Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spiritual but not religious?

Barbara Brown Taylor speaks on the intersection of religion and spirituality. She says "I am religious, but not contentious"and I am spiritual, but not detached". She offers a very articulate discussion of religious dualism. Q and A, too:

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009


From the newsletter of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Fairbanks, Alaska:

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Remembering his parents’ red bell, which always hung in the house on Christmas, because it had always hung in his father’s childhood house on Christmas . . . and now has disappeared. maybe.

In those days . . . the trash furnace behind the School was a round contraption of rusted metal and a gimcracky teetering stovepipe. It hid behind the white frame buildings, away from public view. You could watch bright flames burning in the rusted holes of the metal. In the days after Christmas, the B.I.A. teacher was back there, tossing boxes through the opened door. I stumbled into him and watched the flames burning. Schools accumulate paper, and I assumed that’s what was in the boxes. Black and gray smoke up into the winter air; delicate ash falling fragilely down onto our snow.

Then I saw the boxes disappearing into the consuming flames were filled with Christmas ornaments and decorations. Santa Clauses and angels and candycanes offered into the conflagration.

The teacher was a creative soul. He had stunned us early in the Winter, when he walked into the Village Store, fresh from a school lesson on the Civil War, dressed as Abraham Lincoln. (“They must handpick these people for us”, said my brother-in-law watching, shaking his head). He had charmed us at Christmas, with the beauty and intricacy of his handmade Christmas decorations. Now they were all disappearing into the flames.

One of the understood Rules of Community Life is hardly ever do we interfere in someone else’s business. We will all watch what you are doing and we will all certainly discuss what you are doing, but hardly ever will we intervene. It’s your business. Nonetheless, I had to protest. “What are you doing?” I asked, “Those were wonderful”. As he tossed the decorations into the flames he said, “I make Christmas decorations every year; and then throw them away after. If I didn’t; I wouldn’t make new ones. Christmas is always new, not old.”

And away they went, turning all into delicate dark ash falling fragilely onto our white snow.

We construct the House of Christmas as a House of Memory. We hang childhood ornaments made by now adult children on the trees and remember. A familiar carol comes jangley over the store’s speakers, and we are snared in once upon a time moments. My friend sits at home on her couch remembering, I am sure, nearly a century ago - she and her friend Josephine lying in bed on that long ago Christmas night, whispering and eating Christmas candy. Candlelight whispers in the darkened Church and we are wrapped in other Christmases, other services. We crowd into the Church Christmas Eve, all of us, seen and unseen, with all of our memories – “the hopes and fears of all the years” - and they are sacred and real that Night, reminding us they are sacred and real all nights, all days.

And yet, and yet. Christmas is always more than memories, a once-upon-a-time, a Past. “Once in royal David’s City”, yes; but it is Christmas Present. Christmas Future. Christmas wine is always a new wine.

Quietly over there, hardly noticed, that young quiet couple, crowded shyly into the corner of the Church. He stands, protective. She sits, holding the Child, wrapped in its soft blue blanket. The Child sleeps, eyelashes soft on cheek. There are memories of the pregnancy, its wonder and terror, but now there is only This Child, This Holy Night, This First Christmas for them, for us.

Always New; Always Beginning.

“There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;”- “God’s Grandeur”, Gerard Manley Hopkins

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From a heathen and a pagan...

From a heathen and a pagan on the side of the rebel Jesus:

h/t to Episcopal Cafe

Friday, December 18, 2009

Israeli Conscientious Objectors

Young Israelis refuse to serve in the army while it occupies Palestine:

From Jewish Voice for Peace
Dear Ann,

A year ago today, tens of thousands demanded the release of Israel's youngest prisoners of conscience, the Shministim.

These 12th graders courageously chose prison time over serving in the occupying Israeli army, and became heroes to us and the entire world.

Last Chanukah, just one day after Tamar Katz was released from solitary confinement, the young Shministim gathered to celebrate and to decide how to thank the 20,000 (and counting) Jewish Voice for Peace members who wrote letters, attended rallies, and wrote articles on their behalf.

This is the message they carefully wrote together. One year later, as Shministit Or Ben-David sits in prison in Israel, and as Jews around the world prepare to celebrate the last night of Chanukah, it seems appropriate to share it with you again. We can't imagine a more important message during this festival of lights.

Dear friends and supporters,

During Chanukah the festive of lights, we, the Shministim, would like to take a moment to thank you for all you've done for us and for our struggle.

While we sit down with our families and light the first candle of the holiday, symbolizing the rebellion against an occupying army, some of us are still behind bars, denied the freedom to celebrate the holiday with their loved ones, denied the right to freedom of thought and political consciousness.

During this dark period of consecutive jail terms, military trials and attempts to break our beliefs, you were our light.

Each and every one of you who helped with the campaign, who sent a supporting letter, who sent the link of the website to a friend. You've let our struggle be heard around the world, the letters, the postcards and posters, the demonstrations, all of those actions fulfilled our wildest dreams.

We would like to thank you once again and wish you all a happy and free holiday.

in solidarity,
The Shministim

The struggle for freedom continues.

Palestinian human rights activists like Abdallah Abu Rahmah and Mohammad Othman now sit in Israeli prisons with you as their most important global advocates.

Thank you to each one of you for being a part of this struggle.

Happy Holidays and Chag Sameach,

Monday, December 14, 2009

now I am ready for Christmas...

Once in Royal David's City:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent Calendars

A collection of Advent Calendars online - for your daily use to slow down for the season:

Diocese of Washington, DC Advent Calendar 2009

BBC Bach Calendar

Christmas around the world by Woodlands Junior School, UK

Church of England

The Adventures of Mary and Joseph from Paperless Christmas

Beliefnet Advent Calendar

Trinity Wall Street

And my Favorite: Tate the Cat

And one more - from ECVA Grace: advent and art

And one from The Anglican Church of Canada

And this from OCICBW

Add yours in the comments.

