Thursday, April 18, 2013
Just saying "no"
12:03 pm pdt
The media have been reporting on a case in Richland about a florist who is refusing to provide flowers to
a a couple for their wedding. She says she does not approve of their wedding because of her
"relationship with Jesus Christ." This should be an issue of concern.
I have heard several well-meaning folks come to the woman's defense, saying that she should
have the right to choose with whom to do business. But I am convinced (and boy
I hope I'm right) that if she had a sign on her door that said, "No Jews welcome" or "I don't do flowers
for multi-racial weddings" people would be up in arms.
Yes, this woman has a right to her beliefs. Absolutely. But no, she does not have the right to inflict those on others in
her business. She can choose to do business with all, equal members of society, or she can change her business. To claim that
somehow Jesus has told her with whom she can do business or not is a little scary. The issue is not around homosexuality or
same-sex marriage, but over whether people have an inherent "right" to discriminate. When it comes to doing business,
no, I don't think we do. Period.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The Day After
12:18 pm pst
Some musings for the day after the election...
...it feels good to wake up married.
No, I didn't think it would really make any difference, but I found that it does. To know that (probably - I know the
ballots aren't final yet) your society says "yep, you're equal to the rest of us" means a lot. Thank you.
...I really appreciated Mitt Romney's speech last night. I didn't expect to, but I found he was warm, gracious,
and positive. And I know that, had I been in his position I would have been frustrated and hurting. Thanks, Governor.
...I'm concerned about marijuana being legalized - I think. I was really torn on this one. On the one hand, I
really think we waste far too much time and money arresting, processing, and punishing people for minor drug offenses. I don't
use marijuana, but I don't know that anything is gained by arresting someone for having a joint or two. On the other hand,
it's a substance that alters the way we think and act - and that's always dangerous. I hope we spend some serious
time as a society trying to address that issue. And, along with that, we need to invest more in treatment for all substance
...I appreciated a Facebook posting from a friend of mine who said she spent the
day in prayer for "pre-emptive forgiveness" for others. She said, "no matter what happens, roughly half the
country is going to be disappointed tonight, and we need to be gentle and loving with them." She's right. Gloating
is not helpful to reconciliation.
...a lot of comments were being made about the racial
profiling of people who voted. Someone (I forget who - I kept switching channels all night!) made great hay out of the fact
that the Republicans can no longer expect to be elected primarily by white men. We must not overlook that. We live in a vastly
diverse nation, full of different races and cultures, ideas and lifestyles, religions and philosophies. Anyone who expects
to be in public service must both recognize that, and work with it.
...I hope you voted.
I'm not concerned with who or how your voted, but I hope you did. Knowing that people in other countries die for the rights
inherent in a democracy, we have no right not to exercise. My father used to say, "if you vote you have the right to
complain about the government for the net 4 years. If not, you have to keep your mouth shut." A little blunt, maybe -
but also truthful. But also as the president pointed out last night, our work as voters did not end at the ballot box. As
citizens we have an obligation to be involved, to challenge government leaders when we disagree, to support them when we agree,
and to do all we can to make our world - our nation, our state, our community - a place of justice and equality and joy.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Love, not war
2:56 pm pdt
With the wonders of the internet I was able to watch live election results for Quebec's election the
other night. It's (yikes) almost 30 years since I've lived in Quebec but I'm a political junkie, and so I said
a wee prayer of thanksgiving for the internet, and began to watch. It was intriguing too - without a lot of details, it was
primarily a 3-way race, with the top 3 parties getting roughly 30% each, and the top two parties getting almost the same number
of seats in the legislature. A proverbial nail-biter, and I watched all I could.
But I stopped
watching once the results seemed "final" and so I didn't see live the new premier's (a premier is sort of
the equivalent of governor) acceptance speech. But I caught it the next day.
During her speech,
suddenly security guards leapt to the stage and hustled Pauline Marois off-stage. She came back a few moments later to ask
everyone to leave as quickly as possible. Only later was it revealed that a shooter had killed one person and wounded another.
As more news came out it was revealed the fellow was angry. Marois's party (the Parti Quebecois) is nominally
in favor of a sovereign or independent Quebec, and the shooter kept shouting (in French), "The English are waking up."
