Friday, December 22, 2006
Click here for Readings
This year I have a question - what are we doing here so late at night anyway? Sometimes I have gone to church late on Christmas eve because my parents dragged me there. Sometimes I came dragging my children. I still remember the middle of a flute solo when Matthew, about 3 years old, fell asleep and rolled off the pew - that long moment of silence before the howls that still echo. Or that moment when John sang the solo for one of the Magi - he did it for years and even when he stopped, one time was called upon minutes before the Magi procession to fill in for a boy who panicked at the last moment. Or to see Kristin dressed in red cassock and white surplice carrying the cross or singing with the choir. Sometimes I did not go at all but sat home knowing something was missing but not able to get myself to church. Often I went for the music and the candles and the dark mystery of it all. As I became more active in church I went because I had a role to play - choir, eucharistic minister, priest.
Always it is about wonder - either wondering or experiencing wonder about our God who became one of us in the birth at Bethlehem. Strange name - Bethlehem - House of Bread - where God is so helpless as to depend on us for feeding and yet feeds us eternally. Wonder and Hope -- awaiting the birth and rebirth of hope in our time.
The time into which Jesus was born was a time of Empire and oppression. The Roman rule was meant to keep people in their place, the religious people both rebelled against that and cooperated with it. Some of the religious establishment feared that not cooperating would mean the end of their people, some read the scriptures as a book of rebellion against foreign rulers. There was hope that one would come to free them from Rome - a new David. Just as in our day we look for a leader to save us from ourselves. If only we have the right one - in church, in government, in communities - everything will be all perfect. How can a helpless infant show us the way? I wonder.
I wonder what the shepherds and magi were thinking when listening to angels and following stars? Who are angels we hear and what are the stars we follow to find ourselves kneeling once again in the dark this night. They lived in times of war and divisions and yet they heard and saw beyond all the chaos - heard the cry of an infant and his family gathered in a cave where the animals were kept - a place out of the way of the raucous travelers filling the inn. Heard and obeyed the angel who spoke of peace and good will. Wise ones from afar caught a glimpse of a star that proclaimed a new king - one that drew them onward across the desert and dangerous places. The shepherds and magi felt that surge of hope - is this the one - will we see a time of peace, a time when all are fed, when the hurting are healed, when we are freed from our prisons - constructed by us and by others - prisons that keep humankind from becoming all the God desires. They came to the place where Love was born into our midst, love that warms and melts our cold, hardened hearts. Love that opens us up to the love of God and love of neighbor - coming into us and going out from us. Love that clears the channels of debris of anger, self doubt, fear to allow the free flowing of that love.
This is true story from Larry Graham of a father who understood all this:
The classroom was quiet and cheerless on that dark December day, lit
only by cool fluorescent lights. Students were hunched over their final
exam papers. A secretary appeared at the door and said, "Professor
Graham, you have an urgent telephone call. I'll proctor for you while
you take it."
The call was not an unexpected one. Even so, my heart was filled with
dread as I sprinted up the stairs to the office. It was my mother
calling. My father had been hospitalized at the Kansas University
Medical Center for over a month while the doctors battled daily with
death. His youth, spent in the lead mines, the mustard gas during
World War One, and the shrapnel that still occasionally surfaced, had
all taken their toll. Now, in his late seventies, it was time.
"The doctors say come at once if you want to see him before he goes."
I graded my last papers as quickly as I could, turned in the grade
sheets, packed a bag and caught the shuttle that took me from Athens
to Atlanta, the airport and the plane to Joplin Missouri. Mother was
waiting at the tiny airport. I drove us the thirty-some miles across
the Kansas border in the darkness and bitter cold. By the time we got
to Columbus, it was almost eleven o'clock. We agreed to catch a few
hours' sleep before setting out on the long drive north to Kansas
The telephone rang at 2:30. It was the hospital. He had died
peacefully in his sleep. I replied mechanically to the questions that
began the process of "final arrangements." Mother had emerged from her
bedroom and stood there quietly. Her face was peaceful and serene.
"He's gone then?" she asked.
"God bless him on his way."
The casket was a simple one. The body, embalmed but otherwise
unprepared, showed the ravages of his final illness. It was dignified,
though, by the Army uniform and the many medals won during his
lifetime of service; and his progress through the ranks from private
This gentle man, my father, filled with love and acceptance for his
gay son, was gone and death was real. "Goodbye," I said. Mother kissed
him gently on the forehead and the undertaker closed the casket. The
military funeral was short and dignified.
When invited to return to our house, the military escort officer, the
sergeant and his men complied with only slight surprise. At the house,
the dining table was laden with food brought by friends and family. A
buffet luncheon ensued. There were stories, and laughter, and tears.
It ended with popping Champagne corks.
Mother gave the toast, "God bless Rusty," she said.
Cards were arriving in the mail. Some were Christmas cards, some were
condolence cards and some were 50th wedding anniversary cards. Dad had
died on the evening of that important event.
"What about a tree?" Mother wanted to know. I said I didn't feel like
putting one up, but I knew that dad would want us to soldier on. "He'd
have a fit if we didn't." was Mother's response to that. So we decided
on a small one.
I was just putting the last of the ornaments in place when the UPS
truck stopped in front of the house. A very large box, shipped from a
Kansas City department store, was delivered to the door. I signed for
it and brought it inside.
"What on earth?" Mom said.
"Dunno," I replied and began to open it. From his deathbed, dad had
contacted a personal shopper. Orders were given and complied with.
After church on Christmas eve we sat near the tree, opening gifts from
a dead man. The love that conquers death warmed my heart then.
It warms it still.
This is the hope we have - that the Love of God in Christ conquers death and frees us to become the people of God. That in this birth we are renewed in that love.
Children know it - they know that kisses make things well. Even at their worst they can suddenly turn to us and say "I love you." One little boy came to the altar one Christmas with his palms up to receive communion -- he had "I love" on one palm and "You" on the other - all neatly written upside down so it would be readable to the one giving him communion. He knew what it was all about. That's it - simple.
As Christina Rossetti says in the words to our hymn #84
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and neighbor,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Or as Fra Giovanni, wrote in 1513:
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts can find rest in today…
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow.
Behind it yet within our reach is Joy.
There is radiance and glory in the darkness,
could we but see and to see we have only to look.
Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering,
cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.
Remove the covering and you will find it a living splendor,
woven in love, by wisdom, with power.
Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the Angel's hand that brings it to you.
Life is so full of Meaning and Purpose, so full of Beauty -
beneath its covering -
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it: that is all!
And so, at this Christmastime, we greet you.
Not quite as the world sends greetings,
but with profound esteem
and with the prayer that for you now and forever,
the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
So why do we come? We come, once again - to have our hope restored, to enter into another year, to know the One who enters our lives, walks the journey with us, and loves us beyond all knowing.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just COPY (NOT FORWARD) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you. Tis the Season to be NICE!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Bags because I am a terrific gift wrapper but lazy and procrastinate to the last minute.
2. Real tree or artificial? Real - we cut our own in the Shoshone National Forest a few minutes from home.
3. When do you put up your tree? Whenever - but never take it down until Epiphany - Jan 6.
5. Do you like eggnog? YUCK - artery clogging glop that sticks to your mouth.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? a bike
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes- made by Barbara Hughes plus a bunch of odd ones I have collected.
8. Hardest person to buy for? everyone I know.
9. Easiest person to buy for? Our grandson, Lander - he is only 6 months old
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? more doll clothes when I wanted a mitt and cowboy boots.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? both
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story --- Jean Shepherd - just like our childhood!
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Argghh is it time to shop??
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I will never tell!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Norwegian Rommegrot
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored! Flashing!
