Friday, August 31, 2012

A Blue Moon


On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

We traveled home last night by the light of a full moon. This moon, the second full moon of the month is often referred to as a blue moon. In church tradition, calculating the dates for Lent and Easter, the clergy were expected to identify the Lent Moon. It is thought that historically when the moon's timing was too early, they named an earlier moon as a "betrayer moon" (belewe moon), thus the Lent moon came at its expected time. Folklore gave each moon a name according to its time of year. A moon that came too early had no folk name, and was called a blue moon, retaining the correct seasonal timings for future moons. Whatever the name and cause, a blue moon is a fairly rare event. It makes us ponder the nature of things. Arriving home, watching the water in the canal reflect the moon, I couldn't help but wonder what the sky and sea were saying.

Jesus proclaims a very bold statement at the end of a huge religious festival. Drawing people away from the standard and expected rituals and rules, he declares himself the one from whose heart will flow streams of living water. He draws back on the ancient traditions of faith and places himself smack dab in the present and future of the faith. Jesus pulls from the ancient scripture and makes it relevant for his people and their time, and ours. We are people who need to be watered and fed, and in certain times, especially when the seasons are changing, when our lives are in turmoil, we ache for water and food, for the basics of our existence. We ache for comfort and sustenance, and God promises that we are being fed and watered from an unlimited source, no ,matter our strains and circumstances.

Today, I ask God to help me go to the source for all of my needs. It is very human to complain about the things we lack, but may we be moved beyond our lack, to seek God in our emptiness. May our prayers be constant and expectant, like breathing out and in, reaching to God in our every need, seeking the living water from the source of all life.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Visions


Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So he invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

(Acts 10:17-33 ESV) Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So he invited them in to be his guests.
The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” Acts 10:17-33


Visions

Sleep was far off last night
and all the worries of the world
came visiting nagging and pestering
stirring up the ancient hurts
the old failures the epic falls
haunted and alone in the darkness.

In the middle distance of the dark trees
deep shadows and star light they came
the ancient ones and my beloved
father sister friends who have gone on
and they sang a new song of hope.

The change and decay all around
new life will spring from the ashes
a phoenix will rise and you child
will find strength in the weakness
the scattered ashes and the waning moon.

The light is missing for just a moment
light and direction are being born
breathe and be silent as the infant day
gestates and grows bone and flesh
a new life pushing out from the darkness
screaming with life and possibility.

The gathering love began to sing
old hymns and new dancing and swaying
the wind rustling the trees
old leaves dancing in the night wind
promising a remarkable dawn.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Clean and Common


The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Acts 10:9-16

I have been spending this week in Western Pennsylvania with my mother-in-law. She is very, very clean and orderly. I cannot even begin to describe the sense of order and structure in her space. It gives her a sense of peace and control. I sometimes wish I was so orderly and so clean. But life is messy, from where I see it, and I would have to push people out of my life to achieve that kind of order and control. I guess I am not that worried about order, and chose instead to focus on relationships and the lovely mess we are as humans together.

Peter has a vision that changes everything for him. Up to this point he has been a faithful Jew, observing all the laws, dietary and otherwise. God changes his understanding, helping him, through a dream, to welcome all, to make relationships with all people, not separating from them because of culture, diet or any other standing division. In God's world, everyone is part of the family, part of the tribe, and everyone is welcome and nothing is unclean and no one is an outcast.

Today, I ask God to help me embrace true inclusion, and true welcome. May we open our arms to all, sharing what is offered with thanksgiving and gratitude. May we know ourselves blessed by God as we let go of order and control and welcome the messiness of lovely humanity. May we see God in the other today, and recognize a brother and sister in everyone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Full of good works and charity



Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. Acts 9:36-43

I have been blessed to have a mother and father who dedicated themselves to good works and charity. They shared with others, fed others and took those who were burned out into their home. They were brave and loving in their faith. My mother, who has been a widow for 18 years, did not fail to continue the trend. She fed poor children every week for years and visited women prisoners, and held them close as they cried for their children. While she has been sick with shingles, the whole local community asks me about her and reminds me of her love and good deeds. The church secretary called her a true saint and a real fighter.

