Monday, November 30, 2009
“Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”Matthew 21:5
Whenever I think about riding a donkey, I think about Mary, "great with child", riding to Bethlehem to deliver the Christ Child. From children's books to great paintings in museums, Mary will be depicted riding on a donkey. The meek and lowly mother of God is etched in my psyche as riding on a donkey into Bethlehem. And yet, that image appears no where in the scripture for Mary. No word was said that she road a donkey - anywhere. What is said very clearly in scripture is the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on donkey, being welcomed as a king. A most humble entrance and a most fabulous welcome. And I cannot help but wonder what the donkey thought of all the commotion.
As we walk this Advent journey, I have to consider what it means for us today to ride on a donkey. How do we begin and enter in humbly to this great season, waiting expectantly for the coming of the Christ Child? I am not advocating for riding donkeys everywhere. I wonder how often those of us who have cars ride the bus anymore, or walk to the various errands we do locally. A friend who walks a great deal told me about some incredible things she finds on her walks. Things people drop or toss out of cars. The world is very different when we engage with it by walking the streets, looking directly into the faces of others, seeing who and what has been left behind. Maybe Mary's donkey ride was not in the text, but maybe we can take a cue from her and enter this season with humility and great hope. Fear surrounded her and yet she went on her way.
May we all be courageous today and take on humility for Advent. Find a way to ride a donkey in our own context. Let God introduce us to the humble and poor in our neighborhoods. May we open to the Christ child by not avoiding the stables and the bus stations, and by walking among the people who know our salvation is at hand.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. Luke 21:25
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and we begin a series of lessons that prepare us for Christmas. The talk of signs and wonders - of the coming of the Christ child and of the end of days. It a sort-of sci-fi swirling confusion. We are awaiting a baby - we are awaiting some sort of cataclysmic invasion. As if we all don't have enough anxiety already, the Advent lessons points us to both wonder and destruction.
I am reminded in this season of what it was like to be carrying one of my children. When pregnant, a woman is very vulnerable. Life hangs in the balance every day. There is much to prepare for, much to worry about and a ever changing body to take care of. Two lives totally interdependent. Anticipating life is always being anxious for the outcome and worrying about failure. Whenever we wait for something long expected, we often can ear doom beating a drum in the distance. We are humans and we worry.
The Good News for me today is that despite human worry and the horrible challenges we face in life, God is with us in everything. In the morning and at days end, in the pain and in the joyous moments. God is with us, at the birthing and at the ending - and everywhere in between. Not far off but ever near.
May this first Sunday of Advent invite is all to linger in the taste of God's constant presence. May we all find ways to celebrate the waiting for Christmas with acknowledging God's presence, even when we are faced with hard times. May we feed and reach out to those who are suffering. May our hands be busy and may our hearts be actively loving. May the Emmanuel, God with us, empower us all to live with the signs and wonders, knowing God is standing with us through it all.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him. Matthew 20:33-34
Yesterday we traveled to Norwalk to visit the Aquarium. The place was packed with families on holiday and we had a great time looking at the penguins and the seals. There were fish and turtles, sea horses and frogs and all sorts of life that lives in the water. When we were done we were tired but full. It was then I realized I didn't know where my keys were. We searched my purse and my camera bag. We checked with the Aquarium and the restaurant where we ate. They finally found my keys - still in the car. Thank God no one had gone off with the car! This was frightening that in the confusion of a new place I misplaced my keys. On the other hand, I have been known to misplace my keys on a somewhat regular basis. WE spend a good deal of time looking for misplaced things in my house.
Jesus gives sight to blind men who beg for their healing. In Christ's compassion, he responds to the ache and desire of human beings. And yet we rarely ask and more rarely see when we have been given our sight, or granted our healing. We often stumble around looking for another answer, another set of keys and miss that God is with us, right now, answering our needs as we ask.
Today, I want my eyes and my heart to be open. I want to be able to see God activity in my life and rejoice in everything I witness. May we all have the grace to have full sight of the love and grace that is showered down upon us today.
Friday, November 27, 2009
"It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
Years ago, I worked in a restaurant as a hostess one summer. This restaurant in Cape May was open year round serving to the locals. During the summer, with several outside decks, it was a fast paced, busy placed especially on weekends. My job was to get people seated, make sure they were comfortable, and take names when we had a waiting list. Keeping people happy who are waiting on a table can be very challenging. Some people were rude from the get go, trying to tell me how important they were and how they didn't have to wait in line last time. When they were seated they were often insulting and demanding the whole time. Others were understanding and made me and the rest of the staff feel good. I always remember how I felt in those days and so try to treat the people who are waiting on me in stores and in restaurants with kindness. They deserve it. Jesus says it is these people who will be first.
