Aldon Hynes's blog

Unafraid

We sit in a circle
of struggling writers
listening to another
describe
her craft.
She mentions a wise man
who once asked her,
“What would you write
if you weren’t afraid?”

We all pause
to think of the great works we’d write
and fail to consider
the president.

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Sermon for Chapel on the Green, Mother’s Day, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2017

Below is the prepared text for a sermon I preached at Chapel on the Green in New Haven, CT on May 14th, 2017, Mother's Day, Fifth Sunday of Easter Year A. The texts were Acts 7:55-60,Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, or Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Happy Mother’s Day. I was undecided about whether to talk about Mother’s day today. It is a hard day for many of us. My mother died in a car accident during Hurricane Sandy four and a half years ago. Friends of mine have struggled to become mothers or have lost their children. Mother’s day is hard for many of us. Yet the ideal of motherhood, of unconditional love, is something we hear about in the lessons today.

In today’s Gospel lesson, we here the phrase, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. It’s a lovely thought, but what does this say to us, here, today? Usually, when people talk about this, they are talking about some future time, a time when Jesus returns. Jesus goes on to say, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” Yeah, it’s a lovely thought, but for some of us, hearing that “things will be better sometime in the future” can feel pretty empty.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. What does this really have to say to us, here, today? What does this say to those of us who have been dwelling on a friend’s couch, a park bench, or under a bridge? What does it say to those of us who are living with turmoil and strife?

Perhaps we can get some ideas about this by thinking about what Jesus says a little later on: “so that where I am, there you may be also.” How much of the time do we really feel that we are where Jesus is? What does that feel like anyway? Later on, Jesus says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. Do we feel this sort of closeness with God?

Again, when we are living with turmoil and strife, God often doesn’t feel that close. When we are distracted by all that is going on around us. God doesn’t often feel that close.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. Even when God doesn’t feel that close, the invitation remains. We are invited to dwell with God. We are invited to let our minds dwell on God’s loving kindness towards us.

The Psalm is a good example of how we can accept this invitation. “In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge”. A refuge is a special type of dwelling. It is a place of safety, of shelter from danger. We all face dangers daily. Beside physical dangers, we face the danger of being distracted by all that is around us. We face the danger of forgetting that what really makes us safe is God. We face the danger of forgetting what it is like to dwell in God.

So, what is it like to dwell in God? This isn’t something we tend to think or talk about much these days. Perhaps some of it is when we look to people who seem to dwell in God, they seem somehow different from the rest of us.

Look at St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. His love for God appears unconditional. Even as Stephen gets killed he prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. Really? I don’t want to be a martyr. I have a hard enough time asking the God forgive someone who has simply been unkind to me. St. Stephen seems to do more than I could ever dream of. Yet in old Christian texts, you find people talking about how they want to become martyrs for Christ, to win the martyr’s crown of gold.

So, what is it like to dwell in God? God just doesn’t seem to be a big part of many people’s lives these days. It’s sad really, because dwelling with God can be wonderful. Feeling God’s peace, love, and joy can be wonderful.

Recently, I heard a great poem by Raymond Carver:

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Dwelling in God is to feel oneself beloved. It is feeling too few of us feel very often. It is a feeling all of us long for. So let me pause for a moment for each of you to hear this. Listen closely. You are beloved. You are special. God created you to do something very special. You are beloved. You are special. God created you to do something very special.

What are we created to do? Mother Theresa says, “We have been created in order to love and to be loved.”

This ability to love those around us, even when they might seem unlovable is something truly amazing. It is how we dwell in God. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these”

Greater works than the works of Jesus? That seems really hard to imagine, but it is part of the promise Jesus makes to us. The works Jesus did were based on him showing God’s love to us. He showed that love to us in healing those around him. He showed that love to us by feeding those around him. He showed that love to us by accepting those around him.

But that area around him was limited. He was just one person, after all. He didn’t have the modern means of travel or communications that we have. We are called to do the works he did around us, to feed, to heal, to love. And part of what can make our works greater is our ability to do these works, not only in Israel, but here in New Haven, here in Connecticut, across the country and around the globe.

True, we may not love as perfectly as Jesus loved us. We may not ever heal a leper or raise a person from the dead, but the vastness of this ability to love is truly amazing if we allow ourselves to love, and if we allow ourselves to be loved.

And this presents another challenge, not only must we choose to love, we must choose to let others love us. The song Desperado comes to mind.

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you (let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you before it's too late

Can we let those around us love us, in spite of our own brokenness? In spite of having been told, too often, that we are not good enough? Can we let Jesus love us, in spite of our own brokenness? In spite of knowing all the things we’ve done wrong in the past?
“You better let somebody love you.”

Perhaps this helps better understand the verse we started with. “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”. We can enter the dwelling place of the heart of Jesus. We can let Jesus love us and we need to respond with love. We can let God change our hearts to also be dwelling places of love. We can hold those around us in our hearts and allow those around us to hold us in their hearts. We can let somebody love us.

Because God does love us. There are people around us that love us. And even though it might not always feel that way, we can know, that along with Raymond Carver, we are beloved on the earth.

