Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"What, me worry?' & the Sermon on the Mount

So do not worry about tomorrow, 

for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. 

Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:34 NRSV

 I'm  soon away to Trenton UC to conduct the fifth and final session of our book study on Sermon on the Mount by Amu-Jill Levine. I've found the book helpful and provocative and admire that Levine, who is Jewish, is respectful and insightful about Jesus, the Jew, and the New Testament.

Today we'll touch on the portion of chapter 6 of Matthew in which he invites the disciples to live beyond worry and anxiety. As Jesus speaks he mentions the birds and the wildflowers which don't accumulate stuff and simply go about their lives. Given his setting, these were likely references to what they could literally see close at hand. I've been to Galilee in April when the wildflowers were breathtakingly profuse, and in October when the hillsides are brown and appear barren.

Levine makes the connection to the apostle Paul's words to the early Christian congregation in Philippi. Even though he is older and under house arrest in Rome he encourages his readers to trust that he Christ is with them in their worries.

These are timely reminders as we hear about yet another, perhaps more virulent wave of the Coronavirus, and many of us wait for our vaccinations. It would be imprudent, even foolhardy to take a "what, me worry?' approach to imminent threats. Yet we want to have the confidence that "in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, we are not alone ." 

Now, I better get going before I start worrying about getting to the church on time...

Rejoice* in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.* 

5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 

6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 

7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

                                             Philippians 4:4-7

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Swastika for Good and Evil

 When The Sound of Music was edging toward the end of its run in Toronto a decade ago my long-suffering wife finally convinced me to attend with her. While I admit that I was reluctant,, I quickly realized that it was an excellent production and enjoyed the ride. I was unsettled in the final act when large, Nazi swastika flags were unfurled to help create the mood of the German takeover of Austria. This symbol has been a statement of hatred and destruction for more than 80 years now. For decades the swastika has evoked strong responses yet, sadly,  there has been a bold resurgence with White Supremacist groups in Germany, the United States and elsewhere. 

I recently read an article by Khyati Joshi called The swastika and the 4 H’s in which she speaks of the history of the symbol for different religions, and the current proposals to ban it as a hate symbol in some areas of the United States. Long before being co-opted by the Nazis it was a symbol of good fortune and prosperity, something I knew but to which I've given little thought. Perhaps I figured it was historic for Hindus and those of other religions, rather than a meaningful symbol in the present. 

Joshi concedes that most people associate the swastika with three H’s: hate, Hitler and the Holocaust. Yet for her there is a fourth association which is Heritage. As a child of Hindu parents in America she wasn't aware of the grim connotation of the swastika. But by the time she was a teenager she saw her Christian friends wearing crosses and her Jewish friends wearing Star of David or Chai pendants, aware that she would need to choose some other symbol than the swastika. 

At her Hindu wedding she was separated from her groom by a traditional cloth with a swastika, yet she took considerable care beforehand to speak with Jewish attendees, including a bridesmaid, about the ancient symbol.

This article is certainly a challenge to cultural assumptions and points out the complexities of living in a multi-cultural society. I'm glad I came across it. 

                                                                    Scene from the Sound of Music 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Passover and William Kurelek


                                     Doctor's Family Celebrating Passover in Halifax -- William Kurelek

When we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario back in BC (before COVID) for special exhibits we would usually take a few minutes in the excellent Canadian collection as well. I enjoy the paintings of prairie life by William Kurelek. Kurelek was the oldest child of Ukrainian immigrants, grew up in the Orthodox faith, was an atheist for a time, then converted to Roman Catholicism, He died young, at the age of 50, but he was a prolific painter, and created hundreds of religious images. I used his Canadian Nativity paintings in Christmas Eve services a number of times. 

                                        Jewish family celebrating the Sabbath in Edmonton - William Kurelek 

Yesterday, as Jewish Passover or Pesach began I was surprised to see a picture of a Kurelek Seder painting. Why did the devout RC create an image of a Jewish religious subject? In turns out that as he explored both his ethnicity and his faith roots he became interested in the backgrounds of others. In 1973 the shy Kurelek met an outgoing Jew named Abe Arnold and they collaborated on a book called Jewish Life in Canada. The paintings Kurelek created for the book are both down to earth, and reverent, as with so many of his works, including those on Christian themes. 

 Happy Pesach to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world  I pray that you be able to live your faith without fear from those is deal in mistrust and hatred. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Narrow Road of Faithfulness

1 Ride on! Ride on in majesty!  Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry:

O Saviour meek, pursue thy road with palms and scattered garments strowed.

