Monthly Archives: October 2016

What do we mean when we ask for “mercy”?

I am (re)writing my article and job seeking and putting together a liturgy for a few weeks’ time so no proper reflection this week. I am sort of sorry but also conscious that probably noone will miss it. But I will share here a prayer I wrote.

As part of putting together the afore-mentioned liturgy I was reading through reams of “penitential rites” full of “Lord have mercy” (sometimes in Latin “Kyrie eleison”) and not feeling ok about how glibly even feminists take on Kyriearchal language (or at least accept it so long as it is in a dead language).

Even though in my liturgy my theme for reconciliation will be Reconciliation (as in the unfinished business colonial Australia has with the real owners of this land) I wrote an alternative that I may use another time to help me reject the idea that kyriearchy is needed for repentance (which means turning around) and transformation.

I also reflected on the idea of “mercy”. What do we mean when we ask God/Jesus?Wisdom to “have mercy” on us. Are we still invoking those interpretive traditions where God wants to punish us for our sins unless we grovel? Or where God will “save” us from anything unpleasant? So I wondered how to put into words what we might mean by “have mercy” when I feel that the point of a penitential rite is to reconnect ourselves to a more positive relationship with God (as manifest in our lives and relationships with ourselves, others and the earth).

So here is my imperfect attempt, which I may or may not use or improve further down the track.

 

For making you our “Father” so that we might hide behind the helplessness of a child,

for making you our “Lord” so that we might put down ourselves and others in your name,

for expecting you to lead us into battle when you came offering peace:

we are truly sorry.

 

For the anxieties and mistrust that stop us living more genuinely,

for the despair and retreat that stifle our response to your call,

for the profound loneliness of a life focussed on comfort and privilege:

we ask healing and transformation

 

For the days of our life yet unlived,

for our suffering brothers and sisters that call out for us to join our voices and hearts to theirs,

for the good news that has not yet opened every heart:

we promise to enter more deeply when you invite us.

 

Loving God we accept your healing and your call

as we know you accept our good intentions and our love. Amen.

Stef Rozitis 2016

Living in sin

Today I went to uni to try to work on my so far unpublished article. I have a habit when my brain gets clouded and my body feels cramped of getting up and walking around the lake as quickly as I can to revitalise my body which hopefully makes my brain work again (at least it used to). This time people kept interrupting. Interesting people like the lovely Marxist that wanted me to go to a feminist meeting and some kindhearted young Muslim men who wanted me to attend their “exhibition” the little I saw of it seemed similar to a church service in some ways but with cultural differences. But I resisted all that because time is ticking on my article.

But I couldn’t resist my friend. This was a young man who I know from political circles. He is a lot more involved than I am and works extremely hard in that and he called me by name and asked me how I was and suggested that I needed to sit with him a moment. I was torn because this was my one precious day to study (work had already called me in for tomorrow) but I sat and we chatted.

He eventually shared with me that he had broken up with his boyfriend.I shouldn’t share too many details about someone else’s story (although it was interesting) but one of the causes of the break-up was that the ex-boyfriend (who I think my friend still has feelings of care and perhaps even desire for) “kept thinking he was going to hell for being gay”. Neither of the young men would say they were religious, neither is a member of the church but the one thing they have picked up is this idea of God rejecting them for who and what they are and sending them to hell.

 

Then this young man told me about another friend who travelled to another country to make a life with his boyfriend and his boyfriend’s family. It would have been an act of trust and courage to make this journey, but in my friend’s words “he got dumped”. The bitter thing about this situation was that once again it was because of the family’s religious convictions, because the partner had to hide his true nature and because of talk of “sin” and “hell” that this young man got thrown out by the man he loved.

I realise that we all suffer disappointments in love (whether our partners or our children, our parents or our friends at some time we are all going to feel rejected by someone). We all feel devastated by the loss and the abandonment when someone ends a relationship or moves away or dies and we all keep living and return to loving. And I seriously hope that all these young men will have better experiences next time. But will we let them? Will society allow them to just be? Will the church honour the God who created and loved them rather than some traditional bogeyman in the sky who rejects and condemns?

So then my friend asked me, “Do you believe in it all?”

“In God?” I asked, “I’m a Christian, even though I am a lesbian.”

“No I know” he said “Do you believe in sin”

I didn’t expect the question so I didn’t answer it well. Because yes I do believe in sin but I don’t believe that those boys trying to make meaningful long-term relationships with someone they love is “sin” by any reasonable definition.

