Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taking the risk to be "fully alive"

"The God who created us in love and then loved us enough to become one of us is glorified when we dwell in the thin places when we claim the fullness of the both/and when we risk being fully alive."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Boy Scouts considering ending ban on gay scounts/leaders?

That's what the "Breaking News" is telling me on MSNBC this morning.

Which sent me back to the General Convention archives for this from Denver in 2000 ... Resolution C031 entitled "Recommend Clergy to Engage the Boy Scouts of America on Issues of Sexual Orientation" and including:

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention recommend that all clergy in charge of congregations
and vestries:

Inform the local Boy Scouts of America council and other organizations of the Episcopal Church's
policy adopted at the 65th General Convention (1976) that "homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoralconcern and care of the Church";

Encourage the Boy Scouts of America to allow membership to youth and adult leaders irrespective
of their sexual orientation;

Strongly encourage individual churches which charter or host scout units to open a dialogue with
the unit leaders, scouts, and their parents regarding discrimination against youth and leaders on
the basis of sexual orientation;

Engage in educational programs within their churches to inform members and others about these
issues; and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention recommend the Office of the General Convention send
a copy of this resolution to the National Office of the Boy Scouts of America.


That was July 2000. This is January 2013. See also: "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fully Alive: A Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

Wordle: Fully Alive

Fully Alive

To the home of peace
to the field of love
to the land where forgiveness and right relationship meet
we look, O God,
with longing for earth's children
with compassion for the creatures
with hearts breaking for the nations and people we love.

Open us to visions we have never known
strengthen us for self-givings we have never made
delight us with a oneness we could never have imagined
that we may truly be born of You
makers of peace. Amen.
[John Philip Newell]

There is a Celtic saying
that heaven and earth are only three feet apart,
but in thin places that distance is even smaller.

Thin places
are where heaven and earth are so close together
it is possible to get a glimpse of the other side –
to live,
at least for a moment,
in the sacred both/and
God created us to live in
by exploding,
at least for a moment,
the demonic either/or
the world tells us we have to settle for.

On the wall in Ed Bacon’s office
there hangs a beautiful piece of calligraphy
with these words from one of the early “church fathers:”
The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.

Written by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon
around 185AD
these ancient words
call us to claim the eternal truth
that the God who created us in love
and then loved us enough to become one of us
in order to show us how to love one another
is glorified when we dwell in the thin places
when we claim the fullness of the both/and
when we risk being fully alive.

And make no mistake about it.
This fully alive - both/and thing is risky.

To live in the both/and place --
to be open to the call to be fully alive --
is to live in the tension
of the already and the not yet;
to claim the promise of the
becoming but not quite become;
and to trust not only
that the gift we have been given
is greater than we could either ask or imagine
but that it has been given to us
for a reason
and that reason is nothing less than
what Isaiah called proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor
what the Lord’s Prayer names thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven
what All Saints Church calls turning the human race into the human family.
AKA “Risky business.”

Jesus found that out
when he preached what some have called his “Inaugural Address”
at his home synagogue in Nazareth –
the story we just heard in the Gospel According to Luke.

Reading from words of the prophet Isaiah
he reminded those who gathered
to welcome home Joseph and Mary’s son
(who was trending as Galilee’s hottest, most happening young rabbi)
he reminded them – the home crowd gathered in the place he grew up --
what the year of the Lord’s favor looked like:
good news to the poor; sight to the blind;
liberation to the captive; release to the prisoner.

And they all nodded and smiled ...
until he got to the both/and part
about how that good news was not just for the people of Israel
but for the widow in Zaraphath and the Syrian leper ...
the part where the both/and
of God’s inclusive love and radical healing grace
transcended the either/or of their tribal paradigm.

And the smiling congregation
turned into a riled up mob
and decided to skip the cake-on-the-lawn the Parish Council had prepared
to celebrate the return home of Joe and Mary’s boy
and to try to throw him off a cliff instead.

[That’s the part that comes after the part we read this morning.]

Yes, there’s risk in this both/and thing.
This “Year of the Lord’s Favor” deal.
This fully alive stuff.

And yet there is also hope, freedom and liberation.
Not just for us as individuals,
but for our communities of faith
for our nation
and for our world.

