Monday, May 06, 2024

Normal does not mean OK


I often wonder how I live such a normal life. I know they say that “normal” is only a setting on the dryer, but you know what I mean. I have a beautiful person I love with whom I share a house, a family, and even our ministry. Basically, what often feels like a charmed life is an ordinary life in which many good things happen. There have been bad things also yet I am surrounded by loving support. I hear so many stories from people whose lives do not seem charmed and who are not surrounded by love and support. I honestly do not know how they make it. But how do I carry these sacred stories and remain in this delusional sense of "normal"? Because that is definitely not OK.

At Pantry last week, a mother with an adorable 4 year old son came to get groceries. The two of them appeared like a normal mom and child yet I soon found out that they are living in her car because her husband filed for divorce and kicked her and the boy out last November. He kept two of their children and filed for child support. Her IRS return was garnished as was and is her paycheck. Each month she must pay $1000 in child support all the while unable to afford to take care of the little one she has with her. She has tried countless days in a row to get a referral from 2-1-1 for Gateway 180, a shelter for women and children in St. Louis. I tried. I reached out to people I know who can often get people into special places. They had no luck. There was no room anywhere for her and this little boy. What is OK about this story?

On Sunday, a 30-something woman came to me asking if I can help her get furniture for the apartment she was temporarily sharing with her brother. If she could get furniture, she could get her children back from their paternal grandmother with whom DFS had placed them temporarily. That was just the surface story of her problems.

The longer she talked the faster she told the story. She and her children were renting an upstairs apartment from an older man. He had hired her to be his caregiver. She quickly found out that he wanted her to give him half of the income she received as his care giver in exchange for rent. From what I could understand, he also wanted more than money. It ended up in a physical fight and she received a black eye. When the police came after she called them, they told her that they could arrest her for attacking the man. The social workers from family services were called and her children were taken from her. She was confused as to what she had done wrong and terrified she would never see her children again. The grandmother told her that she planned to hand the children over to their father, the same father who had kidnapped them and kept them for three years. Their mother had only had them back for the last few months. You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday was a two-for-the-price-of-one day. I met a very young woman for the first time. She asked if we had any feminine pads and she wondered if I had a pair of pants. I suppose this is a common enough story to which most women can relate. Meanwhile, the rest of the story, this precious young woman who is about 5’1” and weighs maybe 100 lbs told me she is homeless. She apologetically asked if I had a backpack or a sleeping bag. I almost lost it as I realized she had a big bruise under her left eye. She saw my face as my hands sort of cupped her face. She said, “Ms. Barbi, please don’t cry because if you do, I will.” She then comforted me that she was going to be ok, that everything would work out. 

There is not a goddamn thing ok about women and little children living on the streets. We claim to be a “great” country, but we are actually a stiff-necked people who are willfully ignorant because it allows us to wrongly think none of this could happen to us. Out of sight out of mind. It allows us to think that we are normal when in reality, those of us who live lives in comfort and perceived safety are actually the abnormal ones. We are OK, not normal.

How can I be OK, knowing the horror stories of so many people? These are only three sacred stories I have heard in the past 5 days. How many have I heard in 10 years? How many have I turned into a beautiful story to share with the readers to evoke compassion, to get people to do something? I keep thinking that if I share these stories that it will make a difference in the hearts of those who read them. I keep thinking that I might make a difference.

These are not happy stories. I may call them sacred stories but these are tragic tales. Maybe the outcome will be good. Maybe the young woman is right. Maybe they all will be ok and everything will work out. Maybe all I am is a story-teller and that is my task.

Maybe. Yet even as I believe that Jesus is always with me, Jesus being with me as I get slammed in the face with a man’s fist or tossed out of an apartment or trying to find a place to safely sleep outside doesn’t really make that terror go away. Maybe in hindsight. Maybe there is comfort in believing. But what I know is that all our lives would be better if we cared that there are women with and without children living in dire circumstances being asked to do any number of things just so that their lives might continue. Our lives would be better if we really knew what Jesus meant when he said that we are to love one another. 

Normal or abnormal, it is very difficult to believe that we strive to be One in the Body of Christ when we ignore that people are out there in the elements, hungry, wet, cold, and scared and we do nothing. There is no love in willful ignorance.

Normal is not ok. 

Friday, March 22, 2024

The essence of Tucker

I found this essay while looking for something else. It brought a smile to my heart to remember how inquisitive Tucker was, how SO Alive he was! This is from June 2009, a month after he turned 13, a few short years before he would die so unexpectedly in June 2021.

Tucker is one of those types of kids that drive some adults crazy…me, being one of them. He has to touch everything, turn every knob, open every drawer, push every button, open anything that is closed (funny how he never closes anything that is opened though…). He has been that way all of his life. We thought that he would grow out of it as he got older. Here he is at 13 and nothing is sacred to him, most of all, those things that irritate me.

He has no need of personal space so he has absolutely no understanding of those who do. In fact, he is often wounded by those who demand that he back off just a little bit. Reminders do little but quell the momentary action. As soon as a parental back is turned, fingers go to fiddling with whatever is there. We have to hide the pens that we really like because if he has one of them for more than a couple of minutes, the clip is broken off or it is taken apart with all the insides disappearing.

It really is a chore trying to curtail these actions. When he was little, we tried for a little while the hands in pockets trick while we were in a store. Well, the only thing that happened with that was us saying every few minutes, “hands in your pockets!” We became the irritants rather than him. Within moments of any entry we made into any store, the shoppers and workers alike knew Tucker’s name.

One of the biggest problems that he has in school is that his teachers are constantly saying, “Tucker…”, “Tucker…” for one thing or a dozen. Soon the other students in the class pick up on it and it becomes a “Tucker did it…” type of blame game whether he actually did anything or not.

So, Thursday morning, while reading the Daily Office, this popped out at me. In fact, it screamed.

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use, they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.” Colossians 2:20 - 22

When I read it, I immediately thought of this child of ours to whom rules and regulations mean very little.

Tucker is by no means the only child I know who is like this. I think it is safe to say by looking at the statistics on Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity that we, as a nation, are in the process of bringing up a really large number of these children. But I wonder how many of these kids are truly “disordered”?

Maybe, as the author of Colossians points out, we should question our own actions. Just what we are doing by labeling our children as disordered. Perhaps it is not something that is wrong with them…perhaps it is merely “an appearance of wisdom” on our part.

For if we do claim to be “with Christ” how do we continue to live a life of human regulations that possibly inhibit the Spirit from working with us? Our rules of do not, do not, do not, are human commands and teachings. Do these rules matter to God or in living our lives to the glory of God?

