The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A teeny, tiny little sermon



**NOTE**

So... It's the first Sunday after Christmas - a.k.a. (along with the Second Sunday of Easter) The-Day-for-the-One-on-the-Lowest-Rung-of-the-Ladder-to-Preach-Sunday!

At our 9:15 and 11:15 services we had Lessons and Carols - so no sermon - but a sermon was still expected for the 8:00 service.

JON TO THE RESCUE!!!

So it's just a little quick one... The text has already been preached three times in the last week, so I didn't figure I needed to kill myself on it. Besides, I'll be preaching a full sermon next week, so I'll save most of my creative energy for that one!

Enjoy!

*****

December 28, 2008
Christmas 1B
John 1:1-18

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

A few years ago Joan Osbourne had a song on the radio that was very popular that dared to ask, “What if God was one of us?” I remember that, at the time, it created quite a stir in the circles of the religious right. How dare she take the holy and give it such a vulgar spin? God is not “one of us”. God is set apart from the huddled masses and better. God rises above. Right?

But it’s worth asking. What if God was one of us? How would our lives be different? What if, every time we passed a homeless person on the street without giving a second glance, what if, then, we had to look into God’s eyes? Would we still be able to walk by without a second thought?

What if, as we were watching the evening news, and hearing all of the stories of woe that surround us every day, what if then, each night, we had to also look into the face of God? Could we just turn off the TV and go to bed?

Part of the purpose of Christmas in the life of Christians is to realize and to remember that God is one of us. In the Gospel According to St. John we hear the familiar words: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…”

On Christmas Eve we engaged in the tradition of processing into the church with the figurine of Jesus placed on an ornate pillow. We walked all through the church with the congregation and the choir singing, and with grand music playing, before making our way here to place the figure in the crèche. In doing so, we were trying to take part in recognizing the “glory” of the moment. We were honoring the very holy coming of Christ by trying to reenact it with all of the pomp and circumstance that we could muster.

But it’s worth remembering that the “glory” that we have seen in Christ was such precisely because it lacked the grandness that it deserved. Though centuries of prophets had mused about what the coming of the Christ would be like, it was, in reality, a total surprise. He was not a powerful king triumphantly entering Jerusalem with armies and fanfares. He was not processed through the streets in luxury and accompanied by choirs singing songs of praise.

He was just a boy. Born of a woman. A few people that night and in the days that followed recognized that there was something special about this boy, but for most of the people alive in the world that night, it was just a night like any other. Most people never even noticed. God was one of us, and to our great surprise, he went almost entirely unnoticed.

The Word has become flesh and lived among us, but for the most part, we have not seen his glory. For the most part we, like most of those people on that first Christmas morning long ago, have not even noticed. We have seen the face of God and we kept walking as though it was just another face.

But at Christmas, we try to be a little more intentional. We try to recognize that God is one of us, and that it is our duty as Christians to see Christ in the faces around us.

It’s easy to overlook. It’s easy to miss “his glory”. Like those people of long ago, we can be in the presence of God and not even notice.

The word has become flesh and lived among us. God is one of us. Now we must cultivate the discipline of seeing his glory every day.

Merry Christmas.

Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

GO RIGHT NOW!!!!



So... Today I turned in the last of my work from my required semester at the General Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

This has been a tough semester. Working full-time. Going to school full-time. And then there's all that other stuff that helps to add up to life.

I've spent most of the past four months utterly exhausted!

There's still some big times ahead. I work in a church, so the next week or so is going to be pretty crazy (this is one of our busy seasons...). As soon as that's over, I'll be taking the General Ordination Examination. That's the series of 7 three hour exams over the course of four days where I'm supposed to be able to reproduce everything that I should have learned in seminary. It's the closest thing to the bar exam that those who aspire to the priesthood face.

So though this is the passing of something of a milestone, there isn't a whole lot of time available to rest.

But today, I decided that I needed to take just a little bit of a break and do something just for my own benefit. To celebrate this achievement, I went to my local neighborhood movie theater to see Gus Van Sant's latest film, MILK.

IT WAS SPECTACULAR!!!

Gus Van Sant's directing was sensitive and compassionate. He made me feel like I was a part of the action those 30 years ago. It made me want to be a part of the action today.

Sean Penn captured the spirit of what I imagine Harvey Milk to have really been like. He wasn't a perfect man. He had flaws and insecurities and sometimes he made flat out wrong-headed decisions, but he was a great man who helped to lead a great movement.

My other favorite character was Cleve Jones (as portrayed by Emile Hirsch). I had never heard of Cleve Jones before this film, but I truly fell in love. I'm going to marry someone just like him someday. Passionate. Energetic. Hopeful. Bright. Human. If this representation of his story is even close to accurate, he is a model for activism to which we all should aspire.

I'm not much of one who cries, but I was on the edge of tears throughout the film, and by the end, I was sobbing like I haven't in years.

It's a touching story, and I insist that you all see it as soon as possible. I'm a little disappointed that I haven't seen it until now!

So go!

RIGHT NOW!

And as soon as you get back from the theater, go ahead and pre-order your DVD. This is one to really spend some time getting to know!

AND TAKE ACTION!

Donate to the Harvey Milk School - a high school in New York City that addresses the unique needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning youth.

Donate to the fund set up to complete the Claiming the Blessing video Voices of Witness: Africa - a film that seeks to raise awareness for some of the most at-risk people on the planet, LGBT Christians in Africa.

Volunteer! Write letters! (Obama did just invite pro-life, anti-gay pastor Rick Warren to say the invocation at his inauguration - surely that deserves a few strongly worded letters...)

Raise some hell!

Come on folks, there's work to do!

I'm Jon Richardson and Harvey Milk recruited me! (Just the shot in the arm this activist needed to get back out and fight!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Civil Unions Don't Work!!

But of course we've known that for some time now...

It is good to hear, however, that a bi-partisan panel (and generally diverse in many other ways) found the same thing.

I'm not sure what her source is, or I'd send you straight to the horse's mouth, but Elizabeth Kaeton has this summary of the panel's report posted on her blog.

The real gem of it:
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that 'denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples violates the equal protection guarantee and can no longer be tolerated under our State constitution.' Implementation of that ruling by the invention of a parallel status failed to deliver equality. It was like planting a toothpick and hoping a tree would grow."
I don't know a Southerner who could have said it better!!

To read the rest of the report of the report on Elizabeth's blog, CLICK HERE

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Too fun!

With a hat tip to Susan Russell for posting a link to it on her blog, I'd like to share this with you...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die


It's just entirely too funny - and studded with many of my favorite stars!

Of particular interest to me: Margaret Cho, Allison Janey, Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black, and undoubtedly MANY more that I didn't notice in my first viewing.

Who can you find?!

On top of that, you get a little Bible study, a little economics study, and a whole lotta musical theatre just for the fun of it! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A proud uncle, home for the holidays


So... Pardon my boasting, but I've got these two new nephews that I got to really spend some bonding time with over the holidays, I've just got to share it with the world!

