My Homily about Ferguson From 11/30/14

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Advent One B sermon 2014              R. Crummey, St. Peter and St. Mary, Denver

I have never really thought about this before, but when I was preparing for this Sunday I read somewhere how Advent always starts with Jesus describing the end of the world. Each first Sunday of Advent we have a mini Apocalypse. I have always been focused on the yearning part of this time of year, looking for still small voices in the cacophony of consumerism that ramps up during November. This year Starbucks didn’t even wait until this weekend to bring out the red cups, they appeared just after Halloween. I have always sought comfort in the gradual growing of the light, the simplicity of an Advent wreath, and the gradual build up to the arrival of a baby on Christmas. I have never really thought about or spent much time with the end times that kick off this season before. But here it is, indisputable, right out of Mark.

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”(Mark NRSV 13:24-25)

Jesus goes on the describe how it will happen like a thief in the night, when we least expect it, that we need to keep alert for the signs, if we are paying attention we will see them. Just like a tree tells us the seasons. I can’t help wondering some days if wee are facing some kind of apocalypse, with the world falling apart. Maybe that’s why the holiday season is so ramped up this year. We are wanting to soothe our anxiety with retail therapy, but then we create more debt and stress for ourselves with the wanton spending and consuming, not to mention the weight most of us will gain…

I have to say what has been so heavy on my heart all week has been the events unfolding in Ferguson. It feels like our country is experiencing some kind of Apocalypse around race these days. Maybe it’s because we were in Missouri when the news broke, or because some of the major action occurs in my sister’s neighborhood of St. Louis. I don’t feel ok sitting in my comfortable white world pretending that nothing is happening in our country, pretending that racism doesn’t exist anymore, and that everyone really is treated with dignity and respect by those in power.

What ever all the facts really are, and they are a mess, there is no doubt that the death of Michael Brown and the recent grand jury decision have set off a fire storm of emotions. We have had the scab ripped off a deep and festering wound in our country. Not even white America can continue to hide from the broken and painful history of this country that was built on the backs of slaves whose descendants still fight for equality and justice in so many communities.

I feel really sad that some violent people have given the media something other than the uncomfortable topic of race in America to feature. It is much simpler to point the finger at the people burning down pharmacies and restaurants, people’s livelihoods, than to take a hard look at the real disparities that continue to exist and oppress so many people in our country. No-one is happy about the violence but we also have to acknowledge that it comes from a place of deep frustration. We also have to acknowledge that those of us who are white, are at a huge advantage in this country just because of the color of our skin.

White privilege doesn’t mean that we are bad people for being born white, white privilege means that we don’t have to worry about the color of our skin all day everyday.

There is a lot of thoughtful conversation happening online about this, among the hyperbole there are some real people, black and white writing thoughtfully about how we can move through what seems an impossible impasse in our country right now. I think as followers of Jesus it is incumbent on us to be informed, to look deep and to acknowledge and use our privilege to make a difference.

As Christians, we are called into the uncomfortable places, we are called to follow Christ into the mess and into the hurt. We can start with listening, deeply listening to our brothers and sisters of color when they talk about the pain they experience on a daily basis just trying to get by. As Christians we are called to look deep into our hearts and confront what might be lurking there, hurting us and keeping us from being able to fully be open to someone else’s pain.

I don’t have any answers, but perhaps the events in Ferguson and around the country can be an opportunity to move forward. In the middle of the hurt, and anger and pain and violence and analysis and media speculation, there are voices of courage and hope. People reaching across the chasms that have opened up to make contact with ” the other”.

There is a one man, Lt. Jerry Lohr, a white police officer in Ferguson, who is on the streets on the edge of the protests, he has been hit by things thrown by the crowd, but he does not wear armor. He goes into the crowds and listens to the protestors, he knows them as human beings, many of them know that he sees them and they ask for him by name. Lt. Jerry was able to keep one part of Ferguson peaceful while another part burned on Monday night. If there were more Lt. Jerrys there would be more peace.

What is taking place in Ferguson and across the country is a loud resounding echo of the freedom movement from the 60s. People might not be turned away from lunch counters and from the front of the bus, but they continue to be discriminated against in very real and systematic ways. Things changed when people stood together to say no more, and things can continue to change if we have the courage to stand with our brothers and sisters of color.

