Saturday, July 31, 2010
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20
Today I swam a half mile to raise money for cancer research and treatment. So many of my family members and friends have been affected by the disease and I felt anything I could do to help would be a good thing. It was also a good personal goal, to get back in shape and swim regularly in preparation. I am not sure if I was ready, but when I got there, a doctor friend of mine, who had already done his long swim last week, signed up to keep me company and cheer me on. My husband and oldest daughter were with me, keeping track of my laps and smiling all the way. And with every lap, I was praying for all of those I know who have been lost to cancer, who have struggled and lost their battle and those who are brave survivors. They were swimming with me too and I felt their presence with me in each stroke. "I am with you, even to the end of the age"
God, who desires relationship and authors love so that we might live with joy, has promised to be with us, in whatever trial we face, or whatever silly personal challenge we take on. Jesus, gave power to each of his disciples and to all the members of God's family who follow after. We are never alone in what we do. We are surrounded by God's love and the witness and strength of all who go before us and who sustain us in their faith. May today be a day when we remember all of those who taught us how to love and live, and by so doing, taught us to know God.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.Matthew 27:57-61
Years ago, when my sister Pegi died, I was newly ordained and we had three small children. We got the news she had passed on a Saturday night and I had services the next morning. I muddled my way through the services without remembering much. We hadn't made our travel plans yet and weren't even sure when the funeral was that day. I was a bit of a zombie with my heart and head both far away. We hadn't worked out any details of our getting to Florida, but I knew we didn't have the money to go. A dear parishioner and friend called that Sunday afternoon and said she just had a thought. She traveled a great deal on business and had so many frequent flier miles she could never use them. Would we want to use some of her miles to attend the funeral? We were so touched by her thoughtfulness and generosity. In the midst of tragedy she found a way to move with compassion to change our lives.
Joseph of Arimethea is a follower of Jesus. He intervenes and offers what he had, both political and financial resources so that Jesus could be buried. His immediate and close followers were in shambles, a broken group of devastated people. They had not rudder, no direction and weren't thinking clearly or functioning normally. Tenderness in the midst of tragedy that changed everyone's lives down through the ages.
Today, I want to remember that the challenges of life are not out of God's hands and that God is always empowering people to offer tenderness in the most tragic situations. I pray that today I can be an agent of that compassion of God. May we all offer what we have for the visible compassion of God on earth.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Act 1:6-11
The disciples were not cut out for the jobs they were called to. Many days I feel like I am not cut out for my calling. The traumatic ups and downs of following Jesus must have challenged their faith and their spirits. And yet, they couldn't help themselves. They had witnessed and known love that is greater and more complete than anything experienced. They had seen lives transformed, including theirs. I too have known love and forgiveness bigger than the world knows, and been transformed by God's grace in my life. Sometimes when we face challenges that seem to overwhelm us and we hang our heads, and other times we miss what is gone and we look back hoping lost love will return. But God invites us to look up, to look forward, taking the promises and transformations of the past with us into a brighter future.
The disciples must have felt bereft that day, the day of ascension. They had just a few days with the risen Jesus and he was gone again. They might have stomped off and gone back to their familiar, comfortable lives. But God in Jesus Christ had changed them. They couldn't go back. They went forward into strange and unfamiliar territory. They spoke with love and invitation to strangers and enemies. God's love within them powered them on despite themselves. Despite themselves they came back down from the mountain and put one foot in front of the other, following Christ with their hearts. And the spirit made a way for them, and makes a way for us today. No one living in these times can say that we have it easy, finances, floods and terrorism are a few of the many challenges. But we are not alone. God is with us and we have a way forward, one step at a time.
