Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Division and Obstacles

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:17-20

Our own egos can get in the way of faith and growth - ours and others. When I was a little girl I was asked to sing a solo in the church. I was very proud of myself until I witnessed a horrifying event. My mother was standing to one side after church being berated by a powerful church member. He raised his voice as I got close. He told her the only reason I got the solo was because I was the ministers' child and that we were all spoiled and obnoxious. My mother was in tears. I wanted to run as the man stormed off, but instead all I knew to do was take her hand and hug her. My faith in the adults who were Christian leaders was shattered that day.

The letter to the Romans is very clear how the divisions and obstacles devised by our selfishness can damage and destroy faith. We are all subject, as normal human beings, to wanting control and importance, rather sharing God's love with others. We are all weak at times, and can stand n the way of another faith development. Those who outright destroy the faith of an innocent are subject to great judgment. God invites us today to examine our lives and behavior, so that our words and works bring the heart of God to all people. We can block love as easily as sharing it, and God invites us to get rid of the obstacles and divisions that hurt the most vulnerable among us.

Today I ask God to help me take care in everything I do so that I may encourage faith in all those I encounter today. May I take my role and responsibility seriously, humbling myself in order that others might have faith. May we all be willing to put aside our divisions for the sake of others, and rid ourselves of controls and obstacles that would keep the innocent from the knowledge of God. May we be bearers of peace and may love be our all today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Longer Slave or Free

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:23-29

Today, for the very first time, I was able to ride my bicycle without my right foot flopping off or tremendous pain. Since before my back surgery, my ability to ride has been very limited. Riding a bike is something very basic to me, and it was a treasured bike that brought Mark to Cape May Point for the very first time. Biking is part of my spiritual experience as well as physical, and the joy of finally riding again brought tears to my eyes. I felt freed from the bondage of pain and illness, and although I have a long way to go to be completely strong again, I feel like I am making some progress.

The letter to the Galatians reminds me today how easy it is to separate ourselves from others by ethnicity, color, language, traditions and economies. The gift of the writer to the Galatians, and to all of us, is that we can see the relationship we have to every one, and we are bound to love the whole of humanity because of Christ's love for us all. We are not weak and strong, healthy or broken, wealthy or poor, but co-heirs of the love of God which is always working for our transformation and our healing.

Today, I give thanks to God that none of us is left behind or outside of the circle of God's compassion and love. We are all one family, and invited to see others ans relatives and not strangers, sharing both our strengths and weaknesses and carrying each others' burdens. May we, in this time of Olympic fervor, remember those who cannot run, walk or swim, and cheer each other on as beloved family members, not seeing difference as a challenge but as a true gift of God.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Do not be Afraid

Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. John 6:1-21

I think traveling can be invigorating, seeing new places and meeting new people. It can also be challenging and scary for many. We have to leave our comfortable surroundings and our familiar things and be vulnerable to the whims of weather, tides and air traffic control. Storms come up and we have no where to hunker down. And in new places we can be unable to find food and rest, when we are so far from our homes. There are many things that can frighten us when we leave our comfort zones.

Jesus had compassion on the crowd, so far from home and unprepared for the simple necessities of life. The small boy's lunch becomes a feast, despite the anxiety and fear of the disciples. And out on the water, the disciples are afraid again and Jesus gives them another experience of faith and trust despite our fears. We are invited by God today to take trusting seriously, despite the turns in the road and the waves on the sea. God's activity is always about our care and protection, finding us food in the wilderness and safety as we face the swells of life.

Today, I ask God to deepen my trust and give me faith to pray in every instance. Instaed of being defeated by the storms and the swells, may I use these moments as opportunities to pray and expect miracles. May we all trust God enough to entrust our every need to the Creator who loves us perfectly and completely.

The Collect

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Matthew 27:11-14

We arrived home after a long car trip and the bustle of New York City. Everyone seems to be plugged in while they walk the streets, talking on phones, texting or listening to music. So much noise on the streets, car horns and sirens that one can be overwhelmed and miss what is being said in conversation. There is something very solid and comforting about the silence, the quiet of the evening, as the light settles slowly in the west. There is a reverence and a thoughtfulness in the silence, a sense of home and security that noise and busy-ness can never provide.

Today in our Gospel, Jesus is on trial for his life. His answer is not defense but rather silence, a deep trusting of the Creator to bring the world back into balance and to accomplish what God had set out to do. His silence is neither ignorance or fear, something we know all too well, but rather, is the willingness to stand and listen to the activity of God. It is a solid trust in an infinite and active love.

