Tuesday, December 28, 2010

II Christmas

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child, bye-bye, lully lullay. O sisters, too, how may we do / for to preserve this day/ this poor youngling for whom we sing / bye-bye lully lullay? Herod the King, in his raging charged he hath this day / his men of might, in his own sight/ all young children to slay. That woe is me, poor child for thee! / And every morn and day / for thy parting nor say nor sing / bye-bye lully lullay. Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child, bye-bye, lully lullay.
Coventry Carol

This reading is a bucket of ice cold water thrown on the sweet baby Jesus in the manger of last week. Now reality "bites" as it is said. The Episcopal Church lectionary for reasons unknown to me take out the verses about all the baby boys being slaughtered by Herod as he tries to protect his throne from any who might challenge him and his family.

Mary and Joseph must be wondering what they have gotten themselves into listening to angels and dreams. Having a baby in a manger was just the beginning of the trials of birthing God into this world. After the visits of the shepherds and angels, here come the Magi - 3 or more since it only tells of 3 gifts - we don't know. We don't know who they are either - from the East - there is a new book out claiming they came from China. But they were foreigners, we know that - from some place "other" than Bethlehem or Nazareth. Wealthy since they brought such expensive gifts. Educated - understanding the movement of the stars and the planets. Not like the probably illiterate and rough shepherds. Also bringing the unintended consequence of the interest of the powers that be. In the story Herod is very interested in this new "king." And though the Magi return by another way - not going back to inform Herod of the whereabouts of the Jesus - the response is horrific. All the male children under the age of 2 are to be killed. Though there is no record of this event -- it is the oft times consequence of the clash of power and children. Just look at the daily news - Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, Nigeria - those who would maintain power and keep the wealth to themselves do not care about the collateral damage to children.

The little family now must flee like so many other families in our world today. War, famine, drought, flood, earthquakes make refugees out of all - some who thought they were secure and many who have never known security. In their case Egypt opened its arms to protect them. And even when they returned to Israel they had to avoid certain areas.

Egypt is a continuing theme in the Bible - from the time of Jacob to the time of our Gospel. For Jacob and his family it was also a place of refuge -- Joseph had been exiled there by his brothers - and just like our Joseph of the Gospel he finds a place of refuge and place to flourish. It is welcoming to the refugees. Then it becomes a place where staying is no longer an option. For Jacob's descendents it becomes a place of oppression and Moses must lead them out of slavery. For Jesus = he must return to the land of his birth to lead us all out of slavery.

Both Jeremiah and the Psalm that we read today long for refuge and freedom. Jeremiah lived through the terrible days of Exile when the Babylonians swept through Israel and Judah and took all the leaders off to exile. They longed and kept faith for several generations that they would someday return to their homeland and experience the joy and peace of the psalmist who sings of the sparrow finding a nest in the house of the Lord - the Temple. The sparrow whom Jesus assures us has God's eye even when falling from the sky. The sparrow - the least of birds.

The letter to the Ephesians is also encouraging people not to lose sight of the joy and peace and abundance that comes with being God's people.

For me the lessons speak of two themes - one to those of us who need refuge from whatever is troubling us in our lives. Where can we find that place of peace and joy? And the danger that the wrong kind of refuge can end up as a prison and enslaving us.

The other theme is welcoming the stranger who needs a place of refuge -- those who come to this country for economic reasons or to escape war or disaster. How do we become a place of welcome that allows people to grow and flourish in our midst? My grandparents on both sides came here for economic reasons - there was no work in Scotland and Norway. This country was seen as a place to change one's fortunes. It was not easy. Maybe that is why I have a soft spot for current immigrants. In Jackson, the Episcopal Church is a resource to the Latino community - the Latino Resource Center offers help negotiating the difficulties of law and language. Many Anglo members of the congregation have taken Spanish lessons offered by the church to better understand the newcomers in their midst.

One thing I really like about Trinity is the readiness to help others. Even though we might not always be able to meet all the bills that come with having a building - there is never a lack of coming forward to help others. Over Christmas the Diocesan Foundation offered matching grants to churches to do something helpful in their communities -- Trinity jumped at the chance to match the full amount and helped a family struggling with medical bills.

I read recently about Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet using their immense wealth to change the world for the better - rather than keeping it all for themselves and their families - they are giving it away. They also are trying to get others with great wealth to sign on to a pledge to do this.

The lessons of today speak to the on going struggle between the world of tyrants and the world as God would have it - we are called to choose. Will we join the Herod's of this world - keeping power and wealth all to ourselves or will we work for peace and abundance for all peoples? Each little thing we do - like the First Stop or the Food Bank or electing people who want the best for everyone - education, health care, opportunities. Each thing breaks the grip of the chains that keep all people from growing into that which God dreams for us and for them.

Painting: Luc Olivier Merson's Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Take Joy!

I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.
Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance.
Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take joy!

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . .
that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.
Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . .

And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

"Letter to a Friend" by Fra Giovanni, 1513

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

Welcome to our celebration of this most amazing night. Celebrating a birth that reveals that all creation and life is holy. The beginning again of hearing the angels' song of hope for Peace on Earth - peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in the world. The helpless infant in the manger at Bethlehem is the message God is with us. God is with us in our joys and our sorrows, in pain and in health. God knows us intimately - has walked our path from the first cry of coming into this world, the joy of and the betrayal by friends. God knows the joy of celebrations with families and the grief and pain of death. This is not a God who stays at a distance, who does not know crying, but God who enters into the fullness of life and walks the paths of this world with us. We look to power to fix things in this world but the message of the manger is God entrusting all life to us. The power of God is not military might or wealth. The power of God is found in saying "help me" -- both Jesus in the manger and Christ on the cross show that same message.

There is a a story that when God finished making the heavens and the earth and sending people out into the world, and Jesus came to walk with us and show us the way to be fully human and was crucified, died and rose from the dead. The angels asked so who is going to continue this work of creation and bringing peace on earth? God said "they are" -- the angels looked out on the rag tag collection of people who had heard the message and said -- that's your plan? God said "yes." The angels said - "Is there a Plan B?"

There is no Plan B -- it's us and "God with us" - "Immanuel" - whose birth we celebrate this night. So let's take a deep breath, sing our carols and light our candles against the deep dark places of life -- open our presents of presence - being that point of God's presence in our world - each day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus from Quinhagak, Alaska

Hallelujah Chorus -Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade - Quinhagak, Alaska

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Holy NIght - sung in Navajo

A Christmas Card with Jana Mashonee's rendition of "O Holy Night" in Navajo. It is accompanied by appropriate winter scenery on Navajo land featuring original artwork by Daniel Tate. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas story

Kids enact the Christmas story like you have not seen before.

thanks to Episcopal Café

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

O Little Town of Bethlehem

We have an olive wood carving of Mary, Joseph and Jesus and the donkey - headed to Egypt - given to us by my mother from her travels to Israel and Egypt. I wonder what she would think if she visited now?

