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Sunday, August 27, 2023

Facebook Reflection: Why I go to church

Good Sunday morning, good people of the cosmos. It's a perfectly lovely morning in August, here on the Delmarva Peninsula. Temperatures are expected to stay in the seventies and there's a very light breeze coming from the NNE. Humidity, however, is 86% so a fan may be necessary.

We are getting ready for church this morning and I find my heart heavy. Actually, it's not so much my heart being heavy as my head being full.

There's a lot going on, you know? In the world. In the lives of some of my friends. In my life. Not a lot of it makes sense.

Sometimes, you know, you just can't think your way out of or even through things.

Sometimes, you just have to let stuff stew. Or simmer. Or marinate. Or, cool off. Before you taste a bit more, to see if you need to add something or if it just needs time before you can deal with it. Let the cake cool before you try to frost it.

That's when church can become important. It doesn't really matter if the choir is stellar or the preacher is particularly good (although that’s always lovely).

Sometimes, it's just being able to sit in the same holy space with people you know are also trying to sort stuff out, work stuff through, put stuff together.

You don't even really need to know the particulars of their story. You just see it in their faces. The way their shoulders slump. The something-something in their gait as they walk up to the communion rail and the way they walk back, hands together, head down.

Deep in the middle of the middle of The Deep.

Does misery love company? Perhaps. But, I don't think that's what's going on here.

I think The Holy is often found in a room filled with people who are broken and trying to make themselves whole again.

That's nothing the priest or the preacher or the choir director or choir has any control over. The only thing that makes that possible is for there to be an invisible but very clear sign at the entrance to the church and in every particle of every molecule of air in the "sanctuary" - the safe place" - that says, simply, "Come."

So, I'm off to go to a place where I know that's possible. It isn't always so every week. Some weeks, the message is stronger and clearer than others. You know, because we're human and nothing is ever perfect, except being perfectly human.

It's the possibility - nay, the probability- of unconditional welcome that's important.

So, I'm going to take a few minutes to gather up all the crumbs from under the little altars that are scattered everywhere in my life. I need to put them all together and bring them to the altar at my church where they can be gathered together with the other crumbs from under other altars.

And, through some mystery too deep for me to fathom, out of these many crumbs, gathered from many directions and wildly different sources, there will be enough to feed the souls of all who are there, with enough left over to be taken to those who are unable to be with us.

An ancient Palestinian Rabbi from Galilee has promised that it would be so.

I've learned over the years that the one promise you can always count on is one that comes from love that is incarnational.

So, off I go to be part of that. I hope the same can be true for you, too.

Bom dia!


Facebook Reflection: Spiritual Revival


Good Saturday morning, good people of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (I can hear Nat King Cole's voice as I write those words, can't you?).

I have chosen to make this a lazy day, which will be a bit of a challenge since today is "chore day" and I've got dusting and vacuuming to do, and, because I was away for three days, I've got more than my usual laundry.

It's okay. I've had one serving of the best cup of coffee in the whole world and I'm feeling brave and bold and up for the challenge. By the time I've had my second cup, I may actually find the courage to sit back down again and tune into MSNBC and watch the amazing mind of Ali Velshi at work.

I have been thinking about the question Jesus asks in the lectionary lesson for tomorrow. "Who do YOU say I am?" It's a critically important question for any religious leader to ask of their followers.

Actually, it's an important question for any leader to ask. I am just now remembering one of my favorite sayings of community organizer, Saul Alinsky, who said: "A leader without a following is just a person out for a walk."

A dear friend sent me a quote from someone named Alexander Den Heijur, "When I talk to managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important."

I think that's a pretty good guess as to how a leader actually gets a following.

Who do YOU say that I am? I think everyone - but especially leaders - needs to ask another, similar question before they ask that one of others.

Everyone needs to ask themselves, "Who am I?" Not "Who do I think I am?" Not, "Who do I want to be?" The first question is to make a fierce, searing, self-inventory and ask, "Who am I?"

Those other questions will be part of the journey that takes you through the parts of yourself you keep in the shadows of the wilderness and deserts of your life and into the challenges and despair of the fires of refinement before you are able to find your "true self".

As I've been struggling with the question of Jesus, I've also been struggling with the image of The Mug Shot and all that it means, for our present reality as well as its historical significance at this moment in our common lives as a nation.

Let me just say this before I continue: There is no doubt that Donald John Trump knows exactly who he is. That's part of his power. He is crystal clear about his identity and he makes no excuses for who he is.

His rallies serve the purpose of opportunities for his followers to tell him who they say he is and he makes the necessary, minor adjustments, turning the various rhetorical control knobs up or down accordingly.

Whatever else you might say about The Former Guy, he is simply quite a brilliant leader. I wouldn't follow him to the Candy Store but that's because he's so clear about who he is that he makes the decision easy.

Here's what I do want to say: Because of all of this, I think there is every indication that this nation is in desperate need of a spiritual revival.

I'm not just talking about the rise of romanticism after the Civil War and again after the Vietnam War which influenced political ideology, inviting engagement with the cause of the poor and oppressed and with ideals of social emancipation and progress.

I'm talking about a deep, profound, radical examination and transformation of the Spirit of this country. The anger that is palpable and increasingly dangerous on the Right is not unmet by the rising anxiety and anger on the Left.

I'm probably troubled most by my own sense of satisfaction with the accountability inherent in the spectacle of the four indictments which is fine and good, but I am startled when it tips so easily into the vicarious enjoyment of the frenzied delight and triumphant jubilation that is so obvious all over the Left side of Social Media.

It's not that the triumphant jubilation is wrong; it's that it is done at the expense of those on the Right. They may well be, as Hillary said, "The Deplorables" but that is hardly a charitable perspective of our fellow Americans.

I don't know what good can come - how we can achieve 'e pluribus unam," (out of many, one) - when we create political and demographic caste systems. Then, we're no better than those on the Right who have a burning hatred for "The Elites."

Alinsky wrote, "First rule of change is controversy. You can't get away from it for the simple reason all issues are controversial. Change means movement, and movement means friction, and friction means heat, and heat means controversy."

We're certainly at a point, in this country, where controversy has generated a great deal of friction and friction has created heat. Many people are angry. Some are angry that they are angry all the time.

We throw political stones at each other: Immigration. Inflation. The economy. Crime. Corruption. Gun Control. Climate Change. No one does anything about these issues to bring about change. We just lob them at each other and wonder why we're hurt and angry all the time.

See also: The need for a spiritual revival. And, I think it begins with a fierce, searing inventory of our identity. I think we all need to ask ourselves, "Who do I say I am?" As individuals. As Americans. As people of whatever faith we profess.

This ought to be followed by "Who do we say we are?" As a nation. As Americans. As people of whatever political affiliation and ideology we claim.

As people who profess to believe in the founding principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

I don't know how to get there except by following the lead of The Spirit, through the valley of the shadow of death and into the Shining City on the Hill.

It is this spirituality that Martin Luther King, Jr. tapped into 60 years ago today in his brilliant speech at the March on Washington.

"Tell them about the dream, Martin" Mahalia Jackson urged him. "Tell them about the dream." And, he did.

At the end of laying out the elements and components of his dream for this land that he loved, he said,

“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

That's the kind of spiritual revival this nation is desperate for.

At least, that's the way it looks to me this Saturday morning in August when I have chosen to make this a lazy day.

Not sure I'm succeeding but, well, as Albin sang in La Cage aux Folles, "I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses."

Off I go then, to have a second cup of the best cup of coffee in the whole world and then maybe put a load of laundry into the washer. I'll save chasing the dust bunnies for the afternoon.

I hope you make it a great day today, whether it's wildly productive or amazingly refreshing. As you go through your day, perhaps you, yourself can reflect on these two questions: "Who do I say I am. " And, "Who do other say I am."

I'm thinking, at the very least, you'll hear tomorrow's gospel in a deeper, more relevant way.

Bom dia!