Saturday, June 28, 2008

Episcopal Cafe

Check out "Only Faith" at http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/personal_reflections/only_faith.php#more.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's Family Time!

Over the next two weeks, we have first one set of grandkids then a second set coming in. Oh, yes, Their parents are coming with them. [VBG] As a result of visits to the Zoo, Science Musuem, the Arch with its big feet almost in the swollen Mississippi River, the Soulard Market and so many many more things to do, I doubt that I will be writing much.

Alas, the bishop and pawns and faithful readers can carry on without my thoughts on the Anglican world at large and our own rascal selves closer to home. Somehow, I know that you will be ok. :-) Hopefully even the bishops and pawns.
So, blessings upon you all. I will be back soon!
Meanwhile - I am about to hug the stuffings out of some beautiful little people!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Violence

It is easy to get angry at the violence in Scriptures – even with the violence of God. But the message is not the violence. The message lies behind the violence.

This idea does not justify the violence. To justify violence is as wrong as the violence itself. But we can’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Using the idea of a punishment/reward aspect as a cultural norm, violence becomes a natural facet of punishment. Different degrees of bad behavior require varying degrees of punishment.

A child does something wrong; a child is punished. The problem with this type of learning tool is that we feel punished far more often than we feel rewarded. Good behavior – since it is expected – is often merely that…expected. No fanfare or pats on the back because we did what was expected; rather, ordinary good behavior is most often ignored. Only exceptional behavior receives applause, laud and honor.

Yet one screwup and the reign of terror begins.

Since this is an age old way of dealing with children, does it not seem likely that it is one of those generational things we learned – one of those “traditions” that regretfully has been learned and remembered all too well? “Spare the rod; spoil the child.”

It is evident that the authors and interpreters of the Word of God fully believed this lesson.

The Hebrews do as is expected and God sits in heaven and is pleased. The only way that the Israelites know that God is pleased is by the fact that crops are growing, rain is proportional and all is well – meaning, there are no plagues of disease or insects or captivity. God only make the Holy Presence known if that Omnipotent One is Pissed Off.

Is the meat spewing out of the Israelite nostrils the main message in the Numbers 11 Scripture? No, of course not. Yes, giving the whiny Israelites what they seemingly deserve is a violent punishment and personally, I gave a certain perverse giggle at the thought of all the spewing that swept through the greedy Israelite camp. But is this truly God or merely an interpretation of the people who were inspired to write their thoughts? As is the case now, so was the case then – greed is the message.

What do I need to see in this Scripture? How does it apply to me? What does it require that I change?

Would I have been satisfied with the sweet manna from heaven each day every day for a long period of time? I seriously doubt it. From my exalted privilege of standing in front of a near full refrigerator and stating “there’s nothing to eat”, I hardly think manna every day would quench my desire.

With our crucifixes firmly attached to our walls and in our minds, we concentrate on the actual death of Jesus. The New Testament may not have God burning up cities , crushing entire armies or even sending plagues , but the idea of being nailed to a cross is fairly violent. It is easy to see how some can be distracted by it but is the message of Jesus actually about the crucifixion? I don’t believe so.

Hanging offenders on a cross in public was a punishment meant to deter others from the same crime. It was a normal way for the Romans to mete out punishment. Jesus was a terrible offender. He offended mightily those who held tightly to what they perceived to be their own authority. Therefore, as is the case then and now, if a person offends the authority too much or for too long, that person is at minimum incarcerated or at most (or in Texas) killed. It is just the “norm”.

Did Jesus have to die? Don’t know. Don’t care. Not the point in this argument.
What I do care about is what I perceive to be the dual message behind the violence of the crucifixion – the life of Jesus and the resurrection of the Christ.

To concentrate on the crucifixion, even to berate and decry the violence of it, is to lessen that life which Jesus lived and which ultimately led to his death. He lived a life that was in such contrast to that life being taught; he frightened those in power, so much so that they wanted him dead.

The message is this – If we buck the system, we run the risk of dying.

BUT…

Because of the death, we have the Resurrection. Those who give their lives will find their lives. Jesus said so.

No one can take away that which is given to us by that message.

Even if we die, we will live. That is the stuff of martyrs and saints.

What is this life but a chance to Live? Are we not called to follow Jesus? But how far? A little bit of the way? Half way? Or all the way? How far?

All the way into the Resurrection…

And how can we get to the resurrection if we don’t follow the life? How can we get to the resurrection if we stop at the Cross?

We could live without the violence. But…would we have paid as much attention?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Praying for What We Crave

I must say that I am fascinated by the readings in the Daily Office right now, Numbers in particular. God being irritated enough to give the people exactly what they whine for is an example of the ultimate parental satisfaction experience. Thoughts of “I TOLD YOU SO” keep ringing in my ears.

