Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Letter from a Mother to her Daughter

Here again I would like to cite a sermon written by Ema Rosaro-Nordalm, a deacon in training here at St. Peter's in Salem, Massachusetts. She writes with great skill and grace, much like a poet would write and reflect on some precious moments in Ema recollects her life as a young woman setting out in life, and how her mother touched her heart. I was deeply moved by what she wrote.

In 1967, I left my home in Colombia to live abroad. I was 22 years old. In those days the only way to communicate with my family and friends was through writing letters. So, I often wrote and received letters especially from my mother. My mother’s letters were long epistles that came in a thin, silky, almost transparent paper; she used blue ink, her style was formal and her calligraphy that of a model teacher: It was perfect! I loved to be surprised and looked forward to the smell of her perfume that impregnated those beautifully written pages. My mother’s letters were such a gift and such an event in my life that I always waited for the perfect moment to read them and sometimes it took a couple of hours before I would have the opportunity sit in my favorite place and begin the ritual of reading and rereading her messages. “Mi muy querida y recordada hija” I was her dearest daughter, and I was always in her thoughts. Those introductory first sweet and loving words made my heart hurt with longing for what I had left behind. What came after those loving words could be anything from happy news, complaints about her hard work, her wishes, her dreams, for all of us her eight children. My mother would always offer me the same motherly advice: “Remember always to have faith and count on God for everything” or she would strongly advise me by saying “Your marriage is your cross to bear; learn to carry it like Christ did, to teach us about obedience and humbleness”. Her words and messages stayed with me for days, and for days, I was rapt in her energy, in her urgent, eloquent, and passionate expression of her love, her convictions, and her desire for me to become like her, a model of virtue and strength.

What we just heard today from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, speaks to me with the same love, the same urgency, and the passionate and profound desire committed to sustain my faith and the love of God I felt in my mother’s letters.

Paul had previously expressed to the gentiles in Galatia that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul was arguing that it was not through strict adherence to the Jewish law of that time including dietary laws, circumcision, and observance of the Sabbath what determined inclusion in God’s covenant but through faith, faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the reading we heard today, Paul explains that until Christ came to the world the Law of Moses was there to be our custodian, like a guardian keeping us under his watch in our exercise of our free will.

That it is through Christ, God the Son among us, that God the Father reconciles all of us to Him, liberating us from the bondage of sin, guaranteeing the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us since the beginning of the human race.

That through trusting and having faith in the faith revealed in Christ Jesus, we become God’s children, Abraham’s descendants, and justified as the inheritors of eternal life.

That when we are submerged in the baptismal waters, we come out clothed in Christ and become one in Him. We become the new community where differences of race, social class, and gender disappear; we become a new community formed from all the nations of this world, Abraham’s promise fulfilled. In Paul’s own words: “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise”.

And as it appears in Genesis 22:17: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice”.

Reflecting on Paul’s message I realize that the way “I am one in Christ” is through my faith, a faith that moves me deeply and with passion, to constantly be in relationship to others in Christ. To believe that “we are one in Christ” has filled me with God’s Spirit, it has made me an instrument of His grace and with the Holy Spirit as my guide, and inspiration, I am a faithful servant with love and justice inviting women, and men, young and old regardless of their race, their ethnic origins, their sexual preference or gender to taste and see, as the song says, the goodness of the Lord. To invite them all to work in their spiritual discovery and empowerment, and to rejoice in seeing how, through the trust, and in the love of the resurrected Christ, we live in the joy of our growth, and of our own transformation as the people of God.

With deep faith, conviction, and the joy of knowing that we are one in Christ is how in Salem MA as the deacon in training within a multicultural community of Latinos from different Latin American countries and English speaking Episcopalians we have come together as one congregation. I dare to say, that we are Paul’s dream two thousand years later: a new community of faith with a variety of origins, different languages, diverse cultures, different religious backgrounds, many ways of praising God, old ways, new ways but nonetheless, all of us celebrating our oneness in Christ which transcends all differences. We are growing each day in the love of God and in the love to one another, a day at a time, learning to overcome mutual obstacles, transforming each other, while delighting in our different gifts and talents.

Tomorrow we will enter into the summer season. What a special moment to sit in our favorite places at home or wherever we find ourselves relaxed and connected to the Spirit, to reflect upon what the gift of “our oneness in Christ” has brought to our lives. I am sure that we all could write powerful epistles like my mother’s and Paul’s letters. Personally for me, the gift has been recognizing in me the gift of the joyful Spirit which resides in me, the Spirit with which I invite and make sure our brothers and sisters who live at the margins, those who are un-churched, or those rejected from their own communities of faith can find themselves embraced, nurtured and totally included. That same Spirit accompanies me in welcoming them beyond the mere doors of a church but deeply into our faith community. I invite them not only to be a part of the body of Christ, but also to discover their gifts and talents so that they can see the possibilities to become active members of the body of Christ.

