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Rejoice and Pray!

Lectionary for the third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019
John 21:1-19

Rejoice!

Once a month I meet with a Spiritual director in a Retreat House in New Jersey. I have been meeting regularly with Sister since 2015. Today as I was walking down the stairs from her office, I noticed a picture hanging in the stairway. It was a pretty rose-coloured, tiled word that said, REJOICE.

“That’s really pretty,” I said, “Is that new or have I just missed it?” Sister chuckled and said, “It’s been hanging there for three years.” REJOICE!        

            Sure, sometimes life gets really busy, and sometimes we are so focused on a means to an end or the task at hand that we miss the details, the messages, the very essence of the Holy Spirit that surround us. For three years I walked by a picture hanging on the wall focused on what I needed to accomplish, what I believed I needed to be present to. Seminary and papers, family, commuting, life’s obstacles and hurdles, challenges and transitions, indeed this was an exercise of human will caught in the cycle of busy.

Yes, busyness has its place in the birthing of beautiful creative expression, ideas, growth and expansion, but before this great birthing of abundance can occur; there is the breath, the breath that embodies the spirit of all life, all good things, the word. When we fail to listen to that breath, we take on our own will. We become distracted by our own fears, desires and tasks at hand. We get overwhelmed in a cycle of survival and we keep ourselves busy, numbing our way through the emotional fatigue of keeping up. Simply put, we miss God’s beautiful details. Like the lines in a face that tell a life’s story, or journeyed callouses of the hands that come beautifully outstretched with the desire to receive Christ. The details matter, for in the details there is the presence of God, but no less, we are human and living in the 21st century with all techno thing-ma-gigs that were supposed to ease our lives, but somehow only made them more busy, distracting from God, from God’s breath, from the very spirit of our Holy Trinity and our relationship within.

This is the third appearance that our Lord, Christ makes after the resurrection, and it is the third time that the disciples do not at first recognize him. Mary Magdalene mistook him for a gardener (John 20:11-18), then he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus as a fellow traveler (Luke 24:13-21), and now here he is, a stranger on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-13). In each of these cases, the disciples who saw the resurrected Jesus did not recognize him by his physical features, but by what he said and did. First came breath. “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”  After the catch, Peter knew instantly it was Jesus and hurried back to shore as the others followed with the abundance of nourishing fish.

In this case, the disciples tried of their own will to cast out nets and make a catch but came up empty. The following day, though unsure, they listened to the word, the breath of God and were rewarded with great abundance.

Imagine if we were better listeners. How often are we so caught up in our own busyness that we fail to listen for the word, the spirit, the breath of our creator and redeemer, Christ? How often do our own minds chatter away with tasks, lists, ideas, and desires? I understand this in terms of survival, and football, and parenting, schoolwork and playgroups, deadlines and hockey games. I’ve raised two boys and kept real busy. It’s easy to miss the voice and direction of our God. Prayer is necessary for us to be obedient to God’s will.

The disciples did not recognize Jesus, but they knew it was him. They knew it was he because they had a relationship with Jesus. They loved him. We too are invited into relationship with Christ. The breath, the word, the will of our God awaits us, longs for us to lift up our hearts and give thanks and praise, to seek God in all things. When we release ourselves of distraction, bring our mind, body, and spirit into the presence of prayer, with no alternative motive, just LOVE, then we build and strengthen our relationship with Jesus. By reading scripture, having a rule of life and receiving the sacraments of our Holy Church we share in the celebration of grace bestowed upon us. Worshipping together we strengthen the fellowship of Love shared, uniting us as one body through the breaking of the bread and drinking from the cup.

As we come to the rail may we always remember the sacrifice Christ has made for us, knowing that we are tasked as Peter to Love onward without condition.

Feed, Tend, Feed and Rejoice!

Try not to let your heart be so distracted that you do not recognize the little things that lead you, guide you, direct you to the voice of God. Rejoice!

