Dear NRA, Part II …

Dear NRA, Part II:

Oh, my … I am so disappointed in you, the leadership of the National Rifle Association.

I. Am. SO. Disappointed.

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre at Friday's news conference. (Photo via NBCNews.com)

You had a chance to take the lead in making this country a safer place.

You had a chance to say, “Yes, there are reasonable limits to be had.”

You had a chance to say, “Yes, we agree … private ownership of weapons created solely to kill other human beings do not belong in the hands of private citizens. And no, there is no reason for private citizens to have large-capacity magazines.”

You had a chance to do so much.

Instead, you sent out Wayne LaPierre, who blamed everyone and everything but the culprits – those who think that every gun is a good gun – and who called for a cop in every school – and then had the audacity to ask the federal government to pay for that.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Mr. LaPierre said at your news conference on Friday morning in Washington.

Laws that established gun-free schools zones have, your man said, told “every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”

Your man claimed that “20,000 other laws have failed,” so why pass any more? (Talk about giving up … or is that a diversion to keep us from doing the right thing …?)

And oh, it’s all the fault of the media, the movies, the video games … (as if you, the NRA, doesn’t support the ownership of these weapons that glorify death and destruction) …

That’s the best you can do?!?!

As the leading organization for guns and gun safety, the best you can do is dig in your heels and pretend that you’ve done nothing wrong? And that there’s nothing good you can do

May I say, again, how disappointed I am in you?

Please do not tell me, once again, that “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Well, no duh, nimrod!

I’m well aware that guns don’t load themselves, point themselves, pull the triggers themselves. I know people do that.

I also know that having guns around people who are upset, who are arguing, who are depressed, who suffer from mental illness, makes it far more likely that someone will be shot.

That is, after all, what happened at Columbine High School. At Virginia Tech. In Tucson. And that may be the reason that 28 people lost their lives in Newtown, CT.

Someone who really should never have been near a gun got a gun – and a spit-load of ammunition, and large-capacity magazines – and shattered the lives of so many. No, he didn’t buy them. His mother did. And then Adam Lanza killed her. With her own weapon(s). Do you not see that this in and of itself is a good reason for people not to own these guns? Don’t you see this?????

Radio 104.1 WMRQ

Do you not see, NRA, why so many of us have had it? Why so many of us are saying, “Please help us stop this violence”?

We don’t want an OK Corral set up at every single school. We don’t want the next disturbed person to decide that shooting up a school with police protection would be a pretty cool way to prove that cops can’t stop bullets any better than 6-year-olds, and that shooting up a school protected by cops will make the shooter’s name live in infamy.

What we want is some sanity.

What we want is some safety.

We want it to be harder to get a gun license than it is to get a driver’s license. (I mean, really … there are no tests necessary to get a license to own an item that’s sole purpose is to take a life, human or otherwise?)

We want mandated instruction … you know, just like for driver’s licenses.

We want every loophole closed. And no grandfathering of guns already owned.

BAN those bloody assault weapons! BAN the large-capacity magazines! REQUIRE safety courses! REQUIRE testing before licensing!

And hear me clearly, NRA:

I AM NOT SAYING AMERICANS CANNOT HAVE GUNS.

So don’t you dare come out and attack me as a lily-livered liberal who hates guns!

Do. Not. Go. There.

I want sanity. I want safety.

I want there to be fewer places to buy guns than there are McDonald’s or Starbucks.

I want a sane approach to gun ownership.

And I want assault weapons gone.

Period.

Hunting rifles? Fine.

Guns used for target shooting? Fine.

Shotguns? Fine.

But why …why … does anyone need a 9mm handgun? Or a weapon developed for the military? Why?

Oh, my dear NRA:

I had such high hopes for you.

But since you are choosing to ignore the calls for sanity in gun laws, we will move forward without you. We will not give in to your bullying and your threats. We will not attempt to accommodate you.

We will, instead, do what God is calling us to do: To care for each other. To look at what the community needs. To set aside our desires for the good of all of God’s children.

I do hope that at some point – preferably sooner rather than later – you join us in this effort.

Really.

There is so much good that we can do together.

As Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said at the National Religious Leaders Press Conference in Remembrance of the Newtown tragedy: “The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity. Our gun-flooded, violence-prone society has turned weapons into idols. And the appropriate religious response to idolatry is sustained moral outrage.”

Which, whether you like it or not, we are going to show – moral outrgage, I mean – until we win this fight.

As The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said on Friday, on the One-Week Anniversary of the Newtown Massacre, commemorated at the Washington National Cathedral, “It is only natural to wonder in our worst moments whether God has abandoned us. Yet the more compelling spiritual question isn’t where God was last Friday morning, but rather, where we were. For God has no body on earth but ours.”

That’s what you don’t seem to get, NRA. We are God’s body on this earth.

And we have had enough.

 

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Dear NRA …

Dear NRA:

I know that these last days have been difficult for you as an association, and as one of the most powerful lobbies in this country. I know you do not support the actions of Adam Lanza, and that all of you who work for the NRA, and all of your members, are in mourning for the loss of 20 children, six teachers, Adam Lanza’s mother, and even Adam himself.

But you have not said a thing since Friday last. Not one word. No condemnation. No grieving. No shock. No horror. (Updated: The NRA released a short statement mere minutes ago … read it below. The NRA is promising to offer “meaningful contributions  to help make sure this never happens again.” Details will be released on Friday. Until then, my suggestions stand.)

I get it – anything you say could be misconstrued. Defending the right to own weapons would make you look like cads at best.

And you are under attack right now. Even some of your strongest supporters are saying this gun culture has gone too far.

So staying silent may seem like your only option right now.

But it’s not.

I have another.

I am wondering, and dreaming, and praying, that you – the National Rifle Association – take all of the goodness of your work and apply it to protecting our communities.

I am wondering what it would look like if you – the National Rifle Association, which teaches, I believe, more gun safety classes than any other organization in the country – if you were to take the lead in changing our gun culture.

What if you were the ones who said, “No one needs an automatic weapon. No one needs an extra-large capacity magazine. No one should find it easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license. No one should be able to buy as many guns as they want, when they want”?

What if you were to lead the campaign in this country to get at least some of hundreds of millions of guns off our streets? What if you were the ones to buy back these weapons, and then destroy them?

What if you were the ones to take all your lobbying money and power, and push – really, really hard – to reinstate the ban on assault rifles?

What if you were the ones who called for stricter licensing, for testing, for mandatory waiting periods, for limits on purchases, and for a special tax on ammunition (even if it’s not for all the ammunition, so that hunters in particular would not be taxed)?

What if, instead of standing by silently, apparently in the hopes that no one will think about you right now, you were the ones to lead a campaign entitled something like, “Enough!” or “No more!” – and were to offer to work with police departments to make sure that licensing and testing took place? (You could even be the testers and licensers – talk about privatizing government work!)?

What if you were the ones to put your considerable weight behind measures that guarantee the right to own weapons, but not the right to own anything you damned well want, right now, even if what you want was created solely to kill human beings?

