Staying Active in the Holy Spirit

493px-peace_dove-svgWe learn in high school English class the significance of the birth metaphor: something important has taken place, our hero has crossed the threshold to a new level, and they will never again be the person that they used to be. The feast of Pentecost is full of birth imagery. It’s no accident that it’s referred to as the birthday of the church, for it represents the moment when Jesus’s disciples were transformed from scared followers asking “now what” to bold preachers willing to spread the good news at all costs. The description of Pentecost in John (“After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy spirit.’” 20:22, The Inclusive Bible) echoes the second creation story, the birth of humanity, where “YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, The Inclusive Bible). Recall, too, the presence of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’s baptism, his spiritual rebirth: “the Holy Spirit descended on the Anointed One in visible form, like a dove” (Luke 3:22, The Inclusive Bible).

The birth metaphor, with its images of life and breath, reveals another fact about the Holy Spirit: she is associated with action and movement. The appearance of the Holy Spirit in the Acts reading for Pentecost is accompanied by “what sounded like a violent, rushing wind” (Acts 2:2, The Inclusive Bible). The disciples present act on the spirit’s urgings by preaching in a multitude of different languages. The breath mentioned in the John passage above is an image of movement, too – we can feel the rush of air! In modern English, I only have to use the phrase “spirited debate” for your brain to be filled with images of animated people gesturing wildly and perhaps moving about the room in order to make their point. The word spirit carries energy.

Unfortunately, the feast of Pentecost shares a fatal flaw with the other major appearance of the Holy Spirit: the Sacrament of Confirmation. With both celebrations, the story too often ends right then and there. For some, the Sacrament of Confirmation marks the end of regular visits to Church for the foreseeable future.  In the case of Pentecost, it can feel like the last stop before our brains kick into summer mode. (This is culturally reinforced: school lets out, vacations begin, and the church choir is on hiatus.) We may still be there physically for the summer months, but our spiritual development stagnates.

How do we face spiritual stagnation head on? At the MCC church, one way we do this is to declare the season after Pentecost to be Pridetide: in this time of gay pride parades and festivals, we take time to reflect on our place in the celebration and show up, claiming our own place among the groups. In this active spirit of Pentecost and Pridetide, my summer goal is to continue my spiritual growth. During Lent, I developed the habit of asking, “What do you want me to hear?” Now I’m asking, “What do you want me to do?” If I am successful, Advent will not only mean beginning again; it will be a new beginning.

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

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Miriam

This post is by Tevyn East, creator of the Carnival de Resistance (which will be in Minneapolis September 13-27) and was originally posted on radicaldiscipleship.net.  Miriam is part of an ongoing series on badass women of the bible. If you are interested in contributing a poem, reflection, sermon, art, etc on women in the bible for radicaldiscipleship.net email lydiaiwk@gmail.com.

Screen shot 2016-05-02 at 11.47.30 AM“So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again.”      Numbers 12: 15

In May of 2012, I entered into an artistic collaboration with Jay Beck, my now husband and partner in producing the Carnival de Resistance. We had established that I would come up to Philadelphia and together we would create works of theater that re-contextualize stories from scripture, based around each of the four elements: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. Immediately upon landing, we discerned that we would first focus on the voice of water and that I would delve into the story of Miriam, Moses’ sister. Little did I know that this choice would throw me straight into the deep end!

Although not often realized, Moses’ destiny and the destiny of the Hebrew people is birthed in the Nile river in an unlikely alliance between women, both privileged and oppressed, who are ready to defy the cruel mandates of an imperial system. Focusing on Miriam’s experience, within this conspiracy and the unfolding Exodus story, was rich fodder for our water piece. I felt wonder at her euphoric dance and song toward liberation as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-27). This account is immediately followed by a story of healing and promise and bitter water being turned sweet (a curious twist on her name’s meaning, “Bitterness”). However, it shocked my system as I began working through the later part of Miriam’s grievous story. Miriam is struck with leprosy and punitively expelled from the Israelite’s camp for hers and Aarons attempt to question their brother, Moses’, absolute authority (Numbers 12: 1-15). After Aaron and the entire camp advocate for her restored relationship within the community, we hear nothing more from Miriam until the report of her death. And the sequence is simple – She died, was buried. there was no water. the people were thirsty and gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Numbers 20:1,2).

