All posts by pstrbled

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This Is A Crucifixion

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
    and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

buying the poor for silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,

… The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

That is the Prophet Amos (cf., 8:4-14).  As the poor and elderly are being abandoned by this Congress and as Senators and House members, along with a billionaire President, prepare to make a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest citizens via a piece of legislation cynically referred to as a healthcare bill, know this:  The Lord will never forget your deeds.

Interestingly, there need be only two righteous  Republican Senators to stop this assault on the elderly and the poor. Where are they?  We are waiting for you to stand up and be counted for the poor and the elderly.  If you do not, then you will become the soldiers hammering the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus of Nazareth.  This is a crucifixion.

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When Your Existence Is Your Crime

Friday, June 16.  Philando Castile’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Minneapolis jury.

Wednesday, June 21.  Sylville Smith’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Milwaukee jury.

Friday, June 23.  Samuel DuBose’s killer is free because a jury in Cincinnati was deadlocked and this for a second time.

Two Sundays ago, I preached a sermon, PROUD, in honor of PRIDE week and in remembrance of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. In that sermon I quoted from the novel,  Notes From a Crocodile by Qui Miaojin, in which her major character, Lazi, a young gay woman in Taiwan, talks about her life and the life of LGB persons in post-martial Taiwan in the 1980s, saying that she and others like her are confined to the prison of stigma and abuse simply because, “your crime is your existence.”

Philando, a gun owner whom, were he white and shot like he was by a policeman, would have had the NRA howling in protest but of course, because he was Black, the NRA is strangely silent, was guilty of one thing that day that led to his execution. His crime was his existence.

This happens over and over in our country.  If you’re a White Republican congressman who is shot, then a howl goes up but strangely enough, it is not a howl about the proliferation of guns but a howling aimed at demonizing liberals as if the only ones killing in this country of upwards of 30 and 40 thousand handgun deaths annually were committed by ideological leftists.  This would be analogous to blaming liberal waiters for food poisoning diners and then refusing to ever investigate the root cause of the outbreak.  But I digress. You can read my blog post about that here, “Armed and Dangerous.”

Any number of groups of our fellow citizens are threatened daily—women, African Americans, GLBT, Jews, Immigrants of various kinds by a hatred and violence that is simply unacceptable.  We won’t pretend, by the way, that many of these groups aren’t demonized and abused and even killed within their own minority communities.  But here is the terrible fact facing us today:  not only is a withering violence permitted by police (and others) against persons who are deemed by their very existence to be criminal but we have a Congress and a President who perpetuate it and we have, as a people, condoned it.

I’m a clergyperson and am very tempted to say to these perpetrators and their advocates who are now complicit in their heinous crimes that they are going to hell. But that won’t solve the hell we have created right here, right now.  White folks, you got a ton of atoning work to do.  Mr. President, you should grow up and lend your voice to healing our country.   Congress, you are about to commit a crime against millions of Americans, sending them down a river of suffering and loss by opposing their fundamental right to healthcare. And we know you have sold your souls–Democrats and Republicans alike–for NRA money.   Church, fellow citizens, there are better angels calling to our natures and our actions.  We should listen to them.

Black Lives Matter.  Stop Violence Against Women and convict their rapists and murderers.  Love your neighbor, including immigrants.  Stop blaming Jews for the murder of Christ, Roman soldiers in the First Century did that.  LGBT citizens deserve to live fully, freely and protected by the Constitution.  And for once, hold accountable a police officer who carries out what is an extrajudicial execution.

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The Rhythm of Spirit, the Practice of Peace

On June 3rd, about 23 of us entered the sacred space of  Bon Secours Retreat Center in Maryland for a one day retreat devoted to the practice of prayer through the Divine Office and the Lectio Divina.  We were dialed into the rhythm and phases of the day and came to understand the vital practice of praying in the morning and evening as markers along the journey. Some of us will pray at noon and others may do so at the other offices of the day. But here’s the thing–we have kindled a practice of peace, turning and redirecting ourselves from the noise and belligerence of the world around us (and obviously by now we know that the media is belligerent or to put it more precisely, it is a platform for the belligerent). Turn away.  Center down. Breathe deeply.  Read a psalm. Pray a psalm.  Chant a psalm.  Practice silence.  There is a rhythm of the Spirit and a practice of peace and how much we need this in our lives!  Otherwise, what?  Otherwise we are tossed by every wave of news and events that erupt in a day, a week, a month.  Aren’t you exhausted by that?  Of course, we all are.  Practice this rhythm of the Spirit. If you want to discuss with me how you can implement this in your life, feel free to email me and set up a time.

Gathering for worship on Sundays is also a significant part of that rhythm of Spirit and practice of peace.  You get to feel a part of the continent, of the whole; you embrace that which is greater than your self but at the same time have your singularity and uniqueness affirmed. By Song and prayer and scripture and proclamation, we are placed at the center of the celebration of our common humanity and shared humanity; we commune with the Holy One; the Good Shepherd leads us to green valleys and still waters.  Why stay away from that? Why not be part of that? Come on.  You will be welcomed here and we need you as much as you need us.  There is a rhythm of Spirit and a Practice of Peace.   ~See you Sunday

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Armed and Dangerous: Liberals, Conservatives and A-politicals

In a blog post on June 26, 2016, I wrote:  Gun violence in America is a scourge.  Had an invader killed as many of our citizens, we would be demanding a declaration of war from our Congress.

On June 12, 2016, after the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando I wrote:  We in the United States are living in a country that is terrorized by its own inhabitants. We are and have been perpetually at war now for more than fifteen years.  We are polluted by violence.

