Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weeds


He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

Weeds

We planted in straight lines
water and waited and the good seed
came up random and crooked
surrounded by weeds
tender and young the weeding
would have destroyed new life.

We were careful with the fragile shoots
slim and reaching for light and rain
we watched and prayed that a good crop
would find its way to the table
and the weeds were strong and hardy
standing tall taunting and fierce
interwoven with the tender sprigs.

We sweated as the flowers appeared
night watering and hoeing around
the removed weeds came back again
more strident than ever more resistant
to our labor and our prayers.

We went to the garden early
in the morning and tender fruit
hanging on strong vines timid no longer
but upright and abundantly alive
the weeds now overshadowed by life
fears covered over by blessing.

We walk in the evening and listen
all nature gathers round the garden
a song of thanksgiving for living
a trust deeper than strong roots
a faithfulness older than time
a surety regular and growing
the Creator in the garden
whispers a song of plenty
as we take the whither weeds away.




Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Real Family


While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:46-50

When I was a kid, I was a major fan of the Addams Family. I even got a light bulb for Christmas one year that would light up when you put it in your mouth, just like Uncle Fester. It was a prized possession. Maybe I never saw my family as "average" or maybe I thought we were weird and different, but the Addams Family resonated with me, unlike other family dramas. Clergy kids tend to see the world differently, and our place in it anyway, so watching another family that was odd and quirky thrilled me completely. We were a mismatched bunch, Indian kids in a very white, suburban backdrop, and fitting in never happ0ened for me. Being part of an odd family and being affirmed in that was a gift.

Jesus is confronted, in the midst of teaching and healing, by an urgent request to respond to his mother and siblings. They were his family of origin, his people, the ones who stood beside him in his growing and awkward years. He doesn't want to stop to visit with them and declares that all the folks who honor God are his family. Good for us, a little awkward and off-putting for his family in that moment. And yet a point was made. No matter how alone we might be, no matter how abnormal, different or weird we might seem, we have a family in God. We are the siblings of Jesus, made flesh and blood family despite our origins, our strange family, or a broken past. We belong to God's family and are as welcome and familiar as any other, even the son of God. How amazing and kind, to imagine ourselves within the circle of God's immediate kin, God's beloved children, God's people welcome as close relatives at all times.

Today, we are invited to live into the call to be the family of God, by seeing ourselves, beloved and welcome and seeing others as God's family also. There are no outsiders or strangers at God's table. May today be a day of welcome for us all. May God's love be made real, God's touch be very close, and our identity so wrapped up in God's love that we know ourselves held close and supported in every step we take. May we in turn, offer welcome and affirmation to those around us, who might be feeling alone, afraid or outcast. May we strive to share the welcome and the love with everyone we meet this day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solid Fruit Trees


“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37


I have always loved going out to pick fruit, whether it is strawberries in late May and early June, peaches in July, beach plums in August, or Apples in the fall. Every experience in an orchard or along the side of the dunes brings a beauty and tenderness. Years ago, walking along a country road in Ireland, we picked blackberries as we walked and had a great breakfast of the sweet and abundant fruit. When our children were living at home we always went out with them to pick fruit. Now that they are grown we still plan to go out, hoping to take our granddaughter with us as well. God's abundance and blessings seems so evident in the process of piking fruit, and I always return home with a sense of thanksgiving and blessing.

Jesus talks about trees bearing fruit, both good and evil. We trees can, bear fruit and be generous in everything, or be rigid and selfish and bear the fruit of control and bitterness. God's reign is of abundance, even when we only see scarcity, and limits. We can tap into the rich soil of God's blessings, or we can cut ourselves off and protect our limited resources until they are gone. God invites us to be bearers of abundant and good fruits, even in times of anxiety and scarcity. God asks us to be blessing in a hard world, abundance and tenderness amidst harshness and shortage, knowing that we can bless others as we offer ourselves.

Today, I ask God to help me be a resource, to be a fruitful tree, so that others might see God's abundance and offered potential, in my life. In these hard times, when there is every reason for anxiety and worry, may we all be fruitful and abundant trees, planted firm in God's rich soil. May our faithfulness be a witness and a cool orchard in blistering and troubled times. May we be shelter to others as God has sheltered us, knowing that we are planted firm, and always blessed beyond measure.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering



I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.
For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.
You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!
For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
Be gracious to me, O LORD!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!
Put them in fear, O LORD!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Psalm 9


I grew up as a Navy Chaplain's kid, with a father who served in the Second World War, Korea and stateside during Vietnam. When I was young we spent several summers at Camp LeJuene, North Carolina during the height of the Vietnam conflict. Today, we will go out to the cemetery with my mother and plant flowers. He is buried in a local military cemetery with a standard simple Arlington headstone marking the site. He thought it the greatest honor to serve his country. He never owned guns as a civilian but was a patriot in the best of terms. His faith was deep and he lived his life to serve others, not for guts or glory, but with a self-deprecating sense that living for others was an honorable calling.

