Friday, November 30, 2012

Stones Cry Out





And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:28-40


An aspect of growing up Native is the understanding that all the created world is animated and full of life. We are related to all creation, and although radically different in form, we too are part of that living creation, related as a family, and therefore obligated to the rest of creation. Our ancient Cherokee stories tell us that other animals and all life had language and we all conversed until humans damaged those relations and we lost our capacity to understand.

Jesus makes is about to make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His disciples and followers bubble over with joy and excitement and begin to cheer. The religious leaders try to silence them, embraced perhaps, by their lack of dignity. But God does move in all creation and in that moment there was joy flooding over all of the created order. The final act of God's story of love was about to begin. If the disciples didn't cry out, then the stones would. The joy of the Creator's willingness to offer one precious child for the ransom of the whole world was not lost on creation. And it shouldn't be lost on us. As we begin Advent, we are invited to remember where all this is leading - from creche to cross and resurrection - God loving and desiring us so much that a child is brought for the sake of the whole world.

Today, I ask God to help me rekindle joy and thanksgiving in this busy season. It is too easy for us all to get wrapped up in the tasks, too easy for us to whine about all there is to do. Yet in the midst of all this preparation and work, there is the joy that the rocks and the trees know, and that we know, if we would but let it in. God is with us, and God is always moving for us all of of creation. May we raise our voices in love and joy, so that all of creation might sing in response to Emmanuel, God with us.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Waiting





O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131


We begin a new season, the season of Advent with its emphasis on waiting and preparation. As a kid, I was never very good at waiting, especially for Christmas. For me, with my birthday on Christmas Eve, the big events of my life happened within twenty four hours. A whole year would have to go by before there would be anymore presents and celebration for me. I remember watching the clock on school, trying to will it to speed up so we could all be released for our Christmas vacation. I would try to breathe and stay calm but it was difficult. I felt almost feverish with hope and anticipation.

This psalm has always reminded me of the importance of accepting the times of waiting. Very few of us are willing to admit that we enjoy waiting, and even less of us like being told to wait. This is the time of year of long lines and short tempers. And yet God invites us to listen to our heart beat, the breathe and find calm, for waiting is a holy place, a place of gestation and preparation. The spiritual practice of calming and quieting our souls is no easy task this time of year, with all we have to do, and yet it is our greatest gift. To wait like Mary and Joseph, as the world around us collides and screams, for the greatest gift of all, Emmanuel, God with us.

At this busy time of year, I ask God to help me quiet and calm my soul moment by moment. May my actions not reflect the values and pressures of our world but rather, reflect a hopefulness and trust in God. May our words be gentle and comforting, our activities tender and kind and all that we do making space for the love of God anew. May we let go of anger and shame, of bitterness and squabbling, quieting our furor and anxiety as we make room for love.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Different View




He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10


We have a Sycamore tree in my mother's yard. These days, it is a mere shadow of itself, having been cut back after storm damage. I remember when it was mammoth, with its multicolored shedding bark and its huge leaves. Its branches stretched out wherever it pleased and was wonderful at providing shade and cool in the heat of the summer. It was too big for me to climb but I was taken by it and still am, as it stands majestic and silent, an observer of all the generations who have passed by.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but he was too small. He was a man of great wealth and importance and had great power and control in the community. This was a man of public stature and who commanded authority, unable to glimpse Jesus because he was too short in the pressing crowd. So, instead of giving up or giving orders, he did something uncharacteristic and challenging. He ran ahead and climbed a huge sycamore tree. Jesus saw him and pointed him out. Again, Zacchaeus did something completely out of character -he took Jesus home with him joyfully. He set aside his pride and opened his heart to God. And God's son came and made himself at home. We are invited to act more like Zacchaues, to put aside pride and place, and to humbly seek out God. And God will find us and come be at home with us.

Today, I ask God to help me be like Zacchaeus. May we run ahead and climb trees in order to meet Jesus. May we never bank on our position or stature, but instead run with joy to meet God. May we be humble and patient today, not focusing on our limitations but creating new ways of seeing God on our walk. And may we rejoice in knowing that God is coming to stay, to make a home with us and live forever with those who are willing to risk pride for God's living presence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On the Road





And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. Luke 18:31-43


My first view of the world, besides from my mother's arms, was from a sling hammock, hung between the back and front seats of our family car. We were moving from California to New York,and I was four or five months old. We stopped and saw friends and family along the way. We stopped on the Navajo Reservation to visit old family friends and am told was passed around by the women and weighed on the scales at the trading post. My world view began as an observer and traveler on a long journey, and it continues to be that.

