It Still Hurts

This morning was rough. The first thing I do when I open my eyes is check my phone, like most people, because I fall asleep early and I want to catch up with everything that happened from the night before. A large, large amount of my friends are on the West Coast, so hearing about their lives doesn’t even begin until after 9:00 PM my time. I also got a Facebook direct message that dinged last evening, and I was so completely dead to the world that I didn’t even hear my phone go off.

Speaking of which, if you’re trying to reach me in the evening, your best shot is to call, because the ringer plays longer. It’s set to Unsquare Dance by Dave Brubeck, which I hadn’t heard until I saw the movie Baby Driver (big fan of Brubeck, but I tend to listen to Time Out repeatedly….). Speaking of Baby Driver, the link is to the first six minutes of the movie, which I have watched, and this is a conservative estimate, 25 times.

WORTH IT. STOP EVERYTHING. GO NOW. I’LL WAIT.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.

This morning was rough, because the first notification was not from a friend in Oregon or California, but a birthday announcement. Carolyn Baker’s birthday is June 11th.¬†If you’re bringing friends together, invite them by making an event. For the love of God. I have done everything I can, both on my own profile and on hers, to mark her as deceased.

This picture is the last one of all of us together on Mother’s Day, me FaceTiming in from DC. It’s the last one, and I’m blurry. I would give anything, including all future earnings, limbs, whatever, to be able to go back in time. 13138797_10153554247046596_1204332628069398810_n (1)But in order for me to know exactly how important this photo is, I would have had to know it was the last one, and you never get to know that in advance. What I do like about this picture is how happy and beautiful both my mother and sister look. It was originally in color, but given the situation, I think it looks better without it…. because losing my mother so instantaneously plunged me into a world of greyscale, anyway.

Perhaps Facebook still brings these things to my attention because an event marking her birthday’s importance even though she’s dead can be healing, but I don’t think they’re that observant. She also didn’t have a legacy contact, so there’s no way to go into her account and either close it or make it a memorial, etc. Because of this, I chose Caitlin as my own legacy contact, because I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, and she’s my youngest sibling by ten years.

Actually, I just thought of an idea. I wonder if I could find a way to e-mail or direct message Sheryl Sandberg, because if anyone would understand the situation, it would be her. I’m assuming that a lot of people already know this story because it was so public, but she and David, her husband, were on vacation when he was working out and had a heart attack while running on a treadmill, which caused him to fall and hit his head, dying instantly. Not only did he die young, but they were on a parents’ only trip, and Sheryl had to come back alone and tell her children, probably the most heartbreaking aspect of a sprawling mess. It reminds me of a quote from Harry Truman when Franklin Roosevelt died… Well, gentlemen, if you’ve ever had a bale of hay dumped on you, you know how I feel.

I think that’s the hardest part of my own grief now. Because my mother and I lived so far apart for most of my adult life, there are moments when the fact that she’s dead slips into the back of my mind, because we were not used to talking every day, anyway. I feel most of the time like she is still on the other end of the line, and pick up the phone to call her, the bale of hay dropping over and over again.

I am truly not that forgetful. I believe it has become a coping mechanism. Grief gets locked away so that I can still function, because living in the smallest emotional place of missing my mommy is intolerable in terms of still moving amongst the living. My inner child just cries out, unable to imagine a world in which my mother is not here.

Cooking, because of its fast pace and utter relentlessness, is the one area of my life in which I am too busy to dwell on my feelings. Even when orders aren’t coming in like gangbusters, there’s still prep and cleaning that has to be done fast, because you never know when a pop is coming. If I am knee-deep in grief, my mind wanders too much to be quick.

