Thursday, April 30, 2009
"Simon answered, 'Master, we have worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.'" Luke 5:5
There are days when the challenges of living are manageable, and other days when everything seems overwhelming. I have been working hard on a research project, trying to understand what happens to clergy and their families when they suffer trauma. I originally thought that many people would object to being interviewed or filling out a survey. I have found out that the obstacles I face are mostly my own. I have had some health challenges in the past few months that have been keeping me from the research. When I get back on track, something else seems to fly at me and stall me out. Sometimes I have felt like Simon and his partners after a long night of fishing. A long season of empty nets.
Jesus calls his first disciples by getting in their boats. Jesus gets in the middle of their lives and occupations and brings abundance. After all their hard work and years of skill, the abundance comes when they put their nets out one more time at Jesus' command. When everything seems empty, Jesus comes and fills the nets to bursting. They first feel inadequate and undeserving in the face of Jesus and the huge catch. And then they give it all up and follow him at Jesus' invitation. They had, just hours before, given up all hope, and pulled in their nets for washing. Now they were packing it all up and leaving it behind to follow Jesus. Just when everything was completely failing, Jesus came and brought abundance and new direction.
I want to live today with the expectation of abundance and new direction. It is natural to get frustrated and give up, packing it in for lack of any catch. And yet, Jesus promises to find us in our failure and need and bring full nets and clear vision. So often I rely on my own strength, my own skills and capacities. I have found out, over and over, that it is when I rely on Jesus' and follow, then the nets are full and the way ahead is clear. Some days, the best thing to do is wash the nets and invite Jesus to come into our boats. May we today be encouraged by the hapless fisherman, who in giving up, gained the world. Who, in following Jesus found abundance and direction for us all. May we all be encouraged to follow Jesus and expect the abundance and direction from him.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"So he bent over her and rebuked the fever and it left her. And she got up at once and began to wait on them." Luke 4:39
This morning I went out early and found my car covered in pollen. Although it is considerably cooler today than yesterday (we've had summer in April for 4 days), spring is definitely here. There is nothing to stop the progress or the exploding pollen. No matter how we humans try to control and redesign the world, the pollen (and my car hidden beneath the pollen) reminds us that the Creator of the world designed a beautiful progressing organism. No matter what we try to stop or change nature, it is hard wired to be fertile and grow in season. It has to because in doing so, it sings the Creator's song. Nature serves the Creator with joy and abundance. It echoes back the beauty that it hides all winter long.
In our gospel we hear the story of Simon's mother in law who was very sick. Jesus heals her and she immediately gets up and serves them. This is what she does, she serves the people that come into her home. Being raised a Cherokee, I know that it what we women do when we have guests present. We make sure they have food and drink enough, making sure that everyone is comfortable and welcome. It is who we are and how we respond to the Creator and the gifts and people given to us. It is not groveling or subservient, rather, a joyful response to abundance in creation.
Today, I want to give thanks for the changing of seasons and the signs of life all around me. I want to do that by serving others. Like the mother in law long ago, I want to get up and serve others with joy. Not because I have to, but because I want to, with a thankful heart and a song on my lips. Jesus has brought me through illness and hard times, and it is time to get up and serve. May we today, give thanks for all the signs of life around us. May we rejoice in the abundance and healing God has brought us, and may we share, as we are able, the gifts we have been given by reaching out and serving others in the love of Christ.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"When the demon had thrown the man down, he came out without hurting the man." Luke 4:35
For almost two weeks I have been overcome with what the doctor said is bronchitis. I have had no energy, been coughing all the time and just wanted to stay in bed. Haven't been able to get anything done. There's lots to do and yet I am just not able. I have never been possessed by a demon, but being sick feels like being invaded by some foreign host, some legion of demons who take my will away. I have felt helpless and impatient, wanting to be better, trying to will myself better, and frustrated with the slow progress of healing. I have missed several meetings and along with research and study time. I am not always patient with my own healing, and sometimes even, I get frustrated with God for letting me get sick when I have so much to do. Sounds juvenile, I know, but it a fairly natural reaction in times like these.
Jesus encounters a man with a demon, deals with the demon directly and heals the man. There is all sorts of speculation on what this possession might look like in our modern day. Epilepsy, Turrets Syndrome and other physical and mental illnesses have been suggested. But we all know what it is like to be possessed - to be overwhelmed by illness, sadness, worry or situations that disallow us from normal function and outlook. Whatever Jesus understood was wrong with this man, he helped him beyond his possession and put him back safely. He restored his life, and others believed because of this healing.
Today, I want to spend my day giving thanks for healing, and the gift it is to return to normal functioning. I know there are so many who are broken by illness and disease, by loss and grief, by fear and despair. May my thanks for restoration also empower me to compassion for others - others who simply want to be free to return to their normal existence. Jesus walked among us and had compassion. May I walk this day with the compassion of Christ. May we all have the strength to ask God to give us compassion and concern for the world around us.
