Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spreading Palms

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Matthew 21:1-11

I remember gathering wild flowers and dandelions during the summer. Proudly I would present them to my mother and she would acted thrilled and excited by the gift, searching out the perfect vase and filling it with water, tenderly placing the flowers in the water. My daughters did they same thing and I loved receiving their wonderful gifts and tributes. Looking back, I remember it always made me sad as a child that the flowers I gave always seemed to die very quickly. Most wild flowers perish quickly when uprooted, and tender tributes fade rapidly even when put in water.

The people of Jerusalem greeted Jesus with royal favor, spreading palms and singing his praises. The delight and exuberance faded quickly and some in this royal greeting crowd would cry out for his execution. The tide of public opinion can change rapidly, and love and quickly wilt and die. The lesson in our Gospel today reminds me that we are fragile and variable people, sometimes swept up by expectations and honor, often to be discarded and ignored by the same crowd. God invites us to hold fast to the permanent, the grounded loved of God which is constant, unchangeable and unwavering. Unlike public opinion and wildflowers, God love will not fade away.

Today, as the heat continues and the anxiety and anticipation for General Convention grows, may we cling to the solid rock of God's love in our lives, not distracted by fads and favors, rather be constantly prayerful, and full of humility in every moment. In these lean times, God promises to make new life, and we are to stand fast and be faithful despite the outward climates, the winds of change, and the flashy prophets of doom. We are held fast by God's love and live with the promise of new life, breaking forth in the wilderness, love making all things new today and every day.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lord, Let Our Eyes Be Opened.

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.Matthew 20:29-34

Lord, Let Our Eyes Be Opened

Staring down and blinded by tears
The crowds on the road push me down
I am slow and halting listening
for an opportunity and invitation
A cooling wind a sweet song.

We are in need of a savoir and a friend
someone who will grace us with a touch
someone who will show us mercy in this state
someone who will lead us from this darkness.

We are the cast asides the chaff
Disfigured and always awkward
the world does not want to see us
and we are shut off from the world.

We are in need of a savoir and a friend
someone who will grace us with a touch
someone who will show us mercy in this state
someone who will lead us from this darkness.

Despite our limits and our needs
We have voices to raise and families to feed
We are the lost and the lonely
But we are not forgotten, we are sought out.

We are in need of a savoir and a friend
someone who will grace us with a touch
someone who will show us mercy in this state
someone who will lead us from this darkness.

God has heard our cries and our sorrows
Our silent prayers were lifted on the wind
Love has come to this dark and dusty road
And we will have new sight and a way home.

We are in need of a savoir and a friend
someone who will grace us with a touch
someone who will show us mercy in this state
someone who will lead us from this darkness home.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Packing for General Convention

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:20-28

I won't leave for General Convention until after the Fourth of July bicycle parade, which is a big event in our family. This year, there are lots of challenges ahead for us as a church, what with budget shortfalls, big looming issues and anxiety over the future. We will have to reinvent and re-imagine our work lives and our church lives, and that is hard to do for people who like to say "but we've always done it that way!"
Change is hard and real sacrifice with no reward in sight is even harder. Trusting that God will be in the midst of us as we redesign and rebuild is had for some to see. But the work of the Holy Spirit is always about bringing new and surprising life our of the broken and the dead, breathing possibility and hope where there was nothing but fear.

The disciples do not want to hear what Jesus has to say. As they make their way to Jerusalem, they want more glamor and fame, not humility and servanthood. They wanted the bright summer of their ministry to keep on. They ached to be important and not slaves or victims. And Jesus, knowing what was to come, encouraged them to understand service and change as the gifts from God, the mark of God's true love in our lives. We are invited to embrace the change, the loss and the re-buildings as gifts from God, as a sign of the presence of the Spirit, and new life coming our way.

Today, I ask God to help me greet the changes ahead with joy and compassion. Help me to look tenderly on those who ache for the loss of power, to be patient with those who are fearful in these times, and to come to the aid of those who feel they are perishing. May we know God's love and presence in our lives as we care for others. May we be given the strength and the power to walk through anxious days, trusting God to provide more than we can imagine, as we are willing to be broken and remade for the reign of God.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:1-16

Laborers in the Vineyard

I will admit I look
at all you have and feel
jealousy creeping over me
like summer warmth I am
human and wish for more
than my meager wage.

The sun beats down
been hear all day long
from mornings' first light
through the high noon burn
bending and cutting
sometimes bleeding for the cause
and you waltz in cool and calm
and take your full wages.

We work hard and expect more
laboring daily pushing ourselves
we taste dirt and bugs all day
feel the stares as folks drive by
wincing through darkened glass
dry and cold in their good
air conditioned command centers.

We are called to labor for God
the days are long and grueling
the rewards nebulous and vanishing
but we are here and we continue
growing good gifts in rough earth
planting better lives in broken glass
hiding victims from abuse
making a road for the directionless
on our knees at night praying
on our knees at day too.

