Friday, July 31, 2009

One mother's tenacity


And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.Mark 7:27-30

Our daughters are 31, 26, and 21. All grown up, fully adults and all capable of running their own lives. As their mother, I try very hard not to tell them what to do, but the chemical imbalance that happens to a woman once she becomes a mother is still actively firing. I want to protect them even when I cannot. Even when I drive the car and they are a passenger, I still throw my arm out to protect them, even though they do not need my arm in their fully grown face. This chemical imbalance, or whatever goes on, makes gentle women possess the ferocity of a charging bear. We transform like the incredible hulk and it is hard to have it go away once it is in place. The woman who came to Jesus on her child's behalf was adamant, insistent and full of the transformed faith that rages in mothers. She was not afraid of the rules, the social customs, nor the questions that Jesus threw at her. Love prevailed and Jesus knew the raw power of faith and love as demonstrated in this ferocious mother.

Today, I want to live with that kind of ferocious, unstoppable love that mothers and fathers have. I want to love and have faith in that way, so that my walk today might be a ferocious advocate for those who know no love, who do not know the incredible power of loves transforming grace.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tainted


"Hear me, all of you, and understand:There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out of a person are what defile the person.” Mark 7:14-15

We have an ongoing debate about my mother's refrigerator and freezer. When my sister comes to visit my Mom, she and her husband have been known to take a good deal of everything that is in there and throw it out. Some things are past their expiration date. Some things are wrapped in odd packages and look weird. Other things have been in there so long they have first names. My mother, who is totally lucid and lives on her own quite well, takes it all in stride. I, on the other hand like to leave things well enough alone. Her refrigerator and freezer are hers. She hasn't had food poisoning and is quite healthy. She comes from a generation who uses up everything and wastes nothing. We all have a lot to learn from her generation. My sister thinks she is protecting her. I know that my Mom prays at every meal, and I trust God to protect her. Besides, refrigerators are private and personal. My philosophy is this; What goes on in the refrigerator stays in the refrigerator.

Jesus makes a special announcement to his disciples in front of the religious leaders. He want to be very clear so he says, "hear me and understand." This is not a parable, a story to explain how God works, but rather, a bold and transparent truth. It is not what goes in that makes for evil and cruelty - no mistake or failure in following the dietary laws of the day is going to break your relationship with God. It is the unkind and cruel things we do and how poorly we treat other people that breaks the heart of God. Jealousy, cruelty and greed are not caused by what we eat. Jesus invited the gathered and us today to remember that nothing we eat or don't eat can corrupt us. It is what we do and what ill we harbor that corrupts us.

Today, I want to ask forgiveness for all the anger and envy I harbor. I want to worry only about how well I treat people and how much compassion I hold in my heart. I pray that we can all live today with the love God has given us. A love which cares nothing for society's rules but cares completely for each and every one of us. We are invited by Jesus to let go the restrictions and love across all barriers of culture, religion or lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fear takes hold


“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:50
Fear is one of those things that is contagious. When human beings are in groups, fear can rush through a crowd like an epidemic, like a silent killer. Sometimes there is a known enemy, and sometimes there is just general anxiety. And then there are the fears that overcome ever individual - fear of failure and not measuring up to some one's or our standards. We doubt ourselves and we lose trust in our gifts, skills and instincts. As I got ready to start work in this wonderful and loving congregation, I was afraid. Not of them but of my self and my own mistakes. Would they forgive me my humanity? Every beginning of a school year, every new job, every new challenge and we all tend to be very afraid. The good news is Jesus knows all about our fear and walks on the water to comfort us. Jesus, being human, understood fear. And when he spoke to his disciples, identified himself and told them to not be afraid. Our relationship with Christ is not conceived nor grounded in fear, rather in comfort and personal assurance. Jesus also knows how all encompassing fear can be, how gentle humans can become violent ignited by fear, and how normal the fear experience is for us all. And he says to us today - take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.

Today, I ask only that I walk this day in trust and not in fear. It is all too easy to count the challenges and be overwhelmed. It takes trust to believe that God will right all sinking boats - but that is the promise. In Christ Jesus, there is no storm, no calamity to which he can't bring calm and peace. So may my heart be bold today, trusting in the presence of Christ's peace in my every day walk.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Purple Goods


And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.Act 16:13-15

We went to a farmer's market this weekend and were disappointed. Everything was overpriced and very limited in scope. I have learned over the years that knowing good places to shop, where the items are good and sold for a reasonable price is a real honored gift. People who are in the know are consulted regularly and are considered a real insider. New Yorkers are particularly fussy about shopping - getting high quality for a low price. I have been looking for and avoiding looking for a dress for our daughter's wedding. All of the mother of the bride dresses that I have seen are quite ugly and considerably overpriced. I am not slim nor am I easy to fit. Top that off with an abhorrent selection, and we are in real trouble. Fortunately for me, I am in a place where there are some real insiders, people who know the score and can direct me to the right place.