They're twins (oddly people keep asking that...) and they were born a little too early. They were due November 23rd, but they were born September 8th at 3 pounds and 1 pound, 7 ounces.

This was a particularly special thanksgiving, as we gave thanks for the boys doing so well despite all that was going against them, thanks for the miracles of modern medicine that made it possible, and special thanks that we were able to be together for the holiday - Gaines (the smaller one) was released from the hospital just one hour after my flight landed! Miles was released just a couple of weeks ago.

Between a proud mother, a proud grandmother, and a proud uncle, about three hundred pictures were taken over the two days and a half days that I was there. (I'm thinking of compiling them into a flip book, which should supply video from most of my visit) But don't worry! I've just picked out a few of my favorites to share.


Here's big brother, inspecting his newest little brother. He'd been hearing about him for nearly three months, and was SO excited to finally get to see him for himself!

Gaines is now 4 1/2 pounds. He's growing up so fast!


Miles got attached to his Uncle Jon very quickly. I did get to hold him a couple of times and feed him in the hospital about a month ago. But we got a lot of special time to get to know one another this time. The hardest part is learning how to divide my time between three awesome nephews!


I call this one "Arm Full o' Boys". I was pretty reluctant to try to hold both of them at the same time, but their grandmothers insisted on the photo op, so they set it up. It worked rather well! They slept there for about an hour!


Finally, here's the whole family gathered together to ask the Lord's blessing (and to take a bunch of pics!). It's always special when we can all be in one place at one time! It's been more than a year since this happened, and now, we're happy to have two more of us in our midst!

Thanks for all of your prayers and support as the boys were having trouble and in the hospital. Now things seem to be coming along, and some prayers of thanksgiving seem to be in order. For you, for them, and for family.

It was a great holiday :)

Well if that don't just say it all...



It's Advent... Despite what you may be hearing on the radio or in shopping malls (where's it's been Christmas for a couple of months now) it is actually Advent.

Time for waiting.

Time for expecting.

Time to cultivate hope.

They're good disciplines. And this video helps us to see a little bit of why. There is hope out there greater than our imagining, and together we can find it and make it real.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Considering sheep and goats


November 23, 2008
Christ the King Sunday, Year A
Matthew 25:31-46

In the name of God. Amen.

We live in an amazing time. The world today can seem smaller and more accessible than it ever has in history. Through the miracles of rapid transit and instant communication anyone can quite literally see the world. We can travel distances once not even dreamed. We can build and sustain relationships with people so far from us geographically and culturally, that just a few generations ago, we probably would not have even known that they existed.

I was amazed to learn on election night that moments after our President-elect was announced, there was dancing in the streets in villages in Kenya. It was amazing to me not just that the world had become so small that they would dance at news from a world away, but that the world had become so small that I could see it.

A few years ago I traveled to Ghana in West Africa. I was there to study African indigenous religious roots of African American spirituality. While that was certainly valuable learning, I think the most important lessons that I learned on that trip were lessons about my own understandings of the Body of Christ.

While we were traveling, we had several local guides who helped us to bridge the cultural differences. One such person was a young man named Ebenezer. Ebenezer and I began spending time with one another, I think, largely because he wanted to spend time with some of the young women on the trip who were my friends and with whom I spent most of my time. But over the course of those weeks Ebenezer and I developed a friendship. We had deep conversations about our own cultural experiences and how they had informed our relationships with God and with the church. During some of the more difficult moments of my time there, Ebenezer provided a gentle, pastoral presence that helped me to have the strength to continue through the remaining days.

One of the deeply life-giving moments of that experience happened on an evening near the end of the trip. Our class was gathered in our hotel and reflecting on our experiences. We had seen the centuries-old buildings that were once hubs of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We had visited the temples of indigenous religions and watched the people performing their ceremonies. We had talked with workers in sweatshops. Beggars had swarmed us on the streets. We had seen more abject poverty than most of us had ever imagined possible.

As we talked about the effect that all of this was having on us, my professor said something that I will never forget. She said, “You’ll find after you go home that ‘Africa’ is a little closer than it used to be. When you hear about poverty, or AIDS, or orphans, or political unrest, it won’t ever be ‘those Africans’ anymore. It will be Ebenezer, our brother.”

Suddenly, all of those “causes” and “news reports” that had previously been placeholders for invisible individuals were no longer “causes” or “news reports” for me; they were real people with real stories, who experienced real love and real pain. They were not just ideas; they were Ebenezer, my brother.

It was in that moment, I think, that I first really understood the Body of Christ – the unity of humanity that Christ came to show us and to call us into. It was in that moment that I began to know more clearly the Christian mission in the world: to be the Body of Christ in the world; to reconcile the people of God with God; and to be agents of that reconciliation by being agents of reconciliation between broken people, and thus helping to heal the brokenness of this world.

It’s a huge task – and one that can only be accomplished with God’s help.

So that’s why I was so discouraged to read the Gospel lesson appointed for today. When I first read this text, I could not see the call to reconciliation that so significantly shapes my understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

It’s the parable of the sheep and the goats. In it, we hear that we – the people of God’s own creating – will be separated like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And just as a shepherd places greater value on the sheep of his care than the goats, so, too, will God place greater value on the lives and contributions of some over others.

For many people, this can be a tempting image of God. For some people, this system of “meeting a demand to earn a reward” might seem attractive. They might think, “Christianity isn’t so hard: just follow these simple steps and get your all-expense paid ticket to heaven.” But part of the problem with that system is that it can lead to a kind of self-righteousness. It’s very easy for people to begin to think that they’ve followed all the rules, so they must be somehow better than others. They begin to think of themselves as sheep, or worse, they may even be so bold as to think of others as goats, thus saving the one who created us all the effort of sorting.

But the real trouble for me is that the sorting even happens. I believe so deeply that God’s desire for humanity is that we be united, that it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around an image of God as the one who would separate us.

I’ll admit – it’s not my favorite image of God.

But is that really what’s happening in this text? Is it God separating us?

I do believe that we are called to be the Body of Christ for the world, but what does that mean? What does it mean to be agents of reconciliation between God and humanity by being agents of reconciliation in the occasions of brokenness in this world?

Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

That is the path to reconciliation. That is the work of the Body of Christ.

When we face those who hunger and thirst, when we encounter the stranger, when we come across those who are naked or sick or imprisoned – if, then, we fight their invisibility and begin to see beyond the “cause” or the “task”, we can begin to see in them Christ, our brother. In that moment of reconciliation the world gets a little smaller, and seeing Christ is always a life-giving experience.

It may not always be joyful – at least not in the immediate sense. In fact, it will often seem quite painful. Out of their fear of that pain, many people choose not to see the Christ around them. Many choose not to acknowledge those who hunger and thirst. Many choose to turn away from the strangers they encounter and to ignore the nakedness and sickness and imprisonment that surround them on every side. They choose to give up the live-giving Christ-encounters that are available to them. In the absence of those occasions of reconciliation their worlds must seem sparse and lonely.