I know the sting of jealousy
and yet God is the balm for all
we know the searing pain of loss
and God mends all the scars and tears
we are laborers in love's vineyard
we are loved beyond measure
the burning sun and baking soil
temporary companions on the road
to heaven's door.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Abundance and Blessings

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Matthew 19:23-30

We spent the day with our youngest daughter ending the afternoon by visiting the farmer's market, open for the first time this season. It is always good to see the produce and the crafts, smelling the rich odors of barbeque, fired dough and crab cakes. It is a delight to the senses and people wander around greeting old friends. We brought home some lovely taste treats for dinner, and in so doing I am reminded how fortunate we are, able to have money in our pockets to enjoy the abundance. So many lack even the basics and we are surrounded by beauty and prolific abundance.

The disciples were concerned about Jesus' conversation about wealth and possessions. All of them had families, homes, boats and possessions and wondered whether Jesus was condemning them. Instead, he invites us all to realize how blessed we are and how no possession is able to save us, only God's love and our willingness to accept that love and know our own need of God. Those who are willing to follow God will be asked to give up much, but the blessings, he promises, will more than overshadow any loss. This is the promise of our faith.

Today as the shadows lengthen, may we all remember how blessed we are and how completely we are surrounded by God's love. May we never fear the losses and the bumps of life, but may we see clearly the touch of God in each and every moment.

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake
of your love. Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2012

From the Heart

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Matthew 19:13-22

We have had an extraordinary few days. Our grand daughter Lilly and her Mom Ariel have been staying here and our other daughters Emily and Phoebe are here too. We attended a lovely Quaker wedding yesterday, sitting out in the sun and the heat as two dear people committed themselves to one another. It was a big extended family and we got to see old friends and watch the kids play and everybody dance. Yesterday brought home the incredible value of love and relationships, something no money can replace, nor possessions can fill the holes. Like little children we are precious in the sight of God, and more desired than gold and riches.

This passage begins with Jesus blessing the children and ends with him instructing an young man about God's priorities. God priorities are with the heart, with the vulnerable and the tender, the caring and the compassionate. God dwells in the midst of our relationships and not in our things or in our accomplishments. God dwells where love is found and we are invited to focus on the activities of love and not on amassing fame or riches. We are invited to find love and renew love in all that we do.

Today, I ask God to help me set worry and things aside, and to focus on the love and joy present this day. May my heart be always open, my hands always be ready and my lips always forgiving and full of song. May every one of us know the heart of God as we love others. May God be known as we love and live with compassion and humility, with a childlike wonder and joy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stilling the Winds

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" Mark 4:35-41

Our lives have been very full over the past few days. All of our daughters are here for a dear friends wedding. I also had a wedding to celebrate yesterday. We have been having great fun and yet there has also been a good deal of shared worries and anxiety. In this economy, everyone seems to have challenges with jobs, living space etc. Helping my mother live with her diminished state is also on our hearts and minds. It has been a joyful time as all of my daughters and granddaughter paddled around in the water. And it has had moments of great stress and tension. All families do.

The disciples and Jesus had to get away from the crowds. Exhaustion over took him from the length of the day and the press of the people. When a storm arises, Jesus is oblivious but the disciples panic. These are men accustomed to the sea, so they must have been frightened for their lives. Jesus calmed them and the weather as well. God is in the midst of our worst storms and sometimes it may seem as if God is sleeping while we are perishing. But God is with us and will bring calm and peace to us and to the storms that batter our hearts and minds. If we seek God, we will find a way through every storm.

Today, I want to trust God in the meanest of storms, in the winds and the waves and the changes of the tides. God has promised to be in the midst of the worst we face, in our everyday monotony and everything in between. May I spend my time seeking God, and asking for the help I need. May the storms we face today be an invitation to dive deep into the heart of God for shelter and for peace. We are neither abandoned nor alone and God is with us, breathing new life, new possibilities, and a way forward, ever when we can't see for the clouds and water. May we seek God's peace today, confident that the peace of God is right here with us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Practicing Forgiveness

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35

I have two weddings this weekend, one as celebrant and one as a guest. We will see all sorts of friends and family over the weekend. It always puts me in mind of forgiveness, and how forgiveness is such a part of staying in love, staying friends and staying family. We are bound together, and as humans we often hurt each other with such veracity it seems that we can never recover. But God is in the midst of all the times and places where we do forgive, making new life from the ashes and the scars.

Peter asks a question about forgiveness and Jesus tells a story in response. We have all been in a situation where the person who we have forgiven refuses to forgive us and exacts extreme payment and abuse on our tolerant heads. And yet, Jesus reminds us that we are to forgive over and over again, with no limits. Forgiveness is what makes life sweet and renewable. Forgiveness is what makes us life bearable, when we forgive others and when we forgive ourselves. And forgiveness is a life long pursuit, a life-long practice.