Monday, April 27, 2009
"A person who speaks for God is not respected in their own country." Luke 4:24
Recently I was visiting with my mother. It was Easter weekend and all sorts of folks were down for the weekend. It turned out to be a lovely Easter Sunday, warm and mild and many old friends were out walking and visiting. My daughter and I stopped to talk to friends and then moved along, only to hear them call to other friends and family. I happened to hear my name used by one of them and they referred to me as Carol Theobald, my maiden name. Startled at first, since this person had been at my wedding and we have been friends forever, I realized anew some of what it means to be familiar. Sometimes it means that we can gracefully overlook the changes in time and we are accepted as we have always been. Other times, it can mean an overlooking of critical gifts and skills, of good changes that have happened in our lives. Sometimes familiar people and familiar roads can blind us to the positive way that God sees us. And some times the familiar can take away our ability to thrive.
Jesus goes home and finds folks who were initially accepting but then began to question him and lost sight of Jesus in relationship to his father, Joseph. Their familiarity blinded them to the present good and the healing he was offering. Their familiarity dis-empowered Jesus. They couldn't get beyond what they knew to see what God might be doing in their lives.
Today, I want to live with eyes open to God's new possibilities in this world. Among the familiar I ask to see the potential, the breakthroughs and the new gifts and skills. I want to take in the familiar world and be newly impressed with God's work among us. It is harder to see when we are in comfortable, reliable places. And yet, I ask God today to give us eyes to see the power of Christ in our midst, in the familiar world around us.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
"See! I will send you what my father has promised. But you are to stay in Jerusalem until you have received power from above." Mark 24:49
Transitions are very difficult. Even when good things are on the horizon, packing up and moving can be a challenge. Folks who scientifically rate stress say that a move and marriage (usually positive things) are as stressful as the death of a loved one. The long awaited graduation can become very threatening to the graduate as it approaches. What was familiar and comfortable has passed away. New life and new power is coming but it is not here yet. The space in between is very scary - neither here nor there. It is not a restful place for most of us, but an anxious, pacing, flopping about kind of season.
Jesus appears to his disciples in the room where they are hiding. The eat together and pray together, and bite their nails wondering what is next. He has promised things but nothing promised is realized yet. Jesus tells them to tell the story, to tell what they know and that in the process, the strength, the power and what is to come will break forth. They are to share their story, to preach and tell it about, and God will provide the next steps, and the power to get to the next steps. He suggests they wait in Jerusalem until they have received power. I wonder how comforting this was to the anxious, pacing disciples?
Today, I want to trust God to provide the power for the the next steps. And I want to learn how to tell the story in the midst of transition, in the midst of becoming and not yet. I want to practice telling the story while being rooted in God. I pray that God can provide the strength and the power as needed. It is hard to wait for power, hard to wait for healing. And yet, like the disciples, in good time, with the practice of telling the story, God power is revealed, the road ahead is cleared. May we all have the courage to wait on God's power and God's time as we share our story of God's transforming love in our lives. May we be rooted right where we are and be ready to go at a moment's notice.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
" You must be willing to wait for people to understand what you teach as you teach them." 2 Timothy 4:2b
Patience. Not something I have a lot of, although the older I get the more I gain at least in certain circumstances. A longer view helps, and yet I am rarely patient with the healing process or any other process that won't go according to my plan. It has been a great gift to have a companion in life who is exceptionally patient and who understands how to wait for healing and revelation. My husband Mark has taught me a great deal about enjoying the here and now, while waiting for the full picture to be revealed.
Today is the feast day of Saint Mark, the man who was probably a cousin of Barnabas. Beside authoring the gospel, Mark is attributed with being one of the servants that held a water jug at the wedding of Cana, one of the seventy that Jesus sent out, the young man who fled the garden of Gethsemane naked and it was to his house that the risen Christ came and revealed himself. We know that Mark is attributed with the founding of the Church in Alexandria and his symbol is a lion. Much of his life, it seems, he lead by compassionate participation, and a willingness to tell others the story with concise simplicity.
Today, I pray that I can live with patience and compassion. Saint Mark took the story of God's love for the world wherever he went, living that love and compassion and today I would like to follow his example. We humans need to be told, over and over again of God's love for us. We need to hear the story through action, through lived compassion and not just through words. And we all need to know God's patience with us, as shown in the pateince we have for one another. May this bright Saturday be a day when love is lived large through kind actions and gentle ways, the ways of God.
