Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plucking Grain


On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:1-5

One of the very first songs I learned to play by heart on my harp was Sting's Fields of Gold. It is a lilting Irish-style melody and the strings ring with the tenderness and affection. Whenever I hear this gospel story about Jesus and his disciples walking through the grain fields on a sabbath morning, hungry and bathed in light, this song runs through my head. A sort of sappy love song for Sting and yet a powerful picture of a moment when love transcended the time constraints and restrictions of the world. They walked in fields of gold and yet the religious leaders condemned then for breaking a law. A small infraction when they were living their lives for the love and care of others. They were on a journey to bring God's love to a hungry and lost generation and to renew the world through their witness. And yet some would see only their small mistakes and not their willingness to feed and care for the suffering.

We all some times have to make decisions to break from the tradition or the culture in order to save life and to renew the world. We might not like the idea that a popular artist can describe the presence of God in our world - the presence of love and beauty. But indeed, God walks the journey in this world with all of us, feeding us in our ache and loneliness, renewing us despite the toils and tribulations of the years. We can be petty and be bound by convention, or see God working in the world - the fields around us.

Today I pray that I can rejoice in the gifts at hand, the food that is provided, the renewing brought on to day and God's love in the smallest grains of life's unfolding. May today be a day to witness fields of gold in our lives, despite (and because of) the smallness of some so that generosity and sharing might be reestablished in our time.

Fields of Gold - Sting
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in the fields of gold

So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold

Will you stay with me, will you be my love
Among the fields of barley
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in the fields of gold

See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold
I never made promises lightly
And there have been some that I've broken
But I swear in the days still left
We'll walk in the fields of gold
We'll walk in the fields of gold

Many years have passed since those summer days
Among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in the fields of gold
When we walked in the fields of gold
When we walked in the fields of gold

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Leaving Everything


After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”Luke 5:27-32

Leaving Everything

The light crept in a surprise
this morning my life a storm
of emptiness and aching watching
others dance by with babies swaying
partners providing and I sit
and count the change the leftover
the pittance, flotsam and jetsam
of a lonely existence.

The day wore on with the selfish protesting
their right to double park scolding
gentle fathers and daughters on the dusty
rusted road to solace for the poor trying
to hold back the tears of anger the rage building
with the clouds.

The touch of a stranger soft coaxing
a smile in a weather beaten face longing
to be invited asked and wanted
on a pilgrim's road the road where burdens
are left behind for love.

I am not worthy my belonging more
worthless than sand and dust standing
in my way on this road is nothing
that I am not willing to leave go,
leave to follow love.

Take me on the road weary and wary
as I am I will walk until blisters
form and sweat soaks my bones and my heart
is broken open from giving up and setting
free love in the world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get Up


On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” Luke 5:17-26

It has been dreary and rainy for a couple of days now and my clock is still confused, my internal clock that is. Getting up is a challenge, particularly when I am not sure what time of night or day it is inside. And yet, I take getting up for granted, rising from my bed and being able to walk as a normal and standard act that starts our days. And yet so many people are stuck where they are, by broken bodies and broken minds. They are prisoners in their own dwellings and in their own small room. They are bound to the sheets and dependent on everyone.

Jesus is moved by the power of a community, a group of friends who love their bedridden colleague so much that they would lower his bed of matted straw through the roof to Jesus. How often do we take such measure for those who are trapped in illness, those bound by broken bodies and hearts to a small world devoid of friends and community? They loved their friend so much that they would find any way to bring him to Jesus.

Today I want to remember that God is calling me to bring people to Jesus for healing and transformation. Not to collect numbers but for the outpouring of love and compassion. We are all invited to get up[ and bring our beloved ones to the one who loved them first and wishes healing and strength, community and companionship for us all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Full nets


Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:4-11

We are all at times wearied by the work we have before us. The start up of the Fall season and back to school can seem overwhelming to many. It is hard to get back on schedule after a relaxed summer. It is hard to feel productive and it is sometimes hard to even find shoes, backpacks and hair brushes in the morning, let alone get to school and work on time. We make calendars and chore charts, set up reminders and alarms, only to oversleep or fail at our best laid plans.

Jesus finds his disciples, his companions for his ministry in that kind of state. They are trying very hard and weary from empty nets and the failure of their best laid plans. They are faithful people, but their enthusiasm and courage is waning from exhaustion. And into their place of discouragement and frustration comes Jesus who invites them to be followers. He invites them to lean on him and not be afraid, and despite the evidence to their failure, Jesus promises to provide abundance. We know that these poorly fishermen made a lasting difference in their world by trusting and following Jesus, and so can we.

