Things I've Mused On (Archive)

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Dear Mr. President: I am confused …

Dear Mr. President:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing today to tell you that less than a week into your presidency, I am confused.

I have been hoping that you would indeed find success as president of  this country, but the more actions you take, the more confused I get.

You have said, repeatedly, that you want government regulations greatly reduced, because they get in the way of business. Yet you, through your continuous Tweets, keep directly interfering in businesses, making off-hand comments that have incredible effects on the stock values of the companies you have selected to (usually) excoriate. Is this not government interference? Is this not what you have said, repeatedly, you don’t want happening? If any other president had dared to interfere with your businesses, you would have howled with indignation. How does this get government off the backs of business people, and return the government to the people?

You have said that you respect women – indeed, that no one respects women more than you do. And yet one of your very first actions this week was to re-instate the Mexico City gag rule, thus endangering the lives of women around the world. I thought, from your campaign statements, that you wanted to help women. This rule, and what you included in that order you signed, make it clear that there will be no help for women around the world, and that indeed, you are endangering women’s lives. Is this what you meant when you said you respect women?

You promised, countless times, that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Yet now you want to use my tax money to accomplish this goal without once asking me if I want my tax money to go there. You told us you were returning the government to the people, but this is not the case, at least when it comes to the border wall (which I know you know is worthless, because it won’t stop the falling number of immigrants trying to cross the Southern border). And I’m confident you understand that the wall you envision won’t help much; after all, we’ve tried other walls and border fences, and they haven’t worked. So why spend – why waste – taxpayers’ money on this? And how does this fit in with returning government to the people?

On the issue of immigration, this week you have called for tremendously increasing the number of ICE agents and offices. This, along with the wall, will explode the both the deficit and
the national debt, both of which you railed against during your campaign. How am I supposed to believe that you will balance the budget and get rid of the national debt if you keep proposing programs that do the exact opposite?

You keep saying “America First,” and that we need to use American-made products. You cited this in your executive memorandum about pipelines in this country, demanding that if we are going to lay more pipelines in this country, we need to use American-made steel. Yet here’s the thing: In your own construction of your own buildings, you have used Chinese-made steel. Not American-made steel, but Chinese-made steel. The same is true for most of the products that are sold under your name, most of which are produced overseas. During the campaign, you claimed this made you a smart businessman, because you were getting the lowest price possible for the labor and costs. How, Sir, does this fit in with “America First”?

And how does signing that memorandum on both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline respect the wishes of the people, to whom you said you are returning the government? I know you know that vast majorities of Natives do not want these pipelines, because of both the threat to the water when the pipelines leak, and the devastation to sacred burials grounds. Sir, Natives are Americans. They are the people. Yet, confusingly, you are not listening to them. How does this return the government to the people?

Along these same lines, I am also confused about “America First” and your claims about strengthening the military. Sir, if we are not going to focus on anything overseas, if we are going to back out of NATO and other treaty obligations, and let Europe and basically the rest of the world fend for itself, why do we need to strengthen the military? Is Canada planning on invading us? Or Mexico? Who else could possible invade us? So why do we need to break the bank on the military if we are not going to be using them, because, you know, “America First”?

The other reason I am confused, Sir, is because you keep tweeting and saying things that make no sense. I know you know that there is no way possible for 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants to vote. I know you know that by making this claim, you are holding yourself up to ridicule, as well as making mincemeat out of our election process. Surely you don’t mean to say that your election was illegitimate? I’m confident you don’t mean this, but it’s hard to maintain this confidence when you keep talking and tweeting about it. Especially when you cite stories that make absolutely no sense, such as the one about Bernhard Langer standing in a line to vote in November. You do know that this famous golfer is not an American citizen, and thus would not have been voting, right? So why use this example to illustrate what is clearly a false claim?

Your actions this week on immigration are also confusing to me. I know you know that we have the tightest security structures in place for most immigrants coming in from countries that you believe are incredibly dangerous. And I know that you know that the vast majority of attacks in this country have come from people who are not immigrants. Instead of focusing on better restrictions on guns in this country, which would greatly reduce deaths in this country, you want to target perfectly innocent people. I do not understand how this will protect this country. I can assure you, Sir, having lived in Muslim-dominated countries, that Muslims are not, per se, dangerous. Why, then, are you targeting them? How does this help the security of this nation? (As an aside, I am certain you know that if you set up a “registry” for Muslims in this country, you will be overwhelmed with people who are not Muslim but who are willing to stand with them, and that many of us will be registering as an act of support.)

You also have said, countless times, that you want to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C., claiming that the people who work for the government have cheated the American people, and indeed have gotten rich off of their work. You even said a version of this in your inaugural address, attacking the people who were sitting right behind you. And yet … you have nominated numerous people for Cabinet positions who are beyond the definition of rich and who have made their riches off the backs of the common person. How does this drain the swamp? And how does this return the government to the people?

Included in this particular confusion is the one about the qualifications of some of the people you have nominated. I know you know that Ms. Betsy DeVos has absolutely no experience with public education. She has never attended a public school, and has a tremendous conflict of interest vis-a-vis public schools vs. for-profit charter schools. I know you know that she is not qualified for this position, and wonder if she was nominated because she is rich. Her nomination is but one of many that I find confusing, based on your campaign promises.

Yet another Cabinet nominee is Dr. Ben Carson. I am tremendously confused by this nomination, because during the campaign, you had nothing – absolutely nothing – good to say about him. You labeled him low-energy and in-experienced, claimed he had a ‘pathological temper,” and called him a liar, among other things. You promised to nominate only the very best people to lead this nation’s government. Did something happen to Dr. Carson between the campaign and now? If so, could you enlighten us?

I am especially confused by the fact that you slammed your opponent repeatedly during the campaign for having given speeches to Goldman Sachs. Yet you have hired the very people who paid your opponent for those same speeches. I know you know that this is, at the very least, hypocritical, right? They are the ones who brought in your opponent. Does this show good judgment on their part?

Do you see why I am confused?