17. Favorite Christmas song? Angels we have heard on high -- but most all carols and the opera - Amahl and the Night Visitors
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Going to the Oregon Coast with all the kids and grands following Midnight mass at Rock Springs, WY
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yep!
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning (only heretics open presents on Christmas eve!! unless you are a child and can't wait)
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? staving off the memories of childhood
23. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? Theme - never -- we hang ornaments from all the eras of our lives - handmade ornaments from the kids when they were in pre-school -- fading glass balls from the "dime" store -- bits and pieces from all over. NO tinsel!!!
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Ready or not here I come. In the long evenings of summer in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland (see Beverly Cleary books for stories of our time and place), the kids on our block would play hide and seek. As you know the person who is IT counts to 20 or 30 or some number - long enough for others to hide. Most of our backyards were linked by paths known to all of us so there were plenty of hiding places in the bushes and behind the buildings. If you were found you joined IT to find the others.
Last night after writing my previous blog and reading Dylan's Lectionary Blog on Advent 2, I awoke thinking about the line "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" -- and thought - "Ready or not here I come!" That's it - that's what he is saying - God is coming and it does not matter where you are hiding - in the depth of addiction, in meanness of spirit, in self doubt, in disbelief - God is IT - in Jesus, seeking us out wherever we may be.
The freedom of not hiding anymore, not crouched down, curled up - but free to stand with God who stands with us.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Thinking about Sunday and preaching. For readings click here.
Chewing on this bits - hoping they will coalesce into a sermon.
From the Process and Faith website. "The function of Advent is to focus on this aspect of life, the always-to-be-expected coming of Christ into our experience, and the specific contribution of repentance-texts is encourage reflection upon all the ways in which our lives do not in fact manifest the love and devotion that are appropriate to relationships with God and our neighbors."
From Harry Mozolak
_gift among gifts_
Harvey S. Mozolak
time is not the treasure
but the wrapping for the gift
God at Bethlehem
we too come
from later years
crowned by aureate achievements
drawn from distant cathedrals
mitered by incensed right and ritual
from other epochs
turbaned by tempting technologies
to make homage
join the journey
of ageless adoration
to the timeless God
born today a child
So far I am thinking about the birth and re-birth of hope -- Jesus is born in his day and in our day and in all the days of creation from the beginning to the end. John speaks of preparing the way, Malachi speaks of refiner's fire. Who can read the words of Malachi "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?" and not hear Handel's Messiah becoming an ear worm that will stay with one all day until sleep?
Who can stand? and yet the promise is that Christ makes us "worthy to stand" (BCP Eucharistic Prayer and St. Paul). The hope we have is that no matter what life brings we will be able to stand - maybe needing a lot of help or maybe only in our minds - but stand in the fullness of our creation. We will see the salvation of God not in some far distant future but wherever Christ appears - wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name or serving as his hands in the world or being served by others.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Click here for the readings for today.
An interesting Feast Day - developed in the last century by Pope Pius XI during the time of Mussolini. Depending on who you read it was either a bargain to not say anything about governments while maintaining the Holy See at the Vatican or it was a way to proclaim Christ in the face of facism, communism and other isms that were threatening to overwhelm the world of faith with secular gods. It was proclaimed in 1925 and it was not until 1969 when it was fixed on the date of the last Sunday of the Church Year.
King Jesus is a concept that is hard for me to reconcile with Jesus the crucified one, the servant, the compassionate, the one who dines with the outcasts and the insiders, etc. When I hear the word King - I think of Elvis or tyrants of old, Pop stars or absolute rulers. Currently we have a Queen in England. That is an image of someone who seems somewhat anachronistic, wearing hats and carrying a purse, dedicating buildings, symbolizing a bygone age. In the days of Pilate - he is trying to maintain his political position caught between the Romans on the one hand and the Jews he was trying to rule on the other. He makes Jesus out to be either danger or a fool. A danger must be killed, a fool so no one will want to follow him.
But Jesus accepts neither position. He stands essentially silent allowing the truth of his being to show us another way.
All during the Gospel of John he refuses those who desire to turn him into a king, instead he reveals that those who would be first will be last, that servants are the true leaders, and no one can lead without learning how to wash feet.
It is right relationship that is the mark of the realm of Christ. It is not so much a "kingdom" as a "kindom" -- a place where there is no "father" but God, and all are sisters and brothers concerned with one another's well-being as if we were all of the same family.
We just had the great American holiday - Thanksgiving - where families of birth and families of choice gathter to share food and time with one another. Where all who come to the country give thanks to God in the way they understand God. Where there is concern that all get to share in the feast. I love the ad on TV where the kids are putting on a play about the first immigrants - they all got sick on the boat, then they froze the first winter, they stole from the Indians, then they all watched football and had a happy ending. Somehow it is the truth of our history - the bad and the good of our lives. God comes into the reality of that truth as Jesus and lives in our midst showing us that truth and a new truth. That we can be the best of ourselves not the worst
Christ the fully human One reveals our divinity. He asks us to walk in his ways, to follow him, to learn from him. Never do you hear in the Gospels - worship me, only Follow me. This the message of the Feast of Christ the King - follow, walk in the paths of right relationship with one another. The Navajo call it Walking in Beauty - right relationship with the earth and all creatures, Dostoevsky says the world will be saved by such beauty.
When we look in the mirror of truth that is Christ we see both our failings and our potential. We see what is possible if we accept the way of the Christ's reign. We are freed from the failings and brought together in a new dominion - where all are able to live into the fullness of their creation.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
IDEAS for Christmas Gifts -- 12" Deborah the Warrior figure comes complete with warrior clothing, shield. Figure comes with scroll of the complete Bible story of Deborah the Warrior. Other action figures also available. Strange that someone from the Middle East would have blue eyes and blond hair.
Friday, November 17, 2006
You are The Wheel of Fortune
Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success
The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Click here for the readings
Tomorrow I make my way over South Pass to Rock Springs. We will have music by jazz artistRonnie Kole. He has been in Rock Springs doing workshops and working with students at Western Wyoming Community College. Every year he leads us in worship. This year we have 4 baptisms so it should be quite a celebration.
The Gospel is one where Jesus is warning the religious establishment about making the building and the trappings of religion more important than people. The widow with her two coins gives her all to support a system that perhaps should be looking out for her welfare rather than sucking up her last savings. He criticizes those who walk about in fine long robes and tells them that soon the whole structure will come tumbling down. It is a lesson for all of us who get too caught up in preserving the "way it always was" as our utmost value rather than letting go of those things that get in the way of our call to serve Christ in all persons. Dylan Breuer in her Lectionary blog explores this idea more fully.
In the reading from 1 Kings - the prophet Elijah goes to the outsider in answer to God's call. She is also a widow. Widows symbolize the most marginalized of the community - without a husband they have very few resources. In this story the widow is cooking a final meal for herself and her son. Elijah asks to share it and her willingness to share is repaid again and again.
How does this all relate to jazz and baptisms? Maybe there is something about letting go of status and position to give of oneself for others? Children want love, nurture, food and shelter -- just like we do. They are given into our care. Jazz at its best asks the musician to give one's gifts over to the music and the interplay between players. The giver of all gifts - children and music -- asks only that we use them to build up the kindom of God, for making heaven on earth. We cannot hold them too tightly. We give our best, studying and learning and practicing. Then we let it all go to become what God has in mind. Roots and wings - as the old saying goes. Roots for grounding and wings for flying.
