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.

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Where’s the outrage?

Yesterday, I took that bike ride with a woman in the congregation. It was beautiful day and we road 16 miles. It felt good. Today I talked with a colleague about the images of the shooting still in my head. The sense of anger and frustration at not being able to stop the violence. The very particular pain at not knowing what happened to this specific young man. We talked about the fact that so many in our society just shrug and seem to accept that young black men kill each other. It is as if it is somehow okay. As if this young man — any young man or woman — is dispensable. Where is the outrage? I know there is outrage in the Black community and in the Black Church. Where is the outrage in the white community, and every other community?

If a white kid had been shot in that spot two days ago, wouldn’t the neighborhood be shocked, outraged, looking for answers? I realize it is not about me or how I feel; it’s about the young man in the white t-shirt laying in the street. But I believe my inability to get past seeing him is precisely because I saw him. I don’t want it to be okay. I don’t want it to be normal. I don’t want it to be just “what they do” (as someone said to me). That is not acceptable. That acceptance is what grows out of racism.

I think of youth who have been active in the church — Some are still here or perhaps in another place, but doing well — in school, or working, or raising their own families. There are others who are or have been in jail and in prison. Two currently. Both young black men with families who love them. I remember specifically when one of these boys was young. It was during a “Children’s Moment” in worship when we asked what they children wanted to do when they grew up. This young boy said that he wouldn’t grow up. He already knew older friends and family members who had been shot. He accepted what others accepted for his life. I ached and raged inside then. We tried for years to instill an expectation of life and purpose and future. Today, I am painfully aware of our failure.

We have work — ministry — to do.

This morning when we were on the street for “Happy Friday”, we were meeting people and serving coffee and cocoa as usual. It was not “as usual” however; I kept looking at the spot when the young man fell and lay. It wasn’t the same. It could not be the same.

This afternoon I planted flowers. The Director of our Isaiah 58 Hunger Program came outside and with some amount joy described how much those we serve in the food pantry and clothing room are enjoying resting on the new benches in the garden before they walk or catch a bus with the bags they are carrying. Today was fresh produce day; I found a banana peel by one of the benches. I had to smile; it was a good thing. A little thing, but I’ll take it. A good thing.