Thursday, December 04, 2008

advent - awake & praying

Advent is a gift that keeps on giving. The other day, I was walking down California Street and ran into a huge tacky "Holiday" display that was more advertisement than celebration, more noise than music. This "bright lights, big city" spectacle reiterated for me the great wisdom and nurturing spaciousness that the quiet season of Advent offers those who ache for something different.

A friend, church colleague and neighbor and I are planning a simple outdoor prayer gathering Friday nights in Advent at a park near our homes on Bernal Heights. A different kind of event we hope, flash lights, stars, prayers, friends, strangers, neighbors and a great view of the city. Check out Diobytes for more info. Join us.

By the way, check out Trinity Wall Street's and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's interactive Advent calendars. My former Virginia Seminary professor Diana Butler Bass is also posting reflections on her Advent calendar over at Sojourners God's Politics blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

the struggle continues, love endures

The passage of Prop 8 in California has felt deeply painful, we were inspired Friday evening along with thousands of others to join in protests and leaders from our faith community the Episcopal Diocese of California and Grace Cathedral have recently made strong, supportive statements. I am particularly grateful for these two paragraphs, from Alan Jones, dean of Grace Cathedral in his open letter to the community distributed to the congregation yesterday,

"Many years ago, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, I was asked by a reporter from the BBC whether we tolerated Gay people at Grace Cathedral. I answered with an emphatic “No!” I said, “We don’t tolerate gay people. Gay people are us! We are all together here, friends and colleagues – straight and gay.” So, we will continue to strive for justice and inclusion. The journey continues, and the progressive faith community has a profound responsibility to reach out to our brothers and sisters on the other side.

The Grace Cathedral community has benefited mightily from the steadfast love, commitment, service, and compassion of our LGBT members. It is fair to say that we would not be as prominent, dynamic, creative, or faithful a community without you/them. We stand in solidarity with you and your families, and look forward to running with perseverance the race that has been set before us."

Susan Russell beautifully chronicles much that is happening in California in response to the passage of Prop 8, read all about it here.

We have a long way to go for equal rights, the struggle continues and love endures.

There's also enormous gratitude in our hearts for the movement of change, hope and progress that continues to grow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Last night, a large group of Grace Cathedral folks and friends gathered to watch the powerful documentary For the Bible Tells Me So. We also talked a bit about the important role people of faith have to play in the movement for equality. On election day Californians have an opportunity to stand up for the equal rights of all by defeating Prop 8 which if passed would deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Conservative religious groups, many from outside the state, are pouring money into advertising in support of the proposition but other people of faith are working hard to defeat it. All the Episcopal Bishops of California are encouraging people to vote no, you can read more about their efforts here.

I was moved to learn of a Roman Catholic priest in Fresno, California who recently preached a sermon calling his congregation to vote no on Prop 8. Read more about Father Geoff Farrow over on Susan's blog, An Inch at a Time.  Thank you Fr. Geoff for your courage and compassion. 

There are many ways to get involved in the movement, volunteering, phone banking, and donating money. Visit No On Prop 8 to learn more.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Community Organizing

There are many things for young people to be involved in between college and graduate school. There are many ways to learn about the pressing issues of our time and make a difference. My brother, Christopher, spent last year working with young kids in a Washington, DC affordable housing community connected with the ecumenical Church of the Savior. He's now working with another church affiliated non-profit that helps tenants understand their rights in an urban area in the mid-west. My brother's doing this hard work, like the many community organizers I have met, because he cares about people and yearns to express his faith in all that he does.

Community Organizing is a process that helps churches, civic groups, organizations and others work together for the common good. Organizing is not isolated to urban or poor communities. One thing is clear, that community organizing has everything to do with responsibility. Helping people become part of the political process, take responsibility for themselves and their neighborhoods and bring accountability into civic life.

Check out the following links to read more about organizing and the most recent belittling of Barack Obama's experiences as an organizer before going on to law school and becoming a State Senator in the mid-west.

