Random Thoughts

Here are a few of the things I’ve been reading and responding to online.

Archaeologists Dig Up An 800-Year-Old Native American Pot. What They Found Inside Is Changing History. What they found inside were seeds from an extinct species of squash, which were later planted, grew, and scientists are now starting to cultivate.

A friend shared this on Facebook, and another person commented, “Interesting, but it's hardly ‘changing history.’” I will acknowledge that the title of the article is click-bait, yet I think the story of the squash is an important change in history. I replied

History is a social construct, too long dominated by European Men. Finding artifacts of a culture underrepresented and misrepresented in traditional history and bringing those artifacts to life, sure seems to me to be a very important change of history.

I also read a post from a person on Facebook saying, “My mama passed away today … I wish I could have a sign that she is in heaven”. I remembered the story of Florence Nightingale, tending a dying young prostitute and trying to reassure her of God’s love. I started searching for the quote, which I eventually found, but I also found some other great quotes as well.

From a Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health article:

She was a complex woman. Deeply religious, she believed that God spoke to her on four occasions when she was a young woman, always saying the same words: “I have work for you to do.” Frustratingly for Nightingale, this is all God said to her. She initially decided to await further instructions from God, but as the years passed, she came to realise that God wanted her to decide how to serve Him.

In another article, I found this quote,

I can't love because I am ordered. Least of all can I love One who seems only to make me miserable here to torture me hereafter. Show me that He is good, that He is loveable, and I shall love Him without being told.

Finally, I found the quote I was I was looking for

Oh, my girl, are you not now more merciful than the God you think you are going to? Yet the real God is far more merciful than any human creature ever was or can ever imagine.

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Saturday Morning Reflection

It has been another long week, and I slept late this morning. When I awoke, the sun was already up. The light, bouncing through the bare trees and reflecting off of the remaining snow on the ground made the air seem brighter than usual. Being well rested after a long hard week added to the beauty.

Last night, as I drifted from my evening prayers into still partly wakeful dreaming state that certain writers have described so well, I found myself in a guided meditation. Some woman I knew, but didn’t know, was guiding the meditation. Perhaps, it was my muse. Perhaps it was Wisdom.

This morning, I am fully of energy and joy. I’ve been listening to a reading of Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poems during my commute recently, and God’s Grandeur comes to mind:

“THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.”

I am hoping for a quiet weekend. There are the weekly chores that need to be done, and I’ll probably do a little reading, but I’m not sure I’ll do much more. Initially, I was thinking about a blog post pulling together random stuff I’ve been thinking about, Baptism, Post Structuralism, Grace, political activism, church involvement, etc., but at this point, I’ll save that for later.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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One Church (Fragment)

This is a post I started to write a week ago, and then set aside. It is incomplete and I hope to come back to it at a later date.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read about recommendations from the Anglican Primates.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read discussions of the coming General Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought of these words as I read about a Pan-Orthodox council meeting.

“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”

I thought about these words as I read about the Pope changing the Holy Thursday decree to include all people of God.

Last weekend, I participated in the Trinity Institute Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice.

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and so many others? What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Male, female, cisgendered, transgendered, straight, gay? Black, white, and all the wonderful hues in between?

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Oppressor and oppressed?

What does it mean to be one holy catholic and apostolic church? Militant, penitent, and triumphant?

Perhaps some of the answer comes in the first line of the creed which starts the same way, “We believe in one …”

“We believe in One God.” Perhaps the mystery of the Trinity, One God in Three persons, can tell us a little bit about the mystery of the church.

Perhaps some of the answer comes in the theology about Christ being fully human and fully divine.

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Post Structural Discernment?

For discernment committee for Thursday evening, we are asked,

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” - Psalm 139
Reflect on that verse. How has and is God calling you to use your gifts for the kingdom? How do you understand the priesthood of all believers?

Additional question for nominee: Why do you feel called to exercise your gifts as an ordained leader?

Spend time sharing each others spiritual autobiographies orally or in written form.

So, I’ve been looking at Psalm 139 from a bunch of different angles. It starts off talking about how God knows us better than we can understand. Later, it talks about how there is no escaping from God. In the middle of this is the verse we are invited to think about.

I suspect many may focus on what it is like to have God’s hand laid upon us and two images come to mind. One is of God taking us by the scruff of the neck, similar to how a mother cat carries kittens. Staying with the feline image, I think of God’s hand being laid upon us, in a manner similar to how we pat a kitten, which I imagine must feel pleasurable and comforting to the kitten.

I think back to when I most vividly felt God calling me. All of those feelings were there. It was as if God were picking me up by the scruff of the neck, and setting me on the course I am intended for. In that was a very strong sense of God’s overwhelming love.

Yet the first part of the verse especially jumps out at me, to be hemmed in. The connotations are of being surrounded like a besieged city. God has surrounded us and is besieging us, to get us to say yes to God’s love.

Thinking again to those times of feeling closest to God, it seems like a good way to describe the feeling is of being wrapped up in a warm blanket of great love, almost like a spiritual swaddling blanket. Recently, I heard another person talking about feeling God’s presence that way, and I thought, “Yes, that person is describing the same feeling.”

This overwhelming love is not some special feeling given to special people at special times. Instead, it seems, it is more like the water that surrounds fish in the story of “This is water.” “This is God’s Love” It is around us all the time, but too often, in our struggles, in our distractions, in the grind of daily life, we don’t notice it. To me, this captures a key aspect of the priesthood of all believers. We are all hemmed in by this amazing love. We are all called to proclaim this love to those around us.

So why do I believe God is calling me to proclaim this love as an ordained priest? That is what I’m exploring, trying to figure out. I suspect it has something to do with metaphors and sacraments. What are the outward and visible signs of God’s overwhelming love for us? The bread and wine of the Eucharist? The water of baptism? The kind words of a blessing? A smile?

How do we understand and share signs of God’s love in post structuralist twenty first century digital culture (without going all academic and losing everyone and the love along the way)?

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The Death of an Unintentional Racist

He didn’t have
a racist bone in his body
in the colloquial sense
of a bigot
treating others,
unlike him,
harshly.

He always tried
to help those
less fortunate
than himself
even though
he didn’t believe
in affirmative action
or acknowledge
white privilege.

He was advanced in years
as the car industry faltered
and the city became poorer
and blacker.

He was stoic,
self reliant,
and continued to drink the tap water
even after
the city
started drawing water
from the river
and health advisories abounded.

We’ll never know
if it was the bacteria
in the water
of the now predominantly
black city,
or just his age,
that killed him.

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