He has been arrested, and I suppose we should give thanks that he didn't inflict more pain. But I found myself staring at the screen in disbelief - another crazy shooter, again. And - like too many others
- motivated by a generic anger.
I find myself even now wanting to stare at the heavens and shout
"what have we done?"
No person "naturally" wants to kill another. We
are creatures of life, created by a life-giving God who's love is unconditional and everlasting. But sadly that truth
seems not to be known by too many. In a world filled with hurt, too many find themselves so overtaken with anger that it bursts
out in violent and horrific ways.
It's tempting to rally for gun control and harsher sentences
except we know that the real problem is not solved by such things, because the problem is not guns, nor are people going to
reconsider when they think of a possible sentence. This is NOT about anything rational, and so rational solutions are not
going to be the answer.
No, the answer lies in sharing and living and exuding the very love that
God has shown to us in Jesus, a love that has no limits - a love that does not say "everything will be fine, just trust"
but rather a love that says, "things can be rotten, but you're not alone. And together we can get through anything."
Feel that love. Share that love.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Letting the Bible be the Bible
9:20 am pdt
Years ago when I was a pastor in upstate New York, people passed around a recipe for Bible cake. It was
just a basic cake, but the ingredients list was made up of various quotations. For example, it called for "1 teaspoon
of Exodus 30:23" which would theoretically be cinnamon. I say "theoretically" because it could also have been
myrrh - I think the person who put the recipe together was counting on folks NOT having a lot of that in their cupboard.
The thing was cute, and I actually baked one once. However, it did not mean that the Bible was a cookbook.
By the same token, the Bible is NOT a lot of other things - it contains a lot of rules, but that does not make it
a rulebook; it contains instructions on warfare, but I would hardly call it a military guidebook. And it is NOT - let's
just repeat that, NOT - a science book.
We're moving into the Season of Creation (first 4
weeks of September) and that means one of the readings for this week, September 2, is Genesis 1. It's a powerful, amazing
story. One of my favorites. But it is NOT trying to tell me, or you, or anyone else how the world came into being. It's
trying to tell a story about it.
In ancient times, the beginnings of the universe were beyond
human comprehension. So people didn't try to answer the question - they chose instead to wonder about it.
The Bible contains several creation stories (Genesis 1 Genesis 2, Psalm 8, Proverbs 8, John 1 - just to give some
examples). They're all different, because they begin with wondering, not with any sense of trying to prove anything. One
of them even has God being helped by a little girl (read Proverbs 8 - it's a great story).
1 was written at a time of chaos. Had there been newspapers then they would have had headlines about things like hurricanes,
and wars, and traffic confusion, and economic turmoil and - oh yeah, kind of like today's newspapers. In the midst of
this, someone said, "ya know, life is pretty crazy. But there's some sense to it all. Why, in the beginning, God
created it all. And God made it very orderly - created day and night, and chose birds to fly and fish to swim, and created
us in God's image, and it all works. Most of the time, anyway."
That's what Genesis
1 is really about. In a rather topsy turvy life, in a rather topsy turvy world, we are invited to remember that God created
all this. And God put some sense and logic and order into it. And when that seems to be far away, maybe we can a) trust that
things will revert to "normal" one day and b) work towards making that happen.
when we try to use the Bible for things it isn't - a cookbook, a science book, a driving manual - it can be interesting
and cute, but it's not what the thing is there for. I'll turn to Julia Child when I want to bake a cake; I'll
turn to the Bible to help me make sense out of life.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
My Blood Boils
11:49 am pdt
Sometimes I get angry. Sometimes I get furious. Sometimes I seethe and rage. This is one of those times.
You've probably heard by now the filthy comments made by conservative candidate Todd Akin
(do I need to mention his party? I bet you can guess) about "legitimate" rape. Such use of words suggests that somehow
we can explain, even justify, attacks of one person on another. No, Mr. Akin, we cannot. As President Obama said so clearly
in response to this, "rape is rape." No person ever has the right to coerce another into doing anything, least of
all anything sexual. To suggest that it can in any way be seen as "legitimate" is repugnant.
