Monday, September 30, 2013

Do Not Be Anxious

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?1 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34

When I was in college I worked in a day care with two and three year olds. Their favorite story was called "Don't be Scared!", and every time we would come across that line in the book, they would scream it very loud. DON'T BE SCARED! We would laugh and get calm and continue with the story. The act of screaming was very cathartic. It's hard to be anxious after a good scream and a laugh. Later in the year when Mark and I were getting married, they made us a big poster that said, of course -DON"T BE SCARED -with all their faces on it.

God knows that we humans are bound to be anxious and scared. Whether we are facing crisis, personal, physical or financial or if it is a challenge that seems to much for us, we are reminded today that God is with us. Jesus tells us that the Creator clothes the lilies of the field, and cares for the smallest sparrow. We are invited to not worry, not be scared or anxious, for God has our every need in hand. If we are willing simply to seek God in our daily lives then all our needs will be supplied, day by day.

Today, in the midst of moving, may I not worry about anything and in everything pray. May we rely on God completely today and may every gift of nature remind us of God's amazing love and care for all of creation. May we not fear what is ahead knowing that God goes with us today.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Cup of Cold Water

Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' 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 listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16:19-31

We see what we want to see and our affluence and wealth can keep us from seeing even more. We roll up the windows in our car and zoom through the worst parts of town in order to avoid seeing the need around us. We can wall ourselves off for security and self-protection when we really are avoiding the pain and need of others.

To all our avoidance techniques, Jesus tells us this parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man is nameless, but Lazarus, with the oozing sores and the empty belly is known by name and borne on the wings of angels. Jesus makes us pay attention to our lack of attention to the need around us. How we love and do justice in life is measured and known by God. In our abundance, and our fear, we are challenged by God today to offer the cup of cold water now, and to invite the hungry to our groaning tables.

Today I ask God to help me set fear and anxiety aside so that I might see clearly. May we not overlook the needs around us and instead offer what we have for the love of our Creator. May we all be moved by God's compassion and love today to walk into our world and respond to those in need around us.

The Collect

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:19-24

The first moment of movement
I was breathless with excitement
your tiny hands barely a flutter
changed my whole trembling being
breaking me open again for love.

Needy, whining and grasping
such joy in giving never since found
an imperceptible change of breathing
sleeping against me child I knew
that God had brought treasures
from heaven to earth.

A mother's lullaby is nothing
more than a song of gratitude
a hymn to God for love undeserved
a brief chorus to define the impossible
limitlessness of love.

Today I remember all the losses
and all of the triumphs of life
none of them are worth a shilling
no money enough to bargain away my soul
from loving the Divine
who creates such love.

Friday, September 27, 2013


‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:7-15

As a pk, a pastor's kid, I learned the Lord's Prayer very early in my life. I don't even remember learning the prayer, it has always been there it seems. And being raised a Presbyterian, we said debts and debtors rather than trespasses and trespassers as we Episcopalians do. It is a prayer that falls off the lips, whenever I there is a worry or a fear, a prayer so much a part of me that it rises, unbidden sometimes, before I even know I am in need of prayer.

Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, with simple and humble phrases. We acknowledge God's divinity and our need, seeking to forgive and forgiveness at all times. Prayer is a talk with our Creator, our most loving parent, who knows us and loves us even more than a parent can. We are instructed by God to be simple and honest in our conversation with the Almighty. God knows our need and invites us to be hu7mble enough to verbalize our need of prayer at all times.

May today be a day of prayer. May we find ourselves, at all times, humble of heart and mind to approach God. May the words tumble off our lips, silently and out loud, as we face each new challenge and every blessing we find. And may we be ever thankful for God's love for us, which calls us to be in constant dialogue with our Creator, and which invites us to be beloved children at the table of the Divine.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Giving in Secret

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

Giving in Secret

The world took no notice of them
a donkey carrying a pregnant teenager
a husband bent with fear
furiously begging for shelter.

The reporters and photographers
never came to witness him
the press thought nothing of it
our king born where they won't go.

We yearly dramatize the humble scene
and decorate our homes for show
we spend and throw our dollars around
and sing carols to unknown neighbors.

