Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also. John 8:12-19

This will be a new experience for us. The ball will drop in New York City at 8 pm our time. This being our first New Year's Eve in Alaska, it will be a new learning experience. Christmas was a lovely and new experience here so I am looking forward to new experiences in this day. Living this far north and this far west really changes one's perspective. We see things in a whole new light and are sometimes challenged by the lack of daylight this time of year. I am hopeful and joyful for s new year as the light returns and we experience the wonders of Southeast Alaska and her amazing people.

Jesus says clearly that he is, " the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The religious authorities are furious with him for breaking protocol and talking about himself using traditional and familiar words. They are stunned by his boldness and by his knowledge of their codes and cultures. He is an outsider to them, he is not one of the elite and yet he overwhelms them with understanding. God invites us to walk in the light of Christ today rather than being dazzled by the flash limelight provided by humans. God's light is permanent and constant, ours are fireworks and bulbs that fizzle out.

Today I ask God to help me walk in the light. May God's light surround us, be embedded in us and go with us on our way. May we not be captivated by temporary dazzle and pop but rather welcome the light of the world with all our hearts. May this coming year be one where we are radiant with love and compassion, shunning the darkness of greed and selfishness and offering all that we have for the welfare of all. May we walk in the light of the world.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Power to Become God's Children

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
John 1:1-18

There is something about the Christmas season that makes us return to our childhood. Memories abound and we can see by the many movies that have been made that we want to relive our best moments and ache to undo the bad ones. Some people try to celebrate just like they used to and others strive to wipe away the visions of the past. We can spend our lives grieving over our losses this season too. Christmas plumbs the depths of our memory and we can be overwhelmed by it all.

The good news of our Gospel today is that we have been given the power to become children of God, remade and refashioned by love. No matter how perfect or imperfect our past or present might be, we are invited to let God healed and renew us, despite all the challenges. We are not left alone with our mistakes and memories but claimed by God who came among us so that we might receive grace upon grace, light in our darkness, and new birth in the heart of God.

Today I ask God to help me live as a child of God. May our spirits lift and not be bound by our weary flesh. May we see ourselves as God see us, as beautiful children, welcomed, wanted and loved. May we live expecting grace upon grace, healing and renewal. May we let go the sins of the past, forgiving ourselves and one another, throwing ourselves into the ready arms of God this day.

The Collect

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sheep among Wolves

Jesus told the twelve disciples, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. " Matthew 10:16-22

Today we celebrate the feast day of Thomas Becket. Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonized by Pope Alexander III. When Mark and I visited Canterbury several years ago, we were amazed by the way our guides relished their graphic retelling of his murder, and the miracles that are attributed to him. The stories are both riveting and horrifying.

Thomas fought the crown and the crown won, for the time. By riding the world of a sore spot, they created a martyr for the faith. No one else is regaled with such vigor at Canterbury, although one is surrounded by tombs of great kings and soaring architecture. A simple, honest clergyman somehow captures everyone's spirit and imagination. We are invited to see our ministries, whether lay or ordained, through the lens of folks like Thomas. Not popular, nor loved by royalty, he lived the Gospel and died horribly. And yet, his story lives, his examples hold, while we never know of the ones who did as they were told, the ones who towed the line and followed men rather than God.

Today, may we give thanks for the pastors and spiritual leaders who have shunned politics and popularity for God's service. May we recognize the dangers in our midst and not fear for God is with us. May we be courageous like Thomas to stand up to human authority for God's justice and compassion, and may we not worry about popularity but rather pursue faithfulness. May love be our guide as we live this day.

The Collect

O God, our strength and our salvation, you called your servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of your people and a defender of your Church: Keep your household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents

When the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more." Matthew 2:13-18

God Must Cry

When cruelty and anger
become our way of life
when we lose patience
giving into violence
when fear is our motivation
and love has lost again
God must cry.

Weep you heavens rain down
tears of sorrow endless and deep
the sky is bending down in grief
the trees bent in mourning
we are broken by the loss
never to be whole again.

When little children silenced
the aged elders set aside
the homeless neglected
and the ill left for dead
when selfishness and ignorance win
then God must cry.

Weep you heavens rain down
tears of sorrow endless and deep
the sky is bending down in grief
the trees bent in mourning
we are broken by the loss
never to be whole again.

And God must cry when school children
bundles loving in the morning
do not return home ever again
when sickness become violence
and we stand by frightened
and do nothing.

