GA 220: Intertwining our lives

Posted June 27, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Presbyterian

Tags: , , ,

But those who wait For Yhwh
find a renewed power:

they soar on eagles’ wings,
they run and don’t get weary,
they walk and never tire.

Isaiah 40:31
The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
Priests for Equality


“Wait” in Isaiah 40:31 is the transliteration from the Hebrew qavah, which can mean to twist, to bind, to braid like a rope. This verse reveals the active nature of intertwining one’s life with the life of God. When this intertwining is being done, that person is made strong. Those who “wait” upon God—intertwine their lives with God’s—are made strong.

To “wait” for God can also be seen as the cultivating of an attitude of hope and patient expectation—the very definition of faith. Hebrew words often have multiple meanings. The verb qavah can also be a waiting for God to act, to bring vindication or to rescue the people from oppression; here, however, it is more a kind of quiet inaction: by waiting for God’s empower­ment instead of relying on one’s own resources, one receives an inexhaustible supply of strength.

How often do we in the church hear the words “I’m tired” or “we’re tired”? I remember at the last General Assembly in Minneapolis when the Committee on Marriage and Civil Unions report came to the plenary: almost immediately, a commissioner came to a microphone and proclaimed, “Friends, I’m tired: we’re tired,” followed by a motion to table everything that came out of that committee’s hard work throughout the week.

I wonder:
How often do the words “I’m tired: we’re tired” really mean
“I’m afraid: we’re afraid”?

What must it have felt like to have served on that committee to then have their work disregarded like that?

The Assembly then adjourned with prayer and the singing of John Bell’s hymn, “The Summons”:

  1. Will you come and follow me
    If I but call your name?
    Will you go where you don’t know
    And never be the same?
    Will you let my love be shown,
    Will you let my name be known,
    Will you let my life be grown
    In you and you in me?
  2. Will you leave yourself behind
    If I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind
    And never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare
    Should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer pray’r
    In you and you in me?
  3. Will you let the blinded see
    If I but call your name?
    Will you set the pris’ners free
    And never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean,
    And do such as this unseen,
    And admit to what I mean
    In you and you in me?
  4. Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
    If I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside
    And never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you’ve found
    To reshape the world around,
    Through my sight and touch and sound
    In you and you in me?
  5. Lord, your summons echoes true
    When you but call my name.
    Let me turn and follow you
    And never be the same.
    In your company I’ll go
    Where your love and footsteps show.

I wonder how many of the commissioners thought of those impacted by their refusal to deal with the issues before them—LGBT people and our relationships—as they sang the words, “will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?” Not many, I think.

That was pretty much it, and we all went home. On the way out the door I talked with a heartbroken minister who lives and serves in a state where same gender marriage is legal; she expressed her deep disappointment in what had taken place, saying “We need guidance from the denomination; we feel like we’re out here on our own.”

And so we wait. We wait for the start of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Some are commissioners, some are advocates for overtures or AIs, some are behind-the-scenes workers or committee staff, some are observers. (I’ll be there as an observer and part of That All May Freely Serve.) As we wait, let’s all take some time to reflect on our lives being interwoven—braided together as one with God and with one another.

Synchroblog: The Resurrection Hoax

Posted April 10, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Synchroblog

Tags: , , ,

Here’s the invitation:

For the April Synchroblog, we want to explore this question in more detail. We want to ask, “What if the resurrection is a lie?”

The invitation to write continues, “We believe Jesus rose from the dead. But what if it was all a hoax? How would the world and our lives be different?”

I’ve heard people say that if they had cancer or were faced with some other dramatically life-altering experience, then they would respond in certain ways. Here’s the thing: no one can know unless they’ve actually stood face-to-face with those things. We can guess, and we can hope — but we can’t know for certain.

In the same way, it’s impossible for me to respond to some questions. What if I hadn’t been born with blue eyes? What if I’d grown up rich, or on the East Coast, or what if I were deaf? I can vaguely speculate, but I certainly can’t definitively say, “Here’s what I’d be like, and here’s why,” because those aren’t part of my existential reality.

What is part of my reality is that I grew up Christian, going to church every week. I grew up in a time when that’s pretty much what people did. There wasn’t the proclamation that “America is a Christian nation” in the same way as we often hear it now — because there was no need to state what was pretty much obvious. I left the church because of life circumstances I’ve talked about elsewhere, but I never lost my faith. I returned to the church twenty years later, again because of life circumstances, and was deeply involved for another twenty years. Right now I’m in limbo. Or on a sabbatical. Take your pick. But I haven’t lost my faith. As a matter of fact, separation from the institutional church and the resultant self-examination only makes my faith deeper.