Lydia was a real insider, a merchant with a flourishing business, who wasn't easily fooled, nor easily sold. She was a treasured member of the community for she knew real value and genuine people. And Paul and company meet with her and her friends, and Lydia had a n open heart and a sharp mind, and God used both of them, heart and mind, to bring love and good news to an entire family and community.

Today, I want to use the gifts I have, all of them, to witness to God's love in my life. Heart, mind, voice and soul - all of it God uses. I pray that we can all offer what we have for the transformation of the world. Today.

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Monday


I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life. Psalm 56:13-14


Today I offer the words to a song that has been important to me and my family. I may have written these words before, but somehow they are important to hear again today.

The Mother's Lullaby

How could anyone ever tell you
that you're anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
that you're less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice
that you're loving is a miracle?
How deeply you're connected to my soul.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Second Sunday


"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." John 6:18

Today is the second Sunday of my ministry here at All Saints', and I am thrilled to be here with these people, where I know we belong together. And I also know that it takes time to settle in and get acquainted, takes time to learn how to preach authentically with these people, and it takes time to know the needs of this congregation. I am anxious to do all of those things well. Despite all my training, and the myriad places I have been, coming home challenges me to be more honest, more open and clear, more transparent than ever. And that means I have to pick up and examine things and relationships I left behind when I graduated from high school.

Emily discovered my year book when she was helping me unpack. She wanted me to tell her all about so many people and things, I became overwhelmed. And then Phoebe found it and she wanted to know so much more. It was fun and funny in both circumstances, and it made me realize that God does not lose people, even when when we have ignored them or abandoned them. Even when we flee from them, desperately wanting to grow up and make our mark on the world. And coming home, to this community that raised me, I know in a new way, that the Creator gathers up the lost and the leftovers, the strands that we cut off and finds a way to bind us back together, in new ways, so that an an even more complete creation can be known. God gathers so that we might be restored, even when we think it unnecessary or inconvenient.

This Second Sunday, I want to gather with the people I have been called to serve and find new ways to be bound together in service. I want to know God's gathering us up together, so that nothing may be lost and that love might remain.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Betsy's Birthday




For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother's womb.I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works;my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139:1-17


My baby sister Betsy has a birthday today. She is the youngest of five, and six and a half years younger than I am. I was old enough to help care for her when she was born. As she grew, I would take her for walks in her stroller, take her to the park and do all the things older sibling do with their younger siblings. We went to movies as she got older. She also wanted me to take her horse back riding on her 12th birthday. She was insistent and I was indulgent. I didn't have much skill with horses but we had a riding stable near our home in Cape May Point and so I took her there. Betsy was of that age when girls are in love with horses. We had an young and inexperienced guide, Betsy's horse got spooked, and she fell off her horse that day fateful day. What had been the most wonderful of birthday presents quickly became a terrible mess. She broke her leg quite badly and was off her feet and in a wheel chair the rest of that summer and into the fall. I felt horribly responsible, even though I was only trying yo make her happy for her birthday. I had a long siege of bad dreams and an even longer siege with the guilt. She was my beautiful little sister and I had brought her pain.

I have grown since those times and we have had children of our own. And now they are grown too. I have watched loving sisters, loving parents - all of us try to make another happy, only to bring unexpected pain. And what I know for sure is that none of the pain and setbacks change one ounce of how "fearfully and wonderfully" we are made. Age and challenges, disabilities, losses and disappointments - none of it can damage in the least God's incredible creations. My sister, my children - all of us - are marvelously made by a marvelous creator who does not love us any less when we fall from grace or from the back of a horse. Nor does God put obstacles in our way. God is the source of love for all precious creations. We are treasured completely.

Today, I want to live seeing God's treasures in every person I meet. God's perfect creation mirrored in all the lives I encounter today.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Girls and Women



But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:33-34

and

Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:41-43

Little girl arise
your healing has come
God delights in your making
your rounded shape the high
glistening pitches of your voice,
Your creator delights in your dance
and you have been made perfect
and complete.

Old woman once bent
twice healed by touch and by voice
the Savior of the world declares
your steadfast faith
in the face of shame, destruction
ridicule, poverty and abandonment.

We are little girls and old women all,
dancing and cringing, praying
that our offering is worthy
understanding that generations
silent and culturally appropriate
have their eyes on us from eternity
from their long abandoned hopes
their lost dreams, raise their prayers
still for women young and old alike.

Get up and feast and tell your story
for the God of love has created you
perfectly, completely, wonderfully
and your brokenness is not God's gift
nor punishment from a cruel maker,
but a jealous anger from the other side.

Get up and dance and sing your story
for Christ comes near to those who witness
he touches those who are fearless despite
the agony of rules, the oppression
of fashion, beauty and control.

Little girl arise, old woman look up
for the Savior draws near delighting
in your warn hands, your radiant smile
the breath of life which you both carry,
carry for God, who created you, wonderful,
perfect and complete.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My name is Legion



And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.

