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Spiritual Reading-Exile

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Psalm 137 Super flumina

1 By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, *
when we remembered you, O Zion.

exile, far from home, far from Zion, from Jerusalem
far from our center, our heart, our life
How did this happen? What idols did we worship that led us here?
How did we alienate ourselves from our Zion, our heart, our center, our God

2 As for our harps, we hung them up *
on the trees in the midst of that land.

our joy lost, our culture, our hopes and dreams nullified
so we sat by alien waters and contributed our tears
lost in a desert, no nourishment for our hearts
wandered far in a land that was waste
inhabiting a death in life

3 For those who led us away captive asked us for a song, and our oppressors called for mirth: *
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

Now our captors want us to entertain them with the shreds of our culture
“And the darkies are happy all day.”
like “Negro Spirituals” in their hymn books so they can join in
these mamzers won’t even let us hang up our damned harps
We know singing those songs won’t revive us but they delight alien masters.

4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song *
upon an alien soil?

Our songs are roots music that won’t root in this alien soil
we ourselves don’t root and grow here
the food of our joy withers on the vine
we starve for our Jerusalem

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, *
let my right hand forget its skill.
6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, *
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

I will remember, I will, I will, I will.
I will maintain my skill, my love, my way of life
It will be there waiting for The Day
I am alive
I’m not dead yet
I can still sing my own song
Never forget. Je souvien

7 Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom, *
who said, “Down with it! down with it! even to the ground!”

Avenge me, I cry, revenge, revenge, revenge
revenge those destroying my life

8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, *
happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, *
and dashes them against the rock!

My own feeling of revenge are abhorrent.
I am abhorrent.
How can I feel these verses?
How can I not?
I know myself in knowing this
Bowed down and ashamed.
I repent in dust and ashes.

Women’s March

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

A thought about yesterday’s marches hit me at church
(thoughts like this often come to me in worship)
and I tried to express it but it was inchoate and didn’t strike other people well.

I started out seeing this as women’s marches, about women’s issues. I was struck by men marching. They supported the women, I thought. And I thought that it was good. I wish I had marched.

But it struck me another way, that women needed support, as if they could not do it on their own. It struck me as an index of the sexism in our culture. This is not to say in any way that I at all think men should not have marched. But I saw the sexism of our cultural sexism laid bare before my eyes. And that men will take over everything you let them. Which I thought was a major point of the march

And then I remembered 1965, when a small group from my college went to Atlanta to ask Dr King how we could help. He told them that he had plenty of marchers for the last day’s march into Montgomery but he needed bodies for the first day’s march out of Selma. And we went and did just that.

Bodies. White bodies. Bodies less likely to be savaged by the forces of law and order. It had to have the patronage and protection of white folk. Another index, of the structural racism of that day, And of this?

I also remembered When in the religious life we attended the life profession of a sister in a “sister” order. She made her profession to our superior, not hers. It takes a man, I thought. I pointed out this dissonance to our superior. Then it changed. It takes a man.

Sigh.

Christmas Prayer

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Isaiah 29:13-24 (NRSV)

The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;
so I will again do
amazing things with this people,
shocking and amazing.

So many times my heart is far away, and my worship learned by rote.
Lord please do again amazing things, shocking and amazing.
Wake me up again to You.

Spiritual Reading

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

I was struck by this psalm at Morning Prayer today. I thought of a psycho-spiritual reading of it. This reading has nothing to do with any historical or cultural setting of the Psalm. It reads it much like the Fathers and Mothers who read it before historical cultural reading began. You must judge whether this reading is valid.

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said to me, *
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

So we go to where God is in us. We go with great joy to the Center where “they” have told us God is.

2 Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.

That place is our Jerusalem, the inward temple of God, the Center of spiritual geography.

3 Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself;

It is a city, a place with many dwelling places, full of life. A place of living together, a place of meeting and exchange. And it is at unity with itself. So in that Center all of our self is unified, all our aspects and parts work together. The city is like our body, made up of many organs and parts, interrelated and working together to make up a living being. And so it is with that psycho-spiritual Center, unifying us in all our ways.

4 To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, *

All the tribes come here to this Center, all our inner tribes, those voices and urges within us come together as a Unity.

the assembly of Israel,
to praise the Name of the LORD.

And together they praise the LORD. That is their function. That is our ultimate function. It is the ultimate function of all life, of the whole round world. And here we can listen to our parts, our inner tribes and all the tribes of our body. We can hear and see it all working together as lived praise.