There are two great pieces on organizing posted up at:
Sojourner's God's Politics

If you saw the Democratic Convention you may have heard this great prayer by evangelical Don Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz. I think it expresses well the type of commitments that people involved in community organizing regardless of their faith are all about.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Matt and I rather innocently changed our Facebook profiles this week to say what we've known to be true about us for quite awhile --- we're engaged. Landmark California Supreme Court decision or no Supreme Court decision, we've sung to one another as Joni Mitchell sings "We don't need no piece of paper from the city hall, keeping us tied and true" but that piece of paper helps and matters a lot, as will a gathering in the future (time, location, details yet to be determined) in which we will make promises before God, one another, our friends, family and faith community.

We were not prepared for the amazing show of support and encouragement from across the planet that filled the "walls" of our profiles in just a few hours. Simple gestures of support and encouragement online and off moved us both and reaffirmed just what an important step marriage is in the life of any couple. Marriage is indeed about the couple "tying the knot" but it is also about community. Below is the text of the last sermon I preached in Virginia, which I posted on this blog over a year ago when I arrived in San Francisco . The sermon wrestles with the meaning of Christian marriage, divorce, and commitment. I've pasted it again below, you can see the original post here.

Sermon on Mark 10:2-16

Sunday, October 8, 2006

"What God has joined together let no one separate."

Whatever relationships we are part of --- whether are we are married, divorced, widowed, partnered or single Christians are called to be a people joined together, forgivers of one another --- people who know that our true identity is in God. We Christians are called to recognize that nothing separates us from the love of God. We may be parted from one another by continents and oceans, we may be parted by political differences, we may be kept apart by different emphasis, beliefs and practices, we may be parted by death, or we may even be divorced --- however ultimately nothing can separate us because we are all drawn, knitted, woven together by the same God. Last week’s moving forgiving witness of the Amish families whose daughters were horrifically slaughtered --- remind us all that our Christian call is one of radical forgiveness. The Amish embrace and forgiveness of the killers family --- remind us of the radical forgiveness we have received through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God joins us together --- sometimes most often in suffering and pain --- and we must not allow our selves to be separated --- we are all being drawn, knit, woven together.


Before I begin to focus on today’s Gospel lesson --- it is important I think for you to know that I am a child of divorced parents and I believe and have believed since that time that somehow God’s hand was in this. When my parents were going through their separation and divorce --- I remember people at our church coming up to me and expressing well-meaning sympathy but at times it felt rather condescending “you poor thing” because for me the divorce offered us all an invitation to something new and hopeful provided room perhaps someday for forgiveness and healing. Even though the marriage was formally over --- ultimately God was still knitting, weaving us all together despite and perhaps as part of the divorce. Each member of our family through the divorce was not just being tied, reconciled to each other but we were being drawn, woven together into God’s wider family.


A gay couple for a number of reasons are leaving the state of Virginia, one of the factors in their decision to leave is that their commitment to one another is given little or no protection or recognition by Virginia law or by their faith community. One of the reasons they have chosen to move is so that they may live in a state and a community where they will be able to find recognition, support, and affirmation for their commitment to one another. I heard recently how difficult this move is for their parents --- especially their mothers, yet despite her own pain and sorrow over her sons move, without the prompting of her son, one of the mothers recently sent an email to the other --- expressing her support for the couple’s commitment --- saying to the other mother “please consider yourself part of our family now.” God is still weaving.


I’m not certain that God’s good news for us today is really about divorce or marriage --- I think that this passage of scripture is about God. About God as knitter, and weaver --- God who draws, ties, knits people together in relationships of trust, fidelity, wholeness and integrity.


If we consider the context of what Jesus is saying – and look closely at what Jesus says and does not say --- we may find that we are all drawn more deeply into the holiness of God and together in reconciliation with each other.


