Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Face of Evil

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I believe in an awesome God.

I believe in a God who welcomes us home, no matter what we have done, no matter how far we have traveled, if only we try to return.

I believe in a mighty God who loves with a never ending love, and who calls us to the love over and over again.

I believe in the God who inspired the writing of these words in Romans 13, verses 8 through 13

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently…

Love does no harm to a neighbor so let us behave decently.

Right now in America we are seeing something I never hoped to see, something I never thought I would see.

We are seeing what happens when the leadership of a nation turns away from that welcoming love.

We are seeing the face of evil.

William Shakespeare wrote:

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

On June 14th Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border by citing a passage from the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summed up the same idea: “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”

The Devil can quote scripture.

Sessions words twisted and perverted a call to obey the great commandment, the great call of the Almighty to love those around you, and to treat them righteously, into an evil and perverse call for the support of the mortal sin of harming children in the name of nationalism.

The God of my heart, the Christ who came to the poor and the sick, the man who was Love embodied did not call for this.

I say this to Jeff Sessions and to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you snakes. you vipers.

Above all else we are called to one thing- we are called to love with a deep and abiding love the Lord our God, and in order to do that we have to love the humans who surround us.

Not with a perfect love because we are not perfect. We will get it wrong and screw it up and miss the mark over and over again.

But the man they called Jesus was very clear.  In Matthew 25, verses 31-40 he spells it out

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The kingdom of God welcomes  every soul, but you cannot get there by walking in the opposite direction- it isn’t God walking away, it is you.

Throughout history there have been crimes, murder, rape, genocide, done in the name of country and king. Crimes done in the name of the law. Crimes done because of the law.

All evil, not just wrong or bad but morally corrupt and ethically stained.

All glimpses of the great enemy, the great liar Satan, who tells us what we want to hear.

Satan says Put country first.
He says Put the love of money first.

He says Put your own interests first.

He says to hate them because they are not us and you never think to ask what he is telling them and so we destroy each other one bit at a time and we take an eye for an eye until the whole damn world is blind

Satan tells us that what matters is that we are great. What matters is that we are frightening and powerful. What matters is that we reign even if it is in hell.

I’m telling you now that Satan lies.

I’m telling you that there are concentration camps for children being built on our American soil, that we are pulling children from asylum seekers crossing our borders in search of the help promised by our great country.

We are holding those children in cages. We are holding them in tents, in the Texas heat.

We are torturing children. Poor children, immigrant children. Children the color of a man from Nazareth.

We are torturing the least of these, in the name of Caesar. We are torturing them in the name of power and control.

We are torturing them in the name of serving God and I don’t know which way our leaders think that we are heading but if we support the torment of children then I suspect that Hell is straight ahead.

As for me and my house, we will try to serve the Lord, regardless of what that means, and I hope that you will too.

What do you believe in? What values do you claim to be fighting for? Who are you living for?

It doesn’t matter what political party you belong to, because this isn’t about that anymore. The actions of these leaders are not in line with the beliefs of any normal political party.

This is about a struggle for the soul of our nation.

This is about the battle for our own souls.

This is about the endless battle against the forces of evil personified in the acts of human hands and human hearts, and there are no neutral bystanders

So I’m telling you now that no person can serve both God and Caesar. I’m telling you that you have to decide, and it can’t wait anymore.

And I’m asking you to join me in truly accepting that Great Commandment, and the one that follows it. I am asking you to join me in loving God and in loving your neighbor as yourself.

I am asking you day by day to make a commitment to turning away from the work of evil no matter what the source.

I am asking you to care for the least of these, as Jesus asked you to do. amen

I am asking you to feed the hungry, amen.

I am asking you to welcome the stranger in your country, amen.

I am asking you to care for the mentally and physically ill, amen.

I am asking you to comfort the widows and the orphans and the lost and the frightened, amen.

No matter where your political beliefs fall, there is no place for the mental or physical torture of children and so I am asking you to welcome the little children because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven, and the world of Jeff Sessions is indeed the kingdom of Hell.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Knock Knock, Your House is Falling Down

("Old Falling Down House" by FairieGoodMother)

Centering is on my mind today.

Or, more specifically, decentering.

Because I keep running into problems on all sides of the equation as my faith and my country begin the terrible and wonderful work of decentering "whiteness" and wealth and masculinity and able-bodied status in our American cultural machine.