Peter was called to respond to the death of a beloved woman, who gave her life for others. The community was torn apart with grief. He came and prayed and Tabitha arose, back to her life of service. The miracle was hardly for her, but rather for the community, a visible sign of God's powerful presence among them. What they had witnessed in the gentle, loving life of Tabitha, became awesome and dramatic as God restored her to them. God has the desire to restore and renew us, but not for ourselves alone, but for the love and transformation of the entire community. God's love and power is not showered on individuals alone but poured with power for the larger community.

Today, as we travel the back roads of Western Pennsylvania, I ask God to help me remember that power comes for the good of all, for the continuation of good works and charity, for the enlarging of hearts and faith. May everything we do today be charitable and kind, and may we embrace the lonely, the ones who ache for their children and those who do not have a way forward or a way back home.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raised up



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

None of us likes being dependent, and hate to admit when we need help. Up until very recently, I needed help getting my shoes on and couldn't drive a car. During the time before my back surgery and while I was recovering, I needed help with many things. It is easy to get resentful for being needy. I tried very hard to be grateful to my husband and others who helped me, even when I seethed inside with frustration with myself. We all want to believe we can do it on our own, and yet we are so terribly interdependent and dependent on our loved ones and friends.

The religious leaders gathered were offended by Jesus' words. They were offended by his clear understanding of his dependence on the Father and their dependence on him. Their laws made it easy for them to judge themselves worthy and faithful. Being in need of being fed made them like babies and they were angered by the suggestion. But Jesus promises, from their dependence would rise glory and nothing that they suffered would stand in their way of being raised up on the last day. They were, as we are desired by God, invited into a dependent, loving relationship, a relationship willing to supply our every need.

Today, as we travel and may be out of wireless internet places, may I understand that lack as an invitation to be fully dependent on God. May we put aside resentments and our need to "do it myself". Instead, may we embrace the love and care we have been given, which is eternal, and more than enough. May our need be overshadowed by the love we have been given and the love we share today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Whom Can We Go?



Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:56-69


We were committed. Mark and I had promised my mother that we would pick beach plums when they got ripe. Since she has been sick, we thought maybe we shouldn't do it anymore, but it is her thing and she loves making the beach plum jelly. She is renown throughout the area for her beach plum jelly. So we started to pick, the other evening and were soon interrupted by neighbors and friends. Then a local official came to tell us folks had called. We were on the edge of the protected dunes but were accused of ruining the dunes. We spoke with her and she was kind to us. We were committed to finishing our collection and she understood what we needed to do and why.

Jesus and his disciples have come to a place of decision. Many who were following him were attracted to the miracles, the healing and the food. But times were going to be challenging and some only wanted an easy road. Jesus challenged them and some left. But some stayed declaring that they would follow him and could see no other way to go, no other option, no other road but him. When we are committed, we follow through despite the challenges and our fear. And God promises to be with us no matter where the road takes us. We are never alone or abandoned when we are committed to God.

Today I ask God to be firm in my commitments, to follow where God leads trusting that I will be guided every step of the way. May we all trust that with our faith comes a deep companionship, an abiding presence, and the living God with us in our darkest hours. May we take heart when the clouds of life amass, knowing that God has committed to us long before we could do likewise.

The Collect

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Here I Am


Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. Acts 9:10-19

Here I Am Lord

Looking at the familiar horizon
which will not always be my view
soon another sky another ocean
and you have called me forth.

The road ahead is littered
enemies you wish me to touch
uncompromising family
and you have called me forth.

I would stay in safety
nestled with the old ones
dream familiar dreams of old days
but you have called me forth.

I am here Lord trembling
afraid to step forward afraid
to remain behind
and you have called me beyond.

My heart is racing my eyes tear filled
the goodbyes and the leaving
the wrenching from the beloved
you call me forth and there is more to do.

I will breath your life, your promise
I will listen for your words
in the deep silence of the night
I will go where you lead beyond
to the placed I have been sent.

That the left behind will prosper
this is my prayer my heart ache
in my return my our joy be full
and all the heart ache wiped away.





Friday, August 24, 2012

In the Wilderness


Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:27-40


Years ago, when I worked in a restaurant, it was common to describe a waitress who was in trouble as being in the weeds. When you work at a restaurant, particularly a summer place that is packed all season, you become a community of support, and you work together to keep everything running smoothly. Otherwise, every body suffers - the patrons and the staff. When someone is in the weeds we would shift customers to someone else, offer them a break, and take up some of the slack. Not because we were good people but because the consequences hit us all, and when the tipping goes south, everyone suffers.

