Monday, April 26, 2010

What Have They Done to Our Lady?

I suppose she could be considered, "Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows." Her head is missing and the lost-to-some-cause vandal who cut off her hands as well as her head is I suppose looking at the same picture I looked at this morning in the newspaper. The act of rage is now for all to see.

She still stands in the midst of the flowers that her eyes used to watch over. She was placed there by some artist so that those who passed by her would not pass by her without stopping and remembering. Someone must be very mad at her or perhaps the God or church or son she is associated with. This butcher wants her to be remembered as thoughtless and helpless. After all he took her head and her hands so surely she must now be useless.

But alas this statue of the Virgin Mary is not only the subject of this article but she is in the news yet again thanks to some poor soul who wants to do away with her. She is used to being dismissed. Joseph was offered a chance to "put her away" when her shame was exposed that night in Nazareth. Her son even slighted her one day when she showed up to speak to him. "Hey your mother and your family want to see you," they shouted. Jesus responded with something like, "My real family are those who follow the will of God." I wonder if Mary thought, "Gee thanks for the support son?"

No one paid much attention to her when she stood beside his beaten body that day. She probably begged somebody to stop it. She was only part of the crowd the afternoon that they nailed him and his cause down for good. She is used to being dismissed.

But she keeps showing up in my life and in my writing. I've probably written more about her than any character in the Bible...except maybe her boy. She wonders around my soul I think. It may have something to do with hanging around my Catholic dad when I was young. Maybe that water that poured over my head from the hand of some priest when my father had me Christened seeped into my mind.

Whatever the reason I really like Mary. And now I get to write about her again because of one of her enemies. I bet that is not what you wanted is it O one who wants to chop her up?

Her eyes still peer into my soul and her hands still reach out to me. Her tender yet strong love cannot be destroyed by hate. She taught her boy well. Who do you think helped make Jesus who he was? No, it was not all God's doing. God picked Mary for a reason.

You reach to me once again, Mary, from your woundedness. Though a stranger took your silent smile with a stroke of anger you still reach out to me from your silence. Your hands go missing but they are there as they always are...reaching...hoping...loving.

Wherever you are O stranger, I hope you discover that in this act of destruction you have allowed Mary to live again...even in these words. In her tradition she prays for you. Perhaps you thought that you silenced her but her words are for the ages. Her hands that you thought you destroyed are even now seeking to comfort your hurting spirit.

Hail Mary, mother of God, pray for us you always do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Teapots to Billy Graham

Well, I know how to create some "steam." Light a fire of words under a teapot. It seems that some of you out there in the blogosphere have some "heated" opinions about the tea party movement and what it is and what it is not. I will close that "conversation" from my side by saying I still think such "movements" in our culture today are foils against which we can ask what is the nature of community in light of what are "my rights" and what am I willing to offer, give up, share, in order to create the kind of "people" that Jesus calls us to I'll put the teapot on the shelf for a moment and switch to Billy Graham.

How is that for turning down the heat so the steam subsides? Of course there are some people that even get "hot" about dear old Billy. They say in his prime that he was a little too cozy with certain Presidents. Then there are others who may not like his style of Christianity that focuses on the need for an "hour of decision."

But then how many people found out about this Jesus I talk about all the time from the lips of Billy Graham? My style of talking about Jesus is sure not Billy's but you need to know that he is in part responsible for me talking about him...Jesus, not Billy.

This blog is being offered because of the recent newspaper picture of Billy in a wheelchair being ushered into the library named after him. He can't hear anymore and his speech is limited. He said a few words and offered a prayer at the event. He said he was glad that the library named after him was not a "memorial to him" but a place where people could see ways to study about and ponder the one he talked about most of his life...that would be Jesus.

Billy touched my life the night I went with mom and dad to one of his crusades when I was ...O around eight I think. Dad went only to appease my mom because they had a dispute about something to which I was not privy. All I know is that the "peace settlement" for the evening included my father saying he would go to the crusade. That was not like my Sunday-go to early Mass-then get to the golf course father. But he went.

So since they went I had to go. Billy did his usual thing that night. I have no idea what he said. He usually said the same thing with a little variation. It all ended with the "time of decision" and all those people getting up out of their seats and flocking toward the podium. My dad got up. I assumed he was going to the bathroom so I followed him.

He walked by the bathroom and joined the crowd that was standing in front of Billy. "Just as I Am" was filling the room but as I looked up at dad I wondered "just what he was." Here was my rather stoic father crying and looking up. I reached up for his hand but he was somewhere else. He probably held my hand but he was being held by something else.

I went with him to the little "counseling" area where he and I, since I was there with him, were told that we would be receiving materials as a follow up. The "minister" who talked with dad challenged him about his Catholic faith and the way he was living it. I'm not sure that was correct or sensitive or theologically savvy but that's what he did.

Dad returned and was in agony. The next week he informed his priest that he would be joining the Methodist church so that he could be with his family and start anew his "real" spiritual journey. Dad received a letter in a few days telling him that his soul "was in danger of hell-fire." Don't you love the church?

Anyway, dad and I received the promised "materials." I remember answering the questions and sending in the completed work that was returned to me and us with comments.

I went a different path later on. It was not my father's path nor was it in the style of Billy. But as I saw him looking out at me from that wheelchair I spoke a prayer. "Thank you Billy...for being a part of my journey and so many journeys. May this last part of your journey be peaceful and may you know how many people are different because you spoke about the man we both love."

