Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

If a bullet should enter my brain,
let that bullet destroy every closet door.

Harvey Milk,
Gay San Francisco City Supervisor
Murdered on this day, 1978, age 48

Harvey Milk was the first openly Gay person to run for public office in San Francisco. He was elected in 1977.  Harvey served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us." Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

In a horrible miscarriage of justice, White was acquitted of First Degree murder by a jury of reportedly mostly white middle-class Catholics; Gays and ethnic minorities were excluded from the jury pool. His lawyer argued that White had binged on sugar the night before; it became infamous as the Twinkie defense. He was sentenced to 7 and served only 5 years, and later committed suicide.

In my theological view and in my own Life, Harvey was a Christ-figure. The essential core of the Christian Story is Jesus’ sacrificial Love, His willingness to suffer and to give up His own life for God’s people. Christianity sees in this a great Mystery:  that Jesus’ love and self-giving unto death opens the possibility for all people to be freed from all that is anti-Life …. including the fear of Death, hate, division, injustice, indifference, dehumanization. The Gospel says, “He died to set us free”.

Harvey I think understood that running for political office and fighting for justice for Gayfolk put him in danger. Jesus saw the danger in His challenge to the corrupt powerful of His day, to those who co-opted God to their own ungodly ends.

Jesus’ death, and Harvey’s, are not magic. They don’t give us a free ride to Freedom or exempt each of us from walking the path. But they show us the way. I was out as a Gay man in my teens; but after Harvey’s death, I never again hid that reality in my life in the Church …. just as I never doubted my worth when I came to see how unconditionally I was beloved by God … by a God many today still try to co-opt to their deathly ways.

Thank you Harvey for helping me to stand up for what I believe about myself, about God, and about good folk everywhere.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, November 25, 2012

Love must Act, as Light must Shine, and Fire must Burn

Father James Otis Sargent Huntington, OHC
Founder, The [Episcopal] Order of the Holy Cross

This is the Feast Day of Fr. Huntington. I am deeply grateful for him. I was a member of the Order for 15 years (1967-1982). I was a seeking, frightened (a little) Gay young man when I came to Holy Cross Monastery. But in visiting, I had sensed that this was a place where I would be set free .. and where I would find a path to that Freedom. I spent 15 years with mostly Gay men, and so was able to claim my essential being. But I also spent hours each day in chanting the monastic Office, and hearing the Scripture and Its interpretation in a compassionate, heart-centered, intelligent mode. When I finally left the Order in 1982, age 35, I was ready to spend 25 years in serving God’s people … in leading them to a vision of “God” and of a Gospel that I had experienced and knew could bring people to that deep humanity that the mystics called “divine”.

“Love must Act”. It’s the same as saying “Faith without works is nothing”. There is one critical thing I learned early on:  Love is essentially a matter of the will. God does not love because She feels like it. God chooses to love. Jesus did not go to the cross because it “felt” good. He chose it … an act of the will. Love is a steely thing!

The First Letter of John says clearly, “You cannot say you love God and not love your neighbour”.

I’m still learning to choose Love. There are so many things that get in the way! The Ego especially. But I know that loving others with abandonment makes me the human being I want to be. I have to learn this lesson every day … but I now know that choosing Love … “Love must act” …  is the path to inner peace.

Thank you, Fr. Huntington. And thank you, the Order of the Holy Cross.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Monday, November 19, 2012

A spiritual person tries less to be godly
than to be deeply human.

Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

In Christian “spirituality”, we often speak of “becoming as Christ”, of striving to be the imago Dei, the image of God. Some mystics even speak of our “becoming Divine”. It’s rich imagery and, I think, useful. But there is one major drawback:  it is discouragingly intimidating! How in the World can we fragile, often almost schizophrenic human beings  -  especially when we become aware of ourselves  -  aspire to be Godlike? After all, a strong and deep theology tells us that God is completely the Other, a spirit (# 1 of the Thirty-Nine Articles).

Dr. Coffin’s words are a helpful balance. First he reminds us that we are human … this is critical for us to remember in order to be healthy and sound. Then he reminds us that to be as deeply human as possible is to be, paradoxically, godlike. To put it another way, fully divine (God”) and fully human (us) are a kind of parallel. This, I think, lies at the heart of the theological position that Jesus is “fully God and fully Man” … He is an icon of complete being.