Today, I ask God to help me settle in and be silent, in order to listen to the heart of God. May we all take time to listen and breath, trusting God to love us beyond the trails of today, and provide us direction for tomorrow. Not every question has an answr today, but God has abundant love for us all and more than enough solutions for all of our tomorrows.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Some Days

Feast Day of William Reed Huntington

Looking up to heaven, Jesus said, "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:20-26

We arrived in New York City very late last night after a long day of travel and several delays and mishaps on the way. Needless to say, we are in one peace and were taken care of by several good Samaritans and helpful folks who got us on our way to where we needed to go. Despite the twists and turns in all our adventures, God finds a way to help us all, and gives us new strength every morning.

W R Huntington, although never a bishop, had more influence on the Episcopal Church than most bishops. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1838, the son of a physician, studied at Harvard, and was ordained a priest in 1862. In each of the thirteen General Conventions (held every three years, in years that have a remainder of 2 when divided by 3) of the Episcopal Church that met between 1870 and his death, he was a member, and indeed the most prominent member, of the House of Deputies. In 1871 he moved for the restoration of the ancient Order of Deaconesses, which was finally officially authorized in 1889. His parish became a center for the training of deaconesses. Huntington's was the chief voice calling for a revision of the Book of Common Prayer (completed in 1892), and his the greatest single influence on the process of revision. The prayers he wrote for it include the following, used during Holy Week and on Fridays.

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today I am reminded that we all have ministries no matter to what order we are called, and God uses a variety of folks to increase the Gospel and mission of the church. May we all do our part, for friends and neighbors alike, trusting that God is using our gifts and encouraging others through us. May we be strengthened for service today, knowing that we are not alone but that Christ empowers us, and uses even our weakness for the good of God's reign.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Good Parenting

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1:26-33

Yesterday was our last day in Sitka for a while. We spent the afternoon sight-seeing and visiting with the bears in the rescue center. I took a short nap and over-slept, being late for the 5:30 service. I was embarrassed and thought folks might think badly of me, but in the loving community, they sang and prayed and made room when I arrived, not harboring ill feelings but instead restoring me and be gentle with our shared humanity. No greater gift can we give each other, than when we can see with the eyes of love and feel compassion like the heart of God.

Today is the feast day of the parents of the Mother of God. The Scriptures tell us nothing about the parents of the Virgin Mother, not even their names. An early but unreliable document, known as the Proto-Gospel of James, calls them Ann and Joachim, by which names they are customarily known. Our only real information about them, however, is an inference from the kind of daughter they reared. The gift of loving, faithful parents cannot be underestimated. Another set of parents may have shunned their daughter and turned away from her off-spring. They might have killed her, which would have been their right within the law. But they had faith beyond the law, they were imprinted with the law of love, straight from the heart of God, and no amount of negative publicity would destroy that love in them.

Today, as we travel home, I pray that we can carry the law of love stamped upon us, and live as people who are forgiven and embraced in our full humanity. May we be full of God's grace, following the example of the parents of Mary, that we might embrace and encourage God's activity in all of our lives. May we not be felled by mean words, or cruel judgements, but rather carry on in their spirit, filled with love from the heart of God.

The Collect

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In A Rough Spot

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” Matthew 26:57-68

One of the things I have learned in my life is that there is real danger in demonizing people who we disagree with or who are different. It is too easy to find half-truths to fit their rejection. I have seen so many people in so many lovely communities turn on others, in what began as a difference of opinion, and turn that into a reason for shunning and rejection. So many church communities have come apart when good people find themselves in different corners. We are all more like caged animals when we are backed into a corner. Life always finds us in times of rough spots, when things are scary and uneasy, but I also found prayer and forgiveness was a better response than rejection. We need each other too much.

Jesus was in a rough spot. Lies were being told and none of his followers were asked for their insight. The powers that be had demonized him, and were finding reasons to give them an excuse to get rid of him. The evidence was overwhelming of his love, compassion and healing. He cared for and ministered to the common folks and that was a threat. Faith has no part when a person becomes a threat to the power structure and the way life has been. Fear of loss plays a big part in many of our arguments and divisions. Jesus came to heal and make new. We are often, as humans, afraid of change and new vision. No matter how obstinate, angry and fearful we are, God promises to be in the midst of our roughest places. Faced with death and ridicule, Jesus was not abandoned by God, and we are never abandoned by God either, no matter how awful the circumstances might seem.

Today, I ask God to help us all be emissaries of God's peace. Today I offer the well-known prayer of St. Francis which invites us all to enter the darkest places with prayers and faithful expectation of God's loving presence with us always.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Passing Judgement

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:1-12

Passing Judgment

So many have been set aside
they did not fit the idea in our heads
we who think we know best have cast
the lovely aside.

God knows our hearts and our fears
we do not walk alone
let us love for the day is short
and hurt is harbored too long.

The young can scare us
their language and their signs
the old who are bent and full of dreams
still frighten us from welcome.

God knows our hearts and our fears
we do not walk alone
let us love for the day is short
and forgiveness and welcome are our aim.