Jesus continues his talk about himself as heavenly food, as the substance of life sent by God. The people understand what happened to their forebears in the wilderness. They know they were saved in the past. Jesus wants them to understand the importance of relationship with him, the basic necessity and essential nature of Christ. The incarnate God in our midst promises to be our food and sustenance at all times, not just when we are in the weeds, when we are wandering in the wilderness and when the world has turned a cold shoulder our direction. And we are invited to remember how many people are in the weeds and in despair in the wilderness, and make room for them, making a place at the family table for the good of all.

Today, I ask God to help me see beyond my own wildernesses to the people around me who are suffering and alone. May we not be self-centered but community minded knowing that the food and drink we need is provided by God in Christ. May we be agent of refreshment and respite for those wandering and lost. May we hold a place open for the unlikely among us, knowing that we strengthen all of us as we share the love and sustenance we have.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Down to the Sea


When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:16-21

When you live by the water, and are surrounded by water, you go down to the sea. The tourists who flock here in the summer are beginning to disperse, and the people who live and work by the sea become suddenly more visible. We have sand in our scalps, we walk by the water at all times of day and night and we teach our children how to swim at young ages. We honor the many gifts the ocean offers and marvel at the changes brought by each season. My niece was worried about the occasional debris in the water and I reminded her that the ocean was the source of all life, constantly renewing life and providing food and pleasure for so many.

Jesus went down to the sea, after his disciples, and walked on the water through the wind and the waves. These seasoned fishermen and sea worthy sailors were terrified, so it must have been some storm. And it must have amazed them that Jesus came to them and calmed the waters and their fast beating hearts. It makes sense to me that the water would hold him and that the would would listen, since he was also the source of life, the incarnation of God's presence made real in the world. We are invited to see God in the moving oceans, in the eyes of our children and in the hearts of strangers and friends we come upon. In t his way, we will all experience the miracles and the calming of our fast beating hearts.

Today I ask God to show me anew the living presence of God in the world around me. May my heart be open and my eyes those of a child. May we all delight in the world around and the people we have been given, with our eyes facing the horizon and waiting for God moving towards us. May we, no matter the fierceness of the wind and the waves, look for the living presence of God among us today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nothing Lost


After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. John 6:1-15


My mother was eleven when she was sent on her own to relatives in the East. It was the height of the Dust Bowl and family things were not good. She was afraid but brave, a little Cherokee girl on her own. She made her way across the country from Oklahoma to New York on more than a dozen buses. I don't know if it was this episode or many others, but she dedicated her life to the care and feeding of children, both her own and others. She understood that there was plenty when we are willing to share what we have and serve those who otherwise might be lost.

The feeding of the five thousand, along with the small loaves and few fish are so ingrained in us from Sunday School that we barely hear the depth of the story. It is about a miracle, but even more, it is about the capacity of one small child to offer, a group of people to be fed, and abundance beyond imagining for folks who might otherwise go without. God is for the gathered crowd, the little boy, and for those who haven't come forward yet...the ones who might otherwise be lost, the ones who are unseen in our selfish narratives, our self-satisfied society, and along life's highways. There are more to be fed, and more to be shared. God offers us all joy as we gather up and share for those who might otherwise be lost.

Today I ask God to help me see those who are unseen, to reach out to the voiceless and those who hide in the shadows. May God's hunger for justice be our hunger, may God's need to touch the untouchables be our need, and may we gather up whatever we have so that nothing, and no one is lost.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nothing on My Own


“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:30-47


From Chief Seattle, 1854 - And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Jesus continues his explanation of the relatedness and interdependence of the life of faith. All that has been done is seen, not just from an earthly, time bound perspective, but also from the whole of creation. We are bound together through God, the Creator, made kin through Christ and are knitted together as one diverse, complicated family across our globe and across time. God gives us the opportunity at all times to see how our faith and actions can change and uplift others, or, how our selfishness and vanity can separate the loving relationships we have been given. We have a choice to stay connected, interdependent with the living God, the God of all people, all time and all space.

Today, I want to give thanks for all those who have held me up, taught me and mentored me in my life and faith. May my life be dedicated today to lifting up, mentoring and teaching others. May our interdependence be a joy, a light burden that brings us to a generosity of spirit. May the care we have been given be returned to God and to others, so that strnagers may become friends, friends family and all of us know the presence of the living God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Passing from Death to Life



So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:19-24

Passing from Death to Life

It was a dream
more like a nightmare
wrestling with my demons
struggling to be unbound
trying to fill my lungs
with breath again.

