Tuesday, August 31, 2010
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;in your light do we see light.
Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the evildoers lie fallen;they are thrust down, unable to rise.Psalm 36:6-12
Some days are good days. The time of the year and the temperament of each individual can make a good day bad or a bad day good. I am amazed at the incredible similarities and differences in personalities. Especially within my family. How each person mirrors some behavior of the others, and yet how differently each reacts to the same information. I watched my mother last weekend and marveled how she copes with so much and yet can be undone by small things. How patient she is with so much and how directive and critical she was of her helpers in the jelly making process.
Today, this psalms sings in my heart. The steadfast love of God is so wonderful and so necessary in times when everything seems up in the air. At times when human love can be so incomplete and so demanding, so confusing and so fickle, God's love persists throughout the generations. God's love is refuge and sanctuary, protections and abundance. We so often judge the day or the circumstances by our feelings and yet God is creating, in the midst of our chaos, places of light and sustenance, filling our lives with light and grace.
May this day, no matter how provoked or annoyed I get, be a gay to give God thanks. There is so much to be thankful for and so much to rejoice in. May we seek out God's love and sanctuary every minute this day and be hidden in the shadow of God's loving embrace.
Monday, August 30, 2010
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:28-32
Very few people really want to know the whole truth. As we have been preparing for a family wedding, we have been asking each other, "how does this look?", trying to be at our best when attending the big affair. And yet there are more than one answer to the question, always. "You could wear a paper bag and look beautiful to me", is one. The other might be some honestly about size and shape - but we don't have to go there. Some truth is just too obvious, some truth is unique to the individual. Sometimes people have been brutally honest with someone and say they are trying to set the person free. Honesty is not always truth. Sometimes it can be cruel and abusive, when there is more truth than anyone of us humans can perceive. Most of us would be right and in control - not a vessel of the truth that sets us free, but rather truth that binds others and free only me.
Jesus was talking about a different kind of truth than most of us are willing to tell. He was talking about God's love which is so massive and un-measurable that few can perceive the reality, the truth of it. God's love which says beauty is measured in the heart and truth is measured in the freedom it brings. Truth is love which unbinds us, has us turn from the mirror and gaze into the eyes of love. When we behold the love of our creator for creation than we are free to delight in our world and do justice to others.
Today, I want to seek that truth in my life. Not the newspaper, headline truth but the deep within truth where love abides. May we all seek to know the love of God, so that we might share it with a world so desperate to be loved and be set free.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:1, 7-14
Labor Day weekend we are attending a family wedding that is probably the blow-out of the century. There are several ceremonies, several formal functions and festivities and expenses to the max. Now I know every one has a right to celebrate and have a wonderful wedding, but this has the makings of a royal event, an opulent splash and even, a disaster waiting to happen. With 10 attendants on each side and two clashing wealthy mother-in-laws to be, it could be the fodder for generations of stories. And I cannot help but think about the many people that will go hungry that day, and how many more people could be cared for it we were not so over the top about everything when it comes to weddings.
Jesus wanted the people at the wedding to know that flaunting wealth and status is a human game with no winners. Sharing wealth, position and power with others provides for winning for everyone and is the expected currency of God's reign in our midst and forever.
Today, I want to remember that everything I have is a gift from God. Every comfort and currency is mine to share with others or hide away and be selfish. Today I want to live as one who knows and sees God's reign in my midst. Sharing place and goods so that we might all thrive and God's light might shine in our time.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. John 8:12-15
The late August sunshine is bright but just a slight less intense than July. At the beach yesterday afternoon, it was slightly painful to watch the tourists try to soak the most out of the last days of summer. They tried to be louder and more athletic, dragging home worthless treasures to desperately hold onto summer as they pack up and head home. Cameras flashed in the strong daylight. Hopes were high to capture and preserve the boundless fun everyone was trying to have. Large groups of extended families called to each other and shared food, not willing to act like things were quickly coming to an end. The days end sooner this time in the summer and people flock to watch the sun set. As if they can catch a permanence, a light that will last forever. The light defines us, reminds us and remakes us with each season.
Jesus said to the religious leaders who were challenging him that he was the light of the world. He wanted them to understand that the brilliance of God's love, incarnate in him, was available and living for all. The anxiety about the end of summer and end of life is quieted in a relationship with God.
