Monday, December 31, 2012

Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L’Engle, from The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What shall we do with the Christmas presents?

We stare and stare through the tears
at the presents hidden away for children
who will never open their gifts again

Only silence responds
the terrible silence

There are no words
to ease the pain
that will burn
every time
we set the table
for 5 where only 4 will sit

How will we live now?
Will our center hold?
Or shall we all fly off
into our own corners
of unanswerable grief?

Are we a brood of vipers?

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?"

In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. -Luke 3:7-18


"You brood of vipers" - John says this to all present and yet to come, to me. I may claim in my own way that "I have Abraham as my ancestor" - that is, I could never do the worst imaginable crimes. I say - I am not kin to the violent murderers of this world. But John calls me out on that and I know in my heart that I do participate in the killing. Wherever people die before attaining the fullness of life - I am complicit. I would not go into a classroom and kill children but what do I do about war, greed, hunger, poverty, lack of health care? All kill every day. It is impossible not to be complicit.

Still I go out to the desert to ask where is the hope? John gives me a simple answer. Turn away from the path of violence by receiving a message of "enough" - I do not need to have more than enough. Be satisfied with having just enough. That is his message of hope.

The Holy One IS coming with burn away the chaff that overloads us. We will be tossed about by life and in the process winnowed down to what we hope is good grain. Join the One who suffers and dies and comes again with the eternal hope of God in humankind's ability to make this a world of life for all.



And some realism from Digby

And more from Anne Lamott

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Women as priests in early Christianity and now

Evidence of women as priests and bishops is strong in archeology and writings of the early days of Christianity. Victoria Rue's story of becoming a priest in our day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Man in the moon


Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

From his family:
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From stardust we come and to stardust we shall return

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

Ride on in glory - Sally Ride - you inspired us all to become seekers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

VII Pentecost

Readings are here.

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

Either you will go through this door
Or you will not go through.

If you go through
There is always the risk
Of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
And you must look back
And let them happen.

If you do not go through
It is possible to live worthily,

To maintain your attitudes,
To hold your position,
To die bravely.

But much will blind you,
Much will evade you,
At what cost who knows?

The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.

-Adrienne Rich 1929-2012
from Suzanne Guthrie's Edge of Enclosure


Blessing by Jan Richardson

May your life be a river.
May you flow with the purpose
of the One who created
and called you,
who directs your course
and turns you ever
toward home.

May your way shimmer
with the light of Christ
who goes with you
who bears you up
who calls you by name.

May you move
with the grace of the Spirit
who brooded over
the face of the waters
at the beginning
and who will gather you in
at the end.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 Pentecost

Readings are here.

A reflection I wrote on the Gospel:

Isolated and alone
Woman of blood
pours herself towards
the fabric of life.

Dewdrop of hope
slips down the thread
to the woman
with outstretched hands

From Edge of Enclosure.




Image from the catacombs.

Monday, June 25, 2012

4 Pentecost

Readings are here.

Mark 4:35-41
When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"


Jesus asks, "Have you no faith?" -- maybe it is faith in ourselves that makes us afraid? The disciples were mostly fishermen - they knew the sea, they knew storms. Jesus trusts them to sail the boat and he rests in the peace of their skill and trust that God is with us through storm and calm. Below is my painting of the scene:



Friday, June 08, 2012

2 Pentecost

Readings are here.

The readings today seem very appropriate to this stage in our journey of faith here at St. Catherine's. After the end of this month I will no longer be your Interim Vicar. The new vicar, Laurie McKim, will come into our circle as priest among us. Next week is my last sermon as your vicar though I may supply if needed. Following that service I will catch a plane in Portland at 3 p.m. to go to the University of the South, Sewanee, TN for continuing education as a Trainer for the Education for Ministry program offered from the School of Theology. Then if all goes according to plan I will fly to Wyoming to help Jim close on the house. (a big "if" as we won't know for sure until the ink is on the contract).

In our lesson from Samuel, the people of Israel are facing changes. Samuel warns them to be careful what they wish for. In 2 Corinthians Paul tells the people not to lose heart when things look bad and in our Gospel Jesus preaches on the nature of this new community of faith.