Now, this section of Mark's gospel is part of a longer section --- where Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus is being asked a lot of questions --- he is being tested --- particularly by the Pharisees --- who seem to always be in search of a way to trap Jesus --- to control Jesus and are bound and determined to use lines from the Bible to divide and conquer. Yet as seems to be typical of Jesus --- Jesus says a strong NO when the Bible is used by people to divide or separate. Note that when the Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce they do not ask if it is lawful for a woman to divorce her husband--- because according to the law it is not lawful. According to the Hebrew Bible all a husband has to do to divorce his wife is hand her a note, a slip of paper --- a receipt of sorts. Unfortunately, a woman was not given an equal escape route from an unhappy marriage. Some Biblical scholars suggest that Jesus knew this was the case --- and is one of the reasons he does not seem to support the Pharisees defense of divorce -- it is an unfair, imbalanced, unjust system. Since Jesus had women disciples and seems to have broken a number of gender taboos --- Jesus may have been attempting to protect women from exploitation and abandonment. In fact, Jesus says in our passage today that rather than men being above and superior to women --- Jesus says in this passage men and women leave their families to become one flesh. Some Christian Biblical scholars suggest that Jesus is making an argument for gender equality in a time when this was very difficult to imagine or hear. God is still weaving.


So Jesus ignores the specific question about the lawfulness of divorce --- Jesus instead pushes the Pharisees and us back further into the history of God's actions. Jesus pushes us back to the beginning --- he reminds us that God is the creator of all --- and that God is the one who joins people together. Jesus clearly does not favor divorce that leaves women vulnerable to exploitation. In today’s gospel Jesus seems to be frustrated by the desire of the Pharisees to get into a technical argument using the Bible to divide people rather Jesus instead wants to lift up the value of God’s actions in human relationships – so Jesus says strongly therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.


Now --- how were God's actions experienced in Biblical times --- well it would be very different than what we experience. In Jesus' time it was common for families to choose a persons spouse --- individuals had little say on who they married and who they would not marry. Marriage was a significant event in which not just two people are joined together but two families are joined together. As I was preparing for this sermon I was encouraged to pick up a book at the library --- it is called "marriage, a history" in this book you learn of the long history --- really the evolution of marriage throughout human history --- and Christian marriage is certainly not immune from change --- one only needs to look at the political marriages of Europe or the polygamous marriages of some Mormon sects and even Anglicans in parts of Africa today to know that what Christians claim to be true marriage has changed over time. The author of “Marriage, a history” reveals just how little over the years romantic love has had to do with marriage until our contemporary context. Yet God was still weaving.


In Jesus’ day God acted through family members to join people together -- at least that is how it was experienced. Here’s what theologian William Countryman says about marriage in Jesus’ time --- “In the ancient Mediterranean world, women were the property of their fathers. The father was the embodiment of the family; he was not functioning like a modern individual in this role. And his daughters belonged to him, as head of the family. He could given them away in marriage in exchange for desirable family connections, specific commitments, or other goods. At that point, the woman became the property of her husband as a sort of quasi-member of his family. She didn’t truly become a part of that family until her husband died and her son succeeded as head of the household. She was then part of her son’s family. But if she were divorced before that, she was sent back to her family of origin, while her children stayed with their father. They were his offspring, who existed for the benefit of his family.”


So a wedding, a marriage in Jesus’ time was not just for the couple but really more for everyone else --- the family members of the couple and perhaps in many ways today this is still the case. With the gay couple I mentioned earlier --- God is active --- drawing the two together --- and the mother’s support for their commitment and the extension of family ties “please consider yourself part of our family now” reminds us that despite our living thousands of years later, and continents apart in very different contexts--- God continues to draw people together.

In many ways --- as the statement goes God is still speaking --- I’d say that today we are reminded that God is still weaving, God is still knitting people together.


Interestingly the root of the word religion --- is related to the latin word for tie or fasten together. In our prayer book we read that the mission of the church is to reconcile, to draw people together with God and each other. So the words of Jesus “therefore what God has joined together let know one separate” focuses us on God and God’s involvement, God’s drawing together, weaving, fastening human relationships.