We know how to behave and yet fail
we are weak and think ourselves better
we bend others to our wills
so we don't have to show our vulnerability.

God knows our hearts and our fears
we do not walk alone
let us love for the day is short
making room for strangers to become friends.

Many stand outside aching for a home
aching to be invited to the banquet
hoping to have a community of friends
that accepts us as we are.

God knows our hearts and our fears
we do not walk alone
let us love for the day is short
and we know the sting of isolation.

Those rejected will be elected
those who were shunned are known to God
those who come in need will leave in power
and we are called to make room today.

God knows our hearts and our fears
we do not walk alone
let us love for the day is short
for God loves those we fear
and calls us to invite
passing no judgement but
loving from the heart of God.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Watch and Pray

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matthew 26:36-46


The link above is for a video from the Taize community sings a wonderful song called "Watch and Pray", which has always inspired me at times of trials and great change.

When our children were young, it was often difficult to get one or another to sleep, especially when they were sick. We would take turns watching them, reading to them, cajoling them and more often than not, falling asleep beside them on the bed while the child remained awake and sick. We are human, all of us, and when sleep overwhelms us, it is hard to remain attention, awake and alert.

Jesus was at a crisis point, something we don't see often in the Gospels. His humanity and need drove him to pray, to speak with his heart about the suffering and change that was ahead. There was no false pride or macho athletic ranting. Instead, he acknowledged his fear and vulnerability and that of his friends. He knew they weren't up to the task -none of us really is- but he asked for endurance and strength to meet the day after asking for the cup to be taken from him. He ached for his disciples to know his weakness, not his strength, his humanity and not his godliness. They were too sleepy to enter that vulnerable place with him. But we are invited to understand that God in Christ knows the desperation and fear of our darkest moments and has lived those moments, so to live them with us. We are not alone.

Today, I ask for the faith to see God working in every conversation and every encounter. May God presence bring compassion and true understanding, so that we all know we are not alone but facing our worst fears with the presence of a loving Creator, one who loves us each beyond measure. May we act boldly and with compassion today, knowing there is enough love to go around and even plenty to share for the sake of the world.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sheep without a Shepherd

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

I remember when I was a new mother, especially when there were three girls at home, how easy it was to have a whole day go by and forget to shower, have a real meal or finish any task I had set before me. Those times were incredibly precious and are so long gone now. Then, it seemed like forever that my daughters' needs would be so great and overwhelm me. Now, I miss their constant noise and interruption and wonder how I could have ever minded it at all. They needed me and truly I loved being needed by them.

Jesus recognized how thrilled and exhausted the disciples were from all their ministry. He tried to give them time for respite and sabbath, but the need of the people was so great. They had been so neglected, so shut off from God's love and so controlled by the religious establishment, that they came running at any rumor of his presence. The need of the people was overwhelming and Jesus knew his time was short, and that God would give him the strength and compassion to be present for all of their need. He knew their humanity, both the disciples' and the people, and his desire was to heal them, strengthen them and renew them for the service of others. People are still in need of healing and ministers still in need of respite. Sometimes that means we are to be drenched in work and service, and sometimes we are called to quiet and rest. God is calling us this day to find ways to encourage all of us to be renewed in Christ's love.

Today I ask God for an equal measure of insight and strength. Insight to know how to love and care for others who come to me, and strength to respond to the need and the call. And both to know when to rest and reflect so that I might be a faithful servant at all times. May we all strive for God's insight and strength today, so that all we do might bring healing and renewal for those in need, and bring God's love near to those who have been separated for too long.

The Collect

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Body and Blood

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” Matthew 26:26-29

When I picture my family I think about the places we most commonly gathered - around a meal table or in a pew at church. We would often sing in both places. My Dad loved to get out his old service hymnals and have us sing after dinner. There are hymns that can take me back to those times, things that remind me of the living presence of those I no longer see. Those small, intimate moments of a meal or a pew shared, remind me of the power of love in my life, no matter where I find myself.

Jesus has a final meal with his friends and shared bread and wine with them. This moment has become central to who we are as Christians, the bread and wine around the table with family. A shared meal that draws us back together and into the powerful love of God, a meal that draws us beyond our human frailties and binds us with strength and the everlasting power of God's blessing in our lives. We are encouraged today to remember what God's love has done for us and continues to do for us today as we share with others.

Today I ask God to rebuild in me God's love and power through sharing with others. May the sacrifice of Christ be made real, as we gather to serve one another. May we be made one family, with all our frailties and challenges, as we recognize and trust in God's love and power in our lives.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Time at Hand

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:17-25

We arrived in Sitka in the early afternoon yesterday and had a wonderful welcome and reception. It is a place of extraordinary beauty and home to wondrous and generous people. Over the next few days we will get a chance to explore and get to know this community with all it's gifts and challenges. We are excited. And we know the time is at hand to make decisions and plans. We are on the cusp of change and growth and God is inviting us to make new preparations and new plans.

