Quasidaily Gazette: 08.27.15

From Kelley Nikondeha, on the Song of Solomon:

In a curse-free garden hierarchy and sexual domination never entered the scene. We grew toward one another in mutuality, our sensuality well placed. Women initiated with ease, men reciprocated without threat and there emerged an unashamed boldness in sharing our bodies with our beloved.

From Fred Clark, on personhood:

I would guess that even someone like Huckabee shares the same moral intuition that most of us have to reading that story, sharing the same sense — whether or not it’s carefully articulated — that this woman’s doctors did the right thing in removing that twin. I would guess that even someone like Huckabee, who loves to speak of abortion as “murder” and a “Holocaust,” recognizes that the killing of this unborn twin was notmurder. But I don’t think he can allow himself to examine or articulate why.

From Winn Collier, on truth-telling:

When Jesus passed blind Bartimaeus on the road to Jericho, Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, have mercy.” I love this prayer. There are plenty of days when it’s all the prayer I can muster. Jesus stopped, looked Bartimaeus’ way and asked the plainest question: “What do you want?” Jesus did not ask Bartimaeus to identify what heshould want. Jesus did not ask Bartimaeus what desire Torah would suggest. Jesus did not ask Bartimaeus to conjure an obedient word on virtue, responsibility or human sinfulness. Jesus asked what the poor fellow longed for, and then Jesus waited for the answer.

Quasidaily Gazette: 08.26.15

From The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt, on adiaphora:

The ritual of hand washing was meant to be a good thing. The practice of giving children shells at baptisms was meant to be a good thing. Both attempted to bring the faith “home” in a memorable way. But neither are central to the gifts that God intends us to carry with us: gifts which include forgiveness and peace and healing and hope.

From Daniel Jepsen, on Elihu:

This, then, is the surprising conclusion to the dialogue: God and Elihu are contrasting figures, even though Elihu represents the orthodox views about God. Elihu listens and takes the side of the orthodox friends and rebukes Job, while God listens and ultimately takes the side of Job and rebukes the orthodox.

From Amber Haines, on how we deal with shame:

Too often these stories of purposeful moral failure start long before with intense pain and shame often born of rejection and abandonment. These aren’t excuses, but we must know how often shameful things are used to cover shame that covers shame that covers shame. Too many of us have lived feeling completely incapable of stepping out of our hiding places. And isn’t the secret always the hiding place, and isn’t shame the shackle there, an endless loop of pain and self-soothing that creates more pain?

From Ed Kilgore, on Cruz and the Christian Right:

If Cruz can indeed put himself at the front of a crusade to destroy the godless baby-killers of Planned Parenthood, he’ll bask in positive Christian Right publicity right up to the brink of the Iowa Caucuses. Add in the regular presence on the campaign trail of Ted’s deranged father the Rev. Rafael Cruz and the junior senator from Texas has got himself a regular tent revival going.

From John Blase, on questions:

Every year at the
Great Big Gathering of the Righteous
the young wannabes would
stand so tall before the assembled
to be asked the all-important
what-do-you-believe-about questions
in order to determine their fitness
for the furtherance of the faith…

Good Friday (Expulsions Redux)

This is the song that was playing when this post popped up in my Facebook feed, directing my attention to the end of the appeals process regarding Northwest Yearly Meeting’s decision to remove West Hills Friends Church from their rolls. I can’t think of a more appropriately heartbreaking backdrop for reading the appeals themselves. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?

(Lyrics available here.)

Quasidaily Gazette: 08.25.15

From Steve Garnaas-Holmes, on darkness:

Close your eyes. I am the eye.
Dwell in silence. It is my voice.
Practice not knowing. It is my wisdom.
In darkness is my glory.
Trust the dark. I am here.

From Karoline Lewis, on the good news:

What’s the good news for this week? All of these texts articulate how hard it is to live what we believe, to speak our truth, to be willing to bring forth in our words and our actions what is in our hearts. And how hard it is to hear that what others hear from us does not seem to be us. That’s why you need people around you who will tell you the truth when they see a disconnect between who you are and what you say and do.