But… here’s the thing: I don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I also don’t believe that God created the world in seven days, or that the earth is flat or many of the other things that the bible says.

However, I do believe in the resurrection of the Christ. To me it’s not a hoax at all. I believe that the Christ transcended death and went to rejoin the Almighty One after being with us here on earth. I believe that the Christ appeared to the women, to the twelve, to those on the road to Emmaus. I believe that the Christ sent the Paraclete — the Advocate — the Comforter — to be with us. I believe that Jesus was and is the Christ, one of the three “persons” of the Trinity.

The introduction to a forgotten novel I read a long time ago said something like, “Everything you read here is true, whether it happened or not.” We tell stories in ways that help us to understand what we think and, more importantly, how we feel. In my life that is the part that matters, and how I can describe how I relate to the resurrection story. Maybe I’m wrong, and I know that many would describe what I say as heresy. Maybe Jesus the human being was lifted up in bodily form. God is infinite, and does many things that I cannot comprehend. I know that. But, again — to me that doesn’t matter. What matters are the consequences of the resurrection. Christ was born; Christ is risen; Christ will come again… and again.

It’s different than what I’m saying, but related… Far better than I ever could, John Dominic Crossan answered our question in this way:

The Communal Resurrection of Jesus

In the great Rotunda of the ancient Church of the Resurrection — or Church of the Holy Sepulchre — in Jerusalem is a tiny free-standing shrine known as the Aedicule or Chapel of the Tomb and Resurrection of Jesus. It is a tiny space and pilgrims are usually lined up waiting their turn to enter a few at a time.

A processional banner was hanging to our right as we entered that shrine-chapel in May, 2008. It is kept there, presumably, to be used in liturgical celebration on Easter Sunday. It is bright red with golden lettering down either side. To left is the word “Christ” and to right “Is Risen” — both in Greek upper-case letters. No surprise there since that is Easter’s celebratory greeting in Eastern Christianity. But in between those words, in the center of the banner, is a diamond-shaped image. And it surprises us.

That image does not show Jesus arising in splendid triumph from an opened tomb. This is not — even in miniature — a Titian or a Rubens with Jesus emerging in muscular majesty. But emerging, however majestically, in magnificent and lonely isolation. Instead, four other individuals are with him in this parabolic vision.

Jesus himself is at the left of the icon. He holds a small cross in his left hand and stands on the bi-fold gates of Sheol, Hades, or Hell which are shattered into a cross-shaped structure beneath his feet. Jesus is bending forward — gently, tenderly, graciously — and, stretching out his right hand, he grasps and pulls on the rather limp wrist of Adam. Beside Adam stands Eve. Behind the two of them stand a youthful Abel, with shepherd’s staff, and an older John the Baptist, with beard and long hair. They are the first martyr of the Christianity’s Old Testament and the first martyr of its New Testament.

At the top of that diamond-shaped image, lest there be any mistake about meaning, is the word Anastasis, Greek for “resurrection”. But is not Easter about the absolutely unique resurrection of Jesus alone, so why are any others involved and, if others, why precisely these others? The answer reveals a major difference between Easter Sunday as imagined and celebrated in Eastern Christianity as opposed to Western Christianity. It also reveals for me the latter’s greatest theological loss from that fatal split in the middle of the eleventh century.

When you look at Eastern Christianity’s images, either for the great feasts of the liturgical year or for traditional events in Jesus’ life, they are all — save one — quite recognizable to Western as to Eastern eyes. The great exception is how Eastern Christianity portrays the “Resurrection,” that is, in Greek, the “Anastasis,” of Jesus. Across vast stretches of time, place, art, and tradition, icons and illustrations, frescoes and mosaics show always a communal and not an individual resurrection for Jesus. We can watch that magnificent tradition develop across half a millennium — from 700 to 1200 — before its varied elements and successive stages are fully established.

First, the various elements of the tradition. Jesus is shown breaking down the closed and bolted gates of the Underworld — as Sheol, Hades, or Hell — the abode of the Dead, the prison of “those who have slept” — that is the same Greek term used for them in both Matthew 27:52 and 1 Corinthians 15:20. The personified Hades, Prison-warden and Gate-keeper of the Dead, is shoved to one side or even walked on as Jesus barges in to liberate his prisoners. Jesus is usually carrying a cross, his wounds are often very evident.