There are several layers to this concern: If we want to go with the idea that these children are “disordered” then why so many? What have we done to create this “disorder”? What is in our environment, our food, our clothes, our water that could cause such vast numbers of attention deficit children? Supposedly, approximately 2 million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD.

And if there are that many, what does that mean in terms of how we deal with them? Do we medicate them or not? What if they are not really ADHD; rather, what if they are kinesthetic learners who have need of gross motor movement in order to learn best? There is a fine line in distinguishing the difference between ADHD and a learning style. It is estimated that 15% of the population are kinesthetic learners.

What are we willing to do to our children to make them mind? Are we prepared to subject them to “severe treatment of the body”…for what is a mind altering drug but a severe treatment? Yes, these drugs do help in many cases of ADHD but at what cost? Further, the drugs are just band aids, dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. What is the cause? Or even more importantly, what is the real problem?

We want life to be simple. I can’t see that it ever has been so, not even in the nostalgic era of the 50’s – James Dean and Tennessee Williams are just two examples of the angst that existed in some. Life is not simple. It is fast and harried and in the midst of all the rush-rush, lonely. We want answers and quick fixes. We want solutions that cause the least amount of worry and pain.

What are we willing to accept for our children for the sake of expediency?

For whose quality of life are we most concerned?

Might we be called into an analysis of our own way of dealing with certain things? Might it be a time when we are called into changing our own ways?

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Unexpectedness of God

 Sermon offered at Trinity Episcopal - St Louis, January 14, 2024: Second Sunday after the Epiphany

It has been too long since I last stood before you. August 2022 to be precise. I often feel like Paul with his epistles, reaching out to you in the E-times, hoping you read the words I write, hoping to elicit a deep longing within you by sharing the sacred stories of the people who come to Pantry & Hot Lunch. Writing is good but it is better to be here in person with you.

For those who do not know, I am Barbi Click, Deacon, Diocesan Missioner of Jubilee Ministry, and Manager of Trinity Food Ministry. My primary focus as deacon, as Missioner, and as Manager of TFM is to bring the concerns of this world to you while enticing you to become engaged, to “Come and see” what new things God is making for us and with us in this ministry that is such a vital part of this parish. It may be a 50-year-old ministry, yet every week brings a newness to this place. It is not what it was just as it is not what it will be.

As a Jubilee Ministry Center, we are a place where mutual ministry happens. We are not alone. TFM thrives because it is an inter-religious, inter-relational ministry. There are 6 Episcopal parishes, 3 other denominations, 1 non-denomination, a synagogue, a construction company, and several local businesses, not to forget all the individuals near and far who volunteer, contribute money or material donations each month.

In addition to all of this, and more importantly, the people who allow us to help – they offer us their trust, their fellowship. We could not do this without them.

Can you imagine what you might have to set aside to ask strangers for help? I clearly remember one woman years ago. She was so arrogant and demanding that she set the volunteers in a frenzy each time she came to the Pantry. One day, I happened to glance up and to see her outside the glass doors. She stood there for a few seconds, pulled her shoulders back, raised her head, and she walked in as if she owned the place. At that moment, I did not see her arrogance. I saw a proud woman who set aside her pride as she prepared to enter into that place filled (at the time) with a bunch of privileged white women as she, a Black Woman, came seeking their assistance for her most basic human need. Can you imagine what she had to set aside to walk through those doors?

Each event in our lives – whether it is a difficult or easy moment, offers an opportunity for an unexpected encounter with the Divine. In those few seconds before she walked in, I had a very unexpected encounter with the Divine. I saw this woman as I had never seen her before. It changed me; therefore, it changed our relationship for the better.

It isn’t always easy yet … the willingness to be present in the moment offers unexpected opportunities to see what we might not otherwise see.

Samuel is just a boy, he expects little. Maybe approval from Eli, enough food to eat, a place to sleep. Yet he is alert. He hears a voice. Thinking Eli is calling him, Samuel responds to him. Even as he does not yet know God, God knows him … Eli tells Samuel to wait, to listen, and to respond when he next hears the voice. “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

Nathanael expects nothing or even less – after all, what prophet much less a messiah had ever come from Nazareth? Philip invites him to “Come and see.”

Jesus greets Nathanael by exclaiming “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” And he questions Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus says, I saw you under the fig tree, the tree of abundance.

I have found no theological explanation that adequately satisfies my questions as to why Nathanael suddenly realizes that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel simply because Jesus sees him and makes a character assessment. Regardless of my lack, Jesus’ word let Nathanael know that he was indeed known, understood, and seen.

To be known – to be understood – to be seen.

How often do you feel invisible or misunderstood, even as you may feel righteous in your stance? Have you diverted your eyes from looking at a person directly when you were mad at them? Or do you throw up a firewall to keep others out of your heart and head? Or have you diverted your eyes so as not to acknowledge another’s existence? – We all have at one point.

As a society, we are quite awful about ignoring those things that make us uncomfortable, or that we do not wish to see, or know, or understand.  

In Divinity School I took a Womanist Theology class, and without a doubt, it was THE most challenging and life-changing course I ever took. In the first week of class, the professor paired us, had us stand about a foot apart, face to face. The task was to look into each other’s eyes for a set number of minutes. I stood in front of a woman I didn’t know. Surely we were both a little bit defiant as if it was a staring contest and whoever blinked first lost. I assume this because that was how I felt. We glared/stared at one another for a bit and then … something changed. I realized the color of her eyes was a very dark rich brown, so dark I could hardly see her pupils. Yet within her eyes, I could see my reflection. Suddenly, the glaring was replaced by what felt like a deep look of longing, as if I was invited in, fully welcomed or not, inviting me into her soul. I can only assume that she saw the same in me. Suddenly our time was up, and it felt almost embarrassing how close we had been for those few moments. As if we knew each other in an intimate and personal way, as if we had been what Julian of Norwich and theologian Richard Rohr called “Oneing.” While it was uncomfortable, this life lesson taught me that the eyes are indeed the pathway to understanding, to knowing.

Yada is the Hebrew word to know, to be known. It is intimate and personal. To be known by God is an intimate experience. To be known, to know others is just as intimate and personal.

We see what we want to see. Sometimes we are surprised by seeing what we never expected. That is an unexpected encounter with the divine.

In my letters to the parish in the E-times, I often use the phrase “Come and see” as a way to invite you to be more personally involved in the life of TFM. In particular, the Wednesday Cafe. I must admit, it is not what most would call a very exciting encounter. Regardless, it is engaging.

