I Refuse

More hatred.  More shootings.  More death.

And more platitudes.  (You know them all, so I won’t repeat them here.)

Well, not for me.  This is my “Here I stand” moment.

I refuse to play that game anymore.

I refuse.

I refuse to sit back and be helpless.  If I do nothing, I am simply enabling the next one.  And the next one.  And the next one.

And the one after that.

I refuse to accept that all we can do is cry and wring our collective hands.  That does not change the situation.  And the situation must change.  Now.

I refuse to accept that nothing can be done, especially when the shooter is white.

(Just to be clear, I also refuse to accept that militarizing the police is a valid response when the shooter is black, and that strengthening the military and closing borders to hurting people is a valid response when the shooter is brown.  But let’s at least face the truth that most of these terror shooting are committed by white men.)

I refuse to accept that the law can’t be changed because of a misguided, fundamentalist reading of a 229 year-old document which has already been changed 27 times.

I refuse to accept that there is only one way to interpret that 229 year-old document.  The interpretation we have allowed to be popularized is killing people.  Every day.

I refuse to accept that this is the singular action of one deranged person.  He has been empowered to do this very thing by politicians, by gun manufacturers, by ammunition manufacturers, by on-line hate groups, by fear-filled citizens, by lobbyists, by at least one store owner, and quite possibly by family and friends who refused to see and address what was in front of them.

I refuse to accept that this is the price of freedom, or that there is some “greater good” being served by supporting a system which makes this not only possible, but inevitable.

I refuse to accept that the vitriol and hatred and anger and violence and division and fear mongering and racism that is coming every single day from the President of the United States has nothing to do with this.  Of course it does.

Of course it does.

I refuse to accept that the vitriol and hatred and anger and violence and division and fear mongering and racism that is coming every single day from right-wing media outlets in the United States has nothing to do with this.  Of course it does.

I refuse to accept that the victims are to blame.  The perpetrator caused this.  Those who enabled and empowered and armed him caused this.  Those who fed his fear and rage caused this.  Those who saw and did nothing caused this.  The victims are not to blame.  They’re not.  Period.

I refuse to accept that our religious communities can only offer words of comfort for the families, but should be silent about naming the systems which brought us inevitably to this point.  Where religious communities have been silent, or hidden behind “Our job is to get people into heaven,” or hidden behind “We are not called to be political,” we have been complicit.  We are making it ok to pull the trigger; we are, in fact, helping to pull it.

I refuse to accept that now is not the time to talk about this.  It is long past time to talk about this.  It is long past time to act.

And, just in case this isn’t clear….

I refuse to accept responsibility for your angst and discomfort if I have:

  • named things you don’t want named,
  • pointed to things you don’t want pointed out,
  • implicated you in a system which perpetuates violence,
  • challenged your political bias,
  • called out your racial, political or religious privilege,
  • wasn’t “civil” enough for your tastes.

That is truly not my problem.

I refuse to play that game anymore.

I refuse.

God help me.  Amen.


Eucharistic Prayer for Reformation Sunday

Feel free to borrow! Just please let me know.

P – The Lord be with you.
C – And also with you.
P – Lift up your hearts.
C – We lift them to the Lord.
P – Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
C – It is right to give our thanks and praise.

P – It is indeed a good and holy thing that we do at this time, gracious and loving God, giving thanks with your people of all times and places through Jesus, your Son, who brings life from death, speech from silence, light from darkness, and hope from despair.  And so, with saints and sinners of all ages and all the heavenly hosts, we join our voices to their unending hymn:

C – Holy, holy, holy, my heart, my heart adores you.
      My heart is glad to say the words: You are holy, God. (Sung twice)

P – Holy One, divine Mystery, eternal Lover,
you speak creation into being:
sky and clouds,
stars, sun and moon,
lands and oceans, lakes and rivers,
birds and animals and bugs,
and ourselves to care for it all.

You spoke Abraham and Sarah into being parents of faith.
You spoke Moses and Miriam into freeing your people from slavery.
You spoke prophets into calling and reminding,
into challenging and comforting.

And now, in our day, you have spoken your Word-made-flesh to us,
to heal, to forgive, to empower and to send.

On the night of his betrayal and arrest, Jesus took bread,
the bread of remembrance and freedom and hope;
he spoke thanks, broke it and gave it to those who were with him, saying,
Take and eat; this is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.

And at the end of the meal, Jesus took the cup,
wine to be shared in celebration;
he spoke thanks, and passed it around to them all, saying:
This is the covenant, renewed in my blood,
given for you and for all.
Do this to remember me.

With this bread and cup, we remember what it has cost God to be for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

C – Christ has died.  Christ is risen!  Christ will come again.

