Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Blessings and joy of Christmas

Welcome, welcome, Jesus Christ our infant saviour,
baby who makes every birth holy.
May we, who like the shepherds
have witnessed in the stable a new kind of love
return to our work with joy.
May we, for whom the heavens have opened
to proclaim that God is with us
we who have fed on the living bread
and drunk the wine of heaven,
go out to be instruments of your peace, day by day.

May Christ our infant saviour give you the joy of the Bethlehem shepherds, the awe of the worshipping sages and the humility and love of the holy family. May you become as little children and be filled with all joy and peace.

A New Zealand Prayer Book

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Twas in the moon of wintertime...

The "Huron Carol" (or "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime") is a Christmas hymn, written in 1643 by Jean de Brébeuf, a Christian missionary at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in Canada. Brébeuf wrote the lyrics in the native language of the Huron/Wendat people; the song's original Huron title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" ("Jesus, he is born"). The song's melody is a traditional French folk song, "Une Jeune Pucelle" ("A Young Maid"). The well known English lyrics were written in 1926 by Jesse Edgar Middleton.

This version performed by Heather Dale, and sung in Wendat (Huron), French and English.

Lyrics in English:
twas in the moon of wintertime / when all the birds had fled
that mighty Gitche Manitou / sent angel choirs instead
before their light the stars grew dim / and wand'ring hunters heard the hymn
Jesus your king is born / Jesus is born / in excelsis gloria

within a lodge of broken bark / the tender babe was found
a ragged robe of rabbit skin / enwrapped his beauty round
but as the hunter braves drew nigh / the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your king is born / Jesus in born / in excelsis gloria

the earliest moon of wintertime / is not so round and fair
as was the ring of glory on / that helpless infant there
the chiefs from far before him knelt / with gifts of fox and beaver-pelt
Jesus your king is born / Jesus in born / in excelsis gloria

O children of the forest free / beloved of Manitou
the holy child of earth and heaven / is born today for you
come kneel before the radiant boy / who brings you beauty, peace and joy
Jesus your king is born / Jesus in born / in excelsis gloria

Nativity and Magi






A little early for the visit of the Magi but here are the other figures of my Nativity set.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shepherds





Here are the shepherds and one sheep from my Nativity set. More to follow.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Joseph








More thoughts on Advent IV and Joseph. Here are 2 poems of Joseph from RevGalBlogPals.

I'm a carpenter.
I make things fit. I square off the edges.
I follow the pumb line.
I measure twice before I cut once.
Surprises are not the friend of a builder.
I like to know the plan.
I like to see the plan before I begin.
But this time I'm not the builder, am I?
This time I'm a tool.
A hammer in your grip.
A nail between your fingers.
I am a chisel is your hands.
This project is yours, not mine....

by Max Lucado in He Still Moves Stones


And by J. Barrie Shepherd, Faces at the Manger
“The hardest task
The most difficult role of all
That of just being there
And Joseph, dearest Joseph, stands for that.
Don’t you see?

It is important,
crucially important,
that he stand there by that manger,
as he does,
In all his silent misery
Of doubt concern and fear.
If Joseph were not there
There might be no place for us,
For those of us at least-
So many- who recognize and know-
That heartache, for our own,
Who share that helpless sense
Of lostness, of impotence
In our own lives, our families, our jobs
In our fearful threatened world this night.
Yes, in Joseph’s look of anguish
We find our place;
We discover that we too
Belong beside the manger:
This manger in which are met
God’s peace and all our wars and fears....
Let us be there,
Simply be there just as Joseph was,
With nothing we can do now,
Nothing we can bring-
It’s far too late for that-
Nothing even to be said
Except, ‘Behold- be blessed,
Be silent, be at peace.’

Joseph, son of David,
‘Do not fear,’ the angel said.
And Jim and Alice, Fred and Sue,
Bob and Tom and Jean and Betty too,
The word to you, to all of us
Here at the manger side,
The word is also, ‘do not fear.’
Our God, the Lord and Sovereign,
Maker of heaven and earth,
Time and eternity,
Of life and death and all that is
And shall be,Has joined us in this moment…,”


And the hymn Joseph Dearest

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent IV



The readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent are here.
This year we focus on Matthew's story of the birth of Christ. Luke focuses on Mary but Matthew focuses on Joseph. Joseph goes to bed after a hard day of learning that his intended bride is pregnant and trying decide what to do to preserve his honor and still be compassionate towards Mary. He makes s decision to put her away quietly- maybe like those girls in High School when I was young (so many years ago) - who went away to visit an aunt for 9 months and then mysteriously returned to resume life as though nothing had happened.

Joseph falls into a deep sleep perhaps the sleep of escape from the trials and anger and sadness of the day. As he sleeps Joseph dreams of an angel who gives him a surprising message that will turn his life upside down if he acts on the message. The shift from one day to the next for Joseph is stunning. When have we had such a dramatic change of heart and mind - 180 degrees? Going along thinking life is constructed in one particular way and then having something happen where we are never the same again. How do we live into this new way of being? On the other hand what sorts of things change us like this -- angels? new knowledge? new experiences where the old data no longer fits?

Looking over the whole of scripture there seems to be a lot of changes of mind and heart. God changes his mind after an argument with Abraham. Also in the desert with Moses and the Israelites. Paul after his encounter on the road to Damascus, Peter and the Gentiles, all through the Bible - God and God's people change their minds more often than not.

Not preaching Sunday but this is what intrigues me: dreams, changes, reversals, surprising times for those who choose to follow Christ. Most of all it reminds me of the song Rainbow Connection sung by Kermit the Frog.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

ADVENT III


Readings for Sunday are here.

The Epistle for this week is from James. It is not a letter that we hear very often. James seems to be writing to counteract a belief that had grown from some of Paul's writings about grace. People took Paul's words to mean that Christians did not have to do anything. Jesus life, death and resurrection had handed them the keys to the car and that meant they did not have to learn how to drive responsibly and take care of the car. It is true as Paul says that we cannot earn grace by our deeds but it is also true that we show that we are followers of Christ and recipients of his grace by how we act towards one another. In first chapter of the letter of James:
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.


Actions are the reply to John that Jesus gives. John, is in prison - having spent his whole life devoted to God and preaching the coming Messiah. In what I think is one of the most poignant moments in the Bible, John sends his followers to ask Jesus: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Have I given my life for the real thing or was I totally wrong? he seems to ask. Jesus responds by telling him to look at what is happening - "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them."

This is incarnation, the Word made flesh -- God in our midst revealed in the actions of those who follow Christ. I started a new blog this week called How beautiful...", also known as "good news walking." I wanted a place to record all the good stories of what The Episcopal Church and other churches in the Anglican Communion are doing. The secular news is all about our dramas and Christians behaving badly. Every Tuesday I put up the news for Episcopal Cafe. As I scan the internet and look at news feeds I find wonderful deeds being done by our part of the Body of Christ. Children and youth and adults living their faith by feeding the hungry, lobbying for fair laws, seeking justice, visiting prisoners, raising funds for mosquito nets for those in areas of malaria. So I decided that I would put these on my new blog. The first article is about Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana. He has become a champion for the poorest of the poor suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His article this week is about the housing crisis and the lack of will to address these needs. Many in our diocese have gone to the Gulf Coast to rebuild homes. Others have given generously to Episcopal Relief and Development. These are the stories I want to highlight. There is enough bad news out there.

