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Monday, April 22, 2019

Why Hold Religious Authorities Accountable?


I really understand how people who have grown up in a faith tradition can be so formed by that tradition that it is imponderable to consider throwing over the traces and abandoning it. They stick with it despite centuries of abuse, hypocrisy, even crime. To the outsider, such loyalty might seem utterly stupid. They suppose that only the stubborn, the simple, or the fearful would be immovably lodged in such a place, bonded to institutions that they would even advise others to repudiate were others yoked to such communities. Their rationales for remaining sound to others like the excuses of abused spouses, sticking with their marriage vows, hoping that someday he'll change, or that love might at last have the effect of wooing her towards a kinder life, or just plain inertia.

It isn't, of course, just religious traditions that have such a lock on people. But they are alone among the inventions of humanity the systems most likely to give deep meaning to life, storehouses of stories that address complexities that cannot be faced by reason alone. They are repositories of myths, symbols, rites that adorn ordinary lives and punctuate days and years with celebrations. It is interesting how when people whose intellect and integrity have steered them away from any trace of religious practice will, at the time of death, naturally borrow elements of a long-discredited tradition in order to shape their mourning, if is nothing more than the adaptation of the old impulse to gather and verbalize the meaning of a dead friend's life or a lover's importance. Notice how people in purely secular environments will arrange chairs in a way that perhaps even unconsciously replicates an ancient experience of religious community.

Human beings have evolved to be storytellers. All of our literature, all of our structured games, the entirety of our art, even the debased and vulgar forms we keep inventing to pretend communication--tweeting comes to mind--are born of the desire to tell each other for good or ill, false or true, information we on some level consider worth passing on.

I am a product of a religious tradition, one might say several, in fact. And for nearly half a century I've been a religious functionary. God knows and I know how easy it is to justify wrongdoing, to excuse oneself from following rules sanctioned for all but applied only to others. It is possible but not easy to encounter people at their most vulnerable and not be tempted at least in the mind to exploit that vulnerability to feed some gnawing hunger in the pit of one's soul. But in all honesty, I have trouble seeing how day after day, week after week, season in and season out, people can perform rites and intone liturgies and propound sacred texts without somehow realizing that the point of all the cultic paraphernalia is to lead human beings to be better to ourselves and to each other than, left to our native impulses, we generally are. Leaders who betray us, charismatic tongues and compelling visions aside, lead us way past temptation and into the pitch of damnation and ought to be, must be, called out.

Often the only ones thus calling out are those who are self-sidelined from the systems, those who either disdain them by nature or have sickened to the point of leaving. I respect them for bearing their own witness to Integrity. But even they who don't identify with faith traditions or religious institutions continue to be human--frequently exemplary humans--and as humans they have the same need for meaning, the same pains to endure, the same mortality to face, the same challenge to cope as those who salve their consciences through religious rites and spiritual discipline.

An old discredited heresy in the Church is that of Donatism. Donatists held that the moral defects and flaws of clergy who betrayed their communities by surrendering their custodianship of holy tradition had the effect of invalidating any of the sacraments such clergy administered. I see the point of Donatism but don't want to be a Donatist myself. I have lived, and still do live, with the knowledge that some have looked me in the face--well not exactly in my face--and in effect have said, "You betrayed me. So I thought you were straight. And lo you are queer. And thus I declare you a hypocrite. I renounce you." I cannot deny (my dreams won't let me) that my heart is stung still by the part of me that was the superego driven Good Boy who wanted desperately to do the right thing and hoped in the process to win approval. I don't want to drop into another hole by casting stones from my own glass house. I take no joy in failing to forgive others as I have been forgiven. I am not talking about God. I am talking about me, and the thanks I owe to a community and a host of friends who have embraced me despite knowing a Frank they once didn't know so well.

I have just given you an example of how faith has formed me. It has not made me superior to anybody else on the planet. But it has made me from an early age acutely aware that telling the Truth is inseparable from honor itself. Lying, preying on the defenseless, cloaking one's misdoings in self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement, and shameless exploitation of one's own status are not just sins of the flesh, if by flesh is meant ordinary bodily life. They are some of the unconscionable behaviors that destroy human community, weaken the very fibers that hold us together, and mock the human soul struggling to find meaning, if not enlightenment, in this life.

