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Archive for March, 2016

Easter voiceEaster Sunday

March 27, 2016

For Beloved Community and Columbine UU combined service

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary Reading

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. 
While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 
Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 
But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Silence

 How lovely the quiet morning,

 when the purple and pink sky

  hovers over the foothills,

   only to drop down into morning’s alpen-glow,

    
The hills light up,

 and all the world bears silent witness

  to the true glory that always seeks after us

   in every moment of our lives.

    How lovely the quiet morning.

But silence can be most difficult as well.

 Not just silence, but the silencing of all my plans.

  the stopping of “la carrera de mi vida”

   “the run of my life.”
I like my sound track.

 Not silence.
My hopes and dreams, longings,

 projects, things established and counted upon,

  all the reading and filing that I haven’t done.
My ego-driven works;

 and even my surrender-to-love sweet actions.
All of it. Now turned to silence.
It is difficult to show up for all that silence.

 The only sound that remains is whatever sound

  the universe makes as it whirls and turns

   in its infinities.
Silence the door to uncertainty.

 Silence the teacher of the deepest soul.

  Silence that is that invitation in the curious envelope;

   it often lies unopened 

    at the bottom of the stack.

  

The speaking women

In the story of resurrection

 in the gospel of Luke,

  it is the women who show up for silence.
They walk to the burial garden on a barren Sunday morning,

 when the fragrance of the flowers fills the air, 

  but that is not why they are there.
The sun rises, 

 shooting bands of red and gold into the sky, 

  but that is not why they are there.
They are there for the utter silence,

 for the grave that is silent,

  for their own silence.
The gravel crunches under their feet.

 Even the dew on the hems of their dresses

  seems to make a sound,

   for the silence is so great,

    around them…, and in their hearts….
The silence has gone on for days now.

 There is no expectation of speech.

Voice 

But then, something subterranean shifts on its foundations.

 A hidden freshness, an inkling of movement

  in the heart of things.

  

An often hidden, but very natural,

 activity comes to life.
A thing of waves and particles – 

 who knows how – like light,

  how does this work anyway?

Into the silence, now, the women find their voice.

 The silence holds them….

  And then their hearts break open;

   All things break open.
An often hidden, but very natural

 activity comes to life.

  

Those who have been made silent

 find their voice,

  and then all things open.
Now the dew falls away.

 Now the red and gold of the sky fills their sight.

  Now the flowers’ fragrance

   hits their olfactory nerves

    with its wild brain-stimulation.
Their feet fly down the gravel path. 
The women find their voice.

 These women who are barely named in the stories.

  Always following the “also…” of the story

   or the “and…” of the story.

Now they begin the action, the declarations.

 Often the voice of those on the margins

  remains in long silence.
Then one day, there is speech.

 The person without a home has an idea

  how there could be housing for all.
The cancer patient finds her strength.

 The refugee builds a house.
The immigrant dries off from the rain,

 showers away the grit of the road,

  and says, “Here we will make our community.

   And it shall be for all people.”
The dry bones in the valley come to life.

 The dead are raised up.
Alice Walker, in her astonishing novel The Color Purple

 writes about her hero Shug,

  the woman who is beaten down,

   who becomes sick unto death.
But then, 

 An often hidden, but very natural,

  activity comes to life.

   Shug begins to speak, begins to sing….
She writes:

“Pretty soon it be time for Shug to go. She sing every week-end now at Harpo’s. He make right smart money off of her, and she make some too. Plus she gitting strong again and stout. First night or two her songs come out good but a little weak, now she belt them out.” (page 77) 
“Now she belt them out.”

 From the grave, the women run.

  “They told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.”

   They belted it out.
The wisdom and courage

 that had arisen from the silence.

  Now it was time for belting the tunes of life,

   singing out with the whole heart,

    not some proper bound-up song,

     but rather the cadences of release.

From the silent margins

 comes a voice, a song,

  An often hidden, but very natural,

   activity comes to life.
It is a difficult thing to show up for silence.

 But it can be just the place.

  Well now, there are the women shouting.

   There are the dry bones coming to life.
There is the universe, now speaking,

 and no one wants to miss any of that.