The parable of the sheep and the goats is not about God dividing us according to our worth. It is about God recognizing that we are divided, and helping to show us the path to unity.

In this amazing age in which we live – an age of rapid transit and instant communication – we have never-before-known opportunities for encountering the living Christ in the world. Though our opportunities for travel and interaction are easier than they have ever been, our vocation of finding Christ in the world is no less intense. We may be able to travel ten thousand miles to do it, but the journey of finding Christ is always the same: no more and no less than opening oneself to the humanity of the neighbor.

God is calling us into the life-giving task of seeing Christ in the world and being Christ in the world. We needn’t be alone.

Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the Lord wept...


"As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 'If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.'"
Luke 19:41-42

I took this photograph in 2007 when I was visiting Jerusalem for Holy Week and Easter. It was taken on the grounds of Dominus Flevit, a Roman Catholic Church on the Mount of Olives that commemorates Jesus' weeping over Jerusalem before entering it on Palm Sunday.

The modern architecture of the church is roughly in the shape of a tear.

This photo, peering into Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit (which means "the Lord Wept") through the all-too-common razor wire in a city that has known centuries of weeping, helped to capture for me, in a way that my words at the time could not, the sadness of that part of the world that must still deeply grieve the heart of Christ.

Jerusalem can seem painfully sad. The landscape is scarred by cement and stone walls meant to exclude one people from another. Windows and doors on apartment buildings and college dormitories are fitted with armored covers to protect the inhabitants from unpredictable outbreaks of war. Religious ceremonies are guarded by teenagers carrying automatic rifles. The infighting among religious groups vying for space is held perilously in check by a centuries-old document called the Status Quo (honest-to-God!). The only chance for keeping any remote semblance of a tenuous peace is upholding the Status Quo and abiding by the rulings of long ago.

Even the Old City itself is a collection of subtle divisions: you may enter in Palestine, but after walking a few blocks you may find yourself in Israel. A few blocks more and you may find yourself in Armenia or Rome or Greece. They are divisions that most tourists would never recognize - at least not until having crossed them - but the people who know the city know their place within it and rarely stray.

My experiences in Jerusalem were profoundly life-changing and life-giving. I would never exchange them for anything.

But, at least in part, I feel like I know why Jesus wept that Palm Sunday so long ago.

I have wept over Jerusalem, too.

Whenever the people of God are torn by division and infighting, I believe that it grieves the heart of God.

Whenever we build walls that are meant to exclude, I believe that Jesus weeps again.

Today, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth - a diocese that has long held fast to its walls to hold out women, and gay and lesbian people and their allies, and any other progressive or nontraditional voices that may have dared to attempt entry - today they voted to "leave" the Episcopal Church.

Obviously, a diocese - a creation of the General Church which is, in itself, held in trust for the General Church - cannot "leave" the General Church. But my purpose here is not to debate the legal or ecclesial realities. There will be time enough for that later.

My purpose, instead, is to notice that once again, the church has grieved the heart of God.

Once again, Jesus weeps.

I ask your prayers for the Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. I ask your prayers for those who felt the need to abandon the church and for those who feel called to rebuild it.

For more news on the matter, I refer you to the blog of my friend Katie Sherrod. Not only is she one of the true prophets of the church and a progressive voice on the ground in Fort Worth, but she's a rock star writer and can really capture the heart of most matters she approaches with subtlety, grace, and wit.

And while you're at it, say a prayer for Katie. Because while I'm sure that she's not one bit surprised, I have no doubt but that she's grieving for our church, too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Baptismal Revolutionaries


November 2, 2008
All Saints’ Sunday
Matthew 5:1-12

In the name of God: Source of all being, Incarnate Word, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

One of the reasons that I love Jesus so much is that he had this way of turning the world on its end. I’ve always had something of a soft spot in my heart for troublemakers – those saints of the ages who stood up against the ways of the world to reach toward a world that could be. So really, it was only a matter of time before I began loving Jesus. He was a troublemaker of the best sort.

When we think of Jesus as troublemaker, we tend to get a kind of “Jesus Christ Superstar” image of Jesus arguing with Judas about the merits of Mary Magdalene, or turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple, or rebuking Peter with an angry, “Get behind me, Satan!” Those are the dramatic moments. But the troublemaking Jesus that stirs my soul is a little subtler. It’s a little more pervasive than any action-filled vignette could capture.

Certainly in the eyes of the authority of his day, Jesus was a troublemaker. He didn’t behave. He didn’t “play the game” and make the right friends. He didn’t climb the social ladder to gain influence. Instead, he challenged his society. He had incredibly high expectations for those around him – higher than anyone had considered before. He demanded that people think about their relationships with God and with each other in new ways, and very often they hated him for it.

This morning’s Gospel lesson is a fine example of that. In the Beatitudes, Jesus takes everything that the people following him thought they knew about the world and he turns it around.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”

I didn’t know it at the time when I was told to memorize these words as a child in Sunday School, but these are the words of revolution. The blood of the martyrs has been shed over these words. The memories of all the saints are preserved – right there.

It’s not a popular message, but it is the Christian message.

There are plenty of churches where you could go to hear safer messages: sermon series’ about how you can use your Christian faith to have a happier marriage or to be more successful in your career. But Jesus’ message to us is not so much about finding success in the traditional ways of the world than it is about finding a successful relationship with God. It is a revolution against the dominant social establishment in favor of a higher order.

It is this message of revolution to which we are called in the mystery of our baptism: to turn the world upside down so that we can see God in ever-new ways and so that we can see the Christ in each other a little more clearly.

It is this message of revolution that knits us together with the saints into one communion and one fellowship in the mystical Body of Christ.

Christ calls us to be troublemakers.

Through the pages of our history as a church we see it again and again. The people we revere as examples of the faith are those that succeeded in turning the world upside down and who helped to show us all new ways of seeking and serving Christ in all persons and better ways of loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose feast we celebrate on July 20th each year, was one of the 19th century founders of the Women’s Rights Movement. Born into a family of political power and social standing, she could have chosen to live a life of ease by upholding the status quo. Instead, she heard the call to strive for justice and peace among all people, and she dedicated her life to seeking equal rights for women in the church, in the workplace, and in society at large.

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1960s. Moved by the revolutionary words of the Magnificat: “He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek,” he felt called to minister to oppressed African Americans in Selma, Alabama. After an appeal by Martin Luther King, Jr., he took a leave of absence from seminary to go to Alabama to help secure voting rights for African Americans. He was arrested for his efforts and on the day of his release he was shot and killed on the street by an unemployed highway worker who blamed the Civil Rights Movement for his economic hardship. Jonathan heard the call of his baptism and lived and died as a proclamation of the Good News of God in Christ.

