Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Seemingly Unchangeable

And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. Mark 1:29-45

There are many things in our lives that seem unchangeable, Our commute, our daily routine, and certain relationships we have seem like the same old same old. And illness in our lives can become so normal that it seems that nothing will change, get better and no good solution found. The days before my surgery seems so repetitive and regular, that nothing seemed possible to make things different, let alone better. We can even get comfortable with the way things are, even when the way things are a hurtful and destructive.

In Jesus' lifetime, old women who got sick usually died. People with leprosy had a life sentence, a painful disease pared with extreme and unending isolation. The diagnosis meant there was nothing to be done and nothing more to expect. Just get used to it. Older people just expected to die, with little medicine or other support available. It was the accepted way. Into this scenario comes Jesus, who brings not only a message of possibility and healing, but the touch which brings both to life. People who were once set aside for dying now very much with the living. God's work is about bringing solutions to impossible situations and relations. God's work in us is trusting that Gos is actively seeking solution in the impossible places and living with an expectation of hope at all times.

Today, I ask God to help me see beyond the stuck places. the pain that seems constant, the circumstances that will never get better and the relationships that still have possibility despite their seemingly dead state. May we live this day and every, knowing that God's activity is working on remaking the impossible, freeing the long suffering and finding resolution to the worst puzzles in our times.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Walking by the Sea

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately 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 out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:14-28

Last night, the ocean was so loud and insistent I thought it might be bringing in a storm. After living so long by the ocean, it constant roar and song rarely disturbs my sleep. For those who have never lived by the sea, it can be a startling and disturbing noise as it is both loud and constant. I think of it more like a lullaby. I have grown up by the water and it is the sound of home and comfort. The ocean is where I go to center myself, reflect and walk. I look forward to the days when I can walk on the beach again. Maybe the ocean woke me to tell me I was missed.

Jesus walked by the sea and found his family - his support team, his friends, the ones who would go through every day, every challenge, every bitter conflict, side by side with him. He took to the ocean and found strangers who would become immediate friends, companions and would carry on after he passed on. He found by his side the feisty and intense, the faithful, the constant and the loud mouth, real people who were real friends and real disciples. He did not seek out fancy, credentialed, politically correct or fashionistas to be his friends but rather, real people who are the best real friends.

Today I am grateful for all of my friends, those I met as a child by the ocean and all those I have collected across the years. I am grateful for all the feisty, silly, brilliant and in your face folks who have made me their friend. And I am thankful for knowing that Jesus seeks real people as followers - not the perfect and beautiful, but the real, tender passionate goof-balls - who carry the love of God to the world.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wild Honey

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.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1:1-13

Wilderness and Wild Honey

The most wondrous love grows
in the wilderness fed by wild honey
found food and hidden visitors
a place out of the mainstream
out of the limelight out of time.

One dove visit and the voice of God
thunders through the hearts of onlookers
there is mighty change before us
awaiting us is tremendous challenge
and God is in the midst of it.

We ache for awards and appreciation
God invites us to this wilderness
this lenten journey of castaways
we forage and stumble waiting
to hear the voice of God again.

Our loneliness overwhelms us
the pain of healing is tremendous
walking upright is the first challenge
finding strength in the darkest night
our constant toil our constant fear.

God is in the midst of us as we kneel
in silent vigil, as we wait with tears streaming
as we ache for a touch a tender word
the sweet honey of love's forgiveness
God is with us already and we fail to see.

Open our blind eyes remove the scales
from our wounded souls, our broken bodies
you will heal everything all of us
and we will dance in celebration again
God is with us, God is coming, God is here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good Job!

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."

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

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." Mark 1:9-15

When our daughters were small we tried to encourage them as much as possible. We all need encouragement, and we tried to set an example with regular praise and words of encouragement. We said "good job" so often, I think, that it came back to us mockingly as they became teenagers. A sassy, "good job Mom" could get us rolling in the aisles. In the past few days, as I have struggled to learn how to use my broken, healing body right now, several times I have heard the "good job" or "you're doing great1" Such small encouragement but it is a huge step in the bay step department that is mine for the next few weeks.

Jesus was beginning his ministry and humbly sought out John for baptism. John was reluctant but did his bidding, feeling somewhat reluctant, baptizing the one who was to come after, the Savoir of the world. Even for Jesus there was one step at a time, one affirmation he needed as he moved forward in his ministry. "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." These were the words that would carry him through the next trials and temptations, the challenges and rocky roads. And these are words for all the beloved whom God holds close. We are asked to hear the love that God has for us, the encouragement and daily participation that is God's love in our struggles too.