In the not-so ancient words of our friend Marianne Williamson:

We were born to make manifest the glory of God
that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone
and as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Jesus – the radical rabbi from Nazareth
was so liberated from fear
that his presence liberated those who dared to follow him
and continues to liberate us
these more than 2000 years later.

The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.

Verna Dozier – one of my heroes and mentors
had this to say about how that liberation happens:

Doubt is not the opposite of faith: fear is. Fear will not risk that even if I am wrong, I will trust that if I move today by the light that is given me, knowing it is only finite and partial, I will know more and different things tomorrow than I know today, and I can be open to the new possibility I cannot even imagine today.

Her words have been nothing less than a mantra for me
for lo these several decades now
through seminary and into parish ministry
in parenting, relationship and vocational challenges
and most recently as I’ve lived in that thin place
with the both/and of grief and gratitude
praying to trust the light given me in the moment
and to be given the grace to risk being fully alive.

And I know for an absolute fact certain
that I know more and different things today
that I could not have imagined yesterday --
and as a result I look forward to tomorrow and beyond
open to the new possibilities I can’t yet imagine today.

The Glory of God is a community of faith fully alive.

Ed Bacon famously said
“Spirituality without action is fruitless and social action without spirituality is heartless.”

Take a look at the logo on the front of today’s liturgy
and you will see what is -- for me -- an icon
of how All Saints Church strives
to live out its call to dwell in the “thin place”
that embraces the both/and of contemplation and action.

Spirituality calls us into Community
which sends us out to act for Peace and Justice
grounded in the Spirituality
calling us back into Community …
and the circle goes round and round and round again.

And just as Marianne Williamson’s words promise
that circle liberates us not only to let our light shine
but liberates others by giving them permission to do the same.

I thought of that circle this week
as Gary Hall – our former All Saints colleague
and now Dean of Washington’s National Cathedral --
was “trending” in the news cycle
as a leading voice addressing the issue of gun violence reduction.

Gary quoted Martin Luther King Jr
on the challenge to the church to step up and speak out:

“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or non-existence,” [said Martin Luther King.] King is adamant that Americans not sleep through the great revolution they currently witness. They must stay awake and commit themselves to enter on the side of God’s love and justice. As he says, “Nothing will be done until people of goodwill put their bodies and their souls in motion. And it will be the kind of soul force brought into being as a result of this confrontation that I believe will make the difference.”

It is a both/and challenge
to put both our bodies AND souls in motion
to dare to be fully alive
and risk dwelling that thin place
where the not-yet touches the what-could-be
and we ignore the “it’ll never happen” voice
and choose instead the “yes we can” voice.

And that brings me to: The Glory of God is the nation fully alive.

Last Monday I stood on the Mall in Washington DC
with about a million other bundled up people
and heard our President speak words
that Diana Butler Bass has called
“a masterwork of progressive theology:
a public sermon on the meaning of America,
a creedal statement and a call to practice that faith in the world
an expression of a genuinely pluralistic America,
and the first inaugural address
of a new sort of American civil spirituality.”

Part of that speech included these words:
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."

And in uttering those words
those risky words
President Barack Obama invited this nation – our nation –
to dare to take another step on the journey toward being fully alive
to risk living in that thin place of the sacred both/and
of liberty and justice for all
by rejecting the demonic either/or
of liberty and justice for just some.

With those words in his second inaugural address
President Obama arguably erased the defacto asterisk
that has followed the words “liberty and justice for all”
with *unless you’re gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

And it felt just a little bit
like hearing someone pull out the scroll and read from Isaiah
about liberating captives and releasing prisoners
and then saying
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And it felt like a very thin place indeed.

Tomorrow night
we will welcome back to All Saints Church
poet, peacemaker and scholar John Philip Newell
who wrote the prayer I opened with this morning.

He will call us to a thin place
of visions we have never known
of self-givings we have never made
of a oneness we could never have imagined
that we may become fully alive as makers of peace;
as individuals
as a community of faith
and as a nation.