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

h/t to Lesley's Blog

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cats and Christmas trees

My thoughts on Christmas past are here

A video from Simon's Cat and some thoughts about this year below:

This year is joyous and difficult. I have been re-united with a church where I was kicked out 12 or so year ago. Will preside at the Christmas eve service. I have been doing 8 a.m. services on Sunday and this past Sunday I preached at the later service. It was a place I had not served for all these years. Things have happened to begin what I hope is a healing time for the church. It is the church where all our kids were baptized and who supported me for ordination and where I was ordained Epiphany 1996. As in my sermon for Advent 3 - one never knows the ending of any of these events. (nor probably the beginning).

On the other end of the scale my older brother died this year. It is odd to think about that empty space at the family table. We did not see each other often but we talked on the phone to catch up on family events. I can go for weeks and not think about him as when he was alive but then the loss sneaks up and pounces on me. This year our church is offering a Blue Christmas service - I will be there to light a candle and sit with my grief for an hour or so. Then I will enter into the festivities probably with a little reserved part of my heart.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

III Advent

Readings are here

John the Baptist is in jail – and soon to lose his head, it is the low point in his life. Since he first leaped in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at the approach of Mary pregnant with Jesus- the gospels tells us that he has spent his life pointing to the one who was to come. From the high point of the baptism in the river Jordan when it all seemed to be coming true to now—seems like one of the saddest moments in our readings. He had been so sure – now – he sits in prison and wonders.

How many times in your life have you devoted yourself entirely to something or someone only to be disappointed in the outcome? Perhaps you worked hard in a job and still did not get the promotion you dreamed of? Perhaps there was a boyfriend or girlfriend or even your spouse to whom you placed your hopes and dreams and yet they left in the end? Or did not live up to your expectations. Perhaps it was a civic project to which you gave your time and energy but it was dashed to pieces in the politics or finances of the time? And then you wonder – like John the Baptist - was it all for nothing? Was it worth all that I gave it – will there be any good result.

For John – he sends a message to Jesus – are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Jesus’ answer is “Go and tell John, what you hear and see: 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.” In other words – wherever you see healing in the world – your work is being carried forward. Though it seems like the end – it is not.

Much like this story – we never totally know in the moment how things will be in the end.

A farmer was quite poor and had only one horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “Maybe, We shall see.” A month later, the horse came home--this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, "Maybe we shall see. The farmer's son was out working with the horses and was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. “Such bad luck!” The farmer said, "maybe, we shall see” A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer's son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. He said, "Maybe, we shall see”

Isaiah was written at time when Israel was suffering from invasions and her leaders being taken into exile. From the glory days of David and the kingdom – they had fallen to the depths – partly through bad leadership and partly through the power of their enemies who desired to conquer their land. Isaiah writes that it will not always be this way and to remain faithful to God in the midst of these terrible days. The people are not to let temptation turn them away from their commitments and belief in God.

James also urges patience in the face of things that seem to be taking a long time – not to give into grumbling or blaming one another – to keep our eyes on the outcome we desire. Not getting bogged down in the past or even current troubles. It is more important to live according to our ideals as Christians than any gain through using shortcuts that do not reflect what we believe.

The message for us when we sit in the prison of our dashed hopes and our broken dreams is found in Jesus message to John -- wherever you see the dream of God being carried out in the world - know that you have had a piece of making that dream come to birth if you have been faithful. We pray each week in the Lord's prayer- thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We make this happen when we work for the healing of relationships, justice for all peoples, and a place where children can grow to become the fullness of who they were created to be. Large actions or small -- they all add up.

Oscar Romero said it like this:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

thanks to Liturgy for the image

Thursday, December 02, 2010

II Advent

From MamaBishop, the Rt Rev. Carol Gallagher reflecting on Luke 20:34-40:

Some days on waking light
filtering through windows dusty
eyes sleep swollen and stumbling
are these feet alive
or dead waking to new life?

Some nights tossing worrying
mistakes tiptoe around me
night visitors in shadow and whisper
I wonder what heaven might be like.

Some afternoons as the sun
burns into my working shoulders
digging in the garden's soil
life hidden away and vibrant
still I hope
to see you again.

I know the promise and ache
for more than a picture to hold
an old scarf you knitted
a brief laugh or song you might
sing me at night when fears
surrounded and you
held me tight.

You are raised to life and I
waiting to know you fully again
can only ache from the distance
knowing we will laugh and dance
again together when I
am raised like you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Once in Royal David's City

Tree is up - time to decorate -- come Christmas ---

Advent 1

If your heart yearns for a more it doesn’t know,
if you’ve suffered blow after blow
and can barely dare to lift your head,
if you’ve ever wished you’d rather been -
if you’ve bled, or tried to bind a wound
if you’ve cried then tied a knot to choke
the flow of hope before it can open up
a way to disappoint again
and leave you broken
then this is for you.
If you’ve longed, if you’ve wronged,
if you choke on the words to your favourite song,
if you need a Doctor,
or you’re beyond
medical help
then come.
If you’re cracked, if you’re splintered,
if your Winter is just too long,
if this Winter is just too long,
(but the thought of Spring is terrifying,)
then come.
Because Jesus came
for the broken brother and sister,
the ache, the pain and the blister,
the wrong decision,
the open wound
the blurred vision
the won’t-ever-hope-again.
Jesus came
for the insane, the unfulfilled, the searching
the street child, the tramp and the urchin,
the poor little rich girl snorting coke and
cursing, and the man who sold it to her.
Jesus came for those nursing a need,
nursing a drink
out of control,
on the blink,
on the brink,
falling overboard, and about to -
sobbing at the kitchen sink.
Jesus came for those the world drives mad,
for the bad, yes the bad,
Jesus came for the bad,
so if that’s never been you,
then fine, just go, because
Jesus didn’t come for the well, the swell,
“the hell – I’ve got everything I need”
the nothing’s-lacking, the non-cracking up.
He’s not interested in courting the sorted
he came to fill the cup of the thirsty,
the worst, the broken, the burst open,
Jesus came for the sick.
the packed-up, the cracked-up,
the smashed, hopes dashed, and the picked-on,
the meek, the weak, the stuttering,
those who blush when they speak
and the walked-out-on.
Jesus came for the left behind,
for the cheats and the cheated,
the ones who crossed the line
and the ones who still don’t know where to begin.
Jesus came for the people who know how it feels
when you say “sin”
for the broken to open,
to break for those who choke,
for the people who don’t have everything we need,
for the ones who know we need hope.

© Jude Simpson 2007

h/t to Lesley's Blog

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Miss Young Person on The Covenant

It is good to be alive

Happy Thanksgiving

O God, it is good to be alive,
and numbered with the people
whom thou has made:
and I thank thee for thy gift of life.

O God, it is good to have the power of thought,
and to seek and learn and know:
and I thank thee for thy gift of mind.

O God, it is good to dwell beneath the sun
in the world which is thy handiwork:
and I thank thee for earth’s beauty,
and thy rule within its laws.