On one side, words like privilege and fragility cause an uproar. Racism and abelism and classism come into play. Toxic masculinity rears its head and other body bits.

All to keep the status quo firmly status quo as we begin the blood-boiling task of dismantling the work of colonialization and empire-building.

On another side, some fight to decenter the current centers, but struggle with naming what will replace them. Some claim nothing will.

Some few seek to center themselves, and profit personally, rather than systemically, in the process.

There is always a center. It's how systems work. There is a principle they are based on, a physical point they are balanced on, an attribute or attribute set they regard as most favorable for operation, something.

And the problem is that we have based or centered our current systems on the wrong attributes entirely- not just on the wrong subsets of those attributes.

Empire got it wrong.

It isn't about skin color.
Or gender.
Or wealth.
Or physical ability.
Or religious choice
Or language.
Or immigration status.
Or heterosexuality.

None of those things should be centered. None of those things should be "the right choice" or "the preferred option" or "the one that makes life easier." We aren't trying to simply change who is oppressed going forward.

No attribute should be the center at all.

We have to take apart the current machine entirely, and rebuild it.

The center is equity. The center must be equity. The machine itself must work differently.
It is the only way to move forward without destroying ourselves in the process. Because equity doesn't mean destruction. Equity doesn't mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Equity is not diversity or inclusion, though it includes them. It is not equality, because it surpasses it.

Equity is a condition where all people, ALL people, receive what they need to survive and succeed, whether in a society or in a subset of a society (an industry, a religion, an educational system).

It means that if three people all need to see over a 5 foot fence, the 3 foot person is given a 2.5 foot box to stand on, and a ladder to use to step up onto it. The 5 foot person is given a slim 6 inch platform and no ladder, and the 7 foot tall person is given nothing.

It DOESN'T mean, however, that the 7 foot tall person is made to stand in an 18 inch deep hole. That isn't equity, it is oppression. Forcing anyone to do or be less is the way to Kurt Vonnegut's nightmare dystopia, Harrison Bergeron, where the graceful were weighted down, and the brilliant forced to only be as intelligent as the least capable among them.

That is not equity.

Equity means things have to change. Equity means reimagining how we do almost everything in this country, from home sales and rentals to hiring to policing to receiving medical care. It means changes to education, and to religion.

It means that we have to commit, because people won't wait forever. People can't wait forever. We are all losing every moment that the way is blocked for a black scientist, a Latinex mathematician, a queer sculptor, a theologian in a wheelchair...

We need one another to succeed and thrive.

The Age of Empire is over. We have to fix the machine, before it catches fire, and takes the whole house with it. No more fooling around.
So let's move. We've got work to do.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Tired, Fed-Up, and Occasionally Furious

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I spend a lot of time these days wondering whatever happened to common sense.

It seems to have taken a permanent vacation somewhere, no forwarding address provided, and it can no longer be reached even by shouting and prodding with a long stick.

Well, I have reached a momentous decision, fueled by three cups of Death Wish coffee and a newspaper article on whose "nuclear button" was bigger. In the absence of common sense, I will have to do.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, I spent a bunch of time hearing about American ingenuity, American by God BRAVERY, American can do spirit. I heard amazing stories of people who came to the US and did amazing things and we were by God proud, PROUD, that such smart and wonderful people had made the smart and wonderful decision to come to the USA and do their smart and wonderful stuff here where it would be appreciated.

Levi Strauss, Madeline Albright, Joseph Pulitzer, Irving Berlin. Albert Einstein.

We laughed at Charo, we applauded Rita Moreno, and Ricky Ricardo, Eddie Van Halen, and Joni Mitchell. We watched Ah-nold Schwarzenegger.

We wore Oscar de la Renta and Liz Claiborne.

We practically idolized the poor kid done good story; a guy or gal with moxie and pluck comes to America (sailing by the Statue of Liberty of course, accompanied by "Coming to America" played on the ferry speakers) and in his or her or their humble way rises to the top, never stopped by the fools who would laugh at their accent or interesting immigrant food choices.

And while our parents were inside reading those feel good stories, wearing Levis and Liz Claiborne, and laughing at the antics of Ricky and Lucy, us kids could play outside without those same parents getting arrested.