The burdens so large
they weigh heavy even at rest
the troubles so constant
they inhabit the sleeper
a mysterious dying
a loss of control
praying for new life again.

The darkness covered me
no way forward
no way back home
the loss so palpable
the threats so ominous
crumpled in a corner
waiting for the end.

The end did not come
sweet mercy and sleep
then dawned the morning
the new day with light
hope returned again
wrapped in the arms of love
and God has triumphed again
against our worst enemies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Abide in Me




Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." John 6:51-58


From the Service for Baptism

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon this your servant the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of
grace. Sustain her, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give her an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.

Last Sunday afternoon, Lilly was baptized and I have been thinking about "the courage and will to persevere..." There are times in our lives when we have been battered and discouraged and it can be hard to persevere and hang in there. She has her whole life ahead of her, and the joy and the challenges ahead will be many. Our job as grand parents and as family is to hold her up in the hard times, teach her the strength of her faith, help her to carry the load and find joy in every possible moment.

John's Gospel continues to talk about Jesus as the bread of life. Not just as a mere morsel, a taste of food, but a deep, abiding, filling and renewing source of life and vitality. Not just a Sunday snack but the living source that provides "the courage and will to persevere..." God incarnate is with us, God abides with us and within us and we are never alone nor abandoned no matter how dark the day and how lonely and hungry we might find ourselves.

As this busy and confusing day closes, I want to give thanks to God to the many people who provide that support and strength when mine fails. I am so blessed with an amazing family, I often take for granted the strength and faithfulness they provide. May we who are blessed use every ounce of our beings for the encouragement of others. May we, who are filled bring food to others. May we who abide in a loving environment be shelter and safety for those who are so alone. May God abide in our midst as we give God's love away.


The Collect


Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Waiting by the Water


After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” John 5:1-17


With our grand daughter here we have spent some time at the beach watching her dig in the sand. We have also watched her as she moves toward the water, testing limits, exhilarated by the wind and the waves. She loves the water, but it can be a dangerous thing and she needs help to venture forth and must be carried into the water and held tightly. She has to wait until we are ready and willing to carry her so that she can frolic safely, grasped tightly in adult arms.

Jesus encounters a man by the Sheep Gate pool. He had been waiting a lifetime for healing, waiting a lifetime by the water for help to get in. Jesus told him to take up his bed and walk, changing his perspective, his need and everything in his life forever. And yet the religious leaders fussed that he had broken the sabbath, and that he was trying to be god-like. Instead Jesus was offering relief and help where it was needed, providing a new life and a way forward for a man who had spent his life waiting. We are invited to seek the strong arms of a loving God, as we have been waiting so long, invited to take up our beds and walk this day. God is with us.

Today I ask God to help me move beyond the anxiety and frustration of waiting and do those thing possible today. May my hands be busy with love's embrace. May my voice be full with praise and kind words and may my heart be open ready to forgive and welcome. May we all see our waiting times as times of soul healing and seeking God. May we take up our beds and walk, ready to do what we can with the time we have. And may we offer strong and loving arms to those who need to be carried, those who need to be lifted and those who have been waiting a life time for love.



Friday, August 17, 2012

Signs and Wonders


After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. John 4:43-54


Last night my daughter Ariel and her husband Adam went for a walk on the beach and a late night swim. As they swam they were surrounded by luminescent plankton. Shimmering and lighting up on contact, the magic and wonder was new to Adam. At the beginning of his 30th birthday, he was delighted by new wonders, delighted by the amazing spectacle of the natural world he had never experienced before.

The official from Capernaum was terrified for his child's life. He asked Jesus to come and make him well since he knew he had done amazing things before. Jesus promises that his child is well, and his faith moved his feet homeward, full of hope and wonder. A father, aching for his child became a child again, full of hope and wonder and delight with life. Faith gives us the possibility of new life, new signs and wonder, trusting God to delight and renew us.