  As Alice Walker writes:

   “First night or two her songs come out good but a little weak, now she belt them out.”

Read Full Post »

Connecting the dotsPalm Sunday

The Sixth Sunday in Lent

March 20, 2016

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary Reading

Isaiah 50:7-9a

The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Church planting and shame

On this Sunday when we are celebrating people

 who have become co-travelers 

  in the journey of this new faith community

   I would like to talk briefly about the beginnings

    of this community.
In one way, it was born out of a calling to my soul,

 a deep sense that there was a beautiful way

  of practicing faith in a new community.
I’ve told you about the beginnings of the Blues Prayers service,

 about Ted Haggard and Jaime Lazaro.
I’m glad to share more with anyone about that.
In another more significant way, however,

 it has nothing to do with me.

  This community, in the words of Kahlil Gibran,

   is the subject of life’s longing for itself.
I believe the Spirit had a new community to create,

 and I became part of that Spirit-conversation.

  And so did others.
More than anyone just making something here,

 we are all privileged to bear witness

  to something being created by the Spirit.
We are less initiators,

 and more witnesses.
Not that we’re passive. We’re in the conversation.

 We’re working hard, stepping out, 

  accepting the risk of doing something new.
Everyone who steps across the threshold

 into this room, into any connection with this community,

  is taking a step of risk. What will this be?
But in all that, it most of all comes to us as a gift.

 I could talk all day about the giftedness 

  of people showing up, of money showing up,

   of the gift of a Hammond blues organ,

    which we may actually use one day.
The gift of the connection to the Catholic Worker.

 The gift of affiliation with the Mennonite conference.

  The gift of new leadership among us.

   The gift of moments of surprising depth

    of soulfulness in our shared worship.
In all this, when I left First Mennonite to start this church,

 it felt like joy, but joy wrapped so securely in risk

  that I could hardly recognize it.
And what I didn’t expect,

 and here’s the thing: 

  is that it felt like shame.

And what I have come to learn is that

 when you separate yourself,

 and do something unusual,

  it feels sometimes like shame.
Again, with Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly:

“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” (Daring greatly p8)
There is a great deal of shame in simply feeling alone,

 in feeling isolated.
There is a great deal of shame in simply

 doing something different

  from people around you.
Psychosis at the front edge of change….
As removal from social connection:

Meyer Fortes and Doris Y. Mayer – “Psychosis and Social Change among the Tallensi of Northern Ghana”

A study of how mental illness becomes more common

 when people are removed from their social matrix

  by modernization and how they find healing faster

   when restored to strong connections.

http://www.persee.fr/doc/cea_0008-0055_1966_num_6_21_3056
Not surprising; seems intuitive even.

 We just need connection.

  And setting out to do something different or new

   steps out of the established connections

    in favor of seeking new connections.
Just a couple of additional insights from the world of science

 before we connect with our ancient Biblical poetry.
David Brooks in his book The Social Animal

 aggregates an astounding array of brain research.
Here’s what he writes about babies making connections.

 He notes that in the womb, babies are already

  inheriting an enormous flow of generational information.
As Brooks writes, this information flows

 “from the dead through us and to the unborn.” (p 32)
Talk about being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,

 as the Biblical book of Hebrews puts it.
Babies have layers of evolutionarily-granted intuitions

 and capacities that show up right away.
Brooks writes that in 1981, Andrew Meltzoff ushered in 

 a new era of infant psychology when he stuck his tongue out

  at a 42-minute old infant.
The infant responded by sticking her tongue back out at him!

 Far from being a blank slate, we’re deeply wired

  for connection from the start. (pp31, 32)
For this reason, when each of you

 walked in this door, I was thrilled.

  I had and have shivers when anyone walks in.

   This is a movement for connection,

    and will people connect with me?

     Thanks be to God when it happens.

      Thanks be to God.

In a big church, and more when I was young,

 I used to feel more like I was managing people.

  How do I help them to connect, feel welcome, etc.

   Here in this place, I just thrill to the presence of each one.

The Song of Isaiah

I now would like to turn to our ancient poem from Isaiah,

 this ancient song.
Why do we pay attention to the Bible?

