Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear God: A troublemaker?

It was the day when Jesus healed the man by the pool: "stand up, pick up your mat, and walk." And, John concludes the section with: "It was the sabbath."

Healing on the sabbath. As good of a day as any. Oh, and a clear violation of the practice and teaching of the ruling priests and the law, as they knew it. They would use this against him, too.

Such a trouble-maker.

Dear God, help us to be more like Jesus in this way. Especially in this way...

We'd be in good company.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It is no longer about G-6.0106b...

Letter to the Editor of the Layman
Responding to: Stockton Presbytery Joins John Knox Complaint
[Re: Ordination of Scott Anderson]

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Not too long ago, the receptionist at our church called me late at night. There was someone in our foyer in hospital garb, slippers, and a catheter hanging from his arm. We came to find out that he had been in a local hospital for detoxification from alcohol and somewhere in the process simply disconnected himself from the IV and walked out, leaving everything behind. It was a cold night and he came directly to the church. He was pretty disoriented, but we got him some clothes from our clothing distribution room, food from our pantry, contacted the hospital, and got him help in removing the catheter from his arm. We kept him company, making little sense of his ramblings, but after a while, we convinced him to go to a local shelter and get some rest.

He is one of the hundreds we serve each month in our worship as outreach.

A few days later, I saw the gentleman at our weekly dinner program, where we serve almost 100 people a week who have either no food, no company, or no other place to go. I asked him how he was doing, and in conversation asked him what made him come to us when he left the hospital. Without missing a beat, his answer was: "It was where I knew I could find God." For him, on that night, God was a welcome, food, clothing, and help in finding a place to rest. His faith did, indeed, set him free.

It didn't matter that as the pastor of the church I am gay. In fact, being gay in the PC(USA) no longer matters any more than being straight does. People will argue about that, but we, as a church, have already deleted G-6.0106b. It's gone in our hearts and in practice. True, some still find comfort in the same kind of teachings that once held women and people of color to be second-class in God's eyes. However, the reality is that we already work together and serve God as a community of great diversity that includes gender identity fully.

I honestly do wish to continue to dialogue with those who disagree, because I believe they are being faithful in their own ways and we need to pray and talk together. However, those who are unable or unwilling to accept the truth that this artificial division between us is no longer valid cannot be allowed to prevent others who believe differently from full inclusion in this church. The lives of faithful people cannot be divided along gender identity any more than they can along the lines of the sexes or color.

In a short time, we will all gather in Minneapolis for our General Assembly. We will worship together, work together, share meals, cabs, and conversations. We will pray and seek God's will. And, the "we" will include many of us who identify themselves as gay, whether spoken aloud or not. We will agree and disagree. Sooner or later, it will be apparent that, in fact, G-6.0106b has been deleted in the way God has moved this church and its people. Sooner or later, the constitution will catch up. In the meantime, none of us can be held hostage by what we know in our hearts to be wrong.

Like the gentleman who found us on that cold night, there are too many people "seeking God" for us to deny any qualified candidate from ordination based on G-6.0106b.

Scott Anderson is clearly qualified to be ordained. To hold G-6.0106b against him or anyone else is to hold this church hostage to an aberration in our constitution. We no longer allow the few who still hold onto prejudices against women and people of color to hold us hostage to their beliefs, nor should we allow those who have yet to embrace the gay community to marginalize or exclude us.

It is no longer about G-6.0106b.

Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
Serving Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House
New York, NY

Dear God: Namasthe

I hope today is a little different. I hope I am a little different. I pray that I slow down from the start. That's one of the reasons I write.

I ask that no one be invisible to me; that I don't move so fast; that I don't miss the presence of others; and the ways in which I might be able to help or just smile.

It never ceases to amaze me at the power and impact of a smile.

A little patience, more patience I should say, would also be appreciated.

Let nothing today have to be done so quickly that I miss remembering that you, in all the ways we know you, are in each of us. Let our spirits greet one another, and let us in return smile.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear God: About Arizona...

To pray this morning and think that there are others who will be targets of legal and social marginalization because of how they look - must really cause you to wince.

I wonder if you wonder how long it will take for peoples and nations alike to see one another as the great creation of your Love: equal and part of the great fabric you have woven.

I wonder, too, how you consider the performance of your places of worship in speaking out against this and other forms of marginalization and oppression that serve no purpose except to satisfy the perverse satisfaction of fear-based control.

My prayers are with the people of Arizona, this morning, all of them - and for all of us, who need to put the pressure on - always - to eliminate such blatant forms of discrimination.

How could you have us do otherwise...

Appreciate your help in guiding us...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Life presevers and flare...