Jesus knew the hour was upon him although most of the disciples thought it was another yearly observance. One disciple knew that a plan was afoot, a plot of intrigue and betrayal fit for a thriller. And yet there was an intimacy among the disciples, a life lived of caring and working side by side, and so their Passover together would make radical changes in God to focus on the opportunity and the ministry ahead, rather than caught up in deceit and intrigue, betrayal and gossip. We can all look to hurts and betrayal, and the pain of present changes, or we can trust God to provide something more than we can even yet understand.

Today, I ask God for clear insight and a quiet heart, that puts aside anxiety and fear, and opens to God's working in our midst. May nothing distract us from our work and our missions - the care, healing and feeding of God's people. May we be ready to forgive and may we let go of all plotting and scheming. May our delight be in the shared meal, the day's end and the work that God has given us to do, today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Matthew 26:6-13

We are about to embark on a journey and are staying near the airport so that we can fly out very early. There is always so much to do in preparation for a trip and to make sure we have packed the necessities for our journey. It is normal to be a wee bit anxious before a big journey and trying to stay calm and peaceful is a challenge as any journey begins. Knowing others are praying for you, anointing us with prayer and love on our way, helps to make the journey joyful and calm, no matter what storms face us.

Jesus has spent days telling his disciples of his impending death. When a woman appears to anoint Jesus and prepare him for his journey, they are perplexed. They thought he was talking about the long away future. Her arrival and her selfless act heralds a real change for all of them. They want at first to deny what is going on, and Jesus, by his words and honor of the woman, calms their fears and helps them to find joy in the midst of these radical changes.

Today, as we travel, I asl God to help me be completely open to the changes ahead, willing to risk and grow for the sake of God's people. May we all be anointed by God's love this day, and empowered to embrace the challenges and changes ahead. May we be filled with Christ's love and peace as we move through the squalls and the storms, welcoming God's in-breaking kingdom where ever we might find it today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Welcoming the Stranger

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Welcoming the Stranger

I am setting forth on a journey
a new possibility and a new world
not at home as yet a stranger
but made welcome already
arms open wide.

Once locked in a prison
starving and thirsty in the dust
waiting by the side of the trail
watching the world pass me by.

Once sick deteriorating in a empty ward
in isolation no visitors
avoided and ignored for fear and ignorance
someone called my name and I saw home.

We can be lost so quickly and lonely so soon
and God aches that we reach beyond ourselves
find the stranger, make them family
comfort them and make them room.

We are on a journey together
frightened children and weary adults
aching to be welcomed somewhere
yearning to be made whole again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hidden Talents

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30

Fear can make us do strange things including hiding our gifts from the world. When we have only a little bit of something, especially when it is unexplored, we often hide it away, fearing ridicule and shame. I am always amazed when I go to someone's home and see incredible works of art, only to find out it was that same person who was the artist'. We often carry that shame and anxiety from our school days into our present. We can be sure that what we have is inadequate and lacking. And yet, what we have been given is needed for the world truly needs.

Jesus continues his story telling to explain the end times, or judgement. He tells the story of a land owner and his servants, some who use their money and invest, and the one who buries it in the ground. I am always sympathetic with the one who buries his talent for fear, the person who is broken and cannot bear any more failure or loss. But the story is told so that we might be encouraged to use what we have, no matter how small it might seem, and God will supply the increase and abundance. In God's world, we are to be bold with what we have been given and let God use it for the good of the world.

Today I ask God to help me put aside all fear and use what I have been given for good. May we not bury what we have been blessed with, but use it wisely, practicing our faith and trust in God every day. May we who are anxious and fearful, set fear and anxiety aside, letting God strengthen us for the tasks ahead. May we not compare our gifts to others, but rather, seek to use our gifts for the good of the world and the glory of God's reign here on earth.

Monday, July 16, 2012


“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13

I was a girl scout as were all of my sisters. My mother was a scout as a child and was a leader for many years as an adult. My girls all participated in scouting. We learned to make things with our hands, love God and country, cooperate with others, care for the earth and be prepared for emergencies. I think being a girl scout made me a little hyper-vigilant which is sometimes annoying to others but a good neurosis when we had small children. I always pack with every possible emergency in mind - from illness to survival items. Some folks laugh at me, but I am the first one they come to when they need supplies or back-up items. Being prepared was instilled in me so early that I cannot relax until I have all that is necessary for any journey.