God loves you. It isn’t just a nice phrase to say to try and cheer someone up. It is a way of life we are all called to. God loves you. I love you. Now go forth and love one another, even as God has loved us. Amen.

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Sabbath

“And on the seventh day…”
but actually,
it was more like the thirty-fifth
we creators rested.

Sure,
the Prime Creator
rested on the seventh day,
but those days
were more like eons.

In a week,
the Prime Creator
created
everything;
even us creators.

But we were not satisfied
with our creation;
we rebelled,
sought the powers
of Our Creator,
and were cursed.

In a weakened state
we cannot keep up
with everything
that needs to be kept up.

We read the news
each day
of wars and rumors of wars,
of floods and famines,
and of the Oppressor
always signing
one more executive order
to make things great
for his legions
and the expense of others
created in the Creators image.

We read the struggles
of our friends and neighbors
each day online;
of anxiety and depression,
of illness and of death.

We organize events,
for our jobs,
for our communities,
for our families;
too often,
too many.

Then,
on the thirty-fifth day,
it happens.
We have nothing scheduled.
We lie in bed
listening to the rain,
the birds chirping,
the pets seeking attention.

It seems,
out of habit,
we must arise
and do something
anything
but we don’t.

We lie in bed,
resisting the temptation
and breathe in
the peaceful Sabbath air.

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Woodbridge Municipal Election Pre-Game

Tomorrow is the 2017 Municipal Election in Woodbridge, CT. In a small town election there isn’t often polling done, so just about everyone’s predictions is based on anecdotes or personal experiences. I thought it might be interesting to look at the race from several different angles.

For First Selectman, we have Beth Heller running against Tony Anatasio. It is an open seat since current First Selectman Ellen Scalettar chose not to run again. If we look at this in terms of the previous First Selectman candidates, in 2015, Ellen narrowly defeated Cathy Wick, 1579 to 1523. In 2013, Ellen defeated Cathy 1616 to 1207. So, over the past two cycles the Democrats have won, but it has gotten very close.

In the past two cycles, both Beth and Tony ran for selectman. In 2015, Tony got 1565 votes to Beth’s 1548. In 2013, Beth got 1655 votes to Tony’s 1153. Like with the top of the ticket, we saw the Republicans pick up votes, and in this case, Tony picked up enough to pass Beth.

It is likely to be a very close race. I like Tony. I’ve often spoken with him at events and around town. However, I don’t think his plan for Woodbridge really makes sense. A key part of his platform is “Engage professionals to market the CCW property for sale to independent golf course operators”. I strongly doubt that they are can find an independent golf club operator who is willing to buy the Country Club of Woodbridge at a price and terms that the people of Woodbridge will find acceptable. I’m also very concerned about some of the negative campaigning and misinformation that has come out by people supporting Tony.

I will vote for Beth. She has consistently done great things for Woodbridge and is geniunely a good kind person. She has resisted responding negatively to the nasty attacks.

For the Selectmen, the Democrats have Teri Schatz, Joe Crisco, and Mica Cardoza running against the Republicans Dave Lober, Spencer K Rubin, and Joe Dey. Joe is the only incumbent. In 2015, he received 1505 votes, sixty less than Tony. In 2013, he received 1158 votes. I have long been critical of Joe, going back to 2013 when I wrote, Joe Dey's Missed Opportunity.

Former State Senator Joe Crisco is running for Selectman. Last November, he lost his Senate seat to George Logan. However, he did win in Woodbridge, getting 2,574 votes. People have attacked him for being too close to Gov. Malloy others have lauded him for the long list of things he has done for Woodbridge. It will see how many people that voted for him for State Senate will vote for him for Selectman. I certainly will.

On the Republican side, Spencer K. Rubin is currently serving with me as a fellow alternate in the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is young, energetic, and all my interactions with him have been positive. In 2015, he received 1705 votes for ZBA Alternate. The only person receiving more votes in 2015 was Cynthia Gibbons, who received 1846. In my mind, Spencer is the best candidate the Republicans have for Selectman.

Looking at the rest of the candidates, we have to look at other information. Teri Schatz was one of the leaders of the efforts to get Pease Park built. She has done a lot for Woodbridge and deserves our vote.

Mica Cardoza serves on the Board of Fire Commissioners and prior to that as a member of the Economic Development Commission. I know Mica socially. When my wife and I bought our house in Woodbridge, his wife was our realtor.

The only Selectman candidate is David Lober. I know him by site and by what’s written about him online, but that’s about it.

Heading down the ticket, for Woodbridge Board of Education, my top choice is Nancy Yao Maasbach. I know her through politics and have always been very impressed with her. Steven Fleischman is running on the Republican side for a third term. Back when I used to cover the Woodbridge Board of Education, I found him to be the most reasonable of the Republicans on the board. I don’t really know the rest of the candidates for Woodbridge Board of Education, so I’ll skip over those. Likewise, I don’t really know either of the candidates for Board of Assessment Appeals all that well so I’ll skip those.

