Sunday, June 28, 2015

Celebrating Love

What a momentous week! I think we are living in exciting times. This week saw more cracks in the foundation of racism as more and more people stood in solidarity with their Black brothers and sisters.

Then when I opened my Facebook page on Friday it was awash with a sea of colour. On June 26th the Supreme Court decided that Gay Marriage was legal in all states. I, along with many others, put a rainbow filter over my Facebook profile photograph to show my solidarity with the decision. The whole weekend has been a time of rejoicing amongst many American people. The slogan “Love Wins” is appearing everywhere. It is a time for celebrating love.

In this week’s lectionary psalm (30), the psalmist says, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” and “You have turned my mourning into dancing.”

When I read that, it summed up the feeling of many of the comments I had seen. It is the morning . . . people are rejoicing! From commercial advertisements to government buildings the colours of the rainbow are displayed as joy and approval of the Supreme Court decision is lauded. These photographs certainly add to the celebratory atmosphere.

Friday was the day when we no longer have to talk about “gay marriage”. That phrase can be gone forever. It can be expunged from our collective vocabulary. Now, there is only marriage, a celebration of love and commitment between two people.

I have been a little saddened, or maybe, I should say a lot saddened, to read a few posts from people who are against the Supreme Court decision. Often these have been from people purported to be Christians, yet so full of hatred, condemnation and punishment.

The same thing happened in 1967 when the Supreme Court pulled down the anti- miscegenation laws. Prior to that mixed race marriages were not allowed.

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races show that he did not intend for the races to mix."
Judge Bazile 1963

It was another momentous day when on June 12, 1967 the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the USA.

“There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause."
Text from the U.S. Supreme Court

Many people rejoiced and celebrated that love indeed did win. An interview which ABC did with the couple who sparked the Supreme Court case can be viewed at

Again sadly, some did not rejoice

“One letter I received from a white Christian man went like this:
 ‘As individuals, they are precious souls for whom Christ died and whom we are to love and seek to win. As a race, however, they are unique and different and have their own culture. . . . I would never marry a black. Why? Because I believe God made the races, separated them and set the bounds of their habitation, Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26. He made them uniquely different and intended that these distinctions remain. God never intended the human race to become a mixed or mongrel race.’”

That Supreme Court decision was 48 years ago. I doubt that many people would have the same strong feelings in 2015. My hope and expectation is that in a few years time Friday’s decision will be viewed the same way. It will be an important piece of history. Yet, people will look back and wonder why it was such a big deal. Why could people not marry whosoever they wanted to?

However, for today I am glad that I can rejoice and celebrate another victory towards equality for all.

Of course, all this is about love and modern marriage. Actually, none of it reflects a marriage from Biblical times. The phrase Biblical marriage has been used. But what does that mean? In the times when the Bible was written all the marriages were arranged. They were legal transactions where money and property exchanged hands. Unfaithfulness was punishable by death (Deut. 22:23-24). I think we can say that none of us in the West have Biblical marriages!

And the concept of marriage did not change quickly. In the ensuing years “through most of Western civilization, marriage has been more a matter of money, power and survival than of delicate sentiments.” Read the article (cited below) it gives a good insight (although brief and superficial) to changing ideas on marriage. It was only in the twentieth century that “we worship the couple. Intimacy shrinks to encompass just two, and love becomes the only reason for marriage.”

Sometimes I am amazed by how relevant the lectionary readings are in spite of how old they are. This week the Old Testament reading was about David and Jonathan.  My blog is usually about the gospel reading.  However, today, how could I ignore a passage that talks about the love between two men. The text is 2 Samuel: 1-27. David has just been brought the news that Jonathan is dead. He laments, “Greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful passing the love of women.”

The Old Testament tells us that the soul of David was bound to the soul of Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1). Elsewhere the scripture says that they loved each other as they loved themselves. Jonathan gave David gifts of his clothing and his armour. Another verse tells us that Jonathan took great delight in David.

Now, imagine if this story had been about Jonathan and a woman. Suppose the author had written that “Jonathan’s soul was bound to Mirriam, and Jonathan loved her as his own soul.” And suppose that upon meeting Mirriam for the first time, Jonathan immediately gave her all his most precious possessions . . .If 1 Samuel 18:1-4 were about Jonathan’s first encounter with a woman, theologians everywhere would be writing about this as one of the greatest love stories of all time.” (The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same Sex Relationships, Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley)

I’m not doing an in depth study on David and Jonathan and their relationship. Others have done a great job of doing that.  Today, it suffices to repeat that David declared that Jonathan’s love for him was “wonderful passing the love of women.”

