Friday, March 29, 2013

Meditation for Tenebrae | Good Friday 2013

This is the day when life is raw,
quivering, terrifying:
The day of numbed emotions,
the day of blunt nails
and splintered wood,
of bruised flesh
and red blood.
The day we loathe,
when hopes are crushed.

The day we long for,
when pretences fall away—

Because the worst that we can do
cannot kill the love of God.

Gracious God,
your love is a light in our darkness,
vulnerable, yet unquenchable.
We would stand with Christ,
in the midst of the horrors of this world
where betrayal and death
constantly threaten your love and peace.





Jesus is dead.

The life –

the promise –

the light that shone so brightly

has been extinguished.


We are now at the end of the day

that began with the journey to Golgotha

and all that remains of the rabbi from Nazareth

is a broken body

and the broken dreams of his scattered and heartbroken followers.

The Kingdom he proclaimed has not come.

The powerful remain powerful:

the oppressed remain oppressed –

and where there had been hope

there is only despair.


That is the stark reality of Good Friday.


Yes we know what happens next …

it’s not like we have collective amnesia about



The Good News this Good Friday

is that as we sit here at the foot of the cross

we do so knowing that we are on the journey –

not at the destination.


The destination is the resurrection –

and our passport is an empty tomb

that frees us to live lives of perfect freedom:

free from the fear of death.


We know – as the poem says

that the worst that we can do

cannot kill the love of God.

That is the good news we live our lives in response to

not just on Good Friday

but every day

as we strive to live in alignment

with God’s love, justice and compassion

as we partner with God in the holy work

of turning the human race into the human family

as we search for ways to make God’s love tangible 24/7

which is the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.


But we also know

As we sit here at the foot of the cross

That without the cross,

the resurrection couldn’t have happened.


Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

it remains just a single grain;

but if it dies, it bears much fruit.


And because it did –

because of the Good News of this Good Friday –

we are freed to be fully alive by the power of the resurrection –

healed, whole and liberated in this life and the next.


But to get there we have to be here.

And to really “get there”

we have to “really” be here.


And therein

as they say

lies the rub


Because truth be told --
and I don’t know about you --

but sometimes I want to skip this part.

The being here part.

The shadows part.

The reality of pain and loss and death part.

I’d really rather focus on the happy ending,

the party, the “fiesta.”

Skip to the Easter lilies and the Alleluias

and the kids in their bonnets and bowties

with Peeps in their pockets

and chocolate on their faces.

And yet

I’ve come to know

in the way you know in your heart

and not just in your head

that in order to really get there

you have to really be here.

If we fast-forward to Easter,

we avoid confronting in ourselves

our own self-righteousness,

our own certainties,

our own fears and our own grief.

We miss finding God in them.

And we miss being transformed by them.

This service tonight

offers the gift of space and time

to recognize the presence of God 

in the shadows, in the darkness,

in the grief that is the inevitable price we pay

for daring to love.

There is nothing required of you

in this service.

There is no need to leave your seat,

to move forward, to receive anything.

This is a time simply to be.

To let the psalms tonight speak for you

as they express the wildest anger, the deepest despair,

the most fervent longing.

To see the candles, as they are extinguished,

a visual symbols of loss.

To allow yourself to claim this as a safe place,

a cocoon, in which you may rest and be held.

Held by the God

who is just as present

here at the foot of the cross on Good Friday

as in the joy of Easter Day.

The God who is in the light and the darkness.

The God who is, in the words of singer Rosanne Cash –

in the roses and in the thorns.

God is in the roses

The petals and the thorns

Storms out on the oceans

The souls who will be born

And every drop of rain that falls

Falls for those who mourn

God is in the roses and the thorns.


"By his wounds we are healed"

This is from a Good Friday sermon I preached in 2009. I dug it up in response to a Facebook quesiton from friend Diana Butler Bass about preaching "other than atonenment" on Good Friday. (And now back to finishing GF_2013.)

“By his wounds we are healed.”

What exactly does that mean, anyway? How does what happened on a hill in Palestine in the first century have anything to do with what’s happening in Pasadena in the 21st? What are we reconciled to by his blood? How are we healed by his wounds?

There’s one answer to those questions that goes something like this – [with thanks to James Alison]:

God created the world and all was well. The first human beings lived in paradise until the day they broke the one commandment God had given them God was very angry and threw them out of paradise. Their descendents kept on being disobedient and God kept on being angry.

