of protocol (Robert’s Rules rule) are being rattled and the Body is (thus far) bound.

Into that collective sense of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Bishop Palmer rose to speak the Episcopal Address.

Oh my.

It felt to me that the Bishop was summoning the Spirit to blow grace through the gathered faithful. Bishop Palmer was prophetic and his words resonated with the same sort of deep sense of love and grief Jesus shared in his prayer in John 17: 23.  Jesus prays that the disciples might be one in order that they might bear witness to the miracle of God made flesh in the heart and teachings of Christ Jesus.

The quote above about everyone being a child of God was just one of the things that made me rejoice in the power of the Word preached through the prism of a heart broken open by grief.

We are those hearts, aren’t we?

Our hearts are broken, to be sure, but from such a laid-open place the sounding of the gospel gains urgency and power.

Jesus prays yet for us to live the legacy of love offered to us.

Conversation by conversation, shared heart by shared heart may we lay ourselves open to the wash of God’s grace.  Surely we have the courage to learn the hearts of others in order for us to become one in the Spirit.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Jesus said it.  We might try it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

here I am

I am at General Conference.  Every four years United Methodists from across the globe gather to remember who they are.  That’s the notion, anyway.

I am attending because the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion made a scholarship available.  I applied.  I received a scholarship.

So here I am in Portland, Oregon.  I don’t have voice on the floor.  I don’t have much to do but be present to what is while I pray for what might be.

John Wesley spoke about the need for the people called Methodists to name the reality of differing opinions while holding a shared sense of grounding in the heart of Jesus.

The heart isn’t holding so well.  For decades the United Methodist Church has wrangled about issues around full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.  Some harmful language has been codified into policy.  Barbed-wire proclamations regarding the seemliness of same gender love, the ordination of “self-avowed practicing” glbt clergy, and the prohibition given clergy around officiating at same gender marriages have cut deep into the souls of too many.

How long can hearts bleed?

Today I witnessed a public act that rang with historical power.  A woman who has blessed the church and served the church for decades has been denied ordination because she will not deny her God-given orientation nor will she deny the love she shares with her wife.  She was ordained in a non-traditional service held in the lobby where the conference is being held.  Her non-traditional ordination hearkens back to the roots of Methodism in the US.  Pastors were needed to go and teach and preach and bless.  There was need and there were not enough ordained pastors to meet the need so Wesley stepped outside the bonds of church polity to meet the needs of the many hungering to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

That hunger is real today.

What will happen at this General Conference is alive in the expansive, inclusive and broken-with-grief heart of Jesus.

So I am praying:  Come, Jesus, Come.  Show us how to love each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.