Sowing a Nonviolent Country

SJN LogoOn Saturday, September 26, 2015 hundreds of people gathered at Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky. Sponsored by the Sowers of Justice Network, a coalition of churches and individuals working for social justice through nonviolent action, this day (and organization) is a model that many of our communities can learn from.

The purpose of the conference was to invite nonviolence as a way of life, to and with those most affected by gun violence, and to mobilize citizens of the community to action. The provided the information about the scale and scope of gun violence so individuals and organizations can better identify actions steps that any and all of us can take for the future. They connect networks to improve relationships, resolve, and readiness to ACT.

Continue reading Sowing a Nonviolent Country

Voices and Shoes

hollywoodheelsI love looking at people’s feet – in particular, their shoes. I suppose this has me looking down more than looking up, which is problematic in itself. I probably miss some interesting faces and exchanges as an observer of people. I’ve discovered that airport sitting as well as hotel lobbies and train platforms offer a variety of perspectives. I believe shoes tell a lot about who we are, who we yearn to be, or how we try to fit in and relay a persona.

The past few days I’ve been in Minneapolis attending Why Christian?, a conference organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. It was a conference featuring some of the most promising voices of women in the Church in the United States. Some of the names were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the women on the marquis were at the leading edge of what the Church could and should be all about. The publicity leading up to this event hinted at what a watershed moment this might be. The venue had to be changed when 1,000 people registered months ago, causing the planners to have to turn away folks. While not a conference “about” and “for” women, the majority of people who filled the pews, aisles, and balcony to SRO were women.

Which brings me back to shoes. I stayed at the Hyatt, about half a mile from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral where the event was held. It would seem that while Why Christian? was going on, another conference featuring women (as speakers and participants) was happening at the Hyatt. Waiting in line at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. found me in a queue of strappy stilettos, well-manicured fingers, and coiffed hair. But it was the shoes that captured my gaze – clicking across the slate lobby floor, gracefully climbing the steps to the conference room areas, waiting for a double-espresso latte or tall macchiato. Long legs and short legs, each moved with confidence, having learned that balancing act, or at least exhibiting the power of control in walking tall perched on 6″ heels. I was wearing my black Aerosole flats. Continue reading Voices and Shoes

Words! Words! Words!

the_tongue_is_a_fire_by_kevron2001-d8agegdA sermon preached at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas on Sunday, September 13, 2015.

Proper 19, Year B:
Isaiah 50:4-9               James 3:1-12               Mark 8:27-38

I’ll admit – I’m a Broadway musical junkie. And for the past few weeks in listening to the Letter from James all I hear in my head is Eliza Doolittle singing,

Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through; first from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?

We are inundated with words. Words from politicians, words from individuals who feel they represent us, words from people seeking justice, words from people seeking help. Words telling us what to do and what to believe. Words telling us we are right, telling us we are wrong.

Words are important. They often define who we are, where we come from, and what we are feeling. Words have power. Whoever invented the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” never had a bully taunt them, a parent scold him, a fiancée break an engagement, or a doctor give her a cancer diagnosis. Words cut deep.

And we hear words in church. God’s Word – and words from those who seek to help us recognize a connection between the Gospel and our lives. Continue reading Words! Words! Words!

Evil and the Human Heart

11947543_10153637925899367_6423622083761918630_n A sermon preached on August 30, 2015 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut

The Fourteen Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17 B
James 1:17-27 and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

It is from the human heart
 that evil intentions come. Mark 7:21

It’s not easy to talk about and acknowledge the evil that is in our world. But we see it manifested in many forms all around us.

This summer I have been reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And exactly one week ago today, John and I were in Johannesburg retracing many of the steps Mandela took along with others in their struggle for freedom.

Knowing I was going to be preaching right after returning home from South Africa, I read today’s Gospel a few weeks ago to allow me to ruminate on it while away. The juxtaposition of Jesus chastising the Pharisees about their adamancy of following the Law while being immersed in how the laws of a country – in this case South Africa – wouldn’t leave me alone. Until recently, laws in South African centered around a formalized, systematic segregation of blacks, colored, Indians, and whites called apartheid. There were hundreds of laws about where one could live, what kind of education one could receive, who one could marry, where you could travel, what kind of job you could have, and on and on. Racism was an accepted governmental policy.

The history of how these laws came to be and where the roots of racism began started many generations ago. They were based on an interpretation of scripture paired with greed and fear by groups that began with Dutch and English colonialism. Their fear grew out of the belief that one race was superior to another as part of God’s creation. It became their tradition and way of life, and became ingrained in generations to come. Continue reading Evil and the Human Heart

Bread for Life

The Tenth Sunday of Pentecost: Proper 18 —John 6:24-35

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, center, celebrated the opening Eucharist of General Convention. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, center, celebrated the opening Eucharist of General Convention. Photo: Sharon Sheridan/ Episcopal News Service

For the next few weeks, our Gospel readings will be focused on bread. Last week we heard the story of the feeding of the five thousand, miraculously accomplished through the division of five loaves and two fish from someone who was willing to share their food.

No matter how we might explain that miracle, it is a story of abundance. Every Sunday we celebrate that abundance of God’s love here and in churches all around the world. Some gatherings are small, some large. My job takes me to many places around the country in which I have had the opportunity to worship in many settings. From a large, ornate cathedral brimming with people to a few people gathered in a circle under a large tree, the eating of bread and drinking of wine – from one loaf and from one cup – symbolize our unity through time and space.

I got to experience a daily Eucharist along with an average of 3,500 people in July at General Convention. Each worship service involved 36 to 40 deacons, two to six vergers and a dozen altar guild members. They used one-and-a-half cases of Taylor Tawny Port and 96 loaves of bread from a local bakery. The elements were distributed by 144 Eucharistic ministers at 12 stations.[1] Not quite one loaf and one cup – but we were one in Christ. Fed with the bread that lasts forever.

There’s another particular church I have visited in San Francisco that many of you may have heard about. St. Gregory’s of Nyssa was built in 1995 in a not-so-great neighborhood of Portero Hill across from a brewery. Their mission statement is “to see God’s image in all humankind, to sing and dance to Jesus’s lead, and to become God’s friends.” Their liturgy is fully participatory and all are welcome–especially strangers—to communion. The sanctuary is incredible: the saints dance high above, depicted by Mark Dukes, a local IMG_3571African-American iconographer, who painted the entire rotunda with a mural of ninety larger-than-life figures, ranging from Teresa of Avila to Malcolm X and King David, dancing in a circle led by a dark-skinned, risen Christ. And as they move in their space, singing and dancing, they move from an area where the Word is shared to the table, where the gather around, centered below the dancing saints. Continue reading Bread for Life