Sunday, May 31, 2015

There is Love (Litany for Holy Trinity)

At the beginning of time, there was chaos and darkness- disordered nothingness
But that harsh environment, in the sharp edges of confusion and potential,
There was Love.

God’s own self existed- Truth does not exist in a vacuum.
There was a relationship within God that is beyond our imagination.
There was Love.

The Word of Life and the Shaping Spirit worked out the soil, the water, the plants, the animals.
The Eternal Creative birthed people for the sake of creation.
There was Love.

In the calling to co-create through farming, ranching, planting, cultivating, parenting,
Friending, building, dreaming, cooperating, and expanding,
There was Love.

Together, God’s own self revealed kin-dom in one way and then another.
Despite rebellion and rejection, brokenness and stubbornness, in the plan of Three in One
There was Love.

Oil and flour sustained. Wellsprings flowed in the desert. Prophets heard whispers.
Women dreamed and did not abandon hope. The tilling of the soil continued through generations.
There was Love.

God took on flesh. A necessary separation of powers,
deepening the relationship between the One in Three.
There was Love.

Healing. Teaching. Men. Women. Children. Water. Wind.
Words in the dirt. Voice in the air. Dove descending. Forgiveness. Forgiveness. Forgiveness.
There was Love.

Darkness. Death. Deep grief in the Eternal. Curtain torn in two.
Hush. Hush. Hush. There is nothing but patience. They wait. God waits. Earth sighs.
There was Love.

Bright! Bright! Up. Up. UP! Life reigns. There is no division. Of the same substance,
The same truth, the same eternal being. The omnipotent resurrection is the revelation of eternity.
There was Love.

Mystery in water. Mystery in bread. Mystery in the fruit of the vines.
Community. Communion. Consolation. Confusion. Correction. Capability. Creativity.
There was Love.

There is no explaining what was, is, and ever shall be.
There is trust. There is hope. There is God: Holy Parent, Holy Son, Holy Spirit.
There is Love.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Verbs are Action Words (Newsletter)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith… 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. James 2:14-18, 26

            I just realized today that I haven’t posted a single thing to my blog since Easter. For some of you that doesn’t mean anything and for others, you’re screaming, “I know!” Though, in most weeks, I write sermons, litanies, commentaries, and (sometimes) book reviews, my blog remains a necessary outpost of ongoing thought and conversation. It is also the most frequent conversational intersection I have with people who are not active members of Lutheran Church of Hope. Among some of my friends, we have a phrase, “Writers write.”

            You can’t call yourself something, if you’re not doing the thing that proves the title. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but on the whole, we have to backup our words with actions. Having faith in God, trusting that we are people on the Way of Christ, and giving thanks in and for the Holy Spirit is good and important. However, mere assertion of faith through words is not enough to demonstrate what we have received through God’s own grace.

            Since we are decidedly not earning our salvation, we sometimes forget how much our actions matter and are essential to the life of faith. We are not convincing God to act or completing what Jesus has begun. Faithful actions- love for neighbors, care for creation, active pursuit of justice and peace- are part of a faithful life. Salvation is a one-time thing and not of our own doing. Sanctification, on the other hand, is an on-going work of the Holy Spirit.

            That work, sanctification, is about shaping us. The Spirit puts opportunities in our way, people in our lives, situations in our sight, and concerns on our hearts, so that we might respond and learn what it means to trust Christ’s desires for the world and God’s plans for the kin-dom. None of the efforts to which we are drawn happen magically or through our mere words among ourselves. They require prayer, sweat, tears, and effort. We must dare to get it wrong, but dare more greatly to trust in the forgiveness that exists for us- so that we might try, try again.

