Tuesday, December 27, 2011
So, if you are going to make a list of resolutions - make a "things to be list," and include on it - to be kind to friends and strangers and yourself, to be open to new things and ideas, to be a good caretaker of all creation, to be prayerful - not for anything, just to have conversations with God, to be open to the workings of God all around you and the opportunities that are present everywhere for you and the world...you get the idea.
Wishing all of you the blessings of the Christmas season, and many joys in the year to come!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
It has been a few months since I last posted, having allowed the business of seminary and work to consume me. But thankfully Advent has a way of slowing us down, making us prepare, opening us up to the workings of the Spirit.
This is the time of anticipation and expectancy - of feeling "Adventy" (see my post from last year at this time). In preparing for a sermon, I have been reading the Magnificat, Mary's joy filled response to the child in her womb.
"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, who has looked with favor on the lowliness of this servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name'" (Luke 1:46-49).
Imagine... "My soul magnifies..."
There are moments in our lives when we feel that we cannot possibly contain the joy, perhaps at the birth of a child, or at a wedding. In fact, I recently attended the wedding of a friend from seminary, and a few of the toasts people made at the reception spoke of the physical changes in the groom that showed everyone who knew him that something had changed in his life. He was magnifying his love for all the world to see.
Hopefully, we all have a chance to experience that type of feeling at least once in our lives. And one thing we learn is that, in order to feel it, we have to be open to it. We have to let go, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.
Letting go - in the weeks before Christmas?
We must "be" rather than "do." It is a tall order at this time of year, I know. So, for those with eyes glazed over from all that lies before them in the weeks to come (and I am including myself in this) - breathe. Take a few minutes each day to sit quietly, mindfully, and in prayer. Open your hearts to the workings of the Spirit that is alive all around you.
And, may the blessings of this Advent season find a home in your heart, that the light of Christ may be kindled anew, and the Spirit may work in you, and through you, for all the world to see.
Monday, July 18, 2011
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." Lev. 19:33 - 34, NRSV
|The Good Samaritan|
"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’" Matt. 25:34-40, NRSV
But if the codes of the Hebrew testament, or the words of Jesus, are not enough, perhaps it is best to at least heed the author of Hebrews who cautions, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Heb. 13:2, NRSV) So whether one is seeking to live a life in obedience to God, or simply hedging their bets, the scriptures are clear - the stranger among us, the immigrant who crosses our borders, is to be welcomed and treated as equals. So how did we get to this quagmire in the first place - we, a nation of immigrants, and what can the church and we as Christians, do to help?
I am reminded of the writings of the theologians of the Social Gospel movement that began in the late 19th century. They sought to find relevancy for the church in the modern world - a world caught up in the sea of rapidly expanding industrialization, market panic, and cultural changes. While we are facing a different social crisis, one of economic collapse, the market panic and cultural clashes still abound. One of the theologians of this movement, Walter Rauschenbusch, wrote “No social group or organization can claim to be clearly within the kingdom of God which drains others for its own ease, and resists the effort to abate this fundamental evil.”
Why has it been so difficult for us to act with compassion toward our neighbors to the South? It is not because we are heartless, but I believe it is because we are so very far removed from the impact of our actions that we cannot easily see the pain we are causing. I have witnessed time and again the compassion of people who respond to those in need, particularly in the aftermath of disaster. I have seen those who are economically able make changes in purchasing decisions based upon the desire to improve the lives of workers, or that of animals. But, our eyes must be opened for our hearts to engage, and it means we need to shorten the supply-chain, or open it up to scrutiny, if we are to be changed by the experiences of the world around us.
The deaths in the desert, the poor conditions of those living in collonias bordering the maquiladoras, the shackling of detainees in mass deportation proceedings, should challenge us emotionally, intellectually, and theologically, and will if we open our eyes, hearts, ears and minds to it. If we are to act ethically, we must take the approach that no one can benefit at the expense of another. We must also look at our own lives, and determine true need, from want. When we begin to think outside the box into which our governments and corporations have placed us, or into which we have placed ourselves, we can begin to envision new ways of being neighbor in the world - new ways of living into our faith.
The view of the world from above shows no boundaries, no countries, no borders. These are of humankind not of God. We created the physical, emotional and spiritual walls that divide us, and we can break them down. We must break them down so that we may stand face to face with our brothers and sisters on this Earth, our common sojourners. And, when we do, and we look into their eyes, may we remember that we are commanded by God to love the stranger, and care for them. We are taught by Jesus to love our neighbor as we love God and ourselves. Neighbor is not defined as those who look, think, or act as we do. May we also remember our heritage as citizens of this melting pot we call the United States of America. Save those who can be called Native American, we are a people of migrants. We are the children of those searching for the very things the migrants of today long for in their march across the desert landscape. And may we pray together that our country should always live into these immortal words:
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Teeming shore - harsh desert land - it is all the same.
No Mas Muertas!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
In our darkest hours, in our deepest despair, there follows a dawn that is made ever brighter, ever more warm upon our faces, ever more glorious in our souls, for having walked through the long and difficult night. We are alive, dancing in the light, joyous in the life that is stronger than death. We are, once again.
