Wednesday, March 31, 2010
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Mark 12:1-3
I am neither a skilled gardener nor do I know much about vineyards and the care they take. I do know that good gardens and great vineyards take tender loving care, cooperative weather and rich soil. I know that soil and sunlight can drastically change the taste of wine as well as the quality of the fruit yield. There are so many factors that go into a good garden and a thriving vineyard. Too often, only the one who plants and tends the soil, day in and day out, knows how best to care for the growing plants. And so we have a story of a man who left his precious vineyards in the hands of tenants. I know that it was a common behavior in former times, and yet, it seems as if the man should have known it would turn out bad. A bad set up with an even worse ending.
We often put ourselves into complex situations, hoping for the best. And often, we humans find ourselves in a complex mess, on our knees, crying for a solution. Some of us decide to withdraw from any human interaction and organize our world so we can't be hurt by the changes of attitude, relations and communities. And yet, if we are honest, here in the dead middle of Holy Week, sometimes the most messy, ugly and dangerous moments in our lives can bring us to a new appreciation of God's love for us and the love and abundance that surrounds us. Holy Week is us facing the worst in our human condition, the worst in ourselves and the very worst in our relationships. Betrayal, despair and disillusionment among them. Holy Week is an honest look at our horrible failings, and the mess we have intentionally created.
Today, I want to find a way to look with honesty about my life and the messes that I have created. And I want to ask God at every moment to help me heal and reconcile what I can. And then, I expect to throw myself on the mercy of a Savior who was willing to bear the worst of humanity, our ugliest selves, on the cross so that we might be reborn for new life.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22
The sky is dark leaden heavy
we carry our vestments
chattering like children awkward
despite years of training despite
the commitment made so long ago.
We throw things on throw
compliments and jokes around
the room is filled with hidden failure
a pile of hopes and dreams for years
We said our vows so long ago none
knew how hard it was
to keep them to follow you
to know your hand in our lives.
We fall over each other polite
competitive colleagues in a solitary
enterprise of faith a single
commitment for a lifetime.
We kneel and bow knowing our
cues, our lines, our failures
better than anyone we listen
for the long awaited yes.
All the promises of God find
their yes in him
and we find ourselves alone
in this big crowd today seeking
yes, my child yes.
Monday, March 29, 2010
“Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24
Again we wake to a very dark morning and the threat of severe flooding in our region. Again we face harsh winds and difficult circumstances. And it is only Monday. It feels like the best thing to do is to go back to bed. The best thing is to bury oneself, hiding away from the challenges and all the onslaughts that might try one's patience - and even more - try one's faith. The rain floods down our roof and the basement is beginning to fill. How natural it is to turn away from all of this and wonder where God is in all of this. Some might wonder whether God has power at all. Some days it seems as if the darkness has won.
Jesus, in some of the darkest days of his life, turns to his disciples and tells them to have faith. He tells them even if they ask for something monumental, God will answer their prayers. He tells them simply, "have faith in God." And despite his simple directions, they struggled and wandered as we do today. They saw and touched his power and yet sometimes doubted God's love for them. As we do today.
Today, I want to get up and have faith. I want to pray and seek God in every challenge today, seeking God's power not my own in the resolution of the most embedded knots. And I want to live knowing God is answering prayers, moving mountains, turning the wind and the waves - giving us all what we need to walk through our darkest hours. May we pray today, believing there is an answer from God and love's solution is at hand.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens, wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious,I did not turn backward. Isaiah 50:4-5
Every priest and bishop, every pastor and clergy person wonders from time to time whether what they are doing is working, they wonder if anyone is listening, whether anyone is paying the least little bit of attention out there. It is hard work putting a sermon and service together, let along coordinating a motley group of volunteers in order to make things happen on Sundays. Anyone who teaches Sunday School or any other kind of class, ,knows how much goes on behind the scenes to get ready for one class, let alone a whole semester. And knows also how easily things can come apart , even when everything is planed well and in place. Being a teacher requires nerves of steel, a heart of gold, a good sense of humor and feet which can dance at any minute. Teaching and learning most of all requires a listening heart and an open spirit. And there are many weary ones who need to hear a loving and kind word.
Today, on Palm Sunday, we have paraded around the neighborhood, reenacting the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And then we came into church, and listened and turned the whole pageantry inward, and listen to the passion of Christ. A story of betrayal, denial, political intrigue and trauma of great magnitude. We sit together and try to imagine individually how it was to live through these events. And we learn together through pageant, sign and story, how much God loves us despite our refusals, betrayal and how much we sell each other out.
Today, I want to give thanks for all those who have taught me well in m life. For those who have brought a kind word of support and sustenance. I am grateful for young and old alike who have taught me to have faith and to trust God for every need. May we rejoice in our teachers today, and give thanks for God for a love so great and so broad. We have all been fed and sustained by a most loving God who took on death that we might live with joy.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
We do not lose Heart
We do not lose heart
though the clouds mass
gray and weeping barometer
dropping pressure and pain.
