Tuesday, November 30, 2010
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” Luke 20:9-18
When I was a child I loved to play in the dunes with my friends. The massive bushes would hide us from the heat of the day and we could make forts and all sorts of hiding places among them. We would bring our lunch and pretend we were everything from pirates to lost royalty. We would make believe we owned the dunes and fight fake wars over our territories. Today, these same dunes are protected by state and federal acts in order to preserve them from the destruction that humans can do. We can tear up the grasses and the wind and water can take them away completely leaving people and homes vulnerable to storm damage. We never owned the dunes, but we believed we did. And cried loudly when we were fenced out and run off.
Jesus was telling the Disciples about the way people would treat him in the coming days and how they would disregard what God had done for them by telling them a parable. They were naive, trusting that their relationship with Jesus would protect them from the selfishness of the world. But Jesus knew that cruelty and violence were coming as all humans covet what is not theirs and try to pretend we own what we do not.
Today, I want to remember that all I call mine is really a gift from God, including my faith and my calling. I ask God for the strength to give thanks for these at all times and to be grateful for the gifts I have been given. May God grant me the capacity to covet nothing and to be grateful for everyday, knowing all of my days belong to God and each of us is held tenderly in God's hands.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Jesus said to the disciples, "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." Matthew 24:36-44
The days got away from me over the Thanksgiving holiday, and despite myself, I am feeling like the least prepared person today. The Gospel for Sunday reminds us to be prepared for we do not know the hour and yet I am aware that there is much to do and I am not feeling up to the task. On top of that I got an anonymous comment that was quite cruel. Here it is the beginning of Advent and instead of being prepared I am feeling undone. The time with our daughters, my mother, sister and niece and nephew were all wonderful as was the first Sunday in Advent. And yet, there is this lingering sense of there is an impossible amount to do and so much more to prepare. That I have already made a mess of things.
Jesus talks to his disciples about the end times when he will appear in all glory with complete power and majesty. Many have interpreted this passage to point to a clear final reckoning when some will be left behind after "the Rapture". I am more and more convinced that the rapture matter little in compared to how we prepared our hearts for Christ today. That my humility and vulnerability, compassion and concern for others are the preparation that God asks for and not for a righteousness, a perfect way of being and an completely ordered life. An open and loving heart rather than a critical mass of righteousness.
Today, I ask God for an abundance of love and compassion in my heart. I ask God to make me quick to forgive and always willing to make room and time for others. May my order and timing be God's timing today so that my life and my work might be to God's glory and praise.
Friday, November 26, 2010
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”Luke 19:28-40
They flung their jackets on the ground
dust flying everywhere feet racing
such anticipation such love
a fury of excitement a flurry of arms legs
a family rushing towards the long awaited
the aching heart finally healed.
They struck up a song and laughter rang
dancing legs everywhere as if fire beneath
and wind rushed around spinning their joy
into golden threads that tied them
bound them to each other.
Pretty soon blood would spill
treason and deceit slip in
dark hearts would open to anger
and terror would control daylight.
They didn't know, couldn't know their own
brokenness they knew that and failure to love
only knew that love was sparking around them
their dark child grown into a savior
the champion of the poor, the lonely
the blind and the broken had come home
and they were all welcome and no fear.
We can love in the welcome or live in the fear
we can cry in the night and cancel our hope
or we can line the streets and thank God
for love which casts out our dark hearts
our horrid blunders, our murderous jealousy and
make us a family again.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Jesus said, "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:25-33
We went to the store yesterday and it was mobbed with anxious aggressive people trying to make a holiday happen. Everyone get to a day like Thanksgiving and wants things to be perfect, right and good. We want the food and the family to behave and come out just right. And the holiday rarely does rise to our expectations, but God knows what we need and is in the midst of us still. Today as I picked up my phone and heard that a beloved parishioner had died, I was stopped from my frantic silly worry about getting it right and pulled to that place where everything is in the hands of God. Today, as Walter's family gathers to mourn and bid him farewell, may we all give thanks for his days and that God made many people happy through providing him in our midst. We are all temporary travelers who never get it right and yet God looks out for us and protects everyone of us. We are more than lilies or turkeys or a perfect pumpkin pie.