Friday, April 24, 2009
"You are my well beloved child in whom I am well pleased." Mark 3:22
Our daughter Ariel is 26 years old today. She is our second oldest, born more than five years after her sister Emily. We had wanted our children close together in age but it didn't work out that way. We loved Emily so much and wanted her to have a sibling close in age so she would have a playmate and a companion. Our timing is not always God's timing though. The day she was born was a beautiful Sunday in April. We went to church and I had some contractions, but the labor wasn't yet too serious. Ariel was due on the 21st, so I was more than ready. We packed Emily off to stay with her friend Lily Loizeaux and family and then headed off to the hospital. Labor was short, intense and she arrived very quickly. Ariel Morgan was born that Sunday evening, beautiful and perfect. We were well pleased. Like both of her sisters, she has proved to be a complete joy, a child bringing light and life to the world. Of course, as her mother, I have a hard time not being completely biased about Ariel and her sisters.
Our story from Mark is of the baptism of Jesus by John. A dove descends and we hear the voice of God claiming Jesus as a well beloved child. God displays the Creator's compete bias toward the child, the offspring brought into the world for the sake of the world. The long anticipated (some would say well over due) savior of the world, child of God and Mary, the carpenter's wife. God's timing is different than ours, always.
Today, I want to live with the understanding that God looks at us with the same eyes of love as on that day of the baptism of Jesus. God's bias is for us, for all the children of God. The Creator's love for us is no less than a parent for their child. I want to look on others today with the eyes of a parent who sees all the goodness and potential in every offspring. May we have the insight and vision today to see ourselves through the loving eyes of God, and may we look on one another with that same tender love that rejoices in every child.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
"If you have two coats, give one to someone who has none. If you have food you must share some." Luke 3:11
One of the hardest things about being a parent is loving our three daughters equally and at the same time, providing each unique individual the kind of attention and support they needed. When we bought gifts at birthdays and Christmas we tried to make sure they each got the same amount. Each of our daughters is a beautiful and talented individual with a strong personality and lots of interests. When interests overlapped, we tried to give them things they could share. Sharing isn't always easy, although it is expected in families. Sometimes they fought over things and sometimes they fought over attention. I remember fighting with my siblings in just the same way when I was young. Equity and sharing are expected and normal in families, but they are not necessarily natural to our humanity. We have to learn how to share, learn how to trust one another, and learn how to live feeling loved and appreciated for who we are. In some families it happens but all too often, one child gets favored or excluded. Competition and protective hoarding result. Fear and protection become motivating factors.
John has just told folks that they cannot hide behind their inheritance in the family of God. They ask him what they can do and he responds with the obvious and simple suggestion of giving a coat and sharing food. They simply have to repent and share in order to return to the family of God. That doesn't sound like a hard task. And yet for some, who have either built their identity on their own skill, or who have been hurt by those who excluded them, sharing is hard. Hoarding can be a normal response to fear and pain. John offers us all a simple way to start over and yet it is easier said than done.
Today I pray that I can give away so that I might see my life in the family of God more clearly. It doesn't come easy for me, but I want to work on letting go of the things so I can make room for the relationships. I ask God to renew me in such a way that I no longer see myself by the things around me but as a member of the family of God. May we all have the courage today to let go and give away those things which stand in the way of love, the things that impede us from loving God and one another.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
"I do not pray for these followers only. I pray for those who will put their trust in me through the teaching they have heard. May they all be as one, father, as you are in me and I am in you. May they belong to us." John 17:20-21
In the little town where my mother lives, a town of about 250 year round residents, there is only one store. This store traditionally has been open during spring and fall weekends and all summer when the tourists flood the town. They sell everything from bait to bagels. People of all ages collect there and the kids delight in bringing their change in sweaty fists to buy penny candy all on their own. It is a safe reliable place, and an institution for generations. The store has changed hands many times in my life but the basic goods are about the same. It has been a stable and treasured part of life. For the past two summers it has not been opened. At first, people were more curious and disappointed. Now people are angry. A central part of their life has been whisked away by some one's whimsy, laziness or internal family struggles.
Jesus is talking God, his father, in prayer as the disciples listen in. He knows they are terribly frightened. He knows that what is ahead must seem like whimsy and hideous cruelty to his dear friends. The disciples institution of faith is being threatened. Jesus is talking of going away and the disciples must feel as if their identity and security is being ripped from them. Their world, the love they had enjoyed, everything they had lived through together and been identified with,was talking about going away. They must have been hurt, brokenhearted and a little angry. They were probably terrified also.