Prayer+

Lord Jesus Christ, help us to release ourselves and become the shepherds you seek for us to become among your creation; so your breath, your word, and your love, may be known to all people and that we in seeking to fulfil your will may rejoice in the resurrection through you, Christ our Lord. Amen

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Doubt or Longing – either way, have Faith

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

thomas030307_01Peace be with you!

When I was a teenager, I spent a couple of years in an all-girls Catholic High School. The sisters used to warn us to behave because the “wrongs” we did wouldn’t just send us to hell, but we would be branded for life with a mark on our permanent record.

There was nothing more threatening, more anxiety-laden than this phantom mark of our reputation. My friends and I still tease each other about the potential descriptions of our character. We can playfully imagine how the sisters may have branded us.

Thomas’s permanent record has been marred by this one event behind closed doors. One event that I believe is a mischaracterization of who Thomas is and who he was to Jesus.

Thomas didn’t want anything that everyone else didn’t all ready have. In fact, Thomas was devout and courageous. I believe there is nothing Thomas wouldn’t have done for Jesus. Including laying his life down for him.

Would you lay down your life down for Jesus today?

What would you do for your teacher?

In John 11, Jesus is called to the bedside of Lazarus in Bethany. This journey would have been gravely dangerous, as there were mobs who wanted to stone Jesus. The frightened disciples try to talk Jesus out of going to Lazarus, but Jesus assures them to have faith and then, it is Thomas who is outspoken and willing to lay down his life for his teacher, saying, “Let us also go so that we may die with Him.” Thomas may not have understood but he certainly was willing. He didn’t know if they would live or die, but he had faith in his teacher, so he was willing to go.

We ought to be celebrating his willingness, to walk in the dark, take courage and follow Jesus.

Dear people of Christ, the enemy of Faith is not doubt – the enemy of Faith is unbelief. Thomas may not have understood, he may have questioned whether they would live or die, but he kept walking, he kept walking forward, he kept walking toward, he kept following Jesus. That’s faith in the midst of doubt. That’s belief.

When I was a teenager, I went to bed on a Sunday evening and I had a dream of a woman with fiery red hair and quick Irish wit. She spoke in many places, rooms and retreats and people would follow her from near and far just to catch a glimpse and hear a word. What a dream!

When I rose the following morning, the sun was out and seemed like a fine day to skip school and walk with God awhile. The presence of my dream sat upon on my shoulder, with a whisper –  Follow me, Follow me.

I didn’t understand, and I didn’t know where I was going, but by the afternoon I found myself in the Basement of Calvary Episcopal Church. Prayerful and quiet, the voice from my dream spoke more loudly, and I raised my chin, opened my eyes and there she sat. Quick wit, fiery red hair, her name was Maureen.

A new day was dawning.

I Instantly became her shadow, her youngest and most devout disciple. Wherever Maureen went, wherever she spoke and taught, wherever and whenever she shared her experience strength and hope, I was there. I didn’t always get it, I didn’t always understand, but I had faith and I believed.

On Sunday mornings we would meet at St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church and it was a really big church. Maureen sat in the 2nd row.

She said, “If you want to hear God, you sit up front.” Now I didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t hear God from anywhere else in the building, and I thought, gee I’d be way more comfortable blending in back there.

I didn’t really know if I would hear God better or not, but I had faith in my teacher. So on Sunday morning, I’d get up early, meet Maureen and sit in the 2nd row. And by golly, I think I heard God.

In John 14, Jesus is explaining the way to God. He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may also be. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” And Thomas responds to Jesus, “ Lord we do not know where we are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

Thomas didn’t always understand Jesus, but he loved and believed in his teacher. He dared to be forthright and honest about his not knowing. And in his reasonable not knowing he STILL had the faith to follow.

Alfred Tennyson says, there lives more Faith in Honest doubt than in all the creeds.

I have a great deal of compassion for Thomas. I can feel, empathise with his grief and longing for his teacher.

You see, I had the blessed opportunity to spend a good three and a half years following and learning from Maureen. She was only in her 50’s when she died suddenly. Those of us who were her disciples, who followed her instantly found our lives together changed. We took comfort in each other only for a while, but the breath of God had been upon us, and we would pick up our Love, our lessons and experiences and begin to disperse separately in our ways.