Today I ask God to help me forgive myself for all my shortcomings and failures and to forgive others for theirs. We are humans together, struggling to grow in love and compassion. May God grant us the eyes to see others with the tenderness and kindness of God, who looks on us as lost sheep and aching children. May we practice forgiveness in every moment so that the world might feel and know God love and presence today.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seeking the Lost

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:10-20

Seeking the Lost

In the darkness of the longest night
in the crowding of the busiest city
in the wilds of the shadowed mountains
love is looking for the lost.

We might think we are strong and able
Might be convinced of our own capacity
might truly believe we need no one
God calls to us on the night breeze.

Weak and vulnerable and afraid
tired lonely and missing home
we are lost sheep and little children
and God is calling us home.

The shepherd seeks the lost sheep
the parent diligently search for a child
we seek forgiveness from our siblings
and pray that we can be one family again.

God is seeking the broken and the weary
Lurking inside the haughty and the proud
God is calling to the wayward and the lost
to us right here acting safe and sound.

Let us listen for the call of our Creator
Let us run and cry out in our need
May we who are blessed by love's abundance
dance with joy as we have been found.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Child Like

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:1-6

When I was still in college and first married, I worked at a day care with all two-year-olds. I have always loved working with kids, love teaching and enjoy the silliness and honesty that one finds with small children. We spent a god deal of time potty training and teaching the kids how to dress themselves, including putting on their coats themselves. The best way to teach a small child to put on their coat is to put the coat on the floor, stand at the hood, slip the arms into the sleeves and flip it over your head. We did this exercise several times daily as we went to play outside. Unfortunately, I often found myself in adult gatherings, throwing my coat on the floor in order to put it on, only to be gaped at by the real sophisticated adults.

The disciples are arguing over importance and prominence. Maybe they were angling for compliments and favors. Their question was answered by Jesus in a very unexpected way. When asked who is the greatest, Jesus chooses a child as the greatest and insists that we all need to humble ourselves like children if we are to honorable in God's eyes. What we hold up as honor, classiness, sophistication and status are totally ignored by God. God doesn't care about our possessions, our lawns, our degrees, or any of that. God cares about our hearts, and that they are filled with love and forgiveness.

Today I ask God to help me be child-like - humble, loving, curious and vulnerable. May our arms always be open, our lips full of songs, our legs full of dancing and our minds always curious and welcoming. May we grow this day into the saints of God, those who choose to be child-like and vulnerable, and who choose to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. May our lives be dedicated to weakness, so the strength and glory fo God's reign and love might shine through us today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Not to Offend

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:22-27

I have spent some time in my life casting a line in the surf, hoping for a fish. I am not very lucky or skilled, but I do enjoy the fishing itself. There is a lot of waiting and dreaming in casting a line, hoping this time you get a strike. A person has lots of time to think and contemplate the ocean, absorbing the variable light and sounds created by being close the waves and the water. It is for me, a holy experience, sometimes being hip deep in the surf, as prayer slips off my lips and songs fill my heart.

Jesus and his followers have arrived in a new community and were expected to pay the visitors fee. The disciples thought their teacher above all that, as they believed he was too important to mess with taxes and the drudgery of common life. And yet Jesus as aware that the small tax to be paid was a way to honor and respect the people of Capernaum. Jesus was a guest, and knew there more could be won by offering the honor expected than being above it all. The disciples had no money to give and in Jesus sending them to go fishing, he reminds us all of the importance of honoring and respecting others' traditions, despite our lack, confusion or misunderstanding. We are invited to know that as we honor others God is glorified.

Today, I ask God to help me honor others, and to never cause offense or hurt. We can do so much good by our work and undo it in a few short moments by insensitivity and ignorance. May we be moved today to care for the small and common things of human relations, so that all people might glorify God and not be bound by anger and hurt. May our love of God bring us a renewed humility, knowing that the smallest acts can bring the biggest transformations.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moving Mountains

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:14-20

Yesterday was the final day of Niobrara Convocation. We had a wonderful Eucharist and give away as our last morning together. There are so many wonderful ministries and communities represented. There is so much work to be done, and so much need that never seems to get met. It can be easy to see the lack, and easy to lose faith. I came away, watching the hills and the buffalo herds pass by, giving thanks for the amazing people I met in the past few days. We can focus on the challenges, and lose our hope and momentum. Or we can look to the beauty of the hills and the love of the people, and ask God to give us the strength and the faith to move mountains and change lives.

Jesus is asked to heal a little boy who has frustrated everyone else. The boy was suffering and no one was able to help him. Their fear and hopelessness defeated their faith. It can happen to the strongest one of us, when the storms and the frustrations are relenting and we lose our grasp on faith. Jesus reminds us that we are to hold fast, dig our heals in and continue to expect God to deliver miracles, despite the signs otherwise. God invites us to expect mountains to be moved for the love others and the transformation and healing of our world. We can be weak and frustrated at moments, by God's design and desire is for healing and miracles for all the people.

