Friday, February 20, 2015

Brene Brown and Bartimaeus: Vulnerability and Healing

From our opening devotion at the Christ Church Cathedral chapter meeting, Thursday, February 19, 2015.

“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in. Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.
“Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be – a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation – with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”  - Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Take a minute and ponder: What makes you afraid to be vulnerable?

"They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way." - Mark 10:46-52

Take a minute and ponder: Where do we as a Cathedral most need healing?

When I ask myself the question "Why am I afraid to be vulnerable?" at the top of the list is REJECTION. It's a scary word and it's a big fear.  I'm afraid that I will show a piece of myself, something that's raw and real, and other people -- maybe even people whose opinion I really value and whose love I really want -- will laugh or ridicule or even just disagree with me in a way that will play old tapes in my head about my own unlovableness and unworthiness.

I love the story of Bartimaeus because there is so much going on here ... and the first thing that is happening is courage.

Bartimaeus dares to be vulnerable. He shouts to this hotshot rabbi, Jesus -- HEY! I'M OVER HERE! HELP ME!  And then his worst fear (OK, maybe it isn't his but it would be mine) happens --- he gets rejected. The disciples say "Sit down and shut up, Bartimaeus!"

But Bartimaeus has got it going on, and we hear that he cried out even more loudly. That's Daring GREATLY! And Jesus LOVES it. And he tells these same disciples that had been sneering at Bartimaeus to bring him into the very center of the community. And Bartimaeus goes all in -- he throws off his cloak, not hiding a thing -- and goes to Jesus.

And then Jesus asks Bartimaeus one of the most amazing questions in all of scripture.

What do you want me to do for you?

Just imagine if Jesus walked up to you and said:

"What do you want me to do for you?" 

Not in an Aladdin/Three Wishes kind of way, but looking deep in your eyes and inviting you to name your deepest wound. For me, it would be the ultimate approach/avoidance situation -- I can have my deepest brokenness healed, but first I have to admit it -- to Christ and to myself.

And Bartimaeus tells Jesus his heart's desire "My teacher, let me see again." And when we tell someone our heart's desire, we put our heart in their hand and give them the potential for throwing it on the ground and grinding it under their heel. But of course that's not what Jesus does ... he says "Go. Your faith has made you well" ... and Bartimaeus not only regains his sight but, maybe even more significantly, he becomes part of this community that just minutes before had been telling him to shut up and stay begging by the side of the road.

There is a link between vulnerability and healing. As followers of Jesus, we know this. We know this because the ultimate instance of power and the doorway to the resurrection is the ultimate instance of vulnerability ... Christ nailed to the cross.

The healing power of Christ is available to each and all of us -- but we have to walk through that doorway of vulnerability first. We have to name our brokenness and risk -- and sometimes even suffer -- rejection.

Where do we need healing at Christ Church Cathedral? Last night at Chapter we named several things -- internal disagreements about budget and mission, old conflicts that still fester, impatience, and our budget and finances themselves (which I know I often describe in medical terms as "hemorrhaging money.").

Where do we need healing in our lives? In our own struggles with addiction? In (in the beautiful words of the Ash Wednesday litany) "our anger at our own frustration?" In our fear? In our feelings of inadequacy, unlovability and unworthiness?

Brene Brown says: "Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement."

Bartimaeus enagaged. Bartimaeus dared greatly. He cried out to Jesus, risked and braved rejection, flung off his cloak and spoke the truth of his deepest pain and his heart's desire.

Our ability to receive the healing power of Christ's love is up to us. And our only choice is a question of engagement.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An invitation to a Holy Lent -- Face to Face

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by
reading and meditating on God's holy Word. 

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten journey that will culminate with our gathering at the foot of the cross on Good Friday and, ultimately, rejoicing at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

We begin this journey with ashes on our head as a reminder that every one of us will die but that God's love for us will never die. The ashes we place on our forehead today at noon and 6 pm at Christ Church Cathedral are reminders we are free to be completely unafraid of anything, even death, because our lives are built on a foundation that is even stronger than death -- the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Like everything else in our Christian journey, we never do this alone -- always together. 

We are calling our Lenten journey this year "Face to Face." Throughout the 40 days we will be looking each other in the face both as a Cathedral community and as a wider St. Louis community. We will strive to see each other as we truly are. To have the real conversation. To speak our own truths and listen deeply to each others'. To live our mission of "embracing diversity joyfully" by facing each other in all our difference and daring to be vulnerable with and even love each other enough to give ourselves for one another.

We're offering many ways to take part in this Face to Face journey through Lent:

Faces in the Nave - In addition to seeing each other's faces in worship, we will spend Lent with other faces. Cbabi Bayoc's faces of African-American fathers and their children in his "365 Days with Dad" will continue to grace the Cathedral Nave. In addition, throughout Lent the Cathedral Nave will host a display of "Faces Not Forgotten" -- these are portraits on handkerchiefs of young people who have been killed by guns here in St. Louis. We will be looking at these images of God throughout Lent and considering how their ongoing witness is calling us.

40 Essential Bible Passages - Every day during Lent, someone from our Cathedral or downtown community will share a Bible passage that is essential to their lives and why in a 2-3 minute video on our YouTube Channel and our Facebook and Twitter accounts. It's a great way to see a new face every day and hear the diversity of ways scripture is shaping our lives. Click here to see our Digital Missioner Brendan O'Connor kick this off with Ruth 1:16-17. 

Lent Unedited --An online Lenten discipline of being real with each other, showing our messiness and

imperfections with one another -- unedited, unfiltered, imperfect -- and letting the grace of community and the grace of God shine into our darkness and joy. To join, every day (or whenever you remember) post an unedited, real moment of your life on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #lentunedited. You can join the Facebook group by clicking here. This is the inspiration of the Rev. Hopie Welles Jernagan of St. Peter's, Ladue.

The Real Conversation  - From 1 - 4:30 pm, Saturday, Feb 28, the Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, director of networking for the Diocese of Chicago, will enlighten and equip us in:
    *learning to build relationships even while discussing difficult topics such as race and class               
    *exploring recent events as opportunities for organizing for change.
    *learning to create more authentic communities of faith by listening, learning and communicating well.
There is a $10 per person suggested donation to cover expenses. Please RSVP by clicking here

Why Protest: Worship and Conversation About The Movement:  -- On Sunday, March 8, the Rev. Traci Blackmon will be our guest preacher at 10 am and following the service at noon she will be joined by three other faces of the Ferguson protest movement -- Alexis Templeton, Brittany Ferrell and Deray McKesson for a community listening session around three questions:

*WHY Protest -- what is driving the protests?
*Why PROTEST - why choose this method of expression?
*How can everyone get involved in The Movement?

More opportunities will be offered as we move through this season. But one of the best "face to face" Lenten disciplines is to take the time to sit down with someone you don't know very well, maybe someone of a different racial, ethnic, economic, political or theological background than you. Look each other in the face, seek the beloved image of God on each other, and let yourselves be challenged by one another. Once a day, every day, try truly to see a new face - so when we gather at the cross and the empty tomb we have a stronger sense of the deep ways we are connected by God's love in Christ.

I'm looking forward to this journey together.