There is a song sung by Linda Ronstadt:
Love is a rose but you better not pick it
Only grows when it's on the vine
Handful of thorns and you'll know you've missed it
Lose your love when you say the word mine
This is the truth - all life is a gift of the Holy One --- this building, the music, the children, ourselves - but the message we hear over and over is that it is not ours to use for ourselves alone -- it is to be offered up for the life of the world. The widows would not be down to her last coin or last meal if those in power had not allowed either of them to become impoverished. As we make our promises to these children to support them in their life in Christ - let us remember that we are making these promises to all the children. Maybe it would be to buy mosquito nets for a family in Africa to prevent malaria or give to buy a well for clean water in a village in South America so that disease is not spread from bad drinking water. These are all possibilities within our reach - see the Gifts for Life catalogfrom Episcopal Relief and Development for one way to do this. As we offer our support to the children we see here before us - we remember that we can reach out to our families, our community and around the world.
Monday, November 06, 2006
This weekend of events - the meeting of The Episcopal Majority on Friday, the Investiture on Saturday and the Installation on Sunday confirmed the best of the church for me. Rather than the one-note tune played by those who wish for a narrower church - I experienced the symphony that is our church. All the melodies and themes - weaving a rich song where all can join the harmony and diversity.
I loved the opening image of The Episcopal Majority meeting of wanting to maintain the big tent of Anglicanism rather than setting up individual tents for each small idea of what is right with guards checking the door to make sure that those entering are pure enough. I feel sad for those who would endlessly criticize. They seem to wallow in bringing down anyone who seems to be at ease and able to appreciate difference without feeling threatened or fearful. If they had written Canterbury Tales - only one type of person would be allowed on their pilgrimage. It is one thing to disagree and state ones case and work for change, it is something sad to harp continually and nastily about others on the Way.
The Episcopal Majority is a loose knit open organization for all who love The Episcopal Church and want to support it to become the best of Anglican welcome. It hopes to support the church to be a place where we can "argue it out" as the prophet Isaiah says, but yet share the the Body and Blood of Christ at the banquet prepared from all time and get out into the world to do the work we are called to do, strengthened in one another's company and filled with the Spirit.
On Saturday Katharine (click HERE) called us to be at home in this time and place and to help others to find home here too. Her challenge is that none of us is fully home until all of us are able to receive the abundance of the creation in daily life, health and well being.
On Sunday - (click HERE) we were sent out to be alight with the fire of the Spirit --- saint-sparks clearing the way for renewal and growth.
Some will continue to try to quench our spirits but as the (Click HERE) old camp song says:
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, together in love
We are many textures, we are many colors,
Each one different from the other.
But we are entwined in one another in one great tapestry
We are different instruments playing our own melodies,
Each one tuning to a different key,
But we are all playing in harmony in one great symphony.
A moment ago still we did not know
Our unity, only diversity.
Now the Spirit in me greets the Spirit in thee in one great family.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together in unity and love.
Weave, weave, weave us together,
Weave us together, together in love
So join the symphony - all are welcome - amateurs and professionals - kazoo players and cellists - we are singing and playing for our lives and yours and the whole world's -- our conductor gave His all for this song - and its name is LOVE.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
INVESTITURE OF THE NEW PRESIDING BISHOP
Katharine Jefferts Schori will become our new presiding bishop next Saturday. The Bible passages that will be read are: Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 98, Ephesians 4:1-16, and Luke 4:14-21. She has asked the church to contemplate and pray these lessons during this week before her Investiture.
The Isaiah lesson speaks of a time when all can come to the feast and rejoice and be glad. The Psalm sings praises to God for the marvelous things God has done, even the hills sing and the waters clap its hands. Ephesians calls Christians to unity - using the image of God knitting us together. Luke tells of the time when Jesus read the scroll that is our first lesson and proclaims that this has happened at that very moment. It is the Year of the Lord's Favor. The word in Greek is dektos - and is often associated with the Year of Jubilee referred to in Leviticus - where all receive their share of the communities wealth. Those who have piled up more than others - return the extra to those who have lost their share. The land is permitted to rest and all feast together. It was a dream that probably never happened but an awareness that wealth is to be shared and not hoarded. Dektos at is root means acceptable or welcome.
Some questions that come to mind for me are:
What does it mean when Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favor?
A party favor is a gift to those who show up.
When someone does us a favor - we try to return it or at least pass it on to others.
Mary was favored among women - bringing God to birth in this world.
If we have God's favor - what is our response?
When have I felt "the Lord's favor"?
When have I returned the Lord's favor?
When have I felt accepatable and welcome?
When have I helped others to feel acceptable and welcome?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
BLESSING OF ANIMALS:
Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, a little late. His day is October 4th but the first time this month we could make it happen in Rock Springs and Eden. St. Francis was a rich young man who "had it all" - friends, family connections, a soldier, popularity. Something must have been missing though - as he could often be found at the site of the ruins of the church at San Damiano. At one point he heard the voice of Jesus saying "build my church." He began to restore the ruins of the building thinking that is what the voice meant. He attracted other young men who were looking for meaning in their lives. He gave away money to the poor. Finally his father confronted him and said he had to choose - either give up his family connections or his new way of life. Francis chose to follow Christ, taking off all his fine clothes that belonged to the wealth of his family. Naked in the town square - a compassionate bishop covered him with his cope.
He had many other legendary adventures among them his ability to communicate with wolves, birds and other animals. This is why we celebrate his life with the blessing of animals. Francis' life was paralleled by Clare who was also taken with this simple way of life - serving the poor and marginalized. Each founded an order of followers who agreed with their ideals.
In our reading today we hear Jesus say, Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Often our commitment to serve Christ in the world can feel like a heavy burden -- so many hurting people, so many needs, how can we even make a difference?
Lane Denson in Out of Nowhere says perhaps examining the meaning of the word "sacrifice" will give us a broader perspective of what God requires. Sacrifice in our common usage means giving up things or our life, but it has its roots in "to make holy" or "sacred." So while it can mean to give up something it also means seeing all our gifts and resources as having potential for holiness. It all depends on what we do with them. When we see our "things" in this way - they become light, we become less attached to them and can more freely use them to build up the creation and all our brothers and sisters in this world.
Our pets give themselves to us in love - we care for them and love them in return. They need very little: affection, exercise, food, water, shelter. Maybe we can learn from them.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The drive over South Pass was stunning with the aspens at full gold and the rising sun illuminating the golds and reds. This year seems to have more red in the aspens than many years. Some sort of combination of drought and rain, freeze and heat, I suppose. This day had a classic highway sight for this time of year. The cattle were being trailed down the road to winter pasture from their sojourn in the mountain pastures. Some will end up as burgers and steaks and shoes and some will winter over to return to the high country in the Spring.
Yesterday three of us hiked to the Falls of the Popo Agie, probably the last hike there for this year. Snow will soon cover the trail. We are soaking in the color as we start into the more black and white season of winter. Dark tree trunks will stand out from white snow. Brown grass and grey green sage brush will patch the places in between the drifts. But for now we enjoy each day and its gifts.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
The lessons are from the Book of Esther, the Epistle of James and the Gospel of Mark. The theme, according to the Collect is a prayer for grace as we run to obtain God's promises to partake of heavenly treasure.
The Book of Esther is a tale of how a woman saves a nation by stepping up to the plate at a crucial moment. It is told in a melodramatic style - with reversals of fortune and opportunities to laugh as villains are brought to justice. When Purim is celebrated in the Synagogue (usually in March) the reading of this story is accompanied by boos and hisses and clattering of rattles at the mention of Haman's, the villain, name and shouts and cheers for Mordecai and Esther. The point of the story seems to be that when the time comes it is not always the strong and powerful who win the day, but that we must be willing to act if we are so called.
In the gospel - Jesus is also making the point that the kindom of heaven is made up of little ones, those who even in small acts - like a cup of water for someone who is thirsty - do the thing that brings us all closer to living in the way that God would have us live. Often we think that "little ones" means children but in this passage it is the Greek word "mikron" - same as where we get "micro." In this case Jesus is referring to those on the margins - the widows, the orphans, the poor, the powerless. He is giving hope to all who feel that life is too much to handle and who are always struggling. He is calling those who have gifts, no matter how small we may think they are, to use them to care for one another. Dylan Breuer has a commentary on this at her blog, Sarah Laughed.
