Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Day Jesus called a Woman a Dog! Matthew 15: 10-28


I don’t remember all the times I might have been referred to as a dog or better yet, a bitch, but I do remember the first time someone who I thought I love and loved me used it.  It seemed to echo in the air as the word came crashing into my heart and mind and soul. At that moment, I knew that I had become another statistic and my relationship was over.
So the first time I allow myself to really encounter this text, while in Seminary I was devastated.  Devastated because I was reading Jesus responding to a desperate mother, “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” There is was – there was that bitch word again.
Did Jesus just call that woman a bitch? Where was Jesus’ mother? I know had it been my mother, a shoe from out of nowhere would have come flying at him, perhaps she wasn’t there, or perhaps she would not have said anything.
See, here’s the thing.  In order for us to talk about Jesus’ divinity, we have to talk about his humanity as well and I mean all of it!
Paul makes it clear in Philippians 2 that Jesus being in the very likeness of God or rather fully God become flesh, took on our form and our condition, becoming a slave, a slave to what? A slave to the human condition with all it foibles and sinfulness, and even yes, even its biases, prejudice, sexist, misogynist, patriarchal, racist and exclusive condition.
Jesus was a first century Palestinian Jew, raised by a Palestinian Jewish mother and father, who had their fair share of knowing what it meant to live under great prejudice and racism, and a long history of persecution because of their ethnic identity and so at times in an effort to protect from seemingly other people, a narrative of exclusion and fear, of prejudice and bias is formed against the other, especially if that other has been your life long enemy since the days of the Judges.
Canaan was the ancient land that fell under the curse of Ham, the son who looked upon the nakedness of his father, Noah.  These where all the people that the Hebrews were told were to be part of the conquering prophecy, the Hittities, Arameans, Moabities, Ammonites, Midianites and Edomites.

They were all descendants of the curse and they were all despised as the enemy.   During the time of the Moabites, they allegedly inflicted a lot of damage on the early Hebrew people after the time of Moses and were responsible for the famine, rape and capture of many of the Hebrew people leading up to the time of Jonah.  That’s why its ironic that God would send the prophet to Nineveh, one of the capitals of the Moabites to offer a message of a second chance and mercy.
Jesus would have heard the stories of what the Canaanites did, who they were and how unclean they were.  Jesus would have heard how good Jewish boys were to keep away from these foreign women. After all we know what happened to King Ahab when he got with Jezzabel, and Samson when he hooked up with the Philistine which was another name for Canaanites, and Solomon’s numerous affairs with all those foreign women and that Black Queen of Sheba.
Jesus was a product of his culture, his environment and the people and community that raised him just like all of us are products of our own community and environment, not all of it was bad and not all of it was good, but all of it was formative.
And yet, when we are sensitive to the Spirit, when we are aware that the one who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it, when we have given space for the spirit to begin the process of a new creation, and we allow the old things to pass away, like Paul says in Corinthians “therefore if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation, old things have passed away behold all things have become new.” Paul also reminds us in I Corinthians 15: 45 that the “first man Adam became a living soul, through Adam we all experience death, but the second Adam, that is Jesus we experience life and life eternal.”
This means that there will be times when we are face to face with the worst part of us, all of us go through this—even Jesus, especially Jesus.  Why do I say especially Jesus? Well Athanasius of Alexandria, one of our early church fathers, said it best.  “What has not been assumed has not been redeemed.” By this he meant human nature, with its bias and prejudices, all of it has been assumed or taken on by Christ, so that God, in Christ can redeem it.
Its hard to imagine but Heb. 4:15 says that Jesus experienced every one of our sufferings and our temptations – or else the incarnation would have been incomplete – because that which has not been assumed cannot be redeemed.  So Jesus assumes it all, even our fears about the other, even the way we demoralize and demonize and bully the other in order to keep our own security and dominance intact.
Calling a woman, a dog has a long racist and sexist past.
It implied and continues to imply property of the lowest kind.  Dogs were meant for work, dogs were savage beast that could be tamed for ones’ purposes. It implied that one was without control and for a female it implied that one was likened to a female dog in heat, penetrable and given over to all kinds of lust with uncontrolled passion. It was always associated with promiscuity and for slaveowners it meant that she was hard working like an animal and easily bedded.
We all watch movies, tv and so we are not too shocked anymore to hear this word, in fact woman have used it on other women, so we should not have been too surprised that it has come from the White House, just ask our Native American sisters and brothers, they have heard worse.  Its just now its instantly in our faces. It’s no wonder that we have become a little desensitized by its common use. But when we hear Jesus refer to this Syrophoenician woman as a dog, it is not only jarring, it is downright confusing?  We ask, Jesus, did that just come out of your mouth?
Just prior to that, we hear Jesus say “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”  What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and what comes out of the heart is evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defiles a person.” (I think this should be the criteria for using Twitter these days)
So then, what gives Jesus…by using this phrase are you showing us what is in your heart?  I think it’s hard for us to imagine, but for this historical, real flesh and blood, who walked our streets and lived in our neighborhood, the answer unfortunately is YES!

