Thursday, November 30, 2017

Feeding Hungry Hearts: Diocesan Convention 2017

I realized yesterday that my first Diocesan Convention was when my now 32 year-old son was 2 ... so this year marks the 30th anniversary of taking my place in the councils of the church here in Dio L.A. Where on earth did the time go?

When we gather for our annual convention, worship and liturgy is always at the center of the work of the church -- and this year Bishop Taylor delegated the planning of our convention liturgies to a committee of folks gathered from across the diocese and charged us with these simple guidelines:
Worship and music that are familiar enough so that folks can worship easily and naturally; and worship and music that express the inclusive ethos of our Diocese.
Here are some things we would like you to know about that work as we prepare to gather tomorrow in Ontario:

We were aware in our planning process that we have a unique opportunity this year as our convention falls literally on Advent Eve. We start on Friday in Ordinary time and as we work and pray our way to Saturday evening on the cusp of Advent: a time of expectation and new beginnings. We have recognized the gift the liturgical calendar has given us as we craft liturgical expressions of this moment -- both in the liturgical life of the wider church and in our collective lives here in the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The theme of Convention is "Feeding Hungry Hearts" and we have kept that in front of us throughout the planning process. We made the considered decision this year to amplify voices from within the Diocese of Los Angeles in our liturgy in general and in our prayers and music in specific.

We are blessed by multicultural diversity in our diocese and we have made liturgical choices to highlight that diversity throughout our time together. Working with our Director of Music for the Convention David Milligan (St. Paul's, Tustin) we have intentionally selected accessible hymnody reflecting the inclusive spirit our diocese as a gathered body and equipping us for robust corporate worship.

We have fielded a Convention Choir of those who will gather under David's direction to lead corporate worship. In collaboration with Stillpoint we will once again be providing prayer stations throughout Convention and a prayer chapel will be available for individual prayers and intercessions.
In addition, during the Friday Eucharist there will be two stations for healing prayers on the Convention floor for those desiring prayers for healing.

You can download a copy of our Convention Booklet here ... and please do keep the work of the Diocese of Los Angeles in your prayers as we begin this new chapter in our life together. We pray that our worship throughout our 122nd Annual Meeting will both feed and heal our hearts in order to equip us all to be agents of God's love, justice and compassion in the world.

Members of the Convention Liturgy Committee: Michelle Baker-Wright; Marge Cooley; Aimee Eyer-Delevett; Norma Guerra; Susan Russell (chair); Kay Sylvester; Fernando Valdes; Mark Weitzel; Rise Worthy-Deamer; Keith Yamamoto. Consulting: Serena Beeks; Elizabeth Rechter

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Waking Up in America Today



That morning you wake up
remembering the over 500 people
shot in cold blood by another maniac
with access to assault weapons
knowing that thousands ...
are still without power and water in Puerto Rico
and still stunned that the USA voted to oppose
a UN resolution condemning the death penalty
for LGBT people --
aware that tomorrow is the deadline
for Dreamers to hold onto the thread of hope
that keeps them in the only country they know
and that last night militarized police in Saint Louis
again brutalized peaceful protesters
as Congress again regroups
to take down Medicaid --
this time through the budget process.
And the Breaking News
while you're brushing your teeth?
Raging debate over whether or not
the Secretary of State
called the President a moron.


This is not making America great, my friends.
By any measure known to humanity it just isn't.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Finding Gratitude Where I Can


    This morning I'm finding gratitude in the evidence that we can still be outraged as a nation at the outrageously inexcusable excuse for a President who is currently inhabiting the White House.

    And yes: this IS me choosing my words carefully.

    At this point we could be so inured by the constant assault of racist, sexist, nativist, white supremacist, (etc. etc. etc.) diatribes, tweets and actions emerging from the Shop of Horrors masquerading as the White House that we become resigned to the damage this lunatic is inflicting on our body politic in general and on those most vulnerable and marginalized in specific.
    But here's the deal, Mr. President. We are not hapless frogs in a pot passively allowing the water temperature to slowly rise until we are too incapacitated to resist.