Today, I ask God to help me walk by faith, with feet that are inspired again by hope and wonder. The delights of the love that surrounds us, our family, our daughters and grand daughter and all the love we have among us, is a continuing source of delight and wonder. May our eyes be open to the amazing gifts that surround us, the love that renews us and the faith that reanimates even the most weary and down trodden. May our faith be bold and may we run forward with hope and expectation, trusting God to provide new joys and wonders as we serve others.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

One sows, another reaps



Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:27-42


We took the ferry to Delaware yesterday and drove through ripe corn fields on our way to Rehoboth. The rain poured on us while we were there, and the corn looked good, tall and green in the day light. Other places have not been so blessed with water and face the worst drought in more than 50 years. We will all suffer in higher prices, but those who make their living on farms will be decimated in many places. The loss is complete. They will have to rely on others for their food and we will all have to share what we have for the good of all.

Jesus has turned the eyes of the whole world upon him as he broke barriers and shared God's love with the enemy. He wanted them to understand that they stood on the shoulders of others, none of us can do it alone, and we are interdependent - even the Son of God in his ministry. One sows and another reaps and we all benefit, unless we are foolish enough to think that we have done everything on our own and deserve everything we get. God is inviting us today to acknowledge our utter reliance on God and on our communities, families, friends and neighbors. And sometimes complete strangers on the other side of the country or the other side of the world.

Today I ask God to help me see how interdependent we all are and open my arms in love to all I encounter today. In thanksgiving for all we have received, may we be that one relation that forgives and includes, that one neighbor that smiles and welcomes, that one stranger that offers kindness and assistance. People know God by our actions, our sharing and our kindness. May we all be that one today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Woman at the Well


Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:1-26


Woman at the Well

I am not like those approaching
I am darker and their people fear mine
we are enemies now when once we were
friends and hosts to their broken spirits
we picked them up and they left us behind.

I am dark and in the shadows
cautious in this encounter
so much history of suspicion
so much ancient anger that keeps us enemies
so much history that binds us together
here at Jacob's well a place of promise
a deep stream of hope for generations.

I am so different from this man
he sits by the well gazing at the horizon
as I scurry with my tasks too many to bear
he asks me for water and asks me to speak
him who is both stranger and kin
enemy and cousin bids me to stay.

My life has been wild and troubled
never settled, always moving and changing
torn by poverty and whims of men
thrown from my family to seek my fate
the struggle is constant and I am judged
to be lacking and foolish an outcast
in my own village and my own people.

The stranger tells me of the God
who loves us all despite our flaws
who will pour out water and feed our spirits
who visited this sacred place and will
make that sacred visit again.

In this broken family waging war
God is coming to craw us together
God is coming to bind up our wounds
and bring the family back to one table
God is coming close leaning in
and drinking deep.

I am so different and so welcome
my broken life is no barrier
there is not a fetter or chain
that binds me to my pain
and God alone draws near
to set us all free to love.





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Increase and Decrease



Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:25-30


Many of us have suffered much loss in the recent past. Job loss due to cut backs and budgets can be overwhelming to individuals. Identity and capacity is questioned. When we moved in with my mother when a job ended, it was hard to not be hurt and angry with the situation and the world. Even harder has been caring for my mother as her capacity diminishes and she needs more help. We try to help her without her knowing, try to honor and respect her and let her feel as if she is still in control, despite what she cannot do so well any more.

John has been baptizing and preparing people for Christ's coming. His disciples don't want to see his ministry abate as they have been empowered, strengthened and deepened in their relationship with God. What they know is passing away and they are terribly afraid of the coming days. They do not want to lose what they know. None of us do, and yet we are all temporal being, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Change and departures are inevitable and yet we are paralyzed with fear, anger and hurt. But God is more enough for all the changes we face, all the rivers and valleys, the rough terrain, the frightening loses and the slow diminishing and the fading away. And even more, God promises to be close by, holding us tenderly in the worst of times, bringing us soft words of hope and strength in our darkest hours.

Today I ask God to help me quiet down and listen for God's empowerment and strength in my life. In my weakness and humanity may I cry out to God, knowing that God will be my rock and my strength in the roughest seas and the wildest storms. May we all trust God when our lives are overwhelmed, knowing that God is more present and active in this life than we can know or imagine. May we be ambassador of love and hope in a world that is overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. May we share the light and the hope we have received from God as we face the inevitable changes ahead.


Monday, August 13, 2012

So Loved



Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:1-21


My world has been some what turned upside down in the past few days. Lilly is here, our first grandchild and her parents along with our other daughter and a wonderful boy friend. We have been thoroughly blessed and we can't find much right now. Having the people we love close by can create some unexpected hubbub, but it has been wonderful and making room for love is never a mistake. Upside, topsy-turvy and loving it!

