Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent 1 Monday: Shards of Glass and Hiding Under the Porch

Adam lay ybounden...

Such grand plans. Plans so grand I hadn't mentioned them here because, then I might be held accountable for them. And if there's anything I don't need right now it's more accountability.

My plans: to have an Advent journal here. Perhaps to reflect upon the daily lectionary readings, which I have followed only sporadically since Lent. (Remember Lent?) This morning I was to begin.

... bounden in a bond...

Except, this morning had me running around in Beloved's car because mine was vandalized last evening as it sat outside a church, while I was inside listening to a gorgeous choral concert in which Petra was singing (I was supposed to be singing too, but I have a sinus infection and laryngitis). I had to go to the body shop, and I had to be on the phone with my insurance agent and my claim representative because, while I was listening to this last night, someone decided to fill the backseat of my car with shards of glass.

...four thousand winter, thought he not too long....

I was curiously unmoved by the violation. After the week... a busy week, with lots of driving and lots of emotion... Beloved and I went to my dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner.... Beloved. And I. And my Dad. Just ponder that for a moment.

... and all was for an apple, an apple that he took
as clerkes finden, written in their book ....

... and then, having laryngitis, and struggling not just to write but to deliver the sermon... promising myself an afternoon of rest, of Advent-sabbath while I enjoyed the concert (Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas).... I reacted to the site of the green shards all through the back seat of my car with something approaching indifference. Petra was much more shocked than I was. She was on the phone with Beloved... we were arranging a dinner rendezvous, and Beloved got to hear us react to the glass in real time. She suggested Petra hang up and dial 911.

...Ne had the apple taken been, the apple taken been...

Anyway, that's my excuse. Or rather, those are my excuses. I couldn't blog the lectionary readings because my car got broken into. Or, because I had laryngitis. Or because I coughed for an hour before the alarm went off this morning. Or because I helped Beloved at work today.

... ne had never Our Ladye a been heaven e-queen....

Tonight Petra and I had our first home cooked dinner in weeks. Weeks, I tell you. It wasn't much... chicken and some brown rice and vegetables. She asked if we could watch "Up." She had just received it from her brother, a late birthday present. We watched it and I fell in love-- head-over-heels in love-- with Doug the Dog. At one point he says to the crotchety old man Carl (who looks disconcertingly like my Dad.... seriously.... the spitting image...):

"I've been hiding under your porch because I love you."

Which may be the story of this year's Advent. I suspect God can deal with my evasions and meanderings. I suspect God can deal with my inattention and faltering steps, my best-laid-plans and delusions of grandeur. God is tenacious. God is hiding-under-the-porch-because-I-love-you tenacious. Waiting patiently for my attention.

Blessed be the time that apple taken was!
Therefore we moun singen, Deo gracias!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1 Sermon

... from this morning, here.


Advent 1: A Hard and Haunting Season

It has begun.

The season of expectation.

The thing is, we think we know what we're waiting for.

I believe we are almost always wrong.

God's grace is more astounding, beautiful, hard and haunting than we expect.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

~ Luke 21:25-28

Three years ago this song became forever associated, in my mind, with the early apocalpytic texts for Advent. I made it the basis for a sermon preached at our local, wonderful Metropolitan Community Church.

A blessed season to you all, my friends.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming Out Again

... and again and again.

This is a truth that friends with longer experience as "out" GLBT folks have shared with me, but it is only now that I am getting it. You have to come out again and again and again. OK, I get it. I get it!

I am on my way to the third lunch this week with clergy colleagues (all male, for some reason-- don't know why) to whom I have had to/ will have to come out.

The first was someone who actually knew already... he made not-so-subtle references along the lines of "some of my best friends (and family members) are gay! I love me some gays!"

The second really didn't know... he asked me about my divorce, and it really came out as a natural result of the conversation (we obviously hadn't had a sit-down for a while!).

Today I meet with a colleague who asked me not too long ago, "So why didn't your congregation make you permanent?"

To which I replied, "Let's have lunch!" So, we are doing that today. And I've decided to actually bring a copy of the letter, and let him read it while I work on my Oriental chicken salad.

Again and again and again.

And I've only been doing this for six months. Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh, yeah....

Sermon's up. Basically, every Monday or so.

One-Two Punch

Feels like the events of the last week are taking a toll on me emotionally.