Though we have hundreds of examples of the saints that we honor and celebrate in our tradition, there are countless other examples of troublemakers who have lived and who continue to live their lives as baptismal revolutionaries – saints who continually endeavor to turn the world upside-down so that we all might reach some better life.

In her All Saints’ Day message to the church, our Presiding Bishop asks that we bring with us today both the memory of a saint who we know and the memory of a saint who remains unknown to us. Perhaps that unknown saint is some member of the community who does the quiet and often-overlooked task of looking after others – the meals on wheels volunteer, or the woman on her front porch quietly keeping watch over the children at play on the street. Or perhaps the unknown saint is the one who does the work that we forget to do or would rather not do: the concerned one who sifts through the trash to sort the recyclables that we have blithely tossed aside, or the nurse, who on his break, spends a few minutes offering companionship to one who is dying alone.

The theologian, Jay McDaniel said, “Whenever and wherever we see wisdom, compassion, and freedom in our world, even if only for a moment, we see God’s spirit.”

In those moments of communion with God’s spirit, we are knit into the communion of the saints. In those all-too-rare moments when we are agents of wisdom, compassion, and freedom, we are the troublemakers, disrupting the world that would have been. We are the baptismal revolutionaries that Christ has called us to be.

Amen.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

IT WON'T BE ME!!!!


My dear friend and mentor, the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton sent this to me.

Clearly she doesn't know that I spend the whole quadrennium just WAITING for another opportunity to vote for President! (I'm such a political nerd...)

But the message is clear. Will we have another Florida? Will it be YOUR fault??

VOTE OBAMA!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shamelessly stealing

So this one's been circulating wildly through the blogosphere, but it's absolutely worth stealing and sharing with you.

What if Jesus were running for POTUS?

Enjoy!

Time with the family

Last week I had to run down South for a couple of days to tend to some family business, and one of the good pieces of news that came out of that was that I had a chance to meet the two newest Richardsons: my nephews Miles and Gaines.

They were born prematurely on September 8th. Both are doing well and growing, if not as fast as we would all like!

Miles (the larger one) may be heading home soon. It was a real joy for me to be able to hold him a few times and feed him and for us to begin to get to know one another. Like his mother, he sleeps a LOT. But here's a rare picture of him with his eyes open.


Gaines is much smaller than his brother, but still strong and doing well. He's still too small to hold, but I was able to reach into his isolette and play with him a little. He seems to be fond of high fives and fist bumps. Like his father, Gaines avoids sleep at all costs! Usually he can be seen doing somersaults in his little isolette, but here's a rare shot of him sleeping.


While both boys still have a ways to go before they're entirely out of the woods, one thing remains certain: they're clearly the smartest and most attractive boys in the whole NICU! :)

Thank you for all of your prayers. I look forward to seeing them again soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've never been more proud of my homeland...


Here's a little zydeco Obama anthem from Louisiana... The music of my people!

Really, I'm so proud. For most of my life I thought my immediate family and I were the only Democrats left in Louisiana.

And now - two weeks before the election - let's take a little break from my obvious political preferences and simply pause to consider the seriousness of all that faces our nation.

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 822)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Toilet talk at tonight's debate


There was a lot of talk about "Joe the plumber" at tonight's debate.

Well, I did a bit of research and discovered this:
  • Barack Obama's tax plan will tax the 5% of businesses that have revenue in excess of $250,000.00 a year
  • The higher tax rate will apply ONLY to the part of the revenue that exceeds $250,000.00 per year
  • Did I mention that ONLY 5% of businesses have profits that exceed $250,000.00 per year!!
  • In the case of "Joe the plumber", he's planning to buy a business that generates $250,000.00-$280,000.00
  • The current tax rate of 36% would apply to the first $250,000.00
  • Additional earnings would be taxed at the higher rate of 39%
  • Banking my figures on the high end ($280,000.00) the tax difference for "Joe the plumber" under Obama's plan would be:
$900

Seriously???!!!

John McCain made "Joe the plumber" a major campaign issue over $900???!!!

Give me a break...

Source: Political Punch (ABC)

NOTE:

So... Several people have written to me about the difference between "profit" and "revenue". To this, I can only respond: this is why I studied theology and not economics. I can handle figures, but I must admit that I really don't understand the kind of complex economics that are necessary to successfully administer a small business.

What I do understand, on the other hand, is justice. Though my numbers are probably wrong from any actual administrative point of view, my point remains the same - if your business is generating $280,000.00 a year in profit, then suck it up and pay your extra $900 in taxes. It's for the good of the community.

As my brother reminded me, even that can be self serving. If your $900 in extra taxes makes the quality of life of the actual middle class stronger (God help us if we actually start talking about helping the POOR!), then that will actually help the wealthy, too! When the economy is stronger and when there is a stronger middle class and fewer people in poverty, then they're all more likely to actually CALL a plumber when they need one, rather than letting problems wait or fixing them for themselves.

"Trickle down economics" has been proven to be a fallacy. But let's start talking about "trickly UP economics". Help those who NEED the help, and the wealthy will have their day. I guarantee it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A look at idols and anxiety


12 October 2008
Pentecost 22A, Proper 23
Exodus 32:1-14; Matthew 22:1-14

We have turned our backs on God.

The story of the Exodus is our story.

In times of uncertainty, and in the anxiety it generates, we turn our backs to deny the witness of God in our lives.

I do it. All the time. When I face any kind of uncertainty my almost automatic response is nearly always to try to micromanage. In the face of all that I can’t control, I try to focus my attention on the little things that I can control – no matter how insignificant the detail or how ineffective it may be at drawing me toward my real goal.

We call that “functional atheism”. No matter how real our relationships with God may be, in times of uncertainty it can become all too easy to revert to trying to take the place of God in our lives – to try to control the uncontrollable.

Just this week I was in a conversation with Kathy Seabrook about the future of the youth program. We were talking about how the youth could become more involved in our Companionship relationships in India. The work we have done in Kothapallimitta and the relationships that we have formed with the people there has been one of the greatest successes of this parish in a long time. It would be an even greater success if we could use that work to change the lives of another generation of St. Peter’s parishioners. Dreaming about what how those relationships might be extended to the youth of our parish, my mind immediately began switching over to how difficult it might be.

Fortunately, I had already spoken to Kathy about my experiences with functional atheism. Whenever I began to allow my analysis and my fears to creep into our conversation, she would remind me to slow down, to have faith, and to draw on the resources that were available to me. Rather than getting lost in micromanaging the little things that would have little or no impact on the big picture, she would encourage me to breathe, to pray, and to keep my eyes on the end game.

These are all things that I know, but I needed someone to remind me. We all need people to remind us to keep the faith when we’re faced with uncertainty.

In the story that we read this morning from Exodus, we heard another version of humanity’s fight with functional atheism.