Bless you

Friday, April 16, 2010

Would Jesus Have a Tea Party?

America is a great place. We seem to be able to have a "party" at the drop of a hat. There are Supper Bowl parties, St. Patrick Day parties, parties for benchmarks such as anniversaries; and now we are having "tea parties."

I've tried to listen to the reasons for the tea parties. A lot of people get together, make signs, and make a lot of noise. This time the noise is not about celebrations but about "rights." As I listen to the voices it seems that a good number of the party goers seem to think that their rights are either being taken away or infringed upon. One voice screamed that "I don't want to pay for someone else's insurance." Another voice said, "I don't want anyone messing with my life and especially my guns."

Well talk about guns and taxes and you have an argument for sure. I just got through listening to the tax lady tell me how much I paid in taxes. It was a lot, I think. I could sure use the money for some things on my list rather than someone else's list. I don't own any guns. Well, that's a small lie. I do own two BB pistols that I in the past used to ward off those dog-gone squirrels from eating all the birdseed...that is until I...well...accidentally killed one of the rascals with a lucky shot. It was a sad scene that reminded me of something like original sin. I killed not for food or protection but for rage...anyway that's another story for another time...and besides the guns are now in a drawer.

I wonder though if Jesus would have or go to a tea party? Would he be upset to pay for someones health insurance if they could not pay for it. Would he stand at the door and protest and respectfully tell someone that they could not have any of his guns? What would he have to say about his "rights?" I do not remember him ever using the phrase "big brother," but I do remember he often talked about his "father." Who did he consider his "brothers and sisters" to be if he claimed that we could all have one father?

Rights are important. I want to live in a world, however, where people value community more than individual rights. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere in the past? The old stuff talks about the rights that this Father of Jesus "required" was to "care for the orphan and widow...and to make sure that the stranger had a place to stay and the poor had shoes." I do not remember much being said about rights.

Last time I checked I'm as bloody a capitalist as it gets. I like my things. I do not much like anyone threatening to take my stuff away. I believe people appreciate life more if they work for what they get. All of this is fairly important to me, but you's not all about me. This Jesus I kept bumping up against often challenges me. His words about thinking of others first and the risk of giving without expecting returns is...well...not my nature.

Anyway....this is a blog and I was just wondering if Jesus would go to a tea party.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recovering from the Resurrection

Well if Jesus had to "recover" from the resurrection I suppose it is okay for those of us who proclaim the old story to make it new every year to do the same. This year there were four funerals leading up to Easter, the last of which was for dear eight-year old Caroline. I needed Easter.

But of course since I am one of those clergy-types I am partly responsible for "helping Easter happen" for the crowds that come that day. People come out of the woodwork for Easter. We again had overflow spaces filled. Lots of people "need" Easter.

There's a bit of pressure I feel to make sure it "happens" for all those who show up. Sounds kind of silly does it not? Me, thinking I have to make Easter happen...Like that Native American tribe that believes if they do not do the morning prayer to the sun that the sun will not come up.

Jesus seems to "come up" with or without me...thank heavens. Easter is something very deep it seems. Resurrection is part of the DNA of life. We long for it, we need it, and it is there. Jesus is once again set free to battle the principalities and powers that he tangled with long ago. We are to join him in that battle.

When the lilies are limp and the Easter baskets are empty the work of Easter is still needed. So for right now I think I'll "recover"....take a deep breath and go back to "work" on what Easter is really all about...a resurrection power that invites us to join in the healing of the world.

Blessed Easter

Friday, April 2, 2010

Too Nice for Black Friday

It's Good Friday but it's too nice a day. Good Friday was "black Friday" before it was "good." As a child I asked the question anyone ought to ask unless they get too religious too quick: What's good about Good Friday? I mean he gets betrayed, denied, beat up, and hung out to dry on a tree of death. Did Pilate wash his hands in that bowl and say to a bloody Jesus, "Well, have a GOOD day" just before he sent him off to that barren hill to be crucified?

So I'm driving up in the church parking lot with the top down on my car. The pink petals are falling off the cherry trees like a spring-time snow shower. The tulips are starting to break open at the front door of the church. All is "good" with the world....and then I a few hours the sanctuary lights will be dimmed...the story will be read...and the Christ candle will be taken from the room to remind all who gather than the "light of the world" is "gone out."

It's too pretty a day for such a story. I came in and told Linda, our church receptionist, "to cancel Good Friday services...It's too nice a day to kill Jesus." She looked at me like she's looked at me before when I say strange things. "I'm serious," I said. "It should be cloudy with rain dripping from the cross atop the church roof."

But then that is what makes Good Friday, good. It is a day for all our days. He is after all "fairest Lord Jesus...ruler of all nature...a nature that is "robed in the blooming garb of spring." But then he is also the one whose sacred head is wounded,"with grief and shame weighed down."

It is good because what we have today in this sudden spring with pollen ready to break out is an advertisement for Easter. But before we get to the beauty of the sunrise of resurrection no matter how pretty a day it is we have to stop....stop at the cross and remember how much this God of ours loves us on good days and bad days.

So who knows, it might be pouring down rain on Easter morning when we long for it to be a pretty day. Now, its a pretty day on "black Friday" but that is "good" because no matter what the atmospheric conditions are the cosmic weather person says on the other side of the dark clouds that surround a cross, "the sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun...just thinking about tomorrow wipes away the cobwebs and the sorrow till there's none..."

Yea, I know, it's not so religious and it's not a hymn but it is why this is Good matter what the weather....good or's good.