Viriditas, energy, and time

Saint Hildegard’s “Viriditas” refers to life force, essence. Many translators simply say that this neologism means “greening”, which it does at the most basic level, but it means so much more than that. It is power, energy, growth. It is the very marrow of what it means to be living. You know when you meet someone whether they are simply existing or truly energetically alive. This “Viriditas” is the difference. We have the ability to tap into this force, a gift from God, and be truly alive. We are then expected to use this power in the service of God to help our fellow humans.

It is what Moses talked about when he said “I set before you a blessing and a curse – therefore, choose life.” Life is the blessing. To grow, to use your gifts is the purpose of life. We must choose to tap into the power of God, and then choose to use it wisely. We are not meant to use this energy for our own personal gain, but to benefit others. We are meant to take what God has given us and magnify it.

Two men having sex together is seen as a sin in Judaism because it is “spilling of the seed” – it is seen as a waste of creative life force. The act isn’t the sin so much as the waste of creative force. Their energy is not being used to create, but is used for personal means. They are not making anything with their energy. It is a mis-use of a gift from God.

Likewise, to create laws against homosexuals is also a waste of power. Imagine how many hungry, homeless, and hurting people could have been helped with the money, time, and energy that have been spent on creating laws against people who are gay or transgendered.

The focus must always be on wisely using what God has given you. The energy must be turned outward to help people, with full trust in God.

This is what Jesus talked about in the parable of the talents. Use what you have and make more. Don’t keep energy to yourself.

This is at the heart of the miracle of the loaves and fishes – which happened twice. Take what you are given and add to it. Feed people, in as many ways as possible. Food, encouragement, love – humans need all of these. Our gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded up.

We are meant to be fruitful and multiply as much as possible, and this does not necessarily mean to have biological children. Our kindness, generosity, compassion are our children as well. Our creative acts – making music or art – are also our children.

This is also about the sanctification of time. The very first commandment that Israel received in the desert was the mitzvah of the calendar. They were to use the moon as their way to mark time, to note its passing, to remember and be mindful about time. It is important to be intentional about the use of time, because it too is a gift from God.

Take nothing for granted. Waste nothing. Trust your gifts and share them with the world, with God’s help.

Remember what Jesus did – he gave thanks to God first before he performed miracles. Tap into the “greening” power of God by giving thanks first for what you have, then turn it outwards to give to others.

Bigotry by any other color.

Bigotry is “a stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own” according to the Dictionary webpage.

Nothing is driving me up the wall more than seeing/hearing African Americans be bigoted about gay people getting married, and use the Bible to condone it. I don’t like seeing anybody do it, but it is especially vexing when it is from members of the African American community. Perhaps they forget that in the United States, in this very century, African Americans could not marry white people, and that the very same Bible was used to support that bigotry.

Once I was at a Japanese restaurant enjoying a hibachi dinner. There were 8 other people at the table, all strangers to me. There was a black man there who snapped his fingers at the Japanese waiter and called him “Boy”. He turned and said to me with a big smile “It feels good to call someone boy.” I was repulsed by how much he enjoyed that, and that he felt that it was something I would agree with. What is bad for one is bad for all. If it is not OK to call a black man “Boy” it is not OK to call anybody that.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not anything Jesus ever said. It is the exact opposite of Jesus’ message. I am pro-gay rights BECAUSE I follow Jesus. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He said a lot about not judging others. Saying other’s people ways of life and living is sinful is judging them. It is bigotry.

What was the sin of Sodom? The prophet Ezekiel has the answer.

Ezekiel 16:49
49 Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy.

Their sin was that they didn’t support the poor and needy. They had plenty and didn’t share it. This is why God destroyed them. Not because they wanted to have sex with the angels.

Jesus tells us how we are to serve others in these verses from Matthew.

Matthew 25:31-40
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger
and you took Me in;
36 I was naked
and you clothed Me;
I was sick
and you took care of Me;
I was in prison
and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Jesus is referring to the words of the prophet Isaiah when he tells this parable. Here is the original – please pay special attention to verses 6-7.