I am not about to be convinced that this is a condition that can be chalked off to what Mark Twain called "ordinary human cussedness," the excuse that "humans will be humans" just as they always have been. There is such a thing as human culpability and "ordinary cussedness" and it is pervasive. But there is also such a thing as accountability. And those to whom others entrust leadership are those of whom accountability must be required.

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2019







Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Losing a Sacred Site




T
his morning, two days after the horrendous burning of Nôtre Dame, I reached for a dish towel.  The one on the rack was a red, white, and blue striped towel, a memento from France.  I’ve had it for close to twenty years now, a gift from Robert, a friend who taught college French during the time he and I lived in the same community.  Back from a trip to Paris he brought me the dish towel.  The blue stripe bears an image of the Eiffel Tower.  The red, an image of Nôtre Dame.

Like lots of things of this sort, the towel has transitioned from gift to everyday usage to being well on its way towards the rag pile.  I wash it, dry it, use it, hang it up with scarcely a thought of France or of Nôtre Dame, but surprisingly often on some level remembering Robert, whose death several years ago I discovered belatedly through meeting his son quite by surprise.  

Something about the confluence of friendship, death, and the near loss of Nôtre Dame is leading me at this moment to get beyond my shock and grief over the fire.  Why would I care so much about an 850-year-old building if it were not a friend?  Why would I perhaps lament its tragedy more openly and obviously than I grieve for friend Robert? 

The answer goes back a long time. My sixth grade class in Conway, South Carolina, reached the chapter in our social studies text that introduced me to the Middle Ages.  There on the page was a black-and-white photograph of the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame.  I was mesmerized by it.  I looked at it for what seemed like (and probably was) days.  I learned what flying buttresses were, the architectural significance of the Gothic arch, the symbolism of the rose window, the cruciform pattern of medieval cathedrals.  In a day when international travel was so rare as to be generally restricted to the rich, I could only imagine actually seeing Nôtre Dame or any other cathedral. Yet, on some level, I knew I had to.

So, after three years of college French but never a trip to France until 2010, I stood one early fall morning in a long queue awaiting the opening of the cathedral.  Finding it darker and much smaller than in my boyhood I’d imagined, I moved through its arches and into its art-filled nooks and crannies trying to make out inscriptions on tombs and fancying what the funeral of Louis XIV might have been like in that sacred space.  Later I stood on the Pont Saint-Louis in something of a reverie, looking towards its east end, remembering my boyhood dream as my eyes scanned those flying buttresses. 


 There is no way of explaining why or how places become sacred to us.  Chances are the spot on which Nôtre Dame was built was a sacred site long before Our Lady birthed Jesus, that being the usual case with holy places.  We point to age, beauty, art, architecture, history, prayer, priceless relics and sacred story and are able to say why a building is more than important, particularly one that has lasted nearly a millennium.  But there is more.  Down deep there is something about a sacred place that can reach out and capture some inarticulate longing, even if it approaches us in the flat form of a photograph. Then memory does its work. Fixed in the mind is the image or actual experience of the place, fettered to a place in the heart that can’t be explained in terms of anything on that list of age and beauty and art and all the rest.  Indeed sometimes spaces are sacred to us with few or none of those characteristics so obvious in a medieval cathedral. A church in our childhood, a cemetery where parents and friends lie buried, the bell tower at an alma mater, the woods we roamed as kids, the creek that ran through summer camp where we caught tadpoles: the loss of any such place we experience as a soul wound.  We grieve.

Not surprisingly, those who lack any such connection to the sacred space react quite differently. There are more important things, they say.  What about this or that or the other human need?  What about someone else’s burial ground being bulldozed to make a parking lot, or some suffering far worse than a building become an inferno? What about…?  What about…?  And the mantra of culture is not infrequently, “It will be replaced.”  And even the harsh, “Get over it.”  Replacement is never the same as recollection. Getting over a loss never equals healing.

