Monday, August 12, 2013

For Those Who Remain

One year ago today a beautiful, intelligent, confident, funny and sassy young woman by the name of Kristen was gunned down and killed at the age of 22.  She had just graduated from college and returned to Boston.  She was the daughter of my former pastor and we sang many, many songs and endured many, many long rehearsals together in the choir.

I don't have many words to say.  I will not try to defend God.  I will not quote any scriptures; this is not the time for Bible study.  I will not try to be encouraging.  There's no point with grief like this and all of the encouraging things people say just ring hollow anyway.  I will not try to make sense of any of this.  It's simply not possible.

All I can say is that life is a slippery and precious gift that can slip right out of our hands at any moment.  Whether death comes slowly and gently, reaching us in old age like an old friend who's come to take us home or whether death comes swiftly, mercilessly and unexpectedly, none of us are immune.  We all live our entire lives in vulnerability, never knowing when the next breath we take will be our last.

For those of us who remain for the time being, what are we doing with our lives?  How are we using the small number of days allotted to us on this side?  Are there things we want to change?  Are there people we want to forgive?  Are there dreams we want to pursue?  Now is the time.  Don't waste another moment.  We don't know how many we have left.

Kristen's death shook me to the core and forced me to take a good hard look at my life and make some changes.  For all of us who are still mourning her death, for everyone mourning the sudden loss of a loved one,  may all of the grief, pain and sadness be transformed into catalysts for us living the best life that we can, while we can by the grace of God.

Following the Way,

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Royal Birth!

Amidst the huge outbursts of emotions all along the spectrum after George Zimmerman's acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, many have longed for a distraction and have found it in the birth of the son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the royal birth!  Such pomp and circumstance!  There were gun salutes, a royal crier and minute by minute news coverage for all the adoring fans.  Yes, the human tendency to disengage with reality and escape into fantasy stood unhindered this week.

Can you guess that I wasn't one of the adoring fans waiting with bated breath for the royal birth?  Sorry! I was just too busy mourning the gutting of The Voting Rights Act and a victory for Florida's fundamentally flawed and biased "Stand Your Ground" law which will only cause more unnecessary violence and gun proliferation and outrage.  "Oh come let us adore him!"  That's basically what the media was saying about William and Kate's baby boy, but there is another royal birth of far greater significance that I am waiting for and that is the birth of Christ in our hearts.

A dear friend of mine has a habit of saying "Merry Christmas!" on any given day.  It seems a bit strange, but the truth is that Jesus is born in our hearts every day whenever we allow him to be, whenever we make room for him.  Whenever we turn from violence and seek peace.  Whenever we seek reconciliation instead of revenge.  Wherever there is love.  Wherever there is compassion.  Wherever there is gentleness, kindness and mercy, Jesus is born in our hearts and is free to live out his resurrected life in us.  Now this is a royal birth to get excited about!  This is the royal birth the world is desperately in need of.  And when it happens it will not be televised.  There will be no fanfare, or gun salutes or royal criers with feathered hats, only a still small voice letting us know we're headed in the right direction.

So may all of the love, all of the compassion, all of the mercy, may all of the sheer goodness, humility and kindness of Jesus be born in our hearts on this day and everyday.  May we all learn to love one another as dearly and tenderly as Jesus loves us so that we may create a world free of hate, bitterness, poverty and war, a world full of the abundant life Jesus comes to bring us whenever we let him in.

Following the Way,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trayvon Martin and Metanoia

I am beyond words right now thinking about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.  I am disgusted, enraged, heartbroken and afraid.  I've always wanted children, but as a black man things like this make me pause and think.  Do I want to bring children into a world like this?  A world where I cannot keep them safe?  A world that will look at their black skin and automatically brand them as menaces?  A world where a 17-year-old honor roll, college bound student walking down the street with a bag of skittles and some ice tea is gunned down and the shooter goes free?

Justice in this life is imperfect, but it's where we start.  Convicting George Zimmerman would have done nothing to bring Trayvon back, but it would have sent out a message to any armed-wanna be-cop out there.  And it could have in some small way started the process of "metanoia" or a conversion of the heart for George Zimmerman and our society.  This is what George Zimmerman needs and this is what our racist, patriarchal, capitalist society needs, a change of heart.  Yet as of today George Zimmerman has never apologized for killing Trayvon Martin.  Why should he?  The courts agree with him in his assertion that he has done nothing wrong.  And this is the most tragic part of the verdict: it gives the George Zimmermans of the world no reason to change and it gives those who agree with him no reason to change either.