Jesus continues to tell the disciples about the end times. They want definitive answers and he tells them parables and stories. He tells them they must watch, wait and be prepared. He tells them that they will face all sorts of hardships, abuse and violence. He reminds them to hang on. To watch, wait and be prepared. Jesus invites us all to be faithful people, who are not distracted or dismayed by challenging times, or seduced by comfort and plenty. We cannot know what lies ahead, but we can do our best and trust God with our whole hearts.

Today, as we begin packing for another adventure, I ask God to help me be prepared and trusting at the same time. May we all be diligent in our prayers and our preparation. May God find us ready for all that we face. May we have open hearts and listening ears to know of God movement in our lives and in our communities. May we rejoice in the love we have today and the promise of God's faithfulness and love, no matter what we face tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


King Herod heard of the demons cast out and the many who were anointed and cured, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:14-29

It's not unusual in a family for folks to hold grudges and never let siblings forget their mistakes. We as humans tend to hold on to the hurts, and the hurts festers and takes on a life of it's own. Good people can become a little monstrous when they have been hurt, slighted, or outed about some mistake. And we hate being reminded of our sins and failures and often want to punish the truth teller. I remember seeing a sign that really spoke to me - holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head. We can all be consumed by a grudge.

Our gospel reading is the horrific end to John the Baptist's life. Decapitation to soothe the angry Herodias whom John had openly condemned. At a birthday party, the dancing daughter of the angry mother sold off the life of a faithful man to please her mother. She could have had riches beyond measure, but anger and fury so consumed their lives that violence seemed to be a better choice. Too often, we are hurt and angry and we can miss the huge blessings of life if we can let go of the grudges and the hurts. Jesus offered people a different way - the way of love, forgiveness and compassion.

Today, I ask God to help us all choose love, forgiveness and compassion over settling scores and acting out our hurt through violence and abuse. May we let go of our grudges long enough to see the celebration and the beauty around us. May God fill us so much that there is no room for anger, competition, rivalries and grudges. May we rather make room for others with our ready forgiveness and embrace.

The Collect

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Phoebe's Birthday

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
Matthew 24:32-35

Today, our youngest daughter is 24. She was born in Boston, during a very hot summer, between my second and final year in seminary. We waited in the heat for her arrival that summer, finally purchasing two wading pools -one for me and one for Emily and Ariel - just so we could keep cool in the oppressive heat. The hose was running all the time. Her sisters, her Dad and I were so happy that she joined our family then. She made a lively and robust family all the more lively. She now lives is Boston and sometimes it is hard to believe how grown up she is. She was born on Bastille Day and on Woody Guthrie's birthday, signalling freedom and music for all. I am so proud of all my daughters and am amazed at what remarkable and talented women they truly are.

Jesus was speaking to the disciple about end times and the kingdom of heaven. They really didn't want to face an ordeal of any kind and he was preparing them as best he could for what was ahead. They were to understand, as we are, that we can't control the onset of ordeals and trials, the in-breaking of God's kingdom or the end - whether it is our end or the end of the world as we know it. Like a woman waiting for labor to begin, it is in God's timing, not ours. We are to enjoy the gifts we have been given in the present times, work diligently for Christ, forgiving and loving as we have been taught - no matter what we face.

Today I want to give thanks for all the gifts of love in my life and especially Phoebe on her birthday. She and her sisters remind me daily that no matter what we face, hardship and challenges are no match for the love that surrounds us and the presence of God's love in our lives. May we rejoice in the love we have been given and hold fast to those who love us so we can face each day with joy and love.

Friday, July 13, 2012

To the Four Winds

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31

General Convention came to a close late yesterday afternoon. I watched as many bid dear old and new friends farewells with promises to see each other soon. We all know are lives are so scattered and busy that getting together is more complicated than we wish. The cars and cabs lined up as people headed home by highway and airport. I leave for home in a few hours with joy in my heart. Although we are scattered to the four winds, it has been a grace-filled convention and the spirit was gentle and compassionate. I have renewed many friendships and forged new ones across many aisles, boundaries and divisions. I have hope despite the challenges that lie ahead.

Jesus is speaking to the disciples about the end times. He understands that there is much ugliness, violence and persecution they will have to face. He knows they don't want to hear it and he probably doesn't want to tell them. The promise throughout what pain and tribulations we face, is that God is in the midst of our worst nightmares, and that God will gather us all up again no matter how scattered and torn we have become.

I ask God for traveling mercies all around. We all have much to face in the days ahead, and there is much to be done waiting for us at home. May God give us all the strength to carry the burdens that we bear and give us joy and laughter so that we might lighten the load for others. May all that we do, no matter how far we go, carry the love of God, to the four winds and the people we find in the days ahead.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The End

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Matthew 24:3-14

Today is the last day of General Convention. It has been a long few days, with much good work completed and many relationships renewed. Sadly, a deputation and their bishop chose to leave because of a decision that was made. They might have come to the end of their relationship with the Episcopal Church. It has been a most interesting General Convention, and the overwhelming experience has been very positive. We have done good work and held each other in prayer as we did.