In times of changes in leadership we often hope that this new person will save us from ourselves - will make everything work to our satisfaction. I see it over and over in elections. The latest winner is going to fix everything - we will be happy - we will have it all. In churches - the hope is that we will grow, we will have a new future, we will attract new members, we will all grow and deepen our faith and more.

One time I was consulting with a church and I asked - tell me about a time when you thought to yourself - YES! this is why I love being a member of St. Swithin's in the Swamp! A specific time. What were the circumstances? Who was there? What did you do to make it happen? What are the core values you se in this incident? Maybe you might like to think about those questions about your history at St Catherine's for a few moments, right now.

...

For St. Swithin's most of the incidents occurred when they did not have a priest in residence. Times when they pulled together to start something or carry on. Their core values were around the community's own strength and the power of God in their midst. What it told me was that while the priest is an important member of the circle of community-- nothing will happen unless the community wishes it to happen. Oh - I have seen churches swell temporarily with a very charismatic preacher -but when that person goes away or fails in some way - the church goes back to it's norm. Building on the foundation of our communal gifts is the way that churches have solid long lasting communities.

I went to Clergy Conference a couple of weeks ago - the speaker is the rector of a church in Seattle that had fallen on hard times. Her presence in their midst has shown them their own strengths of worship, community and vision. She has not "done it for them" - but was a person who could support and nurture what was already there. She said the key was that they had a kindliness of spirit toward one another. When they had disagreements they remained friends and cared for one another. They built worship on being the best of who they are. This church is a "high church" - Anglo-catholic - smells, bells, chanting - so they worked on doing the best of this style of liturgy. Other churches have different styles on which to become the best of whatever is the ethos of the congregation. It does not matter what style - what matters is doing it well and helping those who visit to relax into whatever is happening. Their vision included having a Sunday School and though they had no children in the church - some members became trained in Godly play and for a year - waited for children every Sunday no matter that no one showed up - they were ready. And now they have 30 kids most Sundays.

What I see in the Scriptures are these same lessons. A new "king" or "queen" will not save us from ourselves. The new vicar will join us and see things in us and help us to see those things for ourselves. If we are divided - a new vicar will listen but will not be able to force us to learn to live with our differences and become reconciled. Only we can do that for ourselves. If we lose heart we need to remember that God is with us and wants this church to be here in this time and this place doing the ministry that God wishes done. Only we can discern what that is - and carry it out - -one vicar cannot do this alone. Jesus asks who are his brothers and sisters and mothers?

The answer is whoever does the will of God. Only you know if we are doing the will of God -but I believe if we are - St. Catherine's will flourish and become the place where all feel called to sit at the table as brothers and sisters in Christ and return to the world refreshed and ready to live as God's people.



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost


Readings are here.

The disciples are behind locked doors, moving around the city as needed but mostly hiding for fear of the Roman authorities and the religious leaders. Gathered together, 120 of them now, women and men, remembering their time with Jesus, studying the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament), praying, breaking bread (Eucharist) with one another. Mary, the mother of Jesus, with the newly re-formed 12 and others who had journeyed with Jesus. Jesus told them to wait - so they are waiting. Suddenly fire and wind rush through their midst, blowing them out the doors. Like Moses on the mountain receiving the law with fire and storm - but instead of fire on the mountain - fire rests on each of the gathered followers, hearts aflame, minds aflame - they run out into the street. Galileans - looked down upon by city folk of Jerusalem - unstoppable words pour forth.

"They must be drunk" the people laugh derisively. But no, what's this each can understand the words in their own language. Many voices - much like the cacophony we heard with all of us speaking at once in the Acts reading - but making sense - the words of call - call to become whole, to find fullness of life, to draw close to the Holy One. Both terrifying and fascinating. 3000 responded to the call.

Pentecost was a high holy day in Israel - a spring harvest festival and celebration of the giving of the Law. People were coming into the city to the Temple to make their offering and give thanks for the guidance and support that the Law gives them. Though all are Jews or those who worshipped in the Jewish traditions, proselytes, lovers of God and God's law, they come from many countries and speak a variety of languages. The followers of Jesus were also Jews - mostly Galileans - which meant not particularly educated. Most spoke street Greek (which we find in the New Testament) or Aramaic but not the individual languages of the pilgrims that day. Yet the pilgrims testify that they heard their own languages - that long list we heard in the reading.

