Saturday, March 31, 2012
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the LORD's song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy! Psalm 137:1-6
I got really fascinated about the collision of April Fool's Day and Palm Sunday this year. My Dad, the sometimes stern Presbyterian Minister and Navy Chaplain adored April Fool's Day, and having a great sense of humor, loved tricking us all, my Mom included. Since I am still recuperating I don't have to preach tomorrow anywhere, but I got to thinking how these things go together, if at all, and what could be said about them. I assumed April Fool's was probably something that originated with the Celts or another group in that part of the world.
When researching April Fool's I found that no one cultural group is really responsible and that very little real evidence as to its origins are clear. What I did learn, and probably should have remembered from seminary, was that when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the new calendar in 1582, changing from the old Julian calendar, things got pretty mixed up. Prior to that time, New Year's Day was celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption, March 25th, but transferred to April 1st because March 25th always fell in Holy Week. Also, during the time of the Julian calendar, New Year's celebrations lasted for 8 days so April 1st was the official New Year's Day. Those who couldn't make the transition in calendars, or who wouldn't came to be called April Fools, or so the legends go.
When the pranks part of the day came in, we are not sure, but early on, people who didn't get with the new calendar were sent on "fool's errands" or wild goose chases. In France, the Day is called April Fish, and children slap pictures of fish on unsuspecting other children. Famous media hoaxes have been known to happen on April Fool's Day, and many people fondly remember Dave Garroway reporting on the Spaghetti harvest.
What touches my heart in the celebration, is the lightheartedness, the playfulness and the childlike behavior we permit ourselves to engage in. We are new again. And for a mother who had her first child on the day following the feast of the Annunciation and in 1978, Easter Day, it gives me great joy to think of all of us starting over, starting anew this time of year. The cold hard ground of January has never felt like New Years' to me. But as the blossoms can't hold back and the air fills with pollen and noisy birds, it does indeed feel like a new year is beginning.
Tomorrow Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, a very somber and reverent week, when we delve deep into the mysteries of life, death, and resurrection. We begin the dance that leads to new life. May we begin this coming week with serious minds and light hearts, knowing that with all the trials and pain that will be rehearsed this week, God is victorious for us, winning new life, a new year and new beginnings for us all.
Friday, March 30, 2012
"But 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 slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
Yesterday, I received a package by Fedex from my publishing company with the galleys for my new book, Family Theology: Finding God in Very Human Relationships. It really terrified me. Something I have worked on for so long, struggled with and nurtured along for so many months is almost complete, almost ready to be sent to the printers and made completely real. I feel very humbled, praying that what I offer in this book might be uplifting and helpful to others. That's why write this blog, and why I wrote the book. Sometimes though, it is hard to know if one is offering what others really truly need, being the servants we are called to be. Sometimes we can delude ourselves thinking we are being humble when we are actually being a stumbling block for others.
James and John were jockeying for position with Jesus as they made their way down to Jerusalem. He couldn't have been clearer that this trip would be nothing short of life ending and life changing for them all. The two brothers seemed more concerned for their place in the new hierarchy than listening carefully to what Jesus was saying. We are all like that, we can wonder away from topic and wonder what will be are role, and concern ourselves with personal outcomes. We are invited today to not be distracted by our anxiety over personal outcomes, rather, offer our time and energy in the service of others, thereby serving God in our midst.
Today, I ask God to help me, as we approach Holy Week, to set aside worry over the future, and to offer myself, my time and my labor, my words and my being, for the good of others. May my life be sacrificial and un-calculated. May the only thing on my heart and mind be the care of others, the service of God in this world. May we all set out faces to Jerusalem, and offer what we have for others so that God may live in our midst and shine through all that we do.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
The private schools taught well
the ways of the world
a conquering hero, a wise investor
building and designing a future
a handshake, an inclusion
belonging without deserving
privilege gained by legacy.
On one's own with all the toys
you built a life based on solid
objects and commitments portfolios
gifts given and prizes won
and darkness still falls again
and a hear sinks on the sea of despair.
Love can raise sinking boats
can stop the wind and change the tide
love can break the mold and the prison
can turn the angry soft and compassionate
and remake sad eyes in to visions
of new light every morning.
You can walk the path of privilege
you can chose the road of love.
Safety and security are a privilege
rough seas and rocky roads the others
but one path is hollow the other lit
with radiant fire, love's dance that lasts
through the darkest night.
Drop the baggage and share the wealth
come dance on the green grass tender welcoming
finding friends and companions on this road
you will never miss the control switch
you will have traded it for a deep abiding love
a fellowship of broken, loving vagabonds
and a heart full of songs.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
I often talk to church gatherings about welcoming people and growing their congregation. Most people don't realize that when someone comes to a church for the first time, they are coming to find welcome and a family of faith. However they are dressed, whatever their age, whether alone or with others, they come, at the heart, as a small child. They need to know the basics - that they are welcome, that you will not judge them, and that you will feed them and help them find the bathroom. Many people often laugh when I say that. Many people have never returned to a church because no one welcomed them just as they are or because they could not find a bathroom for their aged mother or a nursery for their child. We often hinder the very people we say we want among us.