Today, I want to take one step at a time, looking not up or down, but to the road ahead with an open heart. God is with us and we are people who are lead by the spirit, and cared for by our Creator despite challenging circumstances. May we all have open hearts to the transformation in the heart of Christ.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 17:25-27
Living with my mother for almost three weeks this summer, I learned a good deal about strength in adversity and faithfulness in times of isolation and abandonment. My mother, at 87, is a bit forgetful, but her body and spirit are in good shape. She keeps in physical shape by walking and in spiritual shape by praying. By her place at the table she keeps a small notebook of people that have requested prayers and the specific things asks for. Whenever she has a few minutes, she will sit there and pray for family, friends and strangers alike. She exercises her relationship with her God in such a way that she is fit for duty at every call.
Paul, writing to the faithful in Rome, knows of the challenges and heartaches they face. He also knows that God's power has and will work through them. Despite his distance from them, he prays constantly for them, knowing that his exercise of faith will see them through, even when overwhelmed and weak.
I am reminded today, that f I feel weak, God is inviting me to pray. God is reminding me to exercise the gifts and muscles I have been blessed with, trusting that despite whatever circumstances befall, God will find a way through for me. I pray that today I can pray and trust so that the world might know of God's love in my life.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27:27-31
Friends flee and all around silence
deafens the heart a blanket of sorrow
surrounds my soul oh you who stood proud
now vanish into the crowd and point
mocking me for love freely given.
Enemies more honest than disciples
more willing to voice violence and rage
real in the face of upset and trauma
vanished are the smiling friends
who pledged eternity and fidelity.
The darkness gathers, warm air sodden
with dusk and tears, blood weeping
skin ablaze with beating shame and isolation.
If we would do this to God how can we
survive this life of terror and abandonment?
If we who love our children still offer them up
how can we still whisper prayers on our lips?
Creator and brother, companion and friend
we are broken, rent asunder with shame yet ready
to flee from love at every moment.
Alone we cannot live, without you we are dust ground
under the wheel, hidden forever in the waste and run-off
of our panic and our fears.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:11-13
Today, in our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. The Lord's Prayer, as we call it, is a series of petitions, a set of phrases asking for God's help in our daily journey. Simple childlike requests, for food and shelter, love and forgiveness. And then Jesus tells his disciples about God's faithfulness to respond to the needs of those who ask. God is loving, even when we are not. God is generous and faithful, even when we have lost our way. God is a good parent, even if we have only known selfish, cold parents. God is capable of loving us even when we feel unlovely and alone. God is answering even as we speak.
Today, I want to try to take everything to God in prayer. In the midst of life's struggles, it is easy to forget to pray through the hard times. And yet, God is faithful, even when I am not. I ask God for the strength to pray, the courage to open my heart to God's solutions and the perseverance to stay fixed on God's love in the midst of turmoil. May this day, be a day of prayer, childlike prayer, honest prayer, the prayer of a child who has complete faith in the generosity of God.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Matthew 27:11-14
Sometimes the only answer to accusations and gossip is silence. Folks can get carried away, and in their fervor to respond to a difficult situation, will seek out someone to blame. Once a person has been identified, then it becomes easy to heap on stories, even if the stories have little or no basis in truth. When we are young and have problems, we blame our mothers and fathers. Freud taught us all that this is the way to be - finding fault in those who raised us. And when we are older, we can blame the boss or the person in charge (the parental substitute) for whatever horrific thing has happened. Being a real adult demands that we take responsibility for our actions, and that we make places safe for adults and children alike. Those who are in charge have a bigger responsibility for the good of the whole community and are called to scrutinize their own actions. They also receive blame, even when it's not theirs. I have a magnet in my kitchen which says, "I didn't sat it was your fault, I said I was going to blame you!"
Jesus is before Pilate and is being accused of sedition and terrorism. The country is in shambles, but it is hardly his doing, and yet he says nothing. Faithfulness, modeled in Jesus, calls us to understand the pain in our midst and have compassion despite being falsely accused. Our Savior invites us into the darkness of other human hearts, to abide for a time, so that we might understand more deeply the love and light of Christ. We are invited to abide in the mean times, to hold on in dangerous waters, and to be silent in the face of false accusations. It is the hardest thing to do, to be silent when fingers are pointing and mouths are screaming. But God is in the midst of the darkest places.