How great is it it be heard? To be really listened to? To know that the person hearing you is receiving what you are saying? Not the chaos of unintelligible languages but the one on one connection. Listening one another into fullness of life? A miracle not of the tongue but of the ears (as someone has said).

The disciples were hiding in fear. How often to we hide in fear - fear of others who differ from us? Do we avoid those we perceive as different, somehow scary? How do they overcome their fears? First they gather with those who are similar - who have the same sort of life as they have had, they pray, they remember how Jesus went through the world - how he welcomed all who came into his presence. Jews and gentiles, rich and poor, Roman soldiers and bleeding women, old people and children, angry people, those with illnesses, all saints and all sorts. They are nourished by word and sacrament. And one day - they walk out - undefended, open, vulnerable, to speak of what they know - regardless of the consequences. To me the best proof of the power of the Holy Spirit - that this little band of followers could go forth to witness to God's presence in spite of their totally realistic fears.

Now the "other" becomes brother and sister. Seeing all people as children of God. Differences do not go away - but difference is appreciated and not feared.

William Johnston in 
The Inner Eye of Love calls it Unrestricted Love --
...when I say unrestricted love I do not mean perfect love. I simply mean a love that goes on and on and on, just as man's knowledge and questioning go on and on and on. but, I repeat, it is never perfect in this life: authenticity is never fully achieved. The person with this unrestricted love has his conflicts and struggles, his imperfection and anguish, his neurosis and fear. He has his moments of betrayal and failure and sin. All this is part of that human adventure which is a love affair with the infinite. It is part of the experience of being in love.*

Jesus speaks of this coming of the Holy Spirit in his last words to the disciples – that feminine aspect of God – Ruach, Sofia, Holy Spirit – as she is known in the books of Genesis and Proverbs. The Spirit, who was present at creation, is that which leads us into all truth – the one who reveals more and more to us – Jesus says – the Spirit/Advocate will reveal more than he had been able to tell them. More and more we learn the full extent of God’s amazing inclusive love.

When we know that love from God and begin to return it to the world we enter into a relationship with God and God's people that can heal the world around us.

Mychal Judge, chaplain to the Fire Department in NYC, who died on 9/11 prayed:
Lord, Take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
and keep me out of your way.*

Let us make this our prayer this day.


**Thanks to Edge of Enclosure.
Image from Hermanoleon












Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alzheimers and laughter

From Scott Fisher:

Scott Fisher
‎& his Mother sit
in the back
of the Unit's Dining Room
laughing & laughing.
It all goes away,
you understand,
all the memories - of family sunday dinners
& Midwest childhoods
& a young girl's dance,
and more.
It ALL goes away,
memories & stories
taking flight like birds
that have stayed too long in the Fall,
and felt a North Wind.
Awayyyyyyyyyyyy it all goes,
even Dignity, of course......
until all that is left is laughter & companionship.
What else really matters?
The flock of memories
will wait for us the far side of The Green Hill,
like children excited at our Return.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

3 Easter

Readings are here.


From Edge of Enclosure:
And he did not rise in order finally to depart from hence, not so that the travail of death which gave birth to him anew might transfer him to the life and light of God and he would leave behind him the dark bosom of the earth empty and without hope. For he rose again in his body. That means he has already begun to transform this world into himself. He has accepted the world forever. He has been born again as a child of the earth, but of the transfigured, liberated earth, the earth which in him is eternally confirmed and eternally redeemed from death and futility.

He rose, not to show that he was leaving the tomb of the earth once and for all, but in order to demonstrate that precisely that tomb of the dead - the body and the earth - has finally changed into the glorious, immeasurable house of the living God and of the God-filled soul of the Son....He rose again to reveal that through his death the life of freedom and beatitude remains established forever within the narrow limits and sorrow of the earth, in the depth of its heart.

