Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Everything You Need to Know About Sex...

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 35 years. He serves now at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Salem, Massachusetts, a remarkable congregation that cares very much for the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the marginalized. He has served churches in West Virginia, Ohio, and South Carolina, and now Massachusetts. 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

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Double Dawn...a poem

My son Michael gave his senior recital this past weekend...and I flew into Chicago during a vigorous nor'easter and stayed in a hotel overlooking Grant Park...and penned these lines for him by way of a gift in honor of the occasion at daybreak.

Double Dawning
By Paul Bresnahan

A crystal clear blue sky dawned this day
And Chicago stretched out her shoulders
Toward the lake where a frivolous and funny quay
Toppled toward a lakeside lighthouse,

While the hum of traffic glistened in the sun
And buzzed about like bees busy
Even on Sunday at Sunrise.

Articulated busses belched blue diesel
Against a blanket pure with snow
And lovely art is kept cozy and warm
Inside the embrace of the city’s sweet mother museum.

Downtown awakens toward the rising skies
Where stainless steel buildings strain their eyes
To see the blinding glare of morning’s glorious greeting.

Spires and steeples and statues stand about
Everywhere you look and a texture of trees
Bare with branches place themselves in a city park.

It could be said I like a sunny day in Chicago.
But I like Boston too; my home of
Athenian grace that sings symphonicly
Almost any day rabid with Fenway fervor
And painted with a Liberal cobalt blue
Whatever the weather!

Only yesterday, Boston’s blistering snows
De-iced a dark before dawn Airbus 757
And white knuckled me with glee to this toddlin’ town

And the East wind blew me breathless into O’Hare
Half and hour early where music will meet my ear
And a song will sing in my heart.

Perhaps it is life I love that gives me the good sense to stop
Sometimes and breathe and marvel at the miracle
Of a son that sings with a golden tenor tone

Can This Church Life Again?

Can This Church Live Again?

Inasmuch as Lazarus was raised from his death by Jesus, so too our aging, dying, and often dead congregations can also live again. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and American Life shows that more than a quarter of adult Americans have migrated from one religious affiliation to another. And too, the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly asks on the cover page “Which Religion Will Win?” It is a time of much soul searching for many an American.

Between politics and religion there certainly is plenty for us to consider in the marketplace of ideas being developed here in the United States and abroad as well. But we seem to be a particularly “religious” nation. We seem to be going through a stage where we are migrating toward a more “conservative” and “evangelical” expression of our faith. But at the same time there is a rediscovery of the Compassionate inclusive Christ by many of our mainline denominations as well.

It is a fascinating time in which to find our way toward God. As I make my way through this time in our shared faith development, what strikes me is just how deeply our young people want to know of their spirituality. They want to “practice the presence of God”, if I may use the phrase Brother Lawrence used so many years ago. And it is not just the young that want to come to know about their journey toward God. Among almost all the folks that have recently visited our congregation, there is a deep and sincere desire to come to know of how the heart of God beats within the heart of each of us.

It is as if almost all by itself, the church is coming back to life from a long and sad slumber. Not long ago, a young man whose life had been marred by misuse of drugs and alcohol came to me seeking help. I turned him toward the Sermon on the Mount and the shortest and earliest of the Gospels: St. Mark. I pointed out that he could read both within an hour. I gave him a copy of the Good News Bible and he read through his assignment and came back to me with amazement and delight in his heart.

“God loves me” he said as if totally blown away by the Bible. But there was so much more to it than that. God loves everyone, he said with bright and beaming joyous eyes. God loves the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the sick, those in prison…he was utterly dumbfounded. I asked him why this surprised him so. He told me that when he watched television evangelists, he heard judgment, condemnation, and anger against the very people the Bible describes as being sought out and loved by Jesus.

It was a total surprise to my new young parishioner. So many of his friends had gotten caught up in drugs, sexual promiscuity, alcohol, and had or were “doing” time. He single-handedly became responsible for bringing many other young people to church, because he was coming to discover that the Good News was that Jesus does indeed love the sinner.

An old dying church was coming back to life again. Lazarus, lives! Another older couple migrated to our congregation from another denomination, because they had a gay uncle and there was a divorced daughter to be loved by Jesus. They found a place where God’s embrace was enfolding people in ever widening circles of inclusivity. And too those with mental and physical disabilities seem to be wandering into the doors of the church as well.

I don’t know for sure just what is going on here, but I will say this; if we stay on message about this all inclusive love of Jesus, and faithfully present the Compassionate One as being the One in whom we place our faith, I believe that there is much life still to be lived in these old churches of ours.

When I was a much younger priest, I was told that God does not ask us to be successful; God is asking us to be faithful. I must confess to you that I am praying for the day when our faithfulness will pay us off with just a little success.

In the meantime, I believe that Jesus is always close by his church and is always calling out for the dying part of us to live again. “Lazarus, come out!” It always amazes me that the power of God is best known at the time of death. My wife recently went to work for Hospice. She reports that she has never worked in a more cheerful setting. Isn’t that amazing when you think of it?

Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said that “as often as we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Eucharist we show forth the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (I Corinthians 11:26). This may well be the key to our rising again.

May God grant us grace to hear Jesus call out to us; “Lazarus, come out!!