No matter how discouraged and weary you are, I invite you to come and follow Jesus through worship and music, through service and community. As we gather together to follow Jesus, may we all find our gifts for reaching out to others and reeling them in to receive the love and healing from him who came that we might all have life and life abundant.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Woman's Response


And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon's house. Now Simon's mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them. Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. Luke 4:38-41

Illness and disability are always disheartening and challenging for individuals and families. Physically, we have to make radical adaptations to our normal life's schedule and sometimes we have to let the pain or illness dictate the day. Emotionally, we have to deal with our dependence issues and sense of failure and incompleteness. Some folks feel as if they are less than others with illness and disability. Society sometimes encourages that perception. And spiritually, we often wonder where God is in all of this. We wonder whether we are being punished for something we did, or being a sacrificial lamb for our fam8ily or community. No one wants to be sick or disabled. And when we recover or find a life despite the challenges, we often find our way back to God, even if we have lost our relationship from anger or fear along the way.

Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law and she gets up and feeds her guests. For that woman, serving people, being a good hostess and welcoming strangers into her home is the ultimate act of demonstrated healing. Some say they should be taking care of her, but in truth her need to feel right and worthwhile superseded all of the good and proper way we would project on her. She wanted to do what would make her feel powerful and alive - what would make her feel normal. She demonstrated her thanksgiving, she responded to the healing by doing what she knew best - serving her guests.

Today, I want to live the gratitude of my healing by seeking ordinary ways to give thanks for the extraordinary gifts of healing and transformation in my life. Cooking and laundry may not seem like joyful responses to some, but when we are not able to do our simple functions, we know our lack and our need of God. And so today, I pray that the small, normal things I do, I might do as thanksgiving for all the love and healing I have been given.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Unclean Spirits


And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. Luke 4:31-37

Unclean Spirits

Deep within the hurting heart twisted
anger tries to seize hold digging
in, taking residence blocking
sunlight warmth and laughter.

Once a victim now abuser
rubs raw the wounds of vulnerable tearing
fragile new growth and replacing
green with thorns.

Hurt and sad turning into
darkness each heart pounds for
freedom healing release screaming
from the housetops aching
for the Savior's love.

None would be predators
if not for victim-hood
no wolves would lie concealed
within if hurt didn't swallow
up the sun.

Redemption on the horizon releasing
love where broken bones littered
the alleyway of our fears turning
into awe and surprise as the
beloved comes near.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hometown Kid


And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed me
to proclaim
good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph's son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well. And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away. Luke 4:14-30


I am home after being away for ten days at the House of Bishops. Today I realized what a home town kid I am. The streets are festooned with banners saying "Go Huskies!" encouraging our football team to win big. I haven't been to a game as of yet but I am sure to go in the next few weeks. The signs of fall are beginning, the seasons are turning, and being in the most familiar of places, after being away for so long, really challenges me to wonder about my ministry here and how God is using me in new ways - ways I haven't yet begun to fully understand.

We find Jesus at the beginning of his ministry taking his place in the synagogue and reading out loud as was the custom. What he read was not shocking but his revelation of being the fulfillment of the reading was. The local people scoffed at him and down played his ministry because of his familiarity. Being familiar often makes us underestimate and overlook beauty, talent and gifts for ministry. When we are in a familiar place, with familiar people, we can devalue the people and the surroundings because of our comfort level. We like people and things as they are, and we don't like change. And yet change is the only certainty we have, the only real constant in our lives. God stirs us power in all sorts of places and finds us in those places where our confusion and need meet in the changing of seasons and of lives.

Today, I want to recognize the gifts around me and see anew hoe God is calling me here. I want to affirm the goodness and beauty that is present along with the potential that is hidden in the changes to come. I pray that I will not be fearful and draw back, but rather embrace and delight in the new calling we share to serve God's people where we are planted.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Angels to Guard You


And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,“‘He will command his angels concerning you,to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:9-13

Today I take wing to return home. I will finish final packing in a few moments and happily go out to the airport and bid Phoenix goodbye. The House of Bishops meeting has been good and full. And sometimes painful as we made very hard decisions for the welfare of the church. A blessing and a burden. I am aching to be back with my family, with my wonderful congregation, to a community of constancy and support. This community of Bishops is likewise faithful and supportive but we each have our own places and situations and I long for home in a new and profoundly grateful way today. All of our communities need the constant prayer and support of one another, the larger church and the protection of all of the angels. We are all tried, tested and twisted by the world. And God promises to be watching over us and caring for us in every trial and tribulation.

