Saturday, November 26, 2016

Light and Shadow

Thoughts for Advent 1 sermon

Readings are here

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of  our shadow side, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; May we recognize his presence in our midst and follow the Way of life. Amen.  (collect paraphrased).

Some lives of friends:
A man I know was a policeman in Mexico - the drug cartel came to him and said "work for us or we will kill your family." He had been a successful family man, living a good life, loved by his friends and family with no plans to leave home. Now he and his family were in a nightmare with no time to wait for proper papers and visas. They packed and left and entered the US without documents. Now he works for a farmer - shoveling out barns where the cows are kept and other menial tasks. 

A man married a US citizen, he went home to Mexico and waited for the proper documents to be issued. A long separation from his family. He is now a US citizen. Their son was born in the US and attends grade school where last week one of his schoolmates said - "the ICE police are going to come get your father now that Trump has been elected and they will send him to prison and then back to Mexico where he belongs" These are young elementary school children.

And from a principal in a small district in WA.  After the election they had an evening meeting with their Hispanic families to discuss the situation and offer support.  The kids played in the gym while the parents met, and when the meeting was over they found the kids huddled together crying.  The kids thought the meeting was to round up their parents and take them away .

Other friends are worried about the marriages being invalidated, conversion therapy (electroshock and other means of trying to change someone's sexual orientation) being the law of the land, and people of color being targeted and not given the same rights as other citizens, people shooting each other out of anger. Permission given to our worst selves by example of our leaders.

In our gospel today we hear of another time of terror. When the gospels were written the Temple had just been destroyed. The center of life for the Jewish people (of which Jesus and his followers were at this time in their history). I have been reading James Carroll's book, Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age which tells of those times. Our gospel reading reflects what it was like in those days. Hundreds of thousands (600,000 to 1 million estimated) of Jews were killed in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The city was ringed with the crucified - 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion. And in the midst of that the factions within Judaism were splintering - some seeking safety at any price, some resisting, some killing other Jews for not resisting (the Zealots and sicarii), many emigrating to wherever they could find shelter from the Roman Empire brutal tactics.

Until I read the details of the Roman invasion and destruction - I could not make sense of today's gospel. But suddenly today's events and knowledge of the reality of those days came to me in bold images. The Gospel was written to give hope to people who were hopeless. The sects of Judaism divided in various ways - the main continuing groups are Christians and Jews of today. Without the Temple - the center of religious belief - all were adrift. Rabbinic Judaism (ancestors of today's Jews) began to center life on Torah and Torah study - the living God was to be found there. Those who are now called Christians - centered on Jesus as the new Temple. His life and teachings were the place where they found the living God.

It is both a terrible and hopeful story. One that seems to repeat over and over, the brutality in the name of empire -- the killing between religious groups throughout history - protestant and catholic for instance - to the Holocaust in Germany of the of recent memory --power plays out on the bodies of all.

So what is hopeful? Jeremiah and his vision of swords turned into plows and peace among all peoples. I see the holy mountain as a place with many paths to its summit. The desire for peace is nurtured in many faith traditions - may we all seek the holy mountain.

And the help offered the neighbor in the midst of the terror. Giving bread so the children will be fed.

Paul in his letter to the Romans offers practical advice. 

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 
To me Paul's words about the works of darkness are about our shadow sides - the parts of ourselves that stuffed down become evident in our actions: revenge, violence, manipulation, using our power for our selfish needs.

The armor of light is not about external armor that will keep us safe like a knight going into battle but an internal state of being that as Gandhi says “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Be at peace in yourself, seek wholeness not division, stand up for those who need allies, be the hands and feet of Christ for the world. It is not a protective guarded stance - but an open welcoming listening state of being.

Terrible times may come upon us as they always have in history - but we are not alone. If we are not living in fear, we are living in privilege. Recognize that it is only temporary in this life and use your status to see what you can do. I once thought we were done with many struggles - now I know I may not see the fruition of my hopes. But that is nothing new and does not excuse me from being a point of God's presence in our time. How are we to be the ones who "feed" the children - make it a safe place for them to grow up into the fullness of who they are created to be? St Catherine's has chosen to be that sort of place, welcoming all, partnering with the elementary school to make sure the children are fed in body as well as spirit, joining with other groups in the community to make this a real community of care for all. 

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of  our shadow side, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; May we recognize his presence in our midst and follow the Way of Life. Amen.  (collect paraphrased).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Martha and Mary - thoughts from the week.

