Feb 032016

Lectionary: Epiphany 5C: Isaiah 6:1-8, Luke 5:1-111 Corinthians 15:1-15

Isaiah 6:5: “And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'”

“Who am I?,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

March 4, 1946

Luke 5:8-10: “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

“Our Greatest Fear” by Marianne Williamson

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

1 Cor 15:1: “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain”

“Legacies” – by Nikki Giovanni

her grandmother called her from the playground
“yes, ma’am”
“i want chu to learn how to make rolls” said the old
woman proudly
but the little girl didn’t want
to learn how because she knew
even if she couldn’t say it that
that would mean when the old one died she would be less
dependent on her spirit so
she said
“i don’t want to know how to make no rolls”
with her lips poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and i guess nobody ever does

Jan 272016

So, I’ve been tossing around the idea (at the nudging of some other folks, really) of connecting lectionary texts with poetry. I’m not sure where it’ll go (if anywhere); but, thanks to my pastor, who shared this poem on her Facebook page, it seemed like I had a good place to start.

** As a side-note . . . feel free to send any of your favorite poems – no need to connect them to a text, but I’ve realized if I’m going to start doing this with any earnestness, I’ll need to draw from a much deeper pool of knowledge!

Epiphany 4C – Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

“Jeremiah” by Rainer Maria Rilke

At one time I was soft like early wheat,
but you, raging one, did succeed
to incite my heart offered up to you,
so it boils like that of wild beasts.

What kind of mouth you imposed on me,
back then, when I was barely grown:
a wound it became: and from it seep
misfortunes, on and on.

Daily I resounded with the latest strains,
which you, the ever hungry, thought up;
since they were unable to kill my mouth,
you, go see to it that it shuts;

as soon as those we sought to crus and destroy
have dissipated and run away
and melted in fear out of sight:
I should like, amidst the debris,
recover my voice that was from the start
a weeping and a cry.

“Let Love Come In,” by Amy Kirsten

Let love come in whatever way it will.
In music, in friendship, in love for myself,
For others, for my family.
To all who are my family.
Friends on the street.
To the homeless, the broken,
Let love come in whatever way it will.

Let love come.

To the thankful who know how to love,
To the calm, to the awake,
To the joyful,
Let love come.

And when it does
(that gi-gantic, magnificent mirror)
it will tell us at all times and as one,
how beautiful we are.
How Beautiful We are.

Let love come in whatever way it will.

Jul 292014

“North American Time, VIII”
By Adrienne Rich

Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has raged onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stairs, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.

There are a lot of wonderful things about working with queer youth – wonderful things! They are creative, funny, and self-aware, with excellent b.s. meters. It’s incredible to be able to walk with them as they begin to articulate who they are to the world around them.

There are also some tough things about working with queer youth. There are some nights at group when I hear things that I can’t even begin to process. I’ve had to work through the difference between carrying someone’s trauma (or even holding it), and offering a space for someone to safely share the trauma they’ve been carrying.

Anyway, this poem frequently comes to mind. It seemed worth sharing.

Jun 192014

An old piece that seemed relevant for this week.

“The Place Where We Are Right,” by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

I always kind of chuckle when people ask me how my partner and I met.

“We actually grew up in the same church,” I reply, “so we met when we were in pre-school.”

This answer elicits a range of replies – most often rooted in some form of surprise.  Though I have a number of childhood friends who have married people from my hometown, I think I can say with a fair amount of certainty that Presbyterian youth groups (especially in East Texas) are not usually the place where same-sex partnerships begin.  Though we weren’t really friends in high school (we went to different schools and were a grade apart), and started dating about a decade after we’d moved away from our hometown, our relationship was grounded on a foundation of care for one another that had been laid by the church community that raised us.  In many ways, we learned what it was to be part of a faith community from being part of that faith community.  We learned what it was to be cared for by adults who weren’t our parents, to be challenged and taught to live into our beliefs, because it was shown to us in the lives of the people who took the time to teach us Sunday school, direct us in youth choir or bell choir, take us on trips.  The people in the congregation took the time to listen to us, to ask us tough questions – they showed us what it was to be loved.

When we got married, my partner and I received a number of gifts from some of those people who’d played such a big part in bringing us up.  One of the most treasured of those gifts is a set of wind chimes we got from one of my favorite Sunday school teachers.  They came with a note, that told us that the wind chimes were meant to be a reminder of our love for one another, so that even in the more difficult times we were sure to face we would have something to bring us back to the commitments we made, and the love we share.  As I write this, I can hear the wind chimes on our back porch being played by the cold air that sweeps through every minute or so, and it is with joy that I am reminded of that love.