As I reflect on our lessons today and the wonderful song of Mary I see that all of them call us to look at the results of our faith. We can have a perfect belief system that we can preach on all day but if there is no action - it is an empty faith.

Isaiah tells of the signs of holiness on earth.

Mary says:
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.


Jesus reassures John as he points out the signs of good news.

James in his letter admonishes us:
Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.


Our example is Jesus and all those in every generation who have spoken up for the poor and the marginalized of society - the widows and orphans. Rather than grumble about what others are doing or not doing we are called to live out our faith in our daily relationships with one another. Acting for the good of all whenever we have the opportunity. Mostly it will be in small ways - but for some it will come as a great leap of faith.

Today I received this letter in my email - usually I delete them but I found this one spoke to our readings - especially James.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas (slightly edited for Episcopalians)

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are removing My name from the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year -- it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually the time of pagan festival. Of course, I do appreciate being remembered at any time.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, here's how: GET ALONG WITH EACH AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on... If it bothers you that the town where you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen in your own front yard and put out your own Nativity scene. If all of My followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for a display in the town square because there would already be so many all around your community.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made ALL trees. You can remember Me any time you see ANY tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten what I said, look up John 15: 1- 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wishlist.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President to complain about the wording on the White House cards this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then do it! It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. People in your town will attempt to take their own lives this season because they feel so alone and hopeless. Since you don't know who they are, give everyone you meet a warm smile -- it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit-picking about what retailers call this holiday, be patient with the people who work for them. Give each a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development, who are working for better lives for refugees, prisoners, people suffering from diseases that are easily curable with a small amount of money, giving tools and resources so people can support their families.

9. There are individuals and families in your town who will not only have no "Christmas" tree, but also no presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, take some food and gifts to a charity who will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do or say things that you wouldn't do or say in My presence. Remember -- When you speak badly of my children, you are speaking badly of Me; when you treat each other badly, you do the same to Me. Let people know by your words and actions that you are one of Mine.

Don't get so worked up about what you think are slights about me that occur in the material world. I am God and I can take care of Myself. I am not diminished by those things.

Instead, simply love Me and do what I have asked you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love.

AMEN.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ahhhh....



Now Christmas is on its way.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bloggers help Christ the King Church in Brazil

Let's raise more $$ for City of God in Brazil. Details here.

CHRIST THE KING ANGLICAN CHURCH in the Cidade de Deus, is in one of the most impoverished and dangerous neighbourhoods in the world. The following is an English translation of what this church considers its mission to be in this challenging environment:

We intend to be a place where all are welcome to be free, especially in the Cidade de Deus (City of God) neighborhood, where poverty, violence and hunger are so well-known. And in order to live this Gospel of liberation and reconciliation of the entire world through Christ Jesus, we also seek to integrate the Church with society, through several social projects. Our mission is bold: to say that Christ is the King is to say that love has the last word in the midst of this world of calamities. However, we are sure that, with Him, we are victorious.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ADVENT I





ADVENT I
Readings HERE.

Went to church today with our grandson at his church. It is his birthday this week so he wanted to have his birthday blessing. He has most of the service memorized (at 9 years of age) - both the people parts and the priest parts. Grandma the priest is happy. His church is a close knit community that does lots of praying for one another over all sorts of life events.
Today's theme is be alert as we do not know when Jesus will return. From the Gospel,"Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus' birth at Christmas but also a preparation for his return as the Christ. My way of looking at this is not so much some end time scenario with Jesus returning in clouds of glory at the end of the world as we know it. I believe that from the moment of resurrection we have been living with his return - we just don't always see it.
Where have I seen God breaking into my life in both small and grand ways? Advent is a time for me to reflect and watch. Reflect on the "closest moments to Christ" in my daily life (as the question in the Cursillo 4th day materials asks) and watch for moments this day and as the days proceed. It is happening all the time - if we are alert.
Waking and dreaming I wait and watch for the Christ filled moments as the days become shorter and the nights lengthen. There is something about the dark that can make room for entering both our hopes and fears, holding them close in the night time of our days.

A poem I wrote for for this week:


Wrapping myself in darkness
Under a quilt of stars
I retreat into the dreams
of the waiting child

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World AIDS Day

A message from the Archbishop of Canterbury for World AIDS Day.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Five

Every week revgalblogpals blog carries Friday Five - 5 questions to answer on your blog and link back to them. This week intrigued me enough to answer.
Post Thanksgiving Day Friday Five asks:

1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?

2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?

4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?


I answer:
1. We were on the road all day traveling from Wyoming to the Oregon Coast.

2. I had a T-day dinner of a bowl of Wheaties. Good part - no post stuffing hangover. I would not have cooked in any case as it was my birthday and I never cook when my birthday falls on T-day. When I do cook Thanksgiving dinner - I do the turkey and the gravy and have everyone else bring something. I like yams (not too much with marshmallows though) and mashed potatoes and jellied cranberry sauce with my dinner - whatever else shows up is super.

3. Napping in a tryptophan and carbo haze.

4. Might go out to enjoy the crowds - probably won't indulge in any fights with other shoppers over items.

5. Holiday Season --- arrgghhh!!! Now is the time for going inward into my own private dark time (in a good way) of Advent. We cut our tree the weekend before Christmas and it stays up to January 6. I like to read Jan Richardson's Night Visions: searching the shadows of advent and christmas each day to keep me centered.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Workout Personality


Prevention Magazine quiz to determine what exercise program will work for your personality.

Here's mine:
Your Personality Type: SPONTANEOUS
Life is a game, and your strategy is always changing. While you aren't much for rules, you'll follow them if they're simple and help you have fun.

Your Exercise Rx:
Short but sweet activities that allow you to accumulate exercise time throughout the day may be a good choice, says Ross Andersen, PhD, director of exercise science at Johns Hopkins' weight management center. Spontaneous types also tend to do well with games.

Best Choices

Short walks throughout the day
Taking the stairs
Bike rides
Hiking
Tennis
Racquetball
Squash
Basketball
Frisbee


Leisure Activities
Your first priority is to work regular exercise into your week. But also think about using your leisure time to burn off a few extra calories. Here are some extracurricular activities for your personality type:

skiing

playing in a softball or volleyball league


Obstacles
Different personalities don't just take to different activities; they have to contend with different obstacles too. Here's what you might find in your path, as well as ways to get around it:

Your biggest enemy is an idle mind. Even short workouts can turn torturous if there's nothing to occupy your brain.

