A Eucharist of Tears

It’s not like
my hip is out of joint
from wrestling
all night long
with an angel.

It’s not like
I’ve had to beg food
from a starving widow
as I flee
the angry priests of Baal.

It’s not like
I’ve hung my harp
on the willow trees
of Babylon.

It’s not like
I’ve seen my Son
hung on a tree.

It’s not like
I’ve been beaten
for seeking freedom
or the right to vote.

It’s not like
I’ve been denied ordination
because of my gender
or orientation.

it’s not like
I’ve fled a war torn city
on a barely floating boat
only to see
my dreams wash ashore,
lifeless.

It’s not like
I am a young woman,
shaking hands,
in the receiving line
at my mother’s wake.

Hope deferred,
hope dashed,
makes all souls sick
and I think of these
my brothers and sisters
who share
the Eucharist of tears
day and night.

I know my friends mean well
when they tell me I am bright
I am a good person
and that God has
a wonderful plan for me.

Yet it sounds a bit
like the young woman’s friends
saying
“Cheer up!
It’s not the end of the world.
You have your whole life ahead of you.”
and I take another helping
of tears.

Zarephath, Meriden, Hartford, and Washington

Election Day is a little over a week away and I am running as a minor prophet, err, I mean a minor party candidate for State Representative in Connecticut. It is not a role I have sought, but one that has sought me.

I have spoken out in the market place before, and my voice has not been heard or has been unheeded. Seeing how the prophets were treated in the past, so I have been all too willing to walk away unheard and unheeded. Yet I have been called a third time to stand, and I know that I must stand to once more proclaim boldly the Word of the Lord.

This election cycle, I have spoken plainly about the lack of civility in our political discourse as the biggest issue we face, here in Connecticut, and in our Nation. My opponent has mocked me, suggesting that I don’t really understand the issues. She seems to think that the budget is the biggest issue. I have responded that unless we can work civilly with one another, there is no hope for addressing our budget. We must address civility if we have any chance of addressing the budget.

Yet as I think back on this, I think there is an even greater issue. The lack of civility is based on a lack of hope, a lack of faith, a lack of love.

We have lost God in our public discourse. It is understandable. Too often, people use their belief in God as a tool, as a weapon, to justify division, to justify hatred of people that God has created that are not like themselves. Too often people have used their belief in God as a means to seek their own will instead of the will of the Lord. Because of this, those of us who worship the true God, the God of love, have too often been silent.

As a result, the people of America have moved from worshiping the God of Abraham, the God of love, to our modern day Baal. What was sought after in the by the Baalites in the Jewish Bible was rain. What is sought after today is prosperity.

Today, we see people worried about prosperity. For most of us, the paycheck leaves less and less disposable income. It becomes harder to pay the bills. More and more people face hunger, the inability to meet their health needs or the educational needs of their children. If only we could return to the prosperity of the post war era, when the economy was booming, it would be better. But that is also the days when women and minorities were treated even less fairly than they are today, which is not to say that women or minorities are getting a fair deal today.

This brings me to the story of Elijah, of the one whose name means “My God is Yahweh”. Elijah boldly criticizes those who worship prosperity instead of the God of Abraham. In 1 Kings 17:7-16, Elijah comes to a widow and asks for food. The widow replies,

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

This reflects the discourse of the day, back in the time of Elijah, and today. How do we address budget deficits? We make our last meal; that we may eat it and die. So often I have sat in vestry meetings. (For non-Episcopalians, Vestry is the board of the local church). We have looked at the budget, the deficit, the shrinking endowment. We have drafted up new budgets based on the idea of making a meal for ourselves that we may eat it and die.

We have been consumed by fear, by the death of Christendom, of culturally Christianity, a time when everyone went to church, not because they loved God, but because it was what was expected of them. We have seen church budgets cut out of a lack of faith that the Lord will, in fact, provide.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t cut programs that aren’t working, that are no longer relevant. either in our churches or in government. We do need to be good stewards of what God provides. But we do not get out of our predicament by timidly doing less and less. Instead, we need to step out in faith, willing to fail, willing to suffer and die with Christ that we might also see rebirth, resurrection, and live with the risen Lord.

This is my message to the voters in my district, in our state, and in our country. Reject the prophets of fear who seek to preserve their own wealth at the expense of the downcast. Instead, step out in faith to seek a God of Love, a God of Hope. It is the same message I have for local parishes, our diocese, and the church as a whole, and perhaps especially for myself. Do not be timid in seeking and sharing God’s love with those around us as we look at tight or dwindling budgets.

I know that this message is unlikely to get me elected. I understand how proclaiming it may make it harder for me to receive what I most fervently desire, and I believe God desires for me. I don’t do confrontation well, and I worry that in speaking up, I may take on the trials of a minor prophet.

Yet still I believe in a loving and living God, and so I will sit down with Elijah, the widow, and her son. I will eat and wait for the rain to come.

The Unimaginable Discernment #Hamilton

The yellow and red leaves of autumn are turning brown and falling. I am exhausted. Four years ago, today, my mother died in a car accident during Hurricane Sandy. It was in the final days of my first campaign for State Representative.

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name

Today, I’m running for State Representative again. It is a low key campaign this time. I reluctantly accepted a minor party nomination, with the agreement that I would not have to do much other than allow my name to be on the ballot. This would give voters a choice, the minor party a chance to keep their name on the ballot, and me a few chances to talk about what is happening in the public sphere.