James, as usual, offers practical advice on church life. Luther did not like the Epistle of James as he thought it was a "works not grace" book of the Bible. Luther was so overwhelmed by the notion of grace that he dismissed the Letter of James as to works oriented. Also interesting is that the Book of Esther does not mention God at all. It is a good thing they were all left in the Bible as we have received it - makes us know that there is a broad range of approaches to the faithful life. The task is to run the race and know that we already have the gold medal.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Walking along the streets of Lander under a canopy of golden cottonwoods with scatterings of red here and there. It must be something about Fall but my friend and I were talking about suddenly grown up kids whose photo in the local newspaper reminds one that they are no longer skinny little boys but about to launch into adulthood young men. The conversation then went to people in our lives who still hold an image in their minds of us at 1 or 5 or 10 or young nubile 20 somethings or whenever. I was thinking, hunh, what a concept - we live on as 10 year olds somewhere in the world of someone else's imagining. A funny sort of immortality and sort of sweet - unless of course that person still treats us in real life as a 10 year old - then not so funny but aggravating.
Friday, September 22, 2006
THOUGHTS FOR SUNDAY - SEPTEMBER 24:
I am preaching for the next couple of weeks so spending some time thinking about the lessons for Sundayand what might be said about them. The Gospel speaks of servant leadership and welcoming a little child as God should be welcomed. In our culture we revere children - at least our own children and think - yes - God is all that perceived goodness and innocence and love. Then I read a commentary on the role of children in the time of Jesus at the UCC worship site. It says:
"John Pilch is helpful once again in shedding light on the customs and culture reflected in Jesus'’ actions and words. A child in our culture is much valued and is put first in our priorities (at least, we say so, regardless of the number of children in poverty). In the time of Jesus, a child was lowest on the priority list (no "women and children first" here). Even in medieval times, Mediterranean cultures put a low value on children; "Thomas Aquinas taught that in a raging fire a husband was obliged to save his father first, then his mother, next his wife, and last of all his young child" (The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle B). This is the reverse of our order today in Western culture, so it'’s easy for us to sentimentalize the action of Jesus in picking up a small child and exhorting his followers to welcome "one such child" in his name as a way to welcome him. Instead, we might hear it as a radical command, an upsetting one even."
Who could I use as an example from our cultural context to show something of what Jesus is saying? What came to me is: a group of powerful leaders of religion, industry and politics were meeting with Jesus and discussing who is the best leader and most powerful among them all, the most "in" of the group - Jesus looks to the illegal immigrant cleaning person who is emptying the trash - and says -----
The other lessons speak about the signs of those who follow God's ways and the signs of those who do not. The lesson from Wisdom challenges all who are self indulgent at the expense of others and the letter of James repeats these challenges and notes the signs of these ways in communities.
The Collect (opening prayer) calls us to "be not anxious" - it seems that giving up our need to gather too much to ourselves and to use people for our own ends leads us to more rather than less anxiety. Power and control seem like the way to less anxiety but it is a paradox that it as St. Francis says:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grand that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
As we pray: Jesus stretched out his arms of welcome on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come into his embrace.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
VISITING WASHINGTON D.C. AND ENVIRONS:
Following a trip to Sewanee, TN and some work with the Trainers for EfM, I flew into Washington DC to spend some time with our granddaughter and her parents. Lots of fun hanging out with a 1+ year old and playing "Hi Dair" under the dining room chair.
A surprise highlight of my trip was visiting the Washington National Cathedral. I went there to see some friends who work there and as we were chatting one friend said - "How about presiding at the Eucharist this noon?" So we went off to the sacristy where the Vergers got us set up and told me all I needed to know. Then we took our places in the choir and doing Eucharist at the High Altar - what a rush! To think of all the history of that place and those who have celebrated in that space in the past and yet to come. YIKES!
Monday, September 04, 2006
LEAVING CANNON BEACH
The fog is rolling in from the ocean as we sort and pack. Tossing old lettuce and bits from the refrigerator. Putting something in the freezer to take out and thaw upon our next arrival. Grandkids and their parents came to visit. Sandcastles were built and destroyed. Waves were jumped and buckets filled as the tide came in and went out. The Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast freezes your feet and makes your legs ache if you stay in for more than a few minutes. When we were children we called it "refreshing" - now we call it "frrrreeeeeeeezzzzing." Wet suits have allowed the more adventurous to surf and kayak but mostly it is a sandcastle building, seashell collecting, and strolling beach.
Yesterday (Sunday of Labor Day weekend) we gathered the clan to baptize a great nephew in the ocean. His cousins had been "done" a few years ago, I performed the parents' wedding by the falls and lake up the Columbia Gorge and now we came together again to affirm our support for this child, to recognize that he is born blessed, and to help him to grow into the fullness of that blessing. He did not think much of the whole project - nothing quite like being dipped in the Pacific Ocean to wake a boy up from his cozy nap in his daddy's arms. Even if he forgets we will remember.
So now it is goodbye to our little house and off for the golden aspens of Wyoming.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
The light has suddenly taken on its autumn slant. Yesterday it was summer and today it is fall. The temperature is the same, the kids are still vacationing from school - but there is that slight shift that says - get in the wood, buy the hay for the horse, start watching for frost (even though we hope that is a few weeks away). Maybe people see this elsewhere but it is very pronounced in the wide open skies of Wyoming.
Today I drove to Rock Springs to lead services for Holy Communion Episcopal Church, a talented group of people whose music ministry is delightful, varied and excellent. I do supply priest work for them whenever I have a Sunday when I can make the 2 hour drive over and 2 back across South Pass. One bonus is that usually gas is cheaper there than in Lander (40 cents right now!). I have commented before about the drive. Today I saw a fox dash across the highway and a herd of wild horse grazing as well as some sage hens waddling along the roadside.
My sermon did not turn out quite as I had envisioned it. I focused even more on the Ephesians reading than I had in my original thinking (see previous blog post). Judy Boli in her sermon shared on Sermonshop, a sermon discussion listserv from Ecunet told some great stories about the difficulties of living into the Ephesians model. As I was driving to Rock Springs, just past the town of Eden, where you have to slow down to 45 mph, two cars from Colorado blew by me at much more than the 65 mph speed limit. I had very bad thoughts about them (we call them "Greenies" for their green license plates and have the usual next door rivalries with Colorado) and even pondered giving them the traffic boors "salute" - all while thinking about the whole idea of this sermon.
This sort of spiritual "up short" happens to me often. I am feeling holier than thou and what I will tell you about how to be holy - when - bam!!! I laughed and shared it with the congregation who laughed with me (hopefully not at me too much.)
But the whole point of posting this evening is that as I was driving out of Rock Springs I learned how much this little mining town had changed. It is currently one of the fastest growing areas of our state - once again due to the mining industry, oil and gas, this time. But the kicker is - now they have both a Starbucks and a Sushi restaurant - I mean what a shock - Rock Springs - Starbucks?? Rock Springs -- Sushi?? Wow - now I have seen it all. A whiplash of history - from crossing South Pass where my great grandmother as a young girl walked with her family on the Oregon Trail to Starbucks and Sushi in Rock Springs. YIKES!!!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Sunday's lessons reflect on the summary in the Collect:
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will.
In the story of Elijah he is fed in the wilderness by an angel when he felt that he could no longer go on. He is fleeing for his life at this point - he thinks he is the only person left who worships God. He has had a big confrontation with the priests of Baal (for some reason Ahab and Jezebel are trying to kill him after he won and killed all their priests!). The angel urges him to eat and drink and continue his journey.