Today it’s Nôtre Dame, tomorrow it’s some place else.  As Heraclitus described the life of the world, “It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.”[1] As my friend David Townsend, a medieval scholar, said yesterday, “This is the way of cathedrals. They burn. They get bombed.  They collapse.”  He was not being dismissive, only telling the truth. The same is true when a human body becomes a corpse.  Rather than seeing this as an invitation to “get over it,” or to ignore the pain, what I am beginning dimly to see is that this “ever-living fire,” the constant change of which Heraclitus speaks, is itself the Holy.  God is not working in spite of the fire.  God manifests as fire, just as God manifests in the rose window, the roof, the spire, the altar of Nôtre Dame.  The Holy—called by whatever name—is the energy, the Spirit expressed in every body in the cosmos.  And the Holy is also the pure consciousness that upholds and indwells the entirety of the universe—or, if you will, the multiverse. 
The morning after: the Cathedral still stands, battered and scarred but still with us.

Holding onto the cathedral, the ground, the embodiment of the sacred, is something so human we are not about to forfeit it.  Yet whatever we gain by holding onto anything we can count as loss compared to the liberation that comes with accepting the flow and flux of change that are the nature of life.  Beyond the things that come and go is the still point, of which Eliot speaks:

            Love is the unfamiliar Name
            Behind the hands that wove
            The intolerable shirt of flame
            Which human power cannot remove.
               We only live, only suspire
               Consumed by either fire or fire.


            And all shall be well and
            All manner of thing shall be well
            When the tongues of flame are in-folded
            Into the crowned knot of fire
            And the fire and the rose are one.[2]







[1] Quotation found on the internet at https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/77989.Heraclitus?page=2 , accessed April 17, 2019.

[2] T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” in The Complete Poems and Plays 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt & Brace, 1967), pp. 144, 145.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

But Deliver Us


In his introduction to his book, Speaking Christian, Marcus Borg tells us that when he left the Midwest and went to the West Coast to teach, he began one of his classes by stating that in order to understand Christianity, you have to understand its roots in Judaism. Immediately a hand shot up. “What’s Judaism?” a student wanted to know. Borg began to explain Judaism by referring to Moses. Another raised a hand. “Who’s Moses?”

I suspect that there may well be a good slice of this congregation today in the same predicament in which Borg’s students found themselves. You may know what Judaism is (or not) and you may know who Moses was (or not), but I suspect that few people could articulate exactly why we would be hearing about Moses on this particular Sunday.

So we have our work cut out for us. The second and third Sundays in Lent, this season in which we are moving towards a celebration of “the Paschal Mystery,” a name we give to Jesus’ death and resurrection, are invariably about Abraham and Moses. That is because in our holy history, Abraham and Moses represent the two pillars on which our covenant relationship with God rests. What Borg was trying to tell his students is that there is no way of understanding the importance we Christians attach to Jesus and the “New” Covenant made through him without understanding the “Old Covenant” in which God creates a people through Abraham and delivers them from bondage to freedom through Moses. By the way, “new” is not necessarily good and “old” is not necessarily bad. There is nothing shameful about being old, even if you are a covenant. I’m saying that because it has become fashionable in recent times to avoid calling the Old Testament the Old Testament or Covenant. No matter what you call it, it gets a certain amount of bad press in Christian circles because it is quite wrongly supposed that the Old Testament’s God is pretty wretched in contrast to the rather cuddly God of the New. Nothing could be further from the truth regarding either Testament.

Now the reason that all this business about Old and New Covenants (better known as “Testaments” in the sub-titles of the Bible), is that it is all one story. It makes no sense to skip act one of a play because all you want to see is act two, especially if there is no way of understanding the second act without the first. It can also work the other way around. Sometimes what it revealed in the second act or the third clarifies and indeed interprets what was happening in the first act. So Paul, writing to the Corinthians in the Letter you heard read a few minutes ago, uses the language and experience of the New Covenant to understand what was happening in the Old Covenant. I’m not so sure that Paul was all that successful in reinterpreting the Old Covenant, but give him an A for at least trying to see the relevance of past experience for his own time.

If we had to choose one chapter in the entire Old Testament that is the lynchpin of the whole thing, it would arguably be Exodus 3, the story you heard this morning. Why? Because the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt is the formative event in its history. Before that, we can’t even be sure that there was a history, to be honest. Yes, we have stories, important ones. But we can say with some assurance that the nation of Israel was born in the Exodus from Egypt. All the scriptures are written in light of that conviction. When centuries later a scribe wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” he was writing about the God he knew from the story of the Exodus. The creator God was the liberating God.

