This coming Sunday is Social Media Sunday (#SMS16) and I’ve been seeing a lot of activity around it. I am glad to see people sharing ways to proclaim God’s love through social media and I worry that often the discussions end up being about social media, and not about God’s love.
This thought came back to me as I read AT&T #InspiredMobility and #SMS16 Twitter Party. When corporate marketing and social responsibility people get involved, when I see phrases like “Thanks to AT&T there is an easy way to find inspiration online” I get concerned.
When I speak about communications and social media, I often urge people to go back to the mission statement of the organization. What are you trying to accomplish? In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, we find
The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
A recent tweet, highlighted in discussions about #SMS16 said, “God loves selfies! So post your selfies cause God loves selfies (and you)!” This was, in my opinion, a great tweet. From a communications perspective, it focused on the mission statement. From my religious perspective, it focused on what really matters, God’s love. I commented
As a social media professional and activist, I've always been ambivalent about #chsocm, #sms16, and related efforts. Too often, at least to me, they feel like they are about social media and marketing, and not about God's love.
So this tweet caught my attention. It returns our focus onto what really matters. God loves you. We need to boldly proclaim this. We need to ask, in all of our media how it helps "to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.".
I’ve been thinking along the same lines in my political discourse recently. I am generally avoiding political discourse online these days, because it seems too toxic, too far removed from what really matters. Yet two posts caught my attention yesterday.
The first was Craig Casey’s Facebook post that starts "If I gave you a bowl of skittles and three of them were poison would you still eat them?"
"Are the other skittles human lives?"…
Go out and read it.
I shared the post, saying
Generally, in spite of running for office yet again, I'm trying to stay out of most of the political discussions this year. They have become too toxic, too counter-productive. What is needed is proclaiming the Gospel.
This, perhaps, puts the Gospel into a post-modern construct that addresses the underlying issue that has gotten lost in so much of our current political discourse.
As one friend put it, very succinctly, "Eating the skittles is following the way of the cross."
One friend responded asking
Or is it because you favor Jill Stein or miss Bernie? I've never known you to not have a preference.
I have a very strong preference. I am voting for Hillary. I've been pretty clear about this in my writings for months. She isn't the perfect candidate, but I believe voting for her is closest to voting my beliefs.
Yet there is a much bigger issue. I believe our whole political process has become horribly corrupted. We have lost our focus in politics about what really matters. Our politics is driven way too much by a sick combination of fear and greed. I suspect most people don't think of the politics of who will do the best for our economy or who will best protect our way of life as being based on fear and greed, but that is really what it is.
We, as a nation, appear to have lost touch with our fundamental moral character. It is that moral character, that love of neighbor and welcoming the stranger that is the real basis for making America great again.
The reason I avoid most of the political discussions is that they seem to be arguing, in a destructive toxic manner, which response to greed and fear is best, instead of challenging the underlying dynamic.
This leads to the second article I shared yesterday.
School lunch worker quits after being forced to refuse hot meal to poor student.
The title pretty much says it all, but you should read the full story.
“As a Christian, I have an issue with this,” said Koltiska, of Canonsburg, Pa. “It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.” …
“God is love, and we should love one another and be kind,” Koltiska said. “There’s enough wealth in this world that no child should go hungry, especially in school. To me this is just wrong.”
With both of these, we return to the underlying mission, in a language that the unchurched can more easily understand. God is love. We are called to love one another. It is pretty simple and is a stark contrast to the political discourse of the day. It illustrates, I believe, very vividly, the Gospel lesson for Social Media Sunday, Luke 16:19-31 which starts
Jesus said, "There was a [well tanned] rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table [including Skittles and cheese sandwiches]; even the dogs would come and lick his sores….
On October 23rd, the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will have its Fall Convocation. (More on this coming very soon). We are asking people, “What do you bring to the table?” as we talk about how we support one another’s ministries.
Perhaps I’ll post a picture of some Skittles and a cheese sandwich from the Convocation on social media, a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will feast on what truly nourishes us, God’s love, a love we are called to share with one another, even, or perhaps these days, especially, online.
Recently, I’ve been sharing blog posts about things I’ve been reading online. Mostly, it is a way of saving links I found interesting, with a little added commentary and placed into a broader context. Right now an important broader context for me is my faith journey and how it relates to my campaign for State Representative. Reading some of the stories I link to will give people a better view of what is shaping some of my thinking.
Racism, Kaepernick, etc.
I am particularly concerned with addressing racism. It is something I’ve often spoken about in terms of health disparities, and in terms of the role churches can have in addressing racism. Some of the articles around Colin Kaepernick are particularly interesting.
No, 'Denali' is not a Kenyan word for 'black power'
(Leads to a side thought about learning at least the basics of Native America languages
I’ve also been interested in the idea of counter narrative. What are the stories of our country when not told from a dominant white male perspective? One article that caught my attention, that I’ve only scanned and hope to come back and read more closely is Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom
Here in Connecticut
A recent big news story was Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’ and up in Boston, there was the article, The Storm Is Coming, a very interesting article on urban planning in the age of climate change.
