Today, the world stopped

Over 2000 years ago on a Friday on a hill outside a Middle Eastern city, the world stopped. The citizens of the city and surrounding countryside were complacent in the state-sanctioned murder of an innocent man.

Today, Jesus of Nazareth was murdered. He dies a horrific , painful death after being publically humiliated . One of his closest friends betrayed Him into the hands of the Roman authorities, His other friends ran away from Him. Peter denied knowing Him three times.

Jesus, Son of Mary, was murdered for our sins.

Even though we might know ” the rest of the story” of this Holy Week, let us stop today and ponder Jesus’ trial and death.

Today, let us sit and ponder how we all participate in trying, condemning and killing Jesus. My friend T, although much younger than me, explained Holy Friday in a tangible, relatable way.

‘T’ said:

“On this Good Friday, may our focus be that Jesus is all of us – all the broken, belittled, discarded, and abandoned.
He is the LGBT+ person marginalized and condemned to hell by the religious. He is the Native American raped of their land, livelihood, and culture by the privileged. He is the immigrant cast aside and cast out by the cruel and incompassionate. He is the enemy bombed to death by the imperialistic. He is the family denied healthcare by the inhumane and their systems of injustice. He is the sinner judged and bullied with fear. He is the minority discriminated and smeared. He is the woman devalued and abused by inequality.
On the cross, Jesus is all of us. He was not crucified by an angry death-requiring God but, rather, by the violent, life-choking grip of the power seekers, the graceless, the evil doers–all that is religious. Jesus did not die for the sins of the world. He was killed because of the sins of the world.”

Scripture tells us that we see the face of Christ in the broken, unclean, unwanted ” throw-away people who are mostly found on the fringes of society. There are numerous stories of our LORD breaking bread with people whom the Jewish and Roman authorities  claimed were” not like us”.

Jesus is in our neighbor— even those whom we think, or even claim out loud as our enemy. When we refuse to see the humanity of someone who does not believe, pray, look like, love, or otherwise live as we do, we are crucifying Jesus. It is NOT enough to act as though Jesus is only found in ” my people”, nor is it acceptable to think He can be found in ” only those marginalized who look and/or act like me. If we claim to be Christian– yet exclude anyone from fellowship, we are taking part in Jesus’ death.

After all, what we do to each other as sister and fellow humans, we do to Him.  Simply put, in Christ there is no ” other”.

Remember what we observe this Friday, and remember that all of us are Christ’s Beloved. How we treat each other is how we treat Him.

 

In quiet contemplation,

Sarah Beth

Good Friday 2018

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Christian Activism is Different

I am an activist. The rights of all marginalized persons is important to me.

More importantly, I am an activist who is also a disciple of Jesus Of Nazareth.

Anyone who wants to make the world a better place for all persons is working for a noble cause.

Yet as a Christ-carrier and follower, my activism is held under a different lens.

Christ commands us to care for those whom society leaves behind.

My activism requires me to watch how those sister and fellow activists treat one another.

In addition, my Christianity calls for me to get out of my comfort zone and walk where Jesus might have walked. My faith requires me to look at my activities and say” how are my sister and brother comrades treating each other”

In order to work as Christian activists, we need to put aside our natural petty differences and work together.

If we look to Christ’s leadership as an example for our own work, it is important to not that no one person’s agenda is the ” right agenda”. Any work that makes life better for marginalized persons is good work.

To disagree is human, especially among activists. It is human nature to have our pet projects, and we all see life through our lens of experience. But Jesus’ actions when He was alive show us a different sort of activism. He associated with all sorts of people, He didn’t just limit His ministry to Jews; although He was Jewish.

His Jewishness did not make him exclude people from other tribes.  Like all of us, Jesus had to learn that His work on Earth is to serve all of humanity.  Look at the story of the Samaritan woman arguing with Jesus in John’s Gospel. This shows a very human Savior learning a valuable life lesson: that there are others outside His ethnic group that need His help.

Christ calls us to activism, but He also calls us to a higher standard of living.

Amen

Wednesday of Holy Week 2018

Being Church #MarchForOurLives

This morning I joined my parishioners, both of my clergy, and Episcopalians from other Pensacola-area Episcopal churches in our city’s March For Our Lives.  To be honest, I am still trying to process this amazing experience.

At our annual Convention last month, our bishop encouraged us to ” be Church” : to leave the stained-glass walls of our buildings and carry Christ to our community.

My parish, and others in The Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement: did just that today. We joined with others around the nation as we demonstrated peacefully for reasonable gun reform. Not that I said ” reform” instead of ” remove”. We were NOT marching to demand that the 2nd Amendment be repealed: we were marching in solidarity with people { especially teenagers} across America that are demanding that we review our attitudes concerning firearms.

We marched with this young lady.

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Here is a photo of me with one of my best friends from church. I made both signs that we are holding. Mine shows photos of my nephew and niece: I want them to have their right to safe and secure schools. In addition, I do not want my nephew to be a victim of racial profiling.