We do not lose heart
plans shot through with holes
hopes, dreams shattered by the selfish
the heartless incapables who
stalk our lives, breathing dark green
envy and anxiety.
We do not lose heart when others
stare and whisper, judge ridicule
even we have feelings and tender
hearts ache with childish teasing
and grown up abuse.
We do not lose heart,
heart is gift, golden spun and
renewed by charity and compassion
refilled with laughter sweet music
and a room full of friends.
We do not lose heart
bitter cold cannot ruin
cold shoulders cannot inhibit
mean words cannot undermine
the love that we know.
Heart is round and soft
moving towards others aching
for companions and more love
swelling with joy and pride
breaking with loss and death
mended by time's gentle light
held close by God's own hand.
We do not lose heart
we are not ours alone
we belong to our Creator
one another and all life
around us dancing
we are not limited by
sight or shape the capacity
of others hearts.
We do not lose heart
we are embedded in the heart of God.
Friday, March 26, 2010
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But 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 slave of all. Mark 10:42-44
Our eldest daughter, Emily, celebrates her birthday today. She was born on Easter Sunday 1978 at 1:34pm. She was perfect and lively from the beginning. She was always a people person and has always loved being the life of the party. When she was four and we were living with my parents, she wanted to have her party at the bible study lunch. The group of seniors and mostly church women were her friends and she wanted to share her birthday with them. Tonight, we are having a birthday party for her and she has invited the children she babysits, her friends children and her cousins. She is the life of the party and she also loves bringing joy to the folks around her. She is a gift to us and she shares her gifts with others graciously and fully. She is willing to serve others because she gets so much joy out of their responses and pleasure.
Today, I want to give thanks for Emily. For her many gifts and for her willingness to offer her gifts and skills for the enjoyment and care of others. You don't get to chose your kids and so I am also grateful to God that she is ours. And I pray that we can all rejoice in those gifts around us. Rejoice in those people who serve us by sharing their lives and bringing us so much joy.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
It is a funny thing to look through the eye of a needle. Whether you are trying to thread that needle, or just wondering how a camel would actually fit through, perspective changes completely. The world is huge but only a tiny bit of it, the rest id completely out of the picture. And it can be complicated enough to thread a needle, let alone try to see through it, or have anything else of substance pass through it. Never mind that Jesus was probably referring to an ancient tiny doorway in the city of Jerusalem, looking through the eye of a needle makes you think. Entering the kingdom of heaven requires that cast off those possessions that keep us from moving into a small space, those things that keep us from focusing on the real essential matters of life and death - loving others and caring for the world around us. Our perspective is skewed when we worry too much about protecting investments rather than protecting the children in our sight. Our perspective is skewed when we see only the numbers and not needs of those around us. And navigating the eye of a needle invites us to close one eye, and see through the half-sight of another, rather than through our own blindness. All of this is challenging to the eyes and to the heart. The kingdom of heaven is a challenge to both likewise.
Today, I pray that I can let go of possessions, worrying and the details of the day. Yes, they will have to continue and be done, but I want to focus on the narrow view -that which lies within the needle - the love and lives of the people around me. I pray that the tasks will take a backseat to the people. And may we all enter the kingdom of heaven today, letting go of the baggage and opening our arms wide to the love of God.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
I have been interviewed in the past few days by a young girl in our parish. She is working on a school project about women in leadership roles and asked if I was willing to participate. I said yes. She called me last week and asked me some questions about my life. It was a lovely conversation and she was very perceptive both with her questions and her insights. She then called me back to get some details correct. And then her Mom emailed me because they need photos and other items as part of a time line. So I have been digging through pictures on the computer and in musty boxes, traveling down memory lane through my childhood. It is amazing the things we remember when we start digging through old things. And it is remarkable how old sensations come right back, triggered by an image, a smell or the touch of something from childhood. One thing triggers another and it is easy to wander melodramatically through the startling memories of childhood and youth. And there is also the reality that growing up is work, being a child is a most vulnerable state and I am not willing to be there again despite the many joys and delights of my childhood. And then the Gospel appointed for today points right to our need to be like a child to know God. And as silly as I like to be, that is not what I want to hear. The strength and capacity I have gained as an adult are not my entrance ticket to the kingdom of heaven. It is only my heart, child like, vulnerable and open.
