Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's a girl!

And Now for Something Completely Different

When the Episcopal Church elected a Katharine Jefferts Schori as our next presiding bishop on Father's day, the effect on the House of Deputies and the gallery...several thousand folks altogether, was electifying when the news came down from the house of Bishops.
The chair of the house asked us not to react to the announcement, but to receive the news respectfully and prayerfully; sensitive to those who might take the news badly.
In spite of that request an audible collective gasp, hoops of delight, and even several cheers belied the absolute delight with which the church at large received the news. The chair reminded us to restrain ourselves and again a polite Anglican composure returned to the house.
The cell circuits however were immediately all taken as the news spread like wildfire. News reporters flew out of the house to report the flash around the world.
And thus it was that the church made history. God had done a new thing. As the Bishop of Liberia reported; "God is a God of surprises!".
Typical of the American church, we threw caution to the wind. A small minority of conservatives had planned to walk out of convention as a protest to our "progressive and revisionist" doctrines. Perhaps we beat them to the punch!
The rest of us, remembering Christ's reaching out at the margins to the outcasts, the halt, the maimed, the blind and the poor...yes and to the woman at the well...and the women who were the only ones to stay even to the end with him...yes Jesus was the one who reached out his arms in ever widening circles of inclusion.
It was thus that the Church gasped. Imagine, in spite of all the dire predictions of the church's self-destruction, instead we found ourselves saying yes to the Bishop from Nevada. She who taught theology at Corvalis, she who allowed her clergy to bless same sex relationships along with boats, and pets...she let her clergy bless persons who love one another. She who was a pilot and diligently visited her congregations like a missionary bush pilot would in any desert outpost. She who had most impressed the House of Bishops in her earlier presentations along with the other candidates with her wit and wisdom and intelligence. A common comment from many mainstream bishops was "If only she weren't a woman, she'd be the next Presiding Bishop"...
Apparently the Holy Spirit must have heard that. It appears that even the Bishops heard that somewhere at the center of their hearts, because lo and behold they elected her!!!
Later there was a party of well wishers and supporters. And to everyone's delight, as she entered the hall, it was then said in one voice of utter delight: "Its a girl!"
Fr. Paul Bresnahan

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Book About God's Inclusive Love

Everything You Need to Know About Sex
In Order to Get to Heaven
Paul B. Bresnahan

Here is a light hearted, whimsical, satire that is dead serious and downright poignant too. This is a book whose eye catching title suggests that it is time for the church and the culture around it to grow up a bit and recognize the facts for what they are. Gay folks are here to stay and they are right smack dab in the middle of our families, workplaces, and yes, even in our churches. Using his own family and his own church as a microcosm, “Fr. Paul”, as he likes to be called, argues that human sexuality is a sacrament that gives all of us an exquisite way to express our love for one another. It is in the nature of things that our sexuality becomes a God given grace for human love to be expressed. For most of us, we’ll do that in a male/female configuration. But not always! From the beginning, there have been LGBT folk in our midst. They have often faced persecution, violence, vilification and marginalization yet they are still very much with us. One of them is now a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. His life has been threatened too (by Christians, of course). Come on folks, let’s get over this one. Let’s embrace yet another minority with the milk of human kindness and in a “kinder gentler” way. Open the book and discover with a Priest of the Church, how we are becoming “A House of Prayer for ALL People”.

Fr. Paul Bresnahan has been a Priest of the Episcopal Church for 33 years. He serves now at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Saint Albans, West Virginia, a remarkable congregation that cares very much for the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the marginalized. He has served churches in Massachusetts, Ohio, and South Carolina. His lifetime struggle against racism, economic disparity, homelessness now culminates in taking up the cudgels for yet another great group of outcasts. He was raised by a gay uncle, and now has two gay sons. He has a lot to say about this controversy. After all there’s a lot at stake. Best of all, he’s still smiling, because he’s convinced that there’s room in God’s heart for the love of EVERYONE!

available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and autographed from the author at paulbresnahan@yahoo.com