I can remember those early days soon after, wrestling with the loss of her, grieving, searching for answers and longing for her presence, her voice, her laugh and wit. Longing for the long talks, the rides, the speaking engagements and the masses of people, the crowds that gathered to hear, speak and teach. I can remember asking her after such an engagement, “Do you feel like a celebrity?” She looked at me sternly and said, “There but for the Grace of God go I. “ I was young and foolish. I didn’t quite understand, but I kept hanging around Maureen. After her death, there was an ending, an ending for all of us, and life would be very different moving forward with a New Beginning, our life after Maureen.

The disciples sat grieving and in fear, in a locked room, having lost their teacher to a Violent and Traumatic death. Their teacher who brought them the gifts of Love and Grace, and Forgiveness and Mercy. Their teacher who provided them with a prophetic voice on what was going to be.

Now they were facing a new road ahead, this new Journey without their teacher, but with his spirit in mind.

I can imagine the depth of their longing. From this day forth nothing would ever be the same, not for any one of them.

But Again I say to you, Thomas, didn’t ask for anything, that everyone else didn’t all ready have.

When the women came back from the Tomb and told the disciples Jesus rose from the dead and was alive. Not one male disciple believed them. Not one, yet, the reputation of “doubter” is not attributed to any one of them. There is no doubting Peter, or Andrew, James or John, Phillip or Bartholomew, not any one of them despite them shrugging off the women. Then Jesus appears to them, breaths on them and they believe.

Who never doubted never half believed, where doubt their truth is – ‘is her shadow.

Philip James Bailey

But where’s Thomas?

He’s not there, and I don’t believe for a single second that he is out buying oranges. He and the disciples are wanted men, but Thomas was never the one to sit around hiding. This is the same disciple who was willing to lay his life down for Jesus.

Jesus appears to the women, and Thomas is Grieving… Where are you, Jesus?  Jesus showed himself to the disciples…. Thomas is searching… Where are you, Jesus?

Thomas longing, embedded with grief, and loss hallowed chaos that distracts from the “here and now” – that burning desire to understand.

Where are you, Jesus?

Can you feel Thomas? Can you hear him say…

My heart is broken, and I am longing for your presence, I reach out my hand to touch you, I keep walking forward, but I cannot feel you, I cannot hear you or smell your essence – I know I am walking toward you where are you?` Jesus, Jesus, and a week later Jesus appears to Thomas in front of the disciples.

“Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

That is how it is written as Jesus spoke to all the apostles.

When I read I read this scripture I get a very vivid picture in my mind, and it looks something like this:

Stunned by his appearance, wanting sure this was not an appreciable, we put our fingers in the wounds of Jesus and I saw all the wars in the nations, ice caps melting, people of color dying in the streets, lifeless fish floating in the sea, babies torn from their mothers, children dying in classrooms, hunger and famine throughout the world, refugees hiding in fear, trees falling in the forests, and all the creatures of this earth needlessly suffering, all mothers of the land weeping and money, power, greed and all the idyllic monsters that have stolen the attention of the masses. Saddened at the wounds of God, we took a breath….

And withdrew our fingers from the wounds of our Savior – What have we done?

We then lifted our eyes to meet Jesus, and this light appeared brighter than anything we have ever seen, the heavens opened up, and all the wounds of the earth were no more. A new day was born.

Alleluia Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.

Life rarely ever goes as planned. Often, Life will take us in a completely different direction to the path we intended to travel, but no matter what happens HAVE FAITH – Have Faith that in the end, it will work out.

Faith is believing in your dream when no one else does. Faith is sitting in the storm of your life and still being able to close your eyes and feel the sun. Still being able to see and know the better days are coming, despite the chaos, and storms and injustice and hurt all around you, that’s Faith!

Sometimes only you can see it. Have Faith- No matter how long it will take to get there. You will get there. Faith is taking the First step even when you can’t see the whole journey. Trusting the rest of the path will reveal itself in time, trusting in Jesus, trusting in God!

