Wednesday, March 9, 2016

And to push back darkness.

There was an ugly, racially insensitive incident at my alma mater a few weeks ago.

To make a long story short: a young man made a dumb choice in public, and things escalated pretty quickly thanks to social media. Views were traded, insults exchanged, and a few threats were made.

It didn’t take long for the conversation to get out of hand, and the school’s campus justice council stepped in pretty quickly. But in some ways the damage was already done.

In the immediate aftermath, I was surprised to hear many different sides to the same story. Some of my friends saw nothing wrong with the young man’s innocent insensitivity. Others condemned his offensive actions, regardless of their intent. Some blamed the young man; some blamed the environment he was raised in; others blamed the school itself.

A few days after the incident, I attended an on-campus discussion forum held for staff members, students, and alumni to share their ideas and experiences. I was surprised and saddened to hear so many members of the campus community describe their personal interactions with racial prejudice. Right here in Oklahoma. In 2016.

I heard angry voices.

“I was told by one student here that I was the Affirmative Action hire.”

“I shouldn’t have to answer phone calls from people in Ohio and have to explain to people who don’t know that we are not like this.”

“When I came to interview for a job here, a secretary looked at me and said. ‘Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. The trash is really piling up.’ She thought I was the janitor.”

I heard incredulous voices.

“On the way to Disney World, my family got stopped six times. We didn’t thing that living in the United States was supposed to be like this, you now? The land of the free.”

“Let’s not promote Christ and then not act like him.”

“Stop telling me that you’re sorry and just fix it.”

I heard saddened voices.

“For 17 years I hated my skin tone. I’m 19 years old now. People have been pointing out my color for as long as I’ve been alive. People used to ask my mom whose kid she was babysitting.”

“A lot of the professors here are very smart and very successful. And why don’t any of them look like me?”

“I’m getting tired. And it sucks. Because I don’t really feel like loving people anymore.”

But I also heard voices of hope.
“I love you all. I love this place. And it breaks my heart that this has been a place where so many have been marginalized and experienced prejudice.”
“I really believe that as Christians we are called to do three things: love God, love others, and push back darkness.”

And then -mercifully, beautifully- the school chaplain recalled for us of the words of the Peace Prayer sometimes attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon...Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.”

And we were reminded: as Christians, we are created to live (and love) in community.

We are responsible for each other -in good times and bad times- because we are in relationship with each other. And those relationships transcend categories like race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic status.

As the Apostle Paul reminded the Galatians: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith...There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28, NRSV)

In other words: we are called to bring love, light, and joy to each other.

To love God. To love others. And to push back darkness.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

That We May Delight: A Confession

"Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,

by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;

that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. 

-Confession of Sin, Holy Eucharist Rite II

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

So That the Demonizing Will Stop.

[Faith is] about being in companionship with Jesus. St. Ignatius in his spiritual exercises has a meditation called The Two Standards, and in it he says very simply, "See Jesus standing in the lowly place."

It's not about saluting a set of beliefs necessarily; it's about walking with Jesus and being a companion. 

And I haven't found anything that's brought me more life or joy than standing with Jesus, but also with the particularity of standing in the lowly place with the easily despised and the readily left out and with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop and with the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. 

And I find the fullness of life in trying to as best I can in my own way to stand there." -Fr. Greg Boyle, S. J.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

All the Stories are about Us.

"The power of stories is that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story. 

And this grips and fascinates us because of the feeling it gives us that if there is any meaning in life -in Hamlet's, in Mary's, in Christ's- then there is meaning also in our lives.

And if this is true, it is of enormous significance in itself, and it makes us listen to the storyteller with great intensity because in this way all [the] stories are about us and because it is always possible that [the storyteller] may give us some clue as to what the meaning of our lives is." -Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Monday, November 16, 2015

We are not the people who believe

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

'See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” 

And the one who was seated on the throne said, 
'See, I am making all things new.'”-Revelation 21:1-5 (NRSV)

"We are NOT the people who believe
that one day God will come back to earth
and take all the GOOD folks
and take them somewhere ELSE.

We believe what the BIBLE says:
that one day God WILL come back
and FINISH what God has started."
-Rev. Jon Middendorf, 11/8/15


Sunday, October 11, 2015

To Follow a Peace-Loving Savior

Some too-good-not-to-share fragment's from Pastor Jon's last sermon (delivered in the awful wake of three American school shootings in ten days):

"The idea of 'what terrible thing might come next' can jeopardize our mission and ministry We can be held hostage by fear...

Christianity has always struggled with empire. But we are called to struggle faithfully, and sometimes even to suffer well...

We believe that Jesus is the living embodiment of God. But that belief does not give us weapons to defeat other people; it gives us towels and basins with which to serve them...

To follow a peace-loving Savior with the weapons of violence is to misunderstand the one we call Savior...

Perfect love drives out fear. And we are not alone." -Rev. Jon Middendorf


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Once Again We Know

"The thirst for God is universal because we have been created with a longing for the Creator.

This desire to know and be known by the One who made us and loves us is often ignored, denied, and finally buried under a multitude of pursuits and interests.

But then some event in life invites us or forces us to pause, and the desire for God comes rushing back to our awareness.

And once again we know that real life is impossible without the companionship of the One who first gave us the gift of life and who sustains us even now.

We know for certain that we need living water; we need what only God can give if we are to really live."

-Reuben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God