Friday, October 23, 2009

At a peace gathering - Sölle

Thanks to Acts of Hope

At a peace gathering

We’re not only ten thousand I said
there are more of us here
the dead of both wars
are with us

A journalist came and asked
how could I know that
haven’t you seen them
i ask the clueless guy
haven’t you heard your grandmother
groaning when they started it up again
do you live all alone
without any dead who drop in
for a drink with you
do you really think
you are only yourself

Dorothee Sölle, The Mystery of Death

Thursday, October 22, 2009

XXI Pentecost


The man born blind:
The question this raises for me is "what do I have to cast off to be able to see?" How are things I have accumulated, the cultural baggage of my life, blinding me to seeing life? A priest who is blind says that this passage speaks to him - not because it offers him sight as sighted people would have it but because it leads him to "insight." His physical blindness allows him to hear the hearts of those who come to him with out being blinded by their appearance, clothing or attitude.

Earlier in Mark, we hear the story of the rich young man who does everything right but cannot follow Jesus because he can not rid himself of his possessions. It is hard work to let go of things - as I know from getting ready to move into a house 1/3 the size of our current home. It is even harder to get rid of years of cultural learnings about who is worthy of my attention, who can come to the table, who is a child of God - not as the world sees but as God sees. As the old musical South Pacific says "we have to be carefully taught" and we are.

I once took an anti-racism course where the teacher talked about the arrows that life throws at us about our worthiness - not measuring up - our minds, bodies and souls under attack - and we build up layers of self protection to make it through our days. The result is that each of us responds from under layers and layers of armor. We can't be open to one another as we hide from the risk of wounding.

Jesus invites us to take off our cloaks of protection and follow him - the one who is willing to be wounded for anyone and all. The blind man leaps at the chance - he knows the circumscribed life is no life. He flings off all that he has for the chance at LIFE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Halloween

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mirrors of our lives

A good one for Sunday - mirrors and what they tell us:
Looking in the Mirror by Martha Sterne.
I remember the barber, Cecil Orr by name, who gave our three-year-old son his first real hair cut. And, oh my, it was a little trauma--the little boy lips trembling and huge crocodile tears swimming in his eyes--and his daddy and I were about to cry too--but the barber just started murmuring, "My boy, I believe you are a baseball player. I believe you are a fine baseball player. I bet you can hit that ball a mile, my man. You can hit that ball a mile, can't you Charlie?" And the little boy heard the words--you're a baseball player--and looked in the mirror and stopped seeing the scissors and hearing the whuuzzzz of the clippers and saw instead baseball player Charlie--we'd always called him Charles--and there with Cecil, he saw Charlie, the baseball player who could hit that ball a mile.

Then some years later, I went to Grady, who every time I walked in the door of the beauty parlor always screamed in mock horror, "Emergency, emergency!" But this time I walk in and I'm not in the mood for kidding around. I have been doing--often very naively and poorly--a jobs ministry in an Atlanta public housing neighborhood. And I have seen more than comfortable, middle-class people want to see or know how to understand about the grind and the pain in the prison of generations of poverty. I think the day I went to see Grady I had found out that a lovely very young woman that I'd helped to find a little crummy job had been leaving her five-year-old at home alone because she couldn't find child care and she didn't want to disappoint me. Can you imagine how I felt about that? Well, I don't talk about that to Grady, but I say, "Grady, I either need a totally new haircut or a totally new me and right now I don't care which." And without saying a word, he cut off every hair of my head--almost like shaving someone who is entering monastic orders. He did that with my back to the mirror, and I was thinking, "Oh, my Lord, what is he doing?" And then he swung the chair around. And I saw me. And he said, "Martha, you don't need a new you. You need to be you, and God knows that'll be enough." And you know what? He was right. The hair grew back and I grew up.

Read more here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kennedy on health care

In memory of Ted Kennedy -- I hope we pass legislation that gives health care to all within our country:

Monday, August 24, 2009


Click on the photo to see the video slide show:

View this montage created at One True Media
My Montage 8/24/09

Danse Macabre

Fr. Matthew presents:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No longer strangers

Readings are here.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Rest awhile sounds delightful to the bishops and deputies and all who attended General Convention the last 2 weeks. I told people I was on the General Convention diet - no time to eat. I received notes from friends at home giving me helpful ideas about how to eat healthy with the schedule of 7 a.m. committee meetings, legislative sessions, worship and of course the need to see all one's friends from all over the country. This was the best organized convention I have attended in the 9 times I have gone. Both presiding officers - the President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori are calm, non-anxious presiders over the complex parliamentary procedure mix of Robert's Rules and Episcopal Rules of Order. They both allow people to speak their passions in a non-manipulative setting. Even those who lose various votes feel heard.

The Gospel goes on to talk about how the crowd's needs impinged on the Apostles' need for rest. And so it was at General Convention. The needs of the poorest of the poor were ever before us. We restored the 0.7% for a Millennium Developments Goals line item and raised it to 1%. Even though it means cutting our own programs and relying more on the volunteer strength of the church. We had resolutions that added up to much more that we could count on coming in this time of economic worry. Many worthy programs could not be funded or were cut back and staff will be let go. We stood in solidarity with the Disney workers who are being asked on minimum wage to pay more for health insurance out of their meager salaries.

The church decided to follow the thinking of the author of Ephesians:
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

The General Convention made two clear statements about where we are as a church on full inclusion. One was that we will follow our canons on non-discrimination on access to the process to ordination. (not guaranteeing ordination but access to the process) essentially saying that where we are today is a place of no more moratoria but a place of careful discernment and being true to our heritage.

The other was the request to begin looking at rites for marriage and blessings for gays and lesbians in committed, mutual, faithful partnerships. More and more states are offering civil marriage and partnerships. In those states bishops can make pastoral accommodation for those couples. We will consult widely as we develop rites - and we will study the whole question of all marriages and the rites we use.

The Convention had many more young leaders - in both the Deputies and the Bishops - strong articulate voices who are taking over the church with wisdom and energy.

We had visitors from all around the Anglican Communion - telling us to stand up for all that we have to offer - not to act out of fear - but to offer hope.

I have much hope for the church as I stand here today - we took a leap of faith and I believe the angels were bear us up. If not we have the promise of the resurrection. We look to the day when there are no strangers - only brothers and sisters, family - at home on the earth in all the lovely diversity and connection that God offers.

UPDATE: The sermon came out somewhat this way but I did add a comment made by our 18 year old Deputy when asked what she thought was the most important thing - she said it would probably be some unnoticed thing that becomes the base for something we don't even know yet. Also talked about the Denominational Health Plan, the Title IV revisions, and the Covenant.

