Tuesday, March 31, 2009
"I came into this world so that those who do not see might have sight." John 9:39
Today is the feast day of John Donne. One of the great metaphysical poets and priests of the church, he was not ordained until he was in his early forties. He was poor and struggling for many years, was a known as a great preacher and found himself, in his later years, as dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. His writing and his life have inspired many, including me. Today I share with you one of our (Mark and I) most favorite and revered poems, a poem worth rereading on a cool spring day like today.
May God bless us all with love so deep that we are renewed daily by that love.
Where, like a pillow on a bed
A pregnant bank swell'd up to rest
The violet's reclining head,
Sat we two, one another's best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string;
So to'intergraft our hands, as yet
Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
Was all our propagation.
As 'twixt two equal armies fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
Were gone out) hung 'twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin'd
That he soul's language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix'd souls doth mix again
And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
Of what we are compos'd and made,
For th' atomies of which we grow
Are souls. whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
Our bodies why do we forbear?
They'are ours, though they'are not we; we are
The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses' force to us,
Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven's influence works not so,
But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
Else a great prince in prison lies.
To'our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal'd may look;
Love's mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
"He mixed it with dust and put that mud on the eyes of the blind man." John 9:6
Because I am a PK or Preacher's kid, I spent a good deal of time in Sunday School, and even more time reading and studying bible stories. Our coloring books and comic books all had religious content. I had a keen imagination and liked to picture in my mind what it was like to live when Jesus did. I was always taken by the story of the man born blind. I could clearly imagine Jesus spitting in the dust (well, I had done that too) and rubbing the mans eyes. I could see in my mind the wizened face of the man turned up to Jesus, overwhelmed by the touch. I knew dust and spit and playing in mud quite well. These were my mediums. I imagined that he was at once excited and fearful. Excited to be well, fearful that his life was changing to something he didn't know. And worried that nothing would happen or none of it would matter. Jesus touched him and sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam. I could imagine the tepid water that he splashed in his face and his confusion as he saw he reflection. I imagined him sitting for a long time in the pool, studying the water as it rolled off his hands and seeing the sensation for the first time. He went running back to Jesus and was a beggar and blind no more. But I was always anxious that they never said how the man got by after that healing. I knew better than to expect 'happily ever after' but I always wished the bible gave me more clues.
Today, I want to rejoice in the love in my life which takes away blindness and makes me well. God's love is active all around us and all too often I fail to see it. Today, I want to live like the blind man who was healed, reveling in the touch of Jesus in my life. I want to be grateful for the mud and spit along with the water and the healing. I want to rejoice in all the people in my life who have more questions than answers and who ache to know what's going to happen. May today I be an instrument of God's blind love, which is constantly seeking out beggars to be healed, bringing a little light into dark places. I pray we may all be given eyes to see the need around us and the hearts to reach out in the love of God.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
"If anyone wants to serve me, they must follow me. So where I am, the one who wants to serve me will be there also. If anyone serves me, my father will honor them." John 12:26
Sometimes, when the water rises, there is nothing we can do but pray. It has been a real gift to serve along side of the people of the Diocese of North Dakota. The Red River has been cresting and folks have been sandbagging and preparing for the worst. Everyone has been faithful, diligent and hardworking. Their faithfulness and service is remarkable. I ask that folks pray especially for the people across North Dakota and Minnesota, for safety and protection. Bishop Michael Smith offers the following prayers to be used this Sunday. Please pray with us and for the safety and care of all.
-The following may be used with Form I of the Prayers of the People.
For all who battle floods in the Red River Valley and across North Dakota, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For those volunteers who have given valiantly of their time, strength, energy and resources in the service of their neighbors, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For those who have been evacuated and displaced from their homes, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
For the strength and stability of protecting levees, dikes and sandbags, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
Almighty God, our refuge and strength, we call upon you to deliver us from the disaster of floods. Give us your peace, we pray, and the courage to face the challenges before us. Just as your Son reached out to those in need, so may we your people, reach out in the name of Christ in this time of emergency. Whether we are safe and secure or whether our homes and possessions are imperiled, give us the grace to trust in your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
"Lord, who else can we go to? You have words that give life forever." John 6:68
We all have families to deal with - no matter how small or large - we still have to find our place in them and manage holidays and family gatherings. I am the youngest of five, the third of four girls. Our only brother is three years older than I am. When we were young we used to fight all the time. It was entertaining for both of us at times, I think. But when challenged, when someone spoke ill of him, or any member of my family, I turned into a charging bear cub, a wild protective animal. I knew to whom I belonged, despite whatever friction we had at home.
Peter makes it clear where he belongs and to whom he belongs. He can't imagine where else he would go. He can't imagine who else would have him, or who he would chose to be with. Like Peter, we are connected to God on a familial level, a strong strand that will not let us go.
Today, I want to give thanks that God would have me in the family. I am grateful that Jesus loved us like family, accepting and forgiving our foibles and attitudes. He took the sinners and the tax collectors and mouthy fishermen and made them family - and likewise, makes us kin. May we all live as members of God's family this day, loving fiercely all those who we come in contact with today, knowing that God has made them family.
