27 June 2008

Do Not Be Afraid

by David Paul
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 10:24-39

We have become really good as LGBT people at paying close attention to the world around us. When we feel out of place or notice something different about the way we experience the world from others, our senses are heightened. Perhaps it is our anxiety of feeling out of place that injects a bit of adrenaline into our blood streams, making us pay acute attention to the world.

This feeling of heightened awareness often reminds me of sitting with my Grandma at her Free Will Baptist church in eastern North Carolina. I was always hyper-aware of the people sitting around me, listening intently to the pastor. I would hope and pray that his sermon entitled, “When Were You Saved?” did not lead down the path to the sinfulness of homosexuality. And I am not sure why I got so anxious, because it had never happened. In all my visits to her church, not one of the pastors had ever condemned homosexuality from the pulpit. Yet that feeling of being out of place certainly got my heart racing, as fear crept into my psyche.

A consistent message throughout the Bible is this proclamation: Do Not Be Afraid. It appears in this passage from Matthew as Jesus instructs his disciples about the potential danger they will encounter as they spread the good news. Jesus tells the disciples to speak freely about their faith convictions regardless of the consequences. I can only imagine how isolated the disciples must have felt as they entered cities and villages spreading the word about Jesus. And they had real reasons to be afraid! I am sure their hearts were racing just as fast as mine as they encountered clear resistance and outright hostility from others. It is almost impossible for us, modern day Christians living in the US, to really grasp the jeopardy that many early Christians encountered by proclaiming Jesus as Savior. If you happen to be LGBT, however, perhaps this passage resonates a bit more profoundly with your own experience.

Jesus was well aware that truth-telling was often dangerous work and had severe consequences. Shining the light on places of darkness can bring both joy and fear - an experience LGBT people know all too well. Claiming our own identity, sexuality, and spirituality often puts us at odds with the church, our families, and even our own LGBT brothers and sisters. And yet, we are told time after time – Do Not be Afraid.

In a passage that almost normalizes the consequences of truth-telling, Jesus calls on us to have courage as we disclose our truth to the world around us. What an appropriate message for Pride month! Do Not be Afraid. Instead, go forth into the world armed with the courage of Jesus Christ who knew all too well the consequences of truth-telling.

09 June 2008

What Shall I Return?

By Paula
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What shall I return to the Lord…
-PSALMS 116:12

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-ROMANS 5: 1-5

Here we are once again, headed into GA! We enter with hearts that have been wounded and filled with suffering, some more than others. But today we are also blessed with the good news from Paul that we have PEACE.

I have to admit that sometimes Paul really ticks me off, but at times I want to hug him. I guess this would be a time where I would want to hug him. Paul is trying to help me change my tone, my view, my inner energy, and my thought process.

There have been several times in my life when I was not able to hear the words from Romans 5:1-5. In my mid-twenties, I was convinced that those words could not have been meant for me. During those times, I was mistaken about God’s call on my life. I said more than 1000 times, “What do you want from me, God?” Sometimes the tone I used to say these words was an angry shout, and sometimes a humble prayer. Sound familiar?

Even though we suffer as an LGBTQ community, and alone, we will endure. It is through our suffering and endurance that young people today and tomorrow will be able to accept God’s call with a little more ease. They will not have to shout out to God in tears and anger - “What do you want from me, God?” - because of the rejection they face in answering God’s call. One day our suffering and endurance will give others the freedom to serve without persecution.

Whether you are physically present in San Jose or not, pray for the GA this week. Pray that God’s love through the Holy Spirit comes alive in a stronger way than ever before. My hope is that, as a denomination, we can fall face first before God together and with humbled tears and pray, “What do you want from us, God?

May the peace, grace, hope, endurance, and character that God has grown within each of us be with you this week … because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Lord Christ,
At times we are like strangers on this earth, taken aback by all the violence the harsh oppositions. Like a gentle breeze, you breathe upon us the Spirit of peace. Transfigure the deserts of our doubts, and so prepare us to be bearers of reconciliation wherever you place us, until the day when a hope of peace dawns in our world.

-prayer by Brother Roger of Taiz'e, from the Book of Common Worship

02 June 2008

God of Angel Armies

by RevSisRaedorah
The Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 46 & Haggai 2:9

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need Him.… GOD-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” -Psalm 46:1ff (TM)*

""This temple is going to end up far better than it started out, a glorious beginning but an even more glorious finish: a place in which I will hand out wholeness and holiness.' Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies." -Haggai 2:9 (TM)*

Happy New Year – to Me! My birthday is Wednesday. Having spent most of the past month reflecting, as I usually do around this time, about the past year and my plans for the new one, I did so with uncustomary and unfamiliar grief. It took me about two weeks of praying, writing and being still as the Psalmist both instructs and challenges us that I understood that the catalyst of my grief – when I would ordinarily and joyfully be planning my annual charity party – was loss.

Three weeks ago I lost two parathyroid adenomas. Because of the radically invasive surgery, casualties of this procedure included significant damage to my vocal folds, my losing my voice, thereby rendering me aphonic for the past three weeks. As much as the adenomas were causing dis-ease throughout my body, generally, and through my preacher/poet/storyteller voice, specifically, I was not prepared to experience the loss of the ability to speak. Especially for such an extended period of time. Instead of sending out birthday party invitations three weeks ago, I sat still, in silence, and just let tears stream from my soul’s well.

SELAH: Beloved, do not fear naming the loss you feel…

In my loss of speech, I lost use of the most valuable and priceless tool of my vocation, pleasure and passion. In my loss of speech – and that accompanied with a very visible scar, medicinally managed pain, and sleeping on my back propped up at a 25 degree angle – I lost the ability to tell my son I love him, to ask a friend to bring me a napkin, to call maintenance when a pvc pipe gave way flooding the living room carpet, and the simple joy of laughing out loud like I am oft apt to do. For one very long day facing westward, overlooking the infinity of the Pacific Ocean, I sat still, in silence, and just let tears call out to Deep about my overwhelming reality of loss. Like the great waves cresting as the sun began to set, so were waves of grief so strong in my soul and weighed down my body. I sat still, in silence, and with every shed tear I felt an opportunity to be light snuffed out. Loss feels like that – silence and darkness.

SELAH: …your honest to God-ness feelings are safe in God’s place…

And so I stayed there – at the ocean, in stillness, in silence, in tears – feeling protected by God of Angel Armies! As the tide ebbed and flowed, so did my overwhelming sense of loss. Beloved Friends, know that this meditation is less about loss as a destination, but is in fact, a testimony of a journey through loss – one which I am still traveling. You see, as I sat out in the public paths along the beachfront that day, the more aware I became of my vulnerability in the loss of speech and all the more I became aware that God of Angel Armies was on patrol over my mind, body and spirit. God who protects me when can’t holler for help is the same God who is preparing me for a work and a witness that is incomprehensibly awesome!

SELAH: …and while you are hiding and still, healing and silent, I, God of Angel Armies is at work in you to restore you …

In plain sight I hid in stillness, silence and submission to God of Angel Armies at work in me and on my behalf.

Praise –
My praise to God of Angel Armies is this – which I will trust You for protection and I will trust in You that my silence will not silence my witness of Your great and mighty, mysterious and marvelous ways!
Beloved Friend, feel your loss, name it, and let it go! God of Angel Armies is on patrol! God of Angel Armies will use your loss to cause you to leap into the next manifestation of God’s will for your life. Expect the loss to leave. Prepare to receive a more glorious gift in its stead. In that place of loss, God of Angel Armies will pour out wholeness and holiness!
Trust God today, let losses go and you, go with God to your manifest destiny!

*Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002.