Jesus was having very intense theological and practical discussions and was being tested. We all know how that feels. He ended up his time with the theologians by sitting on the ground and opening his arms wide to the children, blessing them and instructing us to do likewise. There is no other way for me to hear this Gospel then God speaking loudly to me as to what is really most important - welcome, embrace and blessing. Those are the tasks before us. We can get the theology wrong, the rules mixed up and maybe even use something other than the normal hymnal, but what really, really matters is how we love immediately, constantly and completely. Our ministries, lay and ordained, hinge on those three tasks alone.
Today I ask God to help me be about, welcome, embrace and blessing. May my every action be an act of immediate, sustained and complete love for others, no matter how different or testy they are. May my heart always be open, may my words always be welcome and may all of the children find a home among us in a family that truly makes them welcome, feeds them, and provides the comforts and education they ache for.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:42-50
These days, we are told daily of the harmful effects of too much salt in our diet and rightly so. But I learned early that some salt can keep a person alive. My Dad was finishing out active duty in the late sixties at the height of the Vietnam war. He was stationed at Camp LeJuene, North Carolina, and we were housed that first summer on the rifle range. There were only five or six officers homes on that part of base, so the neighborhood kids had the place to ourselves. It was noisy at times but when the GIs weren't at target practice, we were free to explore. By each of the firing stations were salt tab dispensers. Curious me took a handful and then went and asked my Dad about them. He told me that in full fatigues a person could sweat so much when active that they could pass out from water loss, and die pretty quick;y if not taken care of. Most of the young men would finish their training and get shipped off to war. Learning to take salt, self-care was one way they might just survive and stay alive.
Jesus was using pictures, stories and illustrations to help his disciples stay alive, faithful and at peace. The care and protection of the innocents is essential to our life and faith. We are entrusted by God with the care of the children, the orphans, widows, those who are sick, lonely and without care and protection. We are to keep ourselves strong so that we can protect them with our whole selves. We will face challenges, and temptations but God promises to protect us as we protect others. And as we care for others and ourselves, keeping strong so that we can serve, than peace will be the sign that we have lived faithfully for God and others. We are invited to self-care, so that can serve and live in peace, to be salty enough, tough enough, tested enough that we can serve joyfully for those who aren't able, and are too vulnerable to face the daily challenges alone.
I ask God today to help me do those things I need to do to be strong so that I might serve and spread God's love by my living. May I have the resolve to take my medicine, face the challenges, do the hard work, and be constantly in prayer - living a salted life - so that others might thrive and find strength and love through me. May we be salt for the world, so that peace might break out around us, and spread across the globe through the lives we lead today.
Monday, March 26, 2012
The Song of Mary
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever. Luke 1:46-55
When I was a young child of 12 I had a very serious abdominal surgery which removed my right ovary along with an enormous tumor and some re-sectioning of intestines was part of the repairs that needed to be done. I was told at the time I might not ever be able to have children. I loved kids, and was heartbroken that having a family might never happen to me. In 1978, on this very day, a cold and wet Easter in Baltimore, our daughter Emily was born. An incredibly beautiful, perfect new life arriving the holiest day of the year. I felt as if God was whispering in my ear," see here, just like Mary so many years ago, you would understand and know the love of God within in you and around you. And you would see and know love by the miracles in your life, beginning with this precious one." Like Mary, I just couldn't help but weep for joy and sing at the top of my lungs.
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation (transferred) when Mary hears from the angels of her role in the transformation of the world. She is to be a mother and carry the Savoir of the world. She was scared, and teary and couldn't help but sing. So for all of those of us today who feel like the burden we must bear is too big and too scary, remember that God only puts those burdens of those capable of bearing them. And with those burdens come incredible blessing upon blessing, miracle upon miracle, and glimpses of God's enormous love that will see us through.
May we rejoice with Mary today. Let's never be afraid to admit to out fear, never stop saying yes to God, and may we sing at the top of our lungs because we must, through tears and smiles alike. And Happy Birthday Emily!
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. John 12:20-28
I am a real seed catalog junkie and love looking at seeds and plants for our garden. I love imagining the growing crops and beauty of the green growth around me. And I like the work of gardening, digging into hard earth and making it soft and ready for the plants and seeds. And in the midst of all of this, particularly this year and this season, I am realizing that the garden and the seed are great challenging lessons for my life as I slowly recuperate from the extensive surgery I had. I had to be broken open, the clots of bone and nerve made pliable again. There is dying, breaking open, being put to the ground and a good deal of patience and care in this process. My heart and mind want to skip over the blooming late spring abundance and God wants me to stay right here, understanding the gift of death among life, and nurturing the new love and appreciation I have for the process and mystery of living.