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{ I am the taller woman}

All sorts of people from every walk of life came to the march. Our group led the way { literally} , so we saw everyone else finish the route of the march at the Judicial Building downtown.

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This is at the end of the route, as people began streaming into the area in front of the Judicial Building.

We started with prayer , led by my rector and her colleague at Christ Church, Pensacola.

Here I am with some of our group from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship chapter of which I am a member.

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Today we did not ” go to Church.” Rather, today, we were the Church.  I am grateful for all those pilgrims who made this incredible journey with me. As we move into Holy Week and remember Jesus’ Passion, let us be mindful of those who are voiceless and hurting.

It is time to let our children know that their safety and well-being matter. It is time to re-examine our relationship with firearms and enact laws that keep deadly weapons away from civilians. It is time to look at why white teen boys are angry, and do something about their conduct . Teach them to respect women and other races, faiths, and sexualities.

It is time tp put our prayers into action. We’ve let down a whole generation of students— but we can and should redeem ourselves now. Children should not be sacrificed so that some people’s ” right” to own weapons designed to shred human flesh is kept.

Enough.

Enough.

Enough.

”  O LORD , make me an instrument of Thy Peace…..

With a grateful heart,

Sarah Beth

Phoebe The Out-of-Place Polar Bear

Attention readers: I am starting on a new creative project. I am going to create an original story book for my nephew and niece.

At our last Convention of my Diocese I bought myself a cute little stuffed polar bear. The price was right and I think she is cute.

Her name is Phoebe; her namesake is named after the woman in Scripture who was called ” deacon”.

Note that I said ” DEACON”, not ” DEACONESS”.

This is Phoebe:

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As I go to different points of interest around the City of Pensacola and surrounding three-county area, I will snap photos of Phoebe visiting these places. She’s already been to the docks in Destin , she rode with us when Best Dude and I did some errands.

Phoebe was going to go to Mass with me this morning, but the rainy weather factored in my choice to leave her at home for today.

I look forward to this new endeavor with joyful anticipation and my goal is to have this book finished by Christmas time. We shall see if I can make my deadline.

 

 

“Wonder Women”

March is Women’s History   {or should I say HERstory} month.

I am grateful for all the women who have gone before me.

Women who fought for voting rights. Every time I go to the polling place to vote, I am reminded that, for a long time, people of my gender were not afforded the right to participate in the democratic process. I do not take my right to vote for granted.

Women who were among the first in their classes of medical school.

Scholars who were the first in their fields to contribute to science.

Brave women who joined men as equals in all branches of our Armed Forces.

Women who take on the ” boys’ club “that is the US political scene.

And, a big one for my life, women clergy. The first women were ordained to the Epsicopal priesthood in July of 1976. Since I was born in May of that year, this holds special significance to me.

I am blessed with many ” wonder women ” in my life. These ladies encorage and challenge me daily to be the best Sarah Beth I can be.

I am, however, mindful of my white, straight, cis-gender privlege. It is easy to fall into the trap of being a ” white feminist” when one has benefited from a system of white, straight, cis-gender privlege.

I’ve never had anyone question my gender, since I express myself as a traditionally ” feminine” person.  In public, I can safely use the restrooms assigned to the gender to which I identify.

As a straight women, I enjoy privlege of being partnered with a man. No one ever told me, or will tell me, that Best Dude and I cannot be recognized as a couple.

Since I am  {very}  White, I do benefit from racism.

March is Women’s History  {HERstory?} month, and we should celebrate the accomplishments of all women. 

Namaste y’all.

 

Midlife : Part One

At church, I am part of a committee that is planning the annual Women’s Retreat. Out theme for the weekend is ” Transitions”. It has been fun exploring this universal human experiences with the four other women on this subcommittee.

At the age of almost 42 years old, I am in midlife.

I am learning that midlife is full of transitions. Two main midlife transitions come to mind: physical and mental.

The physical changes that come with growing older are hard for me. For instance, when the weather is bad  such as today} every sports injury acquired in high school comes back to haunt me. While my mind may have forgotten getting hurt during a JV basketball game in tenth grade, my knees remind me with every creak and ache.

Perimenopause is not easy either. Waking with sweaty pajamas every morning is annoying and gross. No matter what the temperature reads when I go to sleep — I’ll wake up drenched in sweat. As a result of the night sweats, I am washing more laundry than I ever have in my adult life. Thankfully Best Dude is understanding, but I hate waking every morning feeling stinky and sweaty. . 

My hair is also much more dry than it was when I was younger. As a result, the ends of my hair split and break sooner and more often and I have not been able to grow my hair much longer than my shoulders. As much as I want long hair that I can braid into a cool ” fishtail braid” my hair  has other ideas.

Staying up late at night is not an easy task for me. When I was in my 20’s , staying up past midnight was no big deal. Lately, I find myself wanting to be in bed much earlier. My body needs more rest— so even if my mind is active, my body tires much earlier.

Getting older can suck. But it is better than the alternative.