I have been wrestling with these few lines from Luke all week. I have never been satisfied with any of the expositions on the relationships and how the words of Jesus have been used in sermons. In my restless wrestling I put a question on my Facebook page. It was great to hear from so many points of view. Yes, some were the same ones I reject but some were gems for me.

Things I have heard before.

1. Jesus scolding Martha for doing housework and complaining while Mary is the good one sitting at his feet. This sets up a dismissal of "women's work" and approval of men's (a support given is that Mary is breaking tradition by doing what men would do). This does not hold water for me as I know that women in Luke's day were heads of synagogues before this text was written. Also lack of hospitality was a the top of the list of big "sins" -- Sodom and Gommorah were destroyed because they did not welcome the strangers. (not a story of sexual activities).

2. Triangulation - a modern psychological construct where people use others to get their message across. This assumes equal power among the parties and a Western thought process. That if  you have something to say you say it directly to the other person. In most cultures of that day and even today - it is an acceptable method of communication between those of unequal power. (See the Wedding at Cana for another example).

3. A affirmation of the contemplative life versus the active. But there are plenty of places in the New Testament where action is what is called for. The Letter of James is the harshest on this - all very well to pray and think about something but if you don't do anything - you are just blowing smoke.

4. A story about the need for balance. There is no balance in this exchange. There is no word from Jesus about Martha's work.

5. A story that reveals more about Luke and the early church's agenda to silence women. Martha (the name means "boss woman") was serving at table - "deaconing." Mary (which means rebel) was in silence and praised. Mary's rebelliousness tamed. The words of Jesus are used to support the returning women to traditional roles of listening and not leading.

6. Or it is a story freeing women to follow and not feel like they always have to do the scut work.

7. Looking at the Greek: On Martha being edgy:  When they wrote that story in Greek they used the word periespato in Greek. It has the sense of being "dragged along" by the things that need doing.

And so it went with me - around and around - not really finding Good News in any of it.

The news of the week brought yet another attack on a large group of people -gathered and enjoying each other and the celebration. A man with a history of violence acts out his most terrible thoughts and 84 are dead and many wounded. In the midst of this a hash tag on Twitter appeared #ouvrelaporte. It means that people were opening their homes to any trapped in this terror. It happened in the Paris bombings and once again in Nice. You could reply and find refuge. It was an offer to all  - friend or stranger. I find this astonishing as my first reaction is not to open my door but to lock it up tight and hide out.

But together with the story of Martha and Mary - I ask WWJD - the old question of what would Jesus do? I think we know.  But perhaps for the French comes from a history of living in danger and knowing the need in scary and hard times. Perhaps reflecting about these times when times are good -helps inform the action.

Or maybe it is not so much the doing or not doing - but the centering -mindfulness about either our time in contemplation and our time of action.

Still wrestling!

Image: Found on Pinterest - no attribution

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Third Rail: III Pentecost

Notes towards a sermon.

Readings are here

"Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still"

As I was reading the lessons for this Sunday I felt a sense of dread come over me. Children dying before their parents are the "third rail" for me. I don't even want this in my mind - it is too hard. And this Sunday we have 2 stories of widows whose only sons die. I thought about those of you in the congregation whose children have died and yet you are here. How can I just do some cavalier "God makes it okay" sermon? When I know it is not okay -- probably never. Worse - these 2 get their sons back from the dead when we know that never or rarely happens.

I think about all those children who have been murdered in gun violence the past few years - leaving home full of hope and promise - at school, in the park, walking down the street, even in their own homes. Plus those who die around the world of preventable causes. Actually I don't want to think about it - I want to isolate myself from all the grief.

Thursday was Gun Violence Prevention Day and many Episcopal Clergy are wearing orange stoles in solidarity with that movement. The day is the birthday of Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed January 31, 2003, while talking to friends in a park on her way home from school. She had marched with her school band at President Obama's inauguration. Full of life and hope and now gone. Her friends decided to remember Hadiya on her birthday by wearing orange - for the safety vests hunters wear so they won't get shot. Since then every year more people wear orange to show that they want something done and will not give up in the face of those who say nothing can be done. They are not asking for guns to be banned but just to bring some sense to the issue, to allow the CDC to study and collect statistics about gun violence (currently forbidden) as they can for any other public health issue. Perhaps they can find out some steps that can be taken to prevent the carnage. The lessons for today were not chose with this in mind - it is just the cycle of our normal readings. But I wonder - could the widows be a mother we know or Tamir Rice's mother or Hadiya's mother?