We all have times in our live when the people and institutions we count on threaten to be no more. Lots of relationships are threatened in these hard times. I find some comfort in Jesus praying to his father. He is asking for comfort and direction for the disciples present, but he is also praying for you and me. Jesus is praying for people just like us. People who are naturally overwhelmed and terrified when what or who we love talk about going away. I cling to the knowledge that Jesus is in the midst of even the worst threats to our existence. Jesus standing by our bed, our chair, our doors - over all our comings and goings - interceding for us. May we take heart this day when we feel overwhelmed. And may we, when finding others who are overwhelmed, hold them close with the knowledge that God is interceding for us all. God is in the midst of our worst terrors.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
"I do not ask you take them out of the world. I ask you to keep them from sin. My followers do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world." John 17:15-16
I heard an audible sputtering
in the dark night thunder booming
rippling sound and reflected light
my plans were changing, the world was storming.
I felt a tug at my heart
in the soft rustle of blankets
a gray spotted cat stretched and curled
seeking warmth and company.
I saw a morning struggling to awaken
deep shadows and deeper puddles
students poured from cars onto sidewalks
doors closing, a day beginning.
I am stuck in this hovering, healing place
and want to be on the move, changing cities
destinations certain but many choices ahead
and I pray for patience in the waiting.
I am caught on a long line of filament
which extents from heart to head and wraps
around a body which refuses a quick solution
choosing time's nurture rather than change.
I reach out and call for God whose hand
on my shoulder tells me to breath and wait.
I don't like waiting, don't like being held back
and like the comfort of a God so present.
Help me today to be patient with the mending
my mending, my vessel that needs tender repair
I have roughly treated, been tossed about
and need to know God's healing touch.
Monday, April 20, 2009
"But these are still in the world. Holy father, keep those you have given me in the power of your name. Then they will be one, even as we are one." John 17:11
Some mornings, it is easy to wake up and cheerfully face the day. Other mornings are not so easy. It was a lovely weekend, with lots of sun and some fun events. Today, it is cold again, it is Monday morning, and a storm is brewing. On top of that my body aches, as if to press the point even further. Mondays tend to remind us loudly that there is so much to do. Mondays can be shrill reminders of just how human we are. This temporal world and time ticking away can remind us all too clearly how fallible and broken we are.
Jesus is praying for his friends. He knows that they will be harshly treated and misunderstood throughout the world. Every day will be a challenge for them once they are separated (in the flesh) from Jesus. He knows they will face so many gray, ugly Mondays, where their faith seems weak and their resolve fleeting. And so Jesus prays for them. And he tenderly holds us, knowing all too well what living in the bonds of flesh and time are like. Human weakness and vulnerability are all too real. What a wonderful thing, for God to know so viscerally the pain of living with our deteriorating bodies, within time that gets away, and within cultures that names sweetness and tenderness as failure.
Today, I want to live with the kind of compassion that Jesus shows for his disciples. They are weak, they are human and he loves them. I want to forgive myself for being fragile and human today, and give thanks for the vulnerable humans who cross my path today. May we all live knowing that we need to be carried in prayer. May we all live rejoicing in the knowledge that God knows our weaknesses and holds us in the palm of God's hand.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
"I will not believe until I see the marks made by the nails in his hands." John 20:25
The feeling of being left out is something we all have experienced when we were young, and something both natural and completely uncomfortable. That feeling when you walk in a room and everyone is laughing. And then they stop. When people say things like, "you had to be there" it both isolates and shamed us. we missed something that binds the whole community together and now we no longer belong.
Thomas, a faithful and loving disciple, was not present when Jesus appeared. When Thomas had last seen the other disciples, they others had locked themselves away, huddled together in fear. When Thomas arrives, they are all happy and ecstatic. I can imagine that he was startled by their excitement and their behavior, but also concerned that shuttered away they had given in to a group hysteria.
On this second Sunday of Easter, let us remember those who have been isolated and separated from communities. These are those who need to be drawn back in and shown the signs of love. They are the ones who need the physical and demonstrable touch of Christ in their lives. We have all needed that touch ourselves, from time to time. Let us be instruments this day of the restoration and increase of faith in others. May our words and actions demonstrate Christ alive in us and in community. And may our words and actions always draw others in and never isolate them. For Jesus, finding Thomas present, offered him his hands and his side to touch. May we, following Christ, offer ourselves so that others might believe.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
"You are sad now. I will see you again and then your hearts will be full of joy. No one can take your joy from you." John 16:22
This past week I had the opportunity to spend some time alone with my two older daughters. Emily and I stayed a few extra days with my mother while she was sick. Yesterday, I took old family rings to Ariel so that they can be re-sized for she and Adam when they get married in September. Emily and I did some exploring and shopping in Cape May, talking and laughing the whole time. And likewise with Ariel, we found ourselves laughing our heads off about ridiculous things. We laughed so hard in a department store dressing room that some other lady shouted to us and complimented us on having such a good time. Our hearts were full of joy doing the most simplest of things - being together. Being apart from my children, even though they are grown, has always been a challenge for me. As imperfect as I am as a mother, I still ache to see my three girls and am filled to overflowing when we are able to be together.
