Friday, April 29, 2011

Waiting on the Spirit

‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:1-15

Waiting on the Spirit

The rain poured over and down
roof line awash with streams water
in motion deep dark clouds thunder
announcing near lightning counting
one two these flashes are way too near
a dog quivers under the bed I consider
joining her.

It is dark and damp yeasty air
and I wait huddled and soaked
for some clearing some sun
an abating of the deluge
I am waiting in the deep shadows
for some promise of spirit
some wind or breath that brings
new life.

The garden soil is black with water
the earth sodden, drenched spouting
with each step, everything is gooey
heavy with the water that surrounds us
and yet stillness and rigid lives
no change on the horizon we can see.

The ocean aches for the moon as I
long for the spirit, new life, new breath
new sight and new strength.

I am weary from waiting, from isolation
from nights of worry and anxious dreams
I am ready for the comfort of a new dream
for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Loves Command

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. John 15:12-27

In the past few weeks, much of the real news time on television has been given over to the excitement over the royal wedding of Will and Kate, which is scheduled for tomorrow, very early in the morning our time. So much talk about who is invited and what everybody is wearing, along with glimpses of royal activity and preparations at Westminster Abbey. Some people in the U.S. will rise up early and have parties as they watch the wedding on live TV. There is a furor over the whole event and it has risen at a feverish pace. Some folks are caught up because it is simply everywhere. And yet, there is so much war and poverty in the world, so much need and so many without that it is hard to look at all of this a not wonder where real love is. Where is the compassion for the least? We want to watch close up as a country girl becomes a princess, but turn our heads when the street sweepers and the homeless return to their customary places near the palace gates.

Jesus talks to the disciples about true love - not fairy tales with princes, jeweled slippers and gowns - but an offering of one's whole life, one's whole being for another. Love which takes the scorn and shame of the world and still loves. Compassion that is not dulled by pain and suffering but which is ignited newly every day. A willingness to open our eyes to those around us and act in love with them every moment. Every action a gift an offering, not for our own self-aggrandizement but for simply the care of others.

Today, as festivity swirl, I want to remember those around me today who need to know what love is. Those who need affirmation and recognition, those who need a meal and warmth and those who need shelter and the kindness they have never received. May I be ready to offer my all to another today, following Jesus, whose every command is to love and to serve.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

True Vines

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:1-11

We spent part of yesterday putting seeds in the garden. Mostly rows of beans - limas, black beans, green beans of several varieties and royal burgundy beans (they grow purple on the vine). We chose bush beans for the most part and we also planted some peas, which will climb and grow producing prolific vines which will wrap around anything they come in contact with. Vining plants are fascinating, they send shoots in all directions drawing others in and intertwining themselves with their neighbors. They hang on for dear life and they are soft and engaging while being sturdy and persistent.

Jesus tells his disciples that they are part of the vine - the source of life which seeks out light and life drawing all to the vine. The only requirement of us is that we abide in the vine meaning that we try not to pull away but give in to being surrounded and drawn close, knowing ourselves not separate but intertwined, held up and part of the God vine, the source of all life and health. Jesus tells his disciples this, as he tells us, reminding us all that we are not alone and constantly sought out by the Creator.What a gift to us and we are simply to accept the gift and hang on to God fpr dear life, knowing that is where we belong and who we are related to.

Today, I want to give thanks for being bound to the strongest vine, despite the challenges of life, the wind and the weather, God has already sought me out and included me in the life of God and all creation. None of us is far off and is constantly being drawn near, entangled by love in the loving, tender arms of the source of all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Receiving the Inheritance

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. Colossians 3:12-25

My mother has an extraordinary life of faith. She is constantly praying and many come to her for prayer when they have special needs and intentions. You can't really call her pious, in the traditional sense, buy she is a holy woman - a woman of tremendous faith. This morning she came to me with a verse of scripture that "God had put on her heart." Colossians 3:24 "since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ." She has been praying for me since our lives have recently been unsettled and changed so precipitously. She's my Mom and she worries. She was bursting to tell me this passage, this sign and this promise from God. When I ask her about the obedience part of this passage, she told me I had been and am obedient, and what mattered was that I was serving God. Sometimes our families can strain us to the max, and the very next day, they can bring us strong prophetic insight and healing words for the ages.

Paul, writing to the Colossians gives them strong and clear advise, all of which should be obvious to all and is so often lacking in church communities. We can be competitive and gossipy, cliquish and hard headed. We can invoke rules that push people away, including our children. The writer reminds us, in this season of Easter that faith is both inward and outward, both spirit and action. Loving God demands we love and forgive others, live without passing judgment and be agents of love, forgiveness and thankfulness.