The letter to the Ephesians urges thieves to give up stealing and work honestly - not to gain wealth for themselves but so they can share with the needy. The purpose of life lived according to God's will is to share God's gifts with one another.
The idea of "God's Will" is often confused. People use it to try to comfort each other in tragedies - "it was God's will" "it is for a purpose God only knows" or when we escape danger and death - "a blessing" or more "God had a reason for saving me" -- this just does not work for me. For me - things just happen in a world of mortality. God's will, to me, is living in the way God would have us live, loving and caring for one another and the earth, knowing each other to be our brother and sister - not our enemy, even when we are seen as enemies to those "others." Hard to live into though. Jesus models this behavior and it gets him crucified. The letter writer of the Ephesians sees that it is even hard to do with those closest to us - our families, our communities, our churches. The letter gives some places to start, things we can do if we choose:
"Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
To live this sort of life requires nourishment - the kind of food that fills mind, body and soul. Eating and drinking to strengthen ourselves for the journey.
Jesus in the Gospel of John offers himself as this sort of nourishment. He is the Bread of Life - the one who walks with us and can lift us up in times of fear and loss. We come to the Eucharist to drink the wine of encouragement and eat the bread of sustenance. It captures for us the essence of our faith. Wine lifts our spirits and bread fills our bodies.
Wine is made from bunches of individual grapes - brought together and allowed to age into that which we share in the cup. Bread is the product of individual seeds sown, grown and tended, harvested and ground into flour, baked and broken for us. It is like our church - individuals coming together to feed the world. It is not for ourselves (unless we want to be thieves and worshippers of the idols of wealth) but for the world. At various times we may think we are being ground up or hot with the baking - but the outcome is promised when we stay with it - new life.
May we live in God's will - realizing that it is the only true life - like fish in water. Or as we pray:
"Oh God in whom we live and move and have our being." We pray that we will have the faith to recognize that truth.
Thanks to all on Propertalk and Sermonshop discussion lists for their thoughts and ideas.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Sunday the lesson was from the Gospel of Mark. What caught me attention besides the feeding of the 5000 from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, was the sentence: "Then he (Jesus) ordered them (the disciples) to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass."
I imagine this crowd that has followed Jesus out into a deserted place, milling about, stirring up the dust of the desert-y wilderness. Sort of like the part of Wyoming between Shoshone and Casper - rocky, scrubby land without much water. They are really lost, it is getting dark, and they are hungry. Fear is lurking in their hearts. As the sun begins to set, Jesus asks the disciples - so what kind of resources do we have here? They thought they were going to go on retreat with Jesus - he had said "come away and rest," be part of the "in crowd" - hanging out with the master. Now they are faced with an impossible task and only a bit of bread and fish. The crowd's fear becomes their fear - it is catching that way.
This is the moment when Jesus says - go sit on the green grass. Green grass - when had that appeared? If you have not lived in the dry parts of the world - you might not see the significance of green grass. Green grass means water, oasis, resting place, abundance. A sign of God's abundance in the midst of our dry lives. The feeding continues - it fills their physical hunger - and more. If feeds the hunger of the heart. Lying about on green grass, cool, refreshed, resting. We become like children, kick off our shoes and sandals, roll down the hills, scamper after butterflies.
Take the last days of July and find some green grass for your life.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The world of the church is looking up for me and our family - the Episcopal Presiding Bishop elect - Katharine (doesn't that sound great!) interview in Time Magazine sums it up:
TIME: What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?
JEFFERTS SCHORI: Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.
Our Family: YESSSSSS!!
She will be interviewed on CBS News Sunday evening - check it out.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
No doubt you have seen the headlines in the NYTimes and other places "Episcopalians Shaken by Division in Church"? But what I witnessed at General Convention this time was overwhelming unity on most all issues. The biggest unifying excitement came with our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals as our main priorities.
Each day of Convention a different goal was showcased. One day the Chaplain had us snap our fingers every 3 seconds for a child dying of preventable cause. One day women gathered to read Goodnight Moon to pictures of children - one by one the women "died" from preventable lack of maternal health - leaving the children without a mother - often an orphan. The determination to focus our resources on these things as well as HIV/AIDS, clean water, education of women and girls, and extreme poverty, unified our time together. It is sad that a few people want to leave the church just when it is becoming alive again to its real call of service in a hurting world. That will not deter us but they will be missing out on an opportunity to join a movement of the Spirit. This is led in many cases by our younger members, teens, twenties, thirties - who see that our earth is one community where those who have must help those who don't.
Too bad the headlines don't report the things that will make a difference.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
"We made up today for all we did not do on other days. Whipping through resolutions at the speed of light - one reason for preparing and studying the resolutions before one gets to GC. The "big news" that went to the press is that after defeating one resolution after another on any moratorium on consecration of gay or lesbian bishops and/or same sex blessings - a full court press by the PB and PB elect and the need to say something to the Windsor Report (I suppose) resulted in a resolution that says we will exercise restraint in confirming a bishop whose manner of life presents a challenge to the World Wide Anglican Communion. We did not pass a moratorium and we did not address rites for same sex blessings. I did not vote for it as I felt it was one of those things that offered others as the sacrifice - I am willing to sacrifice but could not come home saying - I was called to the cross but I pick you to go instead. I did not see Jesus asking anyone else to his work for him. (oh hey Peter or Mary - why don't you go to Golgotha today). Others (a big majority) had other ideas - so in my mind it was a step away after many steps forward - it remains to be seen what will happen."
And now after reading Rowan's tepid response (although one could read it as a comment on reality) - I am sure I voted the right way. Many were crying as they voted, regardless of whether yes or no. I don't judge others votes - I just judge my own.
The long flight home to Wyoming gave me time to think about the long view. I started coming to GC when we were in New Orleans (1982 I think) - Integrity held "secret" Eucharists so the gay clergy would not be outed. Now it is the most popular service of GC and there are so many out gay and lesbian clergy that they cannot all serve at the altar. Then we would lose every vote on full inclusion -- can't remember how many times we circled up after a particularly painful losing battle and sang "We are a gentle angry people and we are singing, singing for our lives" --- Now a great majority of GC supports full inclusion. The vote on Tuesday - strongly turning down the Special Committee's resolution with its extreme caution on bishops and no development of blessing rites but with a sop of apology to any gays and lesbians who might be hurt!! Over and over we said NO. We overwhelmingly passed the resolution condemning the criminalization of homosexuality and calling for civil rights around the world.
But on Wednesday, in the end, we faltered. Our worship featured the PB elect'ssermon which included:
"That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children. If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear.
What do the godly messengers say when they turn up in the Bible? "Fear not." "Don't be afraid." "God is with you." "You are God's beloved, and God is well-pleased with you."
Fear not - but in the end we gave into fear. Fear that the Anglican Communion would not allow our new PB a seat at the table. Perhaps that is true but it was not our finest hour. And I think we knew it at the time. We made our choice and live in hope despite our fears.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Today we celebrate how a small group of frightened people received the ability to overcome their fears and go out into the world proclaiming the message of Christ in a way that could be understood by all sorts of people. They did not know and we don't know exactly how it happened so we speak of it in metaphors of tongues of fire sweeping through the community, of many languages being heard, of a seeming drunkeness of the
Spirit. Ezekiel prophecied that the "dry bones" would take on new life - and this is what happened on that Pentecost Day with the followers of Christ.
