Friday, September 30, 2011

In the interests of marriage equality

Michaelmas 2011
Two weeks ago, I officiated at my very first same sex union in Chicago. What joy it was to stand in solidarity with my son and his best friends as they began their new life together. That same young man, my son Michael, is in Hico (pronounced Hyco) West Virginia for yet another wedding of yet another very best friend. And I am in Thomaston Maine to officiate my goddaughter's wedding. She is the daughter of one of my best friends who also served as the Senior Warden of my very first church in Malden, Massachusetts. In fact this fall in Salem, Massachusetts where I serve as priest-in-charge, I have officiated at a number of marriages, and celebrated the love of half a dozen couples.
In every case, for all 38 years of my priesthood, I have stood by young people (and some old ones too) who love one another, listened to scriptures, exchanged the vows, said the prayers and tied the knot (by the way, we actually do that with the stole that we clergy wear for such occasions. That stole represents the burden, the joy, and the authority with which we carry Christ with us upon our shoulders).
In all of these cases except for one, the configuration of those marriages has been male/female. In only once case was the configuration same sex. We mean no offense to the heterosexual community of which my wife and I are joyful members.
We are no threat to traditional marriage whatsoever. We merely stand witness in Chicago, in Hico, and in Thomaston to the love of Christ for ALL people.
In fact, if you think about it marriage equality is in the profoundest sense, the ultimate defense of marriage act.
It is in our faithful lives together by whatever configuration we arrange ourselves that we celebrate the joy of being together in a life long union of love. (My mom had to do that three times with three different fellows before she got it right, but by God, she finally did get it right.)
And so today in Maine, by the sea, two very beautiful young people celebrate their love for one another. May the day come speedily when all young people will be granted the blessing of a church and a culture that realizes the the ultimate and final command of all is the last one Jesus gave; "Love one another".
And remember God love you, and so do I.
Fr. Paul

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recession and Depression

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words!

One may ask; "What is the difference between a recession and a depression?". The answer, as the old saw goes; "A recession occurs when your neighbor gets laid off; a depression happens when YOU are laid off."
From Wisconsin to Wall Street comes this alarm; they have their sites on teachers, public service employees, police, fire, and EMT's. Budget cuts=job losses by the hundreds of thousands.
The picture here says it all. Unless we take to the streets, they will have all our jobs.
TO THE STREETS!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Woe to you who grind up the poor!


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.

Amos 6

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!

Fr. Paul

Monday, September 26, 2011

God's Great Name and Budget Cuts!

Tell me this; why is it you don't hear these passages from the so called "Evangelical Right Wing?" Could it be they don't know these parts of the Bible. When I took this picture earlier this evening I thought of the Greatness of God.
But then I remembered that the Greatness of God is measured by how well we treat the poor. After all God is high above the nations. Nations come, and then they go. If they lift up the poor out of the dust, such a nation will be great in God's eyes.
If such a nation grinds the poor into the dust, that nation will be in great danger.
Warning! We are treading on thin ice if we think we can avoid God's attention. The budget cuts we are making in this nation are a threat to national security; they are economically unsound, they are immoral.
Three examples; from the Psalms of David, from the Song of Mary, and from the Final Judgment of the Nations as Jesus envisioned it.


Psalm 113 Laudate, pueri
1Hallelujah!
Give praise, you servants of the LORD; *
praise the Name of the LORD.
2Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, *
from this time forth for evermore.
3From the rising of the sun to its going down *
let the Name of the LORD be praised.
4The LORD is high above all nations, *
and his glory above the heavens.
5Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high, *
but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?
6He takes up the weak out of the dust *
and lifts up the poor from the ashes.
7He sets them with the princes, *
with the princes of his people.
8He makes the woman of a childless house *
to be a joyful mother of children.

The Song of Mary Magnificat

Luke 1:46-55


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.

The Judgment of the Nations

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal lif

Saturday, September 24, 2011

By What Authority Do You Do These Things?


