Wednesday, November 25, 2009
follow now the Spirit's lead...
Much has happened in the 3 months since the ELCA Churchwide Assembly's decision officially to open the vocation of ordained ministry to openly partnered gay and lesbian individuals.
The latest news in the direction of implementing the Churchwide decisions was that the ELCA has waived the customary five-year waiting period for those who were removed as pastors because of the former policies excluding openly partnered gay and lesbians to apply for re-entry to the official ranks of the ELCA ordained.
In response, several congregations are removing themselves from the ELCA to form their own organization of Lutheran churches. They feel, however, that the ELCA has left them by abandoning traditional interpretation of Scripture, doctrine, and church tradition, and not the other way around. Either way, a time of parting beckons, and it is something to be recognized and, in my opinion, mourned.
My prayer for those who wish to split from the ELCA to form their own denomination, or who wish to redirect their funding away from a national church that does a lot of good in this country and worldwide, is that they go with God, not to defame the gay and lesbian faithful, but to live more fully into their understanding of God's direction for them. My heart for them is one of love and benediction, even though I do not agree wholeheartedly with their stances and methods of interpretation.
To that end, I composed this hymn last week, after learning of their deisre to form their own, "freestanding" synod. I have shared it with their leadership along with my prayers for their following of the Spirit's lead.
My hope is that this hymn speaks to you in some way as well.
Sister Church, Forever Changing
Text: Chris Wogaman
Tune: GALILEE, KAS DZIEDAJA
Sister church, forever changing,
follow now the Spirit's lead.
Always living, never ceasing,
open wide to God's own need.
When a time of parting becokons,
follow that which calls you out.
Christ's the body, we're the members,
calling to a world of doubt.
In a world of many dangers,
many terrors, many fears,
our ideas sometimes comfort,
sometimes cause a thousand tears.
God's commandments give us guidance,
Jesus' teachings light the way,
Spirit's leading levels temples
we construct to halt God's sway.
By God's grace we'll live together,
in the fields that Christ has sown,
through his body, blood, and toil,
heaven not for us alone.
Glory be to God our Father,
Praise be unto Christ the son,
Equal blessing to the Spirit,
show us, Lord, your race to run. Amen.
©2009 Chris Wogaman
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I had the good fortune to be present for 4 of the 7 days of the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, and am still in the process of preparing some thoughts related to those experiences.
In the meantime, I want to share the sermon I preached at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Sanata Monica, CA, on the Sunday after Churchwide. My friend, Pr. James Boline, is the pastor of that church, and was greatly kind in accommodating my request to preach there after Churchwide. The inspiration to do so came about two months earlier, and it worked out well for both of us, I think.
Sermon on Ephesians 6: 10-20
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Santa Monica, CA
August 23, 2009
Let us pray: God of might and strength, mercy and grace, guard us from all that assails us, turns us against each other, and turns us from you. In the assaults of the devil on our souls, protect us. In the moments we doubt your wisdom, protect us with faith. When we are tempted to shout others down, hold our tongues. And when we need to speak, proclaim your mysterious, life-changing Gospel, through our living mouths. Through the One who has given us his body and blood as eternal food, Jesus your son, we pray. Amen.
There’s an old ballad from the American south that has been on my mind lately, as a possible rift in our national church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America around matters of sexual orientation has grown in possibility. The words of its last line convey the central message: “My home’s across the Blue Ridge mountains, my home’s across the Blue Ridge mountains, my home’s across the Blue Ridge mountains, and I never expect to see you anymore.”
And I never expect to see you anymore. How can I keep from crying? the song continues. It bites a deep part of me, this prospect of eternal separation, whether it be from people I will miss terribly, or even from those I don’t particularly care to see again. Many cried those on Friday, in such anticipation of separation, for what they felt was thousands of years of tradition overturned, and in joy for justice so long denied, and finally achieved. My home is across that great wide gulf; if you want to come to see me, you’ll have to go a long way to get there, and I’m hoping you will.
My home’s across the Blue Ridge mountains, and I never expect to see you anymore—across chasms that may be mountainous or psychological, political or theological. But, I have more than a tinge of sadness at the prospect of having to part, until that day when the circle will be completed in heaven, and even the unforgivable will be forgiven, through the body and blood of Jesus.
