Friday, April 30, 2010
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Create in me a clean heart
for I am cast down wet mud
clings to my being, I am
bent low with pain raw earth
tugging at my soul.
I have come to plant
a garden, black soil loamy
and rich but I am broken
spade and rake lie useless
and I am unable to grow.
You are my Creator earth you
took and formed me, thumbs pressed
into the crevices of my body smile
dotted my lips by your hand born
into a lush world of grace.
Despite the missteps and blunders you
lifted me up raised my body over
and over you infused me with life
and I am toiling in your sun
so that I might live again.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24
Yesterday I participated in an informal and general conversation about Native ministries and the particular issues faced by Native people on the East Coast of the US. Each region and tribe has particular issues. We also touched on relationships in the church that have not fared well over the years and how failed relationships can really halt the forward progress of any ministry. It became more and more clear in this chat that reconciliation was so necessary to the present and future work. We recognized there are so many people who could benefit from a regional gathering of Native people. And we would want to find ways to reconcile and be reconciled to one another.
The words of Matthew 5 become even clearer. How our offerings can be inhibited by our lack of reconciliation. How our best efforts can be clouded and slowed if we are taking sides against another, if we are broken and fractured by cults of personality and power. All of us succumb to taking sides and all of us are guilty of anger and division. Clearly, Jesus understood, even at this early point in his ministry, that division was the biggest barrier to following God. The biggest barrier to faithful service.
Today, I want to remember to set my gifts down at the altar and seek out those with whom I need to reconcile. The work of reconciliation is the precursor to all faithful service and I want to be God's faithful servant. Pride and arrogance will have to be set aside and a new level of humility will have to lived into. But I believe that God is always willing to empower us to reconcile and renew relationships. God's activity in Christ was to be reconciled to the world and the world, through him might be made new. May we all trust God today to help us in the work of reconciliation today.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8
When we were expecting our first child, we talked to our doctor about having the birth in water - it was very popular in the late 70's and was to be a gentle and kind way for a child to enter the world. I have always found water to be comforting and soothing to me, so I was a big proponent of this idea. Our doctor and his wife, who was also a doctor, suggested, very gently, that if we wanted to see what real life was like with children, we should come to their house. Life, in their house was neither gentle nor quiet. Their brood was loud and boisterous and he reminded us that life is loud and boisterous. Entering the world is not gentle, he reminded us, and there was no real way to get around it. Besides that, it would be totally impractical, if not impossible at Johns Hopkins Hospital. We laughed and realized we were asking for what we could not have. We also knew we have the best doctors and we trusted them with our new life. The gentleness in our lives would have to come from us.
Paul suggests that out of love for the people, they were gentle and tender in their relationships. They were willing to put aside their own intentions and opinions and care for the people. The love of God in their hearts awaken a gentleness and tenderness that they might otherwise have demonstrated. How remarkable, that this canon lawyer, this outspoken defender of the faith was moved to a gentle and tender compassion, even where he felt that folks were slow to follow and change. God stirred up in him and his companions a new and necessary way of being - gentle and compassionate -like a mother with her newborn child.
Today, I want to remember how harsh the world can be to all of us and how we each need gentleness and tenderness in our lives. The best thing I can do today is offer gentleness and kindness to all I meet - no matter how cruel and boisterous the world becomes. May God moved within us all today, so that we,like Paul, might have such affection for those around us, that our hearts are moved to compassion and gentle, tender care in every moment.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and Light
The icy water rolls down
the roof sodden with gray
green mold grows everywhere
I want to pull the covers up
over my face and hide.
The dull lamp light cannot
disperse the day's gloom
which shivers and shimmers threatening
to go out, trying to hide.
My mouth harbors a bitter
taste without sweet or salt
void of flavor and challenge
we labor over silent meals
and hide in the cafe shadows.
"You are salt and light" rings
in my ears as I look around
sad longing faces praying
for an angel a friend, a smile.
"You are salt and light" draws
me from the shadows enlivens limbs
stretches a stiff frame walking
into a world in need of radiance
and sweet delights.
My candle flame small
but insistent my flavor gentle
and constant though feeble
I am willing to share
what I have been given.
Monday, April 26, 2010
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Matthew 5:3-6
It's a dreary day, and the rain has been intermittent but the gray is a constant. Today I was reflecting on all those days when everything is gray and the world is cast in shadow. It happens to everyone, a moment when there doesn't seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, when everything done right is still turning out wrong. Times of loss, whether it is a loved one, a job, a home, direction -or all of the above - turn the world into a dark foreboding place and possibilities and blessings seem far off. We can feel as if we are being punished, or overlooked, even forgotten by God.
