Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How Long?

When I was a child I dutifully read my history books in my well equipped school, in my 98% white community. I naively thought, "How could we as people allowed these atrocities, these horrible acts of violence and oppression to happen?" Then I breathed a naive white privileged sigh of relief because our culture, our society had the come to Jesus moment and  now people of color had equality.

Then I grew up and I made friends and I listened and I got out of my comfort zone. As I grew, it began to hurt as I realized a few things in sheer HORROR:

1. I looked at my white arm and saw for the first time all the white privilege I was born with, that I couldn't just sweep under the rug, I couldn't wish away, that I have undoubtedly benefited from. Why wouldn't I want my privilege? Because I might be an idealist but I dream of a world with true equality and as long as my privilege exists equality does not! Alas I have it, I try to be aware of it, can I use it to bring equality? God I hope so and I pray I have the courage to do so.

2. The Bible which holds so much truth (different from fact) for me, was (and is) used to oppress and manipulate people. It is used to justify absolutely horrendous behavior and unspeakable violence. This book with a message of love one another, be the voice of the voiceless, and a radical lover of people named Jesus...

3. The one that took me the longest to realize and the one I find most horrific: For the most part it is no longer legal to segregate, to lynch, to discriminate, to keep slaves. So there we have it right? Equality. To my horror I began to realize that society had only changed a little, there were legalities that guaranteed equal opportunity, the right to vote and so forth. Yet injustice still lives and breathes in our culture. Only now, legalized racism, is a more covert operation of quiet systematic oppression and injustice that was until recently swept under the rug by those in power.

When I didn't think my heart could break anymore, it of course did. Do you know why? Because I started to see all the places in our country where systematic oppression exists. I worked in a food pantry, where I found that most people had no boot straps to pull on, and that the cycle of poverty is real and there isn't much help to break it. It is wrapped up in access to education, jobs with fair pay, health care, food, shelter, child care.

Then there is the oppression of my sisters and brothers who are LGBTQ who are denied the privilege of marriage, who face work place, and housing discrimination. Then there is the oppression of immigrants who are also my brothers and sisters, HUMAN BEINGS! Then there is the oppression of.... I could go on all day long.

So I ask today, how long? How long are we going to sit on our comfortable couches shaking our heads, hearts breaking, praying, as we watch the evening news like zombies? How many transgendered children have to kill themselves? How many gay men have to be beaten? How many riots does it take? When will we let our breaking hearts lead us?  When we will stop saying "those people" and "they"? When will we recognize all people as human? When will we say there really is an unbalance of power? When are we going to stop waiting for Jesus to to turn the tables of our modern day temples? When will we heed the call, the call to LOVE, the call to be the voice for the voiceless?

Lest you think this is some political rant where I let my liberal flag fly, it is not. Lest you think this is me saying I am "anti-police", it is not.  Lest you think this is me condoning violence, it is not. This is about faith for me and the life I am called to because I follow a radical lover called Jesus. Who taught a way of life that was not about righteousness or rules but about radical world changing love and justice. A message about power and powerlessness that was meant a revolution of the heart not the politics of the Roman empire (or any current empires).

The news isn't good this week as we watch yet another city burn, could the smoke be the cries we refuse to hear? Nepal has seen massive destruction. It is hard to find hope. I see it though in watching first hand the folks going before the supreme court today to fight for equality in marriage. I see it in my fellow clergy as they march for justice and peace.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Crawling Around in the Dark

It was my first semester of seminary, I had moved my family almost 800 miles away from our closest friends and family, our daughter was just barely two, life was complex. It was toward the end of the semester, I was in my Intro to Worship class which had quickly become a favorite because it made sense to my non traditional brain. The professor pushed edgy to the edge. He was passionate and lively and unconventional. I had just recently figured out that he was a large part of why we ended up here. We didn't realize it at the time that he was a professor. When we visited with our one year old she started making noise in chapel and we got tense, he wrapped his arms around all three of us and said, "Her sounds are welcome here." Never have I heard warmer words of welcome in my life, my child was welcome to be a child.

I respected this professor, so one afternoon late in the semester when he had us draw our prayers on colorful paper, I didn't think much of it. Being confronted with pouring my heart out before God was more emotional than I anticipated. You see my life was messy, the move, the stress of seminary, the financial strain of one less than needed income, even our marriage was a mess. Oh did I pray! Then the professor collected our prayers, threw them into the middle of the room, turned out the lights and had us crawl around on the floor looking for our prayers. He started out talking and then yelling.

The whole thing became very emotional for me. I was glad it was dark as I felt the familiar sting in my throat and welling in my eyes, I don't like showing that kind of emotion in a room full of people I barely know. Eventually the lights came back on, we sat on the floor, grabbed a near by prayer and read it out to the group. Mine was never read but it didn't matter to me because I may have bawled. The whole point of this exercise, at least as I remember it, was that ministry is like this sometimes; crawling around in the dark, grasping at prayers you can't see, bumping into people, feeling awkward, and vulnerable. It was confusing but ok because there was a level of trust established in our relationships at that point.

This week in my fourth official week as a pastor I keep coming back to this moment in my education. There are two things I can take away from this lesson: the first being I reacted emotionally to it which was odd for me and may be why I remember it. The second, my professor was absolutely right. I spend my days feeling confused and like I am crawling around in the dark looking for what I don't know I need. Trying to ask the right questions and get to know people some of whom have no desire to be known.

The only difference is my personal life, while having just gone through another huge transition, is in a much better place. At the end of that semester I had to write a project which ended up leading me to ask really difficult questions about all that was going on in my life. I didn't have to courage to write the questions into my paper, I wasn't ready to be that vulnerable. At this point I can write about the question, would our marriage survive the year let alone three years? It was tense. I couldn't name it I wasn't ready. In case that is a cliff hanger for you, the marriage survived. I made peace with my call, my self doubt, and my guilt.

These days I ask questions about living into my call, about what ministry with these people who I walk with looks like, and if the church (the wider church) can survive. The beauty of crawling around in the dark, confused, maybe lonely, is that somewhere eventually we find the light. Even if there is only a little light eventually we find it and usually it's with the community of fellow believers we are crawling around with. We are not alone in the dark.

Today I am grateful for such a powerful lesson that has carried me into this ministry.