Monday, July 27, 2015

A Very Uncommon Act of Love, Thoughts on Forgiveness

Forgive them for they know not what they do.  Luke 23:24

We are called as Disciples of Christ to live a hopeful vision of present and future things, to seek to live an authentic life grounded in Christ and community.    In this light there was a desire to focus today’s message on affirmation, love and the implications of communion.  Mindful of a deeper longing within to address this time we live in I found that I should not bypass a particular terror that engulfs so much of life in our time.    We live in a world of complications, complexities, challenges and oppressions which characterize more and more of life in America.   Thus, as people of faith, we are called to critically reflect on the issues of our day which emerge as symptoms of the world we live in.   We reflect on the many lives lost at the hands of violent racism, police brutality, bigotry, privilege, increasing inequality, poverty, and polarization, considered by some people who embrace white supremacist ideology, to be a matter of tradition.  We remember the recent death of a Black woman stopped for a minor traffic violation in Prairie View, Texas who allegedly committed suicide in a Waller County jail cell by hanging herself.  I receive her tragic death as one more act of terror inflicted on a diverse population of people who are living in states of righteous anger and fear as hope, long defined by productions of white supremacy and black subordination, historically mediated through law enforcement, wane, shift and fall like tectonic plates resulting in seismic shifts in the midst of the California sun.   This became evident as I and my mother watched and then discussed the removal of the confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State Capital and ensuing protests which occurred. 

They said, “I Forgive You”
A Very Uncommon Act

 In the midst of the echoes of a civil war one hundred and fifty years passed but not forgotten we are called to do the joyful work of ascertaining hope in the midst of a time which unsettles so many people.   Reflecting on hope I am mindful that hope is not the exclusive purview of the naive or the optimist but a calling of faith, courage, and a love that is unyielding.   Hope is exemplified in action as the spirit within calls forth a glimpse of the arc of justice.  This becomes clear as we watch the family members of nine beautiful people massacred at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina by a man filled with hate do what might be called an uncommon act of love.  They said, “I forgive you.”  Surely Jesus is the author of forgiveness as it is written in Luke 23:24, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”, in the midst of his own slow and painful crucifixion.   Listening to the many reports from around the country I find that forgiveness, boldly standing with grace and mercy in the face of hatred, compelled a nation of people and their president to give homage to its presence.    That said, their statement of forgiveness has also been controversial, as some people, not considered religious, have said that the relatives showed weakness by forgiving the shooter[1] and some call for a type of moratorium on forgiveness, in regard to black people forgiving white racist.[2]  Yet because it is this type of uncommon act of love that has the potential to contribute, even in controversy, to a mediation of the ills of our present time I believe each of us should, if feasible, sit in silent meditation regarding forgiveness, so that we might come to some understanding of such an uncommon act of love.

The Fool says in their heart I have no need of God
God cannot speak to the issues of humanity

  Living in a society of materialism, rationality and a gradual marginalization of God and Church in common life and space, a critique of love should be undertaken.  I have come to belief that love, the kind of love defined by the life and ministry of Jesus, the one who taught us how to love, has been sequestered and a form of love, now considered common, constructed by various corporate institutions has been given its former holy and sacred space.  Of course this has occurred over time as the purveyors of capital and its politics sought to enslave the heart, its religion and western clerics for matters of greed and profit, for me an extension of the plantation narrative.  Now I must be careful not to become too philosophical, abstract or theological about love, a certainly not cynical,  since I do want to communicate with you today, yet love the love I encounter in Ephesians 3:14-21 is abstract, uncommon and sacrificial.   Yet it is this abstract, uncommon and sacrificial act of love that breathes life into our souls and empowers us towards forgiveness, considered as part of a spiritual medical regimen needed to heal a sick and bewildered nation and its people yearning for some type of solace.

