Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Friday . . . Is It Good?

It’s the beginning of Easter weekend. Good Friday. It’s the day that professing Christians honor as the day Jesus Christ was executed by the human Powers That Be. There will be worship services held. Profound words will be written and spoken. People will consider what it means to be immersed in the darkness that comes before the dawning.

At least, some people will.

A lot of other people will be caught up in the great controversies of the day, shouting their opinions at the top of their lungs, while shouting down those with differing opinions.

Lately, my Facebook feed has blown up with vitriolic attacks concerning deep and controversial issues. For
a while it was all about guns. Some people think we should restrict possession and sale of firearms, particularly assault-type weapons. Others think that by creating more restrictions, government will be infringing on the rights of the people. Here in Georgia, one of the most open gun law proposals in the country seems poised for approval.

Hot on the heels of the “Gun Fight” has come “Marriage Mayhem.” The Supreme Court of the United States of America has heard arguments concerning Proposition 8, a California law restricting marriage of same-sex couples. Does Proposition 8 meet the requirements of Constitutional law or does it not? We’ll soon find out this court’s opinion.

I’m not here to favor any argument over another. Do I have my opinions? Of course I do. I’m betting you do as well. What troubles me is that those people who should be most insistent on peace seem to be the most intent on conflict. According to my Facebook sampling, the most hateful, name-calling, grace-less group of people involved in these issues are – wait for it – Christians.

I can hear the protests beginning: “Now wait a minute – you don’t understand. All these opinions are an attack on Jesus and our faith. We are at war with the Godless (insert preferred hated group here)! God wants us to get rid of those folks.”

I’ve heard it on both sides of the issues. Each group is absolutely convinced that God is on their side (never mind being on God’s side) in the argument. This, of course, gives them a divine right to hate people of differing viewpoints and to excoriate anyone that may disagree with what is obviously God’s will.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the shouting and the condemnation and the name-calling. I’m tired of someone telling me that I have to choose one side and hate another. I’m tired of cop-out responses telling me that it’s not hate, it’s just about being right.

As Shakespeare said, “A pox on both your houses!”

As it happens, I number myself among those people called “Christian.” Because of that, I cannot enter this time of remembering the sacrifice of Christ while at the same time hating those for whom he died. To do so would to make Christ a liar.

For those who choose to continue to hate others in the name of love, I encourage you to go back to your desiccated places of worship. Lift your prayers to the ceiling, because that’s as high as they will go. Pretend to honor God if it makes you feel better, but consider this: Each act of hatred, each slanderous word, and each action of exclusivity is a nail in the body of the savior you claim to honor and follow.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Friends of St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day is coming and I intend to participate. I love St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps it’s because of my alleged Irish ancestry. At any rate, I know that I love Irish music, Irish stories, and even Irish food (if you don’t like Shepherd’s Pie or Irish stew, you’ve never had them done right). Guinness? You decide.

I will be observing St. Patrick’s Day, but I won’t be at the legendary Savannah parade and party. I won’t be at any parties at all. Sadly, I won’t be in Ireland although I dearly want to go and visit there again.

Instead, I’ll be quietly doing my own thing – listening to Irish/Celtic music, reading a bit on Celtic spirituality and being more than a bit contemplative. I’ll also be wearing green. Some traditions shouldn’t be messed with.

Recently, my niece shared a link to an article written by a ministerial colleague of hers. This colleague talks about something she calls “holy friendship.” She speaks about people who take strength and camaraderie from one another. Conversations, while including things mundane or even silly, always include something deeper and more meaningful. There is a sometimes unspoken understanding that the connections being shared find their origin and meaning in what the Irish Celts would have called “The Thin Place.”

The Thin Place is the place where the boundary between the earthly and the spiritual is most ethereal – most permeable. It allows communication to move more freely from human to divine and back again. It can be anywhere, but is most often thought of in terms of intersections. It’s where earth meets sky or sky touches ocean. It can be where mountain greets desert. I believe it can also be where heart meets heart.

When I was very young, I spent a great deal of my time alone. It wasn’t until much later that I began to understand what it might mean to experience a relationship in which I could share true glimpses of who I am and receive them from others. It wasn’t easy to learn. Trust can be difficult to build and once it’s built it can be quickly destroyed. It takes a real friend – a “holy friend” – to walk with you and work with you, building and re-building trust and love.

I’ve been blessed by some grace-filled people in my life. They have stood by me and occasionally stood up to me. They don’t ask that I be anyone other than who I am. They expect the same in return. Some of these people have come and gone in my life. Some have come, gone and come back again. The timing is never my choice but it often seems that it happens when it is most important. I consider these to be holy times.

When I was in college, I encountered people that changed my life – mostly for the good. Some of those people became dearer to me than I thought possible. When I moved on from college, I lost most of those people. It took a while – decades, actually – but through the miracle of social media, some of us rediscovered one another. That was miracle enough, but we also discovered that our friendship was still held fast in our hearts, as we readily embraced one another again. We can’t get together as often as we want, but I know that they are still there.

Holy friendship.

Cousins that I had thought never to see or hear from again have found me through their own excursions into social media. Who would have believed it? Not I. At least I wouldn’t have believed it before. Now I believe that when the time and our hearts are right, we can experience the miraculous birth and rebirth of relationships. It’s a holy thing.

Most of us have acquaintances. These are people with whom we interact in our daily living. Most of us have some circle that we call friends. These are people with whom we share common interests or values and make up some part of our social experience. Some of us may be fortunate enough to have people in our lives that embody the Thin Place. These are the people through whom we catch a glimpse of the divine. They are those with whom we can share the spark of the divine that lives in us.

These kinds of relationships don’t happen by accident. They must be intentional. They must be nurtured and treasured. They must be acknowledged for what they are so that we can see the holiness that happens when we laugh or cry or sit together in companionable holy silence.

It’s about being a Thin Place for one another. Mel Shlacter, of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City, said: “Thin Places are the destinations of pilgrimage, and the journey can be just as well through the heart as over land and sea.”

Too often we are all about the destination. We should pay much more attention to the journey and the companions that are part of the journey. The destination will be there with the time is right. For now, I just want to be on the road in good company.