On Wednesday, those of us who are “regulars” have come to know that George, aka “Woody” will come and sometimes share his newest art that he makes from scrap wood he finds. Or that Susie will arrive 30 minutes before it’s time to close, that she loves the desserts that Cathy Tierney makes, and always wants to take an extra cup of Lisa Carpenter’s soup home with her. And if it isn’t raining, Mike will show up. We never know when Phil will be there until we see him, yet we do know that he loves food – any food, all food. And he loves to converse!

This is just a snapshot of those who stop by to sit a little while, enjoy a little food and fellowship. It is an ordinary time full of extraordinary moment. Little is expected of anyone yet we all receive so much. Sometimes, there is an unexpectedness moment that reminds us that a precious bit of insight into someone’s personal life has been shared. It might never have been had we not been present, simply there, together.

Eli told Samuel to listen, to be present, to respond. To be ready to say, Here I am. I am listening. For me, that is Wednesday CafĂ© – we offer our presence, our willingness to listen. And then we wait just in case.

As followers of Jesus, we are called into his beloved community. It isn’t always comfortable and can be quite difficult. It may feel like a burden or a challenge. Yet, within every burden there is a gift. Within every challenge there is a treasure.

In one of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations. He notes that Jesus “focuses on the way we do life AND do life with and for our neighbor.” It is not enough to just show up on Sunday. Life happens all week long. Rohr continues, “The soul is refined in engagement, in relationship, in doing, in connecting.”

It is ALWAYS about relationship. We cannot connect with people we don’t know or understand if we are not present, or if we do not allow them into our presence.

Offering a ministry for those who are classified as “the working poor” can be seen as requiring little. Give food; it’s done. It’s rather easy to be engaged in works of charity without understanding the reasons why the charity is needed. Yet what about those who are more clearly “the least of these?”

Can anything good come from people who are homeless, have felony records, have trauma induced substance abuse disorders, who no place to lay their heads, or are freezing to death as I speak? I say yes. A great deal of good is present within those who suffer from these conditions. A great deal of good can be available for us if we recognize the unexpected goodness of God.

A bigger question is: Can anything good come from me and you if we lower our eyes, turn away from or ignore the needs of those who lack the basic human needs of clean water, air, good food, safety, shelter, sleep? If we care more for stray animals than we do for our siblings who have strayed or been cast out?

To know is to love. To love is to know. We will never know nor love fully if we are not willing to be present. While we cannot help but be in this world, we, as followers of Jesus, cannot be OF this world.

It is easy to shuffle Paul off to the side, to ignore what may seem like his fornication rantings. Yet what he is saying is that as we strive for a deeper spiritual life with God, there is an intimacy that unites us with the Holy Spirit, therefore we are a temple, a sacred space. We may be IN this capitalism-run-amok, Love deprived, fear-filled world yet we must KNOW that we cannot be OF this world as long as God is with us, and in us.

The sacred stories of this food ministry matter – not just in bragging rights to share for the next rector and the world to see. These matter because these are the sacred stories of people just like you and me yet whose lives are confounded by incredible traumas and injustices, whose basic needs are denied and whose human rights are constantly obstructed. They are fellow siblings in Christ, and we, as their siblings, can do something about the world we live in. It is not enough that TFM is there; we must know why there is a need for the work.

As a Jubilee Ministry Center, meeting the basic human needs of people is only one part of our purposes. Relationship is another. And out of that relationship, our understanding that advocacy is vital. The mandate of Jubilee Ministry is to act as a network to engage with joint discipleship in Christ with and for poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs, and to build a just society. Relationship. Charity. Advocacy.

It means that Jesus is always there and so are we – whether it is in sharing a meal, offering groceries, or using our privilege to speak out in our City, our State to demand basic human needs be met for all of our brothers and sisters, our siblings.

There is much work to do, both in that South Parish Hall, in City Hall, and in the halls of our state government. It takes all of us and it demands that we remember, to know or be known takes a willingness to see and love beyond our understanding, even beyond our human frailties and limitations.

I invite you to Come and See what good and new things God is making with us and for us. Come and see and let’s change the world, one love at a time. Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Fertile Ground


It is my great privilege to be Diocesan Missioner of Jubilee Ministry. I am invited to preach and sometimes be deacon at different parishes throughout this diocese. Last Sunday my wife and I were in Lake St. Louis at Transfiguration. Two weeks before that, St. John & St. James in Sullivan. Most of the time, if we are absent from St. Paul’s, it is because I am sharing the good news of Jubilee Ministry with one parish or another. It is amazing to see what all these parishes, from tiny ones to larger ones, are doing in their communities. It is my prayer that I am sowing good seeds on good soil, sharing the message of the Gospel of Jesus – If we Love God most, we will Love all others more. We know that this Gospel is the good seed.

Yet what is fertile ground? The Gospel notes that some seeds are scattered and are eaten by the birds. Well, we know what happens to those seeds, don’t we? Others fall on rocky ground or in the thorns. The seeds/the Word may grow for a little while but are scorched by the sun/fear/hardship because the roots are not deep enough.

What is fertile ground?

Who has not seen a beautiful flowering plant rise up between the cracks in a pavement? Who has not seen the bloom of a thistle along the roadways? Chickweed, wild violets, dandelions, clover are considered weeds by many who strive for green grass to cover their lawns. Yet each one of these is a beneficial plant, offering healing for the body and for the soil.

I am not a good farmer or landscaper, really. All I can say is that I am a front row witness to the wideness and the wildness of God. As a friend of mine recently wrote: Things happen “mostly despite me rather than because of me.” I just try to be aware of what is happening around me. Sometimes that is a gift of its own. Sometimes it feels like less than a gift.

I have tried time and again to compost. It is good for the earth and keeps organic material out of the landfills. A proper compost should be hot enough to turn the seeds, peelings, all non-animal products, even brown paper into a beautiful dark nutrient-rich soil within a short amount of time. Yet. I can never get it right. It is either too wet or too dry, too green or too brown. I end up with yucky muck OR roly poly bugs, spiders, and even once, a little family of mice hunkered down inside the compost all warm, dry, and well-fed. And there are seeds that do not turn into soil; rather, they begin to geminate and are found with yellow leaves reaching up, searching for the sunshine. While that does not make for a successful compost, it does tell me that the soil is fertile even if it is not an ideal place for it to grow. I like to think that these little offerings are seeds planted by God for some good, maybe just for me to notice.

And I think that is the message – for me/us to understand that God can grow goodness in the darkest corners, in the midst of spiders, bugs, in a compost gone wrong. If God can do that, imagine what God can do with this world.