Today, many people will be running to get great deals on Christmas presents. The will encounter many people who are doing their best to serve them. How will they be treated? Despite a recession and economic down turn, the competition for shopping and bargains has not flagged at all. Will people run over others just to get a deal?
It is hard to be joyful and gentle when everybody is competing and trying to win.
Today, I feel invited to be one of the people who are willing to wait, willing to stand in line, willing to be kind to the people who will serve me today, where ever I go. I feel invited by God to see the goodness and the possibilities in them, rather than judging them by their particular present station in life. I invite you to join me in making God's kingdom known by serving somebody - by putting their feelings and needs first. How different our world would be if we would stop for just a few minutes and serve another.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
"So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16
One might say that competition is a traditional American value. Many of us think that getting the edge or the drop on others is what life is all about. Scoring highest and winning the prize is what life's about. Well, being one of the kids who was never picked first for a team, I can attest to the reality that there is much more to life than being first in line. There are other people waiting on the fence with you. People who can harmonize are much more valuable than the soloist. Kids who can play with the team are much more valuable than the star who is also a liability. We live in a land which often promotes winners over losers and neglect the ones who make quality of life possible. The ones in the back of the line, who are looking straight ahead, not over their shoulder, considering the needs of others and grateful for their part. They are what Thanksgiving is all about for me. Giving thanks for the people who opened their hearts to another, thanking those who made living possible and celebrating the gifts of the unsung heroes in our lives. So here are some of the people I am thankful for today.
The driver who lets me in their lane when I am lost and need to merge.
The check out person who smiles and thanks me even though they have a thankless job.
The train conductor who holds the train until the last of us gets on.
The harried Mom who holds the elevator for an elderly person.
The ones in recovery who are helping others get better.
The children that wait for others and make sure everybody gets a snack.
The people who see sadness on another face and offer a gentle hug.
The people who take time to greet us and stop to talk for a while.
The people who enjoy another person's company more than their blackberry.
For those who collect trash, cut lawns-deliver and collect the things I cannot carry.
For the mechanic who is willing to explain my car to me and make it run again.
For those who see beauty in hard people and hard places.
For those who dance and sing when they could be whining.
For those who reach out to the unlovely and the unloved in all of us.
Today, may we remember that the least among us are the prizes in God's kingdom. Those who seems of no value are precious to God. And may this be for all of us a Thanksgiving where the true heroes shine through. May we give thanks for the heroes who live their lives so that we might have joy abundant in the here and now.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
I have been thinking about aging and how quickly we write people off after a certain age. We don't expect them to do anything new or exciting. Sometimes we turn on ourselves and don't expect anything new of ourselves. We like routine more than possibilities. We sometimes even think that God doesn't expect anything more out of us after a certain age. "I've done my bit, what more do you want?" It is like the people who think they stop being a parent when they children are grown. And yet, God, who is Creator and source of all creation, even ours, reminds us today that possibilities and potentials are blooming within us every single day. There is more to do. God, who give us life and breath expects us to continually grow and change, continually expect miracles and possibilities throughout our lives.
On the day before Thanksgiving, after a year of much change and growth, I want to give thanks for the possibilities that God has given me this year. This time last year, I didn't expect to find myself in the midst of this loving congregation and in this community where I have truly found a home. I didn't expect to find ways to deal with old problems or to have new friends to walk with me on my journey. All of those things have come to pass.
May we expect more of God and ourselves this coming year, knowing that the Great Creator, author of all that is good and life giving, is anxious to fill us to overflowing. May we rejoice when we ache with all the stretching and growing that has occurred in our lives. God's activity becomes possibility for all.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19:13-15
One of my favorite children's book, which I first read to the children in daycare where I worked, and later to my own children, is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Written by Judith Viorst, it depicts a day in the life of a young boy. Everything is ugly that day and he constantly is threatening to move to Australia. He gets gum in his hair, no prize in his cereal, lousy sneakers, and on and on. The small slights and disappointments which add up to a child's desire to run away to some foreign land. At the end of the book, he announces that "some days are like that, even in Australia." The story tells of the daily challenges of being a child in the family and it resonates with every child (and adult) that I have every shared this story with. It is a honest story of the very real challenges of daily life. It makes us laugh and also makes one realize how hard it is for each of us to feel good about ourselves on any given day. Alexander is honest about his feelings and his discouragement.
The disciples have rejected the desire of parents and families to bring children to Jesus. Jesus then turns the tables on the disciples and says that God's kingdom is found among the children. God's kingdom belongs to the children. God's kingdom belongs to those who are willing to admit their need, willing to confess to the complexity of daily living, and to those who are not afraid to ask and to be needy. The disciples want to control their world as many adults do. Jesus wants to show us that God knows how hard it is to be human, and how willing God is to love us as a little child.
