Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community 13th Week in Extraordinary Time June 25, 2016 Michael Rigdon and Sallly Borchu ARCWP Co-Presiding Mindy Lou Simmons, Music Minister

Presider Michael Rigdon welcomes the community, Sally Brochu, ARCWP co-presider on left
Sally Brochu ARCWP, Co-Presider holds Gospel Book and proclaimss Gospel 

Moment of silence
Gathering Song: #513 Come, follow me, vs 1-3

All: In the name of God our creator, and of Jesus our brother, and of the Holy Spirit our wisdom. Amen.
Presider: God is with you. All: And also with you.

Opening Prayer. All: Let us pray. O God, make our hearts places of peace and our minds harbors of tranquility. Sow in our souls true love for you and for one another. And root deeply within us friendship and unity, and concord with reverence. So may we give peace to each other sincerely and receive it beautifully. Amen

General Absolution by Community. All, with hand extended in prayer: O God of all mercy, through his life Jesus revealed that nothing can separate us from your love. May God give us pardon and peace, and may we forgive each other our failures to care for one another and for our earth, in the name of Abba God, and of our brother Jesus, and of Spirit Sophia. Amen

All sing: Glory to God, glory. O praise God, alleluia. Glory to God, glory. O praise the name of our God. (x3)
1st reading from the first book of Kings
Response: #743 You are my inheritance, O God, my inheritance, O God.
2nd reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians
Gospel Acclamation: #931 Celtic Alleluia
A reading from the Gospel of Luke.
Response. All: Glory & praise to Jesus the Christ!
All (sing): Celtic Alleluia

Shared Homily
Moment of silence

Profession of Faith. All: We believe in God, the creator of all, whose divinity infuses life with the sacred. We believe in Jesus the Christ who leads us to the fullness of humanity. Through Christ we become new people, lifted to the fullness of life. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of God on earth, who keeps the Christ vision present and infuses energy into weary spirits. We believe in God who is life. Amen to courage, to hope, to the spirit of truth, to wholeness, to the partnership and equality of women and men in God’s plan. We believe in justice and peace for all. We surely believe in all this!

Community Petitions. Presider: Always mindful of God’s love and care for us, we bring the needs of the people to our loving God. Response: God of love, hear our prayer.
Presider: Energize us in our works for justice, equality, and peace. We pray this with Jesus our brother.
All: Amen

Collection and Procession of Gifts to the table.
All Sing: #361 Seed Scattered and Sown, 1&3
Eucharistic Prayer. We invite all to gather around the table for our community meal.
All Sing: We are holy holy holy (x3) We are whole. You are holy… I am holy… We are holy
All: As we do in this place what you did in an upstairs room, send down your Spirit Sophia on us and on these gifts of bread and wine that they may become for us your body, healing, forgiving, and making us whole. And that we may become for you, your body, loving and caring in the world until your kindom comes. Amen.

We remember Jesus. All, with hand extended in blessing: On the night before he died, while at supper with his friends, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat. This is my body which will be broken for you.” (Pause) In the same way, Jesus took a cup of wine. He said the blessing, gave the cup to his friends and said, “Take this all of you and drink. This is the cup of my life-blood. Do this in memory of me.”

All: Remember, gracious God, your Church throughout the world. Make us open to receive all believers. In union with all people, may we strive to create a world where suffering is diminished, and where all people can live in health and wholeness.
Thru Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, all glory is yours, gracious God. Amen (sing)

Prayer of Jesus (Sing “Our Father and Mother”)

Group Sign of Peace: #532 Let there be peace on earth.
Presider: Let us offer one another a sign of peace.
All: This is Jesus who liberates, heals and transforms us and our world. All are invited to partake of this banquet of love. We are the Body of Christ.
All Sing: Holy gifts for holy people; come, you hungry, and believe. Come and take Christ’s body offered, come and be what you receive. (Repeat x2)

Communion: Instrumental music (Mindy)

Prayer of Thanksgiving (DidacheInstruction, 100CE)
Men: For the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, for the cup: We thank you, Abba God, for the sacred vine of David your son, whose meaning you made clear to us through our brother Jesus, yours ever be the splendor.
Women: And for the bread fragment: We thank you, Abba God, for the life and wisdom whose meaning you made clear to us through Jesus, yours ever be the splendor.
All: As this fragment was scattered high on hills, but by gathering was united into one, so let your people from earth’s ends be united into your single reign, for yours are splendor and might through Jesus Christ down the ages.

Prayers of Thanksgiving. Introductions. Announcements.

All sing, hand extended in blessing: You are the face of God, I hold you in my heart, You are a part of me, You are the face of God. You are the face of God, I hold you in my heart, You are my family, You are the face of God.
Presider: Go in the peace of Christ, may our loving service to all continue! All: Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

Closing song: #504 Go make a difference, vs 1-3
Anointing of those in need

After liturgy, members of MMOJ  Inclusive Catholic Community continue  their sharing at supper in a local restaurant in Sarasota, Florida.  There is room for everyone at the table!

My Response to the Vatican letter that asks Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to Rome for 'prayerful conversation' by Dan Stockman/National Catholic Reporter:

Bridget Mary's Response: According to this National Catholic Reporter article, about 15 communities have been invited to a Vatican dialogue on areas of dissent: "from the Church's moral teaching or approved liturgical practice".  

I thought the Vatican investigation of the U.S. religious orders was over! Didn't the Vatican learn its lesson: don't mess with the nuns? In city after city, hundreds of Catholics took to the streets to show their support for the Nuns on the Bus and the ministries of the courageous, dedicated Sisters who have educated and cared for millions of Catholics through the years.  Is this another example of the Vatican as the gift that keeps on giving? I don't get it!
 Seriously, what is the Vatican trying to do? Single out a  "bad girls" list of  Religious Orders that don't conform to church teaching on "hot button" issues such as birth control, abortion, gay marriage, women priests,etc. The church teaches that one must follow one's conscience in all moral decisions. Is this a last ditch effort on the  Vatican's part to  pressure the nuns to support teachings that violate their religious freedom?

Will the Vatican force religious congregations to relinquish their canonical status,  the good housekeeping seal of approval by the institutional church unless they conform to official church teaching on these and other issues?  Or will the religious congregations finally say "enough is enough" and liberate themselves from the yoke of Vatican patriarchal control in order to live Gospel freedom and integrity ? 
Pope Francis is full of wonderful surprises!  So, I am hopeful  that he can stop this train wreck from happening.  In a respectful, prayerful  conversation, perhaps, the Vatican officials involved in this dialogue will comprehend the legacy of love, compassion, faith and hope that the women in these Religious Orders bring to the table. Perhaps, this will be an opportunity for mutual growth and spiritual sharing versus ecclesiastical "nit-picking" over the nuns' perceived failures to follow
magisterial teaching?  Just imagine Jesus, the rule breaker, at the Vatican participating in this dialogue! 
As baptized members of the church,  the Sisters and their brothers in the Vatican hierarchy, are spiritual equals. The nuns, including the Orders on this recent "Vatican hit list", have spoken truth to power in their prophetic witness on many issues. They have not supported the hierarchy's policies of discrimination against LGBTI and have spoken out on environmental healing, poverty, economic justice and sexual exploitation etc.   
I hope this upcoming Vatican dialogue will promote Gospel equality as the Sisters  speak truth to power on the elephant in the church's living room-  the full equality of women as priests and decison-makers in all ministries of the church.  Pope Francis and the Vatican hierarchy need to listen to the voice of God, speaking through the the Sisters if the church is to be credible and to flourish in the 21st century. 
Bridget Mary Meehan,
"The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are among the recipients of letters from the Vatican asking congregations to explain matters learned during the apostolic visitation.
About 15 communities of U.S. Catholic sisters are being asked to provide the Vatican with further clarification in the aftermath of the controversial, six-year investigation. The apostolic visitation was announced in 2009, and a final report of the six-year process was released in December 2014.
In addition to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Loretto Sisters also received letters from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL).
Both the Loretto Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph were invited to Rome to discuss the matters at meetings in October.  The Loretto Sisters' meeting is scheduled Oct. 18. The timing of the Sisters of St. Joseph meeting in October is tentative, the letter said. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary were only asked to provide a written response.
The Sisters of St. Joseph said in a statement their letter invited them to Rome for a "prayerful conversation" about "a few points mentioned in the letter." The statement did not say what those points were, and congregational leaders declined to say anything beyond the issued statement.
A copy of the subsequent letter sent by leadership to Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet sisters was obtained by Global Sisters Report. It says that all CSJ Province Leadership Teams received the same letter from CICLSAL and quotes from it on five matters "voicing the following concerns":
• Your desire to help bring about an 'emerging new form of religious life';
• Your evaluation of the way you promote the spiritual and community life of the congregation, in light of the Church's definition of apostolic religious life;   
• Your Congregation's policy regarding members of the community who are known to hold positions of dissent from the Church's moral teaching or approved liturgical practice;
• The identity and role of lay associates/consociates, assuring the distinction between vowed religious life and laity.
• We also urge you to evaluate your efforts to promote 'communion with creation', especially in light of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si, a comprehensive presentation on the responsible care of creation, in view of integrating its principles enunciated in the encyclical into your current efforts in this area.
The congregation's statement said the letter was presented as a follow-up to the on-site visit to the order in St. Paul, Minnesota, in late 2010. The congregation's leadership team discussed whether to accept or decline the summons, but decided the "benefits outweigh the challenges of expense and some inconvenience."
The statement said the way sisters conducted themselves during the apostolic visitation and an even more controversial investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith showed the value of remaining engaged to resolve differences and misunderstandings between sisters and the church hierarchy.
"We want to 'stay at the table' and participate in respectful dialogue. We want to communicate by our behavior that we see ourselves as their partners in continuing Christ's mission," the statement said. "It is also potentially an opportunity for the staff of CICLSAL to deepen their understanding of women religious in our country."
The Loretto Sisters were asked to report on five so-called "areas of concern," including:
• Your way of promoting the spiritual and community life of the congregation, in light of the Church's definition of apostolic religious life;
• A certain ambiguity regarding the congregation's adherence to some areas of Church doctrine and morality;
• Your Congregation's policy regarding members of the community who are known to hold positions of dissent from the Church's moral teaching or approved liturgical practice.
The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary were asked in a letter they described as "friendly" to respond to the office's continued concern over the order's "public dissent of Church teaching."
Sr. Teri Hadro, president of the order, said the Vatican interprets things as dissent that are actually just different ordering of priorities, citing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spending the last decade making abortion its primary cause, while many U.S. women religious congregations have focused on issues like food, water and shelter for marginalized populations.
 [Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook.]

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) - Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Janice Sevre Duszynska, ARCWP (left),  and Katie Zatsick, ARCWP (right) hold banner: Association of Roman Catholic Women Priest - Reclaiming Our Ancient Heritage!
What do you think about Pope Francis and the new commission he called to study the ordination of women deacons?

We are grateful for Pope Francis’ work to protect mother earth, his care for the poor, and advocacy for economic equality. However, he must make the connection between poverty and gender justice. Two thirds of the world’s poor are women and their dependent children. If the Catholic Church were to embrace women's gifts as equals in the priesthood and in decision-making, just imagine the many blessings this affirmation would bring to a world where women suffer injustice and inequality every day. We hope that Pope Francis will chart a new path toward human equality in our church by opening all ministries to women. The commission on women deacons could be a first step toward the full equality of women in the church. 

How did your Movement begin?

The Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement began with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River in 2002. An anonymous male bishop with apostolic succession ordained our first women bishops. Therefore, our ordinations are valid. We are disobeying an unjust man-made church law (canon 1024) that discriminates against women by prohibiting women's ordination. Right now, there are seven sacraments for men and six for women. The Catholic Church cannot continue to discriminate against women and blame God for it.  Presently, the official teaching states that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women because the priest acts in "persona Christi", and must bear a physical resemblance to Jesus. Thus, only men can be priests.  Baptism makes us all spiritual equals, and opens the door to all the sacraments, including Holy Orders. Baptized into Christ, we are all spiritual equals (Galatians 3:27-28). We are following our consciences and leading the church toward justice and equality by ordaining women in apostolic succession in a new model of church that is inclusive, non-clerical and empowering for all. 

In June 2016, Pope Francis has received our ongoing petition campaign from our international movement to lift our excommunications, stop all punishments against us and our supporters, and begin a dialogue with us.  See our petition to Pope Francis:

What is your vision/mission?

Roman Catholic Women Priests are a renewal, justice movement, within the Catholic Church. We are creating a bridge between our present institutional church and a new model of church, rooted in Jesus’ vision of an open table, and beginning a healing process of centuries-old  misogyny. 

We are changing the church, one inclusive Catholic Community at a time. We offer hope that gender equality can be a reality now by living as companions in a blessed, mutual partnership of love, rooted in the teachings and example of Jesus. We are companions on the journey, an egalitarian partnership with the community of the baptized, facilitating inclusive liturgies and building loving communities of service in our local areas. Our mission is to serve especially those whom the Vatican marginalizes and to serve Catholics who are ready to embrace a more inclusive church. We have an open table which means everyone is welcome to receive sacraments: LGBTQI, divorced and remarried, etc. In our faith communities, everyone consecrates Eucharist, offers mutual blessing and shares in homilies and governance decisions. We are a community of equals, celebrating our identity as united in our diversity in the Body of Christ. 

The real issue is the full equality of women in a renewed church where all are equal and all are welcome.  The Church that treats women as second-class citizens violates God's will. Genesis 1:27: God created humanity in God's image, in the divine image, God created them, male and female God created them.  Galatians 3:27.  St. Paul reminds us that by our baptism there is neither male nor female, all are one in Christ. 
Now is the time for a loving “holy shakeup”, an explosion of grace, which will bring fresh hope for justice and equality for women in the church and world.  As a new ecclesial movement we are blessing the church with new life in grassroots egalitarian communities where all are  equal and empowered. 

Who is your target group?

We are serving inclusive Catholic communities where all are welcome to receive sacraments. Thirty-three million Catholics in the U.S. have left the church and we are welcoming them to our inclusive Eucharistic communities. 

Are your orders recognized in the Catholic Church?

Roman Catholic Women Priests have valid orders. A male bishop in apostolic succession ordained our first bishops.  According to recent polls, a growing number of people in many countries support women priests. Our international movement has ordained members in thirteen countries and on five continents. 

Why don't you get ordained in another church, rather than face excommunication and rejection?

We are faith-filled members of our church dedicated to making our church more loving, open, inclusive, just and equal. The church is our spiritual family and home. Jesus stood on the margins with the least and the last. He treated women as disciples and equals. He proclaimed that we are all the beloved of God, who is love. As followers of Jesus, we live the beautiful mystical, prophetic and sacramental tradition of our church.  Pope Benedict canonized two excommunicated nuns: Theodora Guerin and Mary MacKillop. Like these courageous women we spoke truth to power and suffered condemnation; we too are called to be prophets of gender justice for women in our church today. Like them, we are following primacy of conscience, which the church has taught for centuries.  
"Anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authorities, in ignorance of the true facts, impose a demand that offends against his (her) clear conscience should perish in excommunication rather than violate his (her) conscience."St. Thomas Aquinas, Sentences IV, 38, 2, 5

How do you deal with excommunication?

We reject excommunication. No punishment can separate us from Christ or cancel our baptism. No church authority can separate us from God. This is our church and we are not leaving it no matter what the Vatican says or does (The Vatican's official line is that our excommunicate is the automatic type, by your choice, you have excommunicated yourself).

Were women ever ordained in church history? The church teaches that Jesus had twelve apostles. How can women be priests?

Jesus called women and men to be disciples (Luke 8:1-3). Jesus did not ordain anyone. The Twelve symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel. Women were apostles: Mary of Magdala and Junia in Romans 16:7.  Paul calls Junia an outstanding apostle! So there were more than 12 apostles. Paul was an apostle, and Mary of Magdala and Junia were two women apostles. The early Church Fathers referred to Mary of Magdala as the apostle to the apostles!
The Risen Christ called Mary Magdala to be the apostle to the apostles. She was the first to proclaim the central message of Christianity, the Resurrection. Vatican hierarchy should follow Jesus’ example of Gospel equality and the early church’s tradition of women in liturgical leadership as deacons, priests and bishops.

What is the History of Women's Ordination?

For 1200 years women were ordained (Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination, Dorothy Irvin’s archaeological evidence etc., and see major scholarship "women can be priests" in many languages:

 “In the early centuries of Christianity, ordination was the process and the ceremony by which one moved to any new ministry (ordo) in the community. By this definition, women were in fact ordained into several ministries. A radical change in the definition of ordination during the eleventh and twelfth centuries not only removed women from the ordained ministry, but also attempted to eradicate any memory of women's ordination in the past. …However, the triumph of a new definition of ordination as the bestowal of power, particularly the power to confect the Eucharist, so thoroughly dominated western thought and practice by the thirteenth century that the earlier concept of ordination was almost completely erased.. References to the ordination of women exist in papal, episcopal and theological documents of the time, and the rites for these ordinations have survived” (Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination).

The Vatican and Google have created a virtual tour of catacombs including two frescoes in St. Priscilla’s catacomb that provide evidence of ancient women deacons and priests in first centuries of church’s history.  One fresco depicts a woman deacon in the center vested in a dalmatic, her arms raised in the orans position for public worship.  In the same scene there is a bishop being ordained a priest by a bishop seated in a chair. She is vested in an alb, chasuble, and amice, and holding a gospel scroll.  The third woman in the painting is wearing the same robe as the bishop on the left and is sitting in the same type of chair. In another fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla, women are conducting a Eucharistic banquet. This evidence portrays women in liturgical roles and vestments.

Why are you being ordained as deacons, priests and bishops? Do you support clericalism, a top down pyramid model in which the people are basically shut out of decision-making?

We are called by God to minister in a renewed priestly ministry that celebrates our baptismal equality in Christ.  We live a non-clerical, circular model of decision-making in our governance and in our independent, inclusive communities. In our liturgies, all are welcome to receive sacraments and fully participate as baptismal equals in celebrating liturgies.  In many of our communities there are dialogue homilies, everyone recites the words of consecration and offers mutual blessing. Until women are affirmed as equals at the altar and in decision-making, women will be second-class citizens in our church. 

What is your response to sexism in the church today?

All the baptized are in "Persona Christi” who celebrate Eucharist as the Body of Christ.  In our present Roman Catholic structure, only male priests are officially recognized as in Persona Christi, and therefore, only male priests are called to preside at Eucharist. Roman Catholic Women Priests are visible reminders that women are equal images of God and therefore, are called to preside at and celebrate Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The Vatican hierarchy cannot continue to discriminate against women in sacramental ministry and in decision-making by insisting only ordained males are in Persona Christi. Our movement follows Jesus’ example of an open table where everyone is the Christ-Presence and all are welcome at the banquet table of God's love.  

How many are in your international movement and where are you?

The total number is approximately 225 for the entire Roman Catholic Women Priests international Movement which includes branches in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Canada, U.S., South America and South Africa

Why are there two branches of this movement in the United States?

In the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement, there are two RCWP groups in the United States, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) and Roman Catholic Women Priests – USA (RCWP-USA). Like two religious orders RCWP and ARCWP offer different approaches to governance and program preparation. Our common mission is a renewed priestly ministry in an inclusive church.

Both ARCWP and RCWP-USA offer a new model of priestly ministry in a renewed church that lives prophetic obedience and Gospel equality in the Roman Catholic Church now.  Both ARCWP and RCWP-USA communicate and share resources on a regular basis. We have a common listserv and national retreats. We collaborate on major reform movement events such as the celebration of liturgy at Call to Action National Conference..

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priest's (ARCWP) vision is a renewed priestly ministry within a community of equals. ARCWP makes decisions by a consensus process that involves all members.

ARCWP is an international group without regional territories. Presently, ARCWP is in the United States, South America, and Canada.

Our website is

Media Contacts: Bridget Mary Meehan, Janice Sevre Duszynska, 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 13th Sunday OT, June 26, 2016, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Today begins the most important section of Luke's Gospel,
referred to by scripture scholars as the “journey narrative.”
Fr. Raymond Brown calls Luke's story
of the long journey to Jerusalem
“an artificial framework.”
It's a literary device created by Luke
so he can tell about Jesus in an organized way.
Jesus actually did travel from Galilee to Jerusalem.
For later followers, his journey takes on symbolic meaning:
it's the way by which Jesus went from death to new life,
and the way that we, as his disciples,
are called to do the same.
Luke's story of the beginning of Jesus' long journey
begins with a lesson that we still need today.
At the very beginning of the trip,
Jesus' disciples are not welcome in a Samaritan village,
but Jesus will not let them call down fire from heaven
to destroy the villagers.
In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift, Irish Anglican priest,
criticized Christians for having
just enough religion to hate
but not enough to love.
History continues to give us examples of people who,
like the first disciples,
want to do violence to people who don't agree with them.
We don't have to look any farther
than the front pages of our newspapers to see it.
People killing other people when they disagree.
People killing other people because they are different.
And people doing murder in the name of God.
It happened in the Crusades.
In Nazi Germany.
In the Middle East.
In Orlando.
It's still happening.
What motivates people to hate so viciously in the name of God?
Maybe their religion is just a veneer on the surface of their lives.
Maybe they just can't grasp the message of love
that's at the heart of all real religions.
Maybe they never really learned what their own religion is about.
Or maybe it's the failure of religious leaders
to keep their own hatred out of their beliefs.
Whatever it is, Fr. Joseph Pollard rightly calls it blasphemy.
But for us Christians, we should know the way.
Jesus' response to his disciples call for vengeance
is to go on to another village.
He teaches us that our way to new life
is not through violence and retribution
but through peaceful avoidance of conflict.
So Jesus and his disciples continue on the journey,
and Luke has Jesus give us more advice.
Three people come up to him, one by one,
and each one hears radical requirements for discipleship.
The first person, wanting to follow Jesus wherever he goes,
hears that there will be no place to rest
for the one who joins Jesus on the Way.
We have to ask ourselves if we are ready to follow,
even if we have to walk away
from the comfort and security of our homes and friends.
Are we ready to speak up for what is right and just,
even if we know our family members and best friends
will disagree with us?
The second person, invited by Jesus to join the group,
wants to go bury his father,
and Jesus responds with “let the dead bury their dead.”
If the man goes home to wait for his father's death
so he can fulfill the law of honoring his parents,
he himself will become dead
to the new life that comes with the journey to Jerusalem.
We have to ask ourselves what we're waiting for
that keeps us from following Jesus along the Way.
Maybe it's job security—
I won't object to my boss' racist remarks
until I have another job lined up.
And the third person
wants to say goodbye to family before he follows,
but Jesus warns that anyone
who expects to live in the reign of God
can't live in the past.
As followers along the way, we look ahead.
We don't regret the past and we're not obsessed with it,
either by focusing on its mistakes
or by imagining it as a golden age.
We know from other scriptures
that Jesus does not mean these sayings to be absolutes.
What Jesus is doing is making clear
the mindsets that undermine living in the reign of God.
He is reminding us of the greater goal,
and that everything else falls by the wayside
in our choice to follow him.
Rarely are we called to burn all our bridges,
like Elisha in the first reading.
These sayings remind us that, at rare, particular moments,
we are called to be heroic.
But most of the time
we are called to reflect, adapt, and take action.
As Paul puts it in that second reading,
we have to live by the Spirit, not by the law.
We are required to serve one another through love.
I recall times in my own life
when I lacked the courage to follow Jesus' way,
and a few times when I had the courage to burn bridges,
to walk away from security for the sake of a vision.
Out of Africa author Karen Blixen once said that
“There is probably always one moment in life
when there is still the possibility of two courses,
and another when only one is possible.
At the latter point I have burnt my boats,
and afterwards there can be no retreat.”
Elisha reached that point.
Paul reached that point.
Jesus reached that point.
We reach that point, too,
faced with the question of what it means
for us
to follow Christ today.
It means to act with love where we are,
in our chosen career,
on our chosen life path,
true to the commitments we have made.
It's not only what we do that's important.
It's how we do it.
There's more than one way to follow Jesus,
but each path has this in common:
we are called to follow with our whole heart,
and our heart must be full of love,
no matter what.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We are Living History of Discrimination, Excommunication and Injustice

"No More, No More, No More" Response to Orlando Massacre by Pastor Greg Russell, St. Andrew UCC, Sarasota, Florida, June 19, 2016

“WHAT, THEN, SHALL WE SAY . . .?”        
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
Matthew 5:43-48
Pastor Greg Russell on Holy Thursday at our Ecumenical Eucharist

     So, last Sunday when Lucy Painter and I gathered at the back of the sanctuary to come down the aisle, she said, “Real shame about Orlando.”   And I said, “What happened in Orlando?”   And that’s how I found out about what has turned out to be the worst mass shooting on U.S. soil.   A madman with a grudge against gay people and using ISIL as a quasi-religious cover, armed with a military grade rifle, began his cowardly work with devastating results at Pulse nightclub – 49 dead and 53 wounded with several more expected to die from their wounds.

      And a week later as we bury and mourn our dead and try to help those who have been wounded to heal, I have to preach.   Preachers preach, so I have to say something.   What can I possibly say to you?   As I told Lucy last Sunday as we stood in front of the communion table, and you watched me try to absorb what she had just told me, “I’m out of words; I just don’t know what to say…”

   One of the things I can say to you with confidence is that “Terrorist Attack” is not a heading you’ll find in the concordance at the back of your study Bible.   I know.   I looked.

     But I didn’t stop looking there; in addition, I looked under the heading, “enemies,” and this is the very first listing I found.   In his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew, chapters 5-7), Jesus is recorded as saying this:
       You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love
       your neighbor and hate your enemy.’   But I say to
       you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who
       persecute you.’ . . . If you love only those who
       love you, do not even the tax-collectors and the  
       gentiles do the same? . . . No, you must be perfect,
       even as your heavenly father is perfect.” 
                                                                           (Matthew 5:43-48)

     And my first reaction is: “Please, Jesus!  Don’t ask this of me – not right now!   I just can’t do this!   I hope we track down all the people who have inspired and carried out this awful thing, and grind them into a powder so fine that the wind can’t find enough of them to blow away!”   I feel like Peter, who, after his initial encounter with Jesus, cries out, “Lord, get away from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:1-11) 

     “You expect too much, Jesus!   I can’t be like you --- I just can’t do it!   Now I know why so many of those who initially followed you fell away!   Your sayings are too hard!   They require too much!   There is an extravagance of goodness here that I simply cannot approach!

     “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, that’s what I want!   Give me that old time religion!!   Right now, that’s what I want.”

    Except, as Gandhi once observed, . . . when everyone operates out of ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth,’ the world winds up blind and toothless.   If we descend to that level, then they have won already.  

     You may think this is excessively confessional, but surely I am not the only one on the horns of this particular dilemma here this morning.   I confess this barbarous act is a hard test of my faith in a just and loving God.   And over the course of the next days and weeks, I will find out whether my faith is of a kind that is fitted out for foul weather as well as fair.   For, you see, the true test of any people comes, not when things are easy and going our way.   It comes when the bottom falls out of our lives, and things are hard.   When that happens – personally or nationally -- can we muster a faith that gets us through?

     You see, friends, there are two kinds of faith in God.   One says “if” . . . then.  “If all goes well, if life is hopeful, prosperous and happy, then I will believe in God.”   The other says, “though . . .”   Though everything goes wrong, though the forces of evil triumph and the cross looms, nevertheless will I believe in God.

     The Bible is full of this contrast – on the one side Jacob saying: “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I shall come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall the Lord be my God . . .” [Genesis 28:20ff]   That is fair weather faith – bargaining with God for our trust if all goes well -- and when things fall apart, of course, it collapses.

     But there is another kind of faith recorded in scripture – a faith that begins, not with the word “if” but with the word “though:”
     Yea, though he slay me, yet will I trust him . . . [Job 13:15]
     Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
        death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me . . . [Psalm 23:4]
     Though the waters roar and foam, though the
       mountains be shaken in the heart of the sea, yea
       the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is
       our refuge . . . [Psalm 46:2-3]

     Well, friends, I call on you to testify with me that this is one of those “though” moments.  
     Though the hosts of evil round us
        Scorn our Christ, assail his ways,
     From the fears that long have bound us
        Free our hearts to faith and praise.
     Grant us wisdom; grant us courage
         For the living of these days.  (Harry Emerson Fosdick: “God of Grace and God of Glory”)

I don’t know about you, but right now I need plenty of both wisdom and courage to quell my rage.   I candidly admit that by myself I am not equal to the task.

     The simple fact of the matter is that we need each other.   As we pray for the needs of those who are hurt and hurting, as we pray for our own needs, you make me stronger by your presence here.   And God who hears our prayers will hold close those who are dead and those who mourn, just as God holds us close.

     God must be very sad at the way we treat one another.   I cannot help but believe that when this horrible thing happened last Sunday morning, God’s tears were the first tears that were shed.

     As predictably as Sarasota heat in July, we heard calls for “a moment of silence” this past week.  SILENCE IS NOT WHAT WE NEED!!!   WE NEED TO BE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS!!!   NO MORE!!   NO MORE!!!   NO MORE!!!

     Some of us may think that the LGBTQ battle is over, that it ended with the legalization of same-gender marriage last year.   Some of us may even think that the LGBTQ community has been greedy and overreaching by “infringing” on the “rights of the majority” – rights LGBTQ folk continue to be denied.   And to an extent, I can understand why you might think that.

     As a whole, we like to distance ourselves from the past when it is ugly.   We love fairy-tale endings, particularly ones in which no one has to deal with feelings of guilt or accountability.   This kind of thinking is not new – just look at pretty much EVERY conversation surrounding our rape culture or conversation about race.

     We do this so we can wash our hands of the atrocities committed in our country on a daily basis.   We do it so we can chalk up this horrific shooting as the act of a single extreme madman rather than acknowledging our complicity in shaping the culture which makes this kind of crime not only possible but inevitable.   That approach keeps it easy and comfortable and distant for us.   It is also deadly.   It does not fix the situation, but merely perpetuates the cycle of violence in place.