Jesus was on the road with his disciples, traveling together on what would be their final journey. The disciples, though warned had no idea what they were facing, ignorant and oblivious even when they were told of the dangers. Even on that last journey together, Jesus took the time to heal and to touch those in need with love. He could have set aside compassion and focused on the final battles ahead. Instead, he stopped for the cries of the man born blind, who, once healed, followed Jesus on his journey. There was great joy and celebration because of one man who cried out to God. In this season, when we all get busy with preparations and gatherings, may we hear the invitation to cry out to God and to stop along the way. God is always ready with compassion and healing, God is always lingering with the people in need.

Today, I ask God to let me be present every step of the way today, listening and compassionate, no matter the task ahead. May we not be so focused that we forget to love, not so busy that we forget to hear, and not so caught up that we forget to be moved with compassion. May we take to our roads, with the heart of God, which is always more ready to love and heal than we are to ask. And may we not make anything more important than the cries of those in need today.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Let Them Come





Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Luke 18:15-17


Let Them Come

There are places that bring out
the little child in me
the first snow fall of the year
bare feet in the sand anytime
and belly laughs with old friends.

We are lonely old people
when we are young adults growing old
permits us to indulge our child
again and again we learn to dance
and sing and laugh again for time
is short and only love matters.

The days are short and all too dark
the season is at its hinge and we
hang decorations and lights hoping
to restore the child's delight
we once knew in all our seasons.

We were loved and wanted children
God made us perfect and we forgot
that garden that heaven which was ours
always and forever in the loving arms
we tried to be in charge ourselves
and almost lost our way in the dark.

In this deep cold season a sweet warm voice
calling to each of us no matter age or race
receive the reign God like a child
delight in love and dance in the light
we were made for love and laughter
and God is coming to draw us close again.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

For This I Was Born





Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." John 18:33-37


The end of the church year is upon us and next Sunday we begin again. We journey through Advent and prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ anew in our lives. And the year ends with the closing chapters of his life on earth, his fulfillment of the life he was born to, the role of Savior of the world. We can make ourselves crazy with gathering what we need for the holidays, or we can open our hearts, starting over again, waiting for God to be born within us. We have a choice and a new road as this cycle ends, to let go of the past and move towards the life we were born to, a life of welcome joy and love.

Jesus is in his final days and being tested by Pilate. At this point there is no turning back. His death is inevitable, his betrayal complete, the action set in motion for which there is no stopping and no turning back. Jesus realizes, in these last hours, the end of the journey and what he had been born to do - bring God's love to the world by making it real and living among us. And we are invited today, to begin this new season, as a time of preparing our hearts and lives for God to dwell among us, in new and life giving ways.

Today, as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, may we close this year with a commitment to make room for God in the coming year. May we start anew, as small children, delighting in all that comes our way. May we know we have been born to be the children of God, wanted and loved, and born for the love and care of others. May we rejoice this day, knowing that the darkness of winter cannot keep us from the light and love of God.

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Humble Will Be Exalted





He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

I have found that it is hard to learn a new skill the older I get. I am determined to continue to learn and grow despite the challenges of an aging brain. Recently, I took a class in tradition bead work from an Athabascan woman in our parish. We will meet again next week for more lessons. She does beautiful bead work, and was so generous with her time, her patience and her laughter. I tried to continue the piece I started and immediately got the threads tangled. At a meeting, I tried to bead while listening and instead sent a shower of beads everywhere. Folks had a great laugh at my awkward new "skill". It is very humbling to be such a novice, and a great gift to learn something passed down lovingly from generation to generation.

Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer and again uses a story. We all seem to get the meaning of things when we hear a story we can relate to. We all know pompous people who tell of their great humility. We also know of humble people who know their own fault and do not flaunt their faith in front of others. Jesus directs us to be like the tax collector, to admit our faults before God, and to throw ourselves completely on God's love and mercy. If we think we have all the answers and do everything right, we can loose our blessings. If we face our faults, moment by moment, and offer ourselves before God, we are never alone. God invites us to a depth of relationship that requires our total honesty and total humility. An intimacy that is blessing for all.