Isaiah 58:5-12
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.

Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take care of sick people. Visit those in prison. Fight against injustice. House the homeless.

These are the jobs of Christians. Nothing else. To serve God by serving our neighbors.

Mother Teresa took care of everyone who came to her, regardless of their beliefs. They could be suffering from leprosy, malnourished from starvation, abandoned by their families because they were too poor to afford another child, or dying of AIDS, it made no difference to her. She said that she saw every single person in front of her as being Jesus himself, and served them accordingly.

It didn’t matter that they weren’t Christian. She was.

What are we to do as followers of Jesus? Start with the primary commandments –

Luke 10:25-28
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love. Don’t judge. Don’t call them sinners. Jesus never called anybody a sinner. Don’t “love the sinner but hate the sin” – because that is not a Jesus concept at all. He never said anything like that. He said to love people.

The story gets more interesting though. The person who is asking Jesus continues, because he wants to “justify” himself – in short, he wants to justify being less than neighborly to people he doesn’t like.

Let us read the rest of that section to find out the answer – who is your neighbor?

Luke 10:29-37
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day[l] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

This story is significant because of the players. The man who was robbed and left for dead was Jewish. The two people who ignored him were upper-class Jews – a priest and a Levite. They were responsible for the maintenance of the Temple and the sacrifices there. The man who helped him was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were enemies of the first class. They’d had a feud going on for generations by this point. There was no way that a Samaritan would have helped a Jew, or vice versa. But this man helped someone who his culture said he should hate. He helped him because it was the right thing to do.

How are we to draw people to the love of Jesus if we are calling them sinners? How are we to serve people like Jesus did if we are separating and excluding them? Jesus embraced lepers and made them whole by doing so. Jesus included the excluded. Jesus made us all equal.

I’m not saying for you to become gay. Straight people can’t turn gay any more than gay people can turn straight. But what I am saying is stop denying others their civil rights. Stop turning them away from your churches. Start showing love by being kind. We have enough hate in the world. Let us not join them.

Let them know we are Christians by our love.

(All Bible verses are HCSB)

Casting stones

This passage sounds harsh to modern ears.

Numbers 15:32-36
32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community. 34 They placed him in custody because it had not been decided what should be done to him. 35 Then the LORD told Moses, “The man is to be put to death. The entire community is to stone him outside the camp.” 36 So the entire community brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Killed. Stoned to death. For picking up wood on the Sabbath. Not only did the Lord command it, the assembly did it. Each person – the entire community – took him outside the camp (where the trash is, where the dead bodies are). Each person picked up a stone and threw it at him, until he died. That isn’t one stone. That is thousands of them. Each person did this.

Can you imagine being one of those people in the crowd? Can you imagine looking around for a stone? Everyone else around you is doing the same thing. Are there enough stones for everybody? Do you pick up a big one, or a pebble? Something with a nice heft to it, or something inconsequential?

You have to pick up a stone in this story. If you don’t, you are disobeying a command from God. This person has violated the Sabbath by working. This person has broken a law that keeps the community going. This person has to be removed, or the infection will spread – and make no doubt about it, law-breaking is an infection. If one person gets away with it, then more will. Then there won’t be a reason for the rules anymore, because everyone will be doing their own thing. There won’t be a community anymore. There won’t be a thing called “Israel” anymore.

Maybe you know this guy. Maybe you’ve talked to him. Maybe you’ve seen him while you were out gathering your daily allotment of manna. Maybe he’s in your tribe, and you’ve carried the tent poles of the Temple with him. Maybe he’s sat around your campfire at night. Maybe he’s closely related to you. Maybe he is your uncle. Or father. Or son.

Do you still pick up a stone?

If so, how hard do you throw it?

What are the “sins” today? What “stones” do we throw? They might not kill the body, but they surely kill the spirit.

Is throwing stones our job anymore? What does Jesus say?

