Trinity Cathedral Rule of Life

Trinity Cathedral Rule of Life

 

How do you stay grounded in your faith? How do you keep your heart open and loving? How to you abide in hope? How do we, as a community of faith, join Christ in loving the world into wholeness? In times of personal struggle, or national strife, it can be difficult to draw from the well of spiritual strength found in our faith. For centuries Christians have adopted spiritual practices that promise, over time, to ground us in the love of God making us resilient and loving. This Rule of Life offers a set of four practices that grow out of the promises of the Baptismal Covenant. It is our belief that adopting these practices will, over time, transform our hearts and our lives. They are offered for a season, with the hope that they may become long-term habits.

The Commitments

  1. Connect Daily: Commit to daily spiritual practice 

In the beginning there was nothing. God created all the wonders of the universe: the multitude of stars and planets, the array of plants and animals, and the mass diversity of humankind. God created it all, and nothing is apart from this creativity and love. Everything is Holy and blessed. It is our practice of disconnect and individual numbing that causes us to act apart from this reality. In a chaotic world, daily spiritual practices call us to intentionally return to the source, to God’s love and God’s call.

The Practice:  Commit to daily spiritual practice whether it is for one minute, or sixty – practice daily.

  1. Stay Loving: Respect the dignity of every human being

Every person is a beloved child of God, deserving of and capable of love. Too often we deny this basic goodness in ourselves and others. In judgement, we distance, demonize and diminish the dignity of other people. We also turn this judgmental eye onto ourselves.  In contrast Jesus lived a life of forgiveness and reconciliation. He tells us to love others as we love ourselves, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.  

It is difficult to stay loving when confronted by cruelty, violence, arrogance, and selfishness. There is a strong temptation to respond in kind. Jesus calls us to a higher way: to not let the cruelty of others rob us of our ability to love. Jesus modeled this when he asked God to forgive the very people who were killing him. While we may not have the spiritual strength of Jesus, we can strive to keep our hearts loving as we strive for justice in the world.

The practice: Pay attention to your thoughts and when you start berating yourself, or denying the dignity of others, redirect your thinking. Perhaps say a short prayer or mantra, such as “every person is a beloved child of God,” or “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Do not participate in conversations that demonize others. Pray for people you dislike or who threaten you.

  1. Practice Community: Worship and study together

Shortly after Jesus’ death, his followers found themselves called to live radically different lives than that of the dominant culture. Called to recognize all as beloved children of God, to cross human boundaries, befriend outcasts, and challenge oppressive powers in the way of Jesus, many fell short. They realized the need for specific practices that would give them stamina and ground them in faith and courage. Some found these practices in community, setting aside regular and specific times for eating, studying, worshipping, and praying together. Others sought silence and time apart. All found a need to return to the source of all life, and reconnect.

In two thousand years, this need has not changed. In a divisive and chaotic world, we too need practices which nurture the source of life within us. Practicing community, Jesus’ followers founded a faith which unexpectedly spread beyond boundaries in a hostile world. Their simple practices of community - sharing stories, listening deeply, eating together, sharing resources, and praying together – formed their lives, and strengthened their hearts. Whether it is to commit to weekly worship, and/or one weekly group learning activity, in this Lenten season, we invite you too to enter into the practice of community.

The practice: Commit to weekly worship and one weekly group learning opportunity.

  1. Do Justice: Strive for justice and peace in the world

We live in a beautiful and broken world. Believing as we do in the unity of God’s love, harm that affects any of our brothers and sisters is harm that affects us all. No matter who we are, or where we are in our spiritual journey, God calls us to be agents for justice, healing, and hope. The good news is that we have already begun. In our baptismal covenant, we promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. And we have the words of the prophet Micah ringing in our ears: that what God requires of us is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

When we turn our hearts to issues of injustice, suffering, and unrest, we engage in work that we cannot do alone. Thus, we open ourselves to being used and changed by God in ways that we can neither control nor predict. In this, lies hope for us and for the world.

The practice: Stay present and actively grapple with current events.  Commit to one justice area and regular action. Share your experience in conversations with members of the church.


Response to Donald Trump's Election to the Presidency

My 1st post the day after the election:

To my friends who are heartsick and terrified by the election results, friends afraid of being persecuted because of your religion or race, afraid of losing healthcare, or other issues of justice, please know that you are not alone. I will stand with you and fight harder than before for justice and peace for all. Trinity Cathedral is open today for prayer and we are looking at other special services. I will be preaching this Sunday.

To my friends who voted for Donald Trump, please know I respect your decision. I don't assume you made the choice out of malice toward any. I look forward to joining forces as we work together to bring God's kingdom closer for all.

A few hours later:

 Many are devastated by the results of the election, and gripped in a debilitating fear. I certainly understand. My imagination has been running out all kinds of scenarios that don’t look good for people on Obamacare, immigrants, refugees, people of color, Muslims, and others. While I have friends who are pleased with the election results, right now, my heart is with those who are reeling.

From a place of anxiety and fear, I remembered Jeremiah’s real estate purchase. Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonians. It was about to be overrun. And Jeremiah bought a house. It was an act of defiant hope in the future. Jeremiah was saying, “things look impossible now, but this is not the end of the story. God’s will be done.” It is similar to Desmond Tutu telling soldiers who were arresting him at the height of Apartheid, “It’s not too late to join the winning side.”

For many, this time looks impossibly dark. But dark times have come and dark times have gone. For me, it is a wake up call to be even more involved in fighting for justice. I know many people who believe in justice who have been quiet or silent. Not any more. I remember a similar feeling when Prop 8 passed in California and many of us stood on the steps of the Capital pledging to fight for marriage equality. This is a similar moment. Don’t lose heart. Love will win.