God was in a quandary. Part of him wanted to be merciful, but he could not deny that he was also just, and the continued sin was an affront to his very honor. And the problem was that human beings could never make up for what they had done. They just didn’t have it in them. And yet they had to do something.

So God decided to send his Son into the world as a human being. As a human being he could pay the price of sin, but since he was also God, that payment would be eternal. It would be enough to appease God’s anger. So Jesus died for our sins, took upon himself the price that we couldn’t pay and God wiped the slate clean. Now if any human being agrees to have their sins covered by the blood of Jesus, they are saved.

That’s one answer – one way of telling the story of how “by his wounds we are healed.”

And it is a way of telling the story has dominated in the church for almost 1,000 years. It has been so dominant that many Christians cannot imagine there is any other way of telling the story. But here’s a Good Friday News Flash: It is not the only way to understand the words “By his wounds we are healed.”

In fact, for the first 1,000 years of the church’s life there was a different way of telling the story dominated Christian theology – a different answer to the question. And the answer started with Jesus. And that answer goes like this:

When Jesus talked about his death he used this parable: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. For those first thousand years of the church’s life, Jesus’ death and resurrection were primarily about death, not about sin. Jesus died and then rose victorious from the grave.

The main story line (for the first 1000 of Christian faith) was not “Jesus died for our sins,” but “Jesus died to destroy the power of death.” After Jesus’ death and resurrection, humankind could live as if death were not. They could live healed from the fear of death.

There was no angry God; no atoning sacrifice. Instead there was the paradigmatic example of the One who loved us enough to become one of us not only to show us how to love one another but who loved us enough to die in order to rise again to heal us of our amnesia about the love of God so great that it transcends death. Even death on a cross.

“By his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus heals us because Jesus saves us from our fear. In penetrating the boundary between life and death Jesus assures us that the crossing over at the end of this earthly life is to something very real. With that assurance, Jesus saves us from the fear of death that is such an existential fear that it can paralyze us into trying to control the bits of life we can wrap our hands around rather than letting go to receive the abundance of life God would have us receive. His resurrection tells us that we need not live our life in fear of that crossing over and sets us free. And free from that fear we ARE liberated to embrace the abundant life that God has made known to us in Jesus. Jesus saves us from worrying so much about getting to heaven that we’re too paralyzed by fear to get busy helping to bring heaven to earth.

“By his wounds we are healed.”

We are healed because more important than the death Jesus died was the life Jesus lived – a life so in alignment with God’s will – God’s love – that he was “obedient even unto death.”

Not obedient to a vengeful God who sent Jesus as a blood sacrifice – to a death that was the inevitable result of humanity’s abject sinfulness for which we should still wallow in guilt and shame.

Rather, what is good about Good Friday is that Jesus was obedient to the love of a God so great that it enabled him to transcend the FEAR of death as he walked the way of the cross – as he chose to drink the cup he had been given even as he questioned up until the very last moment whether there wasn’t another way to accomplish the work he had been given to do.

I am always grateful for my friend, mentor and brother-priest Michael Hopkins – but this week I was especially grateful for him for this great summary of the Good News of Good Friday:

Jesus freely gave himself up to death and destroyed it once and for all. That means you and I don’t have to be afraid of death and part of that not-being-afraid is knowing ourselves to be forgiven. I hope you can see what a different way of telling the story that is from the crucifixion as satisfying the vengeance of an angry God. Of course you can find pieces of Scripture that support that way of telling the story, but the alternative way has as much support in Scripture -- as well as the thinking of the early church. At the end of the day, we get to decide which lens to use to read the story. And I choose to use the “victory over death” lens rather than the “satisfying the vengeance of God” lens.

And so do I. And so may you. Or not. That’s the beauty of being an Anglican – or at least that has historically been the beauty of being an Anglican.

Remember – whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, there is a place for you here. Here at the foot of this cross this Good Friday. Here at the altar rail on Easter Sunday. Here in the life and work and witness of All Saints Church.

The witness we have to offer the world – the witness we call turning the human race into the human family -- has nothing to do with some doctrinal litmus test. It has nothing to do with which story you choose to claim the power of cross in your own life and journey. Instead, it has everything to do with what Frederick Buechner names as "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need." It has to do with being the Body of Christ in the world.

The Good News this Good Friday is that we follow the One who proclaimed a love too radical, too inclusive, too dangerous to the status quo to survive without a struggle -- then or now. It is an amazing irony that the very Jesus who gave his life to show us how to love each other has had that message of reconciliation hijacked by those who would make his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven about the Dictates of Doctrine rather than about the Lordship of Love.