This is Palm and Passion Sunday, the beginning of the solemn, profound days of Holy Week which begin with a parade which is perceived by Roman authorities as a protest march. As the days of the week unfold military and religious leaders are on high alert for sedition, and eventually Pilate decides that Jesus just isn't worth the trouble. We recognize Jesus' Good Friday crucifixion as a cosmic event: "behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." It is also grounded in the conflicts and politics of that moment in human history.

 If you are following the military coup in Myanmar/Burma you'll be aware that there has been significant resistance from the people of this troubled nation in the form of street protests. Many civilians have died as a result, upwards of 90 yesterday, alone. 

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country (88%) the persecuted Rohingya are Muslims (4%) with Christians at 6%. 

Recently a Roman Catholic nun was in the news there. because of her courageous and peaceful challenge to heavily armed police officers. Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, who is 45, begged a group of heavily armed police officers to spare “the children” and take her life instead. The image of the Catholic nun in a simple white habit, her hands spread, pleading with the forces of the country’s new junta as they prepared to crack down on a protest has gone viral and won her praise in Myanmar.

This photo is a powerful tableau, not just because of her gesture, but with the response of the police officers, who are likely Buddhist. A couple of them adopt a prayerful posture while others look on.

Every day disciples of Jesus choose to be faithful to the Prince of Peace, willing to suffer alongside him, if necessary. We may not be able to attend in-person worship in our setting today, or to wave a palm branch. Still, as we follow the news this Holy Week we can look to those who show us the narrow road as a model for our discipleship. 

4 Ride on! Ride on in majesty!  In lowly pomp ride on to die; 

bow thy meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, thy power, and reign.

                                               Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889 -

James Ensor

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Emancipation Day in Canada

 It's rare for a bill to be passed unanimously in the Canadian House of Commons but on Wednesday 335 Members of Parliament voted together to declare August 1st as Emancipation Day in this country.  The date marks the anniversary of when Britain's Parliament abolished slavery in the British Empire in 1834.

In response to this decision Green Party Leader Annamie Paul, who is a Black woman said: "For almost 200 years Emancipation Day has gone generally uncommemorated, and untaught, though people of African descent have lived in Canada since the transatlantic slave trade and the Indigenous Peoples of these territories predate the colonialists."

August 1st is in a time of the year when Canadians are doing whatever they can to soak up the sun and may be less likely to pay attention to Emancipation Day or anything other than enjoying the nearby statutory holiday. I do hope that we can recognize the importance of the day across the country 

                                                   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- Emancipation Day 1956

Emancipation Day has been celebrated in Windsor, Ontario, since the 1930's through to  1967, and the occasion has been revived in recent years. The day would draw large crowds and drew big musical acts 
such as the Supremes, Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder.

Dr. Martin Luther King, the Baptist pastor and Civil Rights activist was a guest for Emancipation Day in 1956.

Last year the United Church of Canada affirmed Emancipation Day and encouraged congregations to do so within worship. Who knows, the day may come when this too is a statutory holiday as well. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Annunciation and Maternal Mental Health


The Annunciation -- Henry Ossawa Tanner -- 1898

In the United Church we tend to acknowledge the Annunciation, the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus, during Advent in the lead-up to Christmas. For Roman Catholics and Anglicans the Feast of the Annunciation was yesterday, March 25th. Why the difference?  Do the math and you'll realize that it's nine months from March 25th, until Christmas day, or the normal length of a human pregnancy. Clever, even though we know that Jesus wasn't actually born on the 25th of  December.

It seems fitting that on the day when millions of Christians acknowledged the story in Luke of the bewildered and brave young woman -- likely a teen -- hearing that she was the chosen one, we saw reports that research shows that maternal mental health has suffered during pandemic and worse than was anticipated. The isolation of COVID quarantine has affected so many, from the very young to the elderly. But it's not hard to appreciated why mothers who are caring for children with limited support from families and peers are struggling mightily. 

Our older daughter gave birth in the early days of the pandemic and even the hospital experience was unsettling. During the past ten months she has spent countless hours  and days alone with a 2/3 year-old and a newborn. She has done remarkably well, and she loves her children dearly, but this has made a demanding time even more challenging. 

In the Medieval and Renaissance periods young Mary was often portrayed as a member of the nobility, with all the benefits of her status. I much prefer the Tanner painting of the Annunciation with its image of a peasant girl. 