Delivered at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 2, 2010
(c)2010 Ray Bagnuolo

How would you Email God?

Recently even Dell has gotten an Email address. So I figured for sure, if Dell had one – God had one, too.

What would God’s Email address be?

Maybe more interesting would be the conversation…

and The Reply!

Annie Dillard [on the front cover of the bulletin] suggests that there might be reason to run for the hills:

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return." (Teaching a Stone to Talk)

The author of today’s Unison Prayer, Aaron Zeitlin, suggest that it doesn’t matter whether you praise or curse God in your Emails or sing out God’s graces or revile God. Either way, God will know you love God. Based on what Zeitlin says, what you most need to be concerned with is:

…if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God,
If you sit entrenched in, “I don’t give a hang,” says God,
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and don’t cry out,
If you don’t praise and don’t revile,
Then I created you in vain, says God.

Well, Annie and Aaron are not God’s spokesperson’s but they do make us think. What is the relationship we are to have with God, what does it mean, what does it call us to do, and what of being here in worship?

Michael Lindvall, who is the Senior Pastor at The Brick Presbyterian Church, says the following about worship in his book, The Geography of God:

Worship that does not make you anxious once and again
Worship that fails to stretch your mind and spirit to the edge of discomfort
Is something other than worship.

A little later on, Michael says,

“If you and I enter worship facing anywhere but toward God, the experience may please us, it may inform us, it may comfort us, but it will hardly transform us.”

Transformation, emerging…a NEW JERUSALEM.

There are so many books written about the transforming and emerging churches in the modern, post-modern, information age…

It’s almost like we are trying to get somewhere. If we just get the right formula: Done! Finito! Time to sit back.

Truth is we are not going to be emerged or transformed until we are stunned to one degree or another. Stunned into a moment of clarity and a psychic and spiritual change that is often referred to as the Aha! Moment. However, even that pales in describing what John of Patmos gives us in his visions.

Think of Picasso, Chagal, deKooning Van Gogh…think of Picasso’s Guernica, of Chagall’s American Windows, de Kooning’s Spoletto, or Van Gogh’s The Starry Night…

Visions of art, music, sound, cosmos, eschatological forbodance – all wrapped up in one series of dreams…

All emerging through the discomfort and unease of a Babylon and beast to the NEW JERUSALEM – now on Earth.

“The focus is now on Earth, since this heavenly city has descended to Earth. It is no longer necessary to raise one’s eyes to the sky to see God. Yes, to see a manifestation of God as in all creation, but God is now on Earth.

Where? Look around. This should make us a little uneasy…

And the emergence of God the touch of God is not in the temple – note: no temple has descended. Jesus is the temple. No building required.

Hold on, because the ride has changed. The rise and risk of transformation is happening…just as it has been from the day that out of his grace, not sacrifice, but out of his grace and fulfillment Jesus didn’t give up his life – he gave it away.

What are we giving away in this NEW JERUSALEM? Please keep your donations coming for our mission, because we need depend on it…but for a moment put the money aside. What are you giving away of you as worship in this place and presence of God?

Last night, I worked the desk. As I sat there, getting ready for today and directing folk to wherever they needed to go, a woman came in who could not get down the few steps into the foyer but not up the steps to the meeting she wished to go.

Another woman who was on her way to the meeting stopped to help her. Sat down, took out her meeting book, helped her find a more accessible meeting, asked her again if she would like to get some help to make it up the steps, and when the woman declined…the person helping her walked her outside, keeping her company as she went off to another meeting.

The person who helped the other gave away: her plans, her movement, her momentum, her thoughts of the moment to help another who needed some help. I cannot be convinced of that as being anything other than worship.

Recently, I was reading about Solomon’s Temple and his decline. The author spoke of how later in life, Solomon continued to acknowledge God as beyond human comprehension, but for Solomon and those who followed him, God because too identified with a place, made of human hands, a dynasty, and ultimately a city of oppression and injustice.”

Revelation. God is. God cannot be kept. Look around. Find worship, be worship.

John’s Gospel this morning goes further. Find the seek the relationship that Jesus had with God and enter into it as a disciple. Forget about perfection. Jesus acknowledged that betrayal was no reason for expulsion. Judas was not the only one who betrayed Jesus. While most dramatic, perhaps, so did Peter and so did all those who were not at the cross. And, still, the relationship between Jesus and God understood.

Sing out My graces, says God.
Raise your fist against Me and revile, says God,
Sing out graces or revile,
Reviling is also a kind of praise, says God.

Love one another as I have loved you…

Praise Me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Curse Me, says God, and I will know that you love me.
Praise Me or Curse Me.
And I will know that you love me.

Love one another as I have loved you…

Email that to others…and hold on for the ride!