The Good News this Good Friday is we stand at the foot of the cross knowing that the way of the cross part of the journey – not the destination. The destination is the resurrection – and our passport is an empty tomb that frees us to live lives of perfect freedom: free from the fear of death. Without the cross, the resurrection couldn’t have happened. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. But because it did – because of the Good News of this Good Friday -- we are freed to be fully alive by the power of the resurrection – healed, whole and liberated in this life and the next.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Of Skim Milk, Kendall Harmon and Marriage Equality

So arguably one of the highlights of today's DOMA case (United States v Windsor) at the Supreme Court was when Justice Ginsberg made her "milk argument." If you missed it, it went like this:

"Sort of skim milk marriage."

Ironically, this is not the first time "milk" has come up in my time in the trenches of the inclusion wars. Some of you may remember the story from back in 2003 when the General Convention had just consented to the election of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire and CNN was covering the story (live!) and I was doing a "stand up" with Susan Candiotti and Kendall Harmon.

And Susan asked Kendall this question, "Canon Harmon, help our viewers understand just why this issue is one that is so significant that it's going to split the Episcopal Church."

And Kendall Harmon looked directly into the camera and said into the microphone that Susan Candiotti was holding up to his mouth these immortal words: "Because homosexuality is like putting milk in a car. It just doesn't work."

And I was close enough to see the look in her eyes and what I saw looked something like "Where the hell do I go with this now?"

And what I thought -- standing next to Kendall Harmon on live national television -- was that if "milk in a car" was the best they had we were going to win.

And so a decade later to hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg dismiss the arguments for discrimination against same-sex married couples as "sort of skim milk marriage" brought the whole thing back around in a most interesting circle. And I still think we're going to win. And I hope it doesn't take another decade. But if it does, we'll still be here. "Putting milk in our cars" (which are working just fine, thank you very much!) and refusing to settle for the skim variety.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Holy Week -- already in progress.

Here Endeth the Oral Arguments

My "Comment" on SCOTUS -- before I go back into Good Friday sermon writing mode:

As the oral arguments conclude at the Supreme Court on the marriage equality cases, as an LGBT activist I am full of both gratitude to all those who argued so powerfully and passionately for equality and of confidence that we will see movement forward toward making liberty and justice for all really mean “all.”

And at the same time, as a priest and pastor, I am aware that there is a profound pastoral impact in the ongoing indignity of having our deepest, holiest, most precious loves and relationships debated and dissected in the public arena -- as if that is not dehumanizing and as if it is not profoundly personal. It is. It is long past time for these debates to end and for the equal protection guaranteed all Americans in the Constitution to equally protect all Americans – including same-sex couples who want to marry the love of their life and live happily ever after together until death do they part.

The Supreme Court can move us closer to that goal by overturning Proposition 8 and repealing DOMA. My hope and my prayer is that they do both and do them quickly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

At the end of the day ...

Coming to the end of the work day
I just want to "put out there"
that for all the drama, excitement,
enthusiasm and analysis
sparked by the political dimension
of the marriage equality debates
there is also a pastoral dimension
that is easy to overlook.

It is what comes up for folks
... who have their internalized homophobia triggered
by the "old tapes" of messages they're hearing again:
messages that they're not good enough
-- not worthy enough
-- to be treated equally.
Only they're not hearing
those tapes in their heads
-- they're hearing them
on the radio or the television.

It is what happens
when children see families like theirs
being talked about in "the news"
with question marks
about whether they're “real” families –
whether they deserve
the same protection the family next door has.

And it is the ongoing indignity
of having our deepest, holiest,
most precious loves and relationships
debated and dissected
in the public arena
as if was OK
as if it wasn’t dehumanizing
and as if it’s not profoundly personal.

So if you find yourself hurting, angry,
anxious, scared or snarky
reach out and let someone you love
remind you that you’re loved
and that no matter what
we’re going to get through this.

And if you know someone
who may not reach out
find them where they are
and remind them that they’re loved
and that justice WILL roll down like waters
and the arc of history WILL bend toward equality
and in the end all will be well
and all will be well
and all manner of things shall indeed be well.

And if all things are not yet well
then it’s not the end. Yet.

La lucha continua.
The struggle continues!


Prayer du jour

Loved this prayer from Marianne Williamson:

Dear God,
Please work upon the hearts of those
who would limit the right to peace and happiness
to any other soul.
May the inalienable rights You have granted to everyone
be honored on earth as they are in heaven.
Liberate every heart
that gay and lesbian and transgender people
shall no longer suffer at the behest of ignorance.
And so it is.