Today I ask God to help us receive and give love from all we encounter today - especially those we are most closely committed and related to. Often in families and communities we are hardest on our families and neighbors because we know their faults. God forgives them and loves them, and so can we. May we all have faith to live our inheritance which is love, renewed and remade every morning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Make a Home with Them

‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way. John 14:15-31

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home." Dorothy Gale finds and end to her epic journey in a strange land by clicking her ruby slippered heels together and repeating this phrase. She learns that home is where love resides, where others care for her and keep her safe. Not every home is safe - we know this all too well, and too many children and adults are victims of horrible atrocities in their own home. Hurting children often become hurtful adults and repeat the cycle of abuse. Home, in Dorothy's situation is an isolated but loving farm community. They loved her just as she was, and wanted the best for her. Real homes are places where people thrive, where love is reciprocated and where adults behave as adults and children are allowed to be children.

Jesus talks to his disciples about going away and sending the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them. He promises that wherever they are he will come and make a home with them - a place where people thrive and are loved, a place where safety, compassion and tenderness are the rule of the day. The disciples lived in a world of great threat and hostility and in the days after the Resurrection feared for their lives and their families lives. This promise from Jesus was held close in those early days, and they reminded one another of God's promise to dwell with them in their most intimate spaces, their homes.

Today, like the disciples of old, I want to cling to that promise that, in these early days of a new home for us, God promises to come to dwell, helping us thrive and know love and safety all our days. New (even in an old place) can threaten to be scary and unsafe. Old hostilities can threaten. And today I stand on the promise of God's presence in all of our lives - love which banishes cruelty and shame and which welcome love, compassion and kindness all of our days.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Unusual Witness

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there,and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed: for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew,"Rabbou'ni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:1-18

Some days can surprise you. We put a few plants in the garden and then it started to rain so we quit until the weather got better. The predictions were for several days of rain and wind and so we made no plans for watering. This morning dawned warm and beautiful, as if we had changed seasons over night. Easter morning in Cape May County was gorgeous, picture perfect without a cloud in sight. We weren't prepared for what we have seen or felt. Nobody was dressed right - it was too warm for all the clothes we had set out. We had to change our plans on a moments notice to respond to the changing world.

Mary Magdalene went out, early in the morning, sad and weary with her arms full of traditional spices and flowers to honor her dead friend. She carried her sadness, knowing what to expect, the tomb, the cold stone barring her from her dear friend, and the Roman guards who would block her way. She had a plan for how to deal with it all. And everything was different than she had expected. She was overwhelmed by grief. This broken woman who had been healed and befriended by Jesus was witness to an incredible miracle. So unlikely was she to meet him face to face resurrected. She was a woman, of low birth, who had lived a rough life outside of the faithful community. And yet it was her, broken and weeping who saw him first, and told the story of his miraculous resurrection to so many. The spirit of God broke through a;; the plans and expectations and gave her a gift of love she would never forget.

Today, as we celebrate this Easter, may we remember that the Resurrection came to the most unlikely, the broken and the undeserving - God gave them a sight of love and new life that transformed them and the world forever. May we, no matter how broken, unworthy or unlikely we might feel, God is bringing new life to us, bringing healing and resurrection in the darkest gardens and the loneliest streets.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:1-6

In our small town there is an Easter Egg Hunt the day before Easter. Generations of families gather to watch the children chase down eggs. They litter the circle with dyed eggs and make sure there are prizes a plenty and candy for kids of every age. No one can walk away a failure. I witnessed many kids sharing there abundance with other children, even sharing prize eggs and filling another child's basket. My niece pointed out a prize egg to a little boy standing next to her as they waiting to start, making strategical plans with a three year old ahead of time. There was a mood of sharing, a culture of caring for all the children and time for reconnecting with old friends as we encouraged the children. It wasn't a fashion show nor a competition. So rare in our world, a safe place where people are free to be themselves and no one is judged, excluded or condemned for lack of style, money or physical prowess.

The letter to the Romans spells out clearly for us -there is therefore now no condemnation -with strong precise emphasis that we are not judged but loved by God. Our one requirement is to be in relationship with God, and God's activity through Christ's sacrifice is to renew us and make us whole in the spirit. We are not the idiotic failures we judge ourselves to be, but loved beyond measure, tenderly care for and desired by God. God sacrificed the one so that we may all know of the depth and constancy of that love. Our human world is constantly judging and finding us lacking, but God knows us completely and calls us whole and wonderful.