Solution: Watch TV or listen to music while exercising, or grab a workout partner to talk with.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Saints and All Souls


I am not preaching this week, not on the road either. Nice to contemplate home without travel. It feels like I have been traveling non-stop. And "miles to go" again starting next Thursday. Since this is the week of celebration of All Saints and All Souls I have been thinking about those in my life who have been saints to me. I could never quite separate those who belong to one day or the other. Some believe that only capital "S" saints belong on the first day while other "known only to me alone" people belong on the second day. Who are your saints? The people who have made it possible for you to live and thrive? Who has shown you the ways of life? Here are the words to a chant often used on All Saints Day. It is found at the Mission St. Clare Daily Office site.

Add your own saints and Saints.

Feast of All Saints 1 November

The litany of saints that follows is chanted annually at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, D.C., at the principal eucharist celebrating All Saints' Day. It was composed around 1979, largely by William MacKaye, former religion editor of the Washington Post, though some of the images were taken from A Liberation Prayer Book of the Free Church in Berkeley, California, and has been adapted here and there in the subsequent years.

A Litany of All the Saints

* For all the saints, who from their labor rest,
* Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
* Thy Name, O Jesus, be for ever blessed.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones present at our beginnings:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Abraham and Sarah,
Isaac and Rebecca,
Jacob and Rachel and Leah,
makers of the covenant, forebears of our race:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Elizabeth and Simeon,
Joseph, Monica and Helen,
exemplars in the love and care of children:

Stand Here Beside Us!
John the baptizer, map-maker of the Lord's coming:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might:
* Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
* Thou, in the darkness drear, the one true Light.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones who showed the good news to be the way of life:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Thomas the doubter;
Augustine of Canterbury;
Francis Xavier;
Samuel Joseph Schereschewsky;
all travelers who carried the Gospel to distant places:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Bernard and Dominic;
Catherine of Siena, the scourge of popes;
John and Charles Wesley, preachers in the streets;
all whose power of speaking gave life to the written word:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Benedict of Nursia,
Teresa of Avila;
Nicholas Ferrar;
Elizabeth Ann Seton;
Richard Meux Benson;
Charles de Foucauld;
all founders of communities:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
* Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
* And win, with them, the victor's crown of gold.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones who gave their lives to the care of others:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Louis, king of France;
Margaret, queen of Scotland;
Gandhi the mahatma, reproach to the churches;
Dag Hammarskjold the bureaucrat;
all who made governance an act of faith:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Peter of the keys, denier of the Lord;
Ambrose of Milan, who answered the Church's summons;
Hilda, abbess at Whitby;
Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln, protector of the Jews;
Jean-Baptiste Vianney, cure d' Ars,

Patient hearer of catalogues of sins;
All faithful shepherds of the Master's flock:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Mary Magdalen, anointer of the Lord's feet;
Luke the physician;
Francis who kissed the leper;
Florence Nightingale;
Albert Schweitzer;
all who brought to the sick and suffering the hands of healing:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* O blest communion, fellowship divine!
* We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
* Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones who made the proclaiming of God's love a work of art:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Pierluigi da Palestrina;
John Merbecke;
Johann Sebastian Bach;
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart;
Benjamin Britten;
Duke Ellington;
all who sang the Creator's praises in the language of the soul:

Stand Here Beside Us!
David and the Psalmists;
Caedmon;
John Milton, sketcher of Paradise;
William Blake, builder of Jerusalem;
John Mason Neale, preserver of the past;
all poets of the celestial vision:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Zaccheus the tree-climber;
Brother Lawrence;
Therese of Lisieux, the little flower;
Andrew of Glasshampton;
all cultivators of holy simplicity:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
* Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
* And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones haunted by the justice and mercy of God:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Amos of Tekoa, who held up the plumbline;
John Wycliffe, who brought the Scripture to the common folk;
John Hus and Menno Simons, generals in the Lamb's war;
Martin Luther, who could do no other;
George Fox, foe of steeple-houses;
all who kept the Church ever-reforming:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Paul the apostle, transfixed by noonday light;
Augustine of Hippo, God's city planner;
Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, architects of the divine;
Charles Williams, teacher of coinherence;
Karl Barth, knower of the unknowable;
all who saw God at work and wrote down what they saw:

Stand Here Beside Us!
John, the seer of Patmos;
Anthony of the desert;
Julian, the anchoress of Norwich;
Hildegarde, the sybil of the Rhine;
Meister Eckardt;
Bernadette of Lourdes;
all who were called to see the Master's face:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Joachim of Fiora, prophet of the new age;
Johnny Appleseed, mad planter of Eden;
Sojourner Truth, pilgrim of justice;
Benedict Joseph Labre, priest and panhandler;
all whose love for God was beyond containment:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* The golden evening brightens in the west;
* Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
* Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones who died in witness to the Christ:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Stephen the deacon, the first martyr, stoned in Jerusalem:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Justin, Ignatius and Polycarp, who refused the incense to Caesar:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Perpetua and Felicity, torn by beasts in the arena at Carthage:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley,

Burned in Oxford:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, put to death at Auschwitz:

Stand Here Beside Us!
James Reeb, Jonathan Daniels, Michael Schwerner,
Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, shot in the South:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Martin Luther King, shot in Memphis:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Janani Luwum, shot in Kampala:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Oscar Romero, shot in San Salvador:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Martyrs of Rome, of Lyons, of Japan, of Eastern Equatorial
Africa, of Uganda, of Melanesia,
martyrs of everywhere:

STAND HERE BESIDE US!
* But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
* The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
* The King of Glory passes on his way.
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Holy ones of every time and place:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Glorious company of heaven:

Stand Here Beside Us!
All climbers of the ladder of Paradise:

Stand Here Beside Us!
All runners of the celestial race:

Stand Here Beside Us!

[The people may call out saints' names]

Great cloud of witnesses:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Mary most holy, chief of the saints:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Mary most holy, yes-sayer to God:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Mary most holy, unmarried mother:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Mary most holy, gate of heaven and ark of the covenant:

Stand Here Beside Us!

* From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
* Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
* Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
* Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus our liberator, creator of all:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Jesus our liberator, redeemer of all:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Jesus our liberator, sanctifier of all:

Stand Here Beside Us!
Jesus our liberator, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and
the end:

Stand Here Beside Us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Widow and Judge



Readings for Sunday are here.

"In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming."

I am bothered when I hear interpretations of this passage that see God as comparable to the unjust judge. In most of the Hebrew Scriptures, God identifies with the widow. It is the widow in this parable who is the persistent one calling for justice. When I read this poem by John Shea in Stories of Faith, "Storyteller of God," I found the answer to my questions:
Or suddenly
you are gowned in power,
a judge whose verdicts are
as slick as well worn coins.
All salute you in the marketplace
and from their sleeves
pull presents to please you.
Except a certain widow with a certain case
who in the morning waits before your door
and in the court nags
your heartless logic with her need
and at night weeps outside your garden.
One day,
wearied by her words,
you say,
"All right!"
You give justice to the widow
whose ceaseless tongue belongs to God.


