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I am writing this on Friday, June 26, 2015 – the day the Supreme Court legitimized gay marriage throughout the United States. Not surprisingly, Facebook and the blogosphere have been abuzz.
People are equating the rainbow flag with the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (the flag wrongly IDed as the confederate flag).
I’ve heard people talk about the end of marriage.
And of course many people are quoting the Bible. Strangely enough, they’re ignoring the verse of the day from Bible Gateway — “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18 NIV
I’d love to say that those supporting gay marriage are behaving better, but they are not. My favorite was someone who posted against white Christians. Excuse me? “Well, I didn’t mean you.”
In the coming weeks, there will be many heated discussions. Can I ask a big favor from my Christian brothers and sisters? Before you speak up – give yourself a wee little time out. Honestly, the time out chair is a marvelous thing. It gives you time to cool off and contemplate what you might do differently.
My suggestions? Halt the threats that you have no intention of carrying out. Do you really plan to move to Canada? Divorce? If not . . . hush. Halt the name calling and the declarations on who is and is not going to hell. Remember, God alone knows who is called and who is not. We do not get to vote.
My own take? I’m all for equal rights. I have a serious issue with using the Bible to beat people down whether the beating is over race, gender or love interest. Whether or not you agree with me, I ask that you be civil. Be kind. Be loving. In this, no matter what your opinion, you can shine His Light on the world.
You gotta say this about Pope Francis: He gets people talking. His latest encyclical, Laudato si’ (“Praise Be to You”) has garnered both raves and rants for its take on the environment and the necessity of a human response to its care. Of course it’s impossible to make everyone happy, even if you are the Pope. Two leading disparagements of the encyclical can be summed up thusly: climate change denial and fear of socialism.
Whatever you feel about climate change, one cannot deny that:
- We only have one world.
- We must do everything in our power to conserve and care for it.
These are non-negotiable. It is time to move past arguments over science and accept responsibility for human impact on the earth and her resources. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?
There used to be a kids’ show wherein one of the characters had a show called “Yay Me!” “Yay Me” could be the human rallying cry — we sure do like to feel good about ourselves. Laudato si’ calls for introspection and recognition of sin, for that is what Pope Francis calls our mistreatment of the Earth — sin. And that is the challenge of the encyclical: No one wants to be called a sinner. It is far easier to argue over science or call Francis’ championing of the poor and criticism of first-world economics that most ill-regarded of words, socialism. Guess what? These arguments do not absolve anyone.
We do have a responsibility to good stewardship of the Earth. We do need to care for the poor and dismantle structures that benefit the few while marginalizing the many. Pope Francis isn’t the first person to say so, either. Jesus said it. St. Francis of Assisi said it. Lots of people of God have said these things over centuries of time. Inconvenient as these truths are, whatever your political leanings, they are, indeed, truths.
Human beings are not masters of the Earth. Yes, God gave the Earth to us as a gift. But God also gave us God’s son to show us what being a leader means. It’s not about exploitation; it’s about washing feet. Our mission and responsibility is to care for the Earth and her resources from a place of humility and service, not power and arrogance. Only by making ourselves servants, tenders of God’s garden, can we hope to preserve our planet for future generations.
Laudato si’ is all about humility and service. It is a timely and important reminder of God’s desires for us and for the world God made. Instead of arguing over its finer points, we ought to listen to it and heed it.
On the day before, he’d felt that his life wasn’t going the way he’d hoped. He might have thought of getting his GED or enrolling in trade school.
On the day before, he was just another kid with an ill-advised haircut. Most of his free time was spent surfing the net, looking for something he couldn’t quite name.
In another version of this day, he might have found a supportive mentor. A teacher from his youth who suggested a project to help the community, or a friend who offered him a job.
But on this day, his life took a terribly wrong turn. Dylann Roof brought a gun into a church and killed nine cherished children of God at a prayer meeting. The whole world cried out in pain upon hearing of this senseless tragedy.
What happened next was astounding. On the very next day, victims’ family members addressed him directly and said they’d forgiven him and were praying for him.