 

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The Story of Resurrection is a Story of Transition

Reflection also available on Believe Out Loud’s website!

Easter Sunday. A day of many questions and confusion within a hope-filled community.

We still don’t know exactly what happened that night and moment. We can’t begin to imagination what folks were experiencing and feeling. As we reflected together this year over the snippets shared in the gospels, we immersed ourselves in imagining the fear and excitement of that moment.

Jesus’ followers did not know what was going to happen next or what to do next or what to say next.

After many doubts, they began to celebrate the resurrection not only of the Risen Christ, but the resurrection that erupted within them as individuals and as an emerging tribe what would be known by their love.

Though the future was not clear and would never be clear, they began to understand the transfiguration of the moment and the calling to live into wholeness, adopt and reclaim language, and ultimately to embody the resurrection of their being-ness.

As a trans and queer person of color, as a person of faith and spirit, as a person who struggles with the hallenges of living in a world enmeshed and divided by binaries, the story of resurrection speaks to me on many different levels.

The story of resurrection is a story of transition.

The Resurrection is the beginning of a journey of living into wholeness, a journey of affirming who one always was, and a journey of discovering and/or rediscovering new aspects of who we are—a journey similar to the many ways we transition as trans-identified folks.

Transition is not about medical procedures, changing one’s name, adapting the ways a person dresses, or wrestling with the dynamics of what it means to “pass” or whether one wants to even pass. These are just some of the aspects of transition.

But transition is ultimately about living into you. And that kind of living means different things to different people—it is filled with fear and questions, determination and doubts, hope and wholeness, risks and affirmation.

As people wrestling with different understandings and embodiments of gender, we stare into the tombs of our pasts, we come to recognize that who we were, who we were forced to be, who the world expected us to be is no longer there and perhaps was never there.

Who we are was hidden, and it took the passion of struggle to reveal ourselves to the world.

The bandages that covered wounds of societal and even self-inflicted violence are discarded with humble fierceness to reveal us in our fullness and in our dazzling light.

Resurrection is not about changing who we are. Like transition, it is about affirming who we are, who we have always been, and who we will always be. Just as Jesus revealed (and re-revealed and re-re-revealed) to the emerging Christian tribe, we as trans folk, genderqueer folk, gender creative folk, gender non-conforming folk, agender folk, Two Spirit folk, and the “various-expressions-of-gender-diversity” folk reveal who we are to our tribes, communities, families, and the world.

The Resurrection did not change Jesus into something new but simply affirmed who he always was. Jesus came out of the closet that was the tomb. We as trans people do the same—we affirm who we are, sometimes privately and sometimes publically and sometimes both, coming out of the tombs of closets, binaries, and imposed expectations.

After our journeys of crucifixion, mindful that each journey is different, we emerge as wholeful and resilient selves and souls.

Much like the apostles who ran into an empty tomb, we wrestle with many questions and doubts and disbeliefs imposed on a body they expect to be there, the body they predetermined should be there, but instead encounter a body that is sacred through its scars and a body that is whole despite several attempts by others to break it.

But, also like the apostles, we too have Mary Magdalenes in our lives who advocate with us to share our voices, often not being acknowledged or listened to—trans accomplices who continue to rant with us as we share who we are, both to and with the world in our sacred and sassy mystery of us.

The Resurrection is a transition—a transition that will never end as living into our being-ness is a never-ending transition. One does not complete transition, one does not finish resurrecting—both are ongoing adventures of struggle and resilience, of ups and downs, of tears of pain and tears of celebration.

The Resurrection that is transition is Biblically sparked and continues to spark the emergence and revealing of imperfectly fierce believers who affirm the good news of who they are in their messy wholeness.

