Saturday, February 17, 2007

Potentially Hazardous

Every time I go to the Post Office to drop off a package, the nice people behind the counter always ask the same thing. "Anything fragile, liquid, potentially hazardous, or perishable?"

They have to ask, they have a script. They know who I am and what I do. They know I am sending books. But they always ask. "Anything fragile, liquid, potentially hazardous, or perishable?"

It's books! DUH!

But then I think. Well, fragile, no, the truth is not necessarily fragile. But these are days in which lies are told at the highest levels of government, the news media, and even the church. Whether it is Dick Cheney, or Bill O'Reilly at Fox "News," or Peter Akinola, lies are told with the authority of truth and are often swallowed whole by an uncritical public who wants to believe the worst about others, whether it is Saddam Hussein (remember weapons of mass destruction and strong ties to al Qaeda?) or liberals or gay people who just want to be an Episcopal bishop at the call of his people or even just married!

So maybe the truth is fragile, and books containing the truth about what the Bible really says about homosexuality are a fragile commodity.

Liquid? No, not even. OK.

Perishable? Well, maybe. In the same way the contents of our books can be fragile, I suppose. But I don't know about that either.

But it's that "potentially hazardous" that always gives me pause. Books are ultimately the most potentially hazardous things out there. The free exchange of ideas, the spreading of new revelations, new understandings, new facts, what could be more hazardous to the corrupt status quo? Is it no wonder that one of the common threads in totalitarian movements is the burning of books? Why do fundamentalist and conservative movements always want to ban books from schools, libraries, and stores?

What could be more hazardous to the likes of Peter Akinola than "Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse" by Dr. Rembert Truluck?

Or “The Bible and Homosexuality,” by the Rev. Michael England?

What could be more potentially hazardous that a book of daily devotions that treats all people with the inclusive love of God, like “Living as the Beloved: One Day at a Time,” by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Bochonok?

Or “Christian with a Twist,” by Bill Gaston?

For Presbyterians, and indeed for all people of faith, what could be more potentially hazardous than a book like “Called OUT: The Voices and Gifts of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Presbyterians,” by the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr et al?

Or any of the books by the wonderful Rev. Chris Glaser, perhaps the best known Gay Christian writer? Chris waiting for a very long time for his Presbyterian denomination to recognize his gifts and calling until he finally accepted a call in the Metropolitan Community Churches. He is now serving as Interim Pastor of MCC San Francisco. He is a contributor to “Called Out,” and his book “Come Home! Reclaiming Spirituality and Community as Gay Men and Lesbians,” is a classic in the genre and VERY potentially hazardous to LGBT people of faith.

What could be more potentially hazardous to the people who tell those living with HIV/AIDS that they are evil and deserve their disease, than a book by a long-term survivor of AIDS who is a healthy, vibrant, Christian minister like the Rev. Steve Pieters, still alive after over 20 years. His story is told in “I’m Still Dancing! A Gay Man’s Health Experience.”

So my frequent trips to the Post Office give me pause. When Pat or Joyce or Lawanna ask me, "Anything fragile, liquid, potentially hazardous, or perishable?" I really have to stop and think. Some times it’s easy. “No, it’s just the Liturgical Calendar and Lectionary, nothing really hazardous there!”

But some days, it’s Truluck’s book, or Glaser’s, and I have to stop and think.

And I am proud to be the publisher of books that are potentially hazardous to people who are mired in old ways of thinking and hating. The truth is hazardous. It will make you think, and it might, just might, change your life.

But I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

Reflection, Feb. 18, 2007

Chi Rho Reflection for the Week of February 18, 2007

As one of the on-going ministries of Chi Rho Press, here is a selection from our book of daily devotions, "Living as the Beloved: One Day at a Time," by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Bochonok.

Please read the Scripture passage and Dr. Bochonok's meditation. We hope you will be blessed.

Powerful words

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone."
Colossians 4:6

The other day while in town doing errands, I had my hair cut. I had made an appointment. While waiting my turn, a friendly stranger exchanged a moment of pleasant conversation. My name was called and I went to the stylist assigned to me. As she began to cut my hair, the previously pleasant stranger began complaining loudly with increasing bursts of profanity. His anger caused everyone to stop conversation and look at him. He finished his angry outburst to the store manager while calling her a number of obscenities. He was totally rude, profane, inappropriate, and intentionally hurtful. The manager treated this customer with the utmost respect and courtesy. The customer stormed out of the store while continuing to vent his frustration and anger, breathing threats to get her fired. A stunned silence followed his exit. I found myself silently breathing prayers for the angry man, and all who were unfortunate enough to meet him in his fit of rage.