    We are an increasingly woke people organizing, strategizing, and onto your bull****. The more smoke you throw in front of it the more we know to pay attention to what's going on behind the curtain. And every time you come for one of us you come for all of us.

    We're on to you. We're done with you. And we are going to resist you and the toxin of white supremacist heteronormative patriarchy you represent until we reclaim the aspirational values of a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are indeed created equal. We are not throwing away our shot. Indeed, we have only begun to fight.

    That's what I'm grateful for this morning.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Again We Remember


Today we will gather in the chapel at All Saints Church at 12:10 p.m. for our daily Noon Eucharist and remember those we lost and how we were changed sixteen years ago on the day that has come to be known as simply a number: 9/11. Revisiting how we marked that anniversary fifteen years ago today at All Saints Church ... 9/11/2002 ... as we continue to hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide and we strive to be the change we want to see.

===============

The candles massed in front of the altar burn in tribute to the names being read from the lectern – Naomi Leah Solomon, Daniel W. Song, Michael C. Soresse, Fabian Soto – as other names scroll above the altar projected on a video screen – John Bentley Works, William Wren, Sandra Wright, Myrna Yashkulka.

The church is silent save for the reading of the names and the careful footsteps of those who come forward to light a candle -- the gentle thud of a kneeler lowered for prayer --the quiet rustle of pages turned in a prayer book.

“American Airline Flight 11”– Anna Allison, David Lawrence Angell, Lynn Edwards Angell, Seima Aoyamma. The names began at 5:46 – the west coast moment when the first plane struck – and will continue through the morning until we gather for Eucharist at noon. The table is already set. The red frontal – blood of martyrs – covers the altar. The chalice is vested, the missal marked. The credence table is ready, too: flagons of wine, silver chalices and ciborium lined up – ready to hold the holy food and drink of new and unending life we will share here at All Saints Church.

“All Saints.” Charles’ deep voice breaks the silence as he begins reading the next segment of the list of names: “World Trade Center, continued” – Paul Riza, John Frank Rizzo, Stephen Luis Roch, Leo Roberts. I remember the ancient words of comfort from the prophet Isaiah, “I have called you by name and you are mine.” As Charles tolls the names of the dead that assurance echoes again and again in my head. These names I do not know – some I cannot even pronounce – each and every one known to God. Beloved of God.

“United Airlines Flight 93”: Christine Adams, Lorraine Berg, Todd Beamer, Alan Beaven. Gone from our sight yet gathered into God’s embrace -- seated at the heavenly banquet we can but glimpse through the sacrament we are preparing to share -- the offering of praise and thanksgiving we will present at this altar.

I look again at the ciborium massed on the credence table – the candles flickering in the polished silver – the light of lives lost reflected in the vessels holding the bread of life. It staggers the mind to consider what they represent – the magnitude of the collective loss of love, joy, hope and possibilities taken on that day a year ago with such sudden unexpectedness.

Takashi Ogawa. Albert Ogletree. Gerald Michael Olcott. The pain of death and loss mingles mysteriously in the promise of life and hope. Body and Blood. Bread and Wine. Strength for the journey and hope for the future. Hope for a world where differences enrich rather than divide. Hope for the end of wars waged in the name of the God who created us not to destroy but to love each other.

Dipti Patel. James Matthew Patrick. Sharon Christina Millan Paz. “Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith there is a place for you here.” Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

What "Fake News" Looks Like

We hear a lot about "fake news" these days from someone tweeting from the White House.

Under the barrage of those tweets identifying anything the Tweeter-in-Chief disagrees with as "fake" (Oh, let's just pick national news stories verified by multiple sources including sworn testimony in congressional hearings as an example) it's easy to forget that there actually is news that is fake ... as in made up ... as in manufactured ... as in patently not true.

Yes, it's tempting to dismiss the impact that actual fake news has on those who read it uncritically and allow it to feed, water and fertilize the unexamined bias and bigotry that frames their worldview. However -- given the very real threat that fertilized polarization poses to the foundations of our democracy -- we ignore it at our peril.

