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TAKING A KNEE

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I admit I’m something of a political animal. I’m also ordained clergy in the Episcopal Church. Sometimes this gets dicey.

I would never advocate for or against a candidate from the pulpit.

I would never intentionally say anything that would hurt someone in the congregation.

However, I am also called to preach the Gospel and to follow Jesus, or “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” As are we all. We may need to take a knee, as in prayer, to figure this out.

Jesus, it seems, could be ruthless against the ruling class of his own Jewish faith: The Pharisees and the Sadducees. He called them hypocrites. He criticized their greed, their self-indulgence, their failure to have mercy and be just to the poor. He called them out for lying.

One of the Biblical statements used to justify “separation of church and state” is in this coming Sunday’s Gospel: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

When it comes to church and state, Jesus tells us that everything is given us by God, and under the purview of God. Even Caesar, even government.

The church has a history of political advocacy: against slavery, for and against war (think World War II, Vietnam), against suppression of some people being denied full membership in the body of Christ by their sexual orientation. In fact, the church has led the way on some of these issues.

Today even professional football has been politicized to some degree. “Taking a knee” is criticized as being un-patriotic. Yet this is hardly a new method of protesting injustices against black people – which is what the action really is, rather than a blatant anti-US statement. I recently ran across the picture above from 1962. Interesting, isn’t it?

What is the church to do? Remain silent on the issues of the day? Walk some middle ground between saying something yet not offending anyone? Or doing what Jesus did? Is the church to be a spiritual refuge from the world – or something else? And as part of the church, what are you to do?

I have really loved researching the sermon for Sunday. I found out some fascinating things about money that have challenged me, inspired me, and scared me. On Sunday I will talk about them.

I’m still praying about the political thing…. I hope you are, too.

See you in church.

Barbara

Above: future congressman John Lewis (left) and others demonstrate at the swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois, which did not allow blacks. 1962.

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WHEN YOU CANNOT FORGIVE

Forgiveness is for grown-ups. Those who are mature enough, evolved enough, generous enough, to let go of something that was done to them or to the world.

There are plenty of people I have trouble forgiving: those who deny that humans are responsible for the vast majority of climate change, even though the science is conclusive. Those who abuse animals for sport. Those who walk away instead of staying in the game. My father….

The Gospel for this Sunday presents us with the topic of forgiveness. It is not as simple as “just do it.” Far from it…

By way of background, please look at this short video. It is from the movie “Smoke Signals,” the first film made by and about Native Americans. It is about two Native boys – and then men—who have a friendship and go together to retrieve the ashes of one of their fathers. It will pierce your soul if you let it.

And it’s not just about fathers….

See you in church.

Barbara

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DO I LOOK ALL RIGHT?

 

“She really lights up a room.”

Said no one ever, about me.

“Serious.”
“Gets the job done.”
“Outspoken.”
“Tall.”
Maybe “Funny…”

Those were more likely.

Like many of you, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I appear to other people. The impression I make. My appearance. From the agonizing adolescence years to the grandmother years, there have always been cultural standards that I’m pretty sure I haven’t met. At least in my own estimation.

When I was teaching at The Blake School, I remember how much physical appearance affected student perceptions when watching a movie from an earlier era:

“Geez, look at that hair!”
“Could his tie be WIDER? That is hilarious.”
“That dress! Could there be MORE ruffles on that thing?”

When I told them that years from now teenagers would be laughing hysterically at THEIR hair and clothes, they refused to believe it. Because their look was definitive. Forever.

Right.

I have been wrestling with Moses this week, and how he looked to his followers coming down from the mountain after receiving the Ten Commandments. In a lot of Renaissance art, he is depicted as having horns but this appears to be a possible mistranslation by St. Jerome and the word in question actually means “shining.”

Talk about being misunderstood…

The theologian Richard Rohr gives this interpretation of the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3): “We are called to let go our our self-image, our status symbols our false self. It will die anyway. So don’t make anything absolute when it is only relative.”

The right physical appearance seems to be an absolute in our culture. What are the absolutes in your own life that are really only relative? That you have elevated to an almost godly status?

And how’s that working for you?

See you in church. (I’ll be wearing white.)

Barbara

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…. So says Archie Bunker, as he sneaks into church and baptizes his grandson in secret because his father is a “dopey atheist”. On the pioneering television sitcom “All in the Family,” Archie’s theology is refreshingly direct, while politically incorrect, at least by today’s standards.