Today as we await the feast of the Resurrection - Easter - may we open our hearts to God's love in our lives, washing over us like warm gentle streams of healing waters. We can all be agents of God's love and compassion as we live out and model God's spirit of acceptance and welcome, the deep rich hospitality from the heart of our Creator.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday 2011

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 19:38-42

Today, we have spent part of the morning putting plants and seeds in the garden. I couldn't help but think, on this Good Friday that also happens to be Earth Day, how much planting a garden is like preparing for burial. It is a holy time, and solemn too. Many things need to be done before the earth can receive the seeds and plants. Likewise with a body. We have hours of preparations - tilling the ground, getting rid of roots, adding many pounds of nutrients and peat moss. Like wise, at death, there are religious customs and organic rituals that need to be done - pounds of spices, clean linens, and a nice resting place needs to be found. All of life, our beginnings and ends can be seen in the garden. Our lives are never far from where we began or where we will end. Good Friday, when all of life and hope hang in the balance, we are reminded of our frailty and the need to trust the Creator for all life.

We hear the story from John's Gospel, of the secret disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea. His cloak of hiding is shed out of love for Jesus. He risked it all in order to honor the one who have given his life for the world. His tender care, his compassion - it makes him brave enough to take on the authorities and very publicly proclaim his intimate relationship with Jesus. He takes Jesus to the garden or repose, modeling for the world a love that knows no shame.

Today, I ask God to help me to be patient and brave in these times when so much seems buried and little is revealed - a time when everything seems fragile and vulnerable. May I trust completely in the love Creator who made Joseph bold, and brought life to one so publicly crucified. May I embrace the God's love that has no shame, and live boldly trusting God's goodness in each moment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Prayer of Protection

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.’John 17:1-26

My husband called me "Electrolux Girl" today as we were moving some more items to storage. I was notorious as a child for separating the hose and wand from my mother's Electrolux vacuum and riding it down the long and steep central stair case. I guess you could say I was a bit of a dare devil, willing to try almost anything, always making messes and getting banged up. I am sure I tested my parents a great deal as a child. And my own daughters provided me with many growth opportunities of my own. As parents, we really learn to pray when our children are young, bright and active - we beg God for their safety, despite what we know about them. Our love impels us to beg God for our loved ones' protection, despite their predilections and thick headed need for adventure.

And so Jesus, as the end of his physical presence on earth is ending, prays from the heart as any parent would. He prays for the safety of his disciples and all who will follow -you and me included - despite our stubbornness and the many ways we fling ourselves into danger. Jesus takes the burden of our humanity, our testing and experimenting, our shallowness and curiosity, and asks God to care for each and every one of us. Not in spite of it all, but because we are loved more than we can ever know completely.

Today, I ask God to help us all remember how greatly and completely we are loved by God. How we are cared for despite our defiance and recklessness-despite it all -God is acting for our safety and care, and constantly concerned about our growth, healing and well-being. May we all take the love we have been given and share it with a world that needs to know someone cares for them more than they can even imagine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Children of the Light

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’ After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. John 12:27-36

We are very careful these days, and rightly so, about the sun. Many people have suffered from cancers caused by overexposure to the sun, and so we slather on sunscreen and protect ourselves against the damaging rays. Some studies show that many American children are now suffering the effects of light deprivation - thin porous bones, vitamin D deficiencies and the like. Our children don't play outside nearly enough and when they do they are slathered in sunscreen and protective clothing. Our care and worry is causing us to miss physical life enhancing benefits. And likewise, we can rob ourselves and our children of exposure to the light of faith.

We find Jesus, struggling with what he must do and his care for the world. With the awesome burden of living between two worlds and so many roles, we see a very human Christ, while we hear a very Godly God. He struggles to know how to show those gathered around him the reality of God's love and the seriousness of the situation, while balancing their need for protection and care. Like a parent torn between the physical needs of our children and the myriad of expert opinions, we see Jesus prayerfully struggling and accepting his path and his role. The awfulness of what he has to face is temporary and the greater good that follows is glorious. But living int he in-between time, in light and shadow is often difficult and perplexing.

Today, we ask God to help us to live faithfully through Holy Week, preparing our hearts and bodies for the coming of Easter. As we celebrate and remember, may we also enter into the real pain and suffering of the world around us, knowing that Christ's light is coming to shed healing and restoration through all the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Burying Seeds

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. John 12:20-26

We are awaiting a neighbor's friend who is going to come and use the rototiller in the garden for us. There hasn't been a vegetable garden in this back yard in years. We are all very excited including my 88 year old mother. There is something about this time of year that makes a body ache to get out in the dirt and plant things - plants and seeds, flowers and herbs. We all need to be part of a rebirth process, a renewing of our lives, a healing of the past and opening to the future. And yet, it requires much of us. We have to die to the old ways and begin again. We have to destroy the grass and turn it under to make a garden. And we have to feed, water and balance the soil so that everything we plant has a chance to thrive.