Today, I ask God to help me give thanks for every positive step, every helpful person, and every sign that healing is coming. May each day be filled with the reminder of God's constant presence in our constant struggles. And may we not lose hope, knowing that each small step forward is a mark of God's love writ large in our lives.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Building on Love

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:20-26

Today I was released from the hospital and came home. On a chilly bright and windy day, I struggled up the front steps, and found my way to my own bed. There is lots of healing ahead. a day by day rebuilding, praying, breathing a finding ways to deal with pain and get stronger. It will be a lent to remember for me, a day by day, step by step, slow walk to Easter, to resurrection and new life.

Jesus is preparing the disciples and us, for the days ahead. There will be struggled but we are wrapped up in love. There will be trials, and daily challenges, some wins and some major losses, and in between we will know daily the heart of God. We are caught up in love, building daily, strengthening as we walk, growing stronger as we journey together.

Today, I ask God to help me take small steps, to know that I am held up by love. I pray that God will bring me, one step at a time,along this road of healing, knowing with every breath, that I am held up in love. May we all know, as we walk this lenten journey, that we are built up moment by moment with love.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Praying for Protection

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:9-19

There are swans on Lake Lily, which some times swim out in the open water, and often stay closer to their nests, out of sight, away from interference. The swans are very protective of their nests in spring and so we see them more often in the fall and winter. They are magnificent creatures, elegant and startling while, gliding effortlessly across the pond. It is a joy to see them, a joy to watch them, and we all know that their environment is fragile and can be dangerous. They need our cooperative protection, although they are standoffish, we want to be careful not to disturb or injure their young, while keeping the lake clean. It's a careful balance, as we all live together.

Jesus continues his prayer for us. He is praying for his followers in his present day and now, understanding that we can't always know what we need, and cannot always understand they way of God. On this journey of Lent, as we seek the heart of God, we can be strengthened knowing Jesus prayed for us and intercedes for us. It is not a journey taken alone, but with a whole host of the faithful past and present. Our faith binds us to a community that holds us close and prays for our strength and courage as we journey on.

Today, as I begin recuperating and rebuilding strength, I ask God for patience as I journey on, and a sense of humor to take me through the rough spots. May we hear the prayer of Jesus for us all - "I pray for them" - trusting that we are held in prayer across the time and the miles. God is with us as we walk these days of healing and transformation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Hour has Come

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. John 17:1-8

Today I am undergoing surgery to correct some severe spine problems. These next few blogs are pre-written, since I do not know exactly how long it will be before I am able to write again. It seems appropriate for Lent, this healing journey that I am embarking on. It will be a time of being remade, of patience and introspection, of asking for help and being grateful for the care and kindness I am given. It is a time of discovery and renewing of relationships, with God and with one another. My time has come to undergo the surgery and to trust God with the recovery and healing.

Jesus knew his time had come. Everything he had done in the recent past was a prelude to the passion. He knew few people would understand what he had to go through. Less would understand why. But throughout he knew himself to be in God's hands, held closely and watched even as he faced horrible pain, ridicule, betrayal and death. God made flesh offered his life, a once and for all sacrifice for the entire world. He prayed for his disciples and he prayed for us today, asking that we would know we were loved, and know we were held in God's loving arms.

Today I ask for your prayers as I go through this surgery that God may help me use this time to deepen our relationship and my trust. May this Lenten journey be a time of patient growth and sweet learning, so that my life might be used by God for the love and care of others. May God bless us all as we make our lenten pilgrimages, where ever they might take us, so that we might spread God's love around us as we go.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Ash Wednesday

God be merciful I have sinned
walked away from responsibility
thought myself better than others
turned away from others in need.

God be merciful to a sinner
my selfish heart leads me astray
I wander away from good gifts
and set what I truly need aside.

Mend me and heal me
draw the circle wide
let the love of God shine in
take away my dark angry heart.

God be merciful to a sinner
I take too much leave too little
the overflow is my shame
and generosity is my lack.

God be merciful to a sinner
I have hidden the talents
let fear be my guide
and shut the door on possibilities.

Mend me and heal me
draw the circle wide
let the love of God shine in
take away my dark angry heart.