John 8:2-11 (HCSB)
2 At dawn He went to the Temple complex again, and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began to teach them. 3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” 6 They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”

It isn’t our job to cast stones, or to point out sin in others.

Perspective – “Lifestyle choice”

If only the people who are up in arms about homosexuality would get a sense of perspective. How are the actions of two mutually consenting adults affecting them?

If they want to get upset, they should get upset at people who murder or rape or steal. These are “lifestyle choices” that have victims. There is an aggressor and a victim – the action between the participants is not mutual or agreed upon by both of them.

Being a murderer or a rapist or a thief is a choice. People choose to do these things. This is how they live their lives – taking from others, using others. They make themselves feel better by making other people feel worse. It isn’t an accident – it is intentional. Thus, acting like this is indeed a lifestyle choice.

The upset straight people should get upset at them instead of gay people. March against them. Protest against them. Make life harder for them. But they should leave people alone who aren’t harming them or anyone else.

In fact, it is a “lifestyle choice” to harass, belittle, and attack innocent people who are different from you. Don’t complain about gay people’s “lifestyle choice” by using your own.

Straight people have a choice too – to live their own lives in the way that they are led to, either by conviction or the rules of their faith or denomination. This means they must live their own lives, and make their own decisions about their own lives. They don’t get the right to make these decisions for others – for the same reason they don’t want others to make these decisions for them.

Gay people don’t want others to be gay, and don’t want to affect or change their ability to marry. They are not forcing how they live on others – they are not trying to turn others into them. But they also don’t want others to force their lifestyle on them.

They want to live their own lives, the same as anyone. They want to live and love in safety and freedom, the same as anyone.

I knew a guy who complained about gay people being able to marry, saying that “The gay lifestyle is all about whoring around and being promiscuous.” I pointed out that the very fact that so many gay people wanted to get married, to settle down with one partner, is the very opposite of whoring around and being promiscuous. He had no reply to this.

What would make me happy about church.

I saw a member of my old church recently. I asked her if she knew why I had left. She smiled and said no. She said “You are missed.” I said it’s been two years. I pointed out that if she wanted to know about me she could have called or written me. Of the 200 people in that church only three contacted me. Only three took the time to check up on me. It doesn’t sound like I’m really missed.

While in one way I feel that I wasted three years of my life there, in another I’m glad I got away when this was the response of a church that prides itself on being welcoming. If they can’t take the time to check up on the welfare of a regular member, then maybe it is all an act. I don’t have time for acts anymore. I need people who are real in my life.

She asked me if I was happy. And in a way I am. I’m glad that I’m being true to the voice of God. I’m glad that I didn’t listen to a minister who told me to be silent about that voice.

In a way, I’m not. I’d hoped that I could have found more of what I needed there rather than having to create it from the ground up. I’m sorry about how much emptiness I found. I wanted a community of people where we could share how God was working in our lives, and join together our energies to make the world better. I’m sorry about how I was treated by the minister. I’m sorry for her need to control. I’m sorry that my leaving was so abrupt and final.

I accept that it is all part of God’s plan. I just wish I’d had a bit more of a head’s up as to how it was going to go. I felt that I was abandoned on the side of the road with no map for a bit.

I told the member that I know what my calling is. I knew when I joined that church that it wouldn’t be forever. I knew that there would be a time or I would have to leave. I just didn’t know when and how that would happen. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen like it did.

What would make me happy about church?

All people are ministers. All gifts are valued – no higher than another. All are equal.

All are welcome – rich, poor, gay, straight, all races, and all abilities and genders. All are treated with respect.

The focus is on service to everyone – not just on members of the church.

No proselytizing. Your life is your testimony.

Church is a place where we refuel and reconnect to the Word, to the Vine. We learn how to serve. We learn how to discover, improve, and share our unique gifts with the world.

What would make me happy about church? If church was more about action and less about social club. If church was more about healing the world rather than like an AA meeting. It should be a place where everybody learns that we are loved just like we are – and then we share that message with the world with no exceptions or caveats.