When I was young my parents taught me many Psalms and wanted me to learn them by heart. I often asked why this was and rarely got an answer I could hang on to. Then when I was twelve and sick, facing some painful surgery, I found myself reciting the same psalms as I lay waiting to be taken to the operating room. It was then a real answer came - in the experience. Jesus recited words of the psalms when facing grave danger. I imagine that many a soldier recited psalms and other verses as they faced the worst of conflicts and feared for their lives. God gives us words in our deepest sorrows, comfort in our times of terrible loss, strength in our weakness and courage when we flag and fail.

Today I ask that we honor all those who faced terrible dangers and horrors for the sake of others, who stood and fought despite their weariness and fears. May we be grateful to all those who have sacrificed so others can live free, and to their families who live with the loss and grief every day. May we be moved by others' strength to offer our lives in God's service, lives lived as an offering for the love and blessings we receive. May we thank God for their sacrifice by serving God with great joy.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost 2012




When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." Acts 2:1-11


I once attended a dinner with friends where several of the host spoke many languages. They had been raised in multilingual households, and they were able to switch back and forth with relative ease. I felt very inept around them, as they were also gifted musicians and great cooks. They had capacities I will never have. They had learned the languages as small children and were encouraged to speak, read and think in many tongues. What a gift to be in the presence of people who could converse across all sorts of barriers and understand across many cultures. We can be so limited by our understanding in one language, but can become nimble and creative when we are exposed to many ways of thinking and speaking.

The disciples were going about their business, one foot in front of the other, doing what they knew to do but not always knowing why. The days after Easter were confusing, and they had lost compass. They found themselves at the feast, because it was their tradition and obligation, not because they expected anything. They trusted that God was working in them, but they were still struggling to find how. In an amazing moment, they were given ability they did not have by their own merit, and they were able to share and be understood by all. The power of God was upon them, giving them gifts and skills for the care of others gathered together. Although they showed up with limited expectations, they found themselves caught up by the power of God, able to do and say beyond their capacity, and everyone understood that God was working in them, and in everyone gathered. God gives us gifts we cannot earn, special talents that we can hardy deserve, and they are for the good of all the gathered, where ever we find ourselves. Even when we show up reluctantly, God shoews up with power and gifts for the whole community.

Today, as we celebrate the gift and power of God in our lives, I ask to simply be grateful for the willingness of God to inhabit and empower cracked and incomplete human vessels. None of us is all powerful nor totally gifted, but God is always willing to bring a mighty gift if we are willing to share the gift with others. The words and language are for sharing, the compassion and healing for others. God invites us to give thanks for these gifts at Pentecost by sharing the love and forgiveness we have been given and by trusting that God will provide in every circumstance and situation.


The Collect

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Take Heart, Daughter


While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. Matthew 9:18-26

Take heart, daughters
you have suffered long
never giving up or in you
live your life full of love
despite that pain constant
dull and searing unrelenting
daily you get up to serve.

Take heart, sisters
the light has pierced through
the saturating darkness
which took breath and life
has vanished with the morning
gone with daylight and love.

Take heart, sons
for your deep sorrow and sighs
echoed in heaven waking
compassion at its source
the dawning of healing has come
and you are alone no more.

Take heart, brothers
for the days of greed and slavery
are silenced this hour
God's right hand of mercy
dismissed the yoke and burden
and tore the shackles free.

Take heart, you mothers and fathers,
your prayers and tears daily touch
the heart of God moving
beyond understanding healing
beyond imagination.

Take heart, brothers and sisters all
for your suffering is felt
and your cries are heard
God is with us moving and changing
the tide of love is riding
to meet us all.




Friday, May 25, 2012

The Taxman

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13




It that kind of Friday and has been that kind of week where we need music and lightness in the face of small irritating challenges that somehow accumulate and make us all irritable. It has been a week of overcast skies and high humidity with low barometric pressure. The dog is regularly hiding under our bed, or curled up on her bed looking depressed. So, a little lightheartedness and the music attached are offered to lighten the mood and remember that even the Beatles thought the taxman was repugnant, and made a hit out of the pain of being taxed. Go to: to hear the Beatles's remaster hit - The Taxman.


Jesus calls the most despicable person to follow him. Folks in Jesus' community liked criminals better than they did the taxman. The taxman represented a corrupt and occupying government, one that raised taxes on the least able to pay, and which took no notice of the needs of the people. The roman government was cruel and so Matthew was painted with the same brush of paint as the people's worst enemy. God chooses the least likely, the problem people, those with a past to be followers and among the faithful. And as it irritated the religious leadership then, it irritates us now. But it shouldn't, because if we are honest, all of us are despicable, each in our own way, each of us has been selfish and cruel in our own time. And God chooses to sit with us and abide with us and love us because of and despite our cruel and inhuman behaviors.