Devilish, overwhelming forces inside of me, and I think inside of each of us, sometimes strike out to bring on that separation, to widen that gulf, through saying callous and outrageous words at precisely the right time to hurt those with whom I am disagreeing, and bring on a parting. Whatever it is inside of me that would bring on that parting, something even stronger longs for conditions to change, to bring folks back together into one community, that respects consciences bound to disagree.
But we seem to be entering a time as a wider Christian body, and as a society as well, when staying together, in true relationship, is getting harder and harder to do. The fear built up around sexuality is that the traditions will be forgotten, Scripture ignored or thrown out the window entirely, and that the Body of Christ will start looking like it was donated to science for dissection. This fear is immense for some. “And I never expect you anymore” might just sound like the greatest self-fulfilling prophecy of all time in the Church of Christ.
Well, as we say back in Minnesota, ya knoaw, maybe ya have ta change yoar expectations, then. And on Friday, the ELCA not only changed its expectations, but its Vision and Expectations as well.
The Minneapolis Convention Center would seem the last place for a battle of cosmic proportions to take place, but some say that is just what happened this last week as more than 1,000 voting members from throughout the Church assembled to debate the business of the Church, primarily the social statement on sexuality and a set of resolutions that would eliminate the gay celibacy clause found in this Church’s document entitled “Vision and Expectations,” in which this now infamous phrase occurs: “Ordained ministers,” it says, “who are homosexual in their self understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.”
Well, then came Wednesday. If not thousands of people were there to see it, and media to record it, nobody would believe that just before the ELCA Churchwide assembly debated whether to adopt the Sexuality Social Statement, now about 8 years in the making, a tornado struck the very building in which the assembly was meeting, as well as the church across the street in which Goodsoil [the gay and lesbian advocacy organization that works with the Lutheran Church] would have an absolutely amazing worship service that night, where preacher Barbara Lundblad would call us to have faith, even when it seemed we were sinking in the middle of a storm.
This tornado, though a level Zero, came out of the sky like one of the Devil’s own flaming darts, as in our reading from Ephesians, and looked as though it might halt the proceedings at this crucial juncture. Not only did the proceedings continue, but the Sexuality Social Statement passed, with dead on exactly two-thirds of the vote. Many probably not only expected the roof to get ripped off of the building, but also one third of the assembly to get up and walk out.
Neither happened, yet this vote for the Social Statement preceded the truly feared vote on whether or not to allow “noncelibate” gay and lesbian pastors to serve openly and officially in the ELCA. I think everyone was expecting an even greater cataclysm to happen then.
Many expressed grave concern as to what would happen if this vote passed, particularly with respect to our worldwide Lutheran relationships and ecumenical partners. A man named Matthew from Africa, who lives in Michigan, said that if the assembly voted yes, then he and his African brother and sisters would have to leave the church. It doesn’t seem like we can expect to see each other around much longer, but can we change our expectations, perhaps a bit, and find a new relationship through reaching out in prayer and concern to those who would leave?
I don’t want Matthew to leave, nor many others who would not want me or your Pr. Jim to serve as an openly gay pastor in the ELCA. I would personally be diminished by his and his African brothers' and sisters' leaving, and the Church would be diminished as well. I want us to be able to agree to disagree, to respect the place where bound conscience honestly meets a deep sense of calling, and both can co-exist as a testament to the Christ that calls us into community with those we would not choose, but who have been chosen for us by the one who makes us One in him.
A common link between today’s reading from Ephesians 6, and the literally cataclysmic events of the past week, is this fear of separation: separation from our traditions, from God, from each other, and from the promises given us in baptism.
This reading raises the prospect of separation to a whole, new, frightening level: that of a fearful separation from God through the overwhelming assault of evil forces. “Be on your guard,” I hear the text saying, “for you have a chasm opening up between you and God that could swallow you up forever.” Only God can bridge that chasm, can swallow up the assaults of the Enemy, can fit us for this battle to come. But what really is this battle? And whence cometh this fear? Seriously, why are people so afraid? Do people not believe that God reaches out after us time and time again? That the Holy Spirit can breathe new life into old skin, and that even the dead can be raised?