Which is one reason why the agony and pain that our culture is going through over gay marriage is so difficult because it is about something very deep and real --- who God joins together. Yet perhaps our focus on the individuals is misplaced --- perhaps our focus when it comes to marriage for anyone should really be on community and extended family -- on mothers who send emails, on fathers who embrace and forgive strangers. Perhaps our culture has become far too obsessed with couples and not concerned enough with community --- with life beyond the marriage of two individuals. There have been times in Christian history when theologians and ministers have warned couples not to love one another too much --- out of fear that they might make an idol out of one another. The poet Rainer Rilke says that lovers must be guardians of the solitude of their partner --- somehow there must be space between them --- space for God, space for growth --- space for change. Perhaps --- our culture may at times love marriage too much --- and in so doing --- make marriage an idol rather than a source of life, hope and community. So God knits us together --- God joins people to one another -- but leaves space --- space for our growth, space for change.


If this were any other sermon --- I might stop right there but God is still knitting and weaving. As many of you know today is my last Sunday at St. John’s Church --- I have been called to serve as Associate Pastor for Outreach, Youth and Young Adults at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. While I am sad that I will be leaving you --- leaving a profound community that knows that God is still weaving and is part of that experience --- a community that is welcoming, connecting, offering hope, community, and healing --- I know that we are drawn together, woven together and that God has joined us together tightly for these two years and is now connecting us with the wider body of Christ through this call to the other side of the continent. I carry with me joy, excitement, and inspiration from my time in this dynamic, creative and gifted sanctuary. I will never forget you --- and the lessons you have taught me. Nor is our journey together over. I know we still have much we can learn from each other, and I hope many of you will visit me in San Francisco. The doors of Grace Cathedral will always be open to you.

My prayer for you is that you will continue to be who you are --- an embassy of God’s Kingdom -- where the abundant gifts God has given you are freely and generously shared for the manifesting of true hope, community, love and peace--- the Good News that God is still weaving us all together in one great tapestry of love.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spreading the Word on the Street

My colleague Vanessa Glass shared this profound story with me today. Also, read about San Francisco Night Ministry's new Open Cathedral, here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pentecost in San Francisco

The Episcopal Diocese of California has been busy this weekend celebrating new life in the Spirit with a special convention where we affirmed a communal vision for "beloved community" and the calling of a new Assistant Bishop to aid us in expanding multi-cultural ministry.

You can read more about our vision and Bishop Steven Charleston here. From an article on the Diocese of California website:

At the end of the meeting, Andrus took a moment to introduce the new ethnic and multicultural missioner called to the diocese in fulfillment of a resolution passed by Diocesan Convention in 2007. The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston was selected to fill this position after a nationwide search during which the interview committee considered a number of highly qualified women and men from a wide variety of backgrounds. Charleston will also serve the diocese as assistant bishop.

Charleston is the president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, a post he will be leaving this summer before joining the Diocese of California. A citizen of the Choctaw Nation in his home state of Oklahoma, Charleston has been national staff officer for Native American ministries in The Episcopal Church, director of the Dakota Leadership Program, diocesan bishop of Alaska, and assistant bishop of Connecticut. He is widely recognized as a leading advocate for justice issues and spiritual renewal in the church.

In what he called “a refreshing spirit-filled moment,” Charleston spoke briefly to the special convention, saying “I’m coming here full of enthusiasm and with an open heart to work with all of you because I believe this is a great diocese and you’re on the verge of doing some really exciting things that will be excellent for the whole church.” Charleston will begin his work with the Diocese of California this summer.

My colleague the Reverend Vanessa Glass and I have been teaching a class together this month exploring Acts of the Apostles called, "Strange Fire." While preparing for the class, I found the icon above after reading an essay by my former professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, the Reverend Dr. Katherine Grieb. Read the essay here. The icon, I think is a wonderful illustration for Bishop Marc Andrus' provocative Pentecost sermon, listen here. Below are the words of the hymn he refers to in his message:

Bring many names, beautiful and good,
celebrate, in parable and story,
holiness in glory, living, loving God.
Hail and hosanna! Bring many names!