Today, I ask God to help me to refrain from judging others, not labeling them as sinners or enemies but seeing them as God see them - as the beloved also. May my heart be broken open to truly love my enemies, those who disagree with me, those who have hurt me, those who live for themselves to the destruction of others, and those whose selfishness has caused the downfall of others. God loves them, and sits at table with them, and in Matthew's calling, we are invited to love beyond our human understanding. May God sit at table with us today so that we might expand our love and forgiveness to our hurting world.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Freed by Dependence


And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8

We are a mobile society and we prize our independence and mobility more than we can even say. As Memorial Day approaches, the newscasters talk about the many millions of people who will be on the road this weekend. We think that independence and constant motion make us winners. And yet, over this year, due to a back injury, having lived with limited mobility and having had complete reliance on others, there is a true spiritual gift in dependence and relying on God and others for everything. When healing comes, when the "take up your bed and walk" moment happens, however limited that might be, there is a joy so deep and complete.

Jesus finds a very broken man by the side of the road and tells him he is forgiven. Folks think that he is blaspheming but instead he is unloosing the chains that have bound him. When he tells him to get up and go home, the man is both spiritual and physically healed. For so long the man has thought himself a failure, a disappointment, a mistake and a mess - that is what society puts on those who are broken and crippled in all sorts of ways. He is free to walk and to rejoice and go home, for he is free of all the chains that bind him. As we whirr past in this age, are we really as free as the paralytic, or moving fast so we don't see our chains and our need. God knows are need, and our chains and is always more ready to relieve us that we are ready to ask.

Today, for some, the burdens and the brokenness as too much to bear. When we come to that point we are asked to look to the one on the side of the road, the paralytic, the scorned, the cast aside and the broken. In their need we can see our need and offer our sin to God for healing and our bodies for their healing. Our highways and byways are littered with those we have cast off, but God is asking us to seek out our brokenness and be healed, and then offer our selves and our gifts for the healing of the world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pigs Again


And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. Matthew 8:28-34


There is something endearing to me about pigs. They are truly smelly and noisy when grown but the little pigs have a tender and sweet character. And pigs are some of the more intelligent animals in the kingdom. Very few children missed the story of Charlotte's Web and the moving relationship between the spider and the pig named Wilbur. Our daughter Ariel, when she was young, always said she wanted to be a ballerina and a pig farmer. Pigs can be incorrigible and messy but somehow they tug our heartstrings none the less.

Jesus encounters two men who are possessed. They have been the scourge of the area and folks are terrified to go anywhere near them. They are tormented and fearsome and everyone wants them to be gone. When Jesus cures them and rids them of their demons, he agrees to send the demons into the pigs, which as we know leads to disaster for the pigs. The people come out to Jesus to ask him to leave. Their livelihood is gone, or at least a herd is demolished and two healed men are no replacement. In hard economic times, we have seen all too clearly that the cash crops can take precedence over human life and we chose wealth over health every time. God's healing, real healing means a change of emphasis, a new life where compassion and humility are at the core. Real healing means greed and vanity go out the door and in come love, forgiveness and tenderness.

Today I ask God to help me trust in prayer and to help me be willing to take on answered prayers challenges. We need help from the source, from our Creator, to live in the abundance we ask for with humility and care for others. We want answers but we also need to be ready to change and embrace the people of God, no matter how different they are. May we all have the courage of our prayers today and open wide our hearts to the answers that are breaking forth. May we see the new, not as threats, but as true gifts, new people who will change our world for the better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stormy Weather


And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27


Years ago, when I was serving as bishop in Southern Virginia, one of my seminarians took us out for an afternoon on the water. He was a great host, making us lunch and touring us around so that we could see dolphins and other sea creatures. It was a beautiful, warm summer day and the water was calm and the sun was brilliant. All of the sudden a storm starting moving in and we had to hustle back to the dock, miles away. It was a very anxious little while, as Fred masterfully steered the craft back to safe harbor. As we got towards the dock the rain and wind hit hard. He was worried that his bishop would be upset, but I offered to help and he pressed me into service. We prayed hard and I got us tied up with his help. We laughed about it when it was all done, but we also recognized in that moment how fragile and tenuous life is and how much we rely on God for everything.

Jesus is asleep while a storm rages. The disciples wake Jesus because they are afraid for their lives. It is a very real, human fear, when everything around us looks bleak and we are about to go down. He chides them for their lack of faith and then shows them how able he is to control even the wind and the waves. God, within him, worked to provide safety and calm to the terrified disciples. And God, working within and around us, is still ready and able to provide calm and safety in the midst of all life's storms. We are never alone even in the bleakest hours of fear and terror. God is with us.