Jesus tells his disciples that, like a seed, he must fall and die, like a grain of wheat, so that everyone might be reborn, renewed and healed. He makes a point of saying this to them, when foreigners - Greeks - have some to see Jesus. This symbolic image- grain of wheat dying for life to come again - is for them as well as for his faithful few. It is for all sorts and conditions of people, across the ages, cultures and generations. This teaching is simple and yet vast in its reach. we are all saved by the sacrifice of one, we are fed and nourished, renewed and healed by this beneficent offering for the whole world.

On this Tuesday in Holy Week, I realize that it is time to prepare. Time to prepare the garden and time to prepare my heart. It is time to get rid of the old weeds and grass, and make fertile soil of my being so that the incredible sacrifice of one can bloom within me. May we all do the work of preparation so that God might renew us and make us wholly new in this season, so that we might be fruitful and abundantly compassionate in the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Plotting Revenge

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,‘Hosanna!Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!’Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’John 12:9-19

Tonight the moon is full and whether we can see the glowing, smiling orb or not, things might just get complicated. People who work in hospitals report a rise in emergency admissions during a full moon. It seems that more women go into labor during a full moon. And some believe that those who have a tendency towards violence and mental illness, loose control during this time. I don't really know. I do know that whatever moved people to madness and anger, to plot revenge and terror, whatever it is, it was at work in this season. People who one day were cheering and aching to get near are now the ones who would take a a life, plot revenge and contemplate murder and destruction.

The religious leadership was watching all that went on. They heard about the resurrection of Lazarus and plotted to kill Lazarus so they could stun the crowd into silence. But there was no silence when miracles abound, and since they cold not silence the crowds they plotted to silence Jesus permanently. Their very human jealousies and anger rose up and found a way during the holiest of seasons to get rid of the most blessed gift from God any of them had ever received.

Today, I ask God to help me remember that jealousy and anger are normal human reactions, like the tides rising to the full moon. Help me also, God, to let go of jealousy and anger and to not give any time to plotting or revenge. Help me to see the great gifts around me and to rejoice in the face of Christ in everyone around me this day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday 2011

When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

"Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

"Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee." Matthew 21:1-11

The dust settles the crowd dispersed
the loud shouts gone silence and dirt covers
palm leaves strewn everywhere mess and debris
the children dragged home dusty, hungry
parading around is thirsty work and confusion.

Those same leaves of adoration woven
into whips will shred the skin
break the heart
love planted by the road side
a day's entertainment a group activity
something for the kids to do
by dusk will turn to treachery.

Shallow and distracted they flit from fad
to star tasting and trying moved by peers
shallow rhetoric, catch phrases
empty and inconsequential
they wander home awaiting
yet another amusement, a parade
a lynching, something to stimulate
the body and mind, to get juices flowing
and keep conversation moving.

They took their palms and their jealousy
winding nooses, braids of whips
burials cloths and resentment
fueled rage.

They took their need and shame tossing
it all on another the scape goat
the identified sacrifice the labeled one
the one destined for the cross
who loved them most.

They took palms and condemned him
we take palms and reject him
we parade and chant, pray and sing
and bury our deep seated jealousies
with the knife in his back.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Light in the Darkness

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. 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. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” John 12:37-50

The nights in Cape May Point are very dark. After living for years near the biggest city in the world, it is astounding to tuck in at night in real total darkness. Every star is visible and the moon is so pronounced ans so visible. When we walk or take a bike ride at night we are mesmerized by the night sky, with all its definition and character, so long missing from our sight. It can be easy to lose perspective and assume that one way of seeing is the norm. We got used to seeing only partially, but now we can see the complete dark night sky with all the wonderful stars and planets inn full view. It is so easy to accept obstruction when it becomes habit, comforting and familiar. And when the full lights in the darkness are revealed, it is hard not to be sad for all the nights we missed seeing the Pleiades, Orion and the north star so clearly.

The religious leaders and those gathered at the temple want to believe what they have seen and heard, but are afraid. They know they will be tossed out of the temple if they articulate their capacity to believe in Jesus. He knows their struggle and ours. We humans get used to a way of being, even when it is partial and obstructed, destructive or burdensome. We like the familiar, even when familiar is not life giving and healing. We would rather cling, to the normal than to accept we need and ache for healing. We shutter in the dark rather than come into the light.