And yet, right here in the midst of the dark longing, where light seems never to shine, we hear the words, "blessed are you who mourn". Comfort is coming. Strength and courage are coming. A home, a place to rest your head, and food aplenty is coming. God knows our need more than we can cry out, and God considers us beloved children, today. God, who seems so far off on our dark days is calling out to us, inviting us to know again ourselves as beloved children, blessed and cared for tenderly.
So today, I want to give thanks for God's abiding love and care for us - even in our darkest, most un-trusting moments. I want to remember all the blessings I have known from God and celebrate them anew in my life. And I pray that we can all, in the midst of our darkest days, remember that God is acting for us, today, blessing us, even as the tears flow and the rain persists.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
"My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." John 10:26-30
Today is considered Good Shepherd Sunday. The lessons focus on the image of Christ as Good Shepherd, one who tends the flock and cares for all the sheep, even the wandering ones. And I wonder what it means to be counted among the flock. Real live shepherds across this planet, care for their sheep, carefully and tenderly. They sheer them in spring and make sure there is good pasture and adequate shelter in every season. And yet their lives re short, these sheep and the provide food in the end for many. So what is it really mean to be numbered among the flock?
I think being one among the flock, means trusting in a way we are not used to, and following, not leading like we are trained. Americans are in charge of our destiny and balk at the idea of being led. And yet every loving relationship, every dance worth doing, requires a leader and a follower, a trust that binds us together so we can thrive. Jesus invites us to follow, not blindly or without question, but with a level of trust. A yes to be held in the hand of God.
Today, I want to be numbered among the flock. To trust that I am sheltered in the hand of God, and covered in the arms of love. Trust is easy to say but hard to do. For today, anyway, I want to trust that my life is secure in God's hands and that I need to follow where Christ leads. May we all follow today, knowing we are secure in the loving hands of him who died for all us.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
Waking no alarm light
breaking through dream webs
and muffled incomplete fears
and I remember breathing
stretching taking in
a new day.
Yesterday the errands and tasks
heavy obligations frustrations
swirling in stalled traffic
and long lists.
There was no gentle
sigh no tender touch of
comfort and encouragement
steel on brass and sharp edges
the world abrasive
we are ground and worn down.
Hot angry tears burning
red rivulets down cheeks
the scorned and the weary
abandoned, forsaken left
to lie down in rough places
In the depths of night love
looked down and gazed
upon sleeping fitful children
sheets twisted sweating brows
a heart as big as the horizon
made room for one more.
Waking light unfolding love
a whisper and a promise
beginning a new season of
favor and blessing.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16
There is something spectacular about the morning light in April. It floods into what were so recently dark winter rooms and sends light everywhere. Rainbows are refracted in the most unlikely places and dust dances on the light beams like little children on the beach. Light, so necessary to our lives, can be too uncommon an experience. We can get used to shadows and comfortable with gloom everywhere. After a long winter, the morning light in April promises that there is redemption and new life at hand. The light streaming in, somehow lifts the spirit, somehow elevates the body so that we too might feel light dancing in the sunbeams.
Life can be very dark and shadowed for many of us. The losses pile up and our past failing seem like an stronghold around us. Grief and limitations can bury us in shadow, where we feel like our lives are hidden to the world. We can be the people dwelling in darkness, no matter what season of the year. And yet God promises, through ancient and modern prophets, heralds in every generation, to bring light to those who are bowed down, to those crushed by darkness and shadow. And so today I rejoice in the April sunbeams, even if they do shed light on how dusty and in need of cleaning my space has become.
Today, may God use each of us to bear light to one another. May we be heralds of the coming of the light, despite that challenges we each face. May we rejoice in the coming of the light, and share a good measure of that light with those around us.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:8-11
Popular culture is fascinated with angels. Earl is one very earthy angel on "Saving Grace" and the movie "Dogma" featured two handsome fallen angels we all found a way to care about. We thrill after books talking about angels and demons, and yet we rarely talk about our real or perceived understanding of such things. Today we read the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness which features both the Devil and Angels, the devil being an angel himself, a fallen angel. Oh how we ache for an ethereal presence which would swoop down in our worst moments. And oh, how often we dance and delight in fallen angels and wonder why we get burned. I am convinced that the presence of God in this world is much more complicated than we can understand. And we also rarely ask God for understanding and strength- we ask for our troubles to be put aside. We want angels, sweet, neutral, cherubic saviors but we don't want to wrestle with the fullness and falseness of our own humanity.
