Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Trifecta Weekend

I thought I had read almost every article and had seen every cartoon - good and bad - about +Gene Robinson.

I had never seen this Michael Ramirez cartoon before and I must admit it made me laugh. It wasn't supposed to. It found it on an 'orthodite' blog.

You may have noticed that I've needed to laugh this week. Most of my posts this week are from the Vicar of Dibley. That Very Funny child's cartoon from yesterday was all I could muster for Friday.

As they used to say on the Mickey Mouse Club "Big doins today, kids." It's been like that all week. I'm calling this the "Trifecta Weekend": In a few minutes I leave for our one-day Diocesan Convention. Tomorrow morning is our Annual Parish Meeting, followed, of course, by "All Super Bowl All The Time."

Humor, I think, is one of the Divine Gifts that I treasure most. I love the sound of music, but I think the sound of laughter is Divine Music. In fact, I suspect it's the Language of Heaven.

Which is why we won't be doing much of it today or tomorrow. Some people take the business of of the church's business as serious as a heart attack. Which is why, I suppose, so many of them get them.

As for the Super Bowl, well, I suppose everyone defines 'entertainment' differently.

You know, it occurs to me that, in the three dioceses in which I've been canonical resident, diocesan convention always seems to draw a higher percentage of 'tedious' people than in any other place in the world. Oh, except, perhaps, for accountants and lawyers.

You do know the definition of a 'tedious person' right? A tedious person is someone who actually enjoys separating fly shit from pepper.

So, enjoy the weekend, my non-tedious friends. I'll try to post tonight so you can hear all the excitement and frivolity we shared at Diocesan Convention.

(Puts clerical collar on, pats the doggies, grabs hat, coat and car keys, sighs deeply and heads for the door.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why Parents Should Always Check Their Children's Homework

A first grade girl handed in the above drawing for a homework assignment.

After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child’s illustration. It is NOT of me on a stage with a brass pole in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made during the recent snowstorm. This photo is of me selling a shovel.

Mrs. Harrington

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"I've never had to do anything like this before . . ."

I worked from home all day Wednesday. The snow accumulation was not as much as had been predicted but the ice made it a real driving hazard in our area.

So, I finished my report for our Annual Meeting on Sunday AM, got about 1/4 way through the PowerPoint presentation and even made some headway on my sermon.

So, you're thinking, "What's with the dude smoking the cigarette?"

I was surfing the internet, looking for images of unemployment, and this picture popped up. I was stunned. He looks just like the man I met on Sunday.

"Tom" was his name. I've been haunted all day by him. As I've made my way through my tasks, I've found myself praying for him.

I met Tom this past Sunday when he came into the Library where the Vestry was meeting. It was a special session to vote on the proposed 2009 Budget.

He seemed a regular guy - solid blue collar - smelled of cigarettes and gas and hunger - you know, the way your breath smells when you haven't had breakfast and it's almost time for lunch and all you've been eating is The Bread of Anxiety.

Hospital waiting rooms smell like that a lot. He was anxious and had a hard time looking me in the eye, but when we did make connection, there was no doubting the shame that was there.

While the Vestry was discussing a particularly noncritical point I had stepped out of the room to talk with Tom.

He had been waiting all morning to be paid for "an odd job" he had done, washing buses and cabs in Irvington on Saturday, but "the boss" never showed up with his paycheck.

Tom was convinced "something had happened" that caused "the boss" not to show up and that he would be paid, eventually. He just needed help to get home. Even asked for my card so he could return the $20 I gave him.

I gave him a hot cup of soup from the pot I had made for the Vestry, a couple of slices of french bread, some hot coffee and $20 to get back to Tom's River to stay with his mom. He had lost his apartment in Madison the previous month, he said, two months after he lost his regular job as a packing clerk at Best Buy.

He was falling all over himself with apologies and wanting me to know that "I've never had to do anything like this before." I believed him.

Tonight's news revealed that Starbucks was closing over 300 stores - with 6,700 jobs lost. (They're also going to stop brewing decaff coffee after noon. That's silly. That's when I'm going to need to switch to drinking decaff.)

There's a fear tonight that there well be a need to lay off 15,000 school-based personnel in NYC in the next year.

Meanwhile, the Post Office is offering a "worst case scenario" to cut their budget, suggesting that they move from six required delivery days to five.

It all seems surreal to me. Bizarre, in a way. Especially as I sit here in my cozy home, my tummy full, with a comfortable bed awaiting me.

My thoughts drift back to Sunday: There we were, as the elected leaders of the church, voting on a half million dollar budget, and applauding ourselves for keeping the cost of the Vestry Retreat down to $50 per person, while Tom and I were on the other side of the door, getting him something to eat and $20 for him to get home.

It's going to get worse before it gets better, I fear. Lots of people, good solid blue collar folk, are going to be doing things we never dreamed of doing.

Many of us are - no matter the color of our collar.

It's going to take more than an economic stimulus package to pass on Capitol Hill for us to turn this around. It used to be that Starbucks was a place where you could always find a part time job - with health care benefits - if you were "in between jobs".

That option, along with those at Home Depot or Best Buy, have evaporated in the green haze of greed and mismanagement that have become viral.

We're going to need to start being church in ways that we've never done before - or, at least, haven't done in a long time.

That's not something you can factor as a line item in the budget.

This, my friends, is a matter of the heart.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Intriguing God

Actually, I think this is destined to be a classic comedy skit, much like Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First."

It's brilliant.

And, in it's own way, a profound theological statement about faith.

You just have to understand that it's coming from Alice. But, it's okay if you don't understand Alice. God doesn't either, I'm sure.

As Geraldine points out, God is rather intrigued.

Which, I think, may well be a profound statement about God's relationship with humankind.

Oh, Lord, I think I'd better stop now. I'm beginning to sound like Alice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gotta question? Wanna answer?

Gather round, boys and girls. There's something new coming to this part of the neighborhood. And, just in time for Lent!

I've been deeply honored by some of your questions to me, written offline, some seeking advice or guidance, others seeking an opinion.

I have often felt daunted by providing an answer. Sometimes, I've discussed the situation with colleagues - lay and ordained - seeking their wisdom. Other times, the answer are more obvious than the Iberian nose in the middle of my face.

Inspired by that, I thought it might be fun to have a "First Friday" feature to this blog. Here's how it will work: On the last Friday of the month, I will place a call for questions - something you always wanted to ask, but were afraid to for any variety of reasons.

You can email them to me by either leaving them here in the comments section or emailing them to me privately.

I will honor anonymity.

You will have until Sunday evening to email me your questions.

I have asked a group of nine ordained and lay leaders in this diocese to be part of the group that responds to your 'First Friday' questions. I will choose one or two questions and email them, anonymously, to the "First Friday Group" on Sunday evening and they will consider them until Thursday morning and mail me their individual answers.

