This morning’s sunshine has left me longing for spring. I know that when all is said and done this winter will probably go into the record books as a particularly mild one. But even so, I’ve grown weary of the trappings of winter and I cannot wait for spring to arrive. On Friday I found myself suffering from a case of cabin fever. I’d spent the day working in my office and even though my desk faces a large window, the dull grey hue of the cold, overcast, afternoon made me long for spring, when the sunshine would entice me to open my widow and I’d hear the sounds of the world out there waking up from its long winter nap. From my office window I caught a glimpse of some kids who judging from the time of day, were heading home from school. As they trudged along the sidewalk, the sight of their mother tagging along behind them made me incredibly sad. Those poor kids were being escorted by their mother. How in the world were they ever going to have any adventures with their mother tagging along behind them? I know that the world has changed some since I was a kid, but the adventures that we could have on the way home from school, well let’s just say, what our mothers don’t know can’t hurt them. The kids walking down the street on Friday, were going straight home; something we rarely did. We wandered home from school, and it could take hours to get home. Now I know that some of you may be fond of saying that when we were kids, we had to walk for miles and miles and miles, and it was all uphill and the sidewalks weren’t ploughed back in the day and the snow, well you should have seen it back then it was piled as high as the rooftops and we had to trudge through snow drifts that were taller than we were. Yeah, yeah, kids today, they just don’t know how well off they really are. Or are they?
Kids are escorted home from school and there’s no time for dilly-dallying. I’ve got to say that dilly-dallying on my way home from school was some of the best fun I can remember. After a day spent at school there was nothing quite like the fun we could get up to on our way home. I remember one spring my friends and I spent days and weeks collecting tree branches. We wandered here and there trying to find branches with just the right amount of sap in them to make them supple and pliable. You had to be able to bend them just so and unless they had lots of sap in them, they would snap in two. We needed branches that we could bend into bows and when we found those branches, we collected other branches that we could fashion into arrows. It wasn’t difficult because all of us had jack knives and we would take those branches and with our jack knives we’d sharpen them just so. When we had all our bows and arrows ready, we’d practice shooting arrows.Continue reading →
In the spirit of the Reformation motto: semper reformanda – always reforming, what say we abandon the fortresses of our traditions. This Sunday, Lutheran churches all over the world will begin their Reformation Sunday worship services vigorously singing “A Mighty Fortress” and I for one wish they wouldn’t. I suspect that the hymn’s author Martin Luther might just agree with me. After all didn’t Luther write a Mighty Fortress in an attempt to bring the popular music of the day into the church? I am convinced that this particular Reformation Sunday tradition has dear old Martin spinning in his grave at the thought that the church that bears his name is still singing a tired old chestnut like A Mighty Fortress to celebrate the Reformation. The very idea of 21st century Lutheran’s celebrating the Reformation by clinging to the events of the 16th century is an affront to the memory of Martin Luther. Continue reading →
Ottawa Convention Center: site of the Joint Assembly
It has been almost two years since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada voted on a series of motions designed to end the discrimination against GLBT people in our church. Prior to the passage of these motions, I assumed that once we voted to allow same-gendered marriage and the ordination of openly gay candidates for the ministry of word and sacrament we would be well on the way to equality for GLBT folk in our congregations. I had hoped that our church’s affirmative votes would mean that I could finally set aside studies related to sex in the Bible. As an ordained woman who just happens to be gay, I had grown weary of sexual politics in the church and longed to turn my attentions to theological matters that might lead to a re-articulation of the Christ experience for 21st century thinkers. My naive notions failed to take into account the fact that it has been close to 37 years since the ELCIC voted to ordain women and sadly there are still bastions of prejudices against women that remain in the ELCIC.
Voting doesn’t make it so. As the National Assembly of the ELCIC draws near, I have begun to receive questions about: 1) what it’s like to be an “out lesbian” serving in an ELCIC parish, 2) how many individual congregations have voted to affirm the ELCIC’s policies, are served by openly gay clergy, or are preforming same-gendered weddings, and 3) what needs doing in order that we might have more congregations that actually welcome GLBT folk into full membership?
In response to the various questions that are littering my inbox I can only say, “I don’t know?” You see I live in a bubble. The congregation I serve is a fully inclusive congregation. Shortly after the ELCIC voted to allow openly gay clergy to serve, I was finally able to celebrate by marrying my long-time partner. Our wedding celebration was also a congregational celebration. While I am relieved to be able to speak publicly about who I am, my gayness is not central to my ministry. We at Holy Cross are busy working to be a congregation that dwells in the 21st century. We are constantly exploring what it means to follow the ways of Jesus in a post-Christendom world. We have moved so far beyond the sexuality questions which obsessed the ELCIC for nearly two decades. I rather like the freedom that our particular bubble has afforded us to float away from the endless conversations about sexuality. So, it is with great trepidation that I began to engage the questions that are frequenting my inbox.