And so let me close
as I began
with another prayer from John Philip Newell:

O Brother Jesus
who wept at the death of a friend
and overturned tables in anger at wrong
let me not be frightened by the depths of passion.
Rather let me learn the love and anger
and wild expanses of soul within me
that are true expressions of your grace and wisdom.
And assure me again that in becoming more like you
I come closer to my true self
made in the image of outpouring Love
born of the free eternal Wind.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrating Obama/Biden 2.0!

Yesterday I stood on the Mall in Washington DC and heard the President of the United States say these words: "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall."

"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."

Today is the day WE get back to work doing our part to make that journey complete ... an inch at a time ... as we move forward into Obama/Biden 2.0. Happy Tuesday, everybody! :)

[More extended reflections to come -- full day today and then heading off to Berkeley tomorrow for presentation on Blessings at CDSP.]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

DC Bound!

Yes, I know it's a commemorative invitation and won't actually get you in anywhere. But I actually DO have tickets to Monday's Inaugural -- thanks to my former Congressional Rep. Adam Schiff. And I'm am looking forward IMMENSELY to being in our nation's capital celebrating with a few hundred thousand other folks the upcoming festivities as we launch Obama/Biden 2.0!

Yes, I know it will be cold. Yes, I know I can see it better on television. And yes, I know there won't be as many people as last time. Thanks for sharing.

What I also know is it's an historic opportunity -- and I'm thrilled that I get to be there. Photos and reflections to come. And look for me when they scan the crowd. I'll be the one in the down coat with the hat and scarf and the big grin on my face! :)

15 Years Ago Today ...

... "God willed" and "the people consented" and I was ordained a "presbyter in the Church of God" at St. John's on Adams here in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles by then Bishop Fred Borsch.

There are a boatload of pictures somewhere but this is the one I could find this morning ... with my son Brian, mom and brother Bill. (son Jamie was taking the picture.)

Fifteen years seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday -- and I continue to be overwhelmed at the privilege of being called into this work of priesthood and for the amazing colleagues and context in which I get to minister.

Fifteen years. Wow!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fighting the Phantom Fringe to End Gun Violence

post I just sent to the Huffington Post ... consider it a "preview."
President Obama made good his promise to address the pressing issue of gun violence reduction in our nation with a press conference that ended with his signature on twenty-three executive orders – and a call for Congress to step up and join him in providing the leadership the country is calling for. And the ink wasn’t dry on those executive orders before the conservative fringe was jumping and down about “the leftist gun grab.”

Never mind that the President specifically said he supports the 2nd Amendment and the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” Never mind that in a recent poll 74% of NRA members said they support common sense measures like background checks for gun purchases. (I need to show ID to buy Sudafed but not a gun? Seriously?) And never mind that nobody –let me say that again – NOBODY is talking about “grabbing guns” from anybody. But never letting facts interfere with the story they want to tell, the headline still reads: “Obama Unveils Left’s Long-Held Plan to Grab Guns.”

I know. I know. It’s Rush Limbaugh. Why give him any more “ink?” Why not just “consider the source?” Why pay any attention to him whatsoever? Because other people do. Because if we don’t who will. And because I actually believe John 8:32 got it exactly right: “The truth will set you free.”

 And the truth that will set us free from the scourge of gun violence in our streets and our schools is that a majority of Americans support both the 2nd Amendment AND common sense measures on universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons.

 The truth is that weapons designed for the theater of war do not belong in our movie theaters – or our classrooms, places of worship or streets.

The truth is the “leftist gun grab” is a figment of the imagination of a reactionary fringe looking for a way to mobilize their increasingly polarized base by giving them something to be more afraid of than they are that their kids will get shot in their classrooms. And what they’ve come up with is that the White House is after their deer rifle. 

Here’s some truth for you – call it “confessions of a bona fide leftist.” I’ve lobbied for a woman’s right to choose, marched for marriage equality, protested against torture at Guantanamo and the war in Iraq, and demonstrated for immigration reform and hotel workers rights. I support Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Healthcare Act and the ACLU. And I not only do not want to grab your deer rifle – I don’t know anybody who does. And trust me -- I know a LOT of liberal, leftist people.

The truth will set us free – but only if we tell it. Over and over. Again and again. In emails, voicemail and snail-mail. On Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and wherever and whenever anybody will listen to us. And even when they won’t.

We’ll just keep talking. We’ll just keep telling the truth.