When it comes to the Zoning Board of Appeals, however, I know several of the candidates. Henry Nussbaum is the one incumbent. Four years ago, he received 1342 votes. He and I do not always agree on various appeals, but he is very experienced and well thought out. Other than myself, of course, he is the candidate that I most support. I know Jeffrey Atwood all that well, but the interactions I’ve had with him have always been very positive.

On the Republican side, Mary Hill is running. I serve with Mary on the Government Access Television Commission. I believe she is the best Republican candidate. I’ve met Wanda Luciani-Kesses but don’t know her very well. I’m sure she would be fine. I don’t know anything about Kim Giangrande other than what I’ve read online.

Four years ago when I ran for Zoning Board of Appeals Alternate, I felt it was important to go to a ZBA meeting before the election so I would have a good sense about what I was getting myself into. I’m glad I did that. As far as I know, the only new candidate for ZBA or ZBA Alternate this year to do this is Yonatan Zamir. I’ve had several great discussions with him and I believe he will be a great ZBA Alternate. The Republican candidate for ZBA Alternate is Robert Wiznia. He received 1164 votes for Amity Board of Education four years ago. I’ve seen him on the campaign trail, but really don’t know him very well.

Finally, for Amity Board of Education, I’ve already mentioned that Pat Cardoza was our realtor when we bought our house. I hold her in the highest regard and strongly support her re-election. Four years ago, she received 1509 votes. Also running as a Democrat for Amity Board of Education is Robyn Berke. Currently serves on the Amity Board of Education, having been appointed to fill a vacancy. She has always been involved in town and is a valuable member of the Amity Board of Education. I hope she gets elected to a full term.

Hal Smullen is running again as a Republican. Two years ago, he received 1348 votes.

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Camino du Jour

It is the first Saturday of Easter, and I am approaching….

The problem is, I’m not sure what I’m approaching nor what I am leaving. Unlike walking the Camino de Santiago, even with its different paths, unless you get completely lost, you still know what you are approaching, what you are leaving behind, and what the final goal is. The same applies even to walking a labyrinth. Yet often, in the journeys of our lives, we don’t know that. We wander, perhaps coming back to a place we’ve been to in the past and approaching it newly.

For the past few years, I’ve been interested in the idea of the rhizome from Deleuze and Guattari; the idea that learning and understanding is not a simple straight path with single entry point and a single exit point that can all be fit nicely into clear hierarchy.

Where does our journey to God lead, if the pot cannot understand the mind of the potter? Are we journeying with the mystics to some sort of unitive experience with the divine? Is that experience kataphatic? Apophatic? Affective? Speculative? Are we journeying to some sort of active response to God, doing all things for the love of God? Out of fear of God’s wrath? In some sort of effort to obtain salvation through works? Through fear and trembling?

Who are the pilgrims that walk alongside us during parts of our journey? What role does the established institutional church play? The structures and hierarchies of the church?

I’ve been watching various videos of people on the Camino de Santiago. For each peregrine, even though there is a common path and destination, the journeys are very different. Perhaps someday I will walk the Camino. Until then, I am trying to make the steps of my daily life steps of a pilgrim.

How do we make each step part of our journey to God? How aware are we of where we are going and what is around us? Yesterday, I walked down to the river near where I work at lunch time. There was a light rain. Our journeys, in our daily life and on the Camino aren’t always nice sunny days. Along the way I notice the periwinkle in bloom, the shell of a robin’s egg, an old Christmas tree, brown but still fragrant, and the comb of an old hornets’ nest brought down by winter storms.

Thursday, I went to noonday prayer at a local church. We talked about the reading for Wednesday, which was the story about meeting the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus. We are used to going straight from the grief of Good Friday to the joy of resurrection on Sunday. Yet for the disciples, that isn’t the way it was. The disciples walking to Emmaus were still in their grief, compounded by confusion after they had heard stories about the resurrection. When they met Jesus on the road, they did not recognize him. Does that sound odd to you? You’ve spent three years following this person who you think might be the Messiah, but then when you see him, you don’t recognize him. I wonder how often we don’t recognize Christ around us. For those of us that love the Eucharist, the idea of Christ being known to us in the breaking of the bread strongly resonates. Yet tomorrow, we think about doubting Thomas. Christ was made known to Thomas by his wounds. Christ showed his vulnerability. How willing are we to show our vulnerability?

I also wonder if some of what was going on with Thomas was a feeling of being left out. How would you feel or react if you close friends were all talking about something amazing they saw that you didn’t see? Would you say that you don’t really believe it was all that amazing, only to change your tune when that amazing experience came to you?

Tomorrow, I expect to go to church as a pilgrim. I’m not sure which church or denomination it will be. Will I go to the church I’ve been going to for the past several years, or is it time to move on? Will I go to the denomination I’ve been going to for the past forty years, or is it time to move on? Should I go to a church named after Thomas on the day we read his story? Should I go to a church named after Joseph of Arimathea as I look back at the empty tomb? Perhaps I should go to Congregational church, reconnecting to my childhood, to a Russian Orthodox church, connecting to my wife’s ancestry, to a Coptic Orthodox church in solidarity with Egyptian martyrs.

It is the first Saturday of Easter, and I am approaching….

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