This day, I want to remember that living in the light of God means living with the promise of renewal and hope even in the darkest night. It means burning away self-judgment and doubt and living in the light which brings renewal and forgiveness in its shadow.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood." John 7:14-18
All these years and now no little hands
no little voices whining and laughing
calling friends about teachers and sneakers
anger about wardrobes, uniforms and backpacks.
All this time training and studying raising
bright children, brilliant women
gifts to the world.
The routine is silences and yet lured
by signs and season the need for pencils
paper and order aches within me
like a deep, gnawing hunger.
The light has changed and the mornings sing
of returning and learning more
signs are everywhere that a new lesson
a new learning, a new method is on the horizon
I must go seeking this new way.
Might we all be students eager and anxious
open to learning the language of God
while we, who no longer wait a bus stops, might
find our selves students again of heart
and soul, compassion maybe and
the songs of Creation and the Creator's hold.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Acts 10:9-16
I was attending a festival in New York City over the weekend and saw a group of people, all wearing the same t-shirts who were talking to people about the coming of the rapture - the end of times. They had a specific date on their shirts as they leader had calculated the date through his interpretation of the bible and recent historical events. They were sharing their vision and trying to sign people up so that they would go to heaven. Their dreams and visions were filled with the division of peoples, God's final judgment and separating good from evil. Peter's vision is very different, and in my experience, and the witnesses of generations of faithful, God fills dreams and vision with inclusion and expansion, rather than judgment.
Peter is like so many of us who wants to do the right thing and know what the rules are. He wants concrete and God is always challenging him to widen his understanding and perspective. God invites him through Jesus, the disciples and through visions to open his heart and mind to those people and cultures he has excluded. God bids his to participate in the life and world of foreigners and enemies even. And God invites us likewise.
Today, I want to be be open to the life and world of enemies and foreigners. I want to believe that God is expanding our capacities and horizons rather than limiting them. And I want to dream and help people a world where God's love is the sign we see on everyone's' forehead, the indwelling of God, given to all.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69
Rough times test even the most faithful people. We can lose sight of God's presence with us because the days are long and frustrating and there are many bumps in the road and hills to climb. When faced with overwhelming challenges, like disease and harsh conflict, we wonder whether God has abandoned us and whether in return we should abandon God and our community. God never abandons us and God plants us in community. We are formed and nourished in community, we live and grow in community and we also face conflict and challenge in community. God plants us in families so we can grow rich, deep and tough roots. So we can remain upright and stable when the hurricanes of life try to blow us over and tear us apart.
Today, with many conflicts above and below in the church, many doubt whether there is value in staying in relationship. Although it is for each to decide, I have decided that staying and facing all that is many conflicts are what helps deepen my faith. It is the maturing of a disciple, to walk the harsh rejecting roads that Jesus knew and to face the rejecting people that Jesus loves. I pray that today I can open my heart to the road and the people, asking God to increase my faith and deepen my compassion.
Monday, August 23, 2010
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. John 6:53-57
I am always amazed, when I visit with my Mom, that we have to talk during breakfast about what we are going to have for supper. I used to balk at the planning ahead because it felt like I was being hemmed in. How would I know what I felt like eating this evening? Especially during breakfast! I have come to realize that people think about food and sustenance a great deal. We were in a spice shop the other day and there were things I never heard of, dishes I had no idea existed and people who worry all the time about the right ingredients for their dishes. And these are people who are full and satisfied, able to buy what they need for survival and beyond. None of them seem to go hungry, even for a minute, unless they are on an ew fad diet.
People need food. And people need the love and nurture of a community and a real and understandable connection with their Creator and creation. Jesus understood that and talked about that connection by food images, tangible images that evoke a love that is drawn within and provides both joy and sustenance. Jesus understood we always don't know what we truly need but by using food as the language of love and relationship, we are connected and woven into the heart of God.
Today, I want to remember that no matter how many tasks there are to do, there is God surrounding us, providing us with what we need, even when we don't ask or acknowledge our need. Today I want to be grateful to God who finds ways to help me understand the tremendous love that is ours from God, and who speaks in languages that simple folks like me can grasp for eternity.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, `Lord, open to us,' then in reply he will say to you, `I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, `I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Luke 13:22-30
Last Shall Be First
I wipe the table after you leave careful
not to interrupt your meal your complaining
you never see me and I am always watching you.
I ring up your order as you check out
your cell phone your blackberry anything
but me who goes home to a loving home humble
but full of laughter and sweet smells.