Yesterday’s reading leaves off with Moses just not understanding the words that God speaks. Supposedly they speak the same language but there is obviously no listening going on – at least not on the part of Moses. Too well, God listens. The people complain about the food; Moses complains about the burden of the people; God answers both complaints but with obvious irritation. Not only does Moses not note the irritation but he does what was always dangerous to do with my grandmother – he “’sputed” (disputed) God’s word – he doubts God’s ability. Woe be to him indeed.

So after God meets with Moses and the seventy elders appointed by God to help relieve Moses of some of the burden, these elders did their one time and one time only prophesying after God put some of the spirit on them. Meanwhile, two guys left in the camp who are obviously not elders but are also recipients of the spirit begin to prophesy. The reader is led to assume that this might become something normal in their lives. A young guy gets all up in arms about it and runs off to tell Joshua. Joshua is appalled that they are so audacious as to do this. Moses, with some of his burden relieved, is actually able to boldly proclaim to Joshua that he stop being jealous - it would be a good thing if more people are able to be prophets.

Back at the tent, perhaps God is further reminded by Joshua of the pettiness of these people chosen as the people of God. So the ruach goes out from God and brings forth thousands of those quails which “migrate across the Red Sea to Europe in the spring” (Exodus 16:13 footnotes in Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV). These fall two cubits deep all around the camp, “about a day’s journey on one side and a day’s journey on the other side”. Two cubits are about one yard. It takes the people all day and all night and all the next day to gather all the quail. The least that is gathered by any one person is ten homers. A homer is supposedly about six bushels.

That’s a whole lot of dead bird meat for any good carnivore. Just imagine…a full 24 hours of these birds partially baking there in the sun with flies and all manner of decomposition beginning. I imagine that a good case of food poisoning would seem like a plague to 600,000 people. Talk about coming out of people’s nostrils and becoming “loathsome”!

But there is still hope for the Israelites. It doesn’t seem as though all are struck with the “plague”…only those who had the “craving” die and are buried.

One can hope that the Israelites learn quickly.

Of course, we know that isn’t true, don’t we?

The “craving” still exists…clearly.

Hopefully God is the one not listening when we pray for what we crave.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Living in Tension

Trying to walk a line between faith and our consumerist human nature is like trying to convince our feet that the stylish looking size 5 Prada fits on our size 7 C width foot. Not only is comfort sacrificed for the sake of looks but we run a great risk of crippling ourselves in both the short run and long run.

As humans, suffering from our frail greedy condition, we live in a self-made tension. On one hand, we want to do what is good and pleasing in the eye of God. We desire a relationship which will bring us closer to that future kin-dom. Not only does it make us feel good to think we are doing what we are supposed to do, but we also hope that our good deeds hedge the chance of living into that which comes afterward – namely, we hope like hell that this isn’t all there is.

Tension exists in our personal agendas, in our parishes, in this Church at large.
Basically…we try to serve two gods.

“You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?”

That was from yesterday’s reading from Matthew 17:14-21.

Then in today’s readings there is the passage from Numbers (11:1-23) when the people are whining to Moses – where is our meat? We remember the fish we ate in Egypt…why, oh, why did we ever leave? All we have here is this crappy old manna from heaven, a gift from God rained down upon us for our daily needs but it isn’t our needs we are concerned about…it is our greed. We want meat! Give us meat!—

Sheesh. But then, not only does Moses not tell the people to put on their big kid pull-ups and stop acting like spoiled brats, he goes and complains to God – why did you put me in charge? Why do I have to put up with all these whiny, complaining people? Why don’t you just kill me if you don’t find favor with me rather than leaving me here with all of this on my shoulders? What you have done is not enough and I know that it’s not enough because the people have told me so. –

So what does God do? God tells Moses not to worry. Not only will God make certain there is meat, there will be meat not just for a day or a week but for a whole month. In fact, there will be so much meat that it will come out of the whiny people’s noses. There will be so much meat that they will be sick on it and of it.
Does Moses get it? No…thick-headed, slow thinking Moses has the audacity to totally miss the point. Not only does he miss the point but he actually asks God just how the Holy One will find that much meat to feed the 600,000 people that are there.

God must have been thinking at that particular moment that maybe there was a design flaw in the human part of creation. At the least, God must have been shaking the God-head in wonderment at the absolute selfish stupidity not only among the 600,000 chosen people of Israel but also at this one that God had decided would lead these idjits out of Israel and into a safe place for a while.

So easy for us now to sit on our collective posteriors and think ‘What a bunch of dunces!’

How na├»ve and innocent were the unhappy and insatiable Israelites! So, what’s our excuse with all this history to read and digest?