Friday, March 27, 2009
"The living father sent me and I live because of him." John 6:57
In every child's life there is a time when we recognize our parents in ourselves. I remember looking down at my hands when I was a young mother cooking supper and seeing my mothers hands. I had become my mother. I was terrified. The older I get the more I see my dad in many of the things I do or say. My father was a good preacher and a great dad. He was also a real character, impulsive and creative and hard to keep up with. We can't help it, we are part of a long extended line of traits and characteristics that are passed down, despite ourselves. We don't have to know our parents or grandparents to become them. They are embedded and encoded in us, despite the fact that they have left the earth and are no longer living as flesh and blood people. We are who we are because of them and they are never farther from us than the touch of a hand, the note of a voice, arms outstretched, or a look in the eyes.
Jesus was trying to explain to the unbelieving people about his visceral connection to God. He used the tangible notion of parent to child, that connection which is so unbreakable that even in distance and death we are completely connected. Even when we disregard the connection, it is there. Likewise, even when we disregard God's living presence in our midst, in the bread and the wine, God is there.
Today I want to be thankful for my parents and all parents. For the ones who took time to shape us and the ones who were too broken to pay attention. God promises to be present like the best of parents, so close to us that the Creator chooses to inhabit our breathing. May we all rejoice in the one who have come before us, who have given us life and community, so that we might know God. And may we also reach out to those who have no connection, no family, no one to tuck them in at night or hold them during life's storms. May we be the arms of love who make real God's living presence in their midst.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, they will live forever. The bread which I give is my flesh. I will give this for the life of the whole world." John 6:51
There is nothing more dangerous or inviting to me than the smell of a bakery, the smell of fresh baked bread. When I was a child, my mother used to make bread, sometimes dozens of loaves at a time for a church function. There was nothing like diving into a still warm loaf and slathering each gobbled piece with butter. I love to bake bread and our daughter, Emily (her birthday is today!) loves to bake bread too. There is something about the texture and the kneading, moving something into a silky smooth ball which will erupt with life that is inspiring and challenging. There have been times when a particular loaf or recipe didn't work out so well, or that the process got rushed and the result was disappointing. We still ate the results, mind you. Emily even gave me a bread machine this year, which makes the process simple and easy - the house smell heavenly and the clean up is quick. However one make bread though, the process reminds us of how elemental bread is to life, how it fascinates and draws us in, no matter what kind of diet or regimen we are on.
Jesus says that I am the bread of life and that he is the bread for the world - Living bread for all people. An incredible image for those who bake bread, and those who don't. The image of Christ's willingness to be kneaded and formed, to expand with warmth and yeast, to be baked, broken and consumed - all of these images are incredibly rich for the baker as well as those who eat. And to the hungry, this is no romantic image but the solid promise of God who would be food to those who ache to be fed. God who knows the desperation of our need.
I pray that we can all be willing to be formed and kneaded in this Lenten season. I pray that we can understand the needs of the stranger and friend around us. I pray that we can offer what Christ has given us -living bread for the whole world -to the people we encounter today. May we remember the hungry in our midst and do all we can to provide for them. In these anxious times, it is easy to keep what we have to ourselves, but Jesus reminds us today that what we have received is living bread for the whole world. May we remember that as we share the bread, our blessings increase.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"The angel came to her and said,'you are honored very much and you are a favored women.The Lord is with you. You are chosen from among many women.'" Luke 1:28
The clouds moved in blocking
the sun forming long
heavy navy blue shadows and I
shuddered with fear.
The voice like an old seasoned cello
deep and resonant liquid
with comfort and grounded in
authority and I
heard the voice tell me that God
had chosen me and I dropped
to my knees and hid my face in my hands.
My tears like warm salty
rivers, my feelings bled out together
like new dyed wool left out
in the rain and I
shook with the sight of an angel
at once wizened ancient and smoothly young
full of life and rooted in the earth.
My heart stopped entirely
then began again to pound anew
and the words soft and strong
touched my being and I
was to carry the God child
in my womb and oh no
I am too young and not
The Lord is with you the angel promised
and yet I am alone
with my aching belly
and leaping heart and I
whispered to my girl friends about
the angel and they laugh and tell me no Mary,
tease me, oh Mary, silly Mary,
you are no queen at least
not royal enough for God.
The voice stills my heart still, the quiet
velvet firm promise, God is with
you Mary, God is with you in
your youth and your fear and in your
insecurity, your trembling, God is with you
and will make you strong.
"By this time it was dark, Jesus had not come back to them yet. A strong wind was making high waves upon the water." John 6:17-18
Several years ago, my daughter Phoebe and I were attending a Native woman's conference here in Hawaii on the Big Island. At the end we stayed over one more day in order to see the sights. We took some time to go to the beach and enjoy the warm sunshine, the water and waves. Both of us are strong swimmers, and both of us are totally comfortable in the water. We were enjoying ourselves and then came the wave. A huge wave that flooded the short beach and swept us out quite a ways. We struggled to swim back in to shore, and Phoebe commented that we were almost swept out to the Philippines. When we got back to our towels, everything was completely soaked. I was glad to have survived.
The disciples put back in to the boat, waiting for Jesus, and crossing to the other side to find him. they were used to taking journeys on the water and in the wind. They were completely comfortable with life on the water. But this storm, this blow was overwhelming them. At just the moment of panic, Jesus appears walking on the water. The welcome onto the boat with great joy. No one knows, really, how afraid they were. And how glad they were to take Jesus into the boat. He walked on water to get to them. He came to their rescue despite the swells on the water.