On a broader topic, there is the Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): Modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies
I’m also interested in the Dakota Access protests, for what they say about our countries relationship to Native Americans and how it relates to climate change.
I found this article about Tim Kaine’s experiences when he was younger particularly interesting
Tim Kaine In Honduras, a Spiritual and Political Awakening for Tim Kaine
CPE type thoughts
One article that jumped out at me was:
How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead
In part, it relates to issues of gun violence in America. It is also useful in thinking about clinical pastoral education.
Faith and Politics
One article on faith and politics I read was The intersection of faith, the Episcopal Church, and politics It is an older article, but still interesting. It hits many issues I am currently struggling with.
In the lectionary, I’ve been reading the lessons appointed for the feast of Albrecht Dürer, 1528, Matthias Grünewald, 1529, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1553, and for the feast of Elie Naud, Huguenot Witness to the Faith, 1722
Edward Albee, Pulitzer-winning playwright of modern masterpieces, dies at 88. I was in several of his plays in high school. I shared a link to Zoo Story on Facebook.
It provided an interesting contrast to a video about intergenerational programs. I’ve been thinking about these a little in terms of Arden House and Dinner for a Dollar.
Three articles that come together in an interesting way for me right now are
Spirituality of Letting Go:, The Disease of Being Busy. and Between the World and Me: Empathy Is a Privilege. There is a lot that can be unpacked from these three articles. I would love a chance to come back and think about them and write more about them,
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
- Robert Frost.
One topic I’ve been interested in recently is blockchains. It is another one of those paths I keep meaning to come back to, but never quite make it. Two webpages recently caught my attention. ONC picks 15 blockchain ideas as challenge winners and Caitlin Long’s website where she writes a lot about blockchains.
Back to school
In a recent video, a comedy duo was asked what the two major parties in America are, they responded, “the gun lobby and big tobacco”. It often seems like that is what is driving our politics. Really, they are part of the same party, the money party. The other party, which has been particularly silent is the morality party, perhaps in part, because too much of the discussion about morality has been co-opted by discussions about what other people should or shouldn’t do, of sexuality and who’s not good enough, instead of discussions about what each of us should be doing, about loving our neighbor.
I recently accepted the nomination as a candidate for State Representative in Connecticut. At the same time, I am seeking how to more fully live my life as a follower of Christ. I believe it is compassion for our neighbors, no matter what their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual, orientation, nationality, socio-economic class, and so on, that is what truly makes our nation great, and that too much of the campaigns of all candidates, have been campaigns by different aspects of the money party, the what’s in it for me party.
The gospel lesson for this coming Sunday in the Episcopal Church is Luke 16:1-13. It starts off with Jesus telling his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property”. It is easy to hear this and think Jesus is talking about some hypothetical person who is different from ourselves. Surely, we are not squandering someone else’s property. Are we?
At the offering, we often say, “All things come of Thee, o Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” Perhaps we even sing, “All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above”. Yes, I suspect most of us are squandering another person’s property. We are squandering that which has been entrusted to us by God and so much of the political discourse only furthers this.
At church this Sunday, prior to the reading of the Gospel, we will sing the hymn that starts
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world's golden store;
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, "Christian, love me more."
I will note, that while this is a Christian hymn talking about Jesus, I suspect this applies to many faith traditions and I’d ask my friends in other faith traditions, include various traditions of “no faith”, of agnosticism or atheism, to think about how love of worldly goods relates to love of neighbor and to your own morality.
I’d invite everyone to listen closely to political messages, not only on the national level, but on the state and local levels. Are these messages about loving worldly goods? Putting yourself first? Not loving all your neighbors?
I realize that I am not the perfect candidate in terms of loving my neighbor either. I realize that this is not the sort of message that is tested by political strategists for effectiveness or makes my election less likely, but I am running for something much more than to simply get elected to the state legislature. I am running to truly make America great again, in thought, word, and deed, as a way of life, and not a campaign slogan. I am seeking to serve God and not money.
The Gospel lesson ends off with “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Who will you serve, and how will your service really help make America great again?
This coming week, members of the South Central Region of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut will be meeting to discuss plans for our fall convocation and the diocesan convention that will come several weeks after the convocation. At our previous meeting, we had discussed the theme, “What Do You Bring to The Table?” I have been reflecting on this in a few different ways.
Some people may read this and think, that sounds a lot like church governance, perhaps think about resolutions to be presented at the diocesan convention, and decide that this is an example of the sort of dreadful meetings they got tired of before they stopped coming to church regularly. I pray that the convocation and convention will be something completely different. I pray it will be a celebration of all the great ministries of the church, of all the times we are fed, spiritually as well as physically, and that this will help shape the discussions about resolutions, that our convocation and convention may all help us “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
I live in Woodbridge, attend Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, and work in Middletown. The Church of the Holy Trinity has a lunchtime weekday Eucharist on Thursdays. It is an important time I take out of my busy work schedule and an important ministry to people like me with busy work schedules. If the parish you attend, and the parish nearest to where you work don’t have a lunchtime weekday Eucharist, you might want to consider it.