Today, I want to remember that I can indeed come to Jesus as a child. I can speak openly of my need and my discouragements. I can be real about the challenges of daily living. And I want to be confident in knowing that God loves me as a little child. I think I will also reread Alexander today, to remind myself of all the others around me who are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and who need a little love and encouragement in their lives. May we all offer ourselves as children so that God's love can live in our midst.
Monday, November 23, 2009
"‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”Matthew 19:5-6
This is the week where we reflect on our blessings and give thanks to God for those blessings. The commercial world would have us worry about getting presents for Christmas and getting the best deals on those gifts. They would have our anxiety over shopping be at the forefront of our minds. So, I am working overtime to focus on the blessings in my life. And whenever I think I blessings, the first thought is always for my husband Mark. We will have been married 35 years this coming May. It may seem trite to some but he is truly mu better half. I consult him on everything, not because I don't trust myself, but because he is so smart and so resourceful. Whenever I find something remarkable, my first move is to share it with him. When he has been ailing, I feel it in my flesh. When he went through a recent health scare, I was beside myself with worry. He makes me laugh all the time and brings brilliance and creativity to my every day. In my darkest hours, he has been my brightest light. No matter how grouchy I get, he loves me tenderly and completely, despite all of my failings. We have three wonderful daughters who are so incredibly wonderful because of who there daddy is. He helped me to be a good mother by being an incredibly gentle and creative father. He made each of my daughters know they were beautiful and special. And he has made me feel capable when faced with my most complete failures. He is a wizard at caring, and I am so grateful that words most often fail.
May prayer for all of us this week is that we can put aside anxiety and expectation and just look around. Forget about cooking and planning - take a look around and see the blessings in your life. They are probably the people who are right beside you, the ones who help do the dishes, take out the trash, find your keys when you're in a panic and tell you how beautiful you are when the world seems scary and hostile. May we all be blessed with partners, family and friends, neighbors and communities that bless us by loving us. And may we be the kind of partners, neighbors and church people who bring out the best on others by offering them our very best.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." John 18:36
When I was a child, I remember being profoundly moved by the Mark Twain story of the Prince and the Pauper. Two boys change place, one so he can avoid the persecution of poverty on the streets and the other to avoid his cloistered world. Neither really understood the others world and thought it was fun and a lark. Instead, when tragedy strikes, the pauper posing as a prince finds himself inadequate for the role. The joy of the story is to watch the normal order of things turned upside down. And how pompous and controlling adults seem to be whether they are rulers in finery or live on the streets. We see the lack of compassion across the board and the drug that power is in both places.
Today, as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, I am reminded how Jesus answers Pilot that his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus isn't Lord of power but of love. A kingdom based on kinship and fidelity, compassion and healing rather than an iron clad despot. It really is not of the world where power and control infect us all. Christ's kingdom appears when people are not swayed by politics but rather by compassion and concern. A kingdom where the poor and the rich are children together at the table.
Today, I want to give thanks for the moments in my life when I have glimpsed the kingdom of God. Whether it is in the love of my family or the compassion of this community, I feel blessed to know Gods reign breaking forth in my midst. May we all be blessed to witness the reign of Christ today. May we all take responsibility to make manifest the love and compassion of Christ.
Friday, November 20, 2009
"Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20
Can you stop a minute here
converse with me can we
agree together and make God
appear here in the midst of busyness ceased.
You swim so beautifully deep
strokes moving water moving
my heart want to know
you try to fly away.
The slanted rays of sun shimmer
the water swirls dancing to the tune
your movement stirs the universe
and yet you are alone.
If we could but agree
to be tow separate beings
floating in the arms of God
dancing on the water's surface
singing the night songs
of promised new dawn,
if we could agree we
could change the world.
If we are but two the last two
aching hearts shadows of former
greatness that has been lost
we still can bring God with us
Emmanuel, love for all times.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3-4
One of the blessings (and sometimes challenges) of serving as clergy in the town where I grew up, is that there are many people who knew me as a child. It was especially apparent the other night at the Celebration of new ministry. Folks from the church where my Dad served came to sing in the choir and sit in the congregation. I was an infant when we came to Harrison, so many of these folks had witnessed a good deal of my growing years - the joys and the sorrows, the awkward and the more awkward times. Being a clergy kid is never easy. Being a clergy kid returning to the community that knew me as a child can be even more of the challenge. It can be a challenge if I have some puffed up, "I am a different person now" sense of things. In fact, being with people who have known me for a long time was humbling and also completely affirming. How blessed I felt that knowing me well, they would still come and celebrate. How blessed and humbled I was to realize they would support me through thick and thin.