I have been searching our new home for days. I had taken possession of the wedding invitations that my daughter Ariel had purchased, right before we moved. I was sure I put them in a safe place. I even remember commenting that where I put them was going to be very easy to find. That was the day befroe the move. Now, a month later, they were no where to be found. I searched the attic with no luck. The garage and basement likewise. All throughout this large and splendid I opened boxes, dug through closets and bins.Nothing. I felt like a woman tormented and was afraid my daughter would never forgive me.

I finally called her yesterday and found out where she got them. Then I went to that store, they have one near our new home, and found them after searching for a while. I felt like I had been released from prison, free from the shackles of my huge failing, from my huge mistakes, from the demons of failure that were swirling around. For a moment I understood the man who Jesus cured of demons. He was in his right mind finally, and so was I.

Today I want to live every moment understanding that Jesus can intervene even when I have created a terrible mess. Even when the mess is of my own making. Jesus is willing to be in the midst of our ugliest disasters. Jesus is willing and able to be in the midst of the legions of disasters and demons we create for ourselves. May we all go forward today, asking Jesus to help us throw off the burdens of guilt and shame we are carrying. The burden that sends us away from those we love and from community because of our shame. May we know that Jesus will come to our wilderness and restore us, body, mind and soul.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rough Seas


On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

I got a call the other night from a friend who was telling me about a long term relationship which ended. She was terrified for the future and she described the feeling like she was perishing. All that she counted had now changed, she doubts herself, wonders about her choices and is afraid for her survival. She is experiencing rough seas and no simple words of comfort stop the wind and the rain. Very few of us have experienced a near death experience in a boat, but many of us have felt the panic of horrible personal storms and rough seas. It can feel as if God is asleep in some back room of our lives, at least ignoring what is happening to us, and at the worst, allowing it to happen. God neither ignores us nor permits hurt, but we can feel isolated and alone, separated from God in these times.

Today, I want to remember that the disciples woke up Jesus. They did not passively accept their fate but rather woke Jesus up. They told him the real circumstances and their fears and he brought forth a great calm. Today, I want to remember to pray in everything, to take all of my storms and challenges to Jesus. I want to remember that Jesus is in the boat with me and invite him to show me his power in the face of adversity, great and small. None of us is strong enough to face these storms alone, but with Christ Jesus on our side we are never alone. May we all invite Jesus into our storms today, expecting calm and a way to safe harbor. And may our calm and safe harbors, when arrived at, be shared with others who are in such desperate need.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Measure for Measure


And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Mark 4:21-25

When I grew up in this town, the to which I have now returned, I was always aware that as a clergy kid, everything I did would be found out. There was no getting away with anything and everything would be brought to light. That doesn't mean I didn't try to get away with a few things in my teenage years, it just means I had a sense that it was not possible to do something without a report getting back to my parents. The experience of 'nothing is hidden' was negative in those days. I just wanted to be a normal kid growing up. Today I realize that 'nothing is hidden' has positive connotations as well, and that I am discovering many plants that grew out of ancient seeds, and many programs that continue to thrive. The measure we use -more will be given. God is always increasing our capacity if we will trust God with our limited selves.

May today be an offering, a giving of a small measure, trusting that God will use and increase what ever we are able to offer. In these days of limited incomes and anxious economies, we are reminded that Gods coffers are full to overflowing, and that the capacity and increase of the creator are unlimited. We might all be tempted to hoard, but today I am encouraged to spend - my gifts and small measure I can - so that God can display increase. May we all offer our small portion so that God's love might increase in this world, so desperate for a generosity of the heart.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Boat by the Sea


Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. Mark 4:1-2
A common sight in the sky above beaches these days are small bi-planes pulling signs advertising one restaurant or another, sometimes a car dealership, and sometimes a type of drink or bank. I always have wondered how effective these ads really are. And yet I know I pay close attention, as the old planes dip close to the beach carrying their signs. The old crop duster are now employed in getting people to spend their money.

I have often wondered also, how effective it was for Jesus to be out on a boat, speaking to a huge crowd. Were people able to hear him, and did his words get to them completely. My experience of a sea is a noisy one, with waves crashing loudly, covering all but the loudest loud mouth. And yet maybe the sea that Jesus and his disciples moored on was more gentle and less noisy, than the Atlantic. Maybe too, people strained to hear and listened carefully. Either way, then or now, there is often a lot of noise and a lot of distractions that get in the way of us hearing God's word.

Today I want to practice listening. There is much to hear and see and I would hear what God would have me. It is so easy to get caught up in the distractions of life and not hear and see the love right on our doorsteps. May we recognize that God is making a daily dramatic effort to reach us, through stories and the people in our lives. May we all lean in so that we can hear God, who so much wants us to hear and experience the love that is in our lives.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Home


Today, I preached and celebrated for the first time as Rector of All Saints' Church in Harrison, New york. I am so grateful to be here and everyone made me feel right at home. So my blog for today is a simple prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Loving and Tender God,
today I returned to the community that fashioned me
in a new role, in a new place and I have found home with them.