Today, I want to enter into a place where my actions include the silence, abiding with Jesus, until the storm has passed. I pray that we can weather these challenges together, and we can find light and love in Christ on the other side.
Friday, July 23, 2010
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. Psalm 51:8-12
Some times the hurts just pile up and it is easy to want to seek revenge or punishment for those who have hurt us. Sometimes people misinterpret our kind actions and claim we are selfish and villainous. People can do very bad things in the name of the church, democracy and in God's name. And the wounds that we bear can be deep and fracture our hearts. We can't always fix our broken and messy hearts, but God can. The poet and king David understood that. And we too must act like we know that until it takes hold. Today, I would like to share a poem attributed to another great saint, Mother Teresa. When the world comes on strong with hurts and betrayals, this has always brought me back, bound up my wounds and reminded me where my heart truly resides.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:1-4
Yesterday morning we got up early and rode our bikes to the beach for one last swim before the end of our vacation. We will be back at my Mom's again during the summer, and we will have a chance to swim again in the ocean, but we wanted to start our last day with a sense of strength and vitality. It has been a very hot July and we have spent our time out of the worst of the heat to keep us all healthy. So our last morning, we wanted to revel in the ocean without the burning heat recently experienced. We had the beach to ourselves, and the sky was a soft blue with wispy clouds and striped with some mist on the water. The dunes and the lighthouse were perfect backdrops for our swim. The tide was just coming in so the waves were gentle. It was a taste, a dip into the strength and power of creation in her gentlest form. We bathed in creation's power, so when our strength was tapped, we might remember and be strong again.
Our Gospel reading for the week is the passion of Christ - betrayal, denial and abandonment - all the things we humans do when times are tough. We often strike out and hurt the people we most love and turn our backs on those who could help us the most. Paul, writing to the Romans, reminds us all that we have been given a measure of strength, and that strength is not for ourselves alone, but for those round us in need. May we who have strength share what we have with others in these tough times.
Today, I want to be strong, even when the storms of life seem to rise up against me. I pray that I can be strong, not for myself but for all those who are around me, who ask me to be strength and direction for them. May I remember the strong and constant waves and remember how God's love is stronger and more constant than those waves.
Today, as I begin
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:7-9
Over these past weeks with my mother we have been sorting through some old photographs and talking over the experiences they record. Some of these photographs are of relatives long dead, and some even long dead before I was born. I have listened to many stories now over the past weeks, some repeated time and time again, and I am realizing how related we all are, how embedded I am in a continuous and continuing stream. My aunt Kay's painting - We're Still Dancing - sums it all up for me. No matter how isolated or removed we get from family and clan, somehow, God is active in gathering us together, renewing and making us, restoring strength and bonds. Our Creator, giving us such unique and creative families has also committed to being with us in the activities of creation, in this life and the next. As we look over images together, as we touch them and turn them to the light, I have been given a great insight into God's activity in my life. To make me and weave me into the heart of a living, continuing family, which stretches beyond my understanding and beyond this time and space.
I have chosen these past few days to focus on Romans and not on Matthew's passion, not because I don't want to deal with it, but because the story stands for itself. The power of the story of betrayal, denial and crucifixion is God's story of our visceral connection to the living and the dead through the sacrifice and compassion of Christ. For me, there is no more I can say, but to live a life of grateful thanksgiving for that offering and passion.
