Guilt is a Funny Thing

walk-sign
Photo from www.driversed.com
The Walk sign came on. I started to move into the crosswalk. So did the white Honda. Frightened, I stared through my wet glasses at the driver. Instinctively, independent of conscious thought I thrust my arm out and pointed to the Walk sign.

Throughout the day, I’ve had this nagging guilt about the exchange. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t yell expletives (or even think any). I wasn’t angry, just scared. Still I have nagging guilt.

Guilt is a funny thing. Guilt doesn’t always make sense. As I’m prone to do I’ve been reflecting on the encounter. Why has it nagged at me off and on throughout the day?

This is it: I was able to communicate my feelings (he stopped) but I did not hear the driver’s perspective. More, there was no reconciliation between us. I don’t know who the driver was or what he looked like because of my wet eyeglasses.

Yeah, guilt is a funny thing.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Text Mark 6:31-34 & Mark 7:24-30

screenshot-2017-02-14-06-38-05

  • I love my dog.
    • under covers
    • kiss his head
  • Dogs were not pets
    • “Dogs, a highly insulting name, dogs were regarded as shameless and unclean” (Jewish Annotated NT)
    • rats?
  • Region of Tyre
    • Gentile area bordering Judea
    • “potentially hostile”

Nevertheless, he persisted.

  • Meets Syrophoenician woman
    • Gentile?
    • approaching a man?
    • her daughter is sick

Nevertheless, she persisted.

The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter.  27  He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:26-27 CEB

  • Jesus says heal the Jews.
    • says in derogatory way
  • Possible interpretations of Jesus’ actions
    • ignore context and think of our own pets
    • misogynist
    • xenophobe “Make Judea Great Again”
    • testing her
      • hostile?
      • worthy?
  • seizing a teachable moment
    • use of “dogs” plays into Jews’ biases
    • good news is for all

He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:27 CEB

We need to take care of Americans first. It isn’t right to take the bread and toss it to the refugees and immigrants.

  • Jesus has laid his trap.
    • On to him,
      • Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Mark 7:28 CEB

  • Story has turned
  • Jesus reveals his point
    • Jesus heals her daughter
      • when she persists
      • tho she’s not Jewish
      • tho she’s a she
    • The kingdom of God is for everyone

and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31  The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 CEB

***

  • Condon UCC criticized
    • too inclusive
      • LGBT
      • women
      • black lives
      • immigrants
    • too loving
    • not Christian

Nevertheless, you persisted.

  • Your faith is palpable
    • resist an inward focus
      • But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness… Matthew 6:33 NRSV
    • be active in your faith
      • My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? 
      • Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? James 2:14 CEB
  • You have big decisions & challenges
    • Nevertheless, you will persist.

I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church,

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now.  I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 CEB

Amen.

__

This was my final sermon at the Condon United Church of Christ, delivered Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017.

I Was Oblivious

Closeup of a trail runners feet running on a gravel trail
Photo from Zooma Women’s Race Series.

I saw her up ahead. In her bright reflective pink-purple jacket she was hard to miss even in the early minutes of dawn. Of course, that’s the point. Runners want to be visible to traffic.

Like me, she ran by herself. As I was about ten feet away, she veered away from me on another trail, and picked up her pace.

This was not competition. This was caution. Solo runners, especially those who are women, need to be cautious in a way that those of us who are men do not. A recent Runners World survey revealed that 43% of women and only 4% of men have been targets of harassment mid-run. (See Running While Female.)

I confess it wasn’t until several women in my online running group shared their experiences of harassment that I considered the risks of the solo run. (Their conversation was in response to last summer’s murder of several women while running.) Whether in my rural community or the suburban and urban areas I often run, I have never personally experienced harassment or threatening behavior from others.

I simply had never thought about it.

Once the women in my runners’ group brought up the topic I paid attention. I noted the watchfulness when I encountered women on my runs. Running alone was not nearly as common among women as men. Group members talked about never running the same way twice and carrying self-protective devices. Many women lamented they no run less often because they feel unsafe running alone. Others described frightening encounters.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I taught college my women students were careful to call security or go with friends after night classes. The young male students brazenly marched into the dark without fear. That’s been awhile, though, and my own sense of security deprived me of appreciation for my fellow runners.

How had I been so oblivious to the experience of so many of my fellow runners? Now that I was aware, I noted the alert looks i got from women especially in more isolated areas. Maybe my big smiles were a little creepier than I imagined. In response, I began giving a wider berth as I would pass to assure others that I have no ill intent. I drew back the magnitude of my smiles, sometimes just nodding.

In an era when our politics validate lewd or worse behavior as locker room talk, those of us who feel safe running alone (or walking to our cars alone) have a responsibility. We must make it clear to our male peers that any talk or action that degrades and belittles others is unacceptable.

I still run alone but I hurt for those who cannot. I am awed at the  bravery of those, like the woman in the reflective pink-purple jacket, who run solo but must remain ever-vigilant because of the sins of my gender.