I speak with caution my English flawed, you
ignore me in the ladies room as I try
to explain the floors are wt and you curse
me and my kind for our poverty.
You visit your children convenient others
like me care for your children, your car your
precious baby dog and we bath your parents and
feed them with a spoon.
I am a shadow to you but am filled with spirit
God alone knows of the blisters on my feet, calluses
on my hands and knees but from love I do labor
for love I am a shadow in your life and a
hero in my own.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song?
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
I have a harp which I love and which I have played regularly in the past. My mother and dad found me a teacher when I was a child of ten, chubby, awkward and easily terrorized. This renown and fabulous musician was not the teacher for me. She made me quake in lessons and I could never practice hard or long enough. I played for a while and then picked up a guitar which I taught to myself and played with my friends. The harp has always been with me. When we lived in Delaware, I started lessons with another fabulous musician who was a wonderful teacher. I grew as a musician under his gentle tutelage and gained confidence all along. It felt as if God was singing and playing through me and it felt like praise at all times, even when I was struggling to learn.When we moved to Virginia, my life got very busy and I haven't played it regularly since. Maybe those seemed like foreign lands and I struggled with how to play and sing. But now, being back to my home town after so many years, there is still the internal resistance to play with commitment and confidence. We can feel like strangers when things change, when we grow older, when lives are different...and yet David the harp player and singer extraordinaire reminds us that we are called to sing God's praises where every we are and use the instruments we have to bring music and love to the world.
Today, I pray that I can live as David, seeking in strange times and in hard places to use the talents and gifts I have to honor God and the people to whom I have been given. In these times where everything is measure by lack, may I be an instrument of God's abundance and joy.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:35-40
Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah
Pilgrim through the barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy powerful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of Heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more.
We are defined and recognized by what we eat. Every culture and human grouping holds certain foods dear and certain others as the stock of life - their daily manna, their daily bread. Rice is the foundation of food and life in some cultures, potatoes in others, bread in yet others and taro in many island nations. And then even in smaller groupings of people, by age and family divisions, certain foods reign supreme. Grits are unknown in some parts of the country as is scrapple and yet delighted in and celebrated in other places. You name the food and there is a group that that is essential to - the bread of life. When my girls were young poptarts and fish shaped crackers were the cuisine of their existence, their bread of life.
Jesus talks to a group of people who are confused by his actions, his miracles and his presence among them. They are trying to sort their lives out, trying to understand how to please God and be part of the family. And Jesus says to them that he is the food, the staple of life, the love, the gift, the entirety of what they need for life and life abundant. The complete and perfect sustenance of life. And none of us knows how to really understand that or take that into our beings.
Today, I want to live with conviction that Jesus is the br3ead of heaven, the complete food of my soul and body's nurture. May we all rejoice in our fullness despite what we lack for in Christ Jesus we are abundantly provided for. May we be blessed to share our abundance with others.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.John 6:16-21
My experience with rowing is generally on calm little ponds and lakes, although I have had some experience trying to stay upright and moving in a rowboat on the ocean. Years ago, my Dad had a boat, which when sea-worthy (and that is stretching the term) we would go out way out into the bay and fish for the better parts of a day. He was younger then. When the boat finally gave up the ghost, he would occasionally rent a rowboat with an outboard motor for tamer fishing trips. The hardest task is getting the boat from the beach into the deeper waters. And if the surf is high and the wind is up, it is an impossible task. It drains the life out of even a strong young person, used to the challenges of the ocean.
The disciples were moving on after a huge feast, a miracle feast. They might have thought that life, in Jesus' company would be now be smooth sailing and easy all they way. That same night, their faith and their strength was tested. Where was their Savior, the one who had fed all those poor people with a little boy's lunch and who promised to take care of us always? Life on the open water had become a nightmare. Exhaustion and fear set in. They felt abandoned, destitute and alone. Worse now, their exhaustion had made them crazy, they saw visions and apparitions and knew their time was at an end. Jesus appears in the storm, walking calmly and reassuring them of his presence with them. The life of faith proves very quickly to be challenging and exhausting, even as the savior is very near.
