Saturday, September 26, 2020

Home Is Gone, Lost Forever

One of the characteristics of the extended lockdown is that readers tend to go back to their libraries for the tried-and-true volumes. Those that we know are worthwhile. 

In this case, I plucked down Bradbury's "R Is For Rocket."

Full of exploration, distance, time, yearning, and humanity in the middle of all that distance, and in the expanses of all that time. 

And the yearning. 

During my first marriage, my then spouse got really, really, disturbed when I didn't give her the "right" answer to a question. 

The question was, if I had the chance, if I miraculously were to pass the academic requirements, and somehow pass the physicals, and the psych exams, would I want to be an explorer of the solar system, and the stars. 

And the answer she refused to accept was my "yes."  She never understood the urge to see, with my own eyes, the shine of that translucent marble we call "Home." Never understood what it would feel like to see the stars in their unblinking, naked glory, or to see the horizon made by Saturn's rings. 

To her, the upset of the status quo ante was too much to deal with, coupled with a feeling of abandonment, that I would chance accident that would leave one unable to return.   And it created issues for some time. 

It was only much later that I realized that it was not really a potential abandonment issue, but a very real issue of any extended absence, even one that would never, in reality, come to pass, would leave her in a situation where she could not control what I was doing, where she could not control my actions, or my activities. 

What this rereading of Bradbury brought to mind was that this current national experience of this pandemic has upset all the apple-carts, where things will never be the same again. 

As with the title of the Thomas Wolfe novel, you can't go home again.  Not because of the nostalgia of a misremembered past part, but because the societal landscape has irretrievably changed.   Travel will never be the same, new perceptions, and the actuality, of safety in general, will never be the same. 

Like an abusive partner who refuses to admit the reality of autonomy for those they wish to control, huge sections of the population refuse to accept the reality that the  COVID-19 virus is real, and that the reality of something truly independent of their instant control is destabilizing their entire world. So they deny the reality. 

They don't care that the act of defying mandated precautions like wearing a face mask affects not just them, and their families, but complete strangers. 

That insisting that in-person schooling has to return is a death sentence to some families. 

And this pandemic is exposing more and more cracks in our societal framework.   For some, sending kids back to in-person schooling is a defiance of the pandemic, for others it's a more immediate consequence - even though it would be beneficial not to do in-person schooling, for many in our society there is no choice- either the children go back to school or their parents are not able to go to work.  And there is really a limited subset of our society that has the privilege to have jobs that allow them to work from home.  

The rest have to show up, in person, to provide the supports that allow those who work from home to do so.

  The IT service worker replacing the defective server, the warehouse worker  running the forklift to unload an incoming truck, the order picker pulling groceries for the online order, and the gig driver who is the last leg of that "contactless" delivery. 

They are the vital pieces, both most at-risk of contagion, and most poorly paid and liable to be without adequate benefits. And yet the economic circumstances of this country are such that there will always be more bodies to fill those roles, at those low wages.  

And part of what those who are fighting the mask mandates, and denying the existence of the virus, are trying to do is to preserve the system that says those parents in those jobs have to send the children to in-person schools, not because they want to, but because both parents have to work, and there is no childcare they can afford. 

And like the abusing partner, threats of force, in the raiment of "protesters'" open carry at legislative and government builders are being used to try to keep the power and norms of the  ancien rĂ©gime in place, even if those norms are catastrophic for all concerned. 

And the abuser tries to justify the threats with appeals of "but the economy!" Or "I got my rights!"   So they can stay in control over everybody else. And invent shadowy dangers like the "deep state" and "socialism" and deny that there is anything wrong when police can indiscriminately murder and face no consequences.   Because those who are murdered are "other," and "not my kind" and "it's their own fault."  And tell the "other" that the violence, and inequity are "for your own good."

What will finally be the reality of this nation after this pandemic has run most of its courses is unknown.  All we know is that the changes are going to be irreversible.  

You can never go home again. 

It's burnt to foundations, ashes. 

And there are no architect's drawings to show the way. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What Is Our Duty, In Faith?

I see the news tidbits about the True Believers, the  non-believers in science, who wind up in a hospital bed, or a  drawer in a morgue,  after they have caught Trump's Virus.

And I want to say "caveat emptor," and every time I have to step back and remind myself that it's not just them. Yeah, "they got what they paid for" but it's not just them.

It's their kids, it's the Lyft driver, it's the grocery store clerk, or someone's grandparents they passed on the street.

And another casualty is a further chipping away at my resolve as a Christian.  At my resolve to forgive them. Not for what they have done, but forgive them for the damage to themselves, spiritually.

If I call myself a Christian I have to forgive them.

