22 December 2008

A Prayer for Waiting in the Season of Christmas

As Christmas approaches, the object of our waiting comes near. Many of us feel the pressure of this season to be only joy and happiness, but for many it can be a time of sadness--especially as we remember those who are no longer with us, and the things for which we wait that will not arrive on Christmas morning. This Christmas, let us be comforted in knowing that God holds us in both our rejoicing and pain, in hope and disappointment. Let us look to an unlikely baby, the child of an unwed teenage mother, and find some rest for our souls.

What follows is a prayer from the Pres Welcome Advent service.

Jesus, we are waiting.
We wait for your Promise. We trust in your Word.
We hear echoes of your Good News-
that peace is possible,
that love endures all things,
that justice will roll down like waters,
that there will be no walls to keep us apart.
Forgive us when we fail to trust...
forgive us when we fail to be your Church...
forgive us when we doubt you and fall silent...
Forgive us when we ignore the gifts you grant us on the way.
We wait.
Grant us the courage to wait with expectancy,
and to proclaim with hope and joy your promise.
A new dawn is breaking...give us eyes to see it.

14 December 2008

For what do we wait?

Ian Doescher

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

—Psalm 126

For what restoration are we longing? For what do we wait? During Advent, the time is ripe for thinking on those things we await, those promised things that are yet to come. For gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, queer and questioning people—and their allies--, Psalm 126 must speak a true word about waiting, about expectation, about hope.

There are a couple of ways to read this psalm, and both are possible given the text. One way is to assume that the first three verses—about God's restoration—refer to a past event (usually thought to be Israel's return from exile). The second way to read it—and the way I first read it—is to view the first few verses as a hope for the future, as in "this is what it will be like when God restores us." The justification for this second reading is verse 4, which states a very present need: "Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb." So I ask again: for what restoration are we longing? For what do we wait?

Growing up, I went with my parents to the very conservative Church of Christ. When I was in high school, I started noticing the things that were said in church—Oregon had an anti-gay ballot measure on the ballot in 1994—the infamous Measure 9—and I can remember someone at church passing out "Yes on 9" pamphlets, and my friends in the youth group talking about how they had vandalized someone's "No on 9" sign. Is this what church is supposed to be about? That question led me to the Presbyterian Church. A friend who knew I was unhappy with the Church of Christ invited me to her church, and I immediately felt more comfortable there.

In the thirteen years since then, four of which included a divinity school degree, I have joined the Presbyterian Church and subsequently put my Presbyterianism to the test. I have wrestled with the tradition, learned to love parts of the polity, and cried as the church upholds decisions I find difficult to accept. This is probably a familiar feeling for many of us: we have both loved and been challenged by our denomination; we want it to be what it is and we desperately want it to change. We are in a sort of exile, looking forward to the time when God will restore the fortunes of Zion.

Now, I too look forward to the day when our church and our society are fully welcoming, when laws like Oregon's Measure 9 and California's Proposition 8 and the Presbyterian Church's Amendment B are a memory. "Restore us, intimate God," I find myself praying, "Bring us the day marriage for gay and lesbian couples becomes a reality. Restore us so that all are fully accepted for who they are. Bring the day when the church ordains those most fully called, regardless, and asks forgiveness for the decades and centuries of wrong done in Christ's name. In that moment, when the Lord restores to wholeness the family of God, we will be like those who dream! Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then it will be said among the nations: 'The Lord has brought them justice!'"

09 December 2008

I have called you by name


“I have called you by name.” (Is. 45:4b)

October 19 was Mission Sunday in the Catholic Church. The priest spoke about mission, missionaries and martyrs from centuries past. I asked myself, “what is our mission today and who are our missionaries and martyrs?” One need not go to a foreign land to be a missionary because the mission can be in our own country, city, church, neighborhood or family. Right here, right now there are people who need to hear the message of God’s love and to hear God call them by name. I thought especially about LGBT people whose lives have been brutally ended. They too were missionaries and martyrs who lost their lives for living and speaking the truth. I thought of people who witness the LGBT experience and God’s love even in the midst of physical and emotional threat. They face great opposition, mean-spiritedness, rejection, and hatred. These missionaries live and bring the message of God’s inclusive and unconditional love. They live and bring God’s words, “I have called you by name”.

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers,

unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in

hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers/sisters

loved by God, how you were chosen. For our gospel did not come to you in word

alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and (with) much conviction.”

1 Thessalonians 1:2-5a

Let us remember and honor our LGBT Martyrs and Missionaries. Let us pray for those who continue this mission of witness, this “labor of love” that they will be safe in body and mind. Let us pray so that we may live and believe what God has said, “I have called you by name”.

…..but for now I must sign