Today, there are lots of challenges ahead for me. There is some rough surf to face and some ill winds blowing. I want to live today, trusting in Jesus walking beside me despite the stormy seas and the wicked wind. I want to live trusting in a Savior who is able to bring abundance and to bring us all to our destination. May this be a day of trusting in God's love, no matter how high the seas roll. For the wind, waves and all turmoil are signs of God's presence with us, and in a moment we will find ourselves nestled in the saving arms of a loving God.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. John 6:7-13
I am weak with sorrow and hunger rolls
over me like rain over prairie grass
wavering, bending, stumbling I am wandering
without a compass without true north.
You hear the silent aches and the small
pitiful cries of mothers with dry mild
sad eyes and sunburnt laboring back.
They would send me and my offspring
away from the great font we thirst for
walking all this distance to return
home, worn and empty.
A little one bright with hopeful eyes
full of possibility and trust offers his
small lunch, mere pittance and they scoff
not seeing the bottomless wealth
of your heart.
You made us generous, and the hills
broke forth in laughter and sweet honey,
milk and figs flowed from the desert
birthed from what was barren rock.
We had little enough and left behind
you brought your best
and gave us more.
Monday, August 16, 2010
For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. John 5:20-24
In a family, as within any community, relationships are wonderful and challenging at the same time. Conversations can turn into arguments and small things said can be held against someone for years. The possibility of mis-interpretation and hurt feelings seems magnified within families, and the people who have the best intentions can hurt others without trying. When we love we hurt sometimes. It is just the nature of human relationships, sibling relationships, parent-child relationships and relationships between spouses and partners. Human relationships, especially the closets ones, are complicated, tricky and always messy.
Divine relationships, on the other hand, as we hear from John's Gospel today, are completely different than human relationships. The trust and clarity between God and Son, the divine interlocking of spirits and understanding helps us to glimpse possibility rather than our regular expectation. The perfect relationship is between God and the Incarnate One, Jesus, and all other relationships are made perfect through their relationship, and not outside of that relationship. All relationships are sanctified through God's relationship to Christ Jesus. We are not to know perfection in our human relationships, but we can be invited to a deeper, more thrusting relationship through and in God.
Today, I want to give thanks for the relationships I have been given, no matter how messy or challenging they some times are. I also want to be grateful for the perfection in God through Christ, whereby, despite our human failings and brokenness, we can be made complete nestled in the arms of God.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Luke 12:49-56
People want to think that living in a church community means living within a peaceful, quiet community that is always calm and agreeable. That would be a foolish notion, like saying that living in a family is a peaceful, calm existence. All growth happens through some sort of trauma. Birth is trauma and pain yet what a wonder is life brought forth. Most of us don't like the stretching a growing that comes with change and transformation. We feel ill-equipped and not up to the tasks ahead. We would go back to our old memory places rather than live through trauma and change, even if the change is God's doing. My mother has always reminded me, "you know that God is getting close when the devil works overtime!" Our times of chaos are moments when God is transforming us, rebuilding us in new ways for justice and love.
Jesus wants the religious leadership to understand that God stirs up the people, God moves hearts and minds and change is the sign of God's constant unchangeable love working healing and transformation in the people. None of us want to grow and change. None of us want to asks for more than we have. And yet that is how God works, asking for more than we have, giving us what we need in abundance.
Today, I want to glory in the love of God which puts us all in families and communities, and put us in the midst of conflict and challenge. Being alive and in love is challenging and it comes with some pain. But God promises to deliver more healing and forgiveness that we could ever possibly expect, and lavishes us with capacity and new life beyond our imagining.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. John 5:2-9
One's bed is a sanctuary of sorts. I know that when I am traveling, particularly after a long journey away from home, thoughts of my own bed make me ache to be home. It's not a special or fancy bed, but it is mine and it is familiar, comfortable and speaks of family and home. When one is sick, one takes to one's bed. When we are injured, we are often bedridden or confined. For those who have suffered with bad backs, one's bed becomes ones whole world. The view from one's bed can often be limiting and constraining and a confined person can weep for want of freedom of movement. The bed can isolate one from all the household activities.
The man who Jesus found by the side of the pool had limited vision, a confined sense of self and a very limited expectation for life. He just wanted to move from the spot, from his bad. He needed help and no one would provide it. Jesus, full of God's love and compassion imagine more for him - strong legs and strong arms with which he could walk away with his bed in his hand. Jesus not only healed him but expanded his field of vision, his possibilities and his capacities. Through God's love he was made more whole than he could have imagined. How many of us could not even imagine how God worked and has worked in our lives for our healing and wholeness.