The small little family calls us
to God's heart of hearts
where there is no recognition or reward
but love's ongoing thanksgiving.

We are invited to live as midwives
as stage managers and servants hidden
in the back rooms and dark back stages
always grateful for the love.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Love Your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48

Love Your Enemies

On the road as the light begins
chill and dampness on the grass
anxious to be back in the same zone
your arms wrapped around me.

So easy to return to the nest
so hard to move on to the new
a place not worn by our creases
soft at the edges from our laughter.

Those who would misunderstand
those who might judge or expel
do not understand how we love
and that we love despite it all.

There is no road but the one ahead
stretching on with hope and dreams
enough love to get us back home again
and adventure to draw us together.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Leaven

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

The House of Bishops is an interesting place like none other. We are a very complex and mixed bag of people, who although leaders, are also normal humans in needs of colleague and companions. Despite some of the tedium, I am often inspired by the kindness and sacrificial nature of so many. Some of our bishops do their ministry on a shoestring, and with great creativity and spirit face the constant challenges. They humble and inspire me to offer God my best where ever I am planted.

The writer of the letter to the Corinthians challenges them to live humbly. Instead of boasting, they are reminded to be sincere and truthful, putting aside malice and evil. God invites us today to be made new through Christ, sharing the joys of simple things and celebrating the true blessings of life - one another. We are called to rejoice in the goodness that God has showered upon us and not compete or judge each other. God promises if we are live sincerely and humbly, we will be renewed, remade and transformed.

Today I ask God to help me put aside all competition and comparison. May we instead see the tremendous gifts we have in the relationships around us. May we rejoice in the blessings we have, simple or grand, knowing all that we have comes from God. May we share the blessings we have today with a word aching to be invited to the table of joy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Be Reconciled

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

Be Reconciled

Heart of the ground
surrounded by shame
so hurt that I hurt another
stumbling into the sanctuary
we are challenged to leave.

Heart in hand laying the gift
the altar call was a sending
a reaching out to my abuser
arresting the anger
giving it all to God.

Survival skills build walls
shutting out forgiveness and love
hiding from warm demanding arms
pushing off from a family
who might bring me to tears.

We keep secrets about failures
burying the taint and the sorrow
never expecting change
everything falls down
and we cry for ourselves.

God invites us welcome home
and sends us out to the weary
the world of woe and despair
to carry love as we forgive
and draws us back to the table.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Serving God

Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position 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 dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?' He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?' He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Luke 16:1-13

I have often heard people testify to the fact that if we are faithful and prayerful God will richly reward us. Sometimes it is called the prosperity Gospel. And yet, I have known many wonderful servants of God who have been living at the poverty line, struggling to make ends meet for their families. They continue to be loving, humble and devout people, serving God by caring for others. I cannot imagine that God loves them any less in their poverty. Their hearts and minds are focused on God and they are often the least worried people I know.

Jesus tells a parable to his disciples about a dishonest manager who gets into trouble due to his corrupt practices. He shrewdly resolves the problem and is commended by his master. This passage could be interpreted by some to tell us to make money dishonestly. And yet Jesus, always pushing us further and deeper, is asking us who we will serve. Are we willing to judge our and others' faithfulness by their status and wealth? Or, are we going to be drawn deeper into the heart of God to put love of God and neighbor as our true wealth? We are invited by God today to do the hard work of examining our motives, and to know where our hearts truly are.

Today I ask God to help me not worry about the cost, but rather give my all to be a disciple of Jesus. May we worry only about the needs of others and our faithfulness, so that God's love can radiate from all our actions. May we be known as servants of God only, so that God's love and light might shine through us today.

The Collect

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

forever. Psalm 23

My Shepherd

I admit the tendency to wander
distracted by the wind and the light
the soft grasses and the stream call me
and I forget to listen to the call.

Sitting alone and dreaming I might
be tempted to believe my strength
the cool of the shade does lull me
and sleep comes to my eyes.

When storms break out suddenly
I cry out in fear and loss
although I have never been left behind
nor far from the watchful loving eye.