On the morning of the first Friday of the month, I will post the question or questions and their individual answers.

I think this could be a great deal of fun as well as informative and instructive. I got the idea from "RevGalBlogPals" which has a weekly feature "Ask the Matriarchs." It's for "women pursuing or discerning a Christian vocation - and their friends".

I think there's a real need for "mentoring" lay and ordained leaders of both genders. I think there are many situations which arise in congregational life - tensions about authority and theological differences that can range from the ridiculous to the sublime. We need a place where these issues can be discussed.

I am very proud of the people in my diocese who have agreed to be part of the First Friday Group. Not all nine will answer every time, but I think the variety of their answers will provide a great resource for us all.

Of course, you will also be invited to add your responses in the comment section.

Sounds like fun, no?

Sooooo . . . . please send me your questions by no later than Sunday, February 1st (I''ll remind you again on Friday, January 30). You may leave them here in the comment section or write to me privately. I will choose one or two of the questions and mail them to the "First Friday" Group.

On Friday morning, February 5th, I will post the question(s) and their answers and you can also have at it in the comment section.

I look forward to hearing your reactions to this idea.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Tis to laugh . . .

There's nothing like the Vicar of Dibley End Jokes at the end of a very long and not so funny day.

I LOVE the one about the "New Low Fat Communion Wafer."

And, I ADORE Alice!

Go on, then. Click 'play' and have a laugh. Even if you watch this at the beginning of the day, it's bound to make it a better start.

Oh, and never put a pencil in your mouth. It may have been one of Harry's.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The 'moveable middle' has moved (Or, "There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on")

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, meeting in Diocesan Convention ("Annual Council") this past weekend, passed the following resolution:

R4: Blessedness of Covenanted Relationships

Resolved, that it is the mind of the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia that “the diocesan model for sexual intimacy,” previously affirmed by the 209th and 199th Annual Councils of this Diocese, which held that “the normative context for sexual intimacy is lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage,” has become limiting in its continuing application in this Diocese, and the changing context of today’s Church has made it increasingly important to respond to the pastoral needs of the Diocese’s faithful gay and lesbian members in an appropriate spirit of love, compassion, respect and justice; and, be it further

Resolved, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms and recognizes the inherent blessedness and holiness of all committed covenanted relationships between two adult persons, regardless of whether those relationships are between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman, when those relationships are (as described in Resolution D-39 of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church) “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

You can read all of the resolutions, including the full wording and sponsors of the resolution and other resolutions about liturgical rites of blessing and pastoral care for LGBT people here. (NOTE: See updated corrections in the comments section of this post.)

The Washington Times has a story about it here.

The 'orthodites', bless their hearts, are positively apoplectic. "Virginia Goes Over The Brink" is the breathless headline on one of the more notoriously vile blogs. They are ruminating and rumbling - when they aren't blaming +Gene Robinson, of course, or quoting extensively from 'The Lord of the Rings' - over whether or not this would have happened had some of their own not left for African Anglican Provinces. They are wringing their hands while asking questions like: Why Virgina? And: Why now?

A dear friend who is a young clergy person in that diocese sent me a note late last night, alerting me to the action of her diocese. She called it "a watershed moment in our diocese," which is probably known as one of the bastions of 'moderate' theological thought in The Episcopal Church.

I think what's happening in the Diocese of Virginia is reflective of what is happening in this country with this new Administration. Everything has shifted since last Tuesday.


Gitmo is closing. The United States will no longer engage in torture in the name of 'liberty and justice for all'. Reproductive Rights for women will be fiercely guarded. 'Abstinence Only" education will be taken off the curriculum.

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) will be taken off the table and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," will no longer be policy for the military. And, while this administration does not overtly support "gay marriage" it is fully supportive of full civil rights for LGBT people.

To paraphrase the Queen of the Soundbite, Susan Russell, that ain't the whole enchilada, but there's more than enough guacamole in there for me. We are not where we want to be, but we sure are a heck of a lot farther down the road than we were before last Tuesday.

The center has shifted. The 'moveable middle' has moved. Everyone knows it. The Diocese of Virginia knows it. No one wants to look or sound like the homophobes who supported or funded Proposition 8. We've all heard Rick Warren. We don't ever want our understanding of what it means to be a Christian to be confused with his, no matter how "successful' he is.

Expect a whole lotta shakin' to go on in this country over the next four to eight years. Expect it to deeply affect the church, which is 'not of the world' but is still very much 'in the world.'

The playing field isn't exactly even, but it's a lot more level. We still have many miles to go before we sleep, because no one ever handed anyone social progress without a struggle. Nor should they. We need to work for our full civil rights the way women and people of color have before us.

The Diocese of Virginia has just sounded a bell weather. The baptismal water is rising. Time to get in our boats which have been stuck in the mud of prejudice and mired in bigotry, and set sail for the deep waters and cast our nets.

It's time to do the hard work of addressing the racism, sexism and yes, the flat-out misogyny in our own 'Rainbow Community'. It's time to tell the people who have dwelled in the darkness of the despair which brings about promiscuity and addiction that there is the Light of civil rights of marriage for those whose relationships are “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”

And no, my 'orthodite' friends who hold the view that homosexuality is like an addiction to alcohol or drugs, this is not something that can be 'cured'. Even my sainted father, who once encouraged me to give up my love for Ms. Conroy as he had given up cigarettes, before he died 11 years ago next month, shrugged his shoulders and allowed as how, in the face of a then 23 years of a committed relationship, "Well, I guess it's true that love is blind."

Pray, sisters and brothers, for that 'spiritual blindness' to spread throughout the land - including and especially the church.

It's time to wipe our noses, dry our tears, pick up our socks, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Repeat after me:

Yes We Can!



P.S. Before you leave on this noble mission, do remember to keep the porch light on for those who return. They will be back.

Of this, I have no doubt.

What about Zebedee?

“ . . . and they left their father . . .and followed him.” Mark 7:14-20
III Epiphany – January 25, 2009
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor.

I want to follow Jesus in this morning’s gospel, but I keep coming back to Zebedee.

Zebedee, we are told, was a fisherman who trolled the Sea of Galilee for his livelihood. He had two sons, James and John, who worked with him and a few hired men, in the honest if not difficult life of harvesting the ocean’s bounty.

Let’s consider for a moment the man named Zebedee and the impact that the call of Jesus must have had on him. We know that, according to Mark, all Jesus had to do was call to Simon and Andrew, James and John, and “immediately, they left their nets and followed him.”

Makes a great, dramatic visual, doesn’t it? You get a clear sense of the magnetism of Jesus and the urgency of his message and his mission. Before we follow them, I’d like to consider, for a few moments, what it did to those left behind.

