Baltimore

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I don’t condone what’s currently happening in Baltimore (although we don’t see much coverage of the thousands of peaceful protesters, that doesn’t make for good news values); but I do understand it. I understand it because I have felt similar feelings when my anger has been held inside of me and been allowed to keep building. I first met my priest months before attending church there because I cursed him out when he walked into a situation where my ex and I were fighting. I cursed out a lady in the parking lot at my daughter’s school because she was rude and inconsiderate and double parked behind me so that I couldn’t get out and I had to race home to race for school bus.

One day as a teenager, I screamed at my mom. I screamed at her because I was so angry inside and it had built up over a matter of weeks where I felt like she wasn’t hearing what I was really saying or that she didn’t care. I felt invisible, like I wasn’t really there and that nobody cared. It was wrong for me to scream and yell at my mom, but I felt justified at the time. It’s the same with the rioting.

A group of people that has been and still are sometimes being oppressed, feel as if we can’t hear them and their concerns and the truth is, coming from a position of privilege as a white woman, I don’t completely understand it despite being part of a minority group (LGBT – bisexual) myself. The Bible says over and over again that God sides with the oppressed rather than the oppressors, and so I know that God loves and cares for those people in Baltimore rioting, and in fact in the Bible God sides with the oppressed.

I think that perhaps if we engaged in active listening and working to solve the problem of oppression, that there wouldn’t be rioting. I don’t think those people are thugs, I think they are angry and they feel like nobody is listening and they are desperate to be heard. Their actions are sinful, just like the circumstances leading up to what caused the protests and the rioting was also sinful.

However, I think that those of us with the privilege need to sit down and listen; and then we need to engage in positive dialogue where we don’t try to excuse our privilege but where we seek reconciliation, peace and resolution. Those of us with the privilege need to put aside our prejudices, and embrace each other regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender or anything else. We are all precious to God and God is the one that created us with our particular race, sexual orientation and gender.

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Faith in Community

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I’ve talked over and over again on here that I love the Episcopal Church and I’m so glad that my journey had me land there. One of the things I appreciate is the community worship: everyone is involved in singing, reciting creeds, praying, confession of sin, wishing each other peace, and partaking of the Eucharist. Community is one of the big things that I was seeking when I landed at the Episcopal Church, nervous because I knew that the liturgy and the Eucharist was what my soul desired and needed, but I had no idea the depth of that need. I truly believe that the only way my faith survived was because I started partaking of the body and blood of Christ on a weekly basis. After all, Jesus says he is the bread of life.

I was also looking for a faith community where I would be accepted for who I am rather than who people wanted me to be. I didn’t want to have to hide my sexuality or my beliefs on gay marriage which I was required to in my old church or I couldn’t volunteer. I now regret the fact that I tried to cover up how deeply I believed in equality just so I could keep volunteering. I should have taken the fact that the church wanted me to silence my beliefs as a sign that I shouldn’t be volunteering anymore. I hid who I was and what I believed, betraying myself and who God had created me to be in order to “serve God”. But I was longing for community and I wanted to be respected and highly thought of and so I stayed, even though I knew my beliefs clashed with theirs and that that was a problem to them.

“We do not exist solely as individual bodies, in our own little bubbles, but as a community of people made in the image of God, which means our ethics must reflect this image.” Anderson, 2015, p. 57. This is why I fight for the equality: LGBTQ, women in ministry, etc. because we are all made in the image of God and we are all in community together. We were all created in God’s image and God was the one who created each person, gifting them with their sexuality, among other things. I wish now that I had not hidden my beliefs in an effort to remain in good standing with a church whose beliefs I was beginning to steer radically away from. It had been a safe place for me to land after all the experiences that I had had, and I thought that it would be permanent, but it wasn’t, it was a stepping stone in which I could detox and move onto a community that accepted me for who I am, who I was created to be.

I had thought that I was doing the right thing at the time but I was having to betray myself and other brothers and sisters in Christ in order to try and feel important by “serving God” which is kind of ironic now that I look back on it. I’m thankful for the time I had in the previous church, it was amazing and I was able to move on with mostly good feelings to a community that worked better for me. I’m so thankful for the Episcopal Church. I’ve been able to get my faith back and truly experience Jesus by physically eating and drinking of his body and blood. I never knew that I was that hungry.

Reference:

Anderson, DE 2015, Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, Jericho Books, New York.

Sacrament of Reconciliation

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Reconciliation. It’s a sacrament in the Episcopal Church, just like the Eucharist is a sacrament. The sacraments are what keeps our faith alive. Partaking of the body and blood of Christ on a weekly basis is important to my faith because Jesus is the bread of life and those who eat of him will not go spiritually hungry.

Reconciliation is more than confession, although that’s very important and I was so relieved the day that I made a formal confession to my priest and to God, and received absolution. The point of confession is the reconciliation. God also wants us to be reconciled to each other and to God.

At the start of the school year, I offended someone with a word that I used. Instead of apologizing immediately I tried to justify and say that the guy was just choosing to be offended and it wasn’t that bad. Twenty minutes later, when I had calmed down, I went to him and apologized and I said that I was sorry I had used language that offended him and that now I knew it offended him I would try my hardest not to use such language in his presence.