What if you were the ones to step up safety campaigns? Call for more usage of gun locks? Call for the end of sales of cop-killing bullets? Said that weapons like the AR-15, the Bushmaster, which were created for the military, properly belonged only in the hands of the military and law enforcement agencies?

What if you were the ones who stopped saying, “Nothing can be done.” “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” “The Second Amendment guarantees the rights of citizens to bear guns.” “We need more guns in schools … and churches … and stores … so we can protect ourselves.” “We need to arm principals and school-teachers.” etc., etc., and instead were to say, “There is something that can be done, and we, the NRA, are going to put our full power and might behind getting that done.”?

And what if you were the ones who, instead of going after members of Congress for not supporting all your stances, were to support those who want what is best for the safety of our country?

Wouldn’t that all be astonishing? And wouldn’t all of that do more to honor the victims not only of Newtown, CT, but of every place in which gun violence has ripped communities apart?

Heck, if you were to do all that, I would become a member!

And I’d tell all my friends to become members as well.

Because then you would be one very fine organization, demonstrating your concerns for the community ever so much better than you do right now.

Are you listening?

Sincerely,

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

(A concerned and grieving citizen who so much wants this world to be a better – and safer – place to live.)

• • •

Tuesday afternoon’s statement from the NRA:

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

“Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

“The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

“The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

“Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.”

 

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It’s not the economy, stupid – it’s the PEOPLE!

Sigh.

For some reason, the bigwigs in Washington Do. Not. Seem. To. Get. It.

They are concerned with scoring points, with making sure “their” side “wins,” with “defeating” the other side.

What they are not concerned about is the American people. You know … us. The folks whom the bigwigs are supposed to serve.

Actually, it's NOT the economy, stupid!

We, it seems, are not part of any equation for solving the financial crisis confronting this country.

Well, “we” as in, those of us who are in the middle class or the lower class, or who, alas, actually live in poverty.

If we were part of the equation, then some of these dingbat ideas under discussion in Washington would never have seen the light of day.

I’m talking about the idea of extending the retirement age – again. Only white, privilege males who receive the best health care in the world would think this is a good idea.

The rest of us? The ones who work in factories or stores, who physically labor, who are the grunts of the work force? Who spend our time outside in all the elements? Who climb up and down ladders, or tote heavy items, or deliver things that have been ordered online?

Please. Our bodies break down a whole heck of lot earlier and easier than do the ones of so-called leaders who work, yes, but do not labor.

Every sane study shows that upper-income white males with marvelous health care indeed can retire later. But the rest of us? Get real. (See Ezra Klein’s column in The Washington Post on Nov. 21. He does a great job of explaining this.)

And this is why I’m sighing right now.

Because those in charge seem to be forgetting that they are in charge for one reason:

To advance the common weal of all the people.

In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign used the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

This year, that mantra needs to be changed.

It needs to say, “It’s the people, stupid!”

As in, PAY ATTENTION TO US!!

The economy can’t get better as long as too many of us are (a) out of work or (b) working in jobs that simply do not pay enough.

And please don’t talk to me about this silly idea that increasing taxes on the rich will hurt the economy. Because that is Not. True.

The richest among us have received extraordinary tax breaks for the last decade … a decade in which they have grown much, much (did I mention much?) richer, while unemployment has grown and wages have fallen.

So … tell me again how giving the rich yet another tax break is going to help the economy?

And if it isn’t going to help the economy, how, pray tell, is it going to help the people of this country?

And if it doesn’t help the people of this country, then, I can assure you, it is not for the common good, and therefore should not be done.

I know that we are headed for a so-called “fiscal cliff” and that I am supposed to be quaking in my boots over this.

Well, I’m not.

You know why?

Because if nothing else, going over that cliff will at least serve as a wake-up call to the folks in charge. Heck, it might even get them to do something about the state of the economy, to help those in need, and to get going on doing the work that needs to be done, for our people and for our country.

I know, I know:

IF we go over that cliff, the middle-class will be hit, immediately, with a tax increase on average of $2,000 per year. In simpler terms, that means an additional $5.50 per day for each of us.

Ouch.

          But it also means that the richest people will have to pay more as well, which means that there will be more money in the budget.

Yes, drastic cuts are supposed to happen as well.

But that’s Congress’ fault, because Congress has failed to act, because Congress has been focused too much on “winning” political games and not enough on doing its actual job.

I also know that what Congress hath wrought, Congress can un-wrought as well.

It was Congress that mandated these stupid, across-the-board cuts.

So Congress can un-mandate those same cuts.

But only if Congress decides to be sane, to quit posturing and to take care of the real business of this country, which is not, as Calvin Coolidge once proclaimed, “business,” but the welfare – the common weal – of the American people.

One more thing:

Those so-called “entitlements”? The ones that conservatives like to attack with abandon, even as they and their family members collect them?

Leave them the hell alone.

No, wait.

Reform them.

In sane ways.

Social Security? It would be solvent for decades if we collected FICA on incomes above $110,000, the current cap for taxation. Really? We only tax up to $110,000? That’s totally insane, you know, from an economic standpoint. It means that the people who pay the most are the ones who can afford it the least, while those who can afford it the most pay the least.

In what economic universe does that even remotely make sense?

Medicare? Stop the insane talk about increasing the retirement age. See the argument above – only upper-class people can afford to do this, and they don’t need Medicare anyway. So they certainly are not the people to be making this decision.

Medicaid? Someone really wants to cut this? Are they, too, insane? Who in their right mind wants to ensure that sick people stay sick? In what economic model does that make sense?

Never mind the nonsense about cutting assistance to those most in need. Those ideas? They need to be named for what they are: Punishment on those who are in need, who are less fortunate, who don’t have a leg up, who can’t get a leg up.

Every sane study out there says that the better we care for our people, the better off we will be as a country.

Bingo! I say we need to catch each other ... that's what community is all about.

And those wacky ideas on closing loopholes and removing tax deductions? Be careful what you ask for, is all I can say. Let’s take just one of those deductions, the one for charitable giving: End that one and boom! Charities are in deep kimchi. I’m sure all those homeless people, and needy people, and any other people receiving help via charities would be fine with having their help cut in order to magically “balance” the budget on their backs.

So you know what I say?

I say, Go ahead. Let’s jump off the danged fiscal cliff. Let’s do so with joy and abandon.

I’m willing to suck it up and pay $5.50 day – if it means that (a) the whole community is being helped, and (b) the people who can afford this a whole lot more than me kick in their fair share as well. (And no, having a rich person pay the same amount as me Does. Not. Count.)

I am not going to like paying $5.50 a day – and frankly, it’s going to be a stretch to do so (I’m not exactly middle class right now). But dang it! If that’s what it will take to ensure that the least among us are cared for, that our government is focused on all the people, that the community will be built up, that the safety nets will be strengthened … well, yeah. I’m in.

Are you?

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Go ahead: Buy. Hope. Prepare. It’s Advent!