Much like the Christian tribe grappling with the possibilities of the future, as trans people of faith and spirit we don’t always know what will come next.

But we are ready to take on the world with our scars as living badges of honor and resilience. 

Emergence, affirmation, creation, resurrection, and transition are journeys of is-ness and not was-ness, journeys of both/and-ness mixed with either/or-ness and also neither-ness. Who we are—not only as trans people, but simply and revolutionarily as people—is dynamic and messy, deconstructive and reconstructive, struggle-filled and celebration-ful, confusing and inspiring.

Amen, blessed be.

featured image from: http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/2013/07/resurrection-added-to-lgbt-stations-of.html

delfin bautista is a native of Miami, FL, delfin is of both Cuban and Salvadoran heritage.   delfin is a social worker and activist theologian who is passionate about engaging the intersections of religion, gender, sexuality, race, and justice.   delfin is a former member of CTA’s Vision Council, Board of Directors, Anti-Racism Team, and 20/30 Leadership Team.  delfin is coauthor of religion and spirituality chapter in Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and also serves on their Board of Directors.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin is a contributor to Believe Out Loud’s blog and “preaches” on their blog “La Lucha, Mi Pulpito.”

Honored Guests

 This is a post by Jay Aquinas Thompson: a poet, activist, parent, and an adult convert to Catholicism. He lives in Seattle with his family, where he attends St. Mary’s Church and teaches creative writing to women incarcerated at King County Jail. He keeps a blog at downdeepdowndeep.wordpress.com.

  

pharisee and tax collectorSimplicity, simplicity. I subtract the wisteria breeze and Miles Davis and the smell of hot carpet and my saints and the cold lentil soup I just ate from this moment, and see if simplicity remains. I decide: this is as good a moment as any to be simple.

 

What if what I needed to be happy and well and full of meaning lay entirely inside me? Maybe this is what Emerson meant when he offered that “every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth.” The challenge of this, of course, is that you can really wait for something only if what you’re waiting for has already begun.

 

What if what you needed to be happy and well and full of meaning lay somewhere in between the Federal Housing Authority, the people whose job it is to arrest you for missing a probation hearing, the Department of Social and Health Services, the state appointees who take your kids away to the house of your aunt who won’t return your calls, and your own being, with its will to declare and defend itself? T. with the chipped tooth who spent high school living out of her locker and first shot black tar into her veins at twenty-five; M. who lost a grown son to a gang killing, began studies to become a minister on the inside, and then lost a second grown son the same way; K. who in a drunken punch-up stabbed her husband, accidentally fatally; E. who never had an educational experience that wasn’t trauma. What size is my students’ I when life is a series of things done to them? What hieroglyphic is visible in their life, the answer to the questions they would put? Continue reading

The Risk of a Relationship with the Creator

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of preaching but not a lot of practicing my own spirituality.

And I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted because I’m not developing or growing or deepening my own spiritual life in the way I feel I ought to; rather, I’m listening to others and providing advice (often unsolicited). I encourage others to open their eyes to the beauty around them, the beauty of creation. I encourage others to spend time thinking about who the Spirit of the world is to them and how they connect with Her. I encourage others to take time to rest, to be in peace, in silence, to listen to the world around them, to look for the Creator’s presence in the world.

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But so few times do I take my own spiritual advice. So few times do I actually stop to think about my relationship with the Creator, or take time to intentionally develop our relationship. Sometimes it even seems scary; what might it be like to develop an intimate relationship with an Ultimate Mystery?

And sometimes I worry that I know how to think theologically but question if I actually know how to live spiritually. In other words, I know how I could develop my relationship with the Spirit, but do I actually try? Do I organize my day in a way that will provide space to deepen that relationship?

So lately, I have been praying. I’ve been asking for signs: what is it I am called to do? What is it I want to do? And what I’ve found is shocking. I’m exhausted. My body is calling for a rest. My physical body has almost given out on me – several times – in the past month. I don’t doubt this is over-exhaustion, my physical body calling my spiritual soul out, telling me as a whole that I need rest, a change, that I need something different. And my soul lately has been crying, too. It’s asking me for more connections – less distance from spiritual communities – places where my questions are heard as my own, not just as advice for others to think about; places where I can discover and respond and explore freely.