Strong mother God, working night and day,
planning all the wonders of creation,
setting each equation, genius at play:
Hail and hosanna, strong mother God!

Warm father God, hugging every child,
feeling all the strains of human living,
caring and forgiving till we're reconciled:
Hail and hosanna, warm father God!

Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
calmly piercing evil's new disguises,
glad of good surprises, wiser than despair:
Hail and hosanna, old aching God!

Young, growing God, eager, on the move,
saying no to falsehood and unkindness,
crying out for justice, giving all you have:
Hail and hosanna, young, growing God!

Great, living God, never fully known,
joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
closer yet than breathing, everlasting home:
Hail and hosanna, great, living God!

Words: Brian Wren
Words © 1989, revised 1994 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

Friday, May 09, 2008

faith happenings in the Bay Area

The past few days have been filled with good conversations about faith and the pursuit of a more just and compassionate society. Pray that all this talk leads to action. On Wednesday at Grace Cathedral there was an ecumenical gathering of leaders seeking to "provoke the Christian political imagination" by supporting the Jesus for President tour.

Last night, I had the opportunity to represent the Bay Area Organizing Committee at the largest non-partisan political event in Marin County's history. Check out this story about last night's Marin Organizing Committee gathering, here's a quote from one of the inspiring voices that spoke,
The beauty of (Marin) may obscure it, but there are real issues we have to face," said Rabbi Stacy Friedman of Congregation Rodef Sholom. "Those issues come to us as gaps - gaps in our economic classes, gaps in our youth services, gaps in health services.

We are here tonight to say we are going to take on the biggest gap of all, the gap in civic duty.
To cap it all off, this morning online I discovered the voice of my friend and fellow San Francisco Episcopalian, Sara Miles. Check out her "This I believe" essay here. While you are at NPR you might want to listen to this story on Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing. For some theology, see New Testament theologian Walter Wink's essay on Jesus & Alinsky.

Click here and here for further coverage of the inspiring Marin Organizing Committee Action Assembly

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Standing for Human Rights in Tibet, Darfur and around the world

This week many in San Francisco are coming together to stand in solidarity with those who have suffered due to the policies of the Chinese government. As the Olympic Torch passes through the area, Bay Area residents are seeking to shine a light on human rights abuses in Tibet and China's support for the Sudanese government. Please read Episcopal Bishop of California, Marc Andrus' profound message about these and other demonstrations. This evening, Matt and I will be attending a peaceful candlelight vigil for Tibet with Desmond Tutu and Richard Gere at the United Nations Plaza at Civic Center, and tomorrow Darfur activists including a number of us from Grace Cathedral will be along the torch relay route.

As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to live and study among the Tibetan people both in exile and in Tibet itself. I met numerous people whose stories of struggle, pain, and hope still haunt and inspire me. Their collective struggle for freedom deserves our support. Activists and people of faith have been coming together for years seeking to draw attention to the genocide in Darfur. This week, we'll tell China to stop selling weapons to the Sudanese government.

This evening, Archbishop Desmond Tutu will receive an award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission at Grace Cathedral for his support of human rights for gay and lesbian persons. This week's numerous activities are a reminder to us all that as Martin Luther King Jr. taught, a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, that the struggle for a better world involves standing together in solidarity with all who suffer, and that we must confront abuse, violence, and injustice with nonviolent love.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

an idea that lives

Like many clergy these few days after Easter have been about sabbath - finding rest and refreshment after weeks of intense church work. Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to sleep in a bit, enjoy breakfast with an old college friend and go for a long walk around our neighborhood surrounding Bernal Heights. All over this hill are little gardens and staircases, each one encouraging the climber to slow down, take a deep breath and look around. As we walked, we talked about contemporary politics both local and global, how challenging raising children must be in our time (we both are childless so far though Renee teaches kid's piano) and about the past. When I returned home I received an email from a really old friend from my childhood in Winchester, who had come to mind during the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. As I watched the torches being lit I recalled how Philip was a far better acolyte than I ever was. Philip went onto military service and I into the church -- perhaps there's some sense in that. 