Weep you heavens rain down
tears of sorrow endless and deep
the sky is bending down in grief
the trees bent in mourning
we are broken by the loss
never to be whole again.

Oh may we run at night to Egypt
take a dangerous route to save
small innocents and broken hearts
may we be willing to be foreigners
living on the edge to spare the little ones
and may we never be the cause again
for why God must cry.

Weep you heavens rain down
tears of sorrow endless and deep
the sky is bending down in grief
the trees bent in mourning
we are broken by the loss
never to be whole again.

The Collect

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John Apostle and Evangelist

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us-- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:1-9

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John Apostle and Evangelist. John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John. Traditionally he has been identified with the author of the other Johannine works in the New Testament—the three Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation, written by a John of Patmos—as well as with John the Apostle and the Beloved Disciple mentioned in the Gospel of John. However, at least some of these connections have been debated since about 200.

The Gospel of John refers to an unnamed "Beloved Disciple" of Jesus who bore witness to the gospel's message. The composer of the Gospel of John seemed interested in maintaining the internal anonymity of the author's identity.

The apostle John was a historical figure, one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church after Jesus' death. Some scholars believe that John was martyred along with his brother although many other scholars doubt this. Some believe that the tradition that John lived to old age in Ephesus developed in the late 2nd century, although the tradition does appear in the last chapter of the gospel, though this debatable tradition assumes that John the Evangelist, John the Apostle, the Beloved Disciple mentioned in John 21 and sometimes also John the Presbyter are the same person . By the late 2nd century, the tradition was held by most Christians.

Whatever our understanding is of John, we can be grateful for his willingness to tell the story, putting to paper and fleshing out the stories that were verbally shared from person to person. John bring rich beauty to the fellowship we have with God through Christ and helps us to see the light of Christ which vanquishes all darkness.

On this third day of Christmas may we give thanks for all those who bring light into our darkness. May we celebrate those who by their words and music, move us from fear to acceptance, from resistance to compassion. May we take time to thank the story tellers, those who read to us out loud, those who sang us songs on our beds and in our gloom - those who brought light to our moments of darkness and disbelief. And may we be encouraged to spread the light today with all we meet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day and the Feast of Stephen

Jesus said, "Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Matthew 23:34-39

We find that the day after Christmas in our household is a day to sleep late and to relax after all the busy time. This year I had six services in three days, and was ready for a respite after all that. The feast of Stephen, who was a Deacon, and who saw heaven open to him as he was dying, seems the perfect time to also celebrate Boxing Day, the day when those who serve so faithfully were given gifts.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their superiors. The exact etymology of the term "boxing" is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive. The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

May we take time today to be grateful for all the people who do so much for us today. We are all blessed with family and friends who make our lives joyful and fun. We have those who work for us and with us and who make our tasks enjoyable. And there are those who serve us, named and unnamed, at restaurant tables, the nurses and doctor's aides, in groceries and salons, who often go un-thanked for their cheerfulness and kindnesses. May we remember that we are all servants of a loving God who came into the world, vulnerable and needy as we are. And may we share the love incarnate today with everyone we meet.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:1-20 KJV

My Christmas wish for all of us is that we cherish the love we have been given. This Christmas, so far away from our family, I truly understand how blessed we are and how much I ache to hold each one in my arms. God has come among us, as vulnerable and fragile as we are. May we hold dear all the love we have been given, seeing the face of Christ in every smile and every tear, in all the laughter and the sighing, in the singing and the crying.
God is with us, Emmanuel has come among us to stay this day.


Enjoy the music -

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Time Came

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:1-20

Christmas Eve is always a chaotic time in any house. Imagine what it was like in my family. My Dad, a Navy Chaplain serving on a Marine Base with many services to conduct both on land and on the docked ships. My mother went into labor and had me in the midst of all of that Christmas Eve so many years ago. And it is still a great joy to be surrounded by the clamor and the chaos, the sights and sounds of this great season. I am grateful to have a little part of it, a small role in the drama we all participate in, every year.

Two homeless young people, parents for the first time, give birth to their baby in a stable all alone. They know in their hearts that this is an amazing event, one that will change the world. But they also know that the world around them doesn't care about them or their baby - there is too much else going on, too much chaos and clamor for one little child to distract them. To their surprise some shepherds arrived, shaking with excitement and fear, looking for the child that the angels told them about. Everyone must have been overwhelmed and full of wonder. Why had God chosen them to be a part of this great story? The good news is that God chooses all of us to be part of the story. God comes into the world, through us, breaking the distance from heaven to earth and letting love take root in our hearts.

