Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will 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 he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers 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. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:41-51

I have spent most of the past few days go round and round with my health care company. Needless to say, it can make one grumpy and frustrated. As churches look ahead for planning in this season, many of us are also frustrated with the lack of funds, lack of participation...there are many things that we can find to grumble about. These days, we can find ourselves, for many reasons, being grumpy and grumbling about the circumstances.

Jesus gets a less than cordial reception when he speaks in the temple. For whatever reason, the audience is frustrated and confused by his words, rubbed raw by what seems like impertinence from the young man in their midst. They had been hopeful before, only to have their hopes dashed and frustrated. Despite their frustration and grumbling, Jesus offers them a relationship of eternal life and love. And in the midst of our grumbling and frustration, Jesus offers us the same. We are not alone or dismissed in our circumstances, but rather buoyed up, lifted beyond the challenge to a relationship permanent and reliable. One where hope and possibilities are restored, and broken hearts are mended and renewed.

Today I ask God to help me face the daily frustrations with hope and vision for the future. Help me look beyond these bumps in the road, and help me use these moments as an opportunity to deepen my relationship with you. May my response to the delays and glitches be gentleness and kindness, rather than grumbling and anger. May my life be dedicated to being faithful and reliable, tenderness and kindness in a world racked with pain and delay. May our lives bring light and healing this day in God's name.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Do not work 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

On our way home from visiting with our youngest in Boston, we stopped for a late lunch at a favorite diner along the road. We have been there many times and always enjoyed the food. They are also well known for their bread and pastries which adorn the front counter area, tempting all who stand still there even for a minute. We left with a loaf of their famous challah bread, along with some other tasty treats to give others we were visiting. There is nothing so wonderful as fresh baked bread, the taste and aroma, all sensations which evoke comfort and contentment.

In our gospel, Jesus is using the familiar images of bread and manna to make a point about the life of faith. He wants those who follow him to stop worrying about their daily food and focus on their faithfulness. Like us, they are easily distracted by the idea and images of bread. They were hungry to be fed spiritually, but also worried about where their next meal was coming from. In times like these, when many are without the basic necessities of life, it might be hard to hear what Jesus is saying. We are being invited to live beyond the hand to mouth, to imagine the fullness of God, the abundance of possibilities in lean times. We are invited to believe in a God who has more in store for us than just the basics, more abundance and possibilities than we can even imagine.

Today I ask God to help me to focus beyond today, beyond the immediate needs and circumstances, trusting that today and always are in God's hands. I ask for the strength to imagine and believe in the promised abundance, the courage to act with hope and conviction, and the faith to see the possible in impossible situations. May we all trust God for our daily needs, and believe that the eternal gifts are for us all, sharing freely little we may have today, knowing God will supply the abundance for all.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching-- with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-28

There are times in our lives when our situations, for whatever reason, seem like they will never turn around. Whether it happens because of finances,physical ailments, emotional challenges... there are just those times when we feel possessed, caught, and stuck in a downward spiral. It can be easy to give up hope when things have been a struggle for so long.

Our Gospel for today reminds us that God draws near to those who are suffering, and healing comes to those who have suffered long. God is not limited by our failures, our struggles, our shortcomings or our addictions. God is greater than all the challenges we face. Our human reaction to long struggles is often despair and discouragement. Even when we fall low, God draws near and touches us deeply with healing and love.

Today, as the suns sets on a challenging day, I ask God to draw near to all those who find themselves falling into despair. May God draw near, as the day ends, to breathe new life into those who have suffered long. And may we, who have received hope in times of despair, reach out with love and encouragement to those who need to be hear that God is near.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting in the Boat

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 work 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

On some days there are no more of my own words. So today I offer a song and a prayer for all those who venture out on troubled seas, all those who step out and get afraid, and all those who love fiercely and worry endlessly.

The Water is Wide - traditional Irish song

The water is wide, I cannot get oer
Neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

A ship there is and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
I know not if I sink or swim

I leaned my back against an oak
Thinking it was a trusty tree
But first it bent and then it broke
So did my love prove false to me

I reached my finger into some soft bush
Thinking the fairest flower to find
I pricked my finger to the bone
And left the fairest flower behind

Oh love be handsome and love be kind
Gay as a jewel when first it is new
But love grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like the morning dew

Must I go bound while you go free
Must I love a man who doesn't love me
Must I be born with so little art
As to love a man who'll break my heart

When cockle shells turn silver bells
Then will my love come back to me
When roses bloom in winter's gloom
Then will my love return to me

Prayer of a Breton fisherman
Lord, the sea is so wide
and my boat is so small.
Be with me.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Packing a Lunch

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:1-15

As a mom, I have packed quite a few lunches in my day. I tried hard to put nutritious and tasty food in my daughters' lunches. I also remembered, from my own childhood, the amazing ability of children to swap and trade lunches in a hurried frenzy. The smartest and fastest kids would end up with all the good treat and eat nothing healthy at all. And many a packed lunch ended up tosses in the bushes on the way to school. No matter how hard we try, our kids are going to do what they want when out of sight and unsupervised.