Today, I ask God to give me the courage to shuck off the familiar and accept the radiance of Christ's light. May we step into Christ's fullness, where God is bringing us healing and life, in spite of the dark times and the challenges ahead. May we all let go of comfort, be fearless in the face of rejection and revel in the light of Christ which brings God's healing and love daily to our lives.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Damien and Marianne

God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities. When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.’ Matthew 11:1-6

A Belgian missionary priest, Joseph Van Veuster (Damien of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart), born in 1840, came to Hawaii in 1863, and in 1873 was sent at his own request to Molokai to work among the lepers. He organized burial details and funeral services, so that death might have some dignity. He taught the people how to grow crops and feed themselves better. He organized a choir, and got persons to sing who had not sung in years. He gave them medical attention. Contracting leprosy himself in 1885 he stayed on and served among the people until his death in 1889.

In November 1883, Mother Marianne, then Provincial Mother, traveled from Syracuse to Honolulu with six other nuns to answer a call for aid to the Hansen's disease sufferers. In 1888, she moved to Kalaupapa to help the ailing Father Damien of Moloka'i. When the famed priest died, Mother Marianne Cope took over the care of the patients of Kalaupapa. She remained there until her death in 1918.

I stood overlooking the leper colony on Molokai - a beautiful stark place. Invited by Bishop Fitzpatrick, I went to many islands to visit with Native Hawaiian people to learn their needs for ministry and support. One kind man took me to the overlook to see the leper colony. I could almost hear the cries of the children sent away by families, the people who would never see their families again, and the music and life they lived despite the world's abandonment. I couldn't help but fill with tears at the real isolation and lack of compassion that these mothers, father, sons and daughters were treated with. Tears came that I could not hold back, even though the cruelest treatment is long over.

The worst thing you can be in biblical times and even 100 years ago was a leper. The only companionship you could expect were from people who had your disease. Human beings can be so unkind and the people who often need comfort and support the most are rejected because of fear. We fear it might be catching - whatever it is we fear. And yet the sign of Christ's presence is the healing of the worst of the worst, the outcasts of the outcasts, the ones who live beyond society's fear. And these two kind saints of God saw Christ in the faces of the lepers on this far away colony and made them their family, their priority, the loves of their lives.

Today, I ask God to increase our compassion for those who live beyond society's fear - those who are rejected because of fear. May we make our cause be the cause of those who have been sent away, those who have been rejected so that Christ might shine through our works and words this day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Picking Up Stones

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, ‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’ Others were saying, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? 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, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, ‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there. John 10:19-42

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!" We used to, as kids, respond to vicious taunts with this phrase. And yet, even as a child, I knew that the taunts stung, and the adults that taught it to me had suffered unkind words that stung them still. I was a chubby little girl with an older brother who knew how to tease so insistently that it felt like I was bleeding. And the kids in school were even meaner. Words, harsh words and malicious judgements can cause us all to be broken, inside and out, without a stick or stone being raised. Even as adults, with a thicker skin, the cruel words others say behind your back, the gossip and the lies, the jealousy voices to a crowd - even now these can sting and make the strongest cower.

Can you imagine the scene, among the holiest of holy sites in the world, to be faced with the religious leadership, arms raised with stones ready to throw? Their words were angry, venomous and hostile. They wanted Jesus gone, even better, they wanted him dead. Can you imagine, right in the midst of the ancient cathedral of faith, they were openly violent, openly on the attack? Jesus finds words and a way to exit from there alive. The incredible,consuming anger, the unwillingness to imagine God as larger and different than one accepts - all of this is enough for grown men, theologians and leaders all, to shed blood and take a life in the temple. The religious world is riddled with truth that we are often more ready to do battle with one another than with injustice and oppression. We are ready to raise our voices and our hands to God's servants rather than to open our hearts to the needs in our very midst.

Today, I ask God to grant me an open and forgiving heart. No matter the words or behavior, may I trust in a Savoir, who stood in the midst of violence and cruelty and found a way to sidestep it in order to care for the most needy. May our hands never be raised for violence but in prayer and praise, with a willingness to lend them to the community around us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Part of the Flock

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’ John 10:1-18

A Part of the Flock

This damp morning fogs hangs
having lived through the worst night
a silent reminder of the desolation
isolation among the flock
marked as the good shepherd's
wandering in a gray wilderness
hungry for a barking dog and
human footsteps leading me home.

A small turn of the head biting
grass and thoughts wandering we lose
track of the center fading away
the group goes on
we are oblivious and dreaming
left to the night sounds and
heavy rain.

