Saturday, December 27, 2008

1 Christmas

Readings are here.

Not preaching this week but for me Robert Fulghum captures part of the meaning of the Prologue to John in his story of the boy with the mirror:
"Are there any questions?" an offer that comes at the end of college lectures and long meetings. Said when an audience is not only overdosed with information, but when there is no time left anyhow. At times like that you sure do have questions. Like, "Can we leave now?" and "What the hell was this meeting for?" and "Where can I get a drink?"
 The gesture is supposed to indicate openness on the part of the speaker, I suppose, but if in fact you do ask a question, both the speaker and the audience will give you drop-dead looks. And some fool - some earnest idiot - always asks. And the speaker always answers. By repeating most of what he has already said.
But if there is a little time left and there is a little silence left in response to the invitation, I usually ask the most important question of all: "What is the Meaning of Life?" You never know, somebody may have the answer, and I'd really hate to miss it because I was too socially inhibited to ask. But when I ask, it is usually taken as a kind of absurdist move - people laugh and nod and gather up their stuff and the meeting is dismissed on that ridiculous note.
Once, and only once, I asked that question and got a serious answer…

Papaderos rose from his chair at the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window and looked out… He turned. And made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?"
 Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence.
"No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
 So. I asked.
"Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?" 
The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. 
Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.
 "I will answer your question."

Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.
 And what he said went like this:
 "When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
 "I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. 
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game.

As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
 "I am a fragment of a mirror whose design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the black places in the hearts of men - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life."

And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

And something from Howard Thurman:
The Work of Christmas
by Howard Thurman

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,

To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.

And what this season is all about:

Friday, December 26, 2008

On the feast of Stephen

Finally catching up on my Christmas sleep deficit. Daughter, SIL, and grandson left on Christmas eve afternoon to arrive by 5 p.m. for services in the log church at Eden. The snow and wind in some parts of the highway made it difficult to see the road in some parts. After a stop in the "saloon" across the highway for nature needs, we had a fun time singing carols to the old pump organ. Grandson played Good King Wenceslas for the offertory.
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Two of the women who were there were born near the church in a log cabin. Their father had helped build the church.

After some spiced cider and several cookies we headed for Rock Springs. Clear roads and the Senior Warden's warm house welcomed us. SIL made mac and cheese to sustain us through the rest of the evening. Carols began at 10:30 p.m. and service at 11. Grandson reprised GKW. The most fun for me was having grandson and daughter acolyting for the service. All dressed in red cassocks and white surplice - they did a great job - daughter had not acolyted for 20 years - g-son - never.

We had a nice crowd - many people I had never seen before - so that was lovely. In the morning 2 of us did Christmas Day service and then back in the car for the drive home. Roads much better tho it was snowing - no wind. Arrived in time to do the opening of the presents. Then after a nap I made gravy and we ate a delicious dinner cooked mainly by our DIL -- who stayed home slaving over the hot stove and oven to feed us. It was a great Christmas gift to me not having to think about cooking when knee deep in Christmas services.

Now it is the day after - kids watching the Grinch (who was featured in my sermon!) along with Superman.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent IV more

As usual the sermon went its own way. God cannot be contained. God tells David I cannot be contained in a house - no matter how beautiful. I am the God of the tents - I live with the people - I am wherever they gather. I will surprise you with my appearance. I can go wherever I wish - be born from a virgin's womb, born a helpless infant and not a mighty warrior, show up where you least expect me. Trevor Huddleston, a white priest in South Africa tipped his hat to a black mother. Desmond Tutu saw his mother being treated as an equal and it changed his whole understanding of his place in the world. Willie Misner, was accepted into art school but then rejected when they discovered she was a woman. She continued her art and gave her gift to others - as we see in the creche in this very church. Many of the figures were made by the children with her help - but this one young girl reflect the joy of a young woman in her acceptance of the gift of Christ born in our midst. Willie took her gift and shared her gift that others might discover their gifts. Trevor Huddleston, in a small gesture of respect - gave a gift from his understanding of the gift of God in Christ. (see previous post)

Today I read about a musical group, Lost and Found Orchestra Bishop Alan Wilson writes about it:
No conventional instruments are involved. An orchestra of 50 (plus choir of 40) produce a riot of co-ordinated, elaboate, messy joy. The instruments are made from a variety of items off a skip (US - Dumpster), including parking cones, saws, crutches, shopping trolleys, rubber hosing and IV Drip stands. There’s dance involved, and presentation is as important as the sound. It’s a whole composite deal, where everyone is someone. It alll sounds a bit like Adiemus, but crazier. To get the best of it, you do have to be there — no mere film can do it justice.

I think we learned something last night —
It’s amazing what you can find in the things people trash — there is music hidden away in everything, waiting for people with the imagination and commitment to release it together.

Anthony de Mello tells us:
Finally I recall the song the angels sang
when Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
that give God glory.
Have I ever heard the song the angels sang when I was born ? ...
I see with joy what has been done through me
to make the world a better place...
and I join those angels
in the song they sang
to celebrate my birth.

Can you hear the song the angels sang at your birth?