But watch what she does? She has been here before.  She plays his game and puts back in his face the very name she has been called, so that he can hear it. “Yes, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Its like she said, “A dog (bitch), oh yes I am, when it comes to my family, hell yes I am! When it comes to my dignity! Yes I am! When it comes to protecting who I am and my community, yes I am!”
You know that saying, Hell knows no furry like a woman scorned, but when that woman is a mother, you best believe something is going to happen.”   She said, “Oh, no, not today Satan!” This is why we hear of women who have overcome great adversity, who were probably called a bitch every single day of their lives and yet did not let someone define who they were.  Women who overcome domestic abuse, who overcome economic abuse.  Women who work twice as hard and get twice less pay.  Women who were beaten and thrown into prison but came back again to demand the right to vote.  Women who have been dragged on the street, attacked by dogs, had food thrown at them but return the next day and sat in a lunch counter.  Women who continue to cross the border, who stand up to ICE and demand justice for their children escaping poverty and violence. Women who speak up about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace even after they lose their jobs.
Women who hustle everyday of their lives in order to put food on their table.  Women who hear the words of society saying that they are not enough to raise kids in a single household, and that if there is no father involved that child is less than.  Tell that to Barak Obama.
For all we know, this Syrophoenician woman was a single mother, protecting her daughter because in her society, were female children were not valued, no one else but her would be able to protect her.  If you have not had a chance to read a good book this summer I invite you to read Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime.  For all intended purposes his mother was the Syrophoenician woman.
Behind her answer to Jesus, stood countless of women and she was determined to stop Jesus in his tracks.  And she did.

And this is what Jesus’ teaches us.  We can change!
Jesus hearing the words of the woman responds: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Jesus teaches us that we can either be trapped by our prejudices, biases and fears, by our sexism, misogyny and bullying behavior or we can allow the Spirit of God to strip away the past, the chains that bind us, the blinders that we have over our eyes and hearts and begin to see people for the spiritual sacred beings that they are.  Jesus recognized that this woman, who represented all that he ever knew about Canaanites, she was a person, a mother, a woman of faith and that “no” was not an acceptable answer for her.

Throughout the Gospel, this is what we see of Jesus.  Jesus teaches us how to respond to children, in appropriate, safe ways not as a predator, unlike what we have recently heard in the news. 
Jesus teaches us how to respond to those who are sick.  Jesus teaches us how to respond to those who are struggling with disabilities.  Those who are poor, those who are marginalized.  In fact, the Gospel is not so much about how we get saved and how we get to heaven, but rather how we live here on earth and what are ways that we respectfully respond to all.
And Jesus teaches us how to say, “I am wrong, I need to change”. Jesus teaches men both in his day and in ours, that you do not need to respond with bullying and become louder and more vociferous when you are in the presence of a strong, confident, intelligent woman. They are not a threat to your masculinity, they are very foundation of any functioning community and your greatest ally. Jesus teachers us, how to change our way of thinking and respond to faith that has no cultural bounds – faith that reaches and surprises us by challenging us to reconsider our implicit biases, thoughts and actions.  
After this encounter, both Matthew and Mark have Jesus change his message, it becomes a message of inclusion and for all nations. In fact, Matthew ends his Gospel with the great commission, making disciples of all nations!  Could this woman have made that change in Jesus? 
Maybe this woman, with her tenacity and persistence, her moxy and her consistent presence taught Jesus a valuable lesson that day that changed his life:  She taught Jesus that Syrophoenician Lives Matter!