Everyone has times of high surf and dangerous waves. It can seem like Jesus has wandered off and forgotten about us. The good news is that Jesus comes on the wind and the waves to ride along with us and keep us safe. Today, I want to live trusting that Jesus is riding with me, no matter how alone I might feel. May we all have the courage to trust Jesus, even when it is dark and the winds are whipping everything into a dangerous frenzy. Even in the frenzy, Jesus is here with us.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"The people saw the powerful work Jesus had done." John 6:14
I have been participating in a conference in the Diocese of Hawaii held at Turtle Bay. Folks came from across the islands to develop and grow in mission. We told stories, the stories of our communities and families, and the stories of God working in our lives. This morning the conference ended with a Eucharist. The floor to ceiling windows were wide open with a breathtaking view of the ocean. As the bread and wine were blessed and raised, with wave crashing in the background, I was washed over by a sense of connection and power. Despite all of the challenges many folks face, we were there together, willing to join together to encourage mission and ministry right where we live. The water, flowing and crashing all around, was a vision of the power of God's presence in the midst of the gathered community. All of connected one to another, an ocean of interdependence.
Five barley loaves and two fish was all the food the disciples could collect to feed the huge crowd. A sea of unrelated, expectant people who came to find God in the midst of their lives. They were hungry and Jesus was moved and wanted to feed them. God incarnate cared that the people were fed and made well. The small offering became a full meal for a a huge crowd and much was left over. Abundance in the moment where Jesus and people meet. It was like an ocean of power and fullness, where broken bread became a miracle. The gathered community, sitting on the hillside, knew God in the breaking of the bread.
I want to carry this experience with me, the experience of people willing to come together to follow Jesus. They shared their stories and their lives and we were all encouraged and fed. May we all live dependent on one another and expecting the power and fullness of the presence of Chri
"For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world. God sent his son so that the world might be saved from the punishment of sin through him." John 3:17
The Church Doors
The red wood, the graceful swans
the sanctuary that oversees a poet's grave
I ponder his words, lifting like birds in flight
from the pages, notes singing themselves long since
written down from God's mouth to the poet's ear
times passes and yet the powerful music is very real.
Open the doors to the fragile artist, the writer,
the instrument of God's beauty and affection
talent both gift and addiction
a life of lifting and crashing through stained glass
and stereotypes, breaking down and being lifted up
by a tangible savior, a cup and some bread.
The ancient dreams of poets and artists linger
in the air as spring breaks forth and we break out
of steel winter bonds that have held us lifeless
clueless to the rhythm of the spheres.
God is dancing in Lent, opening aged doors,
the creaking can be heard across the land,
a father swinging his child in his arms
offering life for all the world to behold
and to know as an offering for us all.
Swing wide the gates, for we have been set free
we can pen new songs and dream new dreams
the light can break through, lift up the harp
and strap on the guitar for the drums are beating
even now we can't help singing, can't help swaying
swaying with God's joy in giving
clapping with the beat of life poured out for all to live.
It is Lent, but the songs cannot be restrained
the new blades of grass dance with the wind
and the mountains are whistling the new tune
the song of promise is rumbling through this place
and we can't help but sing and swing with each repeating beat.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
"Then they picked up stones to throw at him. Jesus hid himself and left the house of God." John 8:59
I was up early this morning despite my best efforts to sleep in my internal clock was still ticking to Eastern time. After getting my bearings I decided to take a stroll down by the beach. It was quite windy and I walked to the sound of crashing waves, bird song and little else. I walked and picked up rocks, a myriad of colors, shapes and heft, weighting down the small bag I brought along as I marveled at God's creation. I was too sleepy and the waves too insistent for me to try to skip stones in the surf. The light shimmered, in its early morning softness and I reveled silently in abundant beauty found here in Turtle Bay. It was a privilege to walk out this morning, bending to pick up stones.
Jesus had to hide himself and leave the temple for people were frightened and upset with his teaching. They did what we humans too often do, they got violent when they were afraid and undone. Pushed to their theological limit, they reached down to pick up stones to end his life. I am reminded how quickly a simple act of curiosity and adoration can become a thing of violence. Jealousy and rage can rise up in the midst of staggering beauty and truth. I reached down to pick up stone and gave thanks. They reached down and picked up stones to throw. It could have easily been me along with the frightened religious leaders of that day.
Today, I want to live so that Jesus does not have to hide himself and leave the church. I want to take in the love, beauty and the hard challenges that are part of following Jesus. I want to live by picking up stones to know more of God's beauty and never for violence. I ask Jesus to stay, with all the complexity that brings, so that I might learn to follow better and love more deeply. May we all live this day, with the wonder of God's love. May we find it in the face of another today. May we use our hands in welcome, our voices in song, and the stones we gather to lay in the roasting pit for a feast.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
"Whoever is born of God, listens to God's word." John 8:47
I just landed in Hawaii after a long flight. It is the middle of the night at home but it is evening here. I am trying to stay awake so that I can get my body acclimated to the time difference - six hours. Easier said than done for this aging body. All of my systems seem in rebellion and I have to accept that I am hardwired on east coast time. Although I was born on the west coast, my clock is definitely wired to an eastern clock. We all respond to light and sound in the ways in which we were fashioned. This beautiful place, so full of warmth and hospitality, makes it easier for me to work hard at getting used to a different time. I want to be present and intelligent in this place, but I have to fight my natural tendencies to sleep and eat on a very different schedule. This arrival reminds me just how challenging it is for all of us to be in a new place, on a different time. It doesn't shatter us to the core, but instead, makes us very unbalanced for a time.