 It’s full of weird stuff. It’s also full of this kind of thing:
From our reading:

“Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.”
“Let us stand up together.”

 And to read that from across more than

  2,500 years makes me feel connected.
It overcomes shame, because these connections

 are not fly-by-night.

  They are a thousand-year project,

   with all the gravity and elegance of deep maturity.
Reading the Bible is definitely like digging for pearls in the mud.

 But it is nonetheless the place of pearls, a place where 

  people were struggling toward clarity 

   about how to live in the great, free love of a free God,

    and not by lesser dictates of money and power.
And those lesser dictates are all around,

 and I must always speak confessionally,

  those lesser dictates are alive and well in my heart.

   

I need you all, I need the Spirit, I need good and ancient songs,

 to continually each hour move to the beat of the ancient

  drums of love.
And so Isaiah:

The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?
It sounds like just me and God.

 But Isaiah thinks of himself always,

  in the house of Israel.
Or to put it another way,

 to declare for God

  is to declare connection to the people of God,

   to the friends, family, and movement

    that is the social network.
As David Brooks puts it

 we are “The social animal.”
Isaiah continues:

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Spotlight

So now I will dive from the ancient poem

 to the Oscar-winning movie.
We just watched the movie Spotlight

 this weekend.
The movie is named after the investigative group

 at the Boston Globe that brought to light

  the travesty of sexual abuse by priests
The movie could just as well have been named “connecting the dots”

 because that’s what the team did for months:
see people, look in ledgers, find clippings, unseal documents

 dot after dot that in isolation had been hidden

  but now formed a picture of a system of abuse

   in the Holy of Holies, the place of trust.
The shame on face after face was evident

 as they often reluctantly started to tell their stories.

  A middle-aged man tells the reporter

   “I haven’t even ever told my wife.”
That is isolation; that is shame,

 they are my adversaries, in the words of Isaiah.
My adversaries far more than being people

 who disagree with me

  are the forces of isolation and alienation

   in a culture full of giant forces.
In the movie, it was the Catholic Church,

 symbolized by great stone towers

  looming over small Boston houses.
It is the culture of advertising-stoked consumer longing.

 It is the culture of violent solutions to human conflict.
Whatever it is,

 these forces care only for us as compliant individuals.

  They are not happy when we form

   alternative communities of love and rejoicing

    in the abundance of God.

As Walter Brueggemann might put it,

 only the abundance of the system matters.

  No other abundance counts.

   But systems isolate us, leave us alienated.
I don’t need L.L. Bean nearly as much as I need you all,

 even though I do need clothing.

  I don’t need the police nearly as much as I need you all,

   even though I do need reasonable security.
So we form this small thing,

 what Gustavo Gutierrez and others called the

   Communidad de base – basic community,
on the ground community

 of face to face connection.
We do need some large structures,

 traffic laws, international agreements about climate change.
But the place of our heart, 

 where we are deeply formed,

  will always be places of direct and personal connection,

   in ways that make all the difference.
In the system, we are human bits,

 we are data, consumers, voters, boots on the ground.
But we are not human bits, we are human beings.

 We are created as human beings,

  full of all divinity and greatness and love.
That’s what this community supports, nurtures, designs.

 That’s what we do together,

  and what we join when we join this base community,

   this local movement for the sake of love.

As David Brooks writes:

“We become fully ourselves through the ever-richening interplay of our networks.” (page xvi)
So “let us stand up together,”

 as Isaiah said some 2,500 years ago.

  Let us walk together,

   let us lean together into God’s good future.

    There is no shame in that.

     Amen.Connecting the dots

Palm Sunday

The Sixth Sunday in Lent

March 20, 2016

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary Reading

Isaiah 50:7-9a

The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Church planting and shame

On this Sunday when we are celebrating people

 who have become co-travelers 

  in the journey of this new faith community

   I would like to talk briefly about the beginnings

    of this community.
In one way, it was born out of a calling to my soul,

 a deep sense that there was a beautiful way

  of practicing faith in a new community.
I’ve told you about the beginnings of the Blues Prayers service,

 about Ted Haggard and Jaime Lazaro.
I’m glad to share more with anyone about that.
In another more significant way, however,

 it has nothing to do with me.