How comfortable would you be labeling yourself publicly as a Christian? Would you prefer to call yourself a seeker? An Episcopalian? A, member of St John’s? Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the whole idea because “it’s complicated.”

Much about our faith IS complicated, including Scriptural passages that make us cringe. One that is cringe-worthy for me appears this Sunday, “The Great Commission,” calling the disciples to go forth “to all nations” and baptize everyone in the name of the Trinity.

Politically incorrect? Oh yes. Outrageous? Probably. Nonetheless, the rallying cry for countless number of “missionaries” over the years and for many Evangelicals today.

As husband Desi says to his wife on another sitcom from the era (“I Love Lucy”), “Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”

More on Sunday….

See you in church. And check out Joey’s Baptism

Barbara

 

 

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As the heady perfume filters into my yard from the lilac hedge next door, I am intoxicated with spring. The warmer weather (although not yet muggy), the happy (although expensive) trips to the garden store, the birdsong, the tulips flaunting their flowerhood… my favorite season by far.
However, the fatigue that results from the government’s antics the past few weeks in particular can temper the perkiest spring-like attitudes. The lying, the inconsistencies, the disregard of basic human rights, the narcissism, are all deeply troubling to many of us, regardless of political affiliation.
St Paulite F. Scott Fitzgerald told us, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
I’m floundering on the balance thing.
And I’m scared. (I have a pre-existing condition, for goodness sake!)
However, when you are a preacher by vocation, you’re not allowed to wallow much. The lectionary readings come into your life, often with stunning relevance, and you’ve got to put away the attitude and get to work.
Consider some of the phrases in this week’s reading:

“But they covered their ears and with a loud should all rushed together against him…” (Acts)
“Do not let your heart be troubled…” John
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John

We have a vivid description an angry mob, a tender reminder to calm down; and one of the most divisive verses in all of Christian scripture! AND it’s Mother’ Day, always a minefield in church because of the many intense and very personal feelings about what is involved. Of course the original Mother’s Day proclamation in 1858 was a way for women to protest war. Then Hallmark intervened, the political and moral statements disappeared, and the sentiment of the day changed completely.
Returning to the lilacs, I love this from the writer Patricia Hampl. She notes that lilacs were first brought to America by 19th century Czech immigrants and that the lilacs now seen next to a farmhouse on the prairie in Minnesota or Iowa may have been there longer than any of us have been alive: “With all that immigrants had to leave behind, they valued these bushes enough to make room for a cutting or two among their baggage and bundles … They’re immigrant flowers brought here by people who loved their beauty. They survived the journey and they thrived.” (Spillville).

And reading that, my heart is less troubled.
See you in church.

Barbara

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RELIGION IS NOT A MOOD

 

It can be difficult to do Lent on command, just because the calendar dictates it, especially if you are in a good place in your life. This is true of Holy Week as well, where we are called to summon up all of the strong emotions it evokes: betrayal, sorrow, outrage and compassion for great suffering.

The past few months have seen an epidemic of sorrow in my own life as I have sat with two good friends, each having lost a dear sister, many deaths in the St. John’s congregation including a splendid woman who lost her life unexpectedly at a young 63, a friend whose healthy and very fit husband has been diagnosed with stage four cancer, and what I would describe as the the ongoing toxicity from our nation’s capital. Tuesday will be the funeral for my wonderful adopted father, Jack, who brightened my life every time I saw him and treated me as daughter in countless ways.

T.S. Elliot was right when he wrote….

“APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow….”

And yet sadness – like the tomb of Jesus or the burial cave of Lazarus – cannot cut off life. Spring breaks in (this year early!) flaunting forsythia, early pansies, warm air and ridiculous hopefulness. And of course, the “firsts”… the first lunch eaten outside, the first plant brought home from the garden store, the first walk without a coat… And the promise of Easter.

In two days is the last Sunday of Lent and the lessons are a preview of Easter. They are about rebirth and resurrection, and I will suggest also about friendship and laughter. “I am the resurrection AND THE LIFE,” says Jesus. Life in all of its fullness now, not just later.

Religion is not a mood that we wait to strike us so we can feel holy or be in the right frame of mind for the season, but a practice of behaviors (prayer, sacraments, church, Scripture) that can help us be receptive to God when God shows up. Which is pretty often….

So I’ll see you in church.
Barbara

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The Ad

Come Sunday and find out what this ad has to do with your spiritual life!

See you in church….. Barbara  ( Be sure to press “show images” to see the ad

 

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