Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Day 2015

The Reign of God is like a misty, grey Easter morning on which, if you turn your head the right direction, you find there is color that you've been overlooking.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Things To Do While Waiting For the Resurrection (Holy Saturday 2015]

Have doubts. Think about all the ways this is a huge disappointment, how it doesn't "work" or "play out" the way you expect or hope or think it should.

Make breakfast.

Remember the times you tried to leave all this mythology and superstition behind.

Water the plants.

Try to remember why you returned. Try to make sense of all the ways this has lead to more disappointment and hurt.

Pet the cat. Often. Repeat.

Forget it's a day of sadness and somber reflection and laugh at something inappropriate.

Notice the sink of dishes. Note there's time in the day to get to that later. 

Forget that you want to be pious and reverent and holy.

Notice how bad your toenails look and be embarrassed about letting someone get a close look at them last Thursday.

Feel remorse for acting pious, reverent, and holy.

Play another game or 10 of spider solitaire.

Wonder how you'd be spending the weekend if you'd grown up in a Muslim family.

Eat peanut butter straight from the jar.

Try to put yourself in the place of people who have left the faith, who are not thinking about Jesus today or hardly ever, who seem to live fully functioning lives without religious services of any sort.

Notice that picture in your Facebook feed that causes you to pause and long and lust and shrug it off as you scroll on.

Reason! Science! All lack of spiritual feeling! Contemplate these and all other arguments against the faith to which you seem inextricably tied. 

Be disappointed when you scroll back up and click on the link with the hot photo.

Realize that you're going to get up way early tomorrow for a service that you'd rather was happening tonight, but this is the community you've joined and so you're going to go with that flow.

Shower.

Realize that Jesus is one of the few things for which you will get up so early. (Other things have been surgeries and film shoots. Compare and contrast.)

Decide that after the shower you will go buy a dress shirt that fits so you can dress up for the Resurrected Lord.

Prepare to present yourself, full of doubt and nonsense and lust and cat hair, to the community you call the Body of the Resurrected Lord. Prepare to sing songs. Prepare to watch someone get splashed with water and wonder if they know what they're getting into.

Say a word of thanks.

Among other things. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

All the Ways I Kill You [Good Friday 2015]

I hesitate to share this. I don't know how I feel it about it myself. I'm always saying we need to tell new stories, ones that don't use violence and this uses violence. It doesn't glorify it, by any means, but glory is in the eye of the beholder.

In any case, I'm sharing it. It's something I wrote a couple of years ago and performed at a Fieldworks Showcase here in Houston. The performance involved me "singing" these lyrics, although the melody is more like a marching cadence.

But here's how I'd like to present these words, if I did again outside this blog.

I would make a music video. All the images would be of homeless people, sweatshop workers, lynchings, the imprisoned, and other scenes of oppression.

The obvious reading is that the "you" is Jesus---and I'm posting this on Good Friday, so, yeah---but I was also thinking of all the people who "die for my sins." The people who make my cheap clothes, make my cheap food, who make my comfortable life by being uncomfortable, even unto death.

So, read these words and picture Jesus if you like, and then think also of who, if we do it unto them, we do it unto Jesus.



I wish I were a two year old
 
stomping feet and tantrum cry
turning heads in the cereal aisle
 
make a mess to watch you clean
all the while saying you're so mean

shouting MINE shouting NO
shouting I DON'T WANT TO GO

a two year old can shriek and pout
I wouldn't care, I couldn't count
 
all the ways I kill you
all the ways you die for me

I wish that I liked beer

adult beverage, adult me
a good excuse do as I please!

self indulgent selfish punk
you can bet I'm a mean ol' drunk

slurring fuck, slurring you
slurring think you're gonna do?

if I were a drinking man
I could bear, I could stand

all the ways I kill you
all the ways you die for me

I wish that I liked guns

cut this metaphoric crap
concretize the murder rap

pull the trigger, hear the pop
make your mama holler stop!

crying kill! crying die!
crying hey hey crucify!

If I were the shooting type . . .

here's the body, here's the grave
there's nothing left here to be saved!

All the ways I kill you
all the ways you die for me

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Prayers of the People [Maundy Thursday 2015]

The congregation to which I belong, St Stephen's Episcopal, and Grace Lutheran Church, a few blocks away here in Houston, have started a tradition of sharing Maundy Thursday services, in particular because Grace Lutheran is used on Thursday evenings each week for Montrose Grace Place, a service to homeless youth. So while Grace's facilities are occupied, St Stephen's plays host to this service. I particularly like it since my heart is still pretty Lutheran (don't tell the priests at St Stephen's, which is really to say don't remind them because they know) and this brings together my two families of faith.

The planning committee for this service asked me to write the Prayers of the People for this service. I was happy to comply. Lacking anything else to say this evening, I offer those prayers to the internet. At least one is fairly specific to our congregations, but I invite you to pray the petitions you can with us.

(For those who were at the service, these are the prayers as I sent them to the churches. There may have been editing/corrections. I haven't done a line by line comparison, in case anyone notices any differences.)

Prayers of the People
Maundy Thursday, 2015

CLERGY: Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs, saying we hear your commandment to love one another as you have loved us.

