Monday, May 08, 2017

The Church of Enough

Sermon preached at All Saints Church in Pasadena at the 7:30 a.m. service on Sunday, May 7, 2017

My first up-close-encounter with Jesus was the mosaic that hung above the drinking fountain at the Lutheran Day School I attended from first grade on. Every time I stopped to get a drink – between kick ball games or turns at the jump rope – there he was: looming above me surrounded by fluffy sheep with a lucky lamb in his arms, gazing down with a patient, loving look on his blue-eyed face. Jesus the Good Shepherd. [I don't have a picture of it but this one is close!]

I remember that mosaic every year when “Good Shepherd Sunday” rolls around … the Sunday in our lectionary cycle when our lessons focus on sheep and shepherds as icons of who God is for us and who we’re called to be for each other.

It is the Sunday when we hear the familiar words of perhaps-the-most-memorized and beloved passage in all of scripture: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

And it is the Sunday when we hear in the collect of the day -- the prayer that begins our worship -- not just the job description of Jesus as shepherd but our marching orders as sheep: O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads ...

Follow where he leads.

A few years ago I was in Memphis and I was able to squeeze in a visit to the Civil Rights Museum – a moving and inspiring tribute to those who dared to dream of a nation where liberty and justice for all truly meant all. At the entrance to the museum is a striking sculpture of a spiral of human figures reaching high into the sky, each one standing on the shoulders of another – paying tribute to all those who have gone before and continue to support us as we carry on the struggle toward equality for all in this nation of ours.

Our brother +Gene Robinson has spoken of this very sculpture as an icon for the work we are about in the church and in the world as we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. This morning I remember one of those shepherds: Bishop John Krumm.

A former bishop of Southern Ohio, John Krumm retired here in the Diocese of Los Angeles and was active until his death in 1995. I’ll never forget when Bishop George Barrett – another giant of justice – climbed into the pulpit to begin his homily at Bishop Krumm’s funeral.

“John Krumm was never disillusioned by the church,” he said, stabbing his boney finger into the air for emphasis, “because John Krumm never had any ILLUSIONS about the church!”

And then went on to recount how he had served the church he loved ably and prophetically for nearly 60 years in ordained ministry during times of extraordinary change and challenge. And that’s the church I grew up in. It was a time when the sheep were scattered and the church was both paralyzed AND polarized over the last great schism that was going to split the church, destroy the Anglican Communion and (I think I’m right on this) destroy western civilization as we know it: the ordination of women.

John Krumm was in the forefront of that struggle – so my first awareness of him was as one of the list of those my Aunt Gretchen used to mutter about over Sunday dinner if -- in spite of my mother’s best efforts to steer the conversation elsewhere -- it ended up on church politics.

My Aunt Gretchen died with the “Save the 1928 prayer book” bumper sticker on her car and when I ran into her best friend Pat Reiman at a diocesan event after her death and my ordination, Pat said, “Gretchen would have been so proud … or at least I’d like to think she’d have come around by now.”

And I think she would have – come around by now – because one thing for sure: she’d have kept coming around. She wouldn’t have let anything drive her away from the church: even the church itself which sometimes seems to spend more time getting in its own way than it does getting on with it’s mission and ministry – when it gets so busy fussing that it forgets its foundation.

Which brings to mind the first hymn I ever memorized – all five verses!
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is his new creation by water and the word
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride
With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died.


“The Church’s One Foundation” is not any particular creed or doctrine or theology or agreement on who should be ordained to what … nope “The Church’s One Foundation Is Jesus Christ our Lord.”

That’s the message I internalized as a junior choir member and it’s the message that has sustained me and sustains me still.

Bill Moyers describes it as the historic conflict between the religion of the priests and the religion of the prophets … of the tension between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus.

“It was in the name of Jesus that a Methodist ship caulker named Edward Rogers crusaded across New England for an eight-hour workday. It was in the name of Jesus that Dorothy Day marched alongside autoworkers in Michigan, brewery workers in New York, and marble cutters in Vermont. It was in the name of Jesus that E.B. McKinney and Owen Whitfield stood against a Mississippi oligarchy that held sharecroppers in servitude. And it was in the name of Jesus that Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to march with sanitation workers who were asking only for a living wage.”

This is what it is to follow Jesus. This is both receiving and becoming the bread of life in and for the world. This is high calling we have been given as 21st century disciples of the Jesus who is still known to us in the breaking of the bread.

It is in the name of Jesus that the Sacred Resistance Movement has called us into the streets over these last weeks and months. For the Women's March in downtown Los Angeles and for subversive liturgies in our own Pasadena civic center. For Earth Day and the March for Science and for the May Day Workers' March.