Kids didn't have play dates; they just played. You came home when the streetlights came on, or when your mother screamed up the road, or at 5:30 if you were lucky enough to have a watch. You rode your bike to do stuff because your parents would have died in hysterics if you asked them to drive you anywhere within 10 miles.

In school we had science and math, and the teachers, in general, wanted you to learn. How could you cure cancer, or fly a rocket ship to Mars, if you were an undereducated clod? It was your American DUTY to be smart and brave and hard-working, and to support anyone else who wanted the same. If college wasn't for you there was always tech school, and kids learned to fix cars, and plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. Some kids learned to be farmers, and some practical nurses, and some welders or fabricators or masons.

We sucked at a whole bunch of things, don't misunderstand me here. This is not nostalgia; we were miserable at LGBTQ* rights, we were horrible at racial justice. We didn't get that there were other religions besides Christianity. We struggled with mental illness and with poverty. We stank at handicapped accessibility. 

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But we wanted to be Number 1. And we seemed to get that this required both intelligence and a bit of guts. The right and the left disagreed on HOW to do this, but there did seem to be general agreement that we did not want to be a third world nation.

What the hell happened?

A large chunk of the far right have become a group of anti-intellectual, Bible-totin' troglodytes. They are afeared of college education, anyone who talks "furrign," "blacks," and "them queers.".

They want to go to church, without following anything their own book says. They hate strangers, the poor, immigrants, and anyone who is different in any way; they don't want to kill these groups, they will tell you, but they do want to legistate things so that they cannot live, which they seem to regard as a morally justifiable option.

They have become detached from reality.

If you are a part of this group and still reading, good. Let me give you some information. This is not fake news.

Coal is not coming back. Undocumented immigrants do a huge amount of labor in America, and without them entire industries will fail. We cannot afford to "build a wall" and most undocumented folks simply overstay a Visa anyway. Deporting undocumented parents of American children is bad and useless. Puerto Rico is part of the USA.

Vaccines are good for you- it's why most of us are alive. Knock off the dumb shit.

The earth is not flat. Race is a construct that has little to do with actual skin color and everything ot do with culture and socialization. Rap is here to stay. There are religions other than your own and they are equally valid. There is no war on Christianity- there is a war on Christian sharia law.

Global warming is real. LGBTQ people are all around you. The US is emphatically not a Christian nation, and English is not the national language.

People with handicaps have a right to be wherever they want to be and accessibility is expected.

The press has the right to speak the truth. People have the right to protest.

Most people are not bright enough or trained enough to be trusted with a gun. A local militia can no longer take on the might of an army.

Just because you aren't educated enough to understand a fact doesn't make it a lie.

Just because something is outside of your experience doesn't make it wrong.

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And the left? Oh my people, we are not any better.

A group of us on the far left have become precious, simpering snowflakes. We are triggered by any deviance from liberal orthodoxy and have carried social justice warrior stereotypes to the point of incoherence.

Some of us want to go to "church" without having any belief other than the right to believe in whatever we want (which we never actually bother to define). We don't want a religion. We want a country club with a spiritual theme and social justice outings.

We love everyone but Conservatives and conservative Christians, who we cast as villains without a second thought. We don't want to kill them, but we want to tell them how they have to live to meet our needs, with no concern for their own perspectives.

In the name of decolonization we want to deconstruct and destroy all that Empire building and colonization have created, without a plan for reconstruction and global societal reintegration for our newly re-created society. And without ever working across the political aisles, we expect power-holding Conservatives to AGREE to decenter the white and wealthy society which created them, and to see that their children need to be silent and take a backseat for a few generations.

We have become detached from reality.

If you are a part of this group and still reading, good. Let me also give you some information:

It is possible to push too far. I saw an online post where a cut and paste glitch in an online survey left "Mayonnaise" as a gender option. A meme was created because of it, and someone was furious that people were laughing about it. No one had mentioned trans people but they wildly defended trans rights until someone said incredulously "Are you defending mayonnaise [as a gender]?" Sometimes we need to take a breath.

It is not possible to make it possible for everyone to participate in everything- live with it. I do not want to live in Harrison Bergeron's world and neither do you.  

Cultural appropriation- where do I begin? It sounds simple until I ask one question- which culture are "we"?