Jesus is talking to his disciples about his death and resurrection. They don't like what they hear and are sad at his suggestion of separation. They are human and find it very hard to believe that his promised return and presence is real. They are sad at the anticipation of losing their joy. The joy that being loved by Christ and walking his way has given them. They have become the family of God through Jesus and don't want that to change. Jesus promises them, that even as they are separated for a time, no one can take their family away, no one can take their joy.
This beautiful Saturday I am reminded that their are many who feel as if their joy has been taken away. Their spouse, parent or sibling has died. They have lost their job, their home and their community. They ache for new life. They ache for their loss. I ask God to give me the strength today to reach out to those who have lost their joy. I ask God to help me make them feel loved and included again. I pray that we can all be strengthened to reach out to who have lost their joy. May God give us the courage to make room in our lives and our families for them.
Friday, April 17, 2009
"It is better for you that I go away. If I do not go the Helper, the Holy Spirit will not come to you. If I go, I will send the Comforter to you." John 16:7
Coming and Going
They came to assess the load,
the boxed belonging needing to go
to follow, to be taken along.
The air was full of light and dust
dancing particles swirling on ray beams
and we wished to be blink and be off
dancing like the dust, swirling but not
bound by the load we carry.
Hovering between Easter and Pentecost
new life yet not a new heart nor home yet
brimming full of potential
and completely scared hiding in attics
and shadows, only half believing
only half embracing the new life given.
I want to emerge from winter's darkness
and savor the filtered light at the border
regions which I have run from now draw me
to the edge, to imagine more than has been
nestled in the arms of God.
We are coming and going, making room
for new life and a new community.
It is not without pain or injury
letting go hurts in the moment and aches
for years to come.
Lord let me know your loving arms
as my arms ache from carrying boxes
tremble from the awkward newness of life
the tenuous and complex feelings of being
on the love.
Let my head rest in the soft grass,
and let the breeze sing me lullabies
for I am torn between here and there and still
not grounded not located anywhere
but in the heart of God.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
"This is my commandment that I give to you, that you love one another." John 15:17
The day before Easter was ugly and cold, with rain and wind making everyone stay indoors. Easter Day, in the little town hugging the shore where my mother lives, dawned bright and beautiful. It would have been the extreme opposite day from the previous one, except that it was still quite cold. The sun was glorious and we took a walk on the beach that Easter afternoon. My husband, daughter Emily and I enjoyed the sand and the surf, walking faces into a brisk wind. And then, it got to be too much for all of us, in the same moment, and we hurried off the beach to streets more sheltered from the frigid, driving wind. It was a beautiful afternoon, and a moment in time easy to be joyous. Easy to be loving and kind in the sunlight and opulence of God's creation surrounding us. After days of being cooped up inside, it was wonderful to roam freely, to be away from the rest of the family and to bask in the glow of mutual affection.
Jesus gives his disciples a commandment, that is so simple and basic, that it seems obvious. Love one another. And really, there are many days that it is easy, natural almost, to love one another. When the sun is shining and there is room to roam and enjoy, well, then it is easy to love. But we all know that the closer we are to one another, the more stress there is, or failure, or frustration - whatever it might be - sometimes loving others, whether family or Christians in community is the hardest thing to do. And the easiest commandment to break. All of us who live in families or communities know that the ones who can be most loving can also become the most hurtful and dangerous. Loving is not an easy, casual exercise but rather a life long discipline which includes forgiving self and others. Jesus gave few commandments, but the ones he gave take a life time to follow, a life time to obey, and a daily prayerful practice of forgiveness and restraint.
Today, I want to try to live Christ's commandment to love. Despite the hurts and bruises, I want to find new ways to love and forgive today. I pray that we can all bask in the love we have been given, like cats stretching in the sunshine, and find ways to share that love with those who make loving hard. May today we be given the strength to love the strangers and the siblings who torment us. And in that loving, may we know that Christ is working in us, making the impossible possible, making love bloom where there was once only pain.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
"You have not chosen me, I have chosen you. I have set you apart for the work of bringing in fruit. Your fruit should last. And whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you." John 15:16
I am just arriving home after what was to be a short, day and a half visit with my Mom for Easter. It became a lot longer stay since she was sick. My daughter Emily and I stayed with her to take her to the doctors, and although she has a bad case of bronchitis, all will be well. We caught it in time. She was able to go to church and celebrate Easter with family, and we were able to return a small bit of the care she has given us over the years. She had watched with joy as my niece and nephew chased after Easter eggs in the Saturday drizzle. And she sang with no voice all the Easter hymns from memory. And she grinned from ear to ear as parts of her family gathered around the table for Easter dinner. There was much joy despite her challenged health.
