Best Actor for “Milk”

The Academy Awards always serve to remind me of the amazing positive contribution films make in our world.  I am also reminded of the array of people with a creative passion who are behind these films.  Tonight was no different … except that the presentation was spectacular!

In the weeks leading up to this year’s awards, many have remarked on the films nominated and their social commentary.  By all accounts we knew that Slum Dog Millionaire would make the sweep that it did.   Still, I was moved that this film focused in the poverty of the old Bombay (present Mumbai), India with no cast of well known stars was truly seen and appreciated.  When you think about that and look back over the years, you realize the movement — however slow — that we are making.

My greatest moments of celebration, however, were when “Milk” won Best Original Screenplay and when Sean Penn was awarded Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Harvey Milk.  It was sad, but not surprising to hear that there were protesters outside the site of the Awards.  However,  the prevailing voice is the witness of the ages in films that retell the stories of those gay and lesbian people who have gone before us in courage.

This morning as I looked out at the congregation, I saw the wonderful community of people worshiping together — those who are single, gay and straight; couples gay and straight;  families with children, gay and straight, African American, Asian, European American.  People of all ages.  Slowing, imperfectly, we seek to live into God’s kingdom. We celebrate and give thanks that God reconciles us to God and each other, healing our brokenness through the incarnation in Jesus Christ.

It breaks my heart that the gospel of God’s Christ has been so often distorted and misused to sustain hatred and violence against God’s people.  Whether that fear and hatred has been against women, or people of color, or people of other religions, or people who are gay, it is a sign of our sin and brokenness.  But we are assured that God is reconciling the world to Godself; therefore we may trust and know that the sins of racism, homophobia, and sexism are being and will be transformed into the right relationship of God’s realm.

Indeed, our world is still full of fear and prejudice, of deep seeded homophobia and racism, but I am reminded day by day that the hatred never wins.  For Love is always stronger than hate.  And Life is always stronger than death.  Thanks be to God.

“Sex Texts from the Bible”

Today was such a great Church day!  This was the beginning day of our adult Christian Education study of Dr. Teresa J. Hornsby’s book Sex Texts from the Bible.   We were delighted to have Teresa Hornsby join us to speak to the class in the morning and then speak again at lunch following worship.

Dr. Hornsby is Associate Professor of Religion and Director Women and Gender Studies at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

Her humor, insight, and way of approaching the texts with such honest openness was a delight for everyone.  We are really looking forward to our study of sexuality in the Bible using her book.

During both sessions today and the time following them, I realized and appreciated the atmosphere of joy, relaxation, delight as people in the congregation and visitors talked about sex and sexuality.   When we decided to do this study and to invite Teresa Hornsby to be with us, we realized that it would mean asking folks to pay for their books and to contribute toward expenses to have her join us.  (We’re a small, financially challenged congregation and do not have this in the budget.)

We had to laugh at the speed with which hands went up and wallets opened to purchase the book!  Then we saw this usual class of 10-12 expand to 25 this morning.  Worship attendance was up.  Energy high.  Laughter abundant.

In these challenging times, when people are anxious and tense, perhaps we need to remember to celebrate life!  As our financial secretary said, upon seeing the money coming in for copies of Sex Texts from the Bible, clearly “sex is recession proof!”

Let it be so!!

Autism and Church

Last night three other members of the congregation and I attended a workshop on Autism.  It was done by the Judevine Center on Autism and was a wonderfully helpful evening.  With two children in our congregation with Autism Spectrum Disorder, we are coming to realize the very special needs of children with autism and their parents.  One of our dreams is to develop ways to include and care for children with autism and to provide support and life-giving spiritual community and space for families with children with autism.  The challenge is huge, but I believe that if we take it step by step, we will be able to provide the hospitality of Christ’s community.  And most of all we will come to know God in deeper, more profound ways.

Last week, it took by breath away when a 5 year old little girl with autism who does not speak, slipped her hand into mine for the first time.  It was a holy moment — God’s relationship creating movement in a child’s life and in mine.

In these days as our lectionary readings are in Mark, we have been reading the texts in which Jesus casts out evil spirits, or demons.  I am so very aware that those “evil spirits” or “demons” were thought to be present in such conditions as epilepsy or autism.  In Mark, teaching and healing or casting out evil spirits was all bound up together — a teaching with authority.  Could it have been that as people truly understood the gospel, then healing took on a different meaning?   Those who were cast out, isolated because of their illness or difference could be seen as whole people and  welcomed into the  community.  Maybe then, maybe not  … but most certainly now!

Yes, the child who grows to be able to communicate and socialize more fully is being healed.  But surely it is also the case that we are being healed and made more whole day by day, relationship by relationship, as our community includes every child and every family.  God deepen our understanding and therefore our joy!

Beginning Again …

I’ve been away so long that I considered wiping the slate clean and starting a whole new blog… but that takes time I do not want to spend on the technicalities. So … starting again in the same place.

Of course, I’m not in the same place — we never are — The fall was caught up in teaching the every other fall History and Polity of the DOC class that I teach.  This round with 15 students.  At the same time, the congregation was entering a growing and baby-booming time.  We’ve been birthing and blessing babies and welcoming new families with children.  At the same time we are welcoming more GLBT folks who find an Open and Affirming, mission focused community in which to live nurture faith.

We have, of course, been through the most amazing presidential election of my lifetime.  After doing door to door voter registration, and phone bank working; then experiencing the absolute joy of seeing someone with solid principles, true faith, and a just vision elected as President, I find myself still just smiling at times!

Then the joy of the inauguration and seeing a diverse nation celebrate.  We were delighted and so very proud of our General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, as she preached at the National Prayer Service  on the day following the inauguration.   I realized at that time that we have a President who is aware of the depth and breadth of the Church.  One who reaches beyond the limits of the religious right, to a spectrum of faith leaders who view the world on a more complex level, who truly seek to embody and lead us into the oneness that is in God.

There are — and always will be — those who cling to the small minded, exclusive box that has come to represent people of faith.  But it is a joy to hear  the voice of the Church universal in the public realm.

Well, not many words today … just a beginning again ….