My coat is thick and oily
some protection from the weather
no cure for isolation braying
to the shadowed moon
a vague bird responding
a voice in the wilderness
of this dark night.

A night of confusions
sounds and echoes I turn twisting
never sleeping aching for rescue
gnawing at grass and never full.

The hired hands have all gone home
fled the rotten weather to warms and meals
laughing by the fire at the shepherds long hours
grabbing their cash and greedy for more
least amount of work for the most green
a foolish shepherd who would give his all.

We who are yet still unaccounted for
ache to hear his voice, his touch
and know the shepherd will find us
touch our trembling backs offering
a handful of sweet grasses and
whispering our names and calling us
beloved the ones never left alone.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Getting Grilled

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains. John 9:18-41

"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" I can remember laughing so hard I fell on the floor when I watched the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inquisition. As someone, who since that time, has gone to seminary, been ordained deacon, priest and bishop, gone to get a second masters and a PhD, I now have personal experiences that felt like the Spanish Inquisition. We can laugh now, but there was a time when anyone who believed, even slightly differently than church authority, was burned or tortured to death. The tolerance for any small teaching that differed from the traditions was literally the end of your life. It was death. And people who were tortured asked for death rather than a continuance of their painful life. Nothing that the church can dish out now is anything like the Spanish Inquisition, but it can feel like it to some people. People with unique perspectives, who are just trying to be faithful and who know God's love and want to serve with all their being. Orthodoxy is truly a wonderful thing and our ability to use orthodoxy to crush others is disheartening at best. We want the doors open wide for us and everyone else who follows must take only the straight and narrow.

The man who was healed of blindness could not enjoy his incredible, life-changing gift from God. The religious authorities grilled him several times and treated him with disdain and disbelief. Like a cross examination in court, they were ruthless to a man who wanted to revel in his tender new sight. They would gut him of his miracle for the sake of orthodoxy and their fear of change. They would torture him, if just with words, so that they might be a tad more comfortable.

Today I ask God to help us all be patient and forgiving with those who are different, those who express their faith in ways that makes us uncomfortable. For those who have been made whole, there is no stopping their faithfulness and their zeal. God put it in them and in us. May we all open wide the realm of God love, open our hearts to the strange ones and know that in every generation and every day God through Christ is making and remaking us all.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Here's Mud in your Eye!

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed 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.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ John 9:1-17

When we were kids, we used to drink our cool-aid or milk and shout, "Here's mud in your eye!" Drinking cool-aid out of bright metal cups on a summer's day is a cherished memory. My mother still has those cups although now they are sold at high prices and called retro in the stores. We never really knew what we were saying when we toasted. Our parents didn't drink alcohol and were seriously committed to the cause. But my parents would join in the toast, laughing like kids along with us. I didn't learn until much later that the toast originated from the First World War. English and American soldiers spent their days and nights in muddy, water soaked trenches. They were literally up to their eyeballs in mud and so this toast was their way of saying we lived another day. We will survive. A blessing in a cursed environment where so many died unnamed, and where the living came back as shells of themselves. War is hell and the promise of companionship and life after horrible circumstances is a true blessing and gift for all.

Jesus found a man born blind and the theological arguments continue as to why he was blind. Some one was trying to find fault, they wanted someone to blame. But Jesus saw this man as the vessel of God's revelation, as one who has lived through horrible circumstances and still holds the promise of new life. He knew this man to be blessed in his circumstances since God has compassion on all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit. Jesus gets very personal with the man, tender even, as he used his own saliva and made mud for healing the blind man. This act of kindness and intimacy from God changed the suffering man and also his whole community. God's love broke through all of the cruelty, disease and judgement and provided light and vision where once there was none.

Today, as we live through changes and hard times, may we remember that God is in the midst of our most difficult moments and stirring up the mud for our eyes and for our hearts. God's love is not far off but full of compassion and healing for each of us. Whether we are at war, deep in the trenches, or feeling at sea in a new world, may we remember that God is always moving to us for healing and new life, for light and new vision where once there was only darkness. Here's mud in your eye!

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 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 trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 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. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for 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 looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. John 11:1-45

I am one of four sisters and Mark and I produced three sisters. My mother is one of three sisters, and my husband's sister has become as sister to me. I lost my sister Pegi in 1990 and there has been a hole in our lives ever since. I am surrounded by wonderful, beautiful, creative women. They are talkative, opinionated and sometimes bossy. They are always compassionate, tender, loving and supportive. They all have amazing skills. They know how to stay in touch and tease, they know how to find a sore spot and put some salve on it. They love fiercely and completely and I am grateful for every one of them. My life is rich because of my sisters and the women in my family.