God be merciful to a sinner
let me walk this lenten journey
in your presence in your light
make me new and make me whole again.

God be merciful to a sinner
I cannot change without you near
my failure surrounds me
help me kneel to be reborn.

Mend me and heal me
draw the circle wide
let the love of God shine in
take away my dark angry heart.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Trial

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. John 18:28-38

I was reading an article in the New York Times recently that focused on how a defendant should dressing when on trial. It was focused on women and how important it is to dress carefully. What women wore really influenced how the jury saw her. If she was dress to high fashion, she would be considered uppity and therefore disliked and if she dressed poorly she would be considered going for sympathy and considered manipulative. They talked about several famous trials and the mistakes certain women had made. I was horrified to think that a jury would judge, pre-judge really, the innocence of a person based on their couture. The writer was adamant that without a fashion consultant a woman could lose her freedom, even if innocent. There really are fashion police?

Jesus was on trial for his life, grabbed from his prayer time and the company of his friends. He had no judge, nor jury, but Pilate. Pilate found him innocent but he had already been judged. He was a threat to society, a menace and a trouble maker. How dare he go around healing people and sharing God's love and forgiveness? He had upset the sensitive balance of power and for that he had to die. Despite our best intentions, we judge people for all the wrong reasons, and we find people wanting and rejected who are simply different. Despite our human frailties and lack, our ever changing hero worship and shallowness, God stands firm, loving us completely despite ourselves. Jesus was willing to go to the cross for the likes of us.

Today I ask God to help me see beyond the outward adornments and see the beloved in each person. If God is willing to sacrifice so much, can't I take the time to see good and possibility in all my neighbors? May we all stand firm with God, who is constant in love and forgiveness. May we see the face of Christ in everyone we encounter today, and leave judgment and condemnation to God alone.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Denying Love

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. John 18:15-18

Sometimes, when the weather is blustery and stormy we like to watch old movies that fascinate us and make us laugh. We were watching the 1934 version of Cleopatra, a very kitsch version of an age old tale of love, power, intrigue and empires. Hearts are broken, empires felled, friendships destroyed - all while scantily clad men and women dance around the scenes. Throughout the ages people are fascinated by love stories, and particularly with those where denial, betrayal and scheming are part of the plot. And when their historical reality added, it makes the story even more fascinating.

Our Gospel story from John is well into the passion narrative, when Jesus has been arrested and panic and mayhem ensues. Peter, the outspoken fisherman, is caught in a lie. He denies Jesus after promising to be faithful and offer his heart, life and soul. There is shame and embarrassment, self-loathing and horror for Peter, who loves Jesus so dearly. He is also very human, very real and not unlike many of us who would crumble under such pressure and fear. And it is this very broken and imperfect man who Jesus makes the head of the church, the human, living face of the ministry of Christ. For us who read again this story, we can be assured that despite our failures, our denial of love, and the shame we might have caused, God's love is stronger than our mistakes, ready to forgive and renew us.

Today, I ask God for the strength to put the past behind me, ask forgiveness for my mistakes, let go of the things I cannot change, and turn my feet to following God. May the journey ahead be one of forgiveness and compassion. May we accept our brokenness and missteps along the way, asking God to heal us and transform us every day. May our words and action bring love and forgiveness to the lives of those who think they are lost or forgotten. And may God use our humanity for the love and renewing of the world.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. John 18:15-18

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marvelous Images

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!" Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Mark 9:2-9

There are times of year, and times of day when the light is just right and all of the weather cooperates when one can capture the full beauty of our surroundings. Here by the ocean, clouds and storms move in quite quickly and what looks like a perfect sunset can become dull or treacherous within minutes. Other times, a person can only hold their breath in wonder, amazed and dazzled by the beauty and magnificence of God's creation. We have glimpses of the real evidence of God's complete and total love for us in the stunning and gorgeous moments that happen from time to time, unbidden, unexpected, and marvelous all the same.

The transfiguration of Jesus is read right before we begin the season of Lent and it falls in the Gospels as Jesus is making his final journey to Jerusalem. It would lead him to the cross. Unbidden, unexpected and marvelous, God reveals the true nature of relationship with the Son, and speaks softly words of reassurance and encouragement. The disciples as well as Jesus will need these words and vivid images to carry them through the tough times ahead. It would be an internal icon, a blissful moment to hold close when the world collapses around them and when fear and violence are their only companions.