It's part of the job description of being a Christian.

That doesn't mean those who commit evil escape consequences in the physical world, but the retribution is for justice, not vengeance.  But I still am compelled to pray that they accept the Grace offered by the diety.

Several years ago I read of a Muslim woman who volunteered to perform the ritual cleansing, before his burial, for a Muslim man who had died. He had not been a man who followed the tenets of his faith. Among his faults was that he was greedy, and spurned the poor, was a drunkard and a drug user.

There was no family to wash his body, and to wrap his body in the ritual shrouds. None in the community wanted to do this, as they considered that he was no longer a Muslim, and by his own actions he had abandoned his faith.  But this one woman volunteered.

She was told he was not worth her time, that he would never be worthy of entrance to Paradise. That prayers for him would be wasted.

Her answer was that you do not know.  He may have, in his last moment of life, repented, returned to his faith, and asked for, and be granted,  forgiveness by G/d.

Why should his salvation not be allowed for?

Why should not prayers be uttered for his behalf? As prayers are uttered on behalf of all who have gone from this Earth before us?

I would like to feel that that woman and I have something in common

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

What Is This New World We Are Forging?

As many of you know, I am a Christian, and these days worship as an Episcopalian.

Most all our churches for this denomination in the US are currently closed to in- person worship. We would like the in-person fellowship. It is important to us.

As is the reception of the Eucharist

 But it is not essential.

It is not required, in today's opportunities for "remote presence" to actually be in each other's immediate physical presence.

When we gather together through Zoom, or a Facebook Live session, or Periscope, or any other "virtual meeting" technology, we are still "gathered together."

My own parish is having virtual services through July, and likely into August. The current plan for our  annual Diocesan meeting, the "high point" of the diocesan annual calendar, will be "virtual," rather than physical.

This is both a trying, and an affirming time for those of us who consider ourselves "people of faith."

Trying, because of our losing our experience of in-person collective worship, and reconciling, somehow, how our G/d is allowing this pandemic to strike across the globe.  Also trying in the absolute terms of the anguish, however many removes, that we see in those who have been stricken, and their families.   Also trying, for me, at least, is to forgive those who, in their ignorance, or for advantage, are willfully enabling the spread of this disease, by promoting ignorance and false witness about the disease and its effects.

It's affirming, because we see those, EMT, doctors, nurses, patient aides, janitors with mops and disinfecting wipes,  who are sacrificing their chances at health by staying on their jobs. They may not be those who worship as I do, or even worship at all, but all are following Christ's strictures to care for the poor, and the ill, and yes, including those who attempt comfort for the dying and their families.

We see the care for our fellow congregants, in caution, not fear, when we use these virtual gatherings to acknowledge our faith.

We will have problems.

When physical worship resumes, how do we accommodate those who may be otherwise excluded, such as those who do not have the tools for telepresence, or who would have to risk their health on public transit, or risks to those who are frail and fragile of health?

How will this period of enforced distancing affect us?  Think of how it could affect those who are seeking new homes to worship through?  How will it affect the outreach, and services, for the marginalized populations?

Will our congregations dwindle past viability?  Or will we somehow develop new modes of worship and service that will sustain us?

I honestly do not know.

I can only hope, and pray, that I will be able to witness what happens.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Web Morning Prayer 6/21/2020 - 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

This version of the Morning Prayer is adapted from the Episcopal Book of Prayer and the Ionia Prayerbook.

This is the same text, absent the lectionary reading, I use when I lead Morning Services at a Convention. 

There are references to "reader," "leader," and " people" within the text    this is for when the services are done "in person."   You are invited to read aloud those portions if you wish

(Image is "Christ Returning To His Parents," Simone Martini  )


3rd Sunday after Pentecost   -

leader: The world belongs to God
all:      The earth and all its people
leader: How good it is, how wonderful,
all:      To live together in unity
leader: Love and faith come together,
all:      Justice and peace join hands
leader: If Christ's disciples keep silent
all:      These stones would shout aloud
leader: Open our lips, O God,
all:      And our mouths shall proclaim your praise

Leader: Holy God, Maker of all
all:      Have mercy on us
Leader: Jesus Christ, Servant of the poor
all:      Have mercy on us
leader: Holy Spirit, Breath of life
all:      Have Mercy on us
leader: Let us in silence confess our faults and admit our frailty


Leader: Before God, with the people of God,
          I confess to my brokenness:
          to the ways I wound my life,
          the lives of others,
          and the life of the world.
ALL:   May God forgive you, Christ renew you,
          and the Spirit enable you to grow in love
Leader: Amen.
All:     Before God, with the people of God,
          we confess to our brokenness:
          to the ways we wound our lives,
          the lives of others,
          and the life of the world
Leader: May God forgive us, Christ Renew us,
          and the Spirit enable us to grow in love.
All:     Amen