Beyond that, though, is something else. Behind that comment is an uglier notion - that women who are being raped
can somehow prevent pregnancy by their thought process. No, they cannot. The evidence to support this notion does not exist
in the medical community, and never has. The doctors who claim it have - in all cases - admitted when questioned that they
do not have any facts to back up their beliefs. The only research in this issue was done by Nazi researches during the holocaust,
with women who had been abused beyond comprehension. It does not quality in any way as research.
issue has been around for a long time - the notion that, in essence, a women will not become pregnant as long as she doesn't
enjoy sex. Think about how warped that is. The end result of that notion has been used primarily for one purpose - to dismiss
stories of rape, should a woman be pregnant. It lets violent men off the hook, and tells women that a child they are carrying
may be little more than "punishment." I am going to trust you can understand how ludicrous, abhorrent, and just
plain wrong such a thought is.
As Christians we have a responsibility when stuff like this comes
up. We cannot just shake our heads - we must do all we can to counter it. Ideas like this mistreat people, and as children
of God and followers of Jesus Christ we are called to speak the truth.
All of us are created by
God and have inherent worth, dignity, and beauty. Anything - anything - that diminishes that is wrong, and must be challenged.
Mr. Akin has apologized for his comment, to be sure. But not for a pervading thought that certain cases of rape are
somehow "deserved." That is wrong, and we must do all we can to speak the truth.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Outreach? You betcha...
3:30 pm pst
Questions came up at yesterday’s annual meeting regarding our church’s investment in outreach ministries.
Sometimes, when we just look at accountant’s figures (which most of the time are really helpful, by the way) we get
confused, and we lose sight of the big picture.
A conservative estimate of our outreach giving at Admiral Church in 2011 was $31,954.
This includes over $5,100 given to a variety of agencies, funds, and
groups such as national offerings, local food banks, and people needing assistance.
Add to that the $904 we raised specifically for outreach at a mini craft
sale last fall.
Add the value
of the socks, hats, gloves, underwear, blankets, and scarves given to the Compass Center (somewhere in the neighborhood of
And the Christmas gifts
for kids given through the Salvation Army – around $800.
Then there’s the value of “rent subsidies” we effectively give to our tenants who use our space and
utilities graciously at reduced cost over the year. This is an important ministry, and one I am so very proud we are able
to provide. The cost is not this much, but the value is around $10,000 over the course of the year.
There’s the youth leader’s salary – I’d want
to put the whole amount in because I think all her work is outreach, but I’ll be conservative and only list half of
it - $3,200.
And the pastor’s
salary package – let’s conservatively put one-eighth of his time in there - $11,250
And a portion of the $5,000 we send to Conference supports a variety
of outreach programs, not least of which being the Pilgrim Firs and N-Sid-Sen camps here in our area, and a variety of programs
for helping folks in numerous settings around the world – let’s (conservatively again) say about $1,000.
And (almost done) the moneys we use to help
send youth from the church and community to life-transforming camp programs – some $700 last year.
The grand total: $31,954.
Not bad at all.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
9:01 am pst
It's a pretty cool feeling when you think something - or even say it - and then find it affirmed somewhere.
Just the other day I was having a great discussion with someone about biblical interpretation. I was sharing how
I have gotten troubled sometimes by people who claim they "just read" the Bible and don't interpret it. How
can one possibly do that? Heck, I read a Macy's ad and, without doing anything consciously, I interpret it. Is that coffee
maker as good as the other one? Do I really need a new coat? The classic: will those pants make my butt look big? Why should
we expect less from scripture.
So we are having this conversation, and I mention that I think
reading is interpretive - we cannot help it. And then this morning, in a wonderful commentary on the book of Isaiah, I read
the line "Anyone who reads creates meaning." (If you want to check it out, it's in the New Interpreter's
Bible, vol. VI, p. 27).
The Bible is such a wonderful book - and yet, we need to grapple
with the fact that whenever we read it - or ANYTHING - we interpret. We add meaning. We look for meaning. As that writer goes
on to say, "If a significant text...is to have meaning and life, it will be only in the minds and hearts of its readers,
each of whom will encounter something different based on various factors, including experience, culture, and their goals in
reading." And lastly, "the meaning is seldom self-evident; nor can it be taken for granted."
This is why I love to read. And I love to study. And I love to have conversations with others about things we read,
and to hear what others think. How else can a text really have any meaning, unless I interpret it?
