Sunday, January 20, 2019

Resistance

We are Resistance
As sure as the Dutch underground.
We are not the only Resistance,
it is true,
There are others who do not
walk our Way
and we join hands
with person's of goodwill wherever we can
But we are Resistance
Fighting not
against flesh and blood enemies
Whom we in fact are called
to find a way to love,
But against
"principalities, powers,
and the world rulers
of this present darkness.
Wherever Brown Baby Jesus
is separated from His parents
at the border
Or denied electricity and relief aid
In Puerto Rico;
Wherever Black Jesus'
water remains poisoned
Or he is shot and his body
left in the street;
Or LGBTQ Jesus
is denied room in the homeless shelter
on religious grounds;
Or veteran Jesus, coughing up blood,
is denied access to legal remedy
for toxic exposure.
Wherever human beings
are made expendable
On behalf of powers and earthly rulers
Because of race or gender
or where they fall
on the economic food chain.
We are Resistance.
And it is dangerous.
Jesus told us the time was coming
"when whoever kills you will think
they are offering service to God."
The clouds grow dark overhead
the hate speech grows louder
But we are Resistance
And we know Who will win
even if we never see it.

Monday, January 14, 2019

On Taking Down The Christmas Trees

Taking down the Christmas tree
is bittersweet these days
A harder task than in years gone by
Not just because
the getting up and down to take the tree
out of the stand
is harder on older joints and bones
But because
I feel the years deep inside.
True, this may not be yet
the winter of my life
But it is definitely the Autumn
And I wonder
as I take down these trees
and thank them, when no one is looking
for the joy the brought us
About the impact of my own life
And commit myself
to the planting of trees
in whose shade
I will never sit

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lessons From An Aikido Dojo

I recently returned to practicing Aikido, a martial art which originated in Japan, after not practicing for about 15 years.  I had previously practiced for about 10 years (off and on depending on where I lived) and have always viewed this martial art which focuses on staying centered and redirecting the energy of an attack as part of my spiritual disciplines, a kind of "moving meditation," and a place where I could focus on something other than all the stuff swirling about in my head at the time.  I still see this as true.  But during a recent class there were some things that have jump started some interesting theological reflections.  Let me share 4 of them with you:

1) It does not take long to fall back into really bad habits once we stop practicing a discipline; whether that discipline is a set of disciplines that include prayer and good works or the techniques of aikido.  Things that I knew to be appropriate technique vanished from my physical actions with lack of use.

2) At one point my Sensei (teacher), after watching me attempt a technique, asked, "Is that the technique we demonstrated?"  I had to admit it was not.  I was trying to move my Uke (the person receiving the throw or technique), to muscle them into going where I wanted them to go.  In the process, I risked injuring because I was forcing the technique by using too much pressure on the wrist lock involved.  I had to ask myself, "How often do I take one of the teachings of Jesus and try to force it to happen rather than simply engaging my own self and my center in obedience?  How often do I, without attending to, hurt someone that I am actually trying to help?"  And finally, "How often do I, because I'm not getting the result I want, change from doing what Jesus taught me to do and do something that looks 'kinda like' that teaching...but really isn't?"  It's a rather sobering thought. Or at least it was for me.

3) My two Sensei keep saying the same thing: "You're not trying to move your Uke; focus on doing the technique properly and your Uke will move."  Now stay with me.....I believe that following Jesus will change the world.  That loving our neighbor will change the world.  That working for justice will change the world.  But as I thought about this, reflected on it, prayed about it, I realized that I may have it a bit askew.  I cannot force the world to change.  When I try to force change, people can be hurt who I don't intend to hurt.  HOWEVER if I "do the technique properly;"  if I love my neighbor, regardless of their response; if I live and work for justice, whether Court cases are won or people appreciate my actions or not;  the world cannot help but change.  Now this is tricky, because part of what Jesus taught is that the world may try to kill you for doing these things.  But the world will change.  Slowly. Bit by bit.  Or as one of the old hymns says, "Not with sword's loud clashing, or roll of stirring drums, with deeds of love and mercy the Heavenly Kingdom comes."

