Mar 272013
 

Lectionary C: Easter Sunday

(No specific text connections here, but this one seemed too lovely not to share.)

“spring song” by Lucille Clifton

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

 

Mar 262013
 

Lectionary, Good Friday: John 18:1 – 19:42

John 19: 25 – 27:  “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”

“The Fence (that night),” by Leslea Newman (as part of the October Mourning project)

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long

Mar 262013
 

“One Voice” by the Wailin’ Jennys

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice
This is the sound of one voice

Last fall, I had the chance to be with a good friend on her wedding weekend. While at the rehearsal dinner, I asked one of the bridesmaids (with whom I was having a delightful conversation) about why she and her husband decided to get married. In reply, she told me a lovely story about the day they got engaged. I smiled as she told me the tale – both because it was a good story, and because it didn’t really answer my question at all.  My smile came with the realization that most straight people aren’t asked why they decided to get married.  They may be asked about how, when, or where they and their partner made a commitment to spend their lives together; but, seldom are they asked why.  For most straight folks, getting married is just what you do when you hit a certain point in your relationship. You meet, you date for some period of time, you get married, you have kids . . .

I won’t try and speak for all queer folks, but I’d venture to bet that many non-hetero people who make the decision to get married are at some point asked the “why” questions: “Why did you decide to get married?” “Why, if you know it doesn’t make any difference legally, did you make the choice to make that commitment?” or, “So, why was it even important for you to get married?” or, “I just don’t get it – why would you even want to get married?” (It varies a bit, but the idea behind the questions is often basically the same.)

One of the things that was most definitive for my partner and I in making the decision to get hitched is that it was very much a decision – we made the decision that ours was a relationship worth fighting for, worth working through, and that our desire to make a commitment to one another in front of other people was not only about celebrating our relationship as good and just, but was also a means of holding ourselves accountable to the commitment we were making.  We wanted to do it publicly.  We made the decision to address head-on, as much as we could, the wedges that would try to work their way between us: laws that don’t protect us, people who don’t understand us (and will sometimes repeatedly ask us to explain ourselves), a lack of acknowledgement by those, even within our families, who don’t agree with our “lifestyle” choice.

Many LGBTQ people decide not to get married, and with very good reason.  The institution of marriage is one that has been used to perpetuate and restrict gender and class norms, to treat women as property and hold them in their “place.” For my partner and I, the decision to get married was one we made together and with a great deal of thought and care about how we want to live in the world.  We both, in mutual respect and care for one another, felt it was the best way for us to be intentional about bringing our separate lives into into one life together; and, we wanted to do that as part of a larger community.

Because we live in a state that doesn’t recognize our marriage, my partner and I had two ceremonies: one legal wedding in DC, and a covenant ceremony in our church, where our marriage was blessed.  Because we’re church-going folk, it was important that we have communion during our covenant ceremony.  My partner and I sat on the front row of the church as people came to the front to take communion, while a few of our friends sang the song above.  Though I recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect analogy, If I were to look for a single experience that represents our relationship, it would be those ten or so minutes as people came to the table for communion, blessed us with their touch as they headed back to their seats, as the building harmony of voices and guitar played in the background.  We were there together, sharing a simple meal with the people we love, offering a gentle acknowledgement that we are part of something more.

Part of what has been so beautiful to me about our relationship is the recognition that it is something that needs constant care and love – that the opportunity to spend one’s life with another person is not something to be taken for granted or taken lightly.  We have to acknowledge that we are learning as we go, and continue to check in with one another to communicate with as much clarity as possible – even when it is difficult.  However, it’s also important that we not take ourselves too seriously – that we dance in the living room when necessary.  At the end of the day, I know that my partner is in this for the long haul, that she has seen the worst parts of me and loves me still.  I also know that we are only two people, and that our broader community is an essential aspect of the health and well-being of our relationship.  There are times when we have to be willing to lean on those we love, to ask for help even when it requires a certain amount of vulnerability.  We have trust that we are part of something more, that our relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum – that while a two-part harmony is nice, a chorus of three or four voices together is what gives a song the greatest depth.

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

(The beginning of this post is from a post I wrote last fall about the what the church might learn from engaging those on the margins, and brought in my experience of deciding to marry my partner.  Given that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Proposition 8 today, it seemed appropriate to share some of those thoughts again. . .

Mar 252013
 

Flannery_O-Connor_Southern_Writer_Fiction_1

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” – Flannery O’Connor

Mary Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was born in Savannah, Georgia.  Writer of two novels and 32 short stories, O’Connor’s writing often reflected her Roman Catholic faith Southern upbringing, drawing from regional settings and grotesque characters to examine questions of morality and ethics.

When she was six years old, O’Connor had her first experience with celebrity: “When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been anticlimax.”

Regarding her emphasis of the grotesque , O’Connor said: “anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”  Her texts often take place in the South and revolve around morally flawed characters, while the issue of race frequently appears in the background.  Most of her works feature disturbing elements, though she did not like to be characterized as cynical. “I am tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man brutal and sarcastic,” she writes. “The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism… when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror.”

She said: “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

O’Connor died on August 3, 1964, at the age of 39, of complications from lupus, and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia.

(Thanks to Wikipedia and The Writer’s Almanac for today’s references.)

Mar 212013
 

Lectionary: Two options for the Palm Sunday C: Luke 19:28-40

Passion Sunday: Luke 22:14 – 23:56

Luke 19:39-40: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'”

“Mulberry Fields” by Lucille Clifton

they thought the field was wasting
and so they gathered the marker rocks and stones and
piled them into a barn they say that the rocks were shaped
some of them scratched with triangles and other forms they
must have been trying to invent some new language they say
the rocks went to build that wall there guarding the manor and
some few were used for the state house
crops refused to grow
i say the stones marked an old tongue and it was called eternity
and pointed toward the river i say that after that collection
no pillow in the big house dreamed i say that somewhere under
here moulders one called alice whose great grandson is old now
too and refuses to talk about slavery i say that at the
masters table only one plate is set for supper i say no seed
can flourish on this ground once planted then forsaken wild
berries warm a field of bones
bloom how you must i say

Luke 19:30-36: “’Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.”

“The Poet Thinks About the Donkey” by Mary Oliver

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

 

Luke 22:58: “but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?'”

“Descending Theology: The Garden” by Mary Karr

We know he was a man because, once doomed,
he begged for reprieve. See him
grieving on his rock under olive trees,
his companions asleep
on the hard ground around him
wrapped in old hides.
Not one stayed awake as he’d asked.
That went through him like a sword.
He wished with all his being to stay
but gave up
bargaining at the sky. He knew
it was all mercy anyhow,
unearned as breath. The Father couldn’t intervene,
though that gaze was never
not rapt, a mantle around him. This
was our doing, our death.
The dark prince had poured the vial of poison
into the betrayer’s ear,
and it was done. Around the oasis where Jesus wept,
the cracked earth radiated out for miles.
In the green center, Jesus prayed for the pardon
of Judas, who was approaching
with soldiers, glancing up—as Christ was—into
the punctured sky till his neck bones
ached. Here is his tear-riven face come
to press a kiss on his brother.