I am glad the lectionary highlighted this relationship today. It is apt to remember this story in this time of rejoicing. Today, I join with those all around America who are celebrating love.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Celtic Rhythm for Life.

What a wonderful weekend we have had. Twenty five of us gathered together at a retreat centre on beautiful Owasco Lake. It was quite eventful! We arrived in the aftermath of a storm which had brought down power lines. Hence there was no electricity. For our Friday evening session we sat in darkness, except for the odd beams of light from mobile phones (oh, the wonders of technology). Power finally came back on in the early hours of Saturday morning startling us from sleep as our bedrooms sprung into brightness.

Our theme for the weekend was a “Celtic Rhythm for Life.” We talked about developing a life practice that allows us to live a balanced life full of appreciation for all we see and hear. Nature has its own rhythm. I awaken to birdsong every morning. Last thing at night I watch the bats darting in and out of our trees.

In the introduction to the weekend +Andy said, “Life is shaped by the sun and moon and stars, in daily and monthly rhythms, and by the yearly cycles of nature in its seasons and changes.”

Today the gospel reading reflects part of this rhythm seen in nature. The text is two of a series of parables in the gospel of Mark (4: 26-34) which talk about what the Realm of God is like.

The first parable reads that the Realm of God is as if  “someone has scattered seed on the ground and would sleep and rise, night and day.”

Can you hear the rhythm? “Sleep and rise, night and day.” “Sleep and rise, night and day.” It is the basic rhythm of all of our lives, sleeping and getting up. It is the basic rhythm of nature, night and day. It is within this rhythm that grow takes place.

The second parable in today’s reading is that of the mustard seed which grows into a tree. Again we can see the same rhythm. The seed is sown and with the passing of time and seasons it grows into a tree.

When we went camping in France one of the wonderful sights to behold was the mustard fields. You can see miles and miles of fields of bright yellow mustard flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. Truly magnificent! However, I don’t think that is the mustard seed mentioned in the text. I think this parable is referring to the mustard tree (Salvadora persica.) This tree originated in Persia which now is Iran. It grows commonly in the Middle East and Africa. It is not technically a tree but an evergreen bush, a shrub which grows to twenty feet high. It has yellow-green flowers. The edible fruit is purple with pink or purple seeds

I have blogged in the past about the mustard tree so don’t intend to repeat the details but this tree is known for many properties. It is used for food, for healing, for cleansing, for shelter and for protection. In both the parables, the stories tell of something that grows from a seed. It is not a fast growth. It is a growth that happens in the rhythm of day and night, sun and rain, winter and summer.

That is how we envision the community.  It grows in the rhythm of life. Many years ago the seeds were planted. We were content, and still are content, to just keep to the rhythm and let the community grow slowly. It is enough just to be. We have always likened the way we grow to the old monastic tradition. We would just be around, a presence largely hidden and if someone discovers the community, likes what they see and hear and want to join, they come and, metaphorically, knock at the door.  And keep knocking, and then keep hanging round, maybe after a few months or a year they would decide to join us. We were delighted to welcome Tony and Thomas as novices in the community this year.

Yet, growth isn’t just about growth of the community. It is about our personal growth (and not just growth from eating the abundance of food Casowasco have provided us with!). Growth and maturity are important. How do we grow? How do we mature? It is by developing our own life practice, by finding, and keeping to our rhythm. We have talked a lot this weekend about finding or recognizing rhythm. We became more aware of the rhythms in all the busyness of own daily lives. We have practiced the rhythm of meditation and silence. We have talked about the rhythm of the church’s calendar. We have experienced the rhythm of the daily office, interspersing our day with times of prayer and reflection. We have opened our eyes to see the rhythm reflected in the natural world with the seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter. We recognized the importance of the rhythm of rest and re-creation.

It is in the finding and keeping to the rhythm of our own life practice that we experience growth. In the parables, ultimately, the result of growth is harvest or fruit. The harvest provides food. It is the harvest that gives us strength and nourishment and it is the harvest that is shared to feed others.

It always happens when we get together, various people share about their lives, and I am amazed how many are in ministries that care for those who are hurting and in need of healing and protection. The sharing of lives in this way is the result of the rhythm of the life practice, it is the abundance of the harvest.

However, harvest is not an end in itself.  It is not a linear process with a start and a finish. It is the cyclical nature of the rhythm of our lives that is important. Remember, the harvest also produces the seed and the circle continues and repeats. It is the rhythm of our lives.