This Joint Assembly marks the first time that the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church in Canada have gathered together for our national conventions. As full communion partners there is so much that unites us. However, the Anglican Church of Canada, unlike the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, has not yet voted to remove all of the barriers to full inclusion for its LGBTQ members. While our experiences in the ELCIC prove that voting doesn’t make it so, it does make it possible for us to claim our place in the church. So, while I applaud the sentiments that bring us together for this Assembly, I can’t help wondering about the quality of our “full communion”?
I shall endeavour to blog during this Joint Assembly. I’ve added a page to this website where related blogs will be posted. In the meantime I travel in hope!
As Pride Week celebrations continue and I search for words to help us express our celebrations of Canada Day during today’s worship service, I came across this prayer written by Kittredge Cherry and Patrick Cheng.
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame, and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation, and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy, and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity, and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy, and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation, and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colours come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories, and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on Earth. In the rainbow space we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders, and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colours of the world! Amen.
Below is a version of a favourite hymn “For All the Children” composed by David Lohman and sung by a gathering of Catholics in Minnesota last summer. Since then our neighbours to the south have made some good progress toward equality. We here in Canada can take pride in our nation’s equal marriage laws, but more work needs to be done to accomplish full equality.
I am enjoying a week off from work, with no agenda but to relax; a delicious luxury! Fortunately, it has been raining off and on for the past couple of days. The refreshing spring downpours mean that I can indulge myself by doing nothing in particular, without feeling like I out to go out and do something. Relaxing and I have been strangers of late and the ability to watch a movie before breakfast, read a novel with no redeeming social value what so ever, sip gin and tonic and discover new music is splendid indeed.
Ever since I was a child one of my favourite forms of relaxation is to curl up with a good biography. So taking a break from Dan Brown’s latest thriller Inferno, I opened Richard Holloway’s auto-biography “Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt”. I am grateful to my colleague Brian for introducing me to this wise, passionate, Scottish bishop who describes himself as an agnostic Christian. Holloway is perhaps best known as the “barmy bishop” a name given to him by the press while he occupied the post of Bishop of Edinburgh and head of the Scottish Anglican Episcopal Church. Holloway resigned from the church in 2000 and has become a popular broadcaster, lecturer and writer.
Holloway is a gifted story teller and his autobiography reads like an intellectual search for a better way that takes the reader from the streets of Glasgow (Alexandria is a suburb of Glasgow) to the halls of ecclesiastical power whilst he ponders his own faith and doubts. Holloway’s humour is compelling! His honesty refreshing! His story reveals a struggle with the institutional church moves him to encourage those who are seeking meaning to raid what is good from the institution and move beyond its boundaries.
Enjoy the short video teaser and let it wet your appetite for Holloway’s lecture “Sudokos and Symphonies: Killing Time” in which he argues for the value of play! I’m off to watch a BBC biopic on Stephen Hawking starring Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock Holmes fame! Let it rain!!!
In the spirit of the Reformation motto: semper reformanda – always reforming, what say we abandon the fortresses of our traditions. Tomorrow, Lutheran churches all over the world will begin their Reformation Sunday worship services vigorously singing “A Mighty Fortress” and I for one wish they wouldn’t. I suspect that the hymn’s author Martin Luther might just agree with me. After all didn’t Luther write a Mighty Fortress in an attempt to bring the popular music of the day into the church? I am convinced that this particular Reformation Sunday tradition has dear old Martin spinning in his grave at the thought that the church that bears his name is still singing a tired old chestnut like A Mighty Fortress to celebrate the Reformation. The very idea of 21st century Lutheran’s celebrating the Reformation by clinging to the events of the 16th century is an affront to the memory of Martin Luther.
We should be singing this centuries music and rather than smugly resting on the laurels of the past, we should be plotting were the reformation goes from here. Perhaps in this the 21st century, when so many of the church’s traditions have seen the institution fall into the malaise of irrelevancy, we need to echo the cry: “Semper Reformanda” — “Always Reforming” the cry of the reformers who insisted that the church in every age stands in need of reformation.