The religious leaders who encounter Jesus were feeling unbalanced and challenged beyond the capacities. The words he said rang true, but they were frightened by his authority and humanity. Jesus was not impressed with human hierarchy and control but rather with a heart that is open to God. Too many years of rigid control and privilege had soured these leaders on honesty and love - they just didn't recognize it anymore. Like people adjusting to different places and times, they did not want to open themselves up, but fall back on the comforting and the familiar. We humans fall back when our lives and senses are challenged and we forget who "borned us" and gave us life. Jesus invites us all to listen again to the words of the one who created us in love.
When I arise I want to do so with ah heart and mind open to God's word - God's word that will not let me fall back on the comfortable but rather urges me on to share Christ's love in many places. I want to listen for God's word on the lips of strangers and to find home, even far away from where home normally is. I want to live into what it means to be born of God, born in love and forgiveness. May we all rise us, knowing that we were born of sacrificial, forgiving love, the love of Christ. May we share that love as we stretch beyond familiar to hearing God's word in new tongues.
"Joseph awoke from his sleep and did what the angel of the Lord told him to do." Matthew 1:14
Towards the end of my freshman year of college, I had a dream. I heard a familiar voice say that I had the job I wanted. It was a job on the beach. I was going to get paid to spend the whole day at the beach. I woke up with so much joy that I could not contain myself and told everybody I met that it was the happiest day of my life. I told them the reason why. As I was finishing up my student employment that day, I realized, finally, that it had all been a dream. I was shocked, frightened that I was a fool at least or losing my mind at the worst. I was ashamed of my pride and foolishness. I walked around the next few days in a funk, thinking myself the worst kind of fool, the kind of fool who believes in dreams, the kind of fool who would ever expect good things to happen and for God to be with me. I knew then that life just didn't work that way and I was never going to be such a foolish child again. Several days later in the mail, I received word that I did indeed have the job. Then I had to wonder whether the act of faith or the lack of faith made me more of a fool.
This is the feast day of St. Joseph. He took his cues from dreams, he made his decisions based on the visitation of angels, worked with his hands and was never a fool. His life, as the earthly father of a heavenly child was complex and challenging. There was much in his life that no one but Mary, his wife, would understand or believe. He had to make decisions that few had to make. And yet, he honored the insight God gave him and loved his family fiercely, despite the challenges to faith and existence.
Today, I want to live like Joseph, rejoicing in the insights and opportunities God has given me. Some of them might be unbelievable and many might not understand why I do what do. But God knows, and provides the way forward, even in the midst of great challenges and conundrums that few have faced. God's love promises to surround and enliven even the most confused dreamer, even those who lose their faith on occasion. God's love promises to see us through the hardest of times bringing us home, despite all of the barriers and challenges. May we all rejoice today for the example of Joseph, who listened to God, loved his family fiercely, and in so doing, brought love forever and unbounded into the world.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
"Jesus said, ' I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness. They will have the light of life.'" John 8:12
The first five days of the House of Bishops meeting were rainy, damp days with little light. The area has suffered drought in recent years and so the rain was very welcome, but the lack of sunlight was not. It was a noticeable change yesterday, in mood and attitude, when the sun came up, not hidden behind the clouds bu shining brilliantly. Moods were lifted and faced were lifted up. We humans need the light. And when bishops meet, it is often too easy to get mired in debates and conversations over canons than to delight in the companionship and shared ministry. We are at our best when we share our burdens and bring light to one another. We are at our worst when we draw lines in the sand and exclude the other from our circles.
Jesus encounters religious leaders who are trying to draw him into an argument, into the places of separation, exclusion and division. He answers them that his father is present with him - the God of all is in their very presence which brings an end to exclusion, separation and division. God seeks loving relationships and not those who plot in darkness and live by laws that shut others out.
Today, I want to delight in the light of God, in that light where no one is excluded. No matter how the world and ruling bodies act on any given day, God does not cast us out, nor take away Christ, the light of the world. We are never defeated when we walk in his light. May we all walk in the light, knowing, even in our darkest moments, God's love is breaking through all the gloom, all the barriers and setting us free to love.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
“Stop judging by external standards and judge by true standards.” John 7:24
Sunday, the rain was persistent. With the free afternoon we had, several of us took a ride to Cherokee, North Carolina. This is part of the traditional homelands of my people, and it was a damp, rainy day and the fog was persistent. We arrived and took a tour of the museum, my friends learning parts of my history for the first time. In that telling, there are several times when promises were made, first by a king, then by a federal government and the Supreme Court, which kept Cherokees in their homeland. But greed and the need for control always win out and laws were bent to meet the external standards of these days. We were shuttled out of the museum because it was closing and then rode home as the fog lifted and hugged the mountains, the great Smokey Mountains, their beauty overwhelming, green with buds ready to be revealed.
Jesus encounters religious leaders who want to make judgments in order to accept and reject other people. Jesus confronts their notion of judgment, as they have very strict guidelines which helped keep bloodlines and theology pure. And yet Jesus contrasts external standards with true standards, the standards of love. Jesus called them to the standards of the Creator who looked on all of creation and called it good. He invites them to encounter God who acts in love for the benefit of all, the Holy One who offered Jesus for the whole world.
Today, I want to give thanks for my ancestors and for all those who survived and were resilient, carrying forth the stories of the people. I want to remember the people who persisted, despite external judgments and narrow thinking. I want to live this day with the breadth of love that looks beyond narrow assessments and looks with the eyes of love. May we all have the courage to be unbound from shallow external judgments and, leaving judgment aside, look on our world through the heart of God.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
"The zeal for your house has torn me up." John 2:17
The anger is easy righteous
flailing at careless abusers and innocents alike
the screams of scattered chickens feathers flying
panic and confusion controlling all.