So:  God is Love; we aspire to Love. God is Faithful; we aspire to Faithfulness. God is Merciful; we aspire to be merciful. The more we seek to be “deeply human”, the more we reflect God. Not the Same … but the Same!

St. Irenaeus of Lyons said, “The glory of God is man fully alive”.

Oh how I long to be so deeply human that people “see God”!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, November 16, 2012

Religion isn’t about believing things.
It's ethical alchemy.
It’s about behaving in a way that changes you,
that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.

Karen Armstrong

“Religion” is often used interchangeably with “Faith” or “Belief”. They are not the same thing. “Religion” is a tool of Belief. The word “religion” derives from the Latin root ligere, meaning “to tie” or “to bind to”. It’s where we get our word ligament – those things that tie or bind muscles to bone and permit us to move and act. All human beings hold beliefs, including the rejection of “belief”, whether in a deity or UFOs or virtues or whatever. And we all have “re-ligion” … things that we do which re-tie us to our core principles, understandings, convictions, etc.

Ms. Armstrong’s words point out how important it is to pay attention to our religion. What we bind ourselves to, how we behave (especially in a ritualistic way) shapes our very essence. For example, ritualistic disregard for the Earth will eventually destroy our home. There are many people in the World who practice religions which bind and rebind them to very destructive, ugly beliefs or convictions … destructive to themselves and to the human community. That’s what she points to when she says that religion is “ethical alchemy” … alchemy was thought to change base things into precious things (lead to gold), i.e., the human soul into the imago dei. But it can work the other way, if we are not careful about how we craft our “religion”.

Churches, nations, every person, all need carefully to examine their “religion”. Unexamined religious ruts lead to self-destructive behaviour on all levels.

Where are your “religions” taking you?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, November 13, 2012


We must not leave an interpretation of scripture
until we have found a compassionate interpretation of it.

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine and I agree to disagree on many things …. but we are unanimous on this! If anything would get us both through the Pearly Gates, holding to this precept would trump a lot of sins!

I would also say that this is a very Episcopalian/Anglican thought. It reflects what I have often said about “scripture”:  that we don’t interpret Jesus through the Scriptures, but the Scriptures through Jesus … through His love and compassion and justice and His trust in the God Who is Love. I’ve tried to live and preach this most of my Life. If what people say about God from the Christian scriptures doesn’t sound like Jesus, I either set it aside, or try to follow Augustine and not let it go until there is a compassionate interpretation of it.

Biblical interpretation causes a lot of hatred and divisiveness and alienation in the human community these days. I do not believe that this is “God’s Will”. Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” in the Gospel call John is, May they be one, as You and I are One”. To interpret this as meaning that all must be members of what is now called the Christian Church would, in my view, not be a “compassionate interpretation”. To understand it as meaning that we should all be members of the Company of Love would be.

I do not think that the Kingdom of God will ever come as some form of denominational/religious uniformity. It will come as we love one another.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, November 11, 2012

The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying,
"A son has been born to Naomi." They named him Obed
- The Book of Ruth

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had,
all she had to live on
- Mark 12

[ The complete Readings for Proper 27B, Nov 11, can be found at:

I’m sure that many wonderful things will be said by preachers this Sunday … eternal optimist that I am! I would offer this thought to add to your experience of worship on the morrow.

Ruth and Boaz’s son (who, being Naomi’s grandson by marriage, would also be thought of as Naomi’s “son”, as the womenfolk say … there’s a nice sense of open and inclusive Family there!) was named Obed. Obed means “servant” or “slave”. To me, the critical association here has to do with one’s whole life being completely in the service of the Master.

In the Gospel reading, the Poor Widow is brilliantly used by Jesus as an example of such complete self-giving to God and to the Way of the “Kingdom of God”. The others give out of their riches … a partial, even stingy, offering. But the Poor Widow gives completely of her whole Life, by offering far beyond what sustains her earthly Life. The point of the story is clear:  to put it crudely, “tipping” God has no power to transform one’s Life. We can only become our fully human self by abandoning ourselves without reservation to the image of the God of Unconditional Love and by conforming our behaviour to that Path.

What are we asked, by the Readings today, to Do .. or more, Be?

Be like Christ. Do, that is, Love, as He did. Completely, without reservation.

And imagine how fabulous you will feel!