OK, here’s the thing:

Come Sunday, we will be in the season of Advent. The season of waiting. The season of preparing. The season of hope.

One of the biggest complaints you hear in the Church is that society in general tends to skip over Advent and move right to Christmas, that Black Friday is more important than anything the Church has to offer, that somehow, we’re taking the “Christ” out of Christmas.

And yeah, in some ways, we probably are.

But I am wondering, right now, if in condemning those who focus on Christmas in Advent, we are missing the point.

If you and your significant other were to be expecting a baby on Christmas Day, wouldn’t you be preparing?

Wouldn’t you be out there, rushing around to get the last-minute supplies?

And go to the baby showers?

And paint the room?

And lay in the food?

And buy, buy, buy, buy?

Wouldn’t you?

So … if it’s OK to do that for your baby, why isn’t it OK to do for God’s baby?

I mean, yeah, some people do miss the meaning of Christmas, and it does become a thing about buying for the sake of buying, and partying for the sake of partying.

But even then, are they really missing the point? Aren’t they focused, at least in some little way, on relationships?

Because isn’t that what all this frenzy is about, in this season of Advent? Aren’t we going nuts because of relationships?

I mean, what if the presents we are buying are the ones that people actually need?

Or what if the presents are the kind that help others – you know, the gift cards that help bring clean water to the thirsty, and food to the hungry, and clothing to the naked?

And what if, in attending those parties, we are celebrating relationships? Community?

And what if, in going to see family for the holidays, we are doing the same thing?

So, here’s the thing:

Be careful what you wish for.

Telling people they can’t celebrate Christmas in Advent means that in reality, we are telling people they can’t prepare.

And last time I checked, that’s what Advent is all about: preparing.

After all, isn’t that what John the Baptist kept crying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord!?

So forgive me if I’ve reached the age when I feel it’s OK to get a bit worked up about Christmas. When I say I’m going to a “Christmas” party, and not an “Advent” party. When I let slip with a “Merry Christmas” on occasion.

And forgive me for getting excited about the fact that there’s a BABY coming!

And forgive me for spending a lot of time thinking about what gift I’m going to get for each of my loved ones. I put a lot of thought into this, and a lot of work as well. Will the gifts I give be the biggest and the bestest? Hardly. But they will be thoughtful, and they will be loving, and I will enjoy giving them, and pray that my loved ones will enjoy receiving them.

So go ahead. Go a little nuts if you must in this season of Advent. Because remember: You are preparing.

If you really want to know what Advent is all about, look at this video, Advent in 2 Minutes.

And then remember: Advent? It’s about preparing. And hope.

So go on … go prepare. And hope some, too.

That’s the spirit.

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Dear Congress: For God’s sake and ours, please, just do it!

Dear Members of Congress:

It is time to get back to work.

The election is over.

Many of you won, some of you lost.

It doesn’t matter. You are still the 112th Congress, and you still have a spit-load of work to do.

So go do it.

Now.

For God’s sake, and for our sake, please, just go do it!

I know you’re tired. I know you’ve been working your butts off getting re-elected, that you’ve been traveling a lot, that your throats are sore and your heads are probably pounding, and that your body is, quite simply, ready to quit

So take a few days off — but ONLY a few.

Then come back to DC and do the work we actually elected you to do.

Yes, Thanksgiving is coming, and you traditionally take a long time off for that, and yes, this is a lame-duck Congress, and yes, you really want to rest right now.

But the rest of the country is working – hard – either at jobs or at trying to get a job. The rest of us don’t get to take a break. We don’t get to pass the buck, and neither should you.

Because of your recalcitrance, mixed in with some of the same from the President (who got re-elected, so deal with it), you have managed to pass the buck on darned near everything. Through your intransigence, we are now facing a man-made (and yes, I chose that word deliberately) fiscal “cliff” that is completely your own fault. You don’t want to make hard decisions, you don’t want to compromise your so-called values, you don’t want to look weak.

Blah, blah, blah.

We the people have spoken, and we have not spoken for more gridlock caused by people who cannot, for the life of them, learn to play well together in the sandbox, much less share their toys.

Well, guess what, gentlemen and gentlewomen?

They aren’t your toys. They’re ours.

And we the people demand that you use them well, for the greater good of the American people and the world.

We demand that you pass a jobs bill that indeed will indeed put us back to work. It’s not a hard thing to do, so please: Just do it.

We demand that you pass a budget bill that is not filled with special perks, also known as “pork.” We’re on a diet, folks – we don’t need the extra fat. Face reality: You are going to have to mix tax increases with cuts. You cannot come remotely close to a decent budget – never mind a balanced one – on the backs of the poorest and the neediest.

The automatic cuts? The automatic rise in tax rates for all? The looming limit on the debt? FIX them! Stop messing around and just do it!

Remember: You did not win a mandate for business as usual. You are in Congress now – and many of you will continue in your jobs – because we, the people, need you to work on our behalf. So pass a danged budget that is sane and fair, that raises money from those who can afford to give more, and cares for those of us, the forty-SIX percent (that’s the accurate number) who need help.

No more posturing, no more whining, no more fantasies about trickle-down economics. Face reality, and do the right thing. For God’s sake and for our sake, just do it.

And lest you think that is all you need to do: Wait. There’s more!

We demand that you, Congress, step up and pass a bill that will stop this obscene spending on election campaigns. Billions were spent on this election, in great part because of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is, as I said, obscene. Just think of what we could have done with that money. Think of the people we could have fed; the teachers, firefighters and cops we could have hired; the medical care we could have provided; the infrastructure we could have repaired; the homeless who could have had shelter.

Think about what could have been – and then hang your heads in shame.

So the next time you see a person begging for food, the next time you see a person sleeping on the street, the next time you actually meet a person in need – ask that person for forgiveness, for you, my dear members of Congress, could have done something about this.

And you didn’t.

While you’re back at work, remember: We women in this country? We do not want you messing around with our bodies. No way. No how. So stop your assaults on us. Stop trying to pass moral laws that are, at best, immoral. Get your hands off our bodies. Now.

We demand that you finally, finally, take a realistic look at climate change, and do something about it! I know, I know: Some of you live in a fantasy world in which you believe you can deny reality. If you are in any way confused about what climate change looks like, call Chris Christie. Or Cory Booker. Or Michael Bloomberg. Ask them to take you on your very own personal tour of devastation.

Then, get real about what is happening to our world, and do something about it. Just do it.

In the House, we the people demand that you stop passing stupid – I really can’t think of another word to use here that would be more accurate – bills to rescind the Affordable Health Care Act, that try to impose inane economic policies, that target women and their bodies, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, we know you want to show off your conservative credentials. But the fact is, every time you pass one of these stupid bills, you look like a child taunting the loser of a game: Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! We won and you lost! For God’s sake, could you possibly act like grown-ups? The fact that the country has spoken should tell you: Stop screwing around. Just do it.