Widows in Jesus' day were very vulnerable -- women needed to have a male relative - husband, father, son, etc to speak for them in any business transaction. The Bible, both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Testament call for protection of widows as a sign of God's care for the world. The people of God are supposed to stand up for widows.

So we come to Nain -- it is about 30 miles from where Jesus was last week. Many have been attracted to him and his message of hope and wholeness so there is a crowd with him as they approach the city gates from the outside. Coming through the city was the procession of the widow and the dead son. Since people needed to be buried soon after death and outside the city - the procession would have started at her house and gained friends and neighbors as they walked along wailing and weeping to honor the loss this woman has suffered. Fear of becoming isolated as she was becoming, grief at the loss of a young man  too soon, perhaps anger at God who they believed was in total control, perhaps thinking what has been done to deserve this - they processed through the city to the gate.

Here is the moment - -Jesus bringing life and hope, the widow bearing grief and loss. What caught my attention in this moment is "the bearers stood still." I feel the stillness - a moment hanging in time. What will happen? So much life outside the gate - so much death inside. All hold their breath.

Then Jesus feels deep compassion (in the Greek - "gut wrenching") and reaches out through the chasm between life and death to take the young man's hand and give the man back to his mother - whole and alive.

I wish we could do that for all the suffering mothers and fathers. But somehow I think the story is for us more about the "standing still" in the midst of suffering and death and reaching out with compassion. Being present to those who feel so alone and hopeless. Bringing hope and compassion (standing with) and life as we can. Listening - not offering advice or our story but listening to the grieving for as long as it takes. The story asks us to be agents of Jesus' life-giving presence in the midst of what ever is happening.

In the moment with deep grief we are still but that does not mean giving up or giving in to doing nothing. Where can we bring life? Where do we bring life? Episcopal Relief and Development is our world wide agency for bringing life and hope. We have a project to provide mosquito nets so that infection by malaria bearing mosquitos can be reduced. We bring clean water to villages, health care, micro-loans for small business and farm animals and equipment - so people can support their lives, get education for their children. St Catherine's is beginning to get involved in the Backpack project with Nehalem Elementary School. The backpacks are filled with food for the weekends for kids who are going hungry when not fed at school. Having food helps them be better students and have better health. We go to school events and graduations for our church kids - to show them that we support them and their desire to learn and become hope-filled adults. We send our kids to church camp to learn more about how God is alive in the world and how they are each beloved of God. You are doing good work - what other opportunities are there?

And when each of us faces the hard times in our lives - we have a community who cares if we let them know and allow them in. There are friends who will stand with you and be there through those times. Let them know, maybe not as strongly and publicly as the widow of Nain but somehow - they are not mind readers!

Monday, May 30, 2016

2 Pentecost: I am not worthy

Notes for 2 Pentecost

Some factoids about Capernaum and Centurions

Capernaum was small - fishing village - like Wheeler

Everyone knew everyone.

Centurions earned 17x what regular soldiers earned. Mostly led units of around 100 but could oversee more units

it was a way to make a life for yourself and family - that was not otherwise open - like USA military. But you led your troops in battle and stood out in your special gear - so dangerous - but if you survived you had a nice retirement.

This one was loved -- even tho the enemy - the hated Romans. He knew their traditions - he built their synagogue - buildings and houses were built of basalt -- mostly one story.

Why would he think he was not worthy?
He had lots going for him -- money, position, honor, but still he says "I am not worthy"
could be because he knew Jewish traditions about mixing with gentiles but I think it touches on many peoples' send that they are not worthy. Even those who seem to have it all - and act like they own the world.

Kafka says "There is only one thing certain, that is one's own inadequacy"

Our culture is one of "measuring up" from childhood we hear -- he-she -- "not quite"  hair too curly too straight, Too tall, too short, too much wrong color, wrong accent, too much education - not enough. etc etc

So though created in the image of God - we still dwell on the unworthy bits. We name ourselves and others -- Oh she is (fill in the blank) or I am ....  mostly bad things.  And since we feel bad about ourselves -- we look for those who are worse in our eyes. Well I am bad but not as bad as xxx

The internal critic constantly at work.
Jesus  cuts through all that - and reaches our hearts and say "beloved" -- you are worthy - does not matter, enemy, woman, outsider, insider  - all created in the image of God the one who is named I AM -- who sees our true I AM -- and interestingly in Hebrew - those words can also be "I am becoming who I am becoming" -- God wants to to become the fullness of how God sees us. Paul says don't believe those people who bring you a bad Gospel.