Today, I ask God to increase my faith, so that in every storm and squall, I might call upon God and trust that calm and safety are present in every circumstance. I pray that we can all be faithful followers, in our terrors and storms, knowing God is with us in our tiny boats, our fragile existences and our humble isolated places. God is with us, and we, who know we are never alone are simply asked to be agents of love and safety, of safe harbor and hope for those who have been lost in the storms of life.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Many Will Come to the Table


When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:5-17


Come to the Feast

There is room for you
weary and tired aching
empty and alone
the table is set for you
the food is cooked for you
and you are welcome anytime.

An alien in the country
a leader of the invading army
he saw the work and believed the signs
and came to Jesus for his dying servant.

A woman lying sick wracked with fever
she has but breaths left
she has no will to go on
she lies in hope but aches to die
and he makes her well.

There is room for you
weary and tired aching
empty and alone
the table is set for you
the food is cooked for you
and you are welcome anytime.

A stranger with a chronic disease
an outcast with leprosy
a death sentence and abandoned
fearless in their loss they reach
they ask and God draws near.

Three days dead Lazarus lies
his sisters torn asunder by their loss
anger on their lips and yet they ask
they silently hope for resurrection
and their brother rises and they tremble
knowing God is in their midst
God is with them in the sorrow.

There is room for you
weary and tired aching
empty and alone
the table is set for you
the food is cooked for you
and you are welcome anytime.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Care and Protection



Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed, "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth." John 17:6-19

As we w ere getting ready to leave town on Friday, we passed the duck pond and saw the swans. Usually, this time of year if there are cygnets, they keep themselves and their babies well hidden. It was early in the morning and there were few people about. Watching them was beautiful and fascinating, as they swam and fed. The adults are careful with their young , never letting one swim too far away and swimming with one adult in front and one behind. Graceful and beautiful, the swans are some of the glorious creatures on the pond, and yet their whole beings were focused on the care of their young.

We find Jesus at prayer, his whole being focused on the care of his followers. He wants that their "joy might be complete" despite the fact that he knows how challenging their lives ahead will be. Jesus know how hard the challenges ahead will be for us also, and wants not only our full protection but that our joy might be complete. Consider this, the savior of the world took out time to pray for us, asking for us to be strong, protected and sanctified. Like a loving parent, his single care was for the followers fullness of life - our joy and our care. God's love is not focused on the beauty of creation, but on the most vulnerable, the needy, the humble.

Today, I am so grateful for the love and watch care given me throughout my life. As a child, I did not see how much my parents did for me, and as an adult I knew how much I needed God since I could not protect and care for our children alone. May we all give thanks for the tender loving care we have for God who care intimately for all the people of the world.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Outcast No Longer



And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Matthew 7:28-8:4


Outcast No More

When they saw me pass by they turned
away and hid their children afraid
of my disease and my red welts and scars
you saw your hidden pain on my skin
and wanted me dead.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.



When I came into the crowd they parted
talking and gossiping trying to shame
me to leave them alone with their attitudes
and their airs of superiority they hate me
I am just like them.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.



The crowd wanted a free lecture and concert
they wanted to be fed but they did not want
to take truth in to see
their disease their brokenness
would make them just like me.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.


The beautiful can hide their ugly hearts
the rich can slather on the balm of greed
the gifted can mask the pain in wizardry
and all can hate me because I cannot hide
I cannot play the game.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.


They crowed around after wanting to know
one would write my story one make me famous
one would be my friend forever and one
would take me home with them but they
are not like me.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.


I ran to the temple alone and the priest
who had banned me years ago did not recognize
was no longer revolted by my presence
no longer rejecting a healed familiar face
I was unrecognizable because of love's command.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.

He took my gift and heard my confession
but he refused to believe my story
he sent me away and kept my offering
his pain so long hidden was now visible
aching to be delivered too he ran
to find the one who had made me whole.

I have a life sentence outcast alone
nothing to lose but my shame and isolation
I heard his promise and I cam and knelt.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Solid Rock


On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:22-27


Yesterday I swam for the first time after back surgery. I have been aching to swim but had been forbidden since the surgery was extensive and I needed time to heal. The doctor instructed me to take it very slow, and only do a few laps for my first time out. It was hard to hold back, but I knew how weak I was, even as I delighted in the water. It has taken a lot of time and trust to come back from so much weakness and pain. There were times when it seemed too overwhelming, living patiently as mending and healing took place. Yesterday in the water, I could rejoice in the power of prayer and faith that has held me securely in this long time of healing. I was not a rock, but I was place firmly in that solid rock.

Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that there were many storms facing them in their walk of faith. We cannot expect happy days and an easy ride all the time. Sometimes we have to be totally dependent on those around us, weak as we heal and learn to love. Other times we have to be the strong and steady as the world around us spins out of control. We can take heart and strength in the fact that we are planted on the rock, we are beloved and cared for, we are never alone and always loved and protected beyond measure.