And to the members of the Senate, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: You, gentlemen and gentlewomen, need to read the Constitution again. Nowhere does it say that a majority is not a majority, that to merely have a bill considered takes 60 votes. This is balderdash and a childish game. So stop it. You have a chance, right now, to finally demonstrate to the people who elected you that you are grown-ups. So end this stupid practice right now and get to work. Just do it!

We have a lot of work to do in this country. We need to get out of a war, care for our veterans, find housing for millions, jobs for millions more, and make sure all those people have health care. Our infrastructure needs urgent help. The people of New York and New Jersey are in dire straits. Our children need better education.

We the people are damned tired of the war between the have’s and the have-not’s. We are fed up with posturing. We are not stupid – we understand economics a whole lot better than many of you do, apparently. We are willing to sacrifice together for the common good. We want to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, proclaim jubilee for the poorest. We want to be a community!

And we can’t – not while you’re lolly-gagging around and posturing like puffed-up little Napoleons.

So listen to us, dear members of Congress:

For God’s sake and for our sake, please: Just do it!

 

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Rape Education 101

           Normally, this web site is devoted to discussion of God and what God dreams for us in our lives. But the national conversation of late around rape and what some people think it is, and how those same people are trying to redefine it and change laws so that women – the victims – have no say in their own care, and are blamed for what happened, well, when that happens, it is time to speak up.

           And here’s why: Theologically, any time one of God’s beloved children hurts another of God’s beloved children, God is hurt as well. 

           Because God created us to be better than that. God created us in God’s very image to live in love and community. 

           Rape does not fit in the equation.

           So this is what I wrote early Wednesday morning, 22 August:

Apparently, the time has come when it is necessary to explain to certain members of the human race that rape is rape.

Apparently, there really are certain members of the human race who do not understand what rape is, and thus are prone to making comments that do nothing except expose their ignorance.

So let’s start with lesson number one:

Rape is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

So says the FBI. Any penetration, without the consent of the victim, is rape.

To those who are confused, and especially to those who make inane comments publicly, please, please pay attention here.

There is no such thing as “forcible” rape. Unless, of course, you wish to demonstrate your ignorance vis-à-vis the proper use of the English language.

Rape is rape.

The FBI says so.

Got it?

Please note, as well, that there is no such thing as “legitimate” rape. Because really, if you think about it, that would mean that there is such a thing as “illegitimate” rape, and I do not believe any of us want to go there.

Rape, in other words, is rape.

Got it?

Next lesson:

A woman’s body does not have some secret ability to distinguish between sperm that has entered her body via rape and sperm that has entered her body via a loving, mutual act of sex.

Really, gentlemen.

I know that many men find women to be confusing, and our bodies and their functions to be even more of a mystery.

But … really? Does anyone seriously believe that women have super-secret super abilities that will determine when and whether they will get pregnant?

Because if we did, don’t you gentlemen think that perhaps, just perhaps, women would use this super-secret super ability and thus never need an abortion?!?!?

If this explanation is too difficult to understand, let me explain it another way:

Let’s say I were to take a knife and plunge it into your abdomen. Not once, but repeatedly.

Would you feel assaulted if I were to do such a thing to you, without your permission?

That’s what rape is: a penetrating assault on another person, without her permission.

Got it?

Please, for the sake of your mothers and daughters, your sisters, your cousins, your aunts and your nieces, your neighbors … for the sake of every single female in the world … please, understand this:

Rape is rape.

Period.

Stop trying to qualify it.

Stop trying to blame the victims.

Stop trying to use what at best can be described as pseudo-science and at worst can be described as lunacy to change the definition of one of the worst assaults that men perpetrate on women.

One more time, just in case you missed this lesson:

Rape is rape!

I hope you have been paying attention, because there will be a test on this subject. It will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Nationwide.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

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Of puppies and missionaries …

This column was written for and ran on EpiscopalCafe.com on 21 April 2012.

We have a new addition in our household, a giant-pawed Great Dane puppy named Julian.

Julian at 10 weeks, right, with her Cavalier King Charles "brother" Gabriel.

She came into our lives recently as a 10-week-old, gangly, runt-of-the-litter, Brindle-colored baby and immediately wriggled her way into our hearts and minds.

Watching her adjust to her new surroundings, with three new people and two new dogs (who are, as they constantly remind us, Not. Amused.) reminds me of missionaries and the adjustments they go through when they arrive in a new land.

Just as missionaries need to leave behind all whom they love to live with new people, whom hopefully they will come to love, Julian had to leave behind her sire and dam and three brothers, as well as the breeders.

Just as missionaries have to learn to live in new housing situations (sometimes mud huts, sometimes tents, sometimes very Western-style apartments), Julian has had to learn to live in our house, which is very different from the farm where she was bred and spent the first 10 weeks of her life.

Just as missionaries need to learn a new language, with all of its colloquialisms, Julian is learning her own new language: “Come. Out. Sit. Down. Off. No bite. Leave it. No. Good girl!” It is not easy for missionaries or puppies to untangle the nuances of new languages.

You go into a new place, and everything is new: the people; the food; the customs; the language. It doesn’t matter if you are a missionary or a puppy, there’s still a lot of learning going on, and every day is a day of discovery.

Her first night with us, Julian did what most every puppy does when it was time to go to bed: She cried. She sat in her crate, with blankets and toys, and whimpering and cried for a long, long, long time. Eventually, she slept, mainly because she was so very tired.

My first night as a missionary in Sudan? I cried as well. Even though I had worked like the dickens to get to Sudan, even though I really, really wanted to be there, I still cried. Everything was new and foreign and I was so very far from all that I knew and loved. Like Julian, I cried myself to sleep that night. (And did so again when I moved to Haiti, four years later.)

No matter how hard you try, as a new person in a new place, you make mistakes. You go to the wrong places, say the wrong things, do the wrong things at the wrong time. Anyone who has had a puppy knows that puppies do all that – and more – all the time. Missionaries and puppies are constantly learning, constantly striving, constantly attempting to please, to fit in, to not be seen as an “outsider” who doesn’t belong there.

Julian at 6 months ... still growing.

Every day is a day of discovery and adventure, of new things to do, new people to meet. Every day also presents new opportunities to make mistakes, to get lost, to realize that what you “know” may only be what you thought you knew.

The more I watch this Great Dane puppy, the more I see my life as a missionary. Things that scared me at first, or that seemed too hard to do, became so normal that they stopped meriting a mention.

Julian grows at an astonishing rate. Where once she was the same size as the 10-year-old spaniels, she now towers over them. Where once she was confused and timid, she is now confident and bold. She still stumbles around a bit – she’s growing into her body, we like to say – but she stumbles a lot more boldly than when she first arrived. She knows she is loved and cared for, which gives her the confidence to go forth into the world, seeking new adventures, new friends, new challenges.

My life as a missionary was much the same. There was constant growth (not physically; I’d already grown into my body). I, too, was timid at first, and made lots of mistakes, not understanding what was happening to me or around me. But the longer I stayed, the more I learned, the bolder I became, and as I grew bolder, I was more willing to even more new things.