Last night, Matt and I attended a vigil organized by Veterans for Peace in front of City Hall where 4000 candles were lit for the men and women who have died in Iraq. Philip's message yesterday, and the photos of his children, nieces and nephews on his myspace page gave the names read during the vigil weight. Each person no matter how young, had a life, family, faith and story. I'm grateful that Philip is alive and continue to mourn those whose lives were cut short and pray for peace.

Last week, a colleague asked me what I preached last year at the Sunday evening Easter service, the gospel lesson was Jesus' appearance to two disciples as a stranger on the road to Emmaus. Below you'll find what I preached, pardon the poor grammar and spelling mistakes. Much of this message was inspired by the work of Ched Myers, check out his take on the Road to Emmaus here. Also, reading this sermon reminded me of a favorite new book, Jesus for President. The author Shane Claiborne and friends will be coming to the Bay Area in July, look for more on that soon.

Happy Easter!
Where are we going? What are we going to do? He's dead --- those women in our group gossiping about seeing some angel --- we are in deep --- we've got to get out of Jerusalem --- they could come after us next. How could we be so ridiculous --- how could we think that he was the one? 

In a world like our own --- amidst imperial occupation, oppression, injustice and violence. In a world like our own --- where movements of change and hope are ignored, dismissed, ridiculed, and put down 

Jesus comes back --- Jesus comes back --- Jesus is resurrected --- we'll find him on the road --- we'll find him at table --- we'll find him ---- 

We'll find Jesus and we'll be opened up so that we might move beyond the site of defeat and despair to new life, hope and courage.

As we gather on this night --- we do so --- on the brink of if not in the midst of apocalyptic ecological catastrophe--- occupants of a world misshapen by human greed and carelessness, we gather as troops head into war, children lay dying of curable disease and hunger --- we gather together for what on this night? 

We gather in this sacred space to be energized by the resurrection power of God --- that is manifest in an odd way, in the presence of a stranger on the side of a road --- who talks and walks with two disappointed revolutionaries about the rejection and execution of their movement's leader. Who joins these two fearful people for a meal --- and in the midst of sharing bread and wine with them reveals that he is their executed teacher --- alive and with them in a new way. 

If we are paying attention we like those disciples on the road desperately need a savior --- one to save us from ourselves and the brokenness of our world --- we need a liberator from the reign of death that covers us. We need to know that despite and in spite of evidence to the contrary --- this is God's world and we are God's people --- our lives have meaning, purpose, direction. Death, violence, destruction, greed, inhumanity, injustice, imperialist wars are not the future -- are not the ultimate victors --- God is about a movement of love and transformation. God is about drawing people into a way of life that brings health, wholeness, healing, reconciliation, peace, justice and comfort. 

Easter is about Good News --- about new possibility about a transcendent God who gives and gives and gives again. Leading us to do the same for each other.  All who are suffering today can turn to this generous God and to God's people who are called to follow God's example by reaching out to strangers with a hand, with a meal, with our lives. 

Easter is not about the denial of how bad things are, Easter is about the continual challenge, the ongoing movement of God against the powers of death. This resurrection power of God if it gets into our bodies --- activates us for prophetic witness in the face of our contemporary reign of death. For the disciples the resurrection was terrifying for lots of reasons --- perhaps primarily because to follow an executed prophet, raised from the dead would mean that the teachings of Jesus are the way to find liberation. Dying not killing is the way to a future of hope, justice and peace. 

The night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed --- Bobby Kennedy gathered before a crowd of African Americans and informed them of the death of this nonviolent leader --- and called upon them and all people in this nation to pray that compassion, justice, and gentleness might be the future. A stranger --- a white, wealthy, Irish Catholic politician speaking before a large crowd of African Americans --- invited  remembrance of the words, teachings and life of their hero --- soon RFK would lay dead as well, dying for a future of hope, justice and peace. 