So as I take to wing today, I thank God for the love of family and community. I am grateful for Jesus who went before us all and suffered that we might be made whole and brought home complete. And I give thanks for all the prayer partners, angels, bishops and friends who God's protection for all the beloved.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Heavens Opened


Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

This is the last day of the House of Bishops. Weary from traveling and being far from home, it is easy to think only of leaving and getting home. It is very easy to let go and forget what God has done and revealed in our midst. Those of us who were blessed to accept Bishop Smith's invitation to visit the border have been marked and changed by the concerns and compassion we witnessed there. And in the midst of this house, with so many diverse dioceses and personalities present, it would be easy to remember only the politics and forgo the power of God's presence. God is here, despite our stumbling humanity and challenges, we laugh and pray and share together. We give ourselves to one another and the life of the church for the service of Christ Jesus. The heavens have opened repeated and God has shined the light of Christ's love among us.

As we finish our work and prepare to travel from this place, I ask God to continue to shine on each and every community and diocese represented here. That the heavens might open again and again, so that we might serve our people in the light of Christ. May we each be blessed by the role entrusted to each of us to be servants returning home, arms full of the grace that has been given us.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Shall We Do?


And the crowds asked him (John), “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:10-14

Sharing has always seemed like basic nature to me. I grew up in a large family and a clergy family at that. We shared our beds, our food, our time and our musical gifts and labor. It was a normal way of life especially as a Cherokee child, we never let anyone starve or go without, even if we had to go without for them.

John is baptizing in the wilderness and many have come to be saved and to prepare their hearts for the Messiah who is coming. John has announced the coming of the Christ and they are convinced. And they want to be prepare spiritually and physically. John responds with the most simple and basic of heart and soul changing exercises - sharing. Give up what you have so another might live is John's recommendation for spiritual transformation and salvation.

Today, here at the House of Bishops, I wonder what God is calling me to share and offer in this place? And I wonder what Jesus is inviting us to let go of so that we might all be transformed and saved? Maybe it is our egos and our collective self-assurance, or maybe it is our wealth and our securities. Today I pray that God may enlighten us all and open our hearts to the needs around us that we might be servants of God's justice and salvation in this place and in our time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

God and Wealth


Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?' He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?' He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Luke 16:1-13


Yesterday I had a real treat as I got to celebrate the Feast of David Oakerhater with the people of the Diocese of Arizona at the Cathedral. My old friend, Ginny Doctor, who is a missionary in Alaska and member of the Mohawk tribe was the preacher. She did a wonderful job and her sermon was very inspiring. She challenged us to do what we can with what we are given. She suggested that Oakerhater never quit serving his people and others, and he followed God wherever he was sent with cheerfulness, a hope filled heart and a radical faith that trusted God for every need. I couldn't help but think of all the bishops gathered here and how much abundance we have represented in the group. And how, in contrast to Oakerhater, we are anxious and concerned about budgets and plot and make strategies for evangelism. Oakerhater may have had little but he was rich in faith and is remembered by all for his trust of Christ Jesus. Canon Ginny Doctor likewise, has limited funding and challenges galore, but I can't help but marvel at her faith and trust in God for all her daily needs.

On this Sunday I pray that I might have the faith to trust like these dear ones who have lived for their people and served Christ wherever they are. I pray for the House of Bishops that we might become trusting servants, following Jesus only today and forever.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not Remaining in Darkness


And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." John 12:44-47

In the Shadows no longer

We hide moving at night averting
detection we are crawling towards the border
with our lives in our hands.

Our babies and children cry
for milk and for mama carted away
in a raid at the mill.

We live on the reservation dusty
with the heat and ancestors lives shadow
our every move and we hear them crying
for our young.

The creator's child walks with us
lingering in our shadow existence touching
our burning foreheads with soft cool water.

He hums the deportee song and speaks
our language our hearts which ache
for a shelter and home.

We are weary and brown hungry
but not criminal, parents and children crossing
over to the light.

This light beckons us pulsing
from the heart of God welcoming
our broken down garb as that of royalty arriving
arriving home.