Yep, welcoming Julian into my life has made me realize: Missionaries could learn a lot from watching a puppy. Their lives are, more than I ever realized, so very similar.

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We are the link …

John 14:6-15

          When Bonnie asked me to come here to preach on the Feast of St. Augustine, I started looking for stories about your patron saint. Most of stories I found are ones you already know, but there is one story that dates back to his youth, when his mother, Monica, wanted him to embrace the Christian faith in which he was raised and become a priest.

            Augustine, we all know, had other ideas.

            The official biographies, which I think you well know, tell the story of how he left home to teach rhetoric.

The unofficial biography apparently says – or so the story goes – that he told his mother he was leaving to get a loaf of bread … and went to Egypt instead.

But as Augustine learned – and as we know – no matter where you go, God is there.

No matter how far you run, God is there.

Because there is no place you can go, no place you can run where God is not.

Augustine learned that … he ran. But, as the saying goes, he couldn’t hide.

The same is true for us.

We may try to run, but we can never hide.

Because God is always there. And God is always there because God loves us.

There is no more powerful lesson on earth than that, is there? The lesson that God loves us?

There may be days when we doubt this is true, when we think that we are too much like Augustine was in his youth (which as you know was not a pretty picture).

But in spite of what we may think of ourselves, the good news is, God loves us – God still loves us – whether we are good or bad, whether we are high and mighty and lowly and poor … because none of that matters.

All that matters is that God … loves … us … that we are God’s beloved children.

And we know this because the Bible tells us so.

The Bible tells us that in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth … meaning, God was before we were, and God will be after we are.

Which means, quite simply, that we are not necessary to God.

God is necessary to us, yes. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

But we are not necessary to God.

Which in turn means, quite simply, that God wanted us, that God desired us, that God loved us into being.

This is what God meant when God said, way back in the beginning, “Let us create humankind in our image, according to our likeness …” God’s image, God’s likeness, has nothing to do with the color of God’s skin (does God even have skin?) or God’s gender, or God’s height or weight (does God have any of those attributes?). God’s image, God’s likeness, is center in one thing only:

Love.

But God’s love, my friends, does not exist in a vacuum.

Yes, God loves me.

And yes, God loves you.

But because God loves me and because God loves you, God intends for us to love each other.

Since we each are beloved of God and since we each are created in love, God intends us to live in love.

With each other.

That’s called community.

And our mission in life, the very reason for which God created us, is to love the community.

Augustine, despite fighting God and fleeing God, learned this in his own life.

“What,” he asked, “does love look like? It has the hand to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That,” he said, “is what love looks like.”[1]

So in the words of one of the greatest theologians of our faith, in the words of your own patron saint, our very reason for existing is to take care of each other, to love one another.

That is our mission in life – loving those whom God loves … every moment of our lives.

It’s not an easy task, this mission that God gives us.

But we know we can do it.

We know we can do it because Jesus – the ultimate manifestation of God’s love for us – because Jesus said so.

Throughout his entire ministry … through his preaching and teaching, his feeding of the hungry and giving of water to the thirsty, his healing of the lame and returning of sight to the blind and hearing to deaf and speech to the mute, through every meal he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, his every touch of the lepers, his every willingness to include the excluded, to love the unloved, to give hope to the hopeless … Jesus taught us what to do. He taught us how to live our lives on a mission from God.

And then, facing his own end, he bequeathed to us his great command:

Love one another as I have loved you.

With that love, he told us, we will do great things.

In fact, he said, our mere faith, in him will make us do the work that he did, and indeed, he said, we will do greater works than these!

Can you imagine that?

Can you imagine what it would be like to do greater work than Jesus himself did?

New Testament professor Jaime Clark-Soles heard those words and wrote, in great astonishment,

Those who are “left behind” when Jesus goes to the Father have [an] advantage beyond all telling of it. Because Jesus goes, they will get power they wouldn’t get otherwise. Instead of wannabes, they’ll be the real deal – they’ll be the Jesus in the world.[2]

 

You want to know what it means to be on a mission from God in the world?

Being on a mission from God means we get to be Jesus!

Well, OK. We don’t get to actually be Jesus. But we get to do that which Jesus did, only in a bigger way. Perhaps even in a better way.

So long as we understand: Everything we do is to come from God’s love for us, and God’s love for everyone else.

In 1969, Neil Diamond debuted a song called Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show. It’s a great song – it has a great beat (even though you can’t really dance to it) – not just because of the story of the traveling salvation show, but because of its theology.

Do you know this song? You don’t?

            (Sing) Brother Love,

            I said, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.

            Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies

            And everyone goes

            Cuz everyone knows

            ‘Bout Brother Love’s show …

            Hallelujah …

What’s amazing about this song, though, isn’t that chorus. It is that in the middle of the song, there’s a sermon. Now, if you look up the words online, you won’t find the words to the sermon. You’ll just see the word “sermon” printed in the middle of the lyrics.

But it’s the sermon that provides the power … the message … that we all need to hear, every single day:

This is what Brother Love preaches:

            Brothers! I said, Brothers!

Now you got yourself two good hands.

And when your brother is troubled

            You’ve got to reach out your one hand for him …

            Cuz that’s what it’s there for.

            And when your heart is troubled

            You got to reach out your other hand …

            Reach it out to the man up there …

            Cuz that’s what he’s there for.

 

            (Sing) Take my hand in yours

Walk with me this day

In my heart I know

I will never stray.[3]

Halle. Halle. Halle! Halle …!

 

We each have two good hands. And with those hands, we are called, as people on a mission from God, to always … always … reach those hands out to those who are troubled, who are in need, who need to be reminded of God’s love for them.

This is what it means to be a missionary, my friends. To reach out to others, while at the same time, holding on to God.

We are the link … everywhere we go, with everyone we meet.

Because wherever we go, God is there. And everyone we meet is a beloved child of God.

You want to be a missionary?

Reach your hands out …

That’s all there is to it.

Now, I’m a missionary. I spent four years as a missionary in Sudan, and one year serving in Haiti. And I know … I know … that many people are surprised to discover that The Episcopal Church even has missionaries. Even though we are The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America – that’s our official name, you know … quite impressive, isn’t it? – even though that is our formal name, people are surprised when they find out that I am, indeed, a missionary, and that I’ve been one for years.

Well, let me tell you something:

You are missionaries as well. And not just because you are Episcopalians.

No, you’re a missionary because God said so.

And your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to live in love and in community … to reach your hands out to those who are troubled … every moment of your lives.

Just last week, NPR interviewed Stephane Hessel, a former World War II French resistance fighter who narrowly escaped execution by the Nazis in two concentration camps. Hessel’s book, Time for Outrage, was published in the United States this week; in it, he argues that indifference is the worst possible attitude we can adopt.

 

If you want to be a real human being – a real woman, a real man [he says] – you cannot tolerate things which put you to indignation, to outrage. You must stand up. I always say to people, “Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.[4]

 

This is what Jesus was talking about – look at what makes you unhappy (the suffering of others, the needs of others, the desires of others to be loved) – and do something about it.