Blessings to each of you as you gather with loved ones, or as you huddle alone safe from the worry of family and hurting hearts. God knows what we need today, this hour, and this very minute. May we go to the place today where everything is in God's hands, that full table of welcome, the place where all are accepted just as they are and know that we are safe and loved, nestled in the heart of God.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
For all of us humans, it is hard to admit our needs and our shortcomings. We all have things to work on, things we struggle with and things we do badly. From getting enough exercise and eating healthy, to patience with others and our willingness to forgive. We are human and we need each other and God so much but we are often reluctant to ask for help. We pray nice prayers but rare;y do er pray honest ones, particularly in church. We don't like to admit to our shortcoming even when everyone around us knows and desires to help.
So we find Zacchaeus, who is willing to climb a tree and look for Jesus, look for God's love and transformation in his life, even if it means embarrassing himself in order to do so. A old family friend, The Rev. Jim Brown used to say, "the point of embarrassment is the point of redemption". So Zacchaeus is willing to embarrass himself, admit to his lack of height, his lack of morals, his radical need of God - in front of the entire community mind you - in order to be redeemed and transformed by God. And the critics on the sidelines, who know all too well his failings, want to keep pointing them out, rather than following along with Zacchaeus and finding God in their lives.
So today, I want to be like Zacchaeus. I want to seek God in every moment, not worrying about embarrassment and correct behavior, but rather considering the healing and transforming encounter with God. As we prepare our hearts and homes for Thanksgiving, may we all be thankful that God is passing by and always ready to bring us healing transformation and renewal.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. Luke 18:35-43
Last weekend was the last week this year we could take some things to the county recycling center. Mark was hot to get papers and other things recycled, I wanted to spend a quieter Saturday doing things artistic and such. Reluctantly I went along. The county employees couldn't have been nicer and their system was very organized and helpful. And in the process we found a park we had never been to along the Long Island Sound with a lovely walking trail and even cooler castle. I had taken my camera so we took a walk and took pictures and enjoy the wind and the water as we explored. I didn't want to see the possibilities the day had in store, but God granted me release from my blindness and the joy of discovery.
Jesus was overwhelmed by a blind man who cried out for mercy. Walking along a dusty road, Jesus found this man insistent and persistent. His friends and neighbors tried to quiet him, but he was not willing to let an opportunity pass him by. He grabbed the day, seized the moment and found himself face to face with the healing love of God.
Today, I want to see this day as an opportunity to have encounters of delight and joy and all possibilities to encounter the living, healing God. It is easy and familiar to hide out and follow a routine. But today, I want to cry out to God for all my needs, seize the mount and find myself face to face with God's healing in my life.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17
They are not given
a choice to be born
where to live and who
are their parents.
They are stuck with us
glued to our triumphs and sorrows
singing our carols, our dirges
and our incantations.
They cannot control our outbursts
our generosity, idiocy binging
the daily harping and screaming
the regular tears and laughter
at night their terrors are what
we have left unsaid.
They rely completely and love
totally forgive willingly
and dance with reckless abandon
these gifts from God
our charges our blood and bone
we break their hearts
all too often.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:35-43
Today we celebrate Christ the King. The last Sunday in the long season of Pentecost. When I was a child I was transfixed by the idea of kings and knights, prices and princesses, a world of castles, armor and long brocade gowns. Life was elegant and noble in my imagination, but really, it was harsh and cruel as ever, and kings ruled with iron fists and bloodshed. My childhood dreaming was just that, dreams without the full fleshed reality of life. And now, as the world turns with excitement as an heir apparent to the English throne announces his engagement, we all get sucked into former fantasies, and forget the harsh living realities, which include a boy raised without a mother.
Jesus, in wrenching pain upon the cross, asks God to forgive the ignorant crowd around him and promises paradise to the worst of the miserable offenders. His reign is about love and forgiveness, restoration and humility, vulnerability and healing. It is not a rule of judgment and power. It is God's reign- the only rule is love.
Today, I want to live knowing that the overwhelming evidence of the world's cruelty and harshness is not God's story, and it is not the whole truth. God's son, even while hanging from a crude cross and bleeding life out, offered redemption and love for the asking. May I remember today to ask - and to offer.
"The King of love my shepherd is, his goodness faileth never, I nothing lack if I am his and he is mine forever." St. Columba's Tune
Saturday, November 20, 2010
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Too often, in my experience, people leave church communities they have loved because things aren't like they used to be. The worship or the kids, female clergy rather than male, firing of staff - whatever, all things the way they used to be. My experiences over the past year is that people want the world to change to include them, but not their church to include others.