Yet there is somewhere a deep fear that our Church is opening the gates to an evil assault that threatens to destroy us individually along with the whole world, that, forget about the Devil, we are tempting God to strike us down. And that’s a whole lot of fear. Let’s take a step back for a minute.
Personally speaking, I was not born and raised a Lutheran; I became one by chance, and stayed one by choice. And the reason I chose to stay Lutheran, is because this way of understanding Christianity and human nature, more than any other I know (beyond some of the hymns I sang in childhood), acknowledges the struggles of life, and the struggle against those elements of ourselves and our society that threaten to bring us down or tear us apart, individually or corporately. The Lutheran way of understanding my own dual nature, sinner and saint, is real to me, if not especially comfortable and altogether cheery.
Lutherans are Lutherans, in part, because we are honest about the existence of evil in our own flesh, blood, & souls. Evil has breached and reached the very core of our individual and communal being in this life. Even so, this statement is hard, like the statement of Jesus to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and will turn some people off from hearing the Gospel that must be preached: that even the evil that invades our world and our own bodies cannot separate us from the love of God.
This love is where the mystery of the Gospel to which Ephesians alludes comes into play.
This love is where the evil that drives our souls from peace into war, magnified on city streets, battlefields, and even sometimes in our own homes, meets the unmistakable, unmovable “no” of God, which sucks out the ultimate power of evil to grind us down.
This love is where Jesus’s body becomes really present in bread, and his blood becomes really present in wine.
This love is where the dead are raised, and the hydras of death and disease that keep popping up over and over again are finally laid to rest.
This love is where the broken circle is mended, and the false peace is brought down with the sword of honesty.
And, as our author of Ephesians said, this Gospel love, over all of the cacophony of voices that shout out “BE AFRAID!”, this love must be spoken to the ends of the Earth.
I attended the Assembly this last week as a visitor, without voice in the Assembly, or influence to affect its conversation. If there were one message that I was convinced needed to be spoken to that assemblage, and to this assemblage, and to every assemblage of two or more persons who meet in Jesus’ name, a message which Bishop Mark Hanson spoke well after the vote on approving gay clergy was passed, it is this: the Devil will assault you with flaming arrows, dreadful days, heartache and heartbreak, humiliation, with disease, dissent, disunion, and finally, death.
But through this all, beyond disagreements and resentments that might be petty or profound, beyond rupturing relationships, schismatic churches, and a huge burden of fear that only seems to mount by the day, God gives us a few sure promises:
that we will not be left alone, for God does give us community;
that God will not destroy us, for God has sent the rainbow in the clouds as a sign of that promise never to destroy us again as in the overwhelming flood;
and that we will be safe, no matter what, for we have Christ as our ultimate resting place, our shield and strength in this life, and in the life to come.
We are given each other to love in Christ’s name, with a love that looks back to the God who sent us to be here in this world. This name is not some rabbit’s foot, that will make disagreement go away if we say it nicely or even repeatedly.
But I really do believe, that, like a mother who wants to see her quarreling children get together and continue to love each other after she is gone and not able to bring them back together, God cares that we live and abide in the love that has overflowed God’s own self into creation, with the words: “And I expect to see you once again, when I bring you at last under the shadow of my wing.”
When you feel the flaming arrows coming your way, may the power of Christ be your power to withstand. When the fears that seem to dominate so many conversations scatter your thoughts and cause you grief, may the center which is Christ be your center. And may the powerful love of God, which you can expect to see again and again, be a gift to you and through you, to calm a frightened, weary world.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
My life has been deeply affected and shaped by many, many people, but most deeply by several Black women. Most are living, but some are gone from this vale of tears. And all I can sense are standing up and cheering this day for our new President, who will lead in a new era in race relations, and help to define a love that we can share as human beings of all races that takes into account the past, and shapes a future of the Beloved Community that past generations, and even our own today, could only have hoped for.
One passed 7 weeks ago, on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008. Another in 2007, on the 24th of September. Both I wish could have lived to see this day, and are, I believe, watching from the place of their eternal reward.
One was one of the dearest people in my life, whom I never visited or telephoned enough, but who was always full of love for me and most everyone in her life. Another I did not know personally, and only met once in my life, but has given my soul a dimension of deep and loving experience as well.