Today, I want to live knowing that I am surrounded by ancestors who are still dancing and still praying for those of us living and working today. I am not alone in any effort or in any time. We are knitted together through the love of God who is willing to live and die with each of us, willing to bind us together no matter how far we have gone.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10
We have been at my mother's house now for more than two weeks and most of our days are spent navigating through my mother's world. She recently lost her car -it blew up in her driveway - and so for the time we a re here we are her wheels and her freedom. We have tried to take care of small repairs and other such things, so as to ease her burden a bit. And she likes to go to Sonic and the hairdresser, so those are two other important trips we take. I have spent some time weeding her garden and helping her replace some plants that have died. We got mulch and spread it around her big flower bed so things would stay a little better in this heat. This morning, she and I planted basil in the planter on her deck so that she has the herbs right at hand. Watching her, I can see and feel the love she has for the work of gardening. It is a delight, not a chore, a rejoicing which is new every morning. She can look out her window and delight in her plants and watch the birds in her large back yard. There is no law governing what she does just sheer and unadulterated love. At 87, she delights in the same small things of life she has all of her life.
Today, I want to do everything, not out of oblation nor necessity, but out of love. I want to find a way to do everything for the sheer joy of it, even if right now I cannot imagine how that will happen. Watching my mother, I am learning anew about motherhood. She delighted in a thousand small things we did and now she know how to delight in other small victories. And so like my mother, for God's sake, I want to live by the law of love - God's law of love which delights in every creature and every moment of our existence and is thrilled with each small victory and every little smile.
Saturday, July 17, 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. Psalm 30:4-5
Some days the simplest things can bring the greatest joy and other days a complete and perfect effort seems wasted. We have been spending time with my Mom, enjoying the ocean near by and helping her around the house with chores great and small. The other night, as the air was cooling, she and I spent time weeding her flower garden. The light was gentle and the breeze was pleasant. We chatted about unimportant things, laughing about the strength of weeds and the comparative weakness of the flowers. Yesterday morning we planted some new flower plants before the sun got too high, and this morning we tried to spread the mulch before the heat came on strong. Sweaty and damp, the job done, my mother's joy was real and complete. Despite the challenges of our lives together and our communal gardening efforts, joy does comes in the morning. Despite the heat and the challenges of age and relationship, there is nothing like bringing a smile to my mother's face. She can look out the window now, every morning and enjoy her garden growing, with noe weeds in site - at least for a time.
Today, I want to remember that our fears and worries have short lives, and trust God to bring joy despite the challenges we face. The anxieties and pains that keep us awake are burned up by real love and real life lived in relationship to God and with one another. These days are short, despite the length of day in summer, and I pray that I have the courage and faith to enjoy every bit of our shared lives, knowing that even in challenges the love we share is a blessing, every morning.
Friday, July 16, 2010
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Matthew 26:20-22
Did I walk away
when you cried for help was
my heart so transparent
that my polite words
were no disguise?
I thought you were my friend but
when you said you had to leave
I got so mad that I wanted to
hurt someone or go with you or
be something more to you than the others.
Your touch and your voice whispers
when I was broken alone netted in darkness cast
in a rolling sea of despair and hurt fishing
you came fishing for me saved the wreck
the tortured soul and I thought your hand
would save me forever.
The night is upon us now and I turn
my back trembling despite my firm jaw a scar
across my heart opens and I know tonight
will never be understood for who were are
but as a play a drama for all the world.
Is it I who set the wheels in motion can
I stop the train from crashing the gulls cry
I cry the soldiers scream our arrest and violence
are at hand.
Tonight, it is I and we and the whole world
watching reenacting remembered and present bread
broken for lives here and lives to come
and we are all a part of love made real
on the dark night of betrayal.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”Matthew 26:10-13
This morning, after spending yesterday with chores for my mother, we rose up early and headed out to ride the ferry across the Delaware Bay. The morning was moist and warm but the trip across was cooled by the water and breezes. Out on the water, either alone or with a crowd, there is so much to wonder about and so much to take in. The landscape is familiar on both shores, and yet, seeing each from the water's distance, I could relive all of the good days on both shores, in heat and cold. And I remembered most the people who have shown me love over the years, the salty independent people who live and work near the water. And I couldn't help but be grateful.
