Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday 2010

Attended the Palm Sunday service at the Advocate this morning. Chilly day, with intermittent sun. The service began with a short procession from the Advocate office (a small home) to a nearby park, singing and holding up palms and flowering branches as we followed the crucifix. At the end of the procession, we throw down our palms and branches and then walk on top of them in silence—the mood is more somber from this point on, because Palm Sunday is also Passion Sunday, so there's a dramatic reading of one of the Gospels' narrative of the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the trial, and the crucifixion. As I mentioned, the service was being held outdoors, and in the middle of the Gospel drama, a gust of wind sent the crucifix toppling to the cement floor of the pavilion we were sitting under—Jesus' arms broke off.


This was from the Gospel reading for today. Jesus at the Last Supper, as narrated by Luke—
He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said,
"Take this, and share it among yourselves.
For I tell you,
I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again
until the kingdom of God shall come."
(Luke 22:17-18)
Which brought to mind for me this passage from Doctrine and Covenants:
Marvel not, for the hour is coming
when on earth I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you . . .
and with all from this world whom my Father has made mine.
Therefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice . . .
and be faithful until I come.
(D&C 27:5, 14-15, 18)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health care reform

Health care reform goes up for vote today in Congress. I'm not happy about the bill; I'm genuinely undecided regarding whether it would be better to continue with the status quo than to pass this bill. People who now suffer under the status quo would presumably benefit from the bill—but at the price of strengthening both the ideological privilege and the practical power exercised by the institutions that make up the "free market" in this country. And in the long run, I think that's very bad news.

Being left sucks in the U.S. because not only does it doom you to be perpetually frustrated, you don't even get to enjoy the feeling of entitlement that undergirds the fury of the right. The Tea-Party right is also frustrated right now, of course, and will go apoplectic if the health care reform bill passes. But their feeling of disenfranchisement is in large part a cherished, self-fabricated fiction—yes, they may end up being outvoted this time around, but they enjoy the support of powerful institutions, and that makes them a constant threat, a force to be reckoned with. By contrast, if you're someone on the left who wants to see the U.S. adopt a publicly funded single-payer health care system—there's no one in power who seriously entertains that notion. You're not a force to be reckoned with; you're a pipe dreamer.

Without a public option, health care reform is throwing us all to the wolves of free enterprise. My sensibilities and ideals on this matter have been shaped by statements such as these:
It is not given that one person should possess more than another; for this reason, the world lies in sin. (D&C 49:20)

If you are not equal in earthly things, you cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things. (D&C 78:6)

This is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints: that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. (D&C 104:16)
The fiercest opponents of health care reform—the ones waxing hysterical about socialism and raging that no one's entitled to free handouts—are devotees of a false gospel. The most generous thing that can be said for them is that they have been blinded by human craftiness and by false traditions inherited from their forebears; a much less generous reading is that they are hard-hearted and wicked. It appalls me how many Latter-day Saints appear to fall into that camp.

And then we have this health care reform bill, which I guess if I'm going to be generous represents a kind of terrestrial approach to the problem—not telestial, but still reflective of a lesser set of ideals. Too much faith in the market, too much faith in a system that's ultimately predicated, as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman shamelessly proclaimed, on the pursuit of self-interest. Why are the people of my country so . . . blind? I'm trying to phrase it generously again.

The Book of Mormon is saturated with this kind of frustration, which has a lot to do with why that book speaks to me.


God of justice,
Life of the world,
Builder of Zion,
Defender of the poor,
Painbearer, Deliverer—

I don't know whether to pray for this bill to succeed.
I know I don't want the political right to succeed,
and while it's risky and presumptuous of me,
I'm confident that you don't either.

I'm frustrated to the point of feeling drained and weary.
Just—let some good come out of this process.
Some kind of progress, however small.

How do we change hearts?
How do we convince people of the truth?
How do we arouse their consciences?
Help us proclaim your gospel effectively.
Help us change hearts and minds and values.
Help us dispel ignorance and falsehood
Help us promote true gospel values in the face of counterfeits.