So for today, I want to regain a sense of being like a child - open, inquisitive and fearless. It is simply too easy as an adult to judge situations and people and dismiss them because they are frivolous and insignificant. I want to learn again how to reveal in the details of making, the ins and outs of creating with my hands and the joy there is in discovering something completely new. May God find us today, as we struggle to be open. May we fling our arms open wide when God come near, like a child today.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50
Salt is an amazing substance. So necessary and yet it can be deadly if too much is ingested. When I was a child, we lived for a time at the rifle range on Camp LeJuene, North Carolina during the height of the Vietnam War. There were only six families who lived there, so we kids had the run of a very fascinating place. Early in the morning the training would begin with calisthenics on the parade ground across from our house. Before breakfast the guns would start firing. We found the little clutch of officers' quarters along with the little PX, movie theater and laundry to be one of the most exotic places we had every been. And it was a treasure trove of mystery and fun to us kids who had the run of the place. The most wonderful thing we did was to go onto the range and pick up shells after the daily practice was over. And second most favorite delight was raiding the salt tablet dispensers. We delighted in choking down the tablets and then seeing how much water we could drink. Our bellies would swell and we giggle til it was time to explode towards the latrines. We found ways to entertain ourselves in that wilderness that would probably be prohibited today. Nobody seemed to care what we did as long as we didn't interfere with the routine of the range. And we had learned that routine instantly and knew how to avoid all the marine brass and anyone that might try to contain us.
Today, we are challenged to be salty within our selves and to be at peace with one another. We are invited by God to live with delight in the small and simple joys of life and to delight in the joys of others. This is the mark of a disciple, we are told. To be salty within, I want to invite Gos to help me celebrate and delight as a child in the gifts that I have been given. In this time of healing, rediscovering expressive arts -writing,photography, music etc.- helps me to know God in a different way and to be at peace with my family and community in creative ways. I pray that we can all invite God into our lives through the lovely and truly individual expressions we have been given. May we find God and one another in the coming days as we open our hearts and eyes to the beauty and life that surrounds us.
"When in our music God is glorified, and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as though the whole creation cried, alleluia." Hymnal 1982 - Hymn 420
Monday, March 22, 2010
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 9:35-37
Living with others is a messy proposition. Living with children is a whole other thing entirely. The amount of noise and mess when there are more than a few children under one roof can be astounding and overwhelming. Fights, laughter, songs, plays, dances and fevers can break out at any moment. To welcome a child means to welcome some delightful chaos and to see the world from the dirt up rather than from the loft and stiffness of adulthood. It means to crawl around, put your coat on from the floor and spend endless hours searching for brushes, shoes and school books. And it means delighting in small victories and finding joy in cupcakes and bubbles. Welcoming a child means drawing close to dirt and smells, and to uncontrollable giggles. And Jesus said when we welcome one such as these we welcome God. Unbelievable, that the mess of humanity and the overwhelming cacophony of children might just usher in the presence of God.
The disciples were arguing over who was greatest and that is when Jesus picked up the child. I wonder, as my brother and sister bishops wrestle with questions theological and doctrinal, whether God doesn't wander off looking for a child. Like all disciples, it is easy for our discussions to get off course. And even easier off course when there is no child, no mess nor noise to usher in God. I pray that their hearts might be childlike so God can find a way in.
Today, with challenges piling up, it would be easy to organize my life entirely and to brush away all hints of disorder, mess and noise. It might solve a few problems. But it will not invite God into this place. And so today, I ask God to help me be child like, arms up in the air, legs running towards love and a heart open to the glorious mess and noise in my life. May we all welcome God as one of these little ones today.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Luke 20:17
Today is a bright, sunny day and the first full day of spring. Exactly a week ago, we were still in the midst of a terrible storm. Four plus inches of rain came down and the winds gusted above 70 miles an hour. Trees came down every where, some ripped from the roots. Branches and limbs fell and some trees snapped in half. Many homes sustained damage when trees fell across the roof. Property owners and contractors scramble to put things back together. The scramble to find help and equipment to get the job done. Many are grateful for their firm foundations and trees with deep roots. Others are just glad to be through the storm with their lives. Everyone has a greater reverence and respect for the weather. And everyone learned to pray a little more last week.
It is easy when the sun is shining to forget the storm. It is easy, when you are a tenant, to forget to care for the gardens. It is easy, when the burden is not yours, to forget how important caring for others and the world around you is. And yet we all share an incredible responsibility, this caring for the world, this being the hands of God's love in our community, this living as caring, faithful people. The parable of the selfish tenants reminds us today how we are to care for the people and the world around us. "The one who was rejected became the chief cornerstone" not only refers to Christ Jesus but to the role of the poor, suffering and rejected among us. We are invited to care for others as we care for the beloved of God. We tenderness, honor and respect.
Today, as the world begins to shed winter, and the light grows longer every day, I want to honor all those in my life who challenges me, and who deserve my utmost respect and care. I want to live remembering, by example of all the damages trees and buildings around us, how precious and precarious life is. And I want to give thanks to God for a solid ground, a chief cornerstone, a firm foundation who is willing and ready to carry us through every storm.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7
Enduring All Things
Staying up late talking
into the night seeing through
your eyes and your experiences
laughter echoes lighting the small hours
when sleep and promises mingle
and you are home if even briefly.