If you’ve forgotten who you are…take some advice from the Syrophoenician woman.
If you’ve fallen prey to the temptation of sexism, chauvinism, misogyny…take some advice from Jesus who allowed himself to be transformed.
For any of us who find may yourself victim of the names, victim of the slander, a victim of those who only respond to your very existence with fear and hate, I say embrace it! Embrace all of it!  And the next time someone or the world calls you a dog or something similar, maybe we can rise up and say “hell yes I am! Deal with it cause I’m not going anywhere!”

  


Thursday, May 11, 2017

ALL of US

"Whatever happens, 
those who have learned to love one another 
have made their way to the lasting world 
and will not leave, whatever happens." Wendell Berry

I want to share with you the recent pastoral letter I have written in response to the Judicial Council ruling and how it affects Open Door and my family in particular. Please read with care, and with prayer and hold it deep in your heart. 
As you may or may not know, I have been sharing on Facebook about my friend and colleague Bishop Karen Oliveto who is the Bishop of the Mountain Sky Conference in the Western Jurisdiction.  She is making history because she is our first openly gay Bishop in the United Methodist Church.  You can imagine the conversation that is happening throughout the connection both in favor of and those who are feeling uncomfortable about the situation.  That is the reality of who we are in the United Methodist Church.  We are people who are liberal and we are people who are conservative but mostly we are people who place ourselves in the center, the middle way willing to acknowledge that we all fit in this large tent called United Methodism. 
As your pastor, I find myself more along the middle left.  In some things I am very left but always willing for the Church's sake, to walk along side those who find themselves in the middle right.  I hate labels but sometimes that's the only way we understand these kinds of debates. 
To understand the ruling of the Judicial Council over the validity of the election and consecration of Bishop Oliveto here is a summary:
1.  In a 6-to-3 vote made public, the church’s Judicial Council found that a married lesbian bishop and those who consecrated her were in violation of their “commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality.”
2.  Bishop, Karen P. Oliveto of Denver, “remains in good standing” and will undergo procedure to see if anything was violated by the Western Council of Bishops. In essence the ball is back in their courts. 
3.  The Judicial Council also decided, in separate rulings, that the New York and Illinois regions must ask candidates for the ministry about their sexuality and rule out those who are gay “or in any other way violating the church’s standards on marriage and sexuality.” Board of Ordained Ministries will have to determine how they will implement this particular ruling.

Beyond these rulings and trials, I want you to remember that we are talking about real people both gay and straight who love God and love our church and want to be able to be in ministry in their context. 
As a mother, I want you to know that this is particularly significant for me.  My son, William Gabriel has been open and honest with me about his sexual identity and has shared with me that he is gay.  I love my son and I love my church, but I love my son more!  It is my first calling. I hope you understand this. 
I don't want to make people agree with me, but I also don't want people to make me turn my son away because we can't decide to live together even with our differences. It seems to me that this is what makes Open Door unique! WE VALUE DIVERSITY! All of it!  We are open and affirming of all expressions of humanity and sexuality.  It makes us better and much more authentic as a community of faith.  Wesley said, "though we may not think alike, may we not love alike!"  
Remember the Three Rules that Guide all United Methodist: 
Do no Harm
Do all the Good we Can
Stay in Love with God

I have always valued the courageous space that we have created as a community of faith and I am trusting you as my family to hold my son's truth in your hearts and prayers but not to be shared on Facebook or other social media pages or in other conversations outside of the purview of the holy and sacred space.  

Thank you so much for your care, love and support!  Let us be in Prayer that Unity:UBUNTU will prevail. 