For those who profess Christ forgiveness emerges out of their heart as they intimately engage in the hope found in the everlasting God.  God and the things of God are the anchor and the inspiration of their life.  Their life and their hope rest secure as they walk humbly with their God as written in Micah 6:8.  Recent discourses on identity inclusive of the political, economic, racial, gender, sexual and scientific rhetoric remind me that walking humbly with our God, in a blessed state of forgiveness is not so popular in a world of materialism which looks within itself for hope believing that the ability to overcome the deeper more substantial ills of society rests in the latest technological trinket inclusive of weapons of personal, communal and mass distraction, or illicit drugs will somehow fill a void or sooth the pain within.  Indeed this is a fool’s errand.  The fool says there is no God.   In this sense they believe that God, if there is a God, bears no consequence and in this sense has no bearing regarding issues of a population of people in severe emotional, mental and spiritual pain, in need of real and sustainable sustenance, considered by some as a yearning for a year of Jubilee, and a time of blessed forgiveness.  This is a challenge for the fool as they see forgiveness as an admission of weakness and a denial of certain profit.  Yet for those in love with God forgiveness is life and this more abundantly.  Psalm 14:1-7 has a lot to say about the fool.  It reads


1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,

They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,

No, not one.
4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge******

Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call on the Lord?

5 There they are in great fear,
For God is with the generation of the righteous.

6 You shame the counsel of the poor,
But the Lord is his refuge.

7 Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.

Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, considered the voice of God by many in the Catholic Church, and received as a breath of fresh air by some in the Christian religious community beyond the Catholic Church, recently released a papal encyclical or a papal letter on the climate crisis and the economic system that has led to our present environmental crisis.  He has also been speaking out regarding issues of forgiveness, this in regard to the participation of the Church in the brutal colonization of South America.  He has been roundly criticized, even taken to task regarding his comments particularly on the economy and the global climate crisis by many in his own Church and by secular authority.   Pope Francis blames climate change on apathy, political shortsightedness and a pursuit of profits.  He calls climate change one of the principal challenges facing humanity today.    His encyclical intimated that our present state of affairs is a crisis of the soul, making more evident an economic system morally bankrupt.  Of course his encyclical incurred the rhetorical wrath of the capitalist, environmental skeptics, conservatives, less progressive voices and right wing political pundits and candidates running for president.  I remember listening to National Public Radio and hearing a staunch capitalist cry in frustration about the Pope, and the Church seeking to address the issues that impact the poor, the homeless and those of a lesser state.   The response reminded me that God, at least in the mind of the capitalist, has no voice.  Fools have no use for God as capitalism is the great savior and protector of humanity.   Surely we live in foolish and even dangerous times indeed.

                                                Times that Try the Soul of Humanity 

In a sermon given at Detroit's Second Baptist Church (28 February 1954) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made the following statement, “The great problem facing modern man is that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man's soul. We haven't learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood.”   Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 February 1954

 The words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are timeless.  They remain as relevant today as they were back in 1954.  His words present a particular truth that is difficult to deny in the face of a nation where banks are privileged and untouchable at the expense of its people, and where Wall Street has more bearing and credibility that the person on the street or the earth herself.   In light of these sobering realities we should gladly desire to gain spiritual strength, to strengthen the human soul and thus begin to know and to comprehend the fullness of God in Jesus Christ.  This is a journey within straining towards the inner sanctum of divine-human interaction.  It is a desire of head and heart, to know the fullness of God and to experience the breadth, width, height and depth of a love which releases forgiveness for ourselves and others.  

Healing, reconciliation and a life affirming perspective begin with forgiveness.  I suspect that the ills of society and even the Church itself, as an inhabitant of the material world, cannot be solved without forgiveness within and without.  It is clear to me that the material world which demands an allegiance of desire at the expense of the soul is seemingly incapable of forgiveness since forgiveness emerges from spiritual strength, and this from a love unknown by the material world.  Love, borne of spiritual strength, for Jesus and my trust in God, at times affirmed by people who do uncommon acts of this unknown love, compel me to be hopeful that one day this would not be the case.   
Uncommon Acts of love such as forgiveness remind me that a Day of Jubilee is approaching. A time of spiritual awakening where forgiveness will comfort and heal the soul of humanity and the earth.  Each of us should prepare for this day as it will surely arrive. 

 Let us open our bibles to Ephesians 3:14-21 and read together. 

Prayer for Spiritual Strength

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.









Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Commentary on the Beatitudes 5:3-10

The Beatitudes are eight blessings in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, "cryptic, precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme". (Wikipedia)

The words of Jesus reflect the Love of Jesus for the many people he encountered in his life and ministry.  It is his manifesto regarding care and concern for the people of God.  It is his manifesto of blessing, of God reign.  Manifesto might be considered a strong word, maybe inappropriate at some level yet the reader should consider the context in which he preached.  Manifesto’s typically declare or proclaim an alternative vision of life.  This alternative view may or may not identifies deficiencies.  This becomes problematic for the authority of empire as they spend unceasing hours ensuring that the empirical vision is maintained.  The manifesto of blessing is problematic, even radical on many levels.  Jesus is blessing the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, he pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. (Matt. 5:3-10)

Blessings are an expression of God’s love for the beloved, for those who desire God.  We are clear that the blessings are for those whose desire is for God and the Kingdom of God and not the world as offered to Jesus by Satan. (Matt. 4)  Those who exclusively seek the blessings of the world, i.e. capitalism, globalization and their implications, considered the realm of temporal concerns, receive the world Satan has to offer considering those who desire differently as antithetical to the primacy of materialism considered by some as a scheme of Satan and agents of evil within the context of sacred biblical text. 

The great interests of the Beatitudes in is that it is the revelation of Jesus Christ own character, as kind of autobiography.  Simply put it is his life, it is his community.  It is his dynamic vision of the Kingdom of God.  The implications of Christ’s revelation are transformational as those who have lived in their desire for God initiate their new found blessing in the temporal world.  Imagine for a moment the challenge as the formerly oppressed and downtrodden, now living in the eternal blessings of God, having obtained the strength imparted by Jesus to address the injustice perpetrated by the agent’s and advocates of the schemes of materialism.   I write here of the Church, the vision of Jesus Christ for the care and concern of humanity, and composed of those who desire is for God.  The Church, in its engagement of the injustices of the world, should be the visible manifestation of those identified in the Beatitudes.  

The Church is the beloved community.  It is the revelation of Jesus and it is identified by Jesus with the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 16:18-19)   The Church is composed of those whose hearts have been touched by God’s desire, regardless of joys, sorrows, poverty and riches, as beautifully expressed by Jesus in the Beatitudes.  Yet, more so, the words of Jesus intimate a real substantive significance, his words identify the divine and sacred longing of God.   The profound calling of the Beatitudes echoes down through the millennia asking, “How the longing of God shall be expressed?”  Those with a sincere heart for Jesus are compelled by the love of Jesus to reflect on this consequential question. 

The beatitudes reminds us that human worth is grounded in a great and magnificent love seldom understood yet so real.  Frankly, it is where we stand in this day of injustice!!


Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts on the shooting of nine black people at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

The massacre of nine African American People of faith in a bible study at Emmanuel African American Episcopal Church an historical church in Charleston, South Carolina reminds me that there are few if any boundaries in our society when it comes to black people and the senseless terrorism experienced.  Once again the black church is the scene of racial hatred, violence and death.  With this incident coming on the heels of a white woman claiming to be black I am left asking, why?  Yes there are simplistic answers but these answers don’t address the core issue of how and why we produce people who do what should be considered absurd and blatantly evil.   Admittedly times of change and transformation considered hopeful for people such as myself as a black, transgender woman, are liberating, yet for some, in this case a young 21 year old white male who has been identified with white supremacist symbols and ideology, times of change and transformation, can cause anger and inflict fear, pain and displacement, which I believe at some level to be an issue of mental health.  That said, the question is, at least for me, is, “How do we fix this?” 
I believe that we must have the political will and socio-cultural courage to take on the hard stuff of working on ourselves as a people who claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We must be willing to look into the abyss, as John Stewart of the Daily Show pointed out, and see ourselves and our nation for who we truly are.   We spend billions of dollars seeking to sooth some emotion and material inequity engaging existential threats but very little to address our own internal domestic terrorism.  We ask, of the Taliban and ISIS, “How is the terrorist produced?”  We should look no farther than our own oppressive constructs and how these constructs communicate to us, declarative statements such as “This is who you are. I am reminded of Marvin Gaye’s song, “What’s Going On” of 1971 in one sense, similar to the war in Vietnam, the war on terrorism has become a means to keep our attention off of what really matters, what is really going on within.  It’s an expensive scheme indeed. 

