Friday, June 24, 2011

faith / culture 3 for friday

faith and culture on the RevGals blog

…in honor of a week of interfaith study and celebration, Terri asks:
1. Have you ever had an experience of a religion other than your own? And, if so, what was it like for you to experience something different? If you haven't, what religion might you like to study, experience, and learn more about?

2. Have you ever studied, travelled, or explored other cultures? What and where, and when?

3. Any stories you wish to share about a person (author, teacher, etc), or a friend or colleague, from another culture or religion, who has impacted you in some capacity?

So, not exactly a five question Friday Five. You can respond in five easy answers, if you wish, or one reflection.
mainly religion and faith

I've lived within quite a few variant expressions of Western Christianity. When my anthro of religion teacher told our class she'd "changed religions" from Roman Catholic to Quaker, I wanted to say, "No, you didn't! They're both Christian," but I sort of get what she meant, since (among other details) the worship styles are different and Quakers don't have formal sacraments, yet at their best both seek to follow Jesus and particularly emphasize just peace (among other details). For that class my term paper/project assignment was to visit and experienced a "religion" other than our own or the one we were most familiar with. I spent some time with a Sufi group and I gotta say, so much of it was so much like mainline protestantism!

I spent a long-ago summer working as an au pair for a Jewish family. Although they attended synagogue and Hebrew School, the parents and kids were basically secular Jews, but the Russian immigrant grandmother was very observant. I loved how she prepared during the day to welcome the Sabbath at Friday sundown and can't ever forget how she lit the candles and especially the loaf of fresh-baked challah.

Without a doubt, various brands of Christianity bring culturally-informed perspectives to the essential gospel of death and resurrection and physical geography in turn has informed each culture; each Christian tradition lives and acts in various degrees of alignment with and opposition to prevailing local culture and customs. Sometimes they seek to use similar = "vernacular" - styles and symbols to attract adherents, sometimes from the get-go they attempt to be seen as different from. Remember early Christianity's subversive use of imperial Rome's practices and assumptions and how they not only had a critique of culture, they were and they lived as a critique of culture while using and sometimes inverting familiar symbols?! We need to contextualize the reality of Jesus Christ to some degree, but what's the point if we're not offering an alternative to the commoditization of everything that invariably leads to death, who cares, if it's not different from and better than? However, how will strangers get it if the church presents itself as so completely "other than" everyone else? In Jesus of Nazareth, the Spirit of the Living God was incarnate and enfleshed, in some ways looked and acted like everyone else and in other ways was very different and highly unlike…

For a while I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moved there because I had a call to serve a local church in one of the protestant mainline traditions. SLC itself is *only* 50% Mormon, but you'd almost never know it! I frequently attended Friday night ward parties and sang from the Mormon Tabernacle choir's seats in the Tabernacle with the grouped choir for Stake Conference. I also became pianist for a Tongan United Methodist congregation. Most weeks I played for choir rehearsal, but the choir sang during worship only once a month. I tend so to emphasize the sacraments and, of course, a sacramental worldview, and though I was so pained that they celebrated communion only 4 times a year, to me, a very unlike-them stranger, they demonstrated hospitality unlike any I'd ever experienced in the church.

There's an Antiochian Orthodox priest on the Ecumenical Council's Faith, Order & Witness Committee I've been serving for a while now. A couple of times he's arranged for committee members to attend the west coast version of the annual Orientale Lumen conference that for many reasons no longer meets locally. I've also attended Divine LIturgy at the church he serves. I find the completely male leadership along with all the gold, jewels and bling almost completely off-putting. Instead of presiding at Eucharist versus populi as the rest of us do, they still preside facing East!

mostly culture

As a wannabe world traveler, I've visited only Western Europe, parts of Canada and Mexico as far south as Mexico City, "Mexico DF, distrito federale." I've lived in different areas of the USA but how striking it is that you need only cross the border from one state to another to experience a surprisingly different style and culture. In New England, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have a vastly different feel (and I'm not even considering the American Puritans booting Roger Williams out of their theocracy…). New Mexico and Arizona are cultures and laws unto themselves; multi-cultural southern California is a different world from the central coast which is different from northern California.

A lot of folks in the West have found originally Eastern disciplines like yoga and tai chi true gifts; a lot of Christians have found a Buddhist type of detachment useful, too. I still remember a comment from the book Water Buffalo Theology (it's ecological theology, liberation theology, theology of the cross and an offering in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue; we discussed it a few UCC forum iterations ago) "this Christian God is a hot God!" A God so passionate about creation to live as part of creation, and remain totally attached - anything but detached - from creation and the entire physical world.

Thanks, Terri! I appreciate getting a topic to blog about today. A blessed, fruitful green and growing Ordinary Time to everyone!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

remembrance, hope...

Remembering a lively past, hoping into a living future...

sign on the highway: San Diego River Watershed: Keep It Clean!

listening to American Pie: "and a voice that came from you and me... the day the music died, the day that I die."

How realistic have I been to expect an occasional oasis of good food, good drink and good conversation? How reasonable had I been to expect to be fully re-integrated into and re-claimed by mainstream society and mainline church?

Theology types engage in a fair amount of margin/center // edges/heart talk, especially considering more edgy, less centered liberation, womanist, cruciform theologies. All that's more marginal? Some people in some quarters consider them so, yet throughout the witness of scripture, God consistently acts is ways that subvert that status quo, in way that are hidden and unapparent until later on, until the principles involved step away and look backwards to where they've been and then are able to discern that's happened and even a little bit of how it's happened. Someone said if you keep looking back you can't see where you've going, but if you don't look back for sure you'll make the same mistakes and take the very same mis-steps.