I imagine that the mom who sent the little boy to hear Jesus also warned the little boy to eat everything she had given him. She wanted him strong and healthy. What did he do? He shared all that he had with the disciples, who quickly turned it over to Jesus. I also imagine that he tried to tell his mom about the miracle. And Mom probably didn't believe him. Our gospel tells us that if we share the small amounts we have, God will bless and multiply. God will use our small offerings to make great things happen. People might not take us seriously, but God does.

As the rains pours down, I ask God to bless the small drops of faith that we have today. May the little offerings we make today be blessed by God and increased. May our tasks be blessed so that the world might be fed, clothed and brought to warm shelter. May all that we do bring glory to God who has looked with favor on the meek and lowly and miraculously increased the gifts of love and compassion.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
The LORD has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118

The Cape May Point Lighthouse has been part of my history my whole life. It defines the visual landscape, it announces safety to boats coming to harbor and it signals coming home for me. I never remember a time when it was not lit, day or night, despite the changes in time and paint color. Many people have come and gone but it is steadfast and continuous, a silent beacon of hope in all weathers, all seasons and for residents and visitors alike.

Today we hear this psalm of David, this poem set to music, in which he reminds himself of God's constancy in the face of wars, violence, jealousy and rage. It rings loud and clear of God's love for all of us, God's protection for everyone, and the true safe harbor that is the love of God. We are humbled as we sing, reminded that, deserving or not, God is constant and faithful in a very unfaithful and often hateful world. We are invited to be grateful and humble sharing the love and confidence we have been given, despite circumstances great and frightening, with the people around us.

As we travel home today, I ask God to cover our steps and the miles between here and home, with safety and compassion. May we not fear the road ahead, nor the twists and turns, knowing God goes with us each step of the way. May we all sing loud the praises of the One who holds us tenderly, shields us from the terrors of our days and nights, and who brings us home in light and safety. And may we who sing, also reach out in love to those who are perishing in fear and anxiety, knowing love is most visible as it is given away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Passing Through

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." John 5:19-29

We spent a beautiful afternoon yesterday, walking around Harvard Square with our daughter Phoebe. She was born here in Boston while I was in seminary and now she lives here. We walked around and reminisced about the three years we lived here and the places we liked to stop and window shop. We stopped into an stationers store which in 20 plus years moved and moved back to its original location. I was reminded how permanent those days seemed then, and how fleeting they truly were. We were just passing through. We were there for a time, and we have wonderful stories to remember, but life moved on, and we moved on.

Jesus begins to share with his disciples the nature of his relationship with the father. Although his corporeal time on this earth was fleeting, his station was permanent, and his role was the one who brought people from death into life, beyond judgement, beyond having to stand in judgement. No matter how many times I read this passage I am never sure I understand completely. John's Gospel is always a bit of a mystery, and is often full of poetry and implication. But it points to a very deep truth, that relationship is everything, and God is at the center of all relationships. Even if we are passing through a time or place, love is permanent, and Jesus brings us beyond judgement and captivity into freedom and life.

Today I ask God to help me enjoy the day, to feast completely on the wonders and gifts of relationship, and to trust that the coming days are in God's hands. We are to trust the the way ahead is made clear by love, and we are to travel the road ahead with confidence and joy. May we all know that the love we have is eternal, and no matter where we find ourselves on the journey, we are passing through, and held closely in a loving relationship with a truly compassionate and forgiving God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lying by the Pool

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:1-18

When I served in Middletown years ago, our neighbor was the senior warden and also a generous friend. Beth and Tom had an in-ground pool which they made freely available to us. We often found ourselves on sweltering afternoons hanging around the pool, and even some sticky summer nights found us bringing our supper and sharing stories sitting in their back yard as the kids splashed about. They were kind and generous and made room for our rowdy bunch. The water took away the fierceness of summer, washed away all of the extra energy of childhood and absorbed the competition of three girls. I always dreamed of having a pool of our own. Because of their generosity, they made us feel right at home and welcomed always.

The pool where Jesus found the man was not like a backyard summer fun spot. It was surrounded by folks in terrible need and in terrible pain. If you were poor and had no help, you were likely never to get in the water. And yet this man was healed, by Jesus, who took pity on him, saw his need and touched him with healing. It was an amazing thing, a transforming event, the gift of a completely new life. And Jesus made the man feel part of the beloved family, forgiving him and setting him free from the illness that bound him and held him down. And God promises to be there for us also, at the point where we cannot move, where we are immobilized by pain, when we have given up home of ever finding a new life.