Today I ask God to help me set aside fear and embarrassment and live humbly and honestly before all. May we not compare ourselves to others, but rather offer ourselves to God, in our broken and fractured state, trusting that God will make us whole. May we walk humbly, and live prayerfully, trusting our loving Creator each step of the way.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Persistence




And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

Learning to ride a bike is never easy. My Dad liked to teach us to ride but my older sisters were more determined to get me riding. That meant they didn't have to walk places with me or stick me in a basket. Bikes at the beach meant true freedom for us. We could fly around, day and night, and return home quickly when supper or curfew was upon us. It took many hours of run and release for me to finally get the hang of it. But it was well worth it. That first taste of personal freedom and control was amazing, even better than getting a drivers license for me.

Jesus teaches his disciples about praying by telling them a story of the persistent widow. She wore the corrupt and selfish judge down. And he reminds us that God, who is good and just, will answer our prayers. We are invited to practice praying every moment, without ceasing, which takes some practice, some getting used to. And it is our freedom, our gift, to lay our burdens on our loving Creator, who is more responsive and loving than we can even imagine or hope for.

Today, I ask God to help me be persistent and to practice prayer, moment by moment. Let our conversations be with the One who made us and restores us. May we not try to fill our empty places with things, but rather see the empty as an invitation to deeper conversation. May we pause today, in the midst of a frantic world, and know our breathing to be a gift from God. And may God empower each of us today to have the strength to serve others and to pray without ceasing for the needs of the world.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012





Jesus said, "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. 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 can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry 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 clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:25-33

I Am Thankful

I am thankful for the little girl
who demands to call her grammy
and then who says pop pop
the whole time we're on the line.

I am thankful for three little girls
now grown and living life laughing
they once tore up the living room
with their dancing and had to cheer.

I am thankful for their beauty, their kindness
my fierce and gentle babies became warriors
women who take the care and defense of others
to heart and love with reckless abandon.


I am thankful for the interruptions
every day is full of people and needs
once impatient and frustrated
now grateful for contact and voices.

I am thankful for the many adventures
the highways and byways we have traveled
together we have gotten lost and spun
on diner stools we launched our family.

I am thankful for warm touch and forgiveness
that is your gift to me daily along
with love and laughter friendship my dear
amazing and wonderful I am thankful for you.


I am thankful for the deep wrinkles
formed by worry that was of no use
they reminds me to offer God the worry
and look to the lilies and the birds.

And I am thankful for the strong winds
that blow by my window this morning
cleaning the air and singing new songs
of God's love and care for everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rise and Go Your Way




On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:11-19


It seems as if every one is on the move today. This is supposedly the busiest travel day of the year, folks trying to get home (or to another family member's home) before Thanksgiving Day. Those of us who are staying put are in motion too, scurrying around to get things together to prepare for friends and neighbors. This can be a day of great anxiety, as people rush to make planes, trains and get on the highway, or as they think back and ache for better days. And then there are some who dread the obligation, the trauma and the whole holiday. And some ache to be on the move home to loved ones far away. In the midst of it all, it is easy to forget this is the season of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Jesus was traveling and came across a group of lepers who were shouting to him across the highway. He healed them by sending them to the priest, the healing happening while they were on the road. One man turned back to give thanks, the others so caught up in the drama of their healing that they went rushing on to see the priest. Caught up in it all, it can be easy to forget to be grateful. It took the foreigner among them to point out how blessed they all were. They had received their healing, and even more than that. They had their lives back, they could be among their families, touching their children and loved ones as they had ached to do. They were outcasts no longer. We can get so caught up in our circumstances, our itineraries and obligations, that we can forget to notice the blessings of love that surrounds us. We are invited today, as we scurry around to be take a moment and give thanks. For in giving thanks, we can see the healing and blessing that we have been given and honored by God, face to face.

A Prayer for Today
Dear loving Creator, we ask your presence with all of those who are on the road today. May we all remember, whether in motion or standing still, that we have daily received blessing upon blessing from your loving hands. You have formed us into families and communities, and no matter how broken or incomplete at this moment, you have blessed them all and promise more healing in the coming days. May we be filled with gratitude this day, filled with thanksgiving for the loving arms that await us, the abundance in which we will participate and in the food we can share and give away. May we be overflowing with love and gratitude this day, that it spills over and ignites joy around us. May we never forget your love and carry it wherever we go. Amen.





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Increase Our Faith!




And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:1-10


I have noticed a common behavior among many of us and it happens in my family quite often. I call it the "yes, but" response. When asked to do something, we respond with our lack. Yes, I would be happy to do that but I don't have a car. An excuse why we're inadequate for the job, why there is not enough time, faith or means. It is often not the lack of anything but rather an excuse to wheedle out of something. And sometimes it is fear. The fear that we are not able to do what we're asked and we are afraid of failure.

