Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Buried Talent

Jesus said, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:14-30 
I often struggle with this parable, as I know many people who have been given a talent or means and have faithfully tried to offer what they have only to be rebuffed, laughed at or ignored. It is what we as humans shrink from the most - getting up and doing our best then being ridiculed or shamed. Fear is the worst enemy of faith in my life. Life can feel too often like the gong show. And the fear of being rejected keeps many of us from offering something, offering more. 
Jesus is instructing his followers about how they are to live their lives when he is no longer around. They do not believe that is going to happen, so he has to be very descriptive, very direct about their behavior. Harsh in other words since they have been acting very dense. He wants us to hear as well. What we do with what we have been given is important. It is the work of faith. We humans don't like sticking our necks out or putting ourselves in the spotlight. Yet, what we have been given we must use. Our one pitiful little talent might save a life, redirect someone floundering and give hope to the hopeless. Our one little bit might just be the tipping point for enormous change.
Today, I ask God to help me use what I have despite my own fears and limitations. May we give what we got, knowing that God with use it for the healing and renewal of this world.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Keep Awake

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:1-13 
I loved being a girl scout, loved all the preparations for camping and the responsibilities we had when we were out in the woods. Being prepared was all an essential for being a good scout. I grew up by the ocean, and we always had preparations for the storms that might whip up with little warning. There were kerosene lamps, flashlights, jugs of water and canned food in endless supply if we were without power for a time. As a mother of three, I had to be prepared for every disaster as well. My children would kid me about the size of my purse, which was often a backpack, but they were glad for all the various supplies they could find within the same embarrassing bag. Being prepared takes away the anxiety of living through the day and it offers the opportunity to help other anxious people.
Jesus continues his teaching on the "end times". He wants us all to be prepared, so that we can be present for the needs and relationships that come up every day. The bridegroom (the return of the Christ) will come at a time which no one knows, so we are called to be awake and prepared so that we can focus on love rather than running around looking for help and for supplies. We are invited by God to have our hearts ready, our prayers said, and our lives prepared so that we can be of service to those around us, bringing the light of God's love to the darkest, most terrorized people and places.
Today, I ask God to help me prepare, body, mind and spirit for the days ahead. May we all be prepared and woke, so that we can be the beacons of love when there is crisis, overwhelming terror and when life's storms take us by surprise.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Greed and Anger

 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’
 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14-29

Greed and Anger

Poor John, poor John
doing God's work and
losing his blessed head
presented on a platter.

Poor Mary, poor Joseph
carrying God's child and 
banished from home to
live seven years as refugees.

Love is recharged by love
power is fueled by greed
anger burns like forest fire
the innocents pay the price.

Poor Consuela, poor Juan
separated from their babies
paying the price for asking
that freedom be shared with them.

Poor rich ones, poor greedy ones
for the fruit of selfishness is
not what you think to receive
life is never full while scheming.

Love encourages others flourishing
the work of God is love, more love
winning is never the goal of love
making a safe harbor for all is holy.

Poor Salome, poor King Herod
they could order an execution
they were showered with gifts
yet they never knew love's wholeness.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Feast of Samuel Occum