Today, may we rejoice in the drama, the chaos and the clamor. May we remember that God has invited us, in all our humanity, to carry the love of God. We are storytellers all, and participants in this great drama. God invites our humanity, with all of our faults and challenges to be a part of the story of Emmanuel, God with us. May we all rise up and see this thing which the angels foretold - today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

And Mary Said

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Luke 1:39-55

And Mary Said

Overwhelmed and frightened
sent far away to relatives
upheaval in body and soul
running to Elizabeth's arms
and Mary still said yes.

Two women locked in each others arms
one too old and one too young
and Mary still said yes.

A family fearful of rejection
a fiance shaken by visitations
angels or not this is hard
working at his carpenters bench
Joseph still said yes.

Two women locked in each others arms
one too old and one too young
and Mary still said yes.

A babe danced within when drawing near
the voice of God resounding
without and within for John and for Jesus
bound by water and spirit they heard
their frightened mothers
say yes out loud to God.

Two women locked in each others arms
one too old and one too young
and Mary still said yes.

And so we who live in anxious days
who wonder what we can do
who trembling wake to face the day
and cautiously step out
may we join the women who for us
said a loud yes to God.

Two women locked in each others arms
one too old and one too young
and Mary still said yes.

The Collect

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Even the Darkness

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139:1-17

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year. This is our first winter in Alaska, and getting used to the lack of light has been a challenge. It will be a good while before the sun is up and it will come down early in the afternoon. There is a deep beauty to the darkness here, and a joyous response to sunlight. All is celebrated and nothing is taken for granted.

We hear the psalmist today, as we come to the final days of Advent. We are reminded that even in the darkness, even in the hidden places, God is with us. Our fear of the dark, of isolation and of rejection are constantly being undone by God's love and light. We are formed with the tender hands of the Creator, loved and sought throughout our lives. No matter how we stumble in the dark and clamor in the light God is with us in our most awkward and delightful moments, cherishing and celebrating with us. We can take heart, in the depths of winter that God is not far off but near and God is bringing love's light to the depths of despair that surround us.

Today I ask God to help me know that light and love surround us, no matter the circumstances. May we live as children of a loving God, trusting that in our seeping and waking God is with us. May we live aware of the love and light that surrounds us and share God's love this day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

St. Thomas

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:24-29

There are many reasons why people doubt. We humans are especially prone to doubting positive outcomes after a long season of disappointments. Some of us doubt we will have everything done before Christmas. Others doubt whether Christmas will ever come for them. Those who have been left out and excluded doubt even when they are welcomed and included.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas. Although we refer to him as doubting, Thomas represents us all, our humanity in our most honest state. How can this be we ask? How can we be loved when we are such disasters, such fools etc? We find doubt a safe rebuff for the blessings that God is sending our way. We are encouraged on this feat day to welcome God's
love with open arms and with joyous hearts, no matter how inadequate and incomplete we may feel. God is moving around us and with us today, blessing us beyond measure.

Today, I ask God to take away all doubt. May we believe with firm conviction that we are loved and wanted, beloved children showered with blessings by God. May we live today secure in the knowledge that we are desired and welcomed in the arms of God and cradled despite all the challenges of today's violent world. And may we stretch out our arms in love, sharing God's love with our neighbors today.

The Collect

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Baptizing with Water

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12

Clergy kids are very comfortable with all the rituals in the church. When we were kids, although my Dad did not,as a Presbyterian minister, practice immersion baptism, we thought it a delight to practice on one another. We knew all the words and would hold each other under the ocean water as long as possible. I have watched my children do likewise. Growing up by the ocean, water was so much a part of our lives we took it for granted. And yet water is a precious commodity and necessary for healing our bodies and sustaining life.

John drew people out of the city, out of their comfort zone and brought them to the river to be baptized. They came because they understood that God was drawing near and they wanted to be part of it. He didn't hold back with the religious leadership. He told them that they were to change their ways and to live as God intended without their selfishness and greed. He told them not to rely on their status because God was not concerned with money or station but rather with the love in one's heart and the demonstration of care and compassion. We are invited as we prepare for Christmas, for the coming of Christ anew, to focus on love and service rather than the tinsel and the ornaments. God is seeking to be with us, to live with us and we are simply asked to make a home for blessings.

