Friday, January 31, 2014

2014.01.31 See This Film!!

SEE THIS FILM!!

I Am,  filmed by Tom Shadyak, shows and tells, through the wisdom of many voices and the actions of many human bodies, what is wrong with out world and what we can do together to make it better. Shadyak, in the midst of paralyzing post-concussion syndrome, faced the fact of his death and recovered to make this witness.

He dedicates the film to his father who spent his whole near-100-year life working tirelesslessly for the health and well-being of children at a St Jude’s Hospital. His dad is Tom’s mentor. On the film son interviews father, who says, something like: I go to a church and I cry. All this love for  an hour and a half. Then I leave, and I get no more turn-on for a week. When I go out onto the streets it all vanishes— until the next week.

What IS wrong with our world and how can we make it better? Tried and true questions explored in graphic and revelatory ways— not about the will of God but about the soul of God. God is never mentioned, nor is religion. 

Teasers:
Darwin in his book, The Descent of Man, mentioned survival just two times. He mentioned love 95 times! Humanity is wired for empathy; making war and excessive competitiveness breaks the natural law of being.

It's actually NOT the economy, stupid.

Deer, fish and birds vote on the next move of the group.

Modern Science agrees with all the spiritual traditions of the world. It turns out love really is all you need.









Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014.01.26 Another LIttle Prophetic Photo

The life-size sculpture entitled “Jesus the Homeless”  by Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz was offered in the fall of 2013 to two well known cathedrals, St. Michael’s in Toronto and St. Patrick’s in New York City. The big cathedrals rejected the work but the Vatican welcomed it. Here we see Pope Francis I blessing the statue, a work of art, yes, and also a profoundly moving reminder about what Jesus taught and lived: do not forget to care for and provide for the poor and those less fortunate, needful in any way.

                                                                       



The statue is meant to sit on a city street, a park bench for its “pedestal.”  The artist is working with the Vatican to find a permanent place in the city of Rome for “Jesus the Homeless.”

Schmalz was inspired to create the 2.5-meter bronze statue, after he saw a street person wrapped in a blanket in Toronto. It took him eight months and cost $25,000, funded by private donors, to complete the statue.  “I just saw Jesus,” Schmalz said. He wanted other people to “just see Jesus” when they saw homeless people on streets or people marginalized for whatever reason, lost or wandering or begging. Jesus is shown in solidarity with the poor and the unhoused, those he told us to help. The statue figure on the bench is asleep and covered with a blanket, an icon of the cruel social disease of poverty. You can’t tell that the figure is Jesus except for the marks of crucifixion on his bare feet sticking out from under the blanket.

 We see all kinds of images like this in the city. It is my policy to give money, say a little prayer in my heart, and then feel ashamed I can’t/don’t/won’t do more. I console myself with the thought that there are many programs and shelters yet I feel like Dickens’s Scrooge who refused to give money to help the poor, saying, “Are there no poor houses left?”  Godde, how terrible I feel, but I move on.

What came to Schmalz’s mind was Jesus. What comes to my mind when I see the image of the Pope blessing the statue is the same: I just see Jesus—not so much in the statue as in Francis’ gesture.

Oh, I know the Pope isn’t Christ but I imagine that Jesus would’ve blessed such a statue, and if it were in the flesh he would have bent to kiss the sleeping figure, careful not to disturb precious sleep. This, in my mind, might have been just before he entered the Temple precincts and overturned the tables of the money-changers—not because the usual commerce at the site of the Temple was bad, but because they were charging usurious interest rates! How fitting a symbolic gesture to confront the terrifying have/have-not split in our own treacherously affluent society today. 

The historical Jesus wasn’t poor or homeless. If he had been he would never have had the stamina to travel about preaching, teaching and healing. Still, he was crucified for his radical political and economic ideas.

Good Godde, imagine us all being absolutely equivalent in the eyes of Godde and each other and therefore commanded to make sure resources were evenly distributed, like the Eucharistic meal. We learned to share as little kids —and we forgot.

Theologian and author, Gustavo Gutierrez, interprets Jesus’ saying in the biblical story of the anointing woman in Mark's gospel, “You will always have the poor with you,” in a particular way. The biblical story tells of a woman who boldly comes into the group of men and anoints Jesus with costly ointment. The disciples raged at the woman’s waste. Self-righteously, and not without a little showing off for Jesus, they declared that the ointment could have been sold, the money given to the poor.  Jesus shuts them up and declares that the poor will always be with us. He does not mean that they don’t count or that their plight isn’t urgent. 