Today, on this spacious Saturday, I want to open my heart and mind to God's healing in my life. I want to open my eyes to the possibilities rather than my known limitations. May God grant us all the willingness to take up our beds and walk. A new found freedom awaits all of us as we welcome the love which changes hearts, minds and vision.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. John 4:49-53
Recently, I got to thinking about what it meant to be on a journey. When traveling in New Mexico, Mark and I experienced several long drives with people we don't often get to share the road with. When people travel together, they can't help but learn a great deal about each other. On Saturday, we drove to and from Farmington (from Albuquerque) with Bishop Smith, telling stories and laughing at jokes and our own humanity. We filled the hours with observation and silence to, commenting on the gorgeous scenery as we went. We learned new things from each other. On Sunday we drove back and forth to Santa Fe with Andrea and John and we learned a good deal more about their lives as we talked and shared on the journey. Laughter and comfortable silence filled out time and we found ourselves closer in heart and mind by journey's end.
Our journeys take us to places, but the insight and healing happen along the road. The goal is not a place on the map but the presence of God that heals and transforms us as we step out together in faith. Jesus knew that the first act for the father of the sick boy was his willingness to start the journey home. His steps in faith, his journey became the presence of the living God in his life, healing and transforming his heart and his child. And his simple act of faith transformed a whole family a whole community.
Today, whatever healing and transformation is needed, I want to step out in faith trusting that God will provide the needs of the journey and the healing in the midst of it. I pray for strength to not give up, but to take the journey, one step at a time, rejoicing in the growth and changes along the way. May God grant us all the strength to trust and believe, so that our journeys might bring about the healing of our world.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42
His face was gentle and his gaze
intense looking through my attitude
my tenuous grasp of dignity and hope.
The task in front of me water for cooking
for life, my humble tasks of daily life
undone by this persistent stranger.
We should be repulsed enemies
certainly distant but thirst and compassion
bubbled up like a new clear blue
spring from an old well.
Fear and trembling replaced hostility
a man like all men and yet tender
in redemption offered in seeing me
as a child innocent and dancing before
need and isolation broke my heart.
I am reborn without pain
no ripping or blood but rather
living clear blue water and life restored.
Neighbors come running for God's love
to be drenched in God's living water
to be baptized and born anew.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” John 4:7-15
Water is essential to life. I learned that lesson again while we were traveling in New Mexico. I dehydrate very easily and found myself a bit overcome the first day we were there. I was thirsty but didn't even realize I had dehydrated before I began feeling quite ill. My balance was off, my stomach queasy. I finally had to go back to Andrea's house and lay down with a huge glass of water by my side. It took sometime for me to recover my equilibrium. Water is so essential to life that it comes before food and shelter in our basic needs. We who live by seemingly endless streams of water have no idea what it is like to exist in the desert. Water is essential to life and living water, that precious gift from God is life abundant, overflowing and renewing as a primal mountain stream.
Today, we find Jesus in conversation with the last person on the planet he should talk to. She's among the enemy people, she has lived a shady life, and she continues to live on the margins of society, outcast and rejected from society because of her lifestyle. Jesus talks to her and asks her to give him water. She asks him to give her the water of life when their conversation is done. It is her witness, the witness of the fallen and the outcast that changes her whole village and her whole community. They all reach for the love of God because of the testimony of an outcast. God's love broke through all barriers that day, for all of us.
Today, I want to live beyond the barriers of our times and our society, knowing that God goes before me in crossing every barrier and every line. There is no isolation from God for any of us, no matter how fallen and despised we are. In God's reign, in the here and now, there is living water enough for all. May we all act as the carriers of the living water, crossing all lines to open offer others the heart of God.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:31-36
Arriving back after a long day of travel, I got to thinking about how we make bishops in our church and how much of what we do is done in the background. The service, with the reading of testimonials and the dramatic laying on of hands is one thing, but the gathering of bishops, who sign and seal (in red wax, each with our rings), is a very powerful moment done before the service. The sealing is not a public event but it is profound. Each bishop has a special ring that they were given at their consecration, and they use it to make a lasting impression in the wax of their affirmation and commitment to the new bishop. A seal a lasting and permanent sign of a living and ongoing relationship.
Today, we hear John's testimony about Jesus. Of how there is, in Jesus, a permanent and ongoing relationships with God for all of us. That there is no distance nor mediator now between God and us, but in Jesus, we are gathered around the table, family all, and are sealed and signed for by the one who lived so that we too might live.