Our call is to be persistent widows when we see abuse, to cry out in the marketplace, and in the courts. The Greek word that is translated "wear me out by continually coming" is a technical boxing term for giving someone a black eye. It is also used metaphorically for embarrassing one in public. So either the widow gave the judge a literal black eye or she finally shamed in into action.

Where in life am I like the Judge, where the Widow?

Photo from here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Nine







Readings for Sunday are here.

From my book, Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible:

Then Jesus asked, 'Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Luke 17:17-19

I would have thanked you but:

1. my dinner was burning
2. my kids were crying
3. my business needed me
4. I didn't have any note cards
5. I didn't want to embarrass you
6. I thought you knew
7. I was tired
8. I was so excited
9. I forgot

I wonder why the foreigner did return and the other did not. It occurred to me that when all were suffering from a common disease, they were bonded by their outcast status. When they were all healed, the nine returned to their life: their ethnic and religious life. The foreigner only had Jesus at that point - he could not merge so easily into his old life. And perhaps he had found his true home.



Ten Lepers Healed by Brian Kershisnik (1962- )

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Potters, Philemon et al



Readings are here.

Jeremiah speaks of God as a potter in Sunday's reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. We have songs where we sing of "you are the potter, we are the clay." At one time I did pottery and the comparison of the songs with their gentle rhythm and sense of God shaping us has little to do with the actual process of making pots. First the clay is mixed with just the right amount of water then it has to be slammed and pounded to rid it of air bubbles. Too much water and it will just be mud -too little and it will crumble. It will explode in the firing if all air is not removed. Once those steps are complete it has to be centered on the wheel - pressed down and held tight so it will not fly off into pieces. Now the potter begins to shape and pull the clay into a pot. Often potters will stop and cut it in half to see if the sidewalls are even. Very few pots make it to the kiln -- where another transformation begins.

This metaphor of Jeremiah reflects closely Jesus words about being a disciple and following in his way - putting him first, picking up our cross, and giving up possessions.

Quite a contrast to Paul's smooth letter to Philemon. Paul encourages, exhorts and appeals to Philemon's better self in his letter to the slave owner. Paul seems to accept that slavery is a reality and that Philemon has the power of life and death over Onesimus. Jewish law opposes the keeping of Jewish slaves so there is some tradition for Paul to oppose slavery. The reality of his current culture - where slavery sometimes is better than some other states of life - makes Paul tread carefully with Philemon. This letter was used by the opponents and supporters of slavery during the Abolitionist times. An example of how the Bible can be used when one wants to support a certain belief system. Did Jesus oppose slavery? He is silent on this subject yet in our day we find it horrifying.

I find this letter raises more questions than it answers on the issues of being faithful in the midst of culture - being "in the world yet not of the world." It does teach me that sometimes cajoling and appealing to other's sense of fairness will get further than beating them over the head with my ideas of what is right and wrong.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tree of Life

Readings are here

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

This is the Collect for Sunday. I was taken by the imagery of trees - grafting, increase, nourishment, fruit. It assumes that we are the tree. A tree used for grafting has a strong base and root stock but needs a graft to make good fruit. To become a tree of life we need good grounding, nourishment, and a way to use that which we take in for the feeding of the world.

Another thought comes from reading an essay in AARP magazine - about a man whose believes his soul was saved and life given back to him working at Starbucks. He has been a high flying ad exec - was downsized - had a consulting business - that was going nowhere. He was having coffee at Starbucks and the manager asked him if he wanted a job. At first kidding but then serious - he joined the "partners." Through his life on the job with people that would never have crossed his path, doing everything from cleaning toilets to running the cash register - he learned compassion and love for himself that he had never known. An unexpected reversal like Jesus gives in the gospel.

The other thought I have is about the value and valuing of work as Monday is Labor Day in the USA.

And from Streams of Mercy

Sharing a table at Starbucks
Strangers chatting
on our separate ways
Later the barista
sweeps up feathers along with
crumpled napkins.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bent over woman


Sunday readings are here.

I am not preaching Sunday. Am flying to Phoenix to lead an EfM training, but I find this healing particularly poignant. A woman who is so bent down by her burdens - spiritual or physical or emotional - she cannot look up. She cannot look at the stars or the blue skies. She cannot connect with others by looking into their faces. She stares down like a wallflower at the dance. Jesus touches her and immediately she straightens up. He proclaims her a "daughter of Abraham" - includes her "in" when others want her left out. They worry that it was not done in the correct way - the rule about healing on the Sabbath is more important that this beloved daughter of God.
This is the way of Jesus - people are more important. God will not be contained by our rules.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

more thoughts on Sunday




From Harry Potter – Introduction to Deathly Hallows

“Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.

“In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.” (William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude, 1702).

This seems to resonate with the readings from Hebrews about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The San Damiano Crucifix to me is a cross of the great cloud of witnesses.

I am also taken with Judi Boli's comments about fire in her sermon for today. One that some seeds can't grow without fire and the other about how firebreaks use fire to fight fire.

Will meditate on this and listen to NPR (always a good source for sermon material) on my 2 hour drive to Rock Springs this morning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sermon notes for August 19

Readings for Sunday are here

Thanks to Fr. Jake Stops the World for the youtube Postcards. This seems to speak to the readings.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bigger Barns


Readings for this week are here

I am not preaching this week as we are home in Lander with our 8 year old grandson who is visiting for a couple of weeks. However, I belong to a couple of sermon discussion listserves and this story came up.

Bigger barns. An article titled "This New House," published in the March/April 2005 issue of Mother Jones, documents the growth in size and luxury amenities of the average new home in the United States. Among the findings: one in four Americans wants at least a three-car garage; one in five new homes is larger than 3,000 square feet--the size at which it becomes unmanageable to clean without hired help; since 1950, the average new house has increased by 1,247 square feet, while the average household has shrunk by one person; 14 million households own four or more TVs; the average cost of a luxury kitchen remodel is $57,000 $10,000 more than it costs to build a typical Habitat for Humanity home.

Jesus' story of the man who built bigger barns to contain all his wealth and then died in the night is challenging to those of us who are more than comfortable. I know I have more than most in this world. Though we share it with others, contribute to causes that help others out of poverty, and work to change systemic issues, I wonder if I am just kidding myself about the imbalance I see in my own life. I can say the usual "if I give it all away - I would just become another poor person with no power to make a difference" or "I make my resources available to others" or whatever.

I do believe that the point of the story is our worship of God vs our worship of our wealth. If we spend all our time trying to protect our things and our status - we will have an impoverished life. But poverty does not guarantee holiness either.

It is easy, when one has material wealth, to believe that I am somehow a better person - more deserving - that I earned it with my own abilities forgetting that it is really a result of privilege, luck, and lots of external support. Or worse - that somehow it is God's blessing of me and my family. The prosperity gospel - ala The Secret and other popular "fiction" is an example of this doctrine. Mostly these preachers writers are the ones who end up rich!

In the end - I have questions and not many answers. The one I do have is to sit lightly with possessions, realizing that in the end it will be how we lived and not what we had.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is....?