That is the wildness of God. The goodness of God. The power of God. That even when things feel hopeless, when errors are made, in the midst of tragedies in our neighborhood and record-high summer temperatures, when tempers are short and fears are great, God can grow something good. Even as our judges take away our rights, gun and drug violence steal our children, even as our elected officials deny food and healthcare for our neighbors, we know the goodness of God. We, as humans, may need fertile soil and perfect conditions to plant our seeds so that these grow to benefit our eyes, our sense of well being, our need to do something good. Yet, God can take a small thing like a wrongly ordered compost or a bigger thing such as a city in decline, the fears of those living there, the violence, the trauma, the poverty, and turn it into something which is not just surviving but thriving.

Had I not turned aside to see that little plant growing in the compost; had I not noticed that it was a sickly little yellow plant lacking chlorophyll, still struggling for life from half of an avocado seed, what might have happened to it? Did I have anything to do with its survival? I saw it, nurtured it, and watched as it grew. Will it continue to survive, to thrive? Will it be able to overcome the obstacles this world throws at it? God alone knows. But it is my desire to see and to try.

There is so much to fear in this world. There is so much which can make us frustrated and angry. There seems to be so many enemies, people who are actively working to destroy God’s goodness and mercy. Yet, what are we called to do?

Love them. Regardless. Steadfastly. Unconditionally. There are no scriptures that state we are to like our neighbor or even enemies. But there are scriptures that tell us we must – not should or ought to – but that we must love them. It is a commandment. Jesus said so. But how do we do that??

In his book The Growing Edge, Howard Thurman writes about loving those who are declared enemies and how difficult this idea is. (Please excuse the gendered language)

“Can it be that God does not know how terrible my enemy is? No, God knows them as well as he knows himself and much better than I know them. It must be true, then, that there is something in every human that remains intact, inviolate, regardless of what he [or she] does. I wonder! Is this true? Is there an integrity of the person, so intrinsic in its value and significance that no deed, however evil, can ultimately undermine this given thing? If a person is of infinite worth in the sight of God, whether they are saint or sinner, whether they are a good person or a bad person, evil or not, if that is true, then I am never relieved of my responsibility for trying to make contact with this worthy thing in them.”

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I had a crystal-clear revelation.

It happened at a funeral service for a friend, Bud, who had died. Bud and his wife attended the same parish as Debbie and I did and we loved them. The man offering the homily, Jack, was a man that I did not like because of his condemnation of women and queer people. At that time, he was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. This was the time when Gene Robinson was a hot topic in the Episcopal Church, and whether or not we would allow an openly gay man in a partnership to be a bishop. Jack and I were regular rivals in any articles or news events reporting on the state of affairs in that diocese. It was easy to feel that we were enemies.

However, as Jack talked about Bud, it became apparent that he too loved Bud. Suddenly, without warning, I clearly saw the Oneness of God’s love. I loved Bud. Jack loved Bud. God loved Bud. God loved all three of us.

Think of a triangle. Bud is at the top. Jack at one corner, me at another. God is the center. If God loves all three of us, and Jack and I both loved Bud, then Jack and I loved one another whether we accepted it or knew it or even wanted it.

This was a profound moment in my life, and I can honestly say that it altered every fiber of my being and understanding. Did I like Jack any more than I had before? Absolutely not. But I respected him as a beloved child of God, and I loved him for that alone. I still love him. I also still do not like him but that is not the point. My dislike is much less and God’s love is bigger than any of my likes or dislikes.

A seed of understanding was planted within my being, inside my heart hardened by disagreement. I would have thought that love was impossible to grow there. Sometimes we do not understand where the fertile soil may be found. Sometimes it is there in front of us, in us, so near as to be invisible. God alone knows.

I was asked if there was a song that I would like today, one that might fit my sermon. My mind went totally blank.

Well, typical of my sermons, it is just as well because this one did not end as it began. Somewhere at some point, I was led from what I would have said to what I heard I should say. And Now, I have a song!

1 There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.

2 There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Savior,
there is healing in his blood.

3 But we make God’s love too narrow
by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

4 For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind,
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

5 If our love were but more simple,
we should rest upon God’s word,
and our lives would be illumined
by the presence of our Lord.

Most often in our lives we look at the world from a right-side up viewpoint. That seems a normal way to see things. Yet, Richard Rohr tells us that there is an “upside-downness” at the heart of the message and that it always urges us to look more deeply and widely at things. He goes on to say, “This opens our eyes to recognize God’s self-giving at the far edges where most of us cannot or will not see God.

“But we make God’s love too narrow, by false limits of our own,
and we magnify its strictness with a zeal God will not own.’

God can plant seeds in the darkest of places, in the hardest of hearts, in the leanest of times, in the midst of all that seems wrong and lacking. It is ours to claim the birthright that is our own by being children loved beyond all imagining by God, living out of faith and not into fear, out of our abundance rather than into our scarcity.

We are the fertile ground whether we can see that or not. “For the love of God is broader” than we can imagine. And from that seed in a hard human heart, Love can grow.

Love. Love beyond our imagining or understanding. Love whether we are worthy or not, whether we know it or not. Love because that is why we are here – made to be loved, for love, to love. Love is the seed that can make all things grow for the good. Love can change this world.

It is simple. Love God most. Love our neighbor as ourselves. Love one another as we want to be loved, AS we are loved. Love others as God loves all. Love. Simply Love. Profoundly Love. Always Love.

What might we see and do if we took on the wideness of God’s love and mercy? Where are the seeds being planted in us and around us right now?

May we see our lives are illumined by the presence of our God. May we be the fertile ground from which good things grow. May we bear fruit and yield more time and time again all to the Glory of God.






*Howard Thurman: The Growing Edge (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956), 17–18.

**There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy by Frederick William Faber


Monday, May 01, 2023

Good Shepherds and Midwives


In the work I do, I live for the moments which offer me hope. Thankfully, tiny glimmers of hope are offered frequently. The past month or more, it has been difficult simply because there is so much anxiety. Whether it is caused by food insecurity, violence, drugs, politics – everyone seems to be on a razor-sharp edge.

But then this week, this happened.

A young man came into Pantry. I remembered him because he has an unusual name. The odd thing was that he gave another name to the registrar. He said his name was William Thomas. I called him by his real name and asked him if he needed emergency food because he had just been in a few days before. We worked out the details of what he needed and went our separate ways.

Later, I saw him outside, so I went to talk to him. We started talking about the current drug scene, relapses, chances of recovery or dying. We shared a few sad stories.