Tempted with sweet distractions
climbing over other rocky hill
my shepherd knows my foolish mind
and call me home to rest.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Salt and Light

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.Matthew 5:13-16

It has been wonderful to reconnect with dear friends from around the church. The meeting of the House of Bishops includes a good deal of learning and work, and time to examine and discuss the issue before us. The great joy for me is to listen to the stories of new friends and old and to be encouraged by their compassion, love and creativity. For some the challenges of their ministries are great and yet their love for God and the people is palpable, and it is evident in everything they do. They are salt and light for me, bringing new tastes, ideas and insights as we minister together.

Jesus is teaching a great crowd at the beginning of his ministry. They have just heard the beatitudes, the challenges and blessings of the life of faith. Jesus then tells them they are valuable and necessary to the life of the world. Christ's light working in us is a precious resource to the world. God's love brings about a new sense of everything, and a deep richness like what salt can do. We are to understand hoe necessary it is for us to share God's love with the world just as we are, each in our own place, our own time and with our unique gifts.

Today I ask God to help me share the gifts I have knowing that they are blessings from God. May our the light of God's love shine within us so that people might have new joy and hope. May we be salt and light, right where we are, knowing God in Christ is powering us on for the love of the world.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Diving Right In

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:1-10

Diving Right In

Faith calls us to dive right in
when the people around us misunderstand
when the tension tightens and voices rise
when there is no way out God is blessing us.

God calls us to take on the mantle of peace
when war is looming and when blame is spread
when mercy is spent and bellies are empty
when all the worst is upon us we are blessed.

We are called to embrace our losses and weep
when greed denies the needs of children
when dollars determine who is worth saving
when we dive right in against violence and hatred
when we look like fools to the world we are blessed.

Dive right in to the depths of love
let the waters and love surround
may we be a blessing the cursed and the broken
so that God can bless us all.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25

Following Christ often means leaving familiar and comfortable places and people. I write from Nashville having just arrived for the House of Bishops. God calls us all to be on the move despite what we find best for us. Living for God means living and moving beyond our comfort zones, stumbling as we go, with many ups and downs along the road.

The first disciples were born and raised by the sea. As they grew into adulthood they took their proper places alongside their fathers, hauling and mending nets, learning every inch of the sea. They knew the tides and seasons as well as they knew themselves. Then Jesus came along and took them far away, to dry, arid places, to cities and strange lands. Often they tripped over each other and themselves, trying to stay up and learn beyond their understanding. God invites us to move beyond our safe and comfortable places. Our securities keep us from the love of others and act as shelter from the world. God invites us out into the world again.

Today I ask God to help me leave comfort behind and move out into the world again. May we follow where we are lead, aware of our stumbling and need for growth, willing to be foolish for the love of the world, today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To A Different Land

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17

To A Different Land

I stood waiting but they would not fly
rain and lightening the enemy
waiting constant waiting to move
to an entirely different land.

The storms have abated but confusion
lasts long after the crisis dies
long lines and weary people
we huddle together at safe distances.

We live by a great ocean nestled in mountains
snow capped and green they open arms
welcoming the temporary and permanent alike
hidden dangers to reveal themselves soon enough.

Every land is foreign and home to someone
some places are always dangerous to prophets
some folks fear hearing the unvarnished truth
others run from their obligations.

This crowd of weary and hungry waiters
are all sorts and conditions of us all
we are all extraordinary strangers here in transit
hoping to fly to a different land called home.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Into the Wilderness

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:1-11

Into the Wilderness

Into the wilderness I go
sent by God already tempted
the desire to return home to safety
consumes me,rattles my bones.

Into the wilderness I go
alone, shaking and afraid
the shadows like predators surround
and sleep will not come.

Into the wilderness I go
a new chapter, a new life
humanity sparked with divinity
my body rails against this discipline.

Into the wilderness I go
hunger my constant companion
weak with worry and fear
I give into God and cry my heart.

Into the wilderness I go
the next pages unwritten and blank
weeping with anxiety I fall
and find I am not alone.