We come before you this night, O God, to remember and re-enact the final hours of your Incarnation, Jesus, Emanuel. May the whole church, all over the world, be stirred afresh by his example, serving with a sacrificial heart. Let all your many churches use their differing gifts to complement one another and live in holy friendship. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

Great God of justice and mercy, our world is full of instant news and sudden startling images. We pray for your Spirit to move among all who hold authority, from nations' elected officials to terrorist cell leaders, that all people might live in peace. Let your servant church ever be a witness to the powerful, loving our enemies and healing those broken by conflict. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

Your abundance, O God, is everywhere around us and yet there remain people hungry and in need of life's essentials. Strengthen our ministries to the homeless and poor, even as we act as advocates on their behalf to the wealthy and powerful. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

We lay before you our concerns as two congregations of your Church, Grace Lutheran and St Stephen's Episcopal, friends in Christ and co-workers under your Reign. We are both facing changes in our parish lives, some hard, some exciting, all moments for new creation. Comfort our anxieties, give us vision, show us how to love those you have entrusted to us. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

Many of us are hurting in body, mind or spirit. We pray for your healing touch for all who suffer in any way. Among us, we pray for _____________, also for these we name silently and aloud. [pause] Help us be your instruments of restoration to health and wholeness. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

We remember those who have died, friends and family, and all the saints who have borne witness through the ages until we find ourselves in this moment before you. May we be faithful to you and one another into our final breaths. We hear your commandment to love one another

as you have loved us.

CLERGY Into your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Christ the Mother Hen (Wednesday of Holy Week 2015)

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! [Matthew 23:37]

Guard me as the apple of the eye;
   hide me in the shadow of your wings [Psalm 17:8]

 On this night before the night Jesus was betrayed, I'm thinking of these verses and how often I find urban people don't quite understand the image of God as mother hen. I've heard sermons talk about how Jesus was comparing himself to this ridiculous creature as some form of humility. 

Farm people know differently. 

As a kid on the farm, there was this time I got too close to a banty hen and her brood of chicks. She fiercely chased me a good 25 yards, both of us running as fast as we could, before she decided I was far enough from her chicks. 

And if a chicken hawk or other predator would come into view, she would puff up and call the chicks to her and guard them with her own body. They'd run under her and disappear, safe (so long as the predator wasn't big enough to carry off the hen herself!). 

To me, the image of Jesus wanting to call Jerusalem under his wings is a desire to play protector, to manifest his fierce love for Jerusalem. 

The Psalm line I've sung hundreds of times in a compline service. It's a gentler image, I suppose, less fierce than Jesus's frustration with Jerusalem. Yet, the protection is there, the safety. 

As that farm boy who got chased by a banty hen, I nonetheless wished I could shrink down to chick size and disappear into the puffed up feathers of that mama bird. I imagined it to be warm, that sleepy kind of cozy, safe to rest in the darkness there. 

I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with the Wednesday of Holy Week. Perhaps you do. 

It's just been on my mind all day.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Remembrance and Retreat (Tuesday of Holy Week 2015)

I disrobe. I'm underground, in flickering light. It's a few steps down into a pool of water. I'm going to drown. This priest will help.

Underwater, held there, I panic. I'm dying while the priest's muffled voice speaks in trinity.

Then I'm raised up, gasping, alive. I step up, out of the pool. There is chanting. A white linen garment enfolds my body.

Everything changes, dissolves into a garden. It is night. There is my Lord, arrested. A crowd surrounds him, weapons in hand.

Some turn to me. They know I am with him. They grab me, I twist away, leaving them with hands full of white linen. I run.

Everyday, I remember my promises. Everyday, I run away naked as the day I drowned.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pursued (Monday of Holy Week 2015)

"What the priests and scribes didn't know---and we much too often forget---is that salvation doesn't come to the one doing the saving, not in the instant. Salvation comes after the one saving, indeed, the one with power to save, is spent, poured out, emptied."

I wrote that in the previous blog entry. I have said that my blog posts are my least edited writing. I pretty much type into Blogger, check for spelling and such (not carefully, which may be obvious), and click "publish." 

The above was convoluted enough to confuse a friend. She focused on the phrase "Salvation comes after the one saving" and asked if I meant salvation pursues the one who is saving. We talked about it and I clarified it was a sequence thing, not a pursuit thing, and on we went to talk about moths or something. 

But I've been thinking about being pursued by salvation all day. 

I rather like the image, in it's abstract way. 

There is the strain of thought in some theological circles that God is pursuing us, that God is not giving up on us and is seeking us out, no matter how "lost" (however we might mean that word) we might be.

I like that image and to anthropomorphize or at least characterize "salvation" as something that has independent agency to pursue us somehow hits a theologically geeky pleasure point in my brain. 

Salvation is one of those slippery concepts. It often refers to eternal destinations in popular discourse. I've not found that a sustaining belief. I also have pretty well given up on any form of substitutionary atonement, which will be preached all over the place this coming week. I always feel like talking about salvation leads to those two ideas. 

So in the context of this week, I'm thinking of Jesus as the embodiment of salvation, pursuing us but even more wanting to protect us from the powers of this world. He knows he's unpopular in Jerusalem, he knows he's going to meet with trouble, but for love of us, he cannot help but speak out against the kingdoms of this world and try to give a vision of the Reign of God that is already among us if we'll just turn around and take notice.

The cross is less about Jesus dying for our sins, then, and a whole lot about Jesus dying because we can't give up our power or our pursuit of power. We can't empty ourselves of the delusions of grandeur that we maintain about ourselves. Still Jesus wants us to catch that vision of love, compassion, self-sacrifice. He's willing to pursue us with this saving vision that he lets nothing get in his way, not even death.


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Recommended listening for tonight: