Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When a loaf of bread is prophetic.

This past Sunday a lot of preachers tried to address the tragic shooting and murder of nine members of Mother Emmanuel AME church by a self pro-ported white supremacist.  I commend all of these preachers for attempting to look out over the pews of their own faith community and speak cogently about an incomprehensible act of terror.  I commend my brothers and sisters for standing up and speaking out.  I mentioned the massacre in my sermon as well, but I feel a desire today to say more.

However, before I can say more, I think I should address the question, "Who am I to say anything at all?"  I mean on paper I am just another middle aged white dude who has grown up in a country that privileges middle aged white dudes.  So, do I have something to say, and if so, should I even say it at all?

I think I do have something to say because even though I am a middle aged white dude, that's not all the privilege I have.  For the last six and a half years I have been privileged to serve as the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (CoR) in North Omaha, NE.  "North O" is the traditionally African-American part of Omaha, which suffers the brunt of systemic racism like many other traditionally African-American neighborhoods in cities all over this country.  More than the geography, more then the location of CoR, it is a privilege to be a part of CoR's history.  29 years ago the white parish of St. John's and the black parish of St. Philip's merged to form the Church of the Resurrection.   The merger was not out of an ideal of reconciling the races however.  No, the merger was about survival.  Both congregations, like so many in the Episcopal Church, had thrived in the 50s and 60s and then began to decline in the 70s and 80s; so much so that joining together was the only way to find a way forward.

It was not an easy way forward though.  It took almost 15 years or more for the people to come together, to no longer think of themselves as two faith communities worshiping together.  It took that long at least for folks to begin to think of themselves as one community, one "culturally diverse family united in God's love."

This is where the prophetic nature of a loaf of bread comes in.  See, we break bread together here at the Church of the Resurrection in complete and total defiance of the "powers that be".  The fallen forces of this world want us to be separate.  They want worship time on Sunday morning to remain, "the most segregated hour in America," as Dr. King said.  Therefore it is prophetic for us to gather around God's Altar and share in the bread and wine that are the body and blood of Christ.  It is prophetic because we then leave that altar to go and be the body and blood of Christ--taken, broken, blessed, and given--to a hurting world in deep need of God's love.

Now that last sentence, might just sound like preacher rhetoric, just nice sounding words that lack much behind them.  That is not the case, at least not in my own life and in the lives of the members of  the CoR faith community.  So much of American society keeps us separated by race and class.  However, praying with and for the members of CoR brings me into deep relationship not just with Black folks, but also Sudanese folks and Puerto Rican Folks, gay folks and straight folks, rich and poor.  If I wasn't serving alongside this faith community, my kids would not have African American Godparents and I wouldn't have a Sudanese Goddaughter.  We live our lives through the Church of the Resurrection as a prophetic vision of what God's Kingdom on earth should look like.

So, I think I have something to say about a way forward after Charleston, because it just as easily could have been CoR that the gunman walked into that night.  I humbly suggest three things we should all do next.  First, please know that systemic racism in this country is about more than a flag.  Certainly the Confederate Battle Flag should come down just as it never should have been raised over the state house in South Carolina.  However, the way that the conversation has been taken over by discussing the flag is a distraction from hearing the voices of those calling for change.  It is easier to talk about a flag than it is to look at our privilege as white people. It is easier to talk about a flag, then to be convicted by the forgiveness that some of the members of Mother Immanuel AME have already offered the shooter.

Which leads us to the second thing we should do: be convicted by grace.  Specifically the grace of God working through those profoundly forgiving members of Mother Immanuel AME.  To be real honest, I do not know if I could do that.  I love the people of CoR deeply and if someone harmed them, it would only be the power of God that could cause me to forgive such a criminal.  Watching and listening to the members of Mother Immanuel is convicting me to search my own heart and aspire to greater forgiveness.  And it should convict us all to do the same.

Lastly, and this is the lesson I have learned at the Church of the Resurrection: We should live together.  I don't just mean segregation should be unlawful.  I mean we should eat together and pray together like the early Christian communities.  I mean we should worship together on Sunday, work with each other during the week, and fellowship with each other on the weekends.  I mean we need to go to the school programs and little league games of the children of our black friends.  I mean we should learn the deepness of relationship with others in an incarnate and functional way.  Black lives matter, not just when we hold up a sign, but when we have personal relationships with actual black people.