You wake early cooking for others
offering skills and energy
friendship for the silent lonely ones
and a decent lunch to eat in company.
And you everlasting partner carrying
and toting your young daughters now
carry them to airports down ans aisle
and to concerts and interviews
dancing to distant strains of familiar music.
My dancer too she waits for muscles
to rebuild and fear to subside and laughs
screaming with hope and anticipation
memory recollecting, measuring time.
We are enduring all things together
a family knit with love needs little
scraps of hope and possibility
a good measure of laughter
and songs on our lips and in our feet.
Friday, March 19, 2010
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. Mark 9:2-8
One can set out on a particular path with all good intentions of arriving at the stated goal. With technology like GPS and other mapping technologies, it is much easier to stay on course than it once was. And yet, there are many good reasons for the road not taken, the change in plans, and setting a different course than once hoped and planned. Too often, we see the forks in the road as failure. We plan so thoroughly that once off course, we feel we are lost. And yet, often, the most beautiful and transforming moments in life happen when we are off-course and off of the script. We open our hearts a little more to the people and the world around us. And we might just let God out of the box we so often make for the Creator of the all.
The disciples were on the road with Jesus, and he had them take a little side trip with him. We don't know how much they grumbled or resented the change in plans, but by all accounts they fell asleep and were none to invested in the side trip - or at least they weren't at the beginning. Looking back, this side trip to pray was the single most solidifying and transforming moment for them. They saw and heard the presence of God, they knew for a moment love's incarnate presence fully realized. They set their faces to Jerusalem after the sights and sounds of that mountain. And they didn't know what to make of it at the time.
Today, I will be taking a different road than I had planned this week. I ask God to help me know the transforming moments of this fork in the road, and to help me be open to the power of God in my life this day. May we all invite God into our day, however off-course it might seem, knowing that God, who loves us beyond measure, is opening the skies for us and seeking to speak love to our broken hearts.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26
The things you say sometimes
well get on my nerves
you stand too close and then wander away
you forget the list
and sometimes forget to call
and I am lost without you.
You show up dressed
like you didn't see the invite
and you laugh inappropriately
sing too loud and fall asleep
occasionally when I am crying
and I can't go anywhere without you.
We sit at meetings
off topic you go creating diversions
and missed opportunities
and the tasks go undone
and we all scurry reaching
to hold us together
without you there would be no us.
Our choices in food and friends
random and eclectic
a community of random body parts
and yet a ballet of beauty
when love learns to dance
the whole world is reborn
and we cannot dance without you.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he did spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25
I can't help but think of St. Patrick on this day. A man, born, bred and educated in England (as well as on the continent) who was taken as a slave to work in Ireland, only to return there to be their most famous and beloved missionary. He could have had great anger at the abuse he took at the hands of the Irish people. And they could, have resented this upstart foreigner for bringing a foreign religion to their shores, the new faith of their most constant oppressors. And yet, all these generations later, he is probably the most beloved and most highly revered Englishman in the history of Ireland. He brought the Christian faith, not by sword or dominance, but through love. He gently and completely loved the people and found ways to connect their lives and faith to the Gospel. Some said he was able to "indigenize' Christianity - that is making it real within the local context within the story of the people. Whatever he did, Ireland is a very Christian nation despite her many conflicts and trials. St. Patrick, following his Savior, brought new sight to people, through a gentle, hands-on approach. They knew they were loved and honored by him and so could readily embrace his Jesus. He brought a Gospel of love and forgiveness, and a Gospel that was already in love with the people he encountered. He brought the story of the God of history, who is love, and who is constantly aching to heal and renew all people.
Today, on this St. Patrick's Day, no matter how you celebrate it, I am reminded that we all owe Patrick a great deal of gratitude for his model of leadership and ministry. He brought the Gospel with love. The enormous love of a people who had once enslaved him, to a land that was far from home across the rough and desolate Irish Sea. He did not come with swords drawn but with arms open wide. He loved them and they found their way to Christ. May we all have the courgae to live like Patrick, fiercely loving, constantly forgiving and willing to go into enemy territory with God's love as our breast plate.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
“I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” Mark 8:2-3
Small and major miracles are often preceded by two things, being extraordinarily fragile and the presence of compassion. Yesterday, I had to undergo a procedure to help alleviate back and leg pain. I had been at a very fragile and painful state before I went to the doctor last week. And when the procedure was done yesterday, I couldn't walk for a while, they put me in a wheel chair, my left leg having completely given out. And yet this morning, the sun is actually going to shine, and although there some pain, there is a lessening and a promise of healing. It may be just good medicine to some, but I know that there was also an extraordinary measure of compassion, along with skill and my own honesty about my own critical need.