Legend has it that on October 31st 1517, after taking a long hard look at the Roman Catholic Church and having fixed his sights on what he saw as the source of the rot that threatened to destroy the church’s ability to proclaim the Good News of God’s grace that is revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Martin Luther took his 95 Theses on the abuses of the doctrine of indulgences into the streets of Wittenburg and nailed them on the doors of the church. Within a few short weeks, with the aid of the newest technology, copies of Luther’s 95 Theses spread throughout the Holy Roman Empire and sparked a Reformation the likes of which the church hadn’t seen since the Apostle Paul did away with the need to snip the male anatomy to gain entrance to the church. Luther’s words threatened the status quo of centuries of abuse. And the church as is her way, struck back with force so as to ensure that tradition might prevail. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ah history, safely ensconced in the past with its hoards of devils. Let the people rejoice because Martin Luther did it all and we can relax safe in the knowledge that we are justified by grace, through faith. Ain’t it great to be a Lutheran! “A mighty fortress is our God, who himself fights by our side with weapons of the spirit. Were they to take our house, goods, honour, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The Kingdom’s ours forever!”
So tell me, if they fought the good fight in the sixteenth century and handed us everything we need, and God is on our side and wins salvation glorious: Where are the children? Where are the young people? Where are the neighbours? Where is everybody? How and why did the church of our ancestors manage to fall into such disrepair? How did we become so irrelevant?
Most of us, can look around and see for ourselves how broken the church is. If we are honest, we all have our own particular theories as to why and how this happened. Yet we continue to go about our business, hoping against hope that someone will notice and finally fix it. Year by year the church slips farther and farther into the morass of it’s own making and more and more people forget the wisdom of the ages and Christ seems to slip further and further from our grasp. We, who go by the name Lutheran, we can’t do much more than point to our glorious past as if we could only turn the clocks back the work of the reformers of old would save us. But time waits for no one and year after year, people drift away and churches close their doors, and those who are left react with fear.
Despite the fact that we’ve tried to immortalize him, it’s as if Martin Luther never lived at all. Back in the dim recess of memory Luther stands, frozen and impotent. And I can’t help but ask the question: “What would Martin do?”
Well in good old Lutheran style, a song comes to mind, a song of the people, a song from the streets, a drinking song…
“If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land, I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out warning…
It’s time to stop celebrating the Reformation as if it is somehow over. The work of reformation continues precisely because the church is always in need of Reformation.
This week I re-read a little book by Matthew Fox. Fox was a Roman Catholic theologian until Mr Ratzinger silenced him. The Roman Catholic church’s loss was the Episcopal church’s gain. Shortly after Mr Ratzinger made himself pope, Matthew Fox took a long hard look at the church he’d served for so many years and became demoralized. Fox noticed the similarities between the sex-abuse scandals that continue to rock the church and the abuses wrought by indulgences, and asked himself what Martin Luther would do. That’s when Matthew Fox decided to write a few Theses of his own. Except where Luther wrote his 95 Theses to object to the practice of indulgences, Fox wrote 95 Theses to object to the many and various abuses of the church. It wasn’t difficult, over the course of a particularly dark night, Matthew Fox found that 95 Theses came flooding out of him. In the morning, he resolved to take his 95 Theses to Wittenburg and nail them to the very same doors where Martin Luther instigated the Reformation.
Well, things have changed a little over the course of nearly 500 years since that fateful day in Wittenburg. You can’t just waltz up to the doors at Wittenburg and nail things there. The doors are no longer made of wood and the city councilors require that you obtain a permit to protest at Wittenburg.
Fox was told that he would need to stay at least 500 feet from the doors, lest he interfere with the tourists who flock to visit the very spot were the church of the protester’s was born. Thus proving one of Fox’s thesis that the church has become for many nothing more than a museum for tourists.
Eventually the town council relented and after some careful construction, on October 31st 2005, Matthew Fox nailed his 95 Thesis to the doors of the church in Wittenburg. Rome took no notice. But the churches in Germany did. Just as Martin Luther’s action was aided by the invention of the printing press, Matthew Fox’s action was aided by the invention of the internet and thus began a conversation that led to the publication of Fox’s little book: A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity. I return to Fox’s tome annually as part of my preparation to preach on Reformation Sunday.
Here’s a sample of Fox’s theses:
1) God is both Mother and Father.
3) God is always new, always young, and always “in the beginning.
4) God the Punitive Father is not a God worth honouring, but a false god and an idol that serves empire builders. The notion of a punitive, all-male God, is contrary to the full nature of the Godhead, who is as much female and motherly as masculine and fatherly.
5) “All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves” (Meister Eckhart). thus people who worship a Punitive Father are themselves punitive.
6) Theism (the idea that God is “out there” or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (panentheism).