While paying my bill, I gave the manager my business card. I offered to be a reference for her in this situation if the angry man made an official complaint. While preparing to leave, I thanked her for her professionalism and courtesy. Then I said, "God bless you. I hope you have a wonderful day."

Our spoken words have enormous power to harm or to heal. Chose them prayerfully when irritated or annoyed. When encountering vile language, verbal abuse, hate-filled rhetoric, and words spoken in a fit of rage, make every effort to respond courteously even to the rude, the crude, and the offensive. In doing so, your words will never return to haunt you with feelings of shame and regret. When in doubt, always err on the side of gracious speech.

God, guard my tongue and protect me from uttering hasty or thoughtless words. Help me think twice before speaking in anger. Give me new ears to hear the power of words. When I hear others responding with words of rage and hate, remind me to privately pray for them. When I speak, may my words always be seasoned with your Spirit. Amen.

Reflection, Feb. 11, 2007

Chi Rho Reflection for the Week of February 11, 2007


As one of the on-going ministries of Chi Rho Press, here is a selection from our book of daily
devotions, "Living as the Beloved: One Day at a Time," by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Bochonok.

Please read the Scripture passage and Dr. Bochonok's meditation. We hope you will be blessed.

Thank you for forwarding this to your friends.

Requirements of true religion

"God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8b

I often feel I fall far short of God's requirements. Micah shows us how our hearts should respond to God. We are taught what is good and required from Torah (Old Testament law). Rather than be rigidly legalistic and dogmatic in matters of organized religion and social concerns, we are to live Torah from our hearts.

Jesus certainly made this clear to the religious leaders of his day who erred on the side of legalism, not compassion. "Woe to you, teachers of the law . . . you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness . . ."
(Matthew 23:23 NIV).

God requires we do justice as our ethical response to community living. Our actions have social
consequences. We are to love "chesed," which is the beautiful Hebrew word that translates as
"mercy." We are to freely and willingly show kindness and mercy to others. All this is humanly
impossible without spiritual humility. Mercy can change the world.

James, believed to have been one of Jesus' brothers, wrote a New Testament passage found in the epistle of James that scholars think of as linked to the words of Micah. In his letter, James emphasizes a vital spirituality that is characterized by good deeds and faith. He summarizes his brother's teachings with the statement, "[F]aith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17 NIV). If the Hebrew Testament prophets are difficult to read and understand, consider reading the five short chapters in James. James learned true religion from his big brother, Jesus Christ. James gives us an example of what true religion should be by emphasizing the importance of both words and actions.

I often hear people say of others, "Oh, s/he is very religious." What does that mean? Do they
mean those individuals act justly, freely show mercy to others, and humbly walk with their
Higher Power?

James writes a great deal about religion. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure
and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself
from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27 NIV).

God, help me be just, kind, merciful, and humble in word and deed. Amen.

Reflection, Feb. 4, 2007

Chi Rho Reflection for the Week of February 4, 2007


As one of the on-going ministries of Chi Rho Press, here is a selection from our book of daily
devotions, "Living as the Beloved: One Day at a Time," by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Bochonok.

Please read the Scripture passage and Dr. Bochonok's meditation. We hope you will be blessed.

Thank you for forwarding this to your friends.

The Lord's Prayer and lectio divina

Jesus taught, "Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time
of trial, but rescue us from the evil one."
Matthew 6:9-13

"Do not pray by heart, but with the heart."
-- Anonymous

Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan theologian said, "Many pray with their lips for that for which
their hearts have no desire." The Lord's Prayer is often prayed this way by many. When our hearts are not in our prayers, they lack spiritual power. One ancient way to experience spiritual empowerment is to reclaim sacred words that have become common. Many of us have memorized this prayer and can probably recite it by heart in sixty seconds. We can recite it without appreciating its full meaning.

Every element of worship is found here. We are also given six simple prayer requests to
change the world the way God wishes it to be. We experience worship, intercession, thanksgiving, and penitence. The Lord's Prayer is a spiritual heritage worthy of reclaiming for the new century. It will last throughout eternity.

During the Middle Ages, monks used to practice a spiritual discipline called lectio divina (Hall,
Thelma. "Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina with 500 Scripture Texts for Prayer," p. 7.). It is one form of holy reading. They would read a passage of scripture slowly to savor the nourishing words. Then they would reread it with pauses of silence between readings. Sometimes a word or phrase would glimmer and catch a reader's attention. The reader would nurture that word throughout the day in the reader's heart and let it linger in
the soul.

Thoughtfully linger over these beautiful words from the Lord's Prayer. Reclaim your spiritual
heritage with every sentence or perhaps just one sentence at a time.

God, teach us to pray from our hearts. Amen.

Grace and peace,

Chi Rho Press

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