Friday, October 03, 2008

I Buried an Obama Voter Yesterday

I buried an Obama voter yesterday morning at Arlington National Cemetery. Now I have to find at least two new ones here in Virginia to honor the one we lost.
Well, actually it's more accurate to say that I officiated at the commital service and, later in the afternoon, at the memorial service for a 95-year-old woman who lived one of the richest and fullest lives I could imagine. Her name was Sally, and for the sake of her family's privacy, I'll leave it at that.
When she died last month, I remember thinking, "the only two things that Sally would be disappointed about in death are not seeing what comes next in the lives of her great grandchildren and not living long enough to see George W. Bush leave the White House."
She could not stand George Bush!
That last time I visited with her, early this summer, we got to talking politics. This was just after Obama had sewn up the Democratic nomination, and she was so excited by that development. She reflected back on all the remarkable change that she had witnessed over 95 years in this country, and found renewed hope and excitement at the prospect of casting a vote for Obama this fall.
She was born on a farm in South Dakota prior to World War I, when travel was literally horse powered. Married to an Air Force officer, she traveled the world and had the broad-minded vision of one who was well traveled and thoughtful.
Though I didn't say this during the memorial service, as I think about her life I cannot help but compare her to Sarah Palin. Both women of the Great Plains and upper Midwest, the young governor does not hold up well in comparison to the 95-year-old farm girl.
Sally was, for more than 50 years, a member of the congregation that I now serve. She came close to leaving it twice, that I am aware of.
First, about 15 years ago, when the church welcomed into leadership its first out gay elder (or member of the church board). Sally did not consider leaving because the congregation elected a gay elder, she considered leaving because some folks in the congregation were up in arms over it. She thought, "where is the mercy in them?" and "the man is clearly right for the job and his partner is lovely."
That first gay elder and his partner of more than 20 years were at the service yesterday.
The second time she considered leaving was when I told her, a few years back, that both Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice were members of Presbyterian churches. She was deeply committed to peace, having served in the Red Cross during World War II, and she could not tolerate the War in Iraq and those who dragged us into it. In the end, she just said, "well, they are not Clarendon Presbyterians!"
She was a passionate believer in equality and in peace. Sarah Palin could have learned a thing or two from her.
When Barack Obama takes office in January, I will go to Sally's grave and lay a flower and a copy of Post.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Saving Jesus

So we've begun saving Jesus at Clarendon. We've tossed him a life-ring of conversation and a rope of discussion. Lots of fun. You should join us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Coolest Thing About My Church

Yesterday at worship during the prayers of the people a man (who I'll call 'Joe' for the sake of a bit of privacy) prayed for a bit of peace and comfort. His wife, who serves on our session -- Presbyterian-speak for church board -- was with her father who was dying. In addition to that heavy burden, they had lost their 17-year-old dog earlier in the week. They'd also had a couple of family 'highs' -- birth of a grandchild -- in recent weeks so it had been an emotional roller coaster for the past month or so. He was in tears as he prayed aloud.
As powerful as such moments are, they are, to be sure, nothing particularly out of the ordinary in a small church. Except for this: Joe is Jewish.
We say, every Sunday, that Clarendon Presbyterian Church is a house of prayer for all of God's children. And we mean it. Without exception.
We are clear and unapologetic in proclaiming the good news of Jesus. We pray in Jesus' name. But we trust that God hears everybody's prayers. We know that we do not have hold of all there is of God in our Christian confession and are enriched by the faiths of others. We hear Jesus' words, that his father's house has lots of rooms.
And we trust that there is one for Joe -- not because he comes to church, but because he seeks God and anybody who knocks at the door of God's house is going to find a welcome. So in our little wing of the house, we don't have a litmus test of creed or confession for joining the fellowship, offering prayers, serving the least of these, and finding a little peace in the presence of a loving God.
Will Joe ever "find Jesus"? That question holds little interest for me. Frankly, I think it is the wrong question.
Joe is a sojourner, walking a path in fear and trembling -- as Paul put it -- toward the light of life and love that shines in the darkness. Some will only always interpret that light as Jesus.
On the other hand, if light can be both particle and wave, perhaps the metaphor can be expanded, as well. After all, long before Jesus, God told Moses: I will be who I damn well please.