Here is a interview with me made by our Communications Officer in Wyoming.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

3 Pentecost: Stormy seas

Readings are here.

Some random thoughts towards a sermon for tomorrow.
We used to have a small boat that we took out on Boysen Reservoir. As many know the mornings are calm and sunny but by mid afternoon thunderstorms begin to build and the storms can sweep across that lake in a matter of minutes. One day we were out in the middle of the lake when one of these storms came up. We made for the boat ramp, Jim jumped out to get the Suburban and boat trailer - back it down the ramp (there were others doing the same). I was out in the boat circling, awaiting my turn. The wind began to blow, the waves were crashing over the bow. I continued to circle, strapping on my life vest (I know, I know, I should have put it on first thing). Finally I saw that the trailer was in position. The wind was blowing across the boat pushing it off course. I knew I would have one chance to make it. Aiming the boat up wind from where I needed to end up I revved up the engine and shot towards shore. The boat hit the boat trailer and practically went into the back seat. We wrangled the whole thing up out of the water and up the ramp. Whew!

As I read about the disciples out on the sea of Galilee - a body of water known for storms that come up quickly - I thought about my experience. Their boat was larger but not by much - they had no engine, only oars and a sail. I can imagine the scene - Jesus sleeps (no fear in him), the storm terrifies the disciples. They shout at Jesus and shake him awake - help help - we are going to die! Jesus awakens, stretches, looks around and asks them why they have no faith. The way I see it - they were fishermen - they know sailing in rough weather - what had happened to make them turn to Jesus (a carpenter) for help?

As I read the story - it is not so much that Jesus calms the seas as he provides the calm around him that allows the disciples to remember that they know boats and seas and storms - they can cope with the situation. The sea suddenly seems calm to them.

How often to we get to feeling so overwhelmed that we forget that we know things, we forget to use the our gifts and the gifts of the community? The storms of life will happen. Turning to Christ in prayer may not change the situation but it will definitely help us to have peace in the midst of the storm. Like Paul in the epistle we can work together with God, we can open our hearts to the peace that passes understanding.

A painting of the storm at sea here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2 Pentecost

Readings are here.

Today's readings are mostly about growth and the innateness of growth in all of creation. The tree in Ezekiel, flourishing of the psalm, and of course the mustard seed in the gospel. Although it is in the nature of all things to grow, it is a particularly human trait to have an imagination that grows. We are born with imagination and with care and feeding and the nurture of God - those seeds of imagination and ideas take root and grow until our death and beyond.

Dolly Parton was interviewed in AARP Magazine this past month. She epitomizes for me how the seeds of her imagination and her dreams became reality. We know how she grew up in poverty, her father could not even read, but her family encouraged her.
During her teenage years Parton and her mother's brother, Bill Owens, also a songwriter, would venture into Nashville and try to get signed. "We used to come down in his rickety car any time we could beg, borrow, or steal enough money for gas," Parton remembers. "We'd clean up in service stations. I'd wash my hair in those old, cold sinks and put my makeup on in the mirrors in the car." Through it all, she says, "there wasn't ever a time I thought I wasn't going to make it."

But achieving her dream did not stop her, it did not end with her success. She kept on dreaming:
I wake up with new dreams every day. And the more you do, when you're a dreamer, the more everything creates other arenas you can go into. It's like a tree with many branches, and branches with many leaves."

She feeds her dreams, she prays, she looks for ways to give away her dreams to others so they can dream and live into their dreams.

We had our driveway asphalted last year which makes it much easier to plow the snow off of it. However, the little seeds that were buried under inches of asphalt are not deterred. They force their way through the weaker places and pop up through that seemingly impenetrable barrier. Most are weeds of the mustard family. The urge to grow is strong - stronger than death. We have the promise of eternal life. So the setbacks and mini-deaths can be overcome according to this promise. Even after death we are promised more life and growth.

In Pakistan Christians are a small minority and in many places it is illegal and dangerous to be a Christian, yet I was reading in Church Times that they feel they were placed there by God to be a force for God's reconciling love.
In this volatile setting, Christians — 85 per cent of whom work in menial jobs — provide care for all in need. “We are trying to recreate God’s love as we have experienced it in Jesus Christ, and those people of God are the Taliban and al-Qaeda and Christians, whoever they are. This is our heritage through mission, and it is our privilege. Our three or four health centres are services in diakonia.”

He spoke of the work of six Lutheran women in a hall that they share with an al-Qaeda camp. “They are working in an area where even the bravest of the brave would shudder to go. We clean the wounds of the children, and that gives us the right to be of service there. But how do we serve others if we do not get support? This is why I yell at our global Christian siblings for support.”

Yet the Church faces great problems: “Legal discrimination against me on the basis of my religion — that I cannot tolerate. . . That is a crime against humanity, and that is what is being done to us. We are in the impossible situation of a slow death, a slow suffocation by prejudice, despite all our service. It is the challenge of our times. How do we co-exist in a situation of majority Islam?

“Our destiny is to exist as a Church and a people of God to encourage reconciled relationships. My challenge is that our destiny is to embrace the enemy — to smell the sweat of the enemy — and that is why God has supported us and places us there. We have not gone underground, and I am proud of that.”

This is definitely mustard seed living. We are called to witness in this way wherever we are planted. We are here in a small town in Wyoming. How can we be mustard seeds that grow and branch out and give shade for others to grow and branch out? How can we do this as individuals, as communities of faith?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Trinity Sunday

My Trinity Sunday sermon is here. Click on the Click Here to hear it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Readings are here

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. (Acts 2)

The followers of Jesus had been gathered together since the Ascension- women and men - about 120 of them as it says earlier in Acts. They are waiting - they do not know for what but Jesus told them to wait. They wait in hope as Paul says in Romans:
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
They waited in hope not knowing. They shared the stories of their time with Jesus and prayed and broke bread together. For 10 days they kept hoping. Suddenly they were so filled by the Spirit they overcame their fears and burst out in the streets - unable to contain that which they knew - it had to be shared. Some in the streets thought they had been drinking all night and into the morning - and in a way they were drunk - drunk on the Spirit. They shared their faith in such a way that all heard it in their own language.