A Prayer for Today

Sacred Wholeness: 

Inspire our hearts, feet, & hands to be your expansive love in the face of hostility and hatred and fear. Help us to retain your essence of compassion and favor for those on the margins. May we embrace your calling of love and justice in “just such a time as this.” Amen. 

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Related Scripture Readings
Luke 12:22, 25, & 31
Micah 6:8
Mark 12:30-31
Esther 4:14

89 Going on 90

greatsDrip. Drip. Drip.
The tears come.
Sobs burst forth.

Dad is in the hospital.
Again. And I’m so far away.
Phones. Texts. Not the same.

He’ll be heading home.
A new diagnosis: worry with a name.
But. Again?!!?

Aging. Loving. Living.
Life is hard.
Life is connecting.

Clinging. Crying. Worrying.
Embedded, oozing fears of loss.
Fears of impermanence, reality.

Drip. Drip. Healing tears dry.
Be still. The divine is here.
Extravagant love is always.

 

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins

Beckoning Trail. © Tim Graves
Beckoning Trail. © Tim Graves

I was disappointed that I was unable to significantly exceed my goal, a goal that seemed insurmountable a year ago. I recall saying as I signed up for the challenge, “I may not make it but I can try, can’t I?” I ran 1000 kilometers last year. (Actually, 1037k which is equivalent to 644 miles.)

Running 1000 kilometers in a year was a significant accomplishment for this fifty-seven year old man. I didn’t win any races (or run more than one) but I cannot forget the feelings of accomplishment intertwined with physical exhaustion on that hot summer morning when I ran 13.31 miles in less than two hours. For non-runners, that’s a half-marathon. That’s better than a nine minute mile.

So, why was I disappointed that I did not significantly exceed my 1000k goal?  I think my disappointment was tangled up with my injury discouragement. Between mid-September and late December I was on an injury-enforced hiatus. I lost one-quarter of the year to an injury I didn’t see coming. It felt like a personal attack.

Running continues to teach me about balance. It teaches me about being.

My natural inclination is to do, do, do, and do. Until exhausted. This inclination is something akin to a compulsion but is also a learned behavior. As a child, I absorbed the internal belief that my value as a human being is related to what I do. This is a “works theology” in which hard work gets us love.

My journey over the last decade has enabled me to be more and to do less, but my embedded inclination is still a powerful force. Yes, hard work can and often is a good thing but it is not the source of my worth. It is not the source of love. Love is only love if it is given freely and without strings of expectations.

And I love running!

I love running! (To be sure, I hate running during the first mile or two of every run but after that, I love running.) I love running under the big skies of rural eastern Oregon. I love running along Portland’s suburban footpaths. I love running in the rain! And I’m learning to love running in the cold.

Running requires balance. I must pay attention to my body. Like my faith that dictates a regular sabbath, running requires rest days. It requires time for adequate recovery between runs. It requires pacing and kindness to myself when my body and, sometimes even my spirit, needs a day off.

When I miss my body’s signals, my body can become injured.  My love of running allowed me to push myself too hard through the summer months. It was time for a vacation. A week or two off from running before my injury might have prevented the long healing period at the end of last year.

Running is metaphor. Just as my body needed a break to prevent physical injury, something I failed to give it, our spirits need rest. When I fail to take adequate sabbath or insist that hard work will get me more love or prove my worth, I am harming my spirit just as I injured a tendon in mid-September.

Goals like my 1000k goal last year serve a purpose. It is reasonable to set goals that require effort and provide purpose. However, goals and New Year’s resolutions can cause us to harm ourselves. If the goal becomes more important than ourselves and the people around us, we fail to be who we are created to be.

Yes, I was disappointed but I am learning. I am learning to be. This year, I’ve set a personal goal of running 1000 miles (equivalent to 1609k). In addition to the distance goal, I commit to paying closer attention to my pacing, not just the speed I move but to take weeks off here and there to rest my body.

Because running is metaphor, I also commit to the 1000 mile journey of the new year by pacing myself. I will take care of my spirit, taking adequate sabbath and vacation to avoid injury to my core, my soul.

In That Moment

contemplative-afternoon2wm

Morning fog,
clouds hanging close,
the damp breath of God clings.

Truck starts, car glides,
delivering God’s people,
and the meeting house comes alive.

The joyful noise,
melodies & catching up,
fill the upside down boat.

Last hymn,
last coffee and cookie,
quiet descends as the last door closes.

Fog gone, sunshine out,
the celestial movement,
reveals itself through the shards of color.

In that moment,
I enter finding the healing,
embracing warmth of sacred hues.

Fire Crackles

fireFire crackles,
smokiness wafts up & about,
tickling my nostrils.

Dog breathes,
in and out, in & out,
body heat against my leg.

Songs play,
sadness, love, & hope permeate,
reminding my synapses.

Heart moves,
past, present, & future,
divinely intertwining.

Tears form,
puddling upon skin,
the Holy Spirit nourishes.