When I think of Zebedee, my thoughts immediately turn to Jonah, who thought his life was headed in one direction, but took a sharp left turn into Nineveh. I also think of my paternal grandfather. I don’t know much about him as he died when I was very young. On the rare occasions father did speak of him, it was with the halting phrases of one who did not wish to speak ill of the dead – especially to his own children.

My grandfather’s name was Joseph. Joseph Jesus Marie Souza. He was born on a farm near the city of Ribeira Grande on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores – an archipelago of nine major and eight small islands about 1,500 km from Lisbon.

He and his brothers harvested the land and the ocean as farmers and fishermen, depending on the economy or the degree of civil unrest in the government, as well as the weather, which dictated the bounty the earth or the water would yield.

They were the working poor, but I suspect they were made even poorer by my great grandfather’s dream of becoming a fado singer. He did gain a notoriety of sorts in Sao Miguel. In fact, when my grandfather came through immigration in the Boston Harbor, unable to speak English, those in line with him identified him as “the son of Caetano” – which was my great grandfather’s first name, not his surname.

For years, that caused all sorts of legal problems for the family, as they were registered with the Anglicized surname Caeton. Some of the older children carried that name on their birth certificate; others, like my father, carried it as his middle name; the three youngest of the family were correctly named “Souza”.

That only seemed to harden my grandfather’s heart against his father, whom he considered a dismal failure. He was going to do better than that. He came to this country and bought a small parcel of land and had three daughters and six sons to help him live his dream.

Imagine his distress as he watched WWII carry each of his sons away to foreign places he never even imagined existed. There is a reason the doughboys sang, “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?” One by one, his sons left the farm, and as each one left, never to return to the farm, so did a little more of his dream of being a success, unlike his father. With each loss, a little more of his heart hardened until his own son could not speak of his father without a pained look on his face.

My grandfather’s story is not unusual or even unique. It is a story as old as time. Jonah is one of those stories which ends with Jonah sulking under a dried up fig tree. It is a story that, I suspect, is one shared by Zebedee.

Imagine him as he watched this carpenter’s son from Nazareth pluck off both of his sons from their nets to – what? There was no war to march off to. That, at least, would carry a certain nobility. To start a new enterprise? For what? To have the Romans tax it to death?

No, it was far worse than that. The sons of Zebedee left their father in his boat to follow a dream. They left what little security they knew to follow a man with a compelling if not dangerous, revolutionary message. A man who talked about “fishing for people”. What, in heaven’s name, did that mean? What about his own people? The people who depended on them? To what purpose? A foolish adventure? These were uncertain times. Israel was an occupied nation. Didn’t this Jesus, this carpenter’s son, understand that they could get themselves killed?

Life always seeks life. When it stops seeking life, it dies.

In his book, Disciplines of the Spirit, the great theologian, poet, mystic and modern philosopher, Howard Thurman, writes about watching a tree being uprooted by workmen in front of his house in Oberlin, OH.

He writes, “I saw that a large section of sewer pipe had been exposed; around it and encircling it was a thick network of roots that had found their way inside the pipe by penetrating the joints in many places. The tree was more than four hundred yards to the other side of the house, but this did not matter to the roots. They were on a hunt – for life.”

Thurman uses the tree as a metaphor for the spiritual discipline of commitment. He writes this: “It has been wisely said that the time and the place of a (person’s) life on earth is the time and the place of (the) body, but the meaning of a (person’s) life is as significant and eternal as he wills it to make. Commitment means that it is possible for a (person) to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.”

Thurman goes on to say that once commitment is set in motion, the dynamic of growth becomes automatic. Energy, he says, becomes available, and like the roots of a tree on a hunt for life, once a commitment is made, it can search far from its original base, pushing through barriers and obstacles that seem impossible to overcome.

A life in Christ, Thurman teaches, is one that requires the spiritual discipline of commitment.

As followers of Christ, we have a choice. We can be like Zebedee or my grandfather and watch fearfully or resentfully as the world take away our dreams. Or, we can begin to learn something about the spiritual disciple of commitment; the surrender to something larger than ourselves that is required for it, and the vitality and energy that are available to us once that commitment is made.

The energy of this morning’s gospel emanates from those who have chosen to follow life – Simon and Andrew, James and John – not Zebedee. Zebedee has much to teach us, but it is Jesus who holds the lessons that are life-giving.

Jesus is like the root of the tree of God, on a hunt for life, and his call to follow him in that life is as irresistible as a thirsty person in search of water.

It is as captivating as my great grandfather’s dream of following a song.

As seductive as Paris is to a farm boy turned soldier, there to fight the noble fight of the War to End All Wars.

I will leave you with these words from Howard Thurman:

“We live in a universe that is responsive to an ultimate urgency. The secret is to be able to want one thing, to seek one thing, to organize the resources of one’s life around a single end (which is the spiritual discipline of commitment); and slowly, surely the life becomes one with that end. “

What one thing do you want, what one thing do you seek, that you are willing to focus your energies and organize and commit the resources of your life around that single end until you become one with it? That is the question for the individual life of faith in Christ.

It is also the question for our lives of faith in community, as the church, the Body of Christ. What one thing do we want, what one thing to we seek, that we are willing to organize and commit the resources of the life of this church around a single end, and slowly, surely our community life will become one with that end?

Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is Anybody Really Surprised?

Okay, so I'm procrastinating.

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon, all the chores are done (well, mostly) and I had dedicated this time to finish my sermon so I could maybe watch a movie tonight.

Then, I went blogging . . .checking out who's saying what in which neighborhood. Blame it all on Kirke. She has this little test thingy up in her neighborhood where you can see which church father you are.

So, I took it. It takes less than 5 minutes. Three, tops.

Turns out, I'm most like Origen. You remember him. Very early Christian scholar and theologian from Alexandria. Got kicked out by the Patriarch for being ordained without permission. (Tee hee)

He's famous for saying, "The glory of God is (hu)man(kind) fully alive."

Sounds like me, right?

Here's what the website had to say about Origen.

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

I'm not sure about the 'kitchen shears' thing. Anybody know that story?

Here's a link
if you want to see which Church Father you're most like. Just in case you need to procrastinate, too.

Putting away childish things . . .

It's time to take down the Christmas decorations. We keep them up until after "Little Christmas" so we can enjoy the celebration, but it's always hard to know when, exactly, to take them all down.

It's not just about the work, but there is that. It's just hard to say 'goodbye' to all the decorations and the memories they bring until next year.

A couple of years ago, I bought some picture frame stocking hangers for the mantle and put every one's baby pictures in them - our daughters and son, our sons and daughter in law and, of course the grandchildren.