  This community, in the words of Kahlil Gibran,

   is the subject of life’s longing for itself.
I believe the Spirit had a new community to create,

 and I became part of that Spirit-conversation.

  And so did others.
More than anyone just making something here,

 we are all privileged to bear witness

  to something being created by the Spirit.
We are less initiators,

 and more witnesses.
Not that we’re passive. We’re in the conversation.

 We’re working hard, stepping out, 

  accepting the risk of doing something new.
Everyone who steps across the threshold

 into this room, into any connection with this community,

  is taking a step of risk. What will this be?
But in all that, it most of all comes to us as a gift.

 I could talk all day about the giftedness 

  of people showing up, of money showing up,

   of the gift of a Hammond blues organ,

    which we may actually use one day.
The gift of the connection to the Catholic Worker.

 The gift of affiliation with the Mennonite conference.

  The gift of new leadership among us.

   The gift of moments of surprising depth

    of soulfulness in our shared worship.
In all this, when I left First Mennonite to start this church,

 it felt like joy, but joy wrapped so securely in risk

  that I could hardly recognize it.
And what I didn’t expect,

 and here’s the thing: 

  is that it felt like shame.

And what I have come to learn is that

 when you separate yourself,

 and do something unusual,

  it feels sometimes like shame.
Again, with Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly:

“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” (Daring greatly p8)
There is a great deal of shame in simply feeling alone,

 in feeling isolated.
There is a great deal of shame in simply

 doing something different

  from people around you.
Psychosis at the front edge of change….
As removal from social connection:

Meyer Fortes and Doris Y. Mayer – “Psychosis and Social Change among the Tallensi of Northern Ghana”

A study of how mental illness becomes more common

 when people are removed from their social matrix

  by modernization and how they find healing faster

   when restored to strong connections.

http://www.persee.fr/doc/cea_0008-0055_1966_num_6_21_3056
Not surprising; seems intuitive even.

 We just need connection.

  And setting out to do something different or new

   steps out of the established connections

    in favor of seeking new connections.
Just a couple of additional insights from the world of science

 before we connect with our ancient Biblical poetry.
David Brooks in his book The Social Animal

 aggregates an astounding array of brain research.
Here’s what he writes about babies making connections.

 He notes that in the womb, babies are already

  inheriting an enormous flow of generational information.
As Brooks writes, this information flows

 “from the dead through us and to the unborn.” (p 32)
Talk about being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,

 as the Biblical book of Hebrews puts it.
Babies have layers of evolutionarily-granted intuitions

 and capacities that show up right away.
Brooks writes that in 1981, Andrew Meltzoff ushered in 

 a new era of infant psychology when he stuck his tongue out

  at a 42-minute old infant.
The infant responded by sticking her tongue back out at him!

 Far from being a blank slate, we’re deeply wired

  for connection from the start. (pp31, 32)
For this reason, when each of you

 walked in this door, I was thrilled.

  I had and have shivers when anyone walks in.

   This is a movement for connection,

    and will people connect with me?

     Thanks be to God when it happens.

      Thanks be to God.

In a big church, and more when I was young,

 I used to feel more like I was managing people.

  How do I help them to connect, feel welcome, etc.

   Here in this place, I just thrill to the presence of each one.

The Song of Isaiah

I now would like to turn to our ancient poem from Isaiah,

 this ancient song.
Why do we pay attention to the Bible?

 It’s full of weird stuff. It’s also full of this kind of thing:
From our reading:

“Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.”
“Let us stand up together.”

 And to read that from across more than

  2,500 years makes me feel connected.
It overcomes shame, because these connections

 are not fly-by-night.

  They are a thousand-year project,

   with all the gravity and elegance of deep maturity.
Reading the Bible is definitely like digging for pearls in the mud.

 But it is nonetheless the place of pearls, a place where 

  people were struggling toward clarity 

   about how to live in the great, free love of a free God,

    and not by lesser dictates of money and power.
And those lesser dictates are all around,

 and I must always speak confessionally,

  those lesser dictates are alive and well in my heart.

   

I need you all, I need the Spirit, I need good and ancient songs,

 to continually each hour move to the beat of the ancient

  drums of love.
And so Isaiah:

The Lord God helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?
It sounds like just me and God.