Turning Tables: John 2:13-22 {Lent 3 2018}

I know I am odd, but the story of Jesus turning the tables over  and driving away the moneychangers in the temple is one of my favorite stories.

It shows a very human side of Our Lord.

Unlike the other three ” synoptic” Gospels, the Gospel of John is known as a more ” spiritual” version of the life and times of Jesus. details that are not found in any other Gospel accounts are often found in John’s Gospel.

Back to Jesus and the moneychangers. Let’s look at the text from this week’s lesson:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16

And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” 19 Jesus answered and said to them,

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Jesus clearly explains to the crowd why He is angry  He says: Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s House a house of merchandise!” 

I often wonder what the crowds thought when they witnessed this incident. After all, here is a rabbi from another place coming into their Temple, making a mess, and yelling. I cannot imagine that the merchants and the priests were very happy with Jesus’ behavior : He was ” disturbing the peace” in the most inappropriate way.

Yet I understand how a very human , God-loving Jesus could feel angry enough to literally turn the tables over.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the story goes like this:

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 1″It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'”  {Matthew 21:12-13}

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ words are a lot more inflammatory. He compares the merchants in the temple to a den of robbers. 

No doubt about it, Jesus is not happy with the situation in the temple , and He is not afraid to speak the truth.

We know that Jesus’ speaking the truth is one of many actions that lead Him to Calvary, yet His public ministry is full of actions taken that defy the norms of His society. He saw wrongdoing, and He called out the temple leaders on their behavior.

But what does this story mean for we 21st  century Christians? For me, this story reminds me that in order to truly be disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to emulate Him as close as possible by our own life.

There are ” moneychangers” everywhere we look in our own world. Jesus calls us to be that prophetic voice: to call out those who abuse power, or seek to profit from unscrupulous legislature.

Christ is depending on us to follow Him into the world and turn some tables. We are called to do our best to set right that which is wrong in 21st Century America. Last week , during our Convention in my Diocese, our Bishop challenged us to ” Be the Church” .  Part of ” being Church” is truth-telling.

Bishop Russell Kendrick, of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast said this during his address last Thursday evening:

” And then there is all the hatred, mistrust, and anger. Language that would have made my Mama wash my mouth out with soap has been legitimized by the most respected figures in our culture. And too, the 5 deadliest mass shootings in history have occurred in the last 10 months. ”

My bishop then goes on to tell us that Being Church is more than sitting in pews on Sundays. Being Church means getting out there to witness to the Gospel by our actions. 

Bishop Kendrick says :

“The work of being an advocate begins in the spirit of truth. Such a spirit is at the heart of the prophetic tradition of our story. The prophets were something like God’s check and balance against the institutional powers of their time. They told the truth that was not easy to tell. ”

Jesus, in His actions and words in this story, is telling a truth. He is advocating for what is right, and advocating against a system where people make money from the faithful Jews coming to worship at that holy place.

O God, of justice , please show me what you will have me do to live out Your Gospel by being an advocate. You sent us Jesus, One who live in a Way that brings humanity closer to you. Thank You for sending Your Son, our Lord and our Brother. In the Name of the Three-in-One, Amen. 

 

Lent 3 2018

#EnoughIsEnough

I really hate politics.

In spite of my hatred for politics as they are in, I found myself  with a friend from my parish, on a bus to Tallahassee at 3 AM  Central Time . The purpose of this bus trip was to march to the State Capitol and sit in on a legislative hearing regarding upcoming bills regarding SENSIBLE gun laws in Florida.

Approximately 500 voters and future voters descended upon the Capitol from all corners of Florida on Monday morning. Many have come from even further than the Panhandle, we ate breakfast with two women who journeyed all the way from Key West to make their voices heard .

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Dressed in our ugly orange shirts, we marched from the Civic Center at FSU to the steps of the State Capitol, where we heard speakers, including students from the Parkland high school.

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{ At this point I was totally grateful that I’d brought my tough rain coat as my shoes, along with everyone else’s footwear, was soaked}

We went to our esteemed State Senator’s office to tell him our views on the need for an assault rifle ban and were met by his aide. Honestly, I do not know how these people sleep at night as this guy ; he did not answer ANY of our questions regarding our state senator’s views on assault rifles. To add insult to injury, just as we were leaving, State Senator shows up– some of our Northwest Florida contingency  tried to catch him and the dude literally runs away from us. 

After lunch we returned to the Capitol to sit in on a legislative hearing regarding bills that might come before the entire legislature. In spite of some heartbreaking testimony from members of the Rally To Tally contingency , the committee voted to not let the proposed bill banning assault rifles advance to the floor for a vote.

Today we learn of yet another shooting, this time on a college campus in Michigan. On this same day, the Florida House and Senate voted to have public school employees carry loaded firearms to school.

I think Jesus would weep if He was here now.

Yet I refuse to give up or to ” let it go” . While I am not Blessed with children of my own, I AM an Auntie to tow fabulous small humans. For their sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, I cannot and shall not back down regarding the matter of safe and responsible gun ownership in Florida.