Many of us face great challenges in the coming days, and it can seem, in times like these, that we are surrounded by fear and violence. And yet God promises to give us moments, unbidden, unexpected and marvelous, to hold close as we walk through the storms are predicaments of life. God promises to make the divine love visible, surrounding us with companions and relationships that hold us firm in the face of shifting sands and treacherous times. May we hold tightly to the beauty and love we have been given, knowing these are only a small shadow, a dim reflection of the enormous love and care God has for all of us, whatever rough road we find ourselves on.

The Collect
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eye of the Storm

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:1-16

My Mom and I went out to dinner last night. It is very quiet in February and it can be hard to find something open. My mother told me stories of when they first moved to Cape May, in the early 1950's, as my Dad was called up for active duty and was serving as chaplain at the Coast Guard Base. She told me of their early experiences of storms here and how that was quite an overwhelming experience for her. We are surrounded with water and sometimes we can get cut off from the main land. She still looks at the water in low lying areas with an eye for rising waters. Living where we do, one expects a certain amount of storms and know what it is like to head into the fray of wind and water.

Jesus was sent for by Mary as her brother was dying. The politic climate around Jesus was charged and heading to see Lazarus would mean Jesus would be heading directly into a nasty storm. People were openly planning to kill him. He took his time but knew he wanted to be with his dear friends and, motivated by love, he and the disciples go down, away from safety and privacy into the fray. He went for love and in order to demonstrate the power of God's love, strong enough to bring Lazarus back from the dead, a love that is willing to dive into the worst circumstances in order to bring healing and life.

Today I ask God to help me turn and face all the storms of my life, trusting that I will not be alone, but that God is with me, going ahead of me and leading with healing and love. May I worry about nothing more than setting the table, and being prepared for the feast of joy that God brings. May the storms of life not rattle our faith, rather help us to see God's power and love in new ways this day, sharing everything we receive with those who are suffering and who need our help today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Throwing Stones

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there. John 10:31-42

Throwing Stones

I am not like them so they
hurl insults and loudly jeer
my tongue speaks a different language
my heart hears a different music
and the want me to disappear.

I set out with good news on my lips
with comfort to share and love
to make known across the region
fear rose up and anger swallowed them
and they ache to do me harm.

My shabby garments are torn from running
my feet filthy and scared from this road
I am weary bent over and gasping
my strength is spent
and my eyes fill with tears.

These are my brothers and sisters
I sat with them at funerals and weddings
the ones who raise their arms with stones
are the one who use to wave at me in school.

We are a broken and frightened family
the well has gone dry and the wages spent
we are fighting over the last bread
we are arguing over ancient words that broke us
we fail to see the heart of God
aching with love for us, even now.

Drop the weapons drop your guard
there is more for the living
than preparing for a fight to the death.

We can be warriors for forgiveness
reckless soldiers of a new tomorrow
fierce guerrillas for a noble cause
we can put down the stones and raise up
a sanctuary for the living God.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:19-30

Before our first child was born we found someone who would make us a papoose or cradle board for her. All three of our daughters were toted around as infants, on my back or my husband's back as babies, snug and tightly held while we wanders through wooded areas and crowded streets alike. They were safe and warm, bound closely and held near so as not to feel left alone or unsafe. Small infants need that nestled feeling, but we all need that sense of safety, where we are not in danger at every moment.

Jesus tells the religious leaders who are testing him that his sheep, his followers are held in his hands and in the Father's hands. A perfect picture of intimacy and safety, a closeness that defies all danger and challenges. These otherwise faithful people felt threatened by that intimacy, that tender care from God and from the Son. When we are afraid and under duress, we can remember the image that Jesus presented to them - that we are held tenderly and close by a God who seeks to keep us safe, God whose desire is to hold us close and protect us. Even when we fall down and stumble in our faith, God is the perfect parent, scooping us up and keeping us out of harm's way.