The Pharisee, faithful and religious like the way it was. He was at the top of the heap, he wasn't sinning in any way the faith defined and he knew how and when to pray. And yet, Jesus tells us that it is the honesty and vulnerability of the tax collector, the humility of one who hasn't met the standards, which is where righteousness and God's forgiveness are found. Not in the way it used to be but in the way of open hearts to God alone.
Today, I want to remember how easy it is to compare ourselves and judge one another and our churches. The truth is we all fail and we all sin, so why don't we all open our arms to others and let God do the judging. Today I want to let God to all the righteousness and I would like to be vulnerable and honest in every thing.
Friday, November 19, 2010
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8
I am particularly susceptible to the cries of children and often easily manipulated by the most cunning of my own children when they were small. Basically, my kids knew how to get to me even if I was considered the toughest Mom in the neighborhood. I didn't let my daughters get away with much and they had to participate in the life and work of the family. But when it was clear that their hearts were really set on something, I did everything I could to provide it for them, if it was possible and within our means. My niece and nephew have the same effect on me. My family too and those friends and neighbors who have become family over the years. I would do anything I could for them.
And so it is with God, Jesus tells us. We are beloved children and God does listen to our cries and prayers, even though we might not see or feel any immediate reaction. Like a good parent, one who would do anything for a child, God bends over and listens, looking into our eyes and our hearts. How amazing, a God who loves us like a parent and listens to our needs. God who will move mountains for us and bring about the cries of our hearts.
Today, I want to practice prayer, continually and in all things. I know how much parents like to hear from their children and I realize it is too easy for me to delegate prayer to certain times and places only. I want prayer to become a conversation with my Creator parent who listens and responds more than I can even know. May we all make today a day of prayer so that God might know our hearts and in so doing bring more love to the world.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” Luke 17:31-35
Losing One's Life
I would offer myself
without a thought
without fear or misgiving
I would take the bullet
shield your body
without a worry
I would offer my life.
You offer love
without worry or fear
without counting consequence
or loss of status
without a thought
you offer your love
for life for me.
Love hides not
doesn't hoard or clutter
love give all away
without a thought
and more love grows
without a thought
only offering oneself
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
The other day I had the opportunity to participate in a service of thanksgiving at a local retirement village. It was a n interfaith gathering and members of the community told the story of their people in America. How, despite hardships, their ancestors had struggled and accomplished much. And they were grateful for the opportunities that they had been given by coming to America. I was asked to make some final remarks and reminded them of the great hospitality of the Native people who welcomed, fed and trained the recent arrivals in survival techniques in this land. And I got to thinking how many of those new arrivals turned around and really thanked their rescuers? And how many, once their feet were on the ground and their bellies full, turned away and ignored or disparaged those who had given them life?
Jesus healed a bunch of men along a lonely stretch of road. They were elated to be whole and took off at his instruction. The foreigner among them was the only one to return and be grateful, the only one to be thankful for this new lease on life. And he was the only one who knew the strength of his own faith, and his trust in God despite the challenges he faced in his body and in society.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving in the coming days, I wonder how many of us have turned and stopped to thank those who have given us life, rescued us, fed us and gotten us through the hardest times? I want to remind myself of those people in my life and do all I can to turn and be thankful. For in their faith, my own faith has been strengthened and I have seen the love and miracles of God in their offerings.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6
I know that my prayers often include the words, "Lord, increase my faith!". And I know I have always found this passage frustrating when I feel I am working so hard and trying to be faithful. What more does God want? And then it hits me why Jesus is always using agricultural methods in his stories. The faith has been there all along. Like the folks who have unearthed ancient seeds and in planting them found wonderful, strong, productive heirloom seeds that show none of the modern gene manipulation and hybrid diseases, we are people with big faith hidden in often quivering packages, afraid to plant and act in fear of failure.
Today I pray for the strength to act on the faith I have. I ask God to help me plant and water, to tend the garden of faith I have been given until the mighty things of faith show forth. Instead of hiding in my room and waiting for enough, I ask God for just enough energy to act and go out the door into the world, expecting the miracles and mountains moved that Christ has promised.
Monday, November 15, 2010
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31
A day after a very full weekend, I turned the alarm on snooze several times. And then when I finally got up, I groaned like a very old man. Hobbling to the bathroom, bent and listing, I wondered how today would go and whether I would ever return to some sense of normalcy. It is horrible to be blown completely off course by a church fair and to have one's body act up at the same time. Oh, I pushed to hard, and it is my fault, but be that as it may, I was feeling very old and broken this morning. I was feeling like Lazarus laying on the steps waiting from a crumb of energy, begging for God to heal my foolish self. As I went to work, I watched the younger, more agile people running for the train. They didn't even notice the bend over woman struggling to work.