The disciples are trying to sort out who is the greatest and they are stunned to find out that Jesus considers children above all of the classy, elegant and learned people. Jesus reminds them, if they would be great, they should be like a child - honest, humble and willing to ask for help and be themselves. That is really hard for adults to do - we want to be put together and on top of our game at all times. And yet we are not ever, really. Being here, I have learned anew what it means to be like a child. There is no denial and no pretensions when one is known so well. And it is our open, vulnerable self that God can work with and use.
Today, I am grateful for this place and the opportunity to be known and loved for who I am. I am thankful for people willing to minister with me in this place. And I am thankful to God for giving me a community of support and witness. May this be a day where we give thanks for all the people in our lives who nurture us and love us just as we are.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27
I have spent a great deal of my life around fish. Our next door neighbor, in the summers, would fish everyday and sell the fish in our little town. I learned to fillet fish when I was small - a child of 6 or 7. In recent years, Mark and I with our daughters have spent hours with lines in the water, standing in the surf, trying to catch fish. The joy of fishing for us is being together and passing a day together. We rarely catch anything. We often refer to children who swim well and comfortably as a fish, and I have a family full of fish. Fish are symbolic of faith and possibility.Fish are so part of who we are that our daughter Ariel and her husband had fish on the tables at their wedding this past September.
Jesus had several disciples who knew fish, who were directly connected with fish and the sea. Others were critical of Jesus and wondered about his paying his taxes. So Jesus sent his disciples, the ones most familiar with fish, to go fishing and find in their most common ways the solution for paying their taxes. Out of the fish's mouth came the coin to cover them all. All too often, when we are paced with shortfalls and are taxed beyond our means, we look for God to help us with a glitzy miracle. Instead, God is most often helping us in the midst of the most common place and familiar. It is where we truly find our blessings.
Today, I am grateful for all the familiar people and things for from them great miracles arise. I ask God today to remind me to keep my focus on the everyday so that I might know God's blessings in my life. I invite us all to give thanks for all of the everyday blessings that make our lives so full and meaningful.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20
Tonight Bishop Sisk will come and I will be officially installed as Rector of All Saints' Church. Friends and family, clergy and lay people will gather to pray and support me and the congregation as we begin this new walk together. At momentous times like these, I always wonder whether I have what is needed to serve this church and these people as God would have them served. Too often, I feel inadequate to the task ahead of me. And it is also momentous times as these that I remember that God is the source of all my faith and all my strength. I have to put one foot in front of the other, praying all the way, asking for God's strength and direction. I cannot do this ministry alone. I count on Christ to empower me to fulfill this call. With God's help, we can indeed move mountains.
So for today, my only prayer is for the faith to do what needs to be done today. One small step at at time, inch by inch, I ask God to give me what I need hour by hour. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and know that God will use me if I but ask and trust in him completely. May we all pray for God's power to work in us so that we may move mountains and hearts in God's service today.
Monday, November 16, 2009
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.Matthew 17:6-8
Last evening my mother helped me cut up a bunch of apples for apple sauce. We had picked these apples several weeks ago and they needed to be used before they went bad. Fresh, homemade apple sauce is a wonderful thing. We cut up all the apples and I poured a little bit of apple cider over the apples and put them on the stave to cook. OR so I thought. I had turned on the back burner and not the front burner where the apples were. Near, but not on, were some bananas my mother had brought with her. I sat in the living room with my family but became curious as I smelled a peculiar odor. I went into the kitchen and discovered my mistake. The bananas that were close to the very hot back burned had changed. The tops of the fruit were black - fire roasted - while the undersides were a normal bright yellow color. They looked like they had been painted and were part of some post modern or avant-garde exhibition. We all got a good laugh but the visual change was incredibly powerful. Powerful enough to appear in our dreams later that night.
The gospel for today is the story of the Transfiguration. A brief moment where the disciples glimpse the true nature of Jesus, in all his glory and eternal relationships. The image is burned into their brains and into the memories, so that years later they would tell of how they had a glimpse of the eternal glory of Christ. The image would stay with them, the moment when Jesus was completely changed for them - if but for a fleeting moment.And they would tell people how impressed and scared they were. What we see day by day is not always the complete picture of God's love and activity in our lives. Sometimes, God give us a glimpse of the true glory and beauty that is in us and around us. Some days the limited are limitless and the broken are made whole.