Today, instead of praying for divine intervention, I ask God to let me be one of those who ministers to others. God has given us the power to be presence of Christ in this world. We can, if we are willing, be angels to those in need around us. God's spirit is willing to enliven all of us to serve the people nearby who have been tempted and tried near breaking. May we all be willing to be angels today and serve others knowing in doing so, we are serving Christ.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:19-20
The movie Love Story reminded everyone that "love is never having to say you are sorry". I knew better then and I know better now. The work of reconciliation is a life's work and love is not a stagnant object but rather a living, breathing, every changing reality. I woke up this morning and said I was sorry to my daughter for some cranky things I said. I probably didn't have to, but I love her and loving compels me to be reconciled with her and all those around me. Reconciliation is something we do at so many levels with so many people, it take courage and prayer to truly be reconciled.
Paul's words to the Colossians that Christ's life was the embodiment of God's reconciliation with all of us. The incarnation of love and forgiveness. The work that we find hardest to do, God in Christ found a way through all of the human bluster and comes close to all of us in one incarnate child of God.
Today, I want to remember that through one we are all children of a living God. We have much to reconcile, but God has led the way through Christ who took on our sins, small and large, and brought us forgiveness and a deepening of love. I pray that today I can live a life worthy of being a child of God. May I ask forgiveness and offer forgiveness whenever needed. May I be reconciled to all those around me. And may we all rejoice that we are reconciled to God.
Tuesday, April 20, 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. Psalm 36:7-9
I like being strong and independent. When I am weak or in pain, I sometimes feel like I have failed. Although I enjoy the comfort and support of others, I really want to do things on my own and bristle when people tell me what I should and ought to do. I have plenty of shoulds and oughts for myself, thank you very much. And I also know there are those that can help me and I need to take their advice and lead. I might chomp at the bit, but I will try to follow at times.
The Psalm appointed for today talks about our relationship to God as those who are sheltered under God's wings, like mother swans protect their young. Like any parent across the animal and human kingdom, shelters and protects their offspring. Like any parent, God cares for our protection, our education, our hunger and thirst. How often we forget that before we had human parents, we had a loving Creator who is perfect parent, constant provider, source of all goodness and light? How regularly do we rely on our own merit and skill, forgetting where it came from? And to whom we will return.
Today, I want to fall before the Lord of love asking for a new sense of relationship, a complete trust in the One who is completely love and light. I so often try to do things by myself, and forget to rely on God. Today, I will offer all that I am and rely completely on God. May we all remember today, that, no matter what we face, we are not alone, but sheltered in the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God, the one who began us, completes us and loves us beyond measure.
Monday, April 19, 2010
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord;make his paths straight.’” Matthew 3:1-3
Although I haven't been in a while, I love to go camping. Started camping early in life both with my family and with girl scouts. Any time we traveled as a family, when I was young, we camped, partly because we didn't have money for motels and such. But also because it gave us a way to explore the world and to meet other people. We had some great adventures camping as a child. When Mark and I got married a dear friend gave us camping equipment as a wedding present. We used it until it wore out and have had to get replacements down the road. There is something about challenging oneself to set up and break down, to use resources carefully and to listen to the wind and the earth that can only be found when out in the wilderness. When creature comforts are left behind, the true beauty of life and relationships can be found.
John went to the wilderness and came back bearing God's word to the people. He found himself and his God in the wilderness. And not only his God but the God of all the people who was doing a new thing right in their midst. John, who was barely months older than his Jesus, took himself out into the wilds to find who he really was. The voice of God was put in his heart as he left creature comforts behind.
Today, I want to give thanks for all the opportunities I have had to explore the wilderness and to find God in the midst of the majesty of creation. It makes sense - we find painters usually near their paintings and musicians usually near their music. Our Creator in the midst of Creation. May we all rejoice in a God who loves us all so much that we are sought out in our wildernesses -urban or rural, suburban or in transition. May this day be one where we all find God in a new way, and our found by our loving Creator.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. John 21:11-14
Breakfast. The most intimate meal of the day. We wear our ripped pajamas, and sport our morning breath an dour bed hair. I can't hardly speak before my first cup of coffee. It takes me several to be able to speak in full sentences. Most of us are at our most vulnerable and human at breakfast. We are sensitive and sleepy. Many arguments erupt from breakfast companions - one wearing their hear on their sleeve, the other lacking coffee, talking with no sensitivity. Breakfast tells a lot about people. Do they drink coffee, tea, or diet coke? Do they bury their head in a paper or do they seek conversation? We are known at breakfast. We are ourselves at breakfast. And that is where Jesus finds the disciples - at breakfast. He was smart to be bringing food. People who had fished all night, smelled all kinds of nasty, and who had lost too much sleep - well, bringing food is like bringing light back into the world. Jesus met them at their most vulnerable. When the familiar things weren't working. He found them struggling and fed them. He made their nets full when they had nothing. He came at the critical moment of their despair and frustration and fed them. If I had been there, Jesus would have had to bring coffee too. And lots of it.
