Let’s get serious, people!

I’m furious today! Furious…appalled…disappointed…there aren’t enough words to express my feelings.

Why?

I’m furious at people who are not taking COVID-19 seriously. This is not just like the flu we deal with every year. It’s more like the 1918 pandemic.

I’m furious at those who continue to congregate in large groups, ignoring requests and orders to avoid gatherings or shelter in place because they don’t think it will impact them.

I’m furious at religious leaders who see no reason to stop services because they believe that they are somehow protected because of their beliefs.

I’m furious at an administration that frittered away weeks when we could have begun taking actions to mitigate the spread of this virus…and who continues to minimize its seriousness.

I’m furious at those who are asking first responders to put their lives–and their family’s lives–on the line without appropriate and necessary protective equipment as they deal with individuals suffering from this virus.

I’m furious at those who consider the elderly and vulnerable as “collateral damage” in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Yes, I know the economy is important–but not at the expense of our humanity.

I don’t know what alternate universe some are living in. How in God’s name can you look at what’s been happening in other parts of the world and believe that we’re not as vulnerable? Those areas that have taken major (and difficult!) steps to try to stop this virus have been doing better; the areas that have waffled and delayed…that didn’t think it was any big thing for weeks have been hit hard.

It’s time…no, it’s past time…for us to get serious about this. This is the time to listen to those who have studied past pandemics and viruses…who can give advice based on science and facts.

For the sake of everyone, please listen to those who know what they’re talking about–and then follow them!

 

Where is the church? Who is the church?

Many of us are feeling unsettled these days.

Not just because of concerns about the virus–although those are very real concerns that we have no answers for.

But for many of us whose lives have been built around church activities, we’re facing new questions.

Activities are being cancelled. We can’t leave our homes to go to a church building for services on Sunday morning (and any other days of the week we might be used to).

We’re not sure when we’ll be able to get together face-to-face again…when we’ll be able to hold each other tight in hugs…when we’ll be able to mourn together…rejoice together.

And it raises questions for us: Where is the church? and who is the church?

If we don’t have a building and activities to engage in, how do we understand church?

Yes, it is unsettling. But it’s also a wonderful opportunity!

Maybe we’ll find out that church truly isn’t a building…it’s us. And church can happen anywhere…and any time.

Maybe we’ll discover gifts we never knew we had.

Maybe we’ll discover opportunities we were to busy to see before.

Maybe we’ll discover that all those differences between faith traditions that we thought were so important…really aren’t. Maybe we’ll find that we have more in common than we thought…after all, all the great faith traditions have some version of what Christians call the Golden Rule.

And maybe…just maybe…we’ll rediscover our humanity towards each other.

Image result for golden rule

Who are we…really?

Who are we…really?

Each of us wears a mask on a daily basis–a mask that presents the face we want the world to see. But what’s behind that mask?

There’s a medieval story about an ugly man whose ugliness turned everyone away from him. He wore a mask that changed his appearance for years–and when he finally took it off, he found that his face had reshaped into the beauty the mask had always shown.

There’s also a related interesting etymology for the word “hypocrite.” That comes from Greek drama, where players wore huge masks to portray the character they were playing–someone whose mask didn’t necessarily match who they were.

This pandemic is challenging us in many ways–but one of those challenges focuses on the consonance or dissonance between the masks we wear…and who we really are.

Do our words and actions match?

If we follow a religious tradition, how well do our relationships and actions match the words we say we believe?

Are we putting on a mask of blessing…of inner beauty…and allowing that mask to change us into that person?

Or are we simply wearing  a mask like the Greek actors did–a mask that doesn’t match who we are?

We cannot hide our true selves during this time. How we treat and interact with others will show who we are.

Really.

This is Sabbath time…

I woke up this morning–Sunday morning–and I don’t have any place to be. My place of worship is closed, and that’s where I normally spend my Sunday morning.

Where to go? What to do?

I could worry and stew.

Or I could accept it as a gift…a time to step back, to let go of all the “stuff” I think I have to do.

I can stop and think. What is my relationship with others? family…friends…those I just bump into at the store or on the street. What do my interactions with them demonstrate? that I am concerned and care for them? or just myself?

What is my relationship with the Divine (whatever name I use)? Do I see the Divine as some kind of a Santa Claus to give a wish list to once or twice a year–but basically ignore the rest of the time? If the Divine somewhere far away who doesn’t really care what’s going on in my life? Or is the Divine my foundation? my friend? the One who walks with me every day in every situation?