10) God loves all of creation, and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.
15) Christians must distinguish between Jesus (a historical figure) and Christ (the experience of God-in-all-things).
16) Christians must distinguish between Jesus and Paul.
18) Eco-justice is a necessity for planetary survival and human ethics; without it we are crucifying the Christ all over again in the form of destruction of forests, waters, species, air, and soil.
20) A preferential option for the poor, as found in the base community movement, is far closer to the teaching and spirit of Jesus than is a preferential option for the rich and powerful, as found, for example, in Opus Dei.
23) Sexuality is a sacred act and a spiritual experience, a theophany (revelation of the Divine), a mystical experience. It is holy and deserves to be honoured as such.
24) Creativity is both humanity’s greatest gift and its most powerful weapon for evil, and so it ought to be both encouraged and steered to humanity’s most God-like activity, which all religions agree is compassion.
32) Original Sin is an ultimate expression of a punitive father God and is not a biblical teaching. Bit Original Blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.
33) The term original wound better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world–a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming–than does the term Original Sin.
59) Fourteen billion years of evolution and unfolding of the universe bespeak the intimate sacredness of all that is.
60) Jesus said nothing about condoms, birth control, or homosexuality.
71) A church that is more preoccupied with sexual wrongs than with wrongs of injustice is itself sick.
75) Poverty for the many and luxury for the few are not right or sustainable.
I’m sure that we all have thesis or two that you would like to nail to the door. I know that if I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening all over this land, right up to the doors of churches everywhere, and I would nail a few theses to the more than a few church doors. I’d begin with a thesis about the need to move beyond the destructive theories of atonement that have only served to pervert the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and separate people from the sure and certain knowledge that neither death, nor life nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
I’d include a theses or two about the dumbing down of our best theology and our acceptance of easy answers that have turned most people’s vision of God into a sadomasochistic father who insists on the death of his own son in order to satisfy our definition of justice.
I’d go on and on about the wonders and beauty of creation, and insist that we confess that we are wonderfully made.
I’d confess our obsession with self that lies behind the sin of avarice that permeates our consumer culture and turns our energies toward violence.
I’d call for a return to the Jewish tradition of Sabbath that called upon believers to read the Song of Songs and make love on the Sabbath.
I’d call the church to its responsibility to instill a love of creation in all people so that we can walk upon the earth lightly.
I’d remind the powers that be that all people are created equally and that sexuality is a gift from God to be celebrated and not used to segregate some believers from the priesthood that belongs to all believers.
On this Reformation Sunday, lovers of the church everywhere need to free ourselves from the shackles of tradition and about our 95 theses.
What wisdom do you have to share with the church? What needs reforming? What needs preserving? What needs tossing out? What needs holding up and celebration? When should we cry out in solidarity? When should we sing out with joy and wonder? What should we do? What should we stop doing? Semper Reformanda! Always reforming!
This Reformation Sunday at Holy Cross Lutheran, we will sing new words by Miriam Therese Putzer to Luther’s traditional tune: EIN FESTE BURG which you can find here
You can watch the video of Matthew Fox talking about his book here
Back in 1989, before I ever began entertaining the idea of returning to school to prepare for a life in ministry, a fortuitous Christmas gift in the guise of a copy of Matthew Fox’s newly published The Coming of the Cosmic Christ sent me on a journey that continues to shape my understanding of what it means to aspire to follow Christ.
Barely two chapters into Fox’s challenging tome and I knew that if I was ever to begin to understand Fox’s visions of reality, I would need to begin nearer the beginning. In those days, searching for a book involved more than a web search and so I began travelling from book store to book store to scour the shelves for a copy of Original Blessing.
Original Blessing’s Introduction begins with two questions: “1. In our quest for wisdom and survival, does the human race require a new religious paradigm? 2. Does the creation-centered spiritual tradition offer such a paradigm?” Having absolutely no idea what the word “paradigm” means, I knew I was about to be challenged. So, I got my dictionary off the shelf and prepared to wade into unknown waters.
Lead by Fox, I explored the ancient wisdom of Creation Spirituality and began a love affair with the wonders of mysticism and the marvels of science that continue to reveal ecstasies that intrigue and excite my body, mind and spirit!
Matthew Fox’s work continues to nourish my desire to approach they Mystery we call divinity. In the videos below Fox delivers (in 2 parts) the Jarvis Lecture in which he calls for the Reinventing of Christianity. Fox believes that “if we cannot reinvent our religious then we are doomed, the human species is doomed.” Fox insists that Christianity needs to reset its focus; away from a preoccupation with redemption toward a focus upon creation.