The clean up and forgiveness
the penitent walk to the well,
the sad recognition of collateral damage scattered
panicked by our own failure to reconcile
waiting for the water to stir
for God to draw near to breathe again
sweet breath warming shattered hearts.
Creator, pouring rain swirling water
your creation aches for restoration
for your tender nearness your face drawn close
as a mother leans in to the breath of her child
face to face with love moist and healing
come now for we are scattered and broken
seeking a holy mending temple of love.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
“Jesus said to his brothers, ‘the right time has not come for me.’ “ John 7:6
I am at the House of Bishops meeting and was speaking to another bishop who was consecrated just weeks before I was. How quickly time goes by, and how much can change in a short time. On April 4th, I will celebrate my 7th anniversary of being a bishop. Time has a way of bringing both perspective and depth. I am not where I thought I would be that day seven years ago and yet, for all the complications and challenges, I am glad to be here today. As I move through Lent, through a time of discernment and as we move together as a country and church through challenging times, I am glad for all the lessons I have learned and the people who have graced my life. Extraordinary people have taught me resilience and joy in the midst of great challenges. Circumstances and situations have challenged my idea of church, and have helped me renew a vision of what is possible together. None of these things could I have learned, if I wasn’t challenged and stretched. Not all of it came easy or was welcomed. But God finds a way to get us through. That is one thing I know for sure.
Jesus’ brothers had all sorts of advice for him and wanted him to go to the festival and show off. They were probably feeling some competitive jealousy mixed in with their love and camaraderie. They probably wanted just a normal, enjoyable family time but Jesus’ life and ministry had thrown the family some curves. Nobody quite knew what to do. It wasn’t a comfortable fit anymore. As people grow and change, even among siblings and loved ones, sometimes the changes and experiences are overwhelming and hard to handle. Jesus had to follow after them and quietly attend the festival – and even then he seemed to cause a disruption because of who he was.
Today, I want to give thanks for all the people and places God has brought me to in the past seven years. I want to be grateful for the dear friends as well as the adversaries, the familiar as well as the extraordinary. I know God has used all these circumstances and people in their time to help grow and develop the body of Christ and my small part in it. I want to see with the eye of time, that the pressure of any given day is offset by the glory of God’s love made visible in community. I pray we can all give thanks for God’s time. It’s not ours and we can’t control it one bit. But we can know that God is moving in the midst of time and beyond time so that love may flourish through and with us, right here and right now.
Friday, March 13, 2009
"John was like a lamp, burning and shining, and you were willing for a while to enjoy his light." John 5:35
When our oldest daughter was very small, maybe two or three, she rarely napped and we struggled with putting her to bed. She was, and is, bright and full of life and wanted to be in the center of things. One night when we were putting her to bed and turning out the light she shouted at me through her tears, "I love the light, I hate the darkness!" I always knew children were close to God, but I realized that many are theologians, or at least this child was showing great promise. Emily's childhood words echo through history and time. We need the light, God, we loathe the darkness. We desperately want God's light in our life and raise up in anger when we face dark times.
Jesus has just healed a man at the temple, and he was trying to explain the gifts of light that generations of Jews had received through their relationship with God. And he was pointing out how easily we humans lose our trust when times are challenging, when darkness settles in. And yet, there is also the promise in his words that there is a need for darkness...for us to believe in rebirth and resurrection.
As I am now in Kanuga, waiting for the beginning of the House of Bishops, I am thinking how hard it is for us as humans to go through thin times, dark and challenging times, and how easy it is for us to lose faith. And, I also know that these times prepare us for receiving the light again, for embracing the joy, the renewal that is to come. I pray today that we may face the darker times together, holding one another in prayer so that we might together receive the new life that is to come. May we all know this day that God is moving and working in the darkness on our behalf. God is loving and healing even when we cannot see. May we walk in the fading light knowing God's dawn of love and renewal is at hand.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
"Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and puts their trust in the One who sent me has ever lasting life. They will not be guilty. They have already passed from death into life." John 5:24
I step out before dawn turquoise light
sparkling from a concrete Indian I am
constantly on the move and rarely
in the dark sleek damp woods
and often in the weeds caught in brambles thorns
snag my heart and I ache for home.
There is no sagging green arbor no
welcome song, no round dance no
shawls swishing like tall grass in soft breezes,
only announcements interrupting plastic seats
stiff sticky floors uniformed representatives,
I could get arrested for dreaming of firelight.
I travel on with wings and wheels
a daughter of the red earth blue sky trapped
in a noisy terminal with life flashing by.
We are not alone despite the dislocation aching
joints, hard shoes and frozen pavement.
The one who bent the rainbow made me and brought me
to this century, this location to make home
for all the lost and broken travelers
the little children reaching up
for a guiding hand.
Reach up now little one the day begins grateful
and light thickens rushing the dark away
to corners where the shadows wait but not for us.
Reach up and know that the Creator speaks soft words
of safe travel and a large lodge where you are
welcome food is cooking, voices are singing
the round dance tapping feet and turning smiling bodies has begun.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I grew up close to the water and learned to swim at a very early age. I have been known to go in swimming very early in the season, around Easter, and not stop swimming in the ocean until almost Thanksgiving. I have friends who make it a point to jump in the ocean on New Year's Day and my oldest daughter, Emily, does a charity Polar Bear Plunge in January every year. Well, I'm not that crazy, but I do know that for me, water has tremendous physical and spiritual power. When I go careening into the waves, I am breathless and renewed. When I dive into a pool, it shocks and revives me. And when I reach into a baptismal font, the same awe and exhilaration are present for me. Water is life, and diving in always reminds me of how grateful I am to be alive.