Jesus is instructing his disciples about their lives together. He speaks of forgiveness and they ask for more faith. He tells them they need to trust what they have been given, to use what they have been given and fully take on the role that has been entrusted to them. They are fearful as we are. And Jesus tells us all that we come move mountains and huge mulberry trees, and forgive others over and over again on the little faith we have. Our task is to be faithful servants who, putting one foot in front of the other, go forward trusting that God will supply the strength, the love, the faith and the forgiveness.

Today, I ask God to help me employ the faith I have been given. Let us trust the love, forgiveness and faith we have been blessed with and serve the world in God's name. May we be grateful for our faith and for our roles of servants. May we let go of fear and accept the tasks we have before us. May we forgive one another, over and over again, so that love and compassion might flourish around us. And may we lose the excuses and move forward for the sake of others, trusting God for the needs of today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Have Mercy




“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

We went to Swan Lake on Saturday to look at the swans up close. There were families there with little ones feeding the ducks, swans and the ravens. The swans, with their long necks and snow white feathers are stunning and gorgeous. Most of the folks were throwing bread and crackers to them. They would gobble them up greedily and draw close for more. These breathtakingly elegant creatures were shallow and greedy, quickly angered if they thought the ducks were getting their share. Several times we watched as a swan would rear back and snap out at one small unsuspecting duck or another. The ravens wisely gave them a wide berth.

Jesus tells a story of the rich man and poor Lazarus. All his life the rich man had ignored Lazarus, assuming like the swan that he was more deserving than the beggar Lazarus. The rich man, suffering in Sheol begs God to send Lazarus to help him. Still arrogant, even in the face of destruction, he asks God to coerce Lazarus to do his bidding. It is tempting for those who have privilege and wealth, beauty and station to ignore the poor and needy around them, except when service is needed. We are invited to do the opposite, to have eyes wide open and to see the need around us. And more than that, we are to share our abundance with those most in need. Blessings abound when we see with the eyes of the eternal and loving Creator.

Today, I ask God to help me see the need in our community. May we have the courage to know them by name and honor them as God has done. May we see those who are without as brothers and sisters, and desired guests at our tables. May we share a small portion of our bounty, knowing that we will be richer for it. May we make our task always to be love and compassion, knowing these are truly gifts from God, unlimited and replenishing always.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Growing Pains





As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs." Mark 13:1-8


We are coming to the end of one church year and the beginning of another. As we plunge deeper into our winter darkness, we can get anxious about all of the challenges ahead. We can become overwhelmed with worry and depressed by what we lack and the cold that surrounds us. We can read the signs as the end of times, as something to fear rather than ways to be hopeful. All gestation requires darkness and dislocation, all new life requires the bleakness of midwinter.

Jesus is encouraging his disciples to be faithful and calm despite the fearful signs around them. Jesus himself will face great torture and death for the sake of new life. He wants them to understand that the God they serve is bigger than the challenges of the times and the cruel leaders of this world. He wants us all to understand that there is more to our lives and faith than what we can see now. God will hold us close through the worst of times and strengthen us to face the worst, because the best is yet to come. New life is breaking forth from our dark and our cold.

Today, I ask God to renew my strength and to lift us all up. May the winter and darkness we face remind us of God's promise and generosity. May we rise up with new hope and joy, asking for what we need from the most loving Creator. May we see beyond the limits of today and expect new life in the coming days. For God is greater than our worst fears and bigger than our most hopeful imagining and is always acting with love for the children of God.

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

God and Money




“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant 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.”
Luke 16:10-13


In these times, it is extremely hard not to be worried about money. Many churches have suffered great financial losses in the past five years and have gotten very fearful. It has torn some apart. They have turned on each other, their leadership and their friends. When money becomes the priority, when we lose our ability to focus on God and the needs of the people, we can lose our way.

Jesus has some harsh words to say about those who make money their priority. He is clear that if we focus on money we will never know the love of God. It is no mistake that he is talking to the religious leaders of the time. He understands that they have put their priorities on funding and not on service, on budgets and not on ministry. He reminds us all that God blesses those who are faithful with the little they have right now, and who, despite their lack, serve God and love the people around them.

Today, I ask God to help me pray for what we need, and to remain focused on serving others. In these hard times, may we not elbow anyone out of the way, but always put our focus on God's desire. May we live each day knowing God will supply enough for the day and trust the Creator with our tomorrows. And may generosity and compassion guide our every step and be our every action today.




