Wednesday, May 16, 2018
I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance in years. I remember clearly the curious looks I got for standing with my hands by side on my son's first day of kindergarten, silent while everyone else recited along with the principal over the intercom. I love to sing and the American national anthem is great for a soprano who wants to pretend she's Beverly Sills, but I stay quiet. My relationship to my country is not my greatest allegiance and I've pledged everything I've got to the One Who Loved Me First.
Due to my activism, my efforts to bring change on a variety of levels of society, to what people are sure they know about my politics... (Just a week ago someone mentioned assuming everyone in a group was registered as voters for a certain party- I'm not registered with any party.)... due to what people see and hear from me, assumptions are made. For most of those doing the assuming, it is an impossible idea that I would be found sprinting down the sidewalk toward a crumpled American flag, hoping to reach it before the situation was any worse. Yet there I was.
When I was about 50 yards from the flag, a man sprinted across several lanes of traffic from the other side of the road and snatched it up, rescuing the cloth itself from additional ignominy. And I returned to my car, panting, trying to figure out how to explain to my children why their mom was suddenly possessed with a frantic need to rescue a particularly patterned fabric from the street.
I barely understood the frantic need myself.
I wanted to save my own hope in the flag as a symbol of what this nation can be and could be.
I wanted to show my children that you can be deeply frustrated and disappointed and still faithful.
I want to continue to have the hope of General Lafayette in the "perpetual union of the United States" that it may "one day save the world".
Inside me, beyond how impotent I feel, how grieved, how desperate, how revolutionary, I believe there is a soul of an idea of who the United States can be that seeks to repair the wounds of the Doctrine of Discovery, to heal and repent of the on-going injury of enslavement, racism, and white supremacy, that truly embraces the concepts of equality and equity relative to justice, access, and opportunity.
My jaw is tight, I cry, and I'm so tired.
Better is possible.
Surely, better is possible.
It is a sign of high privilege that I can even entertain that notion.
And, yet, I know that I am an Esther among Esthers, an Abigail among Abigails, a Huldah among Huldahs, a Priscilla among Priscillas. I am not alone in the work or the call or the disappointment or the anger.
I will resist the efforts to cave and accept oppression, silence, complicity, lies, or misdirection as normal, representative, or necessary.
I will fight.
And I will hope.
And, if I have to again, I will sprint down a sidewalk along Tudor Road on a Monday evening, to rescue a tangible symbol that is more than history; it is possibility. It is that possibility that my Truest Allegiance will not let me ignore.
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
At confirmation, the other day, the kids and I did a little math.
Let's say Paul's letter to the Galatians (the frontrunner for being the oldest text in the New Testament) is circa 50 A.D./C.E.
2018 - 50 = 1968 (so that many years separate us from the letter's estimated writing)
1968/50 = 39.36 (Per my 50-year story model, we are slightly less than 40 units from the writing of Galatians.)
I had the confirmands set out a row of 40 M&Ms or Skittles from them across a table. Those 40 M&Ms are forty life stories that are between us and Paul's letter to the Galatians. While there might not actually be a straight line between any of us and that group, there is a direct line of narrative and spiritual inheritance from the Galatians to us (contemporary travelers on the Way of Christ).
I find that amazing to consider. We are 40 generations from Paul, 40 M&Ms between us and the birth of people wrestling with what it meant to be counter-cultural in the Roman Empire. (In Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free...) There's less than a full Skittle between the Galatians and the life of Jesus. We are 10 Skittles from Martin Luther and he's 30 M&Ms from Paul.
And all of this is a blip when we consider that we are contained within the kairos of Divine, Eternal Love. Chronos means chronological or sequential time, whereas kairos is a reference to an open space in time that create opportunity and right moments. All our M&Ms are provided contained within God's own self and God's own time.
