Friday, August 21, 2015

St. Paul's, ISIS, Duggars -- what do they have in common?

They all show the truth of this statement by Jimmy Carter.

See culture of St.Paul's School here. ISIS rapes. Duggar family latest.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A wedding sermon

The True Love by David Whyte
John 2:1-12

What are the connections between these 2 readings? How do the connect with the wedding we celebrate today? One is seemingly so full of storm, the other seemingly serene.

The poet uses the imagery of the story of Jesus and his disciples out on the lake. Jesus has gone off by himself to be alone and sent his followers off by boat. A storm came up and they were having a hard time of it. Jesus is strolling across the waves as though nothing is happening – the followers see him and freak out – “it’s a ghost!” they say. But Jesus assures them that he is really there – then Peter asks to try this water walking – he does pretty well until he looks down and sees how really stormy it is.  But all is well as Jesus takes his hand and leads him back to the boat. It is a terrifying and exhilarating moment for Peter – when he makes those first few steps in the face of the storm to discover something about himself and about his faith.

Then we look at the icon on the front of the bulletin and hear the story of the wedding at Cana. The wedding reception is in full swing and they have been partying long enough to run out of wine. Mary, Jesus’ Mother, notices this and speaks to Jesus – though he says – this is not my problem and I don’t want to reveal myself right now – Mary tells the servants to be ready and we heard the rest of the story - the wine is the finest, the party goes on, and disaster is averted.

What do these readings say to us today as we gather to witness the vows between Eric and Melissa, to celebrate their wedding and make our promise to them to uphold them in their marriage? Today we celebrate this wedding – a one-time event – but we are saying that we are going to uphold their marriage – a lifetime experience.  We plan to be “for them” forever.

Eric and Melissa and you and I will see many days like the ones in the poem and in the gospel: Times of stepping out into the storm and finding joy, times of celebrating and finding disaster. We never know which it will be but we promise to support and love each other through it all.

It is an odd thing that in popular wedding-speak – the culture uses the shorthand about the vows being the “I do’s” – but in the service – it is all about “I will.”  Melissa and Eric – in response to the words of the Consent – say, “I will.” In response to the question to us, we say, “We will.”  To me there is a big difference – the “will” includes the heart, mind, body and spirit not just an act that we “do” today – but a continual commitment to put our whole selves into the life of holding this couple in our hearts as they hold one another in their hearts.

It is our joy to be here today to make theses vows and promises – and will be our joy to continue in them. Seeing you step out on to the water of life – no matter what comes- reaching for each other’s hand- risking relationship once again – choosing life together. Our joy to celebrate today – and to pray for the Spirit to refill and refresh your lives like the finest wine when the relationship feels a bit watery – to remind you of the day when you risked all for love.

So take God’s blessing and our blessings as you go forth from here – knowing those blessings are not just for the moment but for all your days:  Today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Bread of Life

Inspired by Edge of Enclosure I am thinking about how much I love Communion aka Eucharist, Lord's Supper, etc.

I grew up in what was called a "Low" Episcopal Church. We only had communion once a month at the main service. I think they had it every week at 8 a.m. We lived in fear of becoming "too catholic." Our minister (never to be called a priest), Mr Richardson (from Wales) preached regularly on that subject as I remember - at least enough to impress my child mind. He was not a stern person (except on that subject) and had a lovely preaching voice. He found a scholarship to send me to church camp in High School to my everlasting faith development.

It was at the camp in Gearhart, OR (since sold to Young Life) that I discovered true community and communion as a part of that. We had Eucharist every morning (with) perfunctory fainting by some as we could not have breakfast until after eucharist).

Forever it marked that sacrament with what I found at camp. That camp, assisted and supported by the adults who ran it, modeled what Christian community could really be. I had loved my childhood and had lots of friends and a sense of freedom of person that somehow I had lost as I entered 7th-8th grade and high school with its "in crowd" rules and my lack of physical development and maybe because we moved to a new school twice in two of those years. The metaphor I use in thinking about those days is that I had been freely dancing my way through life and suddenly lost the steps of the dance.

At camp I entered a world where the main rule was "all are included or none are." That environment opened my heart and mind to return to myself. It took a while for the fullness of that experience to grow in me (and continues to reveal new things).

As I was reading the reflections at Suzanne Guthrie's Edge of Enclosure site - these memories came flooding back to me as the beginning of my love for the bread and wine of the eucharist. When the priest pours the heavy bodied sweet wine (please no white or
thin reds) into the chalice - the aroma spreads through the room. As the bread or wafer is broken - the brokenness within me leaps towards wholeness. Which is why the words of "we break this bread to share in the body of Christ, though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in the one bread" speak to me more than "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast." The first captures my sense of what is going on in the rite.