You made promises, Sir. You made a lot of promises. And now you are either breaking them, or you are pursuing them without any strategy for making them happen. This includes the wall, for which you maintain Mexico will pay, despite the fact that Mexico repeatedly has said it will not; draining the swamp, while empowering the same people who created the swamp; respecting women, while at the same time denigrating those who marched the day after your inauguration, and ensuring the millions will go without proper medical care around the world; making the national debt disappear while proposing to add to it tenfold; and many other examples.

Sir, I need you to know that I love the United States. I have served my country as a Peace Corps volunteer, for which I had to raise my right hand and swear to defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I am a patriot and come from a very patriotic family. Numerous members of my family have served in the military, and I have a nephew who currently serves in the Air Force Reserve. Let me reiterate: I am a patriot.

I want you to succeed as President because if you don’t, the whole country will suffer.

Which is why I am confused.

Please, Sir, could you enlighten me, and the rest of the country, on these questions? Could you help us understand what is going on, because we can’t figure it out.

With all of my prayers, I remain

Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley
Rosebud Indian Reservation
South Dakota

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Dear Mr. President: Act now!!!

The Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States

Dear Mr. President:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sir, I regret to say that this morning, I am furious with you.

Why?

Because of your inaction on the Standing Rock situation.

I know you know what is happening in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where thousands of peaceful water protectors are being attacked and abused by law enforcement personnel who apparently think they are at war. There is no way that you can not be aware of what is happening there. Anyone who watches any news knows what is happening there.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, has taken a courageous stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the water of 17 million people in this country, and which is completely unnecessary, given that oil companies are declaring bankruptcies in the North Dakota Bakken oil fields.

img_1983          The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, are desperately trying to protect sacred land where their ancestors lived, died and were buried, land that is being trampled on, dug up and desecrated by Energy Transfer Partners and law enforcement.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, along with more than 300 other indigenous nations around the world, are standing up to say, “Enough is enough. Five centuries of genocide comes to an end, now.”
What is most infuriating is that you doing nothing while innocent people are being beaten, tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, beanbags, and concussion grenades, and soaked with water cannons in freezing weather.

These water protectors, who are standing up for their constitutional and treaty rights, are being treated like criminals.

They are being treated like African Americans in Alabama in the early 1960s.

And yet you do nothing.

You make no statements, other than announcing your intention to “letting things play out” for a few more weeks.

And while you wait, hundreds are being harmed.

To add insult to injury, on the very day you declare Native American Heritage Day, on the very day you recognize the importance of Native Americans to the very essence of the nation, on the very day you claim that your “Administration remains dedicated to the strengthening (of) our government-to-government relationships with tribal nations,” your own Army Corps of Engineers announces that it will be shutting down the Oceti Sakowin camp on federal property next to the Missouri River on 11 days’ notice.

You declare that we should take time in November to “celebrate the traditions, languages, and stories of Native Americans and ensure their rich histories and contributions can thrive with each passing generation,” and yet turn a blind eye to the atrocities – and yes, they are atrocities – taking place in North Dakota.

Sir, do you see why I am furious with you?

How can you sit idly by while people are being attacked, while their constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly are being violently suppressed?img_2150

Have you seen the tactics of the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and all of the assembled supporting law enforcement agencies, including the National Guard?

Have you seen the law enforcement personnel’s riot gear and military equipment, worn to “protect” them from peaceful, prayerful water protectors?

Have you heard the Long Range Acoustical Devices being deployed against people who are praying?

Have you seen the brutal attacks on innocent people?

Have you heard the cries of pain as these water protectors are being shot? Being beaten? Being tear gassed? Being pepper sprayed from less than 5 feet?

Mr. President, where are you?!?!

In March 2015, in what was your finest speech delivered as President, a speech that moved so many of us to tears, you stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and declared of that day 50 years prior:

        It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America. And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. King, and so many more, the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America – that idea ultimately triumphed.

How, Sir, can you remain silent when that same clash of wills, that same contest to determine the meaning of America, is taking place in Cannon Ball, North Dakota?

img_2151            How, Sir, can you do nothing when the exact same brutal acts that took place 50 years ago in Alabama are happening now in North Dakota?

This is why I am furious, Mr. President.

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it is closing the peaceful camp where thousands of people have assembled to take a courageous stand against the blasphemous, filthy, unnecessary Dakota Access Pipeline.

It claims to be doing so for the “safety” of the people.

You, Sir, need to act.

You, Sir, need to overturn the Corps’ decision.

You, Sir, need to protect the people of this nation, the First Nations people who are trying to protect the water and the sacred land.

You, Sir, can no longer be silent.

img_1959          We who support the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all of the other indigenous nations demand that you intervene, that you act, that you protect the very people you claim to admire.

You made promises, Sir. You came to the Standing Rock Reservation in 2014 and promised to help. You gave your word, Sir.

Now we are holding you accountable.

Stand up for Standing Rock, Sir.

Stop the atrocities.

Stop the brutality.

Stop the camp shutdown.

Stop ignoring the people.

Act now, Sir.

We are begging, we are demanding, that you act now.

Until you do, I fear I shall remain furious with you.

With respect,

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

Supervising Presbyter

Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West)

Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota

 

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God’s love will triumph

Last month, headlines around the world screamed that the Episcopal Church in the United States had been suspended from the Anglican Communion because of its stance on same-gender marriage.

AnglicanCommunion logoTo read those headlines, and the stories that ran below them, you would think that Episcopal Church was in dire trouble and had been sent to a three-year time-out for extreme misbehavior.

It took several days before all the rumors were squashed and the truth instead declared: The Primates of the Anglican Communion (the senior bishops in each church province) are not pleased that the Episcopal Church has approved same-gender marriages and want the Episcopal Church to refrain from participating in some of the discussions that take place worldwide. Apparently, the primates seem to think that asking the Episcopal Church to sit on the sidelines for three years will cause the Episcopal Church to change its mind on how to treat people with love.

There are two things to know about this whole contretemps:

First, the Primates who gathered do not have the authority to even make this request, because the Anglican Communion doesn’t work like that.