Today, I ask God to help me remember that Jesus is never far off, but always drawing close to us, taking us in his arms and transforming us through love and compassion. To those who need healing this day may we take heart. For the ones who have been transformed, may we reach out in love. And may we all wait with patient hope knowing that God is always more ready to stir the pool than we are to jump in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Parent's Worry

After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. John 4:43-54

You can't stop us, we worry. As a parent you cannot help but worry when your kids are sick or facing a big challenge. Our granddaughter had a high fever this week, and although it was finally just from teething, she caused her parents great worry. Even though our daughters are grown, I still worry about them. I ache for them to be happy and every day, I pray and put them in God's hands. And everyday I still find myself thinking and wondering, especially when they are sick.

An official comes to Jesus and the man is beside himself with worry. His child was near death and in those times, there was little medicine that would fix the boy. Death was inevitable. I am sure the man had prayed and racked himself with grief and worry. He was a good parent and he could not help himself. To this aching man, Jesus responds with comfort and immediate healing. He sends the man running home with joy and hopefulness, something that had been missing from this man for all too long. We hear from our gospel today that that which has been missing for all too long, is just around the corner. Jesus aches for the worried parent, the anxious child and all of us in between. And the answer, the healing is coming for God's desire is for us to run home with joy and hopefulness.

Today, I ask God to help me trust and continue to ask for the healing and answers we need. May the signs of God's love for us be so evident today that none of us can miss the promise and the hope we have. May we all run home with joy knowing that God is supplying the need before we can ask, and God is aching with us for solution and resolution.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gone Fishing

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20

We've Gone Fishing

We've gone fishing in different waters
far from port far from home
we are sailing on the rising tide
following the rising sun following
the one who will teach us how
to spread God's love world wide.

We've left familiar waters dark nights
surround the shores strangers and aliens
voices with foreign accents and customs
we have drifted out beyond
anything we've ever known.

We've gone fishing in different waters
far from port far from home
we are sailing on the rising tide
following the rising sun following
the one who will teach us how
to spread God's love world wide.

We've rushed into this without thinking
moving with our hearts ablaze
there wasn't time to cry or worry
no time to pack and save
we left it all behind
for the one who give us everything.

We've gone fishing in different waters
far from port far from home
we are sailing on the rising tide
following the rising sun following
the one who will teach us how
to spread God's love world wide.

When we're done we'll tell the stories
other ones will write them down
then thousands of years later on
some one will hear and join our mission
some one will jump up and follow him.

We've gone fishing in different waters
far from port far from home
we are sailing on the rising tide
following the rising sun following
the one who will teach us how
to spread God's love world wide.

Mothers and Fathers don't be sad
don't be sad we're sailing with the tide
we're learning how to be fishers of men
we're learning how to love one another
we're finding out that all are equal
and all are near the heart of God.

We've gone fishing in different waters
far from port far from home
we are sailing on the rising tide
following the rising sun following
the one who will teach us how
to spread God's love world wide.

The Collect
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Across Borders

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:27-42

In the past few years, immigration reform, and stricter laws governing illegals has been a very hot topic. Since 911 we have become more fearful and more protective. Having been to many border locations in this country, I am amazed at who the agents flag through and who they search. I am always curious about what makes a threatening stranger and what makes a trusted welcomed person. We set up all sorts of barriers and borders, not just by country but by groups and individuals. People seem to need to separate themselves from others, to define who the enemy is, and draw the wagons tight, in order to feel safe. And yet, God is always inviting us to do the opposite, it seems.

The disciples are horrified that Jesus is talking to a woman, and even worse, talking to a woman from the enemy camp. They are horrified by his behavior, and maybe a bit frightened. They know who is safe and who isn't. Then Jesus is invited by the Samaritan people to come and stay with them, and he goes with them and takes the disciples with him. They stayed together in the strangers homes and ate in the enemy camp. I can't imagine the discomfort of the disciples or of the Samaritans who didn't go out to the well. This story about the early ministry of Jesus is told to us so that we understand that God refuses to define anyone as too far away, too strange or too broken. God loves those who we call enemies and aliens, and God calls us to seek them out, living as friends and neighbors with those we once thought of as the enemy.

Today I ask God to help me dismantle any barriers and borders I might have set up. Help my heart, Lord, to make room for the stranger, enemy and alien I encounter to day. Keep my feet from turning away, and my hands from seeking a defense. May my words and my actions be welcome and love. For once we were all strangers and aliens of God in our own understanding. And yet God sought us out and stayed with us. May we seek out the stranger today and accept the invitations we are given.