Today, I ask God to help me be a home for blessings. May our lives reflect the love of God - humble, inviting and compassionate. May we live each day making room for others, turning from our innate greed and sharing the gifts that we have. May we be lavish with love and tenderness so that others might share our blessings. And may we let compassion flow like the ocean, over all of us, until God's presence in known in the depths of our being.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sending A Messenger

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8

Messengers come in all forms and we know that John was not what folks had expected. I got a message yesterday, as I was walking across to my car I slipped on the ice and fell, banging my head and denting a car. I was embarrassed, and tried to recover quickly. I drove my clergy colleague back to her church and went back to my office where everyone saw something was wrong. After to trip to the Urgent Care at our local IHS facility, they sent me home to rest, take some time off and let my brain suffering from a concussion heal. I do not like being forced to slow down in Advent, even though that is what we are invited to do.

The prophet Isaiah begins the Gospel of Mark foretelling the coming of Jesus and of his messenger, John. As we draw within a week of Christmas, with all the frantic last minute chores, it is easy to miss the message of John. We just want to get the chores done and finish all our decorating and service planning. We are invited by John to come into the wilderness, to be quiet and to hear God speak to us directly. We are invited to be still enough to open our hearts to God.

Today, I ask God to help me to be calm and tender with myself and everyone around me. May we welcome the coming of Christ anew by clearing away the busy-ness and the bustle, the fretting and the planning, in order to make a straight path to God. The presence of God needs no decoration, no adornment, no plans. God is sufficient to meet all of our needs this day. May we be still and make room for God's love today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:54-62

When we are alone, afraid or overwhelmed, denial can be our safest response. Peter, the strong, fearless fisherman had watched his friend's arrest and torture. We have seen things in the past week that make us frightened and overwhelm us. We have witnessed a quiet community become a scene of terror and violence. We have felt fear for all our children as they go off to school. We have all wondered where God is, in the midst of such devastation.

It can be hard to hear the story of the crucifixion as we prepare for Christmas. I keep wanting to find another text to use for my morning prayers. I want to deny the misery and pain. Like Peter,we can be overwhelmed by the events in our own lives. Such joy and companionship, an extraordinary ministry and journey, day after day with an amazing teacher - and it all comes crashing down in a violent moment in the garden. Peter is in shock and his response is denial and self protection. It is what we all do. And God invites us to move beyond our states of shock and denial. Our Advent journey is one of facing the whole of life with great expectation - with hope and desire for the presence of God. And God promises to be with us, helping us from denial and self-loathing, from fear and anguish to love and joy in the presence of Emmanuel, God with us.

Today I ask God to help me face those things which are very difficult. May we turn and see our world as it is, and ask God to give us the strength to do what we can on our little corners. May we be honest and humble, willing to face the worst of the human condition, so that we might also witness the best that God has to offer. May we all find ways, in the midst of our grief and pain, to welcome the one who is life, light and truth.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rise and Pray

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46

Rise and Pray
dedicated to the people of Newtown, CT

Darkness and deep cold
the garden once so lush
now a place of torment
weeping without solace
and I am left alone.

The innocent senselessly destroyed
my heart is on the ground
snow falls in torrents silently
frozen tears from
highest heaven.

Prayer too deep for words
sighing and wailing is heard
a deep rattle of loss rises
from the center of our souls.

This garden once hear
laughter and love words
grass trampled by children
and lovers dancing in the night.

This garden is now gone
to winter's harsh embrace
to our cold indifference
and our casual concern.

Young sprouts must be tended
fragile stalks supported
food added and soil turned
and we fell asleep with full bellies.

Now our hands are empty
our bodies racked with loss
we fear ourselves our children
we fear for all that we hold dear.

God draw near to us
stay with us and keep us
awake and vigilant in love
for we faint with the pain tonight.

God come within us anew
in this Advent waiting remake us
mold us into compassion and care
and help us to rise up and pray.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Then Should We Do?

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.Luke 3:7-18

It is the third Sunday in Advent. We are anxious people as we await the coming of Christmas, of God's real presence among anew. And we are shattered people because of the events in recent days when little innocent children are taken from the world so violently. We ask ourselves, "what can we do?",as God waits patiently to be reborn in our lives, as we continue to try to solve our problems all by ourselves.

