Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Pardon me if I sound like Amos, but I did think that it might be in order to remember those parts of the bible that the far right wing evangelicals seem to avoid. Here are two amazing passages. In the former passage we have the prophetic warning from Amos to those who "take their ease in ivory palaces". By the way, a prophecy, biblically speaking, in not soothsaying about the future, it is a warning against an injustice. In this case the ruin of Jacob and the impending exile are connected to economic injustice. Read the passage for yourself.
Complacent Self-Indulgence Will Be Punished
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.
The Lord God has sworn by himself (says the Lord, the God of hosts): I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds; and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.
See, the Lord commands, and the great house shall be shattered to bits, and the little house to pieces. But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood— you who rejoice in Lo-debar, who say, ‘Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?’ Indeed, I am raising up against you a nation, O house of Israel, says the Lord, the God of hosts, and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath to the Wadi Arabah.
I do sometimes wonder how God looks upon a land that turns a cold shoulder against the poor.
And here is yet another passage from the Gospels. I must remind you, the sin is not in being rich, the sin is turning away from the sorrow and the suffering of the poor. Read this one. Why are these passages and stories not told to us by the tele-vangelists?
Rich Man and Lazarus
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’
I love the irony here..."even if someone should rise from the dead..." Did anyone tell this fellow that Someone did!
A blessing on the just!
Monday, September 26, 2011
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
In particular, how do we justify embracing the LGBTQ community as eligible for marriage, and ordination? By what authority do we proclaim that we are all one in Christ without regard to race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation?
As a matter of fact, I worked it out in every particular in a book I published in 2004. In that book I suggested to the world of faith and to the culture around it that it was time to grow up and face facts. Gay folks have been with us for a very long time, and they will be with us for a very long time to come. In God’s good time we will embrace all humanity in a gentler and kinder way, I believe that time has come now. My proclamation, of course, played to mixed reviews.
When I became the Priest-in-Charge of St. Peter’s Church in Salem, Massachusetts I encouraged the membership to read my book; “Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven”. There is humor in that book, there is satire, but there is also the story of my family embedded in the biblical analysis of that book too. I wrote it word for word, Honest to God. Many of the vestry of St. Peter's Church read that book and they still consented to my appointment as Priest-in-Charge.
I had yet to really fully understand by what authority I proclaimed St. Peter’s a “House of Prayer for All People”, but I did so from the outset. And when I did, I painted the proclamation clearly with the Rainbow to make it abundantly clear that I meant what I said.
Members of the LGBTQ community were already members of the church, and we then sat down to figure out the particulars of how this could be and by what authority we could make such a claim.
In our first vestry retreat we asked ourselves if we could in fact call ourselves “A House of Prayer for All People” and do so from the bottom of our hearts. Not only did we embrace that statement we also decided to use it as our mission statement.
We did a Bible study on the origin of these words. When we discovered that the proclamation came from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah in the 56th Chapter, it was as if the scales fell from our eyes. There in black and white were the questions of the foreigner and the eunuch; the former asking why he had to be cut off from the House of Israel and the latter lamenting that he would become “a dry tree”.
The Prophet gave a grand reassurance to both.
4 For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5 I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Suddenly, we understood as one what God meant for us. Foreigners and those whose sexual identity was ambiguous at the very least were embraced by God and they were to be given the highest honors within God’s House of Prayer.
We were no longer tentative about our proclamation. We were now authoritative because we knew by what authority we spoke. In our own case at St. Peter’s Church, many foreigners largely from the Dominican Republic have made this church their home. There is one particular little child whose mother and whose partner asked me to baptize. I was delighted. They haven’t missed a Sunday since. In the abundant answer of the Prophet Isaiah; as he said “Yes” to the eunuch and the foreigner who so tentatively wondered if they could be included in the embrace of God, could I do less than give the Prophet’s “Yes” to these people?
