Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit and other divisions.

It has been a momentous week. Britain held a major referendum. I’m sure everyone has heard about it as it made the headlines in most of the Western world. However, in case someone missed the news, the referendum, nicknamed Brexit, was about whether Britain should remain part of the European Union or become independent.

Although I became an American citizen in 2012, Britain is still my home, it is where my extended family and friends live. I try to go home every year. My roots are deep. So the referendum was important to me. Personally, I hoped we would remain. I feel both British and European. As I watched the results come in, first it seemed Britain would leave the EU and then it swung to remain, then finally back to leave. I felt sad and unsettled. I felt a slight loss of identity. As a referendum is only advisory not law I cannot, at the time of writing this blog, offer the ramifications of the outcome. The media has given many alternative scenarios to choose from. I will not go into all the reasons why I think leaving was a bad decision. This blog is not an invitation to discuss the pros and cons of the Brexit vote. This is not the forum to do that.

The question I want to pose, hypothetically, is how can we be people of peace in countries that are divided?

We see divisions everywhere. Regardless of one’s opinion on the subject, the referendum showed a nation divided. There is a huge disconnect between different areas of the country. It is exactly the same in the US and in other parts of Europe.

I have already seen great disharmony caused by the very close result. Even families are divided. I was shocked at the hostility shown publicly to those who held alternate viewpoints. On Facebook I belong to several groups for British people living in the US. Topics are usually limited to British food, British TV programs and the occasional cry for help as people negotiate the legalities of living in a foreign land. After the Brexit referendum the climate on the lists changed. People insulted each other. People called each other stupid and used bad language. One person posted a fairly good summary of the economic repercussions, the first person to respond simply said, “You’re a silly cow.”

It is not just the Brits, I have seen and read the same sort of hate speeches and demonizing of the other in the US political arena. In my opinion, this is not okay. There has to be a way to respect and care for people with opposing views. In our community, there are members who hold different views on Brexit as on many other important issues. My hope is that our community can hold conversations in a loving and respectful manner.  Each person may feel strongly about their own position but the aim of conversation is not to try to convert the other but to be open-minded and learn from others’ differing ideas. Often as spiritual people we have read the Scriptures, allowed them to challenge us and come to different understandings. It is in discussion that growth can occur, dialogue enriches us all.

In the Lindisfarne community we have done just that. We have dialogued on various issues and remained strong and united. We are comfortable in being different. Now, maybe, as individuals, it is the time to carry that beyond the community and remain a people of peace in a time national disunity?

In today’s lectionary gospel reading one verse stands out. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house’.” (Luke 10:5)

Perhaps, that is a good starting point. How could the discussion become heated or unkind or reduced to name-calling when a blessing of peace is pronounced (even inwardly) over with whom you enter the conversation.

Peace to this house.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Do You See This Woman?

Do you see this women?
Do you see this women?
Do you see this women?

I almost feel like that at this point I could throw down my pen, close the computer lid and stand on my soapbox and keep repeating this phrase over and over on behalf of all those who have been marginalized by society.

This was a verse (44) in this week’s gospel lectionary (Luke 7:36-8:3).

Last weekend, which we have enjoyed together on retreat, was entitled, “New Monasticism, New Priesthood”. One of the facets of the new priesthood is that women are fully included. Not just as tokens, not just as those who will serve the men, not just to be politically correct but because of their calling, because of their lives, because of their gifts and because someone has responded. “Yes” to the question, “Do you see this woman?” And recognized all that she has to offer.

Women have sadly been excluded over the centuries. There is an interesting time-line about ordaining women at religious ( It makes sad reading.

Apart from a few isolated incidences, the question “Do you see this women?” was answered with a resounding “no” until fairly recent history. Perhaps, even to say it was answered “no” is giving too much credit. To answer one has to have heard the question. For the large part women were invisible, unconsidered, in the background, serving the men.

So some dates on the ordination of women . . .

1978- Episcopal church (at the discretion of the local province)

1981-First American woman to be ordained Buddhist (Ani Pema Chodron)

1985- First woman rabbi in Conservative Judaism (Amy Eilberg)

1992- Church of England ordained women

2000-Baptist Union of Scotland (an ordinance where churches could allow or prohibit ordination of women)

2004-A woman led a mixed gender congregation to evening prayer in a Mosque in Canada (first occurrence world wide)

These dates are just firsts, each first was the result of many years of women demanding of the men in leadership, “Do you see this women?” The struggle for full acceptance continues. Just last year the Anglican Communion consecrated their first woman bishop.

The story this phrase was taken from is an important one. When reading the gospels, it is generally assumed that if a story is repeated by all four authors it is notable. Today’s story can be read in all four gospels. Of course, the details vary but the core remains the same. A woman anoints Jesus feet with an alabaster jar of ointment and, in this case, tears, and dries them with her own hair. In many ways a sensual story, the woman touched Jesus, she allowed her hands, her tears and her hair to be in contact with him. Think about that. Picture it. It is not a sterile encounter.

In Luke’s version he calls the woman a sinner. Perhaps, being a sinner is in common with all humanity. Yet, when I read commentaries about this woman she is often called a prostitute. Is this again indication of the way women are perceived? Sinning is sexual. Women offering their bodies to men. It would be easy to digress here in view of the recent Stanford court case and even say, “Are women’s bodies just to be taken and used by men?” But I won’t digress.

But I do want to look at a couple of other places in the gospels where the same word for sinner is used.

Matt. 9:10-11. Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Matt. 11: 19. Jesus is called a friend of sinners
Matt. 26: 45 Jesus is betrayed “into the hands of sinners.”

Nowhere have I seen it suggested that these sinners were prostitutes. Just something to think about. Are women’s sins worse than men’s sins?

Do you see this woman?
Do you see this woman?

It was the question Simon was asked by Jesus. Simon had missed it! Simon had been so taken up with the woman being a sinner that he missed really seeing the woman.

Do you see this woman?

The woman who had bathed Jesus, kissed Jesus, anointed Jesus. The woman who had given of herself to honour Jesus. The woman who left Jesus presence with the blessing of peace.

In the Lindisfarne community I hope we can answer,

Yes, we see this woman.
Yes, we see all women.

Yes, we see all marginalized people.

All our welcomed and can use their God given gifts and fulfill their God given callings.