Today we hear the story of John and the people that come to be baptized. John doesn't mince words. He tells them they have to change their ways, to stop the greed and self-centered living. He tells them to share their belonging and their money, to feed and care for the poor, and to be satisfied with what we have and really love our neighbors. We are invited to self-examination in this season. We are invited to do all that we can for the benefit of others and to turn our selfishness into compassion and care.

Today, I ask God to help me turn my heart. Help us soften our hearts to where we see the needs of our neighbors and do all we can for them. May we put away all self-defense as we come together for the good of all. May we take up compassion, service and sharing as the marks of God's presence in our lives. And may this day we commit to forgiving the unforgivable, loving the impossible and knowing ourselves to be forgiven and loved, just as we are.

The Collect

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

To Sucn as These

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ Luke 18:15-17

A day after the horrific shooting in Connecticut, it is hard not to wonder what to do and to feel helpless. Small children, full of giggles and hugs, silly questions and the normal challenges of growing up, were wiped out. Taken away by another barely grown child. A whole community scared beyond recognition. A whole country bent in grief. Our most precious wealth, our children, taken from all of us.

The disciples wanted to keep the children and their parents away from Jesus. Jesus not only insisted that they be brought to him, but told them that the children of God belongs to children, that we need to open our hearts and minds to God like little children. In this time of grief and loss, a time of examining what we do to our children, may we remember the tenderness of Jesus. It was he who wept with Lazarus, and held these little ones close. God is in the midst of our sorrow and grief and points us to the road of compassion and forgiveness.

Today, may we raise our prayers wherever we are and hold one another close. May this tragedy inspire us all to put down our weapons and work for peace. May we take down defenses and embrace the changes we fear. May we seek forgiveness at all times, knowing God holds the little ones tenderly and welcomes all who will be childlike. May this day mark a new way forward in our lives. May we turn from violence and embrace the innocent. May we turn from self-reliance and turn to God and one another.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stayed with Me in my Trials

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:24-30

For some reason I have been thinking a great deal about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. The story has always been very powerful for me, and Dorothy has always been a hero to me. It is really the faithfulness of the three who go with her through her trials, their obvious needs put aside for the care and support of another. The complete stranger who turns their world upside down becomes their faithful companion and their reason for being healed and made new.

Jesus is at table with his disciples, in the final moments before their world falls apart. The last supper together and we hear Jesus making a final attempt to bring his teaching home to them. "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves." God's direction to us all to live as servants of all, to love with the faithfulness that endures the trials and never loses heart. God calls us to be a people who are willing to love during dark times as well as bright, and serve at all times living with joyful expectation.

Today as we draw close to the darkest day of the year, may we remember that we are all invited on a journey of service and faithfulness. May we be ready to jump up and serve others, knowing we are serving God as we do. And may we see the darkest times as being on the road with the Emmanuel, God with us, enduring through the trails and carried to the end. May we expect that Gos will give us new hearts, minds and courage to love and live as servants all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Luke 22:7-13


Scraps of wrapping paper
everywhere is signs of preparing
lights and decorations
trees and stockings time
has come to get ready.

We labor through rough weather
early austere darkness
long lines early mornings
we are getting ready together.

Children tense and reckless
concerts and poems planned
awkward clothes and family
moments we all wish would
not stifle our enthusiasm.

The green and red are insistent
the cash getting too low
the desire of all to lavish
to demonstrate love by gifts
that delight and awe.

The only true preparation done
is by the angels and a pair
of frightened expecting parents
lost in a strange city
homeless, hungry and alone.

No one to call for help
no shop to send round meals
a simple stable straw oats
a rough bed and humble home
and love comes through to live
Emmanuel, God with us
despite our preparations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Casting Stones

They went each to his own house,but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 7:53-8:11

As we get closer to Christmas, it is easy for us to become frustrated and look for someone to blame. Whether we ourselves are not able to make Christmas happen like we imagine, whether the family cannot or will not gather, whether we have put big expectations on the holiday - however it happens we can get to a point where we need someone to blame, someone to punish for our pain. It is often at this time, less than two weeks before Christmas, when people begin to snap at each other. The losses of the past seem to haunt us and we ache to make up for it somehow.

Jesus is confronted by religious leadership who have a woman in tow. She has been caught in adultery and they want her punished, and wanted to trip up Jesus. They were aching to hurt someone for their own pain. They wanted to blame both Jesus and the woman for the anxiety and confusion they faced. Jesus responds by quietly writing on the ground and then suggesting that the sinless get to throw stones. Eventually everyone walks away and he is left with the woman only. He sets her free and sends her on her way. We are all aching at this time of year because of the losses and changes in our lives. Humans tend to strike out at others in times like these. May we see the signs around us and within us, and know it as a call to prayer and quiet. May we know our own ache and climb into the arms of God.