As we remember "perplexed" Miriam, of Mary, we can hold all the mothers of our world in the midst of stressful circumstances, asking God to give them the stamina and comfort they need for each day. 

                                                          Annunciation -- Fra Angelico -- c. 1445

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Cancel Culture & Following Jesus


                                                                             Alexi McCammond 

The recently appointed editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue magazine is now the former editor -- before she actually began in the role. Offensive tweets posted by Alex McCammond surfaced in which she commented of Asian features, derogatory stereotypes about Asians and slurs for gay people. This is obviously unacceptable and she had apologized for them a couple of years ago. The comments were from a decade ago when she was 17 years old. The call for her dismissal came from some of the staff at Teen Vogue, so this would have been an untenable situation. And as a culture we've decided that racist and homophobic attitudes can't be tolerated in a number of spheres. 

Just the same, this situation with McCammond has some asking about the intensity of what is termed "cancel culture", the zero tolerance of attitudes and behaviour, regardless of when they took place. We know that teenagers can be reckless and attention-seeking. Do we hold them accountable for everything they've said and done out of immaturity for the rest of their lives? 

And what about adults, particularly those of us born in the post-war era? We grew up in an unsavoury soup of racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. Attitudes which were the norm when we were kids and into adulthood make me cringe today. As a boy in the early 1960's I loved playing war where we fought the Japs and the Krauts. Those we deemed skinflints were hymies, an offensive and stereotyping term for Jews. We made jokes about gay people. It was shameful.

 I have repented of those sins along the way and attempted to do better. I'm grateful that I could apologize and move on from these mistakes as my outlook and understanding changed, and . I know that I'm not done yet.  

At the same time, I'm convinced that historic crimes such as sexual abuse should be brought to light and the perpetrators brought to justice. There is no "stale date" on injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. 

During out study of the Sermon on the Mount the past few weeks we've discussed Jesus' teaching about letting go of anger and of attempting to reconcile with those we've harmed or who have offended us. Jesus tells us not to be hypocrites, to be fixated on the speck in someone else's eye when we have a log in our own. 

Does this mean we should cancel "cancel culture?" I don't think so, but it's certainly complicated. Along with legal redress,  and political and corporate responsibility we need to ask about our moral and ethical grounding. We can be committed in every day to being the persons of grace Christ calls us to be, and to create a society of justice and equality.

If you've got this figured this out, please let me know!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Sin of Anti-Asian Racism

The other mornng I approached one of the staffers of the gym I attend who is of Asian background and speaks with an accent, suggesting that she is an immigrant. I began with "you don't have to answer my question if you don't feel comfortable" and then asked if she experienced much racism in our town.

She laughed and said she had no problem with my question. She said that she rarely did, other than some people acting a bit superior when it came to her English skills. Since we were both wearing masks and my hearing isn't what it once was, I was terrified I might need to ask her to repeat herself, but I didn't. Phew. We chatted for a bit and she told me that she came on her own to Canada -- Digby, Nova Scotia -- for education 15 years ago and decided to stay. As with so many immigrants her story is impressive.

I asked my question of her because of yet another grim mass murder in the United States which took the lives of 8 people including 6 women as Asian background. There is also a report about the rise in the number of anti-Asian incidents in Canada, more than 1,100 since the Coronavirus pandemic began a year ago. I don't want to assume that our community is not racist. Our local optometrist was born in China and her family emigrated to Toronto when she was young. She has experienced a number of racist incidents here, something she shared during an appointment at least three years ago. 

In Canada we've been willing to apologize for past injustices against those of Asian background, including the Chinese workers who built our railroads and the Japanese Canadians who were displaced and incarcerated during World War II. Yet anti-Asian racism abides and surfaces alarmingly quickly at any excuse. 

It was in 1960 that the United Church of Canada declared racism a sin, an official acknowledgment of what should have been obvious. Just the same, during the past 60 years United Church participants of different backgrounds, including Asian, have contended with racism, whether blatant or more subtle. A colleague in ministry has wondered whether her Asian background has impeded her career. 

The staffer at the gym said that she is an outgoing person who doesn't let incidents such as the comments and jokes about her English get to her. We agreed, though, that it is perplexing how people who speak only one language will mock those who speak two or more, because of an accent. 

In 2020 the United Church decided to be more intentional about becoming an anti-racist denomination. It is an important commitment. All of us can be vigilant about our own attitudes and challenge racism when we hear it or see it. 