O God, it is good to come to each new day,
and to find the passing years
a cure for wounds innumerable,
and I thank thee for the ministries of time.

O God, it is good to count in word and deed
for ends beyond our own:
and I thank thee for thy use of me
if I have been of any service to thy purposes.

O God, it is good to rejoice and to be glad,
and I thank thee for each person,
for each experience of life,
that has brought me happiness.

O God, it is good to feel the disciplines
that school the spirit,
and I thank thee for the trials and troubles
which have wrought in me some hardihood of soul.

O God, it is good to have thine everlasting arms beneath us,
and I thank thee now for all thy mercies,
both temporal and spiritual,
those I have known, those I have not recognized,
wherewith thou has upheld me
in thy wisdom, power, and love.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heav’nly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

“An Act of Thanksgiving to God for Great Blessings” by Miles Lowell Yates, quoted in Give Us Grace: An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber. Copyright © 2004. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Anglican Covenant - the blog

No Anglican Covenant Coalition has started a blog to go with the web site, Facebook page, and Twitter presence. An international coalition of faithful Anglicans who believe the proposed Covenant will change the essential nature of Anglicanism by making it a centralized church were experimentation is discouraged, local evangelism is strangled and cultural differences are no longer respected. Join the conversation at Comprehensive Unity: The No Anglican Covenant blog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

XXV Pentecost

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is
another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about: we plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in
realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very
well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the
way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

~~attributed to Oscar Romero 1917-1980

from Edge of Enclosure

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

XXV Pentecost

Sermon by the Rev. Robert Morrison, St. Alban's, Albany, OR for Proper 28, 25th Pentecost.

“If we don't do it, there's no one else who will.” What a challenge that sentence brings to us all! What great encouragement, that someone will be there for whatever eventuality, but especially in time of need. Yet how disappointing – that there’s the possibility that no one else may be there!

Sometimes life can feel lonely and stressful. Sometimes, whatever it is we have to do, sometimes it DOES feel that no one else is paying attention or caring. Yet, as we reflected last week on all God’s Saints, somehow there nearly always seems to be at least one person who’s willing to step in and do whatever it takes for a situation to be celebrated, or defused, or brought to completion.

Actually, that opening sentence comes from a source which I find a little surprising. It was Cynthia Deitle speaking. She’s the unit chief for the FBI’s civil rights program, and she was talking about why enforcing hate crime laws is a priority. The whole quote is, “We are here to help people who have been the victim of an atrocious crime, whether it's police brutality or a church arson. If we don't do it, there's no one else who will.” 1

It’s terrible to be cynical, but I have to admit surprise at the fact that a Government official from a law enforcement agency which some might consider occasionally less than immediate or compassionate – that THAT is the person and the agency which offers such a reassuring comment. After all, we’re much more inclined to laugh at the joke, “Hello. I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help you.”!

Things may indeed be turning around if the official FBI position shows such a sign of hope. What remains scary, though, is the fact that it’s still true that if you and I as individuals – if the BAC – if this congregation – doesn’t do anything, who will?
Maybe that’s what sickened me when I read, last Monday, about “a brawl outside a house party. A woman hit a man, and the man refused to strike back, saying he wouldn't hit a girl. Instead, he vowed to attack the next male who walked by, even if that person was a random stranger.

“That's when 18-year-old Bobby Tillman happened to approach a group of four partygoers. Authorities said they swiftly stomped, kicked and punched him to death while dozens of bystanders watched.
“‘He had nothing to do with anything,’ said Maj. Tommy Wheeler of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. ‘They just decided he’s the one. And they killed him.’” 2

These are supposed to be human beings! What made it worse in my mind was that the day before I’d seen and smiled at a photo of macaques in Japan. “Huddled for warmth,” read the caption, “macaques press their bodies into a vast ball of fur. The monkeys’ relaxed social hierarchy allows high- and low-ranking individuals to share the same tight space.” 3
What is it that allows and motivates monkeys in Shodo Shima to act in such a way that they don’t press any sort of seniority or privilege so that all can not only survive but benefit; what is it that motivates these monkeys that eludes eighteen-year-old human beings in Georgia?

This becomes all the more striking when you consider that last verse from the first reading. YES, it looks far more likely that the wolf and the lamb will eat and lie down together than humans can develop and ensure compassion, and justice, and mercy.
Yet we still cling to hope. That’s what we’re about as followers of Jesus. We believe that things DO change, however slowly. We believe that, somehow “It gets better”, no matter how horrendously some treat others.
God WILL make all things new. We’re so impatient, though. We want the new NOW!

The seventeenth-century Puritan theologian, John Owen wrote that “God could, if I may so say, more easily have made a new world of innocent creatures, and have governed them by the old covenant, than have established this new one for the salvation of poor sinners; but then, where had been the glory of forgiveness? It could never have been known that there was forgiveness with Him. The old covenant could not have been preserved and sinners pardoned. Wherefore, God chose to leave the covenant than sinners unrelieved, than grace unexalted and pardon unexercised...” 4

This talks about our seeming insatiability for instant gratification and everything shiny, and it can make us think our own personal needs and agendas should come first. But that’s not the way it should be. God’s agenda comes first – and that CAN annoy us. So much so that when our way isn’t followed, when we have to step back to let another person exercise her gifts, even when we risk some form of abuse, we need to remember that God’s goal is for the entirety of creation to be renewed. Not just wolves, not just lambs, not just cattle – not just human beings, but everything!

But how we chafe at the bit when we don’t find our own desires met. An Op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times put it succinctly with its headline: “‘America the timorous.’” Then it went on, “Our self-image is one of bold action. In reality, Americans resist change, pressing the government to act boldly only when a national calamity forces it upon us.” 5
This isn’t an indictment of us alone, however. I think it’s human nature to resist change, no matter what the promised outcome. It’s human nature to shrink back when something new or unusual surfaces. It’s human nature to become defensive when we feel threatened. But the point of Jesus’ conversation is that, actually, this is NOT what human nature is supposed to be like. Even if everyone else around us seems to be losing his or head and panicking or being greedy, or being violent, Jesus encourages us to hold on to the hope which can never be taken away from us, no matter how disturbed we may be.

More than that, though. Because the hope and the promise of the renewal of everything, we must be willing to stand with the FBI unit chief. We have to stand with others until they can trust enough to know that they’ll be renewed as well as us.
What would have happened if even one more person had stood beside Bobby Tillman? It’s possible that the savagery would have continued, but at least Bobby would have known that he wasn’t alone, and would never be alone.

Jesus wasn’t kidding when He spoke of wars, and suspicion, and fear. He Himself was subjected to so much of it that He knew what can happen to us. It filled Him with such sadness to see some people struggling to conform to society, not matter what was happening; struggling to maintain the status quo or better in their own personal lives while doing very little struggling to encourage and support others that they might find that special someone who shines so much hope-filled love and light into their lives.