You formed me and grew me up here
and you sent me on my way through years
of study and learning, you have always lead me
by the hand. You made paths straight when my life was crooked.
You made enemies into friends and covered me always with mercy.

My heart can't help but sing. My voice trembles with joy
as I reach for words that speak of thankfulness and your constancy.

When I lost my way, you lead me,
when I gave up your strengthen me.
And now here I am where I began and you have made me a home,
a welcome beyond expectations, a heart bursting with joy.

With a humble and thankful heart, I ask for you continuing
presence and guidance. Bless these gracious people,
help me to care for them and be their pastor.
Make us one in you. I ask this all in the name of Jesus,
who came that we might all be your family,
and that we might all be at home with you. Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Family Time


And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’Mark 3:33-35

I remember a time in my life when I wanted to disassociate myself from my family. They were too religious for my liking, they were not cool in any way, and I was embarrassed to be with them. I must have been fifteen or sixteen at the height of these feelings. All kids go through a time of rejecting - parents, rules, identity, teachers - all on the way to being a individual, an adult facing the world. We go through phases of family pride and embarrassment.

Jesus' family shows up on the scene and he trivialized their connection, their true identity as family. I don't think this was teenage angst, but a reminder for us all that family is more than biological. Family is a gift from God and is as wide as the sea. We can draw in and make nobody family, or we can open our hearts and let others in. I don't know the real reason for that scene, but I do know it shows Jesus both fully human and radiantly divine. We are born into families, great and small, but there is a larger family of God which is vast and ever growing. We are never alone. In God, we are never without family.

Precious Lord, we sometimes feel so all alone,
take us by the hand and lead us as we go.

We feel like outsiders some day but you have made us family,
knitting us together with people across the globe
a tapestry of colors and a symphony of voices.

Grace us with your presence at our tables,
in our travels, in our words and actions may we honor you.

We are your family, human and torn
but you have promised to make us your own,
brothers and sisters in the family of God.

We ask for your life and love so that we might server you
in the name of Jesus Christ, our brother and savior. Amen.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Naming Home


He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles,* to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve:* Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Ten he went home. Mark 3:13-19

Each of us has a group of people,or a special place, or maybe even a time of year that pronounces home for us. That place where we go when the hard work of the day is done. The people we go to who know our name and have seen everything stupid we have ever done and love us still. That place where the lighting is right and there is comfort for the weary soul. "Where every body knows your name and they're always glad you came." The old song from the opening of the TV show Cheers nailed perfectly that sense of home.

Jesus calls his disciples, names them one by one, and gives them tasks to do for the work of ministry. He is at home with them, full of comfort and support. He can go home because they have provided home for him and his ministry. Everything isn't perfect, but everything is finally just right for the moment.

As General Convention winds down and we reflect collectively on what we have done, there is a great joy in many as they think of going home. Has a home been created for outsiders and others? Is the ministry empowered and are people known by name? Only time can tell what out home, the Episcopal Church, will look like. I pray there is room for everyone at home, that home expands and not retracts as life get complicated.

Dear God,
we all want to go home, the exhaustion overwhelms us
the work has worn us down and the days have been too long for us all.
We came to do mission and be renewed for ministry
and we ask that all of our efforts not be in vain.

Bless our work, however broken and human we might be.
Bless the gifts we have to offer,
however small and misshapen they may seem.

Take our humble human struggles and make them a blessing
for our church and the world.

And may your light shine through us,
Gracious savior who died so we might live; Amen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Time Out


Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’ Mark 2:27-28
Sometimes in life we have to break the rules. When my children were small and broke rules, they got a time out. Either a few minutes of quiet away from the action, or a sit in a chair away from TV or any other entertainment. The time out never lasted too long, and we were fairly inconsistent parents. We wanted our children to have limits mostly so they were safe. All humans test the limits and break the rules. And sometimes we have to break the rules so that we can survive, or so that the routine does not become God. God needs to be God.

Every so often when the girls were little we would have what we called picky dinner. We would spread a blanket on the floor, and put together trays of food we could eat with our hands. Carrot sticks, popcorn, crackers, cheese, bologna roll-ups - all the foods we could grab and eat, against the normal rules of the house. But the time away from the rules, the time out from a balanced diet and some semblance of manners, allowed us all to know the blessings of life. We were together, we were fed, and life as we knew it went on despite the break in propriety. God is still God, no matter how we break the rules. And God loves us just the same, in time out or well-behaved.

Gracious Creator, you gave us choice and challenge us to be faithful.
Grant us the grace to know when to follow custom and when following
custom keeps us from following you.
Your road is love, walked and lived out in all times.
Your road is justice, raining down on us daily.
Your road is light and truth, day and night and we desire to follow you.
Give us courage to break through boundaries of ear and discrimination,
so that we might bring others to your sacred road.
Fill us with spirit, feed us with strength,so that body mind and soul
might keep walking, and rejoicing as we follow you.
In the name of your loving son who sacrificed his all that we might
walk this sacred Godly path. Amen

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Doctor, Doctor


And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark2:17

When we were all young, many aspired to be doctors. It seemed like a noble profession. In the fifties, girls grew up to be nurses and boys became doctors. Life is much more complicated and fluid now. The roles we have are often multiple and unrecognizable to our forbears. And yet, we prize doctors today, as we did many generations ago.

