Monday, June 20, 2016

This will not Destroy Us....

I confess when I started thinking about today’s sermon I did not know what I was going to write.  Now as I write I do not know which words are to follow.  I am wring from my heart. 
The pain of last Sunday morning is still fresh in me as I am sure it is with many of you. I find it good that today’s reading was about the mad man made sane.  It is an example of how one man’s madness can affect thousands.  I know it’s a stretch but I am keeping it.  Because other than that this has nothing to d0 with today’s reflection.
I am heart broken by what has been done to our community. I have been reassured by many of the proper, comforting responses.  I have been dismayed by the hateful rhetoric it has inspired in some, by the ignorance pronounced by others and the lies still being propagated by a few. I stand, no we stand in opposition of any hate speech because this can and does fuel more hate and that solves nothing.
A young man’s response that I think echoes many emotions this week
Us gays.
We make you look prettier.
We dress you for your important occasions.
We polish up your neighborhoods until we get priced out of them.
We plan and attend your weddings even though you take vows to an entity (that we hear too often though we know better) that hates us.
We are involved in every movie you see.
We are involved in every TV show you watch.
We are involved in every song you listen to - even the homophobic ones.
We teach your children without having to tell you it's us.
We protect your communities without having to tell you it's us.
We nurse you back to health without, without having to tell you it's us.
We clean your gutters, paint your houses and mow your lawns without without having to tell you it's us.
We fix your pipes without without having to tell you it's us, even though you let us know what bathroom we can use.
We govern your citizens - sometimes openly, sometimes only until we're involved in a scandal after years of spewing homophobic rhetoric.
We are on every, single one of the sports teams you root for, but are usually hesitant to say we're there because we don't want shit thrown at us on the playing field.
We are at the root of every cue you take in life - even those of you who wish us dead.
We fight and die on your battlefields without letting you know it's us - and until recently, we weren't even allowed to let you know.
We got rid of DOMA.
We won the right to marry, which was already guaranteed to us, but we just had to work harder than you.
And now, as though we don't have enough on our plate, we will absolutely be the ones to fix up your abhorrent gun laws.
Watch it happen, and marvel.
Because that's what we do.
We clean up your messes.
Without the guarantee of safety and respect in return.
Can you imagine doing ALL of that work without DECENCY as a reward?
So don't tell me I have to view #PulseOrlando as an attack on America instead of an attack on gay people.
Because we're not Americans when you call us faggots, we're not Americans when you legally fire us, we're not Americans when you kill trans people, we're not Americans when you deny us adoption rights, we're not Americans when you say nasty shit to us when we're holding hands on the street (and yeah, we do hear you) we're not Americans when you deny us marriage licenses or a simple wedding cake with our names on it.
In all of those circumstances we're just gay people, and being an American doesn't matter.
So, out of respect for everyone who fought and died before me, I'm going to take a few days to mourn as a gay man before I mourn as an American.
And then after that, you can resume telling me I have to be at war with people I don't know, even though I've been at war with my own countrymen my entire life.
Be happy you're at war with ISIS.
Because you would lose a war against us.
Oh, and you're welcome in advance for the gun thing. Like always.
-Dominic Pupa[1]

This is one person’s anger, justifiable anger, coming to the forefront but in his words there is a plan. He is doing something very creative.  He has decided instead of just being angry he is going to do something about it and fight the gun laws that allow things like this to happen.  That may be your path that may not be .But, he has done several very healthy things here that, I think are easy to see.  He has expressed his need to grieve and how he needs to grieve.  He is not allowing others to tell him how he should feel and he is being proactive in his response.
You see much like todays reading we have been affected by and yes even infected by somebody else’s madness. So how do we deal with that?  We cannot allow it to drive us to our own destruction.