For the prayers and reading we use some form of the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The sermon or homily is typically a brief history of the saint whose life is being celebrated followed by a discussion. This last Thursday, we celebrated the life of Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig, whose 233rd birthday it was. We heard about Grundtvig’s “criticism of the rationalist tendencies that were then predominant in Denmark’s Lutheran church” and his beliefs in Christianity as a “a historical revelation, handed down by the unbroken chain of a living sacramental tradition at baptism and communion”. [Quotes from Encyclopedia Britannica] We heard about his interest in poetry and hymn writing. We talked about how Gruntvig reminded us of the wonderful movie, Babette's Feast, the story of a refugee from worn torn France, a master chef and artists, bringing a feast to the sort of Christian community that Grundtvig spoke against.
“What Do You Bring to The Table”
Friday night, Grace and St. Peter’s has a wonderful dinner ministry called “Dinner for a Dollar”. This is the typical soup kitchen. It is a chance for people from all walks of live to sit down to dinner together. For those who won’t accept charity or handouts, it is a meal that you pay for. For those who can’t pay, you don’t have to. Many people give more than a dollar or volunteer to make and help serve a wonderful meal. It is based on a similar meal at St. John’s North Haven. Last night, two people from Trinity on The Green in New Haven showed up to help with Dinner for a Dollar and we talked a little bit about the coming convocation.
Sometimes, like at Dinner for a Dollar, at the program in North Haven, at DESK (Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen) in New Haven, at the monthly dinners at NEON (the Naugatuck Ecumenical Outreach Network), and many other places, we bring the food.
Sometimes, like at Chapel on the Green in New Haven, at Church by the Pond in Hartford, and many other opportunities, we bring the location. Sometimes, through programs like Abraham’s Tent and various efforts with IRIS (Integrated Refugee Immigrant Services) and others, we welcome the strange and provide shelter.
Sometimes, through groups like Episcopal Church Women, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and the Girls Friendly Society, we bring a rich tradition and strong community.
Sometimes, through liturgy, arts, music, and poetry, we bring beauty
All of this brings us together to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” and celebrate feasts that I believe Babette and Nikolaj would have appreciated, feasts together with the regular celebrations of Eucharist are foretastes of that heavenly banquet.
The priest stepped up to the pulpit, motioned to the congregation to sit down, looked around, paused, and then said something like,
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”
What prompted this comment? Was it a prepared part of the sermon, illustrating the text for the day? Was it a spontaneous remark prompted by seeing several people we have been praying for or by seeing people returning with the school year after a long summer? It could have been any of these things. To me, it felt like the Holy Spirit coming and providing words that fit all of these and more.
"what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
I am a writer and at times a photographer. I try to capture those little revealing moments that too often pass unobserved; the poem about something seen alongside the road, the candid photograph that captures the essence of the whole event. That little phrase at the beginning of the sermon seemed exactly like that.
I remember years ago learning about negative space, the space around an object. I learned about John Cage’s 4’33”, four minutes and thirty three seconds of listening to the sounds that take place around a musical performance.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.” is part of that space around the Eucharist. The smiles shared between two people on the prayer list as they knelt at the altar waiting to receive communion is part of that space.
Like the friends of the woman who lost, and then found a silver coin, we were all invited to gather and celebrate. We call that celebration the Eucharist. To an outsider, the fair seems a bit meager; a small piece of bread and a sip of some wine. Yet to those of us close to the person throwing the party, it is the most precious gift we can receive, the body of Christ, the bread of heaven, the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.
At the end of the celebration, we carry that spirit out into the world around us, reminded to tell those we meet, how happy we are to see them, a happiness given to us by God, a happiness reflecting God’s happiness at each person who stops, even for a moment, to experience even just a small amount of God’s love for us.
At Christmas time for the past couple years, I have been Santa to the children that come to the health center where I work. Some chlidren eagerly rush to see me. Others are shy and I beckon to them. I wave. I smile. When they approach, I tell them how happy I am to see them, how I have been waiting for them to come. Perhaps I am reflecting much more than Santa in these words. Perhaps I am reflecting the life of Saint Nicholas upon whom Santa is based. Perhaps I am sharing a little of the love from my Lord, from the Lord of St. Nicholas, and passing it on to the children that come.
As I sat in the pew, I was happy to be there. It had been a very long week for me and I expect the coming week to also be very long, but hopefully for different reasons. It was great to hear that someone was happy to see me, and I remember how much I need to remind people that I am happy to see them.
“I’m sorry. I just want to tell you how happy I am to see everyone here today.”