Senate Reflection for February 18, 2016

GE has a commercial about the birth of ideas where there is a personified idea that looks like a little ugly monster. It grows into an awkward adolescence and finally matures and flourishes into something beautiful, like the story of the ugly duckling.

In an interview, writer Salman Rushdie says that his famous novel The Satanic Verses is an extended reflection on the question, “How does a new idea come into the world?” He meant for it only to be incidentally about religion but new ideas often come to us in religious terms like revelations, epiphanies and inspiration.

He says that for the birth of a new idea, “you have got two tests.” You have the test of weakness. “When you’re weak,” when your idea is unpopular do you compromise, do you bend, do you give in, do you accommodate?” Do we have enough inner strength to stick by our idea when we are in the losing position?

“And then the test of strength. When you’re strong, are you merciful, are you generous, or are you cruel?” When our idea is finally vindicated, how do we treat those who opposed us or didn’t support or believe in us?

Of course, these tests are not about ideas but rather about us and how we value our new ideas and treat those who support us or not. For that reason, we now turn to prayer.

Heavenly Spirit, by your inspiration and your revelation you bring new ideas into our minds. As we receive these gifts, help us when ideas are young and weak and need us to stand by them. When you provide for their success, help us in our strength always to remain gracious, merciful and generous to those we work with and those we serve. Amen.

Senate Reflection for February 4, 2016

In 1981, Prince Charles and Diana were engaged. There was an immediate press conference, full of wedding plans. Toward the end of the press conference, one journalist just couldn’t contain his excitement and blurted out, “You two must be so in love.” Diana gave a kind and polite (if a little embarrassed) smile. Prince Charles said, “I suppose so. Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Poor Diana.

You and I have similar callings: to protect, serve and provide for a community of people in a specific place and time, for better and for worse. That is: to love. Sometimes it’s difficult, but if we try, we can see our work, the committees and the legislation as expressions of love.

And we must do better than, “I suppose so. Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Our districts deserve better than Hallmark card love or Prince Charles love. They deserve the same real love that we live daily in our marriages and families and in the couples, spouses and partners that we see all around us. The kind of love that doesn’t eyes better options but does endures hard times.

To help us today, we could remember wedding vows that we made or hope to make some day. How well do they also describe our relationship with our people? As an example, I’ll read the wedding vows of the Episcopal Church with only a little alteration:

In the Name of God, I, [Senator N.], take you, [District 1, 2, 3…22, 23, 24], to be my spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”
Simone Weil

Homily for Epiphany 4C on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

A homily on God’s love as the thing that changes us to grow and deepen in our spiritual lives.

St. Paul’s well-known hymn to love contains 15 verbs about what love does (or doesn’t do). Usually in English we translate them as adjectives or abstract ideas: “Love is patient, love is kind…” See the NRSV Bible translation of this passage for an example.

Here’s one way to translate this poem with active verbs in their place:

Love waits and sticks with you.
Love cares and cherishes and treasures.
Love envies not, blusters not, flatters not.

It does not degrade, ego-trip, aggravate or slander.

It does not cheer for injustice, but rallies around the truth.

Everything it protects.
Everything it believes.
Everything it hopes.
Everything it endures.

Love never falls apart.

How would you try to translate this passage to reflect St. Paul’s poem to an active love?