Nicodemus wanted to know how to be close to God and Jesus told him he must be born again. Jesus turned his world upside down suggesting that this educated and faithful man must be born again. The image and idea was upsetting, considering being vulnerable and undone, upside down entering the world. Jesus encouraged him by promising him that God did indeed love him, and that God was sending love into the world, making relationship with God direct and close.

Today, as we watch our grand daughter toddle around and unload our bookshelves, I ask God to help me let go of the familiar order and embrace the gifts of love in our lives. May control give way to celebration, and power to weakness. May we all find God by being willing to be upside down and turned over for love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Living Bread


Jesus said to the people, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." John 6:35, 41-51


We have a house full of family and a baptism this afternoon. Lillian Eileen Ringer will join the family in a new way, the larger family of God, those baptized with water and the holy Spirit, an enormous and expanding human family, full of life, noise and diversity beyond imagining. Our little microcosm is diverse and complicated, like all families, and the joy we share despite the irritation we cause one another, is something to be celebrated thoroughly. A living, breathing mess of love and expression and God is with us.

The ongoing discussion about bread in John's Gospel, reminds of about the complexity and diversity of the family of God. When Jesus came in their midst, there were multiple ways of understanding bread, messiah and all the promises of God. Confusion reigned at times in the diversity. And Jesus said to them that he was there, right there, in the midst of the mess, the confusion and all the complications of life, for then and for eternity. God promises to be right here, feeding us and drawing us together, no matter how complicated and overwhelming life becomes.

Today, as our little family gathers, I ask God to feed us with the bread of life, with the food and drink of forgiveness and kindness, so that, as we welcome Lilly into the family of God, we are renewed and made whole together. May all of us, members all in the family of God, be renewed and made whole this day by a new outpouring of God's spirit upon us all. May we be filled up to overflowing so that love and compassion guide us through each waking hour.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Family Gatherings



On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. John 2:1-12


We are getting ready to have all of our immediate family here because I am going to baptize our grand daughter Lilly on Sunday. All families have their special ways of being and our family is no different. There will be lots of hugs and lots of food and some squabbles and fights. Those whom we love are best at making us feel great and irritating the hell out of us. Despite all the tough moments, love reigns supreme and I am glad in every moment for my amazing and complex family.

Jesus is at a family gathering, a wedding, and his mother presses into service. He is not ready and he has some choice words to say to her. His first miracle was forced on him by his mother and yet, out of love for her and maybe to get her to be quiet, he began his ministry in this very human and miraculous moment. I am always heartened by this story as it never leaves out the child-parent struggle and the human struggle with identity and power, with and without our families. Jesus was very human and had mixed feelings about the whole wedding, the family gathering and his over-bearing mother. And in his humanity we can identify and understand that God is aching to give us strength where there is none and miracles when there is nothing left.

Today, as we prepare for our gathering, I ask God to help me ask for what I need in every situation, praying for strength and miracles when there is nothing else left to do. May we all give thanks for our humanity and our need, trusting that God is still more ready to provide than we are to ask. May we be humble enough to ask God for our every need, and compassionate enough to share our abundance with the world around us.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Come and See


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51

The weather has been so unrelentingly hot that the shade of a tree seems the only place to be. Trees can also be wonderful hiding places, away from the world, the noise and the intensity that surrounds us. It is very normal to want to hide when things get tough and normal to want to disbelieve there is really anything good to come out for. Whether we stay in to avoid the heat and the weather or for safety and comfort, we are likely to miss new possibilities if we stay hidden. And yet the lure of comfort and safety is always a snug, sure draw.

Jesus continues to call his disciples and has a special encounter with Philip and Nathanael. Philip follows right away but Nathanael is doubtful of the possibilities of something good and someone new and rare. He knows his friend can be very gullible, probably from years of experience. And yet, despite his desire to stay hidden in cool and comfort, he ventures out and finds himself face to face with the living God. He encounters a new life and new possibilities, and Jesus promises him even more than he can imagine, as he steps out in faith. We are invited to step out in faith today.