From John Blase, on worlds falling apart:

I broke the stillness by playing the next line
in the script: Why not damn God and all?
This man shook his fist skyward and said
I can’t. There’s far too much at stake now.

From Ryan Gear, on Trump’s candidacy:

Candidate Trump is inadvertently revealing that when followers of Jesus fail to love our neighbors as ourselves, we allow ourselves to be exploited by people who profit from our prejudices. Ignoring the humanity and needs of others is not only sinful, it is economically harmful to everyone, including us.

Expulsions

From Chuck Fager, more on the three expulsions in NCYM(FUM):

[…] both Sills and Terrell insisted that this action was not expulsion. Rather, they said it constituted an acknowledgment by the committee that all three of the meetings had joined a different yearly meeting, and thus had ceased to be members of NCYM.

“We threw out nobody,” Sills declared.

In the case of Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge Meetings, two strongly evangelical churches, according to Sills and Terrell the other yearly meeting they have joined is one they are organizing, which is as yet unnamed.

and:

There seems little doubt but that a new association (whether or not it is called a “yearly meeting”) is in the offing. Chances seem good that some other meetings may follow Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge. The debate over the Executive Committee’s action may come down to quibbles about timing; whether the committee should have waited til the meetings formally announced their departure, versus the hazard of the many conflicts of interest described by Terrell. We’ll soon see how that unfolds.

New Garden Friends Meeting is a different matter. Whereas Holly Spring and Poplar Ridge have been trying to split or purge NCYM and, not having succeeded at it, are preparing an exodus, New Garden has often and publicly avowed its attachment to NCYM, and its desire to help learn to live with its diversity. So what’s the beef here?

The key for the committee is that last March New Garden added to its NCYM affiliation, membership in the new Piedmont Yearly Meeting.

and:

This “vaguely described” authority is too “vague” and sweeping for me.  And letting the committee take unto itself the prerogative of deciding that this or that meeting has forfeited its membership in the yearly meeting, with no warrant, no notice, no standards and no  procedural guides, is a recipe for big trouble.

For those not interested in Quaker inside baseball, here’s my short version of the story-so-far: evangelical-leaning Friends in North Carolina have found that elusive “third way!” You know, the one by which they can successfully chart their course out of the liberal/conservative divide that troubles so many of our denominational gatherings. Here’s the secret: construct a bureaucratic pretense by which you can kick out all the whiners, both liberal and conservative. Problem solved!

That may not be a fair read of the situation. Perhaps their Executive Committee really does believe that their newly assumed authority to cast out individual churches without consent from the body is legit. Perhaps they have reason to think that this will forestall a more explosive confrontation. It’s not fair for me to draw conclusions secondhand, no matter how obvious or tempting.

This could be happening in my own yearly meeting, though. I do not want my yearly meeting to go down the path of division, and so I’m anxiously attentive when divisiveness might be rippling our way. We’re caught in the same cross currents as North Carolina YM, and Northwest YM, and what’s left of Indiana YM. The careful, fearful logic employed in the documents available from NCYM’s Executive Committee does not seem far removed, in spirit, from the way that we have resolved (evaded) similar concerns.

One of the repeated motifs in our business and worship this year, though, was of perfect love driving out fear. We chose love as our theme: As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Our actions may not have fully reflected that choice, but there were glimmers of grace.

Dear Lord, let fearless love continue to arise among us.

Level Church

In 587 BC, the city of Jerusalem – the city which God himself had founded, in which the temple of the one true God of Israel was located – was overrun by the Babylonian army.

The prophet Isaiah was busy, to say the least, in the run-up to this great failure. The first thirty-nine chapters of the book bearing his name detail his attempts to call the people of Judah back into relationship with God. He wrote about the idolatry that brought God such displeasure. He wrote about God’s anger at the mistreatment of the poor and the vulnerable. He held out the option of repentance: if we turn and seek God’s face, this looming disaster need not befall us.

