It is political season in these parts and I was reading the paper the other night when I came across a political ad for a name I recognized. It was for a man who is technically a member of my church although in the four years I have been here he has never darkened the doors. I believe I met him one time when a church member introduced me to him as we passed each other on his street. As far as I know the only relationship he has with his church is the monthly newsletter he receives in the mail.
You can imagine I was a bit surprised when I looked at his ad and the fifth of six bullet points said: Member of the _____ Christian Church… WHAT? That just burned me up. I showed my husband. “Can you believe this,” I said? “Huh,” was his response. It was in just that moment that suddenly I imagined myself pulling out the good church stationary and writing him a letter:
I was pleased to see that you are running for the School Board in our district. I think it is a noble and worthy way to serve our community and our young people. Thank you. I was also pleased to see in your ad that you consider yourself a member of our congregation, which I did not know since you have not participated in this congregation in the four years I have served as Pastor. It seems to me that you were simply using your supposed membership in a church to your political gain. TURD.
There is a story in Mark about Jesus who is covered up in a crowd of people and there is a paralyzed man whose friends cut a hole in the roof of the house Jesus is in and the haul his broken body up to the top and then the gently, painstakingly lower him down the hole in the roof because they want to make sure he gets to be close to the one who gives us life. If you remember the story, there is a big miracle, Jesus heals the paralyzed man and tells him to take up his mat and walk. It strikes me that one of the keys to the life of faith is keeping your eyes not on the freeloaders in the crowd who were just looking for a good show, but on the people who are on the roof with the tired backs and the sore hands who had hope in the possibility and the willingness to not only show up but to do the heavy lifting.
I went to a funeral last night. I didn’t know her. My husband, knew her through his work, although not particularly well. She was 35, three years older than me, and had four children.
It was a cold, snowy night and I imagine many stayed home because of the weather. There was not a big crowd there. Mostly family and close friends and lots of teenagers, friends of her children.
Funerals on any day of the week are sad events. Often as a minister, I tear up during the funeral service itself. A few times, I’ve actually gotten choked up in saying the words out loud. I think the hardest part is seeing the faces of loved ones crying. That’s where the minister has it tough, we usually stand behind the casket and look out on all that person’s loved ones and sometimes it is hard to bare. Funerals are sad occassions. I know this. You know this. It doesn’t matter if the person is three or ninety-three they are always hard, but a good hard, ya know? Like excercising…you know it is painful and you don’t want to do it, but in the end you know it is good for you and the right thing to do.
But, I think the saddest thing about a funeral is not the tears of others, or hearing memories, or facing the reality of their empty body. No, I think the saddest thing about a funeral is when the funeral doesn’t tell the Truth. Isn’t that what funerals are supposed to do? To remind us of the Truth of God’s love and mercy in our lives. To tell the Truth that death is not the end & to speak truthfully about that person’s life? We ministers, do a disservice to God and the dead when we fail to speak the Truth at funerals.
That is what I’m left with today. The importance of speaking the Truth at funerals. The smiley preacher quoted from memory many Bible passages, talked about heaven and hell, wondered where the deceased was spending eternity, did an altar call, and spoke of God’s timing and the angels that awaited her.
There was no mention of this Truth. That she loved her children and they loved her. That God loves her. And that she died because the ex-husband she remarried killed her in their hotel room on their wedding night. He had been violent and abusive before, that’s why she divorced him to begin with, but like many victims of violence she took him back and they had just reconciled & he finally did what he had threatened to do many times before. Leaving her four kids motherless and angry. Attending this funeral sounded like she just succumbed to cancer or something. This was not God’s timing. This was not God’s plan.
I’ve been thinking about those kids today, the day after their mother’s funeral. Remembering that service last night and wishing they had been given a space to tell the Truth of what happened and God’s love for her and all of them.
So, in the name of stopping the cycle of violence. Let’s tell the Truth, ministers. In the name of speaking with intergrity, let’s tell the Truth about the Known as well as the Unknown, and let’s tell the Truth about a wideness in God’s grace and mercy.
How ’bout it?
On Tuesday night just after I returned home, I was chatting on the phone and ignoring a series of four calls that came in the span of about five minutes. “I am very popular,” so I thought. I checked my voicemail. 4 messages. The first message was a person that began by saying, “This message is in regards to the group from Tennessee that is in Haiti…” and with those words a WAVE came over my body. I gripped the end of the table to steady myself and it felt as if my heart stopped. I listened as the woman told me of an earth quake inHaiti and that my husband, the youth from my church, and the entire mission group were safe. That is how I heard of this terrible event that has gripped the nation of Haiti.