Mark recounts for us the feeding of the 5000, and begins by observing Jesus' remarkable compassion for the crowd. He was giving them his all, and yet his first concern was for them. Mark wants us to know that Jesus enlisted the help of his disciples and others, even though they were unwilling at first to help, understanding the enormous burden. But there it was obvious human frailty and expressed and open compassion. God finds a way to change the course of things and provides what is necessary for the crowd and those who worked along side of Jesus.
Today, I want to be grateful for human frailty and compassion. We need to be vulnerable do that we might reach out to others. And others (and ourselves) need compassion so that we might reach out to those in need. And in that connection, that reaching out, God is there. May we all reach out today, knowing that indeed God will be there.
Monday, March 15, 2010
But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 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 7:25-29
We have a wonderful family dog, her name is Petey, and she was adopted from the pound a few years back. One of the things she loves best is to be under foot at the table when someone is eating. It is an annoying habit, and although no one in my family feeds her from the table, she is eternally hopeful that some wondrous accident will happen and food will be showered down in her direction. We are constantly shooing her out from the under the table, but she finds her way back. And she is not a small dog, but stealthy none the less. Petey is part of the family but always treated like a dog, although if you asked her, she knows that she is a prominent member of the family, guarding us from prowlers and visitors, even those who ring the door bell on TV. We never said she was bright, but her heart is always in the right place.
Our gospel today tells the story of an encounter with a mother who won't take no for an answer. Jesus puts her off at first, telling her she is not among the chosen people, not a member of the inner circle. But she knows that God is not limited by race and clan. God's love is not bound by man-made rules. And she is eternally hopeful and expectant of God, knowing that God is more willing to heal than she is even to ask. And she is a mom who will do anything to save her child. Jesus recognizes the kind of love and persistence that is a gift from the Creator. This mother's love is so powerful she is willing to cross all sorts of barriers and exclusions to find healing for her child. Love is persistent and expectant, always hopeful despite the exclusions of human kind.
Today, I want to remember the faith of the Syrophoenician woman, who was willing to compare herself to a dog under the table in order to bring healing to her child. She was willing to teach the son of God about love. She was tenacious and hopeful, despite all the challenges the world put before her. I want to take courage and inspiration from her today, as I face the challenges that lie ahead. May we all have a measure of her tenacity and hopeful expectation, that God is more ready to heal than we can ever imagine, and that God is willing to find ways through the worst barriers, dismantling one brick at a time, until all are fed at the table together.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!' Then the father said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'" Luke 15:29-32
I am very good at losing things, and less skilled at finding things misplaced. When I was in grade school, I was a frequent visitor to the lost and found box in our class room as well as the one in the school office. Everything from notebooks to clothing and everything in between would be in those boxes. Prized possessions of some one, neglected and left behind probably by accident, in some childish rush to be out of school and on the way else where. I would like to say I out grew my ability to lose things, but as an adult, I am just as skilled as I was as a child. Something distracts me and I lose track of an item I was carrying.
We read the parable of the prodigal son today as part of our Lenten Sunday lectionary. At times in my life, I thought this parable was about how good God is to those of us who lose our way. At other times, I have focused on the relationship of the older brother and the father, thinking this parable is about how those who are constant and faithful have all of God's love and gifts. And yet today when I read it, I realize the parable is about neither son. It is about the father, about the love of God, which is bigger than our imagining, and which want to celebrate the returning prodigal, the constant elder child and the richness we have as a family of God. We are poor and lost, only when we sever relationships. God aches that we would celebrate the love we have in God and one another every day.
This fourth Sunday in Lent, I want to focus on the generosity of God and God's desire for us to rejoice in the love we have been given. We are abundantly blessed and yet we often focus on what we lack. Today I want to focus on what we have in abundance - love and relationships of support and faith. May we all take a moment today to give thanks for the love that showers down from heaven, on good and prodigal children, on the lost and the found, and on all of us despite how much we resent what others might seem to have.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Mark 7:14-16
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me." I remember that old rhyme we use to say to ward off nasty things that other children said to us. And I have found, that those nasty names other children called me, still haunt me sometimes, while the physical bruises and wounds have healed up completely. Vile words can break a heart and a spirit, and can stay with a person all their life. When we are feeling particularly vulnerable, those cruel judgments of others can become our own self-judgment. And what was never supposed to hurt us, became the weapon of violent destruction. The things that come out of a person, even kidding and teasing, can wound more than we can ever know.
The religious right in Jesus' day were fussing over the disciples lack of discipline. And Jesus challenged them to think of what really matters to God and to our fellow human beings. If we do all that is right, but wound our friends and family, are we truly faithful? And if with our words and actions we destroy others self-confidence, haven't we really only defiled ourselves, even if we keep all the laws?