Jesus said, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
“Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:32-51 
Here is the is the part of the official information about the Samuel Occum - The Reverend Samson Occom (1723 – 1792) (also spelled as Occum) was a Native American Presbyterian clergyman and a member of the Mohegan nation near New London, Connecticut. He has the distinction of being the first Native American person to ever publish documents and pamphlets in English. Born to Joshua Tomacham and his wife Sarah, Occom is believed to be a direct descendant of the famous Mohegan chief, Uncas. In 1740, at the age of sixteen, Occom was exposed to the teachings of Christian evangelical preachers in the Great Awakening. He began to study theology at the "Lattin School" of Eleazar Wheelock in 1743 and stayed for four years until leaving to begin his own career. Occom served as a missionary to Native American people in New England and Montauk, Long Island, where he married a local woman. It was also on Long Island where he was officially ordained a minister on August 30, 1759, by the presbytery of Suffolk.  - To this day, his influence has been tremendous on my friends in the Shinnecock nation who hold his as their saint as well.
Our Gospel today is a continuation of Jesus' very direct teaching about living our faith. We can get distracted, pretending we are faithful while we ignore our work, our families and our neighbors. We can play at being holy while we actually are being selfish, greedy and shameful. We might think that because the "end-times" are near we can be self-serving or those times are far away and no one really cares about the day to day. Samuel Occom stands as a witness to daily faithfulness in very troubled times. He was ordained before the War of Independence, a  Native man terribly misunderstood and often disregarded. Yet, he persisted in faithfulness, caring for and teaching Indigenous people all over New England and Long Island in a harsh and conflicted landscape.
Today I ask God to help me persist in faith as well. As the first Native woman ordained as a bishop, I too serve with folks who misunderstand and push aside Indigenous ministries as less important than others. May we all continue to be faithful, no matter the climate, trusting that our faithfulness will bring light and love to those we serve.
Collect for the Rev. Samuel Occum - God, the Great Spirit, whose breath gives life to the world and whose voice thunders in the wind: We give you thanks for your servant Samson Occom, strong preacher and teacher among the Mohegan people; and pray that we, cherishing his example, may love learning and by love build up the communities into which you send us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Do Not Be Mislead

Jesus said, “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’—do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. Matthew 24:15-31 
Several years ago the Left Behind series was all the rage among many non-denominal churches and some main line churches as well. Some well-meaning folks don't want to stop global warming, want to encourage Middle Eastern war, all for the sake of bringing the end times and the second coming of Jesus. Some prophetic leaders have named a day when the end would come, only to see it come and go. Getting caught up in the predictions, the preparations, the desire to be separate and "better ready" than other folks - all of these things are false idols and not really part of the life of faith.
Jesus warned his followers, as he warns us today, that focusing on the end times, the rapture, or whatever one might expect or imagine, is just utter foolishness. We are to focus on the true commandment - love God and love your neighbor.  All other acts, behaviors and ways of being are not nearly as important as how we love. If our hearts are in caring for all of our neighbors, loving the unlovely, loving beyond measure, caring for everyone and everything around us, well, this is the way of God and we have nothing to worry about. If we are judging, separating, encouraging destruction and isolation - these are not the ways of God. We are invited to inventory are lives and rid ourselves of those habits and behaviors that keep us from loving God and loving ALL our neighbors. If we live love we have nothing to worry about.
Today, I ask God to help me live a life of love. May we be those who do not worry about end times or being left behind because our lives are filled with love. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Whitewashed Tombs

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?

“Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'” Matthew 23:27-39 

Whitewashed Tombs

We strut around as if things are great
turning our eyes away from daily horrors
crimes of neglect, greed and hypocrisy
our selfishness has damaged so many.

We have shut the door on the poor
built walls and laws to punish refugees
shunned the other, blamed the victim
treated the brave testimony as silly.

We have turned our backs on need
we have hard hearts and thick heads
we shut out the world, mask our windows
turn up the volume in gated communities.

The children who are gathered to God
are those we have spurned, rejected
nestled under those tender wings
are those who will lead us very soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Justice, Mercy and Faith

Jesus said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.” Matthew 23:13-26 
I watched (on-line) as many friends stood outside of an immigrant detention center in Texas. Our Presiding Bishop spoke and the people sang and shouted messages of love and support for the women inside. I was sad not to be among their number on Sunday and am grateful for their faith witness to the need for justice and mercy. Events like these remind me how easy it is to be swept up with crowd protesting, how much harder it is in our daily lives to be justice, mercy and faith embodied.
Jesus us is giving to the religious leaders and scholars of his day. They lived by the word of law but not by it's spirit. They loved parading around and looking pious. They thought themselves better than others. They lived lives of speaking faith but not doing it. They took advantage of the poor and lowly, horded wealth and comfort while thousands suffered nearby. They were greedy, self-indulgent and often cruel. They knew they were right, so they felt emboldened to crush others who were not like them. We too can fall into self-indulgent and self-righteous traps. Following Jesus demands we examine our blind spots daily. 
Today I ask God to help me act for justice, mercy and love in every breath I take. May we look beyond our selfish need for attention so that we can see those who are in need of attention to live, right here among us!