What are some ways to silence the internal critic?
a prayer practice from both Christian and Buddhist traditions.

1. spend time thinking kind and loving thoughts about yourself - don't focus on faults or shortcomings - focus on how beloved you are in the eyes of God.

2. After doing that for a week or so -- keep praying for yourself but add people who are easy for you to love and think kindly about

3. Then add those who are more difficult - who make you a little crazy

4. Then add ones you really feel have wounded you and you hate -- (this exercise is not about forgiving them - just holding them up to God with kindness)

5. Move out to the world and creation -- always start with self - as in the Lord's prayer - Love God and your neighbor as YOURSELF.

A youtube video of the prayer

The collect for Sunday

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth: Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This appeared in my mail Sunday morning so I added some of this too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday 2016

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Recuerda que eres polvo, y al polvo volverás.

One month ago we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, tonight we are reminded of our creation as creatures of dust and Sunday Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. As I think about these readings this year I see that they all have to do with who is God and who are we and what is God calling forth in us?

The book of Genesis speaks of our creation as one of being gathered out of the dust and shaped into a human person, Adamah (not defined by gender in this part of the story - that comes later when humans are described as ish and ishah), created in the image of God. As the story unfolds - humankind gains knowledge of good and evil - no longer reacting out of instinct -but able to choose and seeing the power of choice for ones own self and for others. This leads them out of a close relationship with God - one that is described as walking unselfconsciously in the garden and talking with God as one would with a friend.

Throughout the Bible we hear God calling us back into relationship - recognizing our truly human nature that was the original blessing of creation. God sends prophets to call us back into relationship but though we hear it in the moment - we soon go back to our ways of separation (or as it is called - sin) - choosing that which serves self or family or clan first and leaves others out. Using our ability to choose - to choose the short sighted goal and not the amazing gift of God for all creation.

When we would not listen - God chose to come to us in Christ - a fully human person to show us the way to fully live. God becomes adamah. Jesus is born into a small irregular family - in the midst of a terrible time in history - where the powers of the empire and the powers of religious leaders have strayed far from the dream of God and become, as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls it - the nightmare of God. The powers of this world feel the threat - Jesus' family seeks refuge in Egypt just as so many today are seeking refuge away from terror and poverty.

As our calendar of readings continues - a month ago - Jesus is baptized by John. Why would the perfect human need baptizing from sin? Now this day - we enter into remembering that we are that creature created out of the dust, then Sunday we will hear of Jesus being tempted. It is all of a piece of God trying to get our attention and remind of us of our calling to be fully human - Jesus enters into the river with all of us - declaring that being human is gift -- that we are beloved of God. This evening, as we recognize our roots in the earth and our connection with all of creation we once again turn toward God's dream for us. Jesus shows us that we will be tempted over and over to forget what that means and the preciousness of our lives. Each temptation will be one that separates us from others. Jesus does not choose to do something in the wilderness that would separate him from humankind - he does not use his power to turn stones into bread - instead he suffers hunger with all who hunger. He does not worship what is evil in this world in order to gain power - even though that power would allow him to make us do God's will. He does not fling  himself off the top of the temple to awe and amaze us into listening to him. Always he turns back to solidarity with humankind - showing by example what God wants for us.

Yet even though we know in Christ, God incarnate, the way to life - still we turn away. God is not one to give up on us, however. This year in the EfM group I mentor I have been reading the History of Christianity: the first 3000 years by Diarmaid MacCulloch - and over and over again when people have chosen to use religion and the name of God to take power for themselves, to amass fortunes and even to kill - a faithful people arise in the midst to pray and to show God's way yet again.

So we come to this day -- when once again we are asked to choose - separation/sin or relationship. We declare by taking on the dust of our creation that we are one with one another and creation and that we want to follow in the ways of God through Christ. Take time this Lent to look at how you choose - is it for short term goals of self or for the long term view of God? Begin with our book study about prayer. Prayer - listening and talking to God - is a great place to begin. Out of prayer can come amazing things. Move beyond a single purpose for prayer into really deeply conversing with God and aligning yourself with God's dream.