Tragedies which occur in life are typically symptoms of deeper more critical, even life threatening issues.   In a recent Facebook post I suggested that the United States should be reconstituted so as to provide for a new sense of being not biased toward the construct of race historically developed for the furtherance of privileged white men and their economic interests.  This might be considered a tall order simply because the construct of race defines so much of life here in the United States.  It is sacred and holy ground, more so than our humanity, and it doesn’t take kind to any violation as seen in the controversy of Rachel Dolezal and others.  Yet I, as an African American fully aware of the price of admission required to claim my blackness or any other racial identity, want to suggest here that our socio-cultural and political bias towards race is becoming more and more fraught with fear, and senseless violence as the demographics shift.  One way of addressing this bias is by developing controlled listening spaces throughout the country where people wherever they fall of on the spectrum of race can speak freely about race, racism and its effects.  This might go well for those who are fearful of some backlash.
As a nation of the 21st century we must not allow race and racism to be our Achilles heel.  We must take concerted efforts to gradually move beyond race as a central narrative of our country and republic.   

Monday, May 4, 2015

Love Revisited, Strategies toward Transformation

This following blog post was initially a conversation on how the Church can be that model once again of love for a world blind to its desperate need for love.  That said, I believe that issues of our day come to this one provocative point, "that as a Church, a nation, a people and a society we must rediscover what it means to love and then to model that love for all to see.  Now while I write from the Christian perspective, love is more than any denomination, tradition, science or believe system.  Love is mystical, cosmic and universal.  It hold all of creation together. In this sense love belongs to no one but cares for all.  In this we are blessed! 
If we make our life's work "to love", to accept, embrace and to hold ourselves and all people as the embodiment of divine presence we will have learned the meaning of life.
1 John 4:7-21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


The call of the Church and all who profess Jesus Christ should be of a Godly mind to love.  To be that center of love in the midst of a world that seemingly could care less about love beyond profit, position, product and politics.  The social and cultural struggles of our land are compelling narratives which would lead me to believe that the underlying issue of our day is the inability for some and a stubborn denial of others to love.   Mindful of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A riot is the language of the unheard” the unrest in Sandtown-Westchester, an impoverished neighborhood in Baltimore, becomes the latest evidence of a cruel and usual neglect of the impoverished, the unemployed and those on the margins for the sake of big business, casino’s, tax havens and privilege.  Many politicians and clergy argue for order, to address concerns of neglect, generations’ old, through an orderly and peaceful process.  I suggest that this might be a legitimate argument for many such as myself who have a different mind on such things but what cannot be argued is the ground from which the unrest spring.  Neglect and police brutality are a wellspring of frustration and malcontent as businesses such as CVS pharmacy, becomes a means to express a particular loss of hope, are looted and burned causing millions of dollars of damage.  Growing up in South Central Los Angeles during the Watts Riots, now known as the Watts Rebellion, I have some idea of what it means to be tired of the structural inequities of race and gender bolstered by new and improved incarnations of white supremacy and privilege which become so intimate that embodied self-hatred blurs the very image of the God within.  Hope while present for some in neighborhoods of privilege is a long ways off for some struggling in neighborhoods of oppression.  One ray of hope when I was growing up was the Church.  It was that one place where hopes ring true and everlasting.  The Church was not just an institution but it was the presence of God in my neighborhood and community.  I considered theses memories significant as I ministered with the people of God at Annual Gathering. 

For me the Annual Gathering was an opportunity to revisit love as a response to the inequalities and inequities of American life.  To actively engage love, to ask those hard and difficult questions regarding the inequalities and inequities which would seek to confound even the communion of saints were it not for the love of Christ and then to once again be the hope in our community.  I believe that the Church must once again be known for its love and not for the issues of simple mindedness which seek to deny the very hope of Christ.   Disagreements over interpretations of sacred biblical texts regarding intimate relationships, and other expressions of the God within deployed as tradition while theologically and political galvanizing, even erotic and titillating at times seldom reveal the love necessary to support a society legally blind to its own desperate need for love.  Challenging indeed as the people of God are influenced more by the culture, and its traditions and inequities than by their common communion with Jesus Christ.    