5 For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.

There, in that Center, is the place of judgement, the place of discernment where we see our lives and all the other lives from the point of view of this unity.

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
“May they prosper who love you.

From thence we may look to peace and invite it, implore it, to come to us and indwell our Unity, our Center. From thence we may see all the other Centers around us and pray they flourish.

7 Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.

In peace and quietness we may dwell in our Centers together and flourish, we may feed on that life of God given us that is our Center.

8 For the sake of my kindred and companions, *
I pray for your prosperity.

Now from our Center we see the other Centers related to us by bonds of bodies and fellowships, and all prosper and flourish together.

9 Because of the house of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good.”

And lies the only good reason for goodness which we find in our Centers and in Jerusalem, the Center of all Centers

A Real Way to Be Good

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

A clue to what being good is. Living as if the Gospel were true.

In the first Letter of Peter it says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By
his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable,
undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

I have long thought that the response to the Resurrection,
to our salvation through the Easter event, is to live into it. By this I mean just to live as if the Gospel were true. I think this is what the first generations of Christians did. I think it was this behavior that got them into such trouble. They were not fitting in. They didn’t fit into anybody’s categories. Most of all, they refused to worship the Emperor, their civic duty. Paul in one place says that we are citizens of heaven. Tell that to the tax authorities. They came across as resisters. The martyrs suffered such abuse and torture because they knew another world in which they had lived and would continue to live.

And what can we do to just live the gospel as if it were
true?

Doubt and Faith

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

This morning at our bible study I hit a crux of doubtand faith. We
somehow got into talking about forced busing in schools. Several people had been school teachers and deplored the effects on their teaching. We marveled how an attempt to do good had backfired. I used to call this, The Helping Hand Strikes Again. Then we got into discussing life as Christians. We had a reading about our saint of the day, Henri Perrin, who had founded the Worker Priest movement. He was a priest and evangelist among factory workers. I pointed out that I work at a Kroger, so in a way I am a worker priest. I am not out of the closet as a priest but if I were, how could I evangelize.I suggested we are all worker Christians and our primary call in lay ministry was there. But I wondered how that would work in systems that prevented us from being as Christian as we could be, living as Jesus had lived. One of the others volunteered that we just had to be nice to people and they would get the picture. this raised some doubt in me that others would actually get it about the sources of our behavior. I thought it was utopian.

But another larger doubt struck me. What would Dorothy Day or William Stringfellow have said about just being nice. What about people whose work caught them in the toils of the principalities and powers? Don’t the things that dehumanize and disempower us need to be rebuked and resisted. The term “factory hand” has always struck me. Only a hand, not a whole person. And what about the pursuit of profit at the cost of other humans’ needs. How does just being nice work with those systems?

Advice to Early Christians

Monday, April 11th, 2016

I was reading Morning Prayer and this week the letters of Peter. I realized that these letters advise Christians on how to live peaceably inb the pagan Roman Empire, like accepting slavery etc.

But what have these to do with us? Well maybe we live in the empire of an oligarchy of unchristian behavior. How then shall we live in these our days?

Death

Friday, March 11th, 2016

The other week at our Wednesday Bible study, we were
talking about sensing our mortality and I mentioned the
little verses I learned as a child:

“Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
And if I die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take”

A number of the others thought this was a bad thing to
teach a child. I wondered why it hadn’t bothered me.

I realized that from earliest childhood I was aware of death
in my world and felt no fear. One if my earliest memories is Aunt Kate dying. I remember hearing the words “death rattle” and then I was sent from the house. After Aunt Kate was gone, I inherited her room and her bed.

At age four I came down with double pneumonia and then appendicitis. I remember the doctor coming in and examining me, calling the hospital, and wrapping me up in the dark red blanket and rushing me off to the hospital. My appendix burst while they were probing for it. I think the probe struck it and it burst. I remember the girl in the next bed in the ward, blonde and curly-haired, who had what fear feared I would have, peritonitis, dying in the night. I awoke to a fuss next to me and curtains drawn and then I went back to sleep. In the morning the next bed was empty and had bright white fresh bedding.

I remember as a young child being taken to a party at my grandparents friends Skin and Mame for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. I usually got to the newspaper first and so three years later I learned that Skin had killed Mame, who was quite ill, with a ball peen hammer and then had a heart attack. He was charged with murder but never recovered to be tried.