Today, I want to find a new trust in God, who in Jesus, is always seeking me out my dark and vulnerable places, in my times of exhaustion and failure, and bringing me abundance despite myself. God is willing to feed me in the morning, when all my efforts have failed and I am at my weakest hour. And God promises to be there with healing and restoration in our most vulnerable times. May we who have been fed, care for others. May we who have known love, offer it to others. In the breaking of the bread, God will be known.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:22-24
Deep a river fast moving sweeping
from one loss to the next
shaking my foundation my voice
quivers with remorse and guilt
there was so much more I should
have done for you so many missed
moments of pleasure and laughter
now lost in your parting.
There is a heavy veil brocade
dense a silence so loud
it muffles my heartbeat suppresses
my breathing I am gasping
for air for you are gone.
The light flickered and was gone
no lingering reads golds and pinks
to soften the exit but a loud
smash landing sun no more.
I tried all sorts of things
but I have lost my taste for
distraction and gossip
I just want to wrap my hand
around your hand and calm
again my heart.
I am waiting for sorrows end
joy like sunlight promised
a weather man's prediction
my usual skeptical reaction
to love and light.
I am aching for joy despite
my sorrow loss an pain
and want to dance on the grass
in the cool hollow of the evening
with the children that you promised
tender care every day.
This waiting is my learning
my heart stretching growing
pulled like old muscle renewed
until the strength returns
will you return and fill the cup
the Chalice and Paten for
a hungry broken world.
Your life was given
my life remade reborn
joy as constant as the sunrise
love renewed again.
Friday, April 16, 2010
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you." John 16:1-4
Several years ago when Bishop Croneberger retired from the Diocese of Newark, he gave each of us something to remember him by. Over the years, he had quite a collection of frogs (because of a wedding sermon he preached) that people had given him, thinking frogs were his favorite. And so he gave each of his staff one of his frogs. They were all different - wood and china, fabric and paintings. I ended up with a multi-colored bean bag frog. He was floppy and sat on my dashboard going everywhere with me. I named him Jack, of course. He wasn't very talkative but he was a loving presence on long rides across the diocese.
That summer we went to Delaware to visit with our family on vacation. Jack somehow got knocked off the dashboard, out of the car, and onto the driveway where they were staying. On our trip home across the Delaware Bay on the ferry, I noticed Jack was missing. Eventually, he was found, but he had suffered greatly over the time he had gone missing. Cars and frogs don't get along so well. None of them noticed Jack until we called- so he was pretty battered. When he arrived home in the mail, his insides were on the outside. We put him back together. We tell his story whenever we can.
Today, I want to remember Jack as I hear Jesus' words to his disciples. Sometimes, people who hurt you will think they are doing a service to God. It doesn't make sense, but we can all attest to the truth of that statement. Sometimes good people run us over thinking they are serving God, pleasing God even. Often they have no idea what they are doing. They don't see it at all - like they didn't see Jack in the driveway. We are all oblivious to the hurt we are inflicting. I want to remember Jesus' words and forgive the acts of ignorance and misguided malice that one can encounter every day. And may we remember that Jesus suffered and died that we might be made new. And every day God's love is acting for our renewal and transformation - even when we feel like we are being run over and run down.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:12-17
Very few people talk about commandments - giving or receiving them. Unless one is serving in the military, we are very unlikely to take or give commands. Our present day language and practice is much more subtle. We encourage and stimulate, corral and manipulate. No one says the give orders. We all wish we had someone to order around at some time. And yet, here is the kindest of all commandments. One that we can all wrap our minds and hearts around. Love one another, of course! And yet how rarely do we follow this command. How often do we really love others and care for them as we would ourselves? Loving is the gentlest command to give, and the hardest to follow completely.
Today, as I am busy with Vestry reports and other meetings, I am reflecting on how often I worry about the details of what we are doing, and rarely consider the impact. Relationships are primary to God and to thriving communities. And yet in our busy-ness we often forget the love and just take care of the tasks.
So today, despite all I have to do, I am asking God to help me get my focus on the loving - on the care of others. I ask God today, to help me follow Christ's command just for today, knowing that tomorrow will fall into place. May this day be a day when the tasks are overshadowed by the love, the care and concern for others. "Where charity and love are found, God is there."
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
You and I we're new here
and rather fragile growing
strong and wiry fruit budding
we have so much to bear.