Our family has grown by leaps and bounds since then. I'm now in need of two more and have discovered that this particular style is no longer available. I've made an uneasy peace with that, but with more emphasis on the 'uneasy' than the 'peace' than I'd like to admit.

It will work out next year. The only one who will grimace as the lack of uniformity will be me. Everyone else will be thrilled.

These are the "baby" pictures of moi and Ms. Conroy. I was standing guard over my baby brother's carriage, obviously trying very hard to look very cool and not doing so very well at it.

I love this picture of Ms. Conroy. She still makes that face when she's not gotten her way. Makes me giggle.
This is Ms. Conroy's favorite baby picture of me. I should go and have another copy made so I can replace the one in the picture frame stocking holder with this one.

I apologize for the quality of the picture, but I think you can still tell its me. I was a real chubbette, right? I mean, look at those cheeks! Must have been all that evaporated milk laced with Karo syrup they used to feed us. That was the 'formula' then.

I wonder why it is that parents of that generation did that curly thing on the top of our heads. Anybody know?

I don't think it was a 'gender thing'. I've seen pictures of baby boys who had the same offense committed against them.

Okay, one more picture from my family album.

These are my maternal grandparents. My grandmother was 16. My grandfather was 18.

She is wearing her cousin's wedding gown which she brought with her to this country from Lisbon. The story goes that this picture was taken after the wedding so she could have something to send back to her father and brothers in Portugal to 'prove' that she was, in fact, married.

That wasn't so much a 'decency' thing, but rather, so her father couldn't force her to return to Lisbon to care for her brothers and him. I suspect that's why no one looks very happy. I can't even begin to imagine what it was like to be considered a piece of property. Or, to not have the right to vote. Or, own property yourself.

There is a sort of dignity to them, isn't there? Look at my grandfather's hand - that's a glove he's holding. How elegant, right?

They didn't know they were poor. All they knew was that life in 'the old country' was far worse than here. That made them wealthy by comparison. Indeed, as poor as they were, they still sent money 'back home' to help out, and even helped to pay for the transportation costs to bring more of their relatives here.

As my grandmother used to say, their greatest treasure was hope.

I love it that my grandchildren are beginning to get old enough to have curiosity about these pictures. While they love seeing their baby pictures in the picture frame stocking holders, they want to know the stories of the people they see in the pictures framed and displayed on my book shelves and end tables.

And so, I tell them all the stories I know. I tell them as gift and I tell them as prayer. I want them to know and celebrate their rich heritage. I want them to remember that, except for the First People, everyone who lives in America came here from someplace else - some to escape poverty and others to be plunged into slavery. It is as much humbling as it is provocative to remember that.

The house looks rather bare this afternoon. The 'childish' decorations are all down now, stored in boxes for next year. We'll schlep them up to the attic tomorrow afternoon.

But the memories will linger like the pine needles we'll still be picking up in July. We'll still be telling the stories when we gather for birthdays or anniversaries or summer feasts.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Sorry for the delay, m'am . . . ."

If I had heard that one more time, I do believe I would have let loose with a primal scream loud enough to wake the dead - a category which would surely include most of the folk who were in the waiting room of the VW Dealership Service Department.

It started off easily enough. I needed to have my car inspected. You know my car. My baby. My little 'galactica blue' VW convertible bug.

So, I brought it to the VW service center at the Dover, DE place where I bought her four years ago for her 55,000 mile check and to get her ready to pass inspection. The annoying little "check engine" light had been coming on and off and I did have a problem with my battery a few weeks ago, so it didn't come as a surprise when they told me that I needed a new battery.

The bill came to just under $200. Ca-ching!

I had just left the parking lot - after 2.5 hours in the service station waiting room - when the 'check engine' light came on again. I called immediately from my cell phone and was assured that it would probably take a few 'cycles' to clear.

It didn't. Give it a few days, they said. Alternative? Drive it back it and it would cost me $56 just for the computer diagnostic - exclusive of what it would cost to fix what they found wrong.

I decided to give it a few days.

When I took my car in to be inspected on Wednesday afternoon, wouldn't you know that I picked the one day when the State Inspector was there to inspect the inspectors. After an hour and a half wait, I learned that my car had failed inspection.

I felt like a proud mother whose spirit had been crushed by the high expectations of my beautiful daughter. Failed? No car of mine FAILS!!??!!

This time, I called the VW Dealership in Summit, NJ. I figured I was already in for $56 bucks. After an hour wait, they told me that there was an electrical short in the ignition.

Three hours (for a total of four hours) and $379 later, my car was ready for inspection.

Said inspection would cost me $78. Seventy-eight dollars? What do they do, for pity's sake, that would cost $78 whole dollars????

Ca-ching! Ca-ching! I'm not doing the math. I don't want to get depressed.

I'm set now for two more years, but SHEESH! So much for my supposed day off. Being in the waiting room of a car dealership from 7:45 AM to noon, and then over at the Inspection Center until 1:00 PM is not exactly my idea of relaxation and fun.

The good news is that, while I was waiting, I read "Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" by Immaculee Ilbagiza. Yes, I read the whole thing. In one sitting.

It's an amazing story. In 1994, Imaculee was 22 years old and home for Easter Break from her second year of college when the Genocide began. She survived by hiding in a Hutu Pastor's tiny bathroom for 91 days with seven other starving women.

Imaculee's story is simply and straightforwardly told, which is what makes it so compelling. I am fascinated by the nature of prejudice - the Tutsis were hated by the Hutus because they were taller and lighter skinned, and so favored by the German and Belgium colonizers of their country who helped them become better educated.

The hatred the Hutus held for those who colonized them was easily transferred onto the Tutsis. I'm still not certain, however, of the tipping point that lead to the genocide. Supposedly, it was the death of the Hutu President, which seemed like an assassination, but it had been building for quite a while before that.

It was as if the air got wild one day and then the genocide began. Sort of the way it has always happened.

Imaculee's faith, however, is amazing. Humbling. Awe-inspiring. What is fascinating to me is that the elements of the spirituality of suffering are almost universal and have so many parallels.

When you buy the book, portions of the proceeds go to fund the LEFT TO TELL Charitable Organization which helps children in Africa. So, go. Buy the book. Read it. You won't be disappointed.

I left the inspection center and, after spending an hour in the gym, I came home and organized kitchen cabinets and my cookbooks. Then, I cleaned out my cupboards, organizing the canned soups and vegetables I knew I wouldn't be using into two boxes to bring to the food pantry tomorrow. I am ashamed at the small box of expired cans of soup, vegetables and fruit I had to throw out.

Tomorrow, I take down the Christmas tree and decorations. It's time.

I plan to start reading, "A Long way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah before my head hits the pillow and I close my eyes tonight.

This is the story of a suffering of another sort - how to forgive yourself when you have been forced to do evil, how to regain your humanity and finally, how to heal.