A Prayer for this day- " Gracious and loving God, you promise to hold us close and protect us from the fearful things we face this day. May we remember your promise to guard and keep us, your faithfulness in the past and your promise to lead us to safe harbor in the future. Help us to stand firm when the gales comes, knowing that you are holding us through the worst storms of our lives. And may we honor you today by sheltering those who have lost their way. May all our works lead us to the heart of God. Amen"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Flock, One Shepherd

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:1-18

Years ago, I took a group of college students to visit the Diocese of Navajoland. We were visiting in Coalmine, attending an evening youth gathering. As we sitting in the small church singing, a couple of boys came in carrying new lambs. It was late winter or early spring and still very cold outside. The students were all from the Northeast and I don't think a single one had any experience with farm animals, let alone finding themselves up close and personal with little lambs. They were at once overwhelmed and smitten, watching the young boys care for the sheep, as natural and as casually as one might care for a pet or family member. As we road back that evening someone remarked that it had changed their whole understanding of Jesus as the good shepherd. These kids and their families lived their lives for their sheep. And the sheep came to church because they were brand new and too little to be left alone.

Jesus always uses images and stories to help people understand his relationship with God and humanity. He lived in a culture of sheep and shepherds, so it was a fitting image for the people he spoke with. It was vivid and real to them. Those of us with less experience with sheep and livestock might make that image completely pastoral and quaint. But for Jesus and his disciples, the images were very personal, and tangible. Being a shepherd meant protecting, caring, nurturing, sheering - an exhaustively constant and demanding life of care and oversight. Nothing sweet or nostalgic about it. God among us, as a living, toiling shepherd who feeds us, leads us, shelters us and protects us, willing to die to make us safe and on good grazing land.

Today, I want to give thanks for all the shepherds in my life. For my friends who have taught me what it truly means to be a shepherd, who live into the challenges of climate, culture and faith. They walk humbly and speak softly, caring for all who come their way. May we imitate those who have been shepherds to us, and in so doing, may we reflect the love of God, the Good Shepherd, who is willing to lose everything for us and who seeks us out when we wander off. May this day be a day when we know we are part of the flock cared for by a most loving Shepherd.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
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. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. John 9:18-41

Valentine's Day

The commercials overwhelm me
the demand for a performances crushing
gentle hearts that daily love
daily, monthly and every moment
live simply and love well.

The red ribbons sail in the wind
tomorrow another advertisement will air
the pink and red boxes put away
small disappointed valentine's waiting
in hope for another year.

The life lived in love
is full of soup and smiles
laundry and dishes piled high
no task daunting love pitches in
cherishing the laughter and the spills
as if they were angels' gifts.

Love lasts beyond the construction paper
the boxes are empty and candy gone
love comes around again and again
retrieving us castoffs calling us back
love comes empty handed to the table
and fills us to overflowing
during the long dark nights of our winters.

May love grow within so strong today
that we desire to sit with elders and messy children
ache to serve the broken and cast aside
may healing and restoration be our gifts
and may we see the face of love in every stranger.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Here's Mud in Your Eye

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.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” John 9:1-17

Here's Mud In Your Eye! This toast was originally made in the muddy trenches of World War I, or in the cafes where English and American soldiers spent their leaves trying to forget them. Mud was everywhere and it defined the war and it defined their lives and their deaths. They took what was a curse of their daily lives and turned it into a toast, a good wish, to live beyond the present circumstances. The war was long and seemed interminable to the young soldiers, and countless young men never came home. Others were scared for life.

Jesus encounters a blind beggar. He makes mud and heals the man. The religious leaders argue over why the man was born blind - his sin or his parents. Instead of getting into the battle, Jesus touched one life and changed the whole community forever. God was neither condemning the man, nor his parents. God was and is seeking a way to make us whole, in all our brokenness, and in the midst of troubled times, deep in the trenches of all sorts of battles.

Today, I ask God to help me rejoice amidst challenging times, even when it seems as if assaults are coming from all directions. May we all remember that Jesus is reaching down to bring healing to each and every one. God's action is always that of healing and transformation, of making the blind to see, the lame to walk and the prisoners set free. May we have the courage to seek him in our dark and bound places, so the light of the world might shine through our lives.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. Mark 1:40-45

Most healing is and process and it takes time although we all secretly wish to be healed instantly. Drug companies use that desire to fill their coffers and we suffer still. As we sat in the hospital with Emily the last few days, I ached to take the pain and infection from her. She is making wonderful progress, but healing comes in stages, no matter how sophisticated our medicine. And then there is the healing of spirit that follows, when our bodies have been broken, our spirits are torn too. Healing spirits take time also.