Here is the link to the United Church website which includes our anti-racism statements, worship materials, and personal stories. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Senseless Carnage in Boulder, Colorado

In the summer of 2012 I attended a course at Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming. I spent a couple of days in nearby Yellowstone National Park first, then joined a group of Christians interested in faith and the environment at this retreat centre. It was an exceptionally beautiful setting and the speaker and company were stimulating. 

I was the only Canadian, but that didn't matter. That is, until we gathered for worship in the chapel one morning. A c ouple of participants arrived visibly shaken after hearingof a massacre at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, close to where they lived.

We prayed for the victims, the 12 who died and the 70 who were injured.I'll confess that I was unsettled and even angered at what like passivity to me regarding the loss of life amongst those people in the chapel. Surely to God we all understood the insanity of allowing virtually anyone to be armed with assault weapons. In the case of this young assailant he also used tear gas and rigged his apartment with explosives to create mayhem when it was searched. 

Yesterday a young gunman opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, about 55 kilometres from Aurora. The victims were innocent people going about their everyday lives. Many Americans have expressed sorrow, and the flag at the White House is at half mast, but where is the will to bring about change?

One Christian writer and pastor I follow on Twitter, Brian Zahnd, commented that gun violence is the issue that tempts him to move to another country. Shane Claiborne, another Christian leader 

We lose 100 lives a day to guns in the US
Last year, guns killed over 40,000 people.
In my lifetime, we’ve had more people killed with guns here in the US than in all the wars in US history combined. If you’re not concerned about gun violence, please don’t say you’re pro-life.

President Biden has already stated that he will immediately initiate changes to existing gun laws, including more thorough background checks. He has a far greater challenge in altering the deeply disturbing obsession with "the right to bear arms" which leads to this carnage.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Praying for the Two Michaels


Michael Kovrig (pictured with his wife, Vina Nadjibulla) has been detained in China since 2018. His trial occurred inal in Beijing today. Photograph: Family photo/AFP/Getty Images

In recent weeks I've been praying for the two Michaels, Spavor and Kovrig, aware that their "trials" were looming. These two Canadians have been incarcerated in China for more than two years on trumped up espionage charges. Their arrests were retaliation for the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada. She was been treated with respect under excellent conditions, has been visited by family, and had legal representation in a court of law. The Canadians have lived in deplorable circumstances and are being tried without consular support and in legal system with a 99% conviction rate. 

During Spavor's trial on Friday and Kovrig's today diplomats from Canada and 20 other countries gathered outside the courtrooms as a witness against these proceedings and the exclusion of diplomatic support. Both of these kangaroo courts were brief and verdicts withheld, for the time being.

As concerned as we are for these Canadian citizens, there are hundreds of other foreigners who are being held in Chinese prisons. The totalitarian government has become more dismissive of international law and agreements in the past decade. 

In addition, hundreds of thousands of Chinese Uighurs are in detention camps, tortured and brain-washed. They are drilled to renounce their religion, including public prayer and put their faith in “Xi Jinping Thought” rather than the Koran. Christians have been harassed and persecuted as well. 

The hope is that if the Michaels are convicted they might be expelled from China on medical grounds or some other reason. It's important that there has been vocal and concerted censure from other nations including the United States, but China doesn't respond readily to pressure.

So, will our prayers make any difference? I figure we can't stop until they are reunited with their families. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Nowruz and Point Petre Conservation Area


Our congregation, Trenton United Church. has been able to take advantage of our region's Green zone status (only 3 cases of COVID-19 in the past 8 days) to reopen for worship. We've been at every service since Ash Wednesday but today we decided to head elsewhere.

We made our way to Point Petre Wildlife Conservation Area, as far south in Prince Edward you can get.  It is a beautiful area jutting into Lake Ontario with its own micro-climate and flora. In a few weeks we'll return because the wildflowers are astonishing in Spring. There are interesting limestone rock formations to explore. 


As we drove, we talked about our awareness for the first time yesterday of Nowruz, the Iranian or Persian New Year. It is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people around the world on the Spring Equinox and has foods, and practices related 
It is a  secular holiday for most who observe it although there is a faith element for Zoroastrians, Bahiais, and some Muslim communities. It's believed that the Magi, who traveled to find the toddler Jesus, were Zoroastrians from Persia. 

I think it's wonderful that there is a religious festival which celebrates the Equinox and ties it to the New Year, I'd vote for March 20/21 over January 1st any time. 

