Saturday, June 21, 2014

The fullness of life is found in God and Community, this of a peculiar faith

Ephesians 2:8-9   For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Jeremiah 29:11   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Life is lived fully in the grace of a community of God and witness.  It is this relationship that gives life her form and character, her color and hue.  Stress points and stretch points become angles of wisdom revealing a peculiar faith.
This “peculiar faith” becomes the ground of hope for community and witness, crying out for God as a deer panteth for water.   It becomes the glue that holds community and its movement together.  I think upon this peculiar faith and wonder who shall be willing to step out and experience the love of God beyond the comforts of home.  Shall anyone choose to receive the invitation of the divine and say yes, oh yes to the creator, sustainer and rock of life herself.   Who, beloved, shall have the courage to receive God’s plan for their life?  Or shall the safety, comfort, familial relationships and most of all familiarity of this world be presented as the everlasting, the cradle of the divine, even faith as Caesar calls.  I think this to be difficult, even challenging without the spirit of divine as the people I encounter expect a particular vision of the divine and the works of the divine rooted in a common, understandable, rational faith. 

The aforementioned becomes ever more critical as we cannot serve the people and systems grounded in empire and white supremacy and a God which calls beyond such.  We must be mindful of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24

You cannot serve God and mammon. No one can serve two masters; for either they will hate the one, and love the other; or else they will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. No one can serve two masters.

Reflecting upon the text I find it to be somewhat interesting that there are some who seek daily to blend, compromise even to partner the two masters.  Mindful that there are those who use the need to survive in the “real” world as an excuse to compromise the very gospel so identified by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, I ask, shall the gospel be made less for the sake of living in the “real” world where economy of oppression is the mode of transaction and not God’s love.  Far be it for the one called to love reject this love because of worldly concerns.
That said, the one who truly receives God's calling must be willing to step out of their comfort zone to meet their God on God's terms.  This "Coming Out" moment can be most difficult yet it is a sacred space of trust not to be taken lightly.  The one who steps out shall receive a sincere blessing seldom found in bastions of comfort.  

They must embrace the words, "the cross before me, the world behind me" with all sincerity and license, a song sung yet seldom believed, interpreted to give solace and comfort.  Resting and loving in God and community becomes a most holy and sacred space of joy where one can feel the presence of God.  Beloved, there is no mystery here for the fullness of life and this characterized as liberty is love in God.  The fullness of life is a life in God and in a sacred holy spirit filled community and nowhere or in no one else.    

Beloved, we are called to love within the complexities of this life.  To embrace the complex human condition in love.  The one who would embrace the cross then must embrace a cross intimately engaged in the joys and sorrows of this life. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

In consideration of Father's Day, A Message Delivered to the Congregation of Tapestry Ministries, Disciples of Christ Church

Prayer, In the name of Jesus, my own great appreciation for Father’s Day –

Before I get into today’s message, just for a moment I invite each of us to meditate on the sacred text, to really engage what these text’s mean to us today as Christians and people of faith.
Ephesians 6:1-4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Joel 2:28-32
“And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.[a]

I.     The Calling of a Prophet
Today’s message is about God’s deep and intimate love embodied in each one of us here today. Beloved, love inhabits the heart, soul and mind of each of us.  It is proclaimed as we choose to give it place through our actions.  And so today we celebrate God’s love as exhibited through those who live out the role and presence of the father today.   We celebrate this day acknowledging that the title of “father’ is an access point to a much larger, dynamic and more diverse inclusive human presence.  This message also acknowledges the  various challenges and concerns encountered each day by father’s as well as mother’s, as they seek to grow, in partnership with God a progeny meant to impart God’s message of hope to communities of people who long for the day of jubilee, when liberation of heart, soul and mind would be made real.   In the context of this message the father, like the mother, is called to usher in the day of the lord and in this sense they take on the mantle of the prophet.

The foundational thoughts for this message are How shall the father instill hope, How shall the father instill strength, How shall the father instill freedom and liberation. 

While my desire is to bring a hopeful message on this father’s day, to gather around a peculiar faith grounded in the grace and mercy poured out for us in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the awesome love of God, I cannot ignore or overlook the reality, or the context in which the father lives.  The reality of the New Jim Crow, the murder of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Stand your Ground, Stop and Frisk, an ever increasing poverty rate, homelessness, and a broken immigration system, an overcrowded prison industrial complex and mass shootings, in a country where, for some, the murder of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as the recent shootings in Santa Barbara, and gang violence exists on the periphery of a second amendment more important than the lives of our children.   I cannot ignore or overlook these realities.  I must also lift up the father’s who long to be with their children, whether separated because they came out as LGBTQ or because of incarceration or some other form of separation.  How does the family reckon with this?  Even more so, how do we as a society and church reckon with this calculated and unfortunate situation.   Beloved, I, for one, cannot ignore or negate a particular longing present even in these circumstances that father’s want to love and, yes, to be loved.  I ask then, “What is a father without love?” 