Exodus: the way out, the coming out of God’s people. It all began one day when Moses was out keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. Moses had gotten there ironically because he had indeed escaped from Egypt and from a murder conviction that was likely coming his way. If you read the whole story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb or Sinai, it is full of humor and pathos. We feel for Moses who is being called to do something indescribably difficult, namely lead a horde of slaves out from under the control of a very powerful state. But the guts of the story is not what Moses says but what God says. “I have observed the sufferings of my people in Egypt… I have heard their cry. I know their sufferings. I have come down to deliver them.” I have come down to deliver them. That one phrase sets the stage for all that is to come. God is a God of deliverance. God observes, hears, knows, and delivers.

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of those verbs, because from then on, the story unfolds a relationship that God has with the oppressed, with the downtrodden, with the marginalized, with the non-people, the outcasts, the vulnerable, the poor. We never ever hear the Bible saying that God somehow prefers that we should be slaves or downtrodden or oppressed. We hear instead how God makes a people and challenges them to share God’s concern for the little people—children, strangers, foreigners without citizenship, the socially outcast, the politically powerless. The scriptures make no bones about what God is up to. It is called righteousness. But righteousness in the biblical vocabulary has nothing at all to do with moral rectitude, let alone with personal purity. It has to do with right relationships, the goal of which is always to bring about a redress of wrongs, a healing of broken bonds, and the establishing of justice. That is in fact what justice means: the lining up of relationships in their rightful order and proper balance.

Now if you can get that far, then it is perhaps possible to begin to see why it is that God is so intent on delivering people. Sometimes people simply need to be delivered from oppression, and they need someone to intervene on their behalf. Note that God apparently cannot, or will not, do this alone—at least not among humans. It seems to be the divine preference that people, Moses for example, be called up and enlisted in the program, because it is through humans that humans are most likely to be delivered and thus to be changed. That is not to say that God is not a hands-on God; but it is to say that God works within the very limits, as well as with the capacities, that we humans manifest. After all God made us and the world the way we are, not the way we might wish to be.

Let me be clear about what is at stake here. The overarching story, not only about Moses and the Children of Israel, but about Jesus and us, is a story about deliverance. The whole kit and caboodle is about deliverance, all kinds of deliverance on all levels. It is about deliverance from bondage, deliverance from oppression, deliverance for the power of evil, deliverance from our own self-sustaining neuroses, deliverance from illness, deliverance from sin (we’ll come back to that one, so hold on), deliverance from evil, deliverance from death, especially deliverance from death as a scary monster whom we have to fear. Trouble is, most of the time we are not only aware that we can be delivered; we don’t really imagine that we need to be delivered. I know I don’t speak for all of you, but really: if you are relatively affluent—rich by the world’s standards—have what you think you need or at least able to get it without too much trouble; if you are white, straight, well-educated, or some combination of all of that, what on earth do you need to be delivered from? And what would you like to be delivered to except more of what you already have? If you are already relatively powerful, accepted, affirmed, why would you find deliverance an attractive notion at all? Does it not sound like the title of an old movie, a concept more at home among the snake-handling sects of Appalachia, the province of weird exorcists than anything you identify with?

Ah! You may think that because you don’t fit the mold of this litany of characteristics I’ve named, you are immune to being blasé about deliverance. But, truth be told, you and I are most likely in need of deliverance from things we at best vaguely recognize. And usually they are not the problems that we’d put first on our list of priorities to be addressed: good job, good money, decent housing, affordable health care, happy family life, personal fulfillment. Let me share with you a telling example. Several years ago I was working with a small group of folk in St. Stephen and the Incarnation Parish on the matter of violence, especially gun violence. We drafted a letter and shared it with a number of church leaders in our diocese, calling on our diocesan council to look carefully at the way we invest church funds. Our belief is that the church ought not to be making money off of firearms, munitions, and other means of killing people. Someone pointed out that our position might be untenably broad. After all, were we suggesting that not only private guns but military weapons not be the subjects of investment? Good question. But the person, a very thoughtful person I might add, went on to ask if we were prepared to argue for disinvestment in Quaker Oats if they were somehow themselves involved in companies that produce ammunitions and weapons. What is more, how can we draw the line? That well illustrates the fact that, like it or not, we are enmeshed in an endless complex net that cannot be easily untangled into “good” and “bad.” That is the story of the world in which we live. Whether it is personal life or business life or corporate involvement or government programs or the judicial system or the educational system or the banking system or the medical world, we are involved in networks that far transcend individual human initiatives. Even the best of them corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, and not just human creatures. It is not just personal sin that we need to be delivered from. That is relatively easy to deal with compared with these vast and powerful economic, political, and social systems in which we are usually pawns and players, no matter how personally powerful—or good—we might be.