Here we are however many of thousands of years later and still, we want big fast cars and fine fancy homes. We rush and run with all our innumerable chores and have-to-dos. Our children are faced with a nonstop till they drop type of existence as they are rushed to school/daycare to home to soccer/baseball practice/games to home for a quick fast food or prepackaged overprocessed meal and then to a frenzied bath and then tossed into a bed where they spend the next two hours asking for water, another story, a need to go to the bathroom…my God, how can they be expected to rush through the entire day and then when it is time, lie down and go peacefully into the innocent dreams of a child?

Our lives are so fast paced that we think Sunday is the only time that we have to spend at home to rest and recuperate from the hectic crazy week. In fact, over this past week, I have had three people tell me that they take the summer off from church.

Take the summer off from church???? Having been in the Fort Worth diocese all my Episcopal life, I can certainly understand needing to take time off from the religiosity to fill a more spiritual need but an entire summer? One maybe two Sundays and then I would be missing whatever it is in community that I cannot find outside.

We are living in a tension that is going to cripple us unless we are able to give up something. Personally I think it is the rush rush or the too small shoe that needs to be given up but it took me a long time to figure that out. That is what Morning Prayer is all about for me and for Debbie. It gives us a time to talk to God and discuss this common life we have together in relation to the Scriptures and the world around us. We are able to kick off our shoes and be still in the midst of knowing that God is with us. That doesn’t mean that we are still everyday…it just means that each day we offer ourselves that opportunity to slow down and know that God is with us…if we allow it.

Bastille Days are coming soon to St. Louis. That was the fateful day that the good Queen Marie Antoinette lost her head because she just couldn’t understand that she could not serve two gods. The poor hungry people stood outside of her opulence, crying, needy, dying. I don’t know if it is historically accurate that she said, “let them eat cake!” I am sure it is not but nonetheless it was probably a true sentiment. We have our own Queen of the Misstatement in Barbara Bush who is quoted as saying that some of the people who had suffered through the un-management of the Katrina aftermath were really making out well. Every day in Texas and other places as well, there is someone somewhere who states that if “those people” want to stay in Texas they better learn to speak the English language (referencing the many Texan Hispanics whose ancestors lived in Texas long before it was “Texas”).

“How much longer must I put up with you?” How long will we remain deliberately ignorant, ignoring all the selfish injustice that comes from our petty greed? How long until we are able to see that giving up Church is not one of the things that we need to set aside? Or to see there are far more real issues of neglect that surrounds us instead of striving for yet one more thing that we only desire rather than need?

How long before we wind up with so much “meat” to eat that it is coming out of our nostrils, choking us in our excess?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In Time Out

So, where exactly are we in this Journey?

When we first began, the thought was that it would last six to eighteen months. Here we are one year ago since Debbie quit her job. The end of this month will be one year since we moved out of our old rock home and turned our world topsy-turvy. And here I sit, in St. Louis Missouri, in a place I would never have guessed to be on that day one year ago.

At one visit, when asked how long we would go on, we stated until God let us know something different or the money ran out. Well, the money did run out but I don’t think it is over. God has done anything but let us know that the Journey is far from over.

Throughout it all, there have been long moments of waiting. I think we must be in one now. Summer is here so we have no talks scheduled. But right now, we are waiting.

I will never get used to waiting. Never. Maybe that is why I am put in these ‘time out’ phases so often. I just don’t know how to be still on my own.

What do I want? Or rather, what do I feel called to be doing?

I want to be in an active stage of discernment, actually knowing that I am working with others who are helping me discern God’s call to me. Waiting for a one year period of time to pass before that happens seems wasteful…especially in that I am so actively involved in all that is the Cathedral at this moment.

I want to be a part of the solution that discerns how to work with the downtown community – both those who are displaced and disenfranchised and those at the opposite end of the spectrum, those who are well off and living in the new lofts and downtown apartments.

AND I want to keep on with this issue of justice and listening to the voices of children, parents of LGBT people and to the LGBT people themselves. I do believe that this journey of speaking is far from over.

But I am waiting…waiting for people imposed limitations and schedules beyond my control.

While waiting, today I heard the Gospel reading -- "Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.” (From The Message Matthew 10:5-8)

Hmm…

When we are called into a waiting time, a “time out” if you will, maybe it is because we stopped listening at some point. This entire journey was about listening – listening to others and being listened to ourselves. A sharing…a dialogue.

Maybe I stopped listening. I think the word “maybe” ought to be deleted.

Prioritizing. I need to prioritize.

Right now there are a number of things that are fairly if not vitally important. The Cathedral and its life are important and it seems somehow and for some reason Debbie and I have been called right into the middle of it. We have to believe that is a “God-thing”.

The ministry of Integrity and the Canterbury Campaign and its Lambeth goals are also of vital importance at this particular moment. (Have you contributed yet?)