In Christ's name, amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This is for the Tea Partiers, and Glenn Beck, and the naysaying Republicans, and the spineless Democrats who talked big two years ago about their commitment to "ensuring quality, affordable health care for every single American" and now expect people like me to thank them for the watered-down gruel they're offering us instead, which in their customary incompetence they may not be able to pass through the Democrat-controlled Congress anyway.
O my people,
they who lead you cause you to err,
and destroy your pathways.

The Lord stands up to plead;
he stands to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment
with the elders and rulers of his people;
for you have devoured the vineyard
and despoiled the poor in your houses.

What are you thinking? says the Lord God of Hosts.
You beat my people to pieces,
and grind the faces of the poor!

(2 Nephi 13:12-15)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An effectual struggle to be made

There's a topic I need to start addressing soon, probably in a series of posts—it's been germinating in my heart and mind for several months, and I feel like it's close to being ready to come up out from the soil. My plan is to start after Easter; that seems like the most liturgically appropriate time to begin a new initiative.

For now, here's a scripture that touched me this week. For the past few weeks, I've been rereading the Book of Mormon, using the "fresh" edition I bought in Salt Lake last summer, highlighting phrases and verses where divine light jumps off the page at me, so to speak. Lots of good stuff. What I'm posting here just happens to be something I read last night; plus it has a connection to the theme I want to start posting on after Easter. This passage made me think of the same-sex marriage struggle—not to be a one-note Johnny, but it's certainly an issue that has preoccupied my coreligionists as of late, and one that's pressing for me, personally, as well, albeit in a very different sense.

Lift up your heads and be comforted;
for notwithstanding our many strugglings,
which have been in vain,
I trust there yet remains
an effectual struggle to be made.

Therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice,
and put your trust in God—
that God who brought the people of Israel
out of the land of Egypt,
and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea
on dry ground,
and fed them with manna,
that they might not perish in the wilderness;
and many more things did he do for them.

(Mosiah 7:18-19)

On another note: Continuing prayers for Haiti, and prayers for Chile.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Taize service, March

On the first Friday of each month, I lead a Taize service for the Episcopal church Hugo and I attend. Taize is a contemplative style of worship that consists of biblical readings, songs, and silence. I take the readings from suggestions given at the Taize website, but I spend a bit of time reworking the texts (in consultation with a variety of translations) to avoid gendered language, to pull out new interpretive possibilities, or to make familiar texts "fresh."

For this Sunday's post, I felt moved to post my reworking of the two biblical readings from this past Friday's service.


EZEKIEL 37: 1-2, 9-14

The hand of God came upon me,
and the Spirit of God carried me away like the wind
and set me down in the middle of a valley
full of bones.
The Spirit carried me all around the valley
so that I could see the bones—
the valley was filled with them,
and they were very dry.

Then God said to me:
“Speak to the Spirit, mortal;
command it in the name of God.
Say: Come from the four winds, O Spirit.
Breathe upon these who have been killed,
so that they may live.”

I spoke as God instructed me.
The Spirit breathed life into the dead,
and they got up onto their feet—
a vast multitude.

Then God said to me:
“Mortal, these bones are my people, your kin.
They say: Our bones are dried up;
our hope is lost; we are cut off!
Speak to them for me.
Say: These are the words of God—
I am going to open your graves
and bring you up out of them, my people.
I will breathe into you my Spirit,
and you will live,
and I will bring you back to your homeland.
Then you will know
that it is I, your God,
who have decreed it and accomplished it.”


JOHN 6: 35, 37-40

Jesus said:
I am the bread of life.
No one who comes to me will ever be hungry.
No one who believes in me will ever be thirsty.
No one who comes to me will ever be turned away.

I have come down from heaven,
not to do my own will
but the will of God, who sent me.
And the will of God is this:
that at the end of time,
I lift up everything God has entrusted to me
and that nothing God has given me be lost.

This is the will of God:
that all who see and believe in the Only Begotten
may have eternal life,
and I will lift them up at the end of time.