One was famous and known throughout the world, traveling all over and affecting thousands and perhaps millions of lives. Another was known well to her friends and family, to her neighbors, to all whom her outgoing and dear personality endeared he; she was born, lived, and died in Harlem.
Both were women whose strength and souls were shaped by Jesus.
Both were women whose love was evident from most every word that I ever heard from them.
Both were women whose wisdom came through experiences I could never know or understand. But, in their own ways, each welcomed me into their lives in a way that I cannot repay but with gratitude and story.
One was Odetta Felious Holmes Gordon. One was Loretta Hernton. Odetta and Loretta.
Loretta Hernton was born in Harlem Hospital on March 2, 1936. She grew up in Harlem, and was a memeber of Walker Memorial Baptist Church in the Bronx, which she joined in 1947. She worked and lived in Harlem her whole life. And she died at the Jewish Home and Hospital, only 30 blocks from where she was born, on September 24, 2007, at the age of 71.
I met her when I was filling in as protestant worship service leader at the Fort Tryon Nursing Home for a period of months before entering seminary in 2002. After one service, she had asked me if I might share with her one of the hymns we had sung during the service. When I came by her room at the Home to bring the hymn, she was in the process of being discharged. Brother Evans and Brother Russell had come by from the Prayer Team of Walker Memorial Baptist Church in the Bronx, where Loretta had become a member in 1947. But had I come by an hour later, I would have missed her altogether, and my life would have been much poorer.
Loretta loved. That is the only way I can say it. Every time I visited her, she would ask after my mother, my father, my sister, and my grandma. She would tell me whom she had been in touch with of our mutual acquaintance, from her roommate at Ft. Tryon, to Brothers Evans and Russell, to her sweetheart whom she’d met at Ft. Tryon, to aged Mr. Davis, who was, I believe, registrar at City University of New York many years ago, and a man who had followed FDR’s funeral train as a young man, after having been discharged from a recently integrated army unit.
Odetta Felious Holmes was born on what would become my own birthday, December 31st, 1930. Although I’m a fan, I don’t know her life verbatim, and would commend you to the grand wisdom of the internet to learn about her. But this is what I know about her.
I know that she sang from an amazing heart that took in everything from segregation and true oppression, nearly to the heights of this inaugural day. This was to be part of the arc of her life.
I say that Odetta’s voice had the power to wound and heal simultaneously. The wounding was not one which she was inflicting, but one which she was uncovering. It was a moment of honesty that she could bring out through the sounds that her own body made, but were sung through years of silent tears.
Thanks by to God and Andy L., I got to see, hear, and meet Odetta once in my life, last April, when she came to sing with Pete Seeger and a group of wonderful 4th graders in Beacon, NY. It is an experience I will never forget, hearing her live and in person. Most moving were the songs “Something Inside So Strong” (“I know I can make it, but you’re doing me wrong, so wrong”), sung to challenge the society of apartheid in South Africa, and “Any Way You Can Make it, Baby” (“You gotta keep on movin' it on. If you can’t run, walk! If you can’t walk, crawl! If you can’t crawl, roll! Any old way you can make it baby, you gotta keep on movin it on.”).
I’m trying to think of the way to describe those places in Odetta’s voice that only she could make, those spaces in which you could meet her and generations of those who shaped her physical structure that could bring her to us, and those who for better or worse, made her who she was.
She had mansions in her body’s temple, and mansions in her soul. She had a place where you could enter and just sit and be.
She had spaces in her voice that would wrap you in velvet, and spaces that would wrap you in a bush of prickly cotton.
She could, in a breath, bring you into a space of discomfort that she has faced in her own life, and lay on the salve that God gave her and gave to us through her.
Odetta had long, thin fingers, and her frailty was stronger than my strength. She wished me all the best, and I will carry her benediction with me my whole life long.
Odetta and especially Loretta have been present in my silent tears since Barack Hussein Obama was elected and now has assumed the high office of President of the United States. They both came so close to seeing this day. Loretta would have been smiling and shouting, so happy in her bed, sending out a loud HALLELUIA! when he finally ascended to the high office of President of the United States.