The time has come for us to do more than ring our hands and wonder what has happened. The time has come for us to prepare and pay attention. Not all of us are called to the front lines in Ferguson or St. Louis, but we are all called to recognize Jesus in the face of the other. Jesus who we wait for this Advent, Jesus who will be born in the stable behind the inn with the animals and the shepherds to keep him company. Jesus who is always bringing people together who would rather not be together, Jesus who ate with outcasts and politicians. When we are confronted with the difficult conversations that we must have, “The key is recognizing that we are walking on holy ground — not so much the literal earth beneath our feet, but the holy ground of each other’s lives. That is where Christ enters in.” – Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO. As we enter the holy time of Advent, let us remember the holy ground of each other’s lives, and the lives of all of God’s children.

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Epiphany

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged and there are many good reasons for why I have not. For a while though it’s been because I have been wanting to post the perfect comeback, give myself and all my readers a brilliant, sparkly and satisfying missive. I wanted to post something soul changing that would have been worth the wait. But then, life is not perfect and I definitely am not, so I am posting something today, my small Epiphany. 	I have been reading and listening to Brene Brown, an amazing woman who teaches about the power and necessity of vulnerability, that vulnerability is in fact, the birth place of joy and creativity. I also just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book, Stitches and realized I just had to get back at it. The blogging isn’t for anyone else anyway, that anyone reads it and appreciates it, is moved by it, is gravy. The blogging is, for me, an exercise is being vulnerable and exploring what it means to find a place to rest a while, even if for a few moments. 	Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the culmination of the Christmas season, the Magi have finally arrived to find the baby Jesus in the hay. The light has burst once again into the darkness of our lives. I love this version of Jesus birth, it recognizes the darkness in our world, and names the hope of the light breaking into it.  	That was my Epiphany today, that the light breaks into our dark and messy world all the time, and when we stop to notice, it will take our breath away, it will make us weep for joy and it will transform us.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged and there are many good reasons for why I have not. For a while though it’s been because I have been wanting to post the perfect comeback, give myself and all my readers a brilliant, sparkly and satisfying missive. I wanted to post something soul changing that would have been worth the wait. But then, life is not perfect and I definitely am not, so I am posting something today, my small Epiphany.
I have been reading and listening to Brene Brown, an amazing woman who teaches about the power and necessity of vulnerability, that vulnerability is in fact, the birth place of joy and creativity. I also just finished reading Anne Lamott’s book, Stitches and realized I just had to get back at it. The blogging isn’t for anyone else anyway, that anyone reads it and appreciates it, is moved by it, is gravy. The blogging is, for me, an exercise is being vulnerable and exploring what it means to find a place to rest a while, even if for a few moments.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, the culmination of the Christmas season, the Magi have finally arrived to find the baby Jesus in the hay. The light has burst once again into the darkness of our lives. I love this version of Jesus birth, it recognizes the darkness in our world, and names the hope of the light breaking into it.
That was my Epiphany today, that the light breaks into our dark and messy world all the time, and when we stop to notice, it will take our breath away, it will make us weep for joy and it will transform us.

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Finding a Place to rest awhile

Finding a Place to rest awhile

As I reflect on the Gospel for this coming Sunday, Luke’s version of Mary and Martha, I am thinking about what a Martha I have been lately. Bustling around, getting tasks done, (or not done because of busy-ness). I have been neglecting my spirit.
It’s true, being relieved of the discipline of my yoga training was like taking a deep long drink of fresh cold water, and I have enjoyed the extra time with my sweet, sweet husband, but I have managed to fill my own time with work.
Some of it was work that needed to be done, starting a new program and finding a house for five young adults was important, since they are all coming in a month, we needed somewhere for them to live, and a program in which they would be participating.
I have also become immersed in the life of being a vicar in a small, scrappy urban parish. There is much that can consume my time there.
But I have not taken the time to stop, breath and notice where I am now. I am waist deep (sometimes chin deep!) in work that I love. I am spending time creating a program which excites and challenges me and which I hope will help, in come small way, to change the world. I am spending Sunday mornings and Tuesdays with a dedicated, spirit filled, and passionate group of people who are committed to creating a place of welcome and hospitality for our urban neighborhood.
I have found a place to rest a while and create a pile of stones. I have seen God reflected in so many pieces of the work I am doing now, I know I want to stay and spend some time here.
It’s time too to take a page from Mary’s book. To spend some more time paying attention to, and loving God and allowing myself the rest and renewal that comes with stillness and paying attention to my spirit, not just my “to-do” list.

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The gift of kids in church

The gift of kids in church

The link below is floating around Facebook right now, and I had to share it here. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what this mom wrote. This is why I love kids in church. They help us keep things real, and right now.