We can all feel like Lazarus from time to time. And yet, more often, we find ourselves in the role of the un-named rich man breezing by the poor man, never noticing and never helping. We can feel like Lazarus and act like the callous wealthy no matter our station and status in this life. And Jesus tells his disciples this story to remind them how God has a place of comfort and healing waiting for the poor and broken, and has little patience with those who think themselves better than others and too busy to stop and help.
Today, I pray for the eyes to see the Lazarus around me, the heart to respond to their needs and the willingness to risk my own station to share a bit of care with another.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them."When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls." Luke 21:5-9
I have come to the end of a long day and the end of a long weekend. I have enjoyed a multiplicity of activities, a highly successful church fair, a visit from my sister and her kids, a visit with our youngest daughter, church services, and a harvest festival at our local retirement home. Wonderful celebrations all. And I am a bit weary. And I have endured challenges too, and I realize that we are called to endure, to hang in there and that God is with us as we hang on. My friend who recently ran the New York City marathon at 60, said it was not about winning but finishing, getting to the end.
Jesus was concerned that the disciples would worry more about getting faith right than hanging in, riding the waves of success and failure trusting themselves rather than trusting God for everything. He wanted them to realize that it was their job to give thanks in all things and endure, trusting God for their strength, wealth and even their words.
Today, as the sun sets and the winter's night settles in, I want to rejoice that my job is enduring. Every day I want to exercise ny trust in God and my forgiveness and compassion for others. I pray that we can all keep at it, encouraging one another, and trusting God for all of our lives and words.
Friday, November 12, 2010
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit." Joel 2:28-29
I got in the pool today for the first time in many weeks. Early in September, our neighborhood pool closed and I have been trying to find a place to do laps since then. I went today to the YWCA in White Plains during the hour designated as women's swim. Most of the ladies were older and only a few of us were doing laps. I was so excited to be finally back in the pool. My spirits were soaring as I did each lap and thought about how I would improve over time and get stronger, go faster and swim longer. My spirit was thrilled to be finally in the water. And now, hours later my body is asking me what I thought I was doing. The flesh is always a challenge to the spirit and God is always trying to work with lumps of sedentary clay like me.
Today, I pray that I can do a little more each day, open my heart to the touch of the spirit and offer my strength and endurance to the good of God's reign. Today, I want to remember that the aches and pains will dull but the power of the spirit never dulls and never fades away. May we all respond to God's call in our lives today, trusting that the spirit will be poured out upon us all.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”Luke 15:17-32
Standing at a distance
fists knotted stiff by my side
the house exploding joy
doors slamming everyone rushing
I wish to walk away
from this celebration.
Jealous, green deep and rolling
a tidal wave in my belly
rolling over and over tears
sting hot and dry to bitter
salt on my face.
Blood like my blood, ruddy complexion
like mine too, a strong body thinned
by depravity and disease running
weeping to my father's arms.
The arms that won't even reach out
pat me on the back, nor lend a hand
when down and covered in the sweat dirt
of his rich fields and my duty
I am never drawn to his chest as
he holds him now.
I want to know love like the lost
the belligerent the toddler
turned terrorist turning our family upside
down aching for the lost broken child.
Oh father, I too am broken and lost
I am sinking to my knees in my own sorrow
it lies like a blanket wt and warm over me
night and day I cry for the embrace
the assurance of love.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7
I am notoriously good at losing things - keys, paper work, important items like wallets and glasses -all these things can vanish from my sight. Usually when I find them, I am very late, very upset with myself and in no mood for a celebration. Sheep are a different matter, and although I have no sheep, I have friends and family, acquaintances and relationships that I hold dear and would be crushed if they were lost to me. I lose sleep when these relations have gone sour or are strained and I know how happy I am when things are mended and renewed. I may not be a shepherd of sheep, but as a pastor, and a bishop with a crosier, I know how heart-wrenching it is to lose even one and how grateful to God I am when they are returned, safe and the relationship is whole again.
