Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Life with that great cloud of witnesses

Early this morning, I was in one of those liminal states, somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, when I sensed my father's presence. He didn't speak. I didn't see him. But I'm sure he was there, as if right beside me, and his presence was one of love for me.

My father, Gilbert Hurt Chumbley, Sr., died in November 1994. Although we'd had our struggles over the years, especially because of his alcoholism, we loved one another. After a long absence from one another, we'd kiss one another on the cheek. I thought nothing about it. It seemed right.

Saturdays, when I still lived near him in Louisville we'd spend our mornings together, drinking coffee and talking. Then when I moved away--first to seminary in New York City and then to southern Kentucky and later to upstate New York--we'd talk on Saturdays by phone. We never missed a Saturday.

I knew my father loved me. He told me so. He showed me. He always told me how proud he was of me. I've tried to be that kind of father to my daughter Clare, and now, I'm trying to be that kind of grandfather to June Elizabeth and Christa Marie.

At every celebration of the Holy Eucharist, I remember my dad in the prayers for the departed, my spiritual director telling me a long time ago that doing so would help me stay connected with him spiritually. It works, too.

This morning in that dream state, my dad visited me. He was alive with love for me.

And then this morning at the Holy Eucharist at the sleepy hour of 7, I read the lesson from Hebrews 9.11-15, 24-28 and heard those words outwardly and inwardly.

The writer speaks about the Communion of Saints, that great cloud of witnesses who compasses us about, to quote the Prayer Book, with their loving and strengthening presence.

Today in my dream, the heavenly and earthly communions met, and my dad and I were together again, if only for an instant, and I believe and know that we shall be together again. Only momentarily in this world. But then eternally in the world to come.

Daddy, I love you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Standing with the Islamic community in Springfield, MO

At this week's meeting of our Interfaith Alliance, a member of the Islamic Center reported on the latest hate attack on her faith community. Someone had left an anonymous threatening letter at the center. The writer, she told us, said that Muslims don't belong in Springfield. He called for "death to Islam." And he left behind not only his odious letter, but also three partially burned Korans, the Muslim sacred scriptures. One of our constitutional rights as Americans is freedom of religion. Every person may worship the God of his or her choice or worship no God at all. This right is one for which Americans have fought and died to preserve throughout our history. Indeed, America was first settled by people who fled religious persecution in Europe. These dissenters came here for refuge from religious intolerance and for the freedom to worship as they wanted. And yet today, religious and political extremists, who are ignorant of American history and the Constitution or indifferent to them, are attacking Islam. Infamously, Representative Peter King of New York devoted congressional hearings to promoting the idea that Islam is a threat to America. Other vote-seeking politicians, along with ratings-crazed media stars of the right are using Islam to foster hate, hysteria, and division. The only antidote to fear is fact. We must learn about Islam, including from its faithful adherents. Members of the Springfield Interfaith Alliance are doing just that. We're not only learning from the local Islamic community, but we're also partnering with them in promoting a better community for all people. Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by the silence of many German Christian people. Such growth of rank evil cannot be allowed to take root and grow in our good community here. From pulpits and pews, at lunch tables and across backyard fences, people of faith and good will must speak out and to declare: There is only one God, and all people are brothers and sisters in God's one human family. The purveyors of hate and violence will neither separate us nor drive us into silence and fearfulness. We shall meet evil with love for and solidarity with the persecuted. This is our city, and it's a good community--one that we intend to maintain as a place of hospitality, not hostility.