Be the Poetry of Resurrection.

Be the Poetry of Resurrection. August 8, 2019

“Friends, there is a message of hope for us today! Even though it’s middle of winter, it’s an Easter message!

It’s the message that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God!”
… words I said at a recent funeral service I led…

But sometimes, sometimes I wonder. I wonder if sometimes things really do in fact separate us from this love. I gotta be honest, sometimes I have my doubts about faith in things that sound too good to be true. Sometimes I doubt the truth of the resurrection.

I’m not alone in this doubting.

According to the Gospels “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told the male apostles” about the good news of the risen Christ.
But quote, “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.

The men didn’t believe Mary Magdalene; they rejected her and her claims, and Johanna and the other women said – “Me too!” And then Peter mansplained the resurrection so that men could understand it – and the rest is history.

In the mansplained version, the risen Christ came to visit Jesus’ male disciples – supernaturally walking through a locked door to do it – confirming that what the “wild rumor” that the women were spreading – was true! One of those male disciples, Thomas, wasn’t there and when they told him about it, he said, Yeah, right! “Unless I touch his side and put my fingers into his wounds, I won’t believe it!

Thomas gets a bad rap. We call him “Doubting Thomas” but he wasn’t any more of a doubter than those other men were!

Then a few days later risen Jesus shows himself to Thomas saying, “You believe because you have seen, but blessed are those who won’t get to see me in this way – and yet believe!”

And yet believe… and yet believe…

Friends, sometimes it’s hard for me to believe.

The Church that I love, the Church that I was born into, the United Methodist Church, the Church that sponsored the Wesley Foundation at the University of Kansas where my parents met, the Church that I owe my very EXISTENCE to – is in crisis.

The truth is it’s not a United Methodist Church, it’s a divided one. My denomination was recently in the national news because we had a special General Conference where the delegates of our global church voted to not only maintain the current unjust status quo of discriminating against gay and lesbian persons, but to make things even worse for those of us who dare to perform weddings for gay and lesbian children of God, or to be ordained and be gay or lesbian!
The Church is divided because we have different versions of the good news!

Competing versions of the Gospel! And only one of those versions is actually Good News of all of God’s people.

The not-so-good news version of the Gospel is one which contends that the woman who was appointed as Bishop of this Mountain Sky Conference of the United Methodist Church, Bishop Karen Oliveto, the person who was the guest speaker for our Mosaic Gospel Choir concert in December of 2017 at Wesley Chapel in Boulder; a woman who happens to be a lesbian who’s married – isn’t a true follower of Christ because she happens to love a woman – and has sex with her! Yeah I said that about our bishop! Well, she does! She’s a happily married woman! : )

And on a personal note, it’s hard for me to believe because of some things going in my personal life. I’m in a time of transition. I submitted my letter of resignation to my employer nearly a year ago last May. After 14 years leading that organization, I knew they needed fresh blood, and I knew I’m ready for what’s next.

Thing is… I’m not completely sure what’s next for me!

As a result – it’s easy for me to doubt. It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that I may have much of a future.  It’s hard for me to believe that somehow God will turn what is set to be a ¼ time position leading a new contemplative Christian mystic gathering for 1st UMC downtown later this summer, cobbled with one or two other possible part time gigs – will somehow bloom into a life of sufficient abundance,

a life where I can have sufficient time to continue to write as a spiritual practice – and continue to bless others with my writing,

a life where I can continue to fully grow into the man of God God is calling me to be,

and continue to meaningfully serve in ministry to a world that so badly needs it!

And you all! It may be hard for you all to believe that the new incoming director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at CU Boulder – the ministry that I’ve been leading the past 14 years – will be able to pick up the torch and carry on and do things as well as you may think I’ve been doing! You might even be wondering if the Peanutbutter N’ Luvin’ community service project, or the Open Mic Nights, or the Nature Church, or this Mosaic Gospel Choir will continue! Well, I’ve spoken with him, and from what I can tell, it sure looks like these things will continue, but there’ll be a new sheriff in town and he’ll need to have the freedom to make things work in his way – bringing in his own gifts and talents!

On a different note, it may be hard for many of us to continue to believe in the goodness of Boulder – a wonderful town that we all love! Yet it’s a town where the average home sale is now over $1.2 million – including for tiny 2 bedroom bungalows with postage stamp yards – where the average rent for 1 bedroom is well over $1000, where there’s a deplorable lack of affordable housing, and a community where people of color are twice as likely to be pulled over by officer’s discretion, and, twice as likely to be arrested once pulled over. And while less than 1% of our population, black people in Boulder are not only at risk for “driving while black,” but also for picking up litter in front of their apartments while black!

Have you ever wondered why Boulder is one of the whitest places in the nation?  ..Why there’s so few black folk here?

One answer is that it’s because of our seemingly wonderful environmentalism, because of our intentional “Green Space” – our policies of keeping good views of the foothills, not allowing new homes to be constructed, and not allowing buildings to be over a certain height. Which artificially jacks up the cost of the existing housing stock… and as a result WHO can afford to live here? ..Wealthy white people.

And when you wed all that with the City’s policy allowing no more than 3 unrelated people to share the same house – even if it has 6 or 7 bedrooms! — and with the City’s thinly veiled anti-homelessness bans on smoking or camping in public…

and when you learn that the Boulder County commissioners and the Gov. of Colorado forcibly deported most of Boulder’s Hispanics to Mexico in the 1930s,`

what you get is a

Green Space, White Flight, Hippie Haven, Yuppie Duppie, Trustfundafarian, White-topia Disneyland for people who think we’re “conscious” but are oblivious to our unconscious racism.