Right now as another season of summer is almost here, I need to do some faithful remembering of Whose I am and who I am: where I've been, the journey I've taken with the gifts and opps God has given me, the people I've met who've ignored or rejected me and even those few people and places who've been occasions of embrace.

For Paul of Tarsus, the gospel is death and resurrection. Originally the literary form "gospel" referred to the returning Roman conquering general's proclamation of his victory over opposing forces, his announcement of how he'd vanquished the enemies to the nether regions of the dead. For Christians, "gospel" is God's victorious action in vanquishing death, "the last enemy" and initiating the victorious reign of life. Baptized, we live within the gospeled community called to reconciliation yet called out from, set apart from and different from the empires of death and deadly imperialisms in which many reside and toward which others strive.

Referencing the Ephesians pericope for Ascension that pleads for "the eyes of our heart" to be enlightened, PGB suggested one of the emphases of the Feast of the Ascension is the Christ Event becoming an event in the heart of God. Here our physical eyes can see nothing without some ambient light, so our heart-eyes need light too. Long ago at the weekly Monday evening women's bible study that met at my house, JHD (she and I were the group's usual leaders/facilitators) pointed out the eye is the most sensitive part of our physical bodies.

Baptismal River Watershed: Keep It Clean! and how, but how?! Keep the commandments, keep covenant with all creation, stay put in community because in spite of everything, most times staying put is the test of faithfulness because we perceive everything as imperfect...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

world oceans day 2011

world oceans day banner

WOD Theme for 2011: "Our Oceans: greening our future"

CrazyCris is sponsoring an oceans blog-a-thon; happily I found out about it in time to blog for the official world oceans day, Wednesday, 08 June.

a lot of my life has been another day on the bay

world oceans day 2011I first saw light of day on an ocean bay beside the Gulf of Mexico and ever since then the ocean has been singing to my heart, capturing my longing for freedom and homecoming.

I love the desert and come to think of it, I love the city and the cities. In fact, I love cities and the city so much I minored in urban studies and would have majored in urban studies if I could have. I love the prairies and plains of the heartland but I need to know the ocean, any ocean, is close enough to smell, to visit, to walk alongside, to splash my feet in, to catch a fish taco or fish 'n' chips.

I have early memories of the Atlantic Ocean on Tampa Bay in coastal Florida, later on and later on again of chilly northern Atlantic waters that unquittably hug the vacation peninsula of Cape Cod (there's Cape Cod Bay...), a too-short summer alongside Nahant Bay in Nahant Massachusetts... driving up and down the south shore was a frequent escape when I lived in inner city Boston; during those years I often parked on Atlantic Avenue—"Atlantic," named after the ocean named after the legendary island, of course! There was Boston Harbor, the River Charles and a string of city beaches to visit. For a few years maritime history in the city of Salem surrounded me; during that time, how better to spend a summer Sunday afternoon than by driving up the north shore to the Atlantic fishing villages of Gloucester and Rockport?

In Dorchester, geographically and in population the largest Boston neighborhood, Dorchester Bay reached into a largest, bigger stretch of Atlantic Ocean and carried some heavy social and political history. For only a few days longer than a single month I lived south of Boston in the town of Hull; many late dark November afternoons, I'd stroll over to Hull Bay and wonder what was next.

Then there was and now there is the Pacific Ocean—no wonder they call it Pacific since it's placid most of the time. Oceana Pacifica's extensive length and wide breadth definitely are what "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean" in the song I Hope You Dance must refer to.

wear blueMost significantly, there's my other central, transformative experience of water that defines my every day—on the bay and everywhere—and every move: my baptism, the cosmic event in my life that replicates the history of this planet and the history of the people of God in every time and every place. On this blog I've written so much about water and oceans, about the rivers that end in oceans and define and create communities and individuals that become part of communities I won't say more at this time.

In Cornhuskers, Carl Sandburg included a poem called "Prairie" that concludes with:
I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of to-morrows,
a sky of to-morrows.

I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
at sundown:
To-morrow is a day.
life stuff button
An ocean of tomorrows has to mean all the histories of this planet the oceans have known, experienced, and carry in the ebb and flow of every tide. With vast oceans of tomorrows everything may be possible but just as each of us and every community needs to care for and love its people and its places, we need to steward and take care of every aspect of creation, especially the waters where life originated and without which nothing will be possible and there is no tomorrow of any kind, not another day on any bay, only long-gone by yesterdays.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

summer reruns 5

As Songbird reminds us for reruns Friday 5 on Rev Gal Blog Pals, "'s the season of reruns. ... In honor of this annual Time Warp, please share five things worth a repeat. These could be books, movies, CDs, recipes, vacations, or even TV shows."

california day light1. the beach—early morning, late afternoon, early evening; sun, sand, surf, picnics, maybe a book, a journal, a radio or iPod and for sure a vista to worlds across the Pacific Ocean and up the California Coast.

2. wearing fewer, lighter clothes—I love short skirts, colorful shirts and flip-flops, and almost always have a warm hoodie sweater or sweatshirt with me in case of cool breezes and because of invariably cooler evenings.

3. almost everywhere I've ever lived I've enjoyed summer concerts, whether seriously symphonic, orchestral pops, talent shows, folk, county or country fair specials, classic rock, solo or duo recitals downtown or anywhere (have I left anything out?). It's esp wonderful alongside the bay and particularly great on fireworks evenings.

4. getting settled into the long liturgical Ordinary Time, a.k.a. "Green Season" and appreciating again how it demonstrates and parallels our own growth in all areas of our life and how the use of green reminds us of our covenant with all creation.

5. more than the other three seasons, summer seems to make redemptively remembering the past and creatively dreaming about the future almost easy... thanks, Songbird!