Category Archives: everyday theology

‘Representing’ at the Shower of Stoles Project

 

I have the honor of speaking  at the Shower of Stoles project as part of All Saints Episcopal Church’s celebration of Pride Week. October 11, 2017, 6:30-8 p.m.

I first sent my stole to the Shower of Stoles in the 90’s.  For those of you unfamiliar with the project, it is a collection of stoles (you know, those things preachers wear over their robes that often follow the liturgical season) donated by lesbians and gay men who sought ordination or were already ordained but remained closeted. Each stole comes with a brief story of the one who donated. Many are anonymous. Viewing the kaleidoscope of colors and the uniqueness of each story is sometimes sad, sometimes triumphant, always moving.

The struggle for LGBT folks to serve in the church is long, arduous… and,frankly, not over yet.  We’ve made a lot of progress and these stoles represent the lives and work, the persistence and the resistance of many faithful folks who experienced a call to ministry contrary to their church’s teaching.

I am one of those people. I lived through a time when I had to find a way to make sense of this blasted  called and what it meant for me to be faithful. This week I get to tell the story of my stole, my call, my struggle to be faithful, and the grace I splash around in.

I’m focusing on resistance in my talk because the times we live in require much of us. These stoles remind us of  the power of resistance. Sharing the stories inspires us for the work of justice. And, perhaps most of all, these stoles and their stories give us hope for the future.

Come let these stoles bear witness and listen to the story I have to tell. Hope to see you there!

Holding Hope

I want to write about lovely things. I want to write about birdsong and dappled light and soft breezes. I want to write about dreaming large. About deep connections. About justice persisting and that ‘slow arc’ bending.

So I will.

The book of Revelation was written in a time the Christian community felt hopeless. The were rounded up, persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered. Not unlike many religious communities in history. The kin-dom, the shalom they believed Godde would bring about was crushed under the political heal of the empire. Communication between churches was suspect so leaders wrote and spoke in metaphors when referring to their current situation. They referenced dragons and bears and destruction. They sent present news in future tense.

For the past however long I have been writing about bears and dragons, destruction and fear with scattered glimpses of hope. Today I will take another cue from the writer of the Book of Revelation and fling a little hope. No matter how bad things are, we cannot give up hope or we will lose our souls.

The writer (supposedly John) offers this brilliant hope expressed as sacred literature anywhere:

The Book of Revelation 7: 14b-17                                                                                                                                                  “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of Godde,
and worship Godde day and night within the temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat;
17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
and will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and Godde will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

So today I write what I need: reason to hope or, at the very least, reason not to lose hope.

The dream humanity has for a world where there is no hunger or disease, a world of justice and compassion is not a vision we can abdicate. No matter how bad things are, we must not give up hope. It is imperative that we continue to believe in our ability to overcome, to co-create, to bring that vision into existence. Imagine what might replace that dream should we lose it.  Without a passion for justice and a vision for compassion,  without hope, our spirits will be crushed by despair.

So today and every day do the work of hope. Do one thing that could make a difference when added together with all the other one things folks are doing around the world. And listen to birds sing. Gaze at light streaming through tree branches. Dream big. Reach out to one another. Demand justice. Offer hope to the hopeless. Accept hope from the hopeful.

 

 

 

 

Struggle to Hope

How does one speak hope to a hopeless world? To a nation divided? To communities of strangers?

How do we speak hope to one another when our hearts are breaking? When the safety of the world is at stake? When the lines of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are drawn with stark harshness?

How do we speak hope in our homes when families are ripped apart by dogma that neither gives life nor saves it? When parents and children are estranged and sisters and brothers renounce one another?

How do we speak hope when the way forward is through shadow lands, up steep inclines, and through inclement weather? When the road is covered by floodwaters? When parks are littered with monuments to hatred and the least among us is left to suffer?

How do we speak hope to a nation who is killing its own? Its own immigrants? Its own people of color? Its own queers?

Let us begin with remembering. Remembering who we are, who we strive to be, who we can imagine ourselves to be.

When I am asked how I can be a Christian in a world where the label means closed-hearted and closed-minded, I don’t deny the truth of what Christianity has become and how it has fallen far from it’s tree. Rather, I embrace the walk of Christ as a path to which I aspire and reach for what I can be.