Near the end of our ramble we stopped along the shore and built a fire in an existing pit, using some kindling we'd brought with us. As is happens, Nowruz has a ritual of fire building, which we like, but we decided to abstain from the fire-jumping which is part of the ritual. Ruth continues to be quite nimble, but my ancient knees would definitely not comply.

We gave thanks to the Creator while we looked out to the lake and enjoyed the absence of human noises until more visitors arrived. We also watched a mink make its way along the shore, then into the water to catch its lunch. They are remarkable swimmers and divers. 

I'm sure worship was meaningful at Trenton UC today, yet we felt we were in the right place. And yes, we did extinguish the remains of our fire. 

                                                                           Point Petre Fire 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Truth and Reconciliation, Dollars and Cents


Joseph Stewart, president of the Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation, holding a cross with cotton that he picked as a child in Louisiana.Credit...Saul Martinez for The New York Times

In recent decades there has been a growing call for reparations to colonialized and enslaved peoples in North America. This is essentially financial compensation to the descendants of those who were evicted from their traditional lands, those who were the victims of cultural genocide, and those who were used as enforced labourers in agriculture and other settings. In Canada the conversations have been largely with Indigenous peoples while in the United States they include those whose forbears were slaves. Too often religious institutions, including our United Church of Canada, were complicit with governments in this shameful behaviour. 

Five years ago we heard that in the 19th century the Roman Catholic Jesuits which created Georgetown University in Washington DC were grappling with their history of slave ownership. Not only did the order own slaves who worked it's land in nearby Maryland, during a period of financial crisis 272 slaves were sold to raise funds, including children. Many of these Black human beings were Roman Catholics whose children had been baptized by priests and who attended Mass. The Jesuits believed that these enslaved people had souls, yet could be bought and sold. 

A few days ago there was an announcement that a fund of $100 million has been established to compensate the roughly 5,000 living descendants of those who were enslaved by the Jesuits of Georgetown. The order has already committed $15 million and will endeavour to raise the balance. This is an important step in redressing a terrible wrong. Georgetown is not alone. There are other Roman Catholic orders and a number of US universities which have begun the process of compensating the descendants of those who were enslaved.

The United Church has paid financial compensation to some of  the Indigenous persons harmed by the Residential School System in Canada, which is apart from the compensation program of the federal government. In addition there is a UCC Healing Fund, to which members of the UCC were invited to contribute, and a Justice and Reconciliation Fund.

These financial responses to injustices are essential, as are the official apologies of governments and religious bodies. The honest work of Truth and Reconciliation must go beyond dollars to repentance, healing, and reconciliation. 

Credit...Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

Friday, March 19, 2021

Ted Lasso and Forgiveness


Ted Lasso, Ted Lasso, Ted Lasso. The praise and accolades for this Apple+ comedy series seemed to be popping up everywhere, and since we have a free subscription we decided to give it a try. The show is about a small-time American football coach named --wait for it -- Ted Lasso, who is improbably invited to coach a Premier League football team, aka soccer to North Americans. 

Ted is totally unequipped for the role, which is the strategy for a bitter divorcee who owns the club, part of her settlement. She wants the team to fail out of revenge against her philandering ex. Highly improbable, of course, but, hey, this is a comedy. Within the first ten minutes of the initial episode there is a sense of where this story will go, yet it turns out to be a delight because of the acting by Jason Sudeikis as Coach Ted, along with a a strong cast, and excellent writing. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way which keep the story from being predictable. 

This is a laugh-out-loud funny series, with a million hilarious one-liners. At the same time it is surprisingly thoughtful exploration of acceptance and other deeply human issues, including forgiveness. 

While I don't want to give too much away, there is a point when the owner comes to Ted, letting down her bristly, imperious guard to offer a heartfelt apology for her abysmal behaviour. Ted pauses for a few moments, then offers three words: "I forgive you." Then he takes a few moments to offer why he is willing to forgive, in a manner that is gracious and tender. It is a genuinely moving moment. Ruth, my wife, suggested that this scene would be an excellent clip to show in a study of forgiveness, and she's right. 

So, are you intrigued? I hope so, and I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy Sensei Ted.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Dead Sea Finds and Our Biblical Past


                                                                     Dead Sea fragments 

As some of you will know, I'm intrigued by archeological finds in Israel and other countries of the Middle East. They often give new insights into the scriptures of Older and Newer Testaments, as well as the first centuries of the Common Era. 