Jesus reminds us in this season that he is the true vine, the source of all life and abundance. Our job is to bear fruit, to cultivate love and caring wherever we go. We are to be constantly in prayer and asking God for the needs of the community. Like my mother, we are to be unflagging in our prayer and concern for others, as God, the source of all is revealed in the love we demonstrate, the fruit we bear.
On this cold and rainy Easter Wednesday, I want to live with the kind of fruitfulness and joy that my mother has lived with. Despite many challenges, past and present, she pushes on. Today, despite evidence to the contrary, I want to see the abundance and fruit of God's love everywhere I go. I want to see the sunshine, despite the clouds and chill. And I want to ask God for the eyes with which to see and the heart to feel the need of others. I want to live as a witness to the resurrection, today. May we all have the courage, despite our challenges, despite the dark clouds and damp breeze, to live as the chosen of God, bearing fruit and love along the way.
Friday, April 10, 2009
"He said, 'I am thirsty'. There was a jar full of sour wine near. They filled a sponge and put it on a stick and put it to his mouth. Jesus took the sour wine and said, 'It is finished'. He put his head down, gave up his spirit and died."
A moment of human tenderness in the vast sea of cruel torture. One moment of responding to a dying mans thirst while torturing him and hanging him from a cross. We so often assuage our guilt when we have done some trifling thing for another, yet we wouldn't release them from torment or pain. We haven't found real compassion. Jesus hung on the cross for our fears, our faults, our unwillingness to give up power for love. We would rather be right than be generous. We would be appropriate rather than compassionate. We would give hand outs rather than touching a hand, surrounding another in embrace.
Jesus offered himself for us. It was ugly and violent, a display of the worst of human nature. Humans daily let children be abused rather than be embarrassed. We can look on cruelty and be silent. We look on isolation and exclusion and rejoice that we belong. Jesus offers himself for us. Our selfish needs, our blind ambitions, our petty control issues -Jesus offers himself now for us. Can we see the blood running down in pools, spilling for us, clotting for us, mixing with dust and sweat, for us?
Can we look on love so great, so unyielding and not be moved?
I pray that today I can realize the offering that God has made for me and for the world. No less than God's child - an awful bargain. And yet, a love that is sacrificial beyond all human telling. A love that sees beyond this brief life to the larger and nearer presence of God. A love that is not temporal. A love that is eternal, for me and for all of us. I want to live today in that unbelievable reality of love unbounded. Despite the cruelty of the world, God's love for us is unbounded. Despite the setbacks and abuse, God's love for us is unbounded. May we live today in that awesome awareness, that we are surrounded by love active in an beyond history. Love present and for all time.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
"I am your teacher and lord. I have washed your feet. You should wash each other's feet also." John 13:14
My dirty feet
caked in sweat and dust and you
would kneel down and hold my foot
one at a time, pouring
warm soapy water, wiping
cool clean linen
once white now soiled
My blushing face,
the tenderness moving me
pushing me to tears that
warm and salty paint a picture
of my broken heart,
torn open by love that is
love serving others, not asking
but giving when deserving the world.
Your rough hands, face lined
with worry with compassion
we would be lords and rulers
and you would have us kneel to the broken
the lonely, the dirt poor souls,
the unknown, the simple
the servants who speak no name.
This day, let my movements be not false
but honest offering, honest kneeling
honest serving those who are called least.
You, invited me to dine, still invite
the whole world to dine and lean in
like family, like welcomed beloved children.
Today, let me make room,
with my being, not my imagination,
let me make room at the table set a place
for the misguided and cruelly treated
the shamed and the undone,
the tortured and the foolish
for you have washed their feet too.
You have wept for love of them
you have wrinkled your brow in amusement
and delight in every heart lifted
every lost child found every servant
with a song in their heart.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"I came to the world to be a light. Anyone who puts their trust in me will not be in darkness." John 12:46
I woke up this morning and was glad there was sunlight coming through the windows. This time of year, early spring in the northeast, rain seems to be the predominant weather. Recently I have felt saturated and to my limit with gray days and living with raincoat and umbrella by my side. And yet, there are also tiny blossoms coloring the entire landscape. Trees on the verge of blossoming, some brave daffodils opening up to the sky and a myriad of green everywhere. There must have been light enough to make these living things break through the hard earth and rigid bark. There must be light enough to warm the world and make spring possible.
Jesus tells people that he is the light of the world and that he comes from God. They have seen a lot of prophets and wonder. They have seen a good deal of dark days and false leaders. They are people who are so used to the dreary world without possibility, that they might chose what is familiar over trusting Jesus. The last thing they want is to be disappointed. Jesus assures them that what they see is God's love in their midst. He tells them that God wants life, abundant life for them all. And some are unsure, even in the presence of the living God.