Today, I want to give thanks for the moments of beauty and completeness that I experience in the people around me. May those images been burned into my memory, so that when challenges come, I will remember the possibilities and the constancy of God in the midst of these changing times.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." Mark 13:1-3
We have just finished living through what was a very mild nor'easter in this part of the world. Other people weren't spared the worst as we were. I remember when I was small and we had a very bad storm. Many of the houses in the little town of Cape May Point were damaged or wiped out completely. I remember the sheer terror I felt as things which were permanent to me, then were completely destroyed. There were tables and chair, toilets and cabinets floating in the still flooded streets. What I believed to be the everlasting in my life was torn asunder. This feeling can be sheer terror for those who have never had the world around them undone. We all suffered together when the terrorist attacks brought down the twin towers and damaged the Pentagon. The earth shaking anxiety that life is on the verge of destruction and we can count on nothing.
Jesus' disciples are awed by the building and wealth in Jerusalem. They admire it and are transfixed by it. The splendor makes it feel trustworthy and permanent. And Jesus asks them, as he asks us, to see that nothing is permanent save the love we have in God. The signs and destruction around us, which unsettle us to the core, are but birth pangs, the beginning of life anew. If we put our faith in quick fixes, fancy gadgets, or oppulence, rahter than in the constancy of God, we might miss the blessing and the new life that God has in store for us.
Today, I want to make my walk with Jesus, a daily commitment to trust completely. Even when what is bedrock to me seems to be shaken, I want to make each breath a prayer, and each action a willful step in following Christ. The loss and pain we feel now, is the opening act of life new and renewed. May we put our whole trust in God today, and know that each pain or threat we feel today is the beginning of new life.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Matthew 9:37-38
Today, All Saints' Church will hold their Angel Fair. This is a major fundraiser for the church, and a very public day for this community. I have watched over the months as people have carefully made crafts, others have baked and cooked and others have donated large amounts of time and money. The love and labor poured out in this church family is incredible. And it is because they see themselves as a family that people are willing to work long and hard together. Despite the major set-up work that needed to happen last evening, there was no griping but rather laughter and delight. Much of what is raised go back into the community's tremendous outreach efforts.
Jesus was moved by the crowds and realized how great was their need and how few people were willing to respond. God needs our hands and hearts in the work of spreading the Gospel, the Good news of God's love for the world. He was aware that few people really want to work to bring healing to others and many felt inadequate or unable. And yet, God invites us all to bring the gifts that we have in service to others. And in so doing bring about the redemption of the world.
Today, I want to give thanks for the people of All Saints' who have taught me in a new way what it means to be laborers in God's fields. I give thanks for the tender and gentle ways they work together as a family and care for the larger community. My prayer is that we all can be grateful today for the people that have labored in God's fields for they have taught us so much about love.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-19
We recently took a drive up north and I again marvel at the huge rock formations that the road was cut out to pass roadways through. You can look up as you drive by and not see the sky for the rocks. The granite, quartz and steel rock colors glistened in the rainy fall weather. These unmovable ancient towers, stationed along the highway were formed early in creation. They have been a silent witness to thousands of generations of human beauty and folly. They have silently recorded the comings and goings of our ancestors and remain changeless despite the whims of humanity. We cut into them and destroy them for our own needs and yet they remains, solid reminders of the presence of eternal in the midst of all that is passing by and passing away. They stand as silent witnesses. to the constancy of the Creator, of God, who despite our selfish whims has promised to be in the midst of our fractured world.
Jesus tells Simon, that he will be called Peter, the Rock and on this rock he will build the church. We can think that give Peter supremacy in the church and yet, his statement rather than his person hood is the rock on which Christ founded the Church. Founded on the solid knowledge that Jesus was the son of the living God, the Christ, this rock solid knowledge that was a gift from God. Here is where the church is founded. On the unchanging rock of Jesus. In the midst of storms, in the midst of trials and temptations, in the midst of the worst that life can and does dish our, Jesus remians the Christ, the Son of the living God. A solid and permanent foundation in the midst of the daily changes we face.
May today be a day where we rely on the permanent consistency of the solid rock in Christ. The permanence, solid heart of God given for the world- then and now. On which the Church is founded and in which the church is completely grounded. None of us are alone or without because God sent a solid permanent covenant child in Jesus Christ. And in our worst days we can lash ourselves upon that rock and survive every storm.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff,they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
" You know that you are getting close to God, when the devil starts working overtime." My mother has often spoken these words to me when unexplained things happened. Now I find them saying this to myself and to my family. We have had a few rough days, nothing that we won't survive, but rough days none the less. Like the remnants of this hurricane crawling up the East Coast, it seems that evil and destruction are swirling around and the air is so dense we cannot see ahead at all. The water is rising, the sump pump died and the wind and rain persists. Sometimes bailing isn't enough. And sometimes there is nothing one can do but live through it.