Today, I want to remember that what comes out of me, my words and actions can be those of transformation or destruction. Life or death. And my judgments of others can become my own down fall. So today, I pray that I can live a life of lifting others up. A day of celebrating and rejoicing in all the small wonders that make up my world. May we all put judgment aside and accept the judgment of God - ' you are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased."
Friday, March 12, 2010
He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:48-50
So many are on rough seas these days, so many are afraid. The life they had planned has been taken away. Others have had their dreams taken from them. For others, the pain is too great. And others have been betrayed by people they trusted and love. We have been having unseasonably nice weather here for a few days. But this morning dawned gray and dark, wind and sprinkles promising a deluge. March is a challenging month for many, so close to spring and yet so regularly spring so far away. Pain and failure seem to mark so many days.
The disciples were out on a boat in turbulence, in crisis. They thought Jesus was no where to be found, that he had abandoned them and left them to die. And yet they see him, walking on the water, almost passing them by. When the call to him, he not only comes to them, but he gets in the boat with them. He gets in the boat, the son of God, who could walk on by, is willing to jump into their predicaments and bring them peace.
Today I want to remember that God is constantly willing to get in our boats with us. The boats that are filled with pain and worry, the boats which are filled with failure and ruin, the places that are teeming with illness and dread - God is willing to jump into those places with us. And more than being with us, God is willing to bring us peace and help us to the other side of the lake. God is willing to stay with us and help us find solid ground. May we trust in God today, in the middle of our worst storms, to seek us out and come to our darkest places. And may our hearts be open to receive that peace and that possibility that only God can give - the promise on rock solid ground in shaky times.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
“How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. Mark 6:38-41
We were recently at a brand new grocery store buying snacks for an event at the church. It was sparkling clean with wonderful sales prices promoting their grand opening. Since we are new to the area, we didn't come across anyone we knew, but it had a familiar feeling, and was comfortable to shop. The aisle were wide and everything was well-marked. I have been leading a Lenten teaching series on liturgy and the prayer book. We have had an inter generational gatherings and everyone seems happy learning together. I try to make it fun and make sure their are snacks at the end. So, as we were collecting the items from the list, I said out loud, a few times, "is this going to be enough?" Finally it dawned on me. There will be enough because even if we eat it all they all have food at home and live nearby. We often worry when we have plenty, more out of pride than out of need.
The people who came to hear Jesus had come along way, and would faint on the way home. The came to Jesus out of need. Their enthusiasm had swept them away and they had not brought provisions along. Maybe they assume they would look at the guy, laugh and head home. Maybe they had nothing to bring with them in the first place. Maybe they thought someone else in their family had packed the food. For whatever reason they were there and starving. Their need was great and God's response was immediate. What was eaten and then collected was enough to feed many, many more. God is abundant and Jesus did not reprimand the people for being poor, in need, and poor planners. They were fed. God's activity is always to bring fullness and light to hungry people trapped in the dark.
Today, I want to trust God more than I did yesterday. I want to live, worrying less about whether there will be enough, and more expecting God's loving abundance. God has always found us enough, plenty and a multitude as needed. May we all step a little closer to trusting God today. Small steps on a great journey of love and light.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:25-29
Telling the truth can cost you your head. Or at least it did for John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin. The boy who grew up side by side with the Messiah, the one who was the apple of his mother's eye, the child who never lied - he was punished for the pleasure and revenge of a selfish potentate. From board rooms to school rooms, from diocese to parish halls, and everywhere in between, truth tellers often suffer the worst punishment. Those who acted in criminal and inappropriate ways, often get revenge in the cruelest of ways. John wasn't the most politically savvy guy, and his bathing practices were suspect, but he didn't deserve to lose his head. Too often, good people get squashed from organizations and blamed for problems because they pointed out the problem. I often wondered what happened to the boy who spoke up that the emperor had no clothes. When the story closes people are laughing at the king. My guess is that didn't last long and the king found a way to punish the truth teller.
Today, I want to honor all those truth tellers in our world and especially in our church. We have too often been polite and turned a blind eye to abuse of all kinds. We have called it cultural and normative, and the way of the world. And yet abuse is abuse and the truth tellers are often belittled and expunged since beheading is no longer socially acceptable. Our church history is littered with be-headings of clergy and others who would not act politically correctly and perpetuate a lie. Here's to those whose faith is so strong that they will live for God's justice rather than fame or reward. And here's to those who have suffered for others, trying to tell the truth, and end injustices in our day. May we pray today that we might have the strength to be truth tellers. May we not worry what the consequences are. May we trust God together that God will honor those who live lives of honest faith.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. Mark 6:8-10
I am always taken aback by the things people bring with them as necessities. When ever we go to the beach, we take the smallest amount and always only what we can carry. A towel, a book and some lotion. Maybe something to drink. Others we encounter will have huge wheeled vehicles to bring all their stuff onto the beach. Umbrellas and tents, shovels and buckets and coolers the size of a small car. And then there are all the toys, inflatable animals to ride on and paddles to play ball with. As if, right there, in the most beautiful spot in the world, isn't all you need right then. It seems the less we take, the less there is to worry about. We can read and body surf to our heart's content, and watch the beauty of God's world. And we can visit with others, speaking kindly. When you have nothing, there is nothing to compete for. And when there is little, one can concentrate on the gifts and people around us.