It is in the name of Jesus our rector and others were arrested in acts of civil disobedience during Holy Week -- protesting the targeting and deportation of our immigrant neighbors. To stand with refugees and with Planned Parenthood and with LGBTQ youth.

And it is in the name of Jesus that we are mobilizing to oppose the legislation that would dismantle our healthcare system, strip millions of American of their health insurance and end protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

When we listen to the lesson from Acts appointed for this Sunday I wonder how it is possible for a preacher to hear those words of what it means to be the church -- to give to all because of their need ... not because of their ability to pay ... or co-pay ... how is it possible to hear that passage read on Sunday and not talk about what happened in Washington on Thursday.

As sheep whose job description is to follow Jesus, where Jesus is at this very moment is where the least, the lost and the marginalized are.

That sheep in Jesus' arms in the mosaic over the water fountain? In my imagination this morning that sheep is the 100th sheep ... the one Jesus left the other 99 to go get.

The one with the pre-existing condition.
The one who didn't have all the paperwork filled out.
The one who is still waiting for the immigration hearing in order to make his or her case.
The one who came out and was thrown out by his family and is living on the streets ... and Jesus comes and puts him over his shoulders and says "You are mine."

That is the Jesus we follow. That is the church we are called to be. A church whose one foundation is not a doctrine, a dogma or even a 501(c)(3) .. but whose foundation is Jesus Christ, our Lord ... the good shepherd of ALL the sheep.

Here's what our rector -- Mike Kinman -- had to say about what it is to follow Jesus in our day as Rogers and Day and King did in theirs:

"In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. All things came into being through the Word."

The ultimate pre-existing condition is God, God who creates, redeems and sustains.

God who challenges and heals. God who breaks chains and obliterates binaries. The ultimate pre-existing condition is God.

No law can cast out this pre-existing condition.
No bill can stop God's healing power.
And God uses us -- all of us. Our hands, hearts, minds, and voices.
God uses all of us to be healers to each other.

So absolutely, let us flood the Senate switchboards.
Let us kill this abomination of a bill before it can strip health care from millions of people when we should be adding it to millions more.

But let us not fear.

Instead, let us commit to making sure no one among us goes without care.
Commit to caring ourselves for those abandoned by a government that is supposed to be by the people and for the people.
Commit to letting the pre-existing condition that is God flourish in all of us, flow through us.
If we put love first. If we let God love the world through us. There is enough."

The church OF Jesus is the church of enough.

And it is the church we need never be disillusioned by -- even as we pray for it to become all God would have us make it be.
Mid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blessed
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.
The sheep of other folds will all be gathered in together. There will be one flock and one shepherd. And the kingdom will have come on earth as it is in heaven – and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen. .

Friday, April 28, 2017

Actually, yes ... we do understand Mr. Trump. We totally understand.


Actually, we totally understand. We really do.


We understand that the last 100 days have been about dismantling the foundation of our historic constitutional democracy in a concerted effort to lay a foundation for greed, graft, oppression and oligarchy.

Oh, we understand, Mr. Trump. That's why we're resisting. And will continue to resist at every turn the "foundation" you are attempting to lay.

Check us out on May 1st when we're back in the streets -- because we TOTALLY understand what is at stake here. La lucha continua and #SiSePuede

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Science is a Thing: Reflections on 20 Years of Love in Action


I write this on a jet somewhere over Nebraska while millions of people gather in the streets around the globe to remind themselves and each other that science is a thing.

Homeward bound from Cincinnati after an Episcopal Communicators conference I am struck by the irony that the ability to wake up in Ohio and be home in time for lunch in Los Angeles -- and to both write and post a blog from a laptop linked to in-flight wifi -- is all because of the science people are taking to the streets to remind themselves and each other -- and their elected officials -- is a thing.

Twenty years ago I had the honor to gather in Cincinnati for another conference ... the JPIC (Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation) Summit -- sponsored by the Episcopal Church and bringing together hundreds of people from around the world -- including Ambassador Juan Somavia of Chile Samovia said in his keynote speech.
"The world is going through a period of increasing moral indifference to the plight of others, marked by a win-at-all-costs mentality -- and therefore we must assert our fundamental belief in the dignity of every human being." 
That was 1997. This is 2017. That clarion call has only become more urgent. And the church's role has only become more essential.

And so today as I fly home from one conference and remember another, I also remember these words from the sermon Verna Dozier preached at our closing Eucharist twenty years ago.

