12 March 2010

And the momzer award goes to . . .

Occasionally I'm gobsmacked by ignorance and bigotry. This evening is one of those times. Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, has so sickened me that he merits the momzer award.

Russell is introducing a bill to the state legislature that would make the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. hate Crimes Prevention Act null and void in Oklahoma. His main legal argument will be based on the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution which states that powers not delegated to Congress by the US Constitution are reserved to the states.

According to Russell:
The federal government should not be creating a special class of people, and that is just what they did when they passed and signed this bill. All crimes against another person have some level of hate in them, and people can be assured that our laws that protect people against crimes such as murder are sufficient to protect everyone.

I can't see how his argument is supported by the 10th Amendment, but then, I'm a thinking person.

It's really about extreme right-wing religious fundamentalism for him, though. Russell said "because the government has decided to intervene on issues of morality," he is "worried that religious leaders who speak out against any lifestyle could be imprisoned for their speech."

For Russell hate as the motivation for murder or vitriolic "Christian" hate-speech that emboldens terrorists to murder homosexuals is an issue of morality that needs protection. We are presented the sacred right-wing argument: "We are the real victims, not those homos we murder." Such is the logic of the so called "Christian" right wing.

There is a huge difference between speaking against any issue and venom filled speech that is intended to inflame the adherents to acts physical violence. I defend the former and abhor the latter as do the majority of Americans and certainly the majority of those who claim the name of Christian.

As illogical as the above argument is, Russell reveals his utter stupidity:

The law is very vague to begin with. Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.
That's correct, friends: "if you don't let us kill homosexuals, and get away with it, your Grannie's dead body won't be safe." It makes one want to present him his "Hi, I'm Stupid" membership card.

You really need to read the article.

11 March 2010

Hesitant baby step into the future

Yesterday, I ended my post with "What a great day for the church."

Today, I read Fr. Jake's comments and thanked God that Fr. Jake is posting again. His post prompted me to expound on yesterday's comments.

The will of the General Convention is now a reality. We have officially repudiated B033. The Episcopal Church has moved on into the future - I must admit it is a hesitant baby step, but it is a step into the future nonetheless. Additionally, the Anglican Communion has moved on, too. The Rev. Ms. Glasspool's election, consent and consecration are and will be a non issues.

I commented over on Fr. Jake's blog that even the most severely mentally disordered recognize a modicum of reality.

That reality is that the war is over. The final battle took only three small shots to win. Three "no" votes by the Mother Church that were the death knell for the schismatics. Anglicanism, and indeed the Anglican Communion, was saved on that day in England. We owe a great debt to the Church of England for this.

There will be some low rumblings of pomposity from all the usual suspects, but that rumbling will be just a last gasp of “Listen to us, dang it, I said Listen to ME!”

Fortunately, God listens to all of us:
He sees not labels but a face,
a person, and a name.
Thus freely loved, though fully known,
may I in Christ be free
to welcome and accept his own
as Christ accepted me

-Brian A. Wren, Hymn 603, Hymnal of 1982
I am very thankful for that hymn. As I develop a deeper friendship and relationship with our "new chick priest," I realize more deeply that there is nothing that can separate us from God's love for us in Jesus, the Christ. And, I appreciate that hymn even more.

But I'm much more thankful for a God who, when he looks at us, sees nothing but the face of his son and feels that deep, deep love for him and for us.

I feel sorry for those who cannot see or accept God's full love for all of humanity - indeed, for all of creation.

PS: Interestingly, by some odd bit of coincidence, this is my 603rd post.

10 March 2010

Glasspool recieves concents of Standing Committees

According to the news release from the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rev. Mary Glasspool has received a majority of Standing Committee consents needed to confirm her election as specified by the canons of the church. There has been no release of the number of bishops who have consented although The Rt. Rev John Bruno says he expects "the final few consents to come in from the bishops in the next few days."

According to the release,
The Los Angeles Standing Committee reported March 10 that within the last 64 days it has received 61 consents needed to the election of Glasspool, and 78 consents to the election of Bruce. In each election a majority of 56 consents was needed from the counterpart Standing Committees of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church.
My congratulations to both bishops elect.

What a great day for the Church!

07 March 2010

Lent III - Oculi

The Third Sunday in Lent

(RCL) Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
    Introit: My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare: look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor. -- (Ps. 24. 1,2. To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me be not ashamed.

    Collect: Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    Gospel: Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood (A)Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"
Jesus, as I AM made flesh, can hardly believe people think this way. After all, didn’t God make it perfectly clear that the sun shines and the rain comes down on the good and the bad? As Timothy Shapiro explains in his book New Proclamation, Jesus is, in effect, announcing, “The sin is found in those who think the sin is found in those who have misfortune fall on them.”