As a nation, now is the time to embrace the tenets of our founding. Not that we have ever truly lived up to them, but that we embrace the challenge and the ideals of a nation built on the principles of justice, law, and constantly expanding rights.

Each week at communion we share the bread saying, “Remember who you are.” It is both our hope and our challenge.

Let us speak this hope to one another: Remember who we can be. Remember who we are to one another as a nation of immigrants and exiles. Remember the ideals that form us. Remember the hope and the challenge of striving to be a nation of justice and freedom.

 

 

Are You Afraid?

Are you afraid of what is going on in Washington?

If you’re not, you need to be.

Everything that comes out of the White House is frightening: the leaks from staff who say they are staying, though it may ruin their careers because of the crazy they have stopped, the rule of law that is ignored, the almost certain collusion with Russia, the infant at the helm with access to nuclear codes, and the blatant white nationalism that demeans and threatens people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. All of which hides the opportunism making Trump richer every day. Trump’s passionate base hates Jews in addition to the groups listed above.

Why do I want you to be afraid? Because if you are afraid then you get it. If you are afraid then you see the parallels between what is happening now and what happened in pre-Nazi Germany. Because if you are afraid it means you have the sense Godde gave you. I want you to be afraid so your fear motivates you to stand and speak and act. Be afraid so you vote while you still can.

Use the fear. Don’t let it intimidate you. Do whatever it is you do to confront fear. The word in academic circles is ‘intersectionality’. Faith leaders have put it this way from time immemorial “We are all connected.” Find your power. If you have the privilege of race or gender or class: use it. If you don’t, recognize the power you have taken for yourself and don’t give it away.

My friend just reminded me that many times in Scripture we are urged to “Be not afraid” or “Fear not”. So why am I, a pastor, a follower in the Way, asking you to be afraid? Because if we are not afraid then we are blind to the present reality. But being afraid, recognizing the road down which this nation is travelling, is essential. To not be afraid you must first recognize what it is that you fear.

If you are afraid then let me encourage you to ‘fear not’. Don’t let the fear paralyze you. Don’t let the fear suck your power. Don’t let the fear intimidate you. Don’t let the fear make you too tired to act and speak and stand.

Be afraid but don’t be afraid of the fear. It is telling you what you need to know.

What Time Is It?

     I haven’t posted in over three weeks and as I sit here before a blank page I keep cycling through outrage at the President’s continuing message of hate, hope in my sisters and brothers who RESIST every day in many ways, grief over what is happening in our nation as our light dims, and fear that we will not be able to turn back the tide of evil.

Then there are my duties as pastor, family member, writer, and therapist. Life hasn’t stopped. No matter how horrific Trump’s behavior I still need to earn a living, clean house, cook meals, pastor my flock, respond to the needs of the vulnerable in my community, listen deeply to the journey of my clients, and write.

Now you might think I haven’t been writing but the truth is, I finished the manuscript that was seven years in the making.(!) I am told it is normal for a first book to simmer that long. My story has found its final shape and I even like it. Now I am free to begin my next project.

Most of us live busy and fractured lives but that is not the full picture. Just being alive means at any given moment we may be dealing with loss, stress, joy, love, times of celebration, times to make love, and times of grief.

Many of us in the resistance are on care overload. We feel and are deeply responsible for our macro as well as micro existence. For the world, the nation, our families and friends, and ourselves.

We cannot, MUST NOT stop caring. To do so endangers real people, real values, real events, real history. Nor can we ignore the needs of those in our immediate purview. What good is it to work for a better world if we neglect those closest to us?

So this is not an either/or reflection. Nor is it a both/and one. Rather I am reminded of the deep wisdom of being in the moment. Maybe this should be our spiritual challenge: to recognize the moment we are in and the needs of that moment.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best:

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

May we be blessed in our discernment, our work, and our passion for there is much to be done. We must find our way one day, one moment, one act at a time.

Today I leave you with a question only you can answer for yourself: what time is it?

 

 

 

 

Jesus Talks Seeds of Resistance

            You know those stories you’ve heard a thousand times? The ones you almost know by heart, that are so entrenched in your psyche you assume you know their meaning? The ones that are kind of boring you have heard them so often?