Can you tell? I'm already getting ready for Lent.

Truth be told, these two books put any annoyance or discomfort of my day in proper perspective. And, made my day off worth while.

Funny how other people's stories can do that, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Modern Litany for a New Era

The visual quality of this video is less than desirable but the audio is perfectly fine. This is Kate Clinton's Modern Litany for a New Era.

Well, that's what I'm calling it, anyway.

It's hilarious and serious and vintage Kate Clinton "Lesbian Mafia" shtick.

It goes like this: Kate will will chant the versicle.

The responsorial verse is, "HEY. HEY. HEY. Goodbye."

Hat tip to my dear friend Alicia for sending this to me.

Roe v. Wade: 1973

I was a 23 year old, seriously lapsed Roman Catholic, pregnant with my second child when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Roe v. Wade, making abortion legal.

I vaguely remember this article on the front page of the NY Times, which began, "Washington, Jan. 22 -- The Supreme Court overruled today all state laws that prohibit or restrict a woman's right to obtain an abortion during her first three months of pregnancy. The vote was 7 to 2."

Mostly, I was concerned about the death of our 36th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was my way of not dealing with what I needed to deal with.

My mother and some of my aunts and uncles and many of my neighbors were outraged about the legalization of abortion. They were good Roman Catholics. They knew what they should think. We all did. We had all be very carefully taught what to think and mostly, that's what we thought.

I would rather have poured my attention into the death of a former president than walk into that emotional mess - the one that was in my own heart, that is.

I also took heart from my grandmother who was strangely silent while everyone tut-tutted around us about the abortion decision. In fact, she shushed her daughters and neighbors when they talked about it.

"Have respect for the repose of the soul of Mr. Johnson," she admonished piously, making the sign of the cross on her body and looking up at the framed picture of JFK, the one right next to the framed picture of Jesus - the one I call his "high school graduation picture" (You know the one: long hair, profile shot, back lighting. Yup, that one.)

That worked for a while but when they started up again she pointed to me and said, "Look, you are upsetting Isabella (That's what she called me instead of 'Elizabeth'). She's pregnant. You don't want this baby to be born with a birth mark, do you? That will be on your soul."

My grandmother, like many women of her generation, had been carefully taught that, if a child was born with a birthmark, it was due to something that had upset the mother while pregnant. She believed it. And, that settled it.

The room fell quiet. Even though the next generation of women didn't really believe it, no one wanted to take that chance.

In the midst of very strong emotional bond I had with my grandmother, I could feel - I knew - in my heart there was something more about this that she was not saying. Something was disturbing her about this abortion decision, but I got the distinct impression that it wasn't about the legalization of abortion. What, then, might it be?

Later that evening, I came back to see her for our nightly drink. For as long as I could remember, she and my grandfather had a glass of brandy or schnapps (apricot was her favorite) before they went to bed. These days, she warmed it and put it in her evening latte - her own "dessert coffee".

She poured me a glass of wine. Red. "Good for the baby's blood. Good to build up your milk for the baby." Bad for fetal alcohol syndrome, but we didn't know about that then, so we had no worries.

I asked her about abortion. What she thought about the decision of the Supreme Court. What that meant to her.

It was then she told me about a friend of her's with whom she shared a room when she worked as a domestic in Boston in the early days of her immigration to this country.

The girl had been flattered into having an affair with one of the sons in the house - one she thought loved her and would marry her. Until, of course, she got pregnant. Then, he gave her some money and took her to a man near Chinatown who would, he said, "take care of everything."

She died three days later of an infection and bleeding that could not be stopped.

My grandmother looked around to be certain that no one was around and then she whispered to me, "The Supreme Court did a very good thing for women today," she said. "It is not something that should be used carelessly, but only when necessary."

"But," I said, "what about the Church? They say it's murder and its a sin and you will burn in hell for eternity."

A look of revulsion came over her face, "Yes, yes, that's what they want us to believe. But then, every year on the fourth of July, they dress men up in uniforms and parade them down the street and everyone cheers because they have killed - they have killed many men and women - some of whom are pregnant - as well as their living children. And everybody cheers and Father blesses them with Holy Water when they march by because they have done these things in the 'name of God'."

"When it is convenient for them, it is okay," she hissed, "but they would rather protect and defend the lies men tell than to allow her to make a decision about her own body, her own life, her own future, in the name of God."

It was then that I heard for the first time what I would later see in posters supporting the decision of Roe v. Wade. The logic is so simple as to be considered simplistic, but there is also great wisdom inherent it the logic.

My grandmother said, "If you don't want to have an abortion, don't have one." Then, she added, "But, if a woman needs to have an abortion, that is between her heart and God, and no one - NO ONE - should make that decision for her or have the right to take away her right to make that decision for herself."

I suspect this is the genesis of my distress over those who call themselves 'orthodox' - small 'o'. Very small 'o'. I do not mind if someone thinks they are 'right'. Indeed, I do. I don't even mind that someone thinks I'm wrong. I certainly think that of the 'orthodites'.

That's not the point. The point at which my 'Portuguese' gets fired up is when that thinking is imposed on me as that which I must embrace. And then, they shame or blame me for everything that's wrong with the world.

You can get a sense of the RC position, which is embraced by the 'orthodites', in this new video here from 'Catholic Vote'. It's the same old RC 'guilt trip' of my youth, all gussied up in new technological clothes. Some things never change. Sigh.

I give thanks for the courageous decision of the 1973 Supreme Court. I give thanks, this day, that we are a democracy, and not a theocracy.

I have never had an abortion, and, unless some great miracle occurs, I will never need one. I will always believe that an abortion is a tragedy. It is so because sometimes, because we are human, our lives make tragic turns. We make bad choices. We believe the lies we are told and that we tell each other. We declare war and murder in the name of God.

In a democracy, a decision to go to war is made by a president and must be approved by Congressional vote. In a democracy, the decision for abortion is made by a woman, hopefully with the advice from and support of the man who helped her conceive, her family, her doctor and her pastor.

I pray that we will always keep abortion safe and legal. With this particular presidential administration in place, we have a greater chance of doing just that.

"You have to be carefully taught." Isn't that the way that song from South Pacific goes? The one about the ways in which prejudice and discrimination are instilled in us? Even so, I believe that there is something in the human heart, something deep in the human soul, that understands right from wrong, good from bad, despite what our culture or our church may carefully teach us.

It is this understanding that is at the heart of all of the goodness that is also part of the human enterprise. It is this understanding, ultimately, that will bring an end to war, eliminate prejudice and discrimination, improve health care, housing, employment and education and, thereby, limit the number of abortions.

Not laws, well crafted as they may be. Not government, necessary as it is. Certainly not religion, the paragon of good intentions.