Oh look- white Euro culture is centered again!  We are often reduced to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin as we try to work out if the group in question has enough of the subgroup in question to "legitimately" do the event. We ok events as "ours" and "coming from our heritage" which really mean "Of course all of us are white so this activity is okay".

It isn't ok to take someone else's sacred ritual or costume and foul them up and use them out of context AND if we cannot integrate the pieces of culture that immigrants bring to our country we will continue to demonize and otherize them forever. Take a deep breath and think before you start screaming; maybe, I dunno, eat a fucking taco.

Vaccines are good for you- it's why most of us are alive. Knock off the dumb shit.

Guns are not evil devil machines which will blow up in your hands and hunters are not demons.

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It is not always possible for everyone to afford to eat organic and pure. Turning your nose up when some one brings fried chicken and soda to the potluck is classist and downright assy. Get over yourselves.

Both sides, get over yourselves.

When I was learning to drive, I got furious because a huge truck took the right of way that belonged to me and my tiny Ford Escort. When I told my father about it and angrily said that I should have gone anyway and cut him off, Dad said quietly, "Well, that's one approach. But would you really rather be right and dead than let someone go and both of you make it to another day?"

I've never forgotten that.

So many times these days we are so committed to being right that we ignore the fact that we are cutting off any means of communication with the other side. We are dead in the water.

Ya know what?

Knock it off.

Both sides, knock it off.

Our country is slowly being dismantled by political swamp monsters. They are not Republican or Democrat or anything else- they are nationalistic right wing horrors that neither side actually agrees with.

Can we all just look up from the infighting for ten minutes, and note the folks with the chainsaws heading for all of us?


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Friday, June 1, 2018

Fitting into the Team: Privilege Beats Bootstraps Every Time

Dear White people, some of you seem to be uncomfortable with the word "privilege."

When I say someone has privilege, I'm NOT saying that they are sitting in a penthouse eating bonbons and paste while getting paid for doing approximately "no work whatsoever."

I'm not saying anything about their wealth or their work ethic at all.

Privilege is a way of measuring how close your experience falls to a centered "standard" human experience mold; this mold is a creation of the societal group locally, or regionally, or nationally in power. The systems of society are optimized for the experience centered as "standard", so your life gets easier, more privileged, the closer you are to fitting into the mold.

National or international privilege outweighs regional. Regional outweighs local.

We have molds for business people, molds for class structure, molds for taste and style, and entertainment, and sports, and leisure, and education. We have molds for dating and molds for religion. The biggest molds are for race, and gender.

And they all fit together, so that if you don't fit into a basic mold for something like education, it prevents you from fitting neatly into more complex molds for housing and jobs and recreation.

Intersectionality describes the places where someone doesn't fit into multiple perceived "standard" molds, and the resulting complex lack of fit has a cumulative effect in making their life more difficult.

The harsh truth is this, in America the base molds have always been strongly defined.

White collar
College educated
Currently able-bodied

I'm sure you can think of more.

But abstracts are sometimes challenging, so let me give you something a little more concrete.

I wasn't always a minister.

A long time ago I had a sexy and exciting job or two.

I was an Assistant Director of Nursing and Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (decent money) and a Healthcare Industry Consultant (lots more money).


How did I get such a sexy and exciting job or two? I'm glad you asked.


My family spoke Broadcast Standard English. In grade school, I never got picked on for being on reduced lunches, because I had lunch money. I had water to bathe in and my clothing never smelled or had holes. I wasn't sitting up nights scared because I was homeless, and I always had a pencil and a backpack and someone home to read with me. I looked white, thought I was Middle Eastern, and I had a white, popular name.

By 2nd grade everyone knew who the bad kids were. They were loud and tired and never had their homework done. They acted up on school trips and forgot to bring money for souvenirs so they took them away from other kids. Their parents worked weird shifts and never showed up for conferences or events.

I was already learning how to "fit into the team" while those kids were learning that the team had no seat for them.

I got older and went to high school, and wouldn't you know, I didn't have problems there either. When I walked into class no one had already formed a negative image of who I was.

There were no language barriers. My parents signed permission slips and I never had unpaid fees. I didn't have to work in the evenings so I had plenty of time to do my homework, with my parents help.

By 18 I knew what the team looked like, and how it dressed, and what it ate, and what it complained about. I fit into the team like a hand in a glove.