And second, but much more important, know this: The Episcopal Church is aliveTEC logo and well, and will continue to carry out its mission and ministry in the world, regardless of what anyone says.

Let’s be honest: This is a complicated story, because the Anglican Communion is a complicated organization. It is not governed by a set of church laws, and each province is independently formed and run. It is a relationship-based network of churches. For those of us inside the Church, we could spend hours, days, months, years, discussing what happened in England in January (and trust me, we will).

But trying to parse out what happened, and worrying about what might happen, is to miss the whole point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to love.

Pure and simple, the Church is called to spread the love of God in the world.

And that is what the Episcopal Church continues to do, regardless of what anyone anywhere says.

This whole debate comes down to the fact that we – meaning, all the members of the Anglican Communion – interpret the Gospels differently. In the Episcopal Church, we formally have made the decision to declare, by word and deed, that “all means all,” that God’s love is not restricted by color, by gender, by sexual orientation or identity, by language, by ethnicity, or by any other thing that humans use to distinguish themselves.

Because in the Episcopal Church, we are firm in our belief that all of us are beloved children of God, and all will be treated with the same love.

That’s it. That’s our baseline.

You are a beloved child of God. And you. And you. Every single one of you. All of us are beloved children of God.

God loves all of you. And each of you.

TEC Jesus Movement bannerAnd since that is our baseline, our truth, that is what we as Episcopalians are going to do.

We are going to love you.

We are going to do our best to take care of you.

To treat you with dignity.

To welcome you in our churches.

To encourage you to be leaders in our churches, and in our Church.

To stand up for you when you need someone to have your back.

To do our best to right the wrongs of this world.

To bring you food when you are hungry, and give you water when you are thirsty, and visit you when you are in prison, and pray for you when you are ill.

To celebrate who you are, and how God made you.

To shout from the mountaintops that God’s love is more than enough to right the wrongs of the world, and then to act on that love.

Brass tacks: The leaders of the Anglican Communion are in disagreement with each other and with the Episcopal Church as to how we are going to love God and love one another as ourselves, how we are going to love one another as Jesus loves us.

But this disagreement will not, in any way, stop the Episcopal Church as a whole, and Episcopalians individually, from living into our Baptismal Covenant.

As our Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry said following the meeting, “We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.”

Because no one and nothing can ever stop God’s love from being proclaimed and lived.

• • •

This column was written for InsideSources.com. For an alternative viewpoint, go to Counterpoint: Curing American Myopia.

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This is God in action

It is a cold Sunday morning here on the Rosebud, this Second Sunday after the Epiphany. At 6 a.m., the temperature with the wind chill – and we know wind chill here on the Great Plains – was nearly 30 below zero.

It is so cold that we canceled most of our church services on the Western side of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission. I don’t want our people out in weather that literally can kill you in less than 30 minutes.

But even when we don’t have church services, God is still at work in our lives. shutterstock_96334607

A few minutes ago, a car pulled into my driveway. If we had had church, I wouldn’t be here at this time, and most of the people know that. But since my car was still parked, still covered in a light dusting of snow, whoever was in that visiting vehicle knew that I most likely was home.

After a few moments of hesitation, the driver got out. She didn’t have a hat. Or gloves. She was holding her way-too-light winter jacket closed with one hand. “You need to zip that up,” I said. “Oh, it doesn’t zip,” she said. “It’s broken.”

I know this woman. She is one of our parishioners here on the Rosebud, a woman who has struggled to hold things together, a woman with children and grandchildren, one of whom has a several physical handicap. This woman needs help, but she hesitates to ask. She doesn’t want to be a burden. Whenever I am with her, I always let her take the lead, because I know how hard it is for her to ask for anything.

“Didn’t we have church this morning?” she asked. “No,” I told her. “We canceled church because of the cold.”

“Um … does the church have any help?” she asked, hesitating every other word.

It turns out they have no food to eat in the house. I’m not surprised. It is mid-month, and it is very cold, and many people do not have enough money for both heat and food.

So I take her into my kitchen, which she does not want to enter because she might track snow onto my linoleum floor. “I don’t care about the floor,” I told her. “It can be washed. Come inside. It’s too cold to stand out there.”

Finally, she enters. I have to encourage her to take more than one step into the kitchen.

“Do you have any food, like bread?” she asks, her head down. I know that she doesn’t want to do this, but she has children. They must eat.

“I don’t have any bread,” I tell her, “because I generally don’t eat bread. But here … I have other food for you.”

I take out four cans of soup, 10 cans of tuna, pasta, couscous, cans of pears and apricots. I give her half of my grapes, most of my bananas, most of my oranges. “Here,” I say, “these have to be eaten. Help me with this.” I see two bags of popcorn someone had given me, as well as some crackers. (“Oh,” she says, “we have crackers.” “Take them,” I say. “You might as well have some more.”) The food_cans.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scalelarge canister of oatmeal has been opened, but I give it to her anyway. It’s mostly full, and the kids will like it. I scour the cabinets for more food her family will eat. “Have you tried quinoa?” I ask. “No. What is it?” she replies. “It’s one of those healthy grains. Easy to make. Just follow the instructions. I like it,” I tell her. In the bags it goes.

Much of the food I give is food I have purchased for just this occasion. People come to my door, sometimes one or two a day, looking for help. I try to keep food on hand that I know they will eat. Cans of fruit, vegetables, soups. Bags of pasta. Boxes of couscous and quinoa. When I have fruit on hand, I always share it with them. I ask them to help me eat it before it goes bad. Our people don’t get enough fruit; it’s frequently too expensive. I try to make sure I always have some on hand for my visitors.

But I have to be careful not to give too much, not to give all that I have. This is a shared meal, as it were, which means that I have to have some food left for myself. The goal is to make sure that everyone has enough. Just that: Enough.