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Hound of Heaven

The Feast of the Ascension
The Hound of Heaven

I found myself thinking about my childhood dog "Pal"; a collie who on the night my dad was buried, lay at his side by his grave to howl the night away in a paroxysm of grief.
Whether this actually happened I don't know but it is a grand story and my Irish grandfather turned the phrases of his story telling craft with great skill and occasionally some embellishment.
My dad's death at Christmas when I was the age of 7 was a "signature" moment in my life and it has led to many a poignant Christmas ever since. It also led me to the priesthood. The discovery that God's goodness made a place for my dad in God's heart made me aware of the utter dependence we have on God's goodness for all those we care about including ourselves. I thought I'd better tell as many people as I could about God's goodness.
I find it amazing that when Jesus was taken up to heaven right in front of their eyes...they went all about the world with JOY...to proclaim the good news, whatever that was. Whether this really happened or not, I don't know, but it is a grand story and the folks of the ANE Hellenistic world had a wonderful capacity for crafting good stories for whatever purpose they found fruitful. But it was the JOY they experienced that caught my eye. It was like the joy I experienced as a child when I discovered God's goodness.
And so they said Jesus rose from the dead. Even if that were true, resurrection stories had found their way into Egyptian, Greek and Roman philosophies before. It even crept into some wonderful Old Testament passages particulaly in Job and in the Psalms.
But the message that caught even deeper into the heart involved the whole matter of forgiveness.
When Jesus walked among us, he had a particular affinity for a message of pardon and forgiveness. He began with that.
He spoke of forgiveness even before we knew we'd done the unforgivable. The blind man, the leper, the tax collector, the lame, the prostitute, the poor, and all the host of sick and mentally ill had all been locked out of heaven by the righteous Temple infrastructure. Scribes, Pharisees, Saducees all had a good handle on the Holiness code. But the ones Jesus sought out like all the above had long ago lost any shot at Holiness or inclusivity in God's goodness.
Then along came Jesus. He the Holiest of the Holy and utterly blameless One by any and all measures, found in the untouchable masses something beautiful for God. And one by one he touched them, forgave them, did the loving thing and healed them, fed them, and gave them food and drink that satisfied their deepest cravings. He ascribed to them a sense of value that was utterly unattainable in this world or so it seemed.
Listen to the Power of God in today's letter to the Ephesians "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power."
That power was not just the power over death but of sin as well. The wretched of the earth had found a champion. The outcast has found the sharp sword of inclusivity cut for them against those powers that sought to destroy God's creatures. And most of all, God power was shown in Jesus because these ordinary, ordinary folk, long since driven away from God, were now most decisively "of God" and it was the Son of the GOD/MAN who said so.
He even went so far as to tell us to go out into all the world and bring that good news to ALL.
Listen to the words from Acts, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Now I submit to you that to bring that news to Jerusalem, though dangerous in the wrong hands was potentially all right. Even in Judea, holiness to the select few would be acceptable. But Samaria is anathema. The Samaritans were at the bottom...the scuzzy bottom of the hierarchy of holiness...well below the most immoral imaginable perversion you can possibly conjure.
And yet this Jesus told us to get out there in the uttermost furthest corners of the world and preach forgiveness, and Christ's power over sin and death.
It must have been life changing to discover that this Jesus, who had touched so many lives in so short a time; three years we're told, was dead and then buried. When he rose from the dead, that really did it. The forgiveness and goodness that he told us about became not a "good feeling" or a philosophical insight. It was a FACT!
That's the amazing thing about Jesus ascent to heaven for me. It filled us with JOY! God's goodness overflowed like my cup overflows. He died for my dad who didn't even have a clue he was going to die. He hadn't gotten around to repentence; hadn't turned to Jesus or any of that. He just up and died all of a sudden. And I missed him sorely as I still do. But Jesus found a special place for him in his heart. What a JOY that is to know.
So let the Hound of Heaven Howl...Jesus has ascended to the Right hand of God. He will come again to be our Judge. And as far as I'm concerned God is so very good indeed.