Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Sunday, don’t you dare be nice

h/t friend Rachel Nyback -- who posted the link to a blog I've not run across before. Totally bookmarking it. I'm not preaching this Sunday -- not out loud in a pulpit, anyway. But these words to preachers preaching this Sunday after this week strike a chord deep in my heart and in my belly this Saturday night:
"This Sunday, don’t you dare be nice. Don’t you be tepid. Don’t you put out a puff pasty Jesus-loves-us conclusion — not unless you’re saying it with your head up and your voice loud and your fist on the pulpit.

You make sure you are impeccable. You make sure you look like strong and capable and impressive enough to fly a helicopter of terrified people off a mountain where they have been in fear for their lives and their children’s lives and starving and thirsting for a week. Do you see that it is you who has to fly that mission on Sunday morning?

And please forgive my ranting. I just didn’t know where else to put this if not to give it to you." 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#I Speak Out Because ...

When the Muslim Public Affairs Council started the hashtag #ISpeakOutBecause , they intended for users to take part by sharing why they stood against oppression around the world.

What they got was hijacked by a bunch of Islamophobic tweets ... and my response ...

 "#ISpeakOutBecause Islamophobic tweets are making the case for why standing together against ALL terrorism is so important"

... got included in the Aljazeera story.

My other favorite was the one I posted above ... making the point (I hoped) that blaming all Muslims for the actions of murderous, thugs who hijack religion as an excuse to perpetrate mayhem makes as much sense as blaming all Christians for the KKK -- who also lynched, murdered and terrorized people.

And yes, I know I'm on vacation. And yes, I know everything will still be a mess when I go back to work on Monday. And yes, I supposed I could have just curled up on the beach with a novel or Hillary's latest book and ignored it all.

But I didn't. I spoke out because sometimes that's the only thing you can do. And sometimes doing nothing is not an option.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Religious Discrimination 101

So I got super irate watching the horrible news about the Yazidi people on the verge of religious based genocide and simultaneously getting a heads up about a bill pending in Congress exploiting "religious discrimination" as an excuse to attack LGBT families.

So this Huffington Post blog happened.

Please consider reading, sharing, tweeting, etc. And DO call your rep ... or his or her intern ... let's face it, they're all on vacation ... and make some noise about this one. Thanks!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Of Loaves and Fish and Laundry | Homily for Sunday, August 3, 2014

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with only five loaves and two fish is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. In fact, it is the only miracle story – other than the resurrection -- that shows up in all four Gospels. And what that tells me is that there was something important the gospel writers – and the Holy Spirit who we believe inspired them – wanted us to learn from it.

I suspect it was something more important than “plan ahead – pack a lunch.” I also suspect that the point of the story is much more important than endless speculation on “how did he do that?”

Was it a metaphysical miracle that literally transformed those two fish and five loaves into enough food to feed over 5000 people? Or was it a sociological miracle that inspired those gathered to share what they had with each other and to find – miracle of miracles – that when we step out of our fear that there won’t be enough for “me and mine” we find out there is actually plenty for everybody?

Whatever kind of miracle it was, it got everybody’s attention. And I think part of the reason it shows up in all four Gospels – and is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible – is that addresses one of the most debilitating fears human beings face … and that’s the fear that there won’t be enough.

I look at the nightly news and it seems to me that every single conflict we watch unfolding can be reduced down to that fear. There won’t be enough. Someone else is getting more than I am. We can’t let those people take or share or participate in what is “ours.” It’s all about the fear that there won’t be enough to share.

Not enough Holy Land to share between Palestinians and Israelis.

Not enough territory to coexist between Russia and the Ukraine.

Not enough resources to care for the refugee children at our borders.

Not enough jobs to solve the ongoing immigration crisis

Not enough God to go around – fueling sectarian violence and interfaith warfare over religion.

Not enough equal protection to share – as if giving some marriages legal standing somehow takes something away from other marriage.

Even not enough BASEBALL to share … as the Dodgers and their cable television partners argue about how to afford to give access to the games to more Los Angeles baseball fans. (OK … that example isn’t in the same category as the others – but I think you get my point.)

The point is we as a human race have bought the fiction – the fantasy – the lie – that there is NOT enough to go around and we need to grab ours while we can and if others get left out … well, that’s their problem.

And the reason this story – this miracle – holds such a central place in our Christian faith is that it shows us in tangible, concrete terms that Jesus rejects that fiction – that fantasy – that lie … and calls us … IF we are going to follow him … to reject it, too. To believe that there is indeed enough. And the best way we can live into that is by starting with what we have – even if it’s the 21st century version of five loaves and two fish – and sharing it.

And that brings me to the laundry part of the “loaves and fish and laundry.” There’s a brilliant – relatively new – initiative popping up all over the country called “Laundry Love.”