That’s what happened to me with this past Sunday’s lectionary gospel passage. Matthew relates Jesus telling several parables about what the kin-dom of heaven is like. At least that is what I thought it was about. Jesus says “The kin-dom of heaven is like… a mustard seed or yeast (in these stories).

So familiar. As a child my Mom gave me a necklace with a mustard seed enshrined in a clear bead. That seed represented the seed Jesus referred to but the actual seeds he was talking about were more like dust than the seed I wore around my throat.

I have heard it preached a hundred times that a mustard plant would grow almost to the size of a tree. We are all amazed at the girth of a plant that comes from the seed that tiny. Here is where many of us make the leap to thinking the kin-dom of heaven is like this huge bush. But that is not what Jesus says. He says it’s like dust.

The problem is we don’t trust the value of small things. We tend to think that what is valuable is what is bigger, better, more powerful. The truth of the matter is that the kin-dom is millions of small acts of love, comfort, compassion, and justice scattered into the world trusting that enough will fall on fertile soil.

In these murky days, where power and might, money and privilege are worshipped it is important to remind ourselves that our small acts of resistance matter. They are the seeds of connection. The seeds of healing. The substance of hope. The revolutionary seeds we plant to honor all that is sacred in one another.

So do not be discouraged. Scatter seeds of love for immigrants. Seeds of comfort for those facing the hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, and trans-phobia exposed and encouraged by this president. Seeds of compassion for those who have been seduced by fear that someday dialogue may be restored. And scatter seeds of justice, even if you have to fight like hell to plant them.

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

I can imagine no pain greater than one’s child dying. It is out of the natural order of things. It is difficult enough to lose one’s parent’s but we know that death is the natural end to a long life. It isn’t the natural end to a young one.

I will not use names because I respect the family whose loss is so recent, so raw, so unexpected. But I will tell you about a young woman with a huge heart, kind and loving, who adored her fur-kids, and lived out loud. She loved her family and they adored her. Now you might not think that needs remarked upon, and it wouldn’t, except that she was a lesbian born and raised in the South.

Born and raised in the Baptist Church where her family still worships. Where the pastor refused to hold her memorial service.

Mister, you make me ashamed to be a Christian. Or more truthfully, you make me ashamed that you call yourself a Christian. Over the years I’ve been told I wasn’t really a Christian because: a. I am an activist. B. I’m a feminist. C. I am a lesbian. And D. my theology is heretical. My piety credentials don’t pass muster. And that’s alright by me. Lest we forget, Jesus’ piety credentials didn’t pass muster either. If yours do, then I want no part of what you call Christianity.

It breaks my imagination to conceive of a ‘pastor’ who would refuse comfort and grace to a grieving family. Show me where you can justify your actions by asking what Jesus would do. Or show me, even if you worship rules, how you can refuse to offer comfort. Is it because the skirts of your self-righteousness might touch the ground? Is it because rejecting a soul that has been in the care of your community from birth is what you think is the ‘faithful’ thing to do? Is it because you simply don’t want to challenge your own discomfort? The discomfort of others? Are you afraid that the offering plate might not be so full?  Whatever the reason, there is no justification for the ham-handed, soul-less way you treated a family, all of whom, living or dead, are children of God.

To my dear friend’s family: I hate that you had to deal with the grief of rejection in addition to the enormous grief of your loss. One of the sure times we rely on our faith community is at the death of a loved one. Please know that wherever you find comfort and love, acceptance and shared grief, God is with you. The community of Spirit may look unfamiliar but  whatever colors, beliefs, disbeliefs, genders, or sexualities, know  you encounter Jesus there. You were not left alone. Jesus sits with you, holds you, lends you comfort in every face that is turned toward you and not away, in everyone who shared in her life and shares in your sadness, in ever person who reaches out in small ways and large. God enfolds you with grace and care. And God embraces the one we have lost with a love we can hardly imagine.

                 John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Meet Me in the Streets

Recently, my dear friend, Linda Bryant, posted a thoughtful blog ‘Meet Me In the Field’ https://charisgrandma.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/meet-me-in-the-field/

Take some time to read it. It is a challenge to those of us who live in a polarized society. It calls us to a kind of faithfulness, no matter our faith tradition, that requires compassion, authenticity, and the willingness to listen. What she has to say is important for us all to hear.