It is also a time to stop hating. That means stop hating the haters as well. Evil works by preying on our fear – pushing us to hate those we perceive as a threat. We need to respect the dignity of every human being. To quote Jesus, we need to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Don’t let the cruelty of others rob us of our ability to love.

So my prayer is that we can keep our hearts open and loving as we fight even harder for justice and peace for all.

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Jerry Falwell Jr's Misuse of the Bible to Support Donald Trump

I was listening to NPR’s Steve Inskeep interview Jerry Falwell Jr., president of evangelical Liberty University, about his support for Donald Trump when I was struck by Mr. Falwell’s misuse of the Bible.

SI: Is his (Trump’s) personal life or any candidate’s personal life relevant to you?

JF: I think Jesus said we are all sinners. When they ask that question, I always talk about the story of the Woman at the Well who had five husbands and she was living with someone she wasn’t married to and they wanted to stone her and Jesus said, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I just see how Donald Trump treats other people and I’m impressed by that.

Let me start by saying that this post is not about Donad Trump’s suitability for the presidency. It is about a prominent evangelical misusing the Bible. As a priest who takes the Bible seriously, and who also supports marriage equality as well as other progressive issues, I am tired of evangelicals claiming ownership of the Bible.

So here’s my critique of this very short exchange:

First, Jesus did not say we are all sinners. It’s mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but not on the lips of Jesus. I suppose this isn't such a big deal. I just mention it because there is a tendency to falsely attribute things to Jesus - like condemning people who are gay.

What really caught my attention was the misuse of the story of the Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42.) Mr. Falwell is conflating that story with the Woman caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11.) They are two different people, two very different stories. If Mr. Falwell “always” tells this story, he should know better.

More importantly, he demeans an important woman in the Bible, the Woman at the Well, by painting her as a sinner – a judgement that is not supported anywhere in the Bible. This may seem minor, but it is part of a wider pattern of demonizing the sexuality of women. Yes, she was married five times. And yes, the man she is currently living with is not her husband. But why assume she is at fault?

Mr. Falwell may see her as a woman trading in husbands like people today may trade in cars – upgrading for a newer model. He may see her as a sexually “loose” woman. But is that really the most reasonable interpretation? Since men had more power to divorce in Jesus’ day, isn’t it more likely that the Woman at the Well was the discarded one, the used car? She had been discarded by five husbands and now the man she is with won’t even dignify her with marriage. She is the outcast, going to the well at high noon, when no other women would be there. Labeling this woman as a sinner is akin to labeling women today who are trafficked into sex work as sinners, rather than victims. In the Biblical story, this victim, this outcast, has the courage to engage Jesus, debate with Jesus, and become the first evangelist, drawing the men of her village to Jesus.

Mr. Falwell dismisses this courageous, victimized woman as a sexual sinner (making her the woman caught in adultery.) She is no longer a hero and role model. Not only should he know his Bible better, in doing this he is perpetuating a worldview that diminishes powerful women figures.

I realize this is may seem nit-picky - insider Biblical baseball - but it bothered me. And then there's this:

SI: Do you think he (Trump) is a truthful person?

JF: I do. I just know you don’t get where he is in life by not telling the truth or by being dishonest in business or by treating your employees unfairly, and it’s just not possible.

Really? Is Mr. Falwell really saying you can’t be successful if you mistreat your employees or you are dishonest? Has he read the Bible? It is chock full of powerful, successful, dishonest leaders. That is the core of much of the lament in the Bible. Jeremiah’s complaint “Why do the wicked prosper?” is echoed throughout the Prophets and Psalms. Again, I’m not writing this to criticize Mr. Trump. I’m writing to encourage religious leaders to be more thoughtful in their use of scripture. My reading of the Bible encourages me to be critical of those in leadership, and careful with my support or endorsement.

I understand that Mr. Falwell and I may disagree on how we interpret passages in the Bible. I’m just tired of evangelicals claiming to have the Biblical high ground. It just isn’t so.


After Orlando: Driving out Darkness with Light

Here's a transcript of the sermon I preached in response to the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.  The gospel reading was Luke 8:26-39.

 

Another shooting.

50 people killed in Orlando in a gay nightclub, in a place that is supposed to be a safe haven.

Another shooting.

And then, hours later, here in Sacramento at Verity Baptist Church, a pastor preached a forty-five minute sermon applauding the horrific act and encouraging more death. This, almost to the day, one year after Dylann Roof went into a church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine people who were in the middle of Bible study.

Killing after killing. Shooting after shooting.

After every mass shooting we gather together as a church. After every mass shooting I stand in this pulpit and lament. But, for me, this time is a little different.

The constant repetition and drum beat of mass shooting after mass shooting is opening my eyes; I’m different because of last year’s shooting. I’m different because of the conversation we had after last year’s shooting, after Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, went into an African American AME church and shot people during Bible study. This event that happened in the wake of protest after protest against violence perpetrated on African Americans by police.

We entered into a conversation at Trinity Cathedral during Lent; we listened to people of color; we had educational conversations about race. I began to realize how I had been lulled into the belief that racism really wasn’t that much of a problem; I drank the post-Obama-election Kool-Aid and believed that we were in the post-racial era.  As I participated in our programs on racism, I began to realize that the danger and corrosiveness we’re dealing with isn’t just outside our borders, it’s something that’s happening right here with us. I, and we, were becoming more and more sensitized to issues of race.

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