Today I ask God to help me be an agent of forgiveness and release. May I live for others, knowing how great the suffering is around me. And may we all admit our own needs and failings, letting go of anger and judgment so we can receive God's tender love and forgiveness. And may we all seek the kindness of God in family and strangers alike, forgoing judgment and releasing on compassion and kindness today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Steadfast Love

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise. Psalm 36:5-12

Today is my husband Mark's birthday. Last year we celebrated a milestone with family and friends from all over. It was a wonderful gathering of love, music and affection. This year, in our new home, we will have a small celebration. I am no less thankful though. Mark is a blessing to so many. He is the walking definition of steadfast love. He is compassionate and kind, witty and brilliant, honest and tender, creative and reliable to all who know him. There isn't a day that I do not thank God fro the tremendous gift that is Mark.

May God grant us all those gifts in our lives that make God's love real and tangible. May we be grateful for every day we have with those who love us. May we celebrate love and steadfastness every day. May we remind ourselves that God is with us when we know love, laughter and forgiveness. And may we all be blessed with the courage and conviction to share God's love in our time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Signs in the Sun, Moon and Stars

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:25-28

This time of year, here in Alaska, the sun doesn't rise early and heads back in all too soon. As we get to the shortest days of the year, the draw to hibernate, to hunker down and sleep, seems strong and insistent. It can seem like foreboding and some people can get very depressed by the lack of light. But it is also a most beautiful time, with crisp nights when the clouds scatter and the stars seem close enough to touch.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for the end times - the end of the ministry together as they have known it, but also the times when life changes dramatically and nothing old lingers to help us understand our way forward. They can interpret the days ahead as something to fear, or as something to welcome. When the earth shakes, when life is changed suddenly, when all the light is gone and darkness surrounds us, is is then when we should straighten up and know God is drawing near. God is not far off in our darkness but drawing near to us, surrounding us with love and life and bringing us beyond the trauma into new life.

Today, may I be brave and stand up and raise my head up when surrounded by darkness and despair. May we bravely face the coming changes of life knowing God is drawing near. May we see signs in the heavens as invitations to rejoice rather than fear. May we know that Emmanuel, God with us, is present in our deepest darkness today.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Every Valley Shall be Filled

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" Luke 3:1-6

We live between mountains and ocean, between high peaks and sea level. The wind off the water can be brutal and the beauty and calm can take one's breath away. There are those who see the tremendous beauty in the plains, as I can, but I am still captivated by the clash between water and sky, mountains and oceans. The beauty in the tension and the balance.

We hear today about John the Baptist, preparing the world for the Savoir. His story is foretold by the prophets, his story is the one who is crying in the wilderness. His story seems impossible, and his testimony seems unlikely until it is made manifest in the Christ child. We are invited to make ready for changes in our lives and in our being - the equivalent of flattening out the mountains and filling in the valleys. God is moving towards us anew, bringing new life and new possibilities. We are invited to make ready by being willing to change and be remade.

Today, I ask God to give me the strength to make ready and make room for God's presence anew. May I be willing to change and be remade in this season of Advent. May we all turn around to new possibilities and outlooks and may we be willing to change our outlooks so that we might see God face to face. And may our encounters with God in this Advent season make us more tender and compassionate as we welcome the Christ child into our world.

The Collect

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


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 pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. Luke 21:10-19

Our eldest daughter Emily swims in the open water of the Hudson River every fall. A group of folks begin training together in the spring in order to endure the three mile swim in every changing waters. The first year she swam, it was just ten days after hurricane Irene and there were massive amounts of debris in the river. One never knows what they will face the morning of the event. They can prepare, week after week, but then they have to throw themselves into the water and trust that they will make it to the end. They endure for the sake of others, to raise funds to help folks with leukemia and lymphoma. They trust that the Creator will bring them to the end of the race because they are giving themselves to others. They gain their lives by enduring for others.

Jesus is talking about end times, about the destruction of the temple and the terrors his followers will have to face. He also assures them that by offering themselves to God and the community they will endure to the end. They do not need to worry every contest, rather, with a peaceful heart trust that God will give them what they need to endure to the end. We humans want to be first, to win, but really, what is singularly most important is to endure to the end, to finish the trial and be embraced by love. We are invited today to see our lives as in God's hands, and as we are faithful, God will bless us all. God will bring us through the trials and tribulations and give us the strength we need to endure.