Leader: Move among us, O God; give us life:
All:     Let your people rejoice in you
Leader: Make our hearts clean within us:
All:     Renew us in mind and spirit.
Leader: Give us again the joy of your help:
All:     With your spirit of freedom sustain us.
Leader: And now, as Jesus taught us, we say:
ALL:   Our Father in heaven,
          Hallowed by Your name,
          Your Kingdom come,
          Your will be done on earth as in heaven,
          Give us today our daily bread,
          Forgive us our sins
          As we forgive those who sin against us,
          Save us in the time of trial
          And deliver us from evil,
          For the kingdom, the power
          And the glory are yours,
          Now and for ever. Amen.


Leader: With the whole church
All:     We affirm
          That we are made in God's image,
          befriended by Christ, empowered by the Spirit.
Leader: With people everywhere
All:     We affirm
          God's goodness at the heart of humanity,
          Planted more deeply than all that is wrong.
Leader: With all creation
All:     We celebrate
          The miracle and wonder of life;
          The unfolding purposes of God,
          Forever at work in ourselves and the world.

Prayer for Thanksgiving

Blessed are you, Lord God of our salvation,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As once you ransomed your people from Egypt
and led them to freedom in the promised land,
so now you have delivered us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your risen Son.
May we, the first fruits of your new creation,
rejoice in this new day you have made,
and praise you for your mighty acts.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

All:  Blessed be God for ever.
Christ has been raised from the dead:
the first fruits of those who sleep.
For as by man came death:
by man has come also the resurrection of the dead;
for as in Adam all die:
even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(PSALM: said responsively - by one of the worshipers)

67 Deus misereatur

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, *
show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth, *
your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, *
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; *
let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase; *
may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing, *
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

(Old Testament: Read by one of the worshipers)

Numbers 14:26-45 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

An Attempted Invasion is Repulsed

26 And the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, 27 “How long shall this wicked congregation murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel, which they murmur against me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, says the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness; and of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken; surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”
36 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and who returned and made all the congregation to murmur against him by bringing up an evil report against the land, 37 the men who brought up an evil report of the land, died by plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of those men who went to spy out the land.
39 And Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose early in the morning, and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “See, we are here, we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised; for we have sinned.” 41 But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, for that will not succeed? 42 Do not go up lest you be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. 43 For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned back from following the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord, nor Moses, departed out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that hill country came down, and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.


Acts 15:1-12 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
The Council at Jerusalem
15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, reporting the conversion of the Gentiles, and they gave great joy to all the brethren. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
12 And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Leader: This morning's reading comes from the Gospel of Luke
          Listen now for the Word of God.
Luke 12:49-56

49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; 52 for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Interpreting the Time
54 He also said to the multitudes, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

(a period of silence is kept)

Leader: For the Word of God in Scripture,
          for the Word of God among us,
          for the Word of God within us
ALL:   Thanks be to God.

(Homily by leader)

Leader. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
All:     Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Leader: Create in us clean hearts, O God;
All:     And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

Leader: For each of our prayers, please add, aloud or silently,
           your own concerns

Leader: Give guidance and care for the needs of the world at large,
          and for the life of Your church

          God, in your mercy,
All:     Hear our prayer
Leader: For the concerns of our cities, towns and nations,
          give guidance to our leaders and care for their people

          God, in Your mercy,
All:     Hear our prayer
Leader: For the concerns and comfort of those of us here, our families,
          for those absent or those who are ill,
          and in remembrance of those who are gone,

          God in your mercy,
All:     Hear our prayer.
Leader: Remember all those the world has forgotten,
          Those without family, or those on the streets,
          Those who are damaged by drugs, alcohol or their own minds.
          Remember the unemployed, the widow, the orphan,
          and the prisoner.
          God in your mercy,
All:     Hear our prayer.

Leader: Living God, may we not fail you,
All:     Nor we fail them

Leader: O God, set Your blessing on us
          as we begin this day together.
          Confirm us in the truth by which we rightly live;
          confront us with the truth from which we wrongly turn.
          We ask not for what we want,
          but for what You know we need,
          as we offer this day and ourselves for You and to You,
          Through Jesus Christ, our Savior.
ALL:   Amen

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Leader: This is the day that God has made;
All:     We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Leader: We will not offer to God
All:     Offerings that cost us nothing.

Leader: Go in peace to love and to serve;
All:     We will seek peace and pursue it.

Leader: In the name of the Trinity of Love,
All:     God in community, holy and One.