writing

  • a sermon on holy toolboxes

    fifth Sunday of Advent.

    the gospel of john, 12:20-33.

    for St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, March 18, 2018.

    - - - - -

                There is a sense of urgency that is present in our Lenten Gospel readings. We started with Mark, which is a frenetic text written in response to war and occupation, we have been chronologically working through Jesus’ public ministry and teachings on discipleship. We began at Jesus’ baptism, went through the clearing of the Temple, and encountered a Christ that urges us into deeper belief and faith. Time had been moving very quickly in Mark, and now as we draw nearer to Holy Week, time starts to slow down in our Gospel of John readings.

                Because Lent and Advent are both times of waiting. While Advent is a time of hopeful waiting for the Christ-child to be born, Lent is a time of fearful anticipation. We witnessed this when Jesus rebuked Peter a few weeks ago. Jesus predicted his death at the hands of the state, and the disciples would not, or could not, accept this as truth. We are waiting for a future that has been predicted three times, but is unwanted. We don’t want Jesus to die. Finally, we have been given a glimpse of God-in-flesh, and now, after only three years of public ministry, the disciples are told it is up to them to continue the work.

                Jesus’ predictions about the crucifixion are a lot to hold. What does it say about God if God had to send their beloved to be executed by the state in order for a new world be made? In order for Resurrection to happen? It implies a sacrificial theology that can be harmful. Jesus dies on the cross so we don’t have to. Jesus has witnessed suffering in those around him, physical suffering, emotional, structural – and has come to create the Kin-dom of God on earth where we can rest in Christ.

                Working to envision that Kin-dom is hard work. It’s draining. I notice the tendency towards burn-out in myself, in activists, in healers. And I sometimes try to justify that with sacrificial theology – ‘well, we’re the body of Christ, and Christ suffered until the end, so we probably will too.’

               No. We were already doing that before Jesus, and are still doing it afterwards. God wants that to change. God wants us to live into our holy Divine and dirt-made creaturehood. “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour” – to glorify God, and so glorify the breadth of God’s creation.

                Jesus has been healing, renewing faith, shaking power structures, and has been giving creation a taste of the Kin-dom of God in a way that hasn’t been present except in dreams since Eden. How are we to continue that work in a sacred way? We are the body of Christ – we have already been crucified, and we have been raised up, and have been given the tools to imagine into being a just world. It is the both/and of discipleship – we have experienced in our molecules the Crucifixion, and it is also a completely unknown thing to us. A mystery of faith is that Christ is past, present, and future – past in our stories, and present in our bones. We hold the collective memory of Crucifixion, and Christ came to model discipleship and justice to guide us through these tensions.

                Christ predicts that “the ruler of this world will be driven out”, and that all people will be gathered into Christ. On this Sunday, it feels like Jesus is teaching that one of the rulers that will be driven out is the sin of intentional ignorance – the same kind of ignorance when we plug our ears and sing when we don’t want to hear something.

                Intentional ignorance is found when we say walkouts are worse than gun deaths, when violence is touted as the best way to resolve conflict, and when we choose to hear false narratives over lived experience. Peter is rebuked for holding onto false ignorance that Jesus won’t die.

                The disciples keep refusing to embrace the prophetic truth of Christ. It reminds me of the Greek prophet Cassandra. Legend goes that Cassandra was a prophet who always predicted the truth. When she rebuked Apollo, he didn’t react with grace, instead, he corrupted her prophecy – she would still tell truth, but no one would believe her. She would shout into a void of disbelief, knowing in her heart that she is telling truth.

                Cassandra and Christ both foretell the truth. And as the Greeks didn’t listen to Cassandra, the disciples keep having their hearts hardened to the truth that Jesus is going to the cross. Going to Jerusalem, knowing exactly what is going to happen. It’s absurd that the disciples don’t believe Christ, despite Christ being baptized by the Spirit, after rebuking Peter to see the truth, after overturning the Temple for it to be born new, proclaiming the Good News that all will be one in God, healing and restoring.