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,

Fr. Paul

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I wish Catholicism were a bit more catholic

The Problem Seems to be Sex
Yes, what a shame, but that seems to be the case. When I was much younger and could understand what celibacy meant, marriage was out of the question for a priest, and I knew right away that I sure didn't want to be a priest in that church. When I met scores of former priests who left the priesthood for marriage, that fact merely reinforced my earlier reactions.
Mind you, sex is a problem for other churches too. My mother could not be married in the Episcopal Church in 1956 because she had been divorced. My uncle felt unwelcome because, truth be told, he was gay. In fact most of my family thought that the whole church thing was a bunch of bunk anyway; superstition and ignorance were the words they used to describe the whole of the religious world.
It befuddled my family to no end when I decided to become a priest. But I loved God, I loved Jesus, and I loved the whole thing about Jesus bringing Good News to the poor (Luke 4:18), I loved how he treated the "least of these" and how he recruited fisherfolk, and outcasts, how he healed the sick. And most of all, I admired his pure grit and courage in facing the religious authorities of his day. It seems, that we will always have to face the religious authorities of the day.
Thankfully, I was brought up in the Episcopal Church, so getting married was no big deal; in fact it was more or less expected that family life would be normative in this church.
This is how it has been for Reformed Christianity in The Episcopal Church/Anglicanism, and in the Lutheran Church for more than 600 years. I wish Roman Catholicism were just a bit more catholic.
As I child, I said the Creed each week. In it I said; "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church". I was taught in Confirmation class that the word "catholic" means "universal". That puzzled me more since "Catholicism" seemed to be identified to a huge exclusive club, and not to all of humanity. It seemed hardly "catholic" to me.
I knew this because when I went to Mass with my friends, I was told I was not welcome to receive Communion. Rome is still making that claim, as if the Eucharistic meal instituted by Jesus were their exclusive province. That made no sense to me at all, since, when Jesus fed the multitudes on the hillsides of Galilee and elsewhere he didn't check to see if folks were card carrying "Catholics". Those folks hungered for God and Jesus fed them not just with bread and wine but with every word that comes from the mouth of God. At that point everybody, including Jesus was Jewish anyway, unless they were Samaritans or Gentiles of some other description. Jesus fed them too!
It took Episcopalians a long time to figure out that EVERYONE is welcome at God's table. After all, the Holy Table belongs to Jesus, and not to any "organization". If the church is "Catholic" then it belongs to Jesus anyway and not to a select group in Rome who decide who's in and who's out.
It took us a long time to figure out that divorced persons could be remarried. Similarly, it took a very long time to figure out that women could be ordained.
Rome still hasn't figured out that priests can be married, let alone that women can be ordained. In the meantime, an enormous scandal involving pedophilia has emerged. Rome still hasn't figured out that priests need to have background checks from an outside agency. Unfortunately the church is doing its own self policing. And frankly, that's a bit like asking the wolf to watch the hen house.
Again we figured this out and that cleaned out our clerical house in a whole hurry up. We're not without sin even yet. But the problem of child sex abuse has been largely weeded out of our church but persists in Rome and is far more widespread than many of us expected, as I pointed out in a previous post on this blog.
Now the big problem is the LGBTQ community (that's shorthand for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, and Queer). I have argued that we are becoming a Rainbow Church that is now willing to celebrate the Rainbow Marriage. I have argued the biblical base for both and believe that the move toward catholicity is irreversible.
I only wish that Roman Catholicism were a bit more catholic. A universally catholic church will learn to embrace marriage for its clergy, see women as being equal to men in every sense and even at the Church's Altar. A catholic church will ultimately embrace what God has made of all humanity; whatever race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. The day is coming when God's church will become a "House of Prayer for ALL People". I've argued that position too in this blog in an earlier post.
I do wish Roman Catholicism were a bit more catholic. Vatican II gave us such great hope. We cannot become One until we become catholic in the deepest sense of that meaning. Many Catholics pray for that Day. Many Anglicans/Episcopalians pray for that day too. We all hold to One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In the meantime, in this tiny corner of the world of faith, we believe that catholicism is very much what God wants of his church, a church that rejoices in the Rainbow, a church in which all are welcome, a church which is "A House of Prayer for ALL People".
Remember God love us all, and in particular; You!
Fr. Paul

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oscar Romero-a Prayer

A Hero of the Church
There are some few who stand head and shoulder above the rest. One such is Oscar Romero. In those dreadful days when right wing extremists began a campaign of terror, the church in El Salvador stood with the struggles of the people. A campaign of terror was launched by the revolutionary junta. Romero criticized the government and the United States for aiding and abetting the repressive regime. A turning point for Archbishop Romero was at the time of mass executions and assassinations of local clergy. He begged for a return to sanity. The reward for his tireless work for justice was his own assassination on March 24,1980. It is easy for us to become discouraged when we look around at the sing to the right we see in this country. Do not be discouraged; The Way of God will prevail, justice and the love of God will always prevail. Here is a prayer a friend of mine sent out today (Donald Krickbaum) that Romero himself composed. I commend it to you too!
Fr. Paul

"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

beyond us.

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."

