#stubborn for #lookinlent

I really don’t want to talk or to think about Fred Phelps.

Protesters hold anti-hate signs

Demonstrators counter-protest the WBC on August 1, 2013, as same-gender marriage takes effect in Rhode Island.

By following the extreme logic of their extreme beliefs, he and his family – hardly the worshipful gathering that would dignify the name of church – succeeded in gaining attention far beyond their deserts. Their primary tactic was – sadly, is – abominable behavior. And the society they would have us create in their image would be hellish: either an endless sea of incoherent rage, or lock-step automatons all following the same deadly creed.

I do not want to think about Fred Phelps.

I do not want to think about a trait we have in common. We’re both #stubborn.

I recognize that piece of myself in the relentless efforts to hold back the tide. I do believe that, however long it be, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice for the disenfranchised, and that includes persons of color, women, those with disabilities, and Phelps’ sworn enemy, those who are LGBTQ. In some ways the arc is bending faster than I’d expected – I never expected to see legal marriage between same-gender couples in my lifetime – and in some ways the arc is bending slower – why, oh why, do African-Americans suffer so much worse than their white counterparts from poverty, unemployment, and violence?

Unlike some, I do not believe in universal salvation. I believe in the forgiveness of God, but also in the righteous judgement of God. I believe that what we do in this life matters. I believe we have a part to play in coming to a reconciliation with God. As my New Testament professor Charles Carlston said many years ago, universalism denies two things: the sovereign power of God to judge and the full capacity of human beings to screw up.

I may have paraphrased him a bit there.

The next critical step, of course, is to remember that the judgement doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to God. So I’m trying to be cautious of judging Fred Phelps himself, even as I have no difficulty condemning what he did. I wonder just how #stubborn he is.

You see, I expect that when I meet God face-to-face (if that’s how it works), I will learn about a whole raft of things that I’ve been wrong about. Many of them, I hope, will be trivial. I’m pretty sure that more than a few will not be. What will that be like? Can I let go of those critical things in order to be reconciled to God?

I hope I wouldn’t be so stubborn that I wouldn’t.

And Fred Phelps? When he comes to the Pearly Gates (if that’s what they are), I believe he’ll find the souls of those he’d picketed waiting for him there: soldiers, Fred Rogers (whose birthday is today), and Matthew Shepard. How will he react? It almost seems that he’d prefer to picket outside the gates of Heaven rather than enjoy its joys with them. Perhaps.

If a person brought to heaven the view that some were there who should not be – and was too #stubborn to let that go – would that not turn Heaven into Hell?

#protector for #lookinlent

Burned column

A column of the Somers Congregational Church lies blackened after the fire of Jan. 1, 2012.

Where was this community’s #protector

When the fire was kindled,

When the flames exulted?

Where was this community’s protector

When the tower sagged,

And the beams groaned low,

And the bell’s cast bronze softened and cracked?

Their #protector remained

Just where the Spirit always lives:

In the icy wind,

In the tear-filled eye,

In the resolute heart.

Somers’ protector grieved

And held a grieving people close,

And fed their hearts on grace and courage.

Last spring a new bell rose, and waits,

Waits for this spring when they will praise

Their loving, faithful #protector

In a house they’ve built for worship.

The frame of the rising Somers Congregational Church UCC in May 2013.

The frame of the rising Somers Congregational Church UCC in May 2013.

Stone of Help – #stones for #lookinlent

Samuel raised an Ebenezer,
he raised a Stone of Help
when his people were preserved
from the powers of war and death
So people place their stones today
to honor those they’ve known
And all those souls who’ve shared this life
and called this earth their home.


Place a stone for memory
A stone of help create
Recall to us the love we’ve known
And what love yet awaits.
Love, like stones, seems tiny
Yet builds planets out in space.
Living stones are we,
Made of dust and grace.


Samuel raised an Ebenezer,
out of the bones of earth
to celebrate the end of war
and give to peace its worth
With our stones today, Lord
we pray that you’ll console
your planet with your justice
and peace for every soul.

Samuel raised an Ebenezer
a stone upon a stone
at the summit of a hill
where its shadow fell alone;
Raised it on a stony planet
Spinning around the sun
Samuel raised an Ebenezer
Remember everyone.


“Stone of Help” was written by Eric Anderson in 2008.

Ash Wednesday – #Dust for #lookinlent

Ice crystals in my hand

Dust of water. Dust of Earth. Dust of stars.

Remember you are dust. To dust you will return.

Dust gleaming on my mittened hand

Not dust of earth, but dust of ocean

Come to land as dust of air, dust of clouds

I am this dust of ice as surely as I am

Dust of stone

I am, indeed, made up of dust from grain and leaf,

From ant and tiger, squirrel and snake

The day will come when another soul may hold

My dust upon their palm:

Dust of water, dust of clouds,

Dust of skin and blood and bone

Dust, in fact, of stars…