I come out of the kitchen, sore and exhausted, and grief still doesn’t bubble up because I am too tired to think about anything, much less emote. Most of my energy goes toward complaining about how much I hurt physically…. breaking a cardinal family rule about complaining before I’ve taken anything for it. I will rarely have a beer to take the edge off, because what I find is that my tolerance is so incredibly low that one beer, even at 3.2% alcohol, will knock me on my ass, and I feel like I can’t think clearly, the death of creativity for a blogger. I think it was Ernest Hemingway who said to write drunk and edit sober, but he wrote fiction. Diarists are a different breed, because they have to remember things accurately. I hate doing anything that makes reality malleable. But sometimes I give in, because that fuzzy feeling makes my back hurt less… or maybe it just makes me care less that my back hurts.

Whatever.

It also loosens my inhibitions so that I laugh a little easier, because I’m not all up in my head, working in the same way that cooking does. Using my hands takes me away from thinking, and sometimes I just need a damn break from the interminable march of Sundays away from October 2nd, 2016. At first, I counted them like a Lectionary, but let that go when I realized that no Sunday would ever be in Ordinary Time ever again. For the first year, every week was a terrible Good Friday on an otherwise lazy Sunday morning. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have lost my way with Christianity, and not the part that’s spiritual. The part that is community-based, because I don’t believe religion happens in a vacuum.

The difference between spirituality and religion is going into your closet to pray, as opposed to praying through shoe leather, working to foster the theology of liberation and inclusion. It will come again in time, but right now, every time I enter a church, I am enveloped in sadness that I cannot put away and just enjoy being in my community… even though getting through rough times is often why you need it.

I have severe problems with losing it in public, and sermons often pierce my heart with a knife so that I can’t keep it together. I feel like I need time to grieve in my own way, and for now, my process is making food that brings people together… even though in my grief I often reflect on the fact that I might be making The Last Supper. It’s a dark thought, but losing someone suddenly tends to kick you in the back of the face. That being said, my thoughts aren’t always that bereft.

Getting this job as a cook is the first time I’ve truly felt Easter…. resurrection happening in the middle of the mess (Dr. Susan Leo). I am learning new things, because every kitchen is different, and it is opening my mind to have to think in both Spanish and English.

Dios te bendiga.

Amen
#prayingonthespaces

Sermon for Proper 11, Year A: Subtraction

It might help to read the scriptures before you read the sermon, although if I put them here, my word count is bigger. ūüėõ


In researching for this sermon today, I accidentally came across something profound in a novel called Quantum Lens, by Douglas Richards. I have two free book aggregators that comes to me through e-mail every day, and though it is not on sale anymore, it is worth every penny ($6.99). As an aside, because I’ve gotten so many books for free, my Kindle is breaking under the “weight” of everything I haven’t read….. But the lines I came across that struck me so deeply are these, and I’ll have to paraphrase:

Character 1: How many colors are in the rainbow?
Character 2: Seven, but with combinations, infinite possibilities.
C1: What color do you get when you look at all of them together?
C2: White.
C1: Right. Water is blue not because of addition. Water is blue because of subtraction. The water is not blue because it was made that way, but because the water subtracts everything but blue. What if God is the same way? God is not God because of addition, but because of subtraction? That God is all infinite possibilities and creates by subtracting pieces of God’s self breaking open?

In another part of the book, my mind was absolutely blown. One of the characters says that on the first day of creation, Genesis says, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Ok, so we’re there. It’s one of the most famous passages in all of scripture… and here’s where it gets interesting.

The sun and the moon and the stars weren’t created until the fourth day.

What if, without knowing it, quantum physics is explained in Biblical terms by the 3rd verse of the first chapter of the first book in the Bible… God separating light matter from dark in a concept not truly understood even today… Again, God working through subtraction and not addition.

God dividing themself rather than multiplying.

When you think of scripture in this way, we are all subtractions of God… tiny pieces of divinity flung throughout the world, no matter what kind of deity to which you identify. Eastern, Western, it’s all the same. What changes is the way we subtract from God willingly. If God has many names, they also have none. There is no separation from God, because you are a piece of them, cut of the same cloth:

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,

Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.