And while the issues of gays and lesbians in this Church are also vitally important, I am sure that there are some things I can do without traveling around during these $4 per gallon times.

I still dislike waiting. But maybe I can try to take my mind off that part and attempt to direct my heart into the listening part. There are lots of “lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood.” The kin-dome is alive…I can do my share of healing and soothing.

I have been treated very generously. I have much to share.

Friday, June 06, 2008




Happy Birthday, Kyleigh!


Noni and Deda love you!


Let’s Take a Test!

How orthodox are you?

Do You Believe…

Holy Scripture is the revealed word of God?
Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected offering eternal salvation to all humanity?
Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior?
in the Holy Trinity?
in the Holy Spirit as a sanctifier and transformer?
in the covenantal nature of the Holy Eucharist?
in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds?
we come to the Father through the Son?

If you answered yes to all or most of these, well then, consider yourself eligible to join the new group out of Fort Worth with members ranging from far and wide – from all over the US all the way to Africa and on to Ireland! It’s called Remain Faithful and they claim to be orthodox Episcopalians.

Just to show you how absolutely reformed that they are, please note the picture on the Board of Directors tab – how very progressive of them to have Da Vinci’s Last Supper!

I think we need to let them all know that reconciliation is possible after all! Check them out at https://www.remainfaithful.org/Home_Page.php.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lord I Want to Shine

I am rather sad today. Maybe it is just the discombobulating sense of having been gone for ten days and now I am returning to a routine. Or maybe I am missing my family. Or maybe it is the intense sadness of the church we experience here in St. Louis versus the one we experienced last Sunday at Good Shepherd Granbury in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

I knew it was bad there. I lived it, experienced it, existed within it all my Episcopal life. Yet, to see it as a visiting non-member…there is a vast difference.

How easy it is to get used to women as priests! How simple it is to slip into inclusive language! How strange it is to be slammed in the face by the white maleness of the priesthood and the patriarchal language of the liturgy!

Throughout our travels, the question that arose constantly was, “How do you stay in the Church?” Before I moved to St. Louis, the answer was fairly simple, “I love the liturgy and there is no other choice.” During times of adversity, one grows spiritually. We all know this to be true.
However…I seriously wonder if I could move back to Fort Worth as it is at this time. Having experienced the fullness of the Church outside that geographic area, I wonder…could I become involved once again in that smallness?

While we were in Fort Worth, a letter from two parishioners from Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, our parish while we were there, wrote a six page letter to all the parishioners of Good Shepherd in Granbury, the parish where my parents now attend. There is a good size group of members who have stated boldly and calmly, in peace and in love that they do not want to follow the bishop wherever he may go ; rather, they wish to remain within the Episcopal Church as faithful members of that church. In fact, they call themselves Remain Episcopal Granbury. Their priest has been known to say that this group is “reprehensible” and that their congregation is now “diseased”.

This couple from Trinity in Fort Worth decided to write to the members of Good Shepherd with the idea that they had a right to do so since they attend the parish whenever they visit their lake house in the area. They felt they had the right to write to all the parishioners there because they were “shocked to discover” that Good Shepherd had been “infected” with the “bug”.

The Werley’s contend that there are three types of people in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth:
1) Those who support the “gay agenda” and actively seek to “incorporate homosexuality” into “our church”.
2) The “pew sitters” – those who do not necessarily agree with TEC but as “Good Episcopalians” prefer “to do nothing” and “avoid conflict”
3) And last, there are those “who see what is happening, are willing to take a stand for our Savior and confront those who are preaching anything other than the Gospel in His name…”
The couple also contend that they are of the last sort.
Cora once told me before that she loves me but that we are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God.

So true…so true. Of course, I have a tendency to be a bit wary of people who like to quote that line. It always makes me think that they believe their own sin to be far less than mine.

While I do miss my grandkids, parents and children greatly, I think that a great deal of my sorrow actually arises from my inability to see how to grow in the midst of the toxic atmosphere. I have breathed the Spirit in a safe environment. It is hard to breathe in Fort Worth or to feel the breath. The Spirit is held tightly in closed minds for fear that she will bring about change that would alter life as some know it (or imagine it). They think themselves safe as long as she is not allowed loose.

The nastiness of this letter tells me that they are running scared. They think that somehow somewhere someone let the Spirit out. Others saw her and like some of the changes that she is bringing about.

What they don’t realize is that once the Spirit escapes from the tightly locked minds, it is very difficult to stuff her back in.

Thanks be to God!

So…ok, I am not sad any more. In fact, maybe I am even hopeful. I realize as I write, that regardless of the small mindedness of some people within the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, the Spirit is dancing around, sneaking in every crack and crevice available, shining a light into the darkest corners.

Maybe one day those filled with the fear of gay cooties will allow her to touch them. We can make that our prayer.