The picture is my nephew’s tractor in my parents’ dishwasher. Both my nephews loved the dishwasher… probably another blog post in that one someday…

I love this image because it says, a child was welcomed here, and helped us to play.

http://iamtotallythatmom.blogspot.com/2013/05/dear-parents-with-young-children-in.html

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Guest Cairn Two

Guest Cairn Two

This is a passage tomb at Carrowkeel, outside Sligo, slightly older than the pyramids.

Thanks to my friend: The Reverend Rebecca Jones

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Being Artists of God’s Dream

Being Artists of God's Dream

Below is most of my sermon from my first Sunday in my new congregation, St. Peter and St. Mary in Denver, April 28, 2013. I am thrilled to be the new vicar with such a committed group of people.

After an event like the Boston bombing, there is a liminal time, when everyone is taking a breath and absorbing what has happened. This is a time when everything is suspended and we are deeply connected by our common shock and dismay. We are all raw and sad and vulnerable. What unfolds next after an event like this, shapes how we will make meaning from it. Terrorism isn’t just about the act of violence itself, but how those who have been violated respond.
We can choose fear, or we can choose love. Choosing fear means that terrorists win, and that our lives get smaller. Fear means that we assume the world is bad and that people are out to get us. Fear means that we worry about getting a flat tire all the time, or that our neighbor who ignored us in line at the grocery store was mad at us, or , whatever. We have all made assumptions about the world based on fear. Some fear is helpful, our survival as a species depends on it, protecting our children and those who are vulnerable is important. But too much fear makes our lives small.
Choosing love means that God wins. Jesus is telling his disciples to love one another as he has loved us. Choosing love means wading into the world, and being vulnerable to getting our hearts broken over and over again, and being disappointed. AND it means being connected to one another in deep, joyful and meaningful ways. Choosing love means rushing in when the bombs go off. Choosing love means falling in love again after getting your heart broken. Choosing love means we know that broken pieces of our lives can be put back together and made into something beautiful. Choosing love means that our lives get larger.
We have so many reasons not to do things – we’re too old, we’ll get hurt, we don’t want to look stupid, it’s too dangerous, it’s not safe… on and on. It’s true, there ARE things we shouldn’t do, jump out of airplanes without parachutes, touch a hot burner on a stove, run into traffic. But so many times there are things we should do, and we can do, but we don’t because we are afraid.
I am an artist. This is something I never would have said out loud about myself before. I am afraid of opening myself up to judgment. Now when I say I am an artist, I don’t mean I am the next Picasso or Monet or Ansel Adams,. I am an artist as much as any one of us is an artist – created in the image and likeness of God with a yearning to create something. We are all co-creators with God. For some of us it’s making music, or brewing beer, or cooking, or knitting, or creating a relationship, or being a parent or an aunt or uncle, singing, being a friend…. For me it’s cooking, taking photographs and lately more than anything, I’ve been ripping paper, all kinds of beautiful paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, homemade paper, store bought paper and using the ripped pieces to make collages. I have been really enjoying the collage practice because I like ripping the paper, I like playing with what it looks like on another pieces of paper, I like glue, I like to figure out how the paper is going to layer, and think about what embellishments might work once it’s glued, gold pen, glitter, ribbon….. What usually happens is when I glue the paper down, the image that is created is never exactly what I have planned it to be and so different from what I had in mind when I started I feel kind of frustrated AND sometimes what is created is so much better than I could have imagined,
Today we begin a new chapter together at St. Peter and St. Mary. We are embarking on a journey of faith and love. God has a dream for us in Baker, and I am looking forward to discovering what that dream is. None of us here is perfect, (well I am assuming none of us is…. ) but we are all children of God, created in love, by love, for love. We will have moments of great joy with one another, we will likely get frustrated with one another, and it is my deepest hope and prayer, that we will love one another, as God has loved us. My prayer as we begin this ministry together is that we will wade into the world and we will show the world God’s love,
My prayer is that we will be like the ripped pieces of paper in this collage, frayed and torn, and when we come together, we will create something beautiful. This is what God’s love does, God’s love transforms our brokenness into something whole and magnificent. May we all be artists of God’s dream in this place and may we love one another as we have been loved by God.

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Guest Cairn One

Guest Cairn One

Cairns on the grounds of a closed quarry in Rockport, MA. Thanks to my friend and colleague The Reverend Bret Hays, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Gloucester, MA!

Anyone else got any cairns?

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