Market street center for Psychotherapy has published 10 steps to help process the massacre written by Kip Williams.  I am going to paraphrase some of what kip says and quote other parts.
Some people have noticed that they should have felt more, that they were surprised by their initial lack of reaction.  Pay attention to your reaction we may be becoming desensitized to violence.  We are overwhelmed by so many stories of shootings, hate crimes and the so on.  Take a moment to  just look back and take note of your first reaction.
Second is that we need to regulate our consumption of news and social media?  It is so easy today to allow ourselves to be traumatized over and over again when they just keep repeating the same story showing the same ugly horrifying images.  Whether the news you are reading is commentary or reporting the facts doesn’t matter it is a fact that the more we watch the higher our anxiety level goes our perspective and clarity become impaired. Turn it off, walk away, step outside and walk around allow your mind and soul to rest.
3 notice how the discourse impacts your sense of belonging and acceptance.
“Many gay men in metropolitan areas have immigrated from other parts of the country or the world. What’s it like for you to be you within your family and your religious, cultural, and national context? Are you out to your family, and have you felt accepted by them? How has your family talked about the shooting, and how does that make you feel? How have people’s reactions affected your feelings about home? How have reactions within the gay community affected your sense of belonging?”[2] One person raised a question in another article where they said their friends have all checked in but not one call from immediate family or relatives…they just don’t get it.
Kip goes on to say that we should explore what death means for you what does loss mean?  Have you lost loved ones?   How did that affect you?  Is it affecting you now has this brought back anything for you?
You should pay attention on how you feel about the gunman?  Is there a judgement about him, his family?  Do we find a need to examine our own prejudices?  Is this just one man or does it translate into a culture, into many, or is your anger focused on just one man?  These are questions you need to explore.
Then check out your gut reactions to the political fallout…this is about gun control, hate crime, terrorism, national security, islamophobia, homophobia, the exclusion of gay men to donate blood, and many more.  What issues do you see that you may want to focus on, give some of your energy too?
You need to pay attention to how you are dealing with this experience overall.  What old wounds are opening for you? Are you feeling extremely connected to this attack or maybe just numb? Are you reaching out to one another or are you isolating yourself?  Either are legitimate responses the point is to pay attention to yourself and your needs and what is happening in you…stay connected to you!
When you can start to focus on what matter s most. 
“While a crisis can cause immense pain and suffering, it can also clarify what’s really important in our lives. What kind of person do you want to be, and who and what matters most in your life? Compassion is often a very good place to start. Remember the victims and their loved ones with loving kindness. Be gentle with yourself and the people you interact with. Notice when you get drawn into problems and conflicts that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and commit your energy to the things that do matter.”[3] Things that matter to you, we are each different and need to find our own way.
Finally Kip recommends don’t shut down; express yourself!  You each come from unique places and times and experiences which creates unique perspectives.  Allow time to write, paint, sing, dance, call a friend, and write a Facebook rant…whatever you need to do to allow what’s inside you to come out.
Finally I would add to kips suggestions by reminding you we cannot live in fear.  Fear is not a way of life and we cannot afford to allow this or any incident makes us cower and shut down.  There is a saying that says the bible uses fear not 365 times one for each day of the year,  it’ not true but it is a lovely thought.  God does say be not afraid, have no fear, fear not and more.  I searched fear not appears 127 times be not afraid 65 times more importantly there are over 333 verses about peace.  Basically God’s wish for us as humans as the creators gift is to be at peace, to live in peace and work towards peace that we may create god’s kindom here on earth.
So my wish in the midst of this turmoil, in this heartache and pain is that we may each find a way to heal.  To love one another, find a way to support one another and keep on loving.  Our love is not dead, but made stronger by this attach against us and our love will prevail.  This was an attack against the gay community but because the gay community is part of, and a strong part of the Christian community this was an attack against Christianity…because gay people are Muslim this was an attack on the Muslim community...because gay people are human this was an attack against humanity.
this progression I just listed is a justified and logical progression of our pain  for many the attack was very personal, it still feels that way and yet as we reflect and we allow the love we have through Christ heal us that pain expands and the need to reach out expands.  As we reach out and extend our love the attacks power is diminished and our power arises to unite as a people of faith, of interfaith, of humanity then through that power we can make this a better place.  Through that power of God’s love that is beyond all our understanding and comprehension, through the power of a God who made each and every one of us in their image we can take this pain, turn it around and do something, do something, do something that will make this a better place.
Do something, write, pledge, dance, hug do something and this world is already a better place for it.  This will not destroy us but only make us stronger.  Amen!