-Karl Rahner
The Great Church Year: The Best of Karl Rahner's Homilies, Sermons, and Meditations

The gospels are all over the place on the nature of Christ's resurrected body. In one place he says don't cling, in others he does not eat, but here he says,
"Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

What is your experience of the risen Christ? In the midst of meals, in allowing you to let go of preconceived ideas about life and death? In helping you overcome your fear of death or your fear of life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Youth respond to ABC TV

ABC did a program on youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota - this is their answer:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A case for doubt

Some thoughts about doubt. This Sunday we read the story of Thomas. Readings are here.

The BBC is featuring a series on doubt. "Doubt is so much more useful than certainty" Madeleine Bunting relates her thoughts on The Case for Doubt:
"Doubt is a glorious reminder of our limitations as human beings, of how suspicious we should be of certainty".

Journalist and writer Madeleine Bunting makes the case for doubt in religion - why religious doubt is a 'glorious reminder' of our limitations as human beings, why we should always be suspicious of the certainty that breeds intolerance, and how the doubt she so feared as a child has now become a useful ally.

Madeleine Bunting is the third of five contributors making The Case for Doubt - that it is much more meaningful than certainty and much more valuable than fixed opinions and beliefs.

Other thoughts from Bunting:
Doubt was seen as the flu or a cold - but with Vatican II doubt became more respectable.

Once seen as a great error - now church leaders admit their doubts. Now it is a normal part of a spiritual path.

She speaks of a nun who freely admitted her doubts but was untroubled by her unbelief and it did not affect her choice to commit her life to faith.

Doubt and skepticism are the order of the day with their poisonous kin cynicism.

In the "age of uncertainty" who we are? what we are for? how to endure suffering? how to makes sense of our few decades of life?

Dictionary: Doubt - a feeling of uncertainty, an undecided state of mind.

Does the uncertainty of our thoughts have to affect how we choose to live our lifes.

Belief is not an intellectual proposition but (according to Karen Armstrong) from an old German word "to commit to" Not an assertion of fact but an expression of commitment to follow Christ.

Commitment and practice - faith is an accumulation of habit acquired by actions

Attentiveness and patience and skill - can be learned - it is not about mind tricks.

Faith is about dedicated practice -- doubt is about hesitation.

But doubt can serve the purpose of balance - when to doubt and when to believe, when to be skeptical and when to act is the question.

It is a useful ally - to live with humility.

I wonder if Thomas is called the Twin because he has both faith (as shown in his earlier statements in the Gospel of John that they must follow Jesus as he goes to Jerusalem even though they fear what will happen there) and doubt. The life of a follower of Christ needs this balance lest we become mindless and faithless.

A prayer by John Coburn:
Lord Jesus:
We do not understand everything about you, or about ourselves.
But we do know that the more we trust you,
the more we know about you
and therefore about ourselves.
So we thank you for the little we do
understand about you and ask you to help us to trust
that, that we may grow in knowledge and love of you
and of ourselves.
Let us then not worry overmuch about who agrees with us,
who disagrees, who is for us, who is against us,
who understands us, who doesn't care.
As we trust you to do with us as you will,
then we shall become more wholly ourselves and
members of you. Amen


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Notes towards a sermon -- not quite there yet. Readings are here.


Mary Magdalene – early, weeping burdened with her grief, uncaring of her safety in the streets and outskirts of the city, she walks through the town out to the place where she last saw him in the garden near his tomb. Jesus the man who healed her of her torment, who gave her back her life, who made life worth living, who made all things possible even for a woman who once been outcast as possessed by 7 demons. Walking – to the garden – to be near him one more time. Head down. Eyes swollen with tears.

What’s this – the stone is rolled away? How can this be? She runs to Peter and the other disciple – breathless - she reports what has happened. Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb. The unnamed disciple stops short at the edge of the cave – but Peter being Peter barrels by and into the opening. – Sure enough the body of Jesus is gone. The grave wrappings are there – the head piece neatly folded off by itself – as if the owner had sat on the side of a bed – wondering and holding and folding it before walking off.

The disciples return home – nothing more for them to see. But Mary Magdalene stays and looks again into the tomb – has this really happened? This time she sees 2 messengers (angels) sitting on the place where Jesus had been lying. Were her demons returning – was her mind going again? But no -- they speak reassuringly to her.

Now someone else is asking why she is weeping – it must be the caretaker of the garden – the gardener? Why wouldn’t she be weeping – what a question? Her whole life has come to a crashing halt – what else is there but to weep?