~Oscar Romero

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Emerging Rainbow Church

A House of Prayer for ALL People

It seems as though we are a very minuscule, tiny corner in the world of faith. We are the ones who claim the blessing: "all the sacraments for all the baptized". We boldly announce to the world that we are "A House of Prayer for ALL People". We base this claim on biblical authority as well as on tradition, and reason. I have argued so in my first book, "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven".
Many take the opposite view focusing their arguments on Romans 1 and on several passages in Leviticus. I have dealt with these passages in depth in my book. But here's an interesting thing. When Jesus said that his house should be a "House of Prayer for all people", he didn't mention all the exceptions. Christians have argued that there were exceptions based on racial, ethnic, class, gender lines, and obvious to most...this goes conclusively and obviously for non heterosexuals.
The emerging Rainbow Church argues that when Jesus said that his church would be a "House of Prayer for all People", he meant ALL people. To Jesus there were no exceptions; certainly no exceptions of human invention such as race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. In fact Paul argues that once we are in Christ we are no longer Jew or Greek (or any other race/ethnicity), we are no longer slave or free (or anywhere else on the economic totem pole), we are no longer male or female (obviously you see a pattern emerging; that goes for orientation too!!!)
Thus we are becoming obedient to Scripture, the more we become ONE, the more we cultivate the emergence of the Rainbow Church. We may be tiny now, but God's Kingdom is at hand, just as Jesus said it was.

"A House of Prayer for All People", a biblical base.
The event is called the "Cleansing of the Temple" by biblical scholars. You can read it for yourself. It is the only event using physical force that we see in all four Gospels. You can read more in detail on a fine article in Wikipedia. Imagine if you will, King Jesus arrives at the Temple on a donkey. His retinue is every imaginable outcast, blind, maimed, deaf, the poor by the thousands, sinners of every sort and description, tax collectors and prostitutes and lets not forget the eunuchs who were very specifically excluded from the temple in Leviticus as were all the rest of the unsavory sorts that were always with Jesus.
He enters the Temple precincts. I've been there. There is a sizable area inside the Temple walls where hawkers of religious trinkets can sell their wares, flea market style. They can peddle pigeons, and other sacrificial items, for the observant folks of Judaism.
But most of the people Jesus had with him were excluded from the Holy Place by definition. We can see the conflict building throughout the Gospels. It reaches now a crescendo as he sees what he can no longer tolerate. Buying and selling on the very sacred ground that is dedicated to the Father, His Father.
Then comes the outburst. He overturns the tables, and makes a whip and chases all the traders in trinkets out of the place and manages to seal his fate. This remember is Palm Sunday. By Thursday evening, there is the Last Supper and the arrest of Jesus. The next day he is tried and crucified on charges of blasphemy.
I studied this passage with my parishioners on retreat some few years back and I asked that we study the passage this decisive event was based on. I was amazed at what I found and so were my parishioners. It is easy enough; just punch up the phrase in any biblical word search online. I use the Oremus Bible Browser. All the others will give you the same result in any and all translations.
Look at Isaiah 56. Read the whole chapter. Read it more than once. Notice that the prophet Isaiah is interested in justice as he often is. Notice that the prophet does NOT want the foreigner separated from the people of God. This is quite a challenge to a religious tradition that is based on the exclusive nature of purity. Then the prophet does not want to allow the eunuch to say that he is a "dry tree". Look at that very carefully.
In my earlier blog post on the Rainbow Marriage, I argued that the eunuch held an interesting place in the culture of the Ancient Near East. What makes Matthew 19 interesting is that Jesus refers to those born "that way". He is not talking about castrated males here, but people who were born without an interest in the opposite sex. You cannot escape the fact. Jesus makes his statements in the context of his teaching on marriage. Read Matthew 19:7-12 again. And he notes that his teaching is "difficult for many to accept".
Thus Isaiah is saying something that is difficult to accept. Foreigners and eunuchs are part of God's loving embrace. God wants justice for both. Consider how we treat foreigners and eunuchs.
So what are eunuchs anyway. Castrated males? How can they be "born that way"? Explain that to me. I'm waiting. It seems obvious to me that we're talking about folks who are not like heterosexuals and they were born not like heterosexuals. I've always known people who were "different". Some called them names.
Jesus calls it as he sees it. They were "born that way".
But Jesus didn't want to exclude foreigners or eunuchs from his Temple. Neither did he want lepers or outcasts of any sort to be excluded. He wanted his place of worship to be "A House of Prayer for ALL People". Moreover, he was willing to give his life for them; more correctly, Jesus wanted to give his life for ALL.
And so he did. And from that time his church has grown like topsy all over the world. Until it came to this one last group of outcasts. Finally there is one tiny, minuscule church that is willing to be obedient to Jesus.
He overturned those the tables of the Temple many years ago. The shock waves of that event reverberate down through the centuries, and yes through the millennia. The prophet Isaiah set the stage well before that. Then King Jesus gave his life so that his place of worship might one day become what he wanted to be all along; "A House of Prayer for ALL People".
Thus there is this Emerging Rainbow Church. It will build across denominational lines. Many Roman Catholics are very quietly finding ways to become part of this movement. Other Protestant denominations are struggling with the question.
For now, there is the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury may set its sanctions against us. That is their prerogative. But we can do none other than embrace Jesus, because when Jesus stretched out his loving arms on the hard wood of the cross, he did that for EVERYONE!!!
And remember, God loves you, and so do I.
Fr. Paul