 But Isaiah thinks of himself always,

  in the house of Israel.
Or to put it another way,

 to declare for God

  is to declare connection to the people of God,

   to the friends, family, and movement

    that is the social network.
As David Brooks puts it

 we are “The social animal.”
Isaiah continues:

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord God who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Spotlight

So now I will dive from the ancient poem

 to the Oscar-winning movie.
We just watched the movie Spotlight

 this weekend.
The movie is named after the investigative group

 at the Boston Globe that brought to light

  the travesty of sexual abuse by priests
The movie could just as well have been named “connecting the dots”

 because that’s what the team did for months:
see people, look in ledgers, find clippings, unseal documents

 dot after dot that in isolation had been hidden

  but now formed a picture of a system of abuse

   in the Holy of Holies, the place of trust.
The shame on face after face was evident

 as they often reluctantly started to tell their stories.

  A middle-aged man tells the reporter

   “I haven’t even ever told my wife.”
That is isolation; that is shame,

 they are my adversaries, in the words of Isaiah.
My adversaries far more than being people

 who disagree with me

  are the forces of isolation and alienation

   in a culture full of giant forces.
In the movie, it was the Catholic Church,

 symbolized by great stone towers

  looming over small Boston houses.
It is the culture of advertising-stoked consumer longing.

 It is the culture of violent solutions to human conflict.
Whatever it is,

 these forces care only for us as compliant individuals.

  They are not happy when we form

   alternative communities of love and rejoicing

    in the abundance of God.

As Walter Brueggemann might put it,

 only the abundance of the system matters.

  No other abundance counts.

   But systems isolate us, leave us alienated.
I don’t need L.L. Bean nearly as much as I need you all,

 even though I do need clothing.

  I don’t need the police nearly as much as I need you all,

   even though I do need reasonable security.
So we form this small thing,

 what Gustavo Gutierrez and others called the

   Communidad de base – basic community,
on the ground community

 of face to face connection.
We do need some large structures,

 traffic laws, international agreements about climate change.
But the place of our heart, 

 where we are deeply formed,

  will always be places of direct and personal connection,

   in ways that make all the difference.
In the system, we are human bits,

 we are data, consumers, voters, boots on the ground.
But we are not human bits, we are human beings.

 We are created as human beings,

  full of all divinity and greatness and love.
That’s what this community supports, nurtures, designs.

 That’s what we do together,

  and what we join when we join this base community,

   this local movement for the sake of love.

As David Brooks writes:

“We become fully ourselves through the ever-richening interplay of our networks.” (page xvi)
So “let us stand up together,”

 as Isaiah said some 2,500 years ago.

  Let us walk together,

   let us lean together into God’s good future.

    There is no shame in that.

     Amen.

Read Full Post »

Rolled away your disgraceThe fourth Sunday in Lent

March 6, 2016

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary Reading

“Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt” Joshua 5
Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Gilgal

Once upon a time, in a land not all that distant from here,

 a large group of immigrants stood on dry land.
The border guard, the river Jordan, had just dried up in front of them,

 and they had walked right into the land.
It was a land which they understood was to be their land,

 and now they ate some grain from the new land,

  and no longer needed their traveling food,

   the manna that had been with them on the road.
The thing to remember about these people

 is that their parents and grandparents

  had been slaves in a great land to the southwest,

   called Egypt.
There, at the point of the sword and the snap of the whip,

 the parents and grandparents had to work long hard days.

  Their bodies were not their own.

   They could be killed with no notice.
In every way that the empire of Egypt could imagine,

 they were controlled and reduced to the status of

  tools to be wielded by the hands of another.
Their shame, their disgrace was immense,

 cut off from dignity, cut off from each other.
But the empire of Egypt couldn’t imagine everything.

 It couldn’t imagine a shepherd walking into 

  the halls of power with this message:

   “Let my people go.”
But this happened.

 And it was the voice of God,

  who has not created people for indignity,

   but for dignity and for rejoicing in all our days.
And so God said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace, the shame, of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal, which means rolled.