Today, as I travel home I ask God to renew and deepen my faith so that I may be a vessel of the in-breaking of God's reign. May discouragement and obstacles melt away, and may we be as stubborn and fast in our faith, so that the world might be renewed and reborn in our day. May we be agents of God's love, that love which is always moving to healing and grace upon grace, abundance beyond our imagining. May we stand firm for God's love, no matter what is ahead, knowing that God has more dreams and hopes for us.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seeds of Change

Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."

He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. Mark 4:26-34

Seeds of Change

The winter was soft and mild
but the ground froze hard and we ached
waiting for the light to lengthen
and the world to turn again.

The deep cold nights bundled
under quilts and skins we dreamed
harvest golds and green
of sweet berries and ripe squash
a table set and full for all the relatives.

When the light returned we prayed
and crawled out to greet the sun
our hungry bellies singing with hope
our arms open to love.

We stripped off the winter blankets
and dug deep into the soil
thankful with each row each turning
to God who brings us life.

When we planted the seeds we dreamed again
of all the people who we could serve
of all the hands and mouths that would sing
and all the little ones be full.

Waiting as the seeds are growing
asking for enough rain and sunlight
watching tender shoots and weeds alike
we ask for God's blessing on our gardens.

May the harvest be plentiful O Creator
may our hands not fail at tending the young
may all of our lives be lived for others
and may the little ones be filled.

The Collect

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A New Winter Count

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.Matthew 17:1-10

We had a powerful experience yesterday at Niobrara Convocation. A buffalo hide was taken out of a barrel and was revealed to have a winter count that reflected the life of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Luke. The outward spiraling circle told the story in pictures, and the artist, Cody Goodhouse, told of how, in older times, the winter counts would start in the center and spiral outward, like hair grows in a baby from the crown outward -a story that grows and expands with each experience. In more recent times, people had made winter counts spiraling from outside in, waiting for life's end. The barrel had been used by a former bishop of North Dakota who had made the people put away all of their Indian-ness and he locked their items away in the barrel. It was a powerful experience, a liberating, and transforming moment for everyone gathered. Ancient pain had been redeemed and the cord of love have been rewoven for the ages.

The story of the transfiguration is a transforming moment, when the disciples see a glimpse of the true nature of Christ and his relationship to the faithful forebears and relatives. They saw a vision of the holiness and connectedness of their experience and ministry tied as a cord of love throughout history. They had no idea what to do with their profound moment, at the time. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, they understood more completely the gift they had received. A moment that changed everything and tied them to the past and through to the future, even to us today. We are the inheritors of their witness and carriers of the story of God's love for the world.

Today, may we all recognize that everything we do can be acts of tearing down or of rebuilding, of destroying or renewing. May our hands and hearts, our words and deeds be used this day for retying broken cords, for mending broken hoops, for binding up the wounds of the people, and setting free the people and their ways which have been crated up for too long. May our lives model the love that is given by God and which flows through us. May we honor God by our acts of love, compassion and forgiveness this day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28

One of favorite themes from my aunt Kay WalkingStick's paintings are the legs on the move. They tell the story of a people on the move, being relocated and taken from familiar and home to reserved lands, or people fleeing from being penned in. As Native people, many of our histories includes tragic times of removal and relocation. We are people who understand what it means to take up one's cross.

Today, we hear the Gospel story of Jesus preparing his disciples for the hard times ahead. They don't want to hear it. None of us wants to hear about the challenges ahead, nor do we want to live in times of great turmoil and crisis. We want home, security and constancy in all things. That is a normal human desire. And yet, Jesus reminds us all that we will be called to take up our cross, and in the face of many challenges, to follow him. We have to take up our anxiety, our worries, our joblessness, our pain - whatever it is, we must carry it and follow. The promise of following is greater and more than we can imagine. Abundance and healing in new lands and prosperity beyond our dreams. But there will be trials, and pain, challenges a plenty on the road.

Today I give thanks for the crosses I bear, and ask God to help me be grateful for those and to keep moving as I follow. May our lives be offerings to God's great blessings in our lives, not counting the pain and suffering but looking forward with joy to the days ahead. For all we do, we do for God and the people. We are called to follow and to bear the weight of today, trusting that the road ahead will be a blessing, for us and for those whom we serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On a Rock

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20

The skies lit up with lightening last night and the thunder was loud and constant for a while. From my window, looking over the plains I could see the thunder heads moving across the night sky. Storms are different here than by the ocean, and yet, they can have the same effect no matter where we are. We all face storms, and especially in this economy and in these times, they can be overwhelming.

Simon Peter does not hold back. He tells it like it is. He has realized who Jesus is by his experience with him, as Jesus has tenderly fed and healed the masses while facing the scorn and abuse of the religious leadership. Peter has an ah-ha and shouts out his understanding with a firm voice and deep conviction. He is neither a shy man, nor does he have much self-control but he has huge faith and a depth of honesty and transparency that is unique. And it is Peter who is the rock on which the very human church is built, with all the strengths and weaknesses of any human structure but with one difference. The foundation, the bed-rock is an absolute rock-solid relationship with God, one that stands up to every storm. We are invited to cling to the rock which, despite many many challenges, stands firm against the abuse and scorn of the greedy world.