P – God whose Word speaks in our reality,
who speaks peace to us,
who speaks peace through us;
we remember your presence,
we celebrate your promise,
we look for your coming each and every day.
Come, Lord Jesus.

C – Come, Lord Jesus.

P – God whose Spirit hovers over us,
who frees us by grace to be servants of the world:
liberate us from fear and judgement,
fill us with your restless peace,
and send us to all who hunger for your presence.
Come, Holy Spirit.

C – Come, Holy Spirit.

P – Holy One, divine Mystery, eternal Lover:
Feed us, refresh us, move us,
for you are our God, now and forever.

C – Amen.

Divorce? Or something else?

The gospel reading (Mark 10:2-16), especially in its first part (divorce, etc.) seems to contain a whole lot of Law and not a whole lot of grace.  Especially for those in our congregations who have experienced separation/divorce, etc.

And yet, I don’t feel it’s faithful to the text we’ve been given to skip to the warm fuzzy part of Jesus welcoming the children, and only talk about that.  To paraphrase Martin Marty from a few years ago, we need to preach through difficult texts, not around them.

So, with that in the background, I’m offering the following:

Instead of approaching this text as a description of what God “wants” from this broken creation, or understanding it as a direct quote for the mouth of Jesus (which, of course, must then be “obeyed”), might we instead approach this text as a parable from Mark?

It seems to me that a consistent theme throughout this reading (including the warm fuzzy part), especially if we read it as a parable, is the theme of power and its mis-use. According to Mark, for a man to divorce his spouse, all he had to do was fill out a sheet of paper saying “You’re not welcome anymore.” She did not have that right.  She had no power. The hubby had it all.

But, least we think that Jesus is saying spouses should have that power equally, and then everything would be wonderful, we get the explanation to the disciples later on. In this section, Jesus says that neither party can unilaterally cut the other one off. Equality does not mean everyone has the same power. In this case, it means everyone has the same vulnerability.

Suddenly it makes sense that Mark would follow this up with a story of Jesus welcoming the children (especially given that the disciples try to exert power over them by keeping these unimportant people away from the important one, i.e. Jesus). Kids had no say in virtually anything; they were the epitome of vulnerability. So who does Jesus embrace?

So. We are left, not with a rule about refusing to allow any marriage to break up at any time; we are left with a parable about power and its mis-use, and the call to embrace our shared vulnerability.

Which I experienced last night at the local commemoration for missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The official commemorations were done, but it hadn’t taken very long, and people felt no desire to leave right away, so it turned into a sharing circle.

At one point, I asked to speak. I said it was important for me to be there, representing the church, as an act of repentance, since the church has far too often aligned itself with the powerful, and as a supporter of the status quo. I said this is inappropriate, and it’s not the people of the power structures with whom we should be standing.

A while later, a woman, a Mi’kmaq woman who led part of the evening, said (still in the circle), “I want to thank you for saying what you said. It means a lot to me, because my mother was a survivor of a Residential School.”

I couldn’t help but think of the story from Mark. When one “side” claims all the power, and exercises it over others, life is not as God desires. When we share a mutual vulnerability, we learn to live together, and all the children can begin to find a welcome.

Reading Esther in a Rape Culture

Do we believe women when they tell stories that men would rather not hear? Do we dare speak or preach about this? Do we dare not?

It’s in our scriptures, after all. In multiple places.

If we read the story of Esther, we find several points of connection with our current realities.

(Note – I’m not vouching for the historical accuracy of the book of Esther. I’m commenting on the story as it is presented.)

Esther became queen because her predecessor wouldn’t do what she was told by the king. He was drunk at a never-ending party, and decided he wanted her to parade around in front of allies wearing her crown (and nothing else?) so he could show off how pretty she was (and therefore, of course, how much of a man he must have been). She wouldn’t play the game, so she was killed.

After this, men were decreed to be master of their own houses (to keep women from getting any ideas).

Next, pretty virgins were sought out to join the king’s harem, and they went through an extensive, year-long process of beautification in order to be presentable to the king. Esther, a Jew, is brought into the harem, and eventually becomes queen.

Haman becomes chief advisor to the king. Mordecai (Esther’s uncle and adoptive father) refuses to tell Haman how great he was (a demonstration of how insecure power people often are), so Haman puts together a scheme to kill off all the Jews in the kingdom. Esther hears of the plot, and approaches the king to tell the him of the danger to her people.

But (and this is important for our day) she loses her nerve at the last minute. Will she be believed? Or will she be thrown out like her predecessor? After all, she is taking on the two most powerful men in the kingdom; one of them capricious and unpredictable, the other scheming and self-serving. Faced with that reality, she can’t bring herself to tell her story.