And yet – suddenly a word – her name, Mary. Can it be? Yes – he is here – so close – to touch? But no Jesus says do not hold on to me – do not cling to that which you knew before – I must move on into the fullness of life – beyond what you have known – to show you and the world the life that can be.

Once there was another garden – long ago when all creation was one with one another and with God – perfect union. But humans wanted more –they were restless– so they went out to explore and learn and love and live – but somewhere they became divided from God and from one another and forgot how to live in union with God and each other and the creation. They began to cling to things, possess others, use and abuse the creation and one another. Then they became fearful and anxious. Afraid there would not be enough – enough love, enough possessions, enough life. Anxious that others had more which would mean less for them.

So God came amongst us – eating and drinking and healing and laughing and weeping – Emmanuel – God with us – to show us once more that Eden is found in the breaking bread. Fear is conquered by love. Even dying is not the end. Freedom is found when our fears die. Jesus shows the way to break the bonds of the old ways that are not working for us. True freedom is discovering that death is life giving. So do not cling to your previous experience of what you always knew – prejudice, feare of scarcity, addictions to things that only work temporarily to cover the pain. Let those things die so you might have life. Allow the resurrected Christ into you midst – it is already happening – invite God in more and more – see what can happen in your life.

Embrace the fullness of life when death is no longer feared but a path to new life.

Jesus says, Do not cling to me – do not cling to any message you have heard attributed to me - that says you are less than, any message that takes away life – do not try to put God into a preconceived set of ideas -- open your eyes and see the resurrected Christ in your midst. Allow faith to grow and change. See that you are beloved of God – intended to be here in this time and this place – know that the earth would not be same without you.

Today – come to the altar – receive the body of Christ – the bread of Eden – and the blood of Christ - the wine of the Spirit – return to life filled and fed.


Things people say at the end of life. Five top regrets:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."



Easter poem by John Niehardt, 1908 (author of Black Elk Speaks)

Once more the northbound Wonder
Brings back the goose and crane,
Prophetic Sons of Thunder,
Apostles of the Rain.

In many a battling river
The broken gorges boom;
Behold, the Mighty Giver
Emerges from the tomb!

Now robins chant the story
Of how the wintry sward
Is litten with the glory
Of the Angel of the Lord.

His countenance is lightning
And still His robe is snow,
As when the dawn was brightening
Two thousand years ago.

O who can be a stranger
To what has come to pass?
The Pity of the Manger
Is mighty in the grass.

Undaunted by Decembers,
The sap is faithful yet.
The giving Earth remembers,
And only (we) forget.

This year – remember.

Holy Saturday: harrowing hell

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday: if it be your will

If it be your will 
That I speak no more 
And my voice be still 
As it was before 
I will speak no more 
I shall abide until 
I am spoken for 
If it be your will 
If it be your will 
That a voice be true 
From this broken hill 
I will sing to you 
From this broken hill 
All your praises they shall ring 
If it be your will 
To let me sing 
From this broken hill 
All your praises they shall ring 
If it be your will 
To let me sing 

If it be your will 
If there is a choice 
Let the rivers fill 
Let the hills rejoice 
Let your mercy spill 
On all these burning hearts in hell 
If it be your will 
To make us well 
And draw us near 
And bind us tight 
All your children here 
In their rags of light 
In our rags of light 
All dressed to kill 
And end this night 
If it be your will 

If it be your will.

Leonard Cohen


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Maundy Thursday: wash my hands

by Lucy Nanson, New Zealand:

Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
not my feet
My hands peel potatoes, wipe messes from the floor
change dirty nappies, clean the grease from pots and pans
have pointed in anger and pushed away in tears
in years past they’ve smacked a child and raised a fist
fumbled with nervousness, shaken with fear
I’ve wrung them when waiting for news to come
crushed a letter I’d rather forget
covered my mouth when I’ve been caught out
touched forbidden things, childhood memories do not grow dim
These hands have dug gardens, planted seeds
picked fruit and berries, weeded out and pruned trees
found bleeding from the rose’s thorns
dirt and blood mix together
when washed before a cup of tea
Love expressed by them
asks for your respect
in the hand-shake of warm greeting,
the gentle rubbing of a child’s bump
the caressing of a lover, the softness of a baby’s cheek
sounds of music played by them in tunes upon a flute
they’ve held a frightened teenager,
touched a father in his death
where cold skin tells the end of life has come
but not the end of love,
comforted a mother losing agility and health.
With my hands outstretched before you
I stand humbled and in awe
your gentle washing in water, the softness of the towel
symbolizing a cleansing
the servant-hood of Christ.
Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
and not my feet.