The people of the Exodus were in the face of profound uncertainty. They had been led out of the land that had been their home for generations. They left willingly to escape slavery, but there were times when they wondered if that had been wise. Though they had been enslaved in Egypt, they found themselves in even greater uncertainty as they wandered through the wilderness with Moses.

But whenever their uncertainty bore down, God was always present to lead them through to the next day. When they were stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the sea, God showed them a safe passage. When food was scarce, God provided manna, the bread of heaven.

Even so, the forces of fear were strong.

Moses, their leader, had left them for a season to commune with God on the mountain. Before long, the people again became anxious. They needed that steady voice reminding them to slow down, to have faith, and to draw on the resources that were available to them. In their growing anxiety, they began micromanaging. They didn’t know what had become of Moses, and they didn’t know what had become of their relationship with God, so they quickly began fashioning a god of their own.

When I find myself in times of anxiety I tend to take the precious adornments of experience and education and social and political connections and I fashion them into a kind of god. I foolishly imagine that these adornments will give me some measure of control. While such adornments are a part of the pool of resources for which I should be grateful to God, they are not, in themselves, God.

Like the people of the Exodus, honest reflection will show that the gods of my own making never feed my hunger. When I am lost or stuck, my idols point only to me. The security they represent is superficial, at best.

What are your idols? What do you cling to when the world around you seems fragile?
Think about it. I don’t ask this just as a kind of rhetorical device. The world around us really is fragile. We continue to see signs of that fact every day. The economy is fragile. Political power is fragile. Safety and security are fragile. Even the church can prove fragile. With uncertainty all around us, it is fair to ask: what are your idols?

In the lessons that we read this morning, it can be easy to focus our attention on judgment – to hear these stories as warnings to act right lest we are forced to endure the wrath of God. Worse still, we may, in our own self-righteousness, choose to hear these stories as judgments not on ourselves but on others who do not behave as righteously as we do.

In the story of the Exodus we are struck by God’s desire to wipe the slate clean after the people turn away. In the parable of the wedding banquet we hear of those who refused to participate in the feast and how they are held accountable by the king. But I think these stories are less about God turning on anyone than they are about all of us turning from God.

In both, we hear of people who turn away from God in favor of the temporary security of impermanent things. The people of the Exodus placed their faith in a god of their own making. Those who refused the hospitality of the king did so in favor of another kind of god of their own making – “they made light of [the invitation] and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…”

When we turn from God in favor of the lures of the world, we are not so much “cast into the outer darkness” as we are already there. The world can seem a desolate place when all we know about or believe in is impermanence.

It’s the first commandment – “you shall have no other gods before me”. In many ways it is the foundation of our faith and in many ways it is the easiest way to fall short – to place our faith in things.

So it’s worth knowing what your idols are. Only then can you face them and acknowledge their weakness. Amen.

Monday, October 06, 2008

America's most reliable oracle...

This just in from AmericaBlog...

Palin Misquotes Her Starbucks Cup:
Madeleine Albright Explains the REAL Quote

Now we know why Sarah Palin doesn't read newspapers. She learns stuff from her Starbucks cup:
Palin regaled the cheering crowd with a story about how she was reading her Starbucks mocha cup yesterday, which featured a quotation from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“Now she said it, I didn’t,” Palin said of Albright. “She said, ‘There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women.’”

The crowd roared its approval, but according to several sources, Albright actually said, “there’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”
If Sarah is going to make a big deal about quoting her Starbucks cup, she should at least get the quote right. In fact, as CBS notes, she got the quote wrong.

Madeleine Albright wasn't amused. She wants Palin to know just how wrong she got it (no link, got it via email from Albright's office):
"Though I am flattered that Governor Palin has chosen to cite me as a source of wisdom, what I said had nothing to do with politics. This is yet another example of McCain and Palin distorting the truth, and all the more reason to remember that this campaign is not about gender, it is about which candidate has an agenda that will improve the lives of all Americans, including women. The truth is, if you care about the status of women in our society and in our troubled economy, the best choice by far is Obama-Biden."
Someone would type this up and put it on Palin's next Starbucks mocha cup so she'll be sure to see it. Not that it would matter. Palin will say anything, even if it's patently false or blatantly
wrong.


Friday, October 03, 2008

More reflections on the VP debate



So yes... I'm shamelessly stealing this video from one of my very favorite, check-it-several-times-a-day blogs, "Telling Secrets".

But I did have some original content that I wanted to share with you, and this video seemed like a worthy introduction to break up the monotony of plain text. There's just something about the quiet, but rhythmic music and chanting in the background that gets my emotions rolling. When you pair that emotionality with a really strong, important message that gets to the core of the candidate, it's unstoppable. This is the kind of political advertisement I wish Obama would have running in every battleground state.

So last night and this morning, in my circle of friends, there has been this email conversation swirling about the VP debate. One participant - a woman living in a same-sex partnership - who I happen to love very much, expressed her concern that both campaigns spoke against same-sex marriage.

While I generally agree with her concern in principle, I had the following to say in my response. Forgive me that it is slightly a repeat of my initial reaction last night. But it is, at least, a little more developed than last night.

Here's my email.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I certainly agree with the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. But of course they both said they were against gay marriage. I think there's probably even a decent chance that Obama and Biden favor same-sex marriage, but they can't say it. If they do, that becomes what the election is about, and nobody wins an election on the grounds of not being supportive enough of equal rights for LGBT people. At least not yet.

Where my judgement lies is in the gray areas around what they said and how they said it in trying to answer the question.

Biden was full-throated and eager in his support for equal partner benefits for same-sex couples. While Palin gave lip service to supporting benefits, the bulk of her answer had two central components:
  • First, she danced dangerously close to answering with the "some of my best friends are gay" argument. She spent so much time talking about the diversity among her friends and how many of her friends would disagree with her. While she wouldn't even go so far as to admit that she knows any LGBT people, that seemed to me to be what she was dancing around. And the only reason anyone uses that kind of argument is as an attack. As in: "Some of my best friends are gay, so it's okay if I work with all my might to attack them and deny them equal rights"
  • The other central component of her answer was all of her talk about "tolerance" -- how tolerant she is, how much she supports tolerance. I'll agree that tolerance seems like a plus in the face of intolerance. But as an end goal for marginalized people, it's simply not enough. It's not enough for me to live in a society that systematically hates everything about me, but to have them "tolerate" me - to begrudgingly put up with me.
Both aspects of her answer represent a very undeveloped position on LGBT rights. They sound like someone who hasn't struggled with it. Like someone who doesn't want the political or social baggage of sounding like a bigot, and as such is looking for just enough to get by.

While the final answer from both campaigns is less than ideal, the Biden answer at least represents some level of respect. Of course that's not ideal, but it's a better place to begin that no respect at all.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

well now I'm just mad...

I'm watching the Vice Presidential debate.

Did anyone else notice that Sarah Palin just danced around the "some of my best friends are gay" argument???