One of the hardest things about moving is changing doctors. Our health insurance provider insists on a primary care physician, who will send to specialist as needed. But how do you chose a doctor, one who will treat you like a person and have great skills and professional reputation? We rely on doctors a lot. And it would seem that Jesus understood the critical role of doctors and liken his presence to the call for a doctor. When someone is sick, then and now, we think of calling a doctor, hoping that doctor will find a cure for what ails us.

The Pharisees criticized Jesus for sitting with sinners, and Jesus tells them that it is with them that he belongs. The religious, the righteous and those who are well don't need him. These religious leaders could not respond that they needed him too, as they were sinners like the others. Their culture and pride of place kept them from being honest about their need. We are no different today. One group criticizes another, thinking the other sinners, while no group is willing to admit their need of a savior. May we all today admit our need, knowing that Jesus is coming to sit with us. Jesus is coming to mingle with the lowlifes and the failures, the frightened and the broken, the isolated and rejected - Jesus is coming to sit with those in need. The doctor will be right with you.

Dear God, you made us in your image
and we squash your likeness so we do not acknowledge our brokenness.

Come among us today and sit with all of us sinners.
Make us glad in our failures and your healing.
Help us to let go of pride and set aside our false righteousness.
We are broken people all, and we need you today.
Amen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good Friends


"and when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay." Mark 2:4
Today is my youngest daughter's birthday. She is 21 today, fully an adult and still fully my child, though I am sure there are days where she has wished otherwise. Phoebe was born the summer between my second and final year of seminary, right smack dab in the middle of General Convention. Sitting there last weekend, in the House of Bishops, I couldn't help think of that summer so long ago when the last thing on my mind was General Convention. I did get a phone call from my Bishop, Ted Eastman, with prayers and blessings on our new arrival. That was very nice. But the business of Convention mattered little to the incredible reality that a little life had deemed to come among us. Phoebe was beautiful and perfect, a child who was compassionate and creative from the get-go. And she has always been the best of friends. I could see her as one of the folks helping the paralysed man to see Jesus. I can see her tearing through a roof for the good of another. I know that her love and care for others is that strong. And in light of her life, all the machinations of so many conventions just have to take a back seat. Life takes precedence over politics. And when life is threatened by politics, then good people must speak up. I have heard Phoebe and our two other daughters, Emily and Ariel, raise their voices loud when politics overshadows life. And I couldn't be prouder.

Dear God, who fashioned us all in your image,
restore us the hearts that you first gave us.

Give us legs that carry the load for those who can't walk,
arms that lift up the weak and bodies that move for the life of others.

May our work and words be dedicated to healing.
May our lives be dedicated to loving all, as you do.

Make our deliberations light and our words kind
so that travelers everywhere might find safe rest with us.

And may our passage through this life be completed
as we find your love in our midst. Amen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What Mothers Do


"And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them." Mark 1:31

My childhood friend sent me a picture of a ding dong school bell, like the one her mother used to use to call them in for supper and chores. We had a bell too, which my mother rang indoors and out to collect us. We were easily scattered and resistant to conformity of any kind, but the bell reminded us where we belonged and to whom we belonged. I find my mother at 86 worrying still about what she is going to make for dinner when we are there, and still trying to gather us all in. It is what mothers do. We can't help ourselves. There is a level of ingrained responsibility for the care and feeding of children, no matter what age, and no matter whose children they might be. I know if there were other children at our house at meal times, they were given a plate and a place. They might have just eaten, but my mother could not leave them out or set them aside.

As the second week of General Convention unfolds, I am reminded of all the beloved people I met in Anaheim who were tired and exhausted to the core. My heart ached for them and when I left yesterday morning early, I ached with the desire to do more, to feed others to ring everyone in and set a place for them. I know it is dangerous to try to care for other adults, but there is also the genuine care and compassion that is deeply rooted in mothers. Simon's mother, healed, got up from her deathbed to serve her son and his friends. One can only wonder whether she rang a bell to call everyone in, to gather up everyone and set a place for all.

Healing God,
you reach out and touch or fevered brows
turn our mourning into joy and revive us for service.

Bring you healing touch to our leaders.
Give our deputies, delegates and bishops
and all who represent us, your spirit
of gathering and feeding that they might all
rise up together to serve the world.

Keep the poison of selfishness from them
guard them from greed and isolation
and surround them with caretakers who will call them home,
renewing and restoring them to be your hands today.