Friday, January 20, 2012

In Spirit and In Truth

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:16-26

At the holidays this year, we used skype several times to visit with our family members who were not able to be with us, or us with them. We had a small screen and they had a large screen set up in their kitchen and we had a small one set up on a table. It was wonderful to see everyone, but it was hard to hear a large group of people. It was hard to communicate comfortably, even though the technology is so much better than it used to be. There is still a big difference between skype and face to face. The delay and confusion are gone and we understand more completely in person.

The Samaritan woman met Jesus at the well. The one who was long anticipated and talked about was meeting her face to face. Here was the one who had been expected, in the most unexpected place, in the least fancy of circumstances. God met her right where she was, a face to face interaction, while doing her daily task of drawing water. The one who was far off was now face to face. She went from confusion to clarity, from distance to close up, from imagination to reality. God promises to meet us in our humble places, in the midst of our messy daily lives, and is willing to find us in strange lands and alien territories. We are never far off from God, never need a technological vehicle or an interpreter, but God is with us and will make love real and clear.

Today, I ask God to be near this day, in my daily tasks and in my travels, so that I might know my every movement as the walk of worship in spirit and in truth. May God supply confidence and relationships today that confirm God's active presence in our lives so that we may live secure in faith and acting for the love of the world. May differences disappear as God makes us one family in spirit and truth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Give me a Drink

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” John 4:1-15

Last night we slept in the same room as our granddaughter Lilly. At one point she woke up and we took her into the bed with us to help settle her down. She was laying between us, three bodies breathing together, the little one flopping around trying to find a comfortable position in a strange setting. We are not strangers to her but not her every day encounters. I remember vividly the days when her aunts and her mother were of similar ages, and had a hard time settling down. A very tender place, this group of tired bodies all trying to find rest in an unsettled time, half way between sleeping and waking, vulnerable to the many discomforts of waking exhaustion.

The woman at the well is a wonderful story of strangers who come together to fulfill a very basic need. Jesus and he woman are both desperately in need of refreshment. He was weary and she was anxious, as they were both cultural enemies, while being neighbors too. A common need, an unsettled place and yet very tender as well. In this intimate encounter, the woman finds that God is not far off but nearby, that she is not a stranger but a member of God's family, beloved and welcomed, despite her many misstep on her journey. They came together as strangers with a common need. Jesus took this encounter and made it a moment of transformation and community. And God promises to use our moments of exhaustion, need and weariness, finding ways to transform our moments for the renewing of our hearts and spirit. God makes our desperation holy, and blesses our need with a new community.

Today I ask God to help me see the moments of struggle and challenge as moments of transformation and intimacy with God. May the moment when we feel most strange and out of place be used by God to make us family. May our weariness and dislocation be invitation for God to draw near. And may we offer the gifts of love and forgiveness that we have found to those we encounter today, knowing that God will make enemies friends, strangers family, and we will be known by the way we love those who are far off and excluded this day.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Increase and Decrease

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:22-36

I have always enjoyed working back stage, making the magic happen behind the scenes. Since Junior High, I have loved putting things together, props and lighting, costumes and sound, all the things that no one ever notices from the audience. The audience focuses on the stars ad on the story if everything goes well. And there is real joy on opening night, when grubby and exhausted you know you have done a great job. A job that no one can see, but is essential to the magic, the show, the wondrous moment. Being back stage gives me an appreciation of all who stand in the shadows while others take the bows. It is a special kind of love, a special kind of dedication.

In our gospel for today we find John and Jesus at the crossroads in their ministries, and in the life of their disciples. John knows his life is in the background as Jesus, his cousin, moves onto center stage. John lives a life of love and faith and rejoices in his role as it diminishes in to the shadows. What an amazing act of love and faithfulness we see in this scene. A humility that s born out of love and trust, an act of compassion beyond all compassion.

Today I ask God to help me rejoice in all the supporting roles I have, and revel in the increase of others. May we all know that all our acts of love and faithfulness bring honor to God as we serve so that others may grow strong in their ministries. May we see all that we do, however hidden, as honored by God. And may our acts of love be blessed by our willingness to share and give love away.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God so loved the world

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

God So Loved the World

Like a parent aching
for a fevered infant
a mother waiting breathlessly
for a good sign
a father pacing with hope
and tethered anxiety
God so loved the world.

Like a frustrated genius
seeking the absolute solution
like an artist with wet brushes
tensing to touch a canvas
like a violinist tightening
the bow again and again
God so loved the world.

Like an actor waiting
backstage in darkness
like a dancer stretching
one last time to music
like a singer rehearsing
backstage pacing
God so loved the world.

Like a child running
to a returning parent
like a soldier returning
home from war
like a baby cradled
and swaddled in arms
God so loved the world.