"Gracious Creator, you made us in your imagine and gave us minds and hearts to seek you. Strengthen our will and our bodies, so that we may never fail to venture out of comfort into the light of your possibilities. May the world we know so well be transformed by your love, as we too, transformed for the good of all the people. Amen"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Behold the Lamb of God



The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:35-42

We live in a place so far from a city that at night we can see the stars quite clearly. Some nights one can't help but look up and ponder the magnificence of the night sky. I have spent a life time nestled in the sand looking up, sometimes waiting for shooting stars but most often waiting for direction and peace. It is not the night sky in all her glory that can deliver those needs, not even grandmother moon and the dancing sisters. The night sky provides me a place to listen and to seek without the judgement of the world, or my own fears revealed.


The disciples of John followed Jesus and when Jesus asked them what they were seeking, they said they wanted to see where he was staying. They were fearful of the world's judgement and fearful all around. And Jesus understood and took them in and they stayed sheltered for the night. They woke with courage to follow him and courage to collect their siblings and friends. They had the courage to announce what they learned in the shelter of the darkness, the shelter of the night sky. That which began with fear and denial became an invitation to know God with courage and strength.

Today I ask God to renew my courage and strength as I step out in faith. There is so much overwhelming me right now, so much overwhelming so many. We seek renewal and shelter in the night sky and strength and courage for each new morning. We are being called away from the safety and the familiar. May we rejoice as did the disciples, no matter how anxious we might be, knowing we are following the lamb of God.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

With Water


They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:25-28

The other afternoon we went up to the beach relatively late. The tide was rolling in and the wind was very strong. No umbrellas were up as they would have blown over if they were. It was hog and muggy so the wind off the water felt great. It was even better when we jumped in, walking far out into the water as the waves crashed over us in a constant motion. It was a challenge to keep our feet underneath us and it was exhilarating. Water has always had the power to change my frame of mind and push me away from those shallow stuck places. Water has power to change us completely.

In the Gospel we hear the story of John's ministry and the challenges he faced with the religious leadership. People were responding to him, coming out from the cities and villages to be baptized and changed. He was preparing them for an encounter with the living God, but very few would understand until Jesus began his ministry. John knew that the water had power to prepare them and change them, making them ready to receive God's love in a new and startling way. Our baptism is the initiation into a life time of change and invitation by God, a lifetime of encounters with the living God.

Today, I ask God to help me remember that the simple act of baptism has great power. The water is a beginning of our lives with God and we are invited in each new day to be renewed and made new by God's love. May we all be ready for the power that is upon us and within us for change and growth, the gift of God's love that began with a few drops of water but which will cover us, wave after wave as we serve the world in God's name.

Monday, August 6, 2012

True light


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. John 1:1-18


Word Became Flesh

We thought that our rules
would protect us from the gloom
the darkness from within and
the sorrow from without.

We thought more hard work more
effort and more diligence might
keep us from failure might
protect us from the fall.

We thought we knew love
sweet and tender babes cradled
in a gentle mother's arms could
have been all the love we knew.

Word became flesh dwelling
with us making love flesh and blood
heart and soul combined with God and
for God and by God for us all.

Love made us real and broke us open
open to a light that no darkness can vanquish
open to the Creator's hearts pouring compassion
in our wounds and mending the world.

Love made us new people flesh and blood
blessed and forgiven bending with love
and forgiveness yielding with kindness
and stirred every morning by hope.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Bread of Life




The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:24-35


There is something about bread. People lined up like crazy at the farmer's market in Sitka as an old woman made fry bread. The dough was overflowing the bowl and everyone was transfixed. We made six loaves of cinnamon bread and three dozen cinnamon rolls for the church fair this weekend and the smell of the bread rising was overpoweringly wonderful. There is something basic to the human condition that bread responds to.

We understand something essential when Jesus says to the people that he is the bread of heaven. He is talking about the basics of life and that God will be with us in him in all of our basic needs, and in the midst of our aches and desires, despite how often we might hunger and thirst for the wrong things. God's love incarnate is the missing element, the thing we desire most even when we think money, fame, beauty and power are what we need. God's presence is at the core of our ache and our hunger. As people, easily distracted and often confused, we are people who need God in our everyday basics, in the midst of our breathing out and in.

Today, I ask God to help me to recognize the aches and hungers I have as a push towards the heart of God. May our impulses and yearnings move us closer to God and closer to one another. May we seek the bread that fills us, the water that stops the fire within us and the love which blots out all fear.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

To the End of the Age


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

This morning we helped with set-up for the church bazaar. St. Peter's by the Sea in Cape May Point has been holding as bazaar every August since I can remember. Generations have passed away who used to run and attend the bazaar. It is a staple in our community, one of the few things that have survived the massive changes that have taken place in the past twenty years. All communities change and children grow up and age and come to the end of their age. We humans fight change and yet it is part of the plan, the intelligent cycle of life, death and renewal. No matter how hard we fight, things change, people come and go and we take our turns through the seasons.