            Christians Christ. I do realize that “Christ” is not a verb. However, if “writers write”, Christians…? What is the verb that closes that sentence? It’s in your hands.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Male Gaze is Unbiblical (Reblog)

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)
Why does that passage matter? In the scheme of things, Luke’s gospel is following along. There are women spoken to, healed, encountered. This also happens in John and in Mark. Matthew, too. This insertion from Luke is interesting, though. It must be there for a reason.
I believe it is there to refute the idea that the disciples traveled with camp prostitutes. This passage is inserted, in my opinion, to acknowledge what was likely rumored and true about the disciples when Jesus was in the flesh and then among the followers of the Way after the Ascension. There were women with them. Why mention that the women had been healed or to whom they were married or their names?
It keeps the women from being nameless and faceless. They are not just bodies, traveling with the men- serving food, scratching itches, and tidying up after a late-night gabfest with the Master. They were participants and, furthermore, many were of greater social status than that of the disciples. Their names are used so that those who read Luke’s account would recognize some of these women by name, habit, or story.
Additionally, the gospels and the Scripture, where the Spirit peeks through, does not allow women to function merely as sperm receptacles and fetal incubators. Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman that she has worth beyond whatever man might currently offer her protection via house or bed (John 4). He also sees fit to restore a woman beyond fertility and a woman before fertility to life and community (Mark 5).
Throughout the Scripture, women wrestle with the ability or inability to have children, but those around them affirm that their worth is beyond rubies in being who they are. There are prophetesses, female judges, women who preserve their families, their in-laws, and even their husbands’ necks and nether regions. The Bible has no shortage of women upon whom the male gaze was simply admiring of strength, wisdom, and courage.
It is when Christianity becomes domesticated, around the time of the pastorals, that the community of women as leaders, teachers, facilitators, and financiers becomes a problem. As the Empire makes its own impression on Christianity, there is a certain domesticity that becomes expected of women. The mater familias is not yet a bishopess or even a deaconess. She is no longer a theotokos (God-bearer) alongside her brother disciples, she is a vessel whose value lies in her (tamed) sexuality, which is redeemed through honorable male claiming and through the bearing and raising of godly children.
Somewhere in there, women stopped being seen with the eyes of the Son of Man, and just became seen with the eyes of men.
I’ve been thinking about this with the information that has come out about Josh Duggar and his molestation of at least five young girls when he was a teenager and they were younger. I’m not linking to any story related to that. You can google it and come back. In addition to no charges filed, Duggar’s “therapy” was to help a family friend with a construction project. Then he was readmitted to the bosom of the family and it is likely that those whom he abused, including some of his sisters, were ordered to forgive him. It has been alleged that victims of this molestation also received counseling. In the same manner as Josh? Was their counseling toward their own ownership of their bodies and their right to reject unwanted advances? Was it counseling toward releasing of guilty feelings and wholeness? Was there a time to discuss that forgiveness might never feel right or come?
Part of the reality of the Duggars’ Biblical interpretation involves the subservience of women- in childhood and in marriage. Sisters are subservient to brothers. Daughters to fathers. Wives to husbands. Day in and day out. This is the obedience that matters. This order puts women in right relationship with God.
That manipulation of the Word, as well as the male gaze, makes me wholly uncomfortable, to say the least. Women who are taught- nay, indoctrinated- to this end struggle to perceive self worth outside of their relationship with men. Where they resist, it is labeled disobedience. Where they are mistreated, they are marked as co-sinners- in temptation and “allowing” such things to occur. Even little girls know that their value comes from how men view them, not what they can do themselves.
How far we have come from Luke’s paragraph- meant to end speculation and to clarify that women were a valued and valuable part of the traveling disciples’ group… AS women. The later church rejected the Gospel of Thomas, which asserts that Jesus would make Mary Magdalene like a man so that she could be saved, as the men were to be. The accepted gospels let stand that God enfleshed only had one gender expression, but he surrounded himself with many other bodies.
We cannot allow a twisted perception of the Gospel, of women’s roles, of “obedience” to co-opt the wideness of God’s mercy. There is no joy in Mudville that Josh Duggar has been exposed as having molested young girls. There is deep, deep grief that he, along with his victims, grew up with an understanding of the Bible that left all of them confused as to what is right relationship between men and women. His sin is not the only one here and he’s not the only one who needs to ask for forgiveness.
Whether or not the forgiveness is granted, from humans, is a different story. I have to ask myself, what would Mary, Susanna, and Joanna do?

This piece is my own work, originally written for and posted on on 5/25/15 as part of the on-going The Pastoral is Political series.