I am sure that each one of you has your own testimony about the gift received. Let’s rejoice in our gifts, share them with others, invite all to join in that Spirit that is in each one of you, and let us praise the Lord for such a Grace. Amen.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The God of Enron, BP, and AIG

We live now in the post-Reagan Era when the deregulation of the multi-national corporation has become, as it were, the Supreme Being of our created order. In the traumatic age in which we live, our God has become Greed and the Almighty Dollar, Euro, and Yen etc. are the symbols of humanity's bottom line.
We have come to believe that the best governed is the least governed. We feed our own greed with he notion that all taxation is bad and we disparage the democratic process itself with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Politics!" we say with disgust. When we have the temerity to speak of a social program that might benefit the more vulnerable in the social order all that needs to be said is "Tax and Spend, Tax and Spend" and debate is deadened with a reflexive knee jerk twinge. There is silence. And the vulnerable in our midst continue to fall through what we once called a "safety net". The holes through which they fall are becoming significantly larger.
On September 11, 2001, not a single fighter jet scrambled to intercept a single pirated commercial airliner. The President of the United States sat reading to a kindergarten class with his eyes glazed over like a deer in the headlamps, while the nation was under attack. To his credit, he led the nation in mourning and for one brief shining moment united us as we have seldom been united before. He led us then into battle in Afghanistan...although I would have preferred a more covert operation to single out the culprits like bin Laden and his minions. He went after Hussien and declared war in Iraq...a blunder we'll be paying for years to come.
The collapse of Enron was another one of those corporate Terrorist attacks. Fortune Magazine named it the most innovative company in America for six consecutive years. It employed 22,000 people and claimed revenues of $101 billion in 2000. But the whole thing was a fraud. The entire Corporation collapsed, as Marx predicted Capitalism would, in another century. Jobs, pensions, and life savings were lost to tens of thousands, and that was a mere harbinger to what was afoot throughout Corporate life amongst the multi-nationals. Child's play compared to what was to come.
Then in the summer of 2005 we sat idly by watching people broil to death in the flood waters of New Orleans as the levies burst. We waited and accused them of looting and shooting at helicopters. And we let them die. Thousands of them died. And we tipped the wing of Air Force One and said; "Ain't that a shame!" We did nothing.
In the years since, college kids, Habitat for Humanity, and a host of churches did their part. But the money we spent there via the exquisite competence of FEMA went missing. "Helluva job Brownie!". At every level of government we proved ourselves inept and incompetent.
Then the real estate bubble popped and under capitalized financial institutions who had bundled mortgages and other financial instruments into credit default swaps, began to falter one by one. We saved the skins of the the giant investment bankers and AIG etc. and we rewarded corporate irresponsibility with our hard earned tax dollars, and allowed the victims of this pure and simple greed to loose their homes to foreclosure. We gave billions upon billions to corporate criminals, and let millions loose their homes, college kids build up debt that will take a lifetime to pay, and credit card balances to go out of sight...and gave them little to nothing. The one great opportunity we had to build up our financial institutions from the bottom up has been lost. We gave it to them instead from the top down and they kept the money and fleeced their pockets with bonuses that would make a decent human being blush. It begs the question as to how much decency their is in our corporate board rooms and corporate executives.
And now the Gulf of Mexico is rapidly filling up with oil and for more than 50 days the President of the United States again sits like a deer in the headlamps deferring to BP, Haliburton and the corporate blame game, incompetence, greed and criminal behavior and cover up continues unabated. Meanwhile our government again proves itself inept, incompetent and ineffectual. Where is our nerve? Why can't we just tell them to cease and desist from all business in the United States until they stop the leak and clean up the mess. Then we'll see whether we'll let them do business in this country. Our coastlines along the Gulf are fouled and Pelicans and other and sea life suffer and die a long and torturous death. How perfectly cruel!
Cruelty is not the sole province of multi-nationals; now we too as a nation and as a people turn a cold shoulder to those millions who seek refuge on these shores. Forgetting that we Irish fled famine in another century and faced "Irish Need Not Apply" signs in urban areas and found politics to be the vehicle for finding a place in the sun, now we turn our faces away from the suffering of those from Mexico, The Dominican Republic and Haiti. Rather we insist that their immigration is "illegal". Our talk show hosts collect our cultural amnesia and point our collective ire and resentment toward those who, like us, merely fled misery for hope.
Italian-Americans easily forget that it took a while to learn English. They huddled themselves into "Little Italy"'s across the country and if they could not find legitimate business, they might organize themselves into syndicates that horrified the nation with terrorist activities of their own.
It is hard to find any legal documentation for the immigration of slaves onto these shores unless you rely on the laws of property which is what we brought here in chains in fetid conditions aboard ship in an unholy triangle of trade in the Atlantic.
And of course, how can you call what the Anglos brought legal unless you rest your justification on the law of "The Divine Right of Kings"?
So now the Statue of Liberty stands noble and true in New York Harbor and still she says to the multitudes;
"The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883