Into the wilderness we must go
for we must begin again wrapped
in love and total dependence on God
we finally seek not our way, but the Creator's.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Finding the Lost

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and 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 of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 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 in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:1-10

I remember the story a priest told about attending a funeral of a stranger. He was tagging along with an older, Orthodox priest. My friend was shocked at the homily when the priest said that the man who they were burying was a rude and difficult guy. His shock deepened when the priest continued to talk about the man troubles and abusive character. Head around the room were nodding in agreement. At the end, the priest said, "isn't it wonderful that there is room in God's kingdom for one like this. God's mercy is so wonderful that sinners are welcomed home at the last."

We hear this story from our Gospel about the good shepherd, and these other stories about God seeking the lost. Although we probably all remember these from Sunday School, the message is not for the children alone. It is not a story for cotton balls and glue, and sweet childlike verses. The stories were for the religious leaders, for the gate keepers and those who judge others. God seeks out the lost, the shattered, the broken, and the sinners. God seeks all of us and is willing to go to the darkest places, the most dangerous heights and the deepest oceans for love of the world.

Today I ask God to help me refrain from any judgement and instead live with gratitude. May we all be grateful for God's incredible love that surrounds us in good times and bad, in our joys and in our sorrows, and which seeks us out when we break apart and wander away from everything that is good.

The Collect

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Beloved

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

Today our daughter Emily and a valiant group of swimmers will swim across the Hudson. They swim to raise awareness and money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, who work to eradicate blood cancers. This will be their last swim since construction on the Tappan Zee Bridge has made the swim quite dangerous. But they go down to the water none the less, trusting that their love and selflessness for others will bring new life. They go down to the water knowing that love will get them to the other side.

Jesus came down to the water to be baptized by his cousin John. John wanted instead to be baptized by Jesus. The love that each man had for the other was demonstrated in their humility and their obedience to God. They knew that their lives would be tested and challenged, and that the world would never understand why they offered themselves. God knew and declared his love in this moment, clearly, for all to hear. God came down to the water to bring love and courage. And God continues to come to our deep and dangerous places to offer love and courage in our most challenging hours.

Today I ask God to help me do what needs to be done trusting that I am surrounded by divine love and support. May we all embark on the challenges of the day, trusting that God is with us, supporting, loving and encouraging us in every moment. May we set fear aside and go where we are called, knowing God goes with us all.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Press On

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:12-16

Press On

Waking in the soft light of morning
surrounded by tender night time warmth
pain and stiffness my companion
wanting to stay I press on.

Entering a world of dark rejection
wandering and looking for a safe house
night drops in close and clings fast
shaking with fear I press on.

Cold water and exposed skin
a deep turquoise tunnel of wave
hard packed sand and tossing tides
swimming against the current I press on.

Looking forward is the only way
singing silent hymns of praise
praying without ceasing against all odds
challenging cruelty I press on.

God can find us in our waiting
God will join us in the fight
never alone but always moving
God is with us so I press on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Weep for the Children

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:13-23

Yesterday was the anniversary of 911. Soon we will mark the first anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook. Before those moments, and since, we have been rocked as a nation by violence towards the innocent. Mass school shootings, the Aurora shootings, the bombing at the Boston marathon.....the list seems endless. All angry people, feeling tricked, misused and fully justified strike out for attention or a statement and leave families rent asunder, communities devastated and our hearts on the ground. And we talk of war and military strikes, as if justified, all the while knowing innocents will be in harm's way. Rachel still weeps for her children.

At the very beginning of the wondrous story of the coming of Christ into the world, we find anger, violence and massive loss. From the opening chapters of the greatest love story between God and the people we are slapped with the reality of human anger, jealousy and greed. The child of God was not safe in the homeland. Jesus and his family became aliens seeking asylum in a foreign land. Not only were they homeless at his birth but could not return until the child was school age and then only with great caution. What love suffers for us? God invites us today to remember these moments of terror, gear and injustice. God will always find a way to bring us back home.

Today I ask God to help me be patient and trusting in the terror of dislocation and loss. May we all be moved to prayer in times of sorrow and loss, so that we might open our hearts to new roads and new possibilities. May we trust that God knows our tears and our losses and is finding us a way home, today.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Guided by a Star

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12

Today is the 12th anniversary of 911, a day that changed all of our lives forever. We travel another way now, cautious and examined, fear guiding us rather than hope. We became more vulnerable as a nation and people on 911 and the many who lost loved ones will never be the same. We were broken and have lived through war and more loss since that time. It changed our nation, our people are our sense of ourselves.