The conversation with LCC has left me with a feeling of dis-ease. Yes it was loving. Yes it was gentle. But at its heart was a denial of the legitimacy of my ministry, my call. And I took the bait. I don't think I made this clear in my original post, but I immediately offered to not teach the class about which she was concerned. I was all too ready to cede my pastoral authority. I bemoaned this with a dear one last weekend over coffee, and she said something that's resonating with me:

It's ok to duck a few. You don't have to lean into every punch.

And my friend the pastor with the legal troubles: Oh God. The damage he has left in his wake. His partner. Their finances. A good social services organization that is left literally penniless, board members scrambling to take out loans in order to pay their bills. People left, literally homeless. A church shattered. People who loved and encouraged and supported him, shattered.

As I type this I am becoming angrier and angrier. My own voice echoes in my head, conversations I've had with others about this man. My voice saying, with confidence, He's such a good guy.

Beautiful and broken.

And I am distracted, heartbroken, and, for the first time in six months, afraid. I'm feeling afraid again.

Lord have mercy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beautiful and Broken

Beloved and I huddled together this morning at our favorite coffee joint (well, one of our two) for reasons to do with more than the cold. We were reading the paper together, the local paper, and a story about a man we know very well.

He is a minister.

He is Beloved's friend.

He is my friend and colleague.

He is in a local jail.

The things he has done with his church are amazing. It's a little country church that became the first in our entire area to be "open and affirming" to GLBT people. It's a church that was dying until his particular brand of leadership helped them find the life God had in store for them. It's a church that has grown since his arrival; before that it was questionable as to whether it would even survive.

Now he is accused of felonies that have nothing to do with sex, everything to do with money.

We are in shock. We are grieving. We are angry-- at moments, at our friend, at other moments, at the local media and the glee one tends to encounter when clergy screw up or worse. We sincerely don't know what to think, what to believe. We have no idea if the charges are true or some dreadful miscarriage of justice or worse, an attempt to damage his reputation by people who are unhappy with his leadership. We just don't know.

At the end of every service I say, "Let us go out into God's beautiful and broken world to share the good news of God's love for us."

That's our friend, whether guilty or innocent. Beautiful and broken.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not Your Usual Theological Disagreement

Yesterday morning I received a phone call from Lovely Conservative Colleague. She asked whether I had some time to talk, either yesterday or today. We agreed that she would come to my church at 3 PM.

From that moment (it was morning when we spoke), I felt my pulse start to escalate, and my blood pressure elevate. I was full of fear. I felt sure I knew why she was coming. I felt sure that her church had decided to initiate a judicial action, either against me or against the local judicatory that approved my church keeping me.

It was a long, tense day.

When she arrived, we sat together in my office and prayed. Then she spoke.

I find I don't want to try to summarize all she said. It's too complicated and it's too full of the kind of arcana that makes people who don't happen to be polity wonks of my denomination nuts.

Here is the short version. She and her husband (they serve a church together) are troubled that I am not, in their view, in compliance with our church's policies. (But I am... we disagree on interpretation. We are not alone in our disagreement.) They are espcially troubled because we work together on a particular annual project that has to do with training church leadership, and they are not sure they can be a part of it if I am a part of it... especially I end up teaching about our church's policies.

More broadly, though, she told me that she has come to the conclusion that our church is too diverse, that it cannot hold together if we can't agree on such fundamentals as who Jesus Christ is and what he does. (But I think we do agree on that. And it is my belief about Jesus that underscores my beliefs about how we should treat all of our brothers and sisters in Christ... including, me.) She believes we should bless one another and go our separate ways so that we can all be, authentically, who we believe God has called us to be.

I, on the other hand, continue to hope we can let Jesus hold us together. I don't believe, given the diversity of creation, that a church can be too diverse. I believe hearts might be changed.

Here's the really odd thing: it was the most loving conversation. Even when it was hard, it was holy. This woman has integrity. She told me, this is not about my gifts. She told me, I am a gift to the church. And... being who I am, I was all too ready to back off teaching the particular unit that concerns her, a willingness to relinquish my own legitimate authority that bothers me as I reflect on it after the fact.

I was able to share with her some of my journey of this past year. I told her how I became convicted (such a great word in this context) by my scripture reading throughout Lent. She marveled at how she and I can read the same scriptures, and feel led by God in different directions. She believes we may just have to let God sort it out, in the end. I cannot disagree.

It was on the whole a beautiful and painful and disturbing conversation. It was not your usual theological disagreement. I did not (and do not) call her a homophobe. (Even though I suspect somewhere, down deep, there is a visceral discomfort that comes into play.)

At the end, we prayed again. Then I said, I was really scared. She laughed and said No, I was really scared!

How can God not want us in the same church?