"You are a peculiar people," she said -- in what would be one of her last public appearances as she struggled with Parkinson's Disease. "And by the grace of God may we always remain so." Reminding participants us that we were "change agents," Dr. Dozier said:
"Let the word go forth -- you have set your sights on General Convention, not as politicians but as people of the Spirit. Too often "we make statues of justice, honor them, and then consider our duties discharged," she added. "We must not distance ourselves from those for whom we do mercy ... for justice is love in action."
We are still a peculiar people -- gifted with the understanding that faith and science are not protagonists but partners in how we understand our journey in the realm we name as "this fragile earth, our island home."

And so I pray today -- somewhere over Nebraska in a jet plane with in-flight wifi -- that the same commitment that fueled us to leave Cincinnati twenty years ago called by Verna Dozier to remember that justice is love in action will fuel our work in the days, weeks and months ahead as we engage in this movement of Sacred Resistance -- taking to the streets as necessary.

That we will use that love in action to challenge moral indifference to the plight of others wherever we find it; refuse to succumb to a win-at-all-costs mentality; assert our fundamental belief in the dignity of absolutely every human being; and remind ourselves -- and everyone else -- that science is a thing.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Sad News from North Carolina

Waking up to sad news of the death yesterday of Bishop Chip Marble ... a Giant of Justice and quite literally one of my favorite people on the planet.

Grateful that I got to hug his neck in Salt Lake City -- and that he was there to see the Church take a giant step toward the full inclusion of LGBT people in its work and witness.

The work is not yet done ... but we are inarguably further on the road toward that goal than we would be without the work and witness of those like Bishop Marble who risked much to stand in solidarity with the most marginalized.

We stand on his shoulders as we continue the work of dismantling systems of oppression in the name of the One who created us in love and called us to walk in love with each other. La lucha continua. May his memory be a blessing and may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

[Here's the link to the Living Church publication of the announcement in the Diocese of North Carolina newsletter.]

Monday, March 20, 2017

Of Congress and Councils and John 9:1-41


So I often do the Noon Eucharist on Monday
and almost always have some prep time over the lessons
to figure out what I'm going to say to the "two or three"
who gather in the chapel on any given Monday at 12:10 p.m.

Today I got sucked into a bit of a vortex
and so crossed the quad lawn with stole in hand hoping that someone
 -- including the Holy Spirit --
would show up.

Prayers answered.

Here were the lessons ... Ephesians 5:8-14
There was a time when you were darkness, but now you are light in Christ.  Live as children of light.  Light produces every kind of goodness, justice and truth.  Be correct in your judgment of what pleases our Savior.  Take no part in deeds done in darkness, which bear no fruit; rather, expose them.  It is shameful even to mention the things these people do in secret; but when such deeds are exposed and seen in the light of day, everything that becomes visible is light.  That is why we read, “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
And then the very LOOOOOONG Gospel from John 9:1-41
As Jesus walked along, he saw someone who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, was it this individual’s sin that caused the blindness, or that of the parents?” “Neither,” answered Jesus, “It was not because of anyone’s sin – not this person’s, nor the parents’. Rather, it was to let God’s works shine forth in this person. We must do the deeds of the One who sent me while it is still day – for night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” With that, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva and smeared the blind one’s eyes with the mud. Then Jesus said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means ‘sent’).

So the person went off to wash, and came back able to see. Neighbors and those who had been accustomed to seeing the blind beggar began to ask, “Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said yes; others said no – the one who had been healed simply looked like the beggar. But the individual in question said, “No – it was me.” The people then asked, “Then how were your eyes opened?” The answer came, “The one they call Jesus made mud and smeared it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash. When I went and washed, I was able to see.” “Where is Jesus?” they asked. The person replied, “I do not know.”

They took the one who had been born blind to the Pharisees. It had been on a Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud paste and opened this one’s eyes. The Pharisees asked how the individual could see. They were told, “Jesus put mud on my eyes. I washed it off, and now I can see.” This prompted some Pharisees to say, “This Jesus cannot be from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others argued, “But how could a sinner perform signs like these?” They were sharply divided. They addressed the blind person again: “Since it was your eyes he opened, what do you have to say about this Jesus?” “He is a prophet,” came the reply.

The Temple authorities refused to believe that this one had been blind and had begun to see, until they summoned the parents. “Is this your child?” they asked, “and if so, do you attest that your child was blind at birth? How do you account for the fact that now your child can see?” The parents answered, “We know this is our child, blind from birth. But how our child can see now, or who opened those blind eyes, we have no idea. But do not ask us – our child is old enough to speak without us!” The parents answered this way because they were afraid of the Temple authorities, who had already agreed among themselves that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why they said, “Our child is of age and should be asked directly.”