Psalms 139: 7-11

What would Christianity look like if we all saw ourselves in this way? What if we threw out the idea of the grandfather in the sky and all realized that God themself is within us, and not without? How would that change theology as we know it? Not for the people that study it every day, but for the people who think they are worthless, or friendless, or needy, or insecure, or all of the things we tell ourselves in our moments of weakness

What would it look like to know for sure that you are not a multiplication of God, but a subtraction? That God themself is in the beating of your heart, divinity you do not have to seek anywhere but in your own heart? What would it look like if all of God’s subtractions stopped subtracting from each other, because as a human race, we are all the same pieces?

What if we were able to subtract negativity, toxicity, war-mongering, famine… all the horrible things that humans do to one another because we do not realize that we are literally hurting ourselves? If everyone on earth is a subtraction of God, we are all literally the same person, with enough difference to make things interesting. We lash out in fear, but what if we were all able to turn that fear on its ear and reach out in the knowledge that when we treat each other unfairly, or engender anger and fear in others, we are only using a knife to cut our own hearts?

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Letter in the Spirit of Paul to the Romans

Who hopes for what is seen?

If we are to believe in this letter, we have a lot of work to do. “Paul” is urging us to set our own creation free. Chapter 8, from which this excerpt is taken, deals with the problem of righteousness and entitlement… that being saved in hope does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want without consequences. His ambition in this letter is to show that the Jews of his time practiced their faith by strict adherence to the law, and to him, there was no way on earth this was possible, or even probable. What speaks to “Paul” is spiritual submission, the act of doing the right thing because the law did not always line up morally.

Jesus freed us from all Talmudic law, which is the basis for the new church that “Paul” is trying to create. In effect, he wants to subtract Christians from the legal bondage that the Jews have created, to be able to follow their own hearts and minds. Reading between the lines, “Paul” is calling out all the Jews who live to the letter of the law and yet, have no spirituality at all…. but he’s trying to fix it. He is trying to show the Romans that they are not a church of their own, but part of a larger body, all subtracted from the same being.

There is also self-motivation as well as mobilization. “Paul” was eager to preach in Spain as the West opened up, and he knew that establishing Rome as a base of operations was his best bet. He laid his heart bare, establishing his theology, because he knew that his “reviews” from Rome would be mixed based upon his reputation without even knowing him…. because who hopes for what is seen? He was trying to hope for something bigger than the churches he knew well (to paraphrase Wm. Barclay).

In order to do this, he establishes that we must be responsible for our own well-being and that of others. Not to be claimed, but to own the claim we already have. “Paul” calls us the first fruits of the spirit, just sitting there, waiting.

What are we waiting for if God has already subtracted a piece of themself into us, so that we may further the message of the Christ on our own? If “Paul” was reaching beyond the hope that was already established, what is stopping us? What is stopping us from reaching out to the poor, friendless, needy, insecure, or otherwise hurt in a world that sometimes knocks us flat? What is stopping us from subtracting pain? What is stopping us from subtracting fear? What is stopping us from subtracting unity?

Glory is not about to be revealed to us. It is already here. What are we waiting for?

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Sermon for Pentecost 2, Year B: It’s Not You, It’s Me

[Editor’s Note: The reason I’m publishing my sermon early is that I want me to be me and Matt to be Matt. For those just joining us, Matt is my pastor at Christ Congregational Church, and I never want him to think that I’m just stealing his ideas. However, I don’t mind in the slightest if he steals mine. :P~]

There are some times when I’m reading the Lectionary and I just bust out laughing. Like, snot and tears everywhere and choking to keep it together. This week it was the conversation between Samuel and God, where Samuel is talking to God about the people rejecting him as king. God tells Samuel clearly that it’s not him they’re rejecting. It’s God. Then my sermon title came to me in a flash and I nearly fell out of my desk chair, just shaking with the hilarity of the moment.

Last week, I preached on Isaiah being called to serve God, and his emphatic “HERE AM I, SEND ME.” This week, the focus is on what to do if you stand up and the people say, “not so fast…” Or worse, the people have been happy with you for a long time and now, they just aren’t. But instead of being willing to stand in the rain and get wet, they just want the relationship to end altogether.

