Friday, December 30, 2016

Trump and the "Malevolent Spirit" of the Nation

Donald Trump himself isn’t the problem.

Please don’t jump to any conclusions about what I mean by that. Jumping to conclusions about what other people mean is actually one of the symptoms of the problem. So please refrain from doing so.

Donald Trump himself isn’t the problem. But Donald Trump sure enough unleashed it.

Kathleen Parker said it as well as anyone, which doesn’t surprise me, since they don’t give Pulitzer Prizes to just any schmuck. In her December 29, 2016 column, she said that “Donald Trump’s election has released a malevolent spirit upon the land.” I’ve been rolling that phrase around in my noodle all morning.

Now, Donald Trump has revealed enough about himself at this point that there can be very little doubt as to the content of his character. Me expressing my opinions about these revelations will do little to advance the conversation. Rather, the larger point I am trying to make is that, in and of himself, Donald Trump is not the problem. To say as much is to give him far too much credit.

This election “has released a malevolent spirit upon the land.” The more I think about it, the more sense that makes. Thank you, Kathleen Parker, for so deftly putting words around my thoughts!

This election has turned people against one another in a way that has rarely been seen. The hateful actions and public tirades that have been recorded and shared online speak for themselves. I’d actually like to mention a different manifestation of the malevolence that Donald Trump has released.

It is a malevolence among friends and within families. And I thought for a while about whether “malevolence” was too strong of a word, but decided to stick with it.  This malevolent spirit is a huge part of “the problem,” at least as I see it. Families avoid speaking, friends argue bitterly, social media explodes with vitriol and antagonism.

It breaks my heart to hear from friends who have been compelled to break off long-held relationships. I grieve when people share with me how they have made to feel devalued by people they love. I get angry when some of the people who voted for Trump cannot seem to honor the anger, pain, and fear of those who are expressing it in response to his election. I lament when unfair assumptions are made about people one has known for a long time, assumptions that frequently lead to poor communication, unhelpful arguments, and hurt feelings.

But even if, somehow or other, Donald Trump poofed out of existence this very moment, this malevolence would be present still. I believe it is out of his control. I don’t even know if he wants to control it, as long as he is the beneficiary. Malevolence has been unleashed, and no small effort will be required to confront it.

And make no mistake, my faith encourages ... no actually my faith REQUIRES me to do so. I am a follower of Jesus, whose work was centered on announcing the presence of the Kingdom of God, confronting evil in the world, healing and feeding, and offering an alternative way to live.

I believe that Jesus was born to embody the love of God in the world, and I believe that good news is intended for everyone. All the people. No exceptions or exclusions. Yes my Democratic friends, Jesus was born to demonstrate just how much God loves Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and all of everyone everywhere.Yes my Republican friends, Jesus was born to demonstrate how much God loves Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and all of everyone everywhere. Yes, even me. Yes, even us.

And so as disciples of Jesus, as Christians, as people who desire to live as God intends us to live, we have to confront the malevolent spirit permeating our world. We have name it, draw it up to the light, and annihilate it. And then we have to offer an alternative way of being, a replacement for the malevolence that will solidify its destruction once and for all.

That alternative way is called “love,” by the way. Love, and everything that comes along with it. Things like hope. And forgiveness. And justice, and peace, and grace, and compassion.

It may well be that we are a divided nation. But it isn’t “right” and “left” anymore. It is those who are feeding the malevolent spirit present in our nation and those who are working to defeat it. Donald Trump fed it throughout the campaign, and has continued to do so even after winning the electoral college. It remains to be seen if he will continue to feed the malevolent spirit that he released even after his inauguration. Frankly, I will not be surprised if he does.

As for me, I pledge to do all that I can to defeat it. As a follower of Jesus, I don’t see how I can do anything less.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Eve

Christmas has come, and it feels familiar.
Comfortable arrival at a holy night.
Mission accomplished, job well done,
we sang the songs, we lit the lights.


Yes, familiar. But before we get settled
the sages may yet have a sermon, a song,
a word of caution. No, not to prolong
the moment, but to right the wrong.


Is there an announcement we need to hear?
The glory of God caused the shepherds to fear,
and perhaps the good news should arrest our plans.
The birth of a child to a woman and man
just like you and me … magnificently ordinary.


Christmas has come, and it feels familiar.
But maybe it shouldn't. Maybe there’s more
than traditions renewed and expectations met.
Maybe there’s music yet to be written.
Maybe there’s a story still being told.
Maybe there are terrified shepherds shivering still,
waiting to hear the news, needing to know
Jesus.
There’s a song in the air, and that song is Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.


We welcome you, long-expected Jesus. We greet your arrival with familiar sights and smells and flavors and sounds. Familiar ... and yet new every year. There is a song in the air, both familiar and new, a song that is and was and ever shall be, Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Be A Light Infiltration

The anticipation has built just about as high as it possibly can. The expectations are through the roof at this point. The excitement, the hope, the eager longing…


No, I’m not talking about “Star Wars: Rogue One” coming out (although that is right up there near the top of the list).