Only six individuals are identified from the crowd responding to Jesus’s arrival among the dead — they appear chronologically across the tradition’s development in this sequence. First, bearded Adam and youthful Eve appeared. In almost every single image, Jesus grasps the wrist of Adam to pull him alive from his tomb. Later, David, with crown and a beard, along with his son Solomon, with crown but without a beard, were added. Finally, as seen above, those twin martyrs, the Shepherd and the Baptist, joined the others. So, in summary, two ancestors, two monarchs, and two martyrs are singled out from the crowd. Still, if Adam and Eve are freed, who is not?

Next, the successive stages of the tradition. In the first stage Jesus is always approaching — as we just saw above — and grasping Adam’s wrist. A next stage shows him leaving — often looking backward or forward as he drags Adam by the wrist with the others looking on. A third or facing stage is similar to that last one except that now Jesus looks not backward or forward but straight out of the image — at you, the beholder.

Finally, there is the last or doubling stage and I must admit that it is my favorite. Jesus has put down the cross — sometimes an angel holds it for him — and Adam and Eve are now on opposite sides of Jesus instead of, as earlier, both on the same side. Each gets a hand at this stage. We finally have an equal-opportunity resurrection of the dead.

In the western Christian tradition we call that tradition the Harrowing — or Robbing — of Hell and keep it carefully distinguished from the individual Resurrection of Jesus. “He descended into Hell,” says the Apostles’ Creed, “on the third day he arose from the dead.” But in the eastern Christian tradition it is the communal Resurrection of Jesus. We, to our loss and my grief, have forgotten that corporate vision of Easter.

Eastern Christianity’s tradition of the resurrection of Jesus reminds our Western Christian imagination that only poetry — be it verbal or visual — speaks to our profoundest hopes, deepest dreams, and greatest insights. It also reminds us that theology is — no more and no less — the poetry of transcendence.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/the-communal-resurrection-jesus_b_847507.html

I’ll post a list as others post on this synchroblog topic.

Here is the list of the other posts on this topic:

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Abbie Watters – What if the Resurrection were a lie?
Carol Kuniholm – Risen Indeed? The Hermeneutic Community
Christine Sine – If the Resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
Ellen Haroutunian – Is There a Christianity Without the Resurrection?
Glenn – Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
Jeannette Altes – What if…
Jeremy Myers – What if Jesus Did not Rise?
Josh Morgan – The Role of the Resurrection
Kathy Escobar – Jenga Faith
KW Leslie – Supposing Jesus is Dead
Leah – Resurrection – Or Not!
Liz Dyer – The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
Marta – On Faith Seeking Understanding, Truth, and Theology
Minnow – Resurrection Impact
Sonja Andrews – The Resurrection and the Life
Tim Nichols – How Would Life be Different if Jesus did not Rise?
Travis Mamone – If the Resurrection was a Hoax

World Water Day: some random thoughts

Posted March 22, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

Tags:

Today is World Water Day. Water is not ubiquitous for everyone — issues with water present a crisis to 300,000,000 people in emergency situations every year.

Three hundred million people is a little over 4% of the people in the world. Just for reference, it’s also the approximate population of the United States; imagine if everyone in the United States didn’t have access to clean water… Most of us do, but some people don’t. For example, think about homeless people living on the streets or in their cars. For them, water isn’t a matter of walking in to the next room and turning on the tap.

I lived in Sonoma County years ago during a severe drought. I lived out in the country, and we got our water from a well. It didn’t take too long for the well to go dry. As a result of this, we had to have water trucked in every week for our basic needs. This wasn’t considered safe for drinking, so we also got bottled water delivery. I was in college then. The campus was only a few miles away and, ironically, had a large aquifer running underground. We went to the gym there to shower. In Marin County just to the south of us–one of the most affluent locales in the country–water rationing was in effect, limiting residents to 50 gallons per person per day (we averaged 22 gallons per person per day).

This went on for a couple of years. And then it started raining again. As a matter of fact, we went from drought to flooding. At first, people continued to use much less water than they had prior to the drought–but then our old water-use habits began to sneak back in. Even so, I never thought about water in quite the same way.

5 [Jesus] stopped at Sychar, a town in Samaria, near the tract of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph, 6 and Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus, weary from the journey, came and sat by the well. It was around noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 The disciples had gone off to the town to buy provisions.