Rev. Lydia Muñoz
Church of the Open Door
Kennett Square

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Even in Sweden

Last week I had the great pleasure and privilege to travel to Sweden with my friend and colleague Mark Miller and the band Subject to Change. We were invited to participate in the Festival of Sacred Arts in a town called Skanör Falsterbo, a beach community although trust me, none of us got in the cold Scandinavian 30 degree waters.  However, what we did dip our feet into was Gospel Music.  Apparently, the Swedes love it and is something that by their own admission, have trouble doing.  Now you know that they gave the world great music by the likes of Ludvig Norman, Joseph Martin Kraus and of course, ABBA! (Yup! Dancing Queen), but Gospel is one of those genres that is difficult to find.
Now there are some churches that are doing their best to build a Gospel choir because what they have discovered as many of us have is that there is something magnetic and fulfilling about Gospel music that probably doesn't happen in any other genre of music. As we began rehearsals with the choir of youth and adults I began to see the transformation take place in each person and noticed the familiar reasons why most of us are attracted to it.
I think it has to do with the way Gospel music reaches into the soul in ways that can only be understood if you are willing to understand the way it connects to the story of liberation.  Gospel music comes from a community that developed a survival mechanism in the importance of learning how to shout.  From the time of slavery and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians, people under the yoke of subjugation found the connection between the ability to discover the places where freedom could be experienced in spite of their circumstance.  Gospel music comes from that great line and heritage.  
I can remember the first time Gospel music came into my life.  I was 9 years old and I heard Rev. James Cleveland for the first time singing "Peace be Still."  I felt every note and every lyric in every fiber of my body.  My heart began to beat faster and I knew that there was something in this musical expression that connected to a part of me that I did not understand but that somehow I had always been a part of.  It was connected to my own ancestors and their story of exploitation, slavery and second class treatment. 
Then in 1976 I discovered Andrea Crouch and my world turned upside down.  The album was This is Another Day and it included the incredible "Soon and very Soon." I couldn't get enough of this album and of this sound, and of the way it connected to my own deep story and soul and when I sang the songs, I could be anything or anyone.
Throughout my life, I have always turned back to Gospel music especially when I've lost God's voice in the midst of pain and struggle. Gospel music is struggle music.  It is the struggle of all those who before me never stopped believing that joy comes in the morning even when weeping last many nights.  Gospel music is resistance music. It says "yes" in the face of every "no" that a racist society has tried to impose over the years and it continues to preach hope when those around us want to declare a war on love, dignity and equality.  
When I think about all of this then I realize why the Swedes responded to this music so well. Sweden like many other European countries are struggling to respond to the refugee crisis in the midst of fear and and Islamophobia. They have actually closed their borders but the Swedish Church has been trying to take a stand against the isolationist politics of the day.  The Church as a whole has been in this crossroads many a times before. 
You cannot think of Gospel music without thinking of the way it connects to the African American story in the United States. When you hear "Precious Lord, Take my Hand" it directly links you with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his prophetic voice for equality and dignity of all Black Americans. It moved the U.S. Church farther than it ever imagined. Its been my conclusion that Gospel music centers us and calls us to live to the higher ideals of love, acceptance, dignity and sacred worth of every human being. If you are around Gospel music long enough the fear of the other begins to fade as you hear the songs that recall those who have seen the dark night and have learned to sing "through it all."   
I may be over-speculating but I also know what I experienced this past week, when people who may have had little or nothing to do with the Church and who are basically emotionally reserved and not too expressive, melt in the sunlight of a Gospel song and sing as though their life depended on it. Its funny but I've never considered how much Gospel music is actually a U.S. product, it was made in the U.S.A.  It is the gift that African Americans have given to the world. Oh what a gift it is!! I hate it when people say it is fun to do without acknowledging the pain and struggle it represents.  Maybe what they really mean is that Gospel music helps us experience joy when everything is trying to squeeze the life out of us.  Everyone can get with that...no matter where you come from. Pain is pain is pain, and sometimes the best thing you can do is throw your head back and sing.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nothing to Prove: I AM Enough!

I've been asked several times to reflect on my experience as a delegate of my annual conference to the General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church.  I've hesitated for about 3 months to do so, even after giving a verbal interview to have my opinions shared in public because there are things that I have been wrestling with over these long months and although I am grateful for the opportunity my comments may leave those who read them wondering if I really am.

First of all, let me say that I feel as though I have been at the longest conference ever that began in May and just ended in July.  Exciting to be a part of history, and yet frustrated when the same history takes places over and over again.  Mostly, I have been made aware of the intersections that exist in my life more than ever before and the reality that not one label can be applied to me for any length of time no matter how hard anyone has tried.  Yet, this has been the most frustrating piece of the entire experience.