Wishing you all the blessings of the journey through the week that changed the world. May you experience the reflection of this moment, and the joy of Easter in your heart, and all around you.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
It is an unfortunate part of our society today that there are some who would, in the midst of these events, seek to find a way to blame the victims, usually inferring it is God's judgment upon them, as though God is filled with the same prejudices they embody on Earth.
God's judgment. Really?
I was preaching a sermon at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, NJ on the Sunday before Lent. The Gospel reading for the day was Matthew 17:1-9, the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, and I think that it is fitting that the transfiguration is the story told before Lent begins. During the sermon, I brought forward these words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a wonderful leader in our Anglican Communion. “All over this magnificent world God calls us to extend [the] kingdom of shalom-peace and wholeness — of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation. God is transfiguring the world right this very moment through us because God believes in us and because God loves us. What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And as we share God's love with our brothers and sisters, God's other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.”
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God..."
The "tyrants" that the Archbishop speaks of are not always the despot heads of state we often envision, but the worst kinds of all - the ones who seek to diminish their brothers and sisters, the very neighbors that Jesus commands us to love. These tyrants point to those they do not know or understand and accuse them of being sinful. But sin is that which separates us from feeling God's love. Actually, some define it as that which separates us from God's love, but I do not believe that is possible. I believe God's love is always there, all around us, just waiting for us to take it in. Sin is what keeps us from seeing it and feeling it, and in their hardness of heart for their neighbors, these tyrants have actually hurt themselves as they hurt others.
It is a sad and tragic thing to watch anyone harm themselves, but most especially when their actions harm others as well. And because there are those who would do just that, we must hear the call of God "to extend [the] kingdom of shalom-peace and wholeness — of justice, of goodness, of compassion, of caring, of sharing, of laughter, of joy, of reconciliation."
We must be the agents of transfiguration for the world.
Because "as we share God's love with our brothers and sisters, God's other children, there is no tyrant who can resist us, no opposition that cannot be ended, no hunger that cannot be fed, no wound that cannot be healed, no hatred that cannot be turned into love, no dream that cannot be fulfilled.”
In this season of Lent, take a moment to open your heart to the love of God that is all around you. Hear the call of Christ to love yourself, your neighbor, and God. And be filled with the Spirit to work for change in the world, so that all of God's children may be free and live with dignity.
Wishing you all the blessings of a Holy Lent.
Friday, January 14, 2011
I wrote the following after despairing for a young woman who said "it doesn't matter to me that God is a he."
Am I your child too, God?
I hear you are a boy,
but I am not.
I hear you are Father,
but I cannot be.
I hear you are Lord,
but I am told to be a lady.
I hear I am created in your image,
but I do not see it in the mirror.
I hear I am loved by you,
but your Church ignores me.
I am a little girl, God.
Do you hear even me?
Diana Wilcox ⓒ 2010
Words matter. The church must see inclusive language - using both female and male terms for the divine, as a matter of justice. If words didn't matter, than how about we use all female language for the next 2000 years, just to balance things out a bit. Anyone have an objection?
It can seem odd at first to hear it, but after awhile, it becomes odd to hear the all male language. I know, because when I first became part of a Christian community that employed inclusive language I was startled to hear "Our Mother, Our Father, who art in heaven..." But now, whenever I worship elsewhere, the mostly male language is troubling to me, despite the warmth of the congregation and the beauty of the liturgy.
Those opposed to inclusive language like to point to the bible as "proof" that God is Father/He. Yes, those are the predominate pronouns employed by a patriarchal society attempting to describe their faith experience, but we have evolved since then to understand that women are equal to their male counterparts. And, as with most justice issues (and this is a justice issue), the bible can be picked apart to justify any position, with unfortunate consequences at times.
When I asked a group of people how Eve was created they all said "from the rib of Adam." That is one version of the creation story, but in Genesis 1, Adam and Eve were created together.
"So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:27, NRSV)
And in Luke, Jesus uses a female metaphor for God in the doublet of lost sheep and lost coin:
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9, NRSV)
There are other verses as well, and historians are far more able than I to expound on the many cultures that believed in the divine feminine. So, it has not always been this way, and it is changing. But is it changing fast enough?
We cannot allow ourselves to be more interested in preserving liturgical traditions than in supporting justice for all.
God cannot be boxed into our language for the divine. When we try to say that God is only Father, we are trying to limit God. We are, as Jesus said to Peter "setting [our] mind not on divine things but on human things." (Mark 8:33, see also Matthew)
But, we are not only attempting to limit God, we are doing damage to our neighbor in the process. We must break out of this cycle of exclusivity and open our hearts and language to include all of God's children, male and female. Because, "God created humankind in God's image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them." (Gen. 1:27, changed to inclusive language)
So, in the name of all that is holy, in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, let us all open our doors to everyone. Let us remember that we are all created in God's image. Let us not allow a human made thing like language deny through silence any of God's beloved children.
It is a matter of justice.
So this week, try using all female images for God. And should you feel odd when saying She and Mother, remember how it must feel to never hear a reflection of your identity in God Talk. Carry that discomfort with you like a pebble in your shoe, and then go out and live into a life of inclusive worship.
It can be done. It has been done.
As with any justice issue, it takes a heart open to embracing all of God's children fully, and a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in the process.
Will you hear the call for change? Somewhere, a little girl like the one talking above is hoping that you do.
Blessings to you all in the year to come.