Jesus encountered a man who was riddled with leprosy. He was sentenced to a life away from his family and friends. He was not only ill, but isolated and alone, allowed to only be around those like him. No one would touch him for fear of contracting the disease. And the disease was a life sentence of horrible pain and desolation. Jesus was moved with compassion and touched the untouchable, the incurable, the one cast off from society. His disease made him a complete reject, and it was him whom Jesus touched. We are called to hear this today. That Jesus touch is ready for those who have been cast off, set aside and forgotten. God's compassion rises up for those who have been overlooked and untended, sidelined and ignored. And we are encouraged to reach out in compassion and care.

Today I ask God that we can respond to those who have been set aside and who suffer without relief. May our eyes be open to their need and may our hands respond with healing touch. May God use each and every one of us to serve the un-served, the isolated and rejected ones. May we be the instruments of love and healing this day.

The Collect
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Getting The Word

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
John 8:47-59

We returned late last night after being in New York with our daughter Emily who has been in the hospital all week. We got word this morning that she is going home finally, and can start recuperating surrounded by caring friends, who are really family. We can say the words, family, trust etc, but it is really the actions and activity that demonstrate the love of family. Words can point the direction but it is the relationship and constancy that really matter. We have friends who are taking her into their home and caring for her until she is back on her feet. That is love truly made visible, living and true.

The religious leadership of the temple has been so caught up in the words that they fail to see the activity and love of God right in front of their eyes. They would rather argue words than live in relationship with God. They would rather be right than to participate in the lives of others. We are invited to make choices every day. We can judge and dismiss others or we can find a way to be in relationship with them, living and breathing the word of God.

Today, as we recover from hard traveling, I ask God to help me live a life of true relationship and forgiveness. May my life incarnate the word of God, rather than obscure the word in pettiness and judgement. May exhausted arms still be ready to embrace, may a weary face be every ready to smile and laugh and may we all be ready to live the love of God so others may thrive.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Family Divided

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” John 8:33-47

The wall that has been put up to separate parts of the Holy Land is a visceral reminder of how divided we remain as the children and family of God. So often, we forget how easy it is to demonize the other side - those on the other side of the argument, those who are worship in a different way, those who speak and live differently than we do and those who live on the other side of the wall. We still fail to see our brothers and sisters in our neighbors, in the people in the diner and those who keep to themselves for fear of us. Even within strong families people often take sides demonizing one sibling or parent over another. And yet, we are all broken and human beings, in need of love, support and friendship.

Jesus takes issue with the religious leaders of his time. They are afraid of him, his style and community is so different, so they have decided to kill him. Their righteous indignation has taken over and they want to rid the land of his blasphemy. He speaks of God's love, forgiveness and invitation, but all they see is his radical difference, all they hear is his welcome to outsiders and strangers. God in Jesus was changing the rules and expanding, but those in power were frightened of change and loss of control. We are all afraid of these things also. And Jesus invites us to be a family, despite our selves, despite our fears and anxieties, and our awkwardness with difference.

Today I ask God to help me live into a new family, new relationships and the possibilities and new communities we are invited to join. I pray that fear will not cloud my judgment, nor discomfort keep me from embrace. May my life this day be dedicated to see the face of God in each person I encounter. May I be a font of God's grace and a humble child at the Creator's family table.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Truth will set you Free

So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:21-32

The Truth Will Set You Free

We have built barriers and prisons
prospered when others are held back
we have toiled to limit others' joy
and taxed life beyond measure.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

We have chosen to isolate
make enemies name the other
rejecting aliens and neighbors
and construct gated communities.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

We think ourselves free
when we live in our mansions
when we hire day laborers
and drive children in our suvs.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

Love cannot be bound by prejudice
money, skill or language
it cannot be hidden by gates and guards
or sent to prep school in time.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

Love rolls over us like high tidal waves
with full moon passion rising
above our excuses and fears
love rolls in a truth comes along too.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

We are God's beloved stranger
neighbor, the guilty and our kin
we are called our of our compounds
into the chaotic world or truth.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

We are called to love without restrictions
forgive over and over and over again
celebrate in the darkest hour
and trust that God is with us at all times.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

Dance and sing them family of God
set the table and invite the world
we are made of dust and ashes
given life to set others free.

If you abide in my word
you are truly my disciples
and you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Walking in the Light of God

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.” These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. John 8:12-20

Although it has clouded over this morning last night it was gloriously clear. A full moon hung in the sky over the Bear Mountain Parkway, conjuring up images from a Washington Irving story. The sky was full of light and the world below was full of dramatic shadows. After a long day at the hospital, sitting by our daughter's bedside, the moon was a reminder of brighter days and more possibilities.