Remembering that we are dust - is not a groveling in the dirt activity - it is a choice to remember our creation and the hopes and dreams that God has for us. Choose the dream.


Thanks to Suzanne Guthrie at Edge of Enclosure

Friday, August 21, 2015

St. Paul's, ISIS, Duggars -- what do they have in common?

They all show the truth of this statement by Jimmy Carter.

See culture of St.Paul's School here. ISIS rapes. Duggar family latest.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A wedding sermon

The True Love by David Whyte
John 2:1-12

What are the connections between these 2 readings? How do the connect with the wedding we celebrate today? One is seemingly so full of storm, the other seemingly serene.

The poet uses the imagery of the story of Jesus and his disciples out on the lake. Jesus has gone off by himself to be alone and sent his followers off by boat. A storm came up and they were having a hard time of it. Jesus is strolling across the waves as though nothing is happening – the followers see him and freak out – “it’s a ghost!” they say. But Jesus assures them that he is really there – then Peter asks to try this water walking – he does pretty well until he looks down and sees how really stormy it is.  But all is well as Jesus takes his hand and leads him back to the boat. It is a terrifying and exhilarating moment for Peter – when he makes those first few steps in the face of the storm to discover something about himself and about his faith.

Then we look at the icon on the front of the bulletin and hear the story of the wedding at Cana. The wedding reception is in full swing and they have been partying long enough to run out of wine. Mary, Jesus’ Mother, notices this and speaks to Jesus – though he says – this is not my problem and I don’t want to reveal myself right now – Mary tells the servants to be ready and we heard the rest of the story - the wine is the finest, the party goes on, and disaster is averted.

What do these readings say to us today as we gather to witness the vows between Eric and Melissa, to celebrate their wedding and make our promise to them to uphold them in their marriage? Today we celebrate this wedding – a one-time event – but we are saying that we are going to uphold their marriage – a lifetime experience.  We plan to be “for them” forever.

Eric and Melissa and you and I will see many days like the ones in the poem and in the gospel: Times of stepping out into the storm and finding joy, times of celebrating and finding disaster. We never know which it will be but we promise to support and love each other through it all.

It is an odd thing that in popular wedding-speak – the culture uses the shorthand about the vows being the “I do’s” – but in the service – it is all about “I will.”  Melissa and Eric – in response to the words of the Consent – say, “I will.” In response to the question to us, we say, “We will.”  To me there is a big difference – the “will” includes the heart, mind, body and spirit not just an act that we “do” today – but a continual commitment to put our whole selves into the life of holding this couple in our hearts as they hold one another in their hearts.

It is our joy to be here today to make theses vows and promises – and will be our joy to continue in them. Seeing you step out on to the water of life – no matter what comes- reaching for each other’s hand- risking relationship once again – choosing life together. Our joy to celebrate today – and to pray for the Spirit to refill and refresh your lives like the finest wine when the relationship feels a bit watery – to remind you of the day when you risked all for love.

So take God’s blessing and our blessings as you go forth from here – knowing those blessings are not just for the moment but for all your days:  Today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Bread of Life

Inspired by Edge of Enclosure I am thinking about how much I love Communion aka Eucharist, Lord's Supper, etc.

I grew up in what was called a "Low" Episcopal Church. We only had communion once a month at the main service. I think they had it every week at 8 a.m. We lived in fear of becoming "too catholic." Our minister (never to be called a priest), Mr Richardson (from Wales) preached regularly on that subject as I remember - at least enough to impress my child mind. He was not a stern person (except on that subject) and had a lovely preaching voice. He found a scholarship to send me to church camp in High School to my everlasting faith development.

It was at the camp in Gearhart, OR (since sold to Young Life) that I discovered true community and communion as a part of that. We had Eucharist every morning (with) perfunctory fainting by some as we could not have breakfast until after eucharist).

Forever it marked that sacrament with what I found at camp. That camp, assisted and supported by the adults who ran it, modeled what Christian community could really be. I had loved my childhood and had lots of friends and a sense of freedom of person that somehow I had lost as I entered 7th-8th grade and high school with its "in crowd" rules and my lack of physical development and maybe because we moved to a new school twice in two of those years. The metaphor I use in thinking about those days is that I had been freely dancing my way through life and suddenly lost the steps of the dance.

At camp I entered a world where the main rule was "all are included or none are." That environment opened my heart and mind to return to myself. It took a while for the fullness of that experience to grow in me (and continues to reveal new things).