Now he’s entered into the public consciousness as a perpetrator instead of a person. It’s possible that with education and encouragement, he might have gone down a different path, using his own sense of disenfranchisement to help others in similar situations.
If only he had felt that his life had meaning on the day before. If only he’d known that no one else stands in the way of the life he’d hoped to achieve. If only he’d known that God’s grace extends into the hardest of hearts on the darkest of days.
Now, on this day, may we take comfort in the words of this wise sage, and come together to heal as a nation.
“We ask questions, Lord, we ask why… But even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death….we can look through the windows of our faith and see hope and light, and we can hear your voice Lord, saying, I’m with you.”
Rev. John H. Gillison, Emanuel AME Church
We were at the pool when the news came out about the Charleston shootings. I don’t bring a smart phone, a tablet or anything with a battery to the pool. It’s a tough call on whether the water or the pool deck has destroyed the larger number of devices. Because of this, social media was awash in opinions by the time I saw anything at all.
Ironically, my son missed two days of swim practice at a Pen or Pencil, a leadership in race symposium put on for high school students by the National Parks service. I showed him the various posts and asked for his reflections based on what he had learned.
Dialogue. Actually listen and talk, but mostly listen. You have to hear what the other person is saying to respond with any meaning.
Ask Questions. A lot of the dialogue came about as the students would give their opinion and then one or more of the leaders would ask a question, challenging both the originally speaker and the other students to think about what various statements mean. Protest don’t riot begs the question when does a protest become a riot?
Everyone deserves a voice. You know how it goes with most discussions. One or two people are heard but they don’t let anyone else talk. At Pen or Pencil, all of the students had a say.
Be constructive. If you don’t like the way the world is, take your anger and channel it into something that will allow you to be heard and will make a difference.
All in all, he came out of the experience feeling a lot better about our community and his place in it. He had been heard. He had heard the voices of others and knew that in truth they wanted the same things. They all wanted the opportunity to improve their community and make something of themselves while helping others to do the same thing.
What does this have to do with being a Christian? Blessed are the peacemakers, my friends. It is time for us to quit talking about how picked on Christians are in this country and go out there and make some peace through thoughtful dialogue.
You stand in good company
with Addie and Cynthia,
Carol and Carole;
with Thomas á Beckett,
centuries away from Birmingham
and from your own hometown.
You saw death in the house of God
and you yielded, hands open.
Did you forgive him, even in that
moment? The shock of the bullet?
The letting of blood?
I believe you did.
The trip to Heaven
could not have been quicker,
from the sight of Christ’s cross
to the sight of His flesh
in the blink of a moment,
faster yet than bullets leave barrels.
Pray for us, new saints
to the pantheon of those
struck down by evil
in a place of God.
The God of the lowly, those shoved to the margins,
hears you most keenly.
No matter how great your sadness or how deep your sorrow, there’s one person to whom you can always turn: Mary. Oh, I know. I can hear you: “You Catholics and your Mary…it’s Mary this and Mary that! Why, it’s practically heretical.” Marian devotion may be peculiarly Catholic, but there’s nothing peculiar in recognizing Mary as a particularly appealing and deeply understanding role model.
First of all, she knows heartbreak better than a country music ballad. The terror of losing a child in a big city? Been there. The profound grief of watching your own flesh and blood, your beloved son, be tortured and murdered? Done that. I don’t mean to sound blasé. Mary knows the darkest and most painful parts of motherhood like no one else. I can’t think of a better resource for parents or those who mourn. However heavy your heart, her heart knows your sorrow. No one who ever lived has experienced more vividly than Mary the destruction of innocent life.
But Mary is more than just a grief counselor. She is a model of acceptance. Some find Mary’s humility and serenity mildly annoying or even mealy-mouthed. (I know; I’ve been guilty of it myself.) “Thy will be done.” Honestly, you have no more passion than that for captaining the ship of your life? But Mary’s “yes” turns out to be stronger than any “no” could ever be. She doesn’t just accept. She puts herself into God’s hands totally. That takes guts. Anyone who’s ever tripped over the words “thy will be done” in The Lord’s Prayer knows what I mean.