Jesus disciples wanted to fast forward too. They wanted to be far from pain and grief and well on their way to victory. Each probably imagined it in a very different way, and each would not consider what they would be facing in the coming days. The pain and death, the burial and full body weeping, despair and agony. And yet, there is more to the story of course, there is life and life miraculous and abundant. God invites us t dwell in the unique place we find ourselves in, giving thanks for the gifts of death and loss, pain and struggle, grief and frustration, trusting that there is more to the story. We are not left here broken in the cold dirt, but being made over again, new life as we are broken apart, deep roots as we lose our tough skin and our sure defenses.
May this be a day for all of us, where ever we might find ourselves, living as tender seeds and blossoms, grateful for the signs of new life that are coming our way. May the pain and twisting we experience remind us of the love that bringing forth life from death, abundance from lack, and food for every hungry soul. May we be tender to ourselves as we experience the pains of growth and may we gratefully and lovingly embrace all those who are willing to be stretched and grown alongside us.
The Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:22-29
Yesterday when we went and picked up the mail, among the usual ads and bills was a hand addressed envelope for me. When I opened it up, the tears came, unbidden and overwhelmed, because the card was from the the House of Bishops and was filled with love and prayers from my brothers and sisters as they gathered in Texas. Recuperating and trying to get stronger, here in this small town, I find the isolation a challenge. Sometimes it feels like I am praying and struggling alone. Healing is not only a physical process, but is spiritual and emotional as well. That single card reminded me that prayers were being said from all over the country, and from all sort of time zones. I was never alone or isolated even when I might have felt so. And God's love is not bound by time, place, language or culture. And prayer changes everything.
Healing was a struggle for a father with a very sick and troubled son. The aching father would do anything for his child but was worn down by the struggle and the isolation. Jesus comes and offers him hope, and does not stop until all of the illness and demons had let go of the precious child. No matter how worn down we are, God hears our prayers. “I believe; help my unbelief!” The father, like all of us, have days when the struggle is overwhelming but God is not willing to ignore our prayers and will continue active until all the demons have fled. May we all remember to pray - for ourselves and others - because God is listening with an open and compassionate heart.
First I want to thank all my brother ad sister bishops for their prayers and love. They spoke the words of hope and healing, they share the love of God to an aching soul. May we all use the gifts we have of prayer and love to lift the hearts of those who are struggling, those who are worn down and those who have given up hope due to isolation. God is listening, and God is determined to continue until the all the demons, the illness and pain, the terror and fear is completely driven out.
Friday, March 23, 2012
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. Mark 9:2-8
After a night of very dense fog, we walked around in fog most of the day until the sun finally won out and sent the fog packing. For several hours, visibility was down to a few feet and familiar objects looked odd and unfamiliar. Sometimes they disappeared altogether. Traveling over the low bridge that spans the canal, I could not see the canal at all, and if I had been walking near the quiet water, may have tumbled in. When the fog finally lifted the beauty and brilliance of our world was restored - the trees blossoming all over and the forsythia in yellow glorious full bloom. We are often in a fog, in our walks in life, thinking we are seeing the whole picture and making judgements based on what is in our short view, without ever understanding or seeing the long view.
On the mountain top, the disciples got a glimpse of the bigger picture. They had a moment of understanding and seeing Jesus in his fullness and in relationship to the faith leaders who had come before. They saw for the first time his intimacy with God, his visible kinship with the Creator and his absolute familiarity with the family of God. He was among his own. This moment, this vision of transfiguration, this true vision of who Jesus was and is, was a picture the would remember and need on the hard road ahead to Jerusalem. And we too, in our darkest moments need visions of our true selves, the whole beloved child of God that stumbles from time to time, but is radiance with love beyond measure.
Today, as we walk tall and straight or bent over in pain, may we remember that we are children of a living God, embedded in a family of love and surrounded by pillars of faith. We are not along on the driest mountain top nor when we are knee deep in mud. When we are feeling most stuck and alone, may we remember who our family is and that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, shouting God's love to us through the fogs of life.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mark 8:28-33
When we were recently visiting with our granddaughter I got a little flack for teaching her to shake her head to mean "no". I confess I did such a thing but it is also inevitable that she will indeed learn to say no faster probably than yes. She has lots of wonderful almost words, she waves and says "hiya" and calls Momma and Dadda regularly. We were sitting quietly the other afternoon and chatting and she smiled at all of us in turn, and somehow seconds later she was atop the coffee table and moving towards all the electronics equipment she so completely craves and is forbidden to mess with. We adults tried to suppress our amazed laughter as we knew she pulled a fast one on the whole group. As humans, we want what is trouble for us, we can affirm the truth and love in our lives in one breath, and in the next due to fear and anger deny it. Love is still there and God knows, we're human.
Thank God for Peter, and thank God it is Peter on whom the church was founded. Peter, so raw and human, so yes and no, so fickle and ever changing. So much like you and me. In seminary, people tried to show how pious and faithful they were, and how humble and honest they would always be - what great servants of God they were planning to be. And yet, we were all so very human, so yes and no, so pious and so angry, jealous and raging. So damn human. And on the rock in which the church was founded we find the same crags of fickle humanity, affirmation and denial, mistakes, bloated egos and out right fear. And God loves us as we are, human with all our yeses and nos, our affirmations and denials.