Jesus finds a man waiting to get in to the stirring, healing waters. The man has waited a long time and simply asks Jesus for help to get in the pool. Jesus does him one better and heals him, inviting him to take up his bed and walk. He was exhilarated, breathless and renewed - and probably was a bit overwhelmed and confused. The healing hadn't come in the water but through the presence of Jesus. Adding to his confusion were the religious ones who pounced on him and scolded him for receiving healing on the sabbath. He spent 38 years aching to be healed only to receive healing and chastisement on the very same day.
Today, I want to remember that even when we have experienced healing, even as our bodies and spirits are renewed, we can feel challenged and confused. Sometimes the brokenness is more familiar than the healing. Sometimes we get used to being stuck, last one into the pool. We don't know how to live into this new found life. I want to offer an extra measure of patience for others and myself as we learn to live by faith and not by the dictates of the world. I want to welcome kindness where once we lived by failure, shame and judgment. God's love, the touch of Jesus, invites us to live as new and renewed beings, where the water is fine and the brokenness is restored. But legs and hearts that have not worked well need time to relearn to walk and to love. May we all recognize that we are all learning to walk and love together, guided by Christ's light, the light of love.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
"Jesus said to him, 'Go your way, your son will live.' The man put his trust in what Jesus said and left." John 4:50
Some people are solid as a rock, rarely thrown by the opinion of others, and rarely thrown off course. Others are not so steady in their faith both in themselves and the final outcome of any given day. I really don't know any of the constant solid as a rock types. I am sure there are a few, but they don't hang with me. The people I know have days when things are going fine and their faith is sure. But when trouble comes, they think that maybe God has abandoned them, or more likely, God cares for someone else more. Somehow we get in our minds that health and wealth signal God's favor while sickness, trouble and poverty are signs of God's abandonment. We sometimes think and act as if God is a cruel parent who would walk away in trouble and reward us only when we score big and do all the right things. It's not how love works, and if God is love, and the author of love then we can't believe less than God is loving us in our ups and downs.
The man who came to Jesus was one of those who had responsibility, wealth and honor. He also had a very sick son who was on the edge of death. The man wanted Jesus to come with him but Jesus sent him on his way with the assurance that the child would live. I can't imagine what the walk home was like for that man, a father, twisted and agonizing with love for his son. I imagine he prayed and wept and wondered - most parents do. His servant met him to tell him the good news that he had already heard. But he had to walk the way home, live through the ups and downs of the journey, he had to live one step at a time - to understand God's love in his life.
So today, I want to remember that we are all on the road, all on a journey that has it's ups and downs. Even after we find Jesus and hear the promises of abundant life and restoration, it can be a challenge to live step by step and day by day. Lots of things come at us that overwhelm us. So today, I want to live with an extra measure of compassion and pateince for myself and the people around me. We all go up and down. But God, who is love, who restores all the broken, who feeds the hungry and who never abandons children - God is rock solid, right here with us all and making all things (people and situations too) new. May we all give one another an extra measure of compassion today, knowing that God's love flows through us even when we are challenged and unsteady. The journey may be long, and the road treacherous for some, but God is with us, and love surrounds us, and we will be greeted with good news and healing along the way.
Monday, March 9, 2009
"Many people in that town of Samaria believed in Jesus because of what the woman said about him." John 4:39
Sometimes it is hard to be believed. When I was first ordained, I remember sitting in the trailer where our offices were. The Cathedral was under construction, and so we had a double wide for more than a year to work from. It was a typical double wide which means that even though we were partitioned in offices, one could hear pretty much everything that went on. I was reveling in my new role, an ordained woman in a crisp new clergy shirt with a bright white clerical collar. I was working diligently on the fall curriculum for the Sunday school when one of the construction workers stuck his head into my office and asked for the parish administrator. I told him where her offices were and he headed off to find her. In a few moments I heard, "the nun down the hall sent me here to find you!" Women who find themselves in roles traditionally done by men can find themselves facing confusion and disbelief from others.
The Samaritan women who met Jesus at the well, was one of the first heralds of the presence of the Savior. Jesus changed her life forever and she wanted to tell everyone about it. She had been bold to begin with, having a conversation with a Jewish man. Bolder still, they talked about personal things and about big faith issues. Jesus did not put her away because of who she was, or because of her past. He told her that he was the Christ, the one whom everyone had been waiting for. Jesus trusted her with the truth, a truth which only a few disciples and other followers had been told. She took what he said to heart and shared that good news with her whole community. They wanted to believe so they came out to find Jesus, and then invited him to stay for a few days. Women who find themselves by the well or the baptismal font can sometimes be disbelieved because that are proclaiming truth. But Jesus didn't hold back because she was a woman or a Samaritan woman. Love was and is for all.