Today, as I get my feet back under me, and remembering all the wonderful experiences of this weekend, I want to give thanks for being sealed in to God's love by Christ, and live knowing I am in a lasting, living and ongoing relationship with a loving Creator. By our words and actions may we share that love, sealed and permanent, with those we encounter today.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:32-34
Yesterday, after many struggles and challenges, the Diocese of Navajoland consecrated David Bailey as their bishop. I had the privilege to be a co-consecrator and to participate in the wonderful ceremony full of love, hope and tenderness. 20 years ago, I traveled to Navajoland for the consecration of the first Navajo Bishop, Stephen Plummer. There was excitement and thrill in the air then, with a hopefulness that knew no bounds. After 20 years of up and downs, the thrill might have been a bit tempered, but the hope and possibilities were again before them. For a people who know flocks and shepherds, God spoke again in their midst to remind them it was God's good pleasure to give them the kingdom.
It is easy, when the challenges of life build up for a person or a people. And yet we hear Jesus saying to his followers, and to us today, do not be afraid. Even when things seem bad it is God's good pleasure, God's desire and God's goal to give us our complete inheritance, our complete blessing, our whole dreams. We are not poor or beaten down but rather lifted up. God is moving for us, even when the sky darkens and the days seem endlessly painful. God brings new things, new possibilities and new people to act for the people, for the flock.
I have had an incredible journey and am still in motion. But I give thanks this day for the reminder of God's infinite goodness and love. There is no remote person or people for God and we are always treasured by our Creator. May all that I do today be an act of thanksgiving for God's love and the people of Navajoland.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” John 2:6-10
Creativity is a gift from the Creator and miracles often happen when the jars are empty. It is a paradox of faith and life that when we are emptied, whether by our own doing or by circumstance, creative ways through the desert spring up. And when we are full our brains and bodies are not open to the movement of God's love in our lives. When we were children, my grandmother went with us to a Chinese restaurant, which was totally out of her familiar territory. She actually did well with the food and seemed to enjoy the whole experience. When the fortune cookies came around, hers read " a full belly makes a dull brain." We all laughed with enjoyment and that silliness that comes with being well fed. She thought the restaurant was insulting her. It is most often our emptiness and our need which makes us open to God's love and to new direction. When we are full we can hide behind our defenses.
Jesus is attending a wedding of a close family member. He might have been reluctant to be there - we can never know. What we do know from the Gospel today is that there was a need, and there were empty jars to be filled. The miracle of water into wine begins his visible ministry, where God's love working through him changing emptiness into fullness and failure into honor. God's miracles are always about filling the empty, using the ones who are standing by, empty and drained, for the restoration of the whole community.
Today, I want to rejoice in the times of being empty and drained understanding that it is in these times when God's love makes miracles happen through us, the empty vessels. May we rejoice, full or empty, knowing God is working through us for the restoration of the whole community.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:46-51
I was a cookout recently, at the home of friends. I have just been at their house once, and it was in the middle of winter so I had never really taken in their back yard. The house is nearly 100 years old and this young couple has spend endless hours painting and repairing. The back yard had needed a lot of work at they have thrown themselves into it. While we were all talking and eating, I noticed a lovely fig tree, near where we were seated, and it caught my eye. The branches were swollen with figs, and although a young tree, had already begun to spread it's strong limbs. The scent of figs on the night air took me back to childhood, when I would sit for hours in the branches of our now long gone fig tree, listen to the wind and take in the aromas of summer. The leaves are wide and shady and a child can fall asleep in the low wide branches. An adult can find rest in that shade too. Fig trees seem to be an invitation to savor the summer, savor the time and savor the life we have been given. And it was at a fig tree where Jesus spied Nathanael.
Jesus had his eyes and heart open to the invitation of God. He sought out companions for his journey, and was playful and challenging in the process. Imagine enticing fishermen from their nets and coaxing stubborn young men to follow an unsure path following God. And yet, there was the possibility of new life and adventure, and we all rise to the occasion when we are invited to something special or in a special way. Their faith was activated by finding out that there was more than the world they knew. There were exotic and unique possibilities they could never imagine before them, and also some incredible challenges that would wear them down. But God found a way to touch them, to reach them, and God finds a way to reach us, right where we are. Under a fig tree or laboring in our gardens of joy and anguish.