Maundy Thursday

Notes towards a sermon. Readings are here. Exodus tells of the origins of Passover – Blood on the door posts and the lintel. A spring festival of birth – lambing – a way to ensure safe passage for all being born. All entryways were daubed with blood. Flocks and herds were the wealth of the community – each loss was that much less for the whole group. So all care must be taken to bring new life. The people of Israel were about to be birthed into a new people – a free people – no longer slaves of others. It would be a long infancy – once birth was assured. Jesus – God with us – is born, lives and dies that we might know we are born into freedom. He has painted our doorways with his own blood that me might go out and in and no longer be enslaved to whatever keeps us from living. We are no longer slaves to what the world thinks – we are freed to live into the one who created us. Into the image of God that each of us can be. In the footwashing – Jesus gives us a model of that freedom. Free to take any position in the community to serve God and neighbor. Even footwashing – in those days the lowest dirtiest job. In Eucharist God feeds us with his very essence – simple wine and bread – the fruits of creation. As the seed is scattered on the hillsides and plains, grows into a fruitful crop, is gathered and ground, kneaded and shaped, baked in the oven, then broken again to feed the world – so are we that bread. The grapes grow and are made into wine – the wine of the spirit – the blood of God – infuses our days with the joy and strength to step out in faith. And though we are all followers of Christ – we are also Judas – the betrayer – who dips his bread in the wine along with the others. Remember this as you dip your bread into the wine. We have the choice each day – betray or follow? Always forgiven when falling and renewed to start again. This is what we experience this night – the story of life and death and new life. It is what we know of our lives – lived out in our sacred meal that makes every meal sacred.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Palm Sunday: Hosanna

Readings are here.
Hosanna! We shout at the beginning of our liturgy - waving our palms. I always thought it meant something like Hallelujah but discovered that it means "Save us." Save us, save me! My question today is "Save us from what? for what?" What are the things you wish to be saved from? What do you want to be save for?

The people of Isaiah's time wanted to be saved from Exile. They wanted to be free, have their own country and temple again. They want to be saved from dispersion, to be kept together as a people, to be able to stay faithful to the one true God, to teach their children about God. They wanted to run their own lives, be free from living in a strange land.

The people of Jesus time wanted to be saved from oppression of a foreign government, they wanted a more fair system of wealth. In those days most lived in poverty with a few owning all the land and assets. Many were day laborers - just like those you see waiting on the corner to be picked up to work the orchards, strawberry or bean fields. Always worrying if they would have enough to feed their families at the end of each day. Even those who had jobs lived marginal lives. They wanted to have a life that was more than grinding poverty, to be able to raise and educate their children to have better lives.

The people of Paul's time wanted to learn about this person Jesus who revealed the nature of God as loving and compassionate and freeing. They did not want to suffer persecution for not worshipping the emperor. They wanted saving for a better life.

Jesus comes riding into our lives on a donkey. In the symbols of his day - he is using the symbol of a king returning from battle. Riding the donkey is a sign of peace. The war is over and peace is returning. It is an attempt to show the king as one of the people (reminds me of some politicians h/t to Maria Evans). So Jesus rides in with the message of peace. But this peace is not just absence of war but shalom - that peace of God that passes understanding, that peace that means well being for all people and the creation, the peace that offers life to all and life abundant.

What do you want saving from and saving for?

How do you see Jesus offering new life for you?

What is your prayer to Jesus?

Monday, March 12, 2012

MacCulloch/Kings debate Covenant on BBC

Bag of marbles or grapes - or Gadarene swine in slow motion?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Hysterical?

The Right Rev. Gregory Cameron- an architect and supporter of the Covenant has written reasons for voting yes. Published at the Fulcrum website he offers 5 points.