Sitting in a workshop on Justice I listened as one of the ministers spoke passionately of the division between the pastor and their congregation.  The stress in their voice led some to tears.  Questions regarding the covenant and recalcitrant congregations became, at least for me, as a new member of the Gathering thoughts of formation.  How do we develop strategies of congregational formation which call forth a people of God who love deeply beyond race, gender and privilege, who respond to the ills American society?  I believe that through acceptance, embrace, and the holding of all people as incarnations of the divine, worthy of a deep love rooted in the Cross the Church will be the model love for a world that doesn’t know how to love.  In this sense it’s not the size of the congregation, how much money it has is in the account or the great building but love.

The call of the Church is to break free of the issues that constrain and to once again be the expression of God’s love in the world today. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Great Struggle of White Supremacy to Remain Relevant

This piece is on the struggle for relevance by white supremacy and privilege as exhibited by the Republican party and a conservative almost repressive agenda.  Some readers may believe that white supremacy and privilege may never recede but I beg to differ.  Change is inevitable!

Watching conversations on MSNBC, Fox News, and PBS, etc., social media, and coffee shops, engaging conversations with people regarding progressive discourses on gender, sexuality and the politics of identity, reveal a struggle for relevance.  I find that for significant numbers of people their struggle, more so their frustration is about relevance.  Relevance, the idea or concept that something is important to that which is at hand or an association or a type of interconnection becomes, at least for me, a conversation on narratives of segregation, and Franz Fanon’s white gaze which historically has determined what is or is not relevant.   I believe relevance is significant and important since eventually that which has been considered irrelevant, in time and space, becomes very much relevant to the construction of daily life.  This has been the case historically as those and their circumstances, situations and challenges were, for the most part, considered irrelevant to the privileged and established European aristocratic colonial powers, becoming, through frustration, relevant, i.e., the French Revolution.  I reflect further on the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and present day protests against police brutality, racism, sexism, poverty and the various parties who argue and struggle for relevance in socio-cultural and political discourse.  A reading of Michel Foucault’s book Society Must Be Defended and his study of subjugated knowledges intimate that relevance is determined by discourses of power.  

What is considered relevant develops out of a primary discourse and this discourse out of normative leanings which historically have emerged out of white supremacy and privilege and its terms of knowledge exchange.  As one who identifies as a Black, female and transgender I find that relevance is very much about contextuality and the discourses within that particular context.  As I hear of a man in Manhattan Beach, a city in Southern California, pushing forward a proposal on the sodomy act more popularly known as the “kill the gays” proposal and then Indiana making discrimination against gay people and by implication anyone who does not identify with the pseudoism of racial heterosexuality, lawful on the grounds of religious freedom I ask, “who are they appealing to, who is their audience?”   The political discourse which undergirds these ideas is rooted in very narrow, oppressive, and at times, repressive theological interpretations which are the foundations of white supremacy, privilege, lynchings and the prison industrial complex.   And then Ted Cruz announced that he was running for President of the United States, to reclaim the so called hope that was lost.  Of course he did this in Lynchburg, VA one of the most conservative areas in the United States and home of the moral majority.

As a matter of critique these three acts, at least in my opinion, seek a particular relevance to a U.S. American narrative which is gradually shifting the narrative of color, hue, terrain and symmetry.  More and more I believe the motivation behind the repressive policies is one of relevance.  This is the preeminent concern of a conservative agenda put forward by a Republican Party oriented towards white supremacy and privilege as the United States transitions from the primacy of white discourse and white imagination to a diversity of discourses and imaginations without a center or dominant discourse.  This concern necessarily has psychological, sociological and by implication law enforcement consequences which were reflected in the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, considered a flashpoint in the struggle for relevance as it was discovered through an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice that law enforcement, composed for the most part of white men, was used primarily as a tool to inflict personal and structural injustice upon a community of African American and people of color. 