You scored as Albus Dumbledore, Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.

Albus Dumbledore

75%

Hermione Granger

70%

Remus Lupin

65%

Sirius Black

60%

Harry Potter

60%

Ginny Weasley

50%

Draco Malfoy

50%

Severus Snape

45%

Ron Weasley

45%

Lord Voldemort

20%

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thoughts for Sunday next


Readings for Sunday are here

Early thoughts on the Good Samaritan. I have written these reflections over the past few years as this reading comes up in the Daily Office. I always seem to be drawn to the man in the ditch rather than identifying with the ones who walk on by or the Samaritan.


In the ditch
of my life
I watch.
You move
to the other side
offended by
my blood and tears.


Who will be neighbor to me?
Lying in the ditches of life
Fine words and pure rituals
cannot touch the bruises
of my being.


Will we allow a Samaritan stranger
to pull us out
of the ditch of death
heal our wounds
And put us on the road to life?


Battered and bruised
in the ditches of life
looking up into the faces
of strangers and friends
the alien and the familiar
who will show mercy?


To receive daily (usually) reflections like these send an email to dailyoffice-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or "shameless self promotion alert" buy the book of older ones Streams of Mercy.

Art by He Qi

Friday, June 29, 2007

Leadership in community


Sermon thoughts---
Readings here
The readings today point to issues of leadership in community. How are leaders selected? How will the community be maintained? How to lead in a time of rapid change?
Not too many of us will have Elisha's experience of seeing one's mentor swept up in a whirlwind on chariots and horses of fire and having the mantle of leadership fall on us. Or perhaps selection as a leader can happen like that. I know for other congregations in discernment for their leaders of various ministries - it is often a surprise to a person when she or he is selected. Thoughts of "not worthy," "not prepared," and "who me," pass through one's heart and mind. Just like Elisha - it will take some time to live into the role, learn the skills, and become competent and at ease. It takes time for others to see us in a new role. We are the same but we become changed.
Paul's letter to the Galatians has been talking about how to live as a community called church. Last week we read that he wrote about being freed from our imprisonments. Much of his letter had been about the pains that the Galatian community has suffered but last we heard about the rewards - that in baptism we are no longer stuck in the prisons of social construction - class, race, ethnicity, even gender. Today we hear about the things that will lure us back into our prisons and away from the freedom of Christ. Fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. Some of these are about personal holiness of life - but most are about how we are to live together. It takes both individual choices and community choices to be a holy people in a holy gathering. Ten of the 15 items are about community and the others affect life in a community even though more personal.
Paul recommends actions that counteract these activities. He says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." When tempted to respond in anger - choose to rest in the gifts of the Spirit. When jealous of others rewards - choose to take joy in their successes. The first reaction is often from the first list - the choice empowered by the Spirit comes from the second list. It takes practice. It is part of the growing into the full nature of Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus offers his thoughts on leadership and change. It is true that the only thing that stays the same is change. In our lifetimes or the lifetime of this church, much has changed. From the days of "Rossie" - Adeline Ross, offering Sunday School classes around the county through the heyday of the 50s and every family bringing 3-4 or more children to Sunday School to today with changing leadership needs and much in the world competing for the small hour per week of Sunday that we give in worship of the one who created and sustains us. Jesus is not saying the old days were bad but that today is a different time and calls us to new ways of being church. We often confuse different with "good and bad" -- things can just be different and call us to new ways without denying the old ways and the benefits of their time. Jesus is saying, I believe, that some of our old ways must be laid down in order to make way for what we need to do now.
What are those things that we need to let go of in our own lives and the life of this church. What are the doors that are opening -that we need to walk through? Where is the Spirit leading? Where is God leading us to go? The psalmist promises that God will lead us like a shepherd, lead us by taking our hands and calming our fears when the way seems hard, rejoice with us when we come into our new way of being.
The Collect today prayed:
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; -- let us say "yes" and build on that foundation - join together in unity of spirit and become that holy temple. AMEN.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Readings are HERE.

I am off to the Bondurant BBQ tomorrow - no pigs, unfortunately. I am leaning more to preaching on that drama queen Elijah - oh poor me, no one to help, it is all up to me, Jezebel is after me (with good reason having killed off all her prophets), I did all you asked of me, God, and now every one hates me. wah, wah, wah -- finally he shuts up long enough for God to get a word in edgewise (still and small). Thunder and lightning and wind would have just increased his anxiety. God sends him back to find all the leaders God has been busy calling out while Elijah has been away.

All the readings have lessons of how we imprison ourselves in reaction to the blows that life brings. Elijah is a faithful prophet doing what he believes God is asking of him. In the scene before his escape into the desert he has a contest with the priests of Baal, the bulls are piled high to be consumed by holy fire. Sort of like an early day Bondurant BBQ!! The priests of Baal dance and perform their rituals but nothing - sort of like how we feel when we try to light wet wood with paper matches and no kindling. Then Elijah steps up and pours water all over the sacrifice, ensuring that they will know it is not his doing. Then "whoooompf" all goes up in smoke. Not content with this demonstration of the power of God - he kills all the priests of Baal. Jezebel is not "amused." She sends her soldiers to kill Elijah. This is where we pick up the story today.

He is exhausted, he feels alone - even though God has been providing for him all during his journey. The thunder cracks, the lightning flashes, the wind roars but none speak to him. Finally in the silence and darkness he hears God say "return."
Return to your work, return to yourself, return to God.
The man afflicted by demons, who we hear about in the Gospel is another example of someone being called back into "his right mind." He has become crazed by the oppression of The Legion - the Roman army. He has been chained and driven out of community to rave, naked, among the tombs. When he encounters Jesus he experiences a freedom of mind and spirit that brings him back to himself - the person he was born to be, created in the image of God. In this story - it is not the man who can't hear God speaking but the community. They become even more afraid of the man - they could deal with him as he was - raving and naked. Now he sits calmly at Jesus feet but terrifying to them. Think about the community under the rule of the Romans, not wanting to rock the boat and bring the wrath of Rome down upon them. A person in his right mind who refuses to be a victim causes the whole system great anxiety and reaction.

We see this in family systems where there is alcoholism. If you have been involved in the healing of AA or Al Anon - you know how distressed everyone gets when one family member steps out of their role and starts behaving in new healthier ways. We see it in churches when there has been abuse by clergy (sexual or financial or whatever). Everyone participates in keeping the secret and not rocking the boat. When one person speaks out against whatever is going on - he or she becomes the outcast - the bad guy. When we allow Jesus to bring his healing presence into our families and churches it is not always sweetness and pleasantness. Change, even healing change, can be painful - like a healing wound is painful but necessary.
Paul in his letter to the Galatians writes about being freed from our imprisonments. Much of his letter has been about the pains that the Galatian community has suffered but today we see the rewards - that in baptism we are no longer stuck in the prisons of social construction - class, race, ethnicity, even gender - and the church has been shaking in terror of his meaning down to this very day. Freedom in Christ is wonderful and terrifying.