Prayerfully reflecting on the sacred text I am mindful that scripture emerges from an engagement of the situations, challenges and joys of real life.  The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:1-4 and the prophetic writings of Joel 2:28-32 were written to address particular concerns and challenges of the human condition in their time and we are blessed by the wisdom of these writings poured into our time.  For me these scriptures beg a question, “How does the father proclaim the love of God in the midst of good and/or trying times?  What does the father say?  And to what end is the father’s love.   I know there were many times when I asked these questions of myself as I talked with my own children living through our changes in life.   

II.        Faith of our Fathers

The father imparts wisdom to God’s progeny knowing that God has a passion, mission, and purpose for the child’s life and in this sense the child must be considered a new hope, even a new intimate revelation.  As it is written in Matthew 19:13-15

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  Jesus said, let the children come to me, and do not hinder them because the kingdom of heaven belongs to these.  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 

Looking at the actions of Jesus we see a man, a prophet, a rebellious fellow,  even the son of God acknowledging and respecting the sacredness of children.   And this is the father’s call as he moves in the footsteps of Jesus.

We must be mindful though that the forces of empire are very much aware of the powerful presence of the father in the life of the family.  You might say that this particular text Matt 19:13-15 is a dangerous biblical text to those who embrace a people enslaved to the oppressions which define, for some such as myself, life in the U.S.   Looking at the mass shootings by youth from seemingly stable families, the influx of drugs in the ghetto’s, and barrio’s, the charge for wealth and gain all work in tandem to separate the family in thought, word and deed ensuring that privilege for the few remains steady similar in this sense to the plantation culture of the old south.   

So, in the midst of these realities the father becomes the real and present hope as he exhibits a particular courageousness, rebuking, by his very presence structures meant to maintain the oppressions that inhabit life in America.  I can’t help but think of Martin Luther King’s father and what he instilled in his son to cause or compel his son to become the man who had a dream.  What manner of father was this?  What manner of love is this?  

I am sure that each of us could think on this even in our own lives. 

III.  The Father, A household of love and the sharing of God’s peace (Joel 2:28-32)

In the midst of a mufti-faceted life today, Fathers and mothers, more than ever are called to create and maintain a household of love.  Beloved, love requires toughness, attention, dedication, a committed time together as a family.   Giving up or saying “I have had enough” through action or inaction is not an option” simply because the work is so great, so important.  As we do our work as father’s, mother’s, parents, we work not just for the fierce urgency of “now” but for the new horizons of tomorrow and God’s calling upon their life.  God’s peace emerges as we see God’s children become fully engaged in the daily affairs of life.  

Father’s day is a day to appreciate the love of God through the Father figure, through the one who would seek to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Decriminalization of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Those of us who consider ourselves progressive religious leaders must answer the call of solidarity regarding the decriminalization of HIV.  To answer this call we must move beyond our narrowly defined identities,  issues, and concerns which are dictated, for the most part, to us by the powers that be.  That said, HIV is code for the New Jim Crow.  Through various "public safety laws" it has become a means to maintain power and control over black people, people of color and people of a progressive social justice mindset .  In this sense decriminalization of HIV is a necessary struggle against those who seek to control our destiny.

Sitting here at the HIV is Not a Crime Conference at Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa with activists and advocates from around the U.S., Canada, England and Puerto Rico, I have been blessed to listen and to hear new thoughts and ideas regarding decriminalizing HIV.  It is a heavy conversation involving discussions on incarceration, racism, sexism, poverty, violence, homophobia, transphobia and the church.  It is about HIV as code for the New Jim Crow, a tool of White Supremacy.  It is stories of people incarcerated because they live with HIV and a particular moral panic which pervades all aspects of so called public safety. 

The need for public safety in white space, specifically in the context of governmental intervention at the state and federal level has contributed to polices and laws that seem, at least to me and other activists here at Grinnell, to be irrational.  Yet from a white supremacy point of view HIV is a weapon targeted, with intent, at an unsuspecting public.  In this sense, the person living with HIV is a threat and a menace to public safety, i.e., white space or white supremacy.  The result has been 100's even thousands of people living with HIV unjustly incarcerated.

As I write this post I am mindful that HIV is a component within a larger strategy designed by those who advocate and support white supremacy, to maintain power and control over the various populations and demographics of a vast, diverse and dynamic people.  Now it should be no surprise that the master of the plantation has need to maintain his control and ownership of the plantation and its slaves.  To this end he, and I do mean he, will do what he needs to do to ensure that things will continue as they have been for the last 230 plus years.

I suggest here, with regard to the decriminalization of HIV, that we, as progressive religious leaders, who long for justice must develop and build a strong movement of solidarity for the sake of our freedom and liberation, to break free of the master and his plantation, to burn it down.  We must, once again, embrace Malcolm X's words, "By any means necessary."  Of course we must have the courage of our convictions to fight the good fight, to go the distance with Christ.  If we consider ourselves progressive religous leaders in the fashion of Jesus Christ then we must live out our calling as set forth in Isaiah 61:1 (NIV).

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,…

- Rev Monica, June 3, 2014, Grinnell Iowa