Is it possible to be delivered from such a predicament at all, short of the total destruction of society as we know it? Short of our own death? Well, no, and yes. If you read our own holy story, you will see that, although the Israelites had an exodus out of Egypt, they did not necessarily become immune to other kinds of slavery. Over the coming centuries they were to experience corruption, rebellion, massive government dysfunction, wars, forced labor, deportation, exile, serious religious regression, and spiritual malaise. From any one of these they needed deliverance on a level they themselves could not supply. Over and over again they had to turn to God, learning many things that affirmed the old ways, but many things that pushed them across new and frightening frontiers. And still these our fathers and mothers found themselves trapped in behaviors and mindsets that defied anything but the most radically divine deliverance—witness Jesus.

But there is also the “yes” answer to the question of whether we can actually be delivered from our predicament. And it might not be quite what you think. When St. Paul, writing to the Romans, asked, “Who will deliver me from this body of sin and death?” he was not merely talking about his human body. He was talking about the entire existence of life in this world lived apart from God. It is personal and it is also communal. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” he exclaims. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, breaks through the net that has us trapped. And while we still have to live, inevitably, within this trap where good is on the defensive and evil is always lurking to subvert good purposes to its own twisted ends, we can little by little find deliverance by getting on the side of God. We can intentionally harken to the drumbeat calling us to act like God—defying Pharaoh, listening to the cries of the distressed, paying attention to the sufferings of the world (not just our own), even enlisting in Operation Deliverance ourselves. That is what it means to be baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. That is what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. That is what it means to thumb our nose at the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

In C. S. Lewis’ famous story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan the magnificent lion lies on the great stone table having given his life for the sake of freeing Narnia. You and I understand that Aslan is in fact Christ, bound by the cross. And we might well understand that Aslan is also in a sense you and I, tied up in systems that choke and stifle us, bound by forces that keep us enslaved. Susan and Lucy, two of Aslan’s admirers, grief-stricken at seeing the great animal muzzled and tied by the spiteful rabble that has killed him, want to untie him in one last act to respect his dignity.
They are unable. But there is a tiny movement going on in the grass under their feet. It turns out to be mice, which the girls think are rather pathetically trying to untie Aslan not realizing he is dead. But as the sun rises in the dawn, dozens and even hundreds of little field mice gnaw through the ropes that have bound the noble lion. Suddenly there is a shattering noise, the great stone table on which he lay is broken in two from end to end, and Aslan appears behind them, free, alive, real, risen, strong. All those little mice had played their part. They had in their own way contributed to his deliverance. And because Aslan was delivered from his bondage, he is free to bring Susan and Lucy and all who follow him into his own freedom.

That is our story. You never can tell what unlikely creatures or mysterious developments will deliver you and set you free. But you may be sure that if you throw in your lot with the God who has come to deliver the world from its bondage, you will finally be free and there will be no turning back.


A sermon preached the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C of the Revised Common Lecionary, on Exodus 3:1-15.


© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2013, 2019


Wednesday, March 06, 2019

God in Ashes


L
iturgy is acting out what we believe.  Any of us can attest that it is almost impossible to go through an entire liturgy, even one that we’re familiar with, and not find something that is at odds with what we truly believe.  On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that any one of us could consistently go through a liturgy day after day, week in and week out, that was totally at odds with what we consciously believed.  It would be odious in the extreme. 