This week, this Holy Week, we often find ourselves aching for light and life, and yet we fear disappointment and failure. We want to blossom and push forth, breaking through the hard earth and rigid bark and yet we can still be unsure and feel inadequate. Jesus comes today to tell us there is light enough, there is love enough, there is everything enough for us to grow. May we walk today, in the light of God, walking despite our fear and inadequacies. May we walk, trusting that God will supply what we need to blossom right where we are.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
"Truly I tell you, unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it will only be a seed. If it dies, it will give much grain." John 12:24
I was out in the back yard early this morning, looking over the seeds we had planted on Sunday. It is a little cold this morning for gardening, but I had the need to be out in it, at least for a while. Out digging in the dirt, finding what it means to die and live again. This time of year I am driven to the garden and I have an ache for working in the earth, turning it over, laying seeds deep within. It is very physical and very spiritual for me, an overwhelming force that seems especially appropriate for Holy Week. I am not a great gardener, barely a good one, but my body and soul need to plant and tend, no matter the result.
Jesus is in Jerusalem trying to explain what must happen to him. The people have various opinions about his ministry but many are captivated and challenged all at once. They want a winning movement and talk of dying is too depressing for some who have been bearing large burdens for too many years. Some trusted him because they had seem him healing and heard his teaching. Others were too afraid. Times were tough and folks were reluctant to trust anyone. None could have anticipated the drama that unfolded in the following days. Jesus' invitation to dying was an invitation to trust God, even in the midst of death. Jesus invites us today to be shoved in to the dirt, watered and broken open, so that we may thrive. For some that is more than they can grasp, and they are reluctant to follow. But I know, throughout my life, it is those times when I was willing to die - to give up my idea about my life - that real living began. When I was willing to be broken open, well then, I could be made new. It never gets any easier but still the invitation is there.
Today, I want to offer my life - all my rigid ideas and my ways of being and controlling - to Jesus. I want to answer Jesus' invitation to fall to the ground, be broken open and made new. In this Holy Week, I know that there is much that I have clung to that is keeping growth and new life at bay. I want to let it go, die to it, and ask God to plant me anew. I invite you, as we move through this most holy and powerful time in the church year, to be willing to be planted again, so that we might live in God. New creatures for a new age. God is bringing our redemption and healing. We need but ask. God is watering, warming and breaking us open so that we might live. May we all have the courage to open ourselves to dying so that we might truly live.
Monday, April 6, 2009
On this day, seven years ago, I was consecrated Bishop. It was the Saturday after Easter, a mild and warm Virginia spring day with a gentle breeze. The ceremony took place in the gymnasium at St. Paul's College and they were terrific hosts. The Gym had been transformed into a wonderful worship space, and we had a gospel choir, the choir from the Boys' Home, a volunteer choir, the choir from St. Paul's and many other musicians, including my harp teacher, Mike Nielsen. Much of my family was able to be there along with friends and well wishers from nearby and from as far away as New Zealand. It was a magnificent day and I was thankful to be a part of The Diocese of Southern Virginia. The procession was nearly a quarter mile long, snaking from the Fine Arts Center to the gym with resplendent colors catching sunlight and joy effusing all about us. My dear friends from Hawaii, Pua and Charlie had sent Leis since they could not attend, so my entire extended family was outfitted in Leis atop their traditional tribal regalia. It was a breathtaking and wonderful day, one I will always be thankful for, and grateful to God for the ministries I have been given in so many and diverse places.
"I can do all things trough Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
On this cold and rainy anniversary day, I want to give thanks for the many ministries and people with whom God has blessed me. I want to remember with joy that day and especially the people of Southern Virginia. And I want to remember, not to be sentimental or nostalgic, but to celebrate God's activity in my life. I have never been abandoned or left alone, but even more so, I have been blessed to serve God in so many wonderful places with so many wonderful people. Christ has strengthened me, even when I felt weak or the circumstances were complex and troubling. God always lead us through and brings us joy upon joy despite the challenges we face - that's what this anniversary day is teaching me anew. I invite us all to give thanks this day for God's continued blessing on each and every one of us. When we are weak, God is strong for us. When we are feeling at an end, God brings new life. When we are overwhelmed and burdened, God surrounds us with family and community to make our burdens light and our joy renewed. May this day remind us all that Easter is coming, even when it is a dark and dreary, the day of Resurrection is coming soon for us all.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
"God does not change God's mind when choosing people and bestowing them with gifts." Romans 11:29
Today we are heading out for a family gathering near Philadelphia. Our niece is having an engagement party and there is lots of excitement about meeting the in-laws to be and attending this party. We are generally used to smaller affairs and so some have been anxious about having appropriate clothing and acting correctly in front of strangers. Because there is some major cultural differences between the families, even more anxiety and anticipation has been aroused. I am looking forward to seeing everyone and especially looking forward to being with our two eldest and their significant others. I am looking forward to the joy and laughter we always share, no matter how awkward we might feel in the circumstances.