Dorothy Stang, a nun and community organizer in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil was killed as she sought to defend the rights of the poor and the earth in the face of lumber companies and wealthy ranchers. Her fellow sisters write, 

In the days preceding her murder on February 12, 2005, Sr. Dorothy was attempting to halt illegal logging where land sharks had interests but no legal rights. Authorities believe the murder was arranged by a local rancher for $19,300 ( U.S.). Many believe that a consortium of loggers and ranchers had contributed to the bounty in an effort to silence Sr. Dorothy. Ironically, their attempt at silence resulted in the opposite effect: an outraged world, well informed about the murder through persistent global media reports, sent Sr. Dorothy's voice soaring to new heights. And a proclamation came quickly from Brazil's president, Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva, that the land in question, over 22,000 acres, would be reserved for sustainable development by the poor farmers whose cause Sr. Dorothy had championed. 

Sister Dorothy Stang following the way of Jesus - died for a future of hope, justice and peace. 

Steve Biko, years before was killed in prison for the sake of the nonviolent movement he helped organize to oppose Apartheid in South Africa --- according to our own Bishop one of the few icons hanging in the Archbishop of Canterbury's office is one of Steve Biko. Archbishop Nungane spoke of him as his hero when our group heard from him at the TEAM Conference in Boksburg, Biko is remembered to have said, 

"It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die."

The Resurrection of Jesus is an idea that lives --- and Jesus' life, death and resurrection continues to inspire and empower movements of liberation, justice and peace in our own time. May we be willing to give our all for the sake of God's truth, God's nonviolent victory of life over death --- peace over war --- mercy and forgiveness over vengeance, solidarity over oppression. 

We are at the cusp of some major changes, changes that we either make for ourselves simply to survive or changes that we make together --- to make peaceful and just the future of this planet. 

We desperately need salvation --- and a savior --- this Savior comes to us in the form of strangers on the side of the road, on the margins --- strangers who speak to us of the reality of God's challenging call for change --- for repentance --- for new life. 

Resurrection is about transformation --- and we human beings would rather pretend that change is impossible --- than to own up to our responsibility for being an alternative.

We have work to do --- each of us --- to make ready the world for God's full reign. 

The resurrection -- is not comforting to those who would like things to stay the way they are --- the resurrection is for those who cry out for change --- who believe that another world is possible --- who are willing to be opened up --- to being connected to the movement of Jesus. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

called to another way

If there is one thing that has been consistent in my life since starting seminary, being ordained and serving as a priest, it has been standing in opposition to the Iraq war. While a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, I was part of organizing the local chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. I attended many and helped organize a few vigils and marches on campus and off, in front of the White House and the Capitol. Between classes on systematic theology and pastoral care I could be found in the seminary computer lab sending out email newsletters entitled “Called to Another Way” with articles by Stephen Zunes, Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Molly Ivins, Ray McGovern and many other people of faith and no faith all who voiced articulate, informed opposition to this unjust war. I was nearly arrested before the war with Medea Benjamin and a huge group of women from Code Pink before the war started. I actually feel guilty about not doing more before the war to try and keep it from happening. I have tremendous respect for all those who have risked much to try and save this planet from war. I’m really grateful that Medea will be a guest at the cathedral where I serve next month.

After seminary, I worked as a priest in a suburban Washington, DC, parish where I taught and preached regularly. I struggled with being part of a faith community whose members both stood in opposition to and in alignment with this Administration’s imperial ambitions. I met fascinating personalities who, despite appearing to be part of the war machine, held profound personal commitments to peace and the upholding of the dignity of every human being. I wrestled each day with how to serve in this place, often driving to work listening to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on the radio and later finding myself sharing communion with people who would seem to have enormous power and wealth to really change things.

Over a year ago, I was arrested with the Episcopal Bishop of California and other clergy from the Episcopal Diocese of California in front of the Federal Building, we were participants in a “die-in” seeking to draw attention to the numerous casualties of the Iraq War. This arrest didn’t cost any of us very much and it didn’t end the war. But there was something holy going on as we lay there on the cold concrete waiting for the police officers with the plastic handcuffs, surrounded and held up by the chants of our faith community.