Today, I ask God to give us all the strength of faith today, and enough humility to ask for help when we find ourselves sinking. May prayer be always on our lips, so that we remember in every moment our reliance on God, and God's promise to be constant, and solid as a rock through all our storms. May God grant us wisdom to built our lives on love and faithfulness, so that we can be strength for others in times of need.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Road Ahead


Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

Today we hear the great commission from Jesus, that sending forth, that firm command to go and share the Gospel to all nations. We have seen over the course of history how many folks have been faithful carriers of the Gospel across the world. Some have used the Gospel for their own increase, and some in ignorance or greed have done great damage spreading the Gospel. The road ahead is never easy. We are asked first to love (the greatest and first commandment) and then to forgive, whatever the circumstances whom ever the people. We are directed as disciples to go forth, but the path is always challenging and there are bumps in the road. God invites us today to be strong in our faith, sharing with love and compassion the love we have been given.

So, for all of those who have lost they way, or those who are struggling in faith, and for all those who do not know where they are being sent, and are not clear where they are being lead - for all of us and more -I offer one of my favorite hymns of all times. From the heart of those who have known tremendous struggle and horrible abuse and who have remained faithful and hopeful I offer this anthem today.May we sing it as a prayer, and as St. Francis noted, when you sing you pray twice.


Lift Every Voice and Sing



Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heav'n ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith
that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope
that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way
that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path
thro’ the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from a gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam
of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places
Our God where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world
we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Parent and Child


Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:41-46



I spent some time today having routine tests that the doctor had ordered for my physical. Filling out forms, I thought about all of the information they were asking for, and how little of it told the full story. Yes, there is cancer in the family, yes my mother is still living....on and on. Medical histories are so important, I do understand. But there is a richness is relationship, that is bigger than just our DNA, bigger a story than who we know ourselves to be, or even who we think we are. There is the story of who God made us to be and how we are in relationship to our Creator. We are children of a loving, eternal parent who sees more than just an aging person with potential for disease and failure. God sees us as beloved children.

Jesus is being tested by the leaders of the synagogue. He has annoyed and frightened them because they are aware of his influence but he is not an insider and he hasn't conformed to the rules of their leadership. He is a straggly off-cast from the hinterlands, neither sophisticated nor trained in their polite society. And yet, folks recognize his authority and relationship with God. He knew God intimately, as a child to a parent. Our relationship with God is to be similar, as children of the living God. Not as outcasts or orphans but as beloved children, sought out and wanted by the Creator who delights in each offspring and sees them as great gifts and endless possibilities.

Today, I ask God to help me live as both a beloved child and a loving parent, always open to more - capacity and blessing in myself and others. It's easy to dwell on our deficits as they seem so obvious. May we dwell on our gifts and our potentials, our growth and our strengths, so that God can use them for the healing of the world and for the uplifting of all the children, everywhere.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Abundance


“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23

Abundance (to Mark - on the occasion of our 37th anniversary)

We have charted undiscovered waters together
we have raised our dancing girls together
we have wept and laughed into the night
and planted our gardens where ever we found home.

A young woman and man with hope together
forged a life a community a family
strong and wild with water and spirit
together we found abundance in one another.

No storm of fury has undone us
no disease or injury has torn us apart
we are soil and light, food and water
for each other and we never stand alone.

It rains and snows and we move ahead
planning our spring gardens our new home
our life ahead without fear and foreboding
where there is love there is abundance
richness beyond measure in your eyes.

Today more than ever we are together
walking slower but laughing all the more
we are rich and blessed with love all around
and God has given us the increase together
whenever we seek love and plant the seeds
of hope and mercy together.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Seeds


That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people's heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13:1-16

We spent part of the weekend planting a small garden in the back yard, along with turning over my mother's flower beds and planting flowers for her. She supervised, but really isn't able to do much gardening in the yard. She still plants and tends the flower boxes on her back deck. We put in tomatoes, eggplant and beans, knowing now, from last year, that the soil did best with these three crops. Everything else was feeble at best. We went with the seeds we know will take hold and produce, keeping realistic about our capacity as well as the garden's capacity.

The people are responding to Jesus in such large amounts that he has to go out in a boat to be heard. And yet, he speaks to them in parables, stories needing interpretation, because of their confusion and their distraction by politics and the veils of religion. The words are clear and yet folks will misuse them if their hearts are unwilling to change. God invites us today to plant gardens of faith with depth and care, feeding the fledgling plants and providing tender care as well as water. We often go for big events of faith and forget the daily, moment by moment, tending of our faith. We are told stories to trigger a deeper response, a deeper meaning. It's time to get busy in our gardens, and to be caretakers for those who cannot right now.