She approaches the king a second time, but again loses her nerve, and this in spite of the fact that the king offers a perfunctory promise that he will indeed listen to her. Will he? Or will he change his mind, and call his past promise Fake News? This is scary stuff, because the risks of acting are as dangerous as the risks of not acting. But she does manage to ask one more favour.

The third time she screws up her courage and manages to tell her story. On this occasion, a near miracle occurs: she is believed.

But things aren’t made instantly better. Haman is removed, but his scheme still moves forward, because he’s not the only one with designs on the Jews (there are 75,000 of them out there). Can you say, “enablers”? Sure you can.

In fact, things aren’t really made better until Mordecai (a man) is put in Haman’s place, becomes the royal advisor, and get’s his own laws passed so the Jews can defend themselves.

+     +     +

We need to be aware of the assumptions we bring to our reading of this story. It’s not just a story of a couple of plucky people taking advantage of a lucky break or two (being pretty, becoming queen, becoming chief advisor, etc.). This is a story of inherently unjust power structures (men over women, citizens over foreigners, power people over ordinary people, insiders over outsiders, etc.). And the rot goes deep, because in some cases the law stands as it was written (anything which might impact the perception of the king in the public’s eyes), and in some cases the law is subject to interpretation, revision or revocation (anything which impacts anyone else).

Ultimately, there is no rule of law. There is no justice. There is no fairness. There is only rule by royal whim (or whim of those who are close to the royal presence).

Esther’s story first names, and then challenges these unjust, unfair structures; and it also identifies the incredible risks that such challenge entails.

Yes, there is a “happy ending.” But the relief we feel at the end is so strong because we know that there was no guarantee of a happy ending, there or any place, then or any time. We all know there have been (and are!) too many times when the ending is anything but happy, and the machine goes merrily on.

I think we need to preach, teach and speak about this stuff, friends. This is not the time to fall back on moralisms (don’t do naughty things, if your hand causes you to sin, the life of faith in only about personal responsibility, it’s all about individual decisions, etc.). This is a time to talk about what is really going on, structurally, communally, economically, politically, religiously, internationally.

It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It will probably result in push-back. But the risk of not speaking to this is just as great, and if we succumb to that temptation and say nothing, nothing at all will change. For anyone.


Prayers of the People for August 5, 2018

We offer our prayers for the world God loves, the world we are called to serve.

[Short pause]

God of the weak, your eyes are on the lowly, the outcast, the rejected and the ignored.  Open our eyes to see them as well, and enable us to join them in the struggle for a more just society.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of the victims of power, open our ears to hear the cry of those who are abused, demeaned, put down and taken advantage of.  Give us the faith to affirm the dignity of all your children.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of the abusers of power, you continued to call to David, to show him another way.  Call to our leaders today, that they might work toward a world in which all your people may thrive.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of prophets who speak to power, strengthen the faith of your church, that we might stand with those who are saying what needs to be said, regardless of what it may cost us.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of the sick, you reach out to bring healing and hope to all who are suffering.  Use us to touch [NAMES, AND] all whom we name before you, with your restoring presence.
[Long pause]
Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of justice, continue to call to us, that we might respond in all of our circumstances, in all of our relationships, in all of our days.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

We pray all this, both our spoken desires and our unspoken longings, in the name of Jesus, the Christ.

Prayers of the People for June 17, 2018

We offer our prayers for the world God loves, the world we are called to serve.

[Short pause]

God of mustard, open our eyes to see you in those things that seem to be in our way.  We do not ask to see the purpose behind everything that is.  We do ask to see the value in everything that is.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of dandelion, you provide nourishment and beauty, as well as opportunities not to take ourselves, or our lawns, quite so seriously.  Free us to play in the freedom of your reign.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of weeds, all of creation proclaims your handiwork.  Enable us to continue to celebrate the goodness of your whole creation, and strengthen us to serve as caretakers of your world and its peoples.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of misplaced plants, we pray for faith to trust your promise when we feel out of place.  We do not just pray for those who are enduring injustice, who are separated from family, who are surrounded by violence, or who are hungry.  We also ask that we would be motivated to care, to take a stand, to speak the loving and honest word.  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of all the hurting world, we offer our concern for those who are out of place, who are lonely, who are dying, who are grieving, and who are sick, especially [NAMES, AND] all those we name before you.
[Long pause]
Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

God of mustard and dandelion and weed, those who have eyes to see can be aware of your presence even in the inconvenient, the annoying, the challenging.  Help us see,  Remind us, loving God,
It’s all about the world.

We pray all this, both our spoken desires and our unspoken longings, in the name of Jesus, the Christ.