Our mission – which we accept every time we reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant – is to do something – something greater than the work Jesus himself did!

Just because it seems hard, just because the world tells us it can’t be done (we can’t possibly feed all the hungry in the world, despite the fact that we throw away more than enough food every day to feed every single starving person out there; we can’t possibly provide health care for all – even though that’s what Jesus did; we can’t possibly … we can’t possibly … we can’t … we can’t … we can’t …), doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference.

We start by reaching out our hands … one to the person in need … the other to God … and being the link between the two.

And when we doubt (which we will)?

We go back again to your own patron saint, to Augustine of Hippo, who once told his mother (or so the story goes) that he was going out for bread and never came back. He once wrote:

Hope has two beautiful daughters.

Their names are anger and courage;

anger at the way things are, and

courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.[5]

We never give up hope, and we pray to have the courage to live our lives on a mission from God, to be missionaries, living every moment of our lives in love and in community.

It’s why we were created.

(Sing) Take my hand in yours

Walk with me this day

In my heart I know

I will never stray.

Amen.

A sermon preached on the Feast of St. Augustine (translated), at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Kinston, N.C., 25 September 2011.




[1] As quoted in Quote, Unquote, by Lloyd Cory, p. 197.

[2] Jaime Clark-Soles, Associate Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Teas, commentary for 20 April 2008, emphasis added, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=4/20/2008&tab=4

 

[3] Neil Diamond, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, on the eponymous album, UNI Records, 1969.

[4] Stephane Hessel, author of Time for Outrage, in NPR interview, http://www.npr.org/2011/09/22/140252484/wwii-survivor-stirs-literary-world-with-outrage

[5] As quoted in by Robert McAfee Brown in Spirituality and Liberation: Overcoming the Great Fallacy (Westminster John Knox Press, 1988), 136.

 

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Who and whose are you?

Matthew 4:1-11: A bilingual sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Whenever I read of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, of Ha Satan, the Adversary, tempting Jesus with food, with great spectacle, with power, daring Jesus to become someone he is not,[1] I think of TV commercials.

Siempre que leo de la tentación de Jesús en el desierto, de Ha Satanás, el Adversario, tentando a Jesús con los alimentos, con gran espectáculo, con el poder, atreverse Jesús a convertirse en alguien que no es – pienso en comerciales de televisión.

The Temptation of Christ, Ary Scheffer, 1854

I’ve never liked most ads on TV. The ones that are trying to sell me something? They drive me nuts.

Nunca me ha gustado la mayoría de los anuncios en la televisión. Los que están tratando de venderme algo? Me vuelven lo.

“What?” I think to myself, “do these people think I’m stupid? Do they really think I’m going to fall for their tricks?”

“¿Qué?” Creo que a mí mismo “¿Estas personas piensan que soy estúpido? ¿Realmente crees que voy a caer en sus trampas?”

You know the commercials I’m talking about, right? The ones assuring me that if I buy their products, I’ll be richer, more popular, thinner, sexier, “in”?

Ustedes saben los anuncios que estoy hablando, ¿verdad? Los asegurándome que si puedo comprar sus productos, voy a ser más rico, más popular, más delgada, más sexy, “en”?

So I reject their advances. I turn off the sound. I refuse to be drawn in by an advertisement that promises more than it can deliver, that tries to divert me from the fact that not only do I not need that which they are selling, not only do I not want that which they are offering, I do not believe them.

Por lo tanto, rechazar sus avances. Puedo desactivar el sonido. Me niego a ser atraídos por un anuncio que promete más de lo que puede dar, que intenta distraerme del hecho de que no sólo no hace falta que los que están vendiendo, no sólo que no quiero que los que están ofreciendo, yo no les creo.

Because I know that most advertisers are not telling the truth. They are bending the truth, trying to make me believe that if I buy what they’re offering, I’ll be someone I am not.

Porque yo sé que la mayoría de los anunciantes no dicen la verdad. Se trata de doblar la verdad, tratando de hacerme creer que si yo compro lo que están ofreciendo, voy a ser alguien que yo no soy.

To me, most advertisers rank right up there with Ha Satan, the Adversary who tried to dare Jesus to be someone he is not.

Para mí, la mayoría de los anunciantes en el mismo escalafón con Ha Satanás, el Adversario que trató de Jesús se atreve a ser alguien que no lo es.

Because I know that driving the fastest, biggest, most expensive car in town won’t make me a better person.

Porque yo sé que la conducción más rápida, más grande, más caro coche de la ciudad no me hará una mejor persona.

So what if my hair has turned grey? I don’t need to color it to be me.

¿Y qué si mi pelo se ha vuelto gris? Yo no necesito el color a ser yo.

And frankly, I like the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth – they say something important about me.

Y francamente, me gusta la líneas de expresión alrededor de los ojos y la boca – se dice algo importante acerca de mí.

I do not believe the advertisers because I know who I am – I am Lauren, a beloved child of God.

More importantly, I know whose I am – I belong to God.

No creo que los anunciantes porque yo sé quién soy – Soy Lauren, una hija amada de Dios.

Más importante aún, yo sé cuya soy – Yo pertenezco a Dios.

So my answer to all those Tempters out there?

Away with you, Satan!

Así que mi respuesta a todos los tentadores por ahí?

Vete, Satanás!

Jesus didn’t have to face television advertising in the days when he walked the earth. But he did have to face Ha Satan, the Adversary who tried to tempt him into becoming someone he was not.

Jesús no tenía para hacer frente a la publicidad televisiva en los días en que estuvo en la tierra. Pero sí tienen que hacer frente Ha Satanás, el Adversario que trató de tentarlo para convertirse en alguien que no lo era.

Satan tried to tempt Christ, James Tissot, 1895

 

Immediately following his baptism in the River Jordan, immediately after hearing God confirm who he was (the Son of God) and whose he was (God’s beloved, in whom God was well-pleased),[2] Jesus went out into the desert. That’s what people did in those days, when they wanted to get closer to God. They turned heir backs on the hurly-burly of their lives and spent some time alone, doing their best to come face to face with God.

Inmediatamente después de su bautismo en el río Jordán, inmediatamente después de escuchar a Dios confirmar quién era él (el Hijo de Dios) y que cuya (de Dios amado, en quien Dios estaba muy complacido), Jesús se fue al desierto. Eso es lo que hizo en aquellos días, cuando quiso acercarse a Dios. Se volvieron la espalda heredero en el bullicio de su vida y pasó algún tiempo a solas, haciendo todo lo posible para encontrarse cara a cara con Dios.

After 40 days and 40 nights all alone with God, when Jesus was at his weakest, the Tempter, Ha Satan, showed up.

Después de 40 días y 40 noches a solas con Dios, cuando Jesús estaba en su más débil, el Tentador, Ha Satanás, se presentó.

And what did he do?

He didn’t just tempt Jesus.