[1] Domic Pupa, US Gays, accessed June 15, 2016,
[2] Kip Williams, 10 steps to help process the Orlando Massacre, June 14, 2016, accessed June 15, 2016,
[3] Ibid.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Out with the old in with the new or a movement towards compassion Luke 7:11-17

I want to start today's sharing with a quote.  I know this is a big surprise as I love quoting theologians and storytellers alike.  So here it is;
Anointed with the Spirit at his baptism, Jesus begins his prophetic ministry, declaring the prophetic verse Isaiah 61.1 has been fulfilled today.  For Luke, God has appointed him as a charismatic prophet to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, bring recovery of sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim a year of God’s favour. He breaks social and physical boundaries to heal and mend lives.  Luke highlights God’s compassion in Jesus’ ministry. In the ‘Sermon on the Plain’, Jesus announces ‘be compassionate as your God is compassionate’ (6.36) Marcus Borg notes that ‘…Compassionate bore the connotations of “wombiness,” nourishing, giving life, embracing; perhaps it also suggested feelings of tenderness’ (Borg 1984 (1998): 102).

Jesus speaks and lives the compassion of God by addressing the poor and the rich alike, healing the suffering, and creating an inclusive community.  Healings and exorcisms are prominent in Jesus’ ministry.  Luke’s Gospel appears to stress the suffering of those people seeking healing.  Traditionally, Luke was understood to be a physician, and that impression emerges from the portrayal of Jesus compassionately healing the ill and exorcising the possessed.  For Luke, Jesus makes whole those who are ill and restores them to a new society: God’s reign.  Since the sick are not part of the realm of the healthy they must be kept apart or excluded.  Jesus expresses God’s compassion for those physically suffering, even defying the Sabbath laws to heal the sick (4:31-7; 6.6-11; 13.10-17; 14.1-6).  Jesus argues that the Sabbath is a day of restoration and wholeness, and what a better day to heal and make people whole.  The Sabbath is about God’s compassion.[1]

Today’s Gospel is a wonderful example of Jesus’ compassion, God’s compassion, playing out in real life.  Fred Craddock says; “The Object of his compassion is the mother.  His total attention is on this woman who is a widow and whose only son, her sole means of support as well as being her whole family, is dead.”[2]  The compassion of Christ demonstrating Gods compassion for the world turns the world of the day inside out and upside down.  The story itself sort of shows the old ways going out and the new way stepping in.
When the story opens Jesus is walking into the town of Nain with his disciples and a crowd following him. They literally run into a man who had died, his widowed mother and a large crowd from the town.  So here is a group, following Jesus, whose ministry was all about how to be compassionate in the world and bring in a new kindom a new way of being in the world. He is followed by a crowed of people excited about Christ’s teachings and ministry, probably a slightly revelatory crowd, running smack dab in to their exact opposite.
They meet the woman who has no hope of a future for she has lost all her family and without a son she loses all her inheritance and support.  Her future is grim.  She is followed by a crowd from the town some probably professional mourners and those who are morning the loss of a friend.  A rather depressing group to say the least. Which represents the old way of being in this world.
To further the point Christ is so moved he has compassion for her. His heart goes out to her. “For Luke emphasizes that, when Jesus sees her situation, “his heart went out to her” (7:13, niv). Three times Luke inserts the feminine pronoun into this single verse. Jesus’ compassion is fueled by the widow’s plight. In the ancient world much more than in contemporary Western settings, it was the case that people’s children were their retirement. Jesus’ compassionate restoration of this widow’s son may have meant the difference between survival and destitution.”[3] He is not really concerned with the dead man here.
So what we have is Jesus’ modern, joyous, compassionate, lively society meeting the old society of exclusion, grief and death head on.  At the first he is moved by compassion.  The words used here convey more than just a feeling but literally a physical internal reaction. One researcher points out that: “‘Having seen her’: This is interesting. After the ‘behold!’ draws attention to the man who had died (which is in the nominative case in v.12), Jesus beholds the mother. In fact, the feminine pronoun ‘her’ is used three times in this verse. The lord saw her; he was moved with compassion toward her; he said to her. 2. In case we missed it, this is about her.”[4] This is all about changing the woman’s’ world and the way the world treats widows and women.
Then Jesus reaches out and touches the bier, the cot, which holds the dead man.  This alone could be viewed as making himself unclean.  Yet, here we have no objection and if there is any we do not hear about it.  In this narrative it is almost as if all the crowds disappear for a moment and it is just Jesus, the widow and the dead man.  Even those carrying the cot have stopped moving and are frozen in this moment of Christ’s compassion.  It is so strong that everything stops.
Jesus commands the man to rise.  Get up.  Immediately the man arises and starts speaking. Of course, at first the crowd is afraid and then they glorified God.
The widow who had no future, who was about to be an outcast, her life is turned around by one act of compassion.  The crowd who believed the world has to be one way and only operated in one way, had their lives turned around.  What was two groups of people in two very different places became one group glorifying God.
We live in a different world and yet this message is as needed today as it was then. In a Place where we think of ourselves as so advanced and yet “The raw wage gap data shows that a woman would earn roughly 73.7% to 77% of what a man would earn over their lifetime.”[5]  Women are still subject to pay inequality, regulated to certain expected professions, and are deemed too strong or Bitchy should they be in a position of Power.
We have men in power who publicly use horrible language when addressing their female counterparts. Saying things like “she is ugly inside and out”, or saying a woman is “Disgusting” because she needs to break to pump milk for her child and if a woman should stand up they are called an “animal” or a “child.[6]  These are quotes form just one person you can imagine quotes from others that are not being reported on.
Here in America, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, sexism is very much on the wane, but misogyny is not. Sexism—the conviction that women don’t deserve equal pay, political rights, or access to education—can be combated by argument, by anti-discrimination laws, and by giving women the opportunity to prove their ability. Misogyny is not amenable to such advances; they can in some circumstances exacerbate it, though they may drive it underground. An example of misogyny is when someone online threatens to rape and mutilate a woman whose opinions that person does not like. Another is when a Presidential candidate says of a female journalist whose questions he finds impertinent, “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever.”[7]