The story of the wise men visiting the infant Jesus changes the whole story. The strange visitors from foreign lands worried Herod to the point of acting out in fear. These men were not coming to invade or destroy but rather to identify what God was doing, having seen it in the stars. The joy they shared with that small family was hidden from the people. Instead innocents would be slaughtered because of fear and anxiety. God brought love into the world and the people in charge responded from a place of fear, greed and anxiety. We are invited by God, on this solemn anniversary to be led by the stars and our dreams rather than our fears. The God who would protect the wandering wise men will also speak love and healing to us in this age.

Today, I ask God to help me be in constant prayer for all those who mourn, those who live with loss and those who have offered their lives in service of others. May we be grateful for those people who are willing to live sacrificially and who seek to transform our world from a place of fear to a place of welcome for all. May we take time to listen to God today.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hardness of Heart

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. Mark 16:9-20

Hardness of Heart

The rain comforts the mourning
our hearts are on the ground
nothing left for us to do
but sit and rock and weep.

The woman's words are no comfort
just idle tale of an old crone
the wild wishes of a broken heart
insanity acting out the impossible.

We know better how the world is
the best are taken and we abandoned
God was teasing us and taunting now
we are left incapacitated and alone.

We are realists and practical ones
we labor with our bodies our handshake is good
the hopes and new world he inspired in us
was just a passing woman's dream.

Here he stands again no longer broken
our shame and shortsightedness before us
better than his promises he appears
and promises to love us despite ourselves.

We can now look up in place of shame
we are called again part of a family
needed for the life of the world
and for God's love active within us.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Taking Courage

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mark 15:40-47

While on vacation we went to a water park with our granddaughter and family. We had a blast and were exhausted at day's end. Lilly was fearless, and at two, pushed past adults and children to ride on large, sheer drop slides. She said "excuse me" and forged on in the face of danger. She has no idea what the consequences might be, and delights in the water and the thrills of the rides.

Joseph had full knowledge of the consequences. He was a member of the council and would face dismissal and rejection for simply siding with the anarchist Jesus. By going to Pilate, he was sealing his fate. The consequences were very serious and he would be expelled from all life as he knew it. He stepped up, having a deep sense of God's love in his heart, despite the possible consequences of his actions. He chose the right path, and his courage will stand as an icon and encouragement to us all. Take courage and face the worst shunning for the love of God. God invites us to stand up to the bullies and the bureaucrats for the least and the vulnerable among us.

Today, I ask God to help me take courage and face the worst that the world can dish out, knowing we are never alone when we stand for love and justice. May we stand us together against the bullies and the abusers, especially for those who can no longer stand. May we rise up with courage and be inspired by Joseph to have a different vision, God's vision, for our world today.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Giving Up

Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." Luke 14:25-33

Giving Up A Hymn for Today

We want to have it our way
we want to find our way home
the comfort, security left behind
we seek on this strange journey.

Do not let me stumble
let me faithful be
I will give my all away
so I can be full of life and love.

The darkness has covered us
the deep gloom of doubt arises
we are petrified by the losses
and we ache for familiar sounds.

Do not let me stumble
let me faithful be
I will give my all away
so I can be full of life and love.

We are pilgrims on a road together
a motley crew joining forces
we follow the road lost and trembling
aching for the sweet simple room we left.

Do not let me stumble
let me faithful be
I will give my all away
so I can be full of life and love.

Giving up our possessions sharing all
we venture on trusting strangers and dreams
we blink and the impossible becomes
and we are born anew again.

Do not let me stumble
let me faithful be
I will give my all away
so I can be full of life and love.

The Collect

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:33-39

Our eldest daughter, when she was very young, did not like going to bed at night. She fought hard to stay awake. One night she said to us, " I love the light and I hate the dark!" She was barely three years old. The giving up on wide awake life and sinking into sleep for her was a tragedy she would not bear. It was if by giving into the darkness of sleep, she was letting go of all that was good to her. And yet, as she fought, she desperately needed the darkness, the sleep, as we all do. There can be no joyous morning without a full night of darkness, and a full night of sleep.

