Spiritual Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

AIDS Memoir–Last Rites and Diaper Change

October 30th, 2015

This is an old writing, published in a British newspaper.

Faith and Reason: Deadly afraid of dying all alone: The Rev Robert Rea, of
Newark, New Jersey, gives an account of the challenge of trying to give
individual care to an Aids patient in the last days of his life in an American
city.
THE REV ROBERT REA

Saturday, 11 December 1993
I NOTICED in a recent gospel reading that when the Son of Man comes, he comes
to judge the nations. We usually hear a judgement of our individual behaviour in
this reading. And we can usually find things we individuals do to help the
least. But what if that is not the question being asked? What if our national
behaviour is at issue? What if it is presidents and legislators and
administrators that are to be judged? So I thought I would detail what I have
been doing over the last few days that I do, and my agency does, on behalf of,
and instead of, the nation. But that is preface.

Greetings from Calcutta, USA, and the St Somebody Aids Resource Center. Thursday
I got a call from the local visiting nurse in our church about a man, call him
Jose. Jose has been hyperactive and clinging to the home health help, because he
is dying and afraid and he has only eight hours a day of her services, so he
causes a fuss when she has to go home at 4pm leaving him alone. Maybe as a
priest I could go in and pray with him and calm him down. So I did. It worked
some, but he is alone all night.

If you’ve seen the figure of Christ on the most agonised possible Spanish
crucifix, you know what Jose looks like. No muscle mass to speak of, lying on
the couch because he is too uncomfortable on his hospital bed. Besides which,
think what it must mean to him to climb into that hospital bed. Deadly afraid to
die, wanting to die at home, and not in a nursing home. One of his best friends
died last week, the other is now dying in the hospital.

Jose is in pain but they can’t or won’t do anything about it because he is an
intravenous drug user and they are afraid to mix in any other pain meds. Come to
think of it, he hasn’t been able to go out and get his methadone for two weeks,
let alone street drugs. So not only is he facing death, but he is going though
withdrawal at the same time. No wonder he is in pain. I do my job, I comfort and
talk to him about all this. I anoint him and give him communion. Later, when I
check back in after the nurse has gone home, I have to help him clean himself up
and change his diaper. The comforts of religion, Last Rites and diaper change.

I talk to the visiting nurses. He’s not sick enough to get round-the- clock
care. They will try for more hours but it takes a while to get approval from
Medicaid – ie, welfare here in Calcutta, USA. So I see him again Friday. And
leave him alone again. I can’t stay with him. It is in a neighbourhood where I
as a white person am not very safe. And my car was stolen earlier in the week.
But he is supposed to have health workers over the weekend.

He says he doesn’t want to die alone. I tell him I will do my best to see that
he doesn’t. I tell him he isn’t going to die Thursday night. Friday I tell him
he won’t die over the weekend. I believe this; I can see he’s not quite that
close. And he isn’t. I tell him I will see him after church Sunday.

Sunday it turns out his sister-in- law came Saturday and found him alone, so she
took him home. Nobody is around to tell me where to find him. Well, at least
he’s not alone.

Today the health worker calls me to tell me where he is. So I see him and sit
with him a while. Today he can’t hold his head up to eat or drink. We, the
worker and I, sit him up and his head falls back and hits the couch with a nasty
crunch. Finally we get a pillow behind his head. He can’t use his atomiser for
his asthma any more either. The nurse covers his legs, which he doesn’t want.
She says he’s got to or he’ll catch pneumonia. I think to mayself that it would
be a merciful end. He asks for the oils which I had not brought. I was reverting
to my job as social worker. Tomorrow, I promise him, I will bring the oils.

Later I talk to the health worker who takes such wonderful care of him. She says
she isn’t sure she can continue. The neighbourhood isn’t safe enough for her to
come to. She gets off at 4pm and has to take a taxi to a streetcorner safe
enough to wait at for a bus.

Later yet I talk to his sister-in- law. (This is Hispanic for some sort of
relative. She calls him her uncle.) She says that she is getting another eight
hours of health aid care arranged. If she can do that she can take the other
eight hours of the day, and move him back to his own apartment. I applaud that
heartily. We will work on getting him to use the hospital bed, where we can
crank him up so he won’t choke and suffocate.

The sister-in-law says she won’t have him be alone and incontinent. I applaud
that even more. She is going to try to get him into the nursing home where she
works, but the paperwork takes several weeks, and then there is a waiting list.
I tell her I don’t think we have time. He is going to die sooner than that. This
shocks her somewhat. We talk about that for a while. So now we are making plans
to find people to stay for the gap between when the sister-in-law goes to work
and the aid comes in the morning. That much even I may be able to do.
So this morning the sister-in-law called the ambulance and sent him to the
hospital. This time the hospital is keeping him. He has meningitis, they think,
and gangrene on his feet. So he has a couple of days. They think he will make it
tonight. His condition is stable. He’s in a lot of agony but the vital signs are
stable.

He can’t really talk anymore. He makes sounds but you can’t tell what he’s
trying to tell you. So I anointed him and said goodbye in case I didn’t make it
back to see him again. Tomorrow is our day to give out the turkeys and dinners
for our clients. If I get a chance I will try to see him again. If not, I will
try to get by on Thanksgiving. Without a car, it’s difficult.

Next we think about a funeral.

So keep all of us in your prayers.

I think I know what the son of Man would say about our individual work. What
would he say about the nation that allows people to get into this state?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/faith-and-reason-deadly-afraid-of-dying
-all-alone-the-rev-robert-rea-of-newark-new-jersey-gives-an-account-of-the-
challenge-of-trying-to-give-individual-care-to-an-aids-patient-in-the-last-days-
of-his-life-in-an-american-city-1466830.html

AIDS Memoir–The Shrink

October 30th, 2015

So the monastery guesthouse sheltered persons with AIDS.
One day a man turned up who said he had been beaten up by
his wife and run away from home. He seemed the proverbial
Caspar Milquetoast, small, meek, anxious, and fearful. He
stayed with us for a week, I think. Then he told me that
his wife was coming to get him on Sunday. As indeed she
did. She was fierce and fearsome, an angry woman. She
referred to him as Doctor. I looked surprised. She said, Oh
he didn’t tell you. then she angrily took him and left.
Some months later, I saw his picture in an obituary in the
city newspaper. He was a psychiatrist, the Director of a
state mental health center in a neighboring state.

It’s familiar story, the married gay man having sex with
other men in secret. There are so many. A sociologist I
knew, Laud Humphries, made a study of this, published as
“Tearoom Trade: Impersonal sex in public places.” Perhaps I
may write more about him in another post.

Arrgh

October 30th, 2015

read Nehemiah at (Episcopal) Morning Prayer:
The exiles return to rebuild Jerusalem. The local authorities question their right to do so, Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab. This is Nehemiah’s reply:
The God of heaven is the one who will give us success, and we his servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historic right in Jerusalem.”
And I hear the voice of Bibi Netanyahu.
And so it goes.