After the ordination standards of the PC(USA) changed, making it possible for LGBT people to be ordained, 75% of the members of this same church voted to leave the denomination.  Among this 75% was the bulk of people who had been most formative in my faith formation.  The same people who taught me what it was to be loved by God, and who showed me the love of a church community, have now left the denomination because LGBT people (people like me and my partner) can be ordained.  Because we live several states away, we didn’t have to hear people call us an abomination, unnatural, or unrepentant sinners (that burden has largely fallen on the shoulders of our parents, and on the 25% who’ve remained in the congregation).  We didn’t have to feel directly the vitriol that some of the members displayed at various meetings.  I cannot help but recognize the irony in the fact that the woman who gave us the wind chimes is no longer a member of the church precisely because people like us – LGBT people who feel a sense of call and want to serve as leaders in the church – can be ordained.

A few gusts of air just blew through, causing the chimes to clang with a briefly-heightened intensity.  They remind me not only of my love for my partner, but also of love that was offered to me by the people who raised me in the church, and of the love made possible in a faith community.  I am reminded that the church is a family, at times stunningly beautiful in its potential to make connections, and at other times heartbreaking in its imperfection and messiness.  The chimes tell me that even those who love us an nurture us cannot always travel with us down the road we feel called to travel.  They are a gentle reminder that we still exist in the now, even as we keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the not yet.

I’d be lying if I said I’d never had my heart broken by the church.  There are some days when my heart feels as if it might crumble under the weight of the things said and done in the name of God.  I temporarily forget that the church is made up of people; that it is imperfect.  In these times, it is easier for me to give in to the hurt and weariness that comes with the things that have been lost, with the struggles ahead, with the inevitable pain that comes when we strive to live authentically with one another.  Yet, in doing so, I am turning my gaze from the connections made, from the love that is offered and shared, from the bellies that are filled and the souls that are nourished.  I risk missing the excitement shared by the 25% who have remained in my hometown congregation, who have banded together beautifully to work and love and pray for the community, in many ways bonded more tightly because of the difficult times they have had to endure.

“The place where we are right is hard and trampled like a yard.”  It is the doubts and loves that turn the soil, the places we are broken that allow growth to spring forth.  What might the church look like if we honored the brokenness in one another, if we confessed our fear and our shame and the things we don’t know, rather than trying to convince ourselves that the ground of what we do know is a firm enough foundation to hold us all?  Let us celebrate the unfamiliar, and see it as the opportunity to learn; celebrate our brokenness, and see it as the opportunity to be healed; celebrate our individuality, and see it as the opportunity to be part of something more.  Let us celebrate the silence that comes in the breaking of our hearts, and see it as the opportunity to hear the whisper that tells us we are all worthy to be loved.


Nov 052012

Based on recent conversations, news articles, even posts on NPR such as this one:

I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone when I say that I AM READY FOR THIS ELECTION TO BE OVER. Part of it could be that I’m in a swing state, so I’ve been inundated with mailers, commercials, phone calls, etc, from various candidates trying to convince me why I should vote for them (and, more explicitly, why I should not vote for their opponent). It’s exhausting; and, to be honest, there have been moments when it has made me seriously my question my feelings about humanity. Candidates have been labeled as “good” or “evil” and the lines that divide us have been deepened – the proverbial lines in the sand have become wounds carved into our collective psyche. I am exhausted from all of the talk – weary of the battle stance I too often feel I have to take – guard up, jaw clenched, prepared to defend myself against anything or anyone who might appear as a threat. To quote one of my favorite Ani DiFranco songs: “I hold on hard to something/between my teeth when I’m sleeping/I wake up and my jaw aches/and the earth is full of earthquakes.”

To put it bluntly, I am exhausted.

The poem below, by David Whyte, seemed to be an appropriate response. Now, I’m in no way insinuating that our government, or the legislative process isn’t important; but, I find it hard to see a world in which change can happen through the White House, or in the halls of Congress, if it doesn’t first start in the breaking of bread, in sitting at a meal with someone – looking them in the eyes, knowing their struggles, and trusting them enough to share ours. We have a million reasons to hate one another, to fear one another, to build walls between one another. These days, it seems the truly prophetic act is one that seeks to tear those walls down – to risk vulnerability in a world that celebrates shame – to give food away in a world that tells us to stockpile – to believe that the loaves and fishes will multiply, that all will be fed and satisfied. May we find the courage to defy a world that tells us that we need to remain captive to our fears.

This is not
the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves 
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.