Martha and Mary are among the few women named in the Gospels. They also reappear in several places, demonstrating their importance to the ministry. Martha is the worker, Mary the more flighty intellectual. Their brother is sick and then dies - and they feel not only the loss but the assumed abandonment of their friend Jesus. They think he doesn't care. Jesus more than cares. He comes and brings the beloved brother back to life to the astonishment of all. Love that moves beyond the grave, overpowering even the strongest barriers we know. Jesus demonstrates God's commitment to each and everyone of us by coming to his dear friends, Martha and Mary, and raising their lost brother to them. Martha, the worker, the one who scolds her dear friend Jesus for his late arrival,is also the one that clearly confesses her faith. " Yes Lord, I believe." Her statement of belief is the clearest one in the Gospels - she gets it, the sister who spends her time in the kitchen and who is exasperated quite frequently with the whole bunch of them. And Jesus tells us all clearly that this love that reaches beyond all human barriers is for all kinds of people - including all the sisters.

Today, I want to live understanding that whatever lose I have suffered, Jesus is on the way to deliver new life to me. To each of us. Whatever our challenges and grief, God is determined to bring about a resurrection. Love that breaks down all barriers and overpowers even the darkest of graves is coming for all of us. May we all have the pateince to wait for the arrival of new life in Jesus Christ and meanwhile confess our faith as boldly as Martha does. Despite any evidence to the contrary, may we rejoice in the healing and new life coming our way today.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Difficult Teaching

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’ Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. John 6:60-71

Being a student and being a teacher are both challenging. We are always learning each day and some lessons are easy to get and others are much harder. When the learners have challenges it can be frustrating. When the teachers don't know how to communicate or get through to the students, that too can be frustrating. The human being is a puzzle - no one person learns exactly like another and no one way to teach is most effective. And then there are the life lessons we do without guidance. They can be the hardest. Trying to learn how to live in a new place is always a challenge, as well as learning to adapt to new people and new surroundings. I know, even in this familiar place, it is very stressful and challenging settling in. It is hard to know how much to tackle on any given day.

The disciples have lost the thread and they are complaining. "We don't know how to do the math you are teaching", they said. "This is nothing we have ever seen before and nothing we have ever dealt with before." "Slow down and help us understand." Too often teachers never hear from the students that don't understand. There is no relationship of trust between them and so the learner fears complaining. Fortunately, the disciples could admit to their challenge, could admit to their struggle and remembered that their teacher continued to talk with them, continued to lead them and continued to care for them. The best teachers are those who are willing to be in relationship with their students and who are willing to turn the lesson over so it can be seen from many different angles. Jesus knew the lesson was hard. He also knew it was for everyone, no matter their learning challenges of educational style.

Today, I want to celebrate all of the teachers in my life. Those who have taught me in a class room and those who have taught me by example and mentored me until I could stand on my own. I praise God for giving us a relationship where we can admit to our needs and confusion and find rest and renewal, even in the most challenging times.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Food Fight!

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.John 6:52-59

Growing up among five children there was constant fights, often over food and who got the last tasty morsel of something - usually dessert. We fought about lots of things and our parents usually kept a tight lid on us and our battles. Once, when my parents had a group of kids on retreat for confirmation, there was a very memorable confrontation. My younger sister wanted the last ice cream sandwich and so did I. I carefully cut it in half and asked her which half she wanted. After deliberation, she made her choice, which I proceeded to pulverize with my fist.

Theologians as well as children fight over food, whether symbolic or actual. Jesus was teaching in the temple and trying to help folks understand what he had been called to do. Most of the gathered remembered his words and his touch in a positive fashion, although some found these fighting words. Bread and food are at the base of our human existence. Every culture has sacred and traditional foods. Best not make fun or belittle what is important to a group of people, whether a large cultural unit or a small family. We all fight over food, and yet we rarely own our complicated relationship to food and how powerful and elemental it is. We dress it up as gourmet or healthy, on or off a diet, but we want to own and control it. And it scares us when we realize that God is saying to us that our food for life is truly taking God in.

Today, I want to give thanks for all those who have fed me physically and spiritually throughout my life. God asks us to invite the Creator within us, and that we will be filled to overflowing. May this day be dedicated to honoring the food and gifts of our traditions and family, while opening our hearts and souls to the hungry in our midst.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bread of Life

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ John 6:41-51

There is something about bread that is powerful to all people. I learned to bake bread from my mother. At one time in our lives she made loaves upon loaves of bread, and they were set aside for rising all over the house. One particularly warm closet was a great spot for rising. Bread dough needs attention, and one has to get gooey up to the elbows sometimes to make a great loaf. I would always take off my rings and bracelets, if I was wearing them, before baking. And my children could tell, from the telephone alone, if I had been baking, as it would be covered by dried dough. Bread is a very visceral thing, a very living and interactive substance. Bread demands attention and tender care and also gives great joy and sustenance for living. Warm bread can put even the crankiest of people in a good mood. Bread communicates so many rich and wonderful memories, and invites participation in the fullness of life.