Lately there have been many surveys that show the fastest growing faith group is the "none" group. When asked about faith traditions, denominations or churches - a growing percentage of respondents say "none."

So how did we get from the early church with its enthusiasm for sharing the gospel in the languages of their day to today when so many do not know the story nor see why it might be something for them? Why do we come to church - why did you come today when there are so many other things you could be doing? Obviously we have some small flame of the Spirit that we come to tend here. But it seems to stop there. This is not a guilt trip - I am just curious as to what it would take for us to share the good news that we know with others? Not just to make Episcopalians but to share that which sustains us so others might know about it.

Some time ago I was in a group where we studied the scriptures, prayed, and shared our stories of faith with one another. It was a safe place to practice our stories. One day she came bursting into our group saying I have a ministry! She meant she realized that ministry was more than what people dressed up in vestments do on Sunday or only ordained people can do. Her ministry was being a checker in a local variety store. She discovered that living her faith as she checked out people and their items could change the lives of most all who came through her line. You know how it is - someone has stress and anger - it is so easy to return that anger with anger. But she would return anger with love and concern. Pretty soon, because we live in a small town - people began to ask her what it was that helped her stay centered and spread love to each person? And there was the opening for her to share what it was - her commitment to following Christ and the work of the Spirit in her life. Because she had been practicing her story with the small safe group - she could burst out of our small meeting into the world. Her fears were gone - she had the confidence of God within her.

This summer at the Episcopal every 3 year national convention - we will be learning more about sharing our faith stories - testifying as Jesus says in our Gospel today. It is not about knocking on doors or passing out pamphlets in the city squares - but about knowing where we have encountered God and telling others about it where we live and work. We will practice our testimony -- even though the news reports may be that all we talk about is sex (sometimes it seems easier to talk about than faith) - we will be learning about sharing our faith.

The other part of sharing our faith is talking about it so others can hear it (as the early disciples spoke in the many languages). How are we to learn other languages that we encounter? Of course we can take Spanish or another language but how are we to speak across generations - speak to people who are becoming the "none" church. Learning to listen deeply to their hopes and dreams and their way of connecting to something greater than themselves is one way. By listening to how they speak of God or the Holy or Creation - we can begin the conversation. Our goal is not to make Episcopalians (although we would like that!) but to open up the dialogue of faith and how it supports and challenges our way of living.

As we go out to listen and share our story -- I read this last week --
"Easter makes me not afraid to die. Pentecost makes me not afraid to
live." h/t to Fran I am

Easter gives us the assurance that we will live forever - death is not the end - nor are the metaphorical deaths of embarrassing ourselves in public nor our fear of failure that feels like death. But Pentecost is what frees us to really live - live in the power of the Spirit - who came this day to get us up and out into the world.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Some last thoughts on Ascension -- my essay on Ascension is here. As I was preaching the sermon I focused on God breaking down the barriers between us and the Holy. Jesus prays that we may be one as he and the Father are one. Often this is used as a motivator for Christian unity but I think it is more in the line of all the times God broke through all the barriers we have erected between ourselves and the One who created all things. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Testament, God continually pursues this relationship. From the time of our separation upon leaving the garden of Eden, there has been this endless opening of doors to return to that easy one-ness with God. From Jesus' baptism and the opening of the heavens with the voice saying "you are my beloved" to the Transfiguration, to the cross and the veil of the Temple torn in two from top to bottom, to the Ascension - the message is -- I will tear down every barrier between you and Me. Barriers we have created by what we have done and not done, barriers created by human systems - even the church, whatever separates us - God is tearing down and reaching out. Can we let down our barriers to this union?

Some thoughts from the mystics

And God said to the soul:
I desired you before the world began.
I desire you now
As you desire me
And where the desires of two come together
There love is perfected."

-Mechtild of Magdeburg 1207-1297
( Oliver Davies)

How God comes to the soul:
“I descend on my love
As dew on a flower."
-Mechtild of Magdeburg
(trans. by Oliver Davies)

There the soul dwells –
like the fish in the sea
and the sea in the fish.

-Catherine of Siena

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In the garden...

Supposing him to be the gardener...

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, deep in her grief and loss. The one who had freed her of her many demons, who had given her back her life, whom she had followed and supported - he is dead. All who have experienced death of those we love, of the passing away of beloved times, can relate to this depth of loss. The story of God in human life starts in a garden. In the beginning... God walked with Eve and Adam, talked with them, they felt at one with God. They turned away from God to pursue their own lives and desires - they broke faith with God. As God makes garments to protect them on their journey, perhaps God wept into the threads.

Now we come to another garden and we are weeping. We know the terrible loss that death brings. We ache to be whole. Mary Magdalene think Jesus is the gardener and in a way he is - a gardener of our being - tending us and caring for us and praying us into wholeness. Even on the cross he stretches his arms out to us saying "forgive" - offering the path back to union with God.

Perhaps you have been far away, wandering from the faith of your childhood, perhaps you never heard the story of God's love for you and today you came out of curiosity or because a friend said, "Come and see." Or maybe your parents or your children brought you. Hear the words of Peter in the story of the Acts of the Apostles: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." Jesus comes to free us from whatever keeps us from living and loving freely. The offering is before us calling to us - we don't earn it - it is grace abounding freely. Everyone, in every nation, in every state of life, everyone is offered the loving embrace of God. Our response is awe and wonder (as Acts calls it "fear") and the desire to walk in the path of Christ. But first comes the offer.

In the garden, Mary Magdalene, does not know who Jesus is until he calls her name. It is that naming that is symbolic of who we are - someone who fully knows us and fully loves us. That is the offer today and every day of the one who rose from the dead and shows us the path of life.

Readings are here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I am with you to the end...

Cleveland sings for love

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


From the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Monday, April 06, 2009

Take me out to the ball game

Opening Day! Put me in coach:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm/Passion Sunday

Today we start with one kind of parade leading into another. From the joyous Hosannas to the silence of the tomb. At our 8 a.m. service I had everyone read the Jesus' parts. Usually the congregations gets the "Crucify him" parts so I thought it would be a change for them to look at from the point of view of Jesus. I preached briefly on noticing who ministered to Jesus along the way. Noted that it is often the unnamed and unknown: the woman who spent her year's wages to anoint Jesus, Simon the Cyrene - a stranger walking through town, Mary Magdalen, Mary, and the other women at the cross, the rich man who goes in fear and trembling to claim Jesus' body. The people who are expected to help: the government, the church, his closest disciples - all actively seek to take his life or turn their backs on him in the end.