As I was reading the reflections at Suzanne Guthrie's Edge of Enclosure site - these memories came flooding back to me as the beginning of my love for the bread and wine of the eucharist. When the priest pours the heavy bodied sweet wine (please no white or
thin reds) into the chalice - the aroma spreads through the room. As the bread or wafer is broken - the brokenness within me leaps towards wholeness. Which is why the words of "we break this bread to share in the body of Christ, though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in the one bread" speak to me more than "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast." The first captures my sense of what is going on in the rite.

Now I am that priest who pours the wine and breaks the bread -- it is a moment in time when I feel joined to all of time - flowing from before and after through me like some sort of hourglass filled with sand and turned upside down.

For me all the rest, the readings, the sermon, the music are supportive but superfluous. It is the community gathered, the bread (even wafers) and the wine that fire me with the Spirit and feed me for another week of seeing God out in the world.

outside the box

Once upon a time we captured God and we put God in a box and we put a beautiful velvet curtain around the box.  We placed candles and flowers around the box and we said to the poor and the dispossessed, "Come!  Come and see what we have!  Come and see God!" And they knelt before the God in the box.   One day, very long ago, the Spirit in the box turned the key from inside and she pushed it open.  She looked around in the church and saw that there was nobody there!  They had all gone.  Not a soul was in the place.  She said to herself, "I'm getting out!"  The Spirit shot out of the box.  She escaped and she has been sighted a few times since then.  She was last seen with a bag lady in McDonald's.   -Edwina GateleyQuoted from Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women's Spiritual Writings  Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., Ed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Reading is here.

During the Easter season we have readings from the Book of Acts. It is like one big adventure story. Fantastic escapes, growing churches, near drownings. This week is the story of Philip who has been successfully growing a church even though Paul is breathing down everyone's necks with threats of murder and imprisonment. But in this part of Acts, God has a different plan for Philip. Go to the wilderness road and find a man returning from Jerusalem who is trying to figure out the faith in the face of rejection by the religious leaders of his tradition. Next minute Philip is transported to the road to Gaza where he finds a powerful court official of Ethiopia who is reading Isaiah as he travels along in the chariot. Most likely accompanied by a large entourage to make him comfortable and protect him from bandits. Since he reads out loud (as all people did in those days) Philip can hear what he is studying. Though a powerful man in his own culture he does not stand on ceremony when this strange traveler shows up and says "may I help." The tradition says his name is Simeon Bachos. 

I have been looking at different artistic interpretations of the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and wondering in good Godly Play fashion about what people hear and see in this story:

This one interests me because of the intimacy between Philip and Simeon. I know sometimes when discussing matters of deep spirituality - the conversation can evoke a closeness that one rarely encounters in most daily encounters. Their heads are so close that one is reminded of a newly married couple. The others in the painting are engrossed in their own tasks while the two share matters of the heart. (Icon mural in a monastery in Kosovo)

This modern icon is painted in the style of a traditional Coptic icon. I like that it tells the whole story from the Temple to the Baptism. I notice that Philip is walking on the water and wonder what that means. Since the Ethiopian Eunuch is an important saint in the church in Africa - this shows that powerfully to me. The hand of God with the 2 fingered blessing - shows that Christ is present and active in the story.

This is a close up from a modern icon by Ann Chapin. The rest of the scene is a wilderness of mountains and also has the hand of God coming from the sky above. To me this shows the rich garments of the Eunuch's station in life and Philip humbly offering his service. The Eunuch does not act out of power though he probably gets his earthly needs met easily with the snap of fingers. He is willing to stop an listen to this stranger. His poverty of knowledge overcomes whatever status might get in the way.

This is probably my favorite -- the driver is encouraging the horse to run along, Simeon the Eunuch is reading closely (with typical Coptic umbrella held over the scriptures), Philip is running to catch up - trying to fulfill his assignment from God. It is from an illustrated Book of Acts. This speaks to me of how often I think I have heard God say - go tell someone what you know. When really I should be listening and trying to catch up to where they are. The gaps of culture and language mean there will be a lot I don't know. And I will need the other's help to even share what we have together.

All of these ask the question - how to tell the Good News so that it is heard. The painting show me the relationships of class, culture, language, and all manner of difference. But never the less the call from God is to be faithful, whether in the big city or the wilderness road. One never knows where a time of revealing will occur - it may be me that needs the Good News from the other.