We long for this relationship with God - as the Psalmist says:
As the deer longs for the waterbrooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is a athirst for the living God
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?


It seems to be a case of be careful what you pray for! The destination is grand but the journey may have its hard parts - potholes and wild beasts, falls and terrors. The great thing is that Jesus is the beginning and the end, and our companion through it all - if we but hold out our hands.

There is a painting that often hangs in Sunday School rooms of Jesus outside the door - in the painting there is no keyhole or handle on the side where Jesus stands waiting - on our side we have the handle - will we open the doors of our locked hearts to Jesus - the Christ? Will we take the incredible liberating presence of God into ourselves and in our churches? Will we risk it? Can we hear the small still voice in the midst of the clamor of life? Say yes with Elijah and the man who was oppressed? Move out from the shuttered, locked up lives of our own making and move out to live the life in Christ?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Alban


Today is the 12th anniversary of my ordination to the transitional diaconate. It is always an odd sort of date. I never felt called to be a Deacon so making the vows of a Deacon all the while knowing that in some part of me they were not true felt like a lie. It was not the first time in my life or the last for this dilemma.
Alban was killed for putting on someone else's cloak and being mistaken for the other person. I wonder about that in the context of being ordained. He lied (by deed) to protect his mentor. The church and I lied because that is how it is done.
Many of us have worked to get the liturgies for ordinations changed so Deacons have one ordination and Priests another. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church has not passed that yet - but we keep working.

It is funny that what I felt to be my ordination to the priesthood happened that weekend. Many of my friends from seminary and most all my family gathered in Laramie for the ordination. Three of us were being ordained on June 22. The then bishop always did transitional deacon ordinations at the Cathedral. Family and friends gathered for dinner, cooked and served by classmates. Surrounded by all those who had traveled so far - from Boston MA to Portland OR, I suddenly felt "ordained." No bishop made it happen and I was still 6 months from ordination (by the church) as a priest. It was real and irreversible from then on. The community confirmed my call by their presence and in the sharing of a meal.


Here is a bit on Alban by James Kiefer
Alban 22 June 304

There were probably Christians in the British Isles already in the first century. However, Alban is the first recorded Christian martyr. The traditional date of his death is 304, during the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian; but many scholars now date it as around 209, during the persecution under the Emperor Septimius Severus. Alban was a pagan, and a soldier in the Roman Army. He gave shelter to a Christian priest who was fleeing from arrest, and in the next few days the two talked at length, and Alban became a Christian. When officers came in search of the priest, Alban met them, dressed in the priest's cloak, and they mistook him for the priest and arrested him. He refused to renounce his new faith, and was beheaded. He thus became the first Christian martyr in Britain. The second was the executioner who was to kill him, but who heard his testimony and was so impressed that he became a Christian on the spot, and refused to kill Alban. The third was the priest, who when he learned that Alban had been arrested in his place, hurried to the court in the hope of saving Alban by turning himself in. The place of their deaths is near the site of St. Alban's Cathedral today.

Prayer

Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Alban triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

written by James Kiefer

Icon by Aidan Hart Icons

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where is Home?

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Readings here.

Where is home for you? What does being at home mean? What are the signs that make you breathe "HOME?" For Naboth it was his ancestral land - his vineyard that his father and father's father and so on had planted and tended. Ahab wanted the land but even the offer of better land would not change Naboth's mind - because this was his home. Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could have the land. Only death could break Naboth's connection to the land.
How many people in this world still have a connection to land that is so strong? One still finds family ranches like this. The Shoshone in Wyoming feel this connection to their land (what is left of it). Maybe you still live in the home where you were a child. Our kids have trouble thinking about us living anywhere but the house where they grew up - the bedrooms are still "theirs" and we still call them by that name. Some of us it in the same pew in church - and don't really feel settled if we have to sit somewhere else. For most people in the US and around the world this has changed or is changing. People move for jobs, or because of war, or to feed their families, or for adventure. Many have to move or like Naboth because otherwise they will be killed - because someone else wants their home.
The woman (who is not Mary Magdalene!) who anoints Jesus with her tears and her hair is looking for a different kind of home. A home for her heart. Those around her see her as the wild stranger from the streets. Jesus sees her as a beloved daughter. He offers acceptance of her as she is, allows her to touch him, sees the love in her, and reflects back the love of God for her.
How in this transient world can Holy Communion be a home of the heart for people in Rock Springs. This is our challenge as we gain new members - can we make room or will those who have been here longer feel dispossessed? Will newer members find a place to offer their gifts here?
Lots of questions - I pray we will learn the answers as we journey together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Procrastinating my sermon prep by taking Internet quizzes and bloghopping - thanks Eileen at your new location



I am nerdier than 47% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

ARRGGH - St. Pat tagged me - 8 things and 8 people - this has been around my blog friends' sites so not sure I can find 8 more - join in if you want to help me.

Padre Mickey (who btw has a great story on the first woman bishop in Cuba) is at it again: spreading memes. He's a carrier!

So this one's in eights. Padre Mickey sez I have to follow the rules, which are:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.

2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

MY EIGHT THINGS
1. One of my favorite movies is Smoke Signals

2.My other favorite movie seen on late night TV is The Guns of Navarone

3. I love to watch baseball - am watching the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta right now as I struggle with this meme.

4. I used to collect baseball cards - wish I still had them.

5. On the baseball theme - I am still a Brooklyn Dodger fan. (never found another team after they left NY)

6. I turn the bedspread down on motel beds before sitting on the bed.

7. I used to have a radio show - Legislative Reports (Wyoming Legislature)

8. I eat Wheaties (Breakfast of Champions) most every morning.

Tagging?? Hmm?? still thinking. HELP!!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Celebration of the life of Jim Kelsey

The heart of ministry: the death and life of Jim Kelsey
By Herb Gunn June 09, 2007 (Episcopal News Service) Ecclesiastical orders melted at the church door in Marquette, Michigan, on Friday, June 8, as 600 people touched by the life and stunned by the death of Jim Kelsey, an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, gathered for his funeral. Concurrent services were celebrated at his former parish of Holy Trinity in Swanton, Vermont, and at the cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Also celebrated on the same day was a funeral mass at St. Joseph Church in Lake Linden, Michigan, for Michael Charles Wiita, the second man killed in the June 3 auto accident. The father of Wiita's fiancée, Jessica Slavik who was injured in the crash, came to Marquette to sign Kelsey's guest book and extend the family's respects.

At Kelsey's funeral, there was no liturgical procession for the nearly three-dozen bishops who traveled from across the Episcopal Church and sat with family or friends in St. Michael Roman Catholic Church. Save the presider, Bruce Caldwell, bishop of the Diocese of Wyoming and Kelsey's close friend, and the deacon, Teena Maki of Northern Michigan, no one wore vestments and there was no special seating. Some priests wore neckties with others in street clothes.

Gene Robinson and Fredrica Harris Thompsett spoke:

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire also spoke of Kelsey's work at the margins of the Church and his passion for justice.