Friday, November 16, 2012

Shrewd Dealings




He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. Luke 16:1-9

I grew up around many friends whose fathers worked on Wall Street and had seats on the exchange. They commuted to the city early in the morning and came back late at night. Their children had the best things and the newest toys and games. We had none of those things since we were living on a clergy salary. Sometimes I was jealous of their parents' cleverness and shrewdness and wished we had all those cool vacations and clothes. I was happy though to have my Dad around and to be nurtured and cared for by two loving parents rather than the household help. And as a good christian family our poverty or lack was a sign of our faithfulness and humility.

Jesus is instructing his disciples not to foolish but rather wise and shrewd in all their dealings. This passage seems so counter to what we have been taught. Many of us hear Jesus' words to the rich young man, "give everything you have to the poor..." And yet there is a lesson for all of us today. We are invited to be clever with what we have, whether it is much or little, and be wise to the ways of the world. We are not to isolate ourselves and ignore the world, but instead use the tools available for the good of all. We often want to run and hide but we are encouraged to engage the world fully, knowing that goods and gains are temporary and what endures is God's love.

Today I ask God to give me the courage to engage the world, learn the necessary techniques and technology and use the gifts I have been given. Help us not to be shy but ever curious and studious. May we be ever thankful for what we have, no matter how much or how little, and use it at all times for the good of others. May we love God completely, and our neighbors as ourselves and engage the world for the benefit of God's reign here on earth.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Prodigals





) And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:11-32


Prodigals

We are prodigals all
young and headstrong we wander
full of life and devoid of sense
sure that our parents are fools
and we will change the world.

We are prodigals all
who turn from love and constancy
to the glamor of fame and power
to captivating intrigue of greed.

We are prodigals all
as fathers and mothers stand watch
by windows and telephones aching
for our safe return.

We are prodigals all loved
by a Creator who is more ready
to find us and welcome us
than we are ready to return.

We are prodigals all
having burned through our wealth
and gaining wisdom through hunger
we can voice our need.

We are prodigals all
younger and older alike we hear
"Child, you are always with me,
and all that is mine is yours."

We are prodigals all
struggling through the mud and rain
seeking a home we never understood
deep on the heart of God.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Joy Before the Angels





Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:1-10


The best angels I ever saw were the boys who were angels in our Christmas pageant one year. My daughter Emily directed and she mixed things up, and so had the girls be the shepherds and the boys be the angels. They were a rowdy, feisty bunch of angels, with bent wings and tilted crowns, who yelled their lines like they were on a ball field. And they couldn't have brought more delight and joy to the people than any angel in heaven.

Jesus is being tested by the religious leaders since he is drawing what they consider an unsavory crowd. They don't see that these are the folks who are honest with their need. Jesus tells them stories of the joy of God when one person who is lost returns home to God. He likens it to a shepherd seeking out a lost sheep or a woman seeking out a lost coin. God is actively seeking out those who are lost, and God is full of joy when we turn from our brokenness and return home to God. We are invited to day to draw near to God today, opening our hearts and laying all of ourselves before the Creator who truly delights in us.

Today, I ask God to help me be honest in my need and draw near to God. May all of us who are wandering like lost sheep, those who feel they have rolled out of sight, know that we are being diligently sought by a loving Creator. May we be grateful when we are found and restored and may we rejoice with those who have come home again and are healed and safe once again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Counting the Cost





Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35


The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast has left some grateful for no real damage and others simply trying to survive day to day having lost everything. My mother lost two storms doors off of her house but was otherwise unscathed. Many were not so blessed. The relief efforts are in full swing and many churches and other organizations are working to help in any way they can. The un-calculated costs are to those who were already homeless, in need and on the street. Their life support has been diverted to those hit by the storm. There is so much need right now and so many mouths to feed.

Jesus was overwhelmed by the crowd that was following him. He realized many were following because it was the "thing" to do. He understood that there was a tremendous cost for being his disciple. It meant you were all in all of the time. Not just when is was fashionable or newsworthy, but following God means being there for all of it, and serving the least popular and the forgotten. It means putting one's life and reputation on the line for the sake of others. We are invited today to remember how we are called, to be all in, and to be willing to be light and salt for the least popular, the chronic need, the hidden folks who have no others but our hands.