Daily insults of the first African American President and the First Lady, the gradual dismantling of voting rights, challenges to immigration, historically a positive narrative for a nation of immigrants, and those of the middle passage and slavery, now an issue, as more and more people from Central and South America seek citizenship, a consequence of disastrous Republican military and political policies inflicted on the people and their institutions of Central and South America call into question traditional models of identity predicated on an economy of white desire.  Now I will suggest here that Identity, that precious albeit precarious subject of heteronormative and racial supremacy and privilege is in the throes of transformation but more so it is actually being queered as Franz Fanon's white gaze, historically the authoritarian critique of all things of socio-cultural and of political import and associated discourse is organically displaced by an identity matrix delinked from the traditional vision of the white citizens council.[1]

We must be mindful that the philosophy and ideals of the white citizen’s council are powerful and entrenched in the U.S. American psyche. Those of us who engage this psyche whatever our identity construct must do so with an unyielding hope.  I experience this unyielding hope as I rise each day with full knowledge that as a Black transgender woman I and those similar are at great risk of danger and harm.  This risk of danger and harm does not deter me from walking in the light of this unyielding hope but it strengthens my resolve to embrace the hope embodied in the sacred acts of the revolutionary and the queer.  Beloved reader of this blog post the great fear of the powerful and the established who have become the masters of destiny as defined by white supremacy and privilege is that you and I know that we are relevant and in this hopeful and engaged in a great cultural and societal struggle of immense proportions. 

[1] The White Citizen’s Council was a group of white men in the south who were responsible for making sure that the regime of white supremacy and privilege and segregation were maintained in the South at the expense of Black people.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Round the Midnight Hour, thoughts on Paul and Silas and the Power of Collaboration