"How did Jim come to have such a passion for justice?" Robinson asked. "Jesus listened with his heart, and in doing so, he touched the untouchables, he drew in the outcast, he raised up the downcasts, and he loved those not unloved by society but those unloved by themselves.

"Jesus and Jim listened with their hearts and then believed the truth that was spoken and then reached out," Robinson said.

Fredrica Harris Thompsett, faculty member at Episcopal Divinity School, rose to speak to "a powerful legacy, the abundance of grace in our midst at this tender [time of] heartbreak and celebration."

Speaking directly to Kelsey, Thompsett said, "You incarnated among us an unpretentious grace."

She credited Kelsey, who has a twin brother Steve, for learning to share space even before birth, and said, "We were reminded by your presence, Jim, that flexibility, making room for another, inviting other ways and sharing space are connected to ministerial vitality.

"I know of nobody who is better, Jim, than you at playing in the fully inclusive waters of baptism," said Thompsett. "Your legacy paradoxically reminds us that one person can make a huge difference, especially when that person insists on working along side and valuing others."

In days and years ahead, she said, many others will extend and pass on Jim Kelsey's legacy, "a shared mission of vitality among the baptized. What an abundant legacy of grace. What a truly amazing grace has been revealed for each of us to carry forward in days ahead."

More HERE

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


WIDOWS - 2 Pentecost, Proper 5
Sunday Readings HERE

The Son of Life meets a son of death --
there is something about Jesus that sucks the death out of people.



For a widow, the death of an only son is a tragedy beyond just the loss of a beloved child. Women without a husband or son were the lowest of the low in society - forced to return to their families' homes - they would live a life beholden to anyone who would take them in. The gift of life given by Elijah and Jesus was life for the entire community. Widows in the Bible symbolize all who have lost everything and are forced to rely on others for support and nurture. Our care of the "widow" shows our true discipleship.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

EARTH BISHOP MOURNED: A tribute to Jim Kelsey

Jim Kelsey: A video tribute by Earth Keepers.
Click HERE

The world has lost its Earth Bishop.

Episcopal Bishop James Kelsey of the Diocese of Northern Michigan was killed in a traffic accident on Sunday June the third 2007 while on one of his many journeys to spread the word of God.

Bishop Kelsey was returning from the far eastern Upper Peninsula when his life was cut short.

No person was dedicated to environment and interfaith causes like Bishop Kelsey.

This video was taken a day before his death as the Episcopal Bishop met with Lutheran and Presbyterian pastors to discuss a new interfaith environment endeavor called the Turtle Island Project.

Bishop Kelsey was always the first faith leader to volunteer to help with numerous interfaith environment projects sponsored by two Marquette, Michigan non-profits - the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute.

For the past three years, Bishop Kelsey had been a strong supporter of the Earth Keeper Initiative that involves 9 faith traditions with 140 churches and temples across northern Michigan.

Bishop Kelsey was with the Earth Keepers from the beginning - and was one of the original nine faith leaders to sign the Earth Keeper Covenant in 2004 - pledging to protect the environment and reach out to American Indian Tribes.

On Earth Day 2005, Bishop Kelsey helped collect over 45 tons of household poisons like insecticides and drainer cleaner plus tons of car batteries.

Following that first clean sweep, Bishop Kelsey said "we are delighted with the results of the Clean Sweep project throughout the Upper Peninsula."

Bishop Kelsey said the first clean sweep was "a sign of the commitment shared across our faith traditions to be faithful stewards of the Creation into which we have been born, and which sustains our lives."

Bishop Kelsey said "I think it's a really remarkable thing that this particular initiative has crossed boundaries that usually don't get cross in terms of different faith traditions."

More about Jim Kelsey at HERE

Monday, June 04, 2007


Sunday, the world suffered the loss of one who loved extravagantly. Jim Kelsey, bishop of Upper Michigan or "the U.P." as it is often called died in a car wreck. I could not take it in when the news came across my computer screen. Someone who was so alive in this world is now not.
Many tributes are gathering around the Episcopal Church. You can add yours HERE.
The hard thing for me at times like these is the distance of cyberspace. Although far flung friends stay in touch with email and blogs, there are times when I need to gather with other friends and just hold each other and weep. Nearby family and friends care but if they did not know the person it is not the same as those who have memories of the person to share.
Jim was someone who radiated the love of God to all around him. He was quick to laugh at nonsense (of which there is a lot in the Episcopal Church) and to mourn the waste of time and talent when we get so involved in our own importance over others. Although a bishop - he only saw that as a role to support others, it was never his intrinsic identity. His baptism was the most important rite for him.
Episcopal Cafe has many links to read more about this most amazing person.
For me I am thinking about a time when Jim was a Trainer for the Education for Ministry Program and we were at a training of trainers. We were doing a "futuring" workshop, thinking about what the future would be like by starting at a date in the future and "remembering" how we got there. Our group was playing with the idea of a world where no one could speak and people who where highly intuitive and knew other ways of listening were teaching the world how to communicate.
Our talked about how "could you believe it" in those old days they had contests to pick out the most beautiful - whatever that means! "Now" we could hear what all beings were saying - rocks, trees, bread, tables, animals. And how we were not really speaking but hearing each other on a deeper level. The discussion got wilder and wilder. We were laughing so hard - but somehow it was so memorable to me.
One part that I remember to this day was when one of us talked about how the BREAD gave the sermon last week in church. It told of its birth as seeds, gathered, milled, baked, and broken -- sharing its life with us. The willingness to give itself to us for strength and to satisfy our hunger.
I guess that reminds me of how willing Jim was to welcome people to the Diocese of Upper Michigan to learn about Baptismal Ministry and to go on the road to share a way of being church that encourages all to become the people they were created to be in the church and the world. He was a person who offered his experience to both pique and satisfy our hunger - our yearning for a meaningful life in the Spirit.
We will miss his lightness of being and I will miss a friend.

From Linda Fleming of Baggs, Wyoming
Life is short and precious
And we do not have too much time
To gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.
So be swift to love
and make haste to be kind.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

TRINITY SUNDAY - more

Today we will baptize 3 people during our Trinity celebration. I think baptism is our acceptance of the invitation from God to the dance of faith. For the baby we will have to teach him the steps, for the child we will learn to be more playful, and from the adult we will learn the gifts she brings. Our community is ever changing as we dance in and out, around and around with the Spirit, the Christ and the Creator ever present all in all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


TRINITY SUNDAY
Readings are HERE

Notes towards a sermon:

A word often used to speak of the Trinity is Perichoresis - in English "dancing around."

Here are some quotes from various centuries of people trying to describe this mystery of God experienced as three yet one:

"The Godhead is, to speak concisely, undivided... there is one mingling of Light, as it were of three suns joined to each other."
-Gregory of Nazianzus (4th cent. A.D.), Fifth Theological Oration, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson), 1994, p. 322.