As a child I liked to roam around a bit and one place was the office of the coal yard down the street. My friend in the office was Mrs Hubley. She welcomed me and answered my questions and chatted with me. One day I opened the morning paper to learn that she had committed suicide.

Finally there was Eddie Gibbs. His wife as a workmate of my mother. My mother and her boyfriend sometimes double-dated with Eddie and his wife. Then Eddie was charged, tried, and convicted of deliberately killing his girlfriend. He was sentenced to death and was electrocuted. I followed this from ages seven to ten.

So I guess death was all around.

Micro-abrasions

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Reader, be aware:
This is not an accusation. It is a minority view of social process. It is a view from marginalization and alienation. No apology is needed and might just be inappropriate. Saying sorry may be appropriate. I don’t know.

I have been thinking of PTSD in ordinary life.

People have been talking about what they call microagressions. These are outright offenses or things that we take offense at, that we feel attacked by.

I have been thinking of another more widespread facet that I call microabrasions. These are things that rub you wrong, that abrade your best sense of self. You know these are just the way things are, the system. Even knowing it is improving however gradually, it still hurts.

Some of mine came from what I have freely chosen. I have chosen to go without television. It’s a sort of askesis. I was without it in the monastery and never really went back to it much, so I have omitted it from my life. I get my news from an online newspaper, my entertainment from reading. There is all that noise telling me I need things I don’t, and to want them even if I don’t need them. No thanks. Still I often find myself at a loss for what people are talking about, West Wing, Downton Abbey. You know all the names, you talk about them. My choice, no offense, but a loss.

I am childfree so I feel that I am not what society says I should be. So all the baby pictures, all the Facebook posts of how the kid is growing, learning, succeeding, school pictures, all the happy parents and grands. I feel left out of something, of a piece of creativity, of love. And of something I feel unfit for and resolved not to want in the first place. About 1960 my friend Ed and I decided that the world was so under threat from the bomb that we wouldn’t bring kids into the world to be destroyed. This was my choice, though as gay men, we really had no such expectations in those days. But still nuclear paranoia is another sort of PTSD.

I am family free and so again feel left out of family joys and fun, of family dinners, of the love and brother/sisterhood that family gives, of the support and critique implicit in family life, of being a parent, sibling, uncle, aunt, godparent. Once on Thanksgiving, one of our priests preached about how great it was to include singles in their family Thanksgiving dinners. I told him afterward I felt charitied on. Again a small PTSD speaks and I had a larger from my own experience of family.

Consequently I am also single. So I am left out of loving sexual relationships I feel vaguely ineligible for and sometimes deeply in need of. The abrasion is seeing happy couples in church, one rubbing the other’s back.

Above and over all, for me at least, I am gay and so smacked in the face by heterosexuality, the assumed default state unless explicitly denied, happy couples who can show out their love when in many places I could not, had I someone to show it with, all those pdas. Then there is pop music, love songs, presumed heterosexual even if not explicit. And our summer show, with all the love songs. Sure you can translate them into gay terms “standing on the corner watching all the boys, watching all the boys go by,” but you have to watch more or less furtively. And anyway translation is itself a microabrasion. There are as well all the public slights, the contestations in the Anglican Communion, the contestations of politicians, and “Christians.” And then, Lenten self-examination reveals opportunities for love not taken, for fear of whatever, rejection, condemnation, or just plain unarticulated fear. So microabrasions, but not aggressions, just the way things are.

Let me say it again:
This is not an accusation. It is a minority view of social process. It is a view from marginalization and alienation. No apology is needed and might just be inappropriate. Saying sorry may be appropriate. I don’t know.

Morning Prayer Today-Revelation 18:9-20 and ISIS

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Disaster for the Capitol of the World:

“Alas, alas, the great city,
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in one hour she has been laid waste.

And gloating:

Rejoice over her, O heaven,
you saints and apostles and prophets!
For God has given judgment for you against her.”

 

Revenge for all that the Powers had done to God’s faithful, yes, and also condemnation of all that the City of the Powers is and has:

“And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.”

Economic disaster:

“The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,”

“And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,”

This speaks of revenge and retribution, God’s destruction of an evil culture that occupies the lands of the Saints, and also their hearts and minds. It must be destroyed so that the Pure and Holy may again worship their God and live Godly lives.

This sounds to me much like the Islamic State, a new Caliphate. And indeed Revelation will go on to prophesy a new Jerusalem to replace the evil city Babylon.

I stand in shock and what can I say.