Archive for October, 2009

“Being Friends With Dorothy”

October 31, 2009

Lk 14:1, 7-11

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Below is an article I wrote for an anthology.  Yesterday was typical–going to the food bank, outreach in the haight and outreach on polk.  bed at 2 a.m. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

 

“Being A Friend of Dorothy”

My friendship with Dorothy began at a very painful time in my life. In the Spring of 1989 I had left the ministry of the United Methodist Church and entered a treatment program for depression in Wisconsin. I was gay, and I could not understand how God would place that burden upon me, let alone call me to ministry–ministry in a church where being gay was “a sin”.  I was trying to hide my sexuality and so I entered a period of great depression.  I had heard of Dorothy a few years earlier in seminary but really gave her no thought. I picked up a Catholic Worker newspaper at the treatment center and my heart was moved. It was moved by her identity with the poorest of the poor and by the the tenants of the Catholic Worker: voluntary poverty, personalism, the Works of Mercy, and non-violence. Thus began my journey with Dorothy.  Over the next five years I came out, I was a sex worker, and then a counselor, and I rejected the Church. But Dorothy stayed with me. I read everything I could find she had written. I tried living in a catholic worker but found myself not fitting in because of my sexuality. But despite the homophobia I found in the Catholic Worker I still could not run away from Dorothy. Wherever I went, whatever I did she followed me, in fact she became the Hound of Heaven–chasing me, loving me, calling me–calling me to her way of life, to a ministry with the poor. Her call was clear:  serve the poor and you will find the Christ.  I read of her struggles with people in the Worker who were gay, and yet I saw her transcend those struggles, and I believe that she has transcended them to seeing our gifts and seeing us for who we are–just human beings on the journey.  That calling became crystal clear to me one night on Santa Monica Blvd. in LA. I had had a rough night hustling. I felt lead to into a local church just simply to rest. As I looked up at the crucifix I heard a voice say to me: “It is ok, it is humans who are homophobic, you were born who you are, and you were called to ministry as a gay human being. And I felt the presence of Jesus and I could see Dorothy smiling.  From that time forward I moved out of the life of being a sex worker to a counselor and then to San Francisco as a Catholic Worker in 1994.

It was that call that lead me to  to San Francisco to  begin Temenos Catholic Worker working with the homeless, young adults, young male sex workers, and transgender sex workers.  And thus began the greatest adventure of my life, an experience that has transformed me, and brought me closer to Jesus then I could ever imagined.  I had left the Church because of it homophobia. In fact I did not darken the door of a Church for some time.

During the first year of working on the streets I came to know Jesus as I had never known him before. On this journey Dorothy was my spiritual director, always present.   My life was changing in deep ways.   During this time I became more aware then ever of my call to ministry and of the need of a Sacramental ministry to the people I walked with every day.  One day I was reading PSYCOLOGY TODAY and I came across and advertisement to join the Evangelical Anglican  Church in America and to become a part of its ordination process. It is an Old Catholic group.  I responded, and thus began my journey to ordination in a Church that received everyone for who they were.  I became a priest, and my priesthood has been given to the poorest of the poor. To celebrate the Sacraments for me is the greatest gift I have been given. In 2007 I was consecrated a Bishop and formed the Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc, a group that works with the poorest of the poor, and I continue to be a Catholic Worker.

Through the years I have wondered why I remain a Catholic Worker. For many Catholic Workers are very homophobic and are not very accepting, but I know the reason I am a Catholic Worker is my friendship with Dorothy. She has taught me everything about life, and most importantly she has taught me that change comes slowly and that we are called to be a witness, and that in that witness Jesus speaks. Being friends with Dorothy has transformed my life and the life of the countless thousands.  Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

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“Compassionate Stubborness”

October 30, 2009

Lk 14:1-6

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.