Purple

Shame.
Brene Brown writes in her book Daring greatly:

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.”
And she adds:

“…language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”

Daring greatly, p58
What is shame?
Brown writes that first of all “Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong. Here’s the definition of shame that emerged from my research: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging..” 

p68
But again “…language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
Brown speaks mostly about individual shame.

 But we also experience collective shame.
Shame for being Mennonites.

 Our parents and grandparents spoke German

  in the midst of a wars against Germany,

   and tried to keep the way of non-violence.
In many cases, they carefully kept to themselves.

 They changed the name of Berlín, Ohio

  to Bérlin, Ohio.
Some put flags in their churches to demonstrate their patriotism.
Instead of going to war, they offered to do alternative service.

 Good enough. But there was still a message:

  With an enemy like Hitler, that doesn’t really get the job done,

   does it?
Separation, disgrace, shame.
That is a big cultural story for a peace church.
Other stories:

“Black lives matter” – the story that people

 with dark skin are more likely to be pulled over,

  more likely to be incarcerated.

   more likely to be shot by law enforcement.
Weirdly, there seems to be a global disposition 

 that the darker the skin,

  the greater the prejudice, the greater the shaming.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_based_on_skin_color
And people speak openly about in Denver Post op-eds 

 about how we are “at war with the entire Muslim world.”

  Really? Including my dear friend Iman Jodeh,

   whose father has brought so much joy into my life?
And imagining Mexico and Latin America to be places

 to fear and to control, rather than to love and welcome.
Shaming is the deliberate action to separate someone or some group.
We feel shame when we feel cut off.
Brené Brown in her book Daring greatly writes,

“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” Daring greatly p8
Here is a picture of my shame from a couple of weeks ago – the walk behind our house remains un-shoveled after a couple of days.

See how I am cut off from my neighbors.

 I have not shoveled, and they have.
And here is my shame removed!

Shame and shame removed!

 Fortunately, that one was easy.

  But I did feel shame when I saw how late I was

   to shovel the walk.
Do we not all walk around with a measure of shame?
I made a basket for the other team in 4th grade.

 I can still feel the burn of that emotion.
In 3rd grade, I colored a picture 

 which my teacher put down, saying

  it looked like the work of a kindergartener.
Which, if you think about it, was a put-down

 for kindergarteners and for me!
Brene Brown writes that shaming is so ubiquitous in schools that,

“85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming, it changed how they thought of themselves as learners.” Daring greatly p189

Which is a point our poem addresses:
Purple

 In first grade

Mrs. Lohr said

my purple teepee

wasn’t realistic enough

that purple was no color

for a tent,

that purple was a color

for people who died,

that my drawing

wasn’t good enough to hang

with the others.

 

I walked back to my seat

counting the swish swish swishes

of my baggy corduroy trousers.

With a black crayon

nightfall came to my purple tent

in the middle of an afternoon.

 

In second grade

Mr. Barta said draw anything,

he didn’t care what.

 

I left my paper blank

and when he came around

to my desk

my heart beat like a tom tom.

He touched my head

with his big hand

and in a soft voice said

the snowfall

how clean

and white

and beautiful.
Alexis Rotella 

(support the poet at http://www.alexisrotelladesigns.com)
Especially in a highly individualized culture,

 we too easily find our way to the separation and isolation of shame.
We are ashamed of our own illnesses, injuries, disabilities.

Ashamed to talk about death.

Ashamed to need each other.

Embarrassed about starting relationships, ending relationships, wanting relationships, needing relationships.

And yet what is more natural?
As Brene Brown says: 

“Connection is why we’re here.”

Repetition compulsion

Now let’s touch base with Joshua and the freed slaves again.
Sadly, shame breeds shame.

 In psychology, this is called “the repetition compulsion” 
Joshua is the military commander and the administrator 

 of the occupation of Canaan.

  His name means “God is salvation.”
This is the first book after the Torah

 all that story of creation, of liberation, of law in the wilderness

  a great heart-throbbing collection and legacy of God’s work 

   creating and saving a people
Then it’s as if the book of Joshua says “now.”

 Now we enter and settle the land
The river Jordan lies between the Torah and next things,

 between the great tale and legacy of becoming

  and the work of settling and establishment
And the river Jordan lies between the wound and the wounding.