Now I won't claim that I have these kinds of insights every time I go to the dojo.  Most nights I leave tired and with sore aching knees (did I mention it's been 15 years?)  But sometimes something breaks through that I can chew on for a while.  This was one of those nights and I wanted to share it with you.  Whether you're an Aikido student or not, the truths are there:  We have to maintain our spiritual practices to keep them alive; we need to practice what we've been shown and not change it by trying to force it; and if we're living and moving from our center (that connection we have with the Higher Power that for me is Jesus) the world will change.  We've been promised that: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Shalom

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Owning The Horror Of The Moments When God Acts

As I'm looking at the passages for this Sunday (Exodus 2:1-10 and Matthew 2:19-23) I owe a debt of gratitude to Rev. Dr. Anna Carter Florence's sermon The Girls In The Reeds.  You can find it both on YouTube and links thru Day1.org.  This sermon helped to stoke the fire of my thoughts on these passages.  Phyllis Trible's Texts of Terror, long ago demanded that we listen for the voices of the voiceless when we read scripture.  This commitment stirred the fire even more.

When I widen my reading of the passage in Exodus to include 1:8-2:10, it truly becomes a
"text of terror."  It begins with a racist speech tainted with fear that these "Israelite people" will become so numerous that they will "join our enemies" and "take over the country" or "escape."  It acknowledges the need for their presence, even as it tries to work them to death.  This oppressive plan moves from "forced labor" to a secret plan to enlist the midwives in genocide.  Thwarted by the midwives, Pharaoh turns to the public, making a royal appeal to violence against the Hebrew infants by the general populace (Exodus 1:22).

Moses' mother hides him from this pogrom for three months.  What was it like for her?  Did she listen to other mothers wail as their sons were torn from their arms?  What is it like to weave a basket and coat it with bitumen and pitch as you watch your son wave his little arms lying in his blanket? To know that this one or two day reprieve may mean nothing?

Switch to Joseph for a moment.  Here is the quintessential migrant.  On the move for years when you think about it.  Run to one place to escape the violence of where you're living (truth be told the number of infants murdered in Bethlehem was probably small...not that it mattered to their mothers); settle in down in Egypt only to hear that it's time to go again.  Load up and back to Nazareth.  They're building a city at Sepphoris, there will be work there within walking distance.

My point here is that we can hear these tales of God's care and intervention and forget that they come in the midst of horror and murder.  Not everyone escaped.  God's action does not turn the horror into a Disney film.  It does not negate the genocide.

And the good things that will come from these actions are a long way off.  Sometimes we act, do brave and good things....like Moses' sister, Pharaoh's daughter, and Joseph...and things don't really change for a very, very long time.

God seems to work this way.  I don't understand why.  Sometimes it makes me angry.  I want things to change now.  I want acts of courage to result in more than just another dead hero.  But I am also convinced by these stories that God is acting.  Like a seed, deep underground, where unseen the shell of the seed is cracking open and roots are going down.  These stories point us to the reality of God's presence and activity even in those times in which God seems most absent.

And they can give us courage.  Courage to do the right thing on our borders...just as they can give the migrant the courage to keep moving away from violence and toward hope.  Courage to push and push for clean water and medical care....just as they give those robbed of these things the courage to keep acting to force the issues.

I believe earnestly in the promises of Revelation; of a God who makes God's home among these healed and redeemed people, wiping their tears and doing away with all pain.

But I also believe in the God who lives among us in the anguish of Lamentations.  Who plays the long game, using each act of justice, love, and courage that we can muster to partner with us as God moves all creation toward wholeness and a new world.

I can bear to live in this time of Lamentations only when I claim these truths.  When I acknowledge the agony and the anger; the anguish and the truth of what my nation's racism and xenophobia have done and are doing.  I look for those small signs that God is on the move.  I grieve, I moan, I scream in rage, but I also claim the hope.