This week a valiant warrior among the disciples of Jesus died. Canon Joyce Hogg was the Director of Networks and Special Projects for Episcopal Relief and Development. The way I got to know her was as my "boss" for my work as a Diocesan Coordinator for ER-D. She asked for and received quarterly reports of our work for ER-D, made sure we were prompt with our thank you notes to our generous donors, and tenderly ministered to us even in the midst of her own struggle with cancer. Just two weeks ago she led our annual convention of coordinators. I last saw her in the Jacksonville airport as she and her beloved husband, Bill, awaited their flight home. I knew things were not good with her health but she wanted to talke about the future of the Episcopal Church, the upcoming General Convention and election of the Presiding Bishop. Her last words were "see you in Columbus." Yes, I will see you, dear friend, in Columbus - not quite in the way I had hoped but in the thousand touches of your hands in helping Episcopal Relief and Development flourish and grow, in the wonderful energetic staff whom you loved fiercely, and in our hearts as we go on without your physical presence.
This, to me, is the message of Pentecost - that our hearts are afire with the passion to change the world into what God would have and that we light a spark in others that they might catch the same fire and carry on beyond our imaging. Thanks Joyce for your passion, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we pray will continue in us as we follow the command to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.
Click below to add your gift for Emergency Relief and Long term development for Health and Food Security
Sunday, May 28, 2006
home from Jackson Hole and 2 church services. This is Memorial Day weekend when JH has its Old West Parade or as some call it Old Wet Parade. The weather on Saturday In Jackson was rainy and cold. When I left Lander it was sunny and hot - good thing I remembered to put a jacket in the car. Driving from Jackson out to Wilson (a suburb LOL) I saw the white suburbans of VP Dick Cheney's Secret Service (well not so secret when they sit at all the intersections with flashing police lights) - so I assume he is spending the weekend at his home in the Valley. This morning it was foggy and cold as I made my way to church. No VP or spouse at church - always makes for an interesting morning when he does come - the Secret Service rings the outside of the building and sits mixed in with the congregation trying to look like parishioners. But they have that scanning look on their faces and hearing aid like devices and are extremely fit. Luckily they call ahead to let us know.
Today I expected fewer people due to the holiday, and the weather, plus it is the annual "Spring Fling" - a fundraiser for the hospital at Jackson Lake Lodge that is a big social event. People often rent rooms so they don't have to drive home after partying late. But we had a good crowd and it was fun to see old friends and new members. I was the interim assistant there for 2+ years. The web site for St. John's Episcopal Church has the sermons from Sunday every week - usually takes a few days for the latest one to appear.
After a stop to see a 90+year old friend who is now in the Living Center, I grabbed a turkey, avocado, and muenster cheese sandwich from Bagel Jax for the road. No moose or buffalo on my drive through the park - just fog and mixed rain and snow. By the time I got to Togwotee Pass - there was quite a bit of snow on the roadsides but none on the road. Tourists were out throwing snowballs at each other - enjoying the taste of winter. As I came down the mountain towards Dubois - a mountain bluebird perched on the barbwire fence post. Lifted my spirits as otherwise that part of the trip is hard with all the trees being cut down on either side and the new road cuts for the re-construction of the highway. The road needs repair and some resetting of dangerous turns but it is still heartwrenching to see. The rest of the trip across the Wind River Reservation I listened to AIROS Native Radio Network and the traditional songs and drumming woven into new creations of blues, world beat, and country tunes.
Sermon today was on the Ascension. I think it is a difficult Holy Day around which to wrap our modern minds. In the earliest days it was believed that one "ascended" through caves, then the portrayal of Jesus going up through the clouds became popular, but now we have seen the earth from outer space and we don't know quite what to do with merging the idea of an ascension and what we have seen. Perhaps that is why one does not see big celebrations of The Ascension as often. Regardless of how Jesus left us for the next stage of our life in Christ - we are called to be God's hands and heart here and now.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Sun is still behind the hill as I leave Lander
Rising above the rim it catches the red
of a sweater worn by a woman going out to feed her horse
Dry Lake is sparkling with water and bright white of pelicans
Bald eagle surrounded by ravens feast on the night's road kill
They fly up disturbed by my passing car.
The new road by the mine leaps up to the horizon
that leads to the South Pass and the Continental Divide
Not so high here - my great grandmother and her family
traveled the Oregon trail on their way to better days
I wonder where my car crosses her path
Now down towards Farson where one used to be able to get huge ice cream cones
but no longer - the ancient stone building empty.
Turning towards Eden I pass the church where I will soon hold
communion for a Biblical quorum of 2 or 3 gathered
But for now I race past on my way to Rock Springs
where we sing out bravely acapella as the 3 organists
are traveling on a different journey this morning
The wide open spaces beckon me to return
In the shadows of the Wind River Range.
This was circulated on the list at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to a group known as Gays at Grace
I have recently moved to Bowling Green, KY after spending most all my life in Alabama. I came to the Episcopal church in 2003 and learned of Marc Andrus. When I first visited an Episcopal church I had just been released from prison in Alabama. I had been incarcerated for 7 years. I wanted to change my life and knew that it was important to do so. I didn't know where to begin or what to do. I literally stumbled into a small parish in Sheffield Alabama, Grace Church.
I was overwhelmed by love and compassion. I wasn't open to it at first and didn't really know what to do with it all. The people at Grace were (and are) incredible to me. They accepted me and didn't worry about my past. I was confirmed in April 2004. It was then I had met Bishop Andrus. A lady in our parish had dinner for the four confirmands, their sponsors and Bishop Andrus in her home. At first meeting I knew that this man was a man of God. He emanated spirituality and humility. He began to talk to me and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I was a waiter. I have received mixed responses from this answer. He looked at me stopped and said, "I always wanted to bartend." The conversation grew from there. After people began to take their plates and sit, it was apparent that the bishop didn't have a seat to sit in (it was an informal dinner and people were sitting in different rooms within the home). Everyone began to get up to offer their seats to the Bishop. He refused and said "I prefer the floor, actually" and the Bishop Suffragan of Alabama sat on the floor, gladly and ate his dinner!!! I was completely blown away.
I next saw Bishop Andrus at my Cursillo six months later. As he gave me communion he said, "How are you Perry?" I had not seen this man in six months yet he remembered my name!!! Six months later I decided to visit his office in Birmingham. By this time I had become active in the church choir, the cursillo movement and in Kairos, an ecumenical prison ministry. I began to tell Bishop Andrus about my past...all of it. We talked at great length. When I told him I was gay his only concern was why I was waiting to find a partner...
There are moments of grace like these all over our diocese. I cannot explain to you how blessed you are to have this man as your bishop. I have an idea you already know. The story goes that when Bishop Parsley called him to inform him he had been elected Bishop Suffragan of Alabama Marc was cleaning a toilet in his parish. We are saddened by our loss, but we are also excited about his new ministry. I am thankful that I had an opportunity to know this man. He has made an impact on my life and my walk. He is a personal bishop and he will always be my
Saturday, May 13, 2006
This Sunday is that holiest of holy days of the Hallmark calendar. All children with living mothers are running around wondering what to do or will wake up tomorrow realizing that they have not even bought a card. Guilt will pile on guilt. Oh my. Those of us whose mothers have died will wonder about the "secret life of parents" - did we really know them? Their tapes are still running in our minds, they sit on our should occasionally and remind us of things like Thank You notes. And those of us who have or had problematic relationships or no relationship will wonder if we are the only ones who have these mixed feelings or even terrible feelings.
Sunday in the church we read about the Ethiopian Eunuch. Click here to read story. as well as the wonderful words from the First Letter of John that God is Love.
Philip hears the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah. A couple of things stand out for the hearer of Philip's day. The Ethiopian can read, not something most were able to do. Reading out loud was the way people read - reading silently to oneself was rare in those days. He was a high official of a foreign queen (The Candace - not her name but a title). He was a eunuch - we don't know if he was made that way to serve the queen, or if it was an accident of birth - but he was "damaged goods" in the eyes of the religious people of the day. He would not have been able to become a full member of the Temple (only perfect men were allowed).