May we who follow and try to be faithful today, remember that we can be no greater than our founder - not Jesus but Peter. We can only be human, and God only divine. And as we are loved and forgiven may we love and forgive those who come our way today. May we reach out to the angry and the hurt, the lonely and the terrified, the simple and the plotting, knowing that just like us, they are broken and human - and thoroughly loved by God.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” Mark 8:22-26
I bought these hideously bright yellow boots the other day for three dollars. They're ankle high rubber and made for slogging around in the mud. I know it may sound a bit wacky, but it made me really happy, thinking about slogging around in the mud, digging in the garden, and getting covered all over with mud and dirt. I can't help myself, I love to garden and although I am a very disorganized and sloppy gardener who gets very mixed results, I love the mud and digging, watching the plants grow and taking in the whole experience. Vibrant plants and vibrant life seem to both need a good bit of mucking around in the mud.
The blind man came to Jesus for healing and found himself with a face full of mud. He rubbed the mess away only to have it applied again. He then could see, beyond his wildest dreams and was thrilled beyond measure and full of gratitude and full of life. It takes a good bit of mess, mud, spit, sweat to understand life and to be able to embrace the abundance and life that God brings to us daily. If you are finding yourself knee deep in mess today, if you feel like you are pushing a wet rock up hill, if the ground around you is muddy and slippery, remember the man that came to Jesus. His healing was a messy but brilliant process. Life and love are messy and brilliant processes and are all tremendous gifts from God.
The Gardener's prayer -
Dear God, creator of life and abundance beyond measure, help me plant these seeds with love and care. May I be a careful and tender gardener, having compassion on the tender greens and the tender people in my life. May I be willing to get on my knees and get dirty for others. And may my offerings bring love and abundance in the life of others. Amen.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.Mark 8:7-8
Sometimes the weekly lectionary and the Sunday lectionary collide and repeat the same story within a few days of each other. When I decided, years ago, after writing my blog for some time, to focus on the lectionary like a good bishop should, I didn't expect that I would be tripping over scripture so much, trying to think up some new angle on the same story several times in one week. Well here I am again. So, I have decided to hear the over all story, the themes that have been repeated loud and clear, day after day, right to my face, over and over again. Healing and abundance. God's word to us all in this season of Lent is healing and abundance. Three weeks after surgery, groaning and moaning and feeling sorry for myself, the message is healing and abundance. In my own fragile world of self-induced worry the message is God's grace is healing and abundance - more than ever before - the knock your socks off, wow factor, kind of healing and abundance. For those who have suffered life long, for those who have been rejected and abused, for those who are outcasts and renegades, for all of us who are anxious about our lives, our work, our children, the message is healing and abundance.
God's compassion is for all of us and God's response is healing and abundance to whatever we are facing today. Even those things we are afraid to confess, and even those of us who are trying to be cool and are still aching inside - God says get ready for healing and abundance for that is my way. May we all remember that God is walking down our road today, God is sitting with us today, God is moving with compassion wherever we are to bring healing and abundance.
Monday, March 19, 2012
And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
She was not one of the chosen
bred as among the righteous
her babies had to wait for treatment
had to stand in clinic lines.
She was a stranger to the authorities
but no stranger to God
the love burning in her heart
her fierce protective spirit
was a gift and sign her marking
of God's spirit within her.
Protective and tender sleepless nights
with fevered and hungry little ones
pacing and groaning with a love so deep
it opened her up and rubbed her raw.
A child was tormented strangers laughed
the religious sent her away her kind not welcomed
but she was a mother fierce and strong
and love made her argue, fight and prevail.
God's love, fierce and prevailing
protective and tender pacing in the night
whispering I love you more than words or time
I will give my all, my strength, my life
that you might smile, breathe and thrive
and know my love once again.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Jesus said to Nicodemus, "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. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." John 3:14-21
When the weather is warm the dolphins move in and out of the Delaware Bay several times of day, with the tides, looking for abundant feeding grounds. These large pods or family grouping of dolphins are so gorgeous to watch, often leaping and playing after they feed. I always want to hold my breath as I watch them, they fill my heart with so much joy, so much love. These glorious creatures, made from the hands of a most magnificent loving Creator, always remind me of God's loving touch in all of creation.
Nicodemus is a worried man. He is faithful but anxious and worried to understand what God was doing and what God was all about. Jesus told Nicodemus and all of us that God so loves the world. God's first action towards all of creation is love and that love is sacrificial and transforming, making even the dullest beautiful, the darkest hearts full of radiant light.
May we who, like Nicodemus, worry too much, or are struggling to understand God's activity in our lives remember that God's first action towards us is love and second is sacrificial, transforming love. We are beloved, beyond our understanding, precious and heart-stoppingly beautiful in the eyes of God. May we look on one another today as precious and beautiful gifts from God, who aches for love of all creation.