I realize that this way of thinking about time is a little abstract. Yet, it was moving to see 7th and 8th graders contemplate the reality that there are 40 life stories (and more) between them and the writing of the oldest book (a letter) in the New Testament. They reported thinking of everything in the Bible, including, Jesus as long, long ago and far, far away.
The truth is the brown-skinned Jew from Palestine is closer than we think. And his first witnesses are only 40 candies away.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Monday, April 2, 2018
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Friday, March 30, 2018
Where have I denied Jesus?
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him.
When I read this section, I feel so much grief that I want to turn away from the text. I cannot change the story and I know what is coming, so instead, I would like to shut my eyes to it. It is the way to intellectual self-preservation, for me, to pull myself out of the story and just look at the details. If I stay with the "mind" questions- what's up with the naked guy, is that really blasphemy, why a kiss?- then I can pull away from the pain I feel in my body when I read this.
When I say the pain I feel in my body, I don't mean like like daily aches and pains or the sharp acuteness of an injury. I mean, that as I read this story, my chest tightens, my eyes burn, and I feel an emotional wrenching that I would really prefer to stop. I don't like these sensations. If I escape "into my head", I am able to ignore the physical experience, but then I am not grappling with the whole body reality of this story.
When I take a moment to engage the spiritual exercise of Jesuit Imaginative Prayer, I breathe myself into the story. I am so shocked at how many people are around me. I am surprised by how the feeling in the courtyard feels similar to the psychic energy in our own time of violence, power struggle, and helplessness within those watching who wish to act. I am overcome by the awareness that I cannot help Jesus. Simultaneously, I am washed with the knowledge that I can help someone else in the crowd.
The story is around me, not just in front of me. Jesus' betrayal, trial, and desertion don't just affect him; they are having a powerful effect on others who are watching, who had hoped, whose breath is bated.
Is this something that I do often- believe that I am watching Jesus, but failing to see where He is in the people around me? In the crowd, when I looked away from the spectacle, I saw people watching outside the courtyard. There were people who were excluded from society, deemed unclean. There were those who hoped for healing and those who just wanted be seen. There were those whose anger masked their hurt and those who were too hurt to care anymore.
There was a time collapse for me in how similar the situation was to any crowd (in physical space or online) in contemporary life.
Normally I would write my reflection questions here, but this spiritual exercise was very intense. Trying to write questions now would be putting an artificial stop to what I am feeling and thinking. I don't want to do that. I encourage you, in your own practice today, to pay attention to what arises within your body and your mind. Both parts matter because both parts make up who you are and the wholeness of you, whom God loves and has saved.
God of peace, open
My eyes to your beloved
So that I might grow.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
When I reflect on this passage, I am deeply moved by Jesus' honesty. It's not like I expect the Savior to be a liar, but so often we don't speak the whole truth to one another or to God. We attempt to deceive ourselves (and others), knowing deeply that God knows the truth of us (and still loves us).
Jesus pours out his fear and grief in this prayer. Does he know exactly what is coming or is he speculating, combining his dread with what he has seen in the years of religious leaders' oppression and Roman occupation? He does not attempt to reframe what he is feeling with quick platitudes about how it will turn out okay or work for the best or even that the Father has not given the Son more than he can handle. He is stricken, scared, and alone.
His friends do not fully understand his thoughts and feelings, in part because they do not fully comprehend who Jesus is and what he is about. I am grateful, grateful for Jesus' own sake, that the disciples are too tired and stressed to stay awake. It means they're too tired to be like Job's unhelpful friends or to tell Jesus that he's exaggerating or even to turn the narrative about them and their feelings.
This section narrows its focus on Jesus and his current reality- that a huge sacrifice is coming and that in a fully human body, with human emotions and human logic, it is going to hurt in many and various ways. Is there another way? Any other way?
How many times have I been in a time of pain, a dark night of the soul, the valley of the shadow of death and wanted out? I have tried bargain with God, tried to reframe and accept, attempted to stuff my feelings. It is the rare occasion that I have said, "Not what I want, but what You want."