Jesus is talking to the people about his role as light of the world, son of the father, the holy connection and conduit of God's love. Jesus is reminding us all of our embedded life in the love of God. No matter where we walk or what we have to walk through, we are walking in God's light, on pathways cleared by love and redemption. We are not alone nor in the shadows on the hardest of climbs. We are never forgotten at the farthest margins of the world. God is still shining light on our path, God is still sending hope and strength to guide our steps.

Today I ask God for the eyes to see the light of love on the darkest days and the heart to embrace the challenges ahead with hope and courage. May we walk with the light of God showering down upon us, trusting that what we fear will be vanquished, what we don't know will become familiar and those whom we fear will become family as we walk in the light of God.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing in the Sand

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

Writing in the Sand

The water is high and cold
waves rising forcing our summer words
into the deep beyond.

Gulls above taunts us
as we look for signs
we seek love and forgiveness
on this frozen shore.

If memory serves me well
it was just a season or two
when everything but love
was washed out to sea.

We can remember our crimes
our misdemeanors haunt us
but all has been washed away
all is forgiven.

The one who wrote the love note
wrote it in the sand
forgiveness for the miserable offenders
a home for the wayward
in the arms of God.

Stand with us by the cold ocean
sing the songs that we remember
love has not forgotten
the message is always clear
God in the highest heaven
has made us children again.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rivers of Living Waters

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” John 7:37-52

Diving into moving waters is an extraordinary experience. The ocean waves at high tide can be amazing at certain times of year, climbing higher that a many story building and pushing everything in its path. A raging river, swollen with spring or summer rains, can undermine whole towns and wash everyone and everything down stream. The power of water is never to be underestimated. Even on a calm day by the ocean, rip currents can form and capture a swimmer and carry them far from home and shore. There is nothing you can do once you get caught. You have to give in and ride the current until you can find safe passage to the shore. The power of living water, the waters of baptism are like wise. We are drawn in, swept along, surrounded by God's strength and power for the good of others.

Jesus was testifying about his relationship to God and who he had been called to be. His words were hard for some to hear, thinking he was being self-promoting, arrogant and rude, Jesus was announcing his relationship with God and their invitation to participate in the family of God by faith alone. Some wanted his religious credentials, wanted him to prove his cultural prowess before they would accept his teaching. The invitation of Jesus, to those who believe, is the power of God will reside within humanity, and we will be given strength upon strength for the care of the world. Hard to accept but also hard to resist, that God would give power to the likes of us, and would reside within us, broken and flawed as we might be.

Today I ask God to take up residence in my heart. May it be a place of living waters, overflowing with compassion and tenderness, insight and love. May we accept the invitation of Jesus today, to be filled to overflowing with rivers of living waters, life giving, transforming source from the heart of God. May we humbly accept the love of God into our lives, so that the world might know the transforming power of God with us.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Getting up to Serve

Jesus left the synagogue at Capernaum, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. Mark 1:29-39

We went to lunch today with my brother and sister-in-law in order to celebrate my Mom's birthday. She will be 89 on Tuesday. She has spent most of her life as a pastor's wife, always someone who was serving others, making massive amounts of food and making sure people were fed and happy. She did that with all of us, her family, and with everyone else she considered friend or family. At almost 89 she is bubbly and outgoing, still willing to help, feed and serve as she is able. She id always ready to get up and serve, even if it takes her somewhat longer to get up now than it used to. She is always willing to pray for anyone at any time.

Simon's mother-in-law was sick and folks were afraid. She was someone who always took care of Jesus and his followers, always made room at the table, always cooking and welcoming friend and stranger alike. She was beloved and folks were afraid for her. When she was healed it was a natural thing for her to get up and serve her family and friends. It was where she felt most comfortable and useful, it brought her joy, bringing food and friendship to others. We have in this story a picture of the tenderness and intimacy of Jesus and his disciples, of people who relied on each other and cared for one another, in sickness and in health. We too, are the family of Jesus, beloved and cared for, embedded in a loving family and an even larger loving community.

Today I ask God to help us get up and serve where we can. In response to blessings and healing, may our hands and hearts be ready to care for others. There are those who cannot rise up, who once served others willingly with joy. May we rise up ready to live as the servants of God in this world, throwing off our fears and limits as we care for the least among us., May the stranger become friends by our actions and all of us become one family in the love of God.