According to Gutierrez, Jesus meant that we should be more aware of the poor, take literally the idea that the poor are WITH us, literally. Yes, they are always with us but do we walk with them, accompany them and let them accompany us in daily life?  Do we listen to their stories? Can we be in solidarity with suffering poverty?

“Even the poor need to do this with other poor—to walk and talk and listen and support. It’s a universal requirement,” Gutierrez said. To meet suffering in our midst is basic Christian practice.

The first thing the Pope did when he saw Schmalz’s statue was to pray, and then he blessed it. The artist called the experience “amazing.”

This pope preaches like Gutierrez, also Oscar Romero who said, “The way to be close to the God of Jesus Christ is to be close to the poor.”

I wonder what the Pope prayed in the moment before he blessed the statue?  Would he have confessed his own inadequacies in living up to the gospel of love?  I don’t know but I thought, Good Godde, I can’t do it. I’m afraid. I’m so sorry.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014.01.22 Emergency Alert, Super Bowl Not Just the Violence of Football

In my opinion football is not sport but regulated violence. The "game" elicits cheers and competition all right but also has painful consequences for many of those football player "heroes" whose head injuries will likely have lasting effects.  This is not heroic!

Thanks to the information below I see that the Super Bowl has more than just football violence attached to it. I received this information from the Episcopal women’s order, Companions of Mary the Apostle, in West Park, New York.  I consider it urgent and important—for us to know, for us to pray, for us to do whatever we can with our awareness and resources, and for us to write and talk about this sin.

I find it ironic that Super Bowl Sunday falls on February 2, when one of the traditional focuses for this day in the Christian church was the "Purification of the Virgin" or the purification of women after childbirth.  I tell you women DO need purifying, not from child birth or menstruation, but rather from the filth imposed on them by such cruel captivity and enslavement to sex abuse for profit!! 

Here is what the sisters have to say: "Now, we know that football is the real national religion. One of us has a long history and fondness for Super Bowl parties. But we have learned of the pervasive human trafficking associated with the Super Bowl. 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

Let's be clear.  They did not "come" to Miami.  They were brought by their captors.  They are routinely forced to have sex, some as many as 50 times a day.  And when the Super Bowl ends, they will not be freed.  The Super Bowl is just the peak event for a year-round, daily hell for thousands of women, boys, and children.

And it's not just sex trafficking we're faced with. 10 to 20 million people in the world are enslaved. Some of them are cleaning your motel rooms, working on your lawns, waiting on your table, or making your clothes.

We were stunned to read the facts about human trafficking.  We are still trying to fathom the depths of this evil. But fathom or not, we have to fight it. Our baptismal covenant requires it.

Please don't turn away.  The Episcopal Church has many resources on human trafficking.  You can start here:
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/human-trafficking

For information about the Super Bowl, go to:
http://episcopal.grassroots.com/thoughts/details/super-bowl-and-social-justice

And please pray for everyone involved in this crime - for the victims, for their freedom; for their captors, that their hearts might be freed; and for us, that our eyes and our mouths may be opened."

May I say AMEN. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014.01.19 One Little Prophetic Photo



Here is one little photo that appeared in the Boston Globe’s Metro section on January 17th. It should have been on the front page. Maybe it wasn’t because there is something “wrong” with this picture.  

It pictures the Rev. Anne Robertson, United Methodist clergywoman and the executive Director of the Massachusetts Bible Society, making the Christian sign of the cross on the forehead of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, anointing him with consecrated water and saying traditional words: “Remember your baptism and be grateful.”

This is not the expected order of things.

At the parish where I was Priest Associate in Gloucester, MA. there was consecrated holy water in the font as you entered the church and we dipped our fingers into it, blessed ourselves with the sign of the cross, and murmured, or said aloud, “Lyn, remember your baptism.”  It was a customary gesture, not unusual. We did it to renew a faith commitment, often very difficult to keep. I used to love to see children clamor to be lifted up to the font so they too could stick their small fingers into the water and joyfully giggling make the sign—all over themselves.

This little photo shows such a usual ritual—unusually administered. Would a Protestant  clergywoman be tracing the sign of the cross on the forehead of a Roman Catholic friar and cardinal, “Prince of the Church?”  