THAT’S what the message of hope is all about. THAT is what it means to be renewed. And we need to remind ourselves of this again and again. Jesus calls us to be a people of risk-taking. Jesus calls us to not only SAY we believe. Jesus wants us to DO what we believe. As is obvious – to believe is an active verb, not a passive noun.

Often it seems that the easiest way to deal with conflicting views, or difficult situations, or controversial decisions is to behave in an attitude of anxiety or fear. That’s where Neil Gabler, the historian, journalist and author of the LA Times OP-Ed article seems to perceive many in this country right now.

“Instead of bold adventurers confronting our demons,” he concluded, “we are a nation of the frightened, hoping to turn back the clock and railing against the only tool that can really help us: action.”

I agree. Action is necessary. But I have to define it by saying that your actions and my actions are to be built on unshakable faith, and hope, and love.

This where Paul’s words seem to hit home so strongly on point today. We’re tired of seeing those headlines about people suffering; about natural disasters; about selfish and stupid behaviour that obliterates human kindness for whatever reason. The readings speak to us in our tiredness and remind us that we CAN be cheerful in the face of stress. So the writer to the Thessalonians begs us all “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers (or anyone else) who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For (we all) know how (we) ought to imitate (the apostles);” The apostles “worked night and day …. in order to give (us) an example to imitate. … Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”

We may not have been aware of it, but we were called here this morning to hear God talking to us about having hope, of not being overwhelmed by people talking about how much destruction there is in our society. We have been brought here to have our life and witness affirmed. You and I have been brought here so that we can stand firm with others. The New Jerusalem is not yet here – it IS coming, of that we can be sure. But there’s work to be done, and Cynthia Deitle’s comment still rings in my ears. Let me change it a little to end with a question about mission and evangelism, and everything else about our lives as Christians. If we don't do it, (who) else who will?

1 Cynthia M. Deitle, unit chief for the FBI's civil rights program, on why enforcing hate crime laws is a priority. (Source:Washington Post)
2 “Brawlers beat random stranger to death in Georgia” By GREG BLUESTEIN Associated Press Monday, November 8, 2010 5:17 PM EST
3 http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/breathtaking-visions-of-earth
4 John Owen (1616-1683), An Exposition upon Psalm CXXX [1668], in Works of John Owen, v. VI, New York: R.Carter amp Bros., 1851, p. 475 See the book at http://cqod.com/r/rs527
5 “‘America the timorous’ Our self-image is one of bold action. In reality, Americans resist change, pressing the government to act boldly only when a national calamity forces it upon us.” By Neal Gabler 7:00 AM PDT, October 25, 2010 http://link.latimes.com/r/NAT6JL/GBTKX/S1PM6R/UHZZ8/2OI7JH/OS/h

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

No Anglican Covenant Coalition emerges

Today, on the celebration of Richard Hooker, a new international coalition of Anglicans/Episcopalians has launched a campaign to oppose the Anglican Covenant as it is currently proposed. With the following news release the coalition argues against the Covenant. The coalition believes that the current Covenant will:

*Bring historic changes to the nature of Anglicanism

*Trade a vibrant and colorful Anglicanism for drab uniformity

*Impede local mission and destroy creative evangelism

*Trade local oversight for a centralized decision making

News release:

LONDON – An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant. Campaigners believe the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought. The Coalition’s website (noanglicancovenant.org) will provide resources for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document,” according to the Coalition’s Moderator, the Revd. Dr. Lesley Fellows, who is also the Coalition’s Convenor for the Church of England. “Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the “final” draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.

Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of the new Coalition, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops. Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week’s Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

"If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,” according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. “Whether those who originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to exclude others."

The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker. “Hooker taught us that God’s gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason will guide us to new insights in every age,” according to the Canadian priest and canon law expert, the Revd. Canon Alan Perry. “The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops nearly 500 years ago. The proposed Anglican Covenant reinstates it.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October with a series of informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them.

No Anglican Covenant Coalition

Revd. Dr Lesley Fellows (England) +44 1844 239268
Dr. Lionel Deimel (USA) +1-412-512-9087
Revd. Malcolm French (Canada) +1-306-550-2277
Revd. Lawrence Kimberley (New Zealand) +64 3 981 7384

Join the Coalition at Facebook

Follow us at Twitter -- @nocovenant #nocovenant

Saturday, October 30, 2010

XXIII Pentecost

Readings are here.
Luke 19:1-10 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

As soon as we read this Gospel I can almost hear the Sunday School song running through your minds. Though we know this story well, as with all familiar stories it is easy to miss the point Jesus is making. We know Zacchaeus is a tax collector and rich - both things make him despised in his time. Tax collectors were "of the people" but not "for the people." They collected taxes for the Roman Empire which paid for the soldiers who often made their lives miserable. They got rich by adding something on for themselves. We know he is so short that he has to climb a tree to see over the crowds. We know Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus house to stay with him. So what's the point?

This story is found in between the blind beggar who wants to see again and the parable of the talents - the story of the people entrusted with someone else's wealth and what they do with that wealth. In some ways Zacchaeus is blind - blind to his true self but seeking something. Perhaps he is wondering why his parent's named him Zacchaesus which means "Pure" - and how far he has come from that ideal. He has climbed a tree of his own choosing - put himself "up a tree" by his pursuit of wealth - not a bad thing in itself but by means were less than "pure." Others have also put him up the tree - they do not make room for him in the community - as shown by his need to climb the tree - instead of having a place along with the others. He has great riches - but what has he made of the things he has obtained. Does he feel gratitude or does he think he deserves it because he was clever and earned.

So we find Zacchaeus up the tree of his own and others making. Seeking to see this person of whom he has heard, as much as the blind man sought his physical sight. Perhaps to see with the eyes of his heart that had become blinded over the years. Seeking something more that he even knows. He thought he was just going to see this famous person - but as in most of Jesus' stories - the tables are turned.

Jesus sees him and calls him out -- calls him by name -- "Zacchaeus - pure one" - Jesus fixes his attention on the one who no one thinks is worthy - not the crowd, not Zacchaeus himself. Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus' house -- not just his home but into the home of his heart -- I am coming to stay in your heart today. Make room. And Zacchaeus does make room - he clears the space that has been occupied with collecting the taxes and gives over and above what was required for atonement for stealing from others.

Jesus tells the shocked crowds - this man is a Son of Abraham - just like you - he is part of you - as you are part of one another- you cannot be separated from each other or the love of God - no matter how lost you might feel, no matter what you have done. You can't be an outsider of the reign of God. You are always in. The message returns Zacchaeus and all who really hear it - to wholeness - salvation - healing of the person and the community.

It is atonement - at- one - ment. Becoming whole -- It is always there, waiting to come in, waiting to enter our hearts.

The sign of our acceptance comes in the words of Sirach:
Sirach 35:12-17
Give to the Most High as he has given to you,
and as generously as you can afford.
For the Lord is the one who repays,
and he will repay you sevenfold.
Do not offer him a bribe, for he will not accept it
and do not rely on a dishonest sacrifice;
for the Lord is the judge,
and with him there is no partiality.
He will not show partiality to the poor;
but he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged.
He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan,
or the widow when she pours out her complaint.