Jesus sends his disciples forth, with some simple instructions. Take nothing, and honor the people who are hosting you. Revel in what you have been given, not what you can control. He knows that without the worries and distractions of their things, they will know better how to receive love and welcome where ever they go. And, from experience, when I travel with a great deal (often out of fear) I find myself wishing I had nothing with me and could view the world unencumbered. And I have always found that God goes with me where ever I go - I am never alone. Fear and possessions can make us miss everything delightful and tender.
Today, I want to take nothing with me and accept whatever hospitality is offered. It is easy to say and hard to do. To go with out a safety net. And yet, we have a safety net in God, who is always on the road with us, bringing us safely into each new day. May we rejoice in a loving Creator, who walks the road with us and makes all of our burdens light.
Monday, March 8, 2010
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. 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 5:24-34
I Am She
I am she waiting in the crowd
a calendar of doctor's visits
hands empty from the cost
surrounded by pain and failure.
I am she who fearlessly reaches
hands soiled from falling, knees scraped
eyes focused, and crying out
I am she with a conversation inside
a plan of attack and a magical hope
if I but touch his garment crawling
to the light they will take me
seriously they will understand my pain
he will make me whole.
Others have laughed at a silly women
spent and still bleeding a fool
unwilling to go away unwilling
to fade into the background.
I am she, your mother, your wife
your friend, your neighbor, she
who is not willing to stop
not able to give up until
I am she with aches and tears
streaming down my brown dusty face
and you are he who reached out
a hand, a word, to a woman scorned.
I am she who sat in the road
the load lifting the light breaking
my heart, open, my voice stuck
I squeak out forgive me and
tremble with golden relief.
I am she who knows pain
and miracle who stretches out my hand
for a touch, a garment, a word
needing only, to be called,
Daughter, your faith has made you well;
go in peace, and be healed of your disease.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:6-9
A good gardener, no matter whether they have a huge farm or a small city garden, knows the value of manure. It feeds the soil and the plants and can bring life back to a life back to a parched and damaged patch of ground. The nutrients it provides are the building blocks of life. Our food production depends on it. But manure is not pretty or glamorous. It isn't prize winning. Manure is often odoriferous and offensive to some. And yet, it is exactly what we need in order to build up a garden and have that garden produce. Sometimes, the treatments for healing and thriving are difficult, but the results can be amazing.
Jesus tells a parable of the fig tree. The owner is ready to cut it down but the gardener wants to dig around it, cut it back and scatter manure around it. He knows there are ways to bring back life and abundance - even if these ways are hard for some people to take. We all have to be pruned and manured from time to time.
Today, I want to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ is willing to be our gardener - willing to get hands dirty, stand in the steaming manure, in order that we might thrive again. God knows we are all struggling to be productive and useful. And God is willing to go the extra mile for us all. May we all rejoice this day in the great loving gardener, who is willing and ready to renew our lives and make us whole and productive for days to come.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Mark 5:18-20
I remember years ago, at the end of a long drive from Colorado to New York, cresting a hill and being overwhelmed by the New York skyline. It suddenly took up the whole window frame, and tears came to my eyes. It signaled I was home and everything in my being ached for the familiar, even though the trip was fraught with complexities. We weren't coming home triumphantly or on our schedule and yet, there it was - home.
The young man who has been tormented with demons begs Jesus to take him along with the disciples. He wants to get in the boat and escape all of the pat and start a new life in a new place. He has been healed and he wants to leave his troubles behind and begin a new chapter. And Jesus encourages him to begin a new chapter, right where he was. His phenomenal change and the power of God's love working in his life would change his home. His home would become a place where miracles happened and where people saw the power of God in their lives. He wanted adventure and would find adventure right at home.
Today, as our vestry meets to imagine our future together, I am reminded that I am home. Although we might be new to one another, this community offers the possibility of becoming that place where miracles happen and God's love is known in our midst. This place is home and these people are home - a place where we can be transformed together. May we all rejoice in the places where God has planted us, and may we grow deep roots so that God may work miracles in our midst.