She posted it right before I posted my last blog, ‘Put on Your Big Girl Panties’. It seems like we are polar opposites in our calls to address the same problem.

While she encourages us to face our fears and withhold judgment I said things like:

“It’s time to change the conversation. We don’t need to be in dialogue with those who would destroy our values and vision of a nation whose arc is ‘bent toward justice’.

 It’s time to stop compromising about the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens.

It’s time to get up, gird up, and put on our big girl panties.

We cannot afford to wait and see how things ‘play out’.

We are the majority and we need to assert our power. Even if it is for the first time.

Vote now. Get involved now. Be the change now.

This is not the time to make nice. It’s time to make policy.”

Is there any way both of us could be right? Could both of us good people? Is only one of us faithful? My answers are yes, yes, and no. As feminists, both Linda and I believe there are many ‘right’ answers. Our perceptions are not so contrary to one another as they are coexistent. How can that be so?

I used to be afraid that I was not spiritual enough because of my loud, radical, and often coarsely worded calls to justice. I choose words for impact, to move people, and to challenge systems of evil. Those calls and words are important. They are part of the long-standing tradition of prophetic speaking. Prophetic calls to justice are often harsh, uncomfortable, and urgent. They are never a call to destroy ‘the other’.

Linda’s pastoral call to faithfulness is equally important. We need to be challenged to live faithfully in ways that stretch us. Facing our fears, the willingness to listen and be vulnerable, to love those difficult to love are the challenges of a deepening faith. However,  it should never compromise our call  to stand for justice.

Both perspectives are necessary. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it the ‘cost of discipleship’. Carter Heyward coined the phrase ‘justice-love’. The nature of faith is dynamic. The expression of faith kaleidoscopic. Our many ‘right’ ways move together to form a pattern of the whole. The call is to live our faith . The gifts of sharing the journey is that it deepens our relationship with the Sacred and challenges us to live authentically.

 

 

Wisdom: Day Two

Some of you may have noticed a lag between this and my last Wisdom blog (Day One 5/22/17). I’ve had a lot to say  about  our recent elections and their fallout . We are at political DefCon Alpha. Current events get in the way of more general thoughts about life.  As a student of history, a world traveler, a user of the Oxford comma, and a person of faith I  have a whole lot to say about our Orwellian present.

    But today let’s veer off the political track for a moment and let me tell you about a practice I am new at and love: laughing at myself.

One of my character flaws is that I take myself seriously. Those who love me say  I take myself too seriously. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I do. Okay,  lots of times. That being said, when I laugh at myself something happens. My perspective shifts and I experience a sharp drop of stress. It’s a two for one special:  freedom from self-judgment and openness to self-acceptance.

So the entirety of my wisdom for today is this: learn to laugh at yourself – your foibles, your missteps, your idiocy – and don’t wait until you are my age to do it. Life will be so much easier to navigate.

Kathy Griffith, Moral Fiber and the Hard Work of Staying Sane

 Now is the time when every good citizen is called to stretch their moral fiber, to build their moral strength, and to go high when they go low.

It’s hard.

It is difficult to manage fear and anger when all around us we see and suffer from the abuse of power. It is especially difficult when our representatives in the White House and in Congress betray us on a daily basis.

Gut the EPA? Dismantle our education system? Abandon our commitment to civil rights? Reduce veterans’ benefits? Create non-realities based on ‘alternative’ facts?

Really?

All this is in addition to the vile disrespect hurled at both President Obama and Hillary Clinton with impunity. The lynching of effigies, the threats of assassination and hanging by Ted Nugent. Who, when challenged, responded eloquently with “Suck my machine gun.”

WE CAN’T DESCEND TO THAT LEVEL. We being the Dems, the left, the citizenry, and spiritual communities. None of us can afford to allow that sort of discourse to be normal.

I don’t want to live in a world where that kind of talk and action are normalized. Lynching is not okay. Assassination is not okay. Threatening either one is not okay. Neither are machine guns in the hands of the public. Neither is mock beheading.

Kathy Griffith is a funny woman. She went way too far. She expressed vividly and profoundly feelings we struggle with. But we are the gatekeepers of civilization as we know it and we cannot stoop to the level of those whom we oppose or we will become like them and soon there will be no difference between us.