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
We had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:2b-12
As folks gather today across the country to drink green beer and do silly things they associate with celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I offer some information about a real man, who really suffered and really loved, and found a way to bring God's love to people just as they were, honoring their culture and language as the church was established.
It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity. (There is some dispute over where this captivity took place. Although many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, it is more likely that he was held in County Mayo near Killala.) During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. (It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.)
After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice—which he believed to be God's—spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick reported that he experienced a second revelation—an angel in a dream tells him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than 15 years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission: to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish. (Interestingly, this mission contradicts the widely held notion that Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland.)
Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish. Although there were a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based religion. The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick's life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.
Patrick took his captivity and turned it into a love and compassion for a people. As a Gallagher, and as a Native Bishop I honor Patrick for his willingness to honor the people's culture and language, to indigence the church and the Gospel. May we all commit ourselves, in the path of Patrick, to honor people's language and culture as we share God's love and compassion.
Almighty God, who loves all people and has created us all in the Creator's image may we honor your servant Patrick, who carried the Gospel to the Irish people, honoring the local gifts and traditions as we share the love we have been given. Grant us so to walk in that light and humility that Patrick taught, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, March 16, 2012
And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. Mark 6:47-56
At the end of a long day, after another procedure, another round of waiting, praying and keeping a small child occupied, I am one worn out mother and grandmother. Healing takes time in all ways and wishing I was all better right now is not going to make it so. Getting a hand up from another kind person and a brief nap are the best ways of getting better, taking heart and trusting God to see us through this day.
The disciples were still new at their ministry and mission, exhausted and surprised every day. Nothing had prepared them for the storms they faced, the sights they would see and the things they would be asked to do. They got scared, like all of us. But Jesus walked to them on the water, quieted the days challenges, still the storm and gave them their rest. And God says to us today, take heart, there is also calming, rest, healing and stillness for us even today.
May we remember as this day comes to an end that people everywhere need to be reassured that God is with them. We can be the hands that offer help, the voices that offer stillness rather than judgement and rest for those who have struggled for so long. May we all see the challenges we faces, the storms that appear, as an invitation to see God walking to us, holding out a hand and getting into our messy little boats.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place 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 desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. Mark 6:30-46
I was probably one of the most overprotective Moms in the world - or at least my girls thought so. Making sure they had a snack or a lunch with them, extra money, all necessary phone numbers (long before cell phones), and reminders of what to do in all emergencies. They all had to learn to swim at a very young age, learn first aid and be girl scouts so they would have some useful survival skills. I guess like many mothers, I worried a good deal because I love them so much and they are loved and precious beyond words to me.
One little boy, in a crowd of so many thousands had a worrying mother, who packed him a little lunch so he wouldn't get weak before he returned home to her. She was worried that the rabbi might go on too long and all the adults there would forget how quickly children get hungry and tired. Her child wanted to venture our on his own and she conceded only if he would take the lunch, which he reluctantly did. We can be grateful for a mother's love as we can the cooperation and offering of one little boy. It was that little seed of love and caring that fed thousands upon thousands. Those people who were fed had no idea where the seed of food came from, they had no knowledge of the worried Mom or her generous son. But none will forget the great miracle that came from so little an offering. No one will forget they were satisfied, body and soul that day. And God promises to use our small offerings, our little worried, anxious lunches, for the glory of God's love and the care of people - body and soul.
Today I ask God to help me not see limits, mine or others, but always the possibilities that are before me. One little worried Mom and one small boy's lunch became satisfaction and healing for a multitude. May we all see that God can use our very little and transform what we offer into food for the whole world. God is not limited by our lack, so may we not be limited in generosity, knowing that God's love will transform the smallest gift into the biggest feast.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
When the report was heard in Pharaoh's house, “Joseph's brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”
The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”
So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” Genesis 45:16-28
Almost all families I have encountered have had falling outs, separations, arguments small and large, that over time have become great chasms and no one knows how to restore these. Parents and children hide their broken hearts. Siblings ache to see each other again but have no idea how or where to begin. When there has been violence, deception, greed and abuse thrown in, restoration seems impossible. In the ancient stories and in our times, God finds ways for us to be mended and restored.
Joseph had been sold into slavery by his jealous, angry brothers. They were going to kill him but the travelers intervened and they got rid of their problem with money in their pockets. Unforgivable, cruel behavior, from men who were supposedly faithful and righteous. In the course of time, Joseph becomes Pharaoh's right hand man and saves the land from starvation by planning ahead and listening to God. Then, at his door step he finds his brothers, the ones who should die for their abuse and treachery, and yet compassion finds a way into his heart. This great story of redemption and restoration is for all of us, even today. We live in broken, scattered families and communities. And God's activity was and is to bring us together, to restore the love, faithfulness and the compassion that was once our gift, that was once the symbol of who were are in this world.