     It would be comforting to think that the LGBTQ battle is over, but that is far from true.   We dare not forget the struggles and injustices that have shaped and continue to shape this community.   We dare not forget that our own President Ronald Reagan refused to acknowledge the AIDS crisis until a million people had died from it.   We dare not forget that Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, and died because of his sexual orientation, or that Brandon Teena was raped and murdered for being a transgender man.

     We dare not forget the LGBTQ youth who took their lives because of bullying, harassment and rejection.   We dare not forget that over 20 transgender women – many of them women of color – were murdered in the last year (2015) alone.   We dare not forget that 52% of the LGBTQ population lives in a state that does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

     LGBTQ people are still discriminated against and victimized daily.   This shooting was not an isolated event, or remnants of antiquated homophobia, or just religious extremism.   It stems from a very real homophobic culture that exists in our country – the cul-ture many of us contribute to, whether we want to admit it or not.

     If we believe that “tolerance” is enough, we are part of the problem.   We don’t have to beat up an LGBTQ person to commit a hate crime or encourage another person to do so.   If we misgender Caitlyn Jenner, cringe at the thought of gay affection or use phrases like “no homo” or “Oh, that’s so gay,” we contribute to the culture that fostered this crime.

     You see, tolerance isn’t a real thing; anything less than accep-tance is just gross indifference or suppressed hatred.   Loving Neil Patrick Harris, but finding the thought of “gay sex” gross is not acceptance; embracing white, gay men while rejecting trans people is not acceptance.   Every time we do that, we tell criminals like the Pulse shooter that they are not alone in their thinking.   We send the implicit message that LGBTQ folk are a nuisance and an intrusion only meant to be tolerated for social appearances.   In doing these things, we not only dehumanize an entire group of people; we provide the social ammunition needed for someone to commit these kinds of atrocities.  

     If we would be allies, we have to be active allies and truly combat homophobia and transphobia when we see it.   That means calling someone out when they say something hurtful or ugly.   It means caring more about what is right than what others think of us.   It means not tokenizing LGBTQ folk, or dismissing their struggles, or spouting some “liberal” thoughts just to score social brownie points.   The LGBTQ community doesn’t need for us to patronize them; THEY NEED US TO STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT!!  
This community is one of the most resilient groups in the world, but just because they can withstand the worst of storms does not mean they should be subjected to them.

     They should not have to live in a world where their love is questioned and dismissed.   They should not have to live knowing that many of their members are on the streets or in the cemeteries.    And they shouldn’t have to live in a world where they mourn the deaths of fifty of their sisters and brothers.   They deserve better; they deserve better from our government, they deserve better from our society, and they damn sure deserve better from the Church at large!   We shouldn’t have to tell them, “It gets better;” it’s time for us to be able to tell them, “It is better.”   In fact, it’s past time.

     So, this morning, I want us to covenant with one other that we will do three things:

       First: We need to stop being bystanders.   We need to
       speak up for our gay friends and neighbors.  They cannot
       afford for us to laugh at the gay jokes. But more important:
       They cannot afford for us to be silent!   They need for us to
       help them advocate for same-gender partners to be able to
       make medical decisions. (Thank God Pres. Obama relaxed
       HIPPAA rules following the Orlando shooting for that very
       reason!)   Just last Sunday in this very space we sang God of
       Grace and God of Glory, and in particular the line: Save us
       from weak resignation to the evils we deplore . . .   I heard us. 
       We sang it well; we sang with gusto; I even thought we meant
       Second: We need to remember that the shooter and ISIL
       are part of a political movement that is using Islam as a
       pretense.   They represent just a tiny minority of fanatics
       who no more accurately represent the basic tenets of Islam
       than Jim Jones (of Jonestown), or David Koresh (of Waco)
       accurately represent the basic tenets of Christianity.   For the
       safety of our Muslim sisters and brothers, we must not fail
       to remember this and to get that word out to the larger

       Third, and finally: We need to remember who we are and,
       more importantly, whose we are.   For we belong to Jesus
       Christ, through whom the Lord of history has revealed an
       uncanny knack for bringing forth good out of evil.   If you’re
       ever in doubt of that, please refer to the cross for exhibit A.

     What, then, shall we say about all this?   The last word I shall give over to the Apostle Paul, who, in his letter to the church at Rome, writes (8:31-39):

     Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?   Shall
     tribulation,or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,
     or sword? . . .   No!   In all these things we are more than con-
     querors through him who loves us.   For I am utterly certain   
     that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
     things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor
     depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate
     us from the love of God made known in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
                                                                              (Romans 8:31-39)

Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God!

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.   Amen.