                The urgency around speaking truth no one believes is frenetic. Jesus keeps trying to get through to the disciples, and it keeps failing. And even though we keep closing our ears and hearts to Christ, he doesn’t leave us alone. Jesus is persistent, giving us not one, not two, but three times to wrestle with the nature of his death before it happens. And we can’t. It hurts too much, since the Kin-dom feels just out of grasp – things are changing, we’re almost there. Jesus has put fear into the world as-is, and revealed the potential of the world to-be. And it feels like Jesus being executed will crush that. But Jesus is giving us tools to continue their work after the Crucifixion, after mourning.

                These tools aren’t concrete – we are asked to wrestle with them, to discover how they impart meaning into our lives in the midst of Empire. One of the tools found in our text today is guiding us through the way we live our lives - “If you love your life you’ll lose it, but if you hate your life in this world you’ll preserve it for unending life”. Some version of this teaching is in every canonical Gospel. And it isn’t what we want to be told. If we love how our lives are unfolding, it’s human nature to want to hold onto that. But this comes after Jesus’ proclamation that the rulers of this world will be dethroned.

                And I’ve found that sometimes, when I love how my life is going, I love it on the surface level. I love it because I am moving with the flow of society, with nothing really getting in the way of forward momentum. However, that usually means that I’m choosing the easy way instead of the way of Christ. And, Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer. Jesus wants to transform how we are living so we aren’t stuck in the same cycles of pain and oppression, because those follow us too.

                Christ is telling the disciples about a third way – being neither in love with our lives so much that we can’t let go and embrace reconciliation and justice, and also not hating it so much we lose perspective on the hope of the Resurrection. Jesus reassures us that we will be gathered together into the love of the Beloved at the moment of death/resurrection, and to not fear that unknown future, because transformation is possible.

                And I tie this back to the seed parables, an overarching tool and witness of Jesus’ ministry. Just as Christ is predicting the Crucifixion, they are also trying to instill in us what the Resurrection feels like – a breaking forth from the ground into new life.

                We bury seeds. We bury bodies. We wait. We mourn. We nourish those sacred places with tears, with sunlight. We wait for what is just out of grasp. And unseen, the seeds break open. Their original form is destroyed, and a new sprout emerges. And from that, it bears much fruit to continue Creation’s cycles.

                In order for the plant to sprout and flourish and grow good fruit, we first have to bury the seed. We have to let go of the way our lives reinforce Empire. We need to bury our dreams, and to let the spark of hope fall into the dirt and be buried, and trust that it will be transformed. If we shut our senses to the prophetic reality of Jesus, we hold onto a false love of life, one-dimensional, and we hold onto the seed. But when we trust that Christ will draw us into their Beloved body, we can wrestle with the complicated truth of the Crucifixion and rest in the trust that we have been made for this work.

                Amen.

  • "i feel heard when"

    "i feel heard when"

    (created at ARC's Theopoetics 2018 Conference, as part of the Engaging Arts as Faithful Practice cohort)

  • ceramic mugs

    I am from ceramic mugs,
    from workboots, quilts,
    and gunmental glitter nails.

    I am from dirt roads off of dirt roads,
    no stoplights, hunter orange, and a fifth season.

    I am from spearmint in soil,
    outreaching growth, crushed, common, and resilient.

    I am from a tradition of healers and uprooted trees,
    from Buzzard and the Holmins,
    from closed-in-emotion and fearful care.

    From
    "you're so smart",
    and "you could do more".

    I'm from infant baptism and earth magic.

    I'm from houses that know how to take care of dogs,
    Christmas steamed pudding, and garden salsa.

    From the worn barstools of Stonewall,
    from hidden medication and unspoken chronic illness.

    I carry these tenuous stories in my body + bones,
    waiting for written wills to unbox the past,
    revealing tenderness and choices made to move away.