Jesus and the disciples are gathered in a private moment. They are struggling to understand God's timeline and their place in it. They are asking, "how much is too much?" And Jesus answers them and tell them to hold on, hang on, endure to the end. We face many challenges, many times of discouragement and pain in our lives. Sometimes it happens in and through the church. And Jesus describes faithfulness as not giving up, enduring to the end, trusting God, despite the hurts and abuse aimed at us. God is with us as we strive to endure through it all.

Last General Convention Prayer

O Divine Creator, you made us in your image and called us to serve together. Help us to hold on and endure, knowing that you face all of our trials and tribulations with us. May our words and actions demonstrate your love and compassion. May we not rejoice in victory but be moved by the needs of others. May we go from this place as people reborn in the image of God, undivided and trusting that God will bless as we continue to endure, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

O Jerusalem!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem
this gathering of faithful people
our prophets and messengers
stoned still by fear
we reject the love
and move back from the full embrace.

O Indianapolis, Indianapolis
the heat has melted us
we have bent our knees in prayer
and hardened our hearts
to brothers and sisters in need.

O children of God,
Christ aches to surround us
Christ weeps over our ignorance
Christ desires that we reconcile
and humble ourselves before God.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem
the armies of greed and indifference
rise up daily without our intervention
they devour the weak and the poor
and make a mockery of honor and respect.

O people of God
our hands are needed now
to comfort and bind the wounds
to welcome and to embrace
our voices raised in grief and lament
shall become the songs of joy
and the dance tunes of God's love.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More than Conquerors

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39

Yesterday we had a wonderful service that highlighted the gifts of small and Indigenous communities. We heard a wonderful drum, a native flute and several native languages including Navajo, Lakota, and Shoshone. Despite unimaginable challenges, folks have come together to celebrate the love of God in their lives. Tonight, we will gather together to participate in a lament, which will face the effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. As Indigenous people, we have been conquered, diminished, and suffered from generations of abuse and misunderstandings. Despite it all, through our faith and communities, we are more than conquerors, more than just survivors, but people who God has called to lead the church.

Writing to the Romans, Paul reminds the people of God's love and power in their lives. They have suffered from horrible abuse and the writer reminds them that
" I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Despite what greedy, selfish and abusive people and powers attempt, we are more than the most powerful and most violent, we are beloved of God.

Prayer for General Convention - 5

O Great Creator of all peoples and cultures, be present among us with your power today. Help those who have been abused and marginalized to know the power of your love in their lives. May the past hurts, damages and theft become mere shadows of your blessings and abundance to come. May we become those who are called by you and who become leaders and servants of all. In Christ, who gave his life so that we could be more than abusers and conquerors, Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:1-12

We gathered for worship yesterday, a sea of bishops in red and a crowd of nearly 4,000 and it was a moving and powerful service. I found out in the evening that some small children were asked to leave. This was not an isolated incident, but a regular occurrence during this convention. This family is here as part of our deputation and part of our family. They have come to serve the church and yet sometimes the church ties too heavy a burden on these people's shoulders. And the children will lead us...

Jesus was only too aware of how the religious leaders controlled and burdened the people. Faith in God is not a matter of conformity but many who are in positions of power would have it so, then and now. We do not need to match to be God's people, nor do we need to be silent, stifled children, burdened with behaving like constrained adults. We ache for a growing and lively church and then shut out anyone or anything that might be a little messy. God's desire is for us to make room for the loud and the messy, the stranger and our enemies - a place for love and service. We are invited to give away our place, put aside our needs, for the sake of God's reign here on earth.

Prayer for General Convention 4

Wondrous source of love and welcome, may we be the people who are willing to be humble and servants of all. May our words and actions be those of welcome. May we open doors, give up our seats, stand down and offer our hands and hearts for the service of others. May we be shamed by our pride and be honored by our humility. May we be generous servants of the generous and loving God, who has made us all welcome, messy and loud as we might be. May we seek each other with open arms, crossing all boundaries to offer ourselves for the love of God. We ask this in Christ, who offered all. Amen

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Two by two

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Mark 6:1-13

We have a fresh water pond near us which is full of many migratory birds and some ducks and swans that stay year round. There were swan cygnets this spring, gray fuzz balls, six or seven of them. We watched as the two adults swan with them, one at the front and one bringing up the rear, protecting their young and teaching them as they went. They were modeling life long skills and learning. Never swim alone, and there is always more power and joy when there are two or more on the water together.