Today, I ask God to help me live this day one breath at a time. Like a long distance swimmer, may I concentrate on the small things, one breath at a time, and turn over everything to God. May we not lose faith today, but be renewed by God's promises for us. May God give us the strength to endure and to offer our lives for the sake of others. May we rejoice in the faithfulness of our Creator who will be with us in every trial we face.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Mother's Sacrifice

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

In The Bleak Mid-Winter by Christina Rossetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and Earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him,
Give my heart.

The image of a young mother as the widow struck to my heart. I had always thought of an old woman with little life left and only herself to care for. To see a young mother, with her children clinging, reminds me of the true sacrifice and the depths of faith this woman truly had. We are invited by God today to live with that kind of faith. A faith that is willing to give our all, to love with such gratitude that no problem or challenge can undo us. As we journey through Advent, when all the stress and tasks pile up, may we count each of these as great gifts and many blessings and share with others generously the love we have received.

I ask God to help me be like the widow of old. Bent with worry and responsibility she let go all that she had to God. May we remember her example and let go to God all that we have, all that we are, and all the burdens we bear trusting God for the solutions we cannot now know. And may we be deeply grateful, and as the poet says, " yet what can I give Him, give my heart."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Feast of St. Nicholas

People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16

Becoming a Child Again

Stiff and awkward all agility
lost to bad joints and old age
we tooter around in anxiety
careful with everything except
reckless with our opinions.

Snow has fallen and we sigh
worried about scraping and cleaning
we gaze out the window over
morning coffee's steam seeking
a way to stay at home.

The snow flakes wonders lost
can be found again if we look
the joy of simply arising daily
can make us children again
if we but seek them.

The light and beauty
generosity of heart
laughter at the ready
and curiosity bubbling over
is not for the young alone.

Let them come who also are
vulnerable and frightened
at society's discretion
often left alone and abandoned
but still willing to run
to warm and loving arms.

Let us move towards the child
lean in to love and delight
wrapping our arms around tenderness
stealing giggles and play
in every possible moment.

We await the Emmanuel God with us
the Christ child within us
hungry for love and shelter
simply love ans simply hold
one precious life for all.

The Collect

Almighty God, in your love you gave your servant Nicholas of Myra a perpetual name for deeds of kindness both on land and sea: Grant, we pray, that your Church may never cease to work for the happiness of children, the safety of sailors, the relief of the poor, and the help of those tossed by tempests of doubt or grief; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Render to God

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.Luke 20:19-26

Things haven't changed all that much since the time of Jesus. Politicians still play dangerous games with the lives of the people. Jesus was beloved of the people so they had to use subterfuge to try to catch him. We live in a democracy and yet we have elected officials trying to strong arm one another and win the day rather than compromise and serve the needs of the people. The blessings we have as a nation from God are too great to number. God has blessed us, and there is so much to be grateful for, and much to be humble about, willing to be humble and serve others.

Jesus found himself the target of a sting operation within the temple. The leadership hired spies to try to force him to say something that would make him an enemy of the state. He instead, catches them at their own game by encouraging them to honor God and the civil authorities. To pay their fair share, to serve the common good as well as to give their tithe to the temple. We are invited by God to reorder the way we think about our money - as a gift from God and as our means of participating in the common life of the people. All that we have been given comes from God and our thankful response to God is to serve God and the people.

Today I ask God to help me be a servant of all. Help us, in this Advent journey, to walk the humble roads and the darkest byways, seeking out the greatest gifts of God. May we see in one another, the imprint of the Creator, and use the riches we have to the care of all of God's creation. May we let go of politics and opinions and offer our all for the healing of our nation.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Rejected Stone

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

As we get closer to Christmas, more and more sparkles are added to the decorations. We sat the other night and made hand made ornaments - all of ours are in storage - complete with glue and glitter. We were a happy glittery mess, and sure than we had aspirated a good deal of the glitter or will ingest it with our meals to come. The glitter got everywhere, and we have ornaments for our tree that will reflect the tree lights and brighten the whole room.