A woman showered Jesus with appreciation, with gratefulness for love given, for life restored, for being treasured when the world had tossed her aside. The religious elite wanted to chastise her, but Jesus knew that this come of gratitude for love rings through the ages. When we are loved and accepted, we are made whole. And being whole we can love and be grateful with our whole being.
Today, I want to live my life in gratitude for all those people who have shared God's love with me and accepted me as I am. I want my day to be in honor of the hers and hims who offer a love beyond measure - I cannot help but be grateful.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’Matthew 25:21
Over my life time there have been several dogs in my life, those we had as a child (Lassie, Penny) and those Mark and the girls and I have shared including Jorma, Doolin, Madeline and now Petey. We love to try to teach our dogs skills and tricks and some of these animals were more talented than others. Penny, who was a border collie was by far the smartest and bright dog I have known. And she was also very driven, edgy and nervous -not always fun to live with. She wasn't a cuddler. Petey on the other hand is a mixed breed mutt pound dog with not to many brain cells but a heart of gold, who wants more than anything to please her master and is willing to cuddle and love at any minute. Talent given and talent shared are two very different things. And love is always the best talent we cah share in whatever measure we have.
As I have said before, I have a hard time with these end time passages in Matthew, and yet I understand that they were written to a specific audience that needed a wake up call. I for one am grateful for the talents given in my life and the talents shared across my faith journey.
So today as I recover from a bout with a bug, I pray that God will use my talents and gifts to the utmost. And if love and care are the greatest gifts given, may I have the strength to give my all today. May we always be ready to give more than we have given knowing that God will supply the need and provide in abundance.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. Matthew 25:1-4
In this part of the world, growing up, there were oil lamps all over our house, and every one else I knew. If you live by the water, where storms and winds are common, you know that electricity is a fragile and inconsistent gift. We live by it but we don't bet out lives on it. I knew when I was very small where all the lamps were kept, how to light them and how to replenish the oil. We have large metal containers, always kept full and replenished, so that in case of the inevitable, we were prepared. There were many other ways we prepared for life's normal challenges by the ocean.
Jesus tells a story about wise and foolish virgins. From what I know their job was to light the way, to be those who met the arriving royalty. There were five of them who were not prepared for the delay, and ran out of oil, and so are said to be outside of God;s kingdom. Well, I have always been puzzled and hurt by this story and can't imagine a loving God excluding those who failed at their duties. We all fail at our duties. But I also know how important it is to do what we can when we are able, when we have strength and capacity, we should be doing all we can to light others way.
Today, a day when have had a bug and struggle to stay awake, I want to thank God for all the healthy and strong days I have and to ask God to use me for lighting the way of others. May we all trim our lamps and be ready to do what we can for the life of others.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:28-37
Mr. Rodgers always suggested that we were all neighbors and that being neighbors was a simple invitational process. And yet we all know that spies were arrested who were someone's neighbor. We all teach the children to be suspicious of strangers, and life after 911, is a place of worry and concern. Our neighbors should be reported if they look suspicious we are told.
Jesus tells a tale of radical neighborliness, of a mercy and kindness that shattered proud man's assumptions. Our neighbors are the people that are different, that frighten us, that walk to a different beat and speak a different language. We are as likely to receive mercy and help from one who is considered an enemy than one who is a friend. And in our lives of faith, we are to be as willing to cross all barriers in the persuit of mercy and compassion.
Today, I want to remember that God is known most powerfully as we give love away, as we share God's bounty with strangers and friends alike. May we all have the courage to know God as we care for all with mercy and compassion.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates." Matthew 24:32-33
When I was a child we had a fig tree in the yard that was a wonderful place for a young girl to climb. The leaves are huge so the shade is plentiful, and the tree grows close to the ground, branches reaching wide, so there is no skill needed in getting in the tree. Several small children can nest in the branches. And the figs themselves are wonders to watch. First, these tiny leaves become plate size overnight. The tiny little light bulbs grow measurably every day. And then the small fist size fruit, light green and veined, becomes riper and darker. It is the measure of a summer. It is a whole expanse of time, observing daily, while daily childhood games of pretend are played in the branches. The fig tree, as protector and provider, as playground and market.
