Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Will New Hampshire undo Marriage Equality?

In Concord this morning,  the House is scheduled to vote on HB 437, the bill that would repeal the freedom to marry in New Hampshire.

The bill will likely pass today, but Governor Lynch has firmly committed to veto.

This is an excerpt of my email to my state legislators:

As a minster, it is my honor and privilege to play a particular role in the covenant of marriage: I declare, on behalf of my religious community, the presence of God in the lives of two people as they publicly commit themselves to one another. 

Like all ministers, I am not required by New Hampshire law to do this for anyone. I choose to bless marriages based on a couple's commitment to a lifelong journey together, and by their connection to our faith community. 

I proudly do this in New Hampshire, reassured that our state provides equal protection for couples under the law: the right to make personal decisions together, the right to visit and care for each other when they are sick, and the legal rights entitled to a couple by the commitment of marriage. 

Do not go back to a time where we withhold the right to love, marry, and form a family from two consenting adults based on a particular image of marriage. 

Personally, my wife Darlene and I have found our marriage renewed and strengthened by witnessing gay and lesbian couples fight so hard for the right of marriage: a right that far too many people of my generation consider old-fashioned, stifling, and easily ended by divorce.

Undoing Marriage Equality would diminish, not strengthen, the covenant my wife and I have together. 

Two polls, including one conducted by the University of New Hampshire, have shown that New Hampshire residents of all ages, political ideologies, and regions of the state oppose efforts to repeal our marriage law. 
As a resident of New Hampshire concerned with the fair and equal treatment of all families in our state, I humbly ask that you to stand with the supermajority of voters around the state and oppose the repeal of marriage for gay and lesbian couples by voting NO on any version of HB 437.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jesus Temple Rage

This morning’s Gospel narrates a critical event in the life of Jesus:  his overturning the money tables and speaking out against the great Temple of Jerusalem.
The lectionary sets the stage with the reading from Exodus 20:1-17.  This is to help us in the 21st century see the historical basis for the practice of 1st century Judaism:  a particular way of living that sought relationship with God (and, it’s worth noting, a way of living that was fully embraced by Jesus the 1st century Jew).  It is not meant to be critique of what was practiced, and it is not raised to debate the theological implications found in Exodus, but is the necessary backdrop we need if we are to understand what happened concerning Jesus.
Dom Helder Camara once said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
Christian social justice advocate Jim Wallis similarly likes to say, “You can’t just keep pulling people’s bodies out of the river without sending somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in.”
Jesus’ act is filled with righteous anger:  overturning the temples and driving out the money changers was a radical act of defiance.
Jesus had been in the Temple before, but his earlier visits did not include overturning the tables.  What drove him to this act of civil disobedience, or what Carl Gregg calls “holy obedience”?  
In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, it was the informed place of recognizing abuse.  “You’re robbing the people” is what Jesus essentially says.  It is not an indictment of the historical Jewish process of relationship with God, which in the first century required a sacrifice of unblemished animals, provided by the temple itself for convenience.  Instead, it is a realization that the Temple leaders, along with the Romans, were financially abusing the people:  obtaining huge sums of money through the process.

(I tried to illustrate this last time I preached on the text, in a sermon called "Angry Jesus")
Jesus was executed precisely when he moved against the system. In John Dominic Crossan’s words, “Those who live by compassion are often canonized. Those who live by justice are often crucified.” 
(again, cited by Gregg)
Matthew, Mark, Luke each have Jesus saying that the leaders have turned the Temple into a “den of thieves.” 
It is fascinating to note that that The Gospel of John, instead, has Jesus say “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” (John 2:16)  (Thanks to David Lose for this observation...)
John additionally moves the event to early in the Gospel (Chapter two), rather than near the end of the narrative like the other Gospels.
John’s change is theological nature, rather than historical.  It is not to highlight an abuse by those who run the Temple, but rather a profound new reality.
John's Gospel was written well after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.  The Temple had been understood to be the place where God dwelled.  But now it was no longer in existence.  So, in the Gospel of John, Jesus himself becomes the place where God dwells.  And by the our call to “love one another as I have loved you”...WE are called to be the place where God dwells.
When you combine these two ideas, you get this:
If the church ceases to be what it is meant to be, then, Jesus says, I can raise up a new community. In just three days time (mirroring the 3 days in the grave), I’ll have a new community of people that more reflects the vision God has for the world!
It clearly says that we (the church) are not as important as we think we are:  meaning that our buildings, our customs, our particular word choices and so on are not as critical to God’s (or our own) well being as we like to think. We aren’t entitled to anything simply because we’re the church. And we are certainly not called to protect God from those who are pursing truth and justice.  Rather, the reverse is true.
We the Church are called to live passionately in what it means to dwell in God:  a community centered on what is just and good, welcoming everyone who comes searching for the holy in their lives, and recognizing where it is at work throughout the world.
Thanks be to God.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Joshua Tree!!!

U2's best known album was released 25 years ago today.

Can you imagine a U2 concert without Where the Streets have no Name???

Me neither.

Add With or Without You, Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Bullet the Blue Sky, Running to Stand Still, and In God's Country (and apologies for not mentioning the others by name), and you have an album that, in it's decade, can only be rivaled by Michael Jackson's Thriller. 

The Joshua Tree remains one of the great albums of all time, with it's vivid and compelling lyrics as well as The Edge's soaring guitars and Bono's unmistakable voice.

Happy Birthday:  the gift is ours.

Gospel of Glee (first run)

Went to Trinity Cathedral Cleveland last weekend.  I spent 7 years there on the Cathedral staff, with the flexibility to try a number of different things in the area of Christian Formation and Popular Culture.

This was my first time back "working", and I kept really busy:  extended Saturday study, a forum on Sunday, and preaching at three services.

Saturday's program was "The Gospel of Glee".  We explored the "good news" to be found in the popular show.

We looked closely at four episodes:  Preggers and Wheels, Grilled Cheesus, and Born This Way.

Preggers set the stage:  the whole episode leads up to a powerful conversation between main character Kurt and his Dad.  This was the first proof to me that Glee was more than just incredible voices and choral moments.  Wheels took a theme to another level:  the assumptions we make towards others, the moments of insight we have in teachable moments, and that good people who are thoughtful and considerate in one area still have their places where growth is needed.

Grilled Cheesus was the first close look at religion in the show.  I developed the ideas found in an earlier blog post.

Finally, Born This Way explored self-acceptance and expanded the Lady Gaga lyrics to look not only at embracing yourself, but deciding what needs to be changed and what is keeping you from living fully.  Born This Way is primarily about being honest with yourself, and getting "ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY"!!!

I feel like there is a great deal more to develop from Glee, and I'm looking forward to more opportunities to facilitate discussions.