Thursday, July 24, 2014

a villanelle for these days

The fire kindles, starts to burn-
the wood is wet and smoky sputters
the things that I have yet to learn

My heart is broken but still it yearns
my tongue is clay and barely stutters-
the fire kindles, starts to burn

Every table overturned
turning towers into clutter
the things that I have yet to learn

Nobody's pain is lost or spurned
the broken dove begins to flutter
the fire kindles, starts to burn

A wild fire, grace unearned
the silent breathe and start to mutter
the things that I have yet to learn

I cannot teach or even warn
sourest milk to sweetest butter
the fire kindles, starts to burn
the things that I have yet to learn

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Man Carrying Water

A friend of mine asked me to submit an article for a devotional booklet he's putting together for our region.  He had heard me talk about a sermon of mine, and thought it might be worth adapting/writing up.  Here it is.
---



I think of him every Holy Week.  The guy they follow.  Jesus and his apostles are heading into Jerusalem to share in their Maundy Thursday meal, and Jesus gives them directions: “Follow the man carrying water.” For years, I read this as a mundane act of prophecy or as a folkloric twist in the tale.  Perhaps Jesus could’ve just as easily said “follow the man in the red hat,” or “follow the woman carrying grapes.”  But then I learned that for a man to carry water, in the culture of Jesus’ first apostles, was a radically gender-transgressive act: men simply did not carry water.  It was women’s work, and rigidly assigned to women in that culture.  For Jesus to say “follow the man carrying water” in those days would be like Jesus saying, “follow the man in the dress” in my context. 

So, what do we make of this?  For one, I think it’s a reminder that then as now, people on the edges tend to look out for one another.  Look at Jesus band of outcasts, rebels, and weirdos- where could they be safe to eat together, to share wine together, to tell stories and hear loving words and wash feet?  Where could they be safe enough to do all of this given that the powers of the Roman Empire were even then gathering to arrest and execute Jesus?  Well, maybe they could be safe wherever the man carrying water could be safe.  Then as now, people who are outcast for sexuality or gender identity are at least more likely to shelter, to spend time with, to be welcoming towards those who are outcast for other reasons, political radicals not the least among them.  The Stonewall Riots, which many point to as the beginning of the contemporary LGBTQ rights movement were started not by affluent white gay men, but by homeless youth, by drag queens of color, and by other contemporary mirrors of the man carrying water.  Jesus sends his friends looking for the man carrying water, because wherever he goes, even they will be safe; wherever he goes, even they will be welcome.

So, this is a nice little textual moment, but what does it mean for us?  As the current board chair for the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, I’m tempted to read this as just another scriptural reminder of God’s call to a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, another place where God’s word bears room and honor for those who would find new ways to be gendered in the world.  But I think it’s more than that, and I think it hits closer to home than that. 

In Jesus command to his first followers is (as usual) an invitation for us. “Follow the man carrying water.”  What does it mean to follow the man carrying water in our towns and churches?  Perhaps it means looking for whoever is left out, whoever is living on the margins of the community, whoever is not quite fitting in, whoever is outside the bounds of “normal folks”- and going to them.  Wherever they go, the church should show up.  Wherever they wander, we are called to come alongside them, to learn from them, to see what maybe only they can thus far see.

But (again as usual) the call is not only to social commitments in our churches and communities.  I think the invitation is also to our hearts.  Because the man carrying water is not just outside of me, is not just the stranger at my gate.  Somewhere in my heart, there is a part of me that is weird.  There’s a part of me that’s “outside the bounds”, there’s a part of me that I don’t want to acknowledge, or even look at, let alone listen to.  I don’t know about you, but I reckon you maybe have that part of your heart to, especially if you sit for a moment or three and listen for it. 

“Follow the man carrying water,” Jesus tells his friends.  “Learn from whoever is strangest among you,” Jesus tells my community.  “Listen to the part of yourself that you are so desperately trying to ignore,” Jesus tells my heart. 

And in the mist of it, wherever we follow that man carrying water- the Risen Lord has already walked ahead of us.  He is waiting to meet us there, at the welcome table. 