For all the parents
and for all the children
for all the broken soldiers
and for all the ruined dancers
for all the prisoners
and all the jailers
God so loved the world.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Born Again

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 2:23-3:15

People occasionally ask me why I titled my blog mama bishop. And so I tell them that the first time women bishops were in attendance at Lambeth in 1998, they were often heckled by some other bishops who would shout, "mama go home and take care of your babies!" I am a mother (and now a grandmother) and I understand that role to be a calling as worthy as all others. And as a deacon, priest and bishop, the gift of motherhood has blessed my ministry throughout. And my daughters have been my greatest supporters, my greatest theologians. So I decided to transform the insults into a title of praise. Mamabishop was a rebirth of sorts, an insult turned into blessing, a way to seek God's spirit in the midst of challenges and misunderstandings.

Nicodemus was invited by Jesus to be born again. The wise ruler ached to understand Jesus, but his training and customs had kept him from belief in this man as the messiah. He desperately wanted to understand and Jesus suggested he be born of water and the spirit, the sign of God transforming an individual or community. Baptism, in water and spirit, means we turn from the old ways and become new, the insults and challenges become blessings, the flesh becomes an instrument of the living God. Some have interpreted this "born again" process very narrowly, but Jesus invites us to see that God is able to make us new, even when we are old and broken down. How incredible that God desires to be our parent, to bear us again, even over and over, so that we might be renewed by water and spirit.

Today, I ask God to help me live a life transformed by the Creator's love, a life that reflects the humility and vulnerability of one who follows Jesus. May I always be open to the renewing of my body, mind and spirit by the touch of God. May I be open to rebirth, to being remolded and refashioned, so that my life and witness might become a blessing to others. May we all desire the transformation of new birth, so that the world might be made new through our witness.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Call and Response

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. The LORD called again, "Samuel!" Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. The LORD called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, `Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." Then the LORD said to Samuel, "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever."

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." He said, "Here I am." Eli said, "What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you." So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, "It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him."

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.
1 Samuel 3:1-20

We all have been called to do something we can't imagine ourselves doing, or we imagine we will surely fail. We hide behind our gender our limitations, our language, our culture, or our responsibilities, all in order to excuse ourselves from answering a call to ministry or leadership. I tried to avoid the call to ordination by thinking that God really wouldn't call a girl like me, a mother with little kids at home. God is persistent and willing to keep on calling until we answer. God does not let us alone, nor leave us alone.

Today's gospel is the story of Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael. But since I have written about that same story in less than a week, it seems best to dwell with this incredible story of Samuel, a little boy called in the night. The boy lives in the temple with Eli, who has not been faithful to his call. Eli is a mentor to the child although the child will be given more responsibility and more respect than his mentor would ever know. God calls over and over again, and with the teaching of Eli, the boy know what to do in response. In this story and the gospel, we hear stories of call. Of God seeing us and finding us in the night, in our hiding places, in the dark places where we feel unable to answer. And God persists, and never, ever leaves us alone.

Today I ask God to help me say yes, to answer the call when it comes, and to step out from hiding and follow despite my fear. No matter how many times we struggle and feel inadequate for the task, God promises to give us the strength and courage for the task and ministries before us. May we walk with our heads high and our hearts ablaze, knowing God is with us in the biggest challenges and our darkest moments. May we share the love we have received, may we keep reaching out, and may the God of love find us every ready to say yes.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

Turning Tables

We find ourselves gathered
a time turning
commerce no more
no business as usual
a time for passion zeal and compassion
a time to make room for God.

The storm blew through
a rage against the corrupt decay
a fervent desire to transform
ushered in by disaster
wind and rain, tears and sorrow
but light is rising
over the horizon
a new day coming for us all.

We are made in the image
of a beautiful creator
we walk in the steps
of a passionate messiah
we are lonely but not alone
isolated but not abandoned
free by bound
by love and service.

We have walked our trails
bent in pain and loss
shamed and rejected we fell away
we thought nothing left
and God's fury God's passionate love
screamed life back in
our lungs expanding eyes opening
wonder and delight
a room full of friends and family
we walk forward together
never again alone.

The painting is by my aunt, Kay WalkingStick

Friday, January 13, 2012

Clay Jars

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. John 2:1-12

I am at a conference where we are working together to raise up leaders, lay and ordained for our various ethnic communities. Many people are reluctant to take on leadership roles, and there are many challenges from the system we presently have in place. We have been telling how we encourage and support our people, and many good times and wonderful stories have been shared. In every time of sharing, there is a moment when one person urges another despite their reluctance. Friends encouraging friends, parents muscling their children into service, so they might exercise their gifts.