In recent months I found myself returning time and again to Christ’s teaching on marriage in Matthew’s Gospel. And again the scales fell from my eyes. Here Jesus is challenged by the same tiresome religious authorities who second guess him on everything he does and all that he teaches. In responses to the drilling Jesus teaches that marriage is to be a life long covenant. But the Scribes and the Pharisees wanted to know why Moses permitted a certificate of divorce. Obviously, Jesus said, “because of your hardness of heart”. The disciples, perhaps bewildered by the impossibly high standards Jesus set for marriage, then assert that it is probably better then not to marry. Then, in an instant and seemingly tangential to the previous verses, Jesus then tells the disciples; “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:12)
To be sure castration among males and even females is common in the Ancient Near Eastern world, but what about those “born that way”? Explain that one to me. The ambiguity of sexual identification in this passage is really not all that ambiguous if you were in fact “born that way”.
In my own faith journey, I happen to be the nephew of a man who was “born that way.” He had a life-long union of more than 50 years with another man “born that way”, and I happen to be the father of two sons who were also “born that way”
And so in the fullness of time, my son’s best friends in Chicago asked me to officiate at their civil union. What a joy it was to claim that blessing before God and all that friends. There was a bit of uncertainty and maybe even a bit of tension that day as the young couple and this priest took his place with them. But we proceeded with the pronouncement of that union as a sacred and complete in the eyes of God, in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of all their friends. I can assure you that the celebration that followed was of unbridled joy. I can tell you that everyone in that sacred space felt embraced by God as never before.
As Jesus replied to his interrogators with a question, so do I. So then, I ask you this question; “By what authority do we now do these things?”
A blessing for ALL God's Children,
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
"It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies
No statement says all that can be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
"This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
"We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
"We cannot do everything, and there's a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace
to enter and do the rest.
"We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
"We are workers, not the Master Builder; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own."
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Here's a post I picked up from a young man of Facebook. Joshua Goins is his name. These are his words. He is "befuddled" by what has become of Christianity. He thinks it is high time we speak up to the extreme right wing. I'm with him on this and wanted to give him an audience.
It befuddles me as to how people can take wonderful, beautiful ideas and pervert them into unrecognizable drivel. I've considered myself to be a Christian, and to be at one with my Creator since I was six years old. I'd read the entire King James Bible twice before I was 12. I can't help but stare in aghast bewilderment as the lunatic faction of self-proclaimed Christianity takes the religion I hold dear and turns it on it's head in the most offensive manner I can conceive of. The teachings of Christ have been almost completely ignored by the modern lunatic fringe who like to call themselves Christian. This is a heretical affront to the very teachings of the founder of the religion. Christ taught of compassion, of love, of turning the other cheek, of throwing the money-changers out of God's Temple. He taught that the rich should be benevolent and compassionate to those less fortunate and, if need be, part with their worldly posessions in order to take care of those unable to take care of themselves.
Modern, "Conservative Christianity" has turned this entire paradigm on it's head. Now, those who are in need are seen as morally intransigent, as being less deserving of compassion and care because they are perceived to be morally faulty in one manner or another. Seeing self-proclaimed Christians clamoring over one another in a race to see who can formulate the most austere and downright punative measures to further deprive those who are the least well-off in our society sickens me. Did Jesus ask for proof of insurance or ability to pay before healing the sick? How is it following the example of Christ to deprive millions of access to even basic healthcare? To a living wage? The so-called "Right" constantly laments the loss of the nuclear, two-parent family in which one parent has the ability (not the necessity) to stay at home and take care of their offspring, while continuing to do everything in their power to destroy the middle class and the decent paying jobs that would allow this to be an option?
The constant attacks on unions and any workers with a decent pension or job security flies directly in the face of the moral foundation they so vehemently claim to uphold. This, my friends, is hypocrisy of the highest order.
It is high time that we fight back. Do we want the Michelle Bachmanns and Rick Perrys of the world to control the discourse?