We seem exposed to fierce winds
brutal unrelenting sun and water
from the sky.
We tremble in the slightest breeze
we are so thin and gangling awkward
our roles so critical our capacity
There are many others like us
out here in the vineyard
new branches quivering
aching to be strong
praying we are not alone.
The gardener comes around
rarely inspecting us looking
for weakness for bugs and disease
he shakes his head and walks on
the knife swinging on his belt
a reminder, a promise.
You and I are tender little vines
but we come from some strong stock
we are a small anxious part of
something larger more magnificent
and all together solid and reliable.
We will grow because we can
and are held firm knitted
a strength built on love
tenderly weeded with compassion
and constantly watered
with the river of life.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:18-21
In summers when I was a little girl there was an orphanage down the street from my parents house. As a small child I remember playing with the children and thinking they were just like me with more brothers and sisters - and sometimes less supervision, which I envied. Their lives were very routine and they had chores and chapel, but they also had lively games and hours on the beach to explore. There was a big bunch of them and they were never at a loss for someone to play with. I had an older brother who didn't like playing with little girls and two older sisters who were young teenagers with little time for me. I thought the orphans had a great life.
We presently find ourselves in the midst of a great public debate about adoption. One mother sent a child alone back to Russia. There are voices and concerns raised everywhere. I know now that all children thrive best with a family that loves them, and I know the process of adoption and acclimating a former orphan must be extraordinarily challenging. And I also know that children are the most vulnerable people in the world, and adults project all sorts of needs and issues on them for all sorts of reasons. And what every child and person aches for is to be loved. Not just one among many, abandoned by parents and family by some tragedy or circumstance, but a beloved child in a loving family. Jesus promises his disciples and us today that we will not be orphans, we will not be shuttled from place to place, we won't be returned, nor will we be a societal issue to be solved. The one who is love incarnate promises to be with us and has made us the family of God.
Today, I want to remember that I am a child of God, secure in a loving family and blessed with a tender loving human family. And I want to remember that there are many who cannot say that today. There are many abandoned, orphaned, neglected and set aside. I pray God will use me to reach out to those who are alone. May we all have the courage to reach out to those in need around us today in the name of the one who is love incarnate.
Monday, April 12, 2010
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." John 14:15-17
I have always had to rely on others when it comes to some household projects. I am not a skilled carpenter, and there are many other areas I know better than to mess with. We have had a visitation of squirrels in our attic, and although some people believe they can deal with this problem themselves, we knew this was way beyond our skill sets when faced with these critters - seemingly so cute and literally house wreckers. The man came and set up a plan by which we would go forward, and I am assured that in a few weeks things will be better. Now, if only all things in life were so simple and we could have helpers like him to make it through the deeper struggles of life.
Jesus said to his disciples to keep his commandments - to love one another. And if they were willing to love one another, Jesus would send them another helper, the Spirit of Truth, who is willing to dwell with us if we have love for one another. A helper of great magnitude for the greatest struggles and ordeals in our lives. And yet, how hard it is for us to keep Jesus' commandment to love one another. We would rather criticize and bicker, gossip and critique than we would honor and respect each other. And yet when hard times comes, we want more from God. We ache for a comforter, a helper, a guide in our darkest hours. God promises that for all of us, even when we fail to love each other. But oh, how wonderful it would be if we opened our hearts to one another in love, and the holy spirit could come in at all times.
Today, I want to put aside all criticism. I want to consider the good gifts that each person brings and honor them for those gifts. I know I will fall short of that goal. And yet I also have to trust God to send the spirit to teach me new ways to love when I have lost my way. May we all strive to love today, knowing that God will bless us richly in our efforts with an extraordinary helper. the spirit of truth, the spirit of love.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20:26-28
They call him "Doubting Thomas". It's a bad rap for a man that was just honest about his heart. The other disciples didn't believe the women and call them crazy. They only believed when they encountered the living Christ, when they were face to face with God's love incarnate and real in their presence. I would like to rename him, Honest Thomas, a man not afraid to admit to his confusion and frustration. He laid it all out there. And Jesus came to him in his darkest despair and offer his hands and his side. He touched Thomas and Thomas found the courage to believe. And it does take courage to have faith, no matter what your tradition. And it does take courage to admit to doubts and confusion. It is human and normal but we tend to hide behind bravado and artifice. We put on a good show for others and privately we cower in fear and doubt. Jesus came to that dark, cowering place for Thomas. And promises to come to our darkest, cowering places as well.
Today, I want to live with an honest faith. A faith that has glorious and dark moments alike, a life that is honest and open before God and others. And I want to live knowing God will seek me out in my dimmest, darkest questioning place, and bring the light of God's love in new and surprising ways. May we all trust God enough with our doubts to lay them before the Creator, trusting that God will find a way to show us love undying, love which invites us to touch and know the divine.
