Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Slaughter of the Innocents

The appointed gospel reading for 12/28: Matthew 2:13-18

13Now after [the wise men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
  16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18“A voice was heard in Ramah,
  wailing and loud lamentation,
 Rachel weeping for her children;
  she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Where were the wise men to tell Tamir Rice's mother to flee, to move, to run? 

Where was the dream that told his family to gather him close and escape with him? 

Where was the truth-teller who would dare to say, "You can't give him a toy gun. The police don't stop to look for the orange tips when all they see is black skin"? 

Where those who will refuse to be consoled about Tamir, about Bettie, about Quintonio?

The greatest lie in print in our country at this time is thus:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (The Declaration of Independence)

Clearly, these truths are not self-evident. 

They have been massaged and rebranded and covered over by the lies of generations who will not let them go. Who will not allows the mistakes of the past to be properly understood as mistakes. Who will not grieve what might have been if Freddie had lived and been treated as an equal or Sandra or Michael. 

It is a slaughter of innocents when the boulders are coming down a greatly tilted playing field and when the shots come from those who have sworn to serve and protect. 

Where are the wise men and women? The angels? The Josephs?

All I can see is Herod after Herod after Herod.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ezra in Advent

The Narrative Lectionary reading for this week is: Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13

These thoughts were written for the 10W podcast for the week of 12/13. Please find this podcast here

          In this space, those of us who record this podcast usually offer a very short homily- some theological thoughts. I beg your indulgence to let me offer some personal thoughts this time. The book of Ezra is very difficult for me to read in one short bit, as in today’s reading.

            It is a deeply emotional and theological book. The beginning of the book details the return from the exile of the people of Judah. This return, however, is one of deeply mixed emotions. There are people who were left behind in Jerusalem who do not know those who are returning. There are Jews who remained in Babylon, not remembering or having a relationship with Judah- the land or the people. There are non-Jews, Gentiles, who now also reside in Jerusalem or who have taken ownership and care of the land itself.

            The first temple, built under Solomon, was built with conscripted Israelite labor. That conscription- slavery itself- led to deep divisions within the land. The second temple, now, will be built with permission and supplies via a decree from King Cyrus. While Ezra and parts of Isaiah acknowledge Cyrus as a servant of God’s will, whether or not Cyrus knew it, this still means the Holy of Holies has a mixed history at the hands of people.

            Finally, the book of Ezra will end with the men of the prophetic class (and perhaps others) being required to set aside their foreign wives and the children they have for their wives. Perceived to be a threat to the religious purity of the land and the people, these women and children are, presumably, sent back whence they came. Despite the guidance of the law to care for widows, orphans, and strangers- regardless of their origin- Ezra holds up the ideal of internal purity of a people as a commendable goal.

            The weight of awareness of privilege- Western privilege, white privilege, cis-gendered privilege, straight privilege, and even the advantages that I haven’t fully comprehended- the awareness of these things compels me to say this: Group homogeneity, or sameness, disguised as ‘purity’ is not a spiritual goal given by God.  When we make an idol of a time when “we” were all the same, allegedly great, we are willfully ignoring the work of God’s hands creating difference and drawing together into community. We are willfully refusing to see the others in the land, in the city, in our neighborhood, in our family, as a child of God. We are willfully choosing not to see Christ in the person right next to us.

            Perceiving the Messiah in the stranger is not a reality within the community in Ezra’s time. We should not read shame backwards onto that group for that failure. Instead, in the burgeoning labor of the Advent season, as we wait to celebrate Christ’s light at hand, we should read shame forward in that we- fellow humans with Ezra’s community- are still often too ready to shut out strangers. This unwelcome often goes by the names: safety, security, greatness, borders, danger, different.

            This is the story of the holy family. Our Advent prayer must be for God to birth in us the welcome and openness of the shepherds, the magi, and the Egyptian community. And for God to let die in us the fear of the other, the urge toward purity through shutting out others, and the hesitation to welcome difference in our communities. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Isaiah 11, For Our Time

Cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals as a Friday Prayer.

The truncated tree of Leah, Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth shall sprout,
New growth shall come from their roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on the One who comes,
    the spirit of discernment and patience,
    the spirit of thoughtfulness and strength,
    the spirit of deep awareness of the power of the Lord.

The One will find joy in the awe-inspiring work of the Lord.
The Messiah shall not judge by what eyes see,
    or decide by what ears hear;

but the poor will be seen through honest lenses,
    and decisions for equity will be made for the humble of heart and spirit;
The words of the Savior will cut through the bullshit of worldly powers,
    Those who oppose his goodness will be slain by grace.

The torso of the One who is to come will be garbed in justice,
    With decency and commitment as a lower garment.

The Black Lives Matter activists shall be welcomed by the police unions,
    the teachers shall celebrate down with the congressional representatives,
the Tea Party and the ACLU and the Zionist together,
    and a little child shall lead them.

The Republican and the Democrat shall eat,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the 700 Club will host Bill Maher and they shall find joy together.

The young will play together with no lockdown drills,
    and the older child will have struggles taken seriously .

No one will not hurt or destroy
    on all God’s creation;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.