But responding to these findings seems like a huge risk, a huge life change, even. Am I asking for a better spiritual relationship but unable to accept the signs I’ve been given? Am I willing to make life changes to try to respond to these signs? Or am I risk averse? How do I step away from the good work I am doing now and say: it is time that I rest. It is time that I take care of myself. Because with all my heart I do think that it is now that I seek to know, rather than just preach about, the Creator.

 


 

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. For more, check out her blog For The(e) Beauty.

 

“The final word is love.”

The following is an adaptation of a sermon preached Saturday, January 30, 2016 at a gathering of Catholic Church workers.  The readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time were Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19, Psalm 71, I Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13, and Luke 4:21-30.

As we have been reflecting on vocation today, how fitting our beautiful first reading where, through the prophet Jeremiah, God speaks of how we have been known, dedicated, anointed – even before our birth. Yet implicit in the reading is a recognition of the struggle that lies ahead for those of us who say “yes” to divine call. The antiquated directive to “gird your loins” – which meant to tuck in your tunic so it was out of the way for strenuous activity, especially going into battle – seems to acknowledge that while we have been dedicated and called, that is no promise that this is going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be tough. Jeremiah says God promises to make us a “fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” These are images of strength and solidness, an assurance that amid the challenges and conflicts of mission and ministry, God is unfailingly present to strengthen us.

Jeremiah

We see this provision of God illustrated in the Gospel reading where Jesus is caught up in angry, violent conflict after his proclamation of mission. Perhaps we can take heart in the fact that – regardless of challenges we’ve faced in ministry– no angry mob has tried to throw us over a cliff!

Imagine for a moment, Ignatian contemplation style you are in the scene. The people are “filled with fury” and they “rise up.” Imagine their voices, the words they are saying, the way an electric energy of anger moves through the group and a mob mentality forms. They are ready to throw him over a cliff. What is it that Jesus hears and feels as he is caught up in the mass of people leading him to the top of the hill?

What happens next is truly surprising. Luke tells us Jesus “passes through the midst of them and goes away.” How is this possible? It makes me think of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility – somehow, this man who is the target of so much rage is able to simply walk away and go about his business. Apparently, no one says, “hey, he’s getting away! Stop him!” The way Luke describes it, you can almost imagine Jesus quietly slipping out of the din and commotion, rejoining his community, and continuing his ministry – shaken, certainly, but unharmed from the encounter.

Is there an encouragement and lesson here for us as church workers? Is there is a way in which we can be surrounded by, and even the center of conflict and division, and yet some part of us remains untouched and untouchable? Some core, some center – in Jeremiah’s words is a “fortified city” – that through God’s grace is immune to whatever chaos surrounds us? In Merton’s words, a “hidden wholeness,” some inner place that remains strong and untroubled?

Even when we are discouraged by institutions and people who are supposed to mediate the riches of our spiritual tradition and inevitably fall short, we hold to this deep truth of God with us, active in the world for love and life. Like Jesus, can we “pass through the midst of them” and continue on our way with peace and inner certainty – trusting that we are known, anointed, and dedicated by God for service to God’s people?

Against this backdrop of Jeremiah’s moving words of being known, anointed, dedicated by God, and Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ clash with the congregation in his “home parish,” we can hear Paul’s well-known words about love with new ears. As all ministers know, this reading is a favorite for weddings, often associated with married, romantic love. Yet Paul was writing to an early community of Jesus-followers in regards to their relationships in the ekklesia – the Church – with one another in Christian discipleship. In his own way, Paul is challenging the Corinthians to gird their loins and acknowledging that authentic Christian living in community is hard. There will be conflict. In writing that love “doesn’t brood over injury,” there is an implicit understanding that there will be injury. Love does not rejoice in wrong-doing…but wrong-doing is going to happen. Love bears all things, he writes – and there is stuff we are going to have to bear. This truth resonates with each of us in our unique ministerial contexts. Love never fails, and at the same time, this is going to be hard. Dorothy Day echoed this idea, quoting Dostoevsky, that “love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared to love in dreams.”