Today I pray for all people and their families, however scattered, broken, hurt, deceived and isolated we might be. God promise to Jacob, that he would see his son, is God's promise and activity to all of us. Whatever has kept us from being whole, God's mission and mercy is to revive and restore love and compassion. May we who are blessed with love and compassion in our lives today, do all in our power to feed and encourage those who are so lost and far from home.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works 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. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged 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 put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. Mark 6:1-13
Two by Two
We went home and they scoffed
laughed and mocked for uselessness
and that was us, young and heedless
but God found a way to change all that.
Mocked and scorned and dejected
we sought solace in service
we sought strength in our weakness
and with nothing to take with us
God sent us forth.
The most unlikely messengers
the most feckless and confused heroes
we stepped out at God's direction
and found our lives.
They came to us in village after village
crept to us, embarrassed and afraid
we prayed and did what we had been taught
and God found a way to change all that.
Monday, March 12, 2012
And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet and implored him earnestly, saying, “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.” And he went with him.
And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And 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, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But 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. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:21-43
Today our eldest faces yet another surgery, her third in a very short period of time to repair an infection. She has been very sick for quite some time, missing work and in serious pain. I was with her during the last one and her hospital stay, but since my surgery two weeks ago I cannot travel that far. Wonderful dear friends are taking care of her, sitting with her as she faces this next round. Like Jairus, I run to Jesus to beg for him to heal my daughter. And like the old woman in the crowd, I ache to be done with this pain, the confinement and slow progress that never seems quite fast enough. I spend a good deal of time in prayer and today this gospel feels like my story.
Jesus was asked to be in two places at once, surrounded by a crowd pressing so close his progress was painfully slow. He didn't get to the girl before she died because of the human press around him. And he took time to touch the woman who had suffered for so long, who was so worn down and ashamed, so weary with pain and confinement. That slowed his progress too. The Gospel tells us that he took time for the insignificant woman as well as the ruler's child, and held them by the hand. He touched them and healed them. Love's timing is not human timing, and God's desire to touch us with healing hands is stronger than the disease and fear we fight. God loves us first and foremost, and crowds, bad traffic and confusion are no match for the love of God.
Today I ask simply for healing - for love to reach beyond limits, beyond distances and capacities - for all who cry out in pain this day. "Dear God, guide the surgeons hands, the nurses touch, along those who watch and wait and pray. Make us aware of your constant love for each of us reaching beyond time and space with healing and hope in every moment. Help us who are weary from pain and waiting to know your presence and peace. Amen"
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22
Sometimes we get so used to the way things are, the routine, the everyday, that we never stop to even consider what we are doing. There are many ways to make a good cup of coffee or tea, but most people make their cuppa the same way every time. We go to church and most likely sit in the same place, great the same people, have a routine of brunch, newspaper or the like thereafter. We find routine comforting and supportive but we often don't notice the people around us, and how our routines might actually challenge their faith. The people who chide noisy children can break a parent's heart. Those who push past the elderly, slow and injured can do damage more than physical. Hearts can be broken and fragile faith destroyed for our needs and conveniences.
Jesus saw the norm, the routine, the market-driven holy place and turn things upside down. Folks had gotten so used to the business, the money-changing, the sale of sacrificial animals, they never even noticed what their routines might actually be doing. Driving the poor of heart, those who could not afford the going rates, those who's trip alone cost them everything - all these were broken by the usual routine, the careless, insensitive, exclusive and vulgar habits that defined the norm. Jesus invites us deeper into our Lenten journey, to a serious look at our routines and our lives. Are we living with compassion for others, or living to get through. Are we seeing with the eyes of God, or through shades to filter out the human pain and drama?
Today, as we walk this journey together, may we open our eyes to the needs right before us, and offer sacrifices of love and service, as God intends. May our routines daily be broken by love, compassion and service. May we offer ourselves so that others may see God, and may we be instruments of God's love and peace in this season and always.
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Mark 5:1-20 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.(Mark 5:1-20
Trying too Hard
Today I tried to defy gravity
to do more than allowed
to be less broken faster moving
less earthbound and more mobile.
Collapsing midday pulling blankets
over my head asleep within seconds
I found my real humanity
and the truth about God.
Only God can wipe out the legions
the demons the nightmares the failures
only God can work in whispered midnight
in sanctuary and silence banishing the demons
who possess our hearts and wrap their tentacles
around our puffed up ego.
We are mortal and dust enlivened by love incarnate
breath as a gift from another
healing as the Cretor's touch
we are to wait in the night caves
putting down our weapons
setting aside the bluster and bravado
and rest on the wings of love.
Friday, March 9, 2012
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41
When we were kids there was a huge picture window over the kitchen sink. It faced west, towards the Delaware Bay and we could watch sunsets and all sorts of cloud formations through that window. When big storms were coming, with thunder and lightening at night, my Dad would line up the chairs in rows facing the window and we would watch the spectacle of nature, like enchanted kids at the movies. We would cheer and laugh and roar with delight. Sometimes we would even make popcorn for the show. From our safe distance we could enjoy the storm in all it's brilliance and majesty. What I have learned from these past stormy days of healing and recuperation, my lenten journey, is that the experience is very difference when you are on the water in a little boat. Every moment and every breath is clinging to life and every word is a prayer.