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Rev. David Weasley is an American Baptist pastor.  He currently serves an ELCA congregation in Tinley Park as their Director of Youth and Outreach.  He also serves on the Board of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (www.awab.org.)  He lives with his partner Rachael and a dozen other housemates in a co-op in Hyde Park.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

look, it takes some of us a while to type up our ash wednesday poems

there at the gym, we have ashes on our foreheads.
not all of us. or most of us. but some of us.
and some of us have just a grey smudge on our foreheads,
forgotten, maybe, and certainly faint enough that i have to look twice,
secretly, to see who's wearing ashes.

how could there be so many?
maybe a dozen in my fluorescent suburban gym.
people wearing ashes, people claimed by God.
People who were willing to stare down their mortality
by 4pm in the afternoon on a wednesday,
when snow is falling yet again,
and we all still have too much work to do.
but we all took a moment: on purpose or by accident,
or out of mis-guided obligation-
to remember that in death and life, we are beloved of God.

The Risen Lord has claimed our lives, and our bodies, and our foreheads:
smudged or scarred or clean or ugly.
My God, the Crucified, loves every forehead
at the florescent suburban gym.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

a little prayer for tonight

she is making
shame into popsicles

she is tearing up fear
and making it into blankets

she is taking your
pain and forging it
into an iron cup
for the carrying of
cool water for
the thirsty

blessed be god forever.

Fourth Corners: A Villanelle from the Middle School Confirmation Retreat about the Sacraments

the bread, the font, the moon, the tree
fully hidden, fully known.
the son of love has come to free.

death dismayed and terror flees
breaking chains and mending bones-
the bread, the font, the moon, the tree

queer enough for you and me,
wild folly drunken thrown-
the son of love has come to free.

she's been over-stepping me
arms of grace a whirlwind blown
the bread, the font, the moon, the tree

wild again and wild indeed:
creation wails a birthing groan
the son of love has come to free

to drink, to dance, perchance to be
the green bends back and comes around:
the bread, the font, the moon, the tree
the son of love has come to free.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Get your ass in a clergy group

So, I've got my clergy group meeting tomorrow morning, and as usual, I feel great about it. It almost makes me break out in poetry, and I reserve the right to do so by the end of this post. But here's the deal: there's a crew of progressive-ish white guy clergy in my denomination in this region, and once a month we hang out together for a few hours. Maybe we should have more of an agenda, maybe we should have clear guidelines about what's going to happen and who's going to do what, but we don't. What we do have (and what makes up for what we don't have) is an abundance of love for each other. And it's pretty awesome. Basically it's me, a guy who's maybe ten years older than me, and so on, with a colleague representing every decade or so on through retirement. It's a collective wisdom, a collective grumpiness, and a collective faith of a hundred years of ministry around the table. They love some of the same things I do, they hate some of the same things I do, and they have my back in a really profound way.

So, this post is a post about gratitude, I guess, but it's also an encouragement. It doesn't really matter who they are, I think. Don't choose somebody who's supposed to be supervising you. Don't pick somebody you don't trust. Don't somebody who can't listen to you well. But other than that, I suggest you find some crew of colleagues, some random smattering of ministry-types, and get them in a room once a month. Have some silence, maybe, have some prayer, maybe, but listen to each other. And go out to lunch afterwards, I think. I was going to preface this by saying that this is advice for my fellow young-ish and/or new-ish clergy types, but I think that I actually believe this is true for everybody. Get some people who love you unabashedly, and go and talk to them about your job and vocation once a month, or at least listen to what they're saying about their jobs and vocations. I think it'll serve you well.

So, a story, to tell you what it's like: this year, we agreed to go on a retreat together. I was late coming to the retreat, like, really late, because of a pastoral crisis that came up in my church. It was a long day of ministry, and I was getting to the camp where we were staying long after dark. The others in the clergy group had been there for a few hours, and knew I was on my way. I texted them a couple of times with my progress. They were worried that I would have trouble finding the retreat house once I got to the camp, so a couple of them drove out to the main gate, and led me to the house. It was a dark and beautiful night, and I didn't know where I was going. But they had already been there, and they were driving on ahead of me. They weren't driving ahead of me, they weren't telling me what to do, but I got to watch them, and witness the headlights of the battered old minivan through the trees. They kept me from driving into the lake, at the least.

And that's what it's always like.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Villanelle for All Saints' Day

Villanelle for All Saints' Day

we drink the wine and eat the bread
gathered like a tired cloud
and we remember all the dead

with broken hearts and stumbling tread
grief bleeds slow, or roars out loud
we drink the wine and eat the bread

martyrs white and green and red
broken, bending, wrapped in shroud
we remember all the dead

because the Lord has never fled-
the one who makes the wounded proud-
we drink the wine and eat the bread

the world remembers some instead
forgetting quiet, keeping loud.
we remember all the dead

they are not gone but sleep instead
God's troubling promise rings aloud
we drink the wine and eat the bread
we remember all the dead