Today I ask God to help me to stand firm and to hang in there. We all have days when our humanity is tested. We all have moments when God can feel far off. And yet, may we cling to the bed rock, that relationship with God, which knows us and formed us in our mother's womb, and which, when all hell breaks loose, is sure and steady despite the destruction and pain around us. May we hold firm today, because we are grounded and be willing always to offer a hand and strength to those who are slipping away and on the edge of being lost.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For Freedom

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:1-15

I am in Bismark enjoying some free time before we begin many meetings and Niobrara Convocation this weekend. I am thrilled to be here and to share in the ministries of the Diocese and our Native leadership. I am always humbled when I am here, knowing how much is done on so little, and how everyone, from Bishop to local leaders, chose to serve one another and offer all they have to the glory of God and the care of the people. I always come away inspired and humbled, knowing that in this majestic place, we could be anxious and struggling, but instead I witness daily moments of humility and tender care.

The letter to the Galatians, encourages the new church to remain faithful in the face of many challenges. Freedom is our gift from God, but we must be aware daily of the discipline and humility by which we must live. The gift of freedom is fragile, and we can become bound when we let pride and selfishness constrict us. We are only truly free when we offer ourselves to the service of God and one another. God's real freedom comes when we offer ourselves for the care of the world.

Today, as we gather here in Bismark, may our precious freedom in Christ be evident in our humility and service. May all that we do be an offering to God and for the care of the people. There are many needs, and God has promised to be with us as we offer our gifts and lives for the care of the people. May everything we do this day reflect God's love and freedom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Abundance in the Wilderness

Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. Matthew 15:29-39

In these lean times, it can be very practical and sometimes necessary to cut budgets and limit spending. Unfortunately, the budgets that get cut in most churches are not the maintenance but the outreach. Bricks and mortar can be so demanding that we forget who we are called to serve. In Native ministries, we always function on extremely limited budgets and are often first cut from budgets. And yet, there is joy among those who seemingly have little because God has blessed us with an abundance of hospitality and community.

Jesus finds himself surrounded by need. People with broken bodies come to him for healing. The people were amazed and continued all day to bring their wounded family members, the ones they thought had no hope, the child they thought might never thrive - all these came to him for the healing touch of God. And Jesus, who healed them all also understood he could not send them away empty and hungry. He looked at the smaller needs as important as the big ones. The small offering of a few small loaves and fish became enough for the entire crowd, with leftovers. And so it is with all we do when God is with us. We may start with the smallest amount, and we seem to have little to offer, but if we give what we have, God will provide the increase and even the abundance.

Today, as I travel and make ready for the days ahead, may I have joy in knowing that there will be more than I can imagine, and that God will provide all that we need in the coming days. May we offer ourselves freely, and may we offer what we have, no matter how small our gifts might seems, joyfully expecting that God will find a way to fill the needs of the people. May we remember that we are called to offer what we have, and God has promised to bless our offerings beyond reason and imagining for the blessing of the whole world.

Monday, June 11, 2012

O Woman

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:21-28

Every once in a while I think on the blessings God has sent my way. I have been lately thinking of the women who have led our church in the past decades and who, clergy and lay alike, have been women of incredible faith. I particularly am recalling two brave women who headed Native ministries for a long time, Carol Hampton and Owanah Anderson. They fought for participation for Native people in every role in the church, and they treated us all like sons and daughters, bringing us along and teaching us as they went. They fought for us with gracious words and firm hands, never backing down from ignorance or a challenge. As I look around the church today and see several Native women ordained in recent months, I rejoice for God is empowering these women of great faith.

Jesus was ready to turn away from a Canaanite woman who was begging him. He was ready to allow her to pass him by, since their cultures and the religious creeds dictated constant separation and alienation. Jesus was a man of his time and of his upbringing, and even he had some human ignorance to overcome. This one mother, persistent and unbending, turned his mind around, and opened up his heart. He saw her as a sister and a friend and knew that he faith made her bold. And a little girl was made well because of her incredible faith. The Canaanite woman was not going to allow the cultural and traditional taboos to stand in the way of life. And in this story, God invites us to be those who never stand in the way but instead fight life mama bears for the life of her cubs.

Today, as I begin a journey that will land me at Niobrara Convocation in North Dakota, may every thing I do be for the life and faith of others. May we all take responsibility for those who follow behind, fighting for their faith and life, encouraging them and boldly standing firm on the full inclusion of all people. Our humanity is prone to exclusion, but as faithful followers, we are called to put love first, and offer our lives in the raising up and protecting others in their journey of the spirit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A House Divided

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

"Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:20-35

A House Divided

They don't remember how it started
a little crack turned to a fissure
They erupt with hurt and anger
and ache for love to come again.

A house divided cannot stand
our toil is that of mending and darning
turning holes into whole cloth again
and making new rooms for love.

My brothers and sisters are outside
and my family too is here with me
there is not inside or out
not exiles, rejected or deportees
blood and water can bring birth
but love and inclusion brings family.