They would be so proud, and I with them, holding the hands of their spirit and the spirits of those who have given their lives, both literally and metaphorically, to see this day arrive.
The words of the Sacred Harp tradition have also been nourishing to my soul, and I wish to let them join together the past and the present times in a song of joy:
Text by Charles Wesley:
O what are all my sufferings here,
If, Lord, Thou count me meet
With that enraptured host to appear,
And worship at Thy feet!
Give joy or grief, give ease or pain,
Take life or friends away,
But let me find them all again
In that eternal day.
AND I’LL SING HALLELUJAH!
AND YOU’LL SING HALLELUJAH!
AND WE’LL ALL SING HALLELUJAH!
WHEN WE ARRIVE AT HOME!
May this land of America once again be ALL our home, and a home in the world for the homeless, placeless, nameless who burn with the passion of self-definition and other-regarding love.
May this home be from here into eternity, that for which all being has longed, a place of dignity, a place of prosperity for the hungry, and poverty for the rich.
May this home be one of grace for all, enmity toward none, and a home where even in our hardest times is one of perpetual HALLELUIA!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
"A voice was chanting,
As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me."
I am listening in tears as Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sing "This Land is Your Land." Seeger's nearly 90-year-old voice speaking out the wonderful words of Woody Guthrie's old song, and YES! This land is my land! This land is your land! Woody is present in song at Obama's inauguration. Odetta is here in great spirit. Would that her voice, that had the power to would and heal simultaneously, be cascading down upon the crowd in this very moment.
We are getting our country back, to give back to the world. That is the whole liberation that we have found in sending Dick Cheney and George Bush away. No more will that lip of Cheney curl in a strange mixture of disdain and frustration that he's not getting just what he wants when he wants it.
No more will we have to choose between cheering on George Bush against his many critics, and booing, laughing at, or generally deriding a man who seems not to have quite left the frat house on a squalid Sunday morning with a pile of stale beer-puke as his only pillow on a cold, hard floor, only to wake up in these circumstances as the most powerful man in the world.
We can both give thanks that there have been no more 9-11s, no bombs in the subways of New York, no planes crashing into the White House or Capitol building, but also regret that America has been greatly diminished in her power and grandeur, in her ability to broker peace and support nations in need, diminished in being a voice of tolerance and acceptance rather than high-handed moralism of a very certain and narrow stamp.
I find myself thoroughly ready to give Cheney the gentleman's boot out the front door and not mourning him landing on his foie-gras-padded ass bought with the blood of American servicemen and -women as well as tens of thousands of Iraqis, and yet not able to do anything but pity Bush, who, beyond his Ivy League-saturated anti-intellectualism, had some really good ideas that got lost in the shuffle of putting our Constitution to bed for a long midnight's nap.
But the dawn is now breaking above the fruited plain.
For eight long years, this land has been their land.
But now, "This Land is Your Land; This Land is My Land." There is a grandeur in these United States that is both dangerous to behold, and empowering to our own country and to the whole world.
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law."
--Katherine Lee Bates
This grand old nation could use a return to self-control and liberty through the law that was this country’s birthright, but has been flouted for seven years in the name of national security.
Self-control is both something we have lacked as a society, and also as individuals. If you can’t afford the mortgage, don’t buy the house, no matter how much you want your own home. Rent, for God’s sake. It’s not so bad. I've done it for years. If you can’t afford those SUV or car payments, buy something a little less expensive, or, God forbid, use public transportation if you can. If you can’t afford the flat-screen HDTV that is as big as the side of a barn, and costs as much as a herd of cattle, for goodness sakes don’t blow $5000 + on it—just get something within your means! Of course, there are health emergencies that could wipe out one's savings in the blink of an eye, no matter how hard one tries to save.
It’s easy to say, and not as easy to do. But with big daddy in the White House doing whatever the h-e-double hockey sticks he wanted, it seemed fitting that we should as well.
But now, America, this land is your land once again. And you’ve got some payments to make on it.
"O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life."
Many have given their lives in down payment out of love for their country. I am a mere armchair citizen, but they are those who go out when the rubber hits the road.