The the impulse to protect and defend and secure the 'sanctity of life' is where it has always been - deep in the human heart.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chosing the fast, feeding the wolf

My phone has been ringing off the hook most of the day.

"Did you see it? Did you see the National Prayer Service at OUR Cathedral, the National Cathedral?"

"Well no," I smirked, "some of us have to work you know."

"Never mind, just find it on the internet. You won't be disappointed. The music! Oh, the music was AMAZING. And you HAVE to listen to the sermon. It totally ROCKS."

I am so deeply grateful to the folks over at Episcopal Cafe for their coverage of this extraordinary event.

The above link will lead you to two snippets of music and a sermon by the Rev'd Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, the general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

She is, by the way, the first woman to hold this position and the first woman to preach at the National Prayer Service. That shouldn't come as a surprise. The only surprise is that it took the organizers of this event so long to recognize that this kind of excellence could be hiding in the body of a woman.

I found the sermon at The World Council of Churches, which includes a link to the text of the sermon in pdf file, but you know, like all good sermons, it just has to be experienced.

So, here's Part One.

Here's Part Two:

The Quean on the Board

Bishop Gene was on The Daily Show last night.

He TOTALLY rocked!

The only other bishop to be on a comedy program that made me laugh like that was when Jack Spong was on Bill Mahr. Bill asked Jack what he thought of LA. Jack said, in that wonderful Virginia lilt, "Well the traffic here really moves much faster than in NJ. Crossing the streets here helps me better understand the Prayer Book words of the difference between the 'quick and the dead'".

Bill was on the floor.

Check it out - Bishop Gene Robinson, prophet, poet and STAR!

(Pay no attention to that grating noise coming from the right side of the aisle. That's just the Trolls, gnashing their teeth in utter jealousy!)

And, check out +Gene's blog entry:

Calvin and Hobbs - 1994

Click on the cartoon to enlarge it, any you'll be able to read the words.

And we act as if our current economic crisis happened over night. . . .and that it's all about the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . and it has nothing to do with greed or lack of accountability. . . .that it was all completely out of our control.

This is why they call it a "depression."

A new day has dawned on a new era. The light is shining. Look around. Take a closer look. Now, look again.

We've got an 'act' to clean up. A few of them, as a matter of fact.

Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, children.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today in history . . .

January 20th

1265 Britain's House of Commons, which became a model for parliamentary bodies, met for the first time.

1783 U.S. and British representatives signed a preliminary "Cessation of Hostilities," which ended the fighting in the Revolutionary War.

The first officially recognized basketball game was played at the YMCA gym in Springfield, Mass.

1945 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to be elected to four terms in office, was inaugurated to his final term. He died three months later and was succeeded by Vice President Harry Truman.

1961 John Fitzgerald Kennedy began his presidency with inauguration ceremonies on the newly renovated east front of the Capitol.

Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th president of the United States. That same day, 52 American hostages were released by Iran after 444 days in captivity.

1990 At least 62 civilians were killed and more than 200 wounded when the Soviet army stormed into Baku to end what Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called fratricidal killing between Muslim Azerbaijanis and Christian Armenians.

Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd president of the United States.

1993 Oscar-winning actress Audrey Hepburn died of cancer at her home in Switzerland. She was 63.

1995 The United States announced it was easing the trade embargo in effect against North Korea since the Korean War.

A strike-shortened National Hockey League season opened with teams playing a 48-game schedule instead of the usual 84.

1996 Yasser Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority with 88 percent of the vote.

U.S. President Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term in office.

1997 Millionaire Steve Fossett landed in northern India after a record-setting bid to become the first person to circle the globe in a hot air balloon.

George W. Bush was inaugurated as the 43rd president of the United States.

Just hours before leaving office, U.S. President Bill Clinton issued 176 pardons -- a number of them controversial.

2003 Britain said it was sending 26,000 troops to the Persian Gulf for possible deployment to Iraq but France said it wouldn't support a U.N. resolution for military action.

2005 George Bush was sworn in for his second term as U.S. president.

2006 Lawrence Franklin, a former U.S. State Department analyst and Iran expert, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing classified information to Israel and two pro-Israeli lobbyists.

2007 U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., became the first former first lady to seek the U.S. presidency when she entered the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination.

2007 Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro was "fighting for his life," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in a speech in Brazil.

2008 Israeli Cabinet ministers called for the death of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who claimed to have the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Lebanon.

Praise Song for the Day

There is so much about the day that was amazing and powerfully evocative of deep, deep emotion. So many images in the midst of a veritable tsunami of words - historic, challenging, inspiring. (Okay, and occasionally, annoying. I mean, did we really have to endure all the "news" about the fashions of Michele Obama? She's a graduate of Harvard Law, for pity's sake! Oh well . . . )

One of the most compelling images for me was that of Dick Chenney in a wheel chair, leaving the office of Vice President. He had apparently hurt his back picking up a packed box, ready for the move. It was a powerfully symbolic.

You can see and hear the videos of the invocation and the benediction over at The Episcopal Cafe. Compare and contrast, children. One was the old, one was the new, and the surprise was that the new vision, the new energy, the new power, came from the old.

Well, no surprise, really. They just saved the best for last.

But, at the end of the day, it is the images and poetry of America's poet, Elizabeth Alexander, that I find continue to feed and nourish my soul.

She asked, "What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance."

Oh, Lord! Just what my weary soul needed to hear!

Here she is - and here is the whole poem.

I hope you are as nourished by these images and words as I am.

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

The Inauguration of Hope

I'm on my way to the office. I don't know why. I won't get much work done today. Like everyone else, I'll be glued to my computer screen, watching history unfold.

My dear friend, the Rev'd Dr. Paul Smith sent me his reflections of the day. He's there in D.C. with three generations of his family.

Dr. Paul is the former Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, a Civil Rights activist, community organizer, author and dear friend - my 'soul friend'.

You can read his reflections here:

I found myself writing this to him:

I'm glued to the television set waiting for the Obama's to emerge from Blair House on their way to St. John's Episcopal Church. I'm cringing because they are running late - because we all know the stereotypical jokes about people of color being late. I find myself wanting to "google" how many previous presidents have been behind schedule so I can defend them.

I just saw the Obama's emerge - 13 minutes late, it is being reported - and on the first glimpse of them emerging from the green canopy and into the new Presidential Limo, all my anxieties melted away.

I realized that most of my anxiety was about not about the racism - that has always been with us - but really fearing that the dream would not come true. That this day would not really happen - because of the racism.

It has. Oh, Lord, it is true. The day has come. And Obama has arrived exactly when he was needed.

Have a GREAT day. Take lots of pictures.

Never mind. The images that emerge this day will be in my heart forever.

G'won. Go watch. Go see. So you can tell your children and your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren.