Does this in any way resonate with you? It should. It happens all the time. I am still reeling from it happening to me, so as you can imagine, I cannot help but take these scriptures personally and try to learn from them. The scriptures put together by the Lectionary are all designed around this theme, because it repeats over and over. Congregations get unhappy with their leaders just like they do with politicians. People also run away from their leaders because they know they’re right and hide in shame, anyway. Both of these things are equal in their power to disrupt leadership, but at either end of the spectrum. Let me give you a few examples taken straight from our scriptures today:

  • In the Samuel reading, the people get so mad that they just stomp off and follow someone else.
  • In the Genesis reading, Adam hides from the God who created him because he is so ashamed that he and Eve have done something that God expressly asked them not to do. He is not unhappy with the leadership so much as he is unhappy with himself. It reminds me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail… “is there someone else up there we could talk to?”
  • In the Mark reading, Jesus has come home to a large crowd that thinks he has lost his ever-loving MIND…. that he has Satan in him because only Satan can cast out demons. Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms that they have lost their minds, instead. No wonder Jesus said of his hometown, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” because his own people were the first to become unhappy with him. [Editor’s Note: NOTE TO SELF]
  • In the Corinthians reading, Paul is heading into such strong opposition that he fears he is failing spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically…. perhaps even physically. The context of this passage is that he can feel he is near death (some believe this is due to epilepsy), and his words have urgency. Please, people. Believe. Carry my message forward. PLEASE!
  • In one of my favorite Psalms of all time, David pleads with Israel to wait upon God… to believe that God’s leadership is right and true. He knows this to be the case as he as often walked in darkness himself, and even though his time is long before the Christ, has seen redemption through Jehovah, the God he loves.

As you can see, it’s a pattern that will repeat until the end of time. The question for pastors in these scriptures is, “NOW WHAT?” How do we deal with both the people’s feelings of unworthiness in reaching out to God for help, and at the same time, seeing the flaws in our own leadership? Because come on. Leaders aren’t always right, and are sometimes too proud to see that reality. They are reticent to see the times when God isn’t speaking through them so much as they are taking too much license with what they have been given.

If you are not religious, think of all the politicians that claim God is speaking through them, and yet their policies clearly scream ego… that if they were really listening to God and not themselves, it would clearly be a different calling to ministry- using that term because politicians all over the world are called exactly that- ministers.

Again, where is the balance? We’re all in this together, in a sense. Both the religious and the spiritual, the born again and the atheists, because it’s all the same problem. Issues in the church are just a microcosm of what happens in the electorate, and that is true for the United States as well as all other countries who have democracy, and those that have monarchy.

You might think, “no. You are totally wrong. It’s not my problem. It’s my leaders. They’re the ones with the problems. Not me.”

Are you sure about that?

If you are religious, how are you running away from your leadership? If you are not, I ask you the same question in a different context. Are you expressing your unhappiness? Are you sitting in your own unworthiness? Are you hiding from the fact that you do have power to promote change… it’s just that you’re not using it? Are you just tuning out because it’s easier? Someone has to stand up and say, “HERE AM I; SEND ME!” Will it be you?

If you need real-life examples of ¬†this, let’s look at the Catholics. I am flabbergasted by all the changes since Pope Francis came into power. He listened to the people’s distress with all of the problems inherent in the leadership trying to live in a 21st century world with a 19th century attitude and said, “enough is enough.”

I am waiting for the Anglicans to have that sort of revelation, because they are the ones that stomped off mad. They are the AntiFrancis. They are content to sit in their own stubborn beliefs that are eventually going to lead to their demise. They are secure in their own authority, the one that says the Bible doesn’t change as we do. They have ceased to look at the Bible as a living document, and their stagnation is evident… maybe not in terms of their numbers, but in the way that their views are slowly becoming antiquated and they are coming down on the wrong side of history. I mean, come on. They have a problem with women bishops. Please. If ever there was an example of leading through ego and not leading through God, it’s them.