The Christ is always asking to come into our hearts - to make a home for that love that passes all understanding that can change the world.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Happy Halloween

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Monday, October 04, 2010

XIX Pentecost

Readings are here.

The last week or so I have been thinking about the young gay men who have committed suicide after being bullied and harassed. So many people in our world feel that sense of hopelessness that leads to thinking that death is better than life. I cry out with Habakkuk:
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous--
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

And then I read the next line:
I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;

And I think - oh - this is about me and what I am doing or not doing.

Many and maybe all of us have both experienced bullying and been bullies. I remember that as school children we tormented a boy who cried easily. And I remember the times that I was called names and terrorized. There is something about our nature. Like chickens who pick on the one who is different - even to the point of killing that one - we have that little "chicken" bit of brain down deep in ourselves.

Will I stand guard over myself and in our community. It is hard to stand out and speak up when a crowd is going this way. Last week in our online sermon discussion listserve, Propertalk, I was reminded of the scene in To Kill a Mockingbird:
when the white men come at night and surround the jail where Tom, an African-American wrongly accused of a crime, is held? The men are a mob. They do not see Tom; they only see an enemy-red or blue. They are blinded by rage. Scout, a little
girl, watches them. Her father tells her to run away and go home. But Scout doesn't run, and she doesn't fight....

Scout looks at one of the men in the mob and says, "Hey Mister Cunningham, don't you remember me? I go to school with Walter. He's your boy, ain't he? We brought him home for dinner one time. Tell your boy 'hey' for me, will you?"

There was a long pause. Then the big man separated himself from the mob, squatted down and took Scout by both her shoulders. "I'll tell him you said 'hey,' little lady." Then the mob dispersed.

Scout is the agent of God - helping people to return to their selves and become individuals and not a mob. She stood watch and spoke truth to power.

In our town of about 6000 we have a listserve of about 2000 which is mainly for announcing garage sales. Occasionally someone will say something that is racist, sexist or homophobic or other scary thing. At first it seems terrifying that there are so many who agree - then one person will write offering an opposing point of view - one that restores dignity to those being abused by hurtful words. Suddenly allies appear or write notes of support. The world became less scary by the actions of one person stepping out from the crowd.

How do we learn to step out like this? The 2nd Letter to Timothy gives us a hint:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

In baptism we are asked, "Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?" and we answer with a loud, "AMEN." We can be communities of support and care for all people, we can teach one another to walking in Christ's loving footsteps. We can offer hope to those who feel alone and isolated.
Last week our church camp, that you support through the diocesan assessment and through sending kids to camp in the summer, was the site for a weekend with the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) in Casper. High school students who care and support for each other, especially for those who are gay or lesbian. They spent the weekend using the ropes course for team building and learning more about how to be community who is there for each other. You, Holy Communion, Rock Springs, have become a welcoming church for all who might come seeking hope. We can continue this work and exercise our faith together - so when a moment comes to stand up - we will not fear but step out in faith.

This is being the mustard seed of the gospel. We can be a small seed of faith and hope that grows to a large protective place of respite and renewal -- scattering our mustard seeds of hope to all who need a word of encouragement and knowledge that they are beloved of God, that life is worth living.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

IX Pentecost

Readings are here

Sometimes I think we say the Lord's Prayer so frequently we race over the meaning and mumble the words. Today I encourage you to read it through slowly, savoring each phrase. Or perhaps reading it in other translations/paraphrases will help see the fullness of the prayer that Jesus offers his followers:

as translated from Aramaic by Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz of the Sufi Order of the West

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.

From A New Zealand Prayer Book

Eternal Spirit Earth-Maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all.
Loving God, in whom is heaven.
The hallowing of your name echoes through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the earth!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and forever. Amen.

The lesson from the Genesis reveals a God with whom we can argue and have a conversation and who listens to our concerns. The reading from Colossians tells us we can have our own opinions and do not have to take the ideas of others for ourselves. We are free to seek God on our own. Even the church can't tell us how to think and believe. Jesus asks us to seek and find, knock and doors will open.

Prayer is just this sort of seeking and knocking. Sr Joan Chittister says: "God is life, not a vending machine full of trifles to fit the whims of the human race." We may not understand or even accept life as it happens to us. Prayer is a way of finding a deeper understanding of how God is found in our lives. Seeking and knocking does not mean we will get whatever we ask for but it is seeking our relationship with God - how God is life, and finding ever new revelations (doors) about living as though heaven is real on earth and making that more of a reality.

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you. ~~Augustine

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

VIII Pentecost

Readings are here.

Every time this Gospel about Mary and Martha come around, I cringe. It seems to be a set up to pit women against one another using Jesus as the instigator. I know that in the time of the reading it was shocking for Jesus to go to the home of 2 unaccompanied (by men) women, to eat with them, to allow one to slack off on her household duties, and to encourage the other one to do the same, and to teach women theology. Nevertheless it seems every sermon seems to end up with bad Martha, good Mary. What is the good news?

Here is an exegesis by John Julian:
Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany
1st century

“In the Gospel of St. Luke we read that our Lord came to Martha’s house and while she set about at once to prepare his meal, her sister did nothing but sit at his feet. She was so intent upon listening to him that she paid no attention to what Martha was do ing. Now certainly Martha’s chores were holy and important…But Mary…was totally absorbed in the highest wisdom of God concealed in the obscurity of [Jesus’] humanity.

“Mary turned to Jesus with all the love of her heart, unmoved by what she saw or heard spoken and done about her…Why? Because it is the best and holiest part of the contemplative life possible to mortals and she would not relinquish it for anything on earth. Even when Martha complained to Je sus about her, scolding him for not bidding her to get up and help with the work, Mary remained there quite still and untroubled, showing not the least resentment against Martha for her grumbling. But this is not sur­prising really, for she was utterly absorbed in another work, all unknown to Martha, and she did not have time to notice her sister or defend herself.
“My friend, do you see that this whole incident concerning Jesus and the two sisters was intended as a lesson for active and contemplative persons of the Church in every age? Mary represents the contemplative life and all contemplative persons ought to model their lives on hers. Martha represents the active life and all active persons should take her as their guide.”[1]

So wrote the anonymous author of the 14th-century spiritual discourse The Cloud of Unknowing, representing the ancient tradition of seeing Mary and Martha as repre­senting the Two Ways of Prayer. It is interesting that virtually every present-day scholar makes a point of dis agreeing with that understanding – not perhaps surprising in a culture which highly values activity and cares little for meditative silence.

What we know about Mary and Martha of Bethany beyond the scriptural accounts is an extremely tangled and confused muddle, because until fairly recently virtually every scholar identified Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen. So the medieval legend has it that after the Resurrection, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus set out to evangelize Provence in southern France, with Martha’s relics supposedly being miraculously dis covered in 1187 at the town of Tarascon (on the Côte-d’Azur in southeastern France) where she allegedly tamed the legendary dragon “La Tarasque”.