You watched the dawning of a new era. You watched the inauguration of hope.

It's been a long time comin', but I know, change gonna come.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Team Obama: "Our Bad"

Barack Obama's inaugural committee is taking the blame for a scheduling miscue that left gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's prayer out of HBO's live broadcast of yesterday's inaugural megaconcert.

They did the right thing.

Rachel Maddow is reporting that HBO will add +Gene's prayer to all of its Encore Performances, the first being tomorrow, Tuesday, Inauguration Day, at 1 PM and again at 9:30 PM, as well as its webcasts

A PIC source reports that some clips from the Lincoln Memorial event, including Bishop [Gene] Robinson's prayer, will be played on the Mall prior to the swearing in ceremony.

And, I understand that +Gene will be on the Daily Show tomorrow.

So, can I just say? WOO HOO!!!!

It is said that there is a rule in the universe that whenever anyone makes a decision to no longer be abused or oppressed or have her/his truth suppressed, something in the cosmos shifts and will never again be the same.

Say it with me, children: Yes we can!

Here's his interview earlier today on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell.

As 'The Countdown' begins . . .

. . . a little 'housekeeping' - Dubya-style.

Invocation Drama

Thanks to Christianity Today for this video of Gene's invocation at the "We Are One" Concert yesterday on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.

Apparently, HBO is denying responsibility for it and a buzz about this topic has already started on NPR. It's being reported that those near the podium could hear it fine, but those with places further away didn't hear it until about half-way through.

Based on the comments on several of the blogs, there's lots of unhappiness about this - and rightly so. Predictably, lots of fingers are being pointed. HBO says that Team-Obama decided that the prayer was 'pre-show'. Hmmmm . . . .

You know, I'm thinking that +Gene's prayer will get more attention because it wasn't widely heard than if it had been. Woops! There goes that theory, right?

Hopefully, we'll get an 'official' explanation. An apology would be great, but I'm not holding my breath.

Until then, enjoy this.

And, catch up on ALL the dish at Episcopal Cafe.

UPDATE: "We regret the error"

Check out this story at The Huffington Post.

Here's the money quote from the Presidential Inauguration Team:

"We had always intended and planned for Rt. Rev. Robinson's invocation to be included in the televised portion of yesterday's program. We regret the error in executing this plan - but are gratified that hundreds of thousands of people who gathered on the mall heard his eloquent prayer for our nation that was a fitting start to our event." -- PIC communications director Josh Earnest.

Welcome to Washington, kids. Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride. The good news is that the boys and girls on Team Obama have a much better idea of who they are working with. The LGBT community also knows how to say "Yes We Can."

Say what????

Apparently, there is some truth to the rumor that HBO's microphone system did not function through most of Bishop Robinson's invocation at the "We Are One" concert on Sunday. Booooo-hisssss!!!

I encourage everyone to write to HBO and register your complaint. You can do that here. No, it won't change anything - THIS TIME - but it will send a strong message to the producers of HBO that prayer is important, and that as this man is the first open, honest LGBT bishop in a 'mainline' religious denomination, they missed an important historic moment.

When you write, please don't yell or curse or say nasty things. Simply tell them that you are upset or discouraged or yes, even angry. Just don't try to 'shame and blame'. Let's leave that technique to the Trolls over at Viagraland - where it belongs.

I know, I know. They make a lot of noise, and it is distracting, but just ignore the gleeful handclapping of the Trolls over all of this. They reveal more about themselves and the state of their spiritual lives than they say anything bad about +Gene.

Head on over to Susan Russell's Inch to see more pictures and a good round up of the news reporting on the event.

Here's something from the blog "TMP Cafe". When things go wrong - especially 'human error'(and even when it's 'divine intervention') - it's always good to find the humor in it all.

Top 10 reasons HBO censored Gene Robinson
January 18, 2009, 9:34PM

I heard the opening of the inaugural concert live on NPR and then watched the rebroadcast on HBO--no invocation by gay bishop Gene Robinson. More details and a link to write HBO here at JoeMyGod's blog, but while we wait for HBO to explain, here are my top ten reasons the invocation was not broadcast:

1. HBO sound system cannot broadcast gay voices.
2. Program ran over schedule, so HBO went back in their time machine and cut the beginning of the live broadcast.
3. Appearance of a gay men's chorus went way over HBO's 'gay quota' for the event.
4. HBO is a family-friendly network that does not carry offensive material like frontal nudity, profanity, or bishops.
5. Ellen DeGeneres was jealous.
6. Dumbledore was jealous.
7. HBO was warned that terrorists were watching for a signal that America was gay weak.
8. Rick Warren was jealous.
9. Everyone knows all gays are atheists.
10. Sarah Palin used her special anti-Russian spyware to block the signal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

+Gene Goes to Washington - Prays

Bishop Gene Robinson is in Washington, D.C. to deliver the inaugural prayer before tomorrow's festivities begin. I understand it will be carried FREE on HBO, so tune in, sisters and brothers, and watch the fun.

No promise that they will include +Gene's prayer, which is appended below. As +Gene points out, it IS Entertainment.

You can follow his adventure on his blog here. It's the same url as the one he used this summer at what I fondly called, "Lambeth for the Rest of Us."

Here's a snipett: It's very early on Sunday morning. The quiet outside belies the exuberance that promises to explode today here in Washington.

This new "chapter" in my "Canterbury Tales from the Fringe" blog needs to be renamed, of course. It could be "Mr. Robinson goes to Washington," or "Oh my God! How did I ever get to this moment?" Instead, I'm calling it "Washington Tales from Closer to the Center." After the experience of being on the fringe in Canterbury this summer, I am struck that the new President of the United States is including me in a way the Anglican Communion was not able to this summer. Funny, isn't it, and sad, that the culture is modeling for the Church the inclusion meant for all of God's children.

And, from the Diocese of New Hampshire's web page:

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama
By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of
New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Are you called?

“You will see greater things than these.” John 1:43-51
II Epiphany – January 18
The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

I’m going to give you a little gift this morning. Something most people in the pew only dream of when it comes time for the sermon. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes. Yes. Close your eyes. That way, the preacher won’t know if you’re nodding off – taking a well-deserved nap during the next 12 minutes or so while the preacher ‘does her thing”. She won’t know if you are listening intently or taking a little snooze. So, g’wan. Close your eyes.

I want you to close your eyes and imagine that you are the young boy Samuel. You are on duty in the temple. Your job is to lay down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God is kept. The old man, the priest and prophet Eli, is in his room nearby. His eyesight has failed him as his years have advanced. Your job is also to serve him.