Paul reminds the Romans that God does not withdraw blessing, love or gifts. Even in awkward and confusing times when our gifts and blessings seemed overlooked or out of place, God has not withdrawn. We often leap to that conclusion, but God continues to bless, love and give gifts, even when we feel completely flustered and unskilled.
I want to remember that I have been invited to join another family, however complex and different these relationships might be. And I want to trust that in the midst of the newness and awkwardness God will reveal a new insight into blessing and gift. I want to be open to learn new ways of using the love God has given me. Whether you are traveling or tucked safe at home this windy Saturday, I invite you to be open to the new ways God is loving you and using your gifts. Gos is always asking us to use what we have been given to invite others into the family. May we rejoice in the love and offer the gifts we have, knowing that God is standing by and rejoicing in our offerings.
Friday, April 3, 2009
" Martha heard that Jesus was coming and went to meet him. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'" John 11:20-23
There are times in our lives when it is hard to hear positive reassurance. It is hard to take when people say uplifting things and remind one to be faithful, especially when the pain and prognosis are bad, and particularly when the advice giver is is vibrant health. All the evidence points another way - to end and destruction. I think it hard in this economy when people say to the unemployed, "Don't give up hope", particularly after someone has been looking for months and months. At the same time we are Easter people. There is life and healing and hope. Resurrection is coming. And yet that is hard to hear when lose and pain overwhelm us.
Jesus speaks to his dear friend Martha, and then he calls Lazarus forth. There are tears and there is that gut wrenching smell. There is life, even among the dead. Martha was faithful and trusting even when all the evidence was against her brother's healing. God asks us too, to be faithful, even when the evidence seems point to evil and destruction.
I want to be willing today, to bear the pain of living that comes with awaiting resurrection. We are called to live in the light even when the darkness is overshadowing us. I want to walk in the light even on this gloomy day. May we remember that God doesn't ask us for platitudes, but faith. Faith that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, God is good all the time. God is acting for the life of the world, and God is working so that we might thrive. May we all walk in the light today.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
"My sheep hear my voice and I know them.. They follow me. I give them life that lasts forever." John 10:27-28
There is great joy in being known and being loved just as we are. There are also times when being known can bear down on all of us. The people who love us and really know us can sometimes make our lives more challenged. So, for all of those times, here is a prayer for those of us who love our families fiercely and have human moments in the midst of tremendous love.
We are stuck together in this family and today, nobody seems to get along. We each try to do what is right. We each end up stepping on one another’s toes. Every day there seem to be more arguments to settle, more feathers to unruffled, more apologies needed and more accepted. We don’t forgive easily and we remember our mistakes forever. We barely make it out of the door in one piece. And yet, you love us and promise to be with us. You want to be with us, even in the squabbles and with the mess in the car. You think about us and watch over us even in our meanest moods. Thank you for loving us more than we can love ourselves. Give us an extra measure of love and forgiveness today, so that we might see you more clearly in the midst of this wonderful and mighty love you call this family. Amen
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Sheep are both smart and dumb. They let themselves be herded around by humans and border collies, and they tend to wander if they are not watched. Sheep are not particularly cuddly although I remember one darling newborn that a child brought to church in Coal Mine, Arizona. The boy held him like he was a younger sibling and all the kids fought to take turns holding the little fuzz ball. Sheep are part of the family in some places and the furthest thing from one's mind in others. And yet God likens us to sheep, and Jesus as the good shepherd.
"I am the good shepherd. The Good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." John 10:11
Jesus has been set upon by religious leaders of his day to explain himself for providing healing on the sabbath and other horrible violations of the law. They haven't listened to reason, but they might indeed listen to stories. These stories, in our time might seem sweet and pastoral, but they are actually very focused pictures of the role of Jesus in the world. They get the image of sheep, shepherd and lamb for the slaughter. It was their stock and trade, their best known commodity and their righteous obligations. Jesus tells them that he's caregiver of all and the offering for all. The Good Shepherd who give his life for the sheep, not some hireling, or some casual relative, but the one who owns the sheep and give his life for them. For the folks hearing this, it a very bold statement, both political and religious.
Today, on this first day of April, I want to know again what it means to be cared for by the Good Shepherd. There is nothing I have to do to earn God's love and care for me. God has promised, in Jesus, to not only watch over and guide me, but to offer life for mine. I want to live today like a trusting sheep, grazing in the pasture in safety and comfort, knowing my savior in on guard. I too often worry and plan. Today, I want to be relax and walk through the pasture, practicing confidence in God's grace and protection. May we all have the courage today to be the sheep and not try to be the shepherd. May we be wise on this April Fool's Day, trusting in the good graces of Jesus who offered his all that we might live.