The categories/labels are:
Latina
Woman
Woman of Color
Clergy
Married
Delegate
Urban
Mother

What this all means to me is that there are so many more ways to feel that I am never enough.  There are more ways to feel rejected, judged and dismissed by more than one group.  Of course, you know I'm gonna' quote my girl, Brene Brown here where she says, "The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture (not enough culture) are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness." (pg. 29, Daring Greatly) 
For example, if I am an advocate for the full inclusion of the church in particular with my LGBTQ friends and colleagues in ministry.  It doesn't mean that I am not as passionate about the totality of the term inclusion when it comes to race and/or gender but somehow we have managed to rob this word of its own intersections and have not recognized that when I say LGBTQ, I am also saying black, brown, men and women, youth and young adults because we do not take off our other realities when we categorize LGBTQ.  They actually come in a shape and sizes, all colors and styles, economic status and legal status as well. (Or do we actually think that everyone that comes over the border is straight?!)  There is value and worthiness is that!
When I say I am a woman of color, I recognize that within that category there are many intersections that cannot be separated.  Economic status, education, orientation, legal status, and to include the categories that do not fit any of our neatly shaped boxes.  There is value and worthiness in that!
I realize that when I say I am married and a mother there are scores of categories that pop up in people's heads, but if I were to tell you that I consider myself gender non-conforming people's heads begin to explode with speculation and questions about my orientation. There is value and worthiness in that!
So then, am I not Latina enough? Am I not heterosexual enough? Am I not female enough? Am I not married enough? Am I not enough? Where do I stand?
I often feel like Martha running around the house trying to make all things right because Jesus was coming over for dinner. Trying to prepare and be good enough for all parties involved. Trying to do what was expected of her.  Jesus finally says to her with loving compassion.  "Martha, Martha you are worried and anxious and distracted by so many things. There is only one thing."  Jesus wants Martha and all of us to see that when we work, when we pray, when we speak out and when we act we do so from a place of fullness, of being enough! Not from a place of scarcity but from a place of being whole because God loves me.
The truth is we cannot ask people to continue to choose one thing over the other.  We cannot continue to divide ourselves and our identities as though it were as simple as picking the box that best describes you.  And we cannot continue to pass judgement on those who we think should be a part of one category or another based on our criteria.
Don't ask me to support you because you are a person of color if you are not willing to recognize that there are intersections that cannot be dismissed and that when you do, you are asking me to deny other things that identify me, and this causes me harm and this is exactly what assimilation tried to do and its a product of internalized racism.
Don't ask me to speak on behalf of all persons of color and at the same time pigeon whole me to fit your criteria of what it means to be Latina, woman of color and all the other intersections that you are and cannot make yourself aware of, this too is a product of racism.
Can we learn to value people as good enough to let them self identify? Can we value that all our intersections make up who we are and that all of who we are is loved and valued by a God who is called by many names.  A God who goes beyond our categories and labels and expectations.  A God who cannot be boxed no matter how hard we try.
A God who says...I AM THAT I AM  and that is enough.



Friday, July 1, 2016

To Be Seen

It's been a long while since I've entered anything and "el camino" has been rough to say the least over the past six months. Let me bring you up to date.  
I was preparing to take a long sabbatical when I received a call from the cabinet that they wanted me to help a congregation that was having some difficulty.  I was literally sitting on the beach when I got this call and thought,this must be what Murphy's law looks like. Reluctantly, I went to the appointment for six months and frankly it gave me hope to help people find their way after a time of stress and struggle.  It gave me hope that somehow I could find my way again.
In the midst of that interim time, my father suffered a stroke in early March leaving him weak, dependent and frankly depressed because with illness can sometimes come much change and accepting where he is in this stage in his life has proven to be more difficult than he ever imagined. To better care for his needs we decided to move him back in with us and needless to say, we are all adjusting. So between my step-daughter and my father, my husband and I have become full-time caregivers.  
Is there some resentment? Actually, yes.  Don't get me wrong, we are committed to them that is the covenant we to both of them and to each other as family.  However, it doesn't mean that at times we are not weary of doing good, and of putting their lives ahead of our own, which for any couple can be extremely difficult to navigate.  I sometimes want to say, I want my life back or I just want to find my life because there hasn't been a time when I don't remember taking care of someone.  

And there it is.....
Raw, rare and real.  My emotions come oozing out everywhere regardless of whether I am consecrated, set apart, and have received authority as an elder in the Church.  None of that is supposed to be a covering for who I am and who God made me.  They are the visible signs of a grace greater than I can explain but one that invites me to show up and be seen.
There are people who are experts at keeping their emotions in check at all times.  Even in situations where they are in the middle of someone insulting them, they can respond with even-tempered words and not a hint of anger on their face.  I hate them!  I want to run up and poke their eyes out! Mostly because I can't do that.  I can never pull off that "never let them see you sweat" thing because I usually carry my heart on the inside of my wrist and one wrong move and I'm bleeding all over.  I should mention that my husband is one of those people and I admire him much for that.