Cameron: 1. A covenant is the way we say we belong together.
Answer: 1. Can't we just say we belong together without a piece of paper?
Cameron: 2. The Covenant would restore trust.
Answer: 2. Doesn't seem to be working- so far it has made people more mistrustful and it is not even in effect yet.
Cameron: 3. The Covenant sets out our common ground.
Answer 3. While many agree about this, there is a non-Anglican emphasis on a literal reading of scripture as a primary source for decision making.
Cameron 4. Anglicanism has always sought out the middle way (the Via Media) to find a centre around which people can gather.
Answer: 4. And we have never had a covenant to find this middle way - an external piece of paper to force the middle way goes against our way of sorting it out.
Cameron 5. The Covenant offers a better way of doing business.
Answer: 5. Better? how? reduced to eternal squabbling instead of moving ahead in mission.
Other points: Cameron: So why the opposition? There has been some hysterical language from the “No to the Covenant” campaign, saying such things as the Covenant is institutionalised homophobia (It isn’t actually mentioned in the Covenant, which is designed to facilitate conversation on this subject among others) and that no cleric could feel safe in his or her own pulpit, but the objections seem to boil down to ...
We (No Anglican Covenant Coalition) are hysterical? Who is using red font? Not us.
It is a common tactic to accuse one's opponents of being hysterical when one has no real answer to the questions asked and facts presented. Read the rest of Bishop Cameron's essay and decide for yourself if he adequately responds to the questions and facts presented at the No Anglican Covenant: Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity web site The Revd Canon Dr Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge University, Church of England says:
“The disturbing theological vacuity of the Covenant document nonetheless comes with a hidden iron fist: do not be misled by its rhetoric of friendly collaboration between national churches,” writes Prof Coakley. “The Covenant bespeaks a quite different ecclesiology from that of Cranmer's ‘blessed company of all faithful people,’ and profoundly alters what it means to be Anglican. The deepest theological challenges of our day cannot be answered by hapless bureaucratic manipulations of our theological tradition.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday: 2012

Readings are here. Why do we gather on this day? Why do we receive ashes on our foreheads with the sign of the cross? What are we doing here? Do you notice the gospel asks us not to make a display and yet many of us wear our ashes all day. I have been thinking about this "disconnect" between our actions and our readings. The conclusion I come to at this time is that we live in a time and place where Christianity as we know it is now just one of many voices in our world. To wear the ashes in public can speak of our willingness to take a place of humility rather than triumphalism, to be servants to a hurting world rather than princes. The ashes worn publicly can open the door to conversation about our faith if our actions are showing what it means to follow Christ. I think it will depend on the attitude we carry along with the ashes. The Hymn "Once to Every Man and Nation" says:
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
Perhaps this is a new occasion? But whether one bears the ashes out into the streets or in one's heart, it is the heart that really matters as we hear in our other readings. Our very real and visible joy in life and faith. I wrote on our local listserve BBQ, an invitation to the communities of Nehalem Bay, which we serve:
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Christian churches. St. Catherine's Episcopal Church will hold the liturgy for imposition of ashes - a reminder of the shortness of life and our groundedness in earth as well as our relationship to all of creation - our dust and the dust of the stars -- all one. A time for focussing on our relationship to God and one another, to repent of the things we have done to one another and the earth and to engage in a rule of life that deepens our connections. There will be 2 services - all are welcome Noon in English 8 p.m. en Español We will be around all afternoon for those who cannot attend one of the services. 36335 Hwy 101, Nehalem. (between the Bunk House and the Hope Chest Thrift Shop) see map at website.
This contains many of the reasons we take this day to mark our foreheads. It is a break in time to stop and remember and center. I think it is important to remember that we are here for a short time and that our bodies come from the earth and its waters and our bodies will return to them. But to also remember we are made of the same matter as the stars. So yes we "are dust and to dust we shall return" but we are also "stardust and to stardust we shall return." Often I use this blessing at the end of our communion services:
My friends, life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind." (Henri-Frederic Amiel
This is the heart of Lent - to discover how to live in time here on earth in ways that bring life and hope and joy to our neighbors and to the world.