Around the Midnight Hour
Real World Contextual Engagement
Today we remember Selma Alabama and “Bloody Sunday” when 600 marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama State Troopers under orders from Governor George Wallace while attempting to March to Montgomery Alabama to demand fairness in voting registration for African Americans, increased actions regarding poverty, and the deaths of Deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Rev. James Reeb, a Universalist Minister.   Because of their courage, and faith rooted and grounded in Jesus and the Cross, the world was forever changed.
Moment of Silence
Reflecting on the message Pastor Leon delivered here at Tapestry last Sunday on HIV/Aids, disability, and the overall discourse on the issues, challenges and joys of health and healthcare I was impressed, particularly as one who continues this work, with the notion that health and healthcare are a critical concern of community and an economic imperative within the arena of faith and social justice.   I was reminded of the oppressive narratives of politics, economics and rhetoric’s regarding something which should be without personal cost simply as a matter national pride, dignity and a compelling faith that maintains a nation daily in need of God’s grace and mercy.   Endless votes in congress, now 54 and counting at last report and arguments at the supreme court of the United States where the purveyors of powerful economic interests seek to destroy or at least cripple the Affordable Care Act once again putting the health and healthcare of millions into jeopardy.  In the face of oppressive narratives, which, at least for me, are just plain ludicrous at times, I experience an unyielding hope within a community of change agents who stand fast in an ever widening gap around the midnight hour.
An Unyielding Hope
This unyielding hope, reflective of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Cross and an empty tomb, characterize a community in collaboration around the midnight hour as a new day appears on the horizon.   The midnight hour symbolizes the end of one time and the emergence of another.   For  those made insensitive,  unaware, unconscious or asleep by the profit of norms and traditions the expectant joy of a new day the midnight hour is indeed a fearful time as the injustice perpetrated on so many people, for the sake of profit in allegiance to norms and traditions, have their day in the court of the heart.  Hearts and souls in collaboration for justice and fairness now speak loud and clear at the midnight hour striking fear in the flesh of the oppressor as a proclamation of the listening ear of God. 
The actions of Paul and Silas in Acts 16:16-31, the baptism of Lydia and her household, the release and freedom of a slave girl from the spirit of divination, who happened to be a medium and profitable for her owners, by Paul; a great consequence of her persistence and his lack of patience, reminiscent of Jesus and the woman from Canaan and her daughter vexed with the devil, resulted in a loss of capital for the owners of the slave girl  and the beating and incarceration of Paul and Silas.  While incarcerated at around the midnight hour Paul and Silas begin to pray and sing praises to God, and have fellowship with the other prisoners. 
Their actions become expressions of joy as their collaboration brings to bear the listening ears of God, in this case, according to the text; an earthquake shook the foundations of the jail, resulting in doors being opened and the eventual release of Paul and Silas from the jail and departure from the town.  In the midst of their release the jailer, who is about to commit suicide, is put at ease by Paul.  He then falls down trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, seeking salvation, his life and household forever changed.
Many times, in the midst of the  drama’s  of this life we are reminded to praise God in community giving thanks to God for the many blessings poured into our  life and then presenting the problem or challenge, no matter how complex, to God and community.  I find this helpful as I engage entrenched oppressions; too many to mention here, which more and more seek to characterize life here in the United States, the great beacon of capitalism and liberty. 
In the face of entrenched oppressions, praise, proclamation and fellowship in God creates a sacred space for collaboration to address the various social justice concerns of faith and life in society, culture and community.   Mindful of the very real conditions of our lives today collaboration is critical for the birth of new tools and strategies to address the situation or circumstance which seems to be without hope.  For the one whose heart has been opened by Christ the Cross and the resurrection are profound mystical tools that express God’s longing, hope and desire.  These mystical tools are an invitation to all cultures to come, converge and collaborate at the foot of the Cross and at an empty tomb for relief, healing and liberation from their condition.  These tools enable us to hold fast believing in a God who sustains us at the Edmund Pettus Bridge or in the White House.
In contrast Audre Lorde, (1934-1992) author of Sister Outsider, published by Crossing Press, writes, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” This bold and  controversial comment spoken at “The Personal and the Political Panel,” of the Second Sex Conference in New York City on September 29, 1979, is as relevant today in the face of entrenched oppressions as it was then.   The Master’s tools tend to revolve around notions which enforce visions grounded in structures which support white supremacy and patriarchy.  More often than not these tools marginalize anyone or anything that exhibit a different vision of humanity.  Discourses on politics, gender, poverty, immigration, incarceration, racism and police brutality as evidenced in Ferguson, Missouri and now Silicon Valley, called out by many for its lack of diversity within the technology community bear witness to these tools.  Yet as one who has had some success within these structures and systems such as the military industrial complex and in higher education Audre Lorde’s comment might be difficult to receive yet to deny the injustice at play in these structures and systems would not be an honest engagement of very real issues which impact so many people. 
Seemingly Caesar has the only game in town.
In light of these structures, systems and the diversity of people who live on the margins of Church and Society, who do not fit the established norms and patterns of a sequestered vision of humanity, life is affirmed in the intimacy of a community in collaboration for survival.  They seek or develop strategies and tools inclusive of yet beyond the norms, which may or may not be comfortable or considered ethical for those in the mainstream yet enable them to overcome and transcend very real obstacles so that they might live and thrive in the midst of Caesar.  I believe this was the situation of those of the early Jesus Movement, later known as Christians. 
Communion, the essential and sacred space of collaboration
Partly because of my own experience of God on the margins I have come to believe that the most intimate moment we have with Jesus is in collaboration at his table.   Communion is sacred and holy, and should be considered a meditative space.  It is where the heart of Jesus and the heart of his disciple come into dialog, to collaborate regarding issues which may be spoken or unspoken yet are so very real in the life of the disciple.  Remembering the March at Selma 50 years ago I am mindful of a great and glorious communion, a meeting of the heart of Jesus and his disciples which changed a nation.  As we receive communion today let us be mindful of hearts in intimate dialog and collaboration so that life here in the United States might be defined as justice, fairness and unyielding hope.   

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Emerging Kingdom of God or Bringers of the Light

This post emerges from a message I delivered as a discussion at Tapestry Ministries in Berkeley, CA.  

I believe that each of us carries a light within which is meant to be cultivated.  It exists in an intimate and sacred space where the holy resides.  This post emerges from this point, that we, you and I are bringers of the light.  That said, we are the Emerging Kingdom of God.  We move from this life point.  We are meant to take the kingdom of God to people, to provide them with an alternative and different imagination to the life they live now.   That said, there is a dire need to break the silence, to erode the staid oppressions that hold up the pain and oppression which characterize so much of life in America.  As bringers of the light, similar to Martin Luther King, Jr., we are the Kingdom of God, we are breaking the silence.  I have included Dr. King's Breaking the Silence Speech given at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4th 1967.   Go now beloved and break the silence and receive your liberation.