A lot of people go to church to assuage their guilt. They’ve been taught that they are sinners, and the only way to get over that is to go to church. The structure of the service is often so that they have to come back every week to hear this message again. This isn’t what Jesus wanted. It isn’t about a guilt-trip at all. It isn’t about submission and fear. It is about us sharing that message of love and redemption to everyone we meet. We do that by treating everyone like Jesus would – with love, kindness, and compassion.

I’ve not found this yet. I’ve found pieces of it. I’ve found some that are very close, but they exclude women from being full members or ministers. I’ve found some that are high on service to the community, but still have the focus on one main personality – an ordained minister. I’ve found some that welcome other faith traditions for their wisdom but they shun people who are gay. So they are welcoming of some who are “other” but not all.

I learned as part of deacon discernment process that if you see something missing then it means that you are called to create it.

Spouse

I’m proposing a new practice. I’m going to try to remember to start referring to the person I’m married to as my spouse, rather than my husband.

The only thing that separates heterosexual marriage from homosexual marriage is the terminology.

If you have a man married to a woman, she is his wife. But if you have a woman married to a woman, she is also her wife. This marks the woman saying that as “other”. It marks her marriage as different.

You know she is married by the fact that she is wearing a wedding ring. But you don’t know that she is gay until she talks about her wife.

I’m for removing that barrier and that difference.

I propose using gender-neutral terms to indicate the person you are married too. “Spouse” and “partner” both work.

This is my way of indicating solidarity with homosexual couples. We are the same, after all.

Marriage is hard enough without social stigma.

Forgiving Fred.

Fred Phelps has died. He was the leader of the Westboro group. They weren’t Baptist, and they weren’t a church. Not really. They were an organized group of haters. They showed up at military and high publicity funerals to protest gay people, even if the person who died was straight.

Among Jesus’ last words were “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Let us forgive Fred and his followers.

We cannot become like Fred Phelps or his followers. If we do, they have won. To hope that he “rots in hell” or to desire to “piss on his grave” is to let his brand of hate to take over.

This is about really knowing the message of Jesus. This is about knowing that the message is about forgiveness and love. It is about showing that same forgiveness and love that is shown to us through Jesus to others

Why would people want to become Christian if the face of Christianity is Fred Phelps and his group? Why would they want to become part of the Body of Christ when it looks like it is only used to attack others?

This Body was created to heal, not hurt. Our hands are meant for feeding and clothing others, not for holding picket signs. Our fingers were not made for pointing.

Imagine if this group had used its resources to mobilize their members to go to flood areas and other natural disasters to help out. They could have used their powers for good. Imagine if they’d used their money and time to teach people how to read or how to eat healthy food

We, as members of the Body of Christ, are held to a higher standard. We must forgive him. To forgive is not to condone.

We must remember that he was not acting alone. When we talk about how bad he was, we have to remember that it wasn’t just one man who showed up with a picket sign.

We talk about how bad Hitler was, but we forget that it was thousands of his followers that did the dirty work. We talk about Osama bin Laden, but we forget he wasn’t the one who was bombing and killing. Both of them were just giving the orders and others were just carrying them out.

If we are filled with hate towards Fred Phelps, we are one of his followers as surely as they were.

The bad thing is that there are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who agree with the Westboro group’s motives, if not their methods. They think that the purpose of Christians is to tell off other people and to have them live by a certain narrow set of rules.

They don’t remember that Jesus, in John 8:7, when he came across a group that was going to stone an adulterers, said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus doesn’t condemn her, or anybody else. Neither should we. They don’t remember that Jesus paid for all sins, for everybody, across time, by his death on the cross. We aren’t sinners, none of us. That debt is paid.

We can’t condemn even those who condemn others. Even Fred Phelps and his followers. We have to love them, because they need it the most. We have to show them love. We have to show them how to love by being loving to them.

Forgive them. Be the face of love to them. We must teach them who Jesus really is by being Jesus to them. Jesus is love. Thus, we should be too.