Afterward one of the men said - wow - that happened to me - I had a wreck on Main Street last week - my friends drove on by -- strangers helped me -- I think I need to start acting when I see help is needed (I know that he already does this but I think it reinforced the gospel for him).

We have to get that service done in less than an hour or the next group gets antsy. We did it but with the long Gospel - we stripped out everything else except the Blessing of the Palms (I told them to hold up their hands to get the palms of their hands as well as their palm fronds), the Prayers and the Eucharist.

I think it was good and all are set to meditate on the events of Holy Week.

Painting by Danila Vassilieff.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hate the sin?

Father Matthew takes on the saying "love the sinner, hate the sin" - why that does not work.

You can now purchase his series on the Sacraments as a DVD - great for Christian Education or inquirers' classes. Click here for more information.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A prayer for our library...

Here is the prayer I composed for the blessing of our local library. In 1909 the original Carnegie was built here in Lander - a big stone edifice like you see in many Western small towns. Today in 2009 we dedicated an addition and remodel of the old. Odd fact- the current mayor grew up in the house where the new addition now stands.

Prayer for the Fremont County Library in Lander

God of all creation, giver of knowledge, wisdom, and creativity, you spoke your Word and all things were brought into being. In the spirit of the creative power of words:

We offer prayers this day for our library:

For all who worked to bring it into being
For the support of the community of Lander, Fremont County and Wyoming
For the committed, ever welcoming and helpful librarians and staff
For all those who will use its resources

For children of all ages who find it a place to dream and wonder
For those who find it a place of refuge and support in their daily lives

For the connections it provides
between the history and cultures of the world
through books, magazines, and the Internet
in the sharing of our stories, the stories of our community and the stories of the world beyond our experience.
through performances and presentations of plays, films, music and art

May it be a place for the enlightenment of our minds and kindling of our imaginations.

May we receive the gift of intellectual courage to ask the tough questions, encounter the issues of our day, and to weigh critically all the answers suggested here.

May it be a safe place of gathering in the midst of our community
where all are welcome
where our diversity is honored
and respect is practiced.

May we become not only knowledgeable, but also wise.

We pray this day for hope, for understanding, for new vision, and for the courage to take risks for the sake of knowledge and for the wisdom to use these gifts in service of our community and the world. May those who come here encounter hope, grace, and love. May the Fremont County Library in Lander ever be a place of blessing in our community. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2009

4 Lent

Readings are here.

This week's lessons seem to have a theme of being raised up for healing. In the wilderness Moses holds up the image of a snake to heal those who have been bitten by poisonous snakes. The letter to the Ephesians says:
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-- by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

And in the Gospel, Jesus says:
"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

All of these are not raised up for themselves but for the sake of others. The raising up somehow transforms what might be a terrible thing into a healing thing.

I think how those who have been through suffering and death are more able to walk through these times with others. Henry Nouwen calls them wounded healers. AA and other 12-step programs are example of people having found healing who are able to guide others through the healing process.

Although terrible things should not happen to any of us and we pray that they will not - the example of Christ is one of how suffering can be redemptive. Dorothee Sollee says that our pain can be like a kidney stone - serving no purpose other than hurting. Or it can be like childbirth- bring new life to another.

Some others thoughts on the Serpent on the Pole here and here. Both having to do with the healing and lifegiving power of looking directly at death.

And a poem:

by Nicholas Samaras

Let the path beat me down.
Let the weather and no covering beat me down.
Let the sun be my undoing.
Let Ksenofondos Monastery shrink behind me, until I lose all
Let me lose the road to where I lose all hope.
Let this path diverge unto my ruin, and beat me down.
Let all the elements of the earth beat me down.
Let the manuscript of my sins beat me down.
Let God thunder and kingdom come to beat me down.
Let me uncover my shame and give over my life.
Let me repent until repentance breaks me.
Let this path beat me down.
Let me learn the word for water is the same as the word for
Let the path beat me down, as I lie on its body and give up
Let me let go of the bag I own, the book, the pen, the dry bottle.
Let me own none of it.
Let me own nothing of myself.
Let the dust of my footsteps be tracked over by the wolves.
Let me die on these rocks, and my body be discovered in days.
Let my hands be found bloody with climbing the scree.
Let the oblique ascension of stars slant over my body.
Let the solemn silence of night be my liturgy.
Let God thunder and beat me down.
Where is the monastic, and where the scribe?
Where is the wise to beat me down?
Let the path beat me down.
Let the path lead me to my other self.
Let the smell of water waken what I walked for.
Let my face be transformed.
Let my face be transfigured from my life.
Let the world be beaten down as I wobble up again.
Let me go back to my family changed.
Let the path beat me down.
Let this path beat me down.
Let the path break me as I come,
to be this broken, this blessed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3 Lent

Readings are here here.

This week we have the 10 commandments, Paul wondering about wisdom, and Jesus clearing out the temple courtyards. The collect prays "Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul." It seems that all our lessons point us towards one function of Lent - which is to examine our whole being so that we can make space in our lives for God to show forth through us.

The commandments can be seen as limiting us or freeing us. Often we think of any strictures in our lives as bad - in the west we sing "Give me land lots of land under starry skies above - don't fence me in." We exult in the freedom to go where we want when we want. But on the other hand there is the story of cattle who graze near a cliff - without a fence - they fall to their deaths. The psalmist calls the law - a lamp unto our feet - that is it is not THE path but the commandments help to make the path more clear.

In the cleansing of the Temple - those selling are not technically breaking the law. In fact, they are using the law which forbids images to justify their business. Images are forbidden by the first commandment. In order to bring one's gifts to the Temple - the money with the image of Caesar has to be exchanged for image-less money.

So it seems that the Law can be an instrument of helping us to find the way but it can also be used to do things that are not at all in the Spirit of the Law.

Maybe we all need Jesus to come into the temple that is our body, mind and spirit - to help us sort this out.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

2 Lent

Readings are here.