Now I am that priest who pours the wine and breaks the bread -- it is a moment in time when I feel joined to all of time - flowing from before and after through me like some sort of hourglass filled with sand and turned upside down.

For me all the rest, the readings, the sermon, the music are supportive but superfluous. It is the community gathered, the bread (even wafers) and the wine that fire me with the Spirit and feed me for another week of seeing God out in the world.

outside the box

Once upon a time we captured God and we put God in a box and we put a beautiful velvet curtain around the box.  We placed candles and flowers around the box and we said to the poor and the dispossessed, "Come!  Come and see what we have!  Come and see God!" And they knelt before the God in the box.   One day, very long ago, the Spirit in the box turned the key from inside and she pushed it open.  She looked around in the church and saw that there was nobody there!  They had all gone.  Not a soul was in the place.  She said to herself, "I'm getting out!"  The Spirit shot out of the box.  She escaped and she has been sighted a few times since then.  She was last seen with a bag lady in McDonald's.   -Edwina GateleyQuoted from Mystics, Visionaries, and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women's Spiritual Writings  Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., Ed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Reading is here.

During the Easter season we have readings from the Book of Acts. It is like one big adventure story. Fantastic escapes, growing churches, near drownings. This week is the story of Philip who has been successfully growing a church even though Paul is breathing down everyone's necks with threats of murder and imprisonment. But in this part of Acts, God has a different plan for Philip. Go to the wilderness road and find a man returning from Jerusalem who is trying to figure out the faith in the face of rejection by the religious leaders of his tradition. Next minute Philip is transported to the road to Gaza where he finds a powerful court official of Ethiopia who is reading Isaiah as he travels along in the chariot. Most likely accompanied by a large entourage to make him comfortable and protect him from bandits. Since he reads out loud (as all people did in those days) Philip can hear what he is studying. Though a powerful man in his own culture he does not stand on ceremony when this strange traveler shows up and says "may I help." The tradition says his name is Simeon Bachos. 

I have been looking at different artistic interpretations of the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch and wondering in good Godly Play fashion about what people hear and see in this story:

This one interests me because of the intimacy between Philip and Simeon. I know sometimes when discussing matters of deep spirituality - the conversation can evoke a closeness that one rarely encounters in most daily encounters. Their heads are so close that one is reminded of a newly married couple. The others in the painting are engrossed in their own tasks while the two share matters of the heart. (Icon mural in a monastery in Kosovo)

This modern icon is painted in the style of a traditional Coptic icon. I like that it tells the whole story from the Temple to the Baptism. I notice that Philip is walking on the water and wonder what that means. Since the Ethiopian Eunuch is an important saint in the church in Africa - this shows that powerfully to me. The hand of God with the 2 fingered blessing - shows that Christ is present and active in the story.

This is a close up from a modern icon by Ann Chapin. The rest of the scene is a wilderness of mountains and also has the hand of God coming from the sky above. To me this shows the rich garments of the Eunuch's station in life and Philip humbly offering his service. The Eunuch does not act out of power though he probably gets his earthly needs met easily with the snap of fingers. He is willing to stop an listen to this stranger. His poverty of knowledge overcomes whatever status might get in the way.

This is probably my favorite -- the driver is encouraging the horse to run along, Simeon the Eunuch is reading closely (with typical Coptic umbrella held over the scriptures), Philip is running to catch up - trying to fulfill his assignment from God. It is from an illustrated Book of Acts. This speaks to me of how often I think I have heard God say - go tell someone what you know. When really I should be listening and trying to catch up to where they are. The gaps of culture and language mean there will be a lot I don't know. And I will need the other's help to even share what we have together.

All of these ask the question - how to tell the Good News so that it is heard. The painting show me the relationships of class, culture, language, and all manner of difference. But never the less the call from God is to be faithful, whether in the big city or the wilderness road. One never knows where a time of revealing will occur - it may be me that needs the Good News from the other.

Thanks to all the participants in the EfM groups I co-mentor. Lots of great discussion in our Theological Reflection.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lung update

The doctor has me on a different drug: OFEV (nintedanib). After 3 weeks - no big side effects. My blood is tested every two weeks. First test was normal. Another test this Friday. The hope is that it stops the progression of the fibrosis. It does not usually reverse it. It was approved a few months ago. In the mean time, I cough but don't feel ill and am able to do whatever I want to do. We walk at least 2 miles per day - mostly on the beach or downtown to get the mail. I call it the "nintendo" drug as pronouncing nintedanib is beyond me.