Friday, March 5, 2010
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. Mark 4:37-39
There is something about a storm on the water. At once exhilarating and terrifying, the barometric pressure wrecking havoc with balance and emotions. People are fascinated and frightened as waves lash against rock and sand. On a boat, you can feel the waves swells so great they throw you in the air, a thrilling lightness signaling horrible consequences. Some people are irritable and anxious when storms come. Some can't sleep from the pounding of the ocean, and others, like me, find the sounds comforting and like a familiar albeit strange lullaby. We find ourselves more grateful after we survive a storm, and everything in the world is a bit sweeter than before. The laughter of family can become a cathedral choir after surviving a storm, physical or personal, such as the one the disciples survived.
The disciples found themselves in a boat on rough seas and their friend and teacher Jesus was asleep in the stern. Dead to the world and dead to their trauma and fears. These powerful, rugged men put pride aside and wake Jesus up, asking for his help in the storm. With a word the wind and the waves calm, and they will tell this tale forever after. The world is at once a more sweeter and dangerous place to them, and God is more real and alive than ever before. Their fear and exhilaration, along with their survival will change the way they look at Jesus forever.
Today, I want to live with the sense that God is in the boat with me and that whatever storm or trauma I face today, God goes with me. the one who can calm the wind and the waves invites me to be still and trust completely in the love God has for me and for us all. We are never alone and though we might temporarily conclude God is sleeping, we can trust completely in the other side of the storm. The quiet firm voice of God loving us beyond our present circumstances.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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.” Mark 4:21-21
Years ago, when we live in Baltimore and Emily was an infant, I worked for my landlady in her lamp shade shop. We made hand made paper lamps of all sorts, a specialty even then, and the shop was frequented by wealthy folks wanting all of their decor to match and each room's theme be clear. It was meticulous work, and I wasn't very good at it but I learned a lot about shades and light. And what people consider beautiful and how that is dictated by culture and class. People were hiding their lamps under elaborate understated shades, as to seem not so wealthy, not so opulent, not so over indulgent as they really were. I knew that just a few blocks away from the shop and their homes, there were people who were desperate for light and heat. And any lamp would do, if they could but see at night and have electricity.
We hear many stories in this season, the parables drawing pictures with words to explain God's reign. We are reminded that God desire that we shine, that what we do should bring light and life to others. And we are invited to cast off the darkness that holds us back - fear, jealousy, embarrassment, shame, lack of self worth - and to use all the gifts and light we have for the blessing of the world around us. Too many people hold back their light for fear of criticism. God reminds us that the world aches for light, especially in this season when the winter has been so long and so dark.
Today, I want to revel in the light of God and in the gifts of others. I am surrounded and blessed by such a wonderful community, a wonderful family, and friends all around the world. The hold their lamps high when others let them burn out with neglect. They share the light and the world is a better place because of them. May we all let our light shine, so that the world might warm with compassion, and God's light shine through us this day.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:8-9
Last week one of my favorite catalogs arrived. It was a seed and garden company that I bought some things from years ago and they continue to send me a catalog where ever I have moved to. In the past few years we have only been able to grow a small amount of veggies and herbs in boxes in our small city back yard garden. Now we have a bit more room and the possibilities seem endless. I have to admit here and now that I am not the world's best gardener, but I love gardening, no matter how successful the crops turn out to be. I love digging in the dirt and watching things grow. The catalog's arrival heralds the promise of spring, that damp muddy promise of the world in bloom. For a year which has begun with such intense winter and snow, the seed catalog is like a light at the end of a tunnel.
Today we read the parable of the sower. How seeds are spread and fall in places that challenge their development and make the crops fail. And how when they fall on the rich earth, ready for life, that the seeds become a great crop and the community is fed in abundance. Jesus tells parables to paint pictures of the kingdom of God. God's desire is for all the seeds to thrive, and we can have a part in that thriving. And we are invited to be rich in faith, feeding our spirits and our communities, strengthening one another in prayer and mission.
Today, I want to make my garden ready for God's abundance. It is easy, in these yet dark days of winter to not bother to prepare for abundance. It is easy in these financially depressed times to shy away from thinking about possibilities and potential. And yet God invites us today to live in preparation for the wonderful fullness of life that is coming, despite the challenges about us. And so today, I want to prepare for spring by opening my heart anew to God's promise. May we all venture out a little today and turn to the possibility of new life and renewal.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35
We share blood coursing
through our veins and DNA
we share characteristics and accents
old stories and grainy photos
occasional meals, rare phone calls
the normal rhythm of relations
knowing each others so well we forget.
We have live closely together
and far apart separated by mountains
time zones, sibling rivalry
and feelings bent out of shape
over years of practice.
We are blood and yet blood can be spilt
blood can be tainted and poisoned and infected.
We can be family and strangers
nearby and lonesome for a family table
aching not to eat alone.
We can make families of water and laughter
friends who are willing to undergo the same baptism
sibling willing to be bent by following
companions who are gathered at the same table
silently made one family by water and spirit
permanently bonded together by love offered freely.