Friday, September 09, 2011
King’s Beach Statement
Revised September 9, 2011
I wrote this statement last Spring as I looked down the long barrel of class warfare being waged against us. I'm in this for the long haul. We need to be clear about where we stand. What I list below is a reasonable set of demands. What is not reasonable is that we should carry the rich on 10% unemployment, working for $5 an hour, with no health insurance, no vacation, and then having them takes our homes away.
We may or may rise up just yet, but momentum is building. Eventually we, working class, middle class, first responders, teachers, etc. will all see that we are all on the same side. We will not allow them to divide us and leave us impotent of power.
I only hope it is not too late. Here's the latest revision. We need to be clear, concise and united.
From Cairo to Wisconsin the people have taken to the streets to demand justice. The grinding poverty under which too many of us are living has caused enough pain and we will join in solidarity with all those who are suffering on Labor Day all across this country.
We labor for wages that cannot support a family, while the super-rich are giving themselves billions in bonus money. The corporate machine lays us off and the government cuts our jobs, and now they even want to take away collective bargaining. They want to take away a hard won health care victory, they want to take away our homes, they want to take away our social security, and cut medicaid all for the sake of lower taxes for the rich. They have no idea of the pain they inflict upon the poor and the worker and now even on the middle class.
It is time for us to gather on Labor Day at the Lincoln Memorial, every State House in the Union, every City/Town Hall and let them know we mean business. They saved the skins of the Financial Giants because they were too big to fail. They saved the Giant Corporations like GM for the same reason. So what about us? What about the 90% of America who are on the brink because of the excesses of Wall Street? BUDGET CUTS=JOB CUTS. NO! HELL NO!
HERE IS WHAT WE DEMAND!
1. Jobs and Job Security
We demand full employment. Unemployment Bureau is a misnomer. It should be THE EMPLOYMENT BUREAU. Unemployment insurance should then be EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. The government shall be the employer of last resort.
We demand that all teachers, police, fire and EMT’s be rehired and that we beef up education and public safety. It is a matter of national security! We cannot afford not to do this at the very least. Figure out how to bring our jobs home again. We want to buy American made products again.
We demand an immediate doubling of the minimum wage.
We demand an immediate increase of 20% of all wages under $100,000. You can figure out how to pay for that but you can begin with a super-tax on the super-rich.
And we want another 20% bonus for our work too on November so we can spend it on Black Friday and pump up the economy. They’ve been giving themselves billions in bonuses while we were losing our jobs and suffering from cutbacks, and losing our homes. You owe us!
3. Universal Health Care
We have fought long and hard for healthcare. It is unconscionable that in this country anyone should be deprived of good health care. Now you want to take away this modest advance on behalf of millions of folk in this nation! NO! We demand healthcare. We’re willing to negotiate how to pay for it. But we demand it and we demand it now. Hands off heath care!
4. Two Year Moratorium on Foreclosures
You made a huge mess and we bailed you out (Banks & Mortgage Companies, Finance Institutions.) Now its your turn to bail us out. No more foreclosures for two years while we secure the American worker with good jobs and good pay. Then you better be ready to cut a deal, or its back to the streets!
5. Three Weeks Paid Vacation
You keep preaching to us about family values. I’ll tell you about family values. We want a minimum of three weeks paidvacation, two weeks annual allowance for illness, and five personal days a year. We cannot afford what you have. The least you can do for us is give us time with those we love. Then, as a bonus we'll take four weeks after five years working for you.
6. Quit picking on Gay Folks! Quit the bullying! Quit the threats on Obama and the Liberals! IN CASE YOU HADN’TNOTICED THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE CANNOT FLY WITHOUT BOTH WINGS. YOU NEED US AND WE NEED YOU. WE WON’T FIGURE THIS OUT UNLESS WE DO THIS TOGETHER.
Paul Bresnahan is a semi-retired Episcopal Priest living in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Friday, September 02, 2011
We may or may not do it this time, but momentum is building. Eventually we, working class, middle class, first responders, teachers, etc. will all see that we are all on the same side.
I only hope it is not too late.