Today, I ask god to give me strength for the long haul. May I be able to tend all the gardens I have been given, to weed and water, to bend and to hoe, so that there is depth and richness to my work and abundance at day's end. May we all be faithful gardeners of the love we have been given by God, tenderly caring for all who come our way, and feeding the weakest and the most vulnerable among us. May God use us as caretakers and stewards of the faith, so that all of our words and actions might be to the glory of God this day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love's Command




Jesus said to his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another." John 15:9-17


Over this week we celebrate several anniversaries. Yesterday I celebrated the 22nd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Today is Mother's Day, when we honor those who have given us life and unconditional love. Tomorrow would have been my father's 95th birthday, and Tuesday is our 37th wedding anniversary. There is a tenderness in this season, a sweet memory but also a challenge - a challenge to honor vows and memories, to continue to be faithful and to love in response to an abundance of love.

As a child, we often bristle against commands and rules, thinking we are being held back and restricted. And yet, we are kept safe, and grow to maturity because of the rules and the people who kept us safe. Jesus sets a few rules and commands for his disciples and all his followers. We are asked to love each other as he has loved us, offering a selfless sacrifice for others. The command to love is easy to hear and harder to follow. Because of we love,we have to forgive, honoring and caring no matter what others dish out, no matter how cruel and selfish people might be. We all will spend a life learning how to love completely, forgive continually and to love as we have been loved. And yet it is our call and the rule to live by - love.

Today, as we celebrate Mother's Day, I ask God to give me the strength to love completely and to honor the vows I have taken by living as one who lives by love's command. We are blessed by those who have loved us, so may we honor them by being those who practice love and forgiveness in every moment. May the rule we live by give us joy, so that we might share God's love across our communities.




The Collect

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gardens and Gates


“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." Matthew 7:13-20


Gardens and Gates

My hands are darkened with spring soil
my nails encrusted my knees are dirty
I am working in the warm soil hoping
for new life and new growth
from these old and weary vines.

Winter has passed and we inspect the volunteers
growth that needs to be trimmed back weeds
disguised as healthy plants waiting to choke
life and produce from these tender offerings.

We are fragile like these vines
as we plant we pray for health and vigor
for us and for these tender shoots
these attempts at new life and abundance
the ones who are willing to have faith
and grow in this vulnerable garden.

Water and light these tender ones need
but also faith and discipline from us
a constant tending and regular pruning
feeding and turning constant and deep
the possibilities are endless
the abundance just around the corner
and the prey linger and wait in the night.

We are vulnerable to all sorts of pests
we slack off and the weeds arise and smirk
we pray and we toil turning over at night
hoping for abundance and fruit
trusting not ourselves but the blessing
showers from the Creator
God's increase is not our own.

I sit in the garden and look at the narrow gate
the end of daylight filters through
and I am prone to wander to forget
the showers of love inside this garden
the abundance bestowed and renewed
the silent promise of tomorrow ans the lingering
shadows that are kept away.

c

Friday, May 11, 2012

Seek First


“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:1-12


After I graduated from high school, I bought myself a bike with the money I had received as graduation gifts. We had come to the Point for the summer and I went to Swain's hardware and bought a ten-speed bike. It took me everywhere. I had no money for a car and found I could get around just fine on the bike. My bike took me everywhere and gave me time to think and ponder. Even now, I look forward to getting back on the bike. I have a different one now, but I have always found that I can think through many things, I can pray and settle my spirit when I am riding along, with no direction but forward. I can seek God most completely on the bike, spinning through familiar country side, avoiding people and cars, and listening to the songs of the birds. We each seek God in different ways, but God finds us, when we open our hearts and take a chance at listening.

Jesus continues his practical instruction to the disciples. Judging others, no matter how tasty an opportunity, puts us in jeopardy. We are invited to seek God first, and to know God as a loving father ready to give good gifts to us. We need but seek and ask, with open hearts and ears ready to listen. God does not want us to spend our time judging, criticizing, waging war and being first or on top. God would have us consider the needs of one another and live with compassion and forgiveness at every turn. And we are invited to know God and know God's abundance every day.

Today, I ask God to help me be patient with the healing process and with the days ahead. It is easy to sip into judgement and anger, to count up the hurts, instead of seeing the blessings. So today, let us all chose to seek God, to knock and ask for what we need, knowing God to be better than the best parent and responding when we can only whimper and whine. May we be so blessed to know God that the world seeks God through our witness.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Consider the Lillies


“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:25-34

It is a year tonight that Lillian Eileen was born. She changed all of our lives, her wonderful parents most, but we are all smitten. Our Lilly is one today and I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Our daughter called to ask us to come, she thought she was in labor and would we be there soon. We packed up and drove fast, she went into the hospital and we joined them. After a solid 24 hours of labor the doctor decided to do a c-section. Throughout it all Ariel was very brave, as was Adam. The year has gone very fast. Today Lilly is walking and working on running. She has at least four teeth and is working on her vocabulary. She is an expert at hanging up the phone on her Grammy. We are completely smitten and could not imagine the world without her. She is blessing upon blessing.