The question is not so much do we mean that any more, but more to the point; do we deserve any more? Are we worthy of The Statue or should we consider returning to France until another nation comes onto the stage of history that will take up the torch of Liberty?

So many much venting of the so many others in the times we live in, we tear away at the fabric that binds us together and we are merely further rent asunder. A sign of the times? A house divided? A harbinger of the fall of a civilization? Only time will tell.

For now we vent the spleen and I merely add to the darkness. My soul laments the dying of the Spirit that once made the nation great.

Of all the ills that infect the nation's health, the evil and wickedness of idolatry must stand head and shoulders above all else. It is our rapacious greed, that testifies against us, and our faith in the God of the Multi-National Corporation that has become the Graven Image that will in certainty be our undoing.

The Prophets of ages past called for repentance. They called the nation back to the God of Justice and Compassion. Typically their voices were ignored, and the nation fell to the enemy and they were carried off into exile.

Perhaps we face a similar time. What passes for Theology these days finds no happy home in my heart. It is a theology that finds safe harbor for bigotry and for greed; for anger and judgment. Gays, Liberals, Intellectuals are marginalized often with a dismissive wave of the hand, and we merely sit in silence unsure of what to say.

I believe it is a time to call for repentance.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ecclesiastical Violence...

June 4, 2010

Pentecost greetings, Church.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori this week issued public statements on two serious matters that we want to make you aware of:

One is her response to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’s May 28 proposal that representatives from the Anglican provinces that have proceeded with same-gender blessings, cross-border incursions or ordination of gay and lesbian persons to the episcopate should resign from Anglican bodies involved in ecumenical dialogues.

The other is her letter to President Obama concerning the tragic results of the Israeli interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla earlier this week. She reiterates the Episcopal Church’s support for ending the Israeli blockade of Gaza. We share particular concern for and solidarity with Bishop Dawani and all in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem affected by ongoing hardship and violence as they seek peace with justice.

We know and respect that there are differing, heartfelt views among us on these issues, but we do urge you and your sister and brother Episcopalians to read Bishop Katharine’s statements for her prayerful and thoughtful reflections. Please add your prayers to ours that Christ’s peace may dwell in our hearts and prevail through our words, witness and actions.

/s/ Bud Cederholm

/s/ Gayle Elizabeth Harris

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's May 28 letter:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's June 2 Pastoral Letter to the Episcopal Church:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's June 2 letter to President Obama re: Gaza

Thursday, June 03, 2010

What we're doing with new arrivals to this shore

I like to speak of Emma who is preparing to be a Deacon in this church. She is a very wise woman. She has fought breast cancer, and works with women young and old, Anglo and Dominican and others in the Salem area. Not long ago she was invited to speak to folks in the deep south. Her courage, her wisdom and her quiet faith speaks let me quote The Rev. Stephanie Spellers and let you know of her wonderful work.

My friend Ema just returned from a trip to the Deep South, where she was training undocumented Mexican and Guatemalan people so they can be even stronger leaders in their local church. She lit up as she spoke of the men, some of whom cannot write in Spanish or English, but who love the Bible and meet regularly to talk about it (yes, they make the time, though they work 7am-7pm at a local poultry processing plant). And the women! They are such healers, Ema said, that it seems they just hold out their hands and transformation happens. Some of them are afraid to believe God is acting in their lives and that their stories and ministries matter. Ema was there to help open their eyes. I feel sure that, when she left, they could see more of God in their midst, more of God in each other. Just hearing her stories had that impact on me.

As we move into this season of the Holy Spirit -- that is, the season of Pentecost -- I'm so grateful for Spirit people like Ema. Who has opened your eyes, helped you to see God's love more clearly, participate in God's life more fully? Be sure to thank them. And thank God.