Jesus talks of the end times and instructs his disciples to learn from the fig tree. Silent teacher, this tree, and yet rich in wisdom about the passing of time and seasons. We think we are in control of our lives, and think we have mastered everything, but the tree teaches us that conquerors find shade along with imaginative children, and we are all dependent on the provisions of a loving creator who has our time in hand.
Today, on this rainy summer Saturday, I want to offer my time to the Creator, to the God who has made me, and trust, that in God's time the fruit will appear. There is much that is tender right now, and it will be ready in God's time, not my own. I pray that I can enjoy the days and hours I have been given with all the imagination and creativity God has bestowed.
Friday, July 9, 2010
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:31
Dark night steamy and warm
the stars overhead spin our dancing
jingling ringing dust and sweat
mingling in the circle we form together,
Your prayerful silence is our north
the ancient mother brings western wisdom
sweet child dancer brings the eastern light
and I offer the compassion from the south.
Together and alone we tread
sacred circle crating life
relationship born of presence
interdependence rising from our strength
common need, aching and whole.
The night is dark and we are not
alone nor lost nor forsaken
Creator with all directions comes
to meet us in this circle love comes
to find us as we pray.
and a steady drum.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Matthew 24: 13-14
I have signed up to swim for Swim Across America which raises money for cancer research and cancer patient support. This year I will swim laps in a pool but next year I hope to do the open water swim in the Long Island Sound. This morning I went out and swam laps in the ocean and fought the incoming tide and the currents of the ocean while a gentle rain came down. The air had cooled from the previous days heat but the challenge is still before me - to build up my endurance so I can finish the challenge. Some days I am hopeful and some days my old body reminds me what a foolhardy commitment I made.
Jesus was telling the religious leadership about the end of the institutions they had built and which they relied on heavily, sometimes worshiping the institution and her rules more than they worshiped God. Whether it is our bodies, a relationship, an institution, a rule or way of life - they all come to an end and we don't like to hear it. We think we are superior or brighter than those who came before, and Jesus wanted the leadership and his disciples to remember, when things around them crumbled, that enduring - not righteousness, nor any other piety -was they key to being a child of God.
Today, I want to be counted among those who endure to the end. Among those who trust God despite the tenor of the times, the crumbling of institutions or the end of eras.
I pray that God will give me the strength to endure and the confidence to trust every day, every moment to the hands of the Creator.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39
It has been no quite a week staying with my Mom for summer vacation. At 87, she is strong and healthy although her memory is shaky -at least about current events but not about past stories. We have been listening to many. And the recurring theme is how she aches for her brood and wishes she could some how gather her family up and make all the broken pieces better, the angry soothed and the bitter released. Like every family we have our control freaks and the hot heads, the attitudes and the misanthropes. Mt momma is a mother hen and I seem to take after her.
And so it is both odd and sweet it is to imagine God aching like a mother hen to gather us all up. Jesus acting in the mother's role, the midwife, the stage manager, wanting, more than anything, for everyone to have their place and everyone to do well. And how often we are all warring, jealous siblings, aching for parental affirmation and thinking we are above all that. The ache of humanity for love and our regular rejection of it.
Today, I want to be strong enough to accept the role that God has given me and humble enough to share the stage and the family with everyone else. I pray that God will find a way to sweep me up, hold me in the shelter of tender and warm wings, long enough so I will trust God for every breath of life, every movement of love and the spirit. May we all embrace the love we have been given and the roles we have to bear the love of Christ to others.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23
The heat is on. Cities along the East Coast will see 100 degrees or more today for the first time in several years. Early July sun is blistering to bodies and minds. We are trying to figure out what to do so as not to get heat stroke but to still enjoy the day. And yet most of us worry about our selves, keeping cool and living through the heat, but few worry about neighbors and the elderly who cannot fend for themselves and may not be able to deal with the heat.