The section of Isaiah that is quoted in the story is from Isaiah 53. He is puzzling over the meaning of it. Philip runs along side and asks him if he knows what he is reading. The Eunuch says he needs some help. I like to think that Philip led him further into Isaiah to Chapter 56:1-8 where the eunuch would read about freedom and welcome in the realm of God. Going on from there he would share how Jesus invited all to the table and asked those who would come to serve and love one another as full brothers and sisters. The Ethiopian has such joy in this good news or as Christians call it Good News, that he immediately wants to become a part of this Way of Life and asks what he should do. Philip says "be baptized" and the Eunuch says "let's do it."
As he is immersed in the waters of baptism he is washed clean of all those hateful messages about himself and dies to the old life constructed by others. He emerges freed from his old life that was constrained by religious burdens and society's judgments. He had been powerful and rich in the world - now he had something even more important - the wealth of soul and mind and connection to the Holy. He was always connected but the connection was blocked by what he had been taught.
To me this is a story of true motherhood - Philip brings the Ethiopian to birth in new life. Our mothers are those who gave us life in this world, each had her own life experience that we know nothing about (the secret life of parents I call it) that influenced her to be however she was as a mother to us. We give thanks for the gifts that our mothers were able to give us, we let go of the parts that were difficult. Hopefully each of us has also had other mothers, men and women, who brought us to life in other ways, our teachers, our spiritual leaders, our role models, our heroes, a neighbor, anyone who gave of themselves that we might become who we are today and who showed us the unconditional love of God. Who would be surprised to receive a Mother's Day card from you? Or a phone call or note of thanks?
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Monday I preached at a funeral for an 89 year old woman whom I had known, as well as her son and daughter, when I was doing supply priest work in Riverton, WY. She had moved to Fairbanks Alaska to live with her daughter the last several years of her life. The thing that came out about her from the stories of the family is how much she enjoyed each day of being in this life. Whether it was teaching school on the Wind River Indian Reservation, volunteering at the Nursing Home, raising her family or hanging out with grandchildren and great grandchildren. Whatever the day brought, even in her last years of confinement and illness, she was glad to wake up and still be here. What a gift to those around her. It reminded me of prayer in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer that is a resource for those who are sick. But I think it is a good prayer for all of us - young and old, sick or well, whatever our day brings.
In the Morning
This is another day, O Lord.
I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
The Spirit of Jesus for me is being present in the moment - acting when we are called upon to act but remembering that we always have gifts to offer no matter the state of our mind, body, and spirit.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared
first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She
went out and told those who had been with him, while they were
mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had
been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared
in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the
country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not
believe them. Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were
sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith
and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him
after he had risen. Mark 16:9-14
Who could believe a crazy woman
or a couple who had gone home
to their everyday life
instead of into hiding?
Locked in a room
with our own kind
we know our own truth.
How do we get so locked up in our minds and hearts that we cannot hear what others, not "our sort," have to say?
Now we are in the Washington, DC area seeing our granddaughter and her parents - new life abounds, everything is in bloom here and we are playing baby games. Alleluia!!!
Friday, April 14, 2006
Crucified saviour, naked God,
you hang disgraced and powerless.
Grieving we dare to hope,
as we wait at the cross
with your mother and your friend.
from A New Zealand Prayer Book.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!
You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
These books did not make it into the Bible but shed light on the diversity of thought surrounding the followers of Jesus after his death. See my previous post for my thoughts on diversity during his life. Many communities were formed and many stories were preserved to show how the followers perceived his importance in their lives. After reading the Gospel of Judas I can see why, IMO, this one did not make it. It portrays a community that believes a very dualistic version of the spiritual life. The body and the soul are separated - the body being a trap for the soul from which true spiritual beings have to be released. This is counter to my belief in the goodness of the body and Jesus revealing that goodness by being born into our midst. It also encourages a belief that Jesus was not really human. The belief that Jesus was truly human (as well as divine) is one of the most important points of Christianity. God who comes into our midst in real human mind, body, and soul - born, lived, suffered, and died - shows me the way to become the person I was created to be and how we are to live together in this world. Resurrection teaches that I have nothing to fear -even death. I don't find this in the Gospel of Judas and many of the other extra-canonical Gospels.
I do like the references to Jesus laughing in the Gospel of Judas - I like to think that Jesus loved to laugh with people and enjoyed a party with whomever would attend. I don't like the passages that lump men who sleep with men with people who kill their children as a sacrifice. I know that it comes from a time when our ideas of mutual loving relationships between persons of the same sex were not current but still hate to think that it could be used to support anti-gay arguments.
Overall it is interesting to read things that were written by people of faith who center around Jesus and to discover the various ideas. It makes me think that there has never been a perfect time of true belief. The journey of faith is one of testing and learning and growing. The best advice is probably Jesus' "by their fruits shall you know them."
What is the outcome of faith - does it build up community and respect the uniqueness of each human being? Or does it tear down community and individuals? The building up of both is the balance and the proof for me.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
On this Sunday we mash all of Holy Week -- Palm Sunday to Good Friday into one day. Since many do not attend mid week services it became necessary to add the Good Friday crucifixion reading to the Grand Entry into Jerusalem. I think it causes somewhat of a spiritual whiplash to start with one and move immediately to the other. But am glad as many as possible can hear the entire drama preceding Easter even if there is no time to chew on the meaning of it all bit by bit.
Lent has been a time of reflecting on how far from God we can drift in our distracted non-stop world. Instead of a continual running of rapids we can look more deeply into the waters of life. I hope this is true for me anyway. Palm Sunday is the epitome of how far away we can go - the people of Jesus' days in the flesh had and we have many ideas of the nature of God. Some saw him as nothing - just another crazy prophet who was not grounded in real life under the rule of Rome. Some hoped he would be the liberator - the one who would overthrow the Empire. Some greeted him as the one who would remove them from daily life into a spiritual realm - into a separatist group of like minded persons. What is our hope and belief?
By the end of the week - all our ideas are smashed against the cross. No one thought of God as hanging in weakness and death as a Way. We have a hard time with this concept - that through ultimate vulnerability and identification with those who suffer abuse at the hands of power - can come resurrection and new life. This is the message of the cross. When Elie Weisel writes in Night of the question asked when children were being hung and tortured in the prison camps of Germany during the Holocaust "Where is God?" the answer always comes back "God is hanging there." When we ask "where is God" when we see the stories of Darfur, the answer is "in the camps with the refugees." When the people in the gospel - Matthew 25 - ask, "When did we see you? Feed you? Clothe you? Visit you in prison?" the answer is "When you fed, clothed, visited, cared for the least of these - my brothers and sisters."
God is like the Persistent widow - continually knocking on the doors of our hearts - seeking justice for all God's people.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
A couple of lines stand out for me in the Gospel this week. One - the Greeks come to Philip and Andrew to ask to see Jesus. Makes me wonder what we would do when people come asking to see Jesus. Will they find him in church? in us? Second is the statement by Jesus "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." It reminds me of magnets and iron filings - the force of the magnet makes the iron filings line up in a pattern of the force field. The death of Jesus, along with his birth, life and resurrection are a part of salvation (the healing) of the world. When we are aligned with God we are at peace and able to feel connected to others and the holy even when things are difficult.
Jeremiah says that "I (God) will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." To me this is another way of saying we are a part of the holiness of creation. Sometimes we forget or we act in ways that separate us from our true selves. The psalmist's remedy is found in Psalm 51 -- the great song of prayer for forgiveness and amendment of life. We begin Lent with this psalm - it is a way of beginning to recognize how far short we fall of who we are created to be - the image of God in this world. Right relationships are the path back to coming to ourselves (as is said of the demoniac when he is healed).
