Archive for September 2011

Troy Davis

September 21, 2011

Here in the San Gabriel Valley of California there’s a nearby town called San Dimas. I frequently go to San Dimas, since that’s where the nearest Trader Joe’s is located.

Jesus was convicted in a Jewish court, and then went through the appellate process of being brought before Herod, who didn’t provide any legal relief from that decision. When Jesus was executed it was between two common criminals. In the gospel of Luke, the one on the right acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus responds to him with a message of love and forgiveness—assuring him of his eternal place in Paradise. This theif, San Dimas (or Saint Dismas in English), was never canonized by the Church. He’s only a saint by tradition—one of the people’s saints. As a matter of fact, he is unnamed in scripture: his name is also a tradition. Dismas comes from Greek, and means “sunset” or “death.”

Luke 23:32-43

32 Two others were also led off with Jesus, criminals who were to be put to death. 33 When they had reached the place called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there—together with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Abba forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Then they divided his garments, rolling dice for them.

35 The people stood there watching. The rulers, however, jeered him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself—if he really is the Messiah of God, the Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him. They served Jesus sour wine 37 and said, “if you are really the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was an inscription above Jesus that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who hung there beside him insulted Jesus, too, saying, “Are you really the Messiah? Then save yourself—and us!”

40 But the other answered the first with a rebuke: “Don’t you even fear God? 41 We are only paying the price for what we have done, but this one has done nothing wrong!”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your glory.”

43 Jesus replied, “The truth is, today you’ll be with me in paradise.”

Today a man is most likely going to be executed by the State of Georgia. This man’s name is Troy Davis. He was convicted, and the conviction subsequently went through the appeals processes. All the while, Troy Davis (who had never previously been convicted of any crime) has persisted in proclaiming his innocence. Most of the witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony, and large numbers of people—ordinary people and some of great repute, like the Pope, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US Presidents and other elected representatives, and former FBI Director Sessions—have stepped forward and said no to this impending execution.

But the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied any further action on the part of Troy Davis and his lawyers to save his life. The execution of a man who may well not be guilty is to proceed in a matter of hours—just about at the dismas of the day: death followed by the sunset at 7:35 p.m.

No, I’m not comparing Troy Davis to Jesus. I do believe that if this injustice is carried out, Troy Davis will be with Jesus in Paradise. But things happen today as they have throughout history that are wrong—and they’re things that WE do, that WE create. May God have mercy on our souls.

Rooted and grounded in love, whether we like it or not

September 14, 2011

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 That is why I kneel before Abba God, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 And I pray that God, out of the riches of divine glory, will strengthen you inwardly with power through the working of the spirit. 17 May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 will be able to grasp fully the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love and, with all God’s holy ones, 19 experience this love that surpasses all understanding, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 To God—whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine—21 to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end! Amen.

The Inclusive Bible,
Priests for Equality

I am a sometimes elder-commissioner to the Presbytery of San Gabriel. In the Presbyterian Church (USA), elders are the lay leaders of the church, commissioned by the same ordination vows as those taken by members of the clergy. Teaching Elders and an equal number of Ruling Elders are voting members of the presbyteries, synods and the General Assembly of the PC(USA).

(Until very recently we called them Ministers of the Word and Sacrament, but now they’re called Teaching Elders — while elders are called Ruling Elders. This is actually a return to old nomenclature of the church.)

Anyway… I was sharing a little story with one of my friends there about an experience that I had at the 219th General Assembly in 2010:

I sat in the press section of the committee that was charged with issues pertaining to Marriage and Civil Unions — which is to say, “what do we do about the gays and lesbians who are getting married?” This was part of my work as web minister and social media coordinator of That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS), one of the inclusive church organizations of the denomination. I was sitting next to Jim Berkley of The IRD and the Presbyterian Layman during the session. The committee broke for lunch and everyone left; I too was preparing to leave when I got a phone call asking if I could do a little project during the lunch break. I agreed to do so. When people started filing back into the room, Jim Berkley took his seat. He made a remark to the effect that I must have found a quicker place for lunch than he had. I told him that I’d stayed there to work, skipping lunch. He then reached down to his briefcase on the floor, pulling out a Butterfinger and a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — and he asked which one I’d rather have. I opted for the Peanut Butter Cups, and I thanked him.