The good news in our gospel story today is that even Jesus needed coaxing, and needed a strong woman to lead him into using his gifts and skills. His first miracle, a the wedding in Cana, was the result of his mothers' push, and even the savoir of the world pushed back and resisted for a bit. Many are reluctant and resist. But God is always more willing to strengthen us, support us, enable to do what we have been called to do. It may seem impossible today, but God is making possible those things we are reluctant about, and we need but take a small step to make great and wonderful changes.

Today I ask God to give me the courage to take the first step, and to trust that the capacity will be there. May I also encourage those who are reluctant, tenderly and gently urging them on with the same firm gentleness that Mary found within herself. May we all be agents of miracle, encouraging the reluctant, supporting the explorers, soothing the fearful, so that the world might be renewed healed and transformed by the love of God made real.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Called by God

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51 b

There is a beach entrance near us that is completely hidden by trees. One can feel totally alone while approaching the beach, except for a weekend maybe in the height of the summer. Walking up the path the tree tops touch and bring a cool cover on a blistering day. In the winter, the trees provide cover from the fierce winds and a hiding place out of the intense bitter cold. It has been one of my favorite walks for most of my life. Walking a long the path has always made me reflective and still, a deep breath kind of place in the middle of a frantic day.

Nathanael thought he was all alone with his thoughts and dreaming. His friend Philip roused him from a soft, reflective moment, where he was enjoying the mottled light under the tree, and the cool breezes that came his way. The shade was very limited at that time of day and he was enjoying his private revelry, his imaginings and fantasies. He thought himself alone but God found him even there. When Jesus talked to him, he was amazed that he had seen him under the tree, and was probably a little frightened that, despite thinking he was alone, he had been seen. This event made Nathanael a believer. And Jesus say to us who believe, even when we do not experience phenomenal events, we are blessed. On a day like today, it is good to know that we are blessed, In the midst of our struggles and trials God is with us, despite it all.

Today, I ask God to help me trust that I am never alone, despite challenges too numerous to mention, sighs too deep for words, and all the other hurdles we face. May we rejoice in being known and being seen, and being loved in every moment. May our inward and outward thoughts be love this day, knowing that God abides with us in everything we do and say.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Song for Traveling

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13

Today I will be traveling. Normally traveling would not be a real challenge for me, but since I have to be very mindful of my back, and be more cautious than normal, I am aware how worried one can be about traveling. So today, I offer a variety of prayers for safe travel. May God bless us all this day where ever we go, keeping us safe and bringing us back home again with a smile in our hearts.

From the Jewish tradition

May it be Your will, Lord my God, to lead me on the way of peace and guide and direct my steps in peace, so that You will bring me happily to my destination, safe and sound. Save me from danger on the way. Give me good grace, kindness and favor in both Your eyes and in the eyes of all whom I may meet. Hear this my prayer, for you are a God who hears to the heart's supplication and communion. Blessed are You, Lord our God, who hears prayer.

From the Orthodox tradition

Be mindful, O Lord, of those who travel by land, by sea, and by air; of the old and young, the sick, the suffering, the sorrowing, the afflicted, the captives, the needy and the poor; and upon them all send forth Thy mercies, for Thou art the Giver of all good things.

From the Catholic tradition

O Almighty and merciful God, who has commissioned your angels to guide and protect us, may they be our companions from our setting out until our return. Clothe us with their invisible protection; keep from us all danger of collision, of fire, of explosion, of falling; and finally,having preserved us from all evil, and especially from sin, guide us to our heavenly home. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

from the Islamic tradition

In the name of Allah! I have placed faith in Allah and I have put full trust in Allah. It is as Allah wills! There is no strength and no power save with Allah.

O Allah! Protect me and protect what is with me, and deliver me to my destination. By Allah I commence my journey; by Allah I seek to accomplish the purpose of my journey; and by Muhammad (s.a.w.) I have set out. O Allah, make me overcome all; and make easy for me all difficulties; and give me more of goodness than I hope for; and keep away all evil of which I am apprehensive for my health, O the most Merciful.

And finally, I conclude with the words of a song written by John Renbourn called the Travellers Prayer. He wrote these words after researching the ancient songs of the Carmina Gadelica .

Traveller's Prayer
By John Renbourn

Praise to the moon, bright queen of the skies,
Jewel of the black night, the light of our eyes,
Brighter than starlight, whiter than snow,
Look down on us in the darkness below.

If well you should find us then well let us stay,
Be it seven times better when you make your way,
Be it seven times better when we greet the dawn,
So light up our way and keep us from all harm.

Give strength to the weary, give alms to the poor,
To the tainted and needy five senses restore,
Give song to our voices, give sight to our eyes,
To see the sun bow as the new moon shall rise.

Cast your eyes downwards to our dwelling place,
Three times for favour and three times for grace,
Over the dark clouds your face for to see,
To banish misfortune and keep Trinity.