We ask this all in the name of Christ who heart was constantly moved
whose hands reached out in love and healing and who is present now
where love abides. Amen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Popularity Contests


"When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests." Luke 6:22

I am aware that I am very biased about popularity contests. As a chubby and awkward kid, I was never picked first for any team. I think that sticks with you for a life time. Those of us who have been last in contests are very quick to point them out in adult life. The kids who always won the contests rarely knew they were even going on. Neither one has the whole truth. Humans are in competition all of the time. We want to win and be beautiful. We want to get our way and will go to extremes to succeed.

I was sitting outside of the meeting area of General Convention and overheard a conversation. Someone was complaining about the beauty contests and how cruel people in the church can be to one another. They said this with some surprise and much hurt. This fragile human institution, the church, is complicated and hurtful, as tender and vulnerable as the humans that inhabit her. Despite the sometimes horrid way we do business and they way we discount and reject certain groups or peoples, God still blesses our ministries and finds ways through all the brokenness to find hope.

One girl's dance made John lose his head. She won for the moment. John was a political target because he had told the truth about Herodias, who pulled out all her best weapons in retaliation. Truth speakers have very short life spans and never win popularity contests. John lost his head for following God and for speaking truth to power. I pray today that we can, as humans in an imperfect church, offer our imperfections to God's healing touch.


Wondrous God, you fashioned us in your image
forming us with your loving hands,
breathing your spirit within us.

We your creatures are splendidly made
and completely capable of destroying one another.
We look on your creation with contempt and jealousy.

Help us today, to let go of power and competition
rejoicing in our imperfections as they are simply
ways for us to be found again by you.

May our personal and corporate devotion this day
be laced with forgiveness and compassion
clarity about our place in creation
and honest reflection on the harm we have caused.

Make our dance this day be grateful and appreciative
blessed children in the face of our loving creator,
each member necessary to the song, each one step
a humble approach to perfect love reborn within us.

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Fishing



"Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Mark 1:17


Today, as I was returning to the House of Bishops after a break, a woman grabbed me by the shoulders. She glared and me started to escort me out of the house, until she realized I had the right tags and I belonged. I tried not be be abrupt with her, but I was startled and humbled by her. She was just doing her job, I know that. She was given the assignment to stop folks who didn't belong there. She was trying to do her job to the best of her ability. She had cast her net and was drawing me in. At the end of the day, she offered me an apology and I forgave her and hugged her. It really wasn't her fault but the circumstances we find ourselves in, that we have to prohibit folks from being part of our ranks, being part of the house of shepherds, teachers and evangelists. Or are we?

I suspect that the people chosen by Jesus, the rough fishermen, the tax collector were all sorts of odd balls who didn't belong in the house. They were rough, honest, with hard lives and harder tasks. They weren't cut out of the pretty cloth but were the scarred and ravaged underprivileged of his time. And it was these who were called to follow Jesus and found the church, found our faith and be shepherds, evangelists and teachers. I suspect they would get tossed out even now.May God give us the grace to follow with Peter and Andrew, James and John. They left it all and followed Jesus. They brought their whole selves and followed Jesus. They didn't inflate themselves but got on with it and followed Jesus.

Gracious God, who fashioned rest for the weary
and soft shoulders for those who mourn,
grant us a vision of your followers and our leaders.

May those who feel called to lead
be feel called to be humble and plain
may their outer ways reflect and inner tender heart.

May love and compassion be our only credential
may serving others be our only rewards.

May we today leave our pompous and humble nets
so that we might give all of ourselves to following you.

In the name of Christ, who walked knee deep in our lakes
and called to those fishermen, that we might all be drawn in
to the love of God and service to the people around us.

Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Out in the Desert


"At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals and the angels attended him." Mark 1"12-13

I arrived midday yesterday in Anaheim, the home of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse. Close to the Pacific Ocean, the climate here is warm and dry -somewhat like a desert. I don't know if the spirit sent me here, but there are plenty of temptations for forty days worth. It is a blessing that General Convention lasts only a few weeks and that I will only be here four days. There are no wild animals here exactly, but there is a great deal of animal instinct that guides our politics and deliberations. Where there is power and decisions to be made, there comes always temptation and competition.

I have been blessed since arriving here, to be met by friends from all over - people from all walks of life who come to Convention to be connected joyously with the larger church. It is all too easy at any large church gathering to see the challenges and temptations. I would rather celebrate the people and angels God has blessed me with throughout my ministry. I pray that today we can all see beyond the primal competition to the love we have been so richly blessed with as we gather with others from across the church.

Dear God, you pronounced love and pleasure on Jesus at his baptism.
Help us remember you have said they same to us.
Help us to know our wildernesses as full of angels.
Give us us to see your sparks of love in friend and stranger alike.
Bless us with joy in our temptations that they may lead to a deeper
and more complete trust in you.

We are lost without you, but you have promised to be with us,
even to the ends of the earth.

Visit us this day with love and forbearance so that in our trials
we might become a blessing for the whole church.