But what do the scripture accounts themselves tell us about these two good women? According to John, they lived in the town of Bethany, less than two miles from Jerusalem on the Jericho road, and they were the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. But the account of Jesus’ first visit to Mary and Martha appears only in Luke. In his account of that visit we can recognize that Jesus himself is shatter ing at least three Jewish forbidden cultural norms of his society:

a. He is apparently alone with women who are not his relatives. (Where is Lazarus?)

b. A woman waits on him and serves him.

c. He teaches a woman in her own house.

These were all forbidden by universal Jewish custom, so this is yet another example of Jesus’ re fusal to treat women as second-class, subordinate persons but, rather, equal with men.

In addition, Mary is portrayed as taking the position proper only to a male disci ple, i.e., at Jesus’ feet. The Mishnah says plainly: “Let your house be a meeting-place for the Sages and sit amid the dust at their feet and drink in their words with thirst…[but] talk not much with womankind.” By sitting at Jesus’s feet, Mary is violat ing a clear so cial boundary and, according to Jewish custom, is thereby bringing shame upon her house; Jesus himself by speaking with her so deeply also breaks the rab bini cal norm against converse with women.

Martha, on the other hand, is doing the proper work of a Jewish woman – preparing a meal – and she complains that Mary is not helping her. Within Jewish traditions, Martha’s protest is completely appropriate and entirely justifiable; it is not, as it may seem to us, merely an issue of peevish jealousy or control over her sister. In a sense, Martha is say ing, “Mary’s behavior is shameful for a Jewish woman. She doesn’t know her place. You, Jesus, are a Rabbi; it is your responsibility to correct her.” Jesus certainly would have understood that, and yet he refuses that socially appropriate de mand – and goes even further: he actually gives his approval and blessing on Mary’s “shameful, improper, and unfeminine” behavior.

And when Jesus responds to Martha, he repeats her name – ”Martha, Martha” – which in itself is a sign of mild criticism or at least of a lament. [Jesus uses the same technique of repetition with Peter when he predicts his betrayal: “Simon, Simon, take heed: Satan has been given leave to sift all of you like wheat” (Luke 22:31-REB)]

Jesus’ statement to Martha has several different versions in early manuscripts:

1. “Only a few things are needed” is Jesus’s response in two early scriptural manuscripts. There are some scholars who suggest that here he may have simply been talking about the meal itself, i.e., saying that Martha need not bother with a lavish feast: that “only a few dishes are necessary.”

2. In six other early manuscripts, the phrase is “There is need of one thing [only].” This seems more clearly to be addressing the matter of spiritual priorities (and is used by the translators of the NRSV, the REB and the NAB).

3. Three other early manuscripts have a slightly fuller version: “Only a few things are needed, indeed, only one.” This seems to be a conflation of two earlier traditions, and it is this ver sion the Jerusalem Bible translators use.

Finally, in a bit of speculation, it is just conceivable that this entire story (which appears only in Luke) may have originally been as much a parable as that of the Good Samaritan (which immediately precedes it in the Gospel) — a conclusion based on four words:

1. In Luke, the story is said to take place in “a certain village” (kómayn tiná). However, that village could not have been Bethany (where John’s Gospel locates them) because that would be far too close to Jerusalem for the journey Jesus is on. Some scholars suggest that it was in Magdala in Galilee. Also, the adjective “certain” (“a certain village” and “a certain woman”) is used most commonly as the introduction to a parable in ten places in Luke and at least two in Matthew (e.g., “A certain man was going down to Jerusalem…”).

2. Martha means “mistress” or “lady” in Hebrew and Mary is from Miriam that means “rebellious”, suggesting that if this was originally a parable, these two women may have been meant simply to represent two behavioral traits, rather than actual persons.

3. When Martha is described as “burdened with much serving” the Greek word for “serving” here is diakoneîn – “deaconing” – which is usually used by Luke to refer to the service of Christian ministry. It might be possible to conclude, then, that Jesus is using the parable/story to place primacy on the hearing of the word rather than on a more active ministry of serving (i.e., deaconing) others.

4. There could a Greek word-play in the last two verses: Martha is described as “anxious” and the Greek is merimnás; and Mary’s name in Greek is Mariám – the two words sound very much alike. Was Jesus telling us that it as better to be “rebellious” than “anxious”?

In scripture, the only other place we meet Mary and Martha is in the Gospel of John. In this ac count, the sisters send a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus is ill. Then Je sus waits for two days to make sure Lazarus is recognized as dead. When he is on the way to Bethany, Martha goes to meet him and then calls her sister, apparently telling Mary a white lie: “The Master is here and is asking for you.” when there is no textual evidence that Jesus was, in fact, asking for Mary. Mary runs to Jesus and falls weeping at his feet, and Jesus weeps with her before he orders the cover re moved from the tomb and calls Lazarus out. Later, at a supper with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary silently anoints Jesus’ feet with precious ointment – a gesture of great honor and love.

Certainly, whether in parable or in history, in Jesus’s relation to Mary and Martha, we are presented with a rare human dimension to his life: that of simple, good, human friend ship – a dimension that can enthusiastically be celebrated on this occasion.

Cowan, Tom; The Way of the Saints; G.B. Putnam’s Sons; NY; 1998.
Cross, F.L. & Livingstone, E.A., eds.; The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; Oxford U.P.; Oxford; 1988.
de Voragine, Jacobus (Ryan, W.G. (tr); The Golden Legend; vol. 1 & 2; Princeton University Press; Princeton; NJ; 1993.
Esler, Philip F. & Piper, Ronald A.; Lazarus, Mary and Martha: A Social-Scientific and Theological Reading of John; SCM; London; 2007.
Hughson, Shirley C, OHC; Athletes of God; Holy Cross Press; West Park, NY 1930.
King, Ursula; Christian Mystics: The Spiritual Heart of the Christian Tradition; Simon & Schuster; NY; 1998.
Wikipedia: “Martha”; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha; (04/21/05)

[1] Johnston, William, tr. & ed.; The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling; Doubleday; New York; 1973.

If Martha was an early church deacon - is the story more about the way clergy slip into too much doing and not enough waiting in the stillness of God. That I can see more than a story of women fighting.

And from J. Frazer Crocker
Scolded like an impolite child
stopped in mid gesture
with a wooden spoon in one hand
while a bowl falls from the other
Hidden in the dimness of the pantry
under a chandelier of spider-webs
she stands ashamed in the glow of the kitchen fire
covering her dress with a blue apron
stained by a small dark smudge over her breast
She shades her brow with a starched cloth
In the darkness the barrels pray
patient with the maturing of malt
The truth of oil settles in clay jugs
A tear trembles on a flaxen eyelash
Greatly saddened shadows
are lit only by a humble and apologetic
sliver of green glance
Yet still disobedient she continues to serve
heart in a rush of love
even when her wise sister
slim as a poplar
calmly takes out of her hands
a warm loaf of bread sprinkled with snow

Friday, July 16, 2010

Argentia, !SI!