The Collect

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” John 7:14-36


These dense clouds won't lift
having tried all day to push them away
I strained and twisted
pushed, shoved and prodded
the fog of confusion is here to stay.

Light refracted through dense water
we float on the surface which looks the same
grey and green rolling waves
we are moving forward and back
the deep ocean of misunderstanding surrounds us.

Time at a standstill and endlessly repeating
sitting on a station bench
no announcements and no train arrives
we are caught waiting for the outbound ride.

In a noisy ring of canvas and sweat
my gloves aim at an unknown opponent
dancing and reaching onto thin air
anger and confusion outlasts every bout.

On our knees in the soft forgiving sand
stars calm above while the ocean roars
I beg forgiveness direction and understanding
and listen to the gulls screaming overhead.

Waiting is the holy invitation
the whisper of God for us to dwell
a beckoning to silent observation
expecting heaven's light
to break through our pained and twisted hearts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Working at the Margin

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. John 7:1-13

We live on the end of the road and at the margins between land and sea. A little thumb of land at the end of New Jersey, surrounded by ocean and bay, we are at the edge of things and the sky at night sparkles with stars which are bold and true since we lack any ambient light. This time of year it is a very quiet place. Most folks don't seek out the winter ocean, and only think of this as a summer destination. But it is home, this hidden from view place and our lives might be on the margin but we are not lost to God. There are some extraordinary gifts to be found at the margins, the hidden places, the spots where God whispers and we can be calm and listen.

Jesus was being hunted and was cautious about going to an important religious celebration for that reason. He knew violence was inevitable, but was careful to keep it away from his disciples. He went to Jerusalem, but stayed on the sidelines, in the margins and at the edge of the crowd. Knowing it wasn't his time yet, he went privately and found a spot where he could be calm and listen to God's voice speaking love and encouragement. We all need to find the place in our lives, a marginal forgotten place where God dwells and speaks softly to us. That place away from the celebrity and loud conversation, the forgotten corner where hearts can mend and God can transform us.

Today I ask for peace and calm so that I might listen to God. May we hear the loving words in the intimate, forgotten places in our lives, and in the people and situations we have set aside, shut out, waiting for the seasons to change. May we all be courageous as we live on the margins, knowing that God has more for us to do, and our Creator will provide the strength and transformation we need to minister to all of creation.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ground Hog Day

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him. John 6:60-71

It's that time of year again, time to turn to the ground hog for weather predictions. Today PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL, the most famous and reliable ground hog of them all decreed another six weeks of winter. Although the whole thing is rather overblown and silly, the tradition goes on and provides year round tourism interest in a small town in Pennsylvania known for little else. Thanks to the celebrity of the movie, people flock from all over to get a glimpse of the town and her most celebrated inhabitant. The ground hog's year round lodgings is a man made burrow attached to the public library. I am always amazed hoe faithful people can be to pretend characters, and made up traditions while they shun tradition and faith that can save their lives.

There is a good deal of grumbling around Jesus, first from the religious leaders and then from his followers themselves. What he forecasts scare them, and the power which he describes gives them pause. Many decide to wander off, fearing that they will be caught up in something they cannot support, or afraid to really commit. Either way, Jesus is getting very real and honest with them, and they liked the celebrity buzz, not the honest commitment to follow Jesus. Peter, who watches as others peel away, admits his faith and undying allegiance. We know that Peter is human and will deny Jesus, but in this moment his bald faith and honest confession establish our traditions, our ways of following the Savoir.

Today, in the midst of so many uncertainties, both personal and public, I ask God to help me be like Peter. May honesty and confession be our guides today and may God give us all the strength to be solid rocks in ever changing streams. We know that we are imbedded in the heart of the living God, the loving Creator and the one who seeks us out in the midst of all our trials. May our lives be strength for others who find themselves sinking deep this day. And may God shine through us to bring everybody home to the heart of God, this day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

True Food

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. John 6:52-59

True Food

Tempted by sweets and fries
fast and ready delights
advertised and teasing
we are all tempted to believe
we need the treats we see.

Aching for renewal, revival
we give in to buying and selling
trying anything to grow
convinced we need a plan.

Teased and tortured by failure
we seek a fail safe remedy
inviting deceivers and madness
into our homes into our lives.

True and simple God provides
steady and constant God is love
available always God is with us
new life and forgiveness God feeds us
our daily bread, our true and lasting food,