So Jesus says to repent of this kind of thinking; he says to turn away from the blame game altogether, and show some mercy – the kind of mercy that God, a.k.a. “I AM,” likes to show for everyone, everywhere. See for yourself in the Book of Jonah.

To repent means to turn around or turn back. The idea is that we are walking with God, or walking with Jesus, and then suddenly we find ourselves distracted by, say, the 3,000 commercial messages that bombard us each day. Or by some personal crisis. Or by the day-to-day routine of dropping kids off, picking them up, driving them somewhere else, and then picking them up again. We find ourselves walking in circles at best, rather than walking with or at least toward God.

To repent means to come to our right mind about the way in which we are walking, and to turn, or re-turn, to walking in the Way with Jesus, the Great I AM in the flesh. Or we will get crushed by the weight of our sin. Notice, by the way, it is always our choice – we can walk with God or be crushed by the weight of our sin. Repentance seems, all in all, a very good idea for all of us.

Included in all that is the grace God shows for all people, at all times, everywhere – especially when they choose to repent. Again, just go back and read the Book of Jonah one more time!

Then comes the parable in today’s gospel reading – an enigmatic little agricultural metaphor just dripping with judgment and grace. It seems there is a joke in the Greek. The word for “manure” is, in fact, not so refined; it is street slang, or what we in some more innocent era called a “swear word.” So think of the harshest possible word for manure, and then imagine the gardener – or tenant farmer – saying it to the wealthy absentee landowner, followed by “and if in a year you are still not happy, YOU cut it down!” There would be serious snickering among the tenant farmers and servants in the crowd who only dreamed of ever talking back at their superiors in such a fashion.

And what the story means to convey in part is that the absentee owner does not get his hands dirty, knows little of how to tend fig trees, and is trying to tell someone who knows the tree, the soil, and the kind of care necessary how to do his job.

And it is the gardener who introduces the notion of grace. “Sir, let it alone,” he says, in essence. “Don’t blame the tree, don’t order me to cut it down – give it another chance. Give it a moment of Amazing Grace. Give it a chance, and it will bear fruit in its own time.”

When we finish laughing, do we get that we are the landowner blaming the tree for its lack of fruitfulness? And that we are also the tree, standing in need of God’s Amazing Grace?

Every day when we wake up and get out of bed, God is bestowing upon us a great deal of Amazing Grace, whether we deserve it or not. Another way to put this is that, through what we do or don’t do, we are all complicit in contributing to the misery of others and the devastation of the very planet God created and calls “good” – and if you remember in the first chapter of Genesis, He calls it not just “good,” but “very good.”

Lent is a season that means to remind us that we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under God’s table. But it is God’s primary attribute to have mercy upon us as long as we keep on repenting of our various sins – most especially the sin of playing the blame game.

The Good News is that God does not want to blame us; God wants to save us. And so God came to live among us as one of us to teach us about sin, repentance, and grace. So it is that the Great I AM became flesh and dwells among us to this day!

Here is a take on the subject from William Countryman’s little book, The Good News of Jesus:

The new life of the good news is like this: There was a woman who lived in Sonoma County, near Sebastapol. She had no relatives there – not even any close neighbors. The nearest was an elderly man who lived a half-mile away. Behind her house she had a garden, and at the foot of the garden, two apple trees that were her pride and joy. Once she was called away to care for her only living relative, who was sick and lived very far away. She gave a key to the elderly man, who promised to look in on her house every week or so; but he was too infirm to care for her garden. She thought she would be away a few months, but she was gone two years. From far away, she heard about drought and storms. When at last the woman came home, she found her house had lost some shingles, and there was a little water damage inside. Then she went through the house and out into the garden. It was overgrown with tall grass and nettles. At the foot of the garden were her two apple trees. They were in bloom – at the height of their bloom, when apple trees look like white clouds with a touch of pink and the petals are just beginning to fall and carpet the ground with white as well. She stood awhile and drank it all in, and her heart filled with delight and thanks. Then she unlocked the tool-shed, took out her pruners and, wading through the weeds, went down to the apple trees and began cutting out the dead-wood. And she thought of the day when she would have apples for herself and her neighbor.


-- The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek is rector of St. Peter's Church in Ellicott City, MD, a parish in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. He also travels throughout the church leading stewardship events for parishes, dioceses, clergy conferences, and diocesan conventions. He has long been involved in the work of The Episcopal Network for Stewardship (TENS), and the Ministry of Money. He frequently uses music and storytelling in his proclamation of the Word.