We ask this all in Christ's name, Amen.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Staying Together


"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay together in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."Luke 24:49
I fly very early today to join the throng at General Convention in Anaheim. This is the first time since I was elected bishop that I will not stay the whole time. I am going only for a few days so I can return to New York and begin my work in All Saints' Church. Though I have mixed feelings about being there for only part, I know that God will grant me wisdom to do those things which are necessary. Staying together with my brothers and sisters in Anaheim is very important. Staying together as a family is also very important and is my first ministry. Being with the people who have committed to join me in ministry is crucial. And so I pray for God's guidance and power as I do a new thing and live a different way of being a bishop in this church. As I fly I will think of those disciples who waited together for power from on high. When Pentecost came they set out and ended up in very different places and with very different understandings of ministry and the church. It has always been this way. May God bless us all as we attempt to minister faithfully and stay together compassionately.

Dear God, we are called and sent
on different roads, facing east or west
some north or south, companions on the way
but not the leader, nor the guide.

Be our leader, be our guide for we are lost
without you, without your daily touch.
Like the first disciple we argue and dispute
we are confused and frightened alone
and in holy company.

Be our compass, our north and south
our magnet and center so that we together
might find your way and your gift of faith.

Help us very ordinary humans
to be extraordinary disciples who stay together
so that love might flourish in the city,
so that hope might blossom in the desert.

We ask this all in the faith of the trinity
one God, staying together for us, for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

At the Table


"When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight." Luke 24:30-31

Whenever people gather around a table for a meal, even if they are eating on a blanket spread on the ground, or around a campfire, or with no light at all -recognition and relationships are made and renewed. There is something in the act of sharing and eating that finds us more than who we used to be. We are entangled joyously with others, we hear in new ways and we see folks differently. Unfortunately, our eyes can be opened all to late and our hearts can be moved without us acting on the impulse of God given love. We can too easily turn away and turn back, no matter how glorious the encounter. We might talk about it for years to come as a magical event and yet we will shrink from recreating feasts because we are so sure of failure.

Jesus walks and talks with his best friends and they fail to recognize him. When they finally eat, they see him wholly and he disappears from their presence. How often, with those we love, do we fail to recognize them until it's too late? How often do we let living love pass us by? Among my brothers and sisters at General Convention, how often have we let the discussion spoil the meals and our knowing God in our presence? Today may we all be brave enough to welcome the risen Christ to our tables. Today, may we make our home with God and one another.

Holy Savior, you walked with your friends
and they knew you not.
You walk with us today and whisper love
and we turn away all too often.
Help us to set a table for God's love
help us welcome the stranger
and help us to see you in the foreigner
at table with us today.

Widen our understanding
increase our listening
and be with us at every meal.

We need your love as we try to be
your love made present in this world.

We ask this all in the name of Christ
who walked among strangers and made
them friends, Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Women's Tales


"Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the Mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them." Luke 24:10-11

Not very often, but once in a while something extraordinary happens and only women witness it. It ancient times, there were only women around when a child was born. It is possible, very possible that Joseph did not witness Jesus' birth, rather he fetched some local women to help Mary through her pains. It has only been in recent history that doctors helped babies into the world. There are other things that have been the sole propriety of women - like all of the preparations of a body for burial - these were often done exclusively by women. And until recent history, very few men ever found their way into the sacristy of a church if they were not a priest - that was women's work. So when these women return, these faithful, well grounded women return from the grave yard and claim that Jesus is alive...their story is taken as fiction, as an idle tale, as crazy talk. And yet many women, up until recent times, knew more about lifer and death than any man. They had witnessed the miracle of the resurrection and were considered foolish and their story silly.

As we enter into our gathering at General Convention, I am reminded how recently it was that we allowed women on the floor of General Convention. It was even more recently that women came as clergy and even more so as bishops. Throughout our history, the women of the church have been gathering, telling their stories and doing the work of the church. The Triennial meeting continues still and their ministries continue. But their stories are rarely told, although they bear witness to life and death and everyday miracles. May we all give thanks for the mighty and truthful witness of women down through the ages.

Creator,
who fashioned us all within a woman
and who teased from Mary the son of Man
you are showing us daily the miracles of your love.

Help us this day to listen.
Help us this day to be humble.
Help us to lift up the silent witnesses
the ignored and disenfranchised
the constant loving observers
and the women who have work on our behalf
all along.

May we rejoice in the voices,
smiles, tears, laughter and prophesies
that women speak today.

Give us your heart so that we might hear
the voices outside our hallowed halls.

Give us the courage to invite the stranger in
and the humility to honor them with a mother's love.

In Christ, who first appeared to the women
who were faithful beyond the end, Amen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It Begins


"Father into your hands I commit my spirit!" Luke 23:46
Today, people from all over are flying into Anaheim to participate in our General Convention. I will go for just a few days, starting on Thursday, but I do know I will have to prepare heart and soul for those days. It is a wonderful, celebratory time, where Episcopalians come together. It is also a horrid time when politics divide us and we use words to injure some and separate others. Church folks can be very careless in their self-righteousness. And they we can be blind to our own folly. So these next days I will be writing prayers for the whole church, ours and the faithful world wide. Jesus offers up his dying breath, committing all of himself to God, his loving and compassionate father. I ask that I too, can give myself over to God in the coming days, being an instrument of the chorus of love.