A house divided cannot stand
our toil is that of mending and darning
turning holes into whole cloth again
and making new rooms for love.

We are different you and me
alike but dissimilar tenor and alto
we sing harmony in the choir
and round our every chord.

A house divided cannot stand
our toil is that of mending and darning
turning holes into whole cloth again
and making new rooms for love.

God has made this messy group one family
how can we but grow together?
Learning to forgive and start anew
dancing in the moonlight letting regret
and fury pass out into the night.

A house divided cannot stand
our toil is that of mending and darning
turning holes into whole cloth again
and making new rooms for love.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breaking Tradition

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:1-20

Years ago, when I was in my final year in seminary, I got to be part of an extraordinary event. Barbara Harris was elected in Massachusetts as the first female bishop in the Episcopal Church. As a woman and a seminarian I was awed by her accomplishment, and daily heard of the many, many challenges she faced. Before the service (and after) her life was regularly threatened and she had escorts for her safety every where she went. She was heckled and discounted but she held her head high understanding mission and serving God as her priority. At the consecration, despite the voices who challenged her ordination, she was gracious and dignified, as was the Presiding Bishop. We had been briefed the night before as to the protocol for a violent attack, and heard from the Boston Police as well as the FBI as to how to conduct ourselves. As a woman about to be ordained I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her courage and her zeal, and honor her to this day for being willing to break tradition. She made my election possible, and all of the women bishops, and there are still only a handful of us, have Barbara Harris to thank for her leadership and example.

The religious leaders are attacking Jesus and his followers for not following the letter of the law, the human traditions that served practical purposes in previous generations but which did not necessarily apply to the present circumstances. Jesus reminded the authorities that these laws were made by men, and that God's laws are born out of compassion and love in response to the needs of the people. He was not a law-breaker, but one who knew all too well that tradition and rules can choke out the Holy Spirit, can sideline important people and their gifts. Standing up to tradition and long held rules can be very daunting. And God invites us to honor the gifts of all those who come before us, honoring them and the people who have been moved to change for the kingdom of God.

Today I want to honor all those who are willing to answer God's call in the face of traditional restrictions, that have called them less than and not qualified. We have shut many from leadership due to language, race, gender and sexuality, and a plethora of other reasons that challenged our traditional notions. May we have the courage to see the spirit moving in the most unlikely, and may we see God's hand on those who we have so completely shut out and dismissed. May God break open our hearts and minds today, to see with compassion and creativity to the heart of God.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Do not be afraid

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Matthew 14:22-36

When I was in college I worked in a daycare. It was the first to take two year olds (the laws were very different back then) and was always full to capacity. The center was in Govans in Baltimore City, so we had a wide range of children from many different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. I loved reading to the kids before nap time. One of our favorite books was called "Don't Be Scared!" and it featured situations where children might be scared - monsters under the bed, shadows, dark of night etc- and shed light on the situation, making it silly and more bearable. At the beginning and end of each chapter it was written "don't be scared!" and the kids loved to scram the words when I got to that part. When Mark and I got married that spring, the kids had made us a big poster that said "don't be scared!"

Jesus walking on the water is so familiar to us that we talk about amazing people as being able to walk on water. It is one of the high bars for phenomenal people. But in truth, none of us walks on water, and Peter, who attempted to walk on water in the presence of the divine, stumbled and sunk in the process. We are all fearful. It is part of human nature, and we are hardwired to be fearful out of self-protection. No one is fearless and those who say they are live in a state of denial. God is the source of miracles and love (which I consider the greatest miracle- love) and we have so much to gain by admitting our need and our fears and offering them to God. None of us wants to sink like a stone, and none of us wants to be swept away in a violent storm. Our story reminds us that God comes to us in the midst of our worst storms, when we are paralyzed by fear and feeling so abandoned and alone, and takes charge of the winds and the waves and love brings us safely home. God reminds us this day, " Don't be scared!"

Today I ask God to help us admit our fears and our needs and expect miracles. We have lived to long trying to go it on our own, trying to walk on water, trying to calm all the storms. We are invited today to cry out for help, to pray, to acknowledge our need and seek love at every turn. There are storms ahead and storms behind, and there is much good reason to be afraid when we rely on ourselves alone. God promises to come to us and bring us safely home. May be fearless as we bring God's love and promise to those who are most vulnerable today.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pastures of Plenty

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21

Years ago, when we lived in Boulder, Colorado, we had a friend with some land north of Longmont. We had a group of friends that we had met at church and we all decided, at his invitation, to have a cooperative garden, to work the land together and to share the vegetables equally. He was generous with his land and we were eager to give it our best. We met, week after week to till the soil and to plant, making sure we had a rota of folks who came back during the week to weed and water. After several months and what looked like a bumper crops, we returned one Saturday morning to find that every last plant had been wiped out. It was the year of the locust and they hatched hungry and found our garden. Fortunately, none of us was relying on the garden for sustenance completely. But I am reminded how many, many folks rely on what their hands can produce, what they can scrounge in the streets or what they can beg and barter from soup kitchens and other charities. We were devastated by locusts but the hurt was surface. Many are still hungry and ache to be full.