Today I ask God to help me be a true follower. Let me be salt and light to the people at the margins, to the places where hope has been extinguished and the shelves are empty. May we all take our discipleship seriously and walk the back roads and byways seeking the lost and the forgotten. May our joy be full as we give our all for the life of others.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Being Blessed





He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:12-24


Several years ago we attended a dinner at Grace Church in Jersey City. It was Holy Week, and instead of having an Agape or Seder dinner, they decided to invite the homeless to a very fancy dinner which included music and a dance performance. They had decided to find blessing by doing what God has asked, to treat with respect and honor those who need it most. It was an amazing evening, where people sat together in a candlelit sanctuary which had been rearranged to serve as a banquet hall. It was an incredible feast and a night that was a blessing for everyone.

Jesus continues to use stories to illustrate how we find blessings in our walk in faith. We are invited through the wedding banquet story, to celebrate the blessings of our lives with those who cannot repay us, with those who have been set aside and dishonored, with those who are not a networking possibility. Throughout history God has sided with the homeless and the widows, the poor and the in-firmed. If we are to truly know God in our life and be blessed, it will be by seeking out and loving those who are outside society but close to the heart of God.

Today, as the holidays approach and we plan our family celebrations, may we remember where our blessings are truly to be found. May we seek out those who are loved by God and offer them welcome, food and family. May we open our hearts and share our abundance with those who are in need, honoring them and making them welcome. May we know God's blessings this holiday season as we give ourselves away.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All In





Teaching in the temple, Jesus said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Mark 12:38-44


When I was a child we had a corner store that sold penny candy. We would spend summer days scrounging around the beach, looking for bottles to return. Tourists would often leave them behind and we had a few favorite places that almost always rewarded us. We would gathering up a few, and with our small amount of change have a great feast. You could buy gumballs for a penny, as well as red or black licorice, wax nip bottles and the like. We would gorge ourselves and then climb on bikes to begin the search again. On very little we were fed and with very little we felt like kings.

Jesus watches the treasury as folks are making their donations. The rich put in hefty sums, sums which hopefully will help them reduce their tax burden. Giving to a church is a noble thing, they believe, and they give what is easy and what doesn't hurt. The poor widow gives her all and she is the model for how we should be. She gives, trusting that God will supply her needs. She gives from her grateful heart despite the circumstances she finds herself in. We are invited to be all in, like the widow, so that God can demonstrate abundance and promise through us.

Today, as we celebrate Veterans Day, I am reminded of so many who have given their all for their country. I think of my uncle Sy WalkingStick who never came home and my Dad was who proud to offer his time and life to serve as a Navy Chaplain. We remember all those who have given their all, put their all in, and in their memory and honor, we ask God to help us follow their example and give our all for the love of God's people and for our world. May we offer what little we have so that God can grow great love and bounty in our time.





The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Come Up Higher





One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:1-11


Our daughter is getting married at the end of next summer and we are helping plan the wedding at a distance. It makes my heart ache to be so far from her and yet she is very capable, as all our daughters are. We are so excited to have another family celebration to think about and the joy of expanding our family circle. It is always a daunting task to prepare for a wedding, and as mother I want everything just right for her and her fiance. It is another opportunity to trust God and turn over control.

It started with a dinner invitation from the ruler of the Pharisees. Jesus was being watched carefully. It turned into a moment of healing and teaching for all. A man needed God's touch and healing was given. Jesus then told a story to illustrate the need for all of us to be humble and turn over control to God. He speaks of a wedding feast. We humans want to be honored and we are told it is through being humble and letting go of the reins. Willing to be humble and helpful opens us to being honored close to God.

Today, I ask God to help us be humble and always ready to serve others. May we release the controls to the one who created us, so that we might be honored by the love that truly surrounds us. May we make room for others at the table, make space in our families and communities, so that God's love might shine through us always.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gathering Children




At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 13:31-35

One thing about being a mother is that the ache to protect one's children is hard wired into our beings. Even when children are fully grown and independent, loving parents cannot turn away from the desire to heal their wounds and help them to thrive. Love demands a response and our children are embedded in our beings, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. We are so knit together that the pain they feel is ours as well as the victories and accomplishments they share.

Jesus is warned from the temple and the city by the Pharisees. Those who have critiqued him and challenged him are even worried about his life. The religious leaders who had been part of his demise were now anxious and worried about the consequences. Jesus had offered them love and healing but they rejected him. Now, trembling with fear, they come to him. He tells them of his desire to gather them up, as a loving parent, to protect them from all that is ahead. The image of God's love for us is powerful and protective. We are invited to accept that love and shelter offered by a God who loves us more than any human parent can even imagine. We are the children of God, flesh of flesh and bone of bone.