Thanks to all the participants in the EfM groups I co-mentor. Lots of great discussion in our Theological Reflection.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lung update

The doctor has me on a different drug: OFEV (nintedanib). After 3 weeks - no big side effects. My blood is tested every two weeks. First test was normal. Another test this Friday. The hope is that it stops the progression of the fibrosis. It does not usually reverse it. It was approved a few months ago. In the mean time, I cough but don't feel ill and am able to do whatever I want to do. We walk at least 2 miles per day - mostly on the beach or downtown to get the mail. I call it the "nintendo" drug as pronouncing nintedanib is beyond me.

Friday, December 12, 2014


The Anglican Communion Office has been asking people to post photos each of how they react to a word that they post for the day. On December 11 the word was #breathe. Immediately I connected with my favorite piece of calligraphy by Mary Anne Radmacher, then I connected with my current dealings with IPF (see previous posts) and the possibility that I might not be able to breathe easily in the future if the medications don't halt the progression. But even more current is the #icantbreathe protests
around the grand jury decision not to send the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death (all video-recorded) after hasseling him for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. And now to the Torture Report - and the use of near-drowning as one of many terrible acts committed by the US.

Breathing is not something I ever thought about until I learned I might not be able to do it. The calligraphy mostly meant room for my spirit to find freedom of walking the beach in sun and storm. But now it is more than that - it is an embodied reality.

Which leads me to think about how God's spirit (ruach-breath) moved over the still creation (see the Bible - Genesis Chapter 1-2) and began the stirring that led to all that has been, is and will be. That Spirit became embodied in Christ and died a terrible death. What resurrection can come from all the ways I encounter the word "breathe"this day?

What new life can come from the death of Eric Garner? Can the US repent of its sins of its history - from the genocide of native peoples to slavery to racism and other forms of keeping power? I wonder.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Ferguson

From Benjamin Watson, football player with the New Orleans Saints:

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
-Benjamin Watson
Resources for churches to talk about racism and Ferguson are here.

Some questions:

Conversation Starters for elementary school children:
  1. In Ferguson Missouri, some churches are staying open all night for people who are scared. I wonder how God can help us when we are scared. What do you do when you are scared? Who are the people you can turn to when you are scared?
  2. A lot of people are sad because a young man died. They are sad because they say this shows that our communities aren’t acting fairly and equally to all people. Jesus talked about a different kind of community, shaped by love. I wonder what a community looks like where people are treated equally? I wonder what a community based on equality and full of Jesus’ love would look like? (Consider letting children draw a picture, build with blocks, create a drama/play, write a poem, or create a news story about a community that was operated out of love and equality).
  3. We are starting a time of hope as we look toward Christmas. We all hope for Christmas presents, but what else do we hope for? A lot of people hope that one day, people of every skin color are treated with the same love. Do you hope for this? How can we pray for this? (You can invite the children to make cards and posters of love for those in the community of Ferguson, send them to a local church to the messages get passed along.)
Conversation Starters for Youth:
  1. Many of the leaders in Ferguson are young people. High School students have been standing out in the streets and going to trainings to learn how to keep their fellow protestors peaceful. How do you see youth leading in your community? How do youth keep important discussions alive and point a way forward?
  2. The Presiding Bishop, in her message about Ferguson after the Grand Jury Decision, said that “the racism in this nation is part of our foundation.” How do you see racism present in your community? Do people treat one another as created in the image of God? What do you do to counter racism and other ways people are excluded?
  3. "Stay awake." The first Sunday of Advent centers around the message of being watchful. #StayWoke is currently trending on social media in response to Ferguson. Voices are calling us to #staywoke to the realities of racism, to the suffering in our communities. How could your church help your community to #staywoke? How do we avoid putting this important conversation to bed?
Conversation Starters for Adults:
  1. Isaiah says “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” in the first reading of Advent. How can we expect Christ to come in the midst of conflict? Where do you see signs that the Spirit is moving in the midst of what is happening in Ferguson?
  2. We often use the word “sanctuary” to describe a place in a church building. Some churches in St. Louis are serving as literal sanctuaries, where all who need a break from the violence of the streets are given water, medical attention, and a place to rest.  How does your church serve as a sanctuary? How do you give rest and protection to those who need it?
  3. The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis has compared the young women and men protesting in the streets of Ferguson to John the Baptist. What is the prophetic possibility in the midst of this conflict? To what new vision of community are we being called?