Friday, September 28, 2018

Spectacle...

I'll keep this short, for if I don't, I could get angrier and angrier. What transpired in the "hearings" for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should have every American embarrassed. Embarrassed to the core. It was an awful spectacle.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was a genuine, credible witness of the assault she experienced, allegedly at the hands of a young man who would go on to become a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States. That she was assaulted came through clearly, and her therapists, a polygraph test, and witnesses could provide conclusive proof by whom. The witnesses were not subpoenaed, and were thus suppressed as evidence. An FBI investigation—which has now been advocated by the American Bar Association and Mr. Kavanaugh's Alma Mater, Yale University—has been ruled out by the President and the majority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Kavanaugh, in his defense, was belligerent, condescending to his questioners, obfuscated answers  and rejected measures--such as the aforementioned FBI investigation--that could find clear evidence of his professed innocence. There is something wrong with a person who proclaims innocence, exhibits bullying anger, but refuses to advocate for an investigative process that could produce exonerating evidence--especially when that person is a Federal District judge and a candidate for the highest court in the land.

The whole country believes Dr. Ford was assaulted. There are legal ways to find out by whom, whether it was by the man she has accused, or by someone else, as at least one of the "alternative" facts has suggested.

Mr. Kavanaugh's innocence could be proved by the same investigation. By denying it, or in the case of the Judiciary Committee, by not asking the President to convene one, the accused parties are either hiding something or just trying to ramrod their choice for the high court.

All parties lose. Ford has blown open her life because of testifying to what she believes is a disqualifying event for a supreme court nominee. In his own defense, Judge Kavanaugh demonstrated a temperament that does not belong on the Supreme Court--an angry and deeply partisan temperament. Even if, before the final Senate vote, an FBI investigation was convened, and even if it exonerated him, Kavanaugh's tactics at the hearing this week should exclude him from the high court, in my opinion.

No one gets out of this mess unscathed. It appears that Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed by a majority with a specific agenda--pack the court with conservatives at all costs. He will serve not as a distinguished jurist, but as an "asterisked" caucasian version of Clarence Thomas.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford will pick up the pieces of her life, knowing that when she answered the very difficult call to serve and inform her country of what she saw as a gross injustice, those leading her country right now said, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Let us pray for both of these families to find redemption, for our nation to find a way out of this hyper-partisanship that is tearing us apart, and for women who have suffered the same kind of assault as Dr. Ford to be emboldened to speak out against their abusers and attackers.

I also pray we will never see another spectacle like that again, but the results of the Mueller investigation is yet before us. Lord, have mercy.

[NOTE: A Senate vote delay was called and an additional FBI background investigation ordered,  after the time this blog was posted.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Creation Story like no other...

At St. Paul's, we are spending a few weeks examining the great "forgotten tree" of the Bible, at least as far as Christians are concerned. Genesis chapter one says that when God created the garden, God placed in the center of the garden, "...the Tree of Life, and there was also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." As I said in my introductory sermon two weeks ago, Christianity has been preoccupied with the other tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree is blamed in the great faith fable for the "fall" of humanity, by yielding a forbidden fruit that, when eaten, stripped away human innocence and set in motion a cascade of events that left us out, looking in. In the Christian narrative, Jesus Christ comes to redeem humankind from the sin that separates us from God. Thanks to this central story of the Christian faith, we have mostly forgotten about the other tree in the garden.

The Tree of Life is a nurturing tree! It is a tree under which we can live out our faith and our lives, a tree that provides shelter and shade, and is large enough to beckon all to come thrive under its branches. It is a tree that shows up in the apocalyptic literature in the last chapter of the Bible, where it is said, "...and its leaves are for the healing of the nations." That, my friends, is about as inclusive as it gets--the healing of the nations!

I don't think I am alone in believing that the "fruit" of this tree is not reserved for the end of days. Through the love of God, particularly for us as demonstrated in Jesus Christ, this delectable fruit is available now and for all and forever. If one reads the Gospels with this tree in mind, one can imagine Jesus saying from the cross, "OK, you are forgiven. Now get over it and start living under the Tree of Life!" Jesus' teachings and parables clearly are a primer for what life looks like under this tree--in the goofy parlance of our day, the alternative tree.