This week the interfaith community of the Bay Area will acknowledge the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War on the steps of Grace Cathedral surrounded by numerous shoes and boots, symbolizing the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and U.S. military soldiers who have died in this war. At the center of Holy Week, as our attention is on the nonviolent teacher named Jesus who was executed by a religious establishment and an empire unable to comprehend the things that make for peace, we will read names, sing songs, mourn the dead and pray for peace. Join us.

If you are planning to come to the vigil, I encourage you to bring a pair of shoes, or two or three. For the past few weeks one of my responsibilities in helping organize the event has been collecting shoes. We have collected a lot from churches as far away as Santa Cruz. But to be honest, we are far from having enough to truly do justice to the tens of thousands of Iraqi causalities. As I prepared the names for tomorrow’s event I was struck by how few names we actually have --- for example a 10 year old girl shot by U.S. forces last week --- nameless. Yet each one of these people we Christians believe are made in God’s image. As we lay these shoes at the feet of this mighty concrete cathedral, may God forgive us for the atrocity of this war.

Sojourners has put together a profound call for repentance and peace, signed by numerous faith leaders including Tony Campolo, Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren please sign and share widely. For the past month the God's Politics blog has had moving commentary on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War, you can check those posts out here.


Jan in San Francisco attended this evening's vigil and took some moving photographs, check them out here. Also, of the news coverage so far KTVU Channel 2 News at 10 p.m. gave our vigil strong coverage, watch the video here. More coverage can be found here and here.

Thank you to all who came, who read names, chanted and prayed. May we continue to pray and work together for peace.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

notes on becoming

Please read Jim Wallis' excellent post over at God's Politics on Barack Obama's faith and share it widely.

You can view Barack's speech on faith at the Call to Renewal/Sojourners here.

Last night at the gym I was watching some of the cable news shows (we don't have cable at home) and I became deeply troubled by the political coverage. Rather than talking about moral issues of real concern like how to: end the war, become better stewards of the earth, and make this country more just (healthcare, living wage, affordable housing) there seemed to be nothing but fear-mongering and the raising of silly questions about a candidate's patriotism based on their wardrobe. Is this really who we are America? I don't think so.

As I peddled away at the gym, I turned off the TV and looked out the window, at the Bay Bridge lit up against the night sky and recalled "the bridge to the 21st century" that President Clinton kept talking about in his last years in office. What progress and hope and possibility one could feel about our country's future then. The reality is that like San Francisco, this country's future is a "work in progress" not a done deal and we all need to become part of the building of that future rather than passive receivers of someone else's dream or nightmare. So far my little exposure to the good work of community organizers has taught me that awesome things can happen when people and organizations come together across race, economic, and political divides.

Speaking of San Francisco - the more I get to know this city the more I realize just how much we need to do to help this city live into the values and vision of its patron saint, Francis of Assisi. While we are green, we aren't anywhere near green enough to reverse the effects of global warming or to ensure that children are not being contaminated by toxic waste. While we are inclusive and welcoming, we are not to everyone especially the poor (take a look at the proposed city budget cuts that effect services to the most down and out). While the vast majority of this city's residents are against the war, we have not done enough collectively to end it. Francis of Assisi viewed all the earth as his brothers and sisters and lived an extraordinarily simple life. Francis more than just tolerating the poor made his home among them. Francis not only stood against the violent crusades, he met with an enemy leader the Sultan Melek-el-Kamel, the leading Muslim of the time according to John Dear.

So I've begun thinking a lot lately about the word "becoming" --- I'm not San Franciscan, I'm "becoming" San Franciscan and the city where I dwell is "becoming San Francisco" we are way far from being worthy of the name. This country too is way far from being all that we might be, perhaps this election we might discover an invitation to get a little closer to becoming a people, a nation resembling the United States of America.