Yassa

Yassa

Through it all, my two dogs, Yassa and Bella, are standing there to greet her. She hesitatingly reaches out for them. My dogs are trained to be church dogs, meaning that they are polite and don’t jump, that they greet each person with love. “They’re so soft,” she says, over and over again. “I can’t believe how soft their fur is.” I tell her it is the dog food, keeps them healthy, the same dog food the vet uses. She marvels again at their softness, and their gentleness. “They’re so nice,” she says, stroking Yassa’s fur. (Meanwhile, Bella, who emerged from her blankets, stands shivering. My visitor is concerned: “She’s cold!” I tell her than Bella lives under her blankets in the winter, and that she always shivers when around guests. Bella is a little … well, manipulative that way. She wants every visitor to pick her up and cuddle her. In return, she loves to give kisses. It’s just Bella’s way …) I do not tell my visitor how much the dog food costs; I am too embarrassed to admit I have that kind of money to feed dogs …

Bella

Bella

As she turns to take the food out to the waiting car, where her daughter and granddaughter are waiting, I ask if they can use some coats.  My family and I picked up a lot of them for a giveaway that I am having problems getting organized (it’s complicated, but it will happen).

We go to the front porch and find a new jacket for the woman, one that is warm and will zip up. Then we find one for her smallest child. Then we dig through and get hats and scarves and gloves. “Take what you need,” I say. “It’s for you.” She is hesitant, again. She does not want to take too much, but I know there is a need. “Really,” I say, encouraging her. “Don’t  you want some of these scarves? They are hand-made.”

Finally, my visitor takes some of the softest scarves she can find. “If it’s all right …” “Take as many as you need,” I say. “Wouldn’t you like another one? They’re handmade for the oyate (the Lakota people).” “Just one more,” she says. “They’re so soft …”

I peek out the window and see the children in the car already consuming the fruit, smiling as they eat it. Already, this has been a good visit.

Again, we go to the door. I know that she feels she has taken too much.

“Do you have a wood stove?” I ask. “I have wood if you need it.”

Once more, hesitation.

IMG_8121

Some of the wood for the Firewood for the Elders program.

Finally, I get her to agree to take what I have stored in my “secret stash.” (We cut wood for the people here on the Rosebud in our Firewood for the Elders program. While I was away after Christmas, nearly all of it was taken by a few folks who have lost their way when it comes to taking care of all the oyate. But we are cutting more wood, with the help of the community. To learn more about that, see our new website, rosebudepiscopalmission.org, and look under “Our Blog.”)

She and her daughter take the wood that is left, enough to keep them warm at least for another day.

Joyful Curry

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

Our new Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, has proclaimed that we are part of the Jesus Movement. That we are the ones who are called to live out the Gospel of love and inclusion every single day of our lives. That we are the ones who can change the world by our words and deeds.

No, we didn’t have church this morning on the Rosebud West. It was too cold.

Instead, we – a visitor and myself, as well as my two dogs – had church in my kitchen. Where we broke bread together by sharing our food. And on my front porch. Where we shared from the abundance of cold-weather gear.

This is the Jesus Movement. This is God in action.

Our collect for today, the Second Sunday after the Epiphany:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

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A small act of kindness … and a new look

So … the other day, a friend of mine sent an update on her battle with cancer.

Baldy

My new look …

My friend, Joell, begins chemo next week, and has been told that she will lose her hair as a result of the chemo drugs.

During my prayer time Friday (while I was working out), I realized God was telling me that the most pastoral thing I could do for my friend, whom I met on my very first day in seminary, was to shave my head bald in solidarity with her. Which means that I will be bald for the next several weeks and months. However long Joell goes without hair, I go without hair.

I am not ill. I am simply trying to boost the spirit of a friend who is young (OK, she’s only seven years younger than me, but I still think of her as a 20-something…), vivacious and a tremendous gift to the Episcopal Church and to all of God’s beloved children. Joell is the one who taught me how to preach a children’s sermon. She taught me how to “throw” incense. We had classes together, stressed through our ordination examinations together, commiserated over job woes, celebrated ministry highs, and share stoles I had made from African cloth.

Now she is ill. And I cannot be there for her. She lives 1,500 miles – half a country away – from me. I can’t be there to hold her when she’s ill, or when she needs someone to make a run for some odd food urge, or just to give her a hug. She has lots of other people to do all that for her, but won’t be there.

As I prayed for Joell yesterday, I knew … I simply knew … that I was supposed to shave my hair off. And to keep my head shaved, every single day, until her hair comes back. No matter how I tried to get around this idea, it kept coming back. As I walked on my treadmill. As I swung my kettle bells. As I did my planks and sit-ups and leg lifts. No matter what I was doing, God’s little voice was right there: Do this. Today.

Before the cut

The “old” look …

So I texted my hair stylist (and trust me, she is a stylist; keeping my hair short as I have for the last 11.5 years means Sherri has to work hard to keep it looking good!), and asked for an emergency appointment. She finally found a spot for me, a free 5 minutes later in the day.

When I walked in, she was ready … and not ready. Sherri has done this for other people who want to support their friends with cancer. But every time, she gets nervous. “Are you sure?” “Yes, I am. Go for it.”

10 minutes later, I was bald, or nearly so. Sherri took my hair down as far as possible with her clippers. I still had to shave.

But … it was done.

I took a slew of photos, posted them on Facebook, and texted Joell to make sure she saw it. I told her:

Joell, this is for you.

As long as you’re bald, I’m bald.

Because bald is beautiful.

Bald is brave.

So get your beautiful brave on and kick cancer’s butt!

#GetYourBeautifulBraveOn

And then … well, then, it got kind of crazy. Before I could even check to make sure the photos had posted correctly, there were five likes. And then comments. And then more likes. And more comments. Within four hours, there were 160 likes. Within 24 hours, there were 260 likes. And a slew more comments, all in support.

I’m not the first person to shave my head in support of a friend with cancer. And I won’t be the last. But in these days of such incredible nastiness and division, of snark and cynicism, I believe that a small act of kindness – and remember, it’s just hair and it will grow back! – touches people’s hearts. To appropriate (I hope faithfully) John Wesley’s quote, people felt their hearts strangely warmed.

That’s how I know that this head-shaving adventure is really of God.

Then again, aren’t all acts of kindness, large and small?