  • John 4:5-8, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation

This bible passage continues to tell of an infamous woman caught in a web of sexual sin and lies. But these verses are also important in both what they say and what they don’t say. Jesus is frequently searching for some alone time in scripture. Here he is, catching a few of those moments, sitting under the relative coolness under a shade tree to take refuge from the blistering noontime heat and sun. He’s in Samaria, but at a site that has historic significance. Walking through the desert has made him thirsty, and when a woman shows up to draw water from the well he asks (or demands, depending on which translation) that she give him a drink.

“Every day, all around the world, women are connecting with water. Indeed, water is at the core of women’s responsibilities in many societies, and millions of women and girls spend their days collecting and preparing water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and maintaining sanitation.” -The Nature Conservancy

The activity of water collecting and hauling is and always has been an important part of “women’s work” in much of the world. Not only is it critical in providing for their families, but it is also vital (e.g. vitas, “life giving”) for the women themselves–providing them an opportunity to be with other women for a brief time. This Samaritan woman had been shunned, not allowed to go get water when the other women were there in the cool of the morning; she had to go later, alone, during the heat of the day.

In the orthodox church, this woman later becomes St. Photina (Greek) / St. Svetlana (Russian), names that mean “light” and “pure.”

Interestingly enough, ultraviolet light is being used to make water pure, a technology that may well provide drinking water to many people around the globe. Maybe this invention should be called the Photina.

Water Questions & Answers from the USGS

The women: named and unnamed

Posted March 20, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Synchroblog

The inspiration for my post began with Carol Howard Merritt’s recent post “Love and Lent: How my faith was formed in the midst of betrayal.” I highly recommend that everyone read that–whether you continue with my post or not. Go ahead: I’ll wait…

  • My mother paces the kitchen a few more times. Instead of grabbing the phone again, she picks up a big basin and places our plushest guest towels inside of it. Then she yells out to the quiet house, “Car-ol! Let’s go!”
  • My mother takes the basin, walks into her friend’s kitchen, and fills it with warm water. She carries it to Margaret’s feet, taking off Margaret’s shoes, she cradles her soles as if they are the most precious things in the world. Without a word, mom puts them in the water and washes them.
  • Margaret begins to cry and it doesn’t take long before the tears smear all of our faces. Mom takes Margaret’s feet out and dries them on the soft towels. Throughout the entire ritual, we don’t talk, but we know what’s being said. I even understand the depth of it, at my young age. Margaret is about to face some of the worst public betrayal, as people began to pick apart the indiscretions of her husband.
  • Mom wanted Margaret to know one thing in the midst of it. Margaret would be cherished, even to the end of her toes.

Luke 10

38 As they traveled, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words.

John 11

32 When Mary got to Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.”

John 12

Mary brought a pound of costly ointment, pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. The house was full of the scent of the ointment.

John 13

Jesus—knowing that God had put all things into his own hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God—rose from the table, took off his clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and dry them with the towel that was around his waist.

So here we are, four weeks into the season of Lent. Lent: the time in the church year when we are called on to walk with Jesus on his road from Galilee to Jerusalem–to see him experience the time of trial, his humiliation, his execution. Even while trying to walk that walk, we know that in the end Jesus will triumph over death in the Resurrection.

But today, thanks in part to Carol’s remarkable story, I find myself thinking not of walking, but of being at the feet.

My beloved spouse Melinda has bad feet. In her job, she calls on customers in manufacturing plants; typically these are cold, concrete-floored facilities. When her day is over, there is nothing she loves more than to have her feet rubbed. Several times a week, I try to save up enough energy from my own day so that I can slather her feet with cream or lotion (“ointment”) and rub them until she can relax and go to sleep more comfortable, so that she can sleep without getting foot cramps during the night. These are intimate moments, most often silent ones, where the only thing that matters to me is trying to make her feel better.

At the end, Jesus washed the feet of his most intimate followers–despite the protestations of Peter–in a demonstration of one of the most important messages of the bible, that of hospitality. This is not only intimate, but it is a way of elevating something unclean to an elegant sign of God’s love. Jesus’ feet were washed by Mary; he, in turn, washed the feet of his friends.

But what happened to Jesus’ male friends after his death? We know that at the very least Mary of Magdala (and maybe other women) went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Dead bodies were also considered to be unclean, so the preparation for burial was a task performed only by women. Peter and the other disciple came to the tomb after Mary to see that the tomb was indeed empty, but then they left. Mary, who had gone to Jesus to perform an intimate-yet-unclean duty, was the one who then had an intimate post-death, pre-Resurrection encounter with Jesus.

