Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genesis 8:20-22

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.’


The story of Noah and the Ark is common to most: God was disgusted by humanity and our cruelties and sinfulness so God set to destroy the earth with a flood, saving this one family and two of each kind of creature, and God made a sign and promise with a rainbow that never again would God destroy the earth and it's creatures. This last bit of the story is especially telling, God realizes that the human heart contains evil within it. At our creation God decreed us good, very good. Yet, after the flood, after God's anger disipated there was a realization that we were not entirely pure of heart, that a seed of brokeness exists within us. Despite this brokenness, this seed of evil God is still apologetic. It is as though God experiences a new realization that despite our brokeness God still loves us.

My biggest fear used to be that God was disgusted with us and had walked away from creation. A dose of the nightly news with all it's violence and tragedies can easily lead one to wonder where God is in the midst of this crazy world. The news rarely covers moments of grace, rarely do they feature people who reach out in love and earnestness, helping others when they have little to nothing themselves. The news does not cover grace, but we who profess to follow the Christ, we must not only keep our eyes watching for moments of grace but we get to participate in grace, we get to be the evidence that God has not left the planet.

Every time I witness love in action, I remember the promise of the rainbow--God is not finished with us yet. Thanks be to God!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mark 1:9-11


Mark 1:9-11
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

I was baptized twice.  Baptized a second time by a United Methodist preacher!  (UMC doctrine states that one only needs to be baptized once because God is the one at work in the moment of baptism and hence it doesn't need to be "redone.")  I'm grateful for my Methodist pastor who saw a young girl who desperately needed the experience of baptism, one that I could remember, one in which I felt the cool water wash over my face, one in which I felt renewed.  My second baptism was an act of pastoral care, one in which I am thankful.

The funny thing was, I was disappointed because as I rose out of the water I did not hear God's voice calling out to me, "You are my daughter, my beloved; with you I am well pleased."  Nor did I feel any different.  Part of me wanted to begg Pastor Earl to do again because it didn't take, I was still me.  But I didn't, instead I put on a big smile, ate cake, and celebrated with the church ladies who'd come to watch.  Everyone was joyous and it was contagious, I forgot (mostly) about still being me and not hearing God's voice.

I've learned that Baptism is the beginning of a new life in Christ, the beginning of transformation.  Baptism is not a magic trick in which we become a new person who no longer has sinful thoughts, lust in the hearts, who is free from worldy desires.  Baptism is the moment in which God indeed says, "You are my beloved and with you I am well pleased."  Often though, it takes a while for us to hear it, to believe it.  Baptism sets us on the path of understanding just how deep and amazing God's love is.  It is one of the first steps we take rather than the end of the journey.  It was true for Jesus as well,  his baptism sets him off for a trek into the wilderness in which he is tempted--why should we be any different.

Even if you can't remember your baptism, remember that you are claimed by God, that you are the beloved and what you do with your life is a gift most pleasing to God.

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rape--Past and Present


Lately there's been a lot of talk and writings about rape thanks to MO Rep Todd Akin and how he “misspoke” about the rate of pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”  It's about time we talked about rape, what it means, how it affects both women and men, and how it tears at the fabric of our society. I hope that all of this talk will lead to men, as well as women, taking a stand against rape and working to end its menacing presence in our society. I don't know how to end rape. I just know that for the sake of my daughters, for the sake of humankind, we must do our best to put a stop to the culture of rape.   We must talk about and understand how destructive rape is to the victim and stop downplaying its violence regardless of what kind of force was used. 

Rape is not a new phenomenon.  The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament of the Christian Bible) has several instances of rape.  Genesis 19 tells the story of Lot who welcomes two strangers into his home for an evening of rest and comfort.  The men of the town, afraid of the strangers, go to Lot’s house and demand that he release his guests.  They are enraged and want to put the strangers in their place by raping them. (Rape was a common form of humiliation and warfare in the Ancient Near East.)  Lot refuses to send out the strangers and instead offers up his virgin daughters.  The men refuse and just as they are about to break down Lot’s door, the strangers reveal themselves as angels blinding the men and demand Lot and his family to leave town before they wreak utter destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

A few verses later, we find Lot and his daughters cooped up in a cave fearing that they may be the last people on earth.  Lot’s virgin daughters plot to save the human race, or at least preserve their family name, by getting their father drunk and raping him.  Granted, the scriptures do not use the term rape, but our legal system would define drugging a person so that a person could have sex with someone who would otherwise not consent to sex is rape. 

As I read this scripture I couldn’t help but wonder if Rep. Todd Akin would say that Lot was “legitimately raped.”