Pope Francis is determined ¬†to stop that kind of death, and the people are heartened and strengthened by it. The church is showing new life as more and more parishioners see that faith does have relevance in their lives as long as it moves forward with the context surrounding them. When the people cry out for change, they’re leading from the back, and because of Pope Francis, it is working.

So again, what kind of leader are you?

Do you believe, in the one true edge… by fastening your safety belts and stepping towards the ledge?¬†Or are you content with letting your leaders decide your direction without your input? Worse, are your leaders crying out to you because you are wrong- either in the church or in politics, and you are forcibly running away from conflict? It’s not unprecedented. People have left churches, left countries, left relationships because they didn’t have the fortitude to get down and dirty and figure it out. How do we know when we are speaking from a place of soft power, and when we are broadcasting God as ego? That is not limited to leaders. That is everyone, everywhere.

If you are not religious, how are you rejecting President Obama, or any other president that comes to power? By rejection, I do not mean that you have to like your leaders. Affecting them is not committing to liking them. Affecting them is a call to leadership whether you agree with them or not. Rejecting them is not hearing them at all. I am using President Obama as an example not because he is the politician I like, but because he is president right now. There will be others, but we are talking about right here. Right now. Are you affecting change, or rejecting it?

If you are religious, how are you rejecting God? How are you rejecting the life lessons we have to learn from Samuel, Adam, Mark, Paul, and David? How are you mistaking your own ego from the light of Christ shown through you? How are you not submitting to the higher power that runs through us all? Because in the end, in order to lead, you have to get your own ego out of the way.

Are you willing to listen when God says, “it’s not me. It’s you?”

To me, that is the very essence of the Pentecost season. Pentecost was revealed to us through fire. Our job is to learn not to throw water at it, but learn to walk in it without getting burned.

Andy Doyle, my bishop in Texas, wrote a gorgeous prayer with which I’ll close that talks about this very thing. I ask that you sit with it for a while, because it brought me the fortitude to keep walking my path; to be a leader inspired by Christ and not by myself:

Gracious Father,

We pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior.

Amen.

Sermon for Trinity Sunday Year B 2015: Put Down Your iPhone

Put. It. Down.

I know you’re reading this on some kind of electronic device, but when you’re finished, maybe take a walk. Play Scrabble with your kids. Walk on The Mall or go to the Smithsonian. Whatever you do, unplug in a major way. Because when you are paying attention to your screen, what kind of information are you missing? What kind of dreams would you have if they weren’t interrupted by pictures of falling candy? What kind of knowledge would you pick up that you couldn’t get from Google?

A lot, actually.

Google and your electronics will definitely give you world news, but what about how your family is doing emotionally?

Our passage from Isaiah focuses on that point exclusively. Isaiah has just been through one of the worst times in his life. The king of Judah that he loved, Uzziah, was pushed out of his throne and into a life of solitude, even unto death. He’d committed a major sin according to the High Priest by burning incense as a gift to God, but to the High Priest, it came across as a major power play. Burning incense as a gift to God was an authority given only to the descendants of Aaron, so HOW DARE HE? Uzziah contracted leprosy soon afterward, and the High Priest declared it punishment for Uzziah’s sins. He wasn’t even buried with the other kings- set apart because of his mistake.

The king that took over, Jotham, conspired with Pekah, the King of Israel, to form an alliance with the Assyrians. Isaiah felt that the Jews were turning their backs on a God that had delivered them from their distress, all the way back to Moses leading them out of the slavery they’d suffered in Egypt.