Here's an example. I saw it fly by on Twitter and thought ... c'mon, really? This is so fake it must be FAKE fake news because ... seriously!

But no. I went my own self personally to the website (conservativepost.com) and pulled this screen cap:


It purports to be the "shocking image" of Black Lives Matter protesters blocking Hurricane Harvey relief ... in August ... in down jackets ... with snow on the ground. I know. I can't even.

If it's possible to get more fake than that I quite honestly don't want to know about it.

But let's be clear: these are the same folks tweeting their outrage that Obama failed to meet the needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina -- which happened during the Bush administration. They are the ones who are convinced Climate Science is a myth -- but Genesis isn't. And these are the voters who elected as their president someone who seems incapable of differentiating between fact and opinion -- proving that it is in fact a dangerous thing to live in a world where facts are not a thing.

Thankfully, scripture has an antidote to this craziness: John 8:32 ... "the truth will set you free." But in order to implement that antidote we have to activate it. So speak the truth. Call out the lies. Smoke out the fake. If we can be the change we want to see we can also be the truth that will set us free.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Good News vs. Fake News: La Lucha Continua

There is an old axiom about "the preacher preaching to the preacher" -- and it was never more true than the 8th Sunday After Pentecost when I preached this sermon I needed to hear: How to persist in resisting evil without becoming the evil we deplore. Thanks to inspiration from Walter Wink, Susan Thistlethwaite, Fredrica Harris Thompsett, George Regas and  ... of course ... Jesus.

==========


Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. Amen.

Some of you will remember this prayer -- the one I’ve come to think of as the Gospel According to Barbara. They are the words Bishop Barbara Harris – the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion – has used to begin every sermon I ever heard her preach. They are also the words that have become my own mantra to stay focused as an active member of The Resistance.

And boy howdy have they been getting a work out over these last days, weeks and months.

In our Collect of the Day this morning we prayed that we might: "so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal."

It is the same prayer we pray absolutely every year at this point in the lectionary cycle - - and yet it is arguable that in this particular year the tsunami of the twenty-four hour news cycle has made holding onto those "things eternal" more of a challenge than many of us can ever remember.

And that is why gathering together is such a critically important part of our resistance. We come together as community to pray, reflect and recharge -- to remember who are and whose we are. We come together not to escape "things temporal" but in order to engage them in the service of the eternal values of love, justice and compassion.

And then we go out -- refueled and refreshed by the bread and wine made holy: Go out to love, serve, challenge -- and resist -- for another week.

It is who we are as All Saints Church. It is part of our DNA.

A few weeks ago I was making my way to the chapel for Noon Eucharist and one of the memorial plaques caught my eye. Now, next Tuesday -- August 1st -- will the sixteenth anniversary of my first day at work here at All Saints Church. So it is fair to say I have walked by that memorial plaque literally hundreds of times.

But for some reason -- that quiet weekday morning in an empty church -- it tapped on my shoulder and demanded my attention.

It reads:

In affectionate memory of Julia Adele Meeker.
A consecrated member of this parish
rich in good works for all peoples.
"She fought the good fight
and kept the faith."
1861 - 1930

Julia Adele Meeker was born the year Civil War tore our nation apart and died the year after the Wall Street Crash threw it into the Great Depression -- with the First World War thrown in between. I can't even imagine the troubles she saw -- the challenges she faced -- the evils she resisted. And yet what we know is at the end of her life what the community who loved her wanted us to know about her was that she was rich in good works for all peoples ... and that she fought the good fight.

One of my teachers and mentors is historian Fredrica Harris Thompsett -- and Fredrica taught us that the reason we learn our history is to get a running start on our future. And so as we gather this morning to be refueled and refreshed for the challenges ahead of us, it bears remembering our history.

It bears knowing that we stand on the shoulders of all those who have gone before us -- those known and unknown to us -- who ... like Julia Adele Meeker ... fought the good fight. And to recognize that the fight we fight -- the resistance in which we engage -- the struggle that continues -- is not just an historic one. It is a cosmic one.