Today, I want to remember all those who are suffering loss, all those whose bodies are failing, all those who feel like the tide is rising over them. It was a day like today for which David wrote Psalm 23. He knew what it was to be a good shepherd, and he also knew, in his limitations, that he had to rely completely on God. He was a small sheep, lost without the direction and call of God, caught in the brambles, feeling like he was about to be someone's dinner. It was for days like this that he wrote. And God, who holds us all tenderly and calls us each by name, is in the midst of the rising storm, riding the waves with us and leading us to safe harbor. Today, may we pray that God shows abundant love and sends angels to all those who are trapped with the water rising. May we remember that each of us is precious to the Loving Shepherd, the one who lays down his life that we might all live.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
“I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Matthew 15:32
When I was a child, we had friends who owned a store at the shore. Both my Dad and Mr. Shadbolt were Navy veterans. They had served in World War II and my Dad had also served in Korea and stateside during Vietnam. They decided that they would hold a nightly flag ceremony, as the sun set over the ocean. As the flag would be lowered, my brother would play taps and then Mr. Shad would broadcast "God bless America" sung by Kate Smith. The record was scratchy and sometimes it would make me laugh. They were patriots and veterans who didn't want to forget all the fallen. It was a time when compassion for soldiers and their families was at an all time low. The ceremony has gone on for years, continued by the present store owner, who is a vet himself. Since 9/11 the ceremony has taken on new meaning and people flock there every night throughout the summer.
Having compassion for, and honoring those who have served their country and who have offered their lived for the greater good is what veteran's day is about. I can't hear Kate Smith sing without thinking of all the fallen soldiers and all the victims of war and attacks of terror. I am profoundly moved by those who were willing to die so others might live. I can still see my father, in his dress whites, standing in a sea of marines as they were heading off to Vietnam. Lots of folks wouldn't risk honor and compassion in those days because of politics. God is not concerned with right politics but with compassion and honor - for the hungry, for pilgrims, for the homeless and for those who offer their lives in the service of others. May today be a day when we remember those known and unknown who have valiantly offered their lives so that we might thrive. And may we remember those who taught us compassion and honor through their lives and actions.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.Matthew 15:27-28
Right before our youngest daughter went off to college, she insisted that we go visit the pound and adopt a new dog. Our dog of many years, Madeline, who we also got from the pound, had died almost a year earlier and Phoebe felt it was long past time for us to have a dog. Petey (name picked out before we found the right dog) is a female mixed breed, part small shepherd and pit bull, who has a sweet personality although she is not too bright. Our daughter will graduate from college this spring and Petey will have been with us throughout. She is a dog, and treated like one, but also is a part of the family. We don't baby her or spoil her but she knows she will be cared for. She knows these are her people and she is loved.And sometimes she even teaches us a thing or two about love.
The story of the Canaanite woman from today's gospel, a mother who desperately wants her daughter to be well, is a story of the power of love to overcome any barriers. The disciples did not want to help her and Jesus was reluctant because she was a foreigner, an enemy actually. And yet where love is present, faith and courage abound. She told Jesus of her daughter's need, and wouldn't back away, even when Jesus challenged her. She knew that despite the worldly differences that bind us, God is love and God's love and healing are not limited by race, gender or nationality. She knew that even dogs receive care and love. In her faithfulness and courage, we find a clear picture of the faithfulness of God in Christ. A god whose desire is to break through our human barriers and teach us something new about love.
Today, despite boundaries and challenges, I want to live today courageously as the Canaanite woman did. Trusting that God is not limited by the barriers we set up and that God's love and healing are for every one of us. Today. May God give us all the tenacity of the Canaanite woman so that we might spread God's love across all boundaries today.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
Some days the only words that bring comfort are the ancient words of the Psalms. Today, I just have to keep praying and asking God to see us through a time of pain in my body. May we all pray for God's arm leading through each of our rough days.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
"Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
Many people don't even stop to pick up a penny that was dropped on the road. The penny is not considered enough to buy anything these days. Such a small amount is looked at as more trouble than it is worth. Sometimes people get feeling like pennies. They don't have enough to make a favorable impression on someone. They feel deficient and lacking and think the world passes them by. Some people who have had wealth or looks and have lost it, struggle every day to regain it when the losing might just have been the greatest gift in their lives. Because when we have nothing, we have to rely on God and the generosity of those around us. We learn that we are precious to God, even if the world has passed us by.
Jesus sat by the treasury where people made their offerings. He noticed the one woman who was not like all the rest. Her poverty was evident. Her gift was infinitesimally small. And yet God incarnate held her up as the symbol of all that is good in the world. She offered her little, and her action changed the world. She gave as a symbol of her trust in God and her willingness to care for the rest of the community.