We hear the very familiar story of Jesus feeding the five thousand and wonder how this incredible miracle of filling and abundance happened. God moves in ways we cannot understand but God's movement is always to fill the hungry with good things, to prepare tables in the wilderness and to sit with the poor and needy at all times. We live in a society that too often locks out the poor and the needy, and yet God invites us today to sit with those who have nothing and watch as God again preforms miracles. From a very little offering many can be fed, with leftovers to take home for the week. God urges to move where there is need and see how God finds a way to bring abundance.

Today, I invites us all to remember the hungry who are right in front of us and all around us. Those who are hungry for food and those who are hungry for spiritual strength, for sustenance deep and sustaining. Today we are invited to hear old words ring anew, of the struggle for people to be free and well fed, for the poor to be seen and included in our communities. The abundance we lack is of our own devising. God's abundance is for everyone, at all times. May we be the agents of change, so that everyone mat sit in the cool of the meadow, be full and satisfied and listen to the heart of God in their midst.

Pastures of Plenty
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

It's a mighty hard row that my poor hands have hoed
My poor feet have traveled a hot dusty road
Out of your Dust Bowl and Westward we rolled
And your deserts were hot and your mountains were cold

I worked in your orchards of peaches and prunes
I slept on the ground in the light of the moon
On the edge of the city you'll see us and then
We come with the dust and we go with the wind

California, Arizona, I harvest your crops
Well its North up to Oregon to gather your hops
Dig the beets from your ground, cut the grapes from your vine
To set on your table your light sparkling wine

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down
Every state in the Union us migrants have been
We'll work in this fight and we'll fight till we win

It's always we rambled, that river and I
All along your green valley, I will work till I die
My land I'll defend with my life if it be
Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free.

Link to hear Pete Seegar play this song -

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:1-12

I grew up in a town where many of my classmates could have anything and everything they wanted. One of my friends mom was a famous actress, another classmate was driven to school in a limo. These same kids had high end brand new vehicles as soon as, or even before they could legally drive. Some went to the alps skiing for winter break or to some exclusive island where they had a home. As a clergy kid, living in hand-me-downs and doing our own lawn, I found in the long run, I was rarely truly jealous. They were just as miserable as all the other kids I knew, and rarely interacted with their all too busy parents. Of course it would have been nice to have the things they had, but I had a family and a faith community and was never alone.

We hear the story of the beheading of John the Baptist. A very spoiled woman was furious because of the the truth John was telling. A selfish mother, she had her daughter dance to please the king and then, ask for her own prize. She neither danced nor thought of anyone but herself. And because of her selfish fury, John lost his head, and was ridiculed as his head was paraded around in front of a room full of wealthy drunks. We humans can be ever so cruel and ever so selfish. And money and possessions can give us the ability to destroy others. God moves in the midst of cruelty and jealousy, in times of betrayal and abuse. God has no heart for those who would put wealth and position over another life. And God stands with the betrayed and the bereaved, the selfless and the sacrificing.

Today, may we all determine to act selflessly, no matter how big our need, no matter how large our desires. God can and will move in a compassionate heart and more is gained by acting in kindness and tenderness than was ever won by gold, beauty or selfishness. All that selfishness wins is temporary. Love is eternal and God, who is love, inhabits hearts of love and takes residence with those who will selflessly live for others.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


>And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:53-58

One of my favorite musicians of all times has been Arlo Guthrie. He had a way of writing and performing that was never glamorous but always made him one of the folks. And he was always writing with a sense of humor, a lightness that echoed rejection and loss, even at an early age. Despite the humor and foolishness he sang with, there was a deep owning of the truth about humanity -our frailty and our pettiness, and how we put politics and success over family and compassion. We had the opportunity to see Arlo, his band and his family perform at NJPAC in Newark shortly after Thanksgiving several years ago.

Jesus finds himself at home, among the people that know him best. And yet, Jesus can do very little of any power because of their rejection and disbelief. They have an image of him as a child, running with the other kids and a sweaty youth working along side his father. He is not, in their minds worthy of respect and honor. The religious leadership in his community just won't accept that he has grown into something beyond their imagining. As young people, and as adults also, we are often rejected by the people who think they know us. Not all community is good community. The good news of this gospel is that Jesus understands rejection and hurt at the hands of those who should honor him the most. He gets the pain we receive, the rebuff and the misunderstandings, and willingly acknowledged the fruitlessness of fighting or trying to persuade folks otherwise.