Because the truth is that enough is enough. The truth is that with rights come responsibilities -- and the responsibility to keep our children safe from assault weapons trumps the right of fear mongers to manufacture a phantom fringe of leftist gun grabbers in order to scare responsible gun owners into rejecting common sense proposals to implement gun violence reduction.

And the truth is that our children are counting on us to tell the truth that will set them free to grow up in a world free of gun violence.  And if that isn’t truth enough to get us moving then the truth is we deserve what we get.

"What's happening?"

Facebook wants to know "What's happening, Susan?" Here you go ... THIS is "what's happening:"

Scripture tells us that "the truth will set you free" -- and the truth that will set us free from the scourge of gun violence in our streets and our schools is that a majority of Americans support BOTH the 2nd Amendment AND common sense measures on universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons. Speak up. Step up. Enough is Enough. Call your representatives TODAY and tell them to support the White House gun violence reduction measures. Seriously. Do it. Right now.

Contact Congress

Monday, January 14, 2013

Celebrating MLK Day (a little early!)

So I didn't even know Forest Lawn HAD an MLK Day celebration ... much less that this was the "11th Annual" until I was invited to give the Benediction.

It was a lovely event ... with great music by the "Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and Chorus" (what an inspiring bunch of young people!) and a whole big auditorium full up of people and I was honored to get to have the "last word" ... which was a few brief words linking the "arc of the moral universe bending toward justice" quote with Abraham Heschel's call for prophets to "comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable" and then ending with the BCP prayer for "the human family" -- with a little Amos thrown in at the end:
Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne so that justice may roll down like waters and righetousness like an ever flowing stream.
And then I finished with the "Newark Blessing" (which I inherited from Liz Habecker who inherited it from Jack Spong:)
Holy God, Send us anywhere you would have us go, only go there with us. Place upon us any burden you desire, only stand by us to sustain us. Break any tie that binds us, except the tie that binds us to you. And the blessing of God Almighty, Creating, Redeeming and Sustaining, be with you -- those you love, serve and challenge -- this day and forever. Amen.
And that was my Sunday night. Got home in time to watch the Golden Globes ... which turned out to be a good thing since our local KNBC news folks called this morning looking for reaction to Jodie Foster's "coming out" speech. But that's another blog! :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Great News from Washington's National Cathedral

From the National Cathedral's Dean Gary Hall,
I am writing to announce that, effective immediately, same-sex weddings may be celebrated at Washington National Cathedral, which has a long history of advancing equality for people of all faiths and perspectives. The Cathedral is called to serve as a gathering place for the nation in times of significance, but it is also rooted in its role as the most visible faith community within the Episcopal Church. For more than 30 years, the Episcopal Church has prayed and studied to discern the evidence of God’s blessing in the lives of same-sex couples. It is now only fitting that the National Cathedral follow suit. We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God—and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation.

Consistent with the canons of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral will begin celebrating same-sex marriage ceremonies using a rite adapted from an existing blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the Church at its General Convention. That approval allowed for the bishops who oversee each diocese within the Church to decide whether or not to allow the rite’s use or to allow celebration of same-sex marriage. In light of the legality of civil marriage for same-sex couples in the District of Columbia and Maryland, Bishop Mariann Budde announced last month that the diocese would now allow this expansion of the sacrament, which then led to my decision for the Cathedral’s adaptation of the same-sex rite.

In my 35 years of ordained ministry, some of the most personally inspiring work I have witnessed has been among gay and lesbian communities where I have served. I consider it a great honor to lead this Cathedral as it takes another historic step toward greater equality—and I am pleased that this step follows the results made clear in this past November’s election, when three states voted to allow same-sex marriage.

Matters of human sexual identity and questions about the Church’s role in blessing lifelong, committed relationships between its members are serious issues around which feelings run high and people of good will can often disagree. It is my hope and prayer that, if all of us open ourselves to the fullness and diversity of our nation’s many voices, we will learn to walk together in a new way as we listen for God’s call to us to be faithful to each other and to God.