I suspect that the Ash Wednesday Liturgy is a mixed bag for many who attend it. I remember a little girl years ago drawing back in horror as I went down the altar rail imposing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful.  In a stage whisper she said to her dad, “That Father Dunn’s not going to dirty up my pretty face!”  That might have been what I was unconsciously remembering many years later when I was faced with holding chapel for about fifty kids in a parish preschool on Ash Wednesday. How do you honestly impose ashes on the foreheads of three and four year old children saying the traditional words?  It isn’t that kids can’t understand mortality. Nor need we project adult fears of death onto the very young.  But how does Ash Wednesday—I asked myself—square with the overarching gospel of love that we’re trying to articulate for children all the rest of the year?  I think that if the gospel can’t be understood by a three- or four-year-old then it probably isn’t the real gospel.  So I told them how we made ashes out of palm branches and how we used them to mark the beginning of Lent, which ends in Easter.  I talked about how we all get dirty from time to time, sometimes from play, sometimes from work, sometimes by accident.  And I spoke about how ashes are really messy, and always result from something being destroyed by fire, either on purpose or by accident.  And then I said, “No matter how dirty we ever get, or what we do, or what we say, God will always love us.  And that’s what I’m thinking about when I make the sign of Jesus’ love on my forehead”—I then put ashes on myself—“Remember no matter what you do, God will always love you.” Almost every one of the children stood in line to receive ashes.  I’d like to think that somewhere deep down some of them are remembering today, nearly twenty years later, that message as their foreheads are being smudged with ash.
"Remember no matter what you do, God will always love you."



Ashes have a very specific value on Ash Wednesday:  they symbolize our mortality and penitence. Let’s take those referents one at a time. 

First, our mortality.  It is easy enough not to miss the connection between ashes and mortality because the words with which ashes are given to us recall the words at the grave, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  Is that scary? Perhaps so, because nearly everything and every system we know conspire to shield us from the reality of death, starting with the medical profession. But we are mortal and designedly so.  We might use euphemisms such as “passed away” or “expired” to speak of death, but they do not take away the fact of death. Everything in all creation is subject to destruction, from stars that die to the rocks of the earth’s crust that are forever being broken down into grains of sand.  And everything broken down potentially becomes a part of the opposite process of construction.  Human beings are no exception. 

But the ashes come onto our foreheads in the form of a cross, and there is a reason for that.  The cross means preeminently one thing: that Jesus embraced his own mortality, not giving in to the temptation to escape his fate either by softening his radical message or by colluding with the powers of this world that pretend invincibility or by falling for the illusion of security. It is precisely the embrace of mortal body makes resurrection of that body possible. The ashen cross witnesses to the truth that when we follow Jesus, becoming obedient to death, we are raised to real life.  As we will say in the Litany of Penitence on Ash Wednesday, “By the cross and passion of [Jesus], [we come to] the joy of his resurrection.  That resurrection he shares with us in these mortal bodies.

So mortality is a gift, not a curse.  And so is penitence, believe it or not.  But in order to see, let alone believe, that penitence is a gift, it’s necessary to reimagine it.   Instead of penitence as breast-beating, it is turning around and facing a new direction.  Instead of weeping and wailing for our sins and transgressions, penitence is seeing that there is indeed no mistake that does not provide a lesson to be learned, no sin that is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Ashes on our foreheads remind us rightly of our brokenness, the utter failure of our attempts to be perfect, the myriad ways we mar our own beauty with hatred, bitterness, and self-contempt.  And, wonder of wonders, God reveals God’s very self in our weariness with the frustrations of living.  God is not an escape from reality, but the supreme Reality alive in everything, including both physical ashes and all that ashes symbolize.   If penitence is anything at all, it is reminding ourselves of the abiding love of God, or as those kids once heard on Ash Wednesday, “No matter what you do, God will always love you.”

God shows up in such unlikely places—a manager, a cross, a tomb, in bread and wine, and in ashes.  Most of the time, it is, as Moses once saw, the backside of God that we see—the hind part visible only when the moment has come and gone, sometimes gone for a long, long time.  Yet occasionally, once we have practiced and practiced seeing eternal things through the mortal mind’s eye, we can glance down at our hands and know that they and whatever they handle is full of God, or at our feet and know that they and wherever they go and on whatever they stand is full of God.  And sometimes when we’re least expecting it, we can taste something like bread or wine and think, as for the first time ever, “My God!  You really do live in me, don’t you?  And you’re fine with making your home in me, aren’t you?”

Sermon for Ash Wednesday 2019

© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2019