While there are certainly many acts in the bible and now of men who act in faith, today I am inspired by the stories of the Marys as well as the story of Carol’s mother and many other women–women who go about their daily duties–performing their intimate, unclean acts–and I am grateful for their examples.

Bible verses from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality.

This post is part of this month’s synchroblog “All about Eve.” Here’s a list of all the posts:

 


Janie Spahr GAPJC Appeal Notes

Posted February 17, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Marriage Equality, Presbyterian

Tags: , ,

Since there is no transmission allowed from today’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission session I’m taking notes. These would otherwise be livetweet and Facebook updates, so I’ll just post — without any editing. :-)

[Of course I have plenty of opinion (and snark) but I'll share those separately.]

Rules, parties and charges have been explained beginning promptly at 1:30. Up to two hours has been allowed. GAPJC = General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (denominational “supreme court”)  Members are introducing themselves. Each synod (regional governing body) has one commissioner; there are 17 synods. One is absent, and no one has recused him- or herself.

Janie’s first co-counsel Sara Taylor* is up first. She’s talking about this case compared to the earlier one against Janie: the previous case involved holy unions, this time it includes legal civil marriages.

Reference to John Calvin Marriage Covenant of 1542, laying out the modern definition of marriage as background.

Sara served as counsel for the Rev. Jean Southard when she had similar charges filed against her.

In describing the marriages, Sara is introducing the couples who are here — and they are standing — and are telling the commission what marriage means to each of them.

Sara is now reminding the commission that the denomination has led the way in so many historical issues. So far this has not been the case with marriage. She is talking about the freedom of Teaching Elders to perform the duties of their roles as they are led by the Spirit.

We cannot legislate into being a standard based on a precident with completely different circumstances.

Co-counsel Scott Clark steps to the podium to continue. Describing the California Supreme Court decision in 2008 throwing out the prohibition of same sex couples to marry.

Couples wanting to marry legally turned to Janie as their pastor to officiate at their weddings. It was far more than the ceremony, but incorporating the pastor into this critical life transition time. Scott continues, outlining the mixed and “anguished decision” by Redwoods Presbytery in their verdict – that Janie did the right thing, but that it was narrowly against the Book of Order (church constitution). He describes the inconsistencies in the BoO.

Now Scott is talking about the movement in the civil realm, with seven states now having legal marriage and more to come, and how pastors are being prohibited from performing their pastoral duties to same sex couples.

Next up is JoAn Blackstone, counsel for the anonymous party who brought the charges against Janie. [Note: in listening to her in the past trials, I find her hard to follow.]

Blackstone holds that the version of the BoO that was in effect at the time of the “infraction” is what should be used in the commission’s discernment.

She next outlines an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) issued in which ministers are prohibited from participating in ceremonies purporting that holy unions, etc are substantively the same as marriages.

She continues to say that the prior Spahr decision can and should be used as a precident. She says that nothing has been changed by two General Assemblies since the 2008 Spahr decision, so it should hold.

We are bound by AIs until they are otherwise rescinded. We agree in our polity to go through the process of changing AIs. There is no restrictions on membership of LGBT people. However, this does not mean that everyone has access to everything in the church.

These were clearly ecclesiastical marriages in Rev. Spahr’s mind, but they were prohibited under the rules of our denomination. She is not free to perform the duties of a Teaching Elder as she perceives it and her conscience; she must follow the rules.

Scott Clark had only 15 seconds for rebuttal. :-)

Time for Q&A.

Commissioner asks about marriage under California law and clergy standing. No disagreement that these are “absolutely legal” marriages.

Another commissioner asks about if Janie had participated in the services but not signed the certificates, would that be allowed. Blackstone says it depends on the kind of participation. Clark says it’s problematic: ecclesiastical marriage including pre-marital counseling, use of church property, etc, has been interpreted to be “the same as” but there is no clear-cut written standard. He refers to Janie’s requirement of a full year of premarital counseling as a faithful act. Taylor reminds the commission about the definition of Authoritative Interpretations in the Book of Order. Discussion of AIs, the constitution, and the fluidity of civil law.

Another commissioner asks Blackstone if there is any circumstance under which a PCUSA pastor could officiate at a marriage of a same sex couples. Not under the current definition. [Expansion that I lost. Sorry.]

Commissioner asks about marriages and man-and-woman language. Scott Clark refers them back to Blackstone’s argument. He continues that this section of the constitution is a beautiful theological narrative, not a legal, regulatory standard. The language was written before the current circumstances. Historically changes begin with church court decisions, and subsequently conversations and decisions take place at the General Assembly itself.