 Because you may know what comes next after Gilgal.

  The walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

   And what the song doesn’t say is

    that all the people in the city were killed,

     young and old.
Now, there are complexities and nuances about this story

 that have to do with holy war.

  The people aren’t just killed, the are “dedicated to destruction.”

   No one was to be killed for personal gain or glory.

    This was about God.
And they also were an unwholesome presence in the land.

 And they also would gladly have killed.
Nevertheless, there it is.

 The freed slaves turn and kill.

  City after city in Canaan is razed to the ground.
The repetition compulsion.
Rabbi Michael Lerner writes

“On the one hand, Torah teaches that transcendence is always possible, always potentially at hand, because God pervades the universe and is always present–and our task is dah leefney mee at omedet–know before whom you stand, because we stand before God always. But on the other hand, human beings are in fact rooted in a complicated and flawed set of social relationships which have been internalized in all of our emotional and intellectual lives. So, we must strive for transcendence by manifesting compassion for the ways in which we and others are likely to fail to overcome our own inner and outer legacies of oppression.
“God is the Force of healing and transformation, the Force that makes it possible to break the tendency to pass on the pain and cruelty from generation to generation, the Force that makes possible the breaking of the repetition compulsion.”

A Jewish Renewal (Kabbalistic-Mystical-NeoHasidic) Approach to God

by Rabbi Michael Lerner

http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/god

Joshua knew before whom he stood.

 He very much wanted to be obedience to God.
But he was a man of violence in a world of violence.

 He made sure no one killed for personal gain – holy war.

  But still there was so much killing.
No wonder the prophet Isaiah years later foresaw another leader:

 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”

Isaiah 42:1-3

  

It is so hard to not repeat the wounding

 of previous generations,

  shame following shame.
I remember our seminary professor C.J. Dyck

 talking about how he disliked writing confessions of faith.
He said, confessions of faith are fine while being written.

 It can be a good process of learning and dialogue.

But should be discarded as soon as they’re written

 otherwise they become clubs to hit each other with

(C.J. Dyck 1985 AMBS renewal movements course)
This was prophetic for the Mennonite Church.

 Each new confession creates new exclusions,

  new forms of shame.

   Generation after generation.
All while trying to do better.
It’s another version of the droll observation that

 revolutions are fine while their happening

  but should be discarded as soon as they’re done.

(See Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace – on the problem of reshuffling the deck of cards of power p116)
It is so hard to not repeat shame and shaming.

A voice from the elsewhere 

Last weekend, we heard Walter Brueggemann say,

 that we need a voice from elsewhere.
A voice from outside the repetition compulsion,

 “I am doing a new thing” says the voice of God

  to prophet after prophet.
Or again with rabbi Lerner:

God is the Force of healing and transformation, the Force that makes it possible to break the tendency to pass on the pain and cruelty from generation to generation, the Force that makes possible the breaking of the repetition compulsion.”
After the Civil war, president Lincoln famously 

 refused to demonize the south.

  If only his refusal to perpetuate hatred and violence

   had carried the day.
Why do people love Donald Trump?

 This has become an important question..

The best answers I’ve heard have to do with power:

 people love Trumps authoritarian declarations,

  what one person called his “muscle”,

   another just says “I like his power”

(This American Life #580 “That’s One Way to Do It” about a gay, black

teen named Alex)
Fusing to power is one way to address shame. 

 But that is a scary path, a path that weaves

  violence into every part of it.

    

As you can imagine, Brene Brown offers a very different approach:

“…vulnerability and love are the truest marks of courage.”

Daring greatly p61

 In her book, she writes at length about how to make that move,

  out of shame through the pathway of vulnerability and love.
One key understanding, back to where we started:

“…language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.” p58
She continues in another place:

“Shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy—the real antidote to shame. If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” p74
The answer is simple and hard:

Shine a little light.

 Let us share with one another.

  Let us tell the stories of our shame,

   let us tell about our desire for a real Jericho sometimes.
More on this another time; in a way, more on this all the time.
And may the beautiful shining One 

 who is a force for healing and transformation

  come among us and and roll away our shame. Amen.

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