All that talk about her diverse circle of friends and how so many of them would disagree with her...

The only reason ANYONE uses such an argument is as an attack on the very people they're claiming as friends.

As in:
  • Some of my best friends are gay, so it's okay for me to work against their best interests
  • Some of my best friends are gay, so I can get away with publicly attacking them
Yeah... Now I'm just plain mad...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The songs of woe that tug at the strings of our hearts...

Thanks to my friend who told me about this song. It's certainly worth sharing with all of you.

If you enjoyed "Jesus is my Friend", then this should be right up your alley.

Enjoy!



Come on everybody -- sing along!

Artist: Carll Hayes
Song: She Left Me For Jesus
Album: Trouble in Mind

We've been datin' since High School, we never once left this town
We used to go out on the weekends and we'd drink til we drowned
But now she's acting funny and I don't understand
I think that she's found her some other man

CHORUS

She left me for Jesus and that just ain't fair
She says that he's perfect, how could I compare
She says I should find him and I'll know peace at last
If I ever find Jesus I'm kickin' his ass

She showed me a picture all I could do was stare
At that freak in his sandals with his long pretty hair
They must think I'm stupid or I don't have a clue
I'll bet he's a commie or even worse yet a jew

REPEAT CHORUS

She's given up whiskey and ah takin' up wine
While she prays for his troubles she's forgot about mine
I'm a gonna get even I can't handle the shame
Why last time we made love she even called out his name

REPEAT CHORUS

It coulda been Carlos or even Billy Ortez
But if I ever find Jesus
He's gonna wish he was dead. Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thanks, Brad!


The L.A. Times is reporting that Brad Pitt has donated $100,000 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 8 (the proposed California constitutional amendment that would write marriage discrimination into the state constitution after the state supreme court declared such discrimination unconstitutional).

From the L.A. Times article:
Brad Pitt announced Wednesday that he's donating $100,000 to fight California's Proposition 8, a November ballot initiative that would eliminate same-sex couples' right to marry.

"Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn't harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8," the actor said in a statement. READ IT ALL HERE
The campaign for marriage equality has been interesting to follow. Just last week, the bishops of the Episcopal dioceses in California stood together to oppose Proposition 8 and in support of marriage equality. Though the bishops presented different opinions on how the church should be involved in same-sex marriage, they stood in unison declaring that civil discrimination must be opposed by the church.

Read the L.A. Times article about the bishops' event HERE

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I attend the General Theological Seminary

Though I've finished the main part of my theological training at the Theological School at Drew University, I am currently working on a Diploma in Anglican Studies at the General Theological Seminary.

This little gem came across my seminary email account tonight. In the unlikely event that I should have no other reason to appreciate my time at General, this alone, would have made the experience worthwhile. I hope you, too, will enjoy the fruits of my training when you watch.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

More politics as usual from the "Good ol' Boys"


Well, my first day at General Seminary was exhausting. The before-7:00AM train into the city, first day of classes, and after-7:00PM train home was a lot...

I tried to watch some of the Republican Convention when I got home, but soon I was overcome and went to sleep. I had been sleeping for quite a while by the time Sarah Palin gave her speech last night.

Though of course I've had chances to hear a lot of the speech through soundbites on the news shows this morning.

Let's get something clear about Palin. She may be a woman and she may be brand new on the political scene, but she's clearly a "good ol' boy".

I am most offended by the attacks on Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer. How dare they try to portray his devotion to helping the poor and underrepresented as a weakness! John McCain and Sarah Palin want you to think they represent some kind of change, but the speech last night proves once again that it's the same old, fear-based, environment-hating (chanting "drill, baby, drill" during Rudy's speech??? really???), Rove-style politics that have so deeply injured this country over the last eight years.

"Country first"? Not with these tactics. This is all about the powerful trying to stay powerful at the expense of the weakest most vulnerable people in the country.

Anyway - the real point of this post was to pass this on to you. It's what I found in my email inbox this morning from David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager:

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven't gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It's now clear that John McCain's campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks -- on Barack Obama and on you -- are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A guide to Louisiana pronunciation


My prayers this morning are centered on my homeland.

Louisiana braces once again for the landfall of a powerful hurricane - this time nearly three years to the day after the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

I've been in hurricanes. To be honest, they can be kind of fun. If you're in a place where it is safe to not evacuate, you hunker down with your family and friends. After the power goes out you cook all the food in the freezer to try to keep it from spoiling. You sit up all night watching battery powered televisions and listening to battery powered radios to get the most up-to-date information possible.

But it is decidedly more difficult to be sitting in New Jersey and watching it all unfold from afar.

It is difficult to be consumed with worry as you see those places that are so familiar, and think about the people that you love who inhabit them, and to not know what's happening.

Perhaps most difficult, however, is listening to news anchors in New York trying to pronounce Louisiana names. Here's a quick guide:
  • Houma = HOE-muh (not HOO-mah)
  • Thibodaux = tih-buh-DO
  • Plaquemines = PLACK-uh-mihn (not PLACK-mines)
  • Lafayette = LAF-ee-ette (not luh-FAY-ette, and not lah-FI-ette)
  • New Orleans = new OR-lihnz (not some fake "nawlinz" - only local New Orleans natives are allowed to say it that way, and even many of them don't - nor New OR-LEENS)
Those are the ones I've heard most often this morning. But in general, when in doubt, just pronounce whatever you see with a French accent. That will solve any number of pronunciation issues in Louisiana names.

And continue to pray for the people and places of Louisiana. They've had a rough go of it these past few years, and they need our support.

** UPDATE **  (2/5/2010)

So, I've notices that this is one of my "most viewed" posts.  Even when it's not hurricane season, people still seem to be perplexed about the proper pronunciation of Louisiana names - even the name of the state itself.  So here's the update, that I hope will be helpful to those who are finding this post via searches.

Louisiana is pronounced as follows - lou-EE-zee-AN-nuh

It is not "LOO-ZEE-AN-nuh".  When northerners say that to us, we tend to be offended and feel "talked down to".  Please be kind.  It's true, the education system in Louisiana is nowhere near the best.  But all the same, the people there aren't idiots.  Please try to have a bit of respect.

If you've found this page and don't find the word that you're searching for, please leave a comment.  I will respond quickly.  Thanks!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Media reactions to Sarah Palin

The following two reputable news services respond to Sarah Palin's new status as John McCain's running mate.

On a related note: regarding Palin's "foreign policy experience" - not only does much of her experience stem from being in a state so near Russia, I learned today that she received her first U.S. Passport in 2007. Just to clear up any confusion - it is now 2008 (that's not long...).

Now on to the news... Thanks to Elizabeth and Nina for letting me know about these!





In case you were hoping for more mainstream news, there's a pretty good commentary on Palin by Giovanna Negretti from the Boston Globe. CLICK HERE

And if that's not enough for you, check out this spectacular op-ed by Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times. To give you a taste:

The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.

So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin.