One of the great discoveries of the 20th century was a cache of documents found in the Judean Desert which we now call the Dead Sea Scrolls. The first scrolls, from the 3rd century BCE,  were discovered by Bedouin shepherds in 1947 in caves, and over the next decade many more were found. This is a story of intrigue and skullduggery as opportunists pilfered caves and scrolls were sold by unscrupulous vendors. Some were buried by the culprits to hide them and thereby destroyed.

The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed previously unknown information about the Jewish apocalyptic community at Qumran. There are also some of the earliest documents and fragments of Hebrew scripture in existence. 

News emerged earlier this week of the discovery of even more fragments from a later period  in an already known cave, called the Cave of Horror because it contained several dozen skeletons. These are the first discoveries in nearly half a century In the CBC article we find: 

The fragments are believed to have been part of a scroll stashed away in the cave during the Bar Kochba Revolt, an armed Jewish uprising against Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, between 132 and 136 AD.Coins struck by rebels and arrowheads found in other caves in the region also hail from that period.

"We found a textual difference that has no parallel with any other manuscript, either in Hebrew or in Greek," said Oren Ableman, a Dead Sea scroll researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority..."When we think about the biblical text, we think about something very static. It wasn't static. There are slight differences and some of those differences are important," said Joe Uziel, head of the antiquities authority's Dead Sea scrolls unit.

In the same trove there was a woven basket which has been dated back for longer, to 10,500 years ago and is the oldest ever discovered. Now, that is old-world craftsmanship! Actually, more likely to be crafted by a woman. 

Why do I pay attention to this stuff? The past speaks to us, as we hurtle along into the future. Our scriptures are thousands of years old as well, yet we continue to learn, and grow and apply what God shares with us through them. While we don't want to dwell in the past, we can respect the faithfulness of our foremothers and forefathers.  

                                                                     Oldest basket in existence 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Celtic Blessing

                                                          Think about it...

Today our Trenton United Church book study group continued, our third week looking at the Sermon on the Mount by Amy-Jill Levine. In fact there are participants from five congregation, thanks to Zoom, and I'm grateful for every voice. I've led a number of study groups at Trenton UC, usually with 14-16 willing souls. Lo and behold, today there were 16 of us. even though it was essentially half and half, in-person and Zoom. 

Because it was St. Patrick's Day I began and ended with first a Celtic prayer and then a Celtic blessing. I'll share that blessing with you: 

Deep peace of the running wave to you.

            Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

            Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the gentle night to you

            Moon and stars pour their healing light on you

                        Deep peace of Christ, the light of the world to you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The RC's & Same-Gender Blessings


            A same-sex couple exchanging rings during a ceremony in Salt Lake City. (CNS/Reuters/Jim Urquhar)

In recent m  there has been conversation amongst Roman Catholic leaders in different parts of the world about LGBTQ2 persons and their place within Christ's church. In January a group of bishops and several religious orders in the United States issued a statement of support for LGBTQ2 youth which says:

God created you, God loves you and God is on your side. As we see in the Gospels, Jesus Christ taught love, mercy and welcome for all people, especially for those who felt persecuted or marginalized in any way; and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that LGBT people are to be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity...

A few weeks ago a discussion involving Germans bishops resulted in some endorsing the blessing of same-gender unions. While this is not the same as the sacrament of marriage, the blessing would be sacramental in tone. 

Yesterday the Vatican issued a decree which is likely a response to this discussion stating  "It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage."  

While this was issued by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was also endorsed by Pope Francis. Since he was elected as pope Francis eight years ago has made a number of comments and statements suggesting a change of tone regarding LGBTQ2 persons. They have created a stir within conservative RC circles and even accusations of heresy. Yesterday's decree seems to be a clear step back from some of his more conciliatory and welcoming comments. 

Honestly, while this is disappointing it isn't surprising. Despite the horrendous legacy of sexual exploitation and what I call "soul murder" by clerics in the Roman Catholic church, the patriarchal hierarchy continues to prohibit LGBTQ2 orientation if it actually involves sex, let alone bless relationships. Jesus' teaching about removing the log in one's own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else's comes to mind. 

The official message seems to be, God loves you and the church loves you -- just not like "normal" people. As you can see, the cartoonists have wasted no time offering their perspectives. It does seem absurd that a priest can bless your house but not your loving committed, same-gender relationship. Some priests have already been blessing these relationships and are vowing to continue doing so. 

Meanwhile, a growing percentage of Roman Catholic laypersons (60+%) support LGBTQ2 persons and their inclusion in the church. What leadership will Francis or a successor provide? We'll see.