Last night, again, I sat with a Christian friend who is struggling very deeply with his faith. In fact, what is more clear to me than it probably is to him is that he lives with a kind of anguish, a internal and unspoken resignation to believing he will never fully being a full member of the Body of Christ, but only, at best, as an exception God might endure if he tries hard enough. While this kind of conversation is particularly heartbreaking to me, it is anything but new. In fact, I have distinct memories of late night dorm room conversations more than 20 years ago around this very topic. So why are there so many loving, faithful people struggling to believe that God could possibly love them without putting an asterisk by their names in the Book of Life?
I am afraid there is no short answer. Certainly the vitriol and disgust that has been expressed to me individually and to entire groups of people in the media over the last few days plays some part, but rather than try to provide some social analysis and recommendation to the Church on how to be less crappy neighbors in communicating grace, I think it is a good time to turn my attention to those of you who, like I have in life, ever felt myself to be an exception to the love of God. This is in every way, my own story, and not just a story I want you to know about, it is one in which I would like you to join me. Continue reading
Every time I have tried to sit down and write a coherent reflection this week I have stalled and stammered. Not only are the events of the past several days complex and overwhelming, the endless grandstanding, commentary, and politicking is absolutely deafening. It is hard to wrap my brain around everything that is going on. Meanwhile, A pastor threatens to set himself on fire in the wake of gay marriage while across town several churches are actually burning even while we are still morning the deaths of the nine slain brothers and sisters whose kindness almost turned the heart of their murderer. It is here in the midst of the elation and grief that at least one segment of the Church has managed to find one strange, even baffling narrative to sum it all up, “We are being persecuted!”
After sighing loudly and executing an eye roll that would make Liz Lemon feel like an eye-roll amateur, there is part of me that deeply wants to lash out and rant against this kind of histrionics. But honestly that too would fall of deaf ears or feed that culture war cacophony that tends to make us tune out everyone who doesn’t agree with what we already believe. So I instead I would like to suggest a less ranty, and slightly more Biblical perspective on the matter: Yes, we are being persecuted, and this is what you signed up for… Continue reading
The “Charis” by Doug Harrison. Photo by Ryan Hayes
This year, for the first time that I am aware of, we held church at Burning Flipside. Fr. Eric, an Episcopal priest, presided and I preached the sermon. To put it most simply, we had church because that is what we do. After 11 years of missing church on Memorial Day weekend, it just seemed it was time. Pyropolis is our home for one weekend a year and we wanted to be our full selves while we are there. I am grateful to everyone who showed up for church at Flipside since noon is still considered an early hour. I had to wonder who had not been to bed yet, and were simply stopping by church on their way to home to crash. There were about 18-20 of us there all together. We met at the effigy and blessed it to serve its good purpose of being art and enlightening the people. Then we made our way to a little spot behind the RedCamp dome where we sat near a huge pile of soggy carpets, mud caked galoshes and unclaimed tutus. What appears below is not the actual sermon I preached but a post based on the notes from my sermon. At Burn-events we value immediacy, living in the moment and not trying to reproduce or capture it. What is printed here is something written for you, in this place and this moment.
*The Bible readings I refer to are usually read aloud throughout the service. You can find them here or in links throughout as I mention them.
It just so happens that it is Pentecost Sunday today. This only seems to fall on the weekend of Burning Flipside once every couple of years. It is an interesting challenge to try to preach from the Pentecost readings at Flipside. There is all this stuff about Sin, Judgment and of course, every burner’s favorite topic, organized religion. Piece of cake. The sermon writes itself, no? Continue reading
Traditionally, Wednesday of Holy week is a day to think about Judas and his relationship to Jesus. It is often called Spy Wednesday and it commemorates the the night Judas agreed to hand Jesus over to the authorities. This sets in motion the events that result in Jesus’ crucifixion.