I ought to have said that “sin” is in placing needless obstacles in front of people, whether we are preventing a refugee family from settling in our country, preventing a single mum from having enough money to feed her children or preventing a young woman from accessing birth control. Sin is in taking something as beautiful as the love between two friends/lovers and turning it into the fear of hell and the choice to be estranged from your partner or your family and community.Sin is whatever dismantles and blocks the reign of God, it can happen within us when we love ourselves exclusively and disregard others; or when we hate ourselves and get overly critical or neglectful of the first person God trusted into our care (the self).

It is sin to forget to “love my neighbour” who may be different than myself but in God is another “self” to me.

Sin is a lot of things but it is not two lovely boys enjoying a physical dimension to the love they bear each other (nor two women, nor one of each). Sin doesn’t hide in specific sexual acts while we have license to unravel social supports for others and pursue hyper-individualism. I reject that version of religion and God. My God told me she was love. And those boys deserve to be accepted in love.

All of this happened before I had a chance to look at this week’s readings, but I think it fits with them. The hubris of the Pharisee who goes to church all the time and feels superior to the “other” blocks us from God’s grace. Because I AM like the rest of humanity and am implicated in their suffering while I stand idly by or even profit.

God in the first reading hears the cry of the oppressed whatever walk of life they may be in and responds to them. In the second reading the one who was rejected and abandoned by the church community but served God well is vindicated.

The church is heard as a threat and a condemnation on LGB/PT people. It has a loud voice in doing this. I know of a good church family who fail to acknowledge that one of their beloved daughters is in a stable and life-giving relationship with another woman. They have to choose between looking as self-righteous as the Pharisee in the gospel, or losing face to minister to their daughter and welcome a potential daughter-in-law. If they chose on behalf of their daughter and daughter’s partner, they would in all probability lose their community (as the girls did). How can the church do this to people?

We used to take pride that we would be known as Christ’s disciples by the way we show love to others (John 13:35). What happened to that?

I cannot doubt that there is grave “sin” here.

 

 

 

 

“Justice will be done for them”; remembering who we learned this from

 

I got to give the “reflection” at church this week so this is what I said. I realise there is so much more that could be said on these readings but I tried to keep it positive because the people who asked me to speak deserved that.

There’s a scene in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with an angel and refuses to be give ground. He demands a blessing. I mention this because it is a form of faithfulness that I think we sometimes need to bring to our tradition and even to the scriptures and having found this week’s readings quite tough I bring to you my beginnings at wrestling, in the trust that each of us will find a way to continue that.

I used to read the gospel story as if God were the unjust judge and I in the place of the powerless widow was supposed to constantly harangue God with my prayers. I found this idea as appalling as a photo of a beloved that has had obscenities scribbled on it. God is beautiful precisely because of her justice and kindness and I don’t have to use prayer to bring her into line or force her to care.

If anything I am like the unjust judge, I like to be secured in my relatively comfortable life and ignore the plight of the less fortunate and God is more like the tiresome widow always nagging at me and dragging me out from my rest to talk about my supposed commitment to justice or to my vocation or to plead the cause of her children in some way.

So I question who we are in the story. When Jesus says “God will see to it that justice is done for them speedily” the use of the third person “them” is telling. When I studied Critical Indigenous Pedagogy we were asked to avoid using the third person “they, them, those people over there” because it is a set of pronouns for “others” for the people who are “not us”. But Jesus is using the third person to reclaim those who we have excluded, whoever they may be. God is interested in justice for “them” (he could have said “you” if he just meant believers and those who pray).

So it’s a bit of a stretch for us to ignore our privilege in this world, our comfortable and consumer-good heavy lives and to assume that we are the widow in the story. Are we actually so urgent in our desperation for justice? But I am not so sure that it is completely true either to say that we are not desperate for justice, to say that we are not also in some ways the powerless and the marginalised. The story may speak to us in two ways, encouraging me- the widow to persist and call for justice more loudly and naggingly and also warning me- the unjust judge that God sides with the nagging widows.

What does faithfulness mean then in the light of these roles I may play in my life?

I circle back to the first reading and leave aside for later my wrestling with the patriarchal and militaristic models of God’s relationship with human kind. I also pass over a model of God’s grace which is shown as success in mowing people down with a sword. I need to find a chink in the tradition that will let the light of Wisdom through.

Here is Moses, the great individual- larger than life and filled with power.

His body is exhausted so that his arms must be held up by others (this reminds me of one of the recent popes who was still brought out in old age and held up by others instead of being allowed to rest). The stress on an individual who is the ONLY conduit of God’s action is too great.