In the name of our Lady, bright maiden of grace,
In the name of the King of the City of Peace,
In the name of our Saviour, who hung on the tree,
All praise to the moon, for eternity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

As I went down in the river to pray

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28

I am convinced that music can often say more to us than any perfectly written essay or any wonderfully delivered speech. What follows is a song that took our culture by storm a few years back, and which brought images and the traditions of baptism to the forefront for a time. As we see in the gospel for today, John's baptism was controversial among the religious leaders and there were critics and supporters alike all those years ago.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O sisters let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O sisters let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O brothers let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
Come on brothers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O fathers let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O fathers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O mothers let's go down,
Let's go down, don't you want to go down,
Come on mothers let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the starry crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

O sinners let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down,
O sinners let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.

As I went down in the river to pray
Studying about that good old way
And who shall wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way !

Good Lord show me the way, I pray. May we rise from the water, cleansed from all that has held us down, rising to your service and the care of others. May we rise up singing with joy, trusting you for everything today. May all of our tasks be gifts of love. May all our words bring hope. May all of our actions motivated by love. May we be so immersed in your spirit that tenderness and compassion flow freely. May our song be love, now and always. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Word made Flesh

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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. John 1:1-18

Last night the moon shone full in the sky. It was a beautiful crisp night. Despite our best intentions to go out and star gaze, the clouds conspired to hide much of the night sky and the moon conspired to out shine the rest. Light becomes very important this time of year. The days are short, the day light less direct than in the other seasons, and many people are sorrowful and sad this time of year. Light is one of the best medicines for the dark sadness that envelopes many this time of year. Many of our few remaining neighbors leave the cold and dark of this season and head south to warmer climes.

The opening verses of the gospel of John are some of the most magnificent and poetic in scripture. The gospel writer is trying to have us understand the incredible miracle of God who came among us, made flesh, like you and me. And so the writer uses light, grace, life, fullness and word among others to describe what is truly indescribable. And we are told that the power and gifts from God, bestowed in the incarnate God, Jesus, are bestowed upon us who believe to become children of God. Flesh of God's flesh, bone of God's bones and with hearts remade by a loving Creator. Truly this understanding is not captured with words alone. And yet God's word was sufficient for all of us, bringing light and love for the transformation of the whole world. The good news for us today is the good news for all generations. God is with us, God loves us, and God dwells with us still.

Today, I ask God to give me a new measure of trust and faith, so that I might see the word of God made flesh in everything I do this day. May my words and actions tell a story of being a child of God, numbered among God's family. May we all see those around us today as members of God's family, our family, brothers and sisters all. May barriers fall today and may we meet anew the family of God.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Amazing Skies

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:4-11

The first Sunday of Epiphany

The night sky in this part of the world is often dramatic and amazing. Far away from the ambient lights of city and civilization, the moon and stars overwhelm the night. On a mild night like last night, one can stand by the ocean or in the front yard and be in awe of the beauty of the moon and the stars that sparkle and remind one of the wonder and possibilities that are just on the horizon. It can be easy in the depth of winter, with the sparkle of Christmas and New Years behind us to become forlorn and without hope. But all you need to do is to look up, and see the wonder that is before us. Somehow the beauty of the skies always restores my hope and expectations.

Our gospel lesson for today, is the story of Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan. As Jesus id baptized, the heavens were torn apart and a dove descended, and they heard the voice of God declaring Jesus as beloved child. In the midst of this wilderness, penitential moment, God declares his love for Jesus and for all of us. Indeed, in this season of Epiphany, we rehearse and celebrate the love of God made real to all people. In Epiphany, we remember that strangers from afar came to worship the small child and left understanding that God was doing a new thing for the whole world, for the whole human race.

Today I ask God to help us to look us as the skies are torn apart and know that God is doing a new thing for the whole world. God's love is breaking forth, healing and renewing the world. May we all act we joy and wonder as love draws near. May we act as those who know we have been declared as beloved of God and share that joy and wonder with all we encounter today.

The Collect
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bread of Heaven

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.
I am the bread of life. Your fathers 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. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 6:30-33; John 6:48-51

Bread of Heaven

Ravenous we wake
night after night
hungry for be full
aching for what we do not have.

Although we eat we starve
although we drink we thirst
fill us now and evermore.

On the brink of the morning
light creeping along the horizon
we shudder with the cold
brace ourselves to face the day
and ache to be warm and full.

Although we eat we starve
although we drink we thirst
fill us now and evermore.

We toil til a midday's respite
sweat quickly cooling to ice
our ones brittle without life
our vision clouded by our shortcomings.

Although we eat we starve
although we drink we thirst
fill us now and evermore.

When the sunset and we stagger home
the winds swirls around us
and we fear we might fall
we are prey to our failures and our need.