Carrying an ancient and new light
we sing the ancient chant
that makes all things new.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Children of Light


" While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.” John 12:36

Today was the first day of the House of Bishops meeting and it was 107 degrees in Phoenix. We were inside most of the day listening to folks reflecting on the question, "where is God calling us?" My mind was filled with the images, sights and sounds from the previous days. My thoughts went to the wonderful congregation where I serve. My heart was seeking ways to put the pieces together of our common life as a church and how God was speaking in the midst of us. I still don't have any answers but I can't help thinking about the children I watched in Naco, Sonora, who were preparing for Mexican Independence Day. Children from five to 16 were marching in formation in preparation for a huge celebration, as this year marks the bi-centennial. They were laughing and smiling, serious and proud of who they were and their country. Despite all of the challenges they live with they were putting their all into their practice. They were living as active children of light. They were rejoicing in the light and life they have.

Jesus had spend time after time telling people about God's love for them, active in the world. Many would not believe in his words and didn't trust that God was doing a new thing in their midst. God incarnate, Jesus Christ, was living and acting in their presence and struggled to recognize the light in their lives.

Today, I want to live in the light of Christ as I find it today. I want to celebrate the light of God's love as it covers me today, no matter the circumstances and no matter the heat and challenges of the day. Today I pray that God will help me to live as a child of light.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From the Border to the House


Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.John 12:20-26

This was the last day of our visit to the border. We came together one final time with those who had lead us through this journey to reflect on our experience. In a very tender and stunning moment, Pastor Mark Adams presented the Presiding Bishop with three white wooden crosses from our vigil with the names of those who have died crossing the border. We were then each invited to take a cross along with us to remind us of this brief time of life on the border and the complexity of the issues that surround the politics of the day. We were also asked to pray daily for who have died and their families and communities. As we traveled from Douglas to Phoenix I had time to ponder these crosses I carry and wonder what God is calling me and the church to do in the coming days. As I considered the present climate, a world that is border crazy, wall building, alien adverse, and sees terror everywhere, I wonder how we move beyond the institutions to relationships. How do we put people and lives first and profit last. How dowe really serve Christ in this present time?

As the House of Bishops begins, the crosses I carry will be my roommates for the week. I pray that they will speak the stories of the lives and passions of these beloved ones who were lost. I pray that God will break open hearts and minds so that we might, as individuals and the church, hate the life of this world and gain the reign of God.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Glimpse of Border Life


O God, when you went out before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain,
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad;
you restored your inheritance as it languished;
your flock found a dwelling in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.Psalm 68:7-12


I am at the end of a very long, full day. We traveled early this morning in vans to Naco, Sonora to have a brief introduction to the ministry and work that is going on there for people. We were greeted by the mayor and his wife, both who are committed to caring for their people and transforming their community. We visited the place where elders are fed, many of whom have little food otherwise due to the economy and separation from families etc. We then went to a brand new clinic that was full of local people, patiently waiting to be seen. As the nurse and the physical therapist went around, everyone present showed concern for the patient and responded to the therapists suggestions with some of their own. Many older people had strokes with no medical follow up or therapy, and many were there with injuries and a host of conditions. From there we went to a migrant center and heard the heart-wrenching story of a man and wife separated from their children, who are in the states, because they returned for a funeral and cannot get back to them. They welcomed us and did not made us feel like liens in their country. We were welcomed and fed wherever we went, often hugged and kissed as well. A genuine hospitality from those with so little.

This evening we participated in a weekly vigil, where crosses are place along the road to the border entry point, and the names are read out loud of each person who has died in the desert attempting to cross the border. It was very moving to hear the names and watch the faces of the people lined up in cars, crossing back home into Mexico. One young woman on foot walked past us, carrying a huge bundle of huggies and a can of paint. A woman taking care of her family. Many of the crosses represented people who had died but who are not identified. I have to wonder how a civilized society can look on all of these deaths and think it is good policy or politics. We were told that since the mid-1990s, 5,500 people have died (bodies that have been found) trying to cross the border between Arizona and Mexico. I am grateful to those who today have opened my heart and my eyes. I don't know what I will say and do tomorrow, but tonight I know things have to change.

We hear the words of the psalm,"you restored your inheritance as it languished;
your flock found a dwelling in it;in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy." I pray that in the coming days and weeks I can tell the story of those who are languishing and be a part of God's solution in this place.