            Rape is mentioned many more times and just as in our society sometimes it is explicit and other times it leaves us to connect the dots and requires a great deal of courage to name it rape.  The story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5) is commonly referred to as adultery rather than rape.  However, there is nothing in the story to assert that Bathsheba had given consent to King David.  As with many women who’ve been raped the blame is put back on Bathsheba.  Bathsheba was beautiful, she was bathing and Kind David could see her from his roof, she was asking for it. (Often people speak as though she was bathing on a roof, but the reading states that King David was on his roof and could see her.  Most baths were not enclosed; it’s no surprise he could have spotted Bathsheba.)  King David called for Bathsheba and he “lay with her” and she became pregnant (again, according to Rep. Akin—apparently not a legitimate rape).  A woman called before the king.  Was Bathsheba’s consent even a question?  A king who would kill one of his soldiers in order to keep the soldier’s wife for himself?  No, Bathsheba’s desire or lack of wouldn’t have mattered.  I dare to call it rape.

                  A few chapters later (2 Samuel 1-22), King David’s daughter Tamar is raped by her brother, Amnon.  Amnon is in lust with his sister and his friend gives him advice on how to seduce her.  Tamar begs and pleads with him to stop but he takes her by force and then is disgusted by her (or by his own actions?) and throws her out.  Tamar is a wreck.  She tears her gown in mourning, puts ashes on her head and wails.  She is humiliated but she will not be silenced.  Another brother, Absalom, tries to console her by telling her to keep quiet, that Amnon loved her, all while hiding his anger at Amnon in his heart.  Tamar takes refuge in Absalom’s quarters and we don’t hear from her again. When King David discovers that Amnon has raped Tamar he is furious but does not punish him.  It is hauntingly familiar, is it not?  Many rape victims are believed but then asked to remain silent by someone who loves them; someone who fears that speaking out would only make matters worse.  Then there are the courageous rape victims who face their rapists in court, often tried more voraciously than their rapist, only to have the rapist receive a slap on the wrist or a light penalty.[1]

            Rape continues in the Bible as it continues in the present.  Rape continues to eat away at the psyches of the survivors as well as the rapists.  We must do better than Absalom, King David, and the Church; we must acknowledge the pain and anguish, the violence in the act of rape itself.  We must not be silent about the reality of rape in our world.  We must talk about it openly.  We cannot shy away from the harsh realities that every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted and that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.  We must tend to the survivors of rape and help them to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We must hear their stories with empathy and compassion.  We must punish the rapists and teach them that their victims are more than conquests, more than rags to be used at their disposal, we must teach them to respect all humans regardless of their gender.  We must teach our children to honor their bodies, honor the people around them, and to understand that sex is something to be cherished and enjoyed consensually with eyes wide open.

 

 

 



[1]               Even when the rape is acknowledged, legitimized, the penalty is light—the average sentence for convicted rapists was 11.8 years, while the actual time served was 5.4 years.  Furthermore, only two-thirds of convicted rape defendants receive a prison sentence, while those who receive a local jail sentence average eight months in jail with less than 6 years of probation. Statistics taken from the Bureau of Justice at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/PSATSFV.PDF and the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse at http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/sexoff/sexoff.html)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Genesis 3:1-7

Genesis 3:1-7
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die;for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

From the very beginning we humans were not content with being creatures, being part of God's creation. No, we wanted more, we wanted to be more like God, we wanted to be gods. Theologians have pondered and argued across the ages--what was it about the fruit of that tree in Eden? Why would God place it in the center and then tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit. As any parent knows this is a sure fire way to get a child to eat such fruit. Perhaps the fall, Adam and Eve's disobedience was planned from the start. Or perhaps God intended Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit but not yet, after all they were new beings, still infants, still children. Or perhaps our original sin was not really disobedience, rather the desire to be a god, rather than rejoicing in being creatures, in being a part of creation, rather than being content with what and who we are, who God created us to be.

For this day, just this one short day. Let us rejoice in being creatures of the Creator. Let us take comfort that we are not in charge, we do not have all the answers. Let us rejoice in knowing that all we must do is love freely just as we have been loved, regardless of our disobedience, regardless of our failures, regardless of our sin. Let us rejoice in love this one short day. Amen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday's Devo

Psalm 51:1-12
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

We've all sinned. We've all missed the mark. We've all fallen away from God. We've all done what was easy rather than what was right. Regardless of what we've done, God is there with us. God waits for us to realize our errors and to repent. Repentance is not simply saying I'm sorry, but turning and going a new way.

Today, we pray with the Psalmist for clean hearts, for God's grace to wash over and through us so that we may truly repent and go a new way. Thanks be to God that Grace allows for u-turns, left turns, and right turns. Grace heals our brokeness and guides us towards God, towards loving others, towards doing what is right no matter how impossible it may seem.

Holy and gracious God, thank for you for this day of new beginnings, ripe with your grace. Let this day not be wasted but lived for you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.