Now over the years, ministry has helped me discern better when and where to let the emotional flood gates open but not always. Along the way, I've discovered that in order to love truly, there is no other way except through the way of vulnerability.  Vulnerability as defined by Webster as "being open to injury" and one of my favorite authors and speakers, Dr. Brene Brown expands that definition and says, "vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and change. It is the courage to show up and be seen."  Loving does not promise that we must be loved back.  Caring does not promise that we must be cared for back.  Starting something new whether it is a new project at work or a new church doesn't mean that success is guaranteed.  The courageous ones are the ones who stand in the arena and are willing to be seen even by the critics, the cynics and the fearful who choose to be guarded rather than risk being seen.  
I am not photogenic at all and I hate taking pictures.  I'm always looking for the right side or angle to make me look thinner, or at least decent, but being seen doesn't mean that only your good side is the one exposed, its all or nothing.  

In Luke 10, Jesus send out his disciples with instructions on how to engage in ministry in the community.  He reminds them that they have been given authority to bind, to heal, to loosen by his very name. After their day of work, they come back elated! "Dude! You should have seen the things we did! It was unreal!" To which Jesus gently reminds them, "Yup.  I've given you authority for all that and more. Nevertheless, the most important thing is that I know your name, I know you. You're name is written in the book of life." 
So when you come back tomorrow and things don't go exactly the same and your confused and perplexed because you did everything you thought you were supposed to do.  Remember, just showing up is the most important thing you have to do.  Show up and allow yourself to be seen when there are good days and when there are bad days. 

I will be starting another new adventure with a new appointment, and I'm super excited about this one and I'm also well aware that most of the time people are looking for that perfect pastor, the One! The One that's going to rescue them from their downward spiral.  The One that is going to get things back on track. The One that is going to perform miracles, handle serpents and kill scorpions.  But the best that I can promise is that I will show up week after week, with all that I am and all that I hope for and allow myself to be seen.  
I will show up....when the Bible Study I planned didn't go so well.
I will show up....when the sermon I prepared just didn't quite make it.
I will show up....when I stumble through my prayers.
I will show up....when somehow God uses all my mistakes and does something amazing.
I will show up because at the end of the day, I can take the risk of being vulnerable because the one who created, called and loves me knows my name and has my name written down in the Book of Life.  No matter what that life may be, or where it may take me, God knows my name.  I am seen and I am known, warts and all. 
I am seen and I am loved unconditionally and for that I will rejoice!

Until next time...


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Going Home

Every year I do the same thing.  I take the recipes out....Arroz con Dulce, Pernil, Besitos de Coco all of these incredible dishes that filled my childhood senses during this time of the year.  I take them out because somehow and some way I want to go back home or recreate memories that have been created both in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Comerio, Puerto Rico.  I guess that's what we all do at this time of the year, whether we recognize it or not, we are all longing to go home.
As I read the story of Mary and Joseph's journey, I find myself walking along with them.  They have to register in their hometown and somehow that speaks to me so much about home and the deep longing of being back in my own emotional and spiritual hometown.  We all want things to be the way they were when our best memories were created.  I don't know what it might have been for you, but for me it was my 3rd grade in Puerto Rico.  Best Christmas Ever!!!
The thing is that going home may be just as difficult as it was for Mary and Joseph, and when you get there you might find out that its nothing like you imagined no matter how hard you try.  I mean, if that was Joseph's hometown why is it nobody recognized him? No one from his family, not even his distant family could offer him a place to sleep?  Mary and Joseph have been displaced like thousands of people today, and like most of us.  For me my Aunts on both my father and my mother's side passed away this year, there is basically one or two cousins left in Comerio.  Things change.  Things displace us and make us spiritual refugees going home or at least going somewhere, anywhere that brings healing and a sense of wholeness and belonging.
But perhaps in this displacement lies the Christmas message.  Jesus was displaced too.  From the time he came into the world until the time he left, he had no place to lay his head.  His humble parents and his humble birth have more in common with today's reality than ever before.  Did you know that the journey that Mary and Joseph took is about the same distance that many of today's Syrian refugees are taking?  This is not coincidence, this is how Emmanuel, God with us, shows up along the way in our own journey to help us see that the displaced Christ, looks for home with us too.  When things come to our lives that change us, rocks our world and shakes the earth from under our feet, that is when we are not far from Christ.  That is when the Christ child is born.  In the midst of our longing for home.
There isn't a Christmas that I will not try to preserve some part of my favorite memories no matter how much my life has changed.  But I've also learned something from Mary and Joseph, when I can't because the change is so drastic then I can create new ones.  Mary and Joseph made a home in a dark, cold feeding cave,  midst the chaos of that night they created a family memory that would last them as long and wherever the journey would take them.  Home was with them all along.  They recognized that their ability to be flexible and creative would serve them well during the next month as they move on and become refugees again in Egypt.  Maybe that's what it means to be Christmas people.
We are guaranteed of nothing but change.  We can spend our lives re-creating something that will never come back or decide to let home happen wherever and whenever we are along the way.  After all we are not alone......Jesus the Sojourner, Jesus the Refugee walks with us.  
Happy Travels, Christmas people!


