Friday, January 27, 2012

Heaven and Human Sexuality

It's Time to Grow Up

Let's face it, it is time for the church and the culture around it to grow up and face facts. Gay folks have been around for a very long time. They're not going away. They're in our families, our schools, our workplace, and yes, they are in our churches.
My uncle and two of my kids happen to be gay. My family is a microcosm of what's going on in the wider culture. To tell you the truth, my family did fine with this. Years ago, we didn't talk about it much because it simply wasn't a matter for polite conversation. My grandmother simply said that my uncle was a "confirmed" bachelor.
My family still doesn't talk about it much because it is a big non issue for us. But there are grown men and women in very responsible positions who are calling the LGBTQ thing a sin. They want to deny our families equal rights in the name of family values.
What do you think our families are? Do you want to deny us the right to love our loved ones? Do you want to deny my children the right to love someone if they find someone special in their lives? Seriously, do you want to deny God's blessing on those God created?
This book is dated now. But it is still out there and now it is in digital format so you can download it from Amazon or iBooks. It is a bit of a whimsical and satirical romp at the church's expense. I take off the gloves and hands out some good jabs and jibes at some politicians...and that was before the current crop. I never thought I'd say this but George W. Bush is beginning to look good compared to the the amazing collection of mugwumps and scalawags that the Republican Party is parading out there on the stumps right now.
My grandmother would be rolling in her grave if she knew how far the party of Lincoln has fallen. She was so proud of how nobly we fought for an end to slavery, how we pulled together during the depression and the war, and how we worked so well together for Civil Rights. She did vote for FDR...but lets face it, the country was at stake then. (As it is now too!)
She loved my uncle very much. He was her son. She loved his partner of more than 50 years. She would have loved my children too, had she lived to see the day.
I miss her.
But more than her, I miss her kindly generous spirituality. She was also a fierce defender of her family. So I wrote this book. I invoke her spirit. I fight fiercely for my family. I am proud of my church that it is grown up enough to face facts, albeit with mixed feelings and in a somewhat awkward way.
Heaven is not far away. Heaven is at hand. It is in the love we bear for one another. So lets face facts, and grow up and live in a kinder gentler kind of way. There I go quoting another Republican!
Fr. Paul

Thursday, January 26, 2012

From the Rising of the Sun

It is much later in the day than sunrise, but the glorious light just broke though the clouds. I can remember like it was yesterday, how my grandmother would run around the house, it seems, opening the curtains and exclaiming "Look at that Glorious Sunlight!". I capitalized those words because that's how she said it.
So here we are, yet another day, and a few words began to emerge from my spirit and my soul. My memory began to knit a few thoughts together and then they all came into place when I looked them up.
Psalm 84! Who can do better at expressing the soul's deepest prayers than this;

84 Quam dilecta!


How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of

the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.


The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.


Happy are they who dwell in your house! *

they will always be praising you.


Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.


Those who go through the desolate valley will find

it a place of springs, *

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.


They will climb from height to height, *

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.


LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; *

hearken, O God of Jacob.


Behold our defender, O God; *

and look upon the face of your Anointed.


For one day in your courts is better than

a thousand in my own room, *

and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.


For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *

he will give grace and glory;


No good thing will the LORD withhold *

from those who walk with integrity.


O LORD of hosts, *

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gone Fishing

These folks have gone fishing. They are common folk. There were political revolutionaries, a tax collector or two, some prostitutes, and a kind of rag tag group. They were all sinners of one sort or another, and not at all admired by the upright ones of the Temple. It was the likes of these that changed the world.
Long before these folks there was Jonah; he was told to go to Nineveh that great city and tell them to knock off their sin and corruption. He went the other way in defiance of what he knew was better, and went through an unfortunate episode with a big fish. He decided to pray from the belly of the whale and lo and behold, there was an upset tummy and he was spit up onto the shore. Finally he did go to the great city. He gave them fair warning. They listened to him and repented of their evil ways and then, as the story goes, God repented of the evil he had intended to do to them. For some reason Jonah got angry with God because of this success but there you go.
The encounter with God is never easy.
The fisherfolk encountered the Love of God made flesh and blood, and came to know him as Jesus. It seems so simple as we read the account of the call. "Follow me" is all he said, and they followed. They were not vetted, examined or educated in any way. He invited them. The followed.
My experience of call came out of those long and sleepless nights when I was a child wondering about what happened to my dad when he died. The trauma left me often sleepless fearful of nightmares.
It came to me in the silence of my heart.
"Don't you know there's a special place in my heart for your dad?"
The question came from the conversation I often had with the silence in my soul.
The silence became a Presence somewhere along the way.
And when I heard the question the Presence gave me, I exulted like a child playing in the waves at the ocean's edge.
And I decided to become a Priest.
39 years later, I wrote this prayer of Self-Dedication.
It speaks of the Silence that became a Presence to me.
In that Silence, I found God.
And not long afterward, the Love of God made flesh and blood found me.
We call that name Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Or Jesus.
Here is that prayer:

Now in the quiet of the day, I beckon to my soul and listen.

There is only silence

It is a silence I love to return to.

Because I am not alone there.

In that silence I come to my heart of hearts.

The silence becomes a Presence.

And comes to life in a way that invites me to love.

The Presence wants to love me.

I resist that.

But the silent Presence insists.