It is a project that helps to wash laundry of individuals and/or families living in poverty. It is as simple as volunteers working in partnership with Laundromats to provide space and resources to make it possible for those living on the margins to have the basic dignity of clean clothes. A growing number of Episcopal churches around the Diocese of Los Angeles are participating in the initiative.

It was also featured in an NPR story last week – with moving stories of how much the gift of something as relatively small as a handful of quarters and some laundry soap – can mean to the lives of those having to make choices like whether to feed their children or wash their clothes this week.

And in those stories I head the connection to this morning’s gospel story. None of us has enough to fix the whole world. None of us has enough to feed 5000 people at a moment’s notice. But we all have something. A loaf. A fish. Some quarters. Some Tide. And sometimes the miracle is that we use what we have to meet the need in front of us.

Just as Jesus used what he had to feed the people who surrounded him on that hillside in Galilee we can use what we have to feed the needs of those who surround us. And every time we do that, we participate with God in bringing the Good News of the Gospel to life in the world.

The Good News that there is enough.Enough blessing. Enough justice. Enough love. And the God we belong to – the God of abundant love and compassion – loved us enough to become one of us in the person of Jesus – in order to show us how to love each other. One loaf. One fish. One laundry load at a time. Amen.

Friday, August 01, 2014

12 years ago today ...

Twelve years ago today I moved into the corner cubicle in the "temporary building" in the north driveway on the campus of All Saints Church in Pasadena to begin a new chapter in my ministry as Executive Director of something called Claiming the Blessing (CTB). It was from that "corner office" I would spend the next 18 months traveling around the church giving more parish halls presentations, attending more strategy meetings and making more fundraising pitches than you could shake a stick at. (Case in point this shot from Trinity Santa Barbara.)

Claiming the Blessing was convened as an intentional collaborative ministry of leading Episcopal justice organizations (including Integrity, Oasis, Beyond Inclusion and the Episcopal Women's Caucus) in partnership with the Witness magazine and other individual leaders in the Episcopal Church focused on: promoting wholeness in human relationships, abolishing prejudice and oppression, and healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality in the Church.

Those were our official marching orders.

We were also convened by some very smart equality activists -- LGBT and straight allies -- who not only recognized the truth that we were wasting precious energy competing with each other from our different "silo" organizations and ministries ... and that the way we were going to make a difference was to [a] tell the truth about that [b] work to come up with achievable goals and then [c] collaborate on strategies to achieve them.

Since 2002, our advocacy has included liturgies for the blessing of same-sex relationships, equal access to all orders of ministry by qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates and supporting civil and sacramental marriage equality.

I could tell lots and lots of stories about how that journey has played out over the last 12 years. Some of them can be found on our website. Others you're going to have to wait for the book. But suffice to say it is absolutely a true thing that the course of the history of the Episcopal Church ... and I would be so bold as to say the wider movement for LGBT equality ... was influenced by the decisions made at those first round table meetings at Vails Gate and the College of Preachers. By the willingness of leaders to tell the truth to each other in order to triumph over turf wars and to forge partnerships and friendships that have stood the test of time. And the test of General Conventions. And the test of Lambeth Conference. And ...

Well, you get the drift.

There are a boatload of pictures here. They end at General Convention 2012 in Indianapolis -- where the Episcopal Church "claimed the blessing" by doing what we started out asking for: approving rites for the blessing of same-sex relationships. But the work isn't done yet. And we're gearing up now for General Convention 2015 where we will be working for canonical change to make sacramental marriage equality a reality in the Episcopal Church, just as civil marriage equality has become a reality in 50% of the jurisdictions in the USA.

But today -- August 1, 2014 -- I'm remembering showing up at All Saints Church with a couple of plastic crates of files and letterhead in my car and the warnings of some of my clergy colleagues in my ears that I was making a terrible mistake ... that if I stepped out of parish ministry I'd never get back in ... that I'd be marginalized as an "activist" and never get to exercise pastoral ministry ... that I was limiting my options and ...

Well, you the drift.

I'm delighted they were wrong. I'm delighted that twelve years at All Saints have given me more opportunities and challenges than I could ever have "asked for or imagined." And most of all I'm delighted at the extraordinary privilege of being able to do this gospel work with a truly amazing cloud of witnesses over the year.

Ed Bacon, Katie Sherrod, Jim White, Sandye A Wilson, Elizabeth Kaeton, Michael Hopkins, John Clinton Bradley, Christine Mackey-Mason, Joseph Lane, Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Peggy Adams, Cynthia Black, John Kirkley, Louie Clay, Kim Byham, Jason Samuel, Mike Clark, Bishop Gene Robinson ... OMG .. this is like an Oscar speech ... who am I forgetting?

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues ... that's the truth.

But so do the blessings, my friends. So do the blessings!