Unfortunately, it is a story that many have told.  He is addicted to fentanyl; his life has blown up, and he wants to quit. He asked me to pray for him, so I did. The good news is that he has a May 5th date to enter rehab. The scary news is that between now and May 5th could be a lifetime. It is so easy to die.

It happened that at the next Pantry two days later, Tony, a guy who works with a Harm Reduction group, unexpectedly came in. I told him about the young man and asked if he could offer any help. And because this is just how the Holy Spirit works, in walks the young man. I introduced him to Tony, and they talked for a while and made some plans. As the young man was leaving, he hugged me and said, “I don’t know why you love me, but I know you do.” He then said, “I won’t let you down.” I reminded him that this isn’t about me; rather, this is all about him. He agreed and gave me another big hug and said, “I won’t let ME down.” I don’t know if he will keep the appointment with Tony but the desire to do so is where the hope lives.

Later a friend of mine posted a quote on Facebook that resonated with the way I felt about this moment:

“As followers of Christ, we are called to be midwives of the new creation, not gatekeepers of the old one.” To act as a midwife is to be the intermediary that waits and watches as another labors, to hold onto hope as it is born and then to share in the excitement as hope is being realized. I know that this young man has a very hard and dangerous road ahead of him, but I must say, this encounter left me feeling as though I had helped midwife a new birth of hope, both in him and in me.

He trusted me with his story because I listened, because I shared with him my own sacred story, and because he believed my love. He trusted that love.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about trust. Individually and culturally, we are taught not to trust others. We are taught that others must earn our trust and they do this by doing what we believe is the right thing to do. It recently occurred to me that is not the way that Jesus did it.

Trust is a funny thing. I remember too clearly telling one or more of the many children I helped raise that they had broken my rule (aka my trust) and that they would have to earn it back.

How many times have you heard someone say or maybe you even said, “I should never have trusted them.”

When we say that we trust someone, it means that we believe they will not hurt us. If they do hurt us, we withdraw our emotions to protect ourselves from being hurt again. There are moments of broken trust even in good relationships. Recovery of that brokenness is based upon how much we open ourselves to forgiving, to working through the hurt, to being vulnerable, or trusting ourselves not to inflict hurt upon another again.

If we attempt to BE trustworthy rather than thinking we need to trust someone, what difference would that make? If there was no level of reciprocity, that our desire was only to be trusted, what might that change?

I think that being a midwife must be a bit like being a good shepherd. At least, in watching Call the Midwife, the midwives are more concerned for the well-being of their patients, both the mother and the new baby. They are that calm presence.

The sheep hear their shepherd's voice. They know that voice. They trust the shepherd because she takes care of them, being there when they need her, making sure they have food and water, that they are as safe as possible.

The shepherd carries a crook because sheep do not always do as the shepherd wants. The crook is used to help the wayward sheep back into the fold, to rescue a sheep that has fallen, or even to ward off predators. The shepherd cares for them steadfastly, unconditionally with no judgment for the one that strays off.

A shepherd puts the needs of the flock before self. The shepherd’s interest is only for the safety and well being of the sheep.

We do not need to be the Gatekeeper. That job is already taken and it is not ours. Yet, what if we become a good shepherd in our own lives? What if our purpose is the wellbeing and safety of others rather than expecting them to earn our trust or to live up to our expectations of how they should act?

Our world today is packed with thieves and bandits – false leaders – in corporations, in politics, in government, in our churches, all causing us to distrust. Too many are there for profits first and collateral damage does not matter. The collateral damage equals all those whose lives have been altered due to gun or drug violence, environmental injustice, poverty, and all the “isms” used by oppressive factions to control the majority. The whims of a few determine the fate of many.

In the Acts of the Apostles it is written, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

We are called into community, into like minds, with our hearts set on God, caring for all whatever the need.  Just like the Apostles –

– Spending time together praying, breaking bread together, in all things possessing glad and generous hearts, always praising God, and having the goodwill of all the people as our work.

And as they did these things, “ … day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Jesus “came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” 

Abundant Life is the opposite of society’s status quo. When the status quo supports oppression, the peacemaker is called to challenge it. Jesus challenges the status quo continually as should we as followers of Jesus.

We as a people born into a capitalistic nation have forgotten that we are a part of God’s creation. In this greedy dog eat dog, I-me-mine world where to win is profit and to profit is to win, competition is about being better, smarter, faster than the others in the contest. Theologically, we focus on what we perceive to be another person’s sin or lack more than we do the abundance of God’s love for all, for any who have need.

As a result, we treat the gifts of one another and this earth as less than sacred. We do not trust one another to love the way God loves us. ... For God so loved the world … In fact, most of us are quite certain that the fellow next to us does not care at all about us much less love us. Truth be told, most of us probably feel the same. I doubt that people in Jesus’ time trusted one another anymore than we do. Yet, that has always been Jesus’ message. Love.

Jesus didn’t ask people to trust him. He didn’t tell people that he trusted them. He simply trusted and shared God’s love and continued to talk about that love.

Jesus did not come to set rules and regulations for us to follow or else be thrown into hell fire. Jesus came to show us how to be liberated, how to free ourselves from the oppression, and that to trust in the love and faith of God alone is the only thing necessary. With this, all other things fall into place.

Faith is our spiritual understanding that God exists and is with us always. Faith leads to Trust. It is in God’s love that trust is born. If we believe that God’s love is steadfast, unconditional, always with us, all that matters is that love. It is not something we earn; it is through God’s grace that Love is always there. We don’t earn love and we don’t earn trust. We simply love and we simply trust.

We do not have to know or understand why God loves us. We just need to know that God does love us, each of us, everyone of us, steadfastly, unconditionally, just because that is why we are here. Love. It is all there is.

It is in that love that we become midwives or good shepherds of a new creation born in love to be loved and to love in turn.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Can you see me now?


Why did Zacchaeus wish to see Jesus? Possibly one of the most hated men in Jericho, chief tax collector for the Romans, his spoils taken from the labor of his own people, a tool of the oppressor Empire – he wants to see this man Jesus, so much so that he climbs into a tree to get a good look.

Jesus sees him, calls him down, and says, Hurry for I must stay at your house today!

Zacchaeus hurries down and immediately welcomes Jesus. Soon after he declares that he will give half of his possessions to those who are poor and repay four-fold all acts of fraud.

Augustine of Hippo in his Sermon 63 writes about this encounter. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and after telling him to come down, he says, “You are hanging there, but I will not keep you in suspense. I will not, that is, put you off. You wished to see Me as I passed by, today shall you find Me dwelling at your house.”