Life under the Tree of Life is inclusive, loving, peace-giving, forgiving, transforming, uplifting, edifying, encouraging, motivating, and has an extreme "love thy neighbor as thyself" quality to it. It isn't racist, sexist, or disparaging of other faiths seeking God's truth. No one starves under this tree, for there is no end to the nourishing fruit. This tree is NOT a "zero sum game" whereby if I get what I need or want, you can't have what you need or want. This tree provides shelter for everyone who seeks shelter. And its roots go to the very foundation of the creation.

Genesis begins by saying "God created," moves to "let the earth bring forth," and finally to "let US create," wherein humanity is made in the "image of God." I don't think this means we look like God, but maybe more that we can behave like God (or like Jesus, for the Christian)--loving, accepting, creating, always hopeful, and working for a victorious "allee, allee, in-free" ending.

Is there a catch? Yes. We have to cultivate the ground under the Tree of Life. We have to make sure we don't poison its soil, and assure that it is amply watered, and not with acid rain or suffocated with carbon monoxide. The Genesis text literally says that we are to "master" the earth (not "subdue" it, like some bad translations have it). "Mastering" it is more like what a master gardener does, or a master plumber, or someone who wins "The Masters' Tournament" in golf. Mastering the earth means being the best stewards of it we possibly can, and helping it thrive and grow, co-creating with God and the earth to continue to bring forth life. If the Tree of Life dies, guess who else does?

Why have Christians been so hung up on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why have we so "missed" or neglected the Tree of Life, which is at the beginning in the Genesis narrative, and which will be at the center of the garden in the "new heavens and new earth" of Revelation? If these are scriptural bookends, might we not be better off living between them, and under God's great Tree of Life? Shalom, Dear Ones...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Seasons...

Summer is over. Yeah, I know that it technically doesn't end until the Winter Solstice, or whatever, but you can "feel it," that Fall is coming, even with the 90+ degree days we've had here early in September. I could be one of those perpetual Fall people. It just has to be my favorite season. I'm married to one of those "I love the seasons" people. Anytime I've even hinted at the idea of moving to a more "stable" climate upon retirement, it gets nixed. Instead, I'm getting psyched about the concept of watching the snow fly, knowing that I don't have to go out in it, if I don't want to. I'm not meaning to "diss" Spring here, as it is the most "spiritual" of all of the seasons (things coming back to life, new growth, longer days with more light). But it is also the season that seems to blip by so fast--too fast--so I try not to get too attached to it.

I wonder if they had seasons in the Garden of Eden? If so, I guess Adam and Eve had a bad Fall. I'll just leave that there...

I do like the human parallels to how trees weather the seasons. (For you biology types, I'm speaking of the deciduous variety.) In the Summer, they are waving in the breeze, leaves firmly attached ("buff"), adding to the life of the tree via photosynthesis. Then comes Fall, and the leaves begin to wither and fall off, littering the ground as spent castoffs. The tree itself must wonder what is happening to it; they begin to look a bit bald, with a few leaves hanging on until the bitter end. Then comes winter, and the tree is basically a spectator, blown cold by the chilling, Winter wind, and with branches reaching up like praying hands, hoping that somehow, better days are ahead. Finally comes Spring, and buds form. Then come the new leaves and those seed pods. I figure those little "helicopter" things that cover our decks, stick to our dewy cars, and clog our gutters are the tree's way of showing off that it is alive and wants to be noticed--kind of like a teenage thing.

Of course, if you live in a place with one climate--like Arizona--the "trees" are covered with nasty needles and spines, basically announcing "I'll be here for a hundred years or so--bug off!"

Human seasons. Hmm... Turning 64 a couple of weeks ago reminded me that age is a progressive thing, and quite linear. Like it or not, my life--and yours--has seasons, and for me, the Fall is coming on. I guess if the trees can handle it, so can I. Even as I cringe when I see a huge tree uprooted after a violent storm, so I shrink back when someone younger than me falls, prematurely, into the arms of God. I have always struggled with funerals and memorial services for individuals younger than me, and in the few cases (thankfully) where I have led or participated in a service for a very young person, I may go for weeks, asking the "why" question and pondering my own efficacy, even as I grieve for and with the family. I guess we are better off living more like the trees--make hay in the boost days of Spring, have a blast in the Summer, dig in for the long haul in the Fall and enjoy the pumpkin spice of life, knowing that the Winter is coming for us all. Faith reminds us that Winter will not last forever--it's just a season. This, too, shall pass, as they say.

And then next year Medicare eligibility hits, and all of this philosophical "balance dance" of mine will need a new narrative! Stay tuned, Yinz...

What's Next?

  What’s Next?   2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 6:1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 6:2 David and all the people...