Did I mention that this trip was my idea? Yeah. It was. This is a trip that happens almost ever year with our churches in Tennessee. I, myself, went on such a trip back when I was in Divinity School and it was a wonderful and formative experience. I’m the one that encouraged people in my church to go. I’m the one that supported my husband when he said, “Yeah, I’ll go” and now two days later I’m waiting to hear that they have arrived safely in the Dominican Republic.
There have bee a few other times when that WAVE of something came over me. It’s a terrible feeling. It is a moment when time stands still. When suddenly you almost feel as if you can go back in time and erase whatever terrible thing you just heard. It’s a moment when you realize just how precious and fragile this life is and just how little control you and I have over any of it. There have been two times before in my life when the WAVE came over me, the first time was when I was 19 and as I sat in the bottom bunk of my bunk bed in my college dorm I got a call with the news that my much beloved cousin, Jackie was killed in a car wreck at 16. The other was when I was in Divinity School and I got a teary call from my mom telling me that after 7 years of living Cancer free…the scans had found a mass in her lungs.
Now, is it just me, or is that plenty of WAVE moments for a lifetime? I’m 32 and frankly, I think three times, three scary, life-changing phone calls is enough for one girl. Don’t you? This is what I would like to say to Karma/God/the Universe/Whatever,
“To Whom it may concern,
Enough already. This is no way to live a life. I’ve had enough of these scary, powerless moments. Please pile a little less on me and a little more on somebody else who deserves it. I’ll even give you some names, I think somebody like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, or that guy who protests gay people and military funerals, will do just fine. But, enough is enough.
All my love,
That is what I want to make happen. I really do. I want to say to the world, “This is no way to live a LIFE! Where life can change in a second. Where terrible earthquakes happen and they happen to the poorest of the poor. ” The people that were already slammed with the weight of poverty and political unrest and now they get to pile a huge earthquake on top of their already too heavy load to bare. I’d like to stop those WAVES of something for all of us, no more feelings of loss of control, no more wishing we could go back and change the test results, steer the car, warn of the earthquake, or have our husband in Haiti stay far, far away from Port au Prince on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010. But, we can’t. You know this. I know this. And as much as I’d like to change the way the universe works, I know that I can’t.
I don’t know about you, but for me, this is exactly the moment that the Spirit comes in. It comes, I think, just after that WAVE knocks you to your knees and leaves you trembling and hunkers down deep in your guts. Most of the time I don’t think I even know it is there. But, today, I think I do. So, even though I’m still waiting to hear the sound of my husband’s voice. Even though I’m deeply saddened by the loss of life and suffering that the people of Haiti are experiencing this very moment. Even though I know the WAVES will crash on me again in my life.
I find myself hunkering down with the Spirit of all that there is on this one and in spite of it all, my hope is that out of the ashes of this terrible moment that something new and wonderful will grow for the people of Haiti and maybe even in my heart.
I believe in ressurections.
I heard on the radio last night as I drove home from work that you died. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of you in years, but I feel the need to thank you now because you helped shape the woman I am today at 32. I can’t remember the year or the class I first heard of you, but I remember reading your book, “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation.” You surprised me with your anger and your outrage. You called yourself a “post-Christian” woman and I was scandalized. I underlined my favorite parts of the book, even the parts that disturbed me, like when you said things like, “A woman’s asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person’s demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan.” You were just as radical as they come. You didn’t have much need for men in your bedroom or in your classroom and although I tend to believe you went too far, I can’t help but think I understand why you did it. It wasn’t personal, it was simply payback. You were just trying to counter a tiny bit of the tide of patriarchy throughout human history. Right?
I can’t help but wonder what you would think about me, a woman who not only loves a man, but also is asking for equality in the Church. I’m a pastor of a congregation. I am the first in its long history and in spite of myself I still have hope in this institution that you washed your hands of so many years ago. I’m no post-Christian either. But, I need to thank you Mary, because you helped to take my blinders off and even though I have chosen a different path than your brand of feminism, you’ve helped me to see. Because of you, I can walk into those Church doors every day and know that I am nobodies’ fool. I know what I am up against now and although you may tell me it is not worth the fight. You need to know that I think it is and you were one that helped me to see why.
So, rest in peace, Mary Daly and although you quit being a good Catholic girl many years ago. I can’t help but remember the woman you are named after and the words the Church has said for so many years in honor of her, today I’ll say them in honor of you (surely, you’d admire a little sacrilege):
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, blessed is the fruit of your spirit…
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