Today, may we live as the children of God. May we ask for what we need boldly, and accept love and protection readily. May we love fiercely, offering ourselves at all times to others, knowing God, as loving parent, is more ready to love and forgive than we are. May we throw the arms of our faith communities wide open, knowing brothers and sisters are waiting to be invited home.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heaven's Door




He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:18-30


Heaven's Door

The morning is cold
the frost is thick
a long way from home
striving for the narrow door.

The crowd presses hard
the ache to be loved
can suppress compassion
being strong can defeat kindness.

The road is steep and rocky
some days the water rises
tides so high the shore
seems impossible.

God's kingdom calls
a narrow door open wide
a daily struggle
with companions all along.

Come find the labor
come serve the pauper king
the one who did serve
is God of all.





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You are Freed




Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke 13:10-17

Sometimes illness and pain can so overwhelmed us that we are under their grip and don't feel like we are in charge. Having dealt with the ravages of a congenital defect of the back, there are times when my back is the driver and I am not. When I have been suffering and am then relieved, it is as if a veil was lifted, a yoke removed and an unwanted guest sent packing. There is a childlike response to the relief, a desire to run and jump and do cartwheels, even though I was never that coordinated. To be free from fearsome pain allows us to be the children of God fully and completely.

Again, the rules took precedence over healing. Jesus healed a woman who had been suffering for a lifetime and was in trouble for doing so on the sabbath. God gives us good rules to live by but they are never those which restrict the flow of love, freedom and healing. Unfortunately humanity loves to impose laws on others who are different or who suffer neglect. We are invited by God today to hear again that perfect love is perfect freedom, the release from bonds and the ability to be a joyous child of God. We are encouraged to do all we can to bring God's love and healing to a needy world, despite our human anxieties and restrictions.

Today I ask God to help me live for the healing and freedom of others. May I love completely and be moved to action for those who cannot act on their own behalf. May we be given strength and deep trust in one another, so that pain and disease cannot bind us, and we can be agents of God's love in this world. May God use each of our hearts and hands for the freedom and healing of our world.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Bearing Fruit




And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9


Today is election day and the fervor for one way or another is at a fever pitch. There has been so many challenges in the past years and many people are suffering. We all want an immediate end to suffering and want our candidate to win. And yet, we forget, that there is work to do in the garden, in each of our gardens - tending, watering and feeding - and instead we vocalize and demonize. Patience and prayer are often not part of our discussions but I have learned than more good fruit comes from sowing love and kindness, sprinkled generously with patience and prayer than any other strategy or plan devised by humans.

Jesus tells the people a story to illustrate how God works in our lives. When things or people disappoint us, we desire to remove them from our lives since their presence is painful to us. We want fruit and abundance at all times and want to do away with the weak and unproductive. God's activity, on the other hand, is to nurture and feed those who have become fruitless, and to encourage and tenderly coax the weak to gain strength. God invites us to see potential in our disappointments and our losses, and encourages us to tend to the least in our gardens as they have more to offer than we can ever imagine.

Today I offer this prayer -
Gracious and loving Creator, you look upon each of us as a tender gardener, coaxing and encouraging us to bear fruit. You are patient and tender with each of us, and always ready to do more than we can imagine. Help us today to give others a measure of your divine patience. Empower us to seek your guidance and nurture with every storm and season. And make us gentle and loving so that we might produce fruits worthy of your orchards. Amen.


Signs of the Times




He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.” Luke 12:54-59



Signs of the Times

We have buried our heads
in the sand for way too long
and now the sand is burying us.

The mighty ocean will only stand
so much insult and ignorant abuse
the womb of life laughed at ridiculed
spill over with winds and rising tears.

We are tied together no matter how
we hide but our folly and selfishness
rise us and beckon to us grown ups
repent and settle for the water is rising.

We have left the poor outside too long
sheltered ourselves from the strange
hidden ourselves from what we fear until
we have become the enemy ourselves.

Love is rising up despite us
and compassion is taking the reigns
competition and greed define us no more
and many hands are needed today.

We can no longer hide from what we have done
holding their offspring, the abandoned and afraid
we are hopeless until we sigh our need
and broken pieces are mended again.