He called Jesus’ very identity into question!

¿Y qué hizo?

Lo hizo no sólo tentar a Jesús.

Llamó identidad de Jesús en tela de juicio!

If you are the Son of God[3] turn stones into bread, so that you may eat.

If you are the Son of God[4]throw yourself down and let the angels catch you.

If you will fall down and worship me[5] I will give you power and dominion over the whole world.

Si eres el Hijo de Dios … las piedras se convierten en pan, de modo que usted puede comer.

Si eres el Hijo de Dios … lanzarte hacia abajo y dejar que los ángeles te atrapen.

Si se va a caer y me adoras … yo te daré poder y dominio sobre todo el mundo.

Silly Satan.

Satanás loco.

Did he really think he could get Jesus to give up his very being, just for a little bread, a little thrill ride, a little power?

¿Realmente cree que podría conseguir a Jesús a renunciar a su propio ser, sólo por un poco de pan, un paseo de emoción poco, un poco de poder?

Denying Satan, Carl Bloch, 1850

Jesus’ answer to the Tempter – Away with you, Satan! – is the original model for the “Just Say No” campaign, the campaign to which all of us are called in this holy season of Lent.

La respuesta de Jesús al Tentador – Vete, Satanás! – es el modelo original de la “simplemente decir que no” de campaña, la campaña a la que todos estamos llamados en este tiempo santo de Cuaresma.

Yes, my friends, it is the season of Lent, the 40 days and 40 nights in which we are called to Just Say No to the things that tempt us away from God. This is the time of year when we as Christians are specifically called to do as Jesus did, to turn our backs on the hurly-burly of our lives so that we can focus – really and truly focus – on who we are and whose we are.

Sí, mis amigos, es la temporada de Cuaresma, los 40 días y 40 noches en la que estamos llamados a decir “no” a las cosas que nos tientan lejos de Dios. Esta es la época del año cuando nosotros como Cristianos están especialmente llamados a hacer como lo hizo Jesús, a su vez en la espalda en el bullicio de nuestras vidas para que podamos centrarnos – real y enfoque realmente – en lo que somos y que nos pertenecen.

Now I know that Lent is not a popular season. It is not, as commentator David Lose says, something we look forward to, like Christmas. (Who asks, he points out, how many days there are until Lent?)[6]

Ahora yo sé que la Cuaresma no es un tiempo popular. No es, como dice el comentarista David Lose, algo que esperamos, como la Navidad. (¿Quién pregunta, señala, ¿cuántos días hay hasta la Cuaresma?)

Indeed, Professor Lose believes that because Lent is not popular, it is in trouble.[7]

De hecho, el profesor cree que perder porque la Cuaresma no es popular, Cuaresma tiene problemas.

It is in trouble, he says, because “it feels like this strange, weirdly anachronistic holiday that celebrates things we don’t value and encourages attitudes we don’t share.”[8]

Tiene problemas, dice, porque “se siente como esta fiesta extraña, extrañamente anacrónico que celebra las cosas que no valoramos y alienta actitudes que no comparto.”

But Lent doesn’t have to be in trouble.

Because Lent is really God’s gift to us.

Pero la Cuaresma no necesita tiene problemas.

Debido a que la Cuaresma es realmente un regalo de Dios para nosotros.

It is a gift because it gives us the time to think again, to know again, that we are beloved children of God, that we belong, from before time began until the ages of ages, to God.

Es un regalo porque nos da tiempo a pensar de nuevo, para saber más, de que somos hijos amados de Dios, que nos pertenecen, desde antes de los siglos hasta que siglos de los siglos, a Dios.

Lent is our time to say “no”… “no” to all the things that get in the way of knowing God’s love, that get in the way of our delighting in God’s will and walking in God’s ways.

La Cuaresma es nuestro tiempo para decir “no” … “no” a todas las cosas que se interponen en el camino de conocer el amor de Dios, que se interponen en el camino de nuestro deleite en la voluntad de Dios y caminar en los caminos de Dios.

Lent is our time to reject that which tries to redefine us, to reject the false advertising of our lives – the advertising from outside us that says, Just do this and you will be … famous, rich, happy, thinner, sexier, “in.”

La Cuaresma es nuestro tiempo para rechazar lo que nos trata de redefinir, de rechazar la falsa publicidad de nuestras vidas – la publicidad de fuera de nosotros que dice: Haz esto y serás … famoso, rico, feliz, más delgado, más sexy, “en.”

It is our time to reject those things that challenge our very identity, that draw us away from identifying ourselves first and foremost with and by God.

Es nuestra hora de rechazar las cosas que desafían nuestra propia identidad, que nos alejan de la identificación de nosotros mismos, ante todo, con y por Dios.

• • •

When I was in Sudan, in an area dominated by one tribe but populated by 15 other tribes, I frequently was asked, because tribal identification is still so very important in that war-torn country, “What tribe do you come from?”

Usually, my questioners wanted me to identify with their tribes, with the Dinka or Nuer, with the Shilluk or the Moro.

Cuando estaba en el Sudán, en una zona dominada por una tribu, pero poblada por 15 tribus otros, con frecuencia se le pidió, porque la identificación tribal es todavía tan importante en ese país devastado por la guerra, “¿De qué tribu vienes?”

Por lo general, mis interrogadores querían que se identifican con sus tribus, con los Dinka o los Nuer, con los Shilluk o los Moro

But I had friends in each of those tribes, and I refused to identify with just one of them.

Pero yo tenía amigos en cada una de esas tribus, y se negó a identificarse con uno de ellos.

It took me a while – a couple of years, actually – but one day, confronted yet again by an aggressive questioner, I heard myself answer:
“I belong to the tribe of God.”

Me tomó un tiempo – un par de años, en realidad – pero un día, se enfrentó una vez más por una pregunta agresiva, me oí responder:

“Yo pertenezco a la tribu de Dios.”

In truth, that tribe – God’s tribe – is the only tribe that counts. And we all belong to it.

En verdad, esa tribu – tribu de Dios – es la única tribu que cuenta. Y que todos pertenecemos a la misma.

The color of our skin? Our country of origin? Who our parents are? The language we speak? The clothes we wear? The jobs we have (or don’t have)? The world may think these things matter, but they do not.

They … do … not … matter.

El color de nuestra piel? Nuestro país de origen? Quiénes son nuestros padres? El idioma que hablamos? La ropa que usamos? Los puestos de trabajo que tienen (o no tienen)? El mundo puede pensar que estas cosas son importantes, pero no lo hacen.

Ellos … no … estan … importa.

The only thing that matters is that we belong to God’s tribe, the tribe of beloved children, created in God’s image, loved from before time until the ages of ages.

Lo único que importa es que pertenecemos a la tribu de Dios, la tribu de los hijos amados, creado a imagen de Dios, amado desde antes de los siglos …  hasta que las edades de las edades.

This holy season of Lent?

It is our time to discover anew our membership in that tribe.

Este tiempo santo de Cuaresma?