Monday, September 13, 2010

On the Border


Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”John 12:1-8

I got up very early this morning to leave home and fly across the country to the Mexican border. A group of Bishops, as the guests of the Diocese of Arizona are here in order to learn about the issues of immigration and migration. We are hear to open our hearts and minds to the people who live on the border in this heightened time of distrust and paranoia. They told us today more than 4.00 have died in the desert trying to cross the border since the wall has gone up and those are the bodies they have counted. Some people are missing and unaccounted for. Lives are daily hanging in the balance everyday and many will not be here in many days. They are people who have no choices left.

A woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume in preparation for his death. She honored him, with the finest gift she knew how to give. All people want more than anything to be recognized as valuable, as precious by someone or a community. We know how precious this gift of anointing was, but we rarely recognize the least among us as deserving of honor and care.

We are here on the border to learn about those who are discarded by many, rejected by many others, but who are precious and honored by their families and communities - the ones whoa re lost and who never make it home. I am grateful and a little anxious about all I will learn in the coming days and the people who I will meet who will teach me a new way to honor Christ in every human being.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11


So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. John 11:48-53

We humans get fearful after a major tragedy and then we get angry and seek revenge. People have always plotted some scenarios of revenge for injury and continue plotting when others threaten their way of life. Nine years after the horrific attacks on American soil, we are debating and plotting to figure how to make sense of things and how to get our way of life back. How do we get our innocence and our nation back?

These were the very same conversations that the Temple Council wrestled with all those many years ago when Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene. His ministry was not violent but gentle, but the religious leadership feared and somehow knew that this messiah wasn't going away easily and that they would have to take measures in their own hands. This Jesus was challenging and dismantling the sacred icons and way of life of a people. The nation held on by a thread by cooperating with their Roman authority. It was a fragile, negotiated balance which was threatened by the young man from Galilee. The good of a nation was balanced against the stridency and effectiveness of one man and the one man lost. In truth, everyone lost and gained as we look back from this distance in history. God looked on the brokenness of the world and brought healing and transformation despite their human fears and plotting. And God will continue to bring healing and transformation to our present day.

May this be a day when we seek to respond in prayer and compassion rather than plotting. Our plotting and politics get us nowhere. But God, who loves us more than we can ever know, will restore and mend all that is broken through our open arms and hearts.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Unbound


Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:38-44

Resting the voice came to me electric
shocks messages through my limbs
a voice calling down heaven into this cave
my life of solitude and quiet reawakening
love enters this darkness and I am pulled
yanked from my cocoon by invisible hands.

Twitching from possibility and fright lingering
on my comfortable bed crushing noise stones rolling
light piercing this soft earthen sanctuary
that was my freedom from life's pain and treachery.

Rolling light and wind across my bound chest
my nostrils fill with death and life thrusting
confusion into my lungs held back and swaddled
on the cusp of life on the verge of dying again.

Standing in shadows low hung ceiling lurching
forward to the small possibility of freedom release
from eternal silence and singularity into a dense
forest of family and community struggling
to return aching to be left alone wanting desperately
to live again amongst the color and chaos.

Calling my name draws me into the light known
by name I am no longer the ignored deceased overlooked
no more am I bound by fear or stench but redefined
by love alone.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Called by the Teacher


Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. John 11:21-29

The last few days have been a swirl of activity on our church campus. Our daycare center began again yesterday after a brief vacation. Anxious parents with new students watched carefully as their children acclimated themselves to their new environment. Many parents were reluctant to go and came early to pick their child up. Our nursery school begins next week and the teachers are here putting everything in place. We are a humming mass of excitement and anticipation. I can remember those first few days before school when the anxiety and anticipation was palatable. Would I like my teacher and would they like me? Would I have friends? All the usual questions flood back in my memory. And a great fear I had was being called on by the teacher and not being able to answer. I wanted more than anything to be smart and to not fold under pressure.

Jesus is talking with the very practical Martha, who has just entombed her brother after death. Martha has all the right answers for Jesus, even though at first, she chided him for his tardiness. Martha and Mary are so different on the surface and yet they both want to shine before Jesus and have the right answers for Jesus. Despite their grief they want to believe that God is acting on their behalf and that they will see their heart's desire. They know that Jesus' loves them and they understand his love and care for their brother, despite their confusion and hurt. And Jesus reveals in them a depth of love and compassion that shines beyond their own individual personalities and differences for the good of the whole gathered class. Everyone present would witness a phenomenal miracle that day.