Jesus has compassionate stubborness in this text. He refuses to bend when there are people in need, and he stands his ground knowing full well the implications of the anger of people.  I seek to have the same compassionate stubborness.  I have been told how much better off I would be if I would “compromise”, “stay quiet”, but in so doing I become one with those who keep the silence, the status quo and let so many others suffer.  I have been dealing with an organization that is homopobic. It is a religious organzation and I have been compassionately stubborn in my presentation, and I have learned through the years that is the only way you can deal with homophobia, the status quo. I remember at my anniversary people commenting how different I am, and the church where I served as interim one of its member rememberd my sermons eight years later as being “different, and very challenging, and not bending in my ethical  challenges”.  I am criticized for being so “Christian”, after all Christians have hurt so many people who are queer–well–people who have used the name of Jesus has hurt people, Jesus has stood and stands with queers in their fight. It is to him my allegiance is given  And so I am compassionately stubborn and hope as I continue to grow I become more so.  My prayer is that I will stop worrying about security completely and place my complete trust in the “Compassionate Stubborn One. ”

We had a great meal last night, Ken, Mike and I. People were happy, and loved the food. I did outreach and what I noticed is how needy people are and how people with so much passed them by without even noticing.  And it was an excellent day. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Nothing Separates Us From the Love of God”

October 30, 2009


Rom 8:31b-39

Brothers and sisters:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
As it is written:

For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through the years this passage has proved true to me–nothing separates me from the love of God.  Life would have no meaning to me without God.  Today I have been cooking and served the meal.  It is always nurturing for me to feed people. I give them their basic need, and it reminds me that God is always present.  Today people were coming at me from all sides–all wanting money–and I gave them what I could–my time, some food–some liked it, some did not. It is strange I see being present to people as the ultimate ministry, and it is in that presence that Christ becomes present. It is not about money or what you give them it is your presence.  I worry alot about what people think and in the end it does not matter, for nothing separates me from the love of God. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Building A House”

October 28, 2009

Eph 2:19-22

Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Leaders in the church are afraid the church is “dying”, but why not think about it as the church being reborn. The institution is dying–it is dying because like all institutions it has sought to take care of itself, to preserve itself, and it has become destructive to so many people.  The leaders are more concerned about their well being then they are about people in general.  When I was a pastor in a mainline church I too was concerned about membership etc, but primarily because I was concerned about my economic well being–but now I see ministry as serving Jesus, living simply, being about the business of the Kingdom.  When you strip your priorities and see Jesus the church looks differently–it is people serving God, and being about the business of God. Last night I was in church–serving the meal in the Castro. I will be in church this afternoon and night–serving people in the Haight and on Polk. The body of Christ is present when it reflects Christ, when it serves him. It is not about a building, but about people.

Cooked and served meal last night, Came home and went to bed–totally exhausted after discussion with my visitors and it was a long day. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to Go

“Building the House”

October 28, 2009

“Building the House”

October 28, 2009

The Reign of God Is Like Yeast

October 27, 2009

Luke 13:18-21

People are always asking me about my success stories, and i shrugged them off, for I do not look at success in the same way they do–for in placing my expectations on people I set them up, for failure, and myself for failure.  Success for me is like being the yeast that Jesus talks about in this Scripture–yeast that grows slowly, unseen, largely unnoticed.  I will never know the results of what I do–but I have planted the reign of God in my work, in my life, and it moves like yeast.  Each person I talk to, each person I give a pair of socks to, each person I feed–they are like yeast, giving them love, and who knows where this will lead.  For to have expectations, to expect people to change over night, to expect a perfect world–is to set yourself up for failure. God’s reign is like yeast–moving ever so slowly, an it is in our actions that God moves.   So what are my tangible results–I do not know–but God does, and that is ultimately the One to whom it matters.  The reign of God is planted in our actions, each and every moment–and we may never see the results, but there are results and there will be results.

I took Sunday off, had dinner with friends. They didnot know better and used beef stock and I became sick and wound up in the hospital. Yesterday I spent out at Pacifica sick as a dog, and then went to the foodbank, and came home and kept the apartment phone off, watched tv, prepared food, and went to bed early. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“To Follow is to Find Life”