As for you, you are beginning to think you are hearing things that are not there. Two times you think Eli has called you. And two times, Eli says to you, “I did not call. Lie down again.” The third time you think you hear Eli call you, Eli perceives that it is the Lord who is calling you and he says to you, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

I want you to keep your eyes closed and imagine now, that you are no longer Samuel. You are Nathaniel. You friend Phillip has just come to you. Phillip has just been found by the man named Jesus, a man from Nazareth; a rabbi some claim to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

Jesus has found Phillip, a man from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter who have already been called by Jesus to be his disciples. Philip has found you, a young Jewish man named Nathaniel, and says to you with great excitement, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

And, you are astonished. You can hardly believe what your friend Phillip is saying to you. You think to yourself, “He must be mad!” Instead, you say to your friend, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip, brushing aside your obvious sarcasm, says to you, “Come and see.” So, you run to see this Jesus, but you hid behind a fig tree, watching. Waiting.

Now, I want you to move from imagining yourself in ancient Palestine, from being Samuel in the temple and Nathaniel hiding behind that fig tree. I want you to imagine yourself in Baltimore, Maryland. Yes, Baltimore, Maryland.

It is centuries later. It is the early 1960’s. You have fallen in love with a person whose race is different from your own. You know this is real. You know this is love. You know, but you do not understand, really, that this love is against the law. Interracial marriage is against the law in the state of Maryland at this time in history. And yet, you love this person enough to risk all of the scorn that will bring upon you. You love this person enough to break the law. It is 1960.

And so, you decide to do so. You tell one of your friends about it, and she says to you (like one of the characters from ‘Hairspray”),“You're about to see a whole lot of stupid coming from a mess of ugly." You don’t care. You love this person enough to be married. And so, you do.

Now, keep your eyes closed. It is now January, 2009. You are still in Baltimore, Maryland. You are almost 50 years old. You are the child of an interracial couple who could not get married in the city in which you now live. You have married a person of another racial and ethnic background and have two beautiful interracial children who do not know – could never know – the prejudice and oppression known by their grandparents and great grandparents. Oh, racism rears its ugly head, from time to time, but there is no doubt that times have change. This is a whole new time. This is a whole new world. A world your parents couldn’t have imagined 40 years before.

Barack Hussein Obama and Joe Biden are ridding the Inauguration Train through Baltimore – the oddest interracial couple ever. Never could your parents or grandparents have imagined that in the place where slaves were sold in the open market, the son of a nation whose people were once were sold off in slavery is making his way to Washington, DC to become the 44th President of the U.S.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Can anything good come out of Baltimore, MD? Or, Wilmington, DE? Or, Honolulu, HI? Or, Chicago, Illinois? Or, Chatham, NJ? Or, the place of YOUR birth? I suppose it must be asked: Can anything good come out of Washington, D.C.?

Okay, you will need to open your eyes and your ears now and listen.

On Tuesday, the day after we remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., together, we will inaugurate a new era in our common lives of faith. Together, we the people will make history. So, it is no coincidence that our scripture lessons have to do with the call of Samuel and the call of Nathaniel. It is not even a surprise that St. Paul is talking to us about the holiness of our bodies, exhorting us to know that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, and that ‘you are not your own.’

“You are not your own,” says St. Paul to the church in Corinth. Yes, yes. It’s easy to lose that message in the midst of all that talk about ‘fornication’ and ‘prostitution’. “You were bought with a price,” says St. Paul, “now glorify God in your body.”

You are not your own. Neither was Samuel. Neither was Nathaniel. Or Phillip. Or Andrew. Or Peter. Or George. Or Barack. Or you. Or me. We are the Lord’s, and we, like them, are called to glorify God in our bodies, with our whole lives – our whole hearts and souls; our whole minds and bodies – not to cheapen the gift of our freedom by compromising our integrity.

We are called out of the places we were born: Fall River, MA. Chatham, NJ. Staten Island, NY. Philadelphia, PA. Sioux City, Iowa. Bayonne, NJ. Chicago, IL. Jackson, MI. Atlanta, GA. Beijing, China. Denver, CO. San Francisco, CA.

As Christians we are called out of places of dubious distinction to places where we can make a distinct difference. We are called to be vehicles of hope. We are called to be agents of change. We are called to be Christ’s representatives of God’s unconditional love for all humankind. We are called to make our own unique mark in history. Which is why, as Christians, as followers of Christ Jesus, we are called to make a difference in this world.

We are brinked on an amazing time, my friends. There have been fewer times when we have been more fragile as a nation. Our economic status is still precarious. There is talk now of ‘Iraqi good enough’, as in ‘we are outta here.’ The future of Afghanistan is still bleak. Violence continues in the Gaza Strip. At home, Social Security, Health Care and Education are in need of serious reform. Immigration, along with concerns about our national security and the environment continue to need serious attention. America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, needs to stop the torture of detained suspected war criminals. Now.

One man cannot do it all. As a matter of fact, two men can’t do it all. Indeed, a whole congress full of men and women cannot do it all. We don’t need a Messiah. We already have a Savior. What we need is a nation of people who know they are called to be vehicles of hope and agents of change, envoys of compassion and ambassadors of love.

Now, more than ever, we need each other. Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership. Now, more than ever, we need accountability. Now, more than ever, we need to listen to the voice of God. We need to humble ourselves, and keep watch by the temple. We need to keep ourselves close to the ark of the Covenant and, with Samuel, our ancient brother, stand ready to say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

Now, more than ever, we need to know that even if we hide behind the fig trees in our lives, Jesus knows. God will find us. Jesus sees us. Jesus will call to us as he called to Nathaniel and Phillip, Andrew and Simon. And, if we answer, it is promised that ‘we will see greater things than these.”

Just as Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree before Phillip called him, God sees us where we are even before we can see ourselves. God meets us where we are. Loves us as we are. Calls us to be more than we think we are or could ever dream to be.

We are not Samuel or Nathaniel or, for that matter, Barack or Joe. We can only imagine what their lives were – or are –like. Our job is not to spend our time living other people’s lives. Our job – our call – is to imagine the life God imagined when God first conceived of us. Before, as the Psalmist tells us, we were ‘knit together in our mother’s womb.

Our job is to work on the ‘content of our character’ of which Martin Luther King spoke, so that when we are judged, not by the color of our skin or our ethnicity or our social class status or the place of our education or the content of our bank account or stock portfolio, it can be said that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit who is within us.

It begins with taking the image inside our hearts, allowing those images of the call of Samuel and Nathaniel to find their way and implant themselves into the fertile ground of our souls so that we, too, may know when God calls us in the cold, dark days ahead to do a mighty work for Jesus.

We are all called. That’s not the question. The question is, will you listen? Will you answer?

Together, we will make history on Tuesday. Historians will write about these times, these days. But, today is tomorrow’s history. What will history say about you? What will history say about us? What will history say, of these times, about ‘we the people’? Amen.