I am not saying that poor children or black children or Hispanic children don't know how to behave, or that their parents don't do things for them. Not at all. I'm not saying that my parents, or my school system did anything wrong when they struggled to give us the best.

I'm saying that I didn't have anything holding me back, and other children started out the race carrying 200 pound backpacks filled with lead. I'm saying those packs got heavier every year, and pulled the children down even as privileged children were handed wings. The only way I could have had it easier was to have been born male.

I went to college and financially things got so tough that tough would have been an improvement, but I still had a leg up.

I had already had three years of college credits before I even came through the door. All my basic classes, done, because my high school had the funds for a gifted and talented track. I graduated in four years, without a student loan.

And even though I was amazingly poor I was able to get a decent teaching job at a wealthy private ESL school less than a month after graduation because my French was good and my English was precise and Broadcast standard and because I knew how rich people dressed so I bought the right interview clothing and bag at St. Vincent de Paul.

I still fit in with the team. Even though at home I was eating Ramen, and shopping at Goodwill and Sav a Lot, I fit in with the team.

I was able to rent a nice house on my parent's street, for less than I would have paid for poorer housing elsewhere, because I didn't have student loans to repay. No one asked for references or a credit check, which I would have failed, because they knew my parents. With my good grades, and a good address, in a good town, I was able to get into a good nursing school.

As soon as I graduated I was able to get a good job as a nurse. And because my high school and my college had had some of the first home computers, I knew about computers when almost no one else did.

So I was able to get a better job, fast. In three years, I was an industry consultant.

I still fit in with the team, and not only that but each team recommended me to other teams. Each team let other teams know that I had been vetted, that I knew how the molds worked and that I fit into my place neatly.

All one unbroken sweep of privilege, one train-ride of success made possible by unearned opportunity after opportunity.

Don't get me wrong; I worked hard. But I was given a chance to work hard because over and over someone decided that I fit in, that I would be more of an asset than someone else.

Because right now in America that chance isn't about the job.

It's usually about the other stuff. It's about fitting in with the team, and the team is usually white. The team is usually male. The team centers whiteness and defends whiteness and honors whiteness.

It's about how you dress, and what you have to do to make your hair look the way you want it to. It's about how you speak, and the songs you sing to your kids, and what you eat, and even what you smell like. It's about what you do for fun.

It's about will you shut up and be one of them who acts just like one of us so that you fit into the team.

It's about not seeing that we all start the race together, but some of us are carrying ten pound weights, and some of us have chains around our wrists and manacled ankles, and some of us have a jet pack and a cheerleading squad.

Right now in America that chance to work hard is about a false perception that says that everyone starts life with an equal chance to succeed, and that only your own actions determine your fate.

And that false perception leaves out brilliant, amazing people who are currently relegated to be supporting cast members the minute they are born into the world outside the ridiculous molds.Those brilliant and amazing people get left at the starting gate the minute they enter the race.

So before you congratulate yourself on how you did it all alone, or on how you don't have any privilege, think again.

White people, privilege is all around, and if you haven't seen it you haven't looked at all because you are not pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. You are pulling yourself along a line created historically to carry you to success, and you are walking on the heads and shoulders of the black and brown and queer and handicapped and female bodies that came before you in order to do it.

It's time to stop looking for people who fit into the team, and start making the team expand to fit into the future.

Molds are for Jello.