On Easter Sunday, that man came to my church, a guest for a special event. Normally he attends a different Episcopal Church. I went over and gave him a hug and greeted him, and at the peace I walked up and shook his hand and wished him the peace of the Lord. We knelt and confessed sins together with everyone else, and we both took of communion together. This is one of the things I love the most about the Episcopal Church, is the emphasis on reconciliation.

I had offended this man, and yet the two of us wished each other peace, and we took communion together, reconciled, as equals. It didn’t matter if we believed the same things or not, we both belonged to the family of God making us brother and sister. The original offense was forgiven when I apologized, but it still meant so much to wish peace to one another, to take of the body and the blood of Christ at the same altar. Participating as equals in the holy meal where we are nourished and fed with the bread and the wine.

Before coming to the Episcopal Church, the closest thing I got to true church was Alcoholics Anonymous, where we admitted our sins in front of one another. At Alcoholics Anonymous, everyone is equal: we are as equally screwed up as the next person. It was so meaningful for me to participate in a worship service alongside a man I had offended, just like it was meaningful to be served communion by the priest that I cursed out the first time I met him. That’s what it’s all about…being reconciled to God and to each other, because with reconciliation, there can be unity despite what differences we have. The body of Christ in unity is a beautiful thing.

Water – The Very Beginning

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My whole fundamentalist life I was told that baptism was for people who had already prayed a magic prayer to “ask Jesus into their heart” so that they could be saved from the lake of fire that tortures its occupants for eternity. Thus the point of asking Jesus into our hearts was to make sure we had our “get out of hell free” card in God’s cosmic game of Monopoly. The Bible verses that seemed to indicate that baptism was a part of our salvation were either ignored or explained away, and we were taught that baptism was only for those who had already believed, and thus it was called “believers baptism”.

I prayed the magic prayer more times than I can remember, and I never felt like I had done it well enough. I ended up being baptized three times because I felt like I “wasn’t truly saved” the last two times and that I had to get baptized again. The grace tattoo on my wrist even bears a date of 03-03-08, the day that I thought I had become a Christian. What I never realized until the last few months was that my baptism, the very first one, at the age of ten in that freezing cold creek in the middle of winter, was when I truly became a Christian, although I had no idea what that really meant and sometimes I still wonder.

Like Rachel Held Evans says in her new book, “Searching for Sunday”, baptism is the very beginning of our faith journey (p. 35). Baptism…a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The waters of baptism are the beginning of the journey of faith, our birth into the kingdom of God. The point isn’t to avoid hell (although I don’t believe in a literal eternal fire pit in the sky), the point is to be resurrected. As the pastor who performed my first baptism said, we are raised to walk in newness of life.

We come into this world via water in our physical birth, and we come into the kingdom of God via water, our spiritual birth. Birth involves water whether physical or spiritual. Until now I’d never realized the significance of my baptism, and tomorrow when I walk into the church, dip my hand in the baptismal font, and make the sign of the cross, I can remember my baptism, and be thankful for its significance.

Reference:

Evans, RH 2015, Searching for sunday: loving, leaving and finding the church, Nelson Books, Nashville.

The Peace of the Lord

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Kneeling beside each other at the altar, my friend of eleven years and I finally got to meet each other and share communion with each other. The priest handed me the bread, and then handed some to him also. Then I drank of the wine and he drank directly after me. It was such a hugely significant and spiritual moment and I’m so glad that the first time we ever met, we took communion together. To me that cemented over a decade of friendship and the times in the past where we had hurt each other (mostly me hurting him) seemed insignificant when we came to the table of the Lord and ate of Jesus.

I also took communion with a man I had offended earlier in the year, and even though I had apologized when it happened and he had forgiven me, just taking communion alongside someone I had offended made the forgiveness seem more real, like a relationship was truly restored. It was also a significant moment to me to shake this man’s hand and wish the peace of the Lord upon him. There are other churches who do what I now consider to be a very crude imitation of passing the peace: they walk around in the worship service at a specified time and shake hands and say hello. It’s not wrong to do that, but it’s a crude imitation of something deeply spiritual such as wishing each other peace.

My children became Christians through the sacrament of baptism on Easter Sunday. My children are genuine Episcopalians before me. I have to be confirmed. But I am thankful that we are all a Christian family now. I’ll be even gladder when we are all an Episcopalian Christian family, I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the Episcopal Church, and if it weren’t for the Episcopal Church my faith would be dead by now. There are so many things that I love about it but the Eucharist is my absolute favorite thing. I’m handed Christ’s body and blood on a weekly basis, and it nourishes. The Eucharist is just one of the most amazing things ever: the fact that when it’s blessed it turns into the body and blood of Christ and partaking of it ministers to the soul in a special way. I never thought that taking the Eucharist would end up being so significant to me. The bread and the wine, because it is Jesus, can restore relationships.

The Eucharist is not magic, it’s spiritual. It takes far more than magic to turn a loaf of bread and some wine into the literal body and blood of Christ; it takes a miracle. God is still working miracles in this day and age by turning consecrated bread and wine back into the body and blood of God’s son.