What remains so striking about the Judas story is how someone who had sacrificed so much of his life and chosen to follow and live closely with Jesus would ultimately betray him in the worst way. What could possibly have been unfolding in Judas’ mind and heart that made him think that turning Jesus over to the authorities was a good idea? What was the deal breaker for Judas? What, I wonder, would be the deal breaker for me? Continue reading
There are very few vices I have encountered as much in my own life – and in the lives of the people I have listened to and prayed with – as much as I have encountered resentment. What other of my own shortcomings have I nurtured and even protected like I do my grudges? Ever hear of anyone harboring gluttony or greed? Resentment seems to hold a very precious place in a lot of our lives and after a few years of trying to deal with it personally I think I have finally begun to understand why: It is delicious. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered where the ashes form Ash Wednesday come from? In truth, it actually depends on the tradition of your local church (and how organized your priest or pastor is), but traditionally it is prescribed that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday are the burned up palm leaves from Palm Sunday the previous year. Palm Sunday is the most foliaged Sunday in the liturgical year unless you are one of those churches that goes absolutely nutso with the army of Christmas trees and sea of poinsettias. Even so, Palm Sunday remains the Sunday where Christians go waving flora around the sanctuary. The sight always strikes me as comical, the poetry is intentional: The very instruments we go waving around triumphantly one year become the occasion for our repentance the next. How quickly our hearts turn from high praise to great indifference? Continue reading
In the back of my mind I have very passively been making two very big assumptions about my world. 1) That’ there will one day be a L’Arche community in Austin Texas for me to one day be a part of and 2) That Dianne would probably be the very first assistant at that community and that, like me, she would finally find her true home at L’Arche as well. Dianne was also, without question, the biggest fan of the Outpatient Monk blog and this will probably be the first post since I started writing that wont be read by her letter for letter. Dianne died tragically yesterday and this blog, this world, and my future will always be the lesser for her absence.
I am scattering her virtual ashes here at this place online to which I knew she loved to come. She was indeed a misfit, a lousy joiner and a homesick soul. The best way I can think to honor her would be to listen to her life honestly and pass on her light here so that her death would not be the end of her grace and love on this planet. Continue reading
The change of seasons may be slow and subtle in Austin, but the transition from summer to, well, an equally-as-hot-Autumn still inspires making some changes. After a lot of thinking I have decided to cut my job, not quit, just cut. Between working my “normal” 40 hours a week job and doing to personal and freelance work, I find I am busy, too busy, and that busy-ness has become my spirituality. Continue reading
There are few men in the popular media in recent years that have been as easy to hate as Fred Phelps. His tactics and behavior, if not his convictions alone, have been sufficient to offend both right and left and everyone in between. His name has become synonymous with hatred.
The news of his impending death seem to come as good new on the social media and curated media outlets I follow. And without any hint of surprise there are threats, commentary and speculation of returning, in kind, the protests and disdain Fred Phelps inflicted on so many other families.
It is both as a gay man and as a Christian that experience anger with him for vilifying what it means to be gay and outright butchering the Christian tradition in perfect Orwellian fashion, turning itself on its head and turning it into a weapon. I have spent a good portion of my life reflecting on the motivations of people like Mr. Phelps and the answers are complex, but I can at least pull, for our own instruction, a lesson about his odd place in the culture wars…
He wanted to be right Continue reading
Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb (Photo credit: Believe Out Loud)
I try to be careful about which hot culture issues I write about for this blog as it usually take about 20 minutes before everyone on my FaceBook news feed stops caring about which Buzzfeed quiz you are, how what “Miley did was shocking BUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT will change you forever,” or, “Twerking and what it means to me.”. So I don’t mean to fan the flames that bore you but since I have two dogs in this particular dog fight there is something I need to say.
I don’t find these laws very terrifying as I think they won’t hold muster to higher courts and I don’t think that they would even be very financial sustainable… but that is nowhere near my point. The mere proposal of these laws, however, just seems to me to be intentionally driving another wedge between people with different interests and pouring fuel on the hot tempers that run both blue and red. Continue reading