It is the fight between nothing less than good and evil. It is the cosmic struggle between the Good News of love, justice and inclusion and the Fake News of fear, judgment and discrimination.

Now, the term may have been coined in the last election cycle but Fake News has always been around. It is as ancient as the mythological story of the serpent in the Garden telling the first humans they didn't need God ... they could do it themselves if they just ate from that forbidden tree.

It is woven into the narrative of our spiritual family album in story after story after story as we chose domination over collaboration; chose our own way over God's way; chose fear over faith. And was part of this morning's reading from the Hebrew Scriptures when Solomon ... given the gift of whatever he might ask of God ... asked for discernment between good and evil.

Cosmic Fake News manifests itself in what theologian Walter Wink described as "the domination system" -- which operates according to the myth of redemptive violence, entrapping us all in the amazingly self-destructive dynamic of violence responding with violence to violence and on and on.

When I discovered Walter Wink's work in seminary I discovered a powerful tool to understand both the depth of our culture’s commitment to the way of violence and the power of the Gospel as a viable alternative to that way of violence: Of the power of the Good News of Love to ultimately triumph over the ongoing struggle to defeat the Fake News of Domination. The struggle continues ... la lucha continua.

A critical part of that struggle is to refuse to become the evil we deplore; to bear witness to the truth that resistance and reconciliation are not mutually exclusive. We put into action the truth that we can be both resisters and reconcilers every time we offer this blessing:

"And the blessing of God Almighty be with you -- those you love, serve, challenge and resist -- this day and always."

We are lovers and servers and challengers and -- yes -- resisters. And yet even as we resist we ask God's blessing on those we resist.

Because the good fight we are fighting is on behalf of the Good News of the God who loved us enough to become one of us in the person of Jesus. And the Jesus we follow is the one who will not rest until there is not a single stranger left at the gate.

Go ahead. Close your eyes. Picture the person you would most NOT want to be in heaven with. Have you got someone? OK ... That is the very person Jesus won't rest until he or she is inside the gate ... is gathered into the loving embrace of the kingdom of love, justice and compassion. That is the Jesus we follow.

And the Jesus we follow had as many parables to proclaim that Good News as there were people who needed to hear it. We hear some of them in this morning's Gospel from Matthew ... a Gospel that reads a little bit like all the best outtakes left on the cutting room floor pulled together and stuck into the 13th Chapter of Matthew so they don't get lost in the annals of time:

The kingdom is like a mustard seed ...
The kingdom is like yeast in a loaf of bread ...
The kingdom is like a treasure ...
The kingdom is like a pearl of great price ...
The kingdom is like a net cast into the sea ...

Jesus had as many parables as there were people to hear them because there is no "one size fits all" story about the kingdom of God ... because the kingdom of God is as deep, and as wide and as abundant as the infinite love of God.

The Good News we have staked our lives on is that we can resist to our last breath ... blog post, tweet, email, protest march and petition ... the actions of those who participate in the oppressive domination systems that surround us ... while at the same time refusing to let the "fake news" that they are anything less than beloved children of God win out over the Good News that God loves us all beyond our wildest imaginings.

Another quote from Walter Wink: "Evil can be opposed without being mirrored. Oppressors can be resisted without being emulated. Enemies can be neutralized without being destroyed."

And we can fight the Good Fight without losing sight of the Good News in the process. We not only can ... we must.

Our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being requires us to stand up and speak out when the dignity of any member of the human family is threatened. This week we stood in solidarity with members of the transgender community who once again found themselves being used as sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics.

The unconscionable attack by the current administration on the fitness of transgender Americans to serve in the military was not only unwarranted -- it was antithetical to our core values as Americans and as Christians.