If racism is defined by bias (conscious or otherwise), population numbers, and relative political power, Boulder in 2019 is more racist than Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s!

{Oh! He didn’t go there did he?} …Yeah, I went there.

Or maybe somehow none of those things pertain to you. Okay, Cool.
But you may have some doubts in life!
You may have doubts about your work life, doubts about your retirement, doubts about your health, doubts about your family life, or doubts about your love life.

Maybe you doubt that you can break free from the Death Star’s tractor beam pull of your Enneagram number defensive armor that you adopted to help you survive your messed-up family of origin but which now has become dysfunctional and holds you back from fully enjoying the contentment and peace in life that you so badly hope and yearn for!

Oh NOW it’s getting’ real!  – ; ) lol

Can we believe? Can we believe in the good news of a risen Christ? Can we believe in resurrection? Can we believe in resurrection power in our own lives? Can we believe that the worst thing is never the last thing?

If seeing is believing, can we see a way of being Christian that boldly says “Happy Beltane” to our pagan friends, “Happy May Day!” to our Socialist and labor activist friends, “Ramadan Mubarak!” to our Muslim friends, and that truly embraces a human Mosaic celebrating each of the diverse and colorful bits of glass and shards of broken china, shattered from the varied and manifold brokenness of each of our unique lives woven together in a beautiful tapestry of love?

Can we believe in a Church that celebrates oneness in our brokenness, oneness in our hopes, in our pains, in our dreams, and in our deep yearning for the Beloved Community that we know we can live into existence?!

Can we believe that we can be united in our sense that there is that of God within each of us, that spark of the divine that’s immanent within us, that imbues, impregnates, and infuses all the cells of our bodies, and united in that which somehow also fully transcends us – united in the One in Whom we live and move and have our being”?!

Friends, we know the answer. We’re already doing it! That’s what we’re singing about tonight!

And if you have some doubts, that’s okay, doubts are perfectly welcome in this Mosaic Gospel Choir – and doubting is perfectly welcome in God’s Beloved Community.

Doubting isn’t the opposite of faith, it’s a sign of real, authentic faith!

Look. We know that people aren’t always at their best – including Christians. We know all too well sometimes the Church persecutes members of the Church! We deny the Gospel whenever we judge others or force them to believe just as we do. We pound nails into the living Body of Christ whenever we oppress our brothers and sisters who are different than us. We forsake the very faith that we think we’re following when we use ‘love’ to reject love!

Instead, like those first disciples, we need to come out of hiding and see the risen Christ! We need to see resurrection!

Let me tell you where I’ve seen the risen Christ.

There are people whose lives really have been changed! They’ve been transformed! I know them! They once were judging, exclusivisitic bigots but who now fully embrace and celebrate their gay son and their Muslim co-worker!

They once were self-hating souls who self-sabotaged anything good that came their way – but have shed their victim mindset and now are thriving in life and happy-enough campers who actually like their lives!

And I’ve seen the risen Christ show up in relationships that I thought had completely gone nuclear, that were 100% dead, where there was total estrangement – and then… somehow olive branches of peace are extended, reconciliation happens. What once was lost becomes found. New life is blown into things and relations are renewed once again.

Seeing is believing, and believing is turning to follow the risen Christ – not “believe the right things about him” – but follow him.

The resurrection exposes bogus powers and restores us to right community and to who we really are.  I’m not “Roger: a slave to the system!” I’m Roger – free in Christ! Liberated to advocate for justice and to serve God’s people and meet their needs – and nothing’s gonna stop me! And the same is true for you!

Every time we act upon Jesus’ truth, every time we follow His teachings and follow His ways, we’re demonstrating this victory. Every time we refuse to be controlled by a political or economic system; every time we deny the absolute authority of the state or religion;

every time we claim Christ’s freedom over our fear; tear down the walls of race, class, sex, gender, and sexual orientation; love our enemies; stand with the poor; forgive those who’ve wronged us, and resist the violence of the nations by acting for peace, we’re demonstrating the power of resurrection!

I wrote a poem about resurrection. It’s called “Kissed”

I am outraged. I am mad as hell.
I’m filled with wrath and ire.

But beyond the rage, the wrath, the ire, is a profound sense of hurt – a sadness, a sorrow, an unjust wounding like a part of my own body – our body – the world’s body – is frostbit, scalded, cancer ridden, gangrened, lethally injected, crucified, lynched! …and no longer responding to my attempts to kiss it better.

Yet I will continue to kiss,
with all I’ve got.
My kiss has power. My kiss has life.
And I will kiss until the corpse is cold
and keep kissing, Holy kissing, until I either breathe no more, or your kisses join mine, or until we breathe no more, and our stiff stillness receives the kisses of others 
…until we resuscitate Creation, until we revive right living,
until we resurrect God.

Friends, the Kingdom of God – the Beloved Community – is present wherever it is claimed and acted upon. Let’s claim it. Let’s act on it! Let’s resurrect it! Let’s live it! Let’s be the poetic truth of resurrection!

Jesus lives! Jesus lives! Long live Jesus!

Let’s say it together:Jesus Lives! Jesus Lives! Long Live Jesus!

[The message I shared as part of the Mosaic Gospel Choir Spring Concert Sun. May 5, 2019 at Mountain View UMC in Boulder, CO, effectively my final sermon for that campus ministry]       Video of Concert Part 1; Part 2 (with sermon)

XX – Roger

Rev. Roger Wolsey is a certified Spiritual Director, United Methodist pastor, and author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

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