Paul makes me laugh sometimes when I read his letters. This line from this week is an example:
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.

As good as dead. Paul thinks that being old is the same as dead but praises Abraham's faith nevertheless.

How many times do I limit myself by thinking I am "good as dead" or "too barren" to take on one more thing. All through the Bible we have examples of people who don't think they have what it takes to do a new thing. Moses thinks he can't go to Pharaoh because he has a speech impediment. Gideon thinks his tribe is too small, too week and too insignificant to accomplish anything. David's family thinks he is too young to be the one chosen to be anointed king.

There are people in our world who might allow themselves to think this way - too small, too insignificant, too handicapped, wrong color. Stephen Hawking could have given in to his disability but still he uses his mind and communicates his thoughts that affect the whole world of science. Beethoven became deaf but continued to write music.
On a chilly windy day at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday October 22, Amy Palmerio-Winters, of Meadville, PA shattered another marathon record for female amputee runners. Running on two broken toes not completely healed on her non-amputated leg, and spending Thursday and Friday in the hospital due to anaphylactic shock, Ms. Palmerio-Winters finished the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in a time of 3 hours 4 minutes and 16 seconds placing 34th in her age group and 148th in the entire field of able-bodied female marathoners.

Our new president and his wife could have allowed themselves to be limited because of race but with support from those around them they are now in the White House. Other names come to mind, Lance Armstrong who overcame cancer, Jim Brady who was wounded by a gun shot, Nelson Mandela who spent years in a South African prison did not emerge bitter but became a statesman who continues to try to lead people in the ways of compassion.

Bishop Tutu was born in a township of South Africa - with out much chance of attaining anything in life. He thought as a child that life was just that way. Black people were down and white people were up. One day he was looking out the window and his mother was down on the street sweeping the step. A white clergyman walked by and tipped his hat - the action of seeing his mother treated as an equal changed his life.

These stories make me think that there are two parts to overcoming our limitations. One is not accepting limits but the other is our role in encouraging those who might feel limited by their life circumstances. This is not to say there are not real limitations that cannot be overcome. Before 1974 women could not become priests in the Episcopal Church no matter how much they believed themselves called. People worked for years to make it possible for women to become priests and 20 years ago this week Barbara Harris became the first woman bishop. Black children were not allowed to attend schools with white children before many people died and struggled to open that door. Gay men and lesbians are still struggling to have their relationships honored and upheld in the same way as others. But these examples testify to the need of the community to help open the doors for all to use the gifts the creator has given to each of us.

Faith is what Paul commends and is the source of Jesus' rebuke to Peter. Faith to see that we often limit ourselves and others unnecessarily. As individuals we are invited to step into a world where all things are possible and as a community we are called to make that happen.

Image from Georgia Cawley.

And someone sent me this video from youtube.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reflecting on the psalms

If I could only have one book of the Bible it would be the psalms. Brother Abraham at St. Gregory's Monastery reflects on praying the psalms on a regular rotation at the Abbey:
The main activity here at St. Gregory’s consists of public corporate prayer in the Abbey Church, and the main part of that prayer takes the form of recitation of the Psalms. Through the course of a week, the entire book of 150 Psalms is recited. That seems like a lot, and in most places it would be. In his Rule for Monasteries, St. Benedict laments the fact that although his monastic predecessors recited the entire Book of Psalms each day, “May we, lukewarm that we are, perform it at least in a whole week!” I do not share Benedict’s grief; once a week works well for us. Many monasteries use a monthly schedule for reciting all the psalms, and others use a two-week scheme. Those schedules are good too, because they work well for them. Besides monasteries using the Book of Psalms in prayer, many churches offer public morning and evening prayer throughout the week, and most of that prayer also involves psalmody.

However, most people do not live in monasteries, and most people do not live close to a church that offers daily public prayer, but many of those people still want to be involved in the psalmody going on in monasteries and churches around the world, so they adopt their own method of praying the Psalms. All in all, there are a lot of psalms read, prayed, sung, and chanted around the world every day.

Often, people who first encounter the Psalms, whether in public or private prayer or reading, find some of them surprisingly bloodthirsty. This category of psalms includes laments from the oppressed and cries for vengeance on the oppressors. Some individuals and groups simply omit these violent psalms from their prayers. Others find ways to soften these psalms by using them as analogies for inner struggles within themselves. Others deal with the brutality of the Psalms by acknowledging it for what it is; the Psalms come from a violent time (a good reminder of the violent brutality of our own society). The competing empires and kingdoms of the Iron Age from which the Psalms come were made up of real people who really prayed, and even if our understanding of God has changed and become less vengeful and ethnocentric, we can still use their prayers as bases for our own. We can also use them as prods to see if our understanding of God really is less vengeful and ethnocentric than Iron Age attitudes.

With experience, most people find ways to pray the psalms that express the laments of the oppressed, because even if they are not being oppressed at the time, they can pray with and for all those around the world who are suffering.

That is how I approach these psalms. I had a wonderful childhood surrounded by people who loved me, and as a middle class American I am one of the richest persons in the world with the best in medical care and educational opportunities at my fingertips. Even as a monk who has no personal possessions, my community provides me with all I could need, and more than I should want.

So I pray the psalms of lament for all those around the world whom I read about in the newspaper or see on news broadcasts that are suffering from natural or manmade disasters. Even when I am feeling slightly oppressed by others or by work waiting to be done, these psalms serve to remind me of how good my life really is and how I need to stop whining.

The discomfort occurs when the psalmists ask God to bring disaster on the oppressors. Such an attitude does not fit well with our call to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, and charitably bless those who hate us. Perhaps the most famous examples of cursing in the Psalms occur in what are otherwise considered by some to be two of the most beautiful songs in the world: Psalm 137, in which homesick exiles explain how they have put away their musical instruments because they are too heartbroken to sing anymore; and Psalm 139, in which a poet expresses wonderment at his own being and amazement at God’s infinite nature. Yet near the end of both of these, bloody curses are added: the homesick exiles bless anyone who will dash their oppressors’ children on the rocks, and the poet declares his hatred for those who do not share his attitudes toward God. These examples are only two of many such curses interspersed throughout the Psalter. Some other psalms seem to be an almost unbroken stream of hateful desires and hopes for retribution upon enemies, and it is not surprising that many people find them difficult to pray.