I do ask you to pray for my friend Joell. Hold her and anyone who has cancer, or any serious, life-changing, gut-wrenching illness, in prayer. Then take a moment to do something – large or small – for one of those folks, or for all of them. Remember that our lives are intertwined … and that every act of kindness counts.

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What I want for Christmas: Be nicer, folks

Christmas-wish-listIf you could have anything you wanted for Christmas, I’m often asked, what would it be?

OK, if I could have anything, of course I would ask for world peace. I’m a priest – what else would I ask for?

But I don’t get to have just anything, any more than anyone else does.

So I’m going to make a realistic list of things that are entirely within the realm of human gift giving.

What do I want?

I want a restoration of civility in the world.

I want us to be nicer to each other.

I want the excruciating rudeness and nastiness and boorishness to Just. Stop. Now.

I want us to remember that we all come from ancient space dust, that we were all created in God’s image from that dust, and that we are all related. Whether we like it or not, we are all related. And that in the end, we shall return to that dust. Whether we like it or not.

I want the name-calling and the insults and the sneers and the snark to stop. Right. Now. Just. Stop.

I want people to stop separating the world into “us’s” and “thems.” There are no “thems” in God’s very good creation. We all belong to God, and there’s not a damned thing we can do about it.

I want all of us to remember that we could all be wrong. As in, what I believe about God and what you believe about God not only could be different, but we both could be wrong. And we will not know the answer until we meet God face to face. So stop with this nonsense about my religion being better than your religion.

In the same vein, kindly remember that because one of us says “God” and another says “Allah” and another says “Jehovah” and another says “Dios” and another says “Bwana Mungu” and another says “Wakantanka” doesn’t mean that we worship separate gods. It merely means we speak different languages. There is only one God. Deal with it.

I want there to be fewer weapons in the world, and no more of this so-called “I can carry a gun wherever I want so I can scare the bejesus out of you because it’s my right.” You have the right to carry the gun. I have the right not to be intimidated.

I want our so-called leaders and candidates to stop talking about carpet-bombing people. And no more of this “let’s kill all their family members just because we can.” No one can be a leader whose solution is simply to murder, in cold blood, anyone on earth.

I want people to stop drawing lines in the sand and to start walking together to make the world a better place. United we truly will stand together. Divided? We shall fall. Every. Single. Time.

I want Black Lives to Matter. And Native Lives. And Hispanic Lives. And All Lives. Because all of us are created in God’s image, and all of us deserve to be treated well. All of us.

I want less complaining and more complimenting. Stop bitching about how others have more, or have what you want. Start building up those same people, because they have succeeded.

I want more helping and less demanding help. Really, it’s not that hard. As Robert Fulgham said in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, “Share everything.” How hard can that possibly be? Remember, you can’t take your toys with you when die.

I know … I want a whole lot of things, most of which I will not be given as a gift.

But I can give these same things as gifts.

I can be more polite and more affirming.

I can give more, and demand less.

I can work harder to get more people across the finish line.

It is all up to me, and I know that.

Oh, and a few more kettlebells would be nice.

So would some silver earrings.

Those would go so well with my ever-whiter hair.

• • •

I wrote this column for InsideSources.com.

 

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The tyranny of right-handedness …

For the past two months, my right wrist and hand have been wrapped up, more or less immobilized because of a silly accident I had at the beach back in August.

As a right-handed person, this has been, at the very least, a bother. After surgery earlier this month, it was more than a bother, because my right thumb was totally immobilized for 10 days.

left_right_symbol_art_drink_coaster-r5e8f828876694e9bbab78224c87deafb_x7jy0_8byvr_324It was only from this experience that I became painfully aware of the tyranny of right-handedness in the world.

When your right hand – and especially your right thumb – is unavailable to you, and you are right-handed, you discover that the word is not built for you.

Really. It’s not.

Zippers on pants? They are made for right-handers.

Scissors? Unless you can find and buy special ones, they’re made for right-handers as well.

Door handles and door knobs? Can openers? Hand shakes? Men’s shirt buttons? Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto and ditto.

Heck, even typing is taught for righties, as in: I was taught to press the space bar with my right thumb, not my left. (Made you look, didn’t I? I never even realized that – until I couldn’t do it.)

I am telling you, there is a tyranny of right-handedness in this world, and I had no idea it even existed!

Of course, whenever I commented on this to left-handed people, they just laughed knowingly.

“Yep,” they would say. “Been dealing with that all my life.”

For one of our church flea markets, I needed to cut out raffle tickets. There was no way I could do it, not with my thumb wrapped up to three times its normal size and immobilized to boot. So I asked one of the teen-agers to help, showing her my wrapped-up hand and making a crack about scissors being for righties only. She then told me she was a leftie, and had been forced to learn to cut things with her right hand. That’s the first time I even knew she was a leftie. Because I wasn’t paying attention before this.

And my Big Brother? He’s a leftie who as a child was forced, by nuns, to learn to use his right hand. Now, he writes with his left, but still does a ton of other things as a rightie. Twas the way things were in those days, I suppose. But in talking with Big Brother about his experiences, he pointed out lots of other things that are right-handed (or mostly right-handed): Baseball gloves. Golf clubs. And from his time in the Army, automatic and semi-automatic weapons (the brass ejects from the right side).

So, yeah, ever since I was a child and heard his stories, I’ve known – kind of – of the tyranny of right-handedness. But I never gave it much thought. After all, the world was set up for me, and I could cruise through life knowing – knowing! – that all was well.

Until I got tossed by a wave and stuck out my hands to keep my face from being bounced off the ocean floor, and thus messed up one of my tendons, and from that learned all about De Quervain Tenosynovitis. (Trust me, when the orthopedic surgeon spit that one out, quite nonchalantly, my only possible response was, “Ooookaaaaayyy.”)

Because once I suffered that injury, and had my thumb and wrist immobilized, and then had the surgery, immobilizing my hand even more, I never once even thought about the privileges I enjoy as a right-hander.

I simply enjoyed my privilege, and whenever I encountered a leftie who was struggling in a rightie world, I pretty much assumed they would have to adapt to my privilege. (Learn to cut things with your right hand. Learn to open cans with your right hand. Adapt. Struggle. Survive my way, because my way is the world’s way. Deal with it.)