Keep moving forward. That’s what Thomas did. Keep moving forward.

Faith dear family is not a road without trouble or despair; it is not a road without question, Faith is a belief held in the presence of doubt, rather than an idea that removes all doubt.

Take the first step and keep moving.

You must have Faith these struggles will pass. Believe the Risen Christ is here. Here Now.

We can learn from Thomas. We can learn that even though we don’t know where our journey may lead, it is enough that our Lord makes the journey with us.

And in those times when our faith needs the reinforcement of tangible reality, and we are questioning, in the dark night of our soul, through the depth of our sorrow and wonder, where are you, God? —- it is good to know that our Lord does not meet our doubts with chastisement, but with a manifestation of grace, Love and mercy.

And when the chaos of our grief disappears, we will see that whom we were looking for, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is right here with us.

Peace!

Prayers

 

9/27/2018

senior sermon

The Collect

Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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Stories, Rain Coats and Mark 8:27-38

Spring ShowersWhen I attended an all girl’s catholic high school, the priest came over to the convent which aligned itself right behind the school to hear our confessions for reconciliation. We lined up nervously in our plaid skirts, white oxford shirts and green blazers. Anxious giggles exchanged between us cautiously as not to get in trouble with the sisters. We starred down at our penny loafers counting our sins, reciting to ourselves what we were about to  bring to the priest. Burdened by my perception of my sin, I can remember shaking as I sat before him. I began, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned…” I rattled off a litany of my heartache and he stopped me mid breath,”My child, we all have a book to write.” My penance was the shortest in the class.

I cannot remember who the priest was, but I never forgot our exchange and how often it has come up for me. Especially as the stories of my life have accumulated and contributed to the person of faith I have become. Stories which like clay in a potters hand have sculpted my soul carefully reshaping, reforming, molding each part to lead to next. One could not be without the imprint before. I’ve been handled with God’s care.

I had an old friend, a mentor a priest, she lived her life differently always exchanging a lesson for an element of fear, yet I looked to her authority to guide me on my way, discounting what the belly knew. I was an obedient student. “Do not speak my dear, for they will not understand. Keep it close, under your raincoat.” I can remember anxiously waiting for the next lesson, but each and every time; time after time, the same was spoken, “Do not speak my dear, for they will not understand. Keep it close, under your raincoat.”

Gifted by God’s grace through our experiences we have an abundance of stories to share with one another. Stories that empower and inspire, stories that reach into the depth of our souls, stories that generate compassion, wisdom and knowledge, stories that share our common unity in our walk with God, stories that reveal the incarnate Christ among us in our otherwise very broken world. Sharing these stories are often not very comfortable, we see this in the shared experiences of abuse, loss, grief and trauma, but stories none the less, that must be told, not for the good of ourselves but for the good of the kingdom of God.

As I write today I know of three people who are in the finishing stages of publications of their books. I cannot wait to read each of them. Yes, I am inspired. I am inspired to share more of me, but for now I’ll open a few buttons of my coat, and be in awe of them as they dance baptized in the rain with their coats wide open in spring’s shower, lifting the spirits of a new day, a new beginning and a new chapter. As disciples this, their cross becoming more vulnerable and open for the healing love and passion of God’s universe, for all of us to indulge.

In our Gospel text for Sunday, Jesus, has the disciples acknowledge who he is, commands them to say nothing and then rebukes Peter for his attempt to interfere. “Get behind me Satan!” So I say to the old tale of keeping it under the rain coat. Get behind me Satan!

How often have we wished the pain away, the circumstances the potter’s imprint, our stories? How often have we prayed to God for an end, a beginning or a sign? In Mark we are told take up our cross, to embrace the experience of our lives no matter what it brings, for it is only a momentary time in the patterns of imprints that detail the stories of our lives.

Take up your cross, open the rain coat, speak, write, share your stories, the Kingdom of God awaits!

 

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Life is Fragile – Love

Holy Spirit come to us,
Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us.