Zacchaeus in Hebrew means Pure or Innocent. Jesus said Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. Jesus saw into Zacchaeus’ heart and called to him. And Zacchaeus was ready, and he followed.

Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism writes: To be a spectator of Reality is not enough. The awakened subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life, but to participate therein; and for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.

Zacchaeus had an awakening, a conversion from his reality into a new life. Prior to this moment, we do not know his emotional or mental state; however, we know that this was a transcendent moment. From it came Jesus’ pronouncement of not only the sins of Zacchaeus but for his entire household. And Zacchaeus became a disciple of Jesus.

Zacchaeus acted impulsively, following blindly a yearning to see. Instead, not only did he see but he was seen. The material cost may have seemed great to some. To Zacchaeus the loss of his material wealth was the profit of his life.


I wrote this reflection for a Deacon gathering this past Monday. Instead of sharing this, I asked to talk about the shooting on that same day, October 24, 2022, at Central Visual and Performing Arts high school in Saint Louis, MO and the resulting deaths. My son graduated from there and my youngest grandson attended there for 1 ½ years as a freshman and sophomore. I found out later that my grandson knew the young man who killed and was killed. They were friends at that time. Both my boys knew and loved the teacher. My neighbor across the street works with the mom of the young woman who was killed.

As my heart ached with the sorrow of the whole of these lives lost, it further broke when I read Orlando’s note, what the police called his “manifesto”. I attempted to unveil the sorrow in my heart for this lonely, lost boy on social media. Some rallied with me; some railed against me. 

I felt shaken to see how many did not see the connection between Hunger (lack of food, love, mental health care, etc) and violence; how so few comprehended that while all could feel the overall horror of the event some could also see clearly the mental anguish that caused it or at least contributed to the event; and to see how others simply could not connect the idea of love or lack of love to the cause of the event. And very few indeed seem to see that there was most likely a long simmering anger and the part that plays in violence.

I wonder if Orlando simply wanted to be seen. I wonder how long he had wanted to be seen and understood. A friend of mine suggested that in his anguished state, he returned to the only place he had felt seen and safe. Strange thinking yet so is killing with purpose.

Some say that he should have sought help yet how easy it is for those of us on this side of that loneliness to make that statement. It is too simplistic to state that others have felt the same way and didn’t kill anyone (boots and bootstraps ideology). There is such an absence of unconditional love for this young man, this 19-year-old boy.

I do not understand the lack of love, the lack of mercy, the lack of forgiveness. Maybe it will come. The pain is so fresh, the disbelief that it could happen here too new.

As for me, I cannot help but wallow in my own pity, my own knowing that it could have been one of my boys that did the shooting. Not that I think they would or could but does anyone every think that??? Both of them lived with trauma and it formed their young years. For even in the knowing that one is loved, one can still feel unseen and misunderstood. That, in addition to post or ongoing trauma plus the ability to obtain a weapon of mass destruction are equations for terror and horror. If mental health concerns are also there (and aren’t these often where there is trauma?) that only adds more to the total. It is not simply a young man went crazy, grabbed a gun and killed a bunch of people.

Are we so disconnected from the Gospel of Jesus that we cannot see how important it is for us to see those who feel themselves to be invisible? To listen to the person? That a person is often unable to seek the help they need, that we are to be there regardless of how difficult it may be or how many times that person may have said no thanks?

Had there been one person in his past who was able to say that they had tried to help him, and he turned them away, then that person may feel justified. As for the rest, someone should have seen him. Someone should have heard him. Someone should have cared. 

The NRA and the politicians owned by the gun lobby are a big problem but not the only problem. They may not even be the biggest problem.

Augustine & Underhill quotes from

Friday, April 15, 2022

Reflection of Jesus Dying and Mary Magdalene Watching


They wouldn’t let us be close to you. They kept us at a distance. All we could do was wail and lament. Still, even in the distance, even though it was difficult to see, the other Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, and I all knew the exact moment it happened. As soon as the earth began to rumble and the rocks split apart, we knew. You had breathed your last breath. It was done. We heard later that the veil covering the holy of holies had ripped in two. That is the way I also felt. Ripped in two.

I remember just a few days ago, looking into your eyes after I anointed your feet with the nard and wiped it with my hair. I could see that you knew that I understood … that you knew I knew you were going to die.

I also remember that you said that you would return in three days.

But right now? It doesn’t matter. Just as we watched from afar as you breathed your last breath, now we watch just as helplessly as Joseph of Arimathea carries your body wrapped in clean linens, lays you in his tomb and rolls the rock into place.

All I can do now is to watch with you … watch for you.


Offered by The Rev. Deacon Barbi Click at St Paul’s StL Wednesday in Holy Week,
April 13, 2022

MAUNDY THURSDAY John 13:1-17, 31b-35 Take off your shoes


My daddy’s mother was one of the most giving people I have ever known. She was the epitome of the woman standing at the back door holding a plate out to the Big Depression “hobo” who knocked and asked for a few scraps of food. Not a scrap giver, she offered full plates. I remember the meals she cooked for all who came to help with whatever yearly event was happening on the ranch. I recall the Sunday-Go-to-Meeting and church picnic dishes she prepared. I remember fried chicken, fresh biscuits, and every family member scrambling to get the biggest piece of her “butter roll” dessert. To the age of 90, she cooked meals for her rural Meals on Wheels AND delivered the meals. She was wonderfully gifted at giving.

Receiving, not so much. When we tried to give her a present she would say, “Pshaw” in a self-deprecating way followed by “you should not have done this!” and she meant it. It was not a sentiment of humility. It was an admonishment. One time, I gave her something that was a very special gift from me to her. I wanted her to really like it. Immediately, out came that offhand response. It hurt my feelings. As a know-it-all young adult who believed I could speak up to authority, I boldly told her, “Grandma. You are always giving other people things, but you never let us give to you. Sometimes the biggest gift you can give is to take their gift for you.”

You want to hear that it made a difference, don’t you? Well, maybe. But I know Pshaw was a part of the response. Regardless, she did accept the gift and told me she loved it.

I used to look at Maundy Thursday with a feeling of Pshaw! And a sigh at the thought of having to take off my shoes and have my feet washed. Or to wash the feet of others. I would guess that there are many people here who agree. I do not know what causes foot shame but so many of us have it. Other than the sweet little feet of a baby, I’ve heard few people express delight with feet. I was no different.

And then.