Jesus tells a parable about greedy tenants who ignorantly think they can muscle their way to control of another's vineyards and land. They reject the overtures of the owners servants and his son. They think to own that which was never theirs and will never be theirs. Humans often reject the greatest gifts because they don't sparkle like dime store glitter. We often envy and harm others because we lust after their diamonds and property. God invites us today to know that we are not the true owners of what we have been given, but rather caretakers, of precious gifts. It is with eyes of gratitude that we will see what is truly precious, the diamond in the rough, the Emmanuel, God with us, coming to us in this season.

Today I ask God to help me be ever thankful for all the blessings of this life. May we be grateful and generous, as God has been more generous and patient with us. May we see every face today, as a diamond in the rough, a reflection of God's presence among us, the depth of blessings that God has showered on each of us. May we share what we have, welcoming each as we would the Christ's child, making room in our hearts and home for love made real to all.

Monday, December 3, 2012


One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Luke 20:1-8

There are people who think the uniform give them authority, whether it's folks serving in the police force of folks serving in the church. Some folks like to use their authority to push other people around and get control. My experience is that true authority is visible and humble, the marks of one who is more ready to serve than scream, more ready to bend than bully. I think of Bishop Tutu and his extraordinary laugh, self-deprecating and humble, small in stature and a giant in authority from God.

As the buzz around Jesus grows the religious authorities get more anxious. They massed a group of their biggest leaders to question him. They wanted to intimidate. Instead they found themselves questioning themselves and being rebuffed by a few simple questions. Their strong arm act of intimidation was met with a simple question and their tactics folded in on themselves. Any time we try to muscle others, gain control for the ourselves, or think our human constructs of authority are best, God finds a way to undo them. We are invited by God today to avoid all aggressive authority in ourselves and others, and instead, offer ourselves humbly before God. For God is ready and willing to give us what we need to face the day.

Today, I ask God to help me be always humble and to not wield authority as an hammer but instead to offer it for the good of all. May we all not spend our day trying to control, but rather, setting others free. May we offer our knowledge, gifts and skills at God's feet, understanding that all good gifts come from God alone. May this day be a day of great joy as we step aside from all aggression and sit with the meek and lowly, where God does truly dwell.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Your Redemption is Drawing Near

Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke 21:25-36

I was born on Christmas Eve in the naval hospital near Camp Pendelton. The staff had been reduced to service personnel only since it was a holiday. They delivered lilies to my mother, a gift from a friend, and put them on her sleeping form in the hospital room. When she woke up, her very sensitive clergy wife's nose told her she had passed on. She was disappointed at first with heaven since it looked like a hospital room. When she really came to, she recovered her sense of things and had to laugh at her misunderstanding of the signs and the smells. We all can misinterpret the signs of the "end". The same signs can foretell great evil or great good. For these two now grandparents, the vision of lilies reminds us of our little grand daughter Lilly and joy bubbles over.

Jesus talks to his disciples about the coming of God's kingdom, both in historic time and their personal lives. None of us deals well with change and transition, none of us deals well with the sudden traumas and insecurities we face. But the message for today from the Emmanuel, God with us, is that God has broken down all the barriers between divine and human. God is drawing near and in this season, we are invited to lean in and be close to God. We are invited to trust God and live with joy and hope in this Advent season, this time of waiting, these moments of making new room for love.

Today, I ask God to help me light a candle, sing a song and carry God's joy wherever I go. May we who hope and trust in God, carry the love we have been given throughout the world. May we shine the light into dark, depressed corners, may we carry refreshment and renewal to those in need, and may we offer our humanity to the eternal love of God. May we be inspired by the perfect love offered to share what we have received in our unique and very human ways today.

The Collect

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tears and Anxiety

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. Luke 19:41-48

Tears and Anxiety

There is not enough to cover
the needs and so we will
shortchange the vulnerable
cut the benefits to the poor
so that we don't worry.

I weep over the city
bent of her own destruction
unwilling to soften and bend
angry about growing up.

There are too many poor
we cannot care for those who come
those who ache to be made whole
we have to worry about our own
and keeping things in good order.

I look over your vast capacity
from high above your walls
and weep for you will not be
a welcome place for God's love.

Everybody want to come here
want to make a small sacrifice
wants to be part of this temple
they do not realize there is an order
we have been this way for so long.

I am on my knees the tears
streaming down hot and salty
you cannot hear my cries
or the cries of the people
outside your doors.

We cannot change or bend
we would not know how to
we are not wax which softens
but steel hardening more everyday.

Come to me all you
who travail and are heavy laden
and I will refresh you.