The disciples were people used to being on small boats in big storms. The storm that took them by surprise was more than their skill and experience combined could handle. They knew from a life time of experience that this was life threatening and impossible to survive. They woke Jesus who took control of the wind and the waves and went back to sleep. Their marvel, and wonderment was combined with confusion and lack of how to understand what had just happened to them. God heard their prayers, and put the power of love in between them and destruction, which is God's constant activity, God's constant desire for us. God was in the midst of them.
Today, I ask God to give us all the strength to hold on, no matter what we are facing, trusting that God is with us, taking hold of the wind and the waves. May we cling to the knowledge that God is bigger than what we face today, and will see us through the pain and dislocation, bringing us to new compassion, new insight and a snug harbor to call home.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out 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 without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. Mark 4:21-34
The Light House
You are constant and regular
a beacon reaching weak souls
battered boats on rough seas
cossetted and abused alike
you shine unbidden and so needed.
We are all adrift from time to time
you make no judgement just direct
showing the shortest distance home
the safest nearby cozy harbor
and the houses lit expecting lost souls.
A beacon to the demanding and desperate alike
a full turn every sixty seconds ever vigilant
ever welcoming no falseness nor enticements
just safe harbor and a please come home.
We can ignore you or romance your image
you care not but that we share the light
the simple strength if night guidance
the deep constancy of faith in hard times
you asks only that we neglect no one
and use our small gifts for good.
You are constant and regular
a beacon reaching weak souls
battered boats on rough seas
cossetted and abused alike
you shine unbidden and so needed.
We are weak and passing through
victims of tides and fancies
you are for us no matter the reason
you shine without seeing our foolish ways
light is your gift, disasters averted offered
we ache so much for your light within us
so we might not be so alone.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Night Prayer – from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer
The angels of God guard us through the night,
And quieten the powers of darkness.
The Spirit of God be our guide
To lead us to peace and to glory.
It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For
those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.
My brothers and sisters, our help is in the name of the eternal God,
Who is making the heavens and earth.
Dear God, thank you for all that is good, for our creation and our humanity, for the stewardship
you have given us of this planet earth, for the gifts of life and of one another, for your love which
is unbounded and eternal.
O thou, most holy and beloved, my Companion, my Guide upon the way, my bright evening star.
We repent the wrongs we have done:
We have wounded your love.
O God, hear us.
We stumble in the darkness.
Light of the world transfigure us.
We forget that we are your home.
Spirit of God, dwell in us.
Eternal Spirit, living God, in whom we live and move and have our being, all that we are, have been, and shall be is known to you, to the very secret of our hearts and all that rises to trouble us.
Living flame, burn into us. Cleansing wind, blow through us. Fountain of water, well up within us, that we may love and praise in deed and in truth.
Eternal Spirit, flow through our being and open our lips,
that our mouths may proclaim your praise.
Let us worship the God of love,
from this time forth and forever more.
Answer me when I call, O God, for your are the God of justice.
You set me free when I am hard-pressed: be gracious to me now and hear my prayers.
Men and women, how long will you turn my glory to my shame? How long will you love what is worthless and run after lies?
Know that God has shown me such wonderful kindness: when I call out in prayer, God hears me. Tremble, admit defeat, and sin no more. Look deep into your heart before you sleep and be still. Bring your gifts, just as you are, and put your trust in God. Many are asking, Who can make us content?
The light of your countenance has gone from us, O God. Yet you have given my heart more gladness than those whose corn and wine and oil increase.
I lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for in you alone, O God, do I dwell unafraid.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. Do good and lend, expecting nothing in return. . . Be merciful as your Father is merciful.
Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; for the measure you give will be the measure you receive. (from Luke 6: 27-38)
Into your hands, O God, I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me, O God of truth and love.
Keep me, O God, as the apple of an eye;
Hide me under the shadow of your wings.
Antiphon: Preserve us, O God, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep may rest in your peace.
Song of Simeon: Praise be to God, I have lived to see this day. God’s promise is fulfilled, and my duty done. At last, you have given me peace, for I have seen with my own eyes the salvation your have prepared for all nations – a light to the world in its darkness, and the glory of your people Israel. Glory be to
God, sustaining, redeeming, sanctifying, as it was in the beginning, so now, and for ever. Amen.
Antiphon: Preserve us, O God, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep may rest in your peace.
Prayers: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.
I will lie down in peace and take my rest,
for it is in God alone that I dwell unafraid.
Let us bless the Earth-maker, the Pain-bearer, the Life-giver,
let us praise and exalt God above all for ever.
Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.
The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray. Amen.