Dear God of East and West
North and South, we gather
with minds and hearts racing
trying to do your will and win the day.
We gather and are quickly scattered
heart, mind and soul.

Pick up our pieces and remake us.
Weave us together as new cloth.
May our broken bits be your glory
may our unholy pride fall to the floor
and may the floor of convention
be the garden of your compassionate mission.

Give us new eyes to see that fabric rent
is your heart torn.
Help us to clothe ourselves with humility
help us to shed our self-glory robes.

Make us your people and break our hearts for loves sake.
In the name of Jesus, broken that we might live, Amen.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Weep



"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children." Luke 23:28


I am used to weeping. Being the mother of three girls and having three sisters, there has been significant weeping in my life. Some of it has been out of frustration, some from the cuts and scraps of life and some from the incredible crushing losses the face us as a family and as people from time to time. Broken hearts and broken promises, false friends and partners, and the overwhelnming cruel rejection that the world hands out so carelessly - all of these bring on weeping. Tears can clenas the soul and push the ache out, finally.

Jesus sees women, beloved women around him and calls them daughters. They are his family and they are weeping. Their loss is so iminent and real. The ache is overhwelming. Jesus instructs them to weep and ache for their children, the ones who need their love and protection. The world is a cruel place, and soemtimes it seems as if evil wins. The moments ahead were dark ones, and Jesus knew all too well the ugliness of human hearts.

Today, I want to have a soft heart, one that is able to weep and ache in the correct time. All too often, especially when exhausted as I have been, I lose the capacity for tenderness and empathy. Not becuase I want to or am cruel by nature, but just that being tired takes the gifts from us all. I ask God to renew and restore me today so that I might have a new level of compassion and care for my family and neighbors. I ask God for a soft heart, one capable of weeping, one that aches with compassion for the world.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What evil



"What evil has he done?" Luke 23:22

I have spent so much time on the road this week, back and forth to Drew, that I have hardly been able to study or pray, except for little snatches while in traffic. It is not a good idea for me to close my eyes to pray while driving, but I do have lots of time to lift up all the people who are close to my heart. I am amazed that in such a short time the people in my class have become family, and a family together. They watch out and care for each other, feed each other and tease one another constantly. There is love in evidence. They might be competing but instead are caring and concerned for one another.

Jesus is facing the last days of his life, and he is on trail before the mob. He has scared them with his love, with his radical inclusion and they want him dead. The leaders only want to chastise him and send him away. Pilate repeatedly asks about the evil this man has done. But there is no answer, for love and inclusion are never evil. People can hate and fear those who include strangers in their family. They can hate those who are different or who make them jealous - but none of those things are evil.

For what remains of today I want to walk with the love of Jesus, who facing the gallows and the ridicule and rejection of the people, did not assume his lack of popularity meant he was evil, or out of relation with God. People sometimes just hate. Their hurt and fear turns into hate of another. I ask God to help me forgive that kind of hate, that kind of targeting, that kind of fear lived out large. Too many people never get loved like family. I want to spend my time loving and including, forgiving and blessing and invite you to do the same.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Under Pressure


"When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies."

These past few days I have been driving back and forth from our new home in New York to Madison, New Jersey in order to teach at Drew. These summer sessions are very intensive, and this one is particularly intense as we are meeting all day for a week. What a normal course might cover in a semester we are covering in a week. There is lots to read and absorb, and there is little time to be wasted. They are very good sports and excellent students, all of them in the Doctor of Ministry program from many places across the country. All of them have very full lives and are diligent in their studies as well. They are under enormous pressure but rarely show it. I find the commute back and forth to be the most stressful part of the work and I put the pressure on myself to provide for them a rich experience.

Jesus finds himself before Herod and Pilate. Both men are initially fascinated with Jesus but also fearful of his power. They are under extraordinary pressure from the local religious authorities, and they put Jesus under incredible scrutiny. His refusal to knuckle under their pressure infuriates the potentates. They become friends out of mutual hatred for Jesus who would not muscle under for their power. How often we pressure ourselves to succeed and accomplish when we are really trying to score and retain power. How often are we invited by God into silence and prayer when we want to respond to pressure from all around for action. Too often we make friends with bad people and make bad agreements, just so that the pressure on us is lessened.

Today, I want to live without pressure, knowing there is much to do, but also knowing, as Jesus does, that God is in charge and the only one to whom we answer. God promises to never give us more burden than we can carry, more pressure than we can take. God does not push people to the breaking point - people do. And so today I want to recognise pressure as a attribute of being human and offer all the pressure and performance anxiety to God, asking for peace in the midst of pressured times. May we all invite God into our day, into the pressures and anxiety, knowing that God's shoulders are vast and broad and our burdens and pressures are small things to the author of love.