"Theology makes explicit what the heart has always known. Let God be defined not so much by holiness and sovereignty in which loving relatedness is incidental, but by the dance of trinitarian life...When we render God in this way, not only atheists might come to love Him, but even Christians..."
Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), 1996, p. 47-48


"The incarnate one is the glorified God: 'The Word was made flesh and we beheld his glory.' God glorifies himself in man. That is the ultimate secret of the Trinity. The humanity is now taken up into the Trinity. Not from all eternity, but 'from now on even unto eternity;' the trinitarian God is seen as the incarnate one. The glorification of God in the flesh is now at the same time, the glorification of man, who shall have life through eternity with the trinitarian God...God remains the incarnate one even in the Last Judgment. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christ the Center, p. 105)


"And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing--not even a person--but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance." (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 152).


"Have you an infant child?...You have no need of amulets or incantations, with which the Devil also comes in, stealing worship from God for himself in the minds of vainer men. Give your child the Trinity, that great and noble Guard."
-Gregory of Nazianzus (4th cent. A.D.), Oration 15, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson), 1994, p. 365.


"Worship the Trinity, which I call the only true devotion and saving doctrine."
-Gregory of Nazianzus (4th cent. A.D.), Oration 43, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson), 1994, p. 405.

The Trinity has been described as a mountain approached from various sides - looking like 3 different mountains but when viewed after climbing to the top - seen as One. Or perhaps like water in its various forms: ice, liquid and steam - all the same substance but having very different appearances.

Bill Loader reflects on the reading from Romans: "So for Paul peace is about being in a right relationship with God, not as some distant judge nor as someone who is trying to draw us up into himself, but as one who is expansively living love out into the universe. We will have peace as we ride the flow of God's compassion out into the universe in our world and context. This is not a matter of following carefully
defined oughts, ancient or modern, but of being inwardly connected in such a way that we have an orientation which unites our joy, our intentions and attitudes and our actions. The more we allow ourselves to be loved the more we are free to ride the flow."

A country western song captures the idea for me:
Life is a dance
With steps you don't know
Join the dance
Learn as you go.


UPDATE: Pentecost sermon Listen HERE Scroll down to sermon. It will be up for a week.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


PENTECOST - more
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.


What would this speaking and hearing many languages look like in Jackson, Wyoming? What are all the languages spoken here? Visitors come from all over the world - every continent. Standing at Old Faithful I have heard at least 10 different languages being spoken nearby. Among those living in our community the main languages are English and Spanish - how does each hear our message of witness? Besides these languages, there are the languages of the generations. How can the message of Christ be heard by the youngest to the oldest person in Jackson? St. John's has messengers who speak the languages we find in our midst. The Latino Resource Center assists those whose language of origin is Spanish to learn the language of Jackson Hole - not just words but the language of economics, community services, and employment. Can St. John's offer the words of our faith? The leaders of the ministries with children, youth, and adults speak a specialized language to convey our faith to one another. The Browse N Buy speaks a language of clothing and goods that offers quality merchandise to stretch budgets and a way to put items to use rather than to the dump. Young adults and others face a confusion of financial messages - staggering under increasing debt loads - do we have members that could offer to speak a word of hope for them?

Could the fire of the Holy Spirit enlighten us to see how we might speak the words and actions of our faith in the streets of Jackson Hole? I believe you have begun to do this and I challenge you to see new opportunities of witness. The church has reorganized to support this witness - it is no longer a small church in a small community. Different ways of being church are emerging - not better or worse - but different - sometimes the fire of the Holy Spirit is a bit painful but it is fire that refines us to learn once again how to be Christ's body in the world.

Alleluia, alleluia - let us go forth rejoicing in the power of the Spirit!

Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Monday, May 21, 2007


PENTECOST

Readings for Sunday are HERE

Have you ever had that experience where it is only in retrospect things make sense? Maybe it is lessons taught to you by a parent or teacher that only make sense when you are raising your own children? Maybe it is a book you read at one point in your life that only became clear in another phase of your life? Maybe was an event with others where you had one idea of what it was all about only to discover later with more experience that you were totally off track?

This is the situation for the followers of Jesus in our Gospel for today. Our lesson is just part of 4 chapters of John where Jesus is having his final session with his followers. He has washed there feet and now is doing one last teaching of his reasons for being in our midst. They are obviously not getting it. Philip starts out with "just show us." Jesus says - "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?" I project as sense of frustration and real sadness by Jesus - we have been together for 3 years and you still, still, do not know?
Jesus plunges ahead anyway, with talk of them doing greater things, of them learning more after he is gone, of believers being given greater knowledge when they are ready for it, always coming back to if you love me keep my commandments. Don't worry about the future, don't be afraid, you will have peace - the peace that passes understanding. Those gathered around Jesus just seem to look at him with unseeing, uncomprehending stares. What a friend of mine calls the disciple's look - "HUH?
Jesus continues to exhort them and pray for them for 4 more chapters before turning to continue his walk of faith to the cross and beyond.
The lesson from Acts picks up the followers of Christ later. Luke finds them gathered together waiting, praying, and studying. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas sone of James, certain women, Mary Jesus' mother, and Jesus' brothers. 120 of them - mostly women, some men. They have choses someone to fill Judas Iscariot's place in the 12 and they are "constantly devoting themselves to prayer"as it says earlier in the book. Jesus has ascended and left them with:
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

So they are gathered - trying not to be afraid but not knowing what this thing is that they are supposed to be receiving. When
"suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability."

Suddenly they understand in a way that was not possible before - they see what Jesus was trying to tell them, they see what it really means to be a disciple, the heavens open to them in that moment. It is breathtaking. Nothing is impossible for this little tiny, seemingly powerless band of women and men. Stunning. Words could not describe it. Their heads seemed to be exploding with the knowledge and understanding.
It will take them the rest of their lives to fully comprehend but the doors have blown open and they are out in the streets staggering around with the power of it all.
From our view here in the 21st century, as the inheritors of that continuing fire of the Spirit, do we feel that power and fire? We come each Sunday to be fed from the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in our community. Like the early disciples we often "see through the glass darkly" - dimly perceiving something we see manifested in certain lives that we want for our lives. We want a life of meaning, we want that peace at the center of our being, we want to reach beyond ourselves in service to the world. How can we nurture the flames from that earliest Pentecost?
The first disciples teach us what to do.
1. Gather and support one another.
2. Devote ourselves to prayer and study of the Bible and those who have gone before us in faith.
3. Serve one another and the world in Christ's name.
4. Obey Jesus' commandment to love one another.
5. Witness and teach our faith to others - by word and deed.
6. Invite others into our community and make them feel welcome when they come.
7. Remember we know only in part - all is not revealed to us, sometimes we have to wait for more information before moving ahead or making judgments.
8. Open ourselves to the power of the Spirit to strengthen us and empower us to do the work we are given to do.


These are the basics of Christian community. In our day there may be new ways of incorporating these principles but the heart does not change. Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Love God, Love Others, Love Self - simple and yet a lifetime of growing in faith. Take the first step as we said in the opening prayer:
O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Image from Asian Christian Art