Saturday, January 28, 2012
What do they mean?
It all began under an October harvest moon.
She was 21 – I was 25.
We are much older now than our parents were
Loving the little girl, then the
little boy who graced our lives.
Wearing a gold ring that never
Of struggle, fear, frustration and
fun, fun, fun.
Of lying next to the one
who keeps you warm and safe.
and moving and packing and moving.
Of saying goodbye and hello and
goodbye and hello.
Of fighting over the tiniest of things.
On agreeing on what really matters.
Like water on a rock—altering, changing
making smooth and shiny.
Of stretching and forgiving
and hurting and healing.
Where did they go?
What do they mean?
or an act or a word but much, much more.
Love is a bridge that helped me/us
over many troubled and peaceful waters.
Grateful. Humble. Joy-filled. Maddening.
Comfortable. Confusing and Right.
Where did they go?
Much, much too fast.
What do they mean?
Saturday, January 21, 2012
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
We moved to South Carolina just as the Republican primary here was just beginning to crank up. We’ve heard a lot of cranking from these quarters the last few weeks. Most of the attacks, strangely enough, were not directed toward our sitting President. Most of the missiles were hurled at each other. Since South Carolina has been known to break or make Republican presidential contenders—the candidates have felt much was at stake in this deep-South state.
The most lethal attacks were directed toward the two primary horses in the race—Romney and Gingrich. And those attacks came from the two leading contenders themselves. The ugliness came from Gingrich’s remarks and Romney’s behind-the-scenes advertising. Stephen Cobert weighed in with enough levity to put this whole charade in perspective.
In the last debate on Thursday night I felt it was a cheap shot for Moderator John King to begin this debate by asking Mr. Gingrich about his former wife’s charge that he wanted her to engage in an open marriage arrangement. Gingrich, rightly so, was furious. He lashed back: “I can’t believe you would begin a Presidential debate with a question so scurrilous and inflammatory about my personal life when so much is at stake in this election.” Gingrich was right in his angry retort. This was no way to begin this debate and I felt it was unfair.
And yet—for months Mr. Gingrich has painted a picture of someone who has made serious mistakes in his personal life and yet has joined the Catholic Church and found forgiveness. And yet this third-time husband cannot just sweep his past under the rug. I remember that while he was still married and having affair with his third-wife-to-be he piously said that he would never speak in public again without mentioning Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Certainly there was more than an aroma of hypocrisy about those statements.
I do hope that Mr. Gingrich has found forgiveness and closed the tawdry chapters in his own personal life. Yet I kept thinking about Bonhoeffer’s contrast between cheap grace and costly grace. He wrote in his book, The Cost of Discipleship that “cheap grace is the deadly enemy of the church. We are fighting today for costly grace.” He continued: “Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack’s wares...Cheap grace means justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.”
Mr. Gingrich seems to have overlooked or forgotten that we have to live with the consequences of our sins and misdeeds. What happens in Vegas or Washington or Atlanta cannot stay there. The ripples we all make in the stream just go on and on--often with deadly consequences. The debris left behind his affairs and three marriages cannot be swept under the rug so easily.
It is appalling to see so many Evangelicals put aside their principles so casually when it comes to Mr. Gingrich’s marital failings. Bonhoeffer wrote that in supporting a casual grace that makes so few demands on the person ”the Christian (then) can live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin.... Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Bonhoeffer was right when, in the title of his book, he states that discipleship is always costly. For the Christian, ethics always comes before politics. And when we reverse that order we might remember what happened in Nazi Germany when churchmen and supposedly good Christians forgot what comes first for the followers of Jesus.
Mr. Gingrich is no Hitler. But he has forgotten his Baptist heritage on its good days and his new-found Catholic faith when it, too places its priorities in the proper order. This does not mean that I am not about to get out a Romney for President placard—but it does mean that I do not scrap his name simply because of his Mormon faith.
T.S. Eliot, in another age reminded us:
“Remember the faith that took men from home
At the call of a wandering preacher,
Our age is an age of moderate virtue
And of moderate vice
When men will not lay down the Cross
Because they will never assume it.
Yet nothing is impossible, nothing,
To men of faith and conviction.
Let us therefore make perfect our will,
O God, help us.”
--T.S. Eliot, Choruses from 'The Rock'
Saturday, January 14, 2012
On this birthday of Martin Luther King I wonder what he would think of the state of our nation today. Behind the hoopla toward our President I cannot but believe if you follow the string far enough back you will find racism pure and simple. I remember reading about the first black football players to break the color line in colleges in the South--they were scorned and spat on and had a hard time. Maybe we ought to remember that change is a long time coming.
What would Dr. King say about the discriminatory laws that have been passed in several states toward immigrants. Republican Alabama state senator Bill Holtzclaw responding to critics who said the state's immigration law was the meanest in the nation said, "I want you to know I am a Christian. I'm a Methodist, and I voted for this law. This legislation was written by Christians." On the other side Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL recently spoke about she felt about Alabama's new law as it affected migrant families. "I'm wondering when that day will come where they will be asked to wear the yellow star."
On this special day when we honor that "Drum major of justice" my mind goes back to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. On September 16, 1963 a bomb shattered that church on a Sunday morning. When the dust had settled four little girls who had come to Sunday school that morning lay dead. (Spike Lee told that story in his film, "Four Little Girls.") Many were injured that day when the church was damaged. Word of that tragedy spread around the world. And in Cardiff, Wales children began to collect money to help replace the church's shattered glass windows.
An artist, John Petts of that country offered his services to create a special window for the church. A local newspaper editor there launched a campaign to raise money for the venture. The maximum donation would be half a crown (thirty pennies) so that the window would come from all the people of Wales and not just the well-heeled.
The project took two years. Petts delivered his gift from the people of his country to the church when it was completed. If you were to go there today and stand in the pulpit and look out on the rows and rows of pews you could not miss this window. It dominates the whole church. As the light filters through the colored glass it touches those that worship there. A rainbow surrounds a huge black Jesus with his arms outstretched. His right hand pushes away hatred and injustice. His left hand holds out forgiveness. Underneath the figure of Jesus, Petts has etched into the window: You Do It to Me. Underneath the window is inscribed: "Given by the people of Wales."
I wish everyone could see that window. That stained glass memorial is a symbol of forgiveness fashioned out of pain and suffering and racism. On this day when we remember the great King--let us remember where we are as a nation. The mean-spiritedness touches every part of this country. Let us ponder where racism and hatred took us years ago. Let us commit ourselves to a better day and a better time. "Deep in my heart I still believe we shall overcome."