We read from the Gospel of Mark of Jesus' death on the cross. Darkness covered the whole land. Jesus breathed his last, crying out to God in the words of the ancient psalmist. We often read this story on Good Friday, and often turn away from the deep darkness that covers us in this story. But it is this darkness, this death, which makes all of our mornings, all of our joy possible. It is this darkness that makes both Easter and Christmas possible. It is this sacrificial death for all that makes our lives and our faith possible. It makes the morning sweet and the darkness of some days like the morning light.

Today I ask God to help me to welcome the darkness. Despite our need for control, may we be willing to enter into the dark places so that we might be restored by God. May we seek the honest depths of our distress, so that God's light might shine for us, today.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Strong Fortress

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have taken heed of my adversities,
and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,
and my bones waste away.

I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
Do not let me be put to shame, O Lord,
for I call on you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.
Let the lying lips be stilled
that speak insolently against the righteous
with pride and contempt.

O how abundant is your goodness
that you have laid up for those who fear you,
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of everyone!
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from human plots;
you hold them safe under your shelter
from contentious tongues.

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm,
‘I am driven far from your sight.’
But you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.

Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord. Psalm 31

The psalms are a wonderful gift to faithful people. They are ancient words, often sung by memory, that affirm our faith and give us strength to go on. Although our trials and tribulations, our joys and our sorrows, our lived lives might be different than those of the greatest king of Israel, the powerful words and visions are no less accurate for our days. When one pours out their soul to God, the faithful across time cam understand and still be moved by God's love and presence in our lives today.

The Gospel appointed for today is the crucifixion of Christ from Mark. The living presence of God cries out in the ancient words of the psalms as he suffers unspeakable pain. He sings the ancient songs and they are so embedded in his being that through agony, as life drains away, he is able to speak to God in the songs of a king. We are invited by God to know that we are in a relationship with one who is both Alpha and Omega, and has listened to the cries of the beloved since the beginning of time. God invites us to pray in our pain and loss, our joys and sorrow and to seek God always. For God is here with us, even at the depth of our sorrow and loss.

Today I ask God to help me pray in all things. May we trust God to help us live beyond our pain and sorrows, wrapped in the knowledge of God's loving presence right here and right now. God is our fortress and our sure defense, today.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. Mark 15:16-21


They mocked even the divine
with spit and words and violence
they tortured the beloved
led the child of God out
to be crucified.

We take love in our midst
we cannot control so we destroy
we cannot silence so we tease
we cannot win so we kill.

A well known Simon walking by
was forced to shoulder the cross
compelled to carry the destruction implement
bearing the shame for ever more.

We take love in our midst
we cannot control so we destroy
we cannot silence so we tease
we cannot win so we kill.

God's love surrounding us
makes us uncomfortable and ashamed
we cannot hide from the truth revealed
we reject the one that comes to save us.

We take love in our midst
we cannot control so we destroy
we cannot silence so we tease
we cannot win so we kill.

God calls us to new honesty
to drop the weapons of denial and defense
to let love in to change us
and make us whole again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Taming the Tongue

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. James 3:5-12

The old childhood rhyme of "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" cannot be further from the truth. I even knew that when as a child I was teased or bullied. Words hurt. Gossip and slander can be abuse. When we chose to allow the poisonous language, gossip and teasing that happens within communities and families, we are choosing for the destruction of what we say we love.

The writer of James was a clear teacher, one who was not afraid to challenge the church membership with their own behavior. He knew how insidious and destructive cruel talk could be. The same people who gathered, smiled and hugged each other could go out to the parking lot and destroy all positive and loving work. Human beings have not changed since these early times and our cruel, untamed tongues are still the reason churches fail and recent converts walk away in droves. We can drive them out with our words, and make the sanctuary an unsafe place for anyone. God is inviting us today to examine ourselves, and to challenge one another to use language that uplifts rather than tears down. Getting our way with insults and gossip is not God's way.

Today I ask God to help me tame my tongue. No matter the challenges that face us today, may we be more ready to use our voices in prayer rather than in criticism and gossip. May we always think of the most vulnerable in our midst before we speak, and may we honor God with our whole being, including our words, tday.