I look again into the mirror of my soul and see the mystery

It wells up within me to gratitude.

I search for a name for the mystery.

And then do I remember God.

I discover that God is there within my heart.

And God’s heart beats within me and among us.

There is a love that speaks to me.

And extends its Heart toward me and fills me.

I find myself aware and awake.

To the joy of life and sorrow of suffering; the ugliness of hateful violence.

The noble beauty of creative art,

The sin that destroys the self and seeks to destroy others.

God heart moves in mine and dispels the fear.

Hear the Word of God and listen

God requires justice, love, mercy and compassion

And Jesus reaches out his arms to the farthest ends of every human heart.

Here and I dedicate myself to Jesus.

In the poor and the homeless, the hungry and those who suffer.

The heart of Jesus moves in me, and the love of God

Knows no bounds.

A New Idea

Jesus had a new idea.

'I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ ~John 13:34.

This he said shortly before he was crucified. He thought that this would be the Way and The Truth and the Life. Perhaps if we could just Love One Another. He said that no one can come to the knowledge and love of God unless we do love one another.

It amazes me that Christians have used this one glorious sentence to play a game of spiritual exclusivity and one upsmanship as if the use of the syllables that constitute the name "Jesus" would suffice to secure the path to salvation.

Jesus made it much simpler. Love one another. Nothing more, nothing less. That's what it is to be a follower of Jesus. Mind you there are lots of non followers who do the same. They too are the Way, The Truth and the Life.

I have a new idea; "Love one another".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King

Allow me to share these words with you in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Prayers of the People

Second Sunday After the Epiphany

Martin Luther King Day 2012

We thank you O God for those who, in every generation, have brought this world hope for justice and freedom for all without regard to those barriers which so often separate us one from another; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For Abraham and all the mothers and fathers of faith down through the ages who had the courage to look to heaven for hope; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For your servant Moses, who led the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land and gave us the Law through which we learn to love you and love one another; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For the prophets and wise men and women of every age who fearlessly proclaimed the message of freedom from oppression and obedience to God’s Law; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For the founding Fathers of this nation who brought forth on this land a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that freedom shall ever reign from shore to shore and that the People are sovereign; Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, who proclaimed an end to slavery and gave his life for the freedom of all; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For those women and men who brought universal suffrage to all, and for those who continue to work for full freedom and equality for women and men everywhere; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

For Dr. Martin Luther King whom we remember this day, for his Dream of a Land where Freedom rings from every mountain and hill across this good land, Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

And above all for your son Jesus Christ, for the gift of his life, for the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life, for his compassion and love for all without regard to orientation, gender, class, race, ethnicity or language and for his command that we love one another, may Jesus’ church become and remain “A House of Prayer for ALL People”; Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Celebrant; We thank your for your servant Dr. Martin Luther King who led your children to become free at last, Grant that your church, may make no peace with oppression, but raise up prophets in every generation, so that we may come to love and respect the dignity of every human being.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Persistence of Joy!

Depression and Priesthood

This is such a difficult time of year for so many people. All these images of joyful people gathered with their families, with smiles written across their faces, and full of radiant happiness; all of this can be difficult for those who do not share in the joy.

In my line of work, not only do the joyful gather on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Most Holy Night of the year, many also come to my office to pour their hearts out over great, deep and insistent depression.

I was working on the phone with someone not all that long ago, a young man in his twenties. He was so despondent that he was in fact wondering how to go on the way he was. Life had become close to hopeless and the prospect of living many more years this way was becoming overwhelming.

I listened intently. I searched my heart and my spirit for something to say when this finally came to me;
"Have you forgotten how to love?"
There was a long silence.
I thought of a plant or even a goldfish. Anything. Something.
But there was Nothing.
The despair deepened.
Fear began to take hold, when I thought to ask the question again.
"Have you forgotten how to love?"

Then I stumbled across the image of the manger and asked this question very, very softly and with a profound degree of tentative respect;
"Imagine a baby, it is cold and the baby is alone. The baby has no home. His mother is very young and unmarried. They are poor and they are homeless.
Would it be possible for you to pick up that child and give him some warmth and human affection?
Or would you leave the baby there unloved?"

Still a long silence.
Yet I insisted on an answer.
There was a voice on the verge of tears that said, "Of course I would pick up the child".

So then, there was another long silence.
"Would you embrace the child?"
Could you love the child?"
More silence.

"The Child is You", I said.

After a time, I went on;
"This is why we have Christmas.
It is to remind us that the Holy Child is YOU!
You may notice that you are sometimes cold, far from home, alone, and uncertain about your future, poor, despondent.
Yes, that is why The Child was born in that cold, stable, of an unwed Mother.
He came into the world to remind you that you are invited to pick up the Child in your own arms, to enfold him with your own warmth and love.
But this is the greater lesson of Christmas.
The love of that Child is not just for God or his Son Jesus.
That love is for all of God's children, rich and poor alike, male and female too, all races and ethnicities and yes friends, for gay folks as well as for the rest of us."

"The Holy Child of Bethlehem, you see, is not someone from a long time ago and in a faraway place.
That Holy Child is YOU!"

Thus I spoke that night with a loved one.
Thus I speak with you.

Remember to love the Child of Bethlehem within you.

Merry Christmas and Joy to the World.
Fr. Paul