What’s more, acceptance can be a powerful thing. Like poor old Hamlet, we can try to bend the world to our own ends, only to find that “the rest is silence.” Only in acceptance can we find peace. Only in acceptance can we find the ability to go on after life’s greatest trials.
Though Mary’s role in the New Testament is underwritten at best, the fact is that she was present. Present for Jesus’ life and ministry, present for his death, present for the Pentecost and subsequent spread of Christianity. She might not have said much (that we know of), but she was there as witness and active participant. She went where the work took her — the work of God, that is — whether that was far from home (Egypt) or in her own neighborhood. We would do well to do as Mary did.
So think of Mary as a resource, in pain as well as in joy. (No one has ever described the keeping of happy memories better than in that little sentence: “She kept all of these things in her heart.”) Whatever you’re going through, Mary understands. Let her stand with you.
Suddenly in the middle of the kitchen, there was a speedbump. I hadn’t put it there, mind you; it was in the shape of a perfectly life-like feline, sitting serenely as I prepared my coffee. It was my cat, looking at me, waiting for some scrap of sustenance in a dog-eat-dog world!
I hadn’t expected KitKat to be there, and was really startled.
“Oh!” I said. KitKat’s mouth formed an “O” as well.
My eyes got wide. KitKat’s eyes opened to maximum capacity. Like two big moon pies.
I pulled my head back in reflex. KitKat’s ears went all flat. Like Napoleon’s hat.
Then it occurred to me. He was reacting to my energy.
“Oh, it’s only you,” I said, nodding reassuringly, and went back to preparing my coffee. KitKat went back to his normal, Trying to Give a Heck facial setting, and moseyed over to his bowl to scout the offerings. Later, he’d stretch across the couch by the window, scoping out upstart squirrels and tracking the flight patterns of rogue birds. You know, his day job.
So much of life is about energy, isn’t it?
Last month, I tried to put a bell on KitKat so I wouldn’t be surprised by his sudden cameo appearances, but the ringing drove him crazy. Not just his ears, but his whole energy flattened. He ran around the house low to the ground, tail tucked, trying to escape the infernal noise.
You can see – and feel – energy interactions everywhere you go.
Once at a drug store, the pharmacist had apparently gotten into a heated argument with a customer. My son and I were joking around as we walked down the aisle, into this moment of friction. The customer turned his head abruptly and glared, thinking that we were laughing at him. He realized that we were just talking to each other and turned back to shoot daggers with his eyes at the pharmacist.
Energy is also malleable. At times, even fluid.
Last week, I got a package in the mail. KitKat sat nearby, on his default setting: bored/nothing-to-see-here-keep-it-moving. I tossed the box aside and in a flash, KitKat had climbed in and curled up contentedly, forming a furry ball. This is the life! his energy said, as he settled in, purring, for a nice afternoon nap. To some, it might seem like a standard-issue box. But if you read the energy meter right, you’ll see it’s really a cat-condo filled with creature comforts. Not bad for a former street-cat!
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Mathew 13:31-32)
As always happens when we discuss something like this, we get into what it means. Aunt Nettie, my great aunt, taught me that the mustard seed represented faith. In Nettie’s world, even a faith as small as this smallest seed could grow and provide shelter for those in need.
Of course her interpretation wasn’t the only one, but one of the others really rocked me back. In this view, the birds were vultures, birds of evil, perching in and around the church. They represented the evil that has worked its way into the church.
(chirp, chirp, chirp.)
For those of you who don’t know that sound, it is a cricket. You certainly could have heard it in our classroom right that minute.
“Don’t you think the world is more evil now than ever before?”
Um, no. But why do I feel like a goose for admitting that? We may not have achieved true equality, there is violence in the world and children go to bed hungry at night. There is bad but there is also good. There are people using their faith to build up the places that shelter, feed and otherwise assist those in need.
Those are the people that Nettie taught me to look for in any given situation – the helpers and those doing good. Once I find them, I can join them and work to add just a bit more to the shelter of that Faith tree.