Monday, March 25, 2013

On the Eve of the SCOTUS Equality Arguments

Facebook friend Scott Hankins wrote: "On this eve of what may become two of the greatest days in the history of the United States of America, the world in silent stillness lays to hear the angels sing."

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said: ""My children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.”

And I -- when I had the privilege of being one of the speakers as last night's rally and vigil on the steps of L.A. City Hall -- said: "Listen. Do you hear it? It's the sound of the arc of history Martin Luther King Jr. told us bends toward justice bending just a litte closer to liberty and justice for all."

Hollingsworth v. Perry (Prop 8) tomorrow. United States v. Windsor (DOMA) on Wednesday. Eat your Wheaties, kids. There's Holy Work going on in this Holy Week and you're going to need your best energy!

For more pictures, check out the United for Marriage Tumblr
For more on Holy Work and Holy Week, check out my blog over on the Huffington Post ... it's getting some interesting comment action! :)


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stand for Marriage In L.A.

As we move in the holiest week of the Christian year I can think of no holier work than this stand for equality. It is work deeply rooted in the ancient call of the prophets to do justice and in the example of Jesus to stand with and advoca...te for those on the margins: to make manifest the power of God’s inclusive love. And it is a deep honor to stand with those around the country who are stepping up and speaking out to end discrimination against LGBT people and their families and take another step closer to making liberty and justice for all really mean “all.”

Honored to have been invited to be one of the speakers at tomorrow's United for Marriage event at L.A. City Hall. JOIN US, won't you ... as we stand together for equality?

Info here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Bishop Mary Glasspool with Florence Li-Tim Oi (first woman priest in the Anglican Communion!) and Carter Heyward (one of the first women priests in TEC). Celebrate the stained glass ceiling breakers ... Vote for Florence in today's Lent Madness match up ... (And yes, it's a tough call. Oscar Romero was indeed a saint. But do we want the first women priest in the Anglican Communion to lose to a Roman Catholic Archbishop? Seriously????)

Monday, March 18, 2013

STUNNING new data on Marriage Equality

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead


Another Clinton for Marriage Equality!

Nice way to start out a week: Hillary Clinton speaking out powerfully and eloquently for marriage equality. Go, Hillary ... and thank you HRC!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lenten Evensong 2013: “Seriously?”

March 9, 2013 | All Saints Church, Pasadena | Mark 8:11-21


And the Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus

and demanded a sign from heaven

and Jesus sighed.


And who could blame him.


In preparing for this evening’s service

and talking this text over with a colleague

(who could remain nameless but was Melissa Hayes)

we decided an appropriate title was “Seriously.”


As in: “Seriously?”


Jesus -- the Radical Rabbi from Nazareth

had launched his public ministry with a sermon in his hometown

– making news by nearly getting thrown off a cliff

by the disgruntled congregation –

and had been doing nothing but giving them signs ever since.


Since that first sermon,

he’d cast out a slew of demons,

calmed a storm that threatened to swamp his boat and drown everyone on it,

raised a girl from the dead,

healed a woman who’d been sick for 12 years,

fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes and

– oh yeah –

walked on water.


By this time his reputation was all over the place –

if they’d had twitter back then he would totally have been “trending.” 


And yet, in spite of all that, the Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day

(for contemporary context you could compare them to …

oh let’s just use “Cardinals” this week, shall we?)

still came to him wanting “a sign.”


And so he sighed:

a sigh the gospel writer tells us was “straight from his heart”

and he got into a boat to regroup with his homeys

his disciples

his followers …

the ones who had not just heard about

but been present for

everything from the feeding 5000

to the walking on water

the ones he was counting on to “get it”

and to keep the ball rolling after he was gone

and what does he get?


In response to his metaphorical warning to them

about watching out for the "yeasty" Pharisees and Herod

he gets this literal reaction:


And they said to one another,

“It is because we forgot the bread.” 




Aware of this, Jesus reprimanded them:

“Why are you talking about having no bread? 

Do you not see or understand yet? 

Are your minds closed? 

Have you ‘eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear’? 

Do you not remember

when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand? 

How many baskets of fragments did you collect?” 


They answered, “Twelve.” 


“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,

how many baskets of scraps did you collect?” 


“Seven,” they replied. 


Then he said to them,

“And you still do not understand?”




No. They did not understand.

They really didn’t get it.