I’m talking about CHRISTMAS!!! The birth of Jesus, the angels and the shepherds, the shining lights in the sky. And underneath all of that, the love of God sent in human form so that the entire world might know peace, forgiveness, salvation.


Christmas begins on the 25th, and continues for twelve days of celebration of Jesus’s birth. I love how, as the Christmas season begins, the days start lengthening.


It is as if with the birth of Christ, the darkness immediately starts to retreat and the Light of the World shines, illuminating the pain and prejudice, the injustice and oppression, all the loneliness and fear in human hearts - all infiltrated by divine light.


I encourage you to enter the season of Christmas as a reflection of God’s light. Let your words and actions infiltrate the darkness of this world with the light of Christ. Do not allow injustice to go unchallenged. Do not allow hatred to rule the hour. Do not allow pride and prejudice to govern the hearts and minds of people around you.

Be a light! Even a solitary flickering candle illuminates a dark room. Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” May we infiltrate the darkness of this world, shining the living light of Christ this holy season!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Advent - Week 4

We have come so far; we’re almost there.
If we could only reach out, stretch our arm
a bit more, into the dark, into the air
where a song is spinning, “Repent! Prepare!”

John interrupts, in his coarse camel hair,
“Who warned you, snakes? The ax is sharp,
the fire is hot. Fruitless? Ruthless.
God is trimming trees today. On guard!”

But we have come so far, and we’re almost there.
We hear a prophet’s echo in Mary’s delivery,
“Emmanuel. That woman’s child will be
God with us.” God. With. Us. Impossibility!
Unimaginable intensity.

So yes. Reach and stretch, as far as you can.
God is coming, and now arrives, alive,
To demonstrate, to teach, to embody, to be
the presence of intense, impossible, unconditional
love.
There is a song in the air, and that song is called love.

We wait for you, long-expected Jesus. We prepare for your arrival with familiar sights and smells and flavors and sounds. Familiar ... and yet new every year. There is a song in the air, both familiar and new, a song that is and was and ever shall be, Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent - Week Three

It is closer, and yet still so far away.
Christmas Day sits on horizon’s hill
like a sunrise disguise, not quite yet shining
into the valley, but you can see that it will.

And still, Zechariah sings about light
dawning upon the darkest corners of life,
chasing shadows of death, guiding our way
into the day, into the goodness, into the birth
of Jesus.

It is closer (but still far away), and prophets promise
Eyes opened, ears unplugged, voices lifted,
Impossible things possible, even probable,
Light increasing and definitely unstoppable
now as the darkness retreats in its unilluminated shame.

Yes, the light is coming. Yes, look and see.
The light reflected, unexpected
In our words and deeds, in you and me.
Yes, the sun is rising, the Light of all lights
Banishes darkness forever, good news of the greatest
joy.
There is a song in the air, and that song is called joy.


We wait for you, long-expected Jesus. We prepare for your arrival with familiar sights and smells and flavors and sounds. Familiar ... and yet new every year. There is a song in the air, both familiar and new, a song that is and was and ever shall be, Amen.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Advent - Week Two

The season is in full swing, all lights and sounds,
all scenery and songs. “The greenery belongs
in the hall, not on the railing. This goes here
and that over there, not where it is. That’s wrong.”

But my soul longs ... my soul ... it longs
to magnify with Mary, to glorify the Lord.
I want to rejoice in the Mighty One, Holy One
to find a place for me. Not the tree, not the bells,
not the L.E.D. molded plastic manger. … Me.

The season is in full swing, and prophets call,
“Leopard and lamb, coyote and cow. And a child over all.”
And the words illuminate but dimly, dimly
The impending night, gathering still.

Do we even hear? Do we truly see?
Or are eyes and ears jaded by faded familiar
that has become background, unworthy of acclaim?
Into the noise, the silent savior comes, once more
expanding understanding and bringing abiding
peace.

There is a song in the air, and that song is called peace.


We wait for you, long-expected Jesus. We prepare for your arrival with familiar sights and smells and flavors and sounds. Familiar ... and yet new every year. There is a song in the air, both familiar and new, a song that is and was and ever shall be, Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent - Week One

Advent begins, and it feels familiar.
Comfortable. Traditions renewed.
Familiar garland. Familiar lights.
Familiar songs. Familiar food.

Every year, a sacred season
begins as autumn fades
and winter peeks around into
shortening, darkening days.

Advent begins, and prophets call, “Swords
into shovels! Spears into billhooks!”
And the words flicker into our ears
like a single candle lit against
the oncoming darkness of our hopes and fears.

Every year, the expectations of our
deepest and truest selves
are met, exceeded, extended, transcended
beyond earthly standards and big box shelves
into the music of God,
made known in humility, fragility, infinite capability
and hope.

There is a song in the air, and that song is called hope.

We wait for you, long-expected Jesus. We prepare for your arrival with familiar sights and smells and flavors and sounds. Familiar ... and yet new every year. There is a song in the air, both familiar and new, a song that is and was and ever shall be, Amen.