Today, I want to live with that understanding. Love is for all no matter what barriers the world constructs. We divide by language and race by ethnicity and gender. But God sees all of our diversity and honors our gifts equally. The love of God and the roles of proclamation are for anyone who draws water and hears the truth. God's love is poured out for the whole world and not for just a righteous few who show up on Sundays. It is for the broken down as well as the elevated, the poor as well as the weak, the outcast as well as the chosen ones. And God chooses all sorts to be the heralds of the good news, the that God's love has come into the world, and that all people are welcomed in the reign of God.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"He had said this in plain words. Peter took him away from the others and began to speak sharp words to him. Jesus turned around." Mark 8:32-33
Today, or early this morning rather, is the day of turning clocks forward an hour, losing an hour of sleep, an automatic, scheduled move towards spring and more daylight. Daylight Savings Time signals a new season and alerts us to a new way of being in the world. It also can be very upsetting to the rhythms of daily life. When my girls were small it would throw their sleep schedules for a loop. The transition always took several weeks, and it was hard on parents with children who didn't cooperate in the sleep department in the first place. It's truly wonderful to have more light. We can see things more plainly longer in the day. We can feel spring and new life right around the bend. And the transition, the living into a changed reality, can be awful for many. This mechanical devise, this human control of time, this changing the hours of daylight is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But living day to day, small changes can upset the whole routine, throwing off all sorts of barely balanced structures and families.
Jesus is speaking plain words, telling them about his impending death and resurrection, and how that is going to change the world. Peter is having none of it. Life is already complicated enough as far as he is concerned. This ultimately wonderful gift to humanity is more than he can bear. He scolds Jesus. He is angry and hurt. He can't bear any more changes. Jesus turns away from Peter and tells him his thoughts are not from God. Of course they are not. They are the words of an exhausted child who cannot take one more shift in his universe. He speak from his honest broken heart. Although Jesus reprimands Peter in this scene, Jesus goes on to take Peter with him up the mountain. Peter witnesses the transfiguration, Peter sees what is possible and what is to come. He understands in a new way the Savior in his midst. He caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus. But not before he owned up to the pain of change and turning.
Today, I want to acknowledge the challenge and complexity of change. Even good change, like more daylight, can fracture an already fractured universe. We are all like children when people upset our world - we cry out, "no, don't do that!" Change requires not only a move forward but a move back. A willingness to accept the loss, to recognize the hurt and dislocation that even positive change can bring. Today, I want to live tenderly with my fellow companions on this journey, since we are all struggling with changes, big and small. May this leap ahead, remind our hearts to leap with compassion for the people about us. May we be kind and understanding, even with those who want to reprimand us and God for the state of things. May we be Christ's compassion to those who cannot bear any more change. May we walk the road with one another, knowing that transfiguration, resurrection and new life are just around the corner.
Friday, March 6, 2009
"For we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15
I was recently at the lunch table with several students.The sun had finally come out and it was warming up. The sky was a brilliant blue and there was little wind. Everyone was feeling the promise of spring after being stuck inside with the most recent snowstorm. We chatted happily like school kids anticipating recess. In fact, spring break starts this weekend here, and it is evident that it is much anticipated all around. We all also have much work to do. They have papers to write and I have been working on a project about clergy families. I have much work to do and yet I was tempted to abandon it and take a long walk. I am an expert at stalling and procrastinating, especially when the weather is nice. We all laughed at ourselves for wanting to play hokey from our work.
We hear in Hebrews of the role of Jesus in fulfilling the prophets, of being a gift from God and the high priest who mediates on our behalf. There is great tenderness in the author of Hebrews, although wanting to establish the authority and lineage of Jesus, is also drawn to Christ's humanity. He is touched that God would send one like us, who is able to inhabit our pain, understand our grief, and who was challenged by living and dying. God is tender and loving, giving a child for us who suffered as we do. A perfect God with ultimate sympathy.
I pray that today I can be grateful for my humanity, for all my faults and frailties, for all my fears and shortcomings. It is what makes me human, and it is these failings that invites me into communion with others. Our sympathy for our common humanity is a great gift. And Jesus, who lived within our mortal flesh, continues to live with us, in the completeness and brokenness of our humanity. May we be grateful to day that Christ is with us, really with us in the flesh, and share our hearts and compassion with others.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
"God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:17
I have never been a fan of reality shows and especially those where viewers rate and throw people off the show. I remember all too well what it felt like, choosing up sides in school for games. The best athletes and the popular kids were chosen first. The rest of us battled for last place, either by pretending not to care or showing off how we had improved since the last embarrassing choosing exercise. Either way, chosen in the bottom of the line up meant living in the outfield, way passed where they started to mow, or sitting on a bench somewhere, all suited up and no where to go. Humans like to judge, like to revel in the fact that they are better than someone else. The someone else is always taken apart unmercifully, judged unworthy. We humans like to be part of the club, the in crowd, the winners. I would suggest that few of us are, and most of us have spent way too much time worrying about the judgment of others.
We find Jesus, still teaching Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who came to him by night. He was fearful of the judgment of others. And Jesus told him that no matter how people judge, that is not what God was about. God is about love and not about judgment. God is about saving not throwing out. In Jesus, the light of God love came into the world, illumining God's desire to be in relationship with all.
I want to try to live today without any judgment of others. What an extraordinary Lenten discipline for us all - to walk down the street without judging and dismissing the people we encounter. Living without shoving people to the outfield, dismissing others because of their looks or life style. I ask God to give me strength today to walk without judgment - to walk in the light of the love of God. May we all have the courage to walk in that light.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
"Unless you are born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the reign of God." John 3:3
I am tossed into high seas
waves breaking over my head taking
my breath, my feet out from under me.
It is dark and I am afraid
that I will not survive.
Blue green living water moving
crashing swelling and retreating
water swirling with life and spirit
and I am off balance and thrilled.