Now, of course, after a mere two months of having to live with this restriction, I am aware. There were even times when I was infuriated because I was so frustrated by the unfairness of it all. Oh, I got some sympathy for my frustrations, but mostly, the sympathy was for the injury and subsequent surgery. As to the rightie-leftie debate? Most people just shrugged and assured me that soon, my hand would be healed and I could go back to my position of privilege (not that they called it that, of course. They used terms like “normal.”)

I know, my injury is a not a big deal in the greater scheme of things. My tendon soon will be healed, and I will go back to doing all those things I’ve always done, with such great ease, because I am, after all, right-handed. There is a tyranny of right-handedness in the world, but soon, it won’t affect me anymore. Because I’m right-handed, I could, if I wanted, even forget about the tyranny I experienced for two whole months of my life.

But that’s not the point to this column. Forget about right-handedness vs. left-handedness.

Instead, imagine that we’re talking about whites and blacks – and all other people of color – in this county.

Imagine we’re talking about #BlackLivesMatter. And #NativeLivesMatter. And #LatinoLivesMatter. And #AsianLivesMatter.

NOW does the tyranny of white privilege makes sense?

Because that’s what I’m really talking about. blacklivesmatter

 

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Please, I am begging you …

The Hon. Mike Rounds, Senator

502 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Hon. John Thune, Senator

511 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Hon. Kristi L. Noem, Representative

2422 Rayburn Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Sno gunsenator Rounds, Senator Thune and Congresswoman Noem:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I write to you today to beg – to beg – that you, as our elected representatives in Congress, take action to help make this country a safer place.

Last week, yet another young man took weapons he had legally obtained, loaded with ammunition he had legally obtained, into a classroom and opened fire, killing eight students and a teacher, and wounding another nine people. The gunman, Christopher Harper-Mercer, then took his own life. Two days prior, we had a school shooting in Harrisburg, South Dakota; thankfully, the principal was only injured, and the young man was stopped before he could shoot anyone else. In the same time frame, the police foiled a plot by four teen-agers who wanted to shoot up a school in Tuolumne, Calif. On Monday of this week, Philadelphia-area colleges and universities were put on high alert because of rumors that another shooting was planned. On Tuesday of this week, police arrested a man who prompted a lock-down at the Community College of Philadelphia. Just today came news that a student in Watertown has been arrested for threatening, on Facebook, yet another school shooting.

As a country, we are facing an epidemic of gun violence. Please, I am begging you to take action to help prevent more tragedies like this. We have had far too many in the last 20+ years, and every single time, we do nothing more than offer prayers and condolences. We weep at the funerals, we cry, “Why, Lord?” … and then We. Do. Nothing. Not. One. Damned. Thing.

I am not writing to ask you to outlaw guns. That is not going to happen, and I do not believe that is necessary to make our country a safer place. While I do not own a gun myself – because I have an issue as a priest owning a gun – many members of my family are gun owners. Several are hunters, and I am a beneficiary, in that I get to eat what they shoot.

What I am asking – begging – you to do is to make it at least as difficult to get a gun as it is for me to get a driver’s license. Pass legislation that would require everyone who wants to own a gun take a class first in order to learn gun safety, as I did to learn to drive. Require everyone to then take a test, as I was required to do to get my driver’s license. Require every gun owner to register their guns, just as I am required to register my vehicles. Require every gun owner to carry liability insurance on each gun, as I am required to do on my vehicles. Require gun manufacturers to do more to make guns safer via “smart-gun” technology, just as auto manufacturers are required to make cars safer. Require every gun manufacturer to report the serial number of every gun, as auto manufacturers are required to do. Require every gun seller to report the sale of every gun, as auto manufacturers are required to do.

Despite what some rather radical people say, gun ownership in this country is not a “God-given” right. It is, however, a Constitutional right. Rather than focusing on the latter half of the Second Amendment, I am begging you to remember its entirety: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Please note the phrase I have underlined: “well-regulated.” How is it possible that in this country, we can regulate the dickens out of nearly everything that endangers people except guns?! How is it possible that in this country, we are willing to let anyone buy a gun, at any time, without a background check to determine whether they are even allowed to have a gun, so long as that sale is made at a gun show? How is it possible that in this country, where we are willing to impose all manner of rules and regulations to keep the people safe from poorly made goods, we are not willing to impose the same manner of rules and regulations for guns? How is it possible that shooters can buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on-line without any questions being asked, and without it being reported? If I were to purchase, on-line or in person, an extraordinary amount of ammonium nitrate, I would be reported immediately. If I were to even attempt to purchase dynamite, on-line or in person, without a proper license, which requires a background check, I would be reported immediately. And yet we allow people to buy ammunition in extraordinary amounts?

What, I demand to know, is the problem with regulating guns?!

Rather than focus exclusively on the Second Amendment, I am begging you to look at the overall purpose of that marvelous document, stated so clearly in its Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Allowing unrestricted access to guns does nothing to establish justice. It does not insure domestic tranquility. Our common defense is provided by our legal authorities and our military; private citizens have nothing to do with common defense, since their focus is on themselves and what they want to do. How can we promote the general welfare when our children – our future – are being gunned down with such regularity? And I can assure you there are no blessings, there is no liberty, and our posterity is threatened when guns are so prevalent, and misused so much.

All of us realize that easily accessible guns means that it is easy to use them. Far too easy. Study after study has shown that having guns easily accessible leads to increased gun usage, particularly in spur-of-the-moment arguments that escalate out of control, and in suicides. So why, I demand to know, do we not require gun owners to lock up their guns? Every other item used to kill people is required to be locked up. And guns aren’t?

Senators and Congresswoman, I serve on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, where we have far too many deaths. In the 20 months I have served here, I have officiated at more than 100 funerals, more than 200 wakes. Unlike most everything else on the Rosebud, death abounds. It haunts the people day and night. I cannot tell you the number of times I have cried over the deaths of the people I serve here.