Saturday, April 10, 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 4:16-18
I love this time of year. Spring fills me with great hope and excitement. The light and the bright sprigs of green everywhere, along with flowers fiercely pushing through barely warmed soil, give my heart great joy. And it also made me a wee bit sad. The flowering tree, beautiful and majestic, adorn with the most gracious small flowers can be changed in an instant by a quick rain storm or a big gust of wind. Beauty scattered across the pavement, shattered and blown. I always try to enjoy the momentary gifts and let them go on to the next stage of leaf with a small prayer of hope for the coming days. But wanting to hold on and treasure the remarkable beauty is deep within me and I still twinge as the flowers fly away.
This Easter week, we have been regaled with the resurrection stories and the fleeting moments of intersection between Christ and disciples. These moments are fleeting. It is a brief season and then the eternal vanishes from their view and they move on alone, with the strength drawn from what they have witnessed and what has been promised to them. There is great anxiety in the waiting days after Easter and before Pentecost. And many of us feel this anxiety as the seasons flutter and stretch, moving to a whole new adorned earth. We experience a light momentary affliction, a loss for words and for action. But these pains and afflictions, signal a change in season, God's movement toward a full-embodied faith, a body living complete with spirit.
Today, I want to try to enjoy every minute of this day despite the temporary afflictions we all face. There is always more to do than there is time. But I want to remember that these flowers are only for today, a true gift, and deserve to be savored when present. May we all savor the gifts we have been given by God this day, and know that the temporary afflictions are being met and put aside in God's love.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. Luke 24:10-11
We went out weeping our arms
aching with spices, ointments anxious
for what we would see loss overwhelming
our words were limited our sighing
The morning light a sliver we crested
a small hill the entrance
to the burying ground made us pause, weep
until we were spend we had
to push on.
The men were reluctant fearful
talked of plots and politics we
couldn't hold back for anything
no one in authority would take us
as a threat no one would
even see us.
At first there was shock an open tomb
light now dancing everywhere warmth
inviting reaching in we heard music
and possibility where death
had once been the only resident now
gentle men brilliant and dazzling
rare creatures who smile our way,
would tell us foolish women
We ran, laughing with joy stumbling
our feet too slow to carry our
hearts thrilled with good news light
with hope and we ran like children arms
flailing leaving the baskets
and burdens behind.
We told the others the news
he is not here he is risen
they pitied us, told us how grief
would make us fools, how we were tricked
and foolish women prone to nerves
We were witnesses, first and together
God gave us a glimpse silvery and light
love remade, resurrected for us, yes
we went early with tears and broken
hearts and shattered dreams
we came back with idle tales returned
with profound truth.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Matthew 28:8-10
I had the opportunity to walk on the beach yesterday in extraordinary heat - extraordinary for early April anyway. The water is still frigid but the air was warm as we were having record high temperatures across the northeast. It was unbelievable. Almost hard to take since it got warm so quickly. Some people fought it, others got outside and enjoyed it. I was glad to part of the latter group.
The women came early in the morning. We have heard this story repeatedly this week since early Easter morn. The least likely recipients of God's greatest love and miracle - well, there they were. And they got to be the messengers of Good News to the disciples and to the world. They met Jesus as they were fleeing the garden and they had a story to tell. They stopped and worshiped him right there, hugging his feet, crying and rejoicing that God had brought love back to life.
So today, as the heat continues (with an end in sight), I want to rejoice today in God's love in my life and the miracles that are around me. I plan to get out there and enjoy all of it - the sunshine and the rushing blossoms, the birdsong and all the gardening I can imagine to do. May we all rejoice in God's love for us, a love which revives love and laughter in our lives, when we least expect it, but most need it!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. I Corinthians 15:41-42
Today, I want to give thanks for Wilma, who passed yesterday after a long struggle with grave health challenges. She was always good at struggling for the good of all and she was known for her ability to change the way our people worked together. She was a pearl of great price and she gave her life so that so many of us could thrive.
"Prior to my election," said Mankiller, "young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief." I was one of those young Cherokee women that took courage from her leadership, her willingness to go where no other woman had ventured. And she ventured with humility and grace, making sure she was taking the girls and the boys, the men and the women, and the elders with her into a better life together.