Jesus tells his detractors that he is the bread of life. He tells them he is the substance of sustenance, the source of strength and renewal. They are offended because of the intimacy of this statement. And yet, all of us can resonate immediately with the picture that Jesus draws. It is an image that we can understand today, even in our digital, texting-of-life age. We can close our eyes and see the bread which satisfies, that which sustains us and renews us. Too often, the communion wafers we receive at church pale in comparison to this image that Christ gives us. And yet, Jesus tells us all that he feeds us and renews us and brings us all the gifts of love from God.

Today, I want to rejoice that there is a never-ending source of renewal energy and love from God. This source is free to all and willing to be broken so that we might live and thrive, both now and forever. May I remember today, that when my body or soul is hungry, there is Jesus, who has offered his all so that I might live abundantly. May we share the bread we have today with others, knowing that in so doing, we share God's love for the world with the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Losing Nothing

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”John 6:27-40

Today is the ninth anniversary of my consecration as bishop. It is a time for me to reflect on my ministry and pray for God's guidance for the next steps in following Christ. I happen to live in a great place for reflecting. Out walking the other afternoon, I was looking at the growth along the beach entrance. It looked dead, beyond dead. It was white and gray and would make a great background for a horror movie. The next day was dark and stormy and the foliage and the sky would scare anybody. This same foliage, despite how it looks today, is lush with green leaves in the summer and produces wonderful cover from the sun. Mixed in are beach plum bushes, which we harvest, so that my Mom can make the sweetest jelly. Sometimes it is important to remember that Jesus reminds us all that he will lose nothing or no one that his father has given to Jesus' care. No matter how complicated and rough our paths might be, no matter how fruitless our efforts might have seemed, God has given to a wondrous caretaker, one who will bring an abundance of fruit in season.

Jesus tells the gathering crowd about being truly feed from the bread of life. He reminds them that God has given him the role of savior and caretaker of us all, and that despite our anxiety and concern, he will provide for our bellies and for our every need. Our job is to believe and trust and to put all our cares upon him. Despite how it looks today, abundant or withered, full or on empty, strong or weak, we are cared for and guided, even when we are blind to God's care for us.

Today I ask God to renew my faith and to help me to entrust Christ with my whole life and ministry. May I celebrate this anniversary of ministry knowing that each moment is in Christ's hands and that my ministry, in all of it's phases are gifts from a loving God, who promises to guide, care and fill me to overflowing, every day. May we all rejoice in the promise of this loving care and know that none of us is lost or left behind, but tenderly held in loving hands.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Walking on the Sea

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” John 6:16-27

There has been quite a storm over the past two days. Yesterday, which started bright, warm and sunny, gave way to clouds and ever increasing winds. By evening, when we took a short walk on the beach, the waves were jagged and rough and the wind stung us with flying sand. A storm was coming and was blowing even the most solid figures around. My Mom and I walked to get the mail today in a substantial wind and rain squalls. It took our two solid figures a lot longer than normal to transverse the few blocks to the post office. As the social center of our present life, it is important to make the daily visit, so as not to miss out on anything going on. There is rarely anything missed, rarely anything going on, but we always have to be prepared. Walking on land was tough enough for us today.

Jesus is walking out to the boat where his friends are, defying gravity and the nature of dense human beings and pliable, giving water. The group was terrified that night. In daylight the next day, everyone had heard of his command of the sea and wanted that magic and control for themselves. They wanted full bellies and magic entertainment, rich stories of wonder and free meal tickets. Well, you can’t blame them; we all want a life of ease without the threat of wind, water and drowning. We want to be like God. And yet, none of us wants the responsibility of caring day and night for this world. None of us wants to ache with compassion day and night for children who are defiant, callous and broken. None of us wants a real relationship, a real commitment. We want a few laughs and the luxury of a full larder.

Today, I want to be grateful that in all conditions and tides, Jesus seeks us out, Jesus traverses whatever terrain needed to find us in our suffering and on our sinking vessels. The God of love is aching to find us and make us whole. I pray that I can be worthy of the one who walks on water so that we might be welcomed home, welcomed into the arms of our loving Creator.