Jesus said it is by your love for one another
That everyone will recognize, you as my disciple.
Jesus said, no one has greater love than this,
To lay down one’s life for those one loves.
We know all by this
That Christ laid down His life for us.

This is love
It is not we who had loved God
But God who loved us.
Holy Spirit come to us,
Kindle in us the fire of your love.
Holy Spirit come to us.

On this day seventeen years ago, I picked up my son from an elite preschool, hopped into our all suburban mom’s minivan and headed toward a classmate’s birthday party. While stopped at a red light on Rt.70 in Brick, NJ, we were struck from behind by a fully loaded dump truck that lost its breaks. One week away from my due date, my youngest son was born.

Much has changed since then and continues to change as we evolve and grow together, but the one thing that remains with us all, especially on this day is how fragile and precious our mortal life is. The vanities of our shared existence, the biggest, the best, the name brand, the chic and popular do not hold value over the relationship we share with each other, and with God. Perhaps that is why I love Lent so much. Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return —- to shed away all that is not of God and to be of God, in relationship with God, remembering to whom we belong.

I started my Ash Wednesday with the imposition of Ashes and Eucharist at the chapel, went to my field study, the Church of the Ascension in NYC, I served at noon and then outside for Ashes to Go on 10th and 5th Ave. I think I fell in love with New York on that day. People, diverse people of all races, colors, creeds, sexuality, etc… All walking through the neighborhood with smiles, greetings, hellos, nods, questions, interest and YES, stopping for ashes. I truly believe that New Yorkers must be the kindest most misunderstood people in this country. They are rough and resilient, but they know how to be together with love at the center. One woman cried with joy, that I was the first woman she ever received ashes from. Another asked for prayers for her sister’s family as she had passed, another wept as she was anxious about visiting her daughter. Men who bowed their heads low. I am a sinner, wash away my inequities. Families, young children, people of all longing for God. Deliver me O’God my salvation. Then there was Cathy, not of a denomination that sought ashes but only wished for time in the church and with me. We shared a prophetic exchange. A day to remember. Each face etched quietly in my heart. Each the face of Christ.

In prayerful silence, I departed and walked home. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love took to each living cell as water to seed. Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love… I breathe…then heartbreak over the news of Parkland, Florida… Children, O’my children, how long must we suffer? I heard the echo of scripture, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42) As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

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Like so many of you, I weep. I weep for the children. I weep for each family, for humanity, for our country. I weep for my sons and their future. Reminded yet again of the fragility of our mortal and gifted lives. I weep for the wounded souls who have so lost their way – people who worship firearms more than children, officials who worship money more than children,  people who honor mortal power over our immortal God. How long must you wonder lost people of God arming yourself with things?

Is it no wonder Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s day – LOVE… Imagine if all the world armed themselves with Love… Love over Money, over greed, over the false sense of power, Love.  Forgiveness, healing, redemption, Love, may we all look deeply within ourselves this Lent. May we come to know where we are complicit in our sins. May we better come to know our God and Love our neighbor.  Continue to pray, but pick up your feet, take action, LOVE with action. Demand action!

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Fire and Ice: telling my story…

Fireandice

Story, we’re encouraged to tell our story. In the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, the theme for the last few years has been, “Know Your Story, Live it Boldly.” It’s not at all that unique to the diocese as the greater Church itself has a link on their main website to storytelling encouraging people to share their stories. There are over 800 videos in the library, filled with ministry, and hope, love and protest. These are all good and positive stories. They may tackle some hard issues, but it is all part of a movement, the Jesus movement.

I often suspect that when we fish for these stories, we are looking for that transformative centre that empowers, and bolsters a new or deepening love of Christ. I love the encouragement, but I wonder as a church how open we are to all our stories in living transformation. In a world full of brokenness are we listening, truly listening with open hearts to the intimate stories of our siblings in Christ? Are we responding with urgent Love or do we trade in these stories for the easier softer stories that fit our greater need, unintentionally tucking away the brokenness among us as to bolster our cause?

Story, we’re all supposed to share our story. Encouraged to narrate the inner deep parts of us that make us both vulnerable and whole. Withholding casts a shadow on our authenticity and sharing, well, that can make others feel uncomfortable leading one down that Alice in Wonderland Rabbit hole.