To read it all, CLICK HERE

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Truth by Blatant Assertion


That seems to be the favored tactic of conservatives these days - truth by blatant assertion. If the real truth isn't on your side, or if it doesn't produce the results that you desire, just lie consistently until people think your lies are true.

I was watching MSBNC this morning. In their continuing coverage of trying to figure out just who the heck Sarah Palin is, they've had opposing commentators - conservative and progressive. I've been simply amazed at the tactics that the conservative commentator has been using: he's actually been trying to argue that Sarah Palin has MORE experience than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden!

Sure, she has been a governor. So she does have more "executive" experience than the democratic ticket, but by that same measure she has significantly more experience than John McCain. Does that mean she's more qualified to be President than McCain? But let's not forget - she's only been a governor for a year and a half! While this is technically "more experience" in the executive branch of government than any of the other three, it's hardly enough to ready someone for the White House.

Her other executive experience is as the mayor of a town of 9,000 people. Is that enough to prepare her to be the President of hundreds of millions of Americans? I don't think so.

As an example of how desperate McCain supporters are to declare her "experienced enough" they also point to her leadership in a local chapter of the PTA as experience that makes her fit to be President.

What's annoying me in this debate is that progressive commentators actually seem to be taking these arguments seriously! When they are on these talk shows, progressive commentators should not be able to control their laughter when Palin is described as experienced. They should not be able to control their anger when it is asserted that Palin is "more experienced" than Obama or Biden.

Why are we not naming this "truth by blatant assertion" for what it really is - LIES.

This kind of lying, under the leadership of Karl Rove, has been a hallmark of the Bush administration. (Weapons of mass destruction???) Clearly it's being setup as a hallmark of McCain politics as well. We have to call them on it.

I think what troubles me most about this is that I see it time and time again when progressive people and conservative people are engaging in debates. Progressive people seem determined to fall for it!

It's the same in the church. Conservative "the sky is falling" arguments are made and made again until we begin to believe them. The breakaway churches in Virginia swore that they were just the tip of the iceberg - as soon as they left The Episcopal Church would disintegrate and they would be the only stable ones left to lead the new Anglican Communion. They swore this over and over, to the degree that many people began to believe them. Now they've gone - along with a minuscule number of other former Episcopalians - and the church is still holding strong.

It seems the Archbishop of Canterbury even buys these arguments. That's why the Bishop of New Hampshire was not invited to the Lambeth Conference. The conservatives threatened that if he was invited, they wouldn't come and the Communion would crumble.

In a decision based in fear and with the best intentions of holding tenuous relationships together, the Archbishop participated in injustice, and in the process, denied the Anglican Communion's bishops a chance to listen to the stories and experiences of LGBT people in a new and deeper way than has ever happened before.

So +Rowan gave in to conservative demands, and you know what? Most of the ones who threatened not to come if +Gene was invited, still didn't come after he wasn't invited. And despite their impassioned assertions, the Communion did not crumble in their absence.

I was at dinner with a friend the other evening who was also at the Lambeth Conference. She was insisting to me that the Archbishop of Canterbury did the right thing by not inviting +Gene. Mind you, this is not a conservative Episcopalian, this is an ally. She supports the full inclusion of LGBT people in all the sacraments of the church, but even she fell into the belief that it was right for +Rowan to deny access to +Gene because his absence meant that more conservative bishops were there.

First of all, I don't believe that's true. Perhaps a few of the bishops who attended the Lambeth Conference might not have come if +Gene had been there, but I doubt it would have been many. But even if it were hundreds it doesn't matter. There is a huge difference between choosing not to attend the Lambeth Conference because of your fear that you might be in the presence of someone with whom you disagree (or even someone whom you think is sinful) and being denied an opportunity to witness to your episcopal ministry and to learn and grow with your sister and brother bishops simply because of who you are.

Progressive people give in too easily to attacks. We cannot tolerate injustice in our desire to be accommodating. We cannot allow ourselves to endure unfair and untrue attacks because we want to make sure all voices can be heard. There is room for everyone at the table, but we must cry out against the enemies of truth - even when (and maybe especially when) they are our brothers and sisters sitting across from us.

No one should be expelled from the table - not those who speak the truth, nor those who deny it. But those who speak the truth should never silence themselves to keep the others from walking away. That's not the gospel.

The same is true in the world of governmental politics. Progressive people, in their efforts at achieving progressive ideals, should not sit silently while what we perceive as untruth is being spread.

The most effective conservative tactic against progressive people is to turn our ideals against us.

Again, I saw it this morning on TV. When the liberal commentator attempted to suggest that Palin was not experienced enough to be so close to the Presidency, the conservative commentator interrupted him and said that he couldn't believe that this liberal was suggesting that Palin couldn't be Vice President because she's a woman.

That's not at all what was being said! The progressive commentator was doubting that she had the breadth of experience necessary for the office for which she was to be nominated.

But the progressive commentator let that accusation of sexism go unanswered. Perhaps he was so terrified of being seen as a sexist that he couldn't take the argument any further. Perhaps it stopped him in his tracks.

But we can't let it stop us in our tracks anymore. Just because a threat or a doomsday prophecy or an untruth is asserted with enough conviction, that does not make it true. We must face it and name it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pro-life Feminist?


John McCain announced today that he has chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 Presidential election.

Lots of questions come to mind. The media is already swirling with questions of her experience and her youth. Does being governor of Alaska for about a year and a half prepare someone to be Vice President of the United States? What if she had to be President of the United States? There are already the beginnings of questions about whether or not this is just a stunt to try to change the story from the wildly successful Democratic National Convention and whether or not it's a shameless stunt to try to lure former Hillary Clinton supporters.

But Hillary Clinton said it best: "Were you in this campaign just for me?... You haven't worked so hard for the last 18 months or endured the last 8 years to suffer through more failed leadership."

This isn't just about picking a woman. And I don't think most women who are voters will fall for this.

Which brings me to the question that's been on my mind for the past couple of hours since this has been announced.

The media have been describing Sarah Palin as a "Pro-life Feminist".

The term confuses me. "Pro-life" in itself is something of a misnomer. Almost everyone in the world is "pro-life". There are a few sick people who aren't, but that's rare. It's not even that Palin is an "Anti-abortion Feminist". That would imply that the other side is "Pro-abortion" and that's simply not the case. Many "Pro-choice" folks aren't "Pro-abortion". The reality is that Palin is being spun as an "Anti-choice Feminist".

This just doesn't add up for me. How can you be a "feminist" - someone who supports women's rights - and be defined by your lack of support for women to have the right to choose the medical (or even ethical) decisions that they make?

I get that feminists can be opposed to abortion. But I don't get how feminists can be opposed to women's choice.

I just can't imagine that women (and other feminists) of America can be fooled into thinking that the same old song and dance is suddenly okay just because it's coming in new-looking packaging.

