Thursday, August 27, 2015

Where I'm From

One of the great delights of being with the fabulous folks in the Diocese of Mississippi for their 10th Annual Retreat at the Gray Center last weekend was getting to share the adventure with my wife, Lori.

It was her brilliant idea to use the "Where I Am From" poem template to get us started on our "Are We Running With You Jesus?" theme for the weekend -- so on Friday night we all had a chance to back up a little and spend some time reflecting on where we were from in preparation for reflecting on where we're going -- where we're "running" -- next.

Here's the template we used if you want to try it for yourself. Here's what I came up with ...


Where I'm From

• I am from plaid skirts and knee socks; from the Helm’s Bakery truck bringing bread to the back door and the milk man leaving bottles on the front porch.
• I am from a big stucco house with squeaky screen doors, dogs on the couch and the smell of eucalyptus trees in the afternoon sun.
• I am from the California live oak, palm trees and the Santa Ana winds.
• I am from never missing opening day at Dodger Stadium and staying up on election night until all the precincts have reported in; from Bill & Betty and Worth & Tillie; from Browns and Bundys and Gustafsons and Hesses.
• From “when I say jump, you say how high” and “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
• I am from the Book of Common Prayer and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.”
• I’m from Los Angeles, Minnesota and Atlantic City, from casseroles with cream of mushroom soup and Beef Wellington on Christmas Eve.
• From saving bread crusts to feed the ducks at the Arboretum, from listening to Vin Scully on the patio on warm summer nights and from fishing for sunfish with a drop line from Aunt Anne’s pontoon on Lake Geneva.
 • I am from Eagle Rock, Ventura and Santa Barbara; from unconditional love and constant critique; from the double feature and the seventh inning stretch; and from sometimes you win and sometimes you lose -- but you always dress out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Contending against the evil of gun violence


Giving thanks for the leadership of the Bishops United Against Gun Violence as we pray for the grace to contend against the evil of gun violence in our nation.
"Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#BreatheFire

I’m home on vacation and today was “catch up the laundry and housework day” so I had the news on in the background. Three of the lead stories (after the obligatory Donald Trump Behaving Badly open) were [a] the New Hampshire prep school rape trial [b] the Old Dominion University fraternity scandal and [c] more on the Ashley Madison/Josh Duggar debacle. Three lead stories on the exploitation and objectification of women.

Enough -- as Anne Lamott famously said -- to make Jesus want to drink gin out of cat dish.

And then CNN ran an interview with Jessica Krammes Kirkland. She's the mom of two daughters who had finally had it up to here and let it rip on her Facebook page and wrote "Let's Talk About Anna"-- a post that went so viral that when I just checked it had over 400,000 likes and 200,000 shares -- and landed her a national television interview. And by the end of it the CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin was saying “You go, girl” and I wanted to applaud.

In her Facebook post Ms Krammes Kirkland wrote, in part:
As a mother of daughters, this makes me ill. Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren't given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don't have to marry a man their father deems "acceptable" and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must.

Josh Duggar should be cowering in fear of Anna Duggar right now. Cowering. He isn't, but he should be. He should be quaking in fear that the house might fall down around them if he's in the same room as she. Please, instill your daughters with the resolve to make a man cower if he must. To say "I don't deserve this, and my children don't deserve this." I wish someone had ever, just once, told Anna she was capable of this. That she knew she is. As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire.
And it made me proud all over again that at All Saints Church in Pasadena what we're teaching our children -- ALL our children -- is totally in alignment with the values Ms. Krammes Kirkland wrote about … as called out in this blog post by the parent of a ten year old girl who participated in this year's "Summer Adventure:"
“Thank you, All Saints. For teaching our children that they are enough, more than enough – just as they are. That all of us are Beautiful, Miraculous, and fit to change the world.”
Fit to change the world. And fit -- if necessary -- to breathe fire.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ah, to be in Mississippi now that August has come

Honored to be prepping for a visit to the Diocese of Mississippi next week for the 10th Annual Spiritual Renewal Retreat hosted by the diocese and their ministry to and with LGBT folks. Special treat to be looking forward to being with old (or I guess I should say "long time") friend Brian Seage ... now Bishop of Mississippi. Brian and I knew each other before either of us went to seminary and we were ordained priests together in January 1998. (AKA "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!")

Anyway, in preparation for the retreat -- which I'm told will have 90 participants -- I've been spending a lot of time with the work of Malcolm Boyd and even if you're NOT planning to lead a retreat on claiming his legacy, I totally commend that to you as part of your summer reading and reflection. From the blurb I wrote for the PR on next week's retreat:
In 1965, Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd published “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?” -- a book of prayers which fed the hunger of a generation of people who had given up on the church or anyone connected with it having anything relevant to say. His willingness to put his faith into action by marching to end segregation was a powerful witness to what former Presiding Bishop John Hines called “justice as the corporate face of God’s love.” And his example as an out-gay priest in a time when such a thing was practically unimaginable is an inspiration to all who work for the full inclusion of LGBT people in this church and in this country.

Fifty years later, Malcolm’s prayers and poems continue to inspire and challenge us as we work to make God’s love tangible, to abolish prejudice and oppression and to heal the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the church and in the world. In prayer and reflection, story and song we will claim the legacy of Malcolm Boyd as we align our lives with God’s love, justice and compassion. Come share in a time of spiritual renewal and refreshment in community as we discover together how God is calling us to run with Jesus.
I'm thrilled that my wife Lori is going to be able to join me for this one and add her tremendous gifts as a small group organizer and "process person" to our work together. Putting together the handouts we've framed the work around the metaphor of running the race ... hurdles included ... and I loved the subtitle "1965 Prayers for 2015 Pilgrims."

Stay tuned for more -- but do keep us and the good people of the Diocese of Mississippi in your prayers as we prepare to gather for this opportunity to retreat, reflect and renew. And give thanks for the work and witness of our brother Malcolm -- who continues to inspire us to run our race with as much grace and faithfulness as he ran his.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Offer Yourselves and Your Food to the World

Proper 14B | All Saints Church, Pasadena | 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9

I have always been a big fan of bread. As a child, I went off to school every day with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread with the crusts removed.

The crusts were saved in a plastic bag in the freezer to take to the Arboretum over in Arcadia to feed the ducks – fat, waddling, noisy old things who lived off the bits and pieces rejected by picky little girls like me.

My early years were filled with an abundance of both bread and people who prepared it to my liking – and it seemed that bread – soft, white and usually smeared with something sweet – was something I would always relate to.

But it wasn’t until I went to seminary that I got the chance to actually bake any bread. It is an awesome privilege to be asked to bake the bread for communion and as I worked the dough on the floured board one morning it occurred to me that when the church becomes more like the bread that feeds it we will have inched closer to the coming of the kingdom.

The ingredients were set out, ready to be combined in the big, yellow mixing bowl: flour and shortening, sugar, salt and an egg – and yeast: turned frothy in the measuring cup of hot water. Separate and distinct when lined up on the counter, each of these items would serve a different but essential function when kneaded together into the dough that would become our bread.

The large pile of flour and the tiny packet of yeast were equal in importance: without either of them the final creation would be less than it was meant to be. Mixed together, kneaded and left to rise on the window sill in the afternoon sun and then baked in the heat of the over they would transformed into a new thing – brown and fragrant, crusty and warm – ready to be the food offered to feed both body and soul in a very hungry world.

The volume of the flour many times outweighed the other ingredients – but bread would not have happened if the flour had used its majority status to argue for the exclusion from the mixing bowl of the insistent salt or the disruptive yeast. Each had to play its own role in the process of becoming bread: to be wrenched from its own bag or box or packet or where it was comfortable with its own kind and combined with things which were “other.”

And the bread which emerged from the oven resulted from the interaction of those ingredients as much as it did from the kneading and shaping of the baker or the heat of the oven.

As the church we are called to be the Body of Christ to the world – a body symbolized for us by the bread we break each time we gather – the Bread of Life.