If you have been following me on this blog, or know me as a friend then at the very least you know I am a survivor; and as a survivor, I navigate the appropriateness of each moment, scanning quickly for my safety whenever anyone begins to ask questions, seek advice or we happen to fall on a topic. Yup, falling on a topic is probably the hardest to navigate next to the Spiritual biography that as a seminarian I must write, rewrite and update as I move through my process.

Story, do you really want to know my story? The more I tell it, the more I share, the more I meet people like me. They are good support and a priceless resource, but still, I like many often fear the stigma associated with my story, and so many survivors warn me to protect myself; so as an additional resource, I create art to speak for me in a way that is safe but opens the door to those who so choose. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are people who are tired of hearing me share, but as I learn from the countless emails and messages, other survivors need me to open up as I too so very much need them.

Post Traumatic Stress sucks!  I have a really great support system and toolbox to help cope, but triggers happen sometimes most unexpectedly. The above piece is titled: Fire and Ice and it comes as a prayerful response to my last trigger. I’ve been wrestling whether or not to share – at least this part of my story at this time.

Here it goes… This is a small sample of what Post Traumatic Stress looks like.

I went down to the chapel to change the color of the frontal. I love being in the Chapel alone and in the dark with only a small light from behind to show the way. It’s my time to sing, chant and pray, my time with God. Usually the statues are illumined commanding God’s great presence and invite people to sit awhile, but not that night. The statues were dark and what appeared to be an emergency lamp was left on illuminating only the Sacristans’ box. What struck the altar was lite by the left over flow from behind.

The stillness of dark didn’t diss way me from completing my task, I gently dismantled and folded and transposed one frontal for another as I sang. As I finished, I prayed using Christine Jackman’s Hebrew version of the Our Father, I sang out, Avinu, Avinu, Sheh ba Shamayam… I sang the entire prayer three times, like never before, my heart wide open. Perhaps after my trip to Israel the Hebrew meant something far more than before.

By now my task was complete but I felt called to be with God awhile and kept the music playing in my ear. It was music from my library. I don’t listen to it much anymore. There are far too many haunts, I’ve taken to other forms of streaming, but I gather my longing to sit with God singing this prayer was far greater than my haunting.

After all, I am healing, I’m moving on and I left my wounds at the tenth station in Jerusalem or so I thought, but suddenly out from the dark was her voice. Frozen, tears streaming from my eyes, I fell seated into the Sedalia. I couldn’t turn it off. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. It was like hearing a voice from the grave. I cried out and heavy to God, “What am I to do with this? What do you need me to hear?”

As her Sermon from the fourth Sunday after Easter in 2011 continued, though seated still bodily as I wept, I was no longer in the Chapel but transposed. I was suddenly lying at the back of the altar at my home parish. Lying back flat and still as a frightened animal, I stared up the back of the chancel. I can feel my breath; I can see it as if every morsel of Carbon Dioxide was a piece of God returning home through the rays of light penetrating the small triangular stained glass windows above me. I escaped. I lay beneath the plain golden Protestant cross, numb and cold, yet somehow comforted. It was my safe place, no one ever knew I was there. Only on a very rare occasion did someone wonder through, maybe from time to time they’d catch me praying, but no one ever knew how much time, how often I laid there, escaping her and at the same time trying to figure out or negotiate the reasons of her words and actions as if abuse has a justifiable reason.

That’s the thing, abuse NEVER has a justifiable reason.

Triggers suck, it takes some time to recover. Like having all the air and wind and everything that breathes life into you being sucked out in one unexpected swoop. I have a toolbox, a toolbox of coping mechanisms that help ease the transition back into life, but that’s just it – it’s an easing back into life.

Fire and Ice

Be well dear friends.