But the hardest wakes and funeral I have done – the absolutely most gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, soul-tearing wakes and funeral I have ever done in my nearly 20 years of ministry – took place just two weeks ago.

On 20 September 2015, I buried a young man here on the Rosebud who used a gun to take his own life. He fell victim to the insidious and highly contagious disease known as suicide. The gun belonged to a relative, who had not locked the gun case, so that it was far too easily accessible. We do not know for sure, but perhaps – just perhaps – if that gun had not been so easy to steal, that beautiful young man would still be with us. Instead, we have laid to rest a 20-year-old who needed more mental-health care than he was allowed by health insurance, who had promised his family he would not fall victim to suicide and yet, because that damned gun was right there, broke that promise, borrowed his brother’s bike, rode out to a nearby gravel road, put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He was found within minutes, but it was too late. All of us gathered for his wakes and funeral wept. All of us mourned. All of us wondered, “What if …

Senators and Congresswoman, please … do any of you really think it is acceptable to spend as much time as we do training our children – our babies! – to hide and keep quiet in schools in order to protect them? Is it really acceptable to throw up our hands in defeat and say, “There is nowhere safe for you, my child?”

I will not fall victim to the idea that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” No, sirs. No ma’am. I will not accept that canard. Do you realize that there was at least one person, and it is thought more, at Umpqua Community College with a gun? Yet not one “good guy” drew or fired a weapon, because, according to at least that one person, he was afraid he would be shot by SWAT officers. Never mind that most “good guys” are not sufficiently trained to react properly; just look at the case in north Houston in late September where a “good man with a gun” shot the victim in a car-jacking, missing the perpetrators completely.

Instead, I believe that working together, we can make life better for all of us in this nation. We can do what the Israelis do, which is to highly regulate who has a gun, and how they get it, and makes all gun owners spend one day a year undergoing recertification for their gun licenses. We can make it at least as hard to get a gun as it is to get a driver’s license. We can close the loopholes that allow gun-show sales without background checks. We can license and insure gun owners and their guns. We can restrict the types of guns that private owners can buy. We can outlaw ammunition that shreds people to pieces. We can limit the amount of ammunition any one person can buy. We can set up a bipartisan Select Committee on Gun Violence, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi has requested, and within 60 days, we can propose sensible gun laws.

I assure you, if you are brave enough and care enough about the people you represent, you can lead this country to a safer place. Because together, we can do so much more to protect the people.

We can save the lives of thousands of children.

Please. I am begging you. Be the heroes in this debate. Stand up for the children of this land. Pass sensible gun laws.

Your faithful servant and constituent,

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

Priest-in-Charge, Rosebud Episcopal Mission (West)

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This is the night …

Sermon preached at the Easter Vigil, 19 April 2014

Rosebud Episcopal Mission (Western side)

Bishop Jones Building, Mission, S.D.

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

(Sung, from the Exultet)

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God.

This is the night, my friends, THE night, when death lost its sting, its hold, its final grip on us.

This is an incredible night, the night when God reached down from heaven and overcame all of the world’s struggles, all of the world’s resistance to God’s love, and brought God’s love back into the world.

We know all this.

Because we know this story.

We know the story of Jesus’ birth.

We know the story of Jesus’ life.

We know the story of Jesus’ death.

We know the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

For us, it is our theme in glory, that old, old story of Jesus and his love.

We know all this, and we take it for granted, and as a result, Easter becomes more a celebration of family and flowers and good food and for some, a four-day holiday in which to bask in the sunlight … without ever realizing the power, the surprise, the audacity of this night.

Face it: We are not, on this holy night, filled with despair, because for us, the ultimate story of love has already come to an end.

We are not Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, stumbling through the dark hours of the early morning, filled with grief and despair, on their way to the tomb so they could properly care for the one whom they thought would save the world.

For far too many of us, there is no shock for us, no awe.

Because for far too many of us, this is, alas, just another old story, one that we have heard all of our lives. It is, for too many of us, just like an old, favorite movie that we watch over and over again, knowing every line of the script, knowing who is hiding behind which doors, with all the suspense gone.

We know the end of the story, and so for far too many of us, this is just another night.

But let me assure you: This is NOT just another night.

This is the night, the night when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God, and death is defeated, and love reigns triumphant!

Picture this:

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ disciples – and yes, she was a disciple, despite the fact that she is not named as one in the male-dominated world of the days when our Lord and Savior walked the earth – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (and to be honest, we aren’t certain which other Mary) are on their way to the tomb.

It is dark.

It is probably cold (Jerusalem sits atop a small mountain, about 2,500 feet above sea level, the same elevation as the Rosebud, and we all know how chilly it can get here in the mornings).

They are grieving, these two women. The man they loved – not physically, I’m not pulling a Dan Brown here; no, they loved Jesus with all their souls because Jesus loved them for their souls – was dead.

They were there when he died. They witnessed that awful death.

They were there when he was taken down from the cross, his body broken.

They were there when he was laid in the tomb, hastily buried because it was the day of Preparation for the Feast of the Passover.

They were there when the stone was placed in front of the tomb, to keep anyone from stealing Jesus’ body in order to make the ridiculous claim that he was brought back from the dead.

And now they were on their way, to care for their Lord’s body properly, to make sure he was anointed with the right oils and incenses, to make sure he was wrapped properly in burial shrouds.

And suddenly …

Suddenly …

There was a great shaking of the earth!

And there was an angel – an angel of the Lord!

And that angel moved the stone from the entrance to the tomb!

And then he sat on it!

The guards posted at the tomb were so scared they shook and became like dead men (I’m guessing this means they fainted straight away).

But the women?

Did they faint?

No, they stood their ground.

Terrified they might have been, but they stood their ground nonetheless.

And the angel of the Lord said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

(Isn’t that soooo God-like? Isn’t that what God always has his angels say, because God knows that angels can be very frightening messengers?)

And then the angel of the Lord gives them the very best news of their lives, the news that shocks them, surprises them, has them in complete and total awe:

He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

What?!?!

He’s not there?!?!

He really and truly has been raised?!?!

Our Lord, our leader, our teacher … is not here?!?!