Although we eat we starve
although we drink we thirst
fill us now and evermore.

When the last candle is extinguished
and hope is exhaled never to return
you come with comfort, warmth and food
and fill is now and evermore.

Although we eat we starve
although we drink we thirst
fill us now and evermore.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Road

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: `And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12

Life is full of what can seem to be detours. When we are on a journey, we set out in one direction and have to change paths due to construction, an accident or bad weather. There are detours when driving, delays and layovers when flying. In our lives though, the detours and changes of direction can happen due to some tragedy like loss of job,injury, and illness, or by some blessing like childbirth, children coming home or a new job that takes us to a new place. Often times when what feels like failure, those things which begin as missteps and mistakes, can become the best redirection of life. Many quote the famous line, "life is what happens when we are making other plans." Detours are God's way of keeping us safe from a bigger danger, a bigger chasm, a path to destruction.

Today is the feast of the Epiphany. We celebrate by rehearsing the story of the three wise men who came to see the child Jesus. They were looking for a king and found instead a simple family in a humble stable, and a godly king none the less. Then they were sent home another way. They had started out on a journey expecting human royalty and found their way to God. They began by following a star, and ended by following a dream. God touched them and brought light and love into their lives in ways we can hardly understand. But their best made plans were redesigned by God, as ours are, so that the whole world might know of God's love and care for us.

Today, I ask God to help me see the twists and turns as God's leading, the hills and valleys as seeing God's perspective in my life. May the light of the world shine today in every dark corner. May I be strong enough to listen, and have courage enough to follow. May our lives bear witness to the gift of the Magi, the gift of God with us for the whole world.

The Collect

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

All in the Timing

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:17-27

The other evening when returning from some errands we noticed the sky was beautiful with refracted light as the sun was slowly setting. One of the joys of living where we do is the true beauty of the world that surrounds us, and often we are blessed with magnificent sunsets. I had my camera in the car, so we raced to, aptly named, Sunset Beach, get some photos of the evening sky and sunset. We were racing against a setting sun which is never easy to time. When we got there the sun had not set, but had done her favorite trick, tucking behind a cloud. It was a dense and ominous cloud, but the night was still beautiful despite the incredible wind whipping the waves into a frenzy and freezing everything in sight, including us.

Jesus was late getting to his friends' deathbed and in comforting his friends Martha and Mary in their loss. Martha was disappointed in his bad timing, knowing that Jesus could have made him well if he had not been so tardy. In her grief she let her anger show. And she also declared her faith in Jesus, in a big and bold way despite her disappointment. She confesses her faith more boldly than any of the disciples, although she was obviously racked with pain and loss. We know that a bit later in the story Lazarus is raised from the dead and restored to life. We get to see, in this moment, the real humanity of Martha and Jesus, both torn by loss and Martha still wishing things had gone differently. She was disappointed in God. The gospel today reminds us that when we face disappointment and loss, the story is not truly over. God's timing is not our timing and we are often disappointed that God doesn't deliver on our terms. But God does deliver light and life, to all of us all of the time.

Today, I ask God to help me be grateful for God's timing and that there is always more to the story. May we have faith like Martha, who despite a terrible loss and huge disappointment, she was able to declare her faith in Jesus, trusting him completely despite her own pain and sadness. We will all face some bad bumps in the coming days. May these moments be times when we deepen our faith, deepen our trust and renew our commitment to following God. The story is not over and God is always acting for us all, bringing light, live and new life to our lives.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Little Mud

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. John 9:1-12; John 9:35-38

Most creativity and new ideas demands some sort of mess. Being left handed I have been good at taking things apart since I was a toddler. I like to see how things work but it means making a mess sometimes and occasionally it means having leftover bits that should have had an original location. Real creativity and ingenuity are messy processes, with many starting over times, many missteps and some real flubs. Many of us have set aside our childhood curiosity for the order of adulthood. Chaos was the beginning of creation and there are some very curious and odd creatures of God's perfect creation. And all of them are wondrous in the sight of God.

Jesus healed a blind man by spitting and making mud. Maybe he was learning how to heal, experimenting to find his right tools, and maybe something tactile was needed for a man to know change was coming. Jesus was new to his craft and learning as he went along, we have to assume, since he was human, just like us and in so being, a beloved and unique creature of the Creator. This story from the gospel teaches us about the interdependence between God and creation and about the importance of us participating in our healing. The man was sent to wash after Jesus applied the spit and the mud. Our faith is activated within us as we act in faith.

Today I ask God to help me walk in faith, despite the messiness and challenges I might face. Help us to know that all of creation participates with the Creator and God wants for us to be active in the healing of the world. May we not be afraid as we step out today trusting that each step deepens our faith, each step bring us closer to God.