Jesus was disregarded in his home town, shot down and unable to do anything good. Their unbelief saddened him, and he quickly moved on to calling the disciples and sending them out two by two. H knew they might get worn down individually, but if they went out together, there would always be strength and faith between them. He knew that faith, joy and healing were most alive when shared with others. Jesus didn't give them any provisions, for their faith and the response of the community would be sufficient for their needs.

Prayer for General Convention on Sunday

Gracious Savior and Redeemer, we are tired and sore from the long days and mounds of work to be done. We are too, filled with joy as we greet old friends and make new ones. May we be reminded that we are never alone, and that you have promised to help us go out into the world, giving us your power to heal and transform the world. Help us to move out together into our needy world, taking no provisions, save your love and blessing. May we cling to each other as we move forward, knowing that you will be in our midst as we move together in service to your Gospel and the people. Amen

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Love God and Neighbor

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

Yesterday was a challenging day at General Convention. I took some major heat as did some others I am close to. It is easy to be hurt by this and easy to want to retaliate. But God desires another way for us, loving others despite it all. So I am offering a song that was running through my head all day yesterday that kept me at peace that we are doing God's work here.

Anyway - from Zero Church, 2001

People are often unreasonable, illogical,
and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone
could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway

Maggie and Suzzy Roach were told that this prayer was written by Mother Teresa and inscribed on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. However, Sister M. Nirmala M.C. at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta wrote and said that she did not write this prayer. Another source said that this poem was found by Mother Teresa's bedside when she died, written in her own handwriting. It remains a mystery.

Prayer for General Convention Prayer 3

O Creator and Lover of all, may we make love our primary work. May every breath be a prayer for love, forgiveness and compassion. May we not use our voices for anything but praise and compassion. May we give our best, honest and forgiving, no matter what we face today. In agreement and contention, may we look and listen with the heart of God. And may the world see the heart of God in the way we care for one another. For the sake of Christ's reign here on earth. Amen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Rendering to Caesar

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22

Tonight and tomorrow night are the big hearings for PB&F - Program, Budget and Finance. In these lean and hard economic times we are facing some real tough issues about where our limited resources will go and how money will be spent. New priorities and structures will probably be put in place after this convention that will change the way parts of the Episcopal church do business. There is anxiety everywhere about budgets, limits and how we manage the little that we have. Times like these can make people frustrated and angry. These times can also invite deep prayer, an invitation to holy examination of all of our wealth and what it says about who we worship and how we serve.

Jesus is challenged by the religious rulers about money and taxes. In an occupied land, many people felt it was sinful to pay taxes to the occupying government. The complexity of the situation was also further complicated by hard economic times and much unrest. Jesus posed a threat to the already fragile peace. His answer was plain - pay the tax and offer to God our all. We are gathered here during tough times. We are invited to "render to God the things that are God's." I hope and pray that in all our deliberations and testimonies we are reminded of our absolute dependence on God and that all that we have is a free gift from a loving and abundant Creator. May we exercise compassion and love, and be willing to give our all for the love of God.

General Convention Prayer 2

Gracious Creator, source of all life and all blessings, make us mindful of the needs of others and Christ's call that we serve the world. Make us generous and prayerful in all that we do today. Give is ears to hear the cries of the poor. Give us hearts that are willing to be broken open for others. Give us minds to imagine a way forward when the passages seemed closed. Help us rejoice in the abundance and focus all of our energy in prayer and thanksgiving. Make us your church today. In the name of Christ who gave his life that we might live, Amen.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

General Convention 2012

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:1-14

I arrived last night to a crowded downtown Indianapolis. Due to the overwhelming heat, many communities had canceled fireworks so the crowd was huge, coming from all around for the display. Early this morning, I made my way over to the Convention Center to register for General Convention, only to find out that the registration was closed until 9AM. We had a roll call vote at 8AM. Some wonderful folks escorted me in to the House of Bishops, and our first legislative session began. It was very simple and very short. The rest of the sessions will be longer and more contentious. My sense this morning was one of joy, seeing so many I consider friends and family. We have much hard work to do, and there will be contention and fireworks, but I believe we are called together for a purpose that is God's and not our own.

Jesus tells another story about the kingdom of God. He wants us to understand that we can get busy and ignore the work God has for us, and we can ignore the pushing and prodding of God's spirit. We can live for ourselves, or for God and God's people, and we have this choice every day. We are here together, as a church and community dedicated as a whole to God's purpose. We are called to be dressed and ready for every task and celebration. God invites us here today, and everywhere to be ready for the work ahead and the constant in-breaking of God's reign, God's kingdom here on earth.