A second time they summoned the one who had been born blind and said, “Give God the glory instead; we know that this Jesus is a sinner.” “I do not know whether he is a sinner or not,” the individual answered. “All I know is that I used to be blind, and now I can see.” They persisted, “Just what did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” “I already told you, but you will not listen to me,” came the answer. “Why do you want to hear it all over again? Do not tell me you want to become disciples of Jesus too!”

They retorted scornfully, “You are the one who is Jesus’ disciple. We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this Jesus comes from.” The other retorted: “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes! We know that God does not hear sinners, but that if people are devout and obey God’s will, God listens to them. It is unheard of that anyone ever gave sight to a person blind from birth. If this one were not from God, he could never have done such a thing!” “What!” they exclaimed. “You are steeped in sin from birth, and you are giving us lectures?”

With that they threw the person out. When Jesus heard of the expulsion, he sought out the healed one and asked, “Do you believe in the Chosen One?” The other answered, “Who is this One, that I may believe?” “You have seen him,” Jesus replied. “The Chosen One is speaking to you now.”

The healed one said, “Yes, I believe,” and worshiped Jesus. Jesus said, “I came into this world to execute justice – to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were nearby heard this and said, “You are not calling us blind, are you?” To which Jesus replied, “If you were blind, there would be no sin in that. But since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
As I was reading the (loooooong) Gospel
some of the vortex that had kept me from reading it ahead of time
contextualized what I was reading.

And having spent some of the morning
listening to the Intelligence Committee Hearing on Capitol Hill
I was practically blinded by the light
shining on the truth
that these Living Words of the Gospel of John
describe the actionsof ancient governance councils
who were as uninterested in finding the actual facts
relating to the issue in front of them
(what happened with the person born blind)
as some of those sitting in our current governance councils (AKA Congress)
are in finding the actual facts
relating to the issue in front of them
(what happened with the Russians inserting themselves into our election process.)

Instead -- and in both cases --
they are so convinced of their own truth
and so determined to dismiss anything contrary to their own narrative
anything that challenges their power or worldview
that they remain blind
when the truth is right in front of them.

To which Jesus replied,
"If you were blind, there would be no sin in that.
But since you say "We see"
your sin remains."

Let those with ears to hear, listen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Homiletic Home Run

We heard a totally awesome sermon today at All Saints Church in Pasadena: a biblical, pastoral and prophetic trifecta. The preacher was on fire and the congregation was right there with him. Here's an excerpt:
Sisters, brothers and gender-nonconforming siblings we are in a desert right now and people are dying because Pharaoh is among us once more.

Now, Pharaoh is not just one person or one administration -- but a culture of domination and an entire system of supremacy that takes a new name with each new generation -- and Pharaoh has come out with a budget plan.

A budget plan that says God's creation is not to be loved and preserved but mined and polluted and fashioned into a golden calf.

A budget plan that turns plowshares back into swords choking off funding for arts and education to build new and mightier chariots for Pharaoh's army.

A budget plan that takes from the meager rations of the poorest of God's children and uses that money to fund slave-catching ICE agents to cast God's children out and the building of a wall to keep white people's fears in.

A budget plan that leaves absolutely no doubt that "make America great again" means make America white again. 
And here's where you watch the whole thing:

Friday, March 17, 2017

Who ARE these people and why are they running our country?

So I started getting the "White House Daily" because I went to the website and told them my "Obamacare Story." I decided that was a good thing ... cuz it gives me a chance to see what they think they're doing and how they're spinning their propaganda wheel. This is a screen capture from today's email:



As you can see, it includes the President's schedule and "News Reports." One of the news reports the White House sends you to ... on purpose ... in its daily email ... is a Washington Post op-ed dripping with cutting edge satire totally disemboweling the immoral budget proposal presented by this Abominable Administration.
 

Here's just one brief excerpt ... you will totally want to go read the whole thing here:
"All schoolchildren will be taught by an F-35 wearing a Make America Great Again hat. They will also have new school choice options including the choice not to afford any school at all, because at school you are taught things like grammar and pronouns and spelling and history, and these are all potentially inimical to the future we are trying to build. We will also be cutting Meals on Wheels programs to feed children, because they are not improving performance as we would like. Feed children just to feed them? What are we, SOFT? No. No we are not!"

Seriously ... do they even READ what they link to or just the headline? Who ARE these people and why are they in charge of our country? #Resist