Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage Equality, Health Care and The Beloved of God

Marriage Equality, Health Care and The Beloved of God

And thanks be to God, that would be YOU! 

As a long time and outspoken advocate of the poor and for marriage equality, I greet the recent decisions of the Supreme Court with joy! Not everyone will. God knows that in the world of “faith” there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth over these decisions. But not from me. 

I have been and will continue to be an activist priest. And it was more than a decade ago that I wrote  “Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven”; an outspoken satire about the church’s skittishness over human sexuality. Naturally I was excoriated by the right wing of my church, but most of the Beloved of God appreciated the work I was trying to do. 

(NB: You can have your own autographed copy by contacting me: paulbresnahan@gmail.com)

Most of the Beloved of God in our tiny corner of the world of faith understood that EVERYONE must come within the saving embrace of Christ. We’ve paid the price; we’ve reaped the benefit; and now I must say, many of us will feel vindicated.

Which brings me to the subject of “The Uneven Sidewalk”

As a  child I was fond of walking with my hands clasped behind my back and my head down. Many wondered why I seemed so sad and what could be done about it. And it is true that there were things in my life that made me sad, but that’s not the reason I carried myself the way I did.

Truth be told, there is a practical reason for the way I walked then and the way I walk now. The sidewalks are uneven. Even when the town of Sandwich finishes this repaving project along Main Street, and please God, they’ll finish it before the 4th, even then, I’ll walk the way I do with my hands clasped behind my back, and my head down. God knows I’m not that steady on my feet or sure footed. A mountain goat I’m not!

But pensive yes, I am a pensive sort. I’ve always loved a long walk through the city streets of my home in Somerville and Cambridge. And then when I was older through the city streets of Toronto and Boston. I have my favorite walks and currently going up to the boardwalk here in Sandwich or walking by the seaside in Lynn; these I find so deeply satisfying. And yes I am a pensive sort. 

There is a deep place in my spirit that turns itself to God when I write, when I pray, and yes, when I walk with my hands clasped behind my back and my head down to keep a careful watch out for uneven sidewalks and streets pock marked with potholes; such is the Pathway to God’s inclusive Love for ALL.

Yes, I am a pensive sort and I like to take whatever time I can to be with God. And it is out of that deep place where my heart turns itself to the Beloved of God; the poor and my family. We grew up poor. My uncle and two of my boys happen to be gay. And I knew many years ago that God loves the poor, and that God loves my uncle and my children. 

So I practice the Presence of God when I pray, when I write and when I walk. I discover that I have acquired the gift of approachability through all this Practice.

The last few days have been difficult for me. Family, friends, colleagues, parishioners, turn to me with some regularity for counsel on the matters of difficulty, of depression, anxiety, and that persistent panicky feeling that I find intrinsic to much of human experience. In the past few days, the intensity and frequency with which folks have turned to me has increased significantly. 

I hear in these voices a lamentation like the one David made for Saul and Jonathan. “O how the mighty have fallen.” It can be the death of a loved one or a mighty warrior like Saul. It can also be that certain nameless fear, that chronic feeling in the pit of your stomach that will not go away. It can be testy relationships between those we care about. On and on and on it goes.

The Psalmist speaks to the matter; “Out of the depths have I called out to you O God” “O God hear my voice!”

That’s the missing piece for so many in our time. When we cry out of our depths, we often act as though we have no one to cry out to. So many live without God. Not everyone has a Jesus to turn to. And many forget that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can cheer the downcast spirit. And for those of us who do have a God, it is often the case that we simply cannot find a way fit all the pieces together as we make our way to the kingdom of God

In this context today, we have David’s Lamentation for Saul and Jonathan, we have the poetic Lament of the 130th Psalm. And Paul’s plea for the generosity of the church in Corinth to make provision for the church in Jerusalem. We’ve been trying to fit the pieces together for a very long time and when we try to do so on our own we often get lost or mired in the muck of our own making. 

Thankfully in the Gospel we have two folks who understand that there is a profound difference in spirituality between the Lamentation of David and the Psalter and the Hope of the Gospel.

Jarius turns to Jesus.
And so does the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for a dozen years or so.
"My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live," says the former
And the latter; "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well, she reasons to herself.
Jesus, aware that the woman had touched him with her faith, turns to her to say; “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

The matter of Jarius’ little girl posed a more difficult problematic. The poor child had already died. “Why trouble the teacher any further?”
Not so quick. It is not yet time for lamentation. It is time to demonstrate the power of God over sin and death. It is time to show who Jesus is for us. It is time for us to come to see why it is so central to our faith that he is the One to turn to with our problems, all of our problems. 

The Gospel passage continues with these words; 
"Do not fear, only believe." When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement."

Then he told them not to go telling every Tom, Dick and Harry what just happened. It is not yet time for him to go up to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s intention for Jesus and humankind. That will come soon enough. For now, just give the girl a little something to eat. God knows she’s been through a lot today and so have you all.

You see, the question is this; “Who do we have to turn to in all our sorrows, our lamentations, our confusion, our hurt, our perplexity, our sadness and melancholy?”

There is God. The one who is at the center of our souls, the Holy One who is closer to us than the very next breath we take.
There is Jesus. The One who gave his life for his Beloved. That would be you and me.
There is the Holy Spirit. The continuing Presence of God our Creator, Savior, and the Holy Wisdom from on High.

We have a whole community of God to turn to.
The essence of this turning is pure simplicity.
That is why I write and pray and take long walks. 

The human community may turn to the Community of God and I rejoice that The Beloved of God is growing in its inclusivity. 

Yes, I am a pensive sort. 
I love my long walks especially at this time of year when so much serendipity surrounds us.

As I walk along, or write or pray I find myself in what Paul Tillich called; The Eternal Now"; the Now that never ends but is always alive in the heart of God and in our hearts as well. Thus we are joined heart to heat in the "Now" of God.

Words keep coming to me like these; 
“Thou leadest me beside the still waters.
Thou restorest my soul.”
And yes.
“Out of the depths of my soul cries out to Thee”
O God hear my prayer”

Poetry comes to mind. My own poetry. Words of my own like these;

The Beloved of God

A moment with You.
A moment with God.
Time to walk
Time to breathe
The Holy Name
Just the faintest breath of a prayer.

Being alone in the Silence
Being alone in the Presence
Being with You
The God of my Being
Never alone with You.

The uneven sidewalk
The pock marked potholes 
Of the sacred pathway
We tread together.

The salt air
The marshland waters
The birdcall of the morning
The glorious rising of the Sun
The glorious rising of the Lord

And Jarius' desperate prayer for his Beloved
That Jesus would take a thought for him
And his little girl?

“Arise little girl”
The Beloved of God
She and you and me
ALL, The Beloved of God.
The uneven sidewalk 
The pock marked pathway
To God.

And now may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.

Fr Paul

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