With some fear and great joy, the women turn around to tell the other disciples, to carry to them the rest of the story: Go tell the others to go to Galilee, just like Jesus said.

And just as they have started running, who appears right in front of them?

Jesus!

The Risen Lord!

Right there! With them!!!

He, too, tells them: Do not be afraid. (I am telling you, if you ever get a message that begins, “Do not be afraid,” you know you’re in the presence of the Lord.)

And he tells them, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Can you imagine what that must have been like?

Can you imagine what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary felt like in that moment?

Sure, we knew what would happen. We’ve seen this movie a thousand times; we know the ending, and we are not surprised.

But those two women?

They had their socks knocked off!

They were filled with shock and awe and delight and hope and joy beyond words!

Because this wasn’t some old movie for them. This wasn’t some repeat.

This was good news … no, it was awesome news!

This was the Best. News. Ever!

Jesus had defeated death!

He was back!

He was risen!

And they Could. Not. Wait. To tell the story!

My friends … I know we’ve all been through this before. That’s there’s nothing new to this story, nothing to see here, move along, move along …

But the fact is, we should be surprised.

We should be filled with awe. And joy. And delight. And most of all, with hope.

Because this story? It is our story.

And it is one worth telling, over and over again, to everyone who has ears to hear and hearts to listen.

Please, I beg of you:

Be shocked.

Because God has fulfilled God’s promise to us.

Be awed.

Because God did what had never been done before – defeated death.

Be filled with hope.

Because what God did for Jesus, God does for us.

Those two women? They got it. They got that this was good news.

And they told that story, far and wide.

And across the centuries, they are asking us to do the same.

We, the present-day disciples, are called to do this:

To go into the world … and tell the story …

That old, old story of Jesus’ love.

(Sung, from the Exultet)

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!!

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Do we really want this salvation?

Sermon preached at the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy

Bishop Jones Building, Mission, S.D.

Rosebud Indian Reservation

The Rev. Dr. Lauren R. Stanley

And so we come to this, the day when Jesus suffered and died on the cross.

Those who just a few days before welcomed him into Jerusalem with cries of “Save us, Son of David!” – remember, that is the original meaning of Hosanna – “Save us” – have now decided they don’t want to be saved. At least, not the way Jesus offered to save them … through love and service to one another, through healing and foot-washing, through inclusion instead of exclusion, through praying for enemies and going the extra mile.

No, God’s salvation on earth was not the thing that caught the public imagination, not the way that people wanted to go.

And so they turned from begging to be saved to begging to get rid of the one really good thing they had going in their lives.

The “they” of whom I speak here, I want to be clear, are not the common Jews of the day, who lived lives of oppression and suppression, both from the Roman occupiers and their very own leaders.

No, the “they” of whom I speak are the Jewish leaders themselves, the ones who conspired time and again to get rid of this pesky preacher from Nazareth. They didn’t like the fact that he was upsetting their apple cart, that he challenged their power, that he called them to account for all the things they had done and did and would do that were focused only on keeping themselves in power, and not on caring for God’s beloved children.

They are the ones who incited the people. They are the ones who had Jesus arrested. They are the ones who presented him to Pilate. They are the ones who desperately wanted Jesus gone.

Because they did not want to lose control. They did not want to let loose the reins of authority. They did not want to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, their policy of keeping their heads down and letting the people go hungry, go thirsty, be sold into slavery was wrong on every level known to God.

This particular scriptural recounting of Jesus’ death, the one from John’s Gospel, has been used over the centuries to blame the people for Jesus’ death. And with that blame came the seeming authority to thus blame all Jews for his death. And with that seeming authority came the seeming permission to harass and harm and slaughter the Jews.

All because no one bothered to figure out who “they” were.

But we know who they were, don’t we?

And we know who they are, as well.

Because sometimes, those people are us. Sometimes, we are the ones who don’t want to give up control, who don’t want to let loose the reins of authority, who just want to keep our heads down and if others don’t have enough to eat, or drink, or are sold into the slavery of poverty and addiction, well … that’s the price we sometimes are willing to pay, isn’t it.

Sometimes, we are the ones willing to let a good man die, so that we can be saved from his kind of salvation.

But that salvation, my friends, is not the salvation that God offers us, especially not on this dark day, when Jesus was hanged on the cross in the most painful manner of execution the Romans could apply. An execution that could take hours, or even days. One that frightened whole populaces into obedience, because no one wanted to die that way, and one that frightened the Jews even more, because the Hebrew Scriptures condemn this sort of death.

The salvation that God freely offers us – because of this man’s willingness to die for us – can be summed up in this very manner of death. Love one another, as Jesus loved us. Be willing to live for each other so much that we are willing to die for each other.

It is a tall order, one that seemingly cannot be fulfilled by mere mortals.

But when you break it down, when you look at exactly what Jesus showed us to do, it’s really not that hard after all.

For all we have to do is feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, voice to the voiceless. All we have to do is cure the sick and make the lame leap for joy. All we have to do is include the excluded, touch the untouchables, love the unloved.

Jesus spent his whole ministry showing us how to do that.

And then he died, because he did what he said he would do.

So while the actual doing is not that hard, just remember: It could lead to our deaths.

Because even if we aren’t the ones who are in control, even if we are not the ones who refuse to give up control, there are others out there – a whole world of others out there – who do not want us to carry on Jesus’ mission and ministry in this world.

And those people who do not want us to care for each other, to love one another as Jesus loved us?

They are just as ready to get rid of us as the old leaders in the old days were ready to get rid of Jesus.

So be forewarned: We can cry out to He Who Saves “Save us!” all we want. But if we really want this salvation, if we are really willing to do everything we can to help those in need, to love the unloved, to change the world into a place where there are no unloved, watch out.

Because someone out there is not going to like it.

And that someone might just crucify us as well.

As I asked on Palm Sunday, I ask again tonight:

Do we really want to be saved, in the way that Jesus saves us?

Because that salvation comes with a price.

It cost Jesus his life.

And it could cost us ours as well.

Is this the salvation we want?

Amen.

 

 

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