No one listened. The city was taken. God’s temple was set on fire, and all of its treasures were carried away.

Quasidaily Gazette: 08.22.15

From Suzannah Paul, on wanting to be made well:

Many Christians are so accustomed to seeing ourselves as the healthy bringers of a gospel of wellness to a sin-sick world, but we’re just as sick as anyone. (And we’re not the doctor in this metaphor, either, particularly when our actions and neglect contribute to making our neighbors sick!) We trust a pallid gospel of go-to-heaven-when-you-die, but the “personal” Savior Christians claim inaugurates systemic, all-things-made-new, salvific work among and within our communities here and now. We are saved together for greater works than these.

From David Garber, on Isaiah 40:

God does not come to the people declaring a conviction or carrying out judgment. Instead, God, through the prophet, declares that today is the day for comfort. The sentence that God decreed upon the people of Judah has expired. In fact, the people of Judah have paid twice what they deserve for their previous errors (40:2). God acknowledges here that the mandated punishment outweighs the crime.

While we might look at that confession and question God’s fairness, this probably came as a word of hope to the exiles. There is a sense of vindication in God’s confession, and with that vindication, comes the confidence in a God who holds the power to make things right.

From Scott McDowell, on improv:

One of the basic tenets of improv comedy is known as “Yes, and…” It’s a protocol that allows for anything to happen, and it goes like this: No matter what your fellow actors present to you, instead of negating it, belittling it, or disagreeing with it, your job is to say, “Yes, and…”  Accept the scenario as it’s presented to you (regardless of where you wanted it to go), and then to add to it. Volley back with something your fellow players can respond to.

From Steve Graves, on silence:

I’ve found silence to be not just a “thing” I experience but a way of life I try to cultivate. To get outside the craziness of the everyday, I routinely create opportunities for space. When I take time in the river, away from my anxious schedule, to-do list, and ringing phone, I find myself exposed—face to face with my honest thoughts, fears, and dreams.

From Chuck Fager, on expulsions in North Carolina Yearly Meeting:

On Thursday August 20, 2015, the Executive Committee of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) met and resolved to “release” (i.e., expel) three monthly meetings, effective immediately: New Garden Meeting in Greensboro; Holly Spring Meeting, in Ramseur; and Poplar Ridge Meeting, in Trinity. […] “This is a terrible precedent,” one well-informed member said to me. “If it stands it will leave us all at the mercy of whoever is on the Executive Committee at any particular time. They expelled those three meeting this time. It could be mine or yours next.”

Quasidaily Gazette: 08.20.15

From Seth Haines, on anxiety:

I want my children to grow into authenticity, truth, and the tenderest expressions of manliness. And so, I’m training them to know their anxieties, to speak them to the wind, to pray about them, to accept them as part of their humanity. I think it’s only fair.

From Heather Caliri, on being an editor:

Editing is coming alongside someone who is trying to create something, and helping them. It is a great metaphor for parenting, for being a good spouse, for being a mentor, and being a good friend. And just as I struggle to be all of those things, I struggle with editing.

From Lutheran Julia, on story ownership:

She gripped my hand in the doorway  of the church, following the Good Friday service, “I’ve never really liked Jews.”

I had just finished decrying present-day harassment of Jews in the Ukraine and noted that we are kidding ourselves if we thought we would treat Jesus better now than he was treated then. We prayed. We grieved. I again felt the chasm between the religion of my heart (Christianity) and the religion of my blood and my ancestors (Judaism). Always the tension between betrayal and the realities for anyone of Jewish ancestry or culture, here I was, being told by a parishioner I love deeply something that amounted to, “I’ve never cared for an entire race of people [to which you belong through your mother and her parents and your grandparents].”

From Allie Gross, on my adopted state’s attempt to break the law in order to kill people for breaking the law:

The state of Ohio planned to illegally import sodium thiopental, a drug used for executions, according to a Food and Drug Administration letter obtained by BuzzFeed through a Freedom of Information Act request.