I was reluctant to run because I knew that even with a full-fledged campaign, which is a lot of work, my chances of getting elected were minimal. I am running against the house minority leader.

I was also reluctant because there was something much bigger going on in my life. I was seeking ordination as an Episcopal priest. Yesterday, I hit a major roadblock.

The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

My quest for ordination has seemed unlikely from the very beginning. I went off to college forty years ago, intending to study religion and become a minister. Money had always been tight in our family, and it was even tighter since my parents were going through a divorce. A high school classmate I had been fond of was brutally murdered during my freshman year and being off in college in a different state, I did not get the opportunity to mourn with my classmates. I had few friends, little support, and my dreams slowly fell apart. I became a philosophy major, dropped out of school and moved to New York City to write poetry. I supported myself writing computer programs, got married, had kids, and forgot my dreams.

In my brokenness and timidity I gave up my shot.

I worked hard, made a good salary, was involved in church, but slowly ennui crept in. My wife left me. I fell apart.

I remarried and my new wife gave birth to our daughter, my third and youngest. We struggled financially, lost our house in foreclosure, went bankrupt and moved to a small rented house near where my wife grew up.

I spend hours in the garden
I walk alone to the store
And it’s quiet uptown

It’s been quiet in Woodbridge. Slowly, I’ve gotten involved in town politics, made friends, and became involved in church again.

I take the children to church on Sunday
A sign of the cross at the door
And I pray

Slowly, I started writing poetry again. I joined a poetry group and share my poems with them and online. I went to a conference on poetry in the church and had deeply religious experience. I felt, more powerfully than anything else in my religious life so far, that God was calling me to ministry, to the ordained priesthood in the Episcopal Church, and I began my journey of discernment.

From the beginning it has seemed unlikely, unimaginable. How could a fifty seven year old college drop-out impoverished son of a Scotsman become a priest in the Episcopal Church? We are doing okay now, living pay check to paycheck with little savings, but the only way it could happen would be if God clears the way.

He is working through the unimaginable
His hair has gone grey. He passes every day
They say he walks the length of the city

Can you imagine?

Yesterday, I hit a major roadblock. It appears as if the way has not yet been made clear, and I must find a different path or destination. It has been a rough day. I’ve slept. I’ve written. I’ve walked. I’ve been to the dump. I’ve paused to remember my mother and still I don’t understand.

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable

Election Day is coming up. Afterwards will be the Annual Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Advent will come and then Christmas and Epiphany. I will wait. I will listen for God in hopes of getting a new sense of what I am called to. I will confess my sins and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
If you see him in the street, walking by her
Side, talking by her side, have pity
They are going through the unimaginable

The Portal

In a few hours, I will pass through a portal. It is a portal I have thought about all of my adult life. It is a portal that became more clearly visible and approachable for me about a year and a half ago. I do not know what is on the other side of the portal. I may find myself where I started, like T.S. Eliot in the Four Quartets. I may find myself having crossed a threshold that Joseph Campbell talked about.

I expect the crossing to be overwhelming, to emotionally draining. I expect the crossing to change me. I don’t yet know what the path on the other side of the portal will be. Will it be pretty much the same path I’ve been on? Will there be new goals, new tasks?

Update: I have stepped through to portal to find myself disoriented, in a place that seems very similar to where I was as I approached the portal, while at the same time, completely different. The portal appears to have vanished, and stunned, I look around trying to regain my bearings before taking the next step on my journey.

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The Discernment Monomyth

I’ve long been interested in the Monomyth or Hero’s Journey as an archetypal story. I’ve thought about this story as a framework and way of understanding my own journey’s and especially the spiritual journey I am now on. Was this weekend, and this time of waiting crossing the threshold into adventure? In many ways it feels that way. Yet it feels like the hero myth is very masculine, grown out of patriarchy. I’m also interested in counter-narratives. What are the other narratives we should be hearing?

Fiona is reading the Odyssey in school which fits well into the framework of the monomyth, but Odysseus is not the only character in the Odyssey. What about Penelope? What is her narrative? What does she do while waiting?

What do we do while waiting? The question echoes Waiting for Godot. We could do our exercises. What is the archetypal story of waiting? Perhaps it is a very feminine story. Perhaps it is Penelope’s story. Perhaps it is Mary’s story, especially leading into advent. Perhaps it is the story of waiting and giving birth.

I am waiting to hear from the commission on ministry and the bishops’ words that will shape the next steps in my journey, words that will help shape what or who I am being rebirthed into. My experience with the birthing process is limited. I don’t remember my own birth. If I recall the stories, the labor was easy for my mother and I was born fairly quickly. I stood at the side of my daughters’ mothers and did what I could to assist when my daughters were born. But mine was the story of a supporting character.

In terms of the pains of childbirth, the closest I’ve come has been the pains of kidney stones, which some say is fairly close, yet without the joy and endorphins.

So, what do I do while waiting. I remember reading parts of “What to expect when you’re expecting” when my daughters were born. What is the monomyth version of this? What is the version for those of us in discernment, “What to discern when you’re discerning?” What do we do while waiting?

As I await my rebirthing part of my story, or at least the rebirthing around whether or how I become a postulant, I am skipping forward in the lectionary to the readings of Advent. I am listening to Advent music. I am praying, “Come, Lord Jesus”.

I am reading about the peace of Jerusalem, quietness within her towers. I am reading about beating swords into ploughshares. I am reading about laying aside the works of darkness, and living honorably in the day, not in quarreling and jealousy.

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