Friday, March 30, 2018

There is A Love Holding Me: A Sermon for Good Friday

There is a love holding us. There is a love holding all that we love. And tonight, on this most solemn of days, we celebrate that Love which holds and redeems us all through the person of Jesus Christ.
As he hung on the cross on this night, Jesus spoke aloud seven times. Seven simple phrases, but they provide a powerful meditation for us today.
The first words he spoke, recorded in Luke 23:34; “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Even in agonal suffering, forgiveness. Forgiveness for the soldiers who mocked and scourged him. Forgiveness for the friends and followers who had denied or abandoned him. Forgiveness for the crowds who had turned on him, and the political and religious system that condemned him. Forgiveness for all of us who were yet to come. At the height of his physical suffering his love prevails and he asks his Father to Forgive, and by his death all are forgiven.
A few moments later, he spoke again. Luke 23:43 tells us the thief hanging beside him on the right said, in all humility, we are receiving what we deserve but “this man has done nothing wrong.” The thief was speaking for all of us- every perfectly imperfect human who ever has been or will be. Every one of us who falls short of perfection by our very nature as a human being. And Jesus’ response? "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Forgiveness. Love. Mercy. We may not be able to get there ourselves but there is one who has gone before us to make a way and through him all doors are open and all may be reconciled to God through that grace.
John 19:26-27 says that as Jesus hung dying he looked down, and he saw his mother, Mary beside the foot of the cross. She was with his beloved disciple John and others. When Jesus saw her, he spoke for the third time and he said "Woman, this is your son." Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother."
Take one another as family
Love one another. Care for one another. Human love is important; it is the reflection of the Love of God. It holds us all in a community of support. What we do for one another we do for the God of Love who redeems us all.
Both Matthew and Mark record the forth phrase Jesus spoke. Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
say that around 3 o’clock, in the ninth hour of suffering, and after three hours of darkness, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Our first inclination is to come to a screeching halt and to say why? Why would Jesus, the perfect follower of God’s will, fear that he had been forsaken? I mean, if God will forsake him, the son with whom he was well pleased, what about me? I can never be that perfect?
But you have to understand, those words are not Jesus’ words. They are from the first verse of Psalm 22, the prayer of a righteous sufferer, tormented by evil men. In his words, Jesus reminded listeners that he was fulfilling the 1,000-year-old prophecy of Psalm 22. And why?
Isaiah 53 answers that question.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
We couldn’t do this part. God let his Son experience the sense of distance from God so that he could become us, and we, live through him. We are welcomed eternally into grace because he was willing to feel, for a moment, a separation from God which he had never known before. And through that moment of separation, we earned God’s promise.
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
John 19:28 says that, nearing the end of his endurance, Jesus spoke a fifth time, and said simply “I thirst.” A human frailty. A moment that reminds us that loving ourselves matters too. Just as we hunger and thirst for the Word of God, our bodies require loving care. We cannot serve in the world, we cannot drink eternal life, if we refuse to drink water too. Sometimes the Love holding me reminds me to treat myself with care.
The sixth-time Jesus spoke is revealed in John 19:29-30. After he drank, he knew that he had fulfilled all that he had been sent to fulfill and he raised his head and said “It is finished.” John wrote in Greek and in Greek “it is finished” is one word- tetelestai (pronounced te-tel-es-sty).
This wasn’t sacred language- this is what people of the time said when a job was finished to the best of their ability. This is what they said when they had done a job well despite everything the world threw in their way. Tetelestai. It is finished. The Hebrew version of this is what the priest said when an offering was brought to the temple and found to be perfect. Tetelestai. It is finished. It couldn’t be any more perfect. It has been paid in full and the obligation is satisfied.
All debts are cancelled. The price has been paid. Everything promised during Jesus’ earthly life has been fulfilled, and nothing can or should be added to this perfect sacrifice
And there, at the end, he spoke for the seventh and last time.
In the words of Luke 23:46, “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."” This is a rephrasing of Psalm 31:5 - "Into thy hands I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God."
The bridge between humanity and God has been restored. We are reconciled to that Great Love, the space between us healed and made whole. Sin no longer had the power to condemn us and we have been redeemed for all time.
Today is Good Friday because it is the day that Love made us whole. It is the day that Love redeemed us from sin and death. The day that Love endured the ultimate pain in order to guarantee us redeeming grace. And we can never forget that there is such a Love holding us, that there is such a Love holding all that we Love.

-Rev. Amy Petrie Shaw

Monday, March 12, 2018

Jesus of Nazareth Didn’t Come to Make Jerusalem Great Again.

Jesus of Nazareth didn’t come to make Jerusalem great again. 

He didn’t promise to build a wall to keep his people safe, in fact, he told them over and over again that they were NOT going to be safe, that they were going to be UNSAFE, and that he knew they were going to be unsafe and he wasn't going to stop it. 

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 5:44, he said “Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you” and in the Book of Luke he spelled it out a little more:

Luke 6:27-36
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

Jesus of Nazareth didn't come to pass out hats. He didn't come to defend your right to kill someone who took what was yours.

He came to tell you that you even though the way was narrow, all souls could find a way, and it wasn't through the sword.

It wasn't through the power of your voice, or how clever you were in business.

It wasn't through the gold or the silver or the power you could command.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan wrote a book called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which explores the historical roots of Jesus as a revolutionary figure.