Yet sometimes it is tempting to settle for my childhood relationship with the bread that God has given us. I know there are times when I am still that little girl who wants her bread the way she wants it: safe and familiar and prepared for me by someone else – sweet and with the crusts cut off!

I don’t want to participate in the process: I just want to be fed by what I expect. Sure the ducks can have the leftovers – as long as I get mine first, says the selfish little girl that still lives somewhere inside of me.

But I know God wants more than that from me -- and more than that from all of us. When I baked the bread for communion, there was a radical transformation that took place between the time the ingredients were lined up on the counter and the moment the fragrant loaf emerged from the oven. And God is calling each and every one of us to be open to that same kind of transformation in our lives.

But that transformation will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.

It will never happen if we stay safe in our containers – wrapping creeds and formulas and rituals around us like the bag around the flour, protecting itself from the influence of the frothy yeast or the pungent salt – isolating ourselves from the very things that are essential to becoming the bread – the community -- God would have us be.

There’s a hungry world out there waiting to be fed and we’re the ones who have been called to feed it: both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.

And we live up to that call in to be the bread of life every time we take the message of God’s love, justice and compassion out into the hungry world.

· When we stand for economic justice and a minimum wage that provides dignity to workers in our cities and in our nation.

· When we work to end the plague of gun violence that continues across our country.

· When we support legislation that ends discrimination against any member of the human family

· When we refuse to settle for the increasingly polarized political process that demeans and dehumanizes those who are “other”

· When we march for peace with justice on this 70th anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

· When we proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter on this first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown

· And when we work to liberate women from the sexism that still permeates our culture -- fueling the War on Women we’ve seen on such stark display in the news cycle this week.

We live up to that call to be the bread of life each and every time we challenge any of the above -- and anything else that makes this world less than what the God who created it in love created it to be.

The Good News we both claim and proclaim today is that God has called us to be a new thing – to be a light to the nations – to be part of the Jesus Movement moving the arc of history toward that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather.

And to get there – to become the bread of life we are called to both offer and to be in the world -- we must first be mixed up, kneaded and punched, left to rise and then subjected to the heat of the oven.

That, my brothers and sisters, is the work we ask God to do in us each and every time we gather around this altar to receive the bread and wine made holy and then to be sent out into the world as beacons of God’s love, justice and compassion. Every time we do as Jesus called us to do:

“Take. Eat. This is my body that I share with you. Remember me whenever you eat, and offer your food and yourselves to the world.”

So let us gather. Let us be fed. And then let us go – go out into the world rejoicing the power of God’s spirit … both to offer and to be the bread of life as the Body of Christ in the world.

Amen.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Meanwhile, in the Diocese of Albany ...

The Times Union published this feature on folks making the choice to leave the Diocese of Albany over the continuation of sacramental apartheid for same-sex couples.
"This was a difficult personal decision, but I can't teach the U.S. Constitution to my students and go to a church that discriminates against a group of people," said Alice Malavasic, an assistant professor of history at Hudson Valley Community College who attended All Saints for more than 20 years and taught Sunday school. She was the first to send [Dean] Collum a letter informing him that she left the parish. Her letter referred to [Bishop] Love's position on marriage equality as "hostile and bigoted."

"Bishop Love literally segregated the cathedral from the Episcopal church and out of principle I won't attend a segregated cathedral," Malavasic said. She recalled an incident when she was a teenager in 1970 in her hometown of Russellville, S.C., and the Church of Christ her family attended built a new school for its white children, rather than send them to a public school with black children.

"That troubled me deeply as a teenager, and I wasn't going to accept segregation as an adult," she said.
It is, of course, a source of deep grief that congregations continue to experience divisions because of the fuller inclusion of the LGBT baptized in the Episcopal Church. But there is a point where enough is enough .. and it's worth it to drive across the border into the Diocese of Vermont where "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign doesn't have an implicit asterisk that reads *unless you're gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender -- or opposed to segregation.