Jesus tells his disciples about perfection, about following rules and they very rarely understand so he tells them stories. And they can understand because they know what it is like to lose a sheep, to lose sleep in worry, to search and search for a lost child. Jesus tells them that God is like that, every searching for any of us who get lost until we are found, never giving up on us and rejoicing in our return. The God they grew up with had rules only and expectations of perfection. Hoe different this was to have Jesus tell them about God's delight in a returned lost sheep. We each have been a lost sheep at some time, wandering, crying out and trying to figure how we got in such a mess.
Today I want to give thanks for God's persistence in my wandering. I am so grateful that God is not judging us and dismissing us but seeking us out day after day. May we all remember God's great love for us and do all we can for the lost sheep in our lives.
Monday, November 8, 2010
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
I was recently at a splendid dinner party with other bishops. The meal was splendid and the conversation was good. We were well fed and served expertly and I came away hungry. My family and I have been talking about Thanksgiving plans and it is often such a wrangled that I never want to eat again. And I attended a funeral yesterday where I was not admitted to communion and thought a great deal about Christ's invitation to the banquet. Neither the dinner party nor Thanksgiving is about the food or the location nor the service but about the people, yet we often forget this as we worry about being right.
Jesus told his disciples to invite the outcasts, the poor, the broken people who would never be able to invite you in, let alone provide a meal. People who can never pay you back, and who struggle just to do the smallest things we take for granted. A true Thanksgiving, a true banquet is a table laid out in thankfulness and which is open to all. The Eucharistic feast, the communion table cannot be limited to like minded but to those far and wide who hear the call of God. How obsessed we are about meals and cooking and forget to open the door to the least, to swing wide our hearts and our vision to the neighbors who are thankful for any meal, any invitation, any smile, any welcome.
Today, in this week of busy-ness and activity, I want to remember the least among us and find ways to include and invite them in. I ask God to help me see who I am not seeing and invite and welcome who I have left out in the past. May we all be open to opening our hearts and homes to the world that Christ came for and aches that we might reach out in love.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
When Jesus* saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12
Today we celebrated All Saints' Sunday in the parish. It is our feast day along with being an important time of remembrance and tradition. Our children helped with the service and we had a wonderful lively jazz rendition of "When the Saints go marching in" on piano and saxophone. I talked about us all being saints already even though we might be flawed and have bad days that God has made us saints - the children of God who act in God's love, compassion and kindness. We gave everybody a small crown to remember that they are all saints. It was a sight to behold - a whole congregation wearing small crowns on their heads, celebrating God's love in their lives.
On this feast day, I want to remember to celebrate the sainthood of the community and all the people within it. Despite our differences and challenges, God has made us all a people together to live out the love we have been given. May we all remember we are saints, serving the love of God and honor today the love and forgiveness we have been given.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
Today we had a service of celebration for a woman who died a year ago. Ronnie was a wife, mother, grandmother and faithful woman throughout her life. She found humor in the most frustrating of situations and joy in the most challenging. She raised five wonderful children and made each one of them feel special. She served her church and community with enthusiasm and grace and changed the world through her humble living. She changed lives by her loved, and many of those she touched came together today. I was privileged to be in their midst.
Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet. How God's kingdom is a wedding banquet, a celebration, a gathering of the family to give thanks for life and each other. Sometimes we ache to be special and run to take a special place, but God knows our need and will honor our willingness to be part of the celebration. God honors us just for showing up and for celebrating the love that we share.
This fall Saturday, as the light get short and the year begins to roll, I ask God to help me find my place everyday. To give me strength and perspective to serve my family and my people with humility, so that God's love might shine through my actions and my life. May we all take our place at the celebration knowing God will honor us all with love abundant.
Friday, November 5, 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! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
One of the gifts and challenges of being a mom, especially when your children are grown, is the desire, an ache actually, to help when they are in distress. No matter how the distress has come about, I want to gather them up and hold them, until the crisis has passed. And yet they are grown adults, on their own and able to handle their own problems. Love though, which becomes part of our fiber, still wants to be an agent of comfort, still aches to take the pain away, still desires to protect the little ones against the assaults of the world.
The city of Jerusalem, that symbol of the life and growth of faith, that holy city which contains all the hopes and dreams of the faithful. Like a child, it is beloved and protected and everyone wants to defend her life and her needs. In this moment though, Jerusalem and the faith authorities, have turned away from the love of God and the presence of God's love alive and living among us. Jesus will return to her but only at the very end of the sacred drama having to walk away, in such grief, from the city and people he aches to save.