Shortly after I was elected bishop, Wilma called me at my home. Wilma wanted me to come to Oklahoma, to Talequah, right before Christmas. It was November of 2001, so soon after 911, and our hearts were on the ground as a nation. She wanted me to come and bring a word of hope, and help lead a interdenominational prayer and healing service. I couldn't say no, not to Wilma. It was the right thing to do, and I knew it. She invited me to bring my mother with me. It was a moment of tremendous love and healing for all of us gathered. Wilma couldn't be with us that day. As it happened she was very sick and hospitalized, and I had to get right back for Sunday services. Her dear husband Charlie Soap and family came. Principal Chad Smith, his wife and so many others treated us with such love and welcome. We were home among our people and all healing together. And that was Wilma's way -envisioning for everyone possibilities and heavenly bodies, despite feet of clay and the daily challenges of life. She was a gentle warrior, and a fierce friend. In her sixty four years she changed the world, especially for our Cherokee tribe, and for native men and women everywhere. She saw our hope when we had none, she knew our possibilities when we had stopped dreaming.
May we all keep Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and her daughters, Gina and Felicia, in your prayers. She shared her love with her people and the world, but she treasured them, and they her, with the tender love and gentle care. She was a pearl of great price and they have lost a wife, mother, and best friend.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, in the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:14-18
Today is the 8Th anniversary of my consecration as bishop. Today, I am especially grateful for the people of Southern Virginia and the community of St. Paul's College. It was a wonderful day and a tender beginning to my life as a bishop. The day was beautiful and warm. We lined up to process across the great expanse of lawn and the procession was a quarter mile long. Folks from across the nation and across the world were joined with us. Many Native folks representing local Virginia tribes as well as dozens of other indigenous tribes and nations were with us. Clergy and lay people from across the Episcopal Church as well as other denominations were there. It was a day for rejoicing. A day to know truly that God has acted.
The disciples see Jesus after the Resurrection but some have struggled to recognize him, or maybe accept the change that has happened to him. Whatever the real story for the disciples, I know that we all struggle when profound changes happen in someones life, including our own. We are challenged to accept it. And yet, in the midst of our struggles, God is always sending us out. God is always commissioning us to go out and carry love and redemption to others. God is sending us on a road we cant' see, and a path we cannot control, with love pouring out for others. God is always urging us on, even when we are working to get our minds around it.
Today, eight years since that day, I can see that my path hasn't been a very straight line, nor has the way ahead clear. And still God has been with us all the way, urging me on, sending all of us forward with love to spread afar. So may this day be one of rejoicing in God's love - God's love which is entrusted to each and everyone of us -carried forth throughout the world. May God give us the courage today to go forth, just as we are, carrying the good news where ever we go.
Prayer from the Consecration of the Rt. Rev. Carol J. Gallagher
Therefore, Father, make Carol a bishop in your Church. Pour out upon her the power of your princely Spirit, whom you bestowed upon your beloved Son Jesus Christ, with whom he endowed the apostles, and by whom your Church is built up in every place, to the glory and unceasing praise of your Name.
To you, O Father, all hearts are open; fill, we pray, the heart of this your servant whom you have chosen to be a bishop in your Church, with such love of you and of all the people, thathe may feed and tend the flock of Christ, and exercise without reproach the high priesthood to which you have called her, serving before you day and night in the ministry of reconciliation, declaring pardon in your Name, offering the holy gifts, and wisely overseeing the life and work of the Church. In all things may she present before you the acceptable offering of a pure, and gentle, and holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be
honor and power and glory in the Church, now and for ever. Amen.
Monday, April 5, 2010
And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:8
The weather has been glorious. It was an Easter Sunday to remember. The pews were filled, the bells were rung and the spirit was strong and lively. Wonderful gatherings of family and friends, Easter eggs hidden and discovered, all in all it was an Easter for the record books. A top shelf celebration for a most important day. And yet I can't help but think that first Easter was more about fear and trembling, astonishment and confusion. Did something incredible happen here? Or is some terrible plot continuing to unfold? And how often do we, so many generations later, when face with God's love drawing near, turn and run with fear and trembling. Generous life giving love is something that make us as anxious as it does make us fill with joy. Either we think we don't deserve it, or we aren't that loved. And yet, God brought life from death, freedom from all darkness and light where there was only gloom. Love persevered until the stone rolled away. Nothing holds love back.
Today, on Easter Monday, when we are trying to rest, recoup and face the days to come - it is easy to forget the glory and to be trapped by the fear. And yet, I insist today, to revel in the gift of God's love. A love that will not hold back, will not refuse anyone - this love broke through even death, and no challenges ahead can take Easter away.