October 25, 2009

Luke 13:6-9

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

Gospel
Mk 10:46-52

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

I am tired. I am going out of town this afternoon for dinner with friends and for the night.  I had a text message from a kid threatening suicide–nothing i can do because it is a text–my guess is he is angry because I refused to give him some money–but it still worries me.  I spent last night in the Haight with a group from the MCC Church. I felt I was impatient, largely because of the questions and because they seemed not to grasp the problems around them. They are looking for answers and fixes where there are none.  Also I believe people do not have a firm grasp on what faith means–a sense of calling and of offering hope to people.  The Scriptures from yesterday and today point out that  calling. Jesus was angry at the fig tree for not bearing, he was impatient. He is impatient with people when they do not bear fruit. He sees us as having every opportunity and yet we do not do nothing but sit on our asses. One gentleman seems to be stuck in the 80’s during the AIDS crisis–he talked alot about his losses. There comes a time for one to live in the moment, to move on. I remember a time in the nineties when I was stuck, stuck in my professional identity as a United Methodist Minister, stuck in where I had been, and I could have continued to be stuck there, grieving, mourning, simply stuck, but I know that Jesus grabbed me and pushed me, and moved me into living in the present and into being in ministry again. You grieve, and you move on.  I know I get impatient, but I do so in love, and I am angry at myself. I was surrounded by kids last night, all wanting socks etc, and I had these guys asking me questions–and it was about finding their own journey, and their own place.  I believe my impatience is due to the fact that I the demands of people around me all the time. I am working on the impatience.  I am working on being patience with those who have, but really lack everything spiritually.  It is a tough struggle. As I celebrate the Eucharist I remember now that we are all broken and in our brokeness we can bring healing. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God”

“Living in the Moment”

October 23, 2009

Gospel
Lk 12:54-59

Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”

Jesus is quite clear in this passage: we are to live in the moment and be aware their our lives are in the moment.  There is much injustice and evil around us—we need to be aware of it, to speak against it.  People say that I rock the boat, and I do–because I speak what I see as the truth.  The truth when people are hungry, in pain. I do not bend on what I see as the truth. Granted it cost me–money, friends–but I can live with myself and with God.  We need to speak the truth, we need to stand for what we believe for all we have is the moment.

Yesterday was along day.  Cooking the meal, serving, and doing outreach. I gave food and socks to around 150 people, and talked to at least 60 for periods of time. 19 year old Jacob is asleep on my floor at the moment. He showed up early this morning, after not sleeping for days.  And so it goes–living in the moment–being aware that Jesus is in the Moment. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

“Bringer of Fire”

October 22, 2009

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stresss I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No I tell you, but rather division!” Luke 12:49-51

Last Saturday night over and over again people would say how different I was. One gentleman from First Congregational commented how challenging my sermons were, how people were often disturbed.  I do disturb people–when I preach that Christ is in homeless people, and that there is no difference between those housed and not housed, accept money, and we should treat each other equally. I make people uncomfortable with that message.  I make pastor’s uncomfortable when they see the money I live on compared to their 90,000 plus, and so on.  For some time it bothered me, but now it is my life, and it is what I am called to do–to live out my life as I do–challenging those who are comfortable.   I have a group from the MCC with me on Tuesdays and Saturdays and they are puzzled by the way I work–I work on the same level, simply, in the moment.  I understand how Jesus felt, the stress, but I am coming to accept it as my calling.

Goodness is a process of becoming, not of being. What we do over and over again is what we become in the end.

– Joan Chittister,
Benedictine nun, author, and lecturer.

I ran across this quote and it resonates with me. I often look back on my life, with regret, and see my failures, the pain I have caused others, but the good Sister reminds me that goodness is a process of becoming–and that what we do each day is what we become in the end. And so I seek to serve God through the people I care for and serve, and hopefully I will end in goodness.

Today has been an excellent day. I went to the foodbank, and then to the Haight. The Haight was filled with people, and it was fun. I saw the young man I took to the hospital the other night and he was grateful. I came back to Polk and ran into a twenty year old hooked on dope, planning to go home to Ohio, and I bought him dinner and we talked. he cried a lot, but seemed less stressed when he left. A young man came up to me and handed me a hundred dollars thanking me for all I did for him years ago, which helped him get his life together. I frankly do not remember him, his face, but again it is in the moment that I work, and in this case I found out what the future has brought to him. A very touching moment.  Put meal together, and outreached more. I am going to bed soon, have a long day tomorrow. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!