Losing a friend…

I’m mourning the loss of a friend today.

Sam and Pat moved not too long ago. They had downsized and moved to a warmer climate, to the area where they had spent winters many years.

Sam died unexpectedly Tuesday night.

Sam and Pat were strong allies of the LGBTQ+ community. They worked hard to help congregations in my faith tradition learn what it means to be truly welcoming.

Every year a group of folks from the LGBTQ+ community and allies planted flower pots at my denomination headquarters as a gift. It was a way of sharing giftedness that began at a time when they weren’t sure there was a place in our faith tradition for them. Sam and Pat were involved in that for years–rain or shine!

I’m old enough that I’m not surprised to be losing friends–some my age, some older.

But it hurts when it is so unexpected.

And my heart hurts for Pat, who has lost her companion of 62 years so unexpectedly.

Thank you for all your support and work for equality, Sam…and blessings of peace for you, Pat.

“I am come to bring a sword…”

There’s a scripture in the gospel of Matthew (10:34-42) that used to bother me a lot. In the biblical language I grew up reading, it goes like this:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”

It’s part of the instructions he was giving to the Twelve before he sent them out on their missions.

It always felt like kind of a challenge. Not really an attack, but a challenge.

But as I’ve been reading it recently, I wonder if maybe it was said more in sadness. Was he acknowledging the truth that if people really tried to follow what he asked of them…if they (we) really tried living the life he called them (us) to…division would happen, even in one’s own household?

He calls us to live in counter-cultural ways. In a world where wealth is so often seen as a sign of God’s favor, he challenged the wealthy to use their wealth to help the poor. In a world where poverty / disability is seen as a sign that someone is “bad,” he identified them as being favored of God. In a world–so like ours–that put wealthy leaders on pedestals as being of more worth, he spent much of his time with the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the “less than.”

We’re seeing that being played out in our world today. There is a growing sense that things are wrong in our world–that it is obscene for a very few people to have huge amounts of wealth while others struggle to have the minimum to support life…that policies that have led to the systematic holding down of people of a particular race / ethnicity / gender / sexual orientation need to be challenged in order to bring healing…that in our desire to “get more and more,” we are destroying the very environment we live in.

And those who are challenging the status quo…who are calling for changes…often find that there is division in their own families. Families may no longer get together for celebrations. They may block each other on Facebook. Family members may even refuse to admit a relationship.

I can only think that Jesus weeps. And I think that when he made the statement that Matthew records, he must also have been sorrowful.

I don’t believe he wants there to be division. But until we truly understand the interconnectedness of our environment, our communities, our cultures–all that makes up this world we live in…until we are all willing to acknowledge the problems that have made some “more than” and others “less than” and work to bring healing…we will continue to find division in our families, our communities, and yes, even our churches.

Is my silence deafening?

Image result for no peace without justice for all

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I don’t like conflict. I don’t like saying things that are going to create controversy. I never have.

I have come to realize that my desire to avoid that controversy and conflict is a privilege I have–even though I have not been aware of that in the past.

But I have also come to realize that it is time for me to speak up. If I don’t, then I am complicit in the injustices that are so prevalent today.

I don’t want my silence to be deafening.

I don’t know that what I say or do will make a difference. But I have to do what I believe is right…to live with integrity.

America is not who we can be…who we should be.

We need to educate ourselves. We need to learn about the history we were not taught in schools–the many, many people of color who have contributed to our culture…whether by choice or not. We need to unlearn history we were taught–history that misrepresents attitudes and actions.

We need to talk with each other–to learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures. Those enrich us.

We need to teach our kids to be anti-racists. Not just tolerant…but actively anti-racist.

We need to march together when there are situations of injustice and racism.

Not all of us can do all of this. But we can each do something…and those small changes from each of us can cause a ripple effect.

I can’t be silent. I want peace in our country.

But we cannot have peace until we acknowledge that racism is a sin. And if I do not speak out against racist acts…racist words…then I am complicit. 

As a wife…a mother…a grandmother…a minister…I must condemn it both in words and deeds. I am being called to be a peace-maker. Just talking about “peace” is passive; “peace-making” is active.

Peace-making requires us…requires me…to no longer be silent.

I do not want my silence to be deafening.

When did “we” become “me”?

Once upon a time we cared for each other. We brought casseroles to those who had lost loved ones. We brought meals to those who were sick. We watched over each others’ children. We worried when things weren’t going well with neighbors.

Our sense of community wasn’t perfect, by any means. We excluded some from our community–whether because of race, religion, nationality…or any of the other ways we decided who “belonged.”

But even so, we recognized in some way that we were interconnected. There was a sense of “we.”

Now, though…

It’s about “my” rights…”my” freedom. If someone is different in some way, they definitely don’t belong in “my” community. If someone proposes to help house those who have need, it’s often “not in my backyard.” When we disagree–whether it’s politically or any other way–somehow we become enemies to each other.

It’s “me first”–and if there’s anything left, than I may allow you a bit of it.

What happened?

What if we started putting others first? What if…what if we really wanted peace on earth? and let it begin with “me”?

Who are we?

Feeding Hummingbirds | All About Birds All About BirdsDuncraft.com: Original Absolute Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

I have two bird feeders in my backyard. One of them is a bird feeder on a pole, surrounded by butterfly flowers, sunflowers, and bittersweet. The other is a hummingbird feeder. 

On the standard feeder, the birds surround it. Some sit on top of the feeder, others on some of the flowers around it, while two or three birds at a time are getting their food. No one dominates the time on the feeder. They take turns and share.

However, the hummingbird feeder is different! There are four places for the birds to get the nectar. Quite often there are two or three hummingbirds that want to eat. But rather than recognizing there is room for all, each one seems determined to hug the feeder for themselves. If one is feeding and another comes up, there is a flurry of wings and quick flights back and forth until one gives up and allows the other to dominate. They spend so much energy driving each other off!

As I sit on my deck watching them, I am reminded of us humans.

Sometimes we act like the birds at my standard feeder, willing to take turns willing to share. Other times, unfortunately too many times, we act like the hummingbirds–perhaps afraid that if we let someone else have some, there won’t be enough for “me.”

While I enjoy watching hummingbirds and get amused at their arguments with each other, that’s not really how I want to live. I would rather be like the birds at the other feeder. Even if they don’t know how long the food will last, they have faith if there will be enough for all of them.

As we struggle to deal with the challenges of this pandemic, I wonder who we will be? Will we be so afraid that we cling tightly to what we have, and be unwilling to share with others who are in need? Or will we have faith that there is enough–and will be enough–and so are willing to take our turns, to share, to work together?

I know which I hope we become!