From Argentina, where they just passed a marriage equality law:

Sunday, July 04, 2010

VI Pentecost

Readings are here.

The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori preached last week on what I tried to say this Sunday morning - On Freedom:
On June 27 Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, in the morning, and at evensong at St. Michael and All Angels in Christchurch.

The readings for the day were: 2 Kings 2: 1-2, 6-14; Psalm 77: 1-2, 11-20; Galatians 5:1, 13-25 and Luke 9: 51-62.

Well, I rejoice with you over the success of the All Whites, (NZ soccer/football team, ed.) and lament their exit.

All the hoopla around the World Cup brings to mind another athletic celebration. In 1968 two American athletes stood on the podium in Mexico City and raised their fists. They wanted to make a statement about freedom and their lack of it, for they were black.

Even though the law insists that all people are equal, people of color continue to suffer injustice, in my homeland and, I think, in yours. Their salute got them thrown out of the summer Olympic Games, but it raised the consciousness of a lot of people, and helped the cause of freedom for many, many others.

In one of the biblical languages, the word for prayer means opening a clenched fist. That black power salute began another petition in a continuing prayer across the world, that all people might be free. The crucifixion is a cosmic version of that same prayer – Jesus’ arms and hands open so wide they take in the whole world, indeed, the whole creation.

‘For freedom Christ has set us free. So stand up and stop being a slave,’ Paul says (Gal 5:1). But freedom isn’t only freedom from ; it’s freedom for – for loving self and others. We have been set free in order that we might become that same sort of liberating love in the world, setting others free.

Freedom is directional. It moves away from slavery, and it moves toward something more, the more that God intended from creation. It has something to do with what those two guys on the podium were protesting – an end to slavery, an end to oppression, an end to poverty and systems that keep some in thrall while others profit.

Freedom also has something to do with expansion – in the same sense that Mary prays, “magnify the Lord” – let the glory and love of God in our hearts expand our capacity to be tools and servants of that greater possibility.

The freedom we have received in Christ is meant to give us larger hearts and wider-seeing eyes that don’t focus so much on our own fears. That sort of freedom gives us the ability to look for the larger good, rather than only our own.

It’s what is told of a sailor in the Pacific during the Second World War. His ship was bombed and a fierce fire broke out in the hold, where the munitions were stored. The crew fought the fire for two days.

At some point a gunner’s mate tied a rope around his waist and had himself lowered into the hold. He went down into that hell so he could train a fire hose on the bombs, lest they be set off by the heat. He stayed there for hours, helping to set others free. Freedom lets us choose the life abundant meant for all.

Freedom, Paul says, invites us to become the loving servants of others. Just before I left New York, a group of the Church Center staff gathered to discuss and strategize around the referendum in Sudan next January. The people of Sudan will vote on whether or not southern Sudan should become a separate nation, and there is great concern over the violence that may erupt around that election.

We will call the whole of The Episcopal Church to prayer, to study, and to action in solidarity with the Episcopal Church of Sudan. The larger body, through advocacy, prayer, and ways we haven’t yet discovered, may be able to help bring greater peace in Sudan. The world is poised to observe – and influence – the community in and around Sudan.

Will we see those self-centered responses that Paul calls works of the flesh: “strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy” – or together can we encourage works of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”? Even the simple act of attending, paying attention to the suffering of others, begins to unclench the fist.

That kind of solidarity or coming alongside is one kind of freedom we’ve been given. When Elisha asked for a double portion of spirit, he was seeking that gift to share with others. He is blessed with that kind of freedom as Elijah departs, and he spends the rest of his life healing people, raising the dead, challenging oppressors, speaking truth to power, bringing warring kingdoms to the peace table, feeding and looking after people who would otherwise be forgotten.

It’s the kind of freedom that’s needed to respond to the situation in Haiti. Before the earthquake in January, the Diocese of Haiti ran 254 schools, serving 80,000 students, from preschool to trade and music schools, in a nursing college and university.

Much of the infrastructure of those schools is now gone. The bishop announced a couple of days ago that he can no longer afford to pay his 37 clergy. All that infrastructure helped to support the diocesan mission, and they’ve lost about $30,000 a month, income that used to help keep expanding the ability of the church there to teach and heal and show the incarnate love of God.

Rebuilding Haiti will take at least a decade, and it needs our willingness to be servants of the Haitians – to be free enough to love in ways that they ask, rather than what we direct. Haiti is already experiencing resurrection – and there is abundant opportunity to open our hands and pockets to help support that rebuilding.

There’s something about the freedom we know in Jesus that cures our paralyzing fear of those on the margins. You know how that sort of clenching goes: “there but for the grace of God go I. Don’t let that happen to me – keep me far away from any hint of the possibility of homelessness or disability or disaster. Thank God I wasn’t born to that culture.” May the unclenching prayer in us be more like, “dear God, I see this suffering. Help me see you in my neighbor.”

The guy who drove me to the airport went a way I hadn’t gone before. It was an eye-opener. We went by a Jewish center with beautiful mosaics on the front of the building, and young men in yarmulkes walking down the street.

We stopped at a red light and I looked over at the next car, to see a Sikh in turban and full beard, with a ceremonial knife hanging from his rear view mirror. That knife is actually a symbol of freedom – in the ability to choose non-violence.

The next block was filled by a beautiful old stone church complex – Mary, Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church. The shops and storefronts gave evidence of the world’s many families, languages, peoples, and nations.

Are we free enough to see that as blessing? Are we free enough to meet all the world’s people with a desire for their full flourishing? Can we be martyrs – witnesses – to the image of God in all people?

The freedom we have is to choose for those on the margins, to be in solidarity with the friendless and forgotten, the despised and the demonized. Exercising that freedom is almost always challenging – it annoys people who don’t see any need to change the status quo, it offends those in power, it challenges the ways of the world that say, “me first.”

Crossing those boundaries sent God into human flesh. Crossing those boundaries is the heart of God’s mission. It’s not for the faint of heart, but we find courage from our elder brother who has already opened his hands and arms wide enough for the whole world. We find strength in his body gathered here, and through all time and space. May we claim the freedom that is ours. May our fists open for all!

Friday, June 11, 2010

III Pentecost

Readings are here.

Sermon notes for Holy Communion, Rock Springs.

A reflection in our EfM group and some sermon notes by Robert Cornmer, turned my thoughts to the comparison of the woman and the Pharisee in today's gospel. The two main characters are a study of us in many ways.

The woman comes to Jesus in her poverty. She is at the end of her rope and rushes in all hair and tears to offer everything she has. A woman of the city is a polite way to say a sex worker. Someone who earns her living selling her only commodity - her body. She is an object to be used by whomever has the money to pay, but looked down upon by all those who are the "good" people. She is like us when we are lost - do not know what else to do but turn to God and throw ourselves on the mercy of the one who created us. The person who has lost everything: family, wealth, status, home, mind, body, spirit. We are her when we have no security and no one to turn to, when our lives are out of control.