O God give us the courage to admit
how much we have kept to ourselves
and how little we have thought of others
we need to be set free to live again.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Neighbor




One of the scribes came near and heard the Saducees disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,'--this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34

We spent Saturday morning out on the water in Sitka Harbor. It was a whale watching cruise and we were not disappointed. We saw more than a dozen humpbacks. Their size and power is amazing. I was struck by how interdependent we are with these creatures, how their migration renews the life in these waters as it does the other places they travel. Their life cycle can be completely undone by our carelessness although they would never think oi throw off ours. We heard from several folks who work regularly to free whales who have gotten caught in man's snare of one sort or another. We never hear of whales making traps for us.

The testing of Jesus reached a fever pitch. They really wanted to make him stumble and seem the buffoon and pushed him to reveal his knowledge of law and tradition. Jesus, on the other hand, was not worried about the questions but about the way folks treated one another. To draw near to God is to care for others with the same love and care we take for ourselves and our families. If we are willing to give our all for others, than we can glimpse the reign of God by loving beyond all bounds. We are invited to remember that sacrificial love is God's greatest gift, offered for all and designed for all.

Today, as we sail out from safe harbors may we remember all those who have no safe harbor to return to. May we know them to be our neighbor and reach out in sacrificial love. May we be willing to be the hands and eyes for those who are blinded by weeping, the heart and soul for those who can try no more. May we draw near to God as God's love draws us up and strengthens us to care for others, neighbors all.



The Collect

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fear Not, Little Flock




“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Luke 12:32-34

The thing about sheep is that they are easily frightened and not too bright. They tend to hang together and when one gets spooked they all can get anxious. Not unlike human beings, when one person is upset or undone, we can feel it from them and get anxious with them. When my relatives and friends on the East Coast are thrown and tossed by this disastrous storm, we can help but feel it. I ache to be with my family and with those who are suffering - to do something inside of quaking idly by.

Jesus comforts and challenges his disciples at the same time. He tell them to not be afraid and that God cares for all of them completely. He then challenges them to get up and do something very difficult - to sell possessions and give to the needy. Hr tells them to seek their treasure in caring for others. He invites them to get up and get moving for the most vulnerable and their worries would pass away. We are invited in the depths of our anxiety and helplessness to seek out our treasure by loving and caring for others. Then we too will see our true joy.

Today, as we set out into a world of fear and anxiety, may we remember that we are blessed with treasure. God promises to be in the midst of our worst fears as we offer ourselves for others. We will find joy and we hold the grieving, feed the hungry and bless those who have lost their way. May God find us all giving ourselves away today.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Consider the Ravens





And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, 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, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:22-31



When we moved to Sitka, a little over a month ago, one of the first things we were struck by was the overwhelming presence of ravens. We love to casually bird watch and had come from a town which is designated a bird sanctuary. Ravens have some significance for us, as we spent a good deal of our lives in Baltimore. Between Poe and the present Baltimore football team, ravens do have so great meaning for us. They are everywhere here and quite vocal. Their range of sound and music is quite extensive and their presence can be quite intense when they gather in the stark winter tree branched, hunching shoulders and staring directly at us.

The disciples are an anxious lot, just like us, just like the rest of humanity. And Jesus tells them not to worry, that God tenderly cares for the ravens and the lilies and in doing so, cares significantly more for all of us. In the aftermath of a storm such as the east coast has experienced, it might be hard to hear these words. And yet, there is comfort in hearing that we are cared for, despite the challenges we face and despite the circumstances we are found in. We are invited to deepen our faith by seeking after God, even in the midst of need and anguish, with the expectation that God will provide for us and love will flourish around us and within us.

Today, I ask God for special blessings for all those suffering from the ravages of this storm and from the challenges of life. May those of us who are able offer what ever we have for the restoration and renewal of others. May we seek God's reign and offer ourselves and all that we have for the healing of our communities. And may God use each of us as agents of love and healing in each of our small corners of this broken world.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Brought to Light





In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Luke 12:1-12



Brought to Light

I write while still dark outside
from the other side of the continent
we wait for the world to be revealed again.

Light, so natural and common becomes
in it's absence a deep constant desire
an unquenchable ache a yen for home.

Submerged in deepest winter nights
we light candles and beacons with hope
expecting still redemption and salvation.

Not forgotten in this deep darkness
we remember we are more than sparrows
morning darkness brushing hair we are loved.

Stretching with expectation to raise the sun
we who tire from our labor rest and give in
and we are safe with words and signs provided.

Love does not fear the cold darkness
reaching beyond our fears and worries
shine love's light on the joy of our hearts.

Love does not abandon us ignore us and is listening
deep in the night to our groans and prayers
there is no tender labor that love will no reward.