Jesus continues to instruct his disciples. He knows that being human means worrying about the basics of life. And yet, he want them to hear how God cares for us - more than the glorious and gorgeous lilies of the field -God's desire is to provide for us. As parents we worry, as people in tough economic straits, we worry, and as folks who care for others, we worry. And God, like a wonderful parent is caring for our needs, helping us to thrive, clothing us and providing for us in more radiance than we can imagine. God loves us and cannot imagine the world without us. God too is smitten with creation, and is active in our care and restoration.

Today, in honor of Lilly's first birthday, I want to be grateful for all the blessings of God in my life. An old song keeps running through my head which my Dad would sing from time to time. "Cheer up ye saints of God there's nothing to worry about, nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust him and shout? You'll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning." May we all be full of joyful shout as we count our many blessings today and trust God to bless us tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Earthly Treasures


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:19-24


While recuperating from back surgery, I have watched a good deal of TV. There are a ton of car ads on all the time, and I am amazed to see how people sell cars. We are sold cars for our identity, for who we think we are, who we want people to believe us to be and for major bragging rights. Yes, safety and reliability is mentioned, but it is so far down on the list, Being cool and aggressive seem so much more important. We Americans seem totally identified with our vehicles, as if our family, our faith, and our talents really mean nothing. The clothes and the car seem to make the person in our society still.

Jesus continues to give life instructions to the disciples. We have the opportunity to listen in as he tells them about real and fake treasures. The things we prize and call treasures on earth rust and fade away, while love and faith never die. All of the gold in the world cannot bring love, and no expensive auto, home or other flashy accessory can build up faith. We are invited today to make treasures of the gifts that last - the love we have, the love we share and our faith and relationships which defy even the grave.

Today, I ask God to help me focus on the real treasures and put worry aside. It is easy to get distracted by the earthly treasures, and hard not to worry when money is extremely tight. God has a solution and abundance, despite our lack. I ask God to help us all put time and effort into relationships, in the care and tending of others as we deepen our relationship with God. May nour lives reflect the eternity of God's love breaking forth today in our anxious world.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Our Father


“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:7-15 i>

I love to listen to children, and I often consider them the greatest theologians. When little ones first learn the Lord's Prayer in Sunday School, you will know, because they will say it loud and proud in church. It has a simple rhythm, a cadence which we can all learn, but it also has a depth of simplicity that changes our lives. We don't have to go to experts to pray. Jesus taught us from the very beginning how to pray and we can follow that model no matter how complicated life can get.

Jesus had a great deal to teach his disciples who grew up with the idea of a intermediary and sacrifice in order to approach God. Now Jesus would have them understand that God was like a loving parent, making them part of a living and loving family. We are invited to imagine ourselves as children in a safe and holy family, one where God's desire is for our health and fullness, daily care and daily forgiveness. Although it is s familiar to us, this prayer has the power to change the world, as we turn to understand that God is as approachable as a loving parent, nearby and always ready to listen.

May today be a day of prayer, a day where every anxiety and concern I have is responded to with simple prayer, trusting that God will hear and respond, like a good father, loving all the children. May we all live as those who know we are loved and cherished, seeing those around us as children too of a loving God, brothers and sisters of one family. May our prayerfulness and vulnerability invite others to know God as a child in a loving home.



Monday, May 7, 2012

Traveling Music


“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-6


Today is a day for traveling, for listening to music and for prayer. A new chapter soon to be begun and we have no idea what that will be. So instead today, instead of many words, I offer one song, which has always instantly touched my heart, and helps me get through the miles ahead. It helps me to pray and believe in love beyond tomorrow's shores.

The Water is Wide
traditional Irish


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strong Vines


Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." John 15:1-8

We are in our last few days of travel, weary from the road, but delighted in a we have done. We are especially blessed by relationships renewed, some new friends made, and the possibility of putting down roots somewhere. There is much to be determined, many miles to go, but I am keenly aware today about the many blessings in my life - my family, strong, beautiful and complex; my church, likewise; and the incredible blessing of so many great and abiding friends along the way who renew me and restore me to hopefulness and possibilities. We have a lot of detours in our lives and even on this trip. Every single detour brought new blessings and challenges. But we are rooted in love - God's love and an incredible extended family - so no matter where we roam we are connected and held tight.

Jesus and his disciples lived in a world that knew vines, knew the image inside and out. A knotty, elderly, huge vine as the root, with wispy new growth at the very ends. In between would be strong, regularly tended vines that would produce massive amounts of fruit, if cared for correctly. They understood the image was a bout them and us. We are rooted together, tied back to the larger vine, would around each other for strength and always looking to bear fruit. God's desire is for us to bear fruit, to grow stronger and bound together as we flourish. It's not so much about loyalty but practicality. The vines is our source of life and strength and our source of new growth, and as we commit to each other we grow stronger and more capable every day.