And so..............

Living life in the Emerging Kingdom of God calls each of us to a sacred act of thanksgiving, to be thankful and hopeful as we walk arm in arm with our sister and brother in the all pervading presence of an everlasting sovereign God among people whose hope may not be in the everlasting God, but in the tangible, temporal, simplistic and the more immediate.  Unlike those whose hope is in the tangible, our hope is in the eternal God of Jesus of Nazareth, the beloved son.  We believe and know that God’s love never fails; it never runs out on us!    In the midst of the tangible we hold fast to God’s abundant love and mercy with the gospel which strengthens us in the midst of racism, sexism, gender injustice, the prison industrial complex, homophobia, transphobia, unemployment, discrimination, violence, and the many unspoken oppressions encountered each day.   Mindful of the Cross we cry out to God for hope and comfort saying, “Be mindful of your people and strengthen your people once again most gracious God.”  In the midst the spirit of God reminds us of a great love that has called us to this journey with its many complexities with God and community as our partners.
On this journey we are blessed to experience the embodiment of God in prayer, community, in communion and through sacred activism.  Attending the homegoing service of friend and colleague, Rev. Mariasen A. Barnes, this past week, I was reminded of the communal character of God, that sacred space where heaven, earth and the cosmos come together, even if for a moment, to unveil the love of God.   Similar to birth, which is considered a time of entering the earth realm from the holy, death is a returning to the holy, necessarily unveiling the love and passion of God in the midst of those gathered.   Times and spaces of birth and death are sacred, they are where God has our undivided attention.  They are where we can experience God, if we are conscious, in the real as we fall on our knees at the incomprehensible love and grace fully present.  Moments such as these cause me to realize that life is an abundant gift, it is God’s way of sharing an incomprehensible love.
Having received this incomprehensible love how then shall anyone not preach the gospel?  I believe that the Apostle Paul, with his strengths and weaknesses, received this message of grace although not in its fullness, and was comforted as he lived out his call among the people of his time.   It is this great love which compels and comforts us as we preach the gospel with our lives among the skeptic, the lukewarm and those who have lost their hope in God, Jesus, his Cross, and the Church.  Beloved Disciples of Christ be not discouraged but be ever so mindful (pause) that the present human condition is not new; it is as old as humanity itself.   Today, in the beginning years of the 21st century, many people have embraced ideas of a tangible practical god, a simplistic god, even a visible god of economy which responds to the ego, the flesh and the mind, which bestows a false rest, and a false hope, abusing the soul and enslaving the heart resulting, for some, in death by suicide.    

I am mindful of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech A Time to Break the Silence given at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4th 1967 where he takes the U.S. government to task for its allegiants to capitalism and its embrace of militarism in the name of empire.   He calls for a revolution of values, values which reflect the love of God.  I suspect that he had experienced, like Paul, the incomprehensible love God which overcame a world made insensitive to God’s love for the sake of flesh and profit.   It was this greater gift of love which moved him to express God’s passion and care for the oppressed.  For me his words ring noble, true and timely as today we are bombarded through various media by modes of deception, consumption, and a faith of works grounded in capitalism, globalization and militarism.

Similar to the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the enslaved African, inclusive of those who traversed the inhumanity of the middle passage, yet never lost hope that their descendants would know freedom, today we press on like Harriet Tubman, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, the immigrants of today, and people of an uncommon faith in the midst of empire and the oppressions which maintain and uphold its supremacy with our eyes lifted up to the everlasting and sovereign God.    

Our sure and confident hope and comfort in the everlasting God is nourishment for our souls as the Emergence of the Kingdom of God intrudes and begins to erode the staid sensibilities of empire and its systems of the practical, normal, privilege, and the supremacy of inequality which shape and contour life here in America.  This intrusion, similar to the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth is complex and fearful, and not always understood yet embodying the desire of God for a beloved humanity.