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“The final word is love.”  – Dorothy Day

 

I dare to believe that there is a core of strength, a core of love, which is a gift from our gracious and merciful God present in each of us…present in each member of the Body of Christ. We are bearing witness to it in each other as we hear and reverence each other’s stories of ministry and the living out of our “yes” to God’s call. The more that, with God’s grace and the support of each other, we can live from this core of strength, the more able we are to pass through the midst of the tumult – the conflicts caused by assignments of new pastors or bishops, the anxiety of parishes being clustered or closed, the dilemmas created by questions of conscience and obedience, the stresses of financial uncertainties, the scandals of power misused and abused. While we haven’t been nearly tossed over a cliff like Jesus, we have been personally and painfully touched by these realities.

Each of these readings recognizes in some ways the challenges of the life of faith and invites us to lean on God and one another – faithfully proclaiming with Paul that “love never fails.” We respond to these readings by connecting with that inner core of strength. We renew our commitment as ministers anointed and dedicated by God, girding our loins and trusting we are given the strength to live out the call, as broken and beautiful people in a broken and beautiful church in a broken and beautiful world.

About the author: Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities.. Her writing has appeared in appeared in various print and online publications and she is a contributor to Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table (Paulist Press). A native of Middleton, WI, she lives in Dubuque, IA.

“A Bruised Reed He Shall not Break”

Who was I to blog about peace?  All the peace that I sought seemed to disappear on Friday as I learned that a good friend of mine (my first college voice teacher, an important mentor, and an all around inspiration) had a terrible car accident between Green Bay and Milwaukee and is now lying unconscious and on a breathing machine at the hospital.  “The whole world was at peace”?  Certainly not here, not in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  This situation has haunted me this weekend as I struggled to go about my business.  “And what about my blog post?  How can I think of anything else?”, I thought.  Thus, I’ve decided to share with you honestly my journey this weekend, hoping that it will be of some help to you and me.

Upon hearing the news on Friday, I asked my parents to pray with me and then I prayed with my boyfriend.  My contributions both times were not very elegant — I’m not so good at praying extemporaneously with others — but I needed to do something, anything.  Eventually, I had to sleep — the general busyness of the week and the emotions of the moment caught up with me and left me drained.

Yesterday, I turned to the readings for today for inspiration.  One of the advantages of being a member of both the MCC and Catholic churches is that I often get two sets of readings for Sunday.  Today’s first reading in the Revised Common Lectionary is Isaiah 43:1-7.  Verse 5 jumped out at me:

Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (The Inclusive Bible)

This reading is obviously what David Haas used as a basis of “You Are Mine.”  Here’s the chorus:

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

Being a church choir nerd, I must have sung this a million times, many of those being funerals.  Thus, the song filled me with a mix of emotions.  It’s beautiful music.  And yet we often sing it when someone passes away.  It speaks of bringing someone home.  “Oh dear Lord, are you going to bring my friend home?”

At Mass at my Catholic parish this morning, Fr. Tim unlocked for me the power in the first reading in the Roman Catholic lectionary.  In this reading, a chapter earlier in Isaiah, we find:

A bruised reed he will not break (42:3, NAB)

Fr. Tim used the image of a broken stem on a poinsettia, which instead of being chopped off and thrown out, is propped up with a stick and given the best chance at healing.  So my friend is lying in the hospital incredibly broken, and God, through the ministry of the doctors and nurses, is doing everything possible to heal this “bruised reed.”  Wow.

I don’t know what happens next, but it won’t be easy.  I’ve learned not to ask why; I still need to learn how to deal with the feeling of powerlessness.  I’m grateful for my virtual and physical communities that are willing to set aside religious differences and come together in prayer.

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church.  He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.