Jesus leaves his disciples with a promise to be with them, saying, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Many speculate about end times, ages ending and prophesy about those who will survive and those who won't. God's elect and the left behind. But our lives are ever changing and we are charged to do our part while we have breath and life, and trust that God is with throughout our time and our challenges. We can speculate and postulate all we want, but Jesus was directing the disciples to go out into the world, loving and welcoming, including and strengthening the community by sharing God's love and reconciliation where ever they went. This call is for us too.

Today, I ask God to help me be a faithful disciple, trusting that I am not alone where ever I am sent. May we see love reaching to the ends of the world, and god going with us as we go forth. We are not alone in this time, or ever. God is with us and in this time, in this light, in this age, we are empowered to go out and share God's love. May we have the courage and conviction today to go forth in love.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Resurrection


Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10

I rode my bike into town for the first time in over a year. It's an easy two and a half miles each way but I hadn't been able to ride at all for more than a year. I thought for a long time I would never ride again. I have always loved to ride my bike and mourned the loss of something so simple and joyful. Mark and I took it easy and we made it just fine. I am worn out but alive at the end of it all. I felt like something which had died was reborn and had come back to life. And I also realize how easy it would have been to left it for dead, and not seek it out any more. It is sometimes less painful to leave things alone than hope for a resurrection.

The women came out early, full of pain and sorrow. They came to do what they could, despite the sorrow and grief that brought them low. They could have left it alone, no one would have faulted them. The disciples took off and did not come early in the morning. Because they did not leave it alone, the found Jesus alive, surrounded by stunned guards and angels. They had a moment that was theirs to share, a moment that changed their lives and the course of the world. They showed up and the world changed.

Today, I ask God to help us to not leave the hard challenges and the difficult people for dead. May we face every morning and every challenge with the hope of the resurrection. May God give us the eyes to see the possibility in each obstacle and the good in every ornery person and relationship. May we keep moving, even when we are burdened with sorrow and loss, trusting God to replace our burdens with new stories to tell.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tenderness in Tragedy



When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:57-61


When the shootings in Aurora happened, it felt very personal to me. Most people don't know where Aurora is, but we lived in Aurora when we first moved to Colorado. I had my first back surgery while living in Aurora and made many friends while there. We know well the locations of the horrific violence. The area had grown incredibly since we called it home, but it still has a very tender place in my heart as home. My heart broke with sadness for people I do not know but can walk their streets and shudder because we know those places so well.

Joseph did not know the disciples or Jesus well, but he did what he could in a horrific moment. The nearest and dearest to Jesus were completely undone, stunned by the violence and death, paralyzed by fear and in shock. Joseph moved them from the horror to the tomb, making a safe place for the women and the disciples. They could mourn privately and safely and tenderly hold one another. We are invited by God to follow the example of Joseph, who, faced with horrible tragedy offered what he had, and tenderly helped the living to find solace and safety.

Today I ask God to help me be tender at all times, knowing that so many people are barely steps from great tragedy in their lives. Their hurt might be hidden and deep but God knows their need. May we all respond as Joseph did, offering what we have for the care of the broken-hearted, the abused and the maligned, knowing that God is tenderly working always for the healings and renewal of the world.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Looking Up


So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Acts 1:6-14


Looking Up

So much loss overwhelmed us
our hearts had no room for
new love which we ache for
we could not welcome home.

We huddled in our rooms talking
through the night reminiscing about
all that we once had and about
all that had gone away with you.

A vigil of days and weeks wandering
the streets full of daily commerce empty
of the healing and hope empty
of your voice in the middle of the market.

We thought we were alone weeping
you came to meet us behind
locked doors where we hid behind
the deep ache of losing you.

We thought you had abandoned us
and all was lost and we had dreamed
this new life and faith dreamed
a new Jerusalem into being.

And yet you came to us
and taught us to dream again
you took us outside again
we looked up to brilliant skies.

We have received the mantle
the soft burden of love and hope
for new beginning after loss, hope
in God who is restoring us all.