The soul of our nation is sick with racism, selfishness, greed, apathy and so many other things.  Without metanoia, without a change of heart, tragedies like this will just keep happening.  And our justice system is not removed from that process of metanoia.  The Civil Rights Acts did not change the hearts and minds of Americans over night, but it did change many hearts and many minds over time.  It began the process of metanoia for people all across the country regarding racism.  George Zimmerman's conviction could have in some small way begun a similar process for a nation still struggling to recognize people of color as full human beings.

We are not to wait for God's justice when we get to heaven, we won't need it then.  God's justice starts right here and right now with our frail, limited justice.  This is where we start.  It starts with you and me holding people accountable for the evil they do so that metanoia can become a possibility for the individual and the larger society.

Trayvon, I don't care what anybody says, you did not deserve what happened to you!  May your senseless death help reveal to all of us all the evil lurking in our hearts and lead us to metanoia, lead us to a complete change of heart so that we can create a world where what happened to you will never happen to anyone else ever again. 

Following the Way,

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bearing Witness

Bearing witness…it doesn’t seem like much and indeed it is not enough, but it’s where we begin.  It’s where the journey of bringing God’s dream of justice to the world begins.  When tragedy strikes we should resist the urge to turn our heads and look the other way, instead we should stay and bear witness to the pain, to the loss, to the suffering.  For it is only after we bear witness to such things that we are motivated to act. 

On Saturday, May 12, the brothers at SSJE hosted a vigil to remember LGBTQ youth who committed suicide and Bishop Tom Shaw gave a thoughtful sermon.  The ceremony was so beautiful and so sad.  As I knelt down to light a few candles and saw the pictures of youth who had taken their lives scattered on the floor I was shaken.  Such loss, such unnecessary loss!  Our support had arrived too late, bearing witness was the least we could do. 

And so now I invite you to join us in bearing witness to the immeasurable value of the lives lost and the fact that their deaths were totally preventable.  The God of love and compassion who sees all is inviting all of us to participate in the divine work of bearing witness to injustice wherever it appears and taking action.  Will you accept the invitation?  Will you bear witness? 

Let us not look away when our young people take their own lives.  Let us not look away when over 1000 sweat shop workers in Bangladesh die in a building collapse so we can continue to buy our trendy clothes at discounted rates.  Let us not look away when the lives of the poor all over the world are trampled upon so that the wealthiest among us can become even wealthier.  Let us bear witness to every tear, every act of violence, every life needlessly lost, every cry of injustice. And for the sake of God’s love and for the world, let us act.

Following the Way,
Kevin Vetiac

Friday, February 22, 2013

Not Enough Tears

I woke up this morning and couldn't stop crying.  Every time I thought I was done I would start back up again.  I couldn't stop the tears from pouring down my face, but it's not what you think.  I am not sad.  I am not depressed.  I am overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God and the gratitude I feel deep inside reverberating through my soul, rolling like thunder in my spirit.

I recently received the news that I have been awarded a merit scholarship that covers 100% of my tuition for seminary.  It is EXACTLY what I asked God to provide and indeed God has provided.  God is faithful .  I've been fighting the call to full time ministry for a long time and resisted the call to seminary.  How can I afford to go full time when I need to pay my rent?  How can I afford tuition?  How will I be ordained afterwards?  Despite the questions the call remained so I said, "Ok God, if you want me to go to divinity school I'll go, but I don't have the money for it and I'm not taking out any more loans so you have to pay for it."  I have received God's response to this request and my soul is flooded with gratitude.

God has been so faithul and has made his presence known to me since I was a young child.  When I look back over my life and think about all God has done for me, all I can say is thank you.  Thank you for blessing me.  Thank you for keeping me.  Thank you for opening doors for me.  Thank you for making a way out of no way.  Thank you for holding me in pain, in sorrow, in loss, in loneliness, in disappointment and bringing me out.  Thank you for being faithful even when I am not.

There are not enough tears to shed, not enough words to say, not enough songs to sing to adequately express my gratitude so let my life be one big thank you to you O God.  Let every moment of my life be drenched with gratitude for your goodness.  Every time my heart beats let it say thank you.  Every time my lungs take in air let them say thank you.  And when it's time to put away this life like an old used up rag, grant me this honor and allow the last words on my lips to be: thank you.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Following the Way,