O God of love and mercy, grant us, with all your people, rest and peace. Amen.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said 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 is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:20-35
I am the fourth child in a family of five children, which is a large family these days, but too unusual when we were growing up. Each family has at least one eccentric, if not several, and in my family we seemed to be loaded with them. Artists, musicians, neurotics, big story tellers and everything in between. It would seem that part of a family's job is to keep one another from treading too far over the line (some invisible line known best when crossed). We love each other, put up with each others' foibles and try to keep one another from getting hurt, chewed up or at least, ridiculed by others.
Jesus' family shows up to try to save him from danger. I can see it now, Mary, hands on her hips, wide-eyed brothers and sisters, a pandemonium of love and futility. His family was worried he was out of his mind. Sure, Mary knew, from years of experience, angelic visitations and the like, that her son was to be the Savoir of the world. She got that part. But the scene in front of her was nothing like her imagining, and it seemed more like a riot and she feared for the whole circumstances. In her mind, things had gone terribly wrong. As it turns out, her son, chooses this moment to declare all of us his family, not just his flesh and blood, but all of us, complicated, confused and everybody in between. Family. People often read this as a rejection of his own family, but I hear it as the affirmation that Mary was looki9ng for, that we are all looking for - here is the Savoir of the world who can find a place at the table even for the likes of me and my family.
Today, I ask God to help us all live as the family of God, with all the bumps, warts, mental challenges and delusions that are simply part of being a family. May we, who have been welcomed, just as we are, likewise welcomed those who come, just as they are. The world abounds with judgement and rejection, family-less people, loveless relationships and folks who are shunned for small infractions and slight differences.
May we make God's love known by making room for everyone who comes our way today, for they are family, no matter who strange or different they may seem.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Mark 3:7-19
One of my favorite movies of all times - The Russians are Coming! - tells the story of a Russian ship run a ground off a small New England sea village loaded with local characters. The cast includes comedic greats like Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, and Jonathan Winters to name just a few. Made during the cold war era, while I was in junior high, it spoke to me of the ridiculousness of our common fears, the unique personalities that live year round in small ocean villages like this, and the triumph of love and compassion. The villagers form a flotilla hundreds of little rickety boats, surrounding the Russian ship as it makes it's way to safe waters, protecting their new friends from the fire power of the American navy. Somehow God finds ways to give us the strength to protect the truth and give love safe passage.
Jesus is overwhelmed by the response he has gotten as his ministry is taking off. The crowds crushed in upon him, aching to be healing, suffering for years with extraordinary pain, isolation and rejection. Their lives had become their disease and pain, and they pressed in on all sides to be touched and healed by Jesus. The disciples found him safe passage, and a place to rest, so that he might be renewed and find a way forward. It is in this moment that his sets aside his disciples, he forms his team and enables them to be a full part of the ministry, understanding by their demonstration of love and compassion, their willingness to give their all for God and others.
Today, there are no less people who suffer so that they ar3e identified by their disease, people who ache to reclaim their identities, their lives and their usefulness in this world. We all have a choice to shut ourselves off, our to form a flotilla of love and compassion, a moving group who serve God wherever the spirit may lead us. There is no shortage of need, simply a shortage of compassion and many are held back by fear and inadequacy. We can all feel like rickety boats, at times. But it is exactly these that God needs, exactly that motley crew of disciples he called then, and the motley crew of all of us he calls now. Let us have the courage to jump in the boat, casting off, and with lots of prayer, follow where the master leads.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:31-38
It dawned on me somewhere in the middle of the night that healing is a choice, an affirmation, and definitive yes! we must all make. Real people with real bodies want to deny pain and refuse the need for help of any kind. And yet the asking is halfway to healing, the need the recognition of the true shape we are in, and the yes to God, our willingness to be completely human and turn the control over to God. We are full participants in our healing, no matter how long or instantaneously it happens. And we are the only people who can articulate our true need, our true desire and our honest desperation. And it is in that place where God draws near, settles in with us and leads us beyond brokenness to courageous healing. The truth of living the Gospel is an honest acceptance of who we are and how much we need from God.
Peter doesn't want to hear the truth, rather he wants an heroic, epic tale of strength and valor, where no weakness and humanity is required. He dreams his scenes in technicolor, comic book style, where the darkness and light are clearly marked and the simple order of things works just right. Like Peter we often want to be on the right side without any real participation from ourselves. Jesus says to us to take up our cross and follow him. Not to take up the coolest weapons, but instead to carry our weakness and need as a shield, to openly bear our humanity as we follow him. To most of us our true humanity is humiliating, and yet it the required garments, the equipment we bear - the full truth and our willingness to turn it to God.
As we walk this Lenten journey together, may we remember that is our weakness that God needs, our willingness to participate in the healing, and our hearts open for a new life that will bring us to this Easter to come. There is no other way than the way
of the cross, the Cross of Christ, and our bedraggled, mottled crosses that we have hidden for so long. May this be a week of walking for love, knowing that the strength to love and be renewed will come with each honest step we take.
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Words to remember for Today-
Psalm 22:23<i> For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them; but when they cry to him he hears them.