Aslan hates the concept of the modern idea of prosperity gospel-  the idea promoted by some televangelists who say that God wants you to be rich.

“If there’s one thing you can really zero in on when it comes to Jesus’ preachings — I mean the historical Jesus — was his absolute hatred of wealth,” Aslan said. “This wasn’t a man who was neutral about it. Jesus wasn’t about equality. His preaching wasn’t that the rich and the poor should meet in the middle. That’s not what he preached. What he preached was that those who have wealth, that wealth will be taken away. Those who are poor, they shall be the inheritors of the earth.”

Aslan described those ideas as being “as close to Marxism as it gets,” but added that Jesus took the message even further.

“Marxism says we should all be in the middle. Jesus is saying, ‘No, the ones in the top and the ones in the bottom should switch places,’” he said.

Jesus came to speak to the poor.

He came to speak to the tired and the cold and the sick, and the unwanted. He came to speak to those crawling on the ground or walking with two sticks. He wanted to talk to the guy who made beer, and the girl who thought she was ugly, and to the ones who were darker or lighter or of a different tribe from anyone else.

Because he came to be a revolutionary. He came to change the world.

Jesus came to fight for social justice before either of those words existed.

When he started his ministry he didn’t do it the easy way. He didn’t flatter the Romans, or make friends among the rich and wealthy Jews. He didn’t try to get a patron, or to gain enough political influence to smooth his way and let him make change from the inside.

You can’t dismantle the master’s house by borrowing the master’s tools.

No, instead he went to the poor. He gathered his followers from fishermen and laborers, IRS workers, and women from minority ethnic groups. 

This wasn’t a saintly group of wise men in sparkly clean white and blue robes. 

These were the guys from the corner or the street.

McDonalds workers, a garbage man, a girl from a check cashing place, a few guys from a fish market, a pawnbroker, a drag queen, a rap artist, a girl on food stamps. A mechanic, a cowboy, a stripper, a cook.

Honey Boo Boo’s Mom. Dontre Hamilton and the Black Lives Matter Activists.

And he came to tell them not how to live with the system, or how to succeed in the system, but how to destroy the system.

Do not accept things the way they are. Do not accept that getting rich is important. Do not accept that hurting people is acceptable.

Put down your weapons.

The system is broken, he said, and I am coming to bring a new way. What is important is taking care of one another.

Rome wasn’t afraid of Jesus because some said he was the son of a God. Messiahs and demigods were a dime a dozen during that particular period in history. 

Rome was afraid because this man came into a world where income inequality was obscene, where wealth meant power and safety and privilege, and he said to the poor in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let’s just not participate anymore.”

He said to them, “You’ve got it all wrong. Sit down here and let me feed you. Sit down and let me give you a drink and wash your feet.” And when they all could hear him, he said:

Blessed are those who need help, I came for you. Your struggle has taught you so much.
Blessed are those who are sad at the way the world is, blessed are those who have been hurt by the way it all is now, he said, because once you realize it can be different you are going to laugh again.

Blessed are the ones of you who are too gentle to survive the way this system works right now, because you are the people who are going to inherit it all.
Blessed are you who just want to do right, instead of somehow winning, blessed are you who know it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

Blessed are you who understand that taking an eye for an eye just means that we all go blind. Blessed are you who want the best for everyone, and you who want peace. Blessed are you who are willing to stand up and get picked on and still say I won’t perpetuate the system anymore. You get it, you really get it. This is what I came to say.

People are going to pick on you because you believe in the way I’ve shown you- If they’re picking on you good- it means you have it right. It means you aren’t doing it the old way.

If you try to take away privilege from the people in power, and give it to other people, you just perpetuate the same cycle and it all becomes worthless. Instead stand up and shine- let people see that you have chosen another way and that they can too- let them see me through you.

The people who lead you are following the wrong goals, and unless you do better than them, this new movement will fail.”

On Sunday of the last week of his life, Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey in peace. The crowds, those fast food workers and drug dealers and insurance salesmen, and pole dancers, and young families, and poor families- they laid palms in the dirt road so he wouldn’t get dusty and they scared Rome and the wealthy political establishment because they were listening to this young Rabbi who told them to do things differently.