    (created at ARC's Theopoetics 2018 Conference, as part of the Engaging Arts as Faithful Practice cohort)

  • ash wednesday 2018.

    What does Ash Wednesday feel like for those who need no reminder that we are earth creatures, mortal, of the flesh?

    Who hear gunshots, see hospital rooms, taste fear, smell fire, touch bodies on a daily basis, hearts heavy and guarded?

    I don’t need a reminder that life is fragile. I witness it on my siblings faces and in their testimony. We are in a broken, scary world.

    There are systems that need to die. There are beliefs that need to die.

    Repentance in words is not enough. Not enough to turn over the money-lenders tables. Not enough to turn over white supremacy. Not enough to root out the seed of violence we sow in men and boys.We return to the earth in order that new life may grow. We should be nurse logs, not remnants of war bombs.

    I am smudged with the ashes of complicity. Of silence. Of not knowing how to navigate the minefield we ourselves planted.And today we celebrate love under late-stage-capitalism. Love that is meant to be holy and good, and somehow we still choose to inflict violence.

    Today I lift up in prayer survivors of domestic abuse, physical, verbal, and emotional assault, and gun violence. God, may you turn our hearts of stone to living flesh, sent forth to enact your unending and grace-filled love.
  • TDOR 2017.

    Planning worship this year was different.

    We had to add new names to the list of those siblings lost too soon while planning.

    For a total of twenty-five.

    Not counting those unknown to us, erased in death, who died alone, due to addiction, mental illness, poverty, more cycles of transphobia and violence.

     

    I want to wrap my body around the cross.

    Clinging with all my strength.

    When I press my check to the wood it feels like blood and tears.

    I cling harder and the woodgrain imprints on my body. Or my body carves into it.

    This space of lament and fear reaches deeper --

    Like a caretaker or lover holding my heart.

    Risking splinters is the only way I feel safe.

     

    I’m angry and sad and exhausted at how often I feel those things. 

     

    My heart sings when it hears about shifting language

    (from he to she to zhe)

    (remembrance to resistance)

    (but I can’t rest in that)

     

    I want my tears to sprout buds on the cross

    I want my siblings blood to sprout buds.

    And let our cracking ribs

    Breathe in the scent of flowers.

    And rebirth.

     

    Until then,

    I will interlace my veins with yours.

    And cling harder to the splintered cross. 

    (cross-posted to #decolonizeLutheranism)

  • eco-reformation testimony

    given at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square on 10/29/17, eco-reformation Sunday and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 

    We always had a garden growing up. It had tomatoes, jalapeños, bell peppers, lettuce, radishes, carrots, and at least one vine vegetable, like cucumbers. My mom made and canned her homemade salsa from the harvest, enough to last us through to the next season – and we went through a lot! What we had grown and picked, we preserved to last us the entire winter and following spring, which, in rural Vermont, is the bulk of a calendar year.

    I remember one year, when, after rotating the crops in our small garden to maximize the nutrients left in the soil from previous years, we had an explosion of cucumbers. They spilled over the tires we had banked to support the plants, growing outward, past the rectangle of the garden into the lawn. And they produced abundantly. We gave freely to our neighbors, my parents coworkers, family friends, and still had to think really creatively on how to integrate cucumber into more of our own meals.

    That abundance from the soil is a radical departure from the scarcity narrative I am fed everyday. Empire and capitalism constantly tell me that there is not enough, that I am not enough. That in order to have even close to enough, I need to consume and buy and tune out, instead of realigning with creation.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can live into our imaginings of the Kingdom of God. And I use the word ‘imaginings’ really intentionally – when I’m imagining something, it is fantastical and energetic and too good to be true, at least in how we live now. It feels impossible to accomplish, as soon as a hint of doubt or cynicism creep in.

    But the earth tells us differently. It tells me differently when I witness rosebushes, cut to the ground, sprout new buds after being covered with burlap and mulch over a long winter, with piles of snow and weeks of below-zero temperature. It is a wild imagining that they would come back abundantly, renewed. It’s too good to be true! And that’s exactly what creation does. It’s constantly resurrecting and growing.