He went into the temple to pray, and had a vision. This scripture is very important to the life of both Judaism and Christianity, because it is the moment Isaiah steps up and says, “here I am.” It doesn’t come easily, though. At first, the vision is of his pain. He knows that he and his people are unclean in the way that they are ignoring the same God that’s been there for them all along. He deems himself unworthy, and then an angel steps forward. Hear it in his own words:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Isaiah is not anointed by oil; he is anointed by fire… and yet, he doesn’t speak of it burning him. He speaks of it as doing what fire does. It tempers him. He takes the fire and lets it burn away the old version of himself, the one that feels unworthy to serve. When God says, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah STANDS UP. He says plainly, “HERE AM I; SEND ME!” The old Isaiah is no more. He takes his power of vision and is considered one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. His predictions turned out to be accurate. As I have said before, Isaiah’s prose on Jesus is like looking at his baby pictures from hundreds of years before he was born. Fire on his lips in his visions became fire in the belly in his daily life and he USED IT.

We¬†don’t get this kind of vision in our daily lives unless we¬†sit as still as Isaiah did. Unless we¬†unplug our electronics and sit in our own unworthiness and decide what kind of fire we need to create the kind of passion that Isaiah exhibits.

Last week, I preached a confessional sermon on how my Holy Spirit moment occurred, also through fire that tempered me. What is your moment? Have you found it yet?

Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit moment in a different element. Hear his words:

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

The context is that he is talking to Nicodemus, who is confused by the concept of being “born again.” Of course you cannot reenter your mother’s womb, but every life gets fresh starts. We do it all the time. I just moved from Texas to Maryland. What have you done? Perhaps it is seeing a bad relationship and either departing from it or refreshing it anew. Maybe it is a job you hate that you’ve finally decided you’ve had enough.

Or perhaps you have unplugged enough that you can say, “here I am; send me” to the other people in your world. Perhaps there’s a sick person that needs your attention and you just haven’t had the fortitude to visit, but today is the day. Perhaps you’ve let church relationships fade because of one conflict or another and you’ve had enough of your own passive aggression and show up, anyway.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve had enough of you. Maybe the person you are is not the person you’d like to be. What kind of coal should go on your lips so that you can be born of the spirit instead of watching it happen to others? To you, is self actualization just for other people? Are you hiding in your own darkness because it’s comfortable?

On this Trinity Sunday, I ask that you ask yourself these burning questions, because if you sit with them long enough, they won’t burn anymore. You won’t have seen fire, you’ll have walked through it.

Where is your Holy Spirit moment? What do you need to ask God to heal? Are you calling out for Jesus, the Mediator and Advocate?

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Amen.

Sermon for Pentecost, Year B

It’s not often that a scripture hits me as hard as the Gospel did today. I actually shed a few tears as I was reading when I got to the part about “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Because he’s right. I cannot bear anything right now that means Jesus is further away. I do not want Jesus to preach from the cloud. I want him HERE. I am in the place in my life where the Mediator, Advocate and Paraclete means so much to me that there is nothing more I want to do than touch the hem of his robe and be healed. To have Jesus turn around and say, “who touched me?” To be delivered from my distress, and there is a lot of it. In the past few years, I have lost a lot of friends, most notably my precious Argo and my precious Dana. They both carried me, sometimes kicking and screaming, into a new reality, one that I knew I needed but was reticent to give hope. They are my Holy Spirit Incarnate, which is a big phrase, but apt in this case.

I don’t normally do confessional sermons; they seem self-serving instead of serving God. But at the same time, the story of this Gospel and the scriptures set forth by the Lectionary are¬†too personal. They¬†got under my skin, the words tattooing themselves in the deep, dark recesses of my mind. There are just so many.

Why in the world would I say that Dana and Argo are my Holy Spirit Incarnate? Hear the words of Luke in the book of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

They were so disoriented that Peter¬†had to stand up and tell everyone they weren’t drunk. It is in direct opposition to Jesus’ message, or at least, it is to me. Jesus is telling the Disciples that if they don’t let him go, they will never know the peace¬†he has to offer. The peace? He is a member of the Trinity. Hearing about the¬†Holy Spirit just does not compute.