While the proceeding paragraph sounds simple, it is not.  Society is set up to keep us apart.  That is why it is prophetic that the Church of the Resurrection exists.  That is why it is prophetic for us to share in the bread and wine of communion; so that we may be the One Body of Christ out in the world.  That is why it is prophetic to be a "culturally diverse family united in God's love."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Comfort Food of Beers

I haven't done a beer post in awhile; so it's time to get back at it.  At my watering hole yesterday I got enjoy not only the company of some amazing colleagues, but also this HoffBrau House Dunkel.  Sometimes you just need an old school comfort beer.  This Dunkel is perfect for such an occasion.  Malty and smooth with a rich but not over sweet body, this beer is like curling up on the couch with a good book. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

40 Days of Chant, Psalms 37 & 38

I am almost there.  I got two more done today, and I hope to have the last two done tomorrow.  The intent after I get them all done is to compile them with the psalms pointed for chanting into a downloadable edition.  I'll sell the editions from my website  I'll keep you posted for when that will happen.  Here are psalms 37 and 38.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

40 Days of Chant, Psalm 36

I was not able to finish the last five chants during Holy Week; so I am trying to finish them now.  It was an amazing lenten discipline and I look forward to reflect on the ways it has changed me.  Also, I believe I'll take up the forty in Lent 2016.  Anyway, here is the chant for Psalm 36.

1There is a voice of rebellion deep in the heart of the wicked; *
    there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2He flatters himself in his own eyes *
    that his hateful sin will not be found out.
3The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; *
    he has left off acting wisely and doing good.
4He thinks up wickedness upon his bed
and has set himself in no good way; *
    he does not abhor that which is evil.
5Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, *
    and your faithfulness to the clouds.
6Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
    you save both man and beast, O LORD.
7How priceless is your love, O God! *
    your people take refuge under the
                     shadow of your wings.
8They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
    you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the well of life, *
    and in your light we see light.
10Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
    and your favor to those who are true of heart.
11Let not the foot of the proud come near me, *
    nor the hand of the wicked push me aside.
12See how they are fallen, those who work wickedness! *
    they are cast down and shall not be able to rise.

Monday, March 30, 2015

40 Days of Chant, Psalm 35

Psalm 35 might be the angriest psalm that I have worked with so far.  Unlike other angry psalms this does not make a positive turn at the end.  I decided to write an atonal single chant.  Shooting for maximum dissonance this chant might be impossible to sing.  The choice of a single chant even though it is a long psalm is to intensify the dissonance of the music and the anger of the text.

1      Fight those who fight me, O Lord; *
     attack those who are attacking me.

2      Take up shield and armor *
     and rise up to help me.

3      Draw the sword and bar the way against those
who pursue me; *
     say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

4      Let those who seek after my life be shamed and humbled; *
     let those who plot my ruin fall back and be dismayed.

5      Let them be like chaff before the wind, *
     and let the angel of the Lord drive them away.
6      Let their way be dark and slippery, *
     and let the angel of the Lord pursue them.

7      For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause; *
     without a cause they have dug a pit to take me alive.

8      Let ruin come upon them unawares; *
     let them be caught in the net they hid;
     let them fall into the pit they dug.

9      Then I will be joyful in the Lord; *
     I will glory in his victory.

10    My very bones will say, “Lord, who is like you? *
     You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them,
     the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

11    Malicious witnesses rise up against me; *
     they charge me with matters I know nothing about.

12    They pay me evil in exchange for good; *
     my soul is full of despair.

13    But when they were sick I dressed in sack‑cloth *
     and humbled myself by fasting;

14    I prayed with my whole heart,
as one would for a friend or a brother; *
     I behaved like one who mourns for his mother,
     bowed down and grieving.

15    But when I stumbled, they were glad and gathered together;
they gathered against me; *
     strangers whom I did not know tore me to pieces and
would not stop.

16    They put me to the test and mocked me; *
     they gnashed at me with their teeth.
17    O Lord, how long will you look on? *
     rescue me from the roaring beasts,
     and my life from the young lions.

18    I will give you thanks in the great congregation; *
     I will praise you in the mighty throng.

19    Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me, *
     nor let those who hate me without a cause
wink at each other.

20    For they do not plan for peace, *
     but invent deceitful schemes against the
quiet in the land.

21    They opened their mouths at me and said, *
     “Aha! we saw it with our own eyes.”

22    You saw it, O Lord; do not be silent; *
     O Lord, be not far from me.

23    Awake, arise, to my cause! *
     to my defense, my God and my Lord!

24    Give me justice, O Lord my God,
according to your righteousness; *
     do not let them triumph over me.

25    Do not let them say in their hearts,
“Aha! just what we want!” *
     Do not let them say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26    Let all who rejoice at my ruin be ashamed and disgraced; *
     let those who boast against me be clothed with
dismay and shame.

27    Let those who favor my cause sing out with joy and be glad; *
     let them say always, “Great is the Lord,
     who desires the prosperity of his servant.”
28    And my tongue shall be talking of your righteousness *
     and of your praise all the day long.