This baptism, this birthing I am aching
the pangs of growth and life
my flesh is contracting expelling
life and I am gasping for air
for a foothold for a hand.
I was born on a rough wooden splintered
floor outside the realm of good people
and now I am born again
dressed in the robes of belonging
a child of the tempest, the wind
I know rough waters and rough
hands that plow the fields and beat
uppity women and wayward children
and yet you have shielded me
as your child, your own offspring
born in dust, marked for heaven.
"So he made a whip of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." John 2:15
I have never actually designed and installed a kitchen in a house. I have helped with lots of renovations and repairs and Mark and I had a lot of work to do on our first row house, but it did not include ripping out and replacing the kitchen. That is a very expensive proposition and the kitchen was adequate for our needs.That hasn't stopped me dreaming about what I would design if money and labor were unlimited. Since I have spent a good deal of my life by the ocean, a thought occurred to me early on. I used to watch the fishermen clean their boats, sealing the cabins and hosing everything down. And dockside restaurants too can just hose everything down since the wooden tables are sealed, the gaps in the board walk draining right into the ocean. I always wanted a kitchen you could clean with a hose - a central drain in the floor, tightly sealed cabinets and appliances, and five minutes with a hose. And like the outside shower my Dad built, all the water would run down a pipe into the garden. The garden would flourish as would the person cleaning the kitchen - everything done with a garden hose.
Jesus entered the temple shortly after his first miracle. It was close on time for Passover and people were coming form all over to make their sacrifice. He knew that the folks selling the animals and doves, changing money were not there for the good of the people or the glory of God. They were there to make a huge profit off of human need and the fulfillment of the law. They were there only to profit, to take people for everything they had. This was not a sign of a community providing a service for folks, rather a cut-throat business designed to take advantage of the poor and the outsiders. God doesn't seem to approve of the abuse of the poor and strangers, much less so when it happens within the holy places, like temples and churches. Unfortunately, we still have a tendency to reject the poor and strangers in our midst, making their entry into holy places restricted by langauage, custom and cost. Jesus calls us in this season of Lent to clear out all of the stuff that id barring the most needy in our lives from God's love. God calls us in this season to self-examination, not for the sake of our selves alone but that other might find welcome and the holy drawing near.
Today, as a stranger in a new place, I want to be aware of what needs to be cleaned out in me so that I might see the people around me with the eyes of love. I want to look and listen with a heart that is ready for the stranger, the poor and all God puts in my path. It is easy to dream about designs, much harder to live God's beautiful and humble design - loving neighbor as myself. May God grant us all the strength to live into that beautiful design, when nothing or no one is barred for the holy and life-giving love of the Savior of the World.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
"Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." John 2:10
When I was newly married, my friend Deb and I used to shop at a wonderful thrift store run by Amvets. The store was an old grocery store and the rows of racks seemed endless. The clothing was organized by type (skirts all together) and then by color -not by size but by color. We always found treasures there for next to nothing. We both kept each other advised of great deals and good thrifts stores we had found. Although neither of us was poor, we both were trying to stretch very limited budgets. We were pleased to find hand-me-downs and leftovers which would help reduce clothing and other budgets.
Jesus was under pressure from his mother to make miracles happen. Probably not the first child whose mother saw more in the child, than the child was yet to understand. Changing water into wine at a wedding, he honored the host by making not only more wine, but fine, expensive wine. He didn't make leftover, hand-me-down wine for the drunk guests. He gave his very best and honored the family.
Today, I want to offer God and others my best. Not my left-overs or hand-me-downs but my very best despite my feeling that it is not time, or that I don't have it in me. At his first miracle, Jesus gave the host family the very best. I want to live that kind of generous hospitality, where the best is given no matter the condition or behavior of the receiver. God have given abundantly to me and I want to be generous, giving my best, offering all I have in thanksgiving to God for love unbounded.
"At once they left their nets and followed him." Mark 1:18
Choosing unemployment is not something that most people consider a right or sane choice. In these hard economic times there is lots of talk about job loss and job hunts, bur very few people in our country today would choose to be unemployed. In 1983, I made that choice. I had a secure job at Johns Hopkins working in the library with people I loved. I had many friends there and we had reconnected with many old friends through my connections there. But I also had a new daughter, our second, Ariel. Emily, our eldest had just turned five and was starting kindergarten. I could have stayed employed, had good daycare and school arrangements and we could have been quite secure financially and many other ways. But my heart wasn't in it. My heart was with my girls and just as when Emily had been small, my heart was breaking at the thought of having my infant cling to anyone else but me. With Emily too, in 1978, I had chosen unemployment - foolhardy me. But love was pushing me to be with the ones I loved, the incredible gifts from God who would never be that small or that vulnerable again. I needed to be with them, desperately. So I left my nets and followed my heart. I clung to the love God had given me.
The first disciples were working fishermen, a life they loved, a labor they knew well. Their whole identity was formed in fishing, with the water and boats around them. They were secure, surrounded by friends and family, and they had a livelihood that was sound and regular. And then God puts Jesus in their path. Love incarnate comes among them and they followed their hearts - without question and without looking back.
Today, this first Sunday in Lent, I am called to examine anew what it means to follow my heart. What does it mean to follow love incarnate that is right here in my path? What does it mean to drop my nets, and follow Jesus? I pray that this Lent can be a time of honest examination for me that leads to following God -no looking back. Knowing that God puts love right in our path. God's love is our security and our increase. May we all be blessed in this season to put down our nets and follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back.