Today, I pray that I can focus on the abundance I have been given by God rather than the lack. I will work to be content with exactly what I have today, knowing that God has lovingly placed me here and knows all the needs I have. I pray that today, I can model myself after the poor widow who gave her all for the love of others. May God bless us all as we offer our little so that the world might know Gods enormous love and compassion.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:25-27
I have always been a strong swimmer and was brought up near the ocean. I was taught, at a very young age, how to stay calm and get back to shore if caught up by a rip tide. I have been stung by jelly fish more times than I can count. My mother regularly carried remedies in her beach bag for jelly fish stings and I did also when our girls were young. For me the ocean is an inviting and invigorating place to swim. I also sailed with friends a great deal as a teenager. We would drag our friends sailfish to the edge of the surf and paddle out deep enough so that we could raise her sails. We spend endless days sailing from beach to beach, in and out of the stones jetties, laughing and carrying on as teenagers do. When we got too warm in the sun, we would take the sail down and capsize the little boat. After having a good swim we would right her again and head out for more safe adventures close to the shoreline. We knew our limits and although we pushed the limits as teenagers, we also respected them and were never foolhardy with the ocean or with our physical capacities.
Late at night finds Jesus walking on the water towards the boat the disciples are in. These strong and agile working men, used to being on the water and used to working with their hands are completely terrified. Even though they all were completely comfortable on the water, this scene terrified them. Peter tries to allay his own fears by pushing his own limits -both his physical strength and his faith. He begins to sink and Jesus rescues him. Those in the boat saw something they had never seen and hey were terrified. Peter stepped out in faith and was terrified. And yet in love and faith, Jesus came through for the ones he loves. As always, even when we challenged our own limitations and act as foolhardy children, Jesus cares for us and rescues us from the sinking deep. Even when fear overwhelms us and faith is lost, God intervenes on our behalf and pulls us out of the deep waters.
Today, I want to give thanks for the lessons learned by the ocean. The lessons of limitations, the awesome power of the natural world, and the gifts that the seas give us in abundance. I also want to be grateful for all the people who taught me to survive the harshest challenges and the people who taught me to pray trusting God for the answers. May we all give thanks this day for the graciousness of God who reaches out for us when we are sinking in deep waters.
Friday, November 6, 2009
But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
Today, I had to have an MRI early in the morning. I've had some back pain that won't go away. My doctor thought it was time to see what was going on. Being in such a tight space gives one time to think. These days they provide ear plugs which help drown out the loud noises the machine makes. But the blank walls, so close to one's face don't provide any distraction and help make the noise louder. Closing my eyes helped me to think and let my mind wander. I got wondering about who thought up the technology that I was caught in and how wonderful it was that I didn't have to be subject to more painful diagnostic tools of previous generations. Somebody had compassion on the crowds, someone used their skills to make others' lives a little easier. Someone didn't ignore the needs of others, but worked to find a solution and eased some suffering. Now, I know there are some who hate these machines, but I can vouch for the fact that an MRI is a whole lot better than a milogram. Someone took the time to have compassion on others and improved our lives tremendously.
Today we hear the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. His disciples wanted them to go away into town and feed themselves. Standard practice. The crowd wasn't the disciples' problem. But Jesus had a different view. Human suffering and need is everybody's problem. And so, rustling up the little they could find, with a blessing and faith a whole crowd of folks got fed. And they were satisfied. And people in the crowd learned that God cared about their suffering and about their physical needs. Through the hands of Jesus and the disciples, people tasted the goodness of God, first hand.
Today, I want to give thanks for all of the people who have given their lives to improve the lives of others. I want to rejoice in those who have worked to decrease human suffering. And I want to remember that Jesus taught us that human suffering is everyone's problem. We are called to be God's hands and heart in this world. We are called, as we are able, to offer our little lunches and our small skills to be God's love manifest in the world. May we all offer what we have so that God's love may be known in our day.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:12
When I was a child my parents entertained quite a bit and we would often sneak down, the morning after a party and feast on what was left behind. My Mom was a fabulous cook and would make cream puffs and other such delights for the guests. We went to bed too early to enjoy them at the party, but plowed into them when the parents were still sleeping. We recently had a Halloween party at our house and have enjoyed the leftover treats that we normally wouldn't cook for ourselves. All people prepare and present things to company that they would rarely do for the family. We all want to put our best foot forward and have people like us. We want to honor people by offering our best.
Today's Gospel is the story of Herod's niece who danced at her uncle's party so well that he promised her any gift she wanted. Her mother, Herodias, hated John the Baptist because he told the truth about her life. She instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter which Herod reluctantly gave her. To keep a foolish promise to a comely and talented child, he fulfilled the evil desires of the mother. The dancer was never rewarded herself. And death was the outcome of a mother's selfishness.