From John Pavlovitz, on the Bible:

I wish more Christians would admit that the Bible, at its very best, at it’s most perfect and inspired, is just a collection of words about the ocean.

God is the ocean.

 

Quasidaily Gazette: 08.19.15

From Peggy Senger Morrison, on naming rejection honestly:

Sometimes they curse at me. Sometimes they cry. They almost always argue their side. Sometimes they quote our grandest, highest aspirational statements back at me. Sometimes they own their part – sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they just walk away.  But they never thank me.  They don’t feel released to better fitting opportunities.  They feel rejected. Because we have rejected their membership in our community based on their behavior.  I don’t expect them to like me, whatever our relationship was before. Because I have divorced them from the community. They do not go out into the world and say nice things about me or the program. Most of them have more experience with rejection than I do, but they hurt.

From John Pattinson, on hard conversations:

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to form strategic alliances or send veiled messages. We don’t even have to dis-member the Body of Christ. We can create a culture of rich dialogue, even around our disagreements. We can cultivate community conversations marked by gracious space and spacious grace.

From Stephen Davison, on spiritual authority:

Somewhere in the confusing flurry of blog posts and Facebook posts around this event, I think I read that some meetings threatened to leave the yearly meeting if it did not dissociate itself from West Hills.

This is one of the signature forms of passive aggression among Friends, to hold a meeting hostage to your opinions or feelings. “If you do [x], then I’ll do [y].” Or, “If you don’t do [x] . . . “

When a Friend or a meeting acts this way, they are essentially pitching over the side their submission to the work of the Holy Spirit in the meeting, believing that they already know what God wants the meeting to do.

From David Lose, on John 6:56-59:

Once again, it is as easier for me to identify with the crowds who misunderstand and question Jesus than with Jesus himself. Because what Jesus has been saying, and what we have heard these past four weeks, is indeed hard to listen to and hard to understand. That Jesus is the bread of life? That he provides the only food which truly nourishes? That he gives us his own self, even his own flesh and blood, to sustain us on our journey? These are hard words, hard to hear, hard to comprehend, hard to believe.

From Susan Howell, on gender equality

“Sure, all people are equal, but people living in the Midwest are supposed to lead those in other regions of the US.” […] Is it possible to truly believe statements that promise equality, but offer limitations and qualifications to that statement? Of course not. And as a woman, I don’t buy this “equal but” statement, either.

From Steve Garnaas-Holmes, a prayer embroidering on the Armor of God passage in Ephesians 6:

God, give me grace
to allow you to be my only defense…

From Mallory Ortberg, rewriting CS Lewis:

“We don’t have to do anything,” Aslan reminded her. “Mr. Tumnus’ troubles sound like a Mr. Tumnus problem.”

Lucy helped herself to another slice of cake instead of chasing after a pantsless man-goat who had failed to guard his own self-interest, and was all the happier for it.

RCL blogging: Temples, Birds, and Bread

Revised Common Lectionary readings: 1 Kings 8:1-43, Psalm 84, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 6:56-69.

Tuesday thoughts:

1. Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, asks God to hear his prayer, and to hear Israel’s prayer. That’s all to be expected. But then: Solomon asks God to answer the prayer of the foreigner. If we are the new temple, how do we pray this part of the prayer of dedication?

2. I am entranced by the image in Psalm 84:3 of the sparrow finding her home in the temple. It could be read from the sparrow’s perspective – I am small and vulnerable, and yet there is a safe place in the temple for me. Or, it could be read from the perspective of a worshiping person – I rejoice that the temple of my God is open even to sparrows.

3. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our fight is not against other people, and rest of the passage then describes a set of armor that cannot be used offensively. Other people are not the enemy. Stop. Fighting. Other. People. (To be repeated ad infinitum or until I finally get it.)

4. Jesus says, Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. The disciples in John say that this teaching is hard- what makes it hard? Am I as aware of the offensiveness of this idea as the disciples were, and am I equally aware than I have nowhere to turn but Christ?