Today, as we travel to Albuquerque for the consecration, I want to keep my heart open for the invitation of God. I want to be able to hear anew the invitation and see anew God's working in the world. May we all remember today that God is reaching out to us all, no matter where we are, and we will be found by God today.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:35-42
Too often gapers delay the route we
turn and see the broken wreak humanity
splayed across our paths and time stands
still traffic stalls and we grope and
creep to find another way home.
The exit in sight we turn to strangers
who offer another way and we follow
through gardened suburban lanes lined
busy streets and foreign territory
we never planned to see.
We are changed by what we see relieved
to be home again clinging
to the wonder of love and familiar.
God is the Creator of detours those paths
where we learn to trust and be lost
to the moment and the other.
We are known and loved in our detours
we are made whole in our brokenness
by the Lamb of God who tarried with strangers
and called sinners his companions
and tattered women as disciples.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:25-28
Yesterday, a long time witness to Christ's presence in the world, passed to his final home. John Mather, a life-time resident of Cape May Point and long time friend to me passed away after a long struggle with cancer at the age of 87. John was senior warden at St. Peter's by the Sea in Cape May Point as long as I can remember. He was constantly working to improve the church and community. Despite the challenges in his last days, he walked to church (in great pain) when I lead services there in July. It proved to be his last service as he was bed-ridden, hospitalized and brought home again with hospice shortly thereafter. There was no kinder man, nor willing friend than John. He may not have been exactly like his name sake John (the Baptist), by his witness was strong and his humility and hospitality were boundless. John, by his life, taught that Jesus does indeed stand among us. May his soul rest in peace and enjoy the near presence of the one he loved and served.
May today be a day of rejoicing for all those living and dead who have witnessed to Christ's love and presence in our lives. May our witness be stronger because of them and may we honor their legacy with the same humility and hospitality characteristic of John.
Monday, August 2, 2010
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14
Being a mother changes everything. A child grows within, a hidden treasure, a frightening invader - both radically welcomed and heightened concern - flesh of my flesh and wholly other too. The pregnancy, with all it's mystery and discomforts is overshadowed by life and growth. And yet, mystery and discomforts never go away, they but change. To see a body grow and a mind develop is extraordinary. To watch them turn out of the driveway and go on their way is heart-rending. And all of it is blessing and terrible burden. Flesh never completely unwoven from the fabric and yet miraculously independent and belovedly known. A life time of tears and laughter, the imprint of ancestors everywhere, and a completely new being transforming the world.
John must have understood a little the mind and heart of a parent for his poetic words strive to capture an infinitely complicated miracle. God's gift of a son to the world, when the world so ached for redemption and transformation. God who comes in flesh so that we might all be related to God. We are now never completely unwoven from the fabric of God no matter how independent and rebellious we become. The light of God's love is never burnt out in the world, nor burnt out in us.
Today, I hear God say, "trust me, you are a part of something greater." I want to take into my heart the truth that God is working the details and I am cared for, more than I can know. And trusting that, I pray that I can live for others so that they might know love, God's love and light in this darkening world.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions." Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God." Luke 12:13-21
Years ago, when I was a young teenager, our neighbors, who owned many successful businesses and many hotels, decided that they needed to improve their home in order to increase the value of the property. They had the grounds landscaped and built a pool that was surrounded by a Japanese garden. They also had a high fence built to protect the property. t was a lovely pool, with a gorgeous deck at one end. They never used it. Their children were about grown and rarely returned to enjoy it. The parents were too busy and constantly traveling to revel in the joyful space they had created. We were told to use it as much as possible, and we took that invitation as our responsibility. We enjoyed it thoroughly, although we always felt a bit as if we were eating stolen fruit since it was so posh and so lovely.
God's love for us is so real and tangible and we often get so wrapped up in our fiscal and physical worries that we forget to enjoy and revel in the love we have been given. Jesus came to earth not to arbitrate but to offer. To offer light to those in darkness, abundance to the empty handed and love to the broken-hearted. He took up our flesh so that we are no longer distance relatives but children of a living and generous God. We are overflowing we God's love in our midst, and we miss opportunity upon opportunity to enjoy the richness of God.
Today, I want to try to live being rich towards God, rejoicing in the people and relationships God has blessed me with. I am not a monetarily wealthy woman, but I am overflowing with joy and blessings in the people that surround me. And in them I see the face of God. God, give me the strength today to enjoy and celebrate the incredible richness I have received in those around me.