You know, I would like to serve in the armed forces as a chaplain, but it is not allowed under the current “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policies. I’m not one to not ask, nor not tell. This land may be my land, but it’s yet to fully embrace me.
Barack Obama may help us get to that promised land of full participation in this land that puts the realities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as bedrock rather than mountaintop experiences. But he can’t do it all by himself.
"This land was made for you and me."
And you know, dammit, the man is right. This land is not just George Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s, Rick Warren’s, Gene Robinson’s, Barack Obama’s, Caroline Kennedy’s, Bill Gates’s, not just the land of those who have large bank accounts and vast connections and high name recognition, who are inheritors of great legacies or forgers of their own legacies, damn the torpedoes.
This land is the land of a lot more people. The “you” may indeed have much more potential breadth than we’ve ever felt possible. And the “me,” notice how it is preceded by “and,” and comes second, not first, may too be much larger than just each of our individual selves.
The coming of Obama is not the coming of a savior, but the turning of a page in a long book whose last chapter has yet to be written. Hope comes in many ways.
We have taken some, perhaps well-deserved, licks. We have not lived up to the potential that this society has always kept as a problematic possibility, rather than a crystal-clear reality. We have, in the words of a rather harsh New Zealand Episcopalian liturgy, “violated your creation, abused one another, and rejected your love,” but instead of doing this towards God per se, we have done it to the rest of the world as well as ourselves.
But there is a new chance not to do that quite as much as we have. There is a new possibility to take some of the God-shed grace from one end of this beautiful country to the other, and from one end of this needful world to another.
May the fog lift from this land, and may the hungry for food, freedom, and equality, be well fed. May this land truly be yours and mine, and may we give it as a gift of great price to those yet to come who will share our dreams and ideals.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
As far away as I feel from God these days, everything engenders an internal theological debate. God is ever-present in my thoughts.
Yesterday, I brought back four DVDs to the Minneapolis public library. I knew they were overdue. It was the first time I had checked out anything from the library here, and of course there would be fines. I just didn't think the fine would be $20.00. I asked that my fines might be reduced, since it was a first offense and I genuinely had no idea they charged $1.00 per day per item fine. But no deal. Their backs were against the wall, and they were not able to dispense any library-fine grace. The law was the law, and they had to enforce it. Fine. (Sorry, no pun intended here, but I'll get one in later on.)
So, since I cannot be reliable in returning the DVDs on time, and don't want another $20.00 fine, I told the folks at the library that I would certainly pay the fine, but that I wouldn't be checking out any more DVDs. Somehow I would subvert their very reason for having their holdings, by not availing myself of them. If people followed the categorical imperative on this one, they’d go under. Woah, a little vindictive?
Where does this get theological?
Sometimes it seems to me that people reject God because the cost of the penalties God seems to impose—e.g., hell—is too high, whether it be one's own prospect of going to hell, or the prospect of God damning even one person to an eternity of suffering and separation from God. My rightful, though exorbitant, $20.00 in library fines pales by comparison.
But I think this happens. I think people do throw away God because they believe that God would throw us away.
And that makes me sad. And I think, if God can be sad, it makes God sad too.
Perhaps it's a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater: just be more timely in returning DVDs. Just be more careful in the way that you understand eternal damnation, adopt another view of God's role in it (i.e., that it's our own damn fault, pun intended, if we're damned), or disbelieve it entirely, i.e., don’t believe in hell. But really, something is there. A loving God and a loving person are separated because of someone's impossibly high expectations, perhaps those of both parties.
I could give a little. The Minneapolis public library could as well. And, I daresay, God and those who oppose God on account of fear could give a little. The Israelis could give a little, and Hamas could give a little. Those who oppose my full civil rights could give a little, and perhaps I could lighten up a bit as well.
I'm reminded of that scene from "On Golden Pond" when Chelsea asks Norman if they can be friends, after a lifetime of separation, enmity, anger, and confusion. "Does that mean you'll come around more often? It'd mean a lot to your mother," Norman replies, meaning it would mean a lot to him.
Reconciliation always means a lot. My prayer is that it might happen on all levels, from the mundane to the national, to those who have been disenfranchised into the franchise, to families set apart by disagreements and betrayals, from us to God, who has paid our existential fine in full.