Yet here it is in living color. It's so darn Christian. I mean if you really follow Jesus you have to speak out wherever you see injustice, greed, cruelty and other inhuman behaviors. You also have to be kind of crazy and bust through walls of rigid rules, especially patriarchal ones. This is what I see here.

The photo was taken at an ecumenical service at a Sudbury Methodist Church last Sunday at which O’Malley had been invited to preach in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Cardinal Richard Cushing’s visit to the same church to promote Christian unity. The drill was that O’Malley would dip his thumb into the consecrated water and say the words to Anne Robertson who would then take the bowl of water from him and go to offer the ritual gesture to the others present. 

But O’Malley didn’t follow instructions. He anointed Robertson then gave her the bowl inviting her to do the same for him. It was a powerful expression of shared Christian identity. Nothing in his gesture violated Roman Catholic teachings, yet the image speaks volumes about change.

Much of the change Jesus stimulated he did with his body. He went places he wasn’t supposed to go, healed people he wasn’t expected to heal, dined with people who were outcasts, and invited women to follow him and be apostles of the gospel.  Scandal—2000+ years ago and today. Women’s ministries are still not fully accepted in roles and places of authority in the Christian church. And women's ordination remains against the law for Roman Catholics. 

O’Malley didn’t perform a sacrament, yet he made this familiar ritual mutual.  He broke rank with expectations—the man, the priest, the father, the holy father, the hierarch—received from a woman that which he was supposed to give to her, not vice versa. The Cardinal gave her pride of place and she gave him the touch of a woman. Robertson was moved to tears by the unexpected gesture. See her blog at annerobertson.org for more in her own words.

Extremists have weighed in of course. Those opposed call this gesture “heresy,” “disgrace,” and a repudiation of the sanctity of Holy Orders. O’Malley didn’t ordain Robertson. She’s already ordained and he gave that status respect. At the other extreme, some have downplayed the gesture calling it one of “courtesy," a simple exchange of blessing. Ho hum. Yes, and more.

The photo of course has gone viral. It’s news and I hope good news. No, not an official priestly gesture, yet an outer sign of an inner grace, perhaps an icon, a window through which we can glimpse divinity, dare I say Godde's will?  

To me, what the camera’s eye reveals is prophetic, a visual that simultaneously foretells the future of the Christian church—and advocates for that future.












Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014.01.12 The Paradox of Freedom As Punishment

When I take in the news in print, online or on television, violence dominates, and I hear a lot of discontent and negativity. It doesn’t seem real.

I remember when one of my daughters asked when she was about ten, “Mom, is this real or is it something on TV?”

She was watching a detailed report of the story of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, newspaper magnate and millionaire. (Remember the Orson Wells movie, Citizen Kane?—modeled on WR Hearst’s life of lonely wealth.) Patty Hearst was kidnapped and held hostage in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Being young (20, just 10 years older than my daughter) and vulnerable, Patty was brainwashed and later joined the group—"willingly.” Her father had paid 60 million in ransom requests for food for the poor but the food was declared “spoiled” by the SLA and therefore inadequate. Patty was arrested for her involvement in a San Francisco bank heist and sentenced, thanks to “expert” witnesses, possibly bribed for their testimony, in 1976 to spend 35 years in prison. President Carter in 1979 commuted her sentence to two years, and President Clinton pardoned her in 2001. She eventually married her former bodyguard, had two children and dabbled in an acting career. She is now 59.  She is pictured below at the bank heist yelling commands. Another photo showed her with an M1 rifle. I picked this one.


What a tale! No wonder my daughter thought it was the latest crime horror show on TV.  It spanned five years of her tender early teen years and five of Hearst’s prime early twenties. And it was real.

The amount of trauma that Patty Hearst sustained in a short time, and maybe even a little vicarious trauma for my daughter, makes one a “dabbler” in life. The very ground feels tentative. I don’t know if this was true for Patty or witnesses to her drama, and I won’t judge that, but I do know from my own experience, both professional and personal, that when someone or some circumstance tries to steal your life, or steals it for a time, long or short, the scars are like tattoos on the brain and in the heart. You can survive with help and lots of authentic love and support. You can heal and forgive just by living your life with intention and will. But you don’t quite forget. 

Many days I get discouraged, let’s say disgusted, with the way things are. I want to harden my heart, shrug and look away. And, like my daughter did, I wonder what is real: all the violence or the basic goodness of everyday folks doing their lives and smiling big like our postman in all kinds of weather? 