Whether we take a leadership role and beat ourselves up for our bodily limits, try to go beyond ourselves to cheat ourselves of rest, relationship and support or whether we take the passive followers role and stand back and let our leaders do too much, allow their hands to be held up past endurance I think there is a flawed model of church here.

Can’t we instead ask God to flow through all of us, so that my contribution becomes important but I can trust that another will do the work that I can’t get to? Can we learn by seeing that even this great leader, Moses was not able to act or wield that unbalanced amount of power without assistance. Our choices as a community support different models of leadership and it might be time to question who we are showing faithfulness to, why and how. Without having easy answers for questions like that I wonder whether at times it is better to stop holding up the hands of tired old structures and institutions and instead allowing God to come to each of us herself. In so far as we have power over others, it might be time to stop controlling, stop fighting even our own bodies.

The second reading invites me to be faithful to what I have learned because of where that learning came from. I need that encouragement not to give up on the church, to retain my membership to something that has been my family for so long and to respect my links with a history that is longer and more complex than my own life.

But I personally did not first learn to believe from a priest, bishop or pope and so it is not exclusively them that form “the church” that I am part of. My mother and grandmother spoke to me about faith on a daily basis. My dad read to me from the bible in my own language (Latvian). At church on Sundays all the older people put up with my toddlerish behaviour and tried to feed me lollies (although mum, a dentist, put a stop to that pretty quickly). Our parish priest was a family friend who went fishing with my grandfather. My teachers at school were mainly women, both the principal and the religion teacher were Mercy sisters.

Each of you has a different story of the particular way you learned faith but I would guess that you too did not learn it from patriarchs and crusading lords but from people who loved, accepted and sometimes challenged you (like my year 10 science teacher who upset me by telling me I was wrong to always use the male pronoun for God). Even now into my forties I am still relearning my faith from the same source. From love manifest in other people and creation.

So that source of faith

-The love of God shown in loving communities or individuals

-The beauty of God shown in the beauty of the earth

That is what we remain faithful to. This sort of faithfulness is not our Sunday best, but our every-day gear that comes with us into every situation, spreading that love and beauty to the whole world.

And then the persistence in demanding justice from worldly powers, or help from God will be grounded also in our faithfulness to the source of our knowing that God. Which is love

Thank you for the love you show by allowing me to speak. Please take a moment to reflect on your own path of persistence and faithfulness, or to wrestle with these readings and then if you choose, you might share your thoughts with each other.

 

 

Whither


“Whither goest thou?” “The Whither of our driving self-transcendence is that ineffable plenitude toward which we are journeying, the goal which summons and bears our thirsty minds and desiring hearts.” (Elizabeth A. Johnson, Abounding in kindness, 2015) For me this idea, taken by Johnson from Rahner is a good one. i have limited time but I will try to reflect on this

Whither...
is a question not a clear destination
is an orientation that is hard to label or type
but is a movement, a wandering, intentional movement toward
Whither then but into love?

Toward then the creative act of hope that created a universe 
and allowed us freedom within it
to fiery words of prophets and the forgotten labouring of countless mothers
to the wilderness to voice our discontent
and be given manna and eventually perhaps home
to the law and past the law
and back to the heart of justice, kindness, humble with

Whither? There
then to the pages of human history
and forward to the girl found suddenly pregnant
the "women's business" discussed by cousins
the casting of the mighty from their thrones
the lifting up of the lowly and our willingness
to bear the cost
the foot of the cross...but not yet

because first to the water changed to wine
the friends on the road
the stories woven and meals shared
the hospitality of the Marthas and the ears of the Maries
the raising of the dead brother (if only)
the loaves, the fishes
the one last great party, the foot washing
the kiss of betrayal, the friends asleeep
alone and terrified

the refusal to compromise with abuse
the ridicule, the slowly inevitable unravelling of the world
the foot of the cross
the abandonment by God
the faithful women (themselves unfaithfully forgotten).

The cold, dark tomb
the heavy stone
the light-clad stranger (angel?)
the women's faithfulness beyond real hope
the unexpected absence signifying presence
the hearts burning within us
the breaking of the bread
the eternity.

And whither then in 2016?
The commissioning back into
justice, kindness, walk humbly wither
with her
costly justice, reckless kindness
humbly, passionately, openly, lovingly
walk into the truth,
the beauty

Wisdom calls on every corner
of every street
whither? With her
How to summon up an answering baby Wisdom
within myself?