"Remember, I am with you always until the end of the age."
Matt. 28:20


Thursday, July 23, 2015

No Prerequisites

One thousand dollar shopping spree!!!  That's what I saw on my screen.  I said, "Hun, I think I won a $1,000 shopping spree!"  All I had to do was to take a quick survey, and you guessed it.  It took me  to another page that said I have been entered to win $1,000 shopping spree along with 85 million other people and then it moved me to another page where there was yet another survey about whether or not I have diabetes.  That's how it is for most of us.  We have to do something to get something.  There are always pre-requisites in life.  Or are there?  

I'm sure that if I throw out phrases like; 
   "The early bird gets the worm."  "No pain, no gain." "You've gotta' be all in if you want to see results."  
we would all say, at some point in our lives we have heard them or at least some version of them.  These are not bad phrases.  I acknowledge that commitment, perseverance, and discipline are all important to acquire or be required in order to finish a degree, go after that career, finish that blog entry or that last sit up. But what about "worthiness"?  Is there a pre-requisite for "worthiness"?   Some people say yes.  You have to show yourself worthy of people's trust, worthy of the position that you hold, worthy to be president, worthy to be a teacher or a parent for that matter.  What do we mean by that? Are we not innately worthy by virtue of being part of a divine creation, part of a great project called life, with the rest of the planet?  Perhaps we are talking about two different things.

Being worthy and being trust-worthy or gaining trust might be where our hang-up lies.  Being worthy has nothing to do with what I have merited.  Being worthy has everything to do with the way I see the world.  Check this out!  If I see the world as going to hell in a hand-basket, totally corrupt and human beings incapable of working this thing out because humans are no good, then most likely it is because I think of myself that way.  The world is not worthy ergo I am not worthy!  I am the worst and getting worser every day.  For many of us, that's really easy to do.  Way to easy to just go there.
But, if I see the world as innately good but flawed, or human beings as wonderfully and fearfully made, created and gifted but prone to wander and make huge mistakes, then it is because I have come to the realization that I see myself this way.  I am worthy because the Holy One said "it is all good" and let's start from there.  I am worthy because I am a part of the Divine imagination that set in motion all that is.  I am worthy because love doesn't have pre-requisites.  

Now, being found trust worthy or gaining someone's trust is truly something that we are responsible for.  Our words, our actions, our treatment of one another all seems to be in line with whether or not we are found trust-worthy.  Its true what they say, just because you have a kid doesn't make you a parent.  But if I start a new job, or enter into a relationship, or try to build a friendship, or become a new parent thinking that I am not worthy and so I have to work hard at trying to gain the other's approval of my worth, then I will exhaust myself trying to please everyone when the reality is I am already worthy of love and acceptance.  Whatever else I do for someone in a relationship is because I am confident that my worth is secure within me and I am grateful for life and love.  It comes out of a place of security!!
So there are times, when I have to say "no" to someone's request or to a position or an opportunity because even in my "no" I am worthy.  Even in whatever status in life I find myself, I am worthy. Even sitting in a jail cell after being stopped for not putting on my signal #sandrablandmatters, I am worthy!  
In this American society, where we are worthy based on what we do and what we achieve, can we learn this?  What will it do to unlearn the patterns of merit-based worthiness?  What will it take for us to look at each other from that good place first?

In fact, am I blogging because I want to be worthy of you reading this?  Oh wow! So much more work within.....go deep, its amazing what you will find.