Now, Mr. Berkley and I are at opposite ends of the theological spectrum; as far apart as two people could be. But God managed to find something that we had in common, and provide us with an opportunity to break bread (of sorts) together.

At the presbytery meeting yesterday we had a presentation and discussion of a “gracious dismissal” policy (which my fingers keep wanting to call “gracious dismal”) that will be voted on at a special meeting on September 27. There are several churches who have voted to leave our presbytery — but not the denomination — so this policy would not apply to them wanting to transfer, rather than to be dismissed. Nevertheless, it’s still a separation, something that is out of sync with the Apostle Paul’s “love that surpasses all understanding” he writes to the church at Ephesus about.

If some of the churches of the denomination choose to go other directions, opportunities such as the accidental (even if brief) friendship and communion that Jim Berkley and I were able to share will not arise. I admit that presbytery meetings and other such gatherings make me extremely cranky, I value diversity of all kinds. I have appreciated conversations with a conservative colleague who is also a cancer survivor. I honor the fact that another conservative serves as the president of the board of an organization that I love.

We are called by God to love one another as we love God. If God is our spiritual parent, then we are all siblings — whether we like it or not.

I haven’t decided how I will cast my vote, because I can’t see my way through to formulate other, better options. But one thing I am certain of is that God calls us to stay together and work on it as part of one family.

Synchroblog – The Devil Made Me Do It

September 14, 2011

Okay, so I wasn’t going to participate this month. The topic is just too weird, and there are way too many bizarro things out there attributing things to an evil entity with lots of names.

… what are some weird, whacky or just plain different things you’ve heard taught about Satan as you’ve been a member of this tribe called Christian? What do you think of those ideas? How have they shaped your perspective (or not) about Jesus and this tribe? This month is wide open for being fun or being serious … because this subject could run in many different directions depending on the tradition you come from. So as you write and as you read, please remember to have grace in abundance for the journey that each has been on.

And then… I ran into this. (Don’t ask how I got there. I can’t even remember because this strangeness chased it right out of my head.)

Gays Make New Devil DNA Squirt Gun

Yes, once again teh gays are in cahoots with Satan, this time to homo-convert young boys via “playthings.” And remember: “Nothing is worst than homosexuality.” Tyson Bowers III (who I’d never heard of before, and who apparently has no life of his own so he has to spend the time that God gave him attacking others) says so right here! Sigh…

You can find all of the posts on this month’s synchroblog here. Now excuse me because I have to go wash my mind out with soap to get rid of this stupid ridiculous, homophobic imagery.

Other posts from this month’s synchroblog:

A Hymn for September 11

September 9, 2011

When Sudden Terror Tears Apart

This hymn text was composed by Dr. Carl P. Daw, Jr., Executive Director of The Hymn Society of America and Canada, five days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He explains:

“As you will understand, it has been hard to concentrate on office work this week. One of the ways I have dealt with the situation is to write the text quoted below. You are welcome to use it or to pass it along to someone you think might want it. Hope Publishing Company is waiving the usual fee as long as the copyright information appears.” “The text may be used without charge in any worship context as long as the copyright statement is included.”

C.M. Suggested Tunes: Bangor, Detroit
or C.M.D. Suggested Tune: Third Mode Melody
Other hymn tunes may be found in The United Methodist Hymnal metrical index on page 926. You might consider tunes for, Amazing Grace or O God, Our Help In Ages Past.

When sudden terror tears apart
the world we thought was ours,
we find how fragile strength can be,
how limited our powers.

As tower and fortress fall, we watch
with disbelieving stare
and numbly hear the anguished cries
that pierce the ash-filled air.

Yet most of all we are aware
of emptiness and void:
of lives cut short, of structures razed,
of confidence destroyed.

From this abyss of doubt and fear
we grope for words to pray,
and hear our stammering tongues embrace
a timeless Kyrie.

Have mercy, Lord, give strength and peace,
and make our courage great;
restrain our urge to seek revenge,
to turn our hurt to hate.

Help us to know your steadfast love,
your presence near as breath;
rekindle in our hearts the hope
of life that conquers death.

Additional information on Dr. Carl P. Daw, Jr. can be found here.
Copyright © 2001 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream IL 60188. All rights reserved.