For all the right reasons, we can do damage to our families and children by putting on a show rather than living justly. We can, without intention, inflict pain and destruction on innocent people when we are selfish. Today, I want to remember that loving and respecting others is Christ's commandment. If we love and respect others, we might avoid leaving horrible messes behind. Today, I want to remember that love and compassion impressed God. Love and justice as a way of being can change our little corners of the world. I pray we can all live this day with love and justice in everything we do.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
“A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” Matthew 13:57
In a few weeks I will be installed as the Rector of All Saints' Harrison. We have been here now for several months and I have had lots of time to ponder what it means to do ministry in one's home town. I moved here as an infant with my family in 1956. I walked to school, grade school through high school and graduated from this place. I graduated in 1973 and never looked back. And yet here I am in a most familiar place being asked by God and these people to do ministry together. I feel blessed to be here and truly honored. But there are big shoes to fill and big needs to be met. The challenge of doing ministry here is not the lack of honor but rather the bar is set so high by me.
Jesus comes to his home and is met with a familiar disrespect, a teasing, as it were, in his hometown. They all know him and remember him as a child. Being known is not necessarily as dangerous as one might think or undermining thing. Being known calls forth a respect and honor for the one who is known. Those of us who are serving in our hometowns have a special privilege and a special challenge. The place and the people have formed us and we are being called to love and transform the communities where we serve.
Today I ask God for an extra measure of grace and strength. I serve where my family is known and I ask God to help me serve them well. It is easy for me to get too familiar with a people or a place, when much has changed since I lived here. I ask God for a compassionate heart and the eyes of a new visitor, to take in all the wonder and delight that is before me here. And may we all rejoice in the people and places that have made us who we are.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46
Mark and I have been blessed with three remarkable daughters. When I was a young woman setting off to college, I did not think that I would get married and have children. I was going to live an artist's carefree life. I thought of the role of wife and mother as a burden. It is funny now to even remember how I was when I was young since I was proved so wrong. There is nothing that gives me more joy in my life than my family. They have taught me and blessed me more than I could have ever imagined. I don't live a day nor barely take a breath without thanking God for them. They bring me joy and laughter, help me to keep from getting stuck and when I need help they are there for me. Our daughters are all bright and caring women who are working, each in their own way, to make the world a better place. They put little stock in wealth and fame but rather they care about helping others. I am so grateful to God for these women, Emily, Ariel and Phoebe. Through these pearls of great price I have understood more fully the love of God.
Today Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God and likens it to a man finding pearls of great price. The man sells all he has to possess these. God's desire for us and love for us is so great that giving up all for us is done willingly. God puts a premium on loving us, on caring for the world. Like a parent who knows the blessing of children, God seeks us out, aches for us and offers everything for our lives.
May we recall the pearls of great price in our lives today and know that God loves and cares for us more even than we care for these. May we let our pearls know how precious they truly are. May we celebrate God's love for us by loving well those people who have blessed us completely.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. " John 5:24-27
I found out yesterday that Bishop Charles Vache passed away early in the morning. A saint of a man passing away on All Saints' Day. He had been in robust health for a long time but recently had suffered quite a bit. Now he has gone to his rest and reward. Charles was Bishop in Southern Virginia and was long retired when I arrived. He kept busy and helped out when asked and was kind and caring when I was a new bishop. He was a man of great depth, a man of prayer, possessing incredible dignity, compassion and a sense of humor. He was known across the church and was a friend to me in some difficult days.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of all the Faithful Departed. We remember and pray for all the faithful, known and unknown, who have lived lives of Christian faithfulness. The people who bore witness to God's love and work in their lives. So today, I want to remember and give thanks especially for Charles Vache who showed me, by his witness, how to be a bishop for all people. He carried himself with kindness and grace and listened to the hurting people, even as he bore pain in his own body. May we all live today giving thanks for those who have enabled us to live lives of faith. May God give us all the courage to be an example for others, as those faithful departed have been for us.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:44
Once I was lonely afraid
my life was ending without
meaning friends volume or texture all
light was muted filtered
nothing clear crystal bright
but hazy burnt decaying reflections
of life barely lived,
Once I felt trapped by gray
illness the definition tasteless food
the recommendation life without spice
or flavor I was bland and fading fast.
Once I was locked in a stone rolled
where my heart once was calling me
you were calling me Lazarus muffled
your words animating my bead heart.
Once I was Lazarus stinking and decaying
bound by life and death caught between
two worlds and you called me by name.
Now I am Lazarus the once revolting
now washed clean Lazarus raised
Lazarus returned Lazarus pitied no more.