On October 2, 2015, I wrote about the problem of gun violence as a problem with our human nature (not our political label):  For we are a corrupted people whose hearts, like a branch infested by insects, are hollowed out.

Today, June 14, 2017, I say again:  stop gun violence in this country. The shooting of people who differ from us politically, by race, gender or religion, is despicable.

ON this day, when once again an armed individual shot a Congressman, a staff member,  and two Capitol police officers; in San Francisco, where four were killed at a UPS center; and in a year when another 30-40 thousand or so people will be murdered by guns, we say yet again:  we desperately need to regulate guns and ammunition and we need to speak to our culture that is in love with death.  This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is a human issue.  It is about our civilization.  And it is simply galling that those who have dedicated their lives to making access to weapons available without regulation then feign surprise when shootings occur.

Tomorrow and the day after and the week after, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, liberals, conservatives and a-political individuals will take up arms and kill people.  Don’t be fooled by the likes of Newt Gingrich or Steve King who seek to use these crimes for their own ideological ends. The problem is and has been the easy access to guns and assault weapons.   We have heard it said and rightly so that had it not been for the police detail assigned to Congressman Scalise, things would have been worse.  To those who point that out, let me remind you that for the vast numbers of Americans, we have no guards assigned to protect us.  The Congress, State Congresses and Supreme Court have, along with the profit motive of gun manufacturers and sellers,  filled our streets with weapons.  We are being gunned down every day. Some more than others.  It is far past time for honest appraisals of why this is so.

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Living In A Time Of Locusts And Lies

“Let’s just agree that one symptom of a weak character is a sick passion for making the same mistakes over and over.”

The novelist, Denis Johnson, recently deceased, wrote that remark in collection of essays he published as Seek.  It is a spot-on diagnosis of the President of the United States.

Over and over the President demeans and insults, tweeting like some Magicicada insect.  We are living in a time of locusts and lies.  The President illustrates by these repeated lies and assaults that he is a person of weak character. He is small.  And each day he diminishes himself by increments, tweet by tweet.  I suspect that we’ll awaken one day and he will have disappeared, becoming so small as to be utterly consumed by his anger.  The Christian novelist, Frederick Buechner, defines anger this way:  “Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself.”

The goal of spirituality or life-in-God is to expand one’s soul.  I wouldn’t spend time writing about such a shrinking grotesque were it not for the fact that what the President says –any President—has actual and direct impacts upon millions of people.  We have a President who spends more time attacking the FBI and its former director than addressing the assault on our elections by the Russians.  His venomous rhetoric has unleashed a hail storm of hatred across the country.  The aim of the spiritual person is to aspire to nobility and merciful grace. As I said, authentic spirituality is an aspiration toward an expansive character.

I hope and wish that the White House and its occupants would discover the prayer of St. Augustine found in his Confessions, Book I:  “Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it.”

I’ll be praying this week, not for impeachment, but for redemption. Expansive spirituality, not belittling diminishment.  ~See you Sunday

 

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Why I March in PRIDE–A Pastor’s Perspective

“Hope will never be silent.”

Harvey Milk

Over my twenty-five year ministry at Riverside, I have marched in at least a dozen PRIDE parades. I cannot march today but tomorrow I will be preaching on the topic, PROUD. I hope you will join us in worship.  What follows is a post I wrote last year.  Happy PRIDE, everyone. ~PSTR

 I have been marching in the PRIDE parade for a while now, since the mid or late 90s. I cannot remember the first march but I do recall that it wasn’t that big. Now the Washington DC Capitol PRIDE march is gigantic.  I don’t march because I’m Gay, I march because justice matters and human rights matter and sexual orientation should not be condemned any more than left-handed freckled people should be condemned.

I march in PRIDE because the Church has not only been silent through the centuries but it has been complicit in the deaths, torture and slow annihilation of GLBT human beings.  I march for the same reason I go to the Holocaust Museum each April and read names during the Days of Remembrance:  because Christians have some great atoning work to do for the sins they’ve committed in the name of the Savior.

Over two decades as a pastor, I’ve talked in my office to persons bearing the crushing weight of their family’s hatred; written letters and emails of support to individuals who desperately longed to serve God in a church that would authentically welcome them; I have buried persons abandoned by their families. I prayed at the Capitol with a colleague when Matthew Shepard was murdered…  I march because these scars do not go away any more than the scars were erased from the crucified Christ.  I march in PRIDE simply to humbly say, “I hear you.”  Not, “I know your pain,”  because I do not.  I can only imagine it. But I hear you and I’m willing to stand by you on a day when you declare to the world that you are not only out but you are, like Walt Whitman, willing to sing a song to yourself, love yourself and celebrate your humanity.

I also march for hope and joy.  I fondly remember when a group of us attended a showing of the film, MILK.  What an exciting moment to be together!  I have performed more “gay marriages” than straight marriages in the last three years.  I do not see LGBT persons threatening the institution of marriage but they are saving it by taking monogamous, loyal love seriously.  I have blessed children adopted by gay couples.  How joyful!  On this Saturday, I’ll be marching in another PRIDE parade. I am proud of you, GLBT brothers and sisters.  I hope for you, pray for you, advocate for and admire you.  I am fortunate to pastor a church that is inclusive.  Maybe some Sunday, you’ll walk into a worship service with us.  We won’t single you out as LGBT. We will simply embrace you as fully human and like all persons, as someone who bears the Image of God.

For the haters, the Christian homophobic self-righteous and those who insist on demonizing others who are different, I adjure you to repent.  Turn around from that hatred.  It only leads to hell.  To the scholars, the scribes who find a way to leverage the bible against the love of Christ, I adjure you, cease from this inhumane scholarship.   These, alas,  will pass away.  But faith, hope and love will abide.      And PRIDE.  ~See you Sunday

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