Prayer for General Convention

Gracious and loving Creator, you have called us together in your service and to serve the world. May we begin our work, mindful of the needs of others. May our words and actions always be gentle and inclusive. May we see those who sit on the sidelines, may we welcome those who have been shut out, and may we make room in our lives and hearts for the inspiration for God's spirit. May cost be second always to God's love and compassion, and may we be willing servants of Christ in this place. Amen

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. Matthew 21:33-46

Today I am flying off to General Convention but before I do, there will be 500 plus kids and adults on my mother's front lawn as the Cape May Point boicycle parade winds up here. For over 40 years my parents have hosted the community providing koolaid, cookies and water ice. My mother considers this her care taking of an entire community, a way to offer hospitality and fun, an offering to God for all her blessings. She loves the role, even if we have to help her behind the scenes. This is her stewardship and love for the entire extended family of neighbors and visitors. It is between her and God and she enjoys every minute of the day.

Jesus uses stories or parables to help his listeners understand how God works and what we are to do in response. The religious leaders didn't like what they heard, because God was expecting humility and care-taking from them rather than power and control. We are invited by God to be stewards and care-takers, to see our lives as offerings for others.

Today, as I make my way to Indianapolis after celebrating the Fourth with our community, may I remember all of the blessings this day represents, and offer my life and work for the glory of God and the care of the God's vineyard. We are all invited to be good stewards and faithful gardeners, honoring the many blessings we have been given.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Doing God's Will

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:28-32

During the summers, when I was a teenager, my Dad had an uncanny ability to need my assistance when I had made plans or was just about to go to the beach. His famous phrase was "stick with me." Often I would want to take off in the opposite direction, desiring to flee from his strong hold and his unending tasks. I guess part of me knew it was self-defeating to argue or run off, and indeed I would stick with him until the work was done. My heart may have not been in it, at first, but love for my father overtook my anger and desire for my own plans.

Jesus us being questioned about his authority by the temple rulers. He is following his father's direction, and fulfilling God's will in his life. They were following tradition and politics. God doesn't often agree with our traditions and our politics, and often asks us to take a different path, or to "stick with" the less glamorous faithfulness where we have been called. Love tells us what is right, and God's will is clear when we let go of our own notions and ask where love is leading us.

Today I ask God to help me set down all the notions and plans I have and to listen to God. May love and compassion so swell my heart and soul that I might know what to do through love's direction. May we all seek God's will by letting go of tradition and politics, prestige and plans, and by embracing God's love and compassion as our compass and navigator.

Monday, July 2, 2012

House of Prayer

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. Matthew 21:12-17

Yesterday was a hot one and even by the ocean it can be overwhelming. I had the privilege of celebrating two services at St. Peter-by-the-Sea here in Cape May Point. At the first service I asked for prayers for all of us who are attending General Convention and the work we have ahead of us. By the second service, during the prayers of the people, I found myself praying for my own survival, and not to be overcome by the heat. The beautiful little chapel is antique and sweet and does not have air conditioning. Sometimes we can pray for the universal church and sometimes we have to pray for our mere survival.

Jesus finds himself in the temple, frustrated by the market atmosphere, the necessities choking out the holy and universal atmosphere of prayer. The pilgrims who had come to the temple were sold appropriate sacrifices, and in so doing the reverence and humility, our true offering, were lost from that place. We are invited to remember, as we do the business of the church, wherever we are, that prayer, reverence and humility are the resting places of God. God hears and understands our prayers for survival and invites us to offer ourselves to God, trusting that all that we need and more will be supplied.

Today, as the heat continues and concerns for the people rise, I ask God to give us the strength to offer ourselves for the care and needs of others, not worrying about our needs, our platforms, or our issues, but rather, for the sake of the whole people and the whole church. May God find us gathered, humble and reverent, and in prayer constantly. May our lives be offered for others so that God can transform and use us all, dwelling with us now and forever.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Daughter's Faith

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." He went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, `Who touched me?'" He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:21-43

Some times it is a real challenge to hold on to faith. When the challenges get overwhelming or the constancy of pain loss and suffering are pulling one under, it is hard to hang on to faith. This winter, before I had back surgery, the pain was so constant and the answers so limited it was hard to see God in the midst of it all. Now I can look back and see God in the midst of all of it, but then, it was much harder.

The story from the Gospel revolves around two women, one young and one older, and the faith that brings healing and new life. Jairus aches for his daughter to be well and the unnamed woman touches Jesus aching to be well. They may not have seen God working in their lives, faced with so much pain and loss, but neither would give up hope that Jesus would bring them possibility where there had been none. Jesus is always tender and gentle with both Jairus and the woman, encouraging them both. His tenderness and compassion remind me that God is constantly working for our healing and our new directions, even when we are bogged down with pain, loss and major struggles. God's desire is to heal us and give us new life.

Today, I want to live faithfully, trusting God for healing and solutions when we feel completely stuck and boxed in. May we not give in to fear, but rather believe that God is fitting a solution to our need, a way forward in the darkness and the gloom. May we trust God to bring new life and healing and may we share our faith to those who are perishing today.

The Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.