Simon, the Pharisee, on the other hand, has everything: position, power, wealth, family, even a name. He knows how to move in the circles of power, is respected in the community, a pillar of the synagogue (church). He follows the religious and purity laws in the most righteous of ways. He lives a life that does not encounter "sinners" - he stays in his own group. He is like us when we are feeling control of are lives, when our job and our lives are going well, we have health insurance, our families are not falling apart, when we have it all together.

Jesus comes into the picture as a bridge between these two. He offers his love to both. He asks them to see one another as he sees them. To the woman who comes with nothing he shows compassion and raises her status to a person of faith. For the Pharisee, he shows that although Simon considers himself a person of faith and person with everything - he really has as little as the woman - in fact perhaps less because his faith is built on an illusion of control. Whereas the woman realizes that she has no control in her life. She has so little that she is willing to break all the taboos of her time - coming uninvited into a dinner party of men - unbinding her hair - touching a man public, spending her money on alabaster and ointment. She does not see Simon as a person any more than Simon sees her as a person. They are both objects to one another if they notice at all. Jesus calls each of them to live into their humanity - that human image of God they were created to be.

Although as individuals we are like both the woman and the Pharisee - as the church, the body of Christ, we are called to be Christ in the world to make spaces for people to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ - as God's beloved children. Your thrift shop for instance - provides people with clothing that allows them to feel good about their appearance - and it raises funds to support other opportunities for the community. Those who come for clothes and those who provide the clothes are the same in Christ's eyes. We are called to give without condescension but to respect the dignity of each person as we promise in our baptismal covenant. When we get to feeling "holier than thou" - we know we have moved out of following the one who tells us that the leader is the one who serves. We have become our own little gods when we think we have earned our own way - forgetting the gifts we have been given and the support along the way - the doors that have opened for us. When we feel less than others - we have also slipped away from God - that is not the humility of Christ but forgetting that we are the beloved and have a claim on a space of grace as much as any other person.

From today's Collect - the prayer before the readings --
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; -- may it be so. May we be a place where all are welcome and all feel the sense dignity and acceptance and the love of God.

additional thought --
I heard our Presiding Bishop quote this recently: The church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. This is our mission - creating spaces of grace - may it be so.

Friday, June 04, 2010

on the death of my brother

Today we hold the service celebrating my brother's life. Last week he was playing golf and this week he is dead. No one knew that the cancer was there - he lived life until he died. He had good relationships with his kids and grandkids and siblings. It is all just so stunning to us to think of not seeing him in this life. He asked me to do his service and I will. People from various parts of his life will speak, his children will offer their thoughts and I will say something like the following:

You have heard many aspects of my brother’s life from friends, colleagues and his daughter and son; and the empty space he leaves in our lives. The scriptures, however, call us not to lose heart in the midst of our loss and promise that the love we experience is not ended but changed. From now on we carry the memories of a life well lived and love freely given – we carry that on to the next generation and to one another.

The gospel of John speaks of many dwelling places. The words used are those of traveling – they refer to Jesus as the one who goes ahead on the journey to make arrangements and provide comfort for when we arrive, who leaves tracks and signs of how find our way. Steve has completed his part of the journey. We have ours to live. Steve showed us a one way to live – we each take a piece of that pattern and carry it with us. God, as creator stands at the beginning and end of our lives, God in Jesus is the path and companion, God as Spirit encourages us and gives us hope.

All week I have been thinking about the Parable of the Talents where people are given certain gifts to steward. Some do well with their gifts, others do not.

In Steve, we see one who took his gifts and talents and by giving to the world and to his family, multiplied them far beyond his knowing. As in the parable I hear God saying to Steve, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”

Readings are
Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, 
 the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 
Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

23 Psalm
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off* we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

John 14:1-6
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe* in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’* Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trinity Sunday

Thoughts toward a sermon:
Readings are here.

There is a joke that was going around preaching circles last week as we pondered what to say this year about Trinity on this-- the celebration of this revelation.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am? And his disciples answered and said, "Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or other of the old prophets." And Jesus answered and said, "But who do you say that I am?"

Peter answered and said, "You are the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

And Jesus answering, said, "What?"

It is easy to fall into trying to solve the questions around the concept of The Trinity but the readings call us into something other than a logic problem and out into relationships, love, hope, dance, and poetry.

It has been said about the Trinity: They took poetry and made it into a rule.

Or as Karl Barth said: The Word became flesh, and theologians made it words again.

The readings encourage us to get out our heads into mystery -

Like John Donne in his poem on the Trinity --
Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Or Killian McDonnell:
God is not a problem
I need to solve, not an
algebraic polynomial equation
I find complete before me,

with positive and negative numbers
I can add, subtract, multiply.
God is not a fortress
I can lay siege to and reduce.

God is not a confusion
I can place in order by my logic.
God's boundaries cannot be set,
like marking trees to fell.

God is the presence in which
I live, where the line between
what is in me and what
before me is real, but only God

can draw it. God is the mystery
I meet on the street, but cannot
lay hold of from the outside,
for God is my situation,

the condition I cannot stand
beyond, cannot view from a distance,
the presence I cannot make an object,
only enter on my knees.

The reading from Proverbs sings of Lady Wisdom who was present and participated in creation – who tells us she can be found out on the street, in the town square or walking the beach on Memorial Day weekend:
she calls, and raises her voice
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
"To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

She calls to all who live – she proclaims that God is not a secret knowledge only open to special people but there for all who live – calling them to deeper and greater life.

The Psalm continues with this joyous raucous call – singing of God who works wonders in creation – who offers it all to us as a gift and treasure. The creator whose creation is so grand and yet who holds each of us in the palm of the hand.
Considering each of us with the eyes of love and seeing each of us as worthy.

This same God revealed Paul’s letter to the Romans – who provides with hope
that does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Hope being the quality that calls us to the present and future and keeps us from despair.

This ever revealing nature of God is what Jesus speaks of in the Gospel of John – that we cannot know all at any one time in history – nothing is finished. What we think of as the end may only be a beginning – what me may think is a beginning may only be the continuation of things we do not even know.

As we contemplate the Trinity this day – perhaps we can see it in the image of the Celtic knot – an interweaving of the form – with not beginning or ending. More like a poem or a dance. Illusive and yet capturing something momentarily and then gone in a flash only to reappear. The Trinity offers us a relationship with God that is not static – but available to where we are each day. Some days we need the mysterious presence of the Spirit, some days a companion to walk with, some days a guardian or parent to offer guidance. All are aspects of God who desires to dance with us and make us creators of life for all who inhabit this earth.

In the bible often the word translated as Doers as in the gospel of James:
Be doers of the word not only hearers - Can also be translated
Be poets of the word not only hearers

Or as it says in the old country western song:

Life is a dance
With steps you don’t’ know
Join the dance
Learn as you go.

The Trinity represents the One who is waiting for us to join the dance – pick your partner – do si do.