Today, for all of those who have been rejected and spurned, misunderstood and denied, isolated, ostracized, or dismissed, I want to remind us all that God is right here with us. In the rejection and the powerlessness, in the hurt and in the sorrow. God promises also that there is more opportunity to exercise gifts, and people and places that will honor and support. God is not away from us when we are in exile but with us completely, holding us lightly and tenderly as we await new direction and new community.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Kingdom of Heaven Like a Treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:44-52

The Kingdom of Heaven Like a Treasure
a poem from a grateful mother

I read your words on the page
and tears well up in my eyes
you are still the little brown haired girl
somersaulting on the beach at sunset
you are still the one with blue hair in a helmet
you are still the one clearing the ER
you three are my treasures sent from heaven.

I see the work you do with pride
I laugh when we talk on the phone
I still see missing teeth and summer showers
hoses and shampoo in the back yard
the days went by so quickly I prayed
and God sent me angels.

God sent me angels with sweet singing voices
and tough attitudes who scare priests
southerners and lacrosse opponents
and who weep when the stars fall from the sky.

God sent me pearls
of great price with equal parts of folk fest
rock and roll and sacred music
and full kind hearts who see friends
in the darkest corners of the earth.

There is no field I would buy
there is no pearl or jewel I will pursue
not full nets that would substitute
for God's kingdom on earth
that I know in your smiles.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, 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 a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just 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.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:1-17

Trinity Sunday is one of those Sundays where we get the chance to explain the mystery of doctrine from the pulpit. The problem with getting hung up on doctrine is that we forget to remember that it is all about relationship. The intimacy of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - One God in Three -so intertwined and interdependent that we are not to separate them in our understanding, can perplex many. And yet, it is simple, yet intentional binding together, where God is willing to be understood and manifest in several ways, all of them cooperating and continuing in one another.

Jesus has a very important religious scholar and leader come to him under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus seeks out Jesus as he wants to understand the gift that this man brings. It is the gift of relationship to God, being born again in the family of God, uncoerced but welcome and desired. God with the Son and Holy Spirit invite us to an intimacy of mother and child, of deep dependence and deeper joy.

Today, on this beautiful June Sunday, I ask God to help us shed the wounds and hurts of our birthing, the scars that some of our families have left, and open ourselves up to being born of the family of God - water and spirit on deep and abiding relationship. No matter what our broken vessels have endured, God wants us to be a part of the family of God.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Fight the Good Fight

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16

I had the opportunity to meet Bishop Tutu at one of my first House of Bishop's meetings. I had heard about him and read his writings, but was awed to have the opportunity to meet him. In one of our sessions, he was verbally challenged, with some anger, for his statements about the church being homophobic. I was angry on his behalf, but Bishop Tutu smiled, and with enormous compassion apologized for offending the person and went on to say he was only being faithful to where he understood God calling him. His love, steadfastness and gentleness took my breath away. And it was then I realized what a true warrior of God was. There is no real training to be this kind of warrior, just years and years of faithfulness, practice and constant humility.

Today we take a step away from the Gospel to hear from the letter to Timothy. Practical advice for those who are facing great adversity, storms and temptations. Instead of worrying about being right, and having all the things of life, the writer of the letter suggests that we focus on faithfulness by living humbly. A much harder task than being right, having wealth, or winning the big game. We are encouraged to make the life of faith our focus and to become warriors of the faiths using only gentleness, love and humility as the weapons against the onslaughts and abuses of life.

Today I ask God to help me continue to practice gentleness, humility and love in the face of attacks and despair. May we keep in mind today living examples like Bishop Tutu, who faced with an evil government, imprisonment and abuse, held firm to his faith and acts always with love and gentleness. May we be known by our love and kindness this day so that we might be known as those who are faithful and who live to serve others.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mustard Tree and Leaven

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”
Matthew 13:31-35

Two things that bring me great joy are working in the garden and making bread. There is something very powerful and intimate about getting elbow deep in the work and producing food for one's family. Both working a garden and making bread take patience and persistence and a willingness to get messy, covered in flour and dirt. I remember many times when our girls were young when making bread I was interrupted by a phone call. My girls would tease me because telephone receiver would be covered in dried dough. I spent a good deal of time scrubbing up afterwards, but there is no way to make bread, of care for a garden, without getting messy. In former generations, these tasks were the daily labor, often of the women folk, but for me it is a choice. There is something very holy and right about getting close to the earth and the food we consume.

Jesus continues to tell the followers parables. A parable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more lessons, or a normative principle. Jesus drew pictures with words, with images from everyday life that would have a powerful impact on his listeners. The mustard seed and leaven were completely familiar to the audience, and they would understand the remarkable image of God's kingdom as a mustard seed or leaven. We might not so much, as we don't daily interact with these items. We are invited to see and know God's reign, as coming to us in the smallest event, gesture or relationship, and blossoming into sanctuary, shade and safety, as well as food, flavor and daily sustenance.

Today, may we all be moved by the powerful and intimate connection God has established with us, and may we invite God into our small daily moments, into every relationship and gesture, so that God's kingdom might blossom in the midst of us. May we see and know God with us, at table with us, and with us in our labors and in our rest. May the roots of God's love and compassion take hold in us so that we might share the love we have been given with others. May our small encounters this day, become transfroming moments of faith, so that God's reign of love and healing might be known today.