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As some of you know, I am more about Jesus’ life than his death. And the whole resurrection thing? Well, I believe in that only in the sense that Jesus’ followers experienced something that made them begin to apply Jesus lessons, and that was inspiration that attracted others and grew, even beyond his crucifixion.
So, as I went through Lent and Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday that goes from cheers to horror, and with the focus increasing on Jesus as sacrifice and Savior, I was increasingly uncomfortable. The debate over Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” fell during this season, with its focus on self-proclaimed Christians of various social beliefs arguing both for and against the law. I argued against it – called supporters “bigoted”, in fact – but it made me consider even more what I believe at this Easter season.
This Easter weekend, social media and church services blossomed with celebration that “Christ is Risen!” After I celebrated in church with my own alleluias, singing and stamping about Jesus “trampling death”, I realized I can clarify my position. Jesus is among us, with a caveat.

The Troparion - Jesus Lives

Christ is risen as long as we are doing our best to live out the love he showed and the lessons he shared. Love one another. Feed the hungry. Comfort the sick. Those lessons. WE are the body of Christ in the world when we are working to bring about justice for the poor, helpless, and downtrodden, when we are fighting bigotry, injustice and environmental waste and abuse. When we are stamping out homelessness, hunger and suffering. When we do these things, we are following in Jesus’ footsteps, working to bring about a social order based on love, not power. That’s when he’s truly risen.
I realize that my beliefs (and lack of) are contrary to the official doctrine of many Christian denominations, including my own Episcopal church. Luckily, my church community loves me anyway, and supports me in continuing to seek my own path to work for social justice.
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October light

October light

It’s said that All Hallows’ / Samhain is a “thin time,” when the separation between the corporeal and spirit worlds is very thin. Celebrated and commemorated through All Saints and Dia de los Muertos rituals, the spirits of those we love but who are no longer living with us are central during this period.

It was very much a liminal few days for me, with thoughts and feelings of loved ones very much present. Halloween, always an excuse for a party in San Francisco, was topped with a parade for the San Francisco Giants World Series victory. It all meant that my city was in a celebratory mood. On November 1st, a neighbor asked me “how was your Halloween?” “Good.” I said, with a smile. His young son was eating candy for breakfast. Actually, I stood on a thin edge.

My emotions were so near the surface that it made being in public a challenge. I cried easily and often, for grief and happiness: grief for my loss and failures, and happiness for the good memories. I included my dad and my dog among those dead to be included in prayers at church. I went from thinking of loved ones to seeing the joy of a family with their 6-day-old child and twin toddlers, and cried for both. I hope people at church just figured I had a cold, based on how often my handkerchief was out.

I felt the blessing of sunshine and the fall breeze on my skin, and missed my dog Phoebe. Phoebe and I would have been together outdoors on a hike or in the garden on such a day. She would have set a quick pace up and down hills a few years ago, but went far more slowly the past few years. Out for a walk at a brisk pace, traveling past our old haunts, I miss her. She’s been gone just 4 months now. At least outdoors, it was sunny enough to wear my Oakley sunglasses, which hid my misty eyes from people on the street.

And then there’s the headache that tends to follow after all that emotion. To give myself a break, I immerse myself in a really good book. Here’s a quote from one by Diana Gabaldon, whose writing made me think of this as a “thin time.”

“This is the thin time, when the beloved dead draw near. The world turns inward, and the chilling air grows thick with dreams and mystery.”
Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone

A friend wrote an eloquent blog post the other day about his faith. (He’s a writer and generally eloquent. I won’t attempt to compete.) Here’s a link to his post: http://www.punkmonksf.com/blog/?p=367.
As someone who also does “the whole God thing,” this made me think, and inspired me to reflect and write about what I believe and why. I agree with what Karekin says, by the way. One of the things I believe very strongly is that no faith tradition is any more “right” than any other, assuming it is helping you to live a good life in a way that makes one a whole human and sustains self and community. I also agree that that doesn’t require a faith tradition.
My faith community helps me, and sometimes the trappings of the Christian calendar and Episcopal church help me, too. It is also helpful for me to talk to God and feel as though God is listening and helping me find answers I need.
This may or may not turn into future posts here, but I encourage you to read Karekin’s post and consider his position, and your own.
If you want another resource on this general topic, I recommend Fenton Johnson’s book, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/9780618492374-id-9780618492374.aspx.

Peace