Jesus was on the war path with the religious leaders of his day. He knew they worried more about looking good than real community service, about good liturgy than real mercy, and piety rather than real compassion. On a day like today it is easy to be scorched anew by Jesus' challenges. Have we done enough mercy, justice and peace?
Have we really cared or did we just put on a good show?
Today, more than surviving the heat, I want to challenge myself to do justice and live mercifully in every moment. Not so easy to do when surrounded by family. Not so easy to do when hot and overheated. But for today anyway, I want to make justice and mercy the goal. On a day when every one will be aching for mercy may we be the agents of a cup of cool water and the hand of compassion.
Monday, July 5, 2010
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:9-12
There is no evidence of the crowd and the commotion now. Earlier today more than six hundred people, hot and sweaty people, crowded on my mom's lawn to celebrate Independence Day in this unique little community. My mother at 87 still makes gallons and gallons of cool aid and buys tons of cookies to feed the starving bike parade participants and their families. It is a labor of love, not a business, a thankful gift of one who understands the cost of freedom and independence. A joy for one who loves to share with others, who loves to feed others and make them smile. A gift for an entire community from one who prizes her life as a servant and understands love than is bounteous in the love of others.
As this very long day ends, I want to give thanks for the examples of servant faithfulness that was and is the gift of my parents. Whatever they did, they did with a care and concern for their community, for the neediest among us. I want to give thanks for all those who have offered themselves in the service of others. For true independence, true freedom come with that selfish kind of love, which is humble always, and always a gift of God.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Mathew 22:34-40
We are visiting with my 87 year old Mom who lives in the wonderful little town of Cape May Point. Most times in the year it is uncrowded and quiet, but it gets slammed with people during the summer and especially over big holidays like July Fourth. The traffic was terrible getting here. A three plus hour trip took closer to six. The roads were clogged with all sorts of folks desperate to get a head start on parties etc. Folks who want to recreate and rest often bring with them no rest, quiet or much joy. It is hard to love your neighbor when we are packed in like sardines. Many houses are full to overflowing. There are ten staying here. Loving your neighbor comes close to home.
Jesus reminds us of the important rules when others in authority want us to get things right. God wants us to love those around us despite the situations and the challenges. Despite the noise and the crowd, the irritating personalities and the excessive drama. Love them - the hardest job in the world. And so we have to rely on God, throw ourselves at God's feet and ask for mercy in every moment so that we can love despite how we feel.
Today, I pray that God will give me joy in each individual. I ask for God's strength and mercy so that love might be my happy duty, my alpha and omega, my day's beginning and end. May we all have the courage to love despite the crowds, the heat and the noise, for God's love is showered upon us all!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. Matthew 22:8-10
We are madly packing up for a brief but sorely needed vacation at my Mom's house. We are truly fortunate to have a place to go in the summer, where family and friends can gather year after year and catch up. The annual fourth of Joly bicycle parade ends on our lawn with more than 500 people waiting on cookies, cool Ade and water ice to slake their thirst after a slow ride behind the fire engines. After nearly 40 years it has become such a part of our lives that it is complicated in its routine-ness. It holds memories of past summers, of the no longer living who dressed and paraded with the best. It has always reminded me that showing up is the most important part of being a family or a community, being with others makes the celebration complete.
As we pack cars and think of all the last minute things, it is easy to just throw up one's hands and give up the effort. Showing up is work and requires that we change our patterns and our time lines. But God is always inviting us to show up because right there in the midst of showing up is the presence of God. God had invited us to find love in the midst of our messy families, our messy communities. May we all have the strength and courage to show up, so that God can delight and transform us again.