    Even when we don’t see it happening. When I plant seeds in the springtime and water them, growth happens long before they sprout above the dirt. And then they burst forward with abundance, answering creations call – producing enough cucumbers to feed a small rural town, a garden providing us enough to live off of and then even more to share.

    This testimony feels vulnerable in a different way than others I’ve given – it destabilizes me to lean into a vision of abundance because it feels naïve. It’s risky, because there is so much more to lose. In addition to being fed narratives on how I’m not enough, there is another narrative that runs even deeper that tells me we can’t win. That the Kingdom of God in abundance is literally impossible, so why even try? That fear of impossibility and naivety overwhelms me.  Which is why I garden. It’s a radical act against scarcity narratives, and it is also a tangible reminder that the truth of creation is stronger than the truths we are living in. God’s truth, that seeds are be planted in the dirt and then grow and produce exponentially, is the ground we walk on, even when concrete distances us. And when that distance overwhelms me, I sit with the plants on my windowsill and marvel in the reality of their growth and abundance.

  • place testimony

    given 10/26/17 at LSTC

    I grew up in Vermont, on a dirt road off another dirt road. Place for me was always rooted in the soil, in the dappled shadow from maple trees, and winding roads.

    My mom grew up on the beaches of New Jersey – her tactile memory passed onto me is of gritty sand and powerful crashes of water.

    My mom also grew up in Chicago, which was the start of my coming to this place. She was here in the late sixties and early seventies, while my grandfather, Ralph Holmin, was teaching religious education at LSTC.

    My grandfather would walk between the seminary and their house on Woodlawn, daily life marked by seasons and the diverse population that has always made up Hyde Park.

    After spending a lot of time in theater rehearsal rooms, my body has become attuned to the memory of a space. Rúben, my academic and artistic mentor during undergrad, spoke openly and often of how spaces physically transform and remember the energy and work that was done in them – I know that our main classroom felt different at the end of the year than at the beginning. It felt vulnerable, and creative, and full of life. 

    I lived abroad for three years before moving to Chicago, and one consequence of that is I have moments where memory takes over my body – a feeling so real that my brain takes a second to remember where I physically am, because the wash of emotional and spiritual memory is so strong.

    Which is an experience that’s difficult to articulate, because it directly counters what I’ve learned about embodied existence. In that moment, when I actively work to remind myself where I physically am, what ground my feet are on, I can feel the Spirit passing by me.

    It sometimes happens here, in this place, especially on the second and third floors, where the architecture speaks back decades. That experience is really unnerving, because it encompasses an embodied truth that isn’t true in the logical sense. It feels like I have spent time in this place already, grounded, conflicting with the lived experience of being a newcomer in this place. It is both known and unknown, a third thing that is both/and.

    And it feels mystical, and of the Spirit, how this visceral body memory, connected to my grandfather, exists. It speaks to collective memory, and collective trauma. It means that my body and heart remember lived knowledge even when my brain disputes the facts. It acknowledges connections between temporal and physical space. It breathes radical life into the narratives of alienation and separation that surround us.  

  • summer 2017...

    summer 2017...

    ...was spent working as a dog and cat groomer, getting ready for seminary, lighting LeapFest for the second year, directing a staged reading (soon to have a second iteration!) and discovering venues such as hairpin arts (pictured)

  • easter season

    caring deeply for someone with chronic mental illness

    means writing the phone numbers of inpatient wings

    on the back of dunkin' donuts receipts

    in a blue marker, with the feeling of a tightrope walker,

    and visiting hours hastily scribbled in.

  • #34: questioning

    fearful faith.

    flipping tables.

    shaky promises.

    stone to flesh.

    burning palm fronds.

    -----

    #35: live

    #36: fire

    #37: land

    #38: terror

    #39: peace

    #40: prophet

    #41: justice

    #42: judgement