God came among us in Christ to show us the way. It is a way of the servant to the creation and all people.
Next week will be Palm Sunday when we will lift up all our ideas of who we think the Messiah might be - but Good Friday and Easter will show us something beyond our wildest imaginings.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Today my friend and I picked up trash along the route where we usually walk. Every Spring, before the vegetation begins to cover the road sides, we take out big black trash bags, gloves, and blaze orange vests to gather the beer cans, plastic bottles, and other junk left by thoughtless drivers and walkers. This year we "only" gathered 2 sacks of trash. The first year we found several years worth of garbage and more sacks-full. It is our little contribution to beautifying our environment.
I was thinking about Jesus in the Temple in the gospel for this Sunday. He was doing more than just pretty-ing up the scene. He was challenging the whole religious political system of his day. Often called "cleansing the Temple" - which sounds a bit like holy housecleaning - he is going beyond cleansing. If one pays attention to his words - he is bringing down the whole edifice. He is coming from the tradition of the prophets who spoke of God who does not require the sacrifices of animals but who requires the sacrifice of servanthood. Micah says - what does God require of us - do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Doing - actions that will bring about justice, loving - compassionate care of all God's creation, walking - on the move - not stuck in a building the divides the "ins" from the "outs."
John has this story of Jesus early in his Gospel - the others have it just before the crucifixion. Luke uses the story of Jesus proclaiming the acceptable time - the time of jubilee - when there is healing, freedom, and justice. John uses this action to say the same thing.
John sees the world as it was intended to be in creation and a world that has been structured by humankind. The world of creation lives fully in relation with God - as in the Garden of Eden. The world structured by humankind works to enslave some for the benefit of the few. Our readings include the Ten Commandments- given to the people of God to free them - to teach them how to live in right relationship with God and one another. Paul in his letter to the Romans wrestles with this paradox of how much freedom God offers and how we choose slavery - slavery to addictions, to material goods, to believing there is not enough.
What often starts out as a good thing - worshipping God - ends up like the scene in the Temple. The temple was built for proper worship and sacrifice but it has become a place of rigidity and burden to humans. The law of not having graven images because no one can imagine the fullness of God (a good thing) has become a burden of having to exchange the money of the Roman rulers into Temple money with no images. For poor people their money cannot buy as much since there is a "cut" that goes to the money traders. Worship of God (another good thing) has been tied up with having to have the proper item - which once again must be purchased. Protecting the tradition (a good thing) has become more like a prison of the Spirit. God is kept behind the curtain - in the Holy of Holies
But the wild God of the Exodus, the journeying God of the desert will not be kept in places of our own making. God is out and about - walking the earth -- calling all of us to discover the holiness of all people, of all creation. Jesus comes striding into our midst, upsetting our lives like so many tables in the temple, whipping up our spirits, driving us out into the world to discover that following him is not safe. Like Aslan in Lion Witch and Wardrobe - he is not safe -he is wild - but he loves with the heart of the universe. It is the freedom of that love that speaks to those deepest yearnings in our lives. Yearnings we try to fill with poor substitutes - yearnings to love and be loved, to make a difference, to live forever. Jesus sweeps away all the substitutes and gives us the "real thing" - that love which passes all understanding.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The Gospel this week talks about denying self and picking up your cross. I found an interesting article by Biblical scholar, Joanna Dewey, about the cultural context for this reading. Unlike our Western individualistic culture, Jesus lived in a world where your identity was tied to your family. Self would not be read in the same way we read it. Denying self would be denying your family and kinship group - walking away from your place in society, your livelihood, your security for something unknown. Picking up cross is not about bearing the burdens of life but choosing to risk crucifixion by refusing to go along with the principalities and powers. Jesus is calling people into new relationships - as in his statements about who are his brothers and sisters. He says that they are those who join him in calling God their father instead of following the patriarchal - father-headed families of the day. Or when he talks about hating your father and mother and sisters and brothers. Jesus is asking his followers to step into the reign of God - heaven in their midst and live into a new reality. This new reality will be one of becoming sisters and brothers across blood-lines, across class lines, across national and racial lines. Sisters and brothers who will resist a world that does not understand this Way even to death on the cross. The quote from Archbishop Tutu that I used in Lent 1 reflects this Way - join us - you have already lost -- God has broken through all the barriers we have erected. God has come into this world in Jesus to show us this Way. Paul in his Letter to the Romans glimpses it in his statement in Chapter 8:31-39:
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage is one that I use as a mantra when I am terrified to speak out when I think things are not right. I don't know if it would help me if I had to face something big - but it calms my pounding heart in the day to day tests.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
We pray that someday an arrow will be broken,
not in something or in someone,
but by each of humankind,
to indicate peace, not violence.
Someday, oneness with creation,
rather than domination over creation,
will be the goal to be respected.
Someday fearlessness to love and make a difference
will be experienced by all people.
Then the eagle will carry our prayer for peace and love,
and the people of the red, white, yellow, brown,
and black communities
can sit in the same circle together to communicate in love
and experience the presence of the Great Mystery in their midst.
Someday can be today for you and me.
A prayer of the Chippewa
From Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church, USA
Friday, March 03, 2006
Sunday we hear the end of the Noah story - God establishing a covenant with humankind. The pictures of Noah, the ark, the pairs of animals and the rainbow have graced many a child's room and Arky, Arky is an all time favorite church camp song retelling the saga of Noah and the Ark, happily leaving out the death and destruction for the entire world. Dead bodies of humans and animals floating in the sea don't make for nice pictures or songs.
Our lesson this week comes in at the point where God swears off using the power of God for such total devastation. Those hearing the story in the days of sitting around the fire telling and retelling the stories of faith, before they were written down, would have the picture of God wiping out the earth and its inhabitants and this most surprising revelation. God, the almighty and all-powerful, was setting his bow - that symbol of war - in the sky for all to see that God would not use power in this terrible way again. People throughout history have seen this action - the broken arrow, the broken bow, the swords turned to pruning hooks, the axe turned into a plow, weapons turned to signs of peace. The bow in the heavens is a reminder that God could wipe out life but will refrain from destruction. Instruments of war are laid down in favor of life. God's limits God's power for the sake of the world.
The psalmist prays that God will teach God's ways to the people so they may also walk in the paths of peace, paths of love and faithfulness.
The first letter of Peter draws parallels of baptism and the waters through which the world passed in the days of Noah. It shows Christ as the one who lived into the fullness of God's true nature in submitting to the cross rather than calling down the armies of angels. Christ reveals God in giving up all power in his crucifixion.
In the gospel Jesus is just setting out on his journey to the cross - the heavens are torn open at his baptism and then he is driven out into the desert to wrestle with what it means to be the Beloved Son. The tearing open of the heavens reminds me of the roof ripping friends of the paralyzed man of Mark 2:1-12. They found a way to get around the rules that kept them from Jesus. God tears open the skies to break through to show us a new way. Sometimes the roof or the sky needs to be torn open so our imaginations can see the Holy breaking into our everyday lives.
Bishop Tutu, the retired Archbishop of South Africa, is one who can see this inbreaking of the Holy and communicates what he sees to those of us who can't. There is an incident from the days of apartheid when the soldiers broke into his office and slammed down their automatic weapons - threatening his life with their power. He looked a them with his joyous smile and said - why don't you put away your weapons and join us - you have already lost.
People like Bp Tutu, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks saw the rainbow - the promise and lived in a way that did not use power over others to gain their dream. They used the weakness of God - that is so much more powerful than any thing we can imagine to bring fullness of life to all people.
Lent is a time to go into our personal deserts and wrestle with those things that do not bring life to ourselves and our world. We go into our time of reflection with the message of God that we are beloved daughters and sons. It is this message that allows us to emerge with a renewed sense of who we are and whose we are.