Manna September 18. 2011
First Reading: Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm: Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Who are we? What is it that defines us a nation? What is it that defines us as a community? What is it that defines us as a church? What is it that defines us as families and friends? We are told, especially here in this cosmopolitan city, that whom we are is defined by the things we have and the size of the audience we can attract. We are taught to flit around like moths going from one glittery signpost to another finding the next best thing in our search of the brightest star in the sky. We avoid misery and hardship as if they were blights on our character. We live in a society of self-comfort. Everywhere we turn we are offered any number of new gadgets to make our lives easier and more comfortable. When the speakers of our elaborate entertainment systems aren't filled with the entertainment of our generations, endless voices try and convince us of a "once in a life time sale," "a new and improved" this or that, "which we can't live without." Walk down the bath aisle of any store and you will find row upon row of chemicals to increase our comfort as we soak in one of the tinier rooms of our living spaces. Somewhere it has entered the American psyche that self-gratification is the highest goal to be obtained and it is honorable to obtain it at whatever cost. Suffering is seen as a burden only carried by those that don't try hard enough or are lazy. You see tons of new-age self-help books nowadays, and even sometimes preachers, preaching a gospel of prosperity saying, "if you aren't prosperous, healthy and comfortable you are doing something wrong."
Fortunately for all of us life is a lot messier and complex than simplistic proclamations of American prosperity. "Why God won't you rid me of this disease?" "Why God won't you produce food for my family to eat?" "Why God won't you cure me from this addiction?" "Why God did you let that woman beat me and break my back and put me in the hospital?" These questions and many, many more much like them were asked of me every week while I was serving as chaplain at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Things only got worse as I finished my chaplain's education. The economy visibly tanked, millions have lost their jobs and livelihood, families are choosing between feeding themselves and healing themselves because they can't afford to do both. The list could go on and does as each one of us has our own personal storms that we are dealing with every day whether it is physical, mental or spiritual. What defines us as a community?
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Transformed in Blessing July 31. 2011
As I was preparing for this weeks worship, I couldnt help but have a nagging voice in my head bring up last weeks sermon. Last week I talked about the struggle we all face in determining Gods will for us and how no matter what we have done in life, God is able to embrace us where we stand and comfort us. In fact, Gods love for us is so deep that God is able to use even what tradition may call the most wretched part our past and transform its purpose into a great blessing. A solid Christian doctrine, but the nagging voice kept telling me that I had described the process as being too passive and submissive. As if all we must do is realize we dont know Gods will and passively accept the Holy Spirits correction.
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Our Job as Mustard Seeds July 24. 2011
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New York Same Sex Legislation Fails December 2. 2009
Homemade Summer Forest Lye Soap July 5. 2009
Trusting Jesus Doesn't Cut It June 21. 2009
Our gospel lesson for today seems be a simple open and shut case for we preachers. The message almost shouts itself from the pages. The preacher says, "Just Trust Jesus and all of your problems will be solved, Amen" end of sermon. Now, we can all get back to our easy chairs and TVs or our gardens and lemon-aide. If only it really were that easy. If only all we had to do was 'trust in Jesus'whatever that meansto live in perfect peace and ease. Fortunately, life is much messier and dirtier than that.
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Hate Crimes Bill May 3. 2009
There has been a lot of uproar by fundamentalist religious conservatives lately about the congress making strides to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of federally protected classes that already includes race, religion, national origin, and color. The two fronts [haven't they ever heard.. never fight a war on two fronts] the two fronts by which they are coming at this bill are saying sexual orientation includes pedophilia, incest, apotemnophilia, telephone scatalogia, toucherism and a whole list of others. The other front is that the bill will prevent religious organizations from being able to speak freely against homosexuals, transgender individuals and whomever else's pants they want to get into on any particular Sunday.
As to the free speech, I wonder if any of them have actually read H.R.1913 and the section that deals with sexual orientation. Here is how the bill stands now as it was passed on April 29, 2009 by the House:
In General- Chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
...(a)...(2)...(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person--
- (i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
- (ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--
- (I) death results from the offense; or
- (II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
The law clearly defines the limits of what can be considered a hate crime and unless the people who are scared this will limit their free speech are inciting people to rip arms off, beat people up or shoot people because of "religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability", their speech--however discriminatory it may seem--is not a hate crime. So, the Wesboro Baptist Church--aka the Fred Phelps family--can still protest funerals and claim that God hates this or that person or country without fear of committing a hate crime... that is unless they start throwing stones at people they perceive to be gay. I believe the real fear is that the fundamentalists know they are preaching hate from the pulpit and hate leads to violence.
On the pedophilia front--who thought I would ever say that--the argument has been filled with strawmen and delusion more than anything else. Now, follow me in this... let's suppose... just suppose that pedophilia would be considered "protected" as the republicans in congress and neo-conservatives have postulated this bill will produce. The example they have given is that a mother finds out her son/daughter has been raped by someone and the mother "slaps the pedophile with her purse." They say the mother would be prosecuted for a hate crime. There are 2 flaws in this logic. One the mother is not hitting the person because they are a pedophile but rather because the person raped her child. Now, what it would protect if pedophilia were considered protected is a pedophile that has served his/her time and is back out of prison and a random group of people come to his/her house and beat him/her to near death or shoot at the person. The second flaw is more of a legal argument in that the courts have always looked at mitigating circumstances when judging the merits of cases and the example given of a mother slapping the pedophile has huge mitigating weight. You see the mental and hypothetical twists and turns that one needs to do just to even hold up to reason the scenarios being postulated that this bill will produce. They are a fiction created by those that just want to oppose every socially progressive movement by this country without reasoning through. Now, even if this crazy scenario would happen it would not stop the prosecution of pedophiles for their crimes but the way they are spinning the language around this it would lead some people to think they are legalizing incest and pedophilia with this bill. Crazy talk!
What this all turns out to be is my complete and utter astonishment that anyone considering themselves to be following Jesus of Nazareth would try and stop a bill that tries to limit the effects of violence from hate. Are they afraid that love is just not strong enough to conquer hate that they themselves need to use fire to combat fire? Is the gospel message not effective enough that they have to use violence to spread the word? I'd really like to know because I really don't understand.