One Maundy Thursday I was kneeling at the bare feet of a St. Paul’s parishioner and as I held her foot and began to run the water over it, I was overwhelmed with love. Tears welled up and began to fall and one dropped onto her foot. I felt the urge to kiss the foot in my hand. Now, that might seem a bit creepy. Even now, I can imagine what her face might have expressed had I followed my urge. Still, it was a mighty moment where I realized that it was not me giving; rather, I was receiving a gift of love. She allowed me to wash her feet, to love her. It remains one of the most precious gifts I ever received.

Peter is where we might have been. He is shocked to think Jesus would stoop to wash his dirty feet. Oh, No you won’t, he exclaims! Jesus is adamant, Oh yes, I will and if you don’t let me, you will have nothing to do with me.

I can imagine Peter’s tears welling up as he concedes.

To wash someone’s feet, a person must kneel low in front of that individual. To kneel before someone is a vulnerable action. And then, imagine the feet. The roads are dirt. The shoes are sandals. The feet are coated in layers of dust. To kneel before a person and wash their feet is a humbling thing, servant’s work.

Jesus asks, “Do you know what I have done to you? … I have set for you an example.” If he, as their Lord and Teacher, can do this thing, then so shall they do it for others. He loves them so much … so much that he kneels before them to wash their dirty feet. It is a gift, and he gives and he receives.

This is a gift that is ours to receive. This act of foot washing is a humbling experience, not just for the one who bares their feet but for the one washing. The foot is an offering in trust that you will take it and feel the love of that person as you cradle this gift in your hand and let the water wash over it.

We are told to love one another yet it is not simply the idea that we give love. Love is a two-way street, meant to be shared. It is humbling, it is surrender, it causes us to be vulnerable. It requires us to receive the love offered to us.

It is the way that God loves us.

Take off your shoes. Let down the walls that protect you. Can you receive the love?

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

The Prophet Anna Luke 2:22-38

Sometimes I get so tired and hungry, fasting and praying night and day. It has been decades since I first came into this temple seeking your will for me. But what choice did I have? You were my only hope. My husband was gone. I had no sons to care for me. This temple was my only solace, being in this sacred space set aside for the Holy of Holies.

Every day, all through the night, my life is a prayer, seeking that which is unknown, understanding only that it is yet to be. So many years I have been doing this, calling out to you, my Lord God, to hear my prayer. In a moment of weakness. I fell to my knees thinking that it was my end time, asking one more time for you to bring me into the understanding of what it is that I seek, what it is that I know you wish me to see. Open my ears, that I might hear. Open my eyes and help me to see. One last prayer …

And then … suddenly, I hear Simeon’s voice exclaiming wonder and glory. I see a light shining around him as he cradles something in his arms. He joyfully exclaims, “My eyes have seen your salvation, Lord God! Right here in my arms I hold the light of revelation for all the people of the earth, all to your glory, Lord God.”

What was I to do but turn aside to see this strange thing, this light shining for all with eyes to see? And see I did! And I knew! In his arms he held the wonder of the world! That for which I had been longing was revealed to me in the flesh of this tiny babe, in the light that shone around him, in the glory of all that he was and is and is to be. Before me, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings and the Glory of all Creation!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise God that I have seen this pure and precious sight! Praise God that I may now rest in that peace which passes all understanding, knowing that our Savior has come into the world! Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!

The Rev. Deacon Barbi Click

October 22, 2019

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

This Land is NOT "our" Land

Offered at St. Paul's Episcopal Church St Louis on the 25th Sunday after Pentecost November 14, 2021                                                                                                          

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush declared November as Native American Heritage Month. Just like Women’s History, Black History, Pride, and many more, these designations are meant to bring attention to those groups of people who have suffered from indignities and prejudices. It is to offer us a new perspective. So it is today an opportunity to see from a different view.

The way Indigenous people have been and are treated is the first of many United States of America horror stories that show how race determines who is considered less human and therefore expendable. The transgressions against the native people who first lived with the lands and the settlers who took the land is just beginning to be truthfully explored.

Richard Rohr's Meditation “Living with the Land” speaks to the differences in how the Settlers and the Indigenous people saw the land. I am paraphrasing some of his words today.

Most Christians in the Western World have been shaped by a culture and faith that tells us that land acquisition is a normal thing regardless of the cost to others, ourselves, or to the land itself. God made humans stewards of creation therefore it is ours to use. Rohr writes “… our lack of attention to the Christ Mystery can be seen in the way we continue to pollute and ravage Planet Earth, the very thing we all stand on and live from.” Our relationship with the land is in direct correlation to our lack of respect for one other.

Theologian, scholar, and Cherokee descendant Randy Woodley points out that the land itself meant something quite different to those who settled it than it did to those who first lived here. The failure of the settlers to tread lightly, with humility and respect, for the land was the problem. The settlers lived on the land, taking what they wanted when they wanted it regardless of what might be needed in the future. The native people lived with the land, always respecting the natural balance, never taking more than was necessary. It was a sacred understanding.

This is important because this land we are on – actually, not only the land that Saint Louis is on but the broad expanse of land from the Ohio River Valley west to the Red River – is the ancestral lands of the Osage Nation. The Osage history is important to the history of Missouri.

In a 2014 PBS special, Osage Elder Eddy Red Eagle Jr., Drum Keeper and Osage history, cultural, and spirituality expert talked about when the French and French-Canadians arrived in this area of Saint Louis. They “had very little money but they had intelligence, and a strong family life, communal life.” This meant a good deal to the Osage because they had common intentions. Not only did they trade together, but old Cathedral records show that there was intermarriage and that leaders of both groups supported their mutual grandchildren. They were community.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 changed everything.

As we all know, the US government regarded Native Americans as “savages”, fully expendable, and moved them from their ancestral homelands whenever more land was wanted. In addition to the forced migration, epidemics of European illnesses ravaged Native American populations. In 1808, to maintain peace and care for their people, Osage leaders handed over their Missouri lands and hunting grounds to the U.S. government at the Fort Osage Treaty.

A little bit of history: We all know of Cahokia Mounds in Illinois. Yet, did you know that the area of St Louis was home to at least 25 mounds, 14 of which were in the area we know as the Great Basin?

The purpose of these mounds is varied yet all were considered sacred. Many tribes consider the mounds as symbols of Mother Earth, the giver of life, the womb from which humanity emerged and was formed.

A November 8 article in the St Louis Post Dispatch gives a history of the mounds. There were 25 mounds from Biddle Street to Mound Street east of Broadway and north of today’s Laclede Landing. Big Mound was the largest. It was north of downtown on the rise overlooking the Mississippi River. It was 319 feet long, 158 feet wide, and 34 feet high.