So, today, the word for all of us is - FEAR NOT. Love has completed what human hands and imaginations could not. Love rolled the stone away and made us one family, no matter how fearful we become, how far we run, or how much confusion seeps into our lives.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" John 20:10-16
The woman came out early. She was the worst of the worst. An outcast from society - a scourge on good, faithful people. Her kind were not wanted in the shops or restaurants. Her kind wasn't wanted anywhere. And yet it was to the lowliest of lowly, a woman scorned and rejected who God chose to reveal the greatest miracle of all time - Jesus resurrected, Jesus having conquered death and sin. She was the first one to tell the story. Mary and the other women. God chose the least among them to hear the good news first hand, in the flesh. God transforming the worst among us into the holy messenger, the herald for all ages.
Today, the story tells itself. Today, Jesus is risen and we are invited to let God's light into our darkness, God's love into our most rejected places, our most hidden selves. We are invited to new life a place where darkness and death have no hold at all.
I offer today a simple song from my childhood that brings Easter home for me.
"I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore
Very deeply stained within,sinking to rise no more.
But the master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
from the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me, love lifted me,
when nothing else could help love lifted me.
Love lifted me, love lifted me,
when nothing else could help, love lifted me."
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
A Blessed Easter to one and all!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4
sealed in a tomb
no daylight pierces the sounds
muffled and distant all yearning
gone all pain subsided
not yet resurrected.
This day we wait between
crucifixion and new life we are
anxious people waiting for
light and sound again, breath and air
colliding lives intertwined again
and the world's sweet music of life.
It is finished the suffering
sorrow and shame of festering evil borne
by one man, nailed and lifted
to a cross, the world's worst condemned
to die on an ancient tree.
We wait today but no longer
under sentence, no longer condemned
to follow dark paths to gallows hung
we are waiting for inhaling
our breath stopped by the tragedy
our lungs to be refilled by the miracle.
Friday, April 2, 2010
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:38-42
There is very little good about Good Friday and there tends to be very little holy in holy week. We ponder together the passion events. We tell the story, we wash each others feet, we may carry a wooden cross throughout town, and we may have a long, three hour service today to mark the tie of Christ's crucifixion. And yet we remain so completely human and it seems as if our worst comes to light this week. I have watched good people hurt others during Holy Week. During this week, I have witnessed betrayal first hand. And, during a Holy Week, I have held all sorts of anger, malice and hurt in my own heart. Holy Week exposes just how horrible we can be to one another, as individuals and as a society. We are people still so in need of a Savior, folks still desperate for a God who offers love and redemption where we know only cruelty and deception.
The Good and Holy in today and this week, come not from us, but from the heart of God. This love, which knows not revenge nor jealousy, sweeps through the world, offering forgiveness and healing beyond our understanding. We come close to the love of God this week, in raw and exposed circumstances, and God breaks open our hearts. We enter in, from our human cruelty through Christ's passion, to become thankful as Joseph and Nicodemus were. They took his body, at great risk, and buried him at great cost to themselves. They knew that their actions were treason. And yet, love, God's love, make the fearful strong and the broken whole. Joseph and Nicodemus were afraid of nothing because they knew the face of God's love and nothing would deny them love again. So a dark day in the midst of a horrible week, becomes Good because God's love enter into our darkest places and brought love's redeeming light.
May we ponder together God's enormous love for us. A love which was willing to endure betrayal, denial and the heinous pain of crucifixion, so that we may receive God's love for all time. May our burdens be lifted today and our eye sight clear, so that we may see the cross and tomb and know God has gone to the darkest places so that we might have holy, good and joyous lives.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. Mark 14:22-23
Today we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the institution of the Eucharist, the offering of bread and wine as Christ's body and blood. We will read and remember how on that night he washed the disciples' feet and offered them a new understanding of God reign. A reign of service and humility, where God himself offered his very flesh and blood. A very incarnate understanding of a reign of service and a life of offering. We also contemplate the events of this night, the betrayal, the poignant moments in the garden, along with the chaos and trauma of the arrest. It is a drama for all ages and all times. This drama encompasses the worst human behavior demonstrated while God responds with patience and redemption. Our meanest selves are on display and God offers flesh and blood for the healing of the us all. God comes in flesh and offers in love a perfect life for our broken world. Bread and wine seem a small and inadequate substitute for such an enormous love offering. Words fail on days like these.
So today, I pray that I can keep in prayer as we begin the great drama of the next few days. This world is on a fragile edge and continues to prefer the meanest human responses to abundant and gracious love. We are fragile, on the edge, and thinking we are in our right minds and justified in our actions. I pray that God will change my heart and other hearts in the coming hours and days. As we prepare together for this great drama, may we be open to God's transforming love - a love that offers service in the face of arrogance, which offers forgiveness in the face of betrayal, and which stands ready to offer everything for the life of the whole world.