I have found a way to use the cursing psalms as an aid to foster my own prayer. It might not be the most proper use of these psalms, but so far it has helped me, and maybe that in itself makes it a proper use. When one of these bloodthirsty verses comes up as we pray in the monastery church, I remind myself that I am not the innocent person cursing the sinner; I am the sinner making life miserable for the people around me. I need to change. I need to ask not only for forgiveness, but also for the strength to repent — to really change and make the love of God the center of my life rather than keeping myself in that position. The people I come in contact with everyday are the psalmists crying out for deliverance from the oppression I bring them because of my selfishness. I cause them to sin by driving them to curse me.

This realization of my own oppressive behavior does not derive from an overly scrupulous sense of unworthiness. I am a beautiful Child of God created to love and be loved, just like everyone else. But I have allowed my own pettiness to hurt myself and the people around me. I am not the only one who is guilty of this. The tiny, daily misdemeanors we all commit in order to get what we want when we want it are not fair to anyone, including ourselves.

Knowing this should not drive us to despair. Rather, it should prompt a firm resolve to change, knowing that even though only God can transform us, only we as individuals can allow God to do that, and only we can purposefully use the gifts that God has given us as tools to change. We are worth the effort it takes to grow into the mature individuals we are created to be.

Changing one’s perspective from oppressed to oppressor might not help everyone pray these psalms as it has helped me, but that’s OK. It is good to heed the advice to pray as we can, not as we can’t. Maybe the one thing to avoid is putting ourselves in the position of God and presuming that it is our right to carry out the curses.
~~Br. Abraham

Read the whole newsletter here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Annunciation

A friend sent me this poem on the Annunciation - the conception of Jesus and Mary's response. It is a Mary I can embrace:

It seems I must have been more fertile than most
to have taken that wind-blown
thistledown softly-spoken word
into my body and grown big-bellied with it.
Nor was I the first: there had been
rumours of such goings-on before my turn
came - tales of swansdown. Mine
had no wings or feathers actually
but it was hopeless trying to convince them.
They like to think it was a mystical
encounter, although they must know
I am not of that fibre - and to say I was
'troubled' is laughable.
What I do remember is a great rejoicing,
my body's arch and flow, the awe,
and the ringing and singing in my ears -
and then the world stopped for a little while.
But still they will keep on about the Word,
which is their name for it, even though I've
told them that is definitely
not how I would put it.
I should have known they'd try to take
possession of my ecstasy and
swaddle it in their portentous terminology.
I should have kept it hidden in the dark
web of my veins...
Though this child grows in me -
not unwanted certainly, but
not intended on my part; the risk
did not concern me at the time, naturally.
I must be simple to have told them anything.
Just because I stressed the miracle of it
they've rumoured it about the place that I'm
immaculate - but then they always were afraid
of female sexuality.
I've pondered these things lately in my mind.
If they should canonise me
(setting me up as chaste and meek and mild)
God only knows what nonsense
they'll visit on the child.

Sylvia Kantaris

Painting by Ma´ire Gartland

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Parshat Va'eira from

More Torah cartoons at

5 Epiphany

Readings are here

Looking at the reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about becoming all things to all people so that they might hear the gospel. I wonder about that. Does it mean I have to give up all I have learned and believe? Do I become a Republican to reach Republicans, a Democrat to reach Democrats, a racist to reach racists, etc? I can't think that is what Paul is saying - give up your personality - become whatever others are to tell them the gospel? Can't see that happening.

I think it has more to do with not coming in with a prepackaged program for others - thinking I have God all wrapped up for them - instead listening to what they are saying and doing and connecting where the Spirit is moving in our midst. Sort of like going to another country to "help" - but not listening to what the people there dream and hope - then seeing where I can serve rather than "know better" and give them something that is not useful or cannot be sustained. For me it is about doing some deep listening rather than talking all the time. Hard to do for a preacher!

Often when I have read the Mark passage I get stuck on the fact that the first thing Peter's mother-in-law (was the first "pope" married?) does when getting healed is jump up and wait on everyone. Seems like the rest of them might have said - oh, no, I can do that -- you rest up a bit. Perhaps it is a statement about not holding one's healing to oneself - a privatized religion - you and me Jesus - but a statement that once we have come to a certain point - we are to move out into the world doing as Jesus does. The part right after this where they are looking for Jesus to do some more for them is a reminder that we don't have to do it all. We can take time for rest and prayer and renewal before moving on to the next activity.

Perhaps all this is the point of the Collect - set us free to see:
Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Some other bits to ponder from Something to Stand On:

Party, party, party
You hit the ground running,
Ready to go,
Fleeing as an infant refugee
Preaching to your elders before your bar mitzvah
Then out to the desert
Partying before your baptism
A brief interlude, jousting with the devil
And then you hit those streets
And that beach, those villages and towns
Showing folk how to live, not merely exist.
And the buttoned up zipped up killjoys didn’t like it one bit
They’d long forgotten what it was to enjoy themselves
How to celebrate
Even though the history of their culture was one of feast and
Even though the God they worshipped so religiously
Was a God of laughter and lovin’
And now the Son, sent to show the nature of God
Was livin’ it up
With undersirables
Prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners
The shunned and the outcasts
What did you think you were playing at?
Didn’t you know you would ruffle their feathers?
Or didn’t you care?
Too busy living life to the max to care whose sandal shod feet you
trod on
And did it do any good?
Did it make any difference?
Certainly not to those religious high heid yins
They sorted you.
Saw you off.
But, as they were dusting off their hands,
Ironing the wrinkles out of their creased smug faces
There was a whole batch of the really holy
The ones you had consecrated by including in the party.
Who were gutted at your sudden departure
But who could never be undesirable again
Because you had taught them how to really party
How to focus on what really matters
You had loved them back to life
And no amount of religious posturing could ever rob them of that love
With you, there’s always an excuse to party
Always an excuse to throw off the rules and get down to it
The real business of life
Which is love
But we have to hit the streets running with you
And party, party, party.

