Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Two Weddings and a Funeral

Friday, a wedding; Saturday, a funeral and a wedding rehearsal, and Sunday, a wedding. It's a wonder that these rituals happen and the rituals themselves are a wonder in a world where meaning is elusive. I've been noodling on this time spent with other people's family and friends. Here are some initial gleanings...

Guiding people through ritual rocks. Finding a sweet spot in the midst of hope, reality, and the work that follows the celebrations is an epic puzzle. My people will tell you that I love a good puzzle.

Raw emotion is tapped. Joy, grief, love, hate, and everything in-between. Weddings are blinding joy bombs. Standing with a couple whose family and friends are pouring big energy toward them defies description. Weddings also scratch at grief in the absence of family and friends who have died. Funerals ache with unresolved tension as life is celebrated through the pain of loss, the promise of good news, and the reworking of family relationships among the living.

Family is a complicated mix of dependence, independence, and interdependence. I'm especially struck by this truth on a global scale as we in the U.S. celebrate Independence Day while struggling to live well in the actual interdependence of the human family.

A hummingbird made a prolonged appearance in the trumpet flowers at Sunday evening's wedding. Some things that happen during weddings and funerals are pure poetry with multiple interpretations. More pieces to add to the epic puzzle. I'll keep working on it...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Love is Risk

Dorothy Day, 19th century Catholic social activist, is quoted as saying, “I only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Dr. King said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Vincent Harding, friend and occasional speechwriter to Dr. King, said to a colleague on a panel of speakers in one of my seminary courses, “I am going to disagree with you in love,” and then proceeded to do just that. In Christian scripture, Jesus commands love of God, self, neighbor, and enemy. 

I’m personally challenged by these stalwart leaders in my faith tradition and the moment of leadership we faith leaders across traditions find ourselves in. Mockery is the name of the game today. Critique over connection is often the first move. I’m just as guilty as the next person indulging in laughter over and against another person’s humanity just to blow off some steam. But I keep asking myself, how are we going to lead through this moment in time if all the sides are indulging similarly? Will there come a time when higher ideals prevail to ground our connection and critique? Is there a critical mass of people needed to risk leading in love for the planet and its people to make it through this time? There is no crystal ball. There is only the next right step. 

For me, the next right step is continuing to risk connection across differences of race, faith, and politics. Robert Frost, in his poem “Servant to the Servants (1915),” writes, “I can see no way out but through.” Maya Angelou made a similar observation. For me, the way through this time means risking love as the highest ideal. Loving the earth, loving vulnerable neighbors and obnoxious ones, loving colleagues, and loving national and world leaders that I’m least inclined to love. Love is neither capitulation nor sentiment. Love connects over and against withdrawal. Love is powerful. Love is risk. Love is the way through.

[Written to multi-race, multi-faith leaders for Together Colorado Faith Voices, June 13, 2017]

Thursday, February 2, 2017

4 Year of Ordination...

February 2nd marks my fourth year of ordination and call as a pastor with Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver. It is weird, sacred, fun, hard, unpredictable, mundane and amazing work with people I've grown to love. It doesn't get much better than that.

February 2nd is also church festival called Presentation of our Lord (Luke 2:22-40).  I was delighted to discover this tidbit as my ordination was scheduled for that day since picking Bible verses was simple.  Mary and Joseph bring their new baby to the temple. The elder Simeon scoops up the baby Jesus, celebrating the promise of God, while Anna the prophet preaches redemption to all who would listen. This story resonates for me in so many ways - the faithful elders proclaiming good news, the new parents trying to figure out what it means, and the child who IS hope. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

So that people may live...

This evening, January 17th, I'm part of a meeting with the goal of strengthening relationship between the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders. After 16 years as a pediatric cancer nurse and now as a pastor, I’m involved in this process because I’m committed to relationship that values everyone at the table…ALL of us – people from the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders.  That is clear.  What isn’t clear, are issues like Lawful Order (state level) that can lead to your detention by law enforcement and Use of Force (local) once you're detained.

The lack of clarity means that people get hurt. And, disproportionately, our black and brown brothers and sisters are at higher risk. People who I know and love.  People who you know and love. Doing this challenging work together as people in the community, law enforcement, and elected leaders means that people will live.  Now, there’s the challenge of sitting through the tension of a public meeting.  And there’s the challenge of figuring out how to do the hard work ahead.  But those challenges pale in comparison to the painful challenge of being someone who is devalued, injured, killed, or grieving someone who’s been killed.