It's like the common advertising scheme: "Bold new look, same recipe". If you didn't like it before, a fancy new package shouldn't be enough to sell you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wow...


Well, friends... We're only about 3 minutes into the speech, and I just have this to say:

Michelle Obama for President!

I'm still grieving over Hillary.

I was SO energized by the idea of the impact that our first woman as President of the United States could have. I was excited about how that step could help to break the binding power of sexism and heterosexism.

But it will be nice to have another strong, independent woman in the White House again - even if not yet in the Oval Office.

I knew I was never going to vote for John McCain. But I think I may have decided tonight to vote for Barack Obama, just because I want Michelle.

Good job Convention organizers. It's working for me!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Do not be afraid"

**Note: I know I've been a little remiss in posting since returning from Canterbury. Those last couple of days were too busy to post, and since I've been back, I've just been tired. But do keep an eye out - there will be a few more pics and some "wrap up" reflections coming soon. For now, here's a sermon I preached this morning at St. Peter's, Morristown. Complete with a little Lambeth thrown in for the fun of it!**


August 10, 2008
Pentecost 13A, Proper 14
Matthew 14:22-33

O God of peace, you have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: by the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We’ve all been there. The storms of our lives blowing around us, everything feels rocky and unstable, we become afraid. We feel so isolated that even the sight of help engenders more fear. We feel so vulnerable that we run away from what shelter we do have. We withdraw from the communities that would have made our perceived solitude untrue.

This is the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water. It’s not the story of a magic trick. It’s not just some story about Jesus going out for a stroll on the lake when he happens to run into his friends. It’s a timeless parable of the human experience.

You can always count on the stories of St. Peter to be that way – to be timeless parables of the human experience. He is impulsive and fallible, but somewhere beneath all of that he is loyal and dependable. He is Peter – the rock – on him the church was built, and whether he is at his worst or his best, he is like us. And like us, even the rock can be shaken by the storms of life.

I’ve spent the last three weeks of my life in Canterbury, England at the Lambeth Conference. It was the decennial gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion to discuss issues related to inter-provincial unity. Don’t worry – I’m not planning to use our time together today to present a news report about what happened at Lambeth. That would be hard to do anyway, because nothing really happened at Lambeth. There was essentially no news. No decisions were made. The communion was not dissolved, nor was any relationship within it. We’re all still Anglican. But I do find it providential that we should hear and reflect together on this story – this story of humanity, and our responses to anxiety – on this, the first Sunday after the Lambeth Conference.

If any one word were to define my experience of the Lambeth Conference it would be anxiety. Questions, rooted in anxiety, hung heavy in the air all around us. Would Rowan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, attempt to railroad some punitive, so-called “covenant” across the Conference in a desperate attempt to hold our tenuous alliances together? Would the Bishop of New Hampshire be kept safe in spite of the threats that had been made against him? Would we all be able to communicate effectively in spite of the often-paralyzing cultural differences that separate us? Would the Communion disintegrate around us?

All of these questions, and many more, came out of anxiety. And that anxiety, I believe, was our very human and Petrine response to our Anglican ship having been rocked by the winds of change.

And we are in a season of change in the church. Women and gay and lesbian people are being afforded new opportunities for ministry. Voices from the Global South are beginning to be heard, almost for the first time in the wake of colonialism. Those who had been cast down are being lifted up. Every day the church is changing around us, and its institutional powers are afraid.

In the Gospel lesson this morning we were told that the disciples were afraid. They had been sent into the world while Jesus went up alone to pray. But while they were apart, the disciples began to feel battered by the storms around them. In their anxiety, they could not see Christ in their midst, they could only allow themselves to see more cause for fear.

The story does not begin to shift until we hear again that familiar refrain: “Do not be afraid.” So often, when we find ourselves in the explicit presence of the Holy, our first instinct is to fear. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus, they announced themselves with a plea to not fear. When the women discovered the empty tomb, the figure inside implored them, “Do not be afraid.”

What holy moments in your life have felt like fear? Which fear-filled moments might have been holy?

Even after Jesus announced himself, Peter – the rock – the one on whom the church was built, was not convinced. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He needed proof.

It would be easy to judge Peter. It would be easy to ridicule him for needing that extra nudge. It would be easy to feel superior to him “of little faith.” But I’m afraid it wouldn’t be honest. How often are we, the church of his progeny, unconvinced when we are faced with the presence of Christ? How often are we, when battered by the winds of change, debilitated with fear? And even when we, like Peter, finally take that leap of faith to step out toward Christ, don’t we, too, often begin to sink into the mire of our own self-doubt?

Like our sisters and brothers around the Anglican Communion, we of St. Peter’s parish are also being swept by the winds of change. As we look into our future, we are re-imagining what it will mean to be the church in our context; we are re-imagining the kinds of leadership we would have for ourselves; and in the midst of it all, we are rediscovering our own humanity. Like our namesake, we can be impulsive and fallible, but also like Peter, somewhere beneath that rocky exterior there is something more – something truer to whom Christ is calling us to be.

After Peter stepped out of the boat, he paused to notice what he had done. His anxiety churned at his feet and he began to sink back into it. In desperation, he reached out to Jesus crying, “Lord, save me!” and he did.

It’s a timeless parable of the human experience.

When we traverse the seas of life and feel overcome by the often-stormy winds of change, Christ is there. And even when in our fear-filled and desperate search for stability, we remove ourselves from our communities and seek to find the way on our own; even then, Christ is reaching out to draw us back in. When we are at our best and when we are at our worst, Christ is there, holding us up through the storms and luring us on.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

High noon shoot-out??

The "topic of the day" for the bishops at the Lambeth Conference is "Listening to God and to each other: the bishop and human sexuality". As such, many have assumed that today would at least begin the time of contentious debate (or in the eyes of many media outlets - a way to get the audience's attention!). One news report from Canada described today as "global Anglicanism's high noon shoot-out over homosexuality."

In reality, however, it has been something of a slow news day so far. I overheard one reporter who was in one of today's press briefings skeptically reporting that the bishops doing the briefing were entirely too positive about the discussions that are happening - the reporter, recognizing what many are considering the nearly palpable tension around the conference, could not imagine that it was an entirely honest representation of the closed door sessions taking place throughout the day.

If the Globe and Mail news report is accurate, many of the bishops, themselves, are denying that the experience of the Lambeth Conference is quite as warm and cuddly as the press briefings have intended to indicate.

Reflecting on the third installment of the Windsor Continuation Group report, Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster had this to say: "If this becomes the position of the Communion, it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation."

The dominant pattern seems to be emerging that news is more likely to break late in the day (as opposed to the earlier morning bishop's briefings), so do stay tuned to Walking with Integrity - your best source for news related to Integrity's presence at the Lambeth Conference. Also be sure to read our daily analysis (in conjunction with our allies in the Inclusive Church Network) in The Lambeth Witness. You can find it at the top of the Lambeth Conference LGBT Anglican portal.