 

 

 

 

 

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Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

(A short sermon for class)

John 19:1-6

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

The Grammy’s aired this past January 28th, and I’m not much for these award type shows so as always I found myself dozing on and off until a performance by Kesha caught my attention and my heart. Along side her peers Kesha performed her song “Praying” with what seemed to be every spirited cell of her body. Her story, manifest with raw emotion, resides with many women who are victims of sexual assault, abuse and psychological violence.

Kesha lived and proclaimed the truth about her abuse and her offender despite the visceral adversity it sparked within her industry and career. Truth, which manifested itself in an Eating Disorder and PTSD; truth, which isolated her from others she depended on, truth, which endured further mockery, abuse and pain. In Kesha’s words of introduction to her song in her video she expresses clearly how many survivors have felt at one time or another, “Am I dead,” she wonders, “or is this one of those dreams, those horrible dreams that seem like they last forever?” She continues: “If there is a God or whatever, something, somewhere, why have I been abandoned by everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I’ve ever loved?”

Jesus, sent by Pilot was flogged. He was flogged for living and breathing the truth. Under no circumstance, no threat of torture, would Jesus recant as Pilot urged him to save his mortal flesh. Jesus knew what was true of death. It wasn’t his naked body bound to the stump of a tree. It was not every lash of the whip to his skin or the mockery of crowds. It was not in the betrayal of those who abandoned him and watched his suffering from afar. Death, real death, true death, is in the denial of God, the denial of true everlasting life.

We all as humans have moments of loneliness, moments of self-doubt and abandon, moments of longing for a clear earthly presence of God. Moments where we look at our hurt and sorrow and we struggle to find our next breathe as we feel the pain and woes of the world. Hunger, homelessness, illness, and poverty ripple through the fabric of the foundations of all humankind and it seems like quite a bit to process on some days. Racism, sexism, classism and homophobia, feed the beastly divides and many of us watch from afar at the finger pointing and mockery especially at the expense of those who are pushed to the edges of our society.

Who are we among the people who witnessed the beating of our Lord? Who am I, who are you? Are you are we the advantageous soldier with our hand on the whip? Are you waiting in line for the next strike at the wounded man called Jesus? Are you laughing and gathering others as you weave a thorn crown? Did you robe him? Are you looking into His eyes? Are you one of the crowd, yelling crucify him? Are you a friend feeling helpless by the power and authority of others? Are you weeping at the indignity and lack of humanity? Does the barbarism tear your heart in two?

Place yourself there now in that courtyard where Jesus took every lash of the whip, would you offer yourself in His place?

Every man, woman and child who offers to testify to the living truth of God in Christ places themselves at the stump where Jesus was beaten, but will you look into His eyes and take His place or will you turn away?

Jesus did not suffer for our sins in order for us to look away. He suffered for our sins so that we, looking at His suffering, His wounds would no longer have to suffer. If I said, “Do you believe Christ lives within each of us,” what would you say? Yes? My hunch is that the majority of Christian believers would say, “Yes”! Christ resides in each of us, in every living being and is present among us. So if you chose to be someone other than the persons whom would offer themselves in exchange for Christ’s suffering, why? Is it fear; fear of pain, of abandonment, of loneliness, of mockery? And is that fear greater than death, the very denial of God?

Every man, woman and child who has spoken up against injustice align themselves with Christ. Every woman of the “MeToo” movement, like Kesha has placed themselves at the stump and has looked into the eyes of Christ, and speaking to Truth, the Logos, God – has allowed themselves to be vulnerable to the evils of this world that deny Christ’s existence in each of us. They’ve stood steadfast; withstanding further abuse, mockery, abandonment, assault, harassment and more, yet persevere with resilience. Like Jesus who on the cross asked why God have you forsaken me, survivors have done the same, holding still as many of those whom they have loved and known look away like some who witnessed the beating of Christ.

Me too survivors do not stand alone, especially in this world climate. We are witness to many of the beatings, the injustices around the world and the question is who are you, who will you be when you see Christ in the homeless guy, mocked in the street, in the gay couple spit at, in the black child beat, pulled over or shot for being black, in the dreamer who risks being sent to a place she’s never known, or the woman being harassed by power and authority?

Will you align yourself with Christ or will you look away?