And I think sometimes

that when Jesus went off  by himself

to a quiet place to pray

what we was praying for

was a new crop of disciples who would get it.


Because time was running out.

And the Pharisees and Herod were on his trail.

And he knew the radical gospel he preached

was going to lead to the place

that anyone who challenged the status quo

in an occupied land ended up.

A place we know was called “Golgotha.”

And yet he kept on toward Jerusalem,

trusting that the God who’d called him to proclaim this new thing,

to incarnate this new vision,

to BE the change the broken world needed

in order to be the kingdom it was created to be –

he trusted that God to somehow

– against all apparent odds

and in spite of the disciples who still didn’t get it

and the religious leaders who were still demanding a sign

– somehow to bring that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

And that was then.

And this is now.

And we are still going about the same work

-- the work biblical scholar Verna Dozier called “The Dream of God”

As Verna described that dream

God was always offering the possibility

of living in the kingdom of God

in the midst of the kingdom of this world.

And yet,

each time the frighteningly free gift of God was offered

– the gift of being to be the new thing in the world

-- of being a witness that all of life could be different for everybody –

each time it was offered –

Verna writes -- it was misunderstood.


The people of the Torah (she observes)

“made the gracious gift of the law into a system”

while the people of the Resurrection

“made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure.


Both the people of the Torah (she opines)

and the people of the resurrection

were escaping from God's awesome invitation

to be something new in the world.


And so we inherit a biblical story (she concludes)

that is all about the people of God losing the way

and a God who will not give up

calling them back again and again

calling them to return.


Calling us to return

in a call that continues today

on this Fourth Sunday in Lent 2013


Because, my brothers and sisters,

Lent is not about having 40 days of amnesia about Easter

– it is about having 40 days to work on reversing our amnesia

about why Easter matters.

It is about having 40 days

to look beyond the literal words of our tradition

to the Living Word of the God

who continues to call us to return

– to be a new thing

– to accept awesome invitation to be something new in the world.


To challenge the literalism

of those who do not see beyond the literal words to the Living Word

just as Jesus did 2000 years ago

with the woman at the well didn’t get it

when Jesus told her about the living water

with Nicodemus didn’t get it

when Jesus told him he must be born again

and with the disciples who thought he was talking about bread and yeast

because they forgot to pack the lunch.


The world still yearns for a sign

A sign that the kingdom can come

a sign that the promise is true

a sign that the “year of the Lord’s favor” is going to be fulfilled

a sign that the captives will be liberated

that the oppressed will go free sign

that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream …

and that now IS the acceptable time

And so today – tonight

I take heart in these words -- this sign --

from Bishop Steven Charleston

who calls us all

to claim that dream of God

to live the promise of hope

and to transform ourselves

into the sign the world is looking for –

a sign of the power of God’s inclusive love


and present

and calling the whole human family

forward into God’s future.

Bishop Charleston writes:

Faith is not belief unexamined,

but belief born of deep thought,

shaped by reason,

guided by experience,

given substance by the listening of the curious intellect

to voices diverse and ideas divergent.

Religion is not the captive of

automated hearts set to march in silent obedience

nor the museum of final thoughts

beyond which no questions may be asked.

It is the forum of the wise and wondrous,

the company of the healed and healers,

the choir of human imagination,

the blessed community of God gathered

in the clear light of the open mind.

Seriously. Amen

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Third Sunday in Lent @ All Saints Church, Pasadena

On the Third Sunday in Lent we had our third "experimental" Contemplative Eucharist ... a service designed with as few spoken words as possible (only the Eucharistic Prayer) with all the rest music: congregational, choral and instrumental ... with some very intentional times of silence woven it. During the Prayers of the People folks were encouraged to come forward and light votive candles ... and parish photographer Laura Aguilar captured this lovely image toward the end of the 11:15 service.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Get your thank you notes out, boys and girls!

Seriously. Today is the day to call your diocesan office or email your bishop and say "THANK YOU" for standing up for marriage equality and living out the fourth "Mark of Anglican Mission: Transforming unjust structures of society." Odds are they'll be hearing from folks who disagree with their signing on to the amici briefs calling on the Supreme Court to overturn Prop8 and repeal DOMA .. so they need to hear from us, too.

Saying thank you is always the right thing to do ... and today is the day to do it. So go. Do it. Now. (Your mama will be so proud!)

[Diocese of L.A. peeps ... call 800-366-1536 ... or email Jon Bruno | Diane Bruce | Mary Glasspool