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Rainbow Wedding in Chicago

A Celebration and Blessing of Civil Union

I met Andre and Kevin on Facebook. My son introduced them to me when he celebrated their engagement to his friends right there in front of God and everyone on Facebook. Being who I am, I rejoiced in the announcement. Both young men were children of the church, but their particular denominations were a bit hesitant to celebrate and bless their love. Not me! I was among the first to congratulate them.
Andre and Kevin then wondered aloud to Michael if I would travel from Boston to Chicago to perform their nuptials. They asked, and I gladly accepted. I would travel half way around the world to celebrate and bless the wedded bliss of those who wish to love one another, just as Jesus said we should. After all I am a priest of the church and this is what we do. We marry off folks, we baptize babies and adults, we bury the dead. We visit the sick. And as long as there is life in me I will do the deeds and travel far and wide for anybody asking the church's blessing for any and all of the above sacraments.
I know that some churches are reluctant to bless folks who love one another if they happen to be of the same sex and propose to enter into covenantal relationships with one another. But I do not represent "some churches". I represent one tiny corner of the Christian/Faith world that rejoices as I do when folks fall in love. When that love gets serious and is more than just infatuation but is of the sort that wishes to be faithful in a life long union, I'll be the first in line to bless such a union.
There are no barriers to such a union in my church. There are no racial, ethnic, class, gender or orientation barriers in my church. We are tiny. Not all of our priests are gung-ho about such relationships, but I am. We are a scandal to much of the Communion. Our Archbishop has rattled our knuckles with his ecclesiastical ruler. But we all smiled and embraced the beloved of God and removed all barriers to Baptism, Marriage, and Burial and even ordination!
When I got home from Chicago, I put it up on Facebook that "The Deed is Done". Scores of people expressed their joy and enthusiasm and were quite complimentary to me for being "cool", one even called me a "dude"...a first for this cleric.
But then I was taken to task by one of my West Virginian friends. He questioned the blessing by saying that I was merely playing up to the culture and fudged on my responsibility to preach the truth of God. This he suggested was the more loving thing to do. I tried to reason with the man, alas to no avail.
I removed his posts from my Facebook page ultimately because I felt we all have a right to go to our marriage bed with delight and glee just as I did when I married my lovely bride 31 years ago. When we heterosexuals get married, we have the privilege of doing so without our loves being a matter of debate.
I have decided the same will hold true for my LGBTQ friends. My church is a "House of Prayer for All People". PERIOD. We are not Jews and Greeks, we are not slave and free, we are not male and female in my church. We are one in Christ just as the blessed Apostle to the Gentiles said (Galatians 3:28). It follows we are not defined by race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. We are defined as being one in Christ. Thus I have argued before in this blog when I set forth a biblical base for the Rainbow Marriage.
Please don't be offended when I use the name of Jesus and Christ. When I use the Name, I am not doing so to be exclusive, but to be centered. I am clearly Christ centered in the sense that I believe that Jesus is the clearest example I have seen yet of the love of God made flesh in human form. But I am not Christ exclusive. Neither was Jesus. When he fed the multitudes on the hillsides of Galilee he didn't check church membership, or any other convenience of human classification.
The only requirement to be loved by God in the Person of Jesus, is to be human. That will suffice. Be human, that is all that Jesus requires.
And that's all I require too. So if you want to get married, have a baby/child/adult to be baptized, have a loved one who is sick, or if there are the dead to be buried, just let me know. Or let any priest of the church know. And we will be there for you.
By the way, I am an Episcopalian, if that matters to anybody. So far that's the only Catholic and Apostolic church around that comes right out and says such a thing.
And remember, God loves you and so do I,
Fr. Paul


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Perversion of Christianity

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.