Although archaeologists determined that these mounds were built between 1000 and 1450 AD, between 1830 and 1869, all those north of downtown were removed. Any evidence of previous lives inside of the mounds were unceremoniously discarded. A quote as Big Mound was being destroyed: “Men are digging on every side. And what should have been purchased by the city and preserved inviolate will soon be known only in location tradition.” While there were some objectors, they were overwhelmed by what the St Louis Dispatch called “the grasping money-making spirit of our age.”

Sugar Loaf Mound, which stands at 4420 Ohio Avenue less than two miles from St. Paul’s, is the last sacred mound. The Osage Nation was able to purchase the top half of the mound a few years ago. The bottom portion of the mound is owned by someone who is still living in the home that sits at the base of the mound.

Due to misinformation, false histories, and glorified tales meant to embellish the idea of Americana, we are woefully ignorant of what has been. Were it not for the recent discovery of unmarked graves of native children in Catholic and Anglican Indian Boarding Schools in Canada, the traumas endured by indigenous people of North America might remain unknown. Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President Jennings have called for a full understanding of what happened in the Episcopal Indian Boarding Schools. There remains much to be learned both in Canada and those US schools.

The discovery and opening of the graves in Canada are ongoing tragedies, a catastrophic loss of a generation of children who were removed from their families, mistreated by the Church, traumatized and abused by those who were in charge, and then, too many, dying and hidden in unmarked graves. Those families who lost these children or those who survived the trauma of the schools and deculturation of indigenous traits continue to feel the pain today.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania opened in 1879 as the first government run boarding school for Native American children. They had a motto – Kill the Indian Save the Man; meaning, strip the native children from their culture and language, replace it with “Christian” values and they stood a possible chance of become good American citizens.

The values that the Catholic, Anglican, and Episcopal schools were attempting to erase from the Indigenous children are those same values that will save this creation – living with the land in respect, humility and using only what is necessary, understanding that all of these speak to the sacred nature of God’s Creation.

How do we begin to talk about reparations for these sins?

Stolen lands and children, genocide, desecrated graves, ancestral bones placed in museums, sacred lands turned into golf courses and pathways for oil and gas pipelines, water poisoned, mounds destroyed — these are just some of the sins committed, not only by the settlers of North America but continuing today.

These sins belong to each one of us, just as the sins against those African peoples who were stolen from their countries and enslaved for labor and used as a resource for future labor. It does not matter that none of us here today were there. We would love to tell ourselves that we would be different, do differently. Yet, today, in this world where we decry such sins, how do we contribute to the existing empire and that dominate culture that makes poverty a crime and rewards the richest?

At all Diocesan events, it is now proclaimed:

“We respectfully recognize and acknowledge that we are on traditional, ancestral lands of the Osage Nation. The process of acknowledging the land we stand on is a way of accepting our complicity in a process of colonization that removed the Osage people from their ancestral lands. We also make this acknowledgment to affirm our commitment to stand with indigenous communities today as they seek justice and resist continued threats to their sovereignty and humanity.”

This is an important statement because first and foremost, statements such as this were requested by Native American tribes as an acknowledgment of stolen lands. Secondly, this diocesan statement goes beyond acknowledgement and calls for more action.

I recently read John Philip Newell’s book Sacred Earth Sacred Soul and it lays out so clearly so many instances when the Church has contributed to the empire.

Nadia Bolz-Weber said, “People don’t leave Christianity because they stop believing in the teachings of Jesus … [they] leave … because they believe in the teachings of Jesus so much, they can’t stomach being part of an institution that claims to be about that and clearly isn’t.”

The idea that one race of people could envision themselves as being chosen by God to expand across North America, converting or killing anyone who stood in the way is an extreme example of egoism – their self-interest was the foundation of their morality. That is a flawed ideology that continues today.

We cannot talk about the sins against humanity without understanding the scope of the damage to not just those who were first on this land 400 plus years ago but those who exist in our nation and throughout the world today whose lives are being destroyed by human caused climate disaster


not just those who were kidnapped and sold into slavery but those who continue to suffer from environmental racism here in this city, state, and nation.

These sins continue. And we cannot talk about the sins of humanity without trying to understand what this means to this creation – Creation meaning the WHOLE of us – ALL things that God created.

This is a much bigger conversation than can be had in this short space. Yet it must happen.

Jesus said, “This is but the beginnings of the birth pangs”. — What new thing will come from truth?


1.) Our differences do not make us less than; rather, it enhances the indescribability of God’s diverse creation. Can we imagine only one type of bird? Only one type of tree?

2.) It doesn’t matter how much the stories of the wounded hurt us; we must hear these stories.

We are at a time in our lives where it feels that we are awaiting the Great Apocalypse. Some interpretations of the Revelation and by Hollywood tell us that an apocalypse means the end of time is near and it is the final destruction, a catastrophic event. Yet, theologically, in Greek, apocalypse means to uncover, disclose, reveal. What does our past reveal to us? What is being uncovered? What truth is there to learn?

That is what Jesus is doing today in Mark’s Gospel.

Jesus is unveiling a truth — once again he is telling us to pay attention. Do not be led astray by false prophets or fake news. None of it is important. Remember what we already know. Don’t worry about when all the great buildings will be thrown down or of earthquakes. God is making everything new, offering us new chances to be part of the renewal of all things. God did not make this mess we are now in but there is hope because we know God is always with us.

And what do we know about these sins of humanity against humanity? We know that loving God and loving our neighbor is not a rote saying. It is a life-line, a way of living. This is what First Nations people understand so clearly. It means respecting one another and all aspects of creation. It means that we take care of one another, not in spite of our differences but because of these. Diversity is a rule of creation. We need diversity. Living for one another is a rule of nature.

There must be acknowledgement and confession that a sin against one part of humanity happened because of another part. There must be conversation about reparation – WITH the people whose truths we need to hear. And it is only then that there can be reconciliation. And yes. There will be birthpangs yet what do we anticipate when a mother and child are feeling the pains of birth? We anticipate new life! God is still making all things new, just as in the beginning, is now and always will be. We are a part of that new thing – all of us.

Stay alert. Remember what we already know. Let go of false prophets and flawed ideologies. This is not about self – one very small part. It is about the whole of us – all that God created.

Live in the hope that God offers us in the making of all things new.


Normal does not mean OK

  I often wonder how I live such a normal life. I know they say that “normal” is only a setting on the dryer, but you know what I mean. I ha...