And more on Peter's MIL here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A sermon

I have been playing with utterli - a social networking tool that can send audio and video to your friends. I recorded a sermon of one I preached a few years ago. The church had sent me the audio so I tried it on utterli. I also recorded me reading a book to the grandchildren - but won't drive you nuts with that. One of these days I will get the showing the book and reading to the camera thing down!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike 1932-2009

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

H/T to Bishop Alan's blog and Episcopal Cafe

Thursday, January 22, 2009

3 Epiphany

Readings are here.

Thoughts toward a sermon:

The story of Jonah is about someone who is so sure he knows what is right he even disobeys God. Sort of an odd story to have in the Bible. Jonah is supposed to go tell the Nineveh-ites that they are going to be destroyed because they have been so bad and worship idols. Jonah chooses to go somewhere else and not until he is tossed into the sea and swallowed by the fish does he end up where is supposed to be. Oh well he seems to say to himself I will tell them that they will be destroyed. They are so stupid they won't listen - they can't even tell their right hands from their left. (a very dumb think in the desert where the right hand is for eating and the left for dirtier jobs)

Then even worse they repent and God forgives them. Jonah says I knew it, I knew it, you are way to soft on these sinners. And goes off to pout. Jonah is so caught up in his idea of what is right he stays with his way of being and his own knowledge - that he worships righteousness - even when God shows compassion.

Now Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is sure the end of the world is coming soon - very soon - so soon that people don't need to bother with possessions -including wives.

In our Gospel today, Peter and Andrew are doing what generations of their families have done - fishing. Unlike Jonah or Paul - they are not so set in continuing to keep the traditions of their families. Jesus calls to them - offering a new career with the skills they already have -- fishing for people.

For all the readings people have a revelation about a new future but the reaction of each differs. I think it is like being in a long running play. We have learned our lines perfectly - and we go out on stage each night to perform our role. One day we go out on stage and discover we are in a totally different play with a totally different plot. Our response might be to resist - like Jonah - this is not the role I have worked for all my life. Or it might be to try to force the play into something familiar - like Paul. Or taking our cue from Andrew and Peter - say - all right - let's do it.

This is the story of the call from God in our lives. How will we repond?

Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?

No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream’d of in that region, that inaccessible land.

Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.

Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.
– Walt Whitman

H/T to Edge of Enclosure.

Image from He Qi.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh what a day...

Congressional Quarterly has a transcript of the inaugural poem written and read by Elizabeth Alexander.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer consider the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kaddish in time of war and violence

From The Shalom Center, A prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life.

Yitgadal V’yit’kadash Shmei Rabah

May Your Great Name, through our expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift You to become still higher and more holy.

For Your Great Name weaves together all the names of all the beings in the universe, among them our own names,
and it is we who give You the strength to lift us into holiness — (Cong: Amein)

B’alma di vra chi’rooteh v’yamlich malchuteh b’chayeichun, u’v'yomeichun,
u’v'chayei d’chol beit yisrael, b’agalah u’vzman kariv, v’imru: — Amein.

— Throughout the world that You have offered us, a world of majestic peaceful order
that gives life to the Godwrestling folk
through time and through eternity —- And let’s say, Amein

Y’hei sh’mei rabbah, me’vorach, l’olam almei almaya.

So may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery of every universe.

Yitbarach, v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar, v’yitromam, v’yitnasei, v’yit’hadar, v’yit’aleh, v’yit’halal — Shmei di’kudshah, –

Brich hu (Cong: Brich Hu)

May Your Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high, may It be lifted and carried,
may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness — Blessed be!

L’eylah min kol bir’chatah v’shir’atah tush’be’chatah v’nehematah, de’amiran be’alma, v’imru: Amein (Cong: Amein)

Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation to match what we wish to lay before you -
And though we know that today there is no way to console You
when among us some who bear Your Image in our being
are slaughtering others who bear Your Image in our being -

Yehei Shlama Rabah min Shemaya v’chayyim { aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’imru Amein.

Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name
flow a great and joyful harmony and life for us and for all who wrestle God; (Cong: Amein)

Oseh Shalom bi’m'romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’al kol yishmael v’al kol yoshvei tevel — v’imru: Amein.

You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe,
teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves –
and peace for the Godwrestling folk, the people Israel;
for the children of Ishmael;
and for all who dwell upon this planet. (Cong: Amein)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2 Christmas

Readings are here

This week marks the 13th anniversary of my ordination to the Priesthood. I was ordained on January 6, 1996.

It is hard for me to focus on anything but the terrible war ongoing near the very place where the readings for the visitation of the wise ones take place. All those inflicting violence in Gaza seem more allied with Herod who slaughtered the innocents for the preservation of his own power than with either Jesus' family or the Magi.

I read the news from all sides in the conflict and do not know who is more righteous. The Palestinians, confined and barricaded in small bits of their former lands, the Israelis under siege by those who would eliminate them from the region? Perhaps it is the Israelis who even now are protesting the actions of their own government or the Palestinian medical and aid workers desperately trying to save all lives in hospitals with broken windows and few supplies?

Our hearts cry out for wisdom and finding another way. The Magi had the wisdom to look for the Christ child. They discovered that God appears in the most unlikely of places. When they returned home it is said they went "another way." The powers of the world do not seem to have the will nor the wisdom to find answers. Perhaps there are none when both parties want the same land and sovereignty. The strategy that is being pursued has not worked so far and does not seem likely to produce anything but a constant cycle of revenge and violence. I remember times of hope along the way during this conflict. The Oslo accords, the meetings at Camp David (where President Jimmy Carter was able to get each side to see what they needed beyond the cycle of violence), the truces, the leadership that rose up in new ways but was soon cut down often by their own people. It is not often that leaders arise, like Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu who can see a larger picture and encourage all of us to see one another as children of God where all children can find safety and a life of peace.

What is our call in the midst of this and other tragedies around the world? Support those who work for peace, those who call for new ways of relationships. Give to the Anglican hospital that cares for all regardless of nationality and ethnicity. It all seems too small in the face of the overwhelming and seemingly intractable issues but I take heart from the infant lying in the manger and from the wise ones who knew enough to be humble and giving. It is the only thing I know.

Give to Episcopal Relief and Development here to assist the hospital in Gaza.
As the attacks in Gaza continue, Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. Our partner, Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, is still providing emergency health care. The staff and volunteers are currently physically safe but will need supplies. We will continue to be in close contact with partners in Gaza in order to monitor the situation and plan the best response.