Monday, December 5, 2011
11:12 am pst
Ah, the annual round begins again. In anticipation of
Advent, we resolve to create an atmosphere of hope, peace, joy, and love in our hearts, our homes, and our relationships.
We resolve to disengage from the commercial hype and reconnect to the “true meaning of Christmas.” And somewhere
around December 15 we can find ourselves doing exactly the sort of thing we resolved not to do: buying a frivolous gift for
someone who already has everything; agreeing to attend another party when we’d rather stay home listening to quiet music;
rushing out for more decorations or delicacies with no thought for the impact on the planet.
are living embodiments of the Advent theme of “now and not yet.” Our intentions for the four weeks leading up
to December 25 proclaim our faith in the restorative power of God’s ways. We hold a vision of what life – our
own and others – might be like if God’s love was the grounding for all our words and actions. And yet, in spite
of our highest hopes, we find ourselves in circumstances that challenge and contradict this vision.
Advent readings from Isaiah are spoken to a community who were also longing for their lives to reflect God’s ways of
peace and justice. The psalmist recalls God’s powerful presence with the people in the past, and by doing so invokes
hope for the future. With the angel’s announcement to Mary in the gospel of Luke, we catch a vision of how completely
lives can be changed by “the power of the Most High.” Each focus passage reflects the tension between where the
people are now, and what the future might hold. Each catches a flavour of the unsettled nature of “now and not yet.”
The first hearers of these stories might have understood our Advent anxieties
pretty well. May the gift of these texts help us to take the long view of God’s ways unfolding in the world. The very
fact that we recognize a gap between our intentions and our actions is affirmation that the Spirit is with us. Presents or
gifts of presence, crowds or solitude, feasting or simplicity, God is here. Hallelujah.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
12:02 pm pdt
If you listen to National Public Radio you know that it's their semi-annual pledge drive. It seems every
few minutes they're asking for money. I'm a lifetime member, giving automatically, so I try not to get caught up in
the pledge requests. And yet, as I listen to them I feel I ought to phone and pledge more.
thing with church. No, we're not doing the ongoing appeals like NPR does, but we do try to bring to people's attention
the importance of committing to a regular gift to the church. The simple truth is that some 75% of our budget comes
from weekly giving. When we know roughly how much that's going to be we can budget; when we don't, we can't -
it's really that simple.
This year I am increasing my pledge by 10%, and I'm challenging
others to do the same. When you think of it, it's really not a huge amount.
you give $5 a week, that’s an extra 50 cents – barely the price of one postage stamp.
- If you give $10 a week, that’s an extra $1 – about the price of a doughnut.
- If you give $20 a week, that’s an extra $2 – a cup of coffee.
you give $50 a week, that’s an extra $5 – an average dinner at a fast food restaurant.
- If you give $100 a week, that’s an extra $10 – about the cost of soda and popcorn at the movies.
Those who give more, think of what 10% of your pledge really buys, and ask yourself if
you can afford to give that amount (or a portion of it) to the church.
Thanks, in advance, for
your support of our church. It makes a difference in so many ways.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
12:54 pm pdt
Okay, I have to beef a little. The beef is this: I'm tired of people - especially politicians - abusing
scripture. I'm tired of hearing politicians spout off about the need to "teach creationism" as if the Bible
were a scientific textbook, rather than a profound collection of stories of God's love, and our responsibilities.
Let me be clear: I have no doubt at all that God is the reason the world began. But...to try and use
the Bible as a text to teach how it happened is not only utter nonsense, but it's an abuse of scripture.
First of all, who was there? None of us, of course.
Second of all - and perhaps even more important in the grand scheme of things - is which story are you going to teach? There's
Genesis 1, wherein God proclaims, and the world comes into being. Or there's Genesis 2, where God sits down in the mud
and creates a human being, and then numerous animals. Or there's Proverbs 8 where we are told emphatically that a little
child (or master artisan in some translations) was there with God doing the creating right from the very start.
I don't hear many people calling for Genesis 2, and I have never heard anyone call for Proverbs
8. To combine them all takes some squeezing and pulling, and leaving something out somewhere along the way.
But even more importantly, there is nothing to suggest that the stories should ever have been used
to "prove" how creation happened. They are stories - profound and wonderful and life-transforming faith stories.
To use them in another way is to diminish, I believe, what they can say to our faith. And that to me is what the Bible is