Women are regularly raped on college campuses and no criminal charges are filed.  Women are harassed at work and expected to toughen up if they want to make it in this world.  Women are kidnapped and raped as political prisoners around the world.  Women are still sold into slavery even here in the United States.  One place where slavery is still rampant is in what we would call house workers or maid service.
according to that state department “the involuntary servitude of domestic workers, whose workplace is informal, connected to their off-duty living quarters, and not often shared with other workers. Such an environment, which often socially isolates domestic workers, is conducive to non-consensual exploitation since authorities cannot inspect private property as easily as formal workplaces. Investigators and service providers report many cases of untreated illnesses and, tragically, widespread sexual abuse, which in some cases may be symptoms of a situation of involuntary servitude.”[8] In this day and age there is no excuse for any of this!
The same attitudes toward women translates into the fear of the transgender people and fear of gay people. We need to be a voice for all people.
When I think of the widow in our Gospel I need to point out something no one thinks about.  The widow was a member of contemporary society and about to become the unseen marginalized.  You see she looks like everyone else.  Her plight would go on unnoticed not like a person who is lame, or has leprosy, or is mad shouting in the street.  Society sees those people and chooses to turn away maybe feeling guilty maybe not.
But the widow would be unseen.  She would quietly go back to her life and quietly it would fall apart and she would slowly disappear into society unseen uncared for.  This is much the same as our modern day marginalization of women.  Unless someone makes noise about it, it goes on unseen, unchallenged and there is no guilt or shame around it.  Yet Christ call in this Gospel is one of equality and justice for the unseen.  First to the widow, then to all women and then I would say to the rest of society.  Why do I say this?
For it is easy for us to turn our eyes to those who are obviously in need such as the homeless, the injured, the mentally ill on our streets.  But those who suffer from misogynistic attitudes, wage theft and inequality of pay.  We must seek out, we must be moved with compassion so that this world we can bring about God’s Kindom for all.

[1] Deryn Guest et al., eds., The Queer Bible Commentary (London: SCM Press, 2006).
[2] Fred B. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), Digital eBook.
[3] Jeannine Brown, Commentary on Luke 7:11-17, Medium, accessed May 26, 2016,
[4] D. Mark Davis, Jesus Raises a prophet?, Medium, accessed May 26, 2016,
[5] wikipedia, Gender pay gap United states, May 31, 2016, accessed May 31, 2016,
[6] Nina Easton, The history of donald trumps's insults to women, August 9, 2015, accessed May 31, 2016,
[7] Margaret Talbot, The G.O.P.’s Misogyny Primary, August 12, 2015, accessed May 31, 2016,
[8] United states govermnet state department, What is modern salvery, accessed May 31, 2016,