How do I use my time? Do I prioritize wisely? or just fritter away?

This virus is changing our lives. It’s creating challenges for all of us.

But it’s also providing an opportunity…an opportunity to take Sabbath time…to think…to rest…to refresh and renew.

To be nonviolent…

I just spent an intense weekend listening to John Dear talk about what it means to live nonviolently.

There’s a lot to think about!

If I am truly a follower of Jesus, then I am challenged to live a life of nonviolence. And that means living in such a way that there is no situation under which I would support the taking of life.

I found myself wanting to say “But…but…” However, is there really any “but”? Is there a way other than fight or flight to deal with a culture of violence? Jesus says there is.

Have we ever really tried his way? Really tried?

Not for 1700 years–since Constantine co-opted Christianity as a tool of the state. Before then, followers of Jesus were forbidden to serve in the military…and as they were abused and tortured–and sent into the Coliseum to be brutally killed–they did not respond with violence. Instead, they sang hymns of praise. Really?? Could I?

The Sermon on the Mount says “blessed are the peacemakers.”

Do we make peace by killing people to bring them peace? Or does violence just beget more violence?

I’ve watched a couple of movies since the weekend. Selma and A Man for All Seasons. Both deal with the question of how to react when faced with issues in a world of violence.

I don’t know if I could have the courage to respond in the ways expressed in these movies. I hope I would.

Living nonviolently in a culture that seems addicted to violence…difficult but we have to start doing it. Otherwise–as expressed during the weekend–the question is not “violence or nonviolence”…it’s “nonviolence or nonexistence.”

We are at a tipping point. Which way will we go?

 

The best teachers are agitators against the norm…

The best teachers are agitators–and I mean that in a positive sense. They challenge the status quo…what we think we know.

As our children begin to learn about the world they live in, teachers encourage them to explore…to ask “why”…to figure out how things work. Yes, there are some basics that just have to be learned, but children learn by experimenting…by questioning.

As they get older, the best teachers encourage them again to ask “why”…to question the status quo…to seek to understand how the world works…why people act (and react) in specific ways…

And as they get even older, again the teachers who agitate encourage them to think for themselves…to discover what they believe and why. They encourage them to challenge doing or understanding things the way they always have been…to discover new ways of seeing…new perspectives. They encourage them to experiment…to see how previously “impossible” things can be made possible…

If this didn’t happen, we would still be in a world in which space exploration was impossible. We would believe the world was flat. We would not have medicines that have made the world safer. We would not be able to see that there are many ways of understanding the Divine…or enjoy reading and watching movies.

We still have a long way to go. But I am grateful for those agitating teachers who have challenged me in the past. It’s because of them that I am more certain of my faith…that I can honor those who have studied the natural world to better understand how it works. It’s because of them that I can go to doctors when I am sick and be treated out of knowledge, not myth. It’s because of those agitating teachers who challenged the status quo that I can look back and see the progress we have made.

They’re not perfect–and neither are we. There are still many areas in which we have much to learn–and unlearn. I am aware that the history I learned is not a complete history–there are many untold stories that may very well change what I thought I knew. There are lessons to be learned from other cultures…other faith traditions.

But I am also grateful that my faith tradition has scripture that calls for us to “seek…out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning even by study, and also by faith”…that calls me to be willing to learn “things both in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth [all the sciences]; things which have been [history]; things which are [current events]; things which must shortly come to pass [future planning]; things which are at home [my country’s history and events]; things which are abroad [world history and events];…a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms…”

So I want to say thank you to those teachers who agitate against the status quo…who spend hours encouraging…grading…challenging…to reach beyond…to reach for the stars.

What you do speaks so loudly…

When my father felt there was a disconnect between my actions and my words, he would often say this: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

I’ve been thinking about that statement for a while now…and it has become even more pertinent over the last couple of years.

I hear lots of talk about family values…about care for the marginalized…about how immigrants have helped build our country…about how health care should be made available and affordable…

But the actions I see–or sometimes the lack of actions–speak so loudly that the words are meaningless.

Words without actions that match are–as Saint Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians–like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

There’s a blog I follow by John Pavlovitz, another minister. One of his recent columns raises similar concerns about the disconnect between words and actions. It’s worth reading and pondering…

Do our actions speak louder than our words? Or do they match?