Luke writes that the Holy Spirit is like the sound of “a violent wind.” Where could they possibly meet in th middle? They just don’t……….. unless?

Whoever said that the people didn’t NEED to be shaken out of their complacency? I once said of Jesus that he doesn’t so much comfort me in my distress, but distress me out of my comfort. Perhaps I was putting emphasis on the wrong entity? When Peter preaches, he quotes the prophet Joel:

In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I know this is old language, but there is just so much here that is relevent to progressive Christianity. The first thing is that Joel is all-inclusive. Sons, daughters, slaves. It doesn’t matter. We are all going to be taken forcibly out of our comfort zones because what is right side up will be upside down and vice versa.

In my own story, Dana and Argo were my violent wind, taking me forcibly out of my comfort zone and forcing me to accept my own upside down and right side up. Dana and I were married for seven years. We got comfortable. We created our own family dysfunction and because it seemed normal, we stayed there. Lost in our own little world. The sun turned to darkness and the moon to blood when our dysfunction showed even to us when Argo came into our lives. She became a catalyst for both of us to look at ourselves and see the patterns we’d developed over time, both positive and negative. As time progressed, Dana became a mighty wind herself, because she could see the catalyst happening within me and shook me up as well. Both of them were justified in their anger at me. I said and did things that haunt me to this day, because a month ago I took their anger and let it motivate me. I took their Holy Spirit warnings and realized that their work wasn’t done. I had to believe them, I had to submit to them, I had to internally accept what I had done, and the violent wind I’d become in my own right. I also shook them up, in a way for which they did not ask.

Whether I motivated positive change or negative, I do not know. I am not entitled to their opinion unless they want to give it. However, I can accept that getting me out of their lives might have been the best thing for them. I can accept that my blood and fire was unwelcome. It is a situation we all face at different times in our lives….. whether we can own it or not.

The question now is whether we can recover from it, and if so, how in the hell do we do it?

By reaching out. By reaching up. By accepting the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Most people think of that day as The Second Coming. I do not think that in the slightest. To me, the Lord’s great and glorious day is when we reach inside ourselves, own our sins unto other people, and ask the Paraclete to make us whole……

Do you see what I did there?
Do you see it?

There’s the meeting of one and another. The violence and the promise. The internal struggle and the need for comfort as we face it head on. Moses gave us the Caduceus, now used as the symbol for doctors the world over. It is no accident that hundreds of years later, Jesus was called The Great Physician. You go to a doctor when you need a cure. The Great Physician can heal your heart, but only if you make the commitment to ask. To keep asking. To see the violent, mighty wind coming and ask for help.

After the storm comes the rainbow. What does that rainbow look like to you? In my own life, it is prayer. It is the constant joy of speaking out loud and believing that someone is listening whether they are or not. Believing in God is not a requirement for prayer. Believing in prayer is a way to channel your own distress into prosperity. The longer you pray, the more you listen to your self, your inner being, your godspace.

When I realized that I was a person even I didn’t like, submitting to the power of Jesus’ messages of hope, redemption, relief, and comfort gave me strength inside myself to take the violent, ugly changes in my life and walk away from them so that I could forgive myself and be the person I wanted to be. I did not want to participate in violence. I did not want to add to the mess I’d already created. I wanted to be whole.

When I touched the hem of Jesus’ robe metaphysically, my mental health changed. I started to feel a peace I hadn’t felt since childhood. An ever-present rage went out of me and I started to send both Dana and Argo constant prayers of safety, comfort, relief, atonement for the things I felt they’d done and wishing for their peace as well. Wishes became reality when I realized that I did not need their forgiveness, because it had come from sending the prayers themselves.

Christ gave me an invitation to peace once the violent mighty wind had passed and the raging storm became the calm he said he would give.

I ask that wherever you are in your journey, that you are given peace as well. That you are able to reach out in distress and metaphysically touch Jesus’ hem as well. Because he preaches from the cloud, he won’t have to ask who touched him.

He’ll just know.

Amen.