Today, I want to live beyond the anxiety and anticipation that this season evokes. I want to trust that God will arrive in our midst on time. I want to dismiss the signals that it is too late to shine, too late to learn, too late to be transformed anew by God's love in Christ. I pray that we can all make room for miracle and revelation despite our own trembling hearts and fears of failure this day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stumbling in the Dark


Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:7-18

When we arrived in Erie last Friday, we had a bit of rain as we came in to town.
We didn't think much of it, but when we arrived at my brother and sister in laws house, the electricity was off and everyone was scurrying around. The day before the big wedding and the food prep and other important things had come to a big halt. We are so dependent on electricity and we expect to have light and juice at all hours. As a society, we are mostly unable to cope in the dark and we light everything up so we do not have to even try. Light is essential to life and we have found ways to make it so permanent in our lives we never have to do without.

The disciples find themselves completely dependent of Jesus as they face the loss of their dear friend. Jesus seems to be talking nonsense and lacks compassion for the loss of Lazarus. Jesus decides to take them all in to the teeth of the religious opposition who have a price of Jesus' head. The disciples feel like people stumbling in the dark, following their teacher to their doom. But they follow, knowing that he has provided before and that with time and trusting have learned to expect miracles and light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, which is half gone now, I want to focus on trusting God the whole way. I can always see the obstacles and fear fumbling around, foolishly falling in the dark. And yet God has promised to be with us, to be with me and to light my path and led me to safe places of living water. So in this day where everyone seems undone and stumbling, I want to trust and follow Jesus, expecting the light at the end of the tunnel today.

The Works


"If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37-38

Sometimes love is hard to detect. People who know each other well and who have grown up together and have lived together for a long time only show teasing and challenge to one another. They may not openly greet each other and warmly embrace. And yet love still exists. Attending a family wedding this past weekend, where we were in the midst of two radically different families and cultures, I saw first hand how love takes many6 shapes. Embracing and tears are the outward sign of love's existence, sometimes. And among others, slapping, dancing and heckling might be signs of love's embrace. That so many people showed up to this elaborate wedding, coming from so many far flung places and distances,is the works to focus on. People came because of love's prodding. The historical spats, the slights and the hurts, the confusion of culture and clan are put aside when love urges us, when love is the binding force among us all. We can put up barriers and love can take them down.

The religious community was angry and undone by Jesus' words and actions. He was setting the world as they knew it on its side. They were uncomfortable with all that was going on. They were led by fear and anger and not by love or compassion. So Jesus asks them to focus on the works - on the healing, restoration and transformation of so many - of God's love made present in so many lives. They could know God was working, even if fear and hate made them despise the man Jesus.

Today, despite the human challenges faced with the start of a new school year and church year, I pray that I might focus on the works of God's love made visible in my life. It is easy to overlook the common every day gifts and forget how extraordinary love really is in our lives. May we all give thanks for the love that surrounds us and impels us forward in the faces of challenges and strife.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

As Long


As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. John 9:1-7

As long as I am here, let me.....I have been thinking about all the ways people can and do make a difference in the world. I know that it is easy to give up trying since the world can be a hard and unfair place. Christians can live their lives with the light and hope of Christ only to have it dashed and rubbed out by cruelty and injustice. Many can feel that God is punishing them for some known or unknown sin when things fall apart. We all sometimes lose hope and leave off trying.

A poor blind beggar was accused of being sinful just because he was blind. The world gave him nothing and ridiculed him for his disability. The leaders of the temple were convinced that he was evil or his parents were, and God was punishing them. It is a common fact of life. People are cruel at times and good people can be shallow and rude. But God is not people. God is light and healing,love and restoration. God's desire is for us to be in relationship and to know God's abundance and kindness. God is not about punishment for fun or sport. God is not about punishment although there are many who would wish it were so.

Today, I ask God to give me a new measure of sight. I ask to see with compassion, to love with patience and reassurance and to find the good and the God in every situation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Before Abraham was, I am.


The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:48-59

In the chaos and in stillness I am
in the silvery light at morning's edge
I am breathing life for those lost wretched
I am singing for those who have forgotten
I am dancing for the lame and I am.

From feeble relationships to mighty nations I am
guiding and instructing patient I am
floods and hurricanes and miracle babies I am
children rushing unwilling to hold back
love I am.

For beauty and folly, for inky nights I am
bright days and twisted smiles laughing I am
creating and recreating love new mornings I am.