Joshua Goins


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

Pulling together Labor and the Middle Class

King’s Beach Statement

by

Paul Bresnahan

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.


Preamble:


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.

2. Wages

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

It Gets better




It is so important we get this message out there. I've been through some tough days with some wonderful people. God loves you, so do I, so do a million more.
Get the word out there!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

"I believe in God; its the institutional church I don't believe in..."

We clergy are often called upon by strangers to administer the sacraments. Not long ago, I got a call from a perfect stranger, and was asked to go to the bedside of a dying woman. There I stood with a grief stricken family, no questions asked, no invoices sent, and administered the last rites of the church as any priest worth his or her salt would do.
Hundreds of baptisms, weddings and funerals of perfect strangers have come and then they've gone, never to be heard from again.
They believed in God; all of them, it was just the Institutional Church they didn't believe in.
Then I thought about it and wondered how in the world we'll ever get to proclaim the Gospel unless we do that in community. Today's Gospel lesson is set within the context of conflict. If two folks are at disagreement, they are to grow up and work it out together. If that doesn't work, then grow up; get a few others and get your facts straight. If that doesn't work take the matter before the church; lets say the vestry, for instance, lay the matter before the church, grow up and figure out a way forward. If that doesn't work treat the offender like a Gentile (outsider) or a tax collector. Interestingly enough, we know how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus found room in his heart for all. So should we too.
So it seems that at the heart of the Christian Gospel there is the skill of conflict management. And thus when two or three are assembled together, we're told there too is God in their midst.
This is a model for modern life. The call has gone out to work out the particulars by growing up, facing facts, face to face with others, particularly when you find yourself at loggerheads with another. We find the rule honored more in the breach than in the observance so often.
Thus much of the world lets itself off the hook though this classic cop-out. "I don't have to go to church to be Christian or to believe in God".
How often I have heard that go by me and just let it go. "I find God in nature, down at the seaside, or in the forest, in a beautiful sunset," or my personal favorite; "at the golf course".
This is all a giant cop-out.
It is like saying; "I believe in Democracy; its just Government and Politicians I don't believe in."
Or; "I believe in Justice; its just the Courts and the lawyers I don't believe in".
What brought this home to me was a conversation I had not all that long ago with an attorney. The same predictable cop-out; "I believe in God; its just the institutional church I don't believe in."
"Well then, why do you want your daughter baptized here?" Oh well, some grandmother somewhere or another insisted, and so, of course I gladly baptized that baby. I joined all those other hundreds in marriage, and being rather late in the game, I commended the dying and the dead to God's keeping. It is quite simply what I was ordained to do, and as a matter of fact I was only too glad to do it.
But, I cannot help but think, if I end up in jail in the middle of the night, and call on a lawyer to bail me out, I'll get a hefty bill in the mail.
A man of God doesn't get to send out invoices in the same way.
So I am left to wonder with you; if you want your democracy, you with have to put up with your government and your politicians; if you want your justice, you will have to put up with your courts and your lawyers; but if you want your God, the church and her men and women of God may simply be dismissed with a casual dismissal; "I believe in God, its just the institutional church I don't believe in".
Folks I don't buy that any more.
I hope you don't either.
And when you hear those words again I do hope you challenge them. If you use them yourself, I hope you'll think twice before using them again.
And most of all; I hope we'll grow up a bit and face facts in community. Our Churches, our Government, and our Courts need us to salvage what we can of this civilization. I believe it is still worth saving.
Fr. Paul

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Sanctification of Time

Each and every day in the Christian Year is set aside to remind us of the sanctification of time itself. Speaking in terms of Einstein's physics, as we sanctify time we sanctify space, both are related one to the other in a dynamic of relativity. All things then are brought under the reign of God, then, for as we sanctify one, we sanctify all, for as the scripture says, God is all in all. (I Cor 15)

Wade in the Water - Dianne Strong

y

Oh yes, indeed, God is going to trouble the water...you mark my words...God is going to trouble the water!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Honoring American Labor! Mass Rallys all Across America!

Mass Rally at the Lincoln Memorial
Every State House, City/Town Hall in America
Labor Day, 2011

THE KING’S BEACH STATEMENT
by
PAUL B. BRESNAHAN
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 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.


Preamble:
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. WE INSIST ON UNION PROTECTION FOR THE AMERICAN WORKER.
Figure out how to bring our jobs home again. We want to buy American made products again.
2. Wages
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.