Question if the GAPJC can make a decision one way, why can’t they then decide another way? Blackstone says it’s possible but inconsistent.

Constitution vests discretion with the pastor, says Taylor.

Was there such a prohibition prior to the 2008 Spahr decision? Blackstone: no express prohibition.

Hearing is concluded with prayer by the moderator at 3:05pm.

The commission must deliberate on this and the other two cases they heard and render a decision. It gets mailed out, which means it will go out on Tuesday (Monday being Presidents Day). We will likely know on Wednesday.

Your faithful servant,
Sonnie

__________
* Sara and her wife Sherry are one of the couples who were married by the Rev. Janie Spahr.

Life… and death

Posted January 31, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll, Death, Life

Tags: ,

I’ve lost two friends recently, people who were significantly older, people who I count as dear friends–but as spiritual mentors and guides and role models as well. Neither of their deaths was a surprise… but I’ve been hit more deeply than I could have anticipated. My life was enriched by each of these people, Bill and Margaret; their deaths have left that hollow empty place in my soul.

My friend Donna posted on Facebook today about the death of one of her students–the first of her students to die. Donna wrote:

The first of my former students passed away yesterday: Kirby Capen ’07. She successfully petitioned the Engineering Program to allow her to take ASL as her foreign language. Between graduating and taking an engineering job in the field of energy efficiency, she won a grant from Projects for Peace to teach beading to teenage girls in Ghana, working to create relationships of understanding across deaf and hearing communities and across religious backgrounds. May her memory be for a blessing.

Some people life a far longer lifespan and accomplish far less than this. Indeed, Kirby’s memory, even though I never met her, blessed me today.

And so I looked at the link that Donna posted, to KirbyStrong, a blog-diary on the life-and-death struggle written by the family…

One post in particular struck me. It’s called “Kodesh.”

Kodesh

24 Jan 2012
By Robert

When my mother died in 1994, we sat Shiva for 6 days. At some point Owen, 5 years old, said to Joel’s mother on the phone, “Nanny died and we have been having a party ever since.”

This past weekend we were overwhelmed, in the best sort of way, by a flood of Kirby’s friends from all her walks of life. Burgundy Farm Country Day School first through third grade; CHDS, fourth through eighth grade; School Without Walls (SWW), high school; Smith, Engineering, Morrow House, Hillel, signing table; PowerCon; New York City; Capitol Hill; Temple Micah; and blood relatives. (With overlaps: Smith/NYC, CHDS/Capitol Hill, Temple Micah/Capitol Hill etc. etc.

Our neighbors opened their houses and hosted Kirby’s visitors, we filled beds on A Street and 9th Street. P, B and J played guitars and harp all day Saturday, filling the house with music. We ate, we drank, we washed dishes and cleaned up then started all over again. People came to Kirby’s bedside as individuals and in groups, singing to her, reading poetry to her, telling stories, reminiscing, showing her pictures, praying for her, crying, and sometimes just holding her hand as she appeared to sleep. We shared Shabbat dinner and Havdalah (end of Sabbath) services together, surrounding Kirby and embracing each other as we recited the prayers and performed the rituals.

As the Rabbi was leaving I shared my observation and concern that it was like an awake wake. Was this the right thing to be doing? He replied:

“The two words are
“Kodesh and chol
“This is the Havdalah prayer—we separate kodesh (holy) from chol (ordinary).
“The Hebrew word chol, besides meaning ordinary\secular\profane—also means sand. Sand is what flows right through your fingers. No grain of sand sticks to any other. This is chol—a totally unconnected world.
“Kodesh is the opposite—Kodesh is cleaving together—adhering—community. This is why the Hebrew word for marriage is Kiddushin—the married couple is bound together in the most unique way. Kodesh\holiness is in community.”

Kirby recently described herself as a networker, a connector, someone who brings others together. She has brought us all together in a community of holiness.

Life and death, the ordinary and the holy, separateness and sticking together, the bitter and the sweet. It’s all intertwined–sometimes messily, sometimes more cleanly. I pray comfort for the family and friends of Kirby. I wish that everyone had such a loving family and friends. (My friends Bill and Margaret did too.)

May we all work to be blessings to each other and to the whole world. May be all be brought together in a community of holiness.

SynchroBlog: Hope

Posted January 18, 2012 by heysonnie
Categories: Blogroll

Hope in the promise of yet another spring to come
is what keeps us from chopping down the firewood
of the apparently dead trees of winter.

 


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