Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday - Lenten Burning

A Lenten oblation has been very difficult for me to decide this year. Most everything that came across my mind seemed like a trite exercise in self control, rather than an actual sacrifice which would relinquish control and challenge me to endure suffering. So last night, as I was riding the train between work in Chicago and home in St. Louis I was being intentional to find the kind of self abnegating act I was looking for. One surrender came to mind repeatedly, but each time, I dismissed it, explaining away the impracticability and impossibility of the act. As many times I justified the act away, I became more and more aware of my need to make this my lenten offering. So last night, as I stood outside alone in the cool air, I made my commitments to die to this liberty.

So here today, this new day, the launching day of lent; I burned. I don't mean I failed a little. No I blew out in a Hindenburg explosion of my will, my situation, and my sacrifice. WOW! Now I have "fallen off the wagon" in other Lenten sacrifices. I have found myself a few weeks into lent, and either by failure of will, or forgetfulness I have resumed my regular life leaving behind my earlier commitment. This was unrelated to those, this was a failure, that as I stood in the ashes of the explosion I knew, this task would make me burn, this test would cause me to die, this is not a souvenir this is a graveyard.

Ash Wednesday, today, is a celebration of death. The grave looms, like God's own self, both immanent and transcendent. Interment is the most inevitable reality of living. That which lives will die, and today the tradition of the liturgical calendar is to embrace the return to dust and ashes that form us. Living is chronic condition. We accept our proximity to death, so that we can experience the abundance of living. We look into the ugly emptiness of the unknown to embrace the beautiful fullness of living.

In the ashes of today's failure, I look at the death I create everyday and I remember the lesson of the forest fire, that from death and ashes, from the soil burned and destroyed, comes emergence, come new vibrant life. I embrace my death, in order to birth life.

"All along I thought
I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
But really
I've been learning how to die" - Jon Foreman

Thursday, March 03, 2011

HUQueerPress & Loving Like Jesus

At one time in my life I would have thought by the time I was 35 years old I'd be a Harding Alumni. You see I grew up in the Church of Christ in the midwest, and was in a church where everyone graduated high school and went to Harding. In fact, I had one of my senior pictures taken in full Hardng University attire. Yet, I have a fairly strong rebellious streak in me so I bucked the tide of following like another lemming off the HU cliff and chose to attend York College, the "liberal" school.

My own experiences at York College are one reason I take the issue of the HUQueerPress so seriously. My best friend my freshman year at York was gay. Even at the "liberal" COC college I went to, I wittnessed first hand this was not Ok. He did not return after that first year, it seemed to him to embrace "coming out" meant leaving YC. You see counselors, professors, and students claimed to love him, yet it is hard to feel love from a person who thinks you need to be fixed.

As I followed the @HUQueerPress feed today I could not help but see ruminations of a debate very similar a generation before at Harding. "If you don't like how Harding treats Black students you are free to go elsewhere." I know the black eye and continuing consequences that racial segregation has wrought on the Churches of Christ. I could not help but be proud of these new voices who stand against such sexual biogtry, and challenge the university to do better than it has.

My hope is that a surge of student allies will rise up and shape a better response than the response of Harding University president David Burks did in chapel today. My hope is that there are Harding students ready to follow the Jesus path, to be persecuted for loving and supporting those the "purity police" deem unclean. My hope is that the love embodied by Jesus will break down EVERY barrier of segregation and opression at Harding, in the Churches of Christ, in Christianity at large, and in all the world.