As our brilliant friend Susan Thistlethwaite wrote: “Transgender Americans do not “weaken” the military or the country. The profound truth of the American experiment, when we are living up to it, is that we are much, much stronger as a people when all are treated equally and have equal rights. Blaming and shaming transgender people is not only a betrayal of our national political aspirations to “all” being “created equal,” it is a betrayal of deeply held religious values.” [Manufacturing Resentment, 7/26/17 | HuffPost]

At All Saints Church we will continue to stand with and for all those on the margins. We stand with all those in danger of losing healthcare, with anyone being profiled because of their race or their religion, with neighbors under threat of deportation, with refugees seeking a safe haven and with Dreamers seeking an education. We will challenge those who applaud excessive force by law enforcement officers and those who threaten to undermine equal protection for LGBTQ Americans.

We refuse to choose between competing oppressions; instead we will stand together and resist any and all assaults on the dignity, the safety and the humanity of any and all of God’s beloved human family.

And we will not allow ourselves to be either distracted or discouraged as we continue in to live out All Saints’ DNA-deep commitment to turn the human race into the human family – a commitment that fuels our resistance, sustains us in the struggle and inspires our vision for a kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven that includes absolutely everyone.

Full stop. No exceptions. Period.

One of the handful of biblical citations I carry around in my back pocket at all times is John 8:32 ... "the truth will set you free."

And the truth is Jesus didn't come to make people comfortable -- Jesus came to tell the truth about the good news of God's inclusive love available to absolutely everybody and to debunk the fake news that some people are more loved, some people are more saved, some people are more worthy.

If Jesus' goal was to make people comfortable there would've been no cross and there would've been no resurrection and we wouldn't be here over 2000 years later still fighting the good fight.

Many years ago our Rector Emeritus George Regas challenged us to live out the prophetic Gospel by "setting audacious goals and celebrating incremental victories."

This morning we are still celebrating the incremental victory that came in the wee hours of Friday morning: the defeat of the latest effort to take healthcare away from millions of Americans. It was an incremental victory ... make no mistake about that: we know that battle is far from over.

And yet against a lot of odds the combined voices of women and men over days and weeks and months -- in the streets and on the phones and at town hall meetings and in the halls of Congress -- including my mother-in-law who called her Senator so often that when she called the intern answered "Good morning, Mrs. Hall. What can we do for you today?" Together we  fought the good fight ... like our sister Julia Adele Meeker ... and proved once again that together we can make a difference for "all peoples"

In a few moments we come together again around this table -- not to escape "things temporal" but to engage them in the service of the eternal values of love, justice and compassion. And then we will ask God to send us out -- refueled and refreshed once again by the bread and wine made holy -- to love, serve, challenge -- and resist -- for another week.

It is who we are as All Saints Church. It is part of our DNA.

Let there be peace among us, and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression. Amen.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

In Solidarity with the Transgender Community

Comment issued by All Saints Church in Pasadena in response to the July 26, 2017 assault on the dignity of transgender Americans by their President.

Our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being requires us to stand up and speak out when the dignity of any member of the human family is threatened. 

 Today we stand in solidarity with members of the transgender community who once again find themselves being used as sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics.

The unconscionable attack by the current administration on the fitness of transgender Americans to serve in the military is not only unwarranted -- it is antithetical to our core values as Americans and as Christians.

As our brilliant friend Susan Thistlethwaite wrote: “Transgender Americans do not “weaken” the military or the country. The profound truth of the American experiment, when we are living up to it, is that we are much, much stronger as a people when all are treated equally and have equal rights. Blaming and shaming transgender people is not only a betrayal of our national political aspirations to “all” being “created equal,” it is a betrayal of deeply held religious values.” [Manufacturing Resentment, 7/26/17 | HuffPost]

At All Saints Church we will continue to stand with and for all those on the margins. We stand with all those in danger of losing healthcare, with anyone being profiled because of their race or their religion, with neighbors under threat of deportation, with refugees seeking a safe haven and with Dreamers seeking an education. We refuse to choose between competing oppressions; instead we will stand together and resist any and all assaults on the dignity, the safety and the humanity of any and all of God’s beloved human family.

And we will not allow ourselves to be either distracted nor discouraged as we continue in to live out All Saints’ DNA deep commitment to turn the human race into that human family – a commitment that fuels our resistance, sustains us in the struggle and inspires our vision for a kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven that includes absolutely everyone.