I must also take this opportunity to stress that the same guidelines for couples eligible to be married at the Cathedral stay in effect. All weddings at the Cathedral are conducted as Christian marriages in which the couple commits to lifelong faithfulness, love, forbearance, and mutual comfort. At least one person in the couple, therefore, must have been baptized. Only couples directly affiliated with the life of the Cathedral—as active, contributing members of the congregation; as alumni or alumnae of the Cathedral schools; as individuals who have made significant volunteer or donor contributions over a period of time; or those judged to have played an exceptional role in the life of the nation—are eligible to be married at the Cathedral.

The Episcopal Church has shown faithfulness and courage in the long discernment process that led to the development and approval of this rite. The Diocese of Washington has similarly been a leader in the implementation of marriage equality. I have shared this decision with the Chapter and staff prior to this announcement, and I am proud that Washington National Cathedral will be among the first Episcopal institutions to adopt and implement a rite that will enable our faithful LGBT members to share in the sacramental blessings of Christian marriage.
News reports:
New York Times
Associated Press
Religion News Service

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Bishop of Chicago Steps Up for Marriage Equality

This should probably be titled "Bishop of Chicago CONTINUES to Step Up for Marriage Equality" because +Jeff Lee has been such a valiant ally but this particular moment was one that came out of his willingness to step up with a Letter of Support for Marriage Equality as it wends its way through the legislative process in Illinois.

And so I was SOOOO delighted on Friday morning as I sat on my day off happily having my second cup of day-off coffee and watching a second-hour of day-off morning news to see this quote from his letter pop up on MSNBC. And thanks to the "rewind/pause" feature on my remote control and an iPhone camera hard-by ... VOILA! The moment is "screen captured!"

My actual favorite quote from the letter was this one:
As a Christian, I believe that our society needs all of the sources and signs of grace that we can get. As a citizen of the United States, I believe in equal protection under the law. I believe that both ends will be served when marriage equality is the law of the land in Illinois, and I am grateful to be bishop in a church that offers all couples a community of faith, love, support and accountability.
But let's not quibble. Getting the voice of witness of an Episcopal Bishop willing to stand up for civil marriage equality into the mix early-and-often in the political process has SUCH an important impact in neutralizing the voices of those who presume to speak for "people of faith" when they're really just speaking out of their own bias against gay and lesbian couples.

Does it matter if a bishop speaks out on the issue of civil marriage equality? You bet it does. It matters to those in Illinois who will be speaking to their representatives in letters, calls and emails that they can say their faith tradition stands for equality for all. And it matters for fair-minded legislators who will be able to say they have had input from folks of faith on both sides of the marriage equality issue -- and at the end of the day make their decision based not on what some constituents think the Bible says about homosexuality but about what the Constitution says about equal protection.

Bravo, Bishop Lee. Bravo!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

"Can they sink any lower?" turns out to be a rhetorical question

Of course I'm talking about the 112th Congress -- which, it turns out, has done less than the famous "Do Nothing" Congress of 1947-1949 -- and is (TBTG!) done, done, DONE tomorrow -- and not a minute too soon!

But wait ... it turns out they actually DID do something. No, it wasn't work to find bipartisan compromise on the issues that challenge this nation, it wasn't figure out a deal that would keep us from going over the #fiscalcliff until we were actually over it, it wasn't passing the Violence Against Women Act or -- shockingly and as hard as it is to imagine -- it wans't disaster relief for the victims of Hurrican Sandy.

No -- they didn't do any of THOSE things.

Here's what they DID do. (Are you ready???)

From the Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON -- House Republicans may have complained loudly during the "fiscal cliff" debate about the need to rein in government spending, but that didn't stop them from agreeing Wednesday night to sink even more money into defending the federal ban on recognizing gay marriage.

A GOP source told The Huffington Post that, during a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference, lawmakers gave a green light to including language in the 113th Congress rules package that authorizes the House legal team, known as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), to keep paying outside counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The proposed House rules package also states that BLAG continues to "speak for" the House in its defense of DOMA.
No, I am not making this up. This is what passes for leadership in the GOP House: finding funding to pay for legal defense of the indefensible (so called) "Defense of Marriage Act" which makes a mockery of the 14th Amendment by putting the equal protection guaranteed all Americans out of reach of gay and lesbian couples who have been lawfully married in one of the nine states or the District of Columbia.

Seriously. Bring on the 113th. It can't some soon enough.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013