Late have I loved you

“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new; late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me; and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” Augustine, ConfessionsBook 12.xxvii. 38

By way of preparation for his Feast Day tomorrow.

Who am I? A Sermon for Proper 16, Year A

It seems like every week this summer I come before you after a week of horrific violence and tragedy in the world and try to offer some consolation and hope from scripture. Then in the following week, even worse things happen. I won’t recite the litany of the past months to you, nor even the tragedies, violence, and injustices of the past week. The images are all too familiar to us now even if they were shocking when we first saw or heard about them. Once again, we have had laid bare to us the racism, injustice, and inequity that pervades every aspect of our society. As a human race, we see ourselves in all of our evil and inhumanity. Continue reading

Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153

I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing; as long as it returns to its beginning, goes back to its origin, turns again to its source, it will always draw afresh from it and flow freely. In love alone, of all the movements of the soul and the senses and affections, can the creature respond to its Creator, if not with an equal, at least with a like return of gift for gift…. For when God loves, he wants nothing but to be loved; he loves for no other purpose than to be loved, knowing that those who love him are blessed by their very love. Sermons on the Song of Songs 83 (Bernard of Clairvaus, Selected Works, 272-273)

Some reading on Ferguson

From the Rev’d Steven Lawler, Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson:

Tonight there is more sorrow, tear gas, and destruction. Tomorrow will be a day devoted to distributing food, funding a program that engages youth in entrepreneurialism, and sitting quietly in prayer. Like most people I know in Ferguson, I will be trying to discover what it’s like to be on solid ground.

From Christena Cleveland: The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail

Yesterday, my neighbor broke down while we talked about the realities of police brutality toward young black men. Her hands trembled and tears showered her face. Experiencing the unique mixture of rage and sorrow that black moms know well, she described the numerous ways in which the local police have already treated her 8 year old son like an animal.

The cross and the Molotov cocktail: hTonight there is more sorrow, tear gas, and destruction. Tomorrow will be a day devoted to distributing food, funding a program that engages youth in entrepreneurialism, and sitting quietly in prayer. Like most people I know in Ferguson, I will be trying to discover what it’s like to be on solid ground.

Scenes from the Occupation

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We’ve seen similar scenes this summer from the Ukraine, Gaza, Syria, Iraq. But this time, the photo was taken  in the heartland of America, Ferguson, MO.

The New York Times published this photo today. It exposes the reality of life in the USA today. After nearly thirteen years of the War on Terror, we are a society at war with ourselves as well as the world. Our politics, economy, culture, everything it seems, is conducted as war. We resort first to violence, violent language in ordinary discourse, and military fatigues, weapons, and armored personnel carriers at the first hint of trouble.

We mourn the lost future of Mike Brown, of so many others who were caught up in the militarized violence of the police and populace: Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin. The list is endless. We should mourn what we have become as a nation and a society: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52)

From the ALCU:

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing

The full ACLU report on the militarization of US policing is available here

Lord, Save Me! A Sermon for Proper 14, Year A

 

We’ve been paying close attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans this summer, taking our cues from the lectionary which includes readings from that great letter for thirteen consecutive weeks. Still, we are barely scratching the surface. The lectionary omits significant chunks of Paul’s writing, including some of his most challenging and important themes. For example, chapters 9-11, where Paul talks about the doctrine of election and seeks to explain how God includes both Jews and Gentiles in God’s providence, are largely ignored. We had a few verses from chapter 9 last week; this week we read from chapter 10; and next week we’ll hear a few verses from the beginning and the end of chapter 11. Continue reading

The Tragedy of Great Power: Israel and Gaza, the US and the world

I will close this article – and in truth, my act of bearing witness – by borrowing a phrase from John Mearsheimer: “the tragedy of great power.” The reality is that Israel, which has the fourth strongest army in the world and has a full arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, is a great power. As critical as the Holocaust was and still is in the rise of the entire edifice of human rights norms, Israel suffers the psychology of great power.

The real tragedy of great power is that it is fundamentally at odds with ethical conscientiousness and judgment. Don’t get me wrong, “great power” will consider normative values, will engage in moral discourses and will reflect upon ethics, but it is invariably and persistently self-indulgent and self-serving. Great power will idolize itself, and demand obedience from whoever falls within its sphere. It will reflect on ethics, but ultimately will always reach the conclusion that whatever it does or decides is indeed ethical, and that all who are less powerful must sublimate and praise its virtues. And the highest form of sublimation is obedience. The tragedy of Israel’s great power is that it has lost the ability to be restrained or proportionate. In other words, it has lost the self-critical insight and restraint needed for reasonableness.

I believe that the first principle of ethics is to pursue goodness and resist evil, but the second principle is to speak the truth of goodness and the shame of evil to great power. It is due time that we recognize that the critical premise of all moral acts is reasonableness, and that when great power acts unreasonably, great evil unfolds. Whatever the religion, nationality, ethnicity or race of this great power, the human suffering is always the same.

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