Today, as we explore a new day, I ask God to help me be strong in my faith and in my commitment. Despite the challenges ahead, let me always remember my rooted-ness and the source of my strength. Let me rejoice in being wrapped and bound in other vines, knowing that each feeds and renews me, and helps me be productive and alive. May we all rejoice in our inter-connectness, and our dependence on God, for in this we flourish and the world with us.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Beyond Enemies


“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matthew 5:38-46



We went to see the Red Sox play the Orioles last night. It was a cold and damp evening but a great crowd. We sat through 12 innings of a long tied game of baseball and started home after 4 hours. The Orioles won after another good bit of time by 6 to 4. It can be dangerous to be rooting for anyone but the home team. AS Oriole fans, we were in the vast, vast minority - the enemy - and we tried to keep our feelings to ourselves - mostly so we would come out alive. Yes, it's all in good fun but after 4 hours and too much to drink some die-hard fans can become cranky. We watched as several folks were removed from the game who were on the verge of an all out fight. Tempers run high and a cold, disappointed crowd can turn ugly. We can make enemies over small things and stoke those hatreds for a lifetime. Hate can come all too easy, and love can be hard to find.

Jesus continues his hard teachings about living life. He knows that they will have to face an endless stream of enemies, tirades from big and small alike. The disciples and the other followers were facing life as the enemy of the status quo, the enemy of the state and the enemy of the religious leadership. They could lives their lives filled with hate, or practice love - a non-retaliating, constantly forgiving and giving life. Not an easy path, but absolutely necessary. Once hatred gets in, everyone can seem the enemy. Once love is the only rule than the family increases, and even in hostile territory, we can find clear passage.

Today, as we continue on our journey, I ask God to help me to see everyone as a member of the extended family, as a potential friend rather than the competition, the enemy or the like. God invites us today to change the world, one small act at a time, by interjecting love where there was only hostility, generosity where there was only greed, and mercy where there has been only judgement. May we respond to God's invitation and change the world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kind Words


“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil." Matthew 5:33-37

This is our fourth day on the road, two days in New York, then driving in the rain and now here in Boston. I am always struck by how often people can be helpful and kind when we are traveling, despite the reputation that these cities have. People always pushing, and who are loud and competitive. In fact, there was a great deal of kindness and gentle helpfulness, much laughter and friendly banter. I am reminded of learning how to use a wheel, the need for strength and gentleness, never pushing or pulling too hard, but a constant gentle pressure, a quiet building, making wondrous art out of ancient dirt. We can be forceful and ruin everything, or we can chose to let the gift unfold before, new every day.

Jesus is going over the rules with his disciples and they can seem harsh from a quick read. In fact, "Jesus wants us to understand the importance of relationships, whether considered casual or permanent, and every thing we do reflects the good (or lack thereof) within us. We can set people aside, but God aches for us to seek reconciliation. We can treat others with force and bully, but God's desire is that we chose to let the gift unfold, that we find a deeper relationship growing within us between our fellow human beings and with God.

Today, as we visit with friends and family, may everything I do be tender and gentle. May my words and actions reflect the eternal in me, the gift of life which renews and forgives. May God's ache and desire, for reconciliation and tenderness, be reflected in me today, in every encounter I have. May our lives be kindness so that others may see God by our words and works today.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reconciling


“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:21-26

At this age in my life, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the missteps I have taken and the broken relationships that have not been healed. As I watch mt mother at 89, I see that they only thing that she really cares about is that her family gets along and everyone is loving to each other. The older get I realize that too. Being right only lasts for so long, and being the victim is only so glamorous for so long. The ability to forgive and ask forgiveness is a daily act, a daily posture, a holy desire. We can be the best people, we can be law abiding and correct in fashion, attitude and politics, but if we live without daily forgiveness and reconciliation, we are hollow shells.

Jesus was making some very hard truths he wanted his disciples to understand. and he wants us to understand also. Love abides in between us, and love and the spirit can be denied of we are unwilling to be reconciled to God and one another. We are human and we make mistakes. It is our common language, our common practice, and our daily behavior. God supplies us with abundant amounts of compassion ans justice, with love and forgiveness. And like all of the commands that help us live a respectful and kind life, the command to forgive and be forgiven set us on the way of peace and love. It is a daily offering from God and a daily gift we are reluctant to take. Pride gets in our way.

Today I ask God to help me be humble and forgiving, willing to leave everything at the altar and seek our my neighbor. May I be an instrument of peace today. May we accept our frailties and brittle humanity so that God can work through us with love. May we be childlike and humble so the world might know God's love and forgiveness through us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Gentle Commands


“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

Commandments

There is love first and love
at the end of the day
and everything in between
echoes the steps of love.

We walk never alone always guided
shadows linger but love presses on
compassion bubbling up despite rough seas
justice running like a rain swollen stream
love pushing around all barriers we can raise.

Every rule is aimed at forgiveness
every law written for healing
every task building to equality
everyone of us designed for God.

Let us begin by breathing in love
let us pray with joy as the sun rises
let us run like children to the aid of others
and may we end our days we love
on our hearts and minds.