Es nuestro tiempo para descubrir de nuevo nuestra pertenencia a esa tribu.

We are not defined by what we own.

We are not defined by what we wear … or what we eat … or how powerful we are in this life.

We are defined only by this:

We are God’s beloved children.

Wordle art of this sermon, courtesy of wordle.net.

And we belong to God.

No están definidas por lo que tenemos.

No se define por lo que usamos … o lo que comemos … o lo poderoso que estamos en esta vida.

Nos están definidas por sólo por esto:

Somos hijos amados de Dios.

Y nosotros pertenecemos a Dios.

If we want to enjoy this gift that is Lent, we will have to be strong. We will have to turn our backs on the temptations that lead us astray from this tribe. We will have to reject the false advertising that says we can be something we are not. We will have to renounce those things that rear up their ugly heads and keep us from seeing God, and seeing ourselves in God.

Si queremos disfrutar de este regalo que es la Cuaresma, vamos a tener que ser fuerte. Tendremos que dar la espalda a las tentaciones que nos llevan por mal camino de esta tribu. Vamos a tener que rechazar la falsa publicidad que dice que puede ser algo que no lo son. Vamos a tener que renunciar a esas cosas que se alzan sus cabezas feas y nos impiden ver a Dios, y vernos a nosotros mismos en Dios.

This is our time. Our time to be with God. Our time to revel in God’s closeness. Our time to open ourselves up – completely and intimately – to the God who created us in love, the one who loves us now, the one who will love us forever.

Este es nuestro tiempo. Nuestro tiempo para estar con Dios. Nuestro tiempo para deleitarse con la cercanía de Dios. Nuestra tiempo de abrirnos – completo e íntimamente – al Dios que nos creó en el amor, el que nos ama ahora, el que nos va a amar para siempre

The next time someone tries to tempt you away from God? Tries to convince you that you are not popular enough, thin enough, sexy enough, “in” enough? Tries to sell you a faster car, a cooler phone? Tries to tell you that you are not eating in the right restaurants or working in the right offices?

Do what Jesus did:

Renounce them! Tell them to go away!

La próxima vez que alguien trata de tentarlo lejos de Dios? Trata de convencerlo de que no son lo suficiente popular, lo suficiente delgada, lo suficiente sexy, lo suficiente “en”? Trata de venderle un coche más rápido, un teléfono más fresco? Trata de decirle que usted no está comiendo en los restaurantes de derecha o de trabajo en las oficinas de derecho?

Hacer lo que hizo Jesús:

Renunciar a ellos! Dile que se vayan!

Because those people? They are not telling the truth. They are Tempters. Adversaries. They stand against God.

Debido a esas personas? Ellos no están diciendo la verdad. Ellos son tentadores. Adversarios. Ellos están en contra de Dios.

Instead, listen to God, who says to you:

You are my beloved. I created you because I love you.

Closeup of the Creation of Man, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo

And you belong to me … from before time began … until the ages of ages.

En cambio, escuchar a Dios, que te dice:

Tú eres mi amado. Te he creado, porque Te amo.

Y tú me perteneces … de antes de los siglos … hasta que las edades de las edades.

You belong to me.

Tú me perteneces.

Amen.

Bilingual sermon preached on the First Sunday in Lent, 13 March 2011, Year A, at St. Paul’s, Bailey’s Crossroads, Falls Church, Va.



[1] Professor David Lose, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair Luther Seminary, “Into Temptation,” via WorkingPreacher.org, posted 7 March 2011, http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=462

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lose, “Into Temptation.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Professor David Lose, “The Trouble (and Blessings) of Lent,” on The Huffington Post, 7 March 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lose/why-lent_b_830968.html?ref=fb&src=sp#sb=1522119,b=facebook.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

 

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Love and mission in Honduras

Episcopal News Service has a great article today by Lynette Wilson on Ministerios Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas, Our Little Roses, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Our Little Roses is a home for girls who have been abused, abandoned or orphaned. It is one of the best ministries I’ve ever seen – a refuge of love and care for those who are in such great need, most of all, to be loved. Diana Frade, the founder of OLR, is a friend of mine, and I’ve been privileged to visit and serve at Our Little Roses five times.

Twenty-five years ago, Diana started this ministry, as the article recounts, because she saw a need – for love – saw a way to meet that need, and made it happen. That’s mission. Diana and all those who have been involved in OLR are great role models for all of us, most of all because everything they have done, and everything they are doing, comes out of the bounty of their love.

From the ENS article:

Ministry empowers Honduran girls for life

[Episcopal News Service – San Pedro Sula, Honduras] Ministerios Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas began 25 years ago in a three-bedroom rental house in this gritty, factory town four hours from the capital, Tegucigalpa, because its founder, Diana Frade, recognized the need to educate and empower at-risk girls.

“I visited a boys’ home in Tegucigalpa, and could see the girls on the street,” said Frade, the founder, president and executive director of Ministerios Nuestras Pequeñas Roses, or Our Little Roses (OLR). “I thought, if the church is doing this for boys, why not for girls?”

Adhering to protocol, Frade introduced a resolution aimed at helping girls at a diocesan convention, but it failed – but she’d already promised judges (the court system manages child placement in Honduras) in Tegucigalpa a home for girls. So with $80,000 – part memorial gift, part matching grant – she rented a house and took in the first girl. By the end of the first year, there were 23 girls, a cook and two tias, or aunts, who at OLR handle the everyday needs, rearing and discipline of the girls living in the home, she said.

There are an estimated 200,000 orphaned children in Honduras, according to government statistics. Honduras, a Central America about the size of Tennessee, has a total population of about 8 million, close to 50 percent under the age of 18.

The first building, in Villa Florencia, was built in 1992 on property donated by the city’s mayor on two conditions, Frade said: OLR would be the legal name and listed on the legal documents, and the buildings would be designed in the style of San Pedro Sula. The home came first, and then came the infrastructure – water, sewer, electricity – and the neighborhood, she added.

Today, OLR covers 2.5 acres in Colonial Villa Florencia, five minutes from the central city, and includes Holy Family Bilingual School, serving the surrounding community; a residential home, where currently 56 girls, toddlers to teens, live together with their tias; and an off-site transition home for girls who have left the residential home and who are working and/or studying at a university. OLR Ministries also includes a medical clinic, a dental clinic staffed by Dr. Jensey Maldonado, who came to OLR with her sister when she was 9, and a recently completed mountain retreat and conference center, Our Lady of the Roses, in Santa Barbara, about an hour outside the city. ORL also has a Spanish-language school, offering instruction for students and housing on a weekly basis.

It was United Thank Offering, Episcopal Church Women and Daughters of the King who backed OLR from the beginning and it has been women, who recognize that “when you educate women you can change the future,” who have continued to support OLR, said Frade, who is married to the Rt. Rev. Leo Frade, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida.

“The women were so excited and got behind it,” she said. “This ministry is really quite unique, putting women and girls first; when you put women and girls first, you’re changing the generation to come.”

Click here to read the rest.

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