The best advice I can give is: Don’t pick the scabs and do what makes you feel happy. You are free to do that in little ways. Why bother? Because unhappy people are dangerous. They want company. 

When I think of the Godde of Love I try to hold faith in, I think: Only a Big Love would bestow the gift of freedom—paradoxical "punishment" enough because it allows us to do what we want and look what we wrought all by ourselves and our freedom. So we don't need to make God into a judge and jury. Godde doesn’t judge but God does give us freedom, a dangerous gift.  Damn scary I’d say.

Yet too, we are free to be happy even when it’s hard. It’s more catching than unhappiness.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014.01.05 On the Elevnth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me—What?

I was meek once.

It happened in a big department store. I was waiting in a very long “Return of Gifts” line some days after Christmas day.  People were pushing and shoving as if they could hasten the coming of the Messiah, or another Santa, take your pick. I waited. I wondered why people returned more than they kept, or some nonsensical koan like that.





Shopping is hard and finding just the right gift for someone you care about is even harder. But let me tell you, returning is downright arduous.

Without warning, a woman laden with a huge bunch of returnables butted into the line ahead of me with such force I was set off balance. This practice I thought rude, tantamount to doing something socially illegal, not to mention the criminality of assault and battery. Many harsh words flooded my mind as I stepped aside to save myself. The woman’s bulk and her churlish expression warned me against even a polite confrontation. I kept silent and instead stared at the dazzling Christmas decor all around. Christmas was officially twelve days long; this was only day number eleven. I spied a tiny creche scene sitting alone on a counter. God, grant me patience and serenity, forget about courage. 

After all, I thought, I’m not in a hurry. Why let her cranky mood contaminate me? All I wanted was a store credit so my daughter could buy her own sweater. I understood her desire for another color but why did I say I’d return the darn sweater? I could have just given her the sales slip, which I’d dutifully saved, just in case. My mother always used to say apologetically as gifts were opened, “You can always return it if it’s not right.” Now here I was doing the returning. Too late to forestall cranky.

As I continued my poor-me litany, resentment seeped in to mock my prayer. So I shifted mental attention to the culture’s crass commercialization of Christmas, worsening my mood.  Jesus, when will this line move along? Calling on the newborn Jesus for help struck me as so hilarious, I laughed out loud.

“What’s so funny?” snapped the overly-packaged woman ahead of me as she turned around. “Oh nothing,” I said. “Just that I’m actually praying to Jesus that this line will move faster.”  “That is pretty dumb. You religious or something?” she said. “As a matter of fact, I am. I’m an Episcopal priest, and let me tell you this line is nothing compared to the centuries-long line I waited in for the church to ordain women.” “What’d you all do to move it along?” she asked. “We got pushy,” I said. “Good for you, sister. Good for you!” I gave her a thumbs up. She didn’t have a hand free to return my sign, this expert in pushiness. 

Still, we’d shared good will. It wasn’t exactly love but it touched the soul of Christmas for just a second—strangers coming together, melting their differences, split-second grace, sort of like divinity and humanity becoming one, just for the sake of love. This was not a Christmas gift to return.  

Besides getting this line moving I wanted something more, not sure what. I started to hum carols in my head to stave off my creeping uncertainty and longing.  

Just then a woman tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned, fearing another assault. She wasn’t even in the interminable line, but she was smiling. I smiled back. It felt almost conspiratorial just to face each other and quietly smile. “My dear, the meek shall inherit the earth,” she said, patted my arm then walked away. I felt oddly small, also confused.


 


Me? Meek?  I winced. Meek means gentle and soft, but I didn’t want to be a softy, even though Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount had designated meekness as a blessing, a source of contentment, enough serenity apparently to qualify the blessed to inherit the whole earth. Who could manage that blessing? I was empowered, a liberated feminist who’d fought to  be a powerful woman and a priest. Not meek. The woman was meek, not me, yet I wondered. Could one be meek and powerful?

That day in line I’d met two women. One stole my place, then applauded my courage; the other conferred meekness upon me. One gift fit just right, the other didn’t quite fit, but, well, I’d take it for Christmas’ sake. And who knows? It was better than eleven pipers piping. I might just inherit the earth one day—meekly of course.  

“May I help you?” said the woman behind the counter, which by now felt almost like an altar to me.