Today I pray that I can honor the love in my life and also give space and time when needed. I ask God to give the wisdom and patience to love without resolution and conclusion. May we all be agents today of love which make space for the growth of others and which celebrates the gifts of everyone in our lives.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:18-21
Small But Mighty
I have watched you as you ran
across a field of so many large
boys with sticks ready to attack
you avoided every conflict keeping eyes
on the goal.
I have listened as you practiced
scales climbing and diving tears
rolling down your cheeks blinding you
to the beauty of the song yet the witnesses
to your song will never forget
are forever changed.
I have held my breath as you climbed
stairs to your dorm waving still
a child strong independent tender
with the will to move beyond separation
bringing a whole family together.
The little seed becomes a tree
the yeast transforms stagnant flour
into life giving bread.
I have known a little bud of faith
in the hands of small creatures
become cathedrals of love
for the whole world.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke 13:10-17
My mother is often known to comment when asked how she is, "87 and still upright!" She walks with a cane for stability, but for someone who has had back and knee problems she is really doing well. Sometimes she even moves like a kid, especially when she has a grocery cart in front of her. It is almost impossible to catch up with her as she dashes about the store. And it is a lovely thing to watch her revel in her freedom and independence when so many others of her age are restricted and so limited. She feels blessed and child like and as her child I am grateful for her health and her enjoyment of life.
Jesus healed a women who was bent over, in pain, with every step a horror and a trial. He healed her and the religious folks around him were incensed because it happened on the sabbath, on the Lord's Day, on the day of rest. God forbid good things happen in church, God forbid that miracles, freedom and release happen in the places and times of worship! This woman was so grateful and yet others made her feel as if she has participated in something bad. Because it didn't fit with the way things were always done, it made people angry at Jesus, at God and at the woman who no longer suffered.
Today, I ask that God can use me for freedom, release and miracles, even if the time and place don't seem right. I ask God to strengthen and use me as an instrument of release and freedom for those who are so desperate to be freed from pain and anxiety. May we all ask God to bring miracles tot he most unlikely places, so that God's light and love might shine on all.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9
The fig tree that we had in our yard as children is long gone. A terrible wind storm, a nor'easter took it away from us. I still remember it's gnarly branches, her wide supple, rough leaves and the way the tree accommodated us as a hiding place. It took a comers in and sheltered us and then provided rich succulent fruit along with it. We feasted at summers end on figs until our bellies would swell. The grainy rich fruit would be dried for the winter and made in to preserves. One tree, our tree, would provide sweet treats throughout the winter, stinging our tongues with the warm luxury of summer days.
Jesus tells his disciples parables, often when they are feeling afraid, often when they are clueless and depressed. He talks about God as the one who comes and fertilizes the tree, the tree which has been so barren and useless for so long. Jesus tells the stories so they will realize what kind of gardener this God is, a careful, tender gardener who does not give up on even the most stubborn gnarly trees nor the meanest weeds in the garden.
Today I want to trust God to help us produce fruit where there has been none for so long. I ask God to give me the strength to invite the gardener one more time and to be open to the digging and the manure that has to be a part of new growth and abundance. I pray we can all open our hearts to the Gardener, the God who loves us and will come to us to make us whole and productive.
Monday, November 1, 2010
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today, trying to mend after pain and injury, I got thinking about all the saints in my life who have lived with hurt, injustice, pain and hunger. They lived with compassion and caring despite challenges and offered their lives to God and for the love of others. They were, none of them perfect, and lived to their best ability with the love of God moving in their lives. Some had tempers, some bad habits, some were swallowed by depression, some chronic illness and some were unable to see or walk. And yet they lived offering their best and their infirmities to God knowing God would bless others through them, and they would be blessed by offering their all to God. Being a saint doesn't mean being perfect. Being a saint means offering our all to God trusting God is blessing all of us in our daily walk. Being a saint means accepting Gods forgiveness and forgiving others at all times. It can be the hardest work we do, but God invites us at all times to act forgiveness for the love of the world.
Today, I want to offer my all to God, even in my slightly broken state, knowing God is using me despite myself and my personal challenges. I also want to seek and accept Gods forgiveness today, while I forgive all the hurts and slights that I have held on to for so long. God is asking us to remember those who have gone before us, and to let go of those hurts that have been undermining my ability to be a blessing to others in God's name. May we all embrace our sainthood today as we forgive and love as God would have us, blessing all those we touch today.