By Wednesday, the Jewish High courts had accused him of blasphemy and had him arrested. Like Sandra Bland or Eric Gardner, he was stopped and arrested for something a wealthy politically connected person would have been fined and lectured for.

On Friday he was tortured, and crucified by Rome. He died because he represented a refusal to participate in a rigged system. He died because he told people there could be another way. He died because he refused to stop and politely ask permission to fight for change in a world where people were suffering day after day.

Maybe he was buried in a tomb, maybe not. Catholic scholar John Dominick Crossan finds it hard to believe that he alone was allowed burial, when most political criminals were burned or tossed aside after being left to hang for a time.

But he died.

And on the third day after his death, on the Sunday one week after his triumphant entry into the city, the movement he created was resurrected.

Jesus returned to life in another form, to lead his people once again, to lead them in a new way.

We rejoice on Easter today because of that resurrection. We rejoice because we are inheritors of that message.

The old systems of privilege and power serve only to destroy. Help to change the world, help to support this dream of help for those who need it the most. Christian or not, the resurrection brings hope that the dream is still alive.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

On Easter morning you can say that the light has come, the stone has been rolled away from the door of the tomb and a new way of being has been born into the world.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dear Gun Owner, I Don't Want You to Defend Me

Getty/Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles

It's time to be blunt.

I don't want you to defend me. Yes, you. You, the good guy with a gun.

I don't want you to defend me. I've tried not to say this, but you won't listen any other way, so let me spell it out in simple words.

You are just another thug.

You are just another angry man with a gun, getting ready to kill another human being.

Don't you understand?

I don't want to die. I don't want to be robbed or sexually assaulted or battered. But you are a large part of the reason that I have to be afraid of armed assault.

Without you, and your gun lobby, it wouldn't be so easy to get a gun that criminals can buy them on every street corner.

Without you, and your NRA, no one would be able to buy 10,000 rounds of ammunition with no fuss, no muss, and no waiting. Without you, no one would be able to buy an AR 15 which shoots 700 rounds per minute and can kill an entire classroom of children before the teacher has time to finish reading "One Fish, Two Fish."

Without you, my world would be a safer place.

You are not the strong silent hero. You are not my hero at all, even if you "save" my property, or my life.

You are just another murderous thug.

When the police arrive at my location, their responses will be slowed as they try to figure out who is the shooter and who is the "good guy with a gun."

If there are several of you "good guys," you all have to decide if any one of you is dangerous. Who knows, maybe you will shoot it out. Statistically, you will decide that it's the black guy who is dangerous anyway, even if he is yet another good guy with a gun and the actual shooter is the white guy climbing over the wall back there.

Maybe it's not a lurking criminal you are trying to save me from. Some of you have told me that you must be armed as a militia, to defend me against anything from my own government to imaginary hordes of ravening immigrants all wanting to invade Hartland, Wisconsin, or Blanchester, Ohio, or Middle of Nowhere, Texas.

Let me give you a tip.

You are not a soldier. This is not 1776 or even 1946.

The US military doesn't need you to help them. The US military doesn't want you to help them. You are the tactical advantage equivalent of having Paul Blart, mall cop, on your side.

And fighting the US military? Standing up against them in revolt?

With their GPS guidance and drones, you wouldn't even see the US Military coming. You have an AR 15 and you've shot it a time or even twenty. They have Apache helicopters, tanks, and missile launchers. You work as an accountant. They live this shit.

The only reason tiny militias win anything, right now, is that the US Government doesn't want to murder their own citizens, if they can help it, mainly because its bad for publicity. In an open rebellion situation, you, my confused friend, are going to be a vaguely humanoid grease spot, possibly accompanied by a flattened former AR 15.

And the immigrants? Actually, I like most of them better than I like you.

They aren't waving guns in my vicinity, and most of them just want a job.

Americans are dying in classrooms and in movie theaters. At festivals, and at malls, in restaurants, and churches, and in the streets.

They are dying because of you.

They are dying because of your guns and your irresponsible ownership.

And I don't want you in my country anymore.

Fight for responsible gun ownership, today. Fight for licensing and registration. Fight to get assault rifles back off the streets. Fight for waiting periods and mental health checks.

Change the world, before there are too many more little faces on little crosses propped up outside of big and little schools.

As Jason Shelton writes, "We want our children back, there are too many gone too soon."

-Rev. Amy