Friday, February 28, 2014

A Borrowed Donkey

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!" Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!"
John 12:9-19

A Borrowed Donkey

It is hard to be humble
and easy to be puffed up
easy to believe you're special
when the world cheers you on.

The discipline of humility
is the daily walk of Christ
who came first in a stable
entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

Humble teacher didn't own the colt
lived a life of borrowed possessions
stranger's hospitality and road food
so that we might belong to God.

So that we might be honored offspring
at the heart of the living Creator
He walked humbly and died with convicts
so that we might always be free.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leave Her Alone

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” John 11:55—12:8

It is common to tease people we know well. Among Native families and communities, you know you belong by how severely you are teased. Sometimes the teasing can get out of hand and it can feel hurtful but most often it is good natured and affectionate. Some of us can be hurt by what people say, even when it is meant as a sign of affection. Especially among young people I am working with, I have had to protect one child or another, when the kids done see their teasing as hurtful. Leave them alone must be said, sometimes, to protect the innocent, the vulnerable and the sensitive.

The story of the anointing of Jesus takes place in Bethany in John's Gospel. The disciples were present, as were his dear friends, sisters Martha and Mary, and brother Lazarus. A tight knit group, I would imagine, where folks teased and joked with each other all the time. Mary was previously chided and teased by her sister for not doing her part. Now she reacted in love by anointing Jesus and Judas voiced his outrage. These were people who were so intimate that they felt free to say what the liked and disliked. There was no formality in this group. But Judas overstepped his bounds and Jesus rose to protect Mary feelings. She acted out of love and honor, and that is always to be respected, whether or not we understand. God always honors the acts of love we give, no matter how people might judge and tease us.

Today I ask God to help me act out of love and not worry what others might think. May we be like Mary, ready to honor others with all we have, so God's love might shine through us. May we act to protect the innocent and vulnerable today, so they too might know God's love in their loves today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gathering the Dispersed Children of God

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. John 11:45-54

The Dispersed Children of God

They sent our ancestors on long walks
took us away from our homes and land
called us less than human and in need
of civilization and reform.

In ancient times governments and rulers
displaced people for the riches of land
sent them away to foreign hostile places
and made them eat the grass of sorrow.

The religious and political leaders
feared the power of the homeless teacher
the one who made the blind to see
and brought a young man back from death.

They came to turtle island and feared also
the tender relationship with this land
how we honored and revered the source of life
that they wanted to subdue and destroy.

They brought us bible and the Jesus story
and we believed the healing and the light
and they bundled our children away from us
to teach them how to be rulers like them.

But the rabbi savior did not walk with us
to then let us go our way alone
he came to gather us back together
to bring us to our homelands again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Deeply Moved

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:30-44

Sometimes, we can loose sight of the love in our lives and the miracles that come from being loved. When I was a child we used to kid about the shortest verse in the Bible -"Jesus wept". In Sunday School we got prizes for memorizing Bible verses, so our Mom taught us this one and several other short one also. It was a game for us then but has become a wealth of knowledge and story, memorized and part of our beings. The compassion of God through Jesus is soaked in deep. We are now in some was part of the miraculous story of God's divine compassion, God's presence at our worst, God making life again where there was none.

This story of the raising of Lazarus is essential to our understanding of Jesus and his ministry. He traveled around to many places, but found an intimate and familial connection where ever he went. His was close friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He loved them as brothers and sisters, like family he knew their story, their joys and their sorrows. And he came to bring back life to Lazarus because God is always overwhelming us with compassion, restoration and healing. We are never far from God's love and miracles, even in our darkest hours.

Today I ask God to help me look for the love and compassion of God that is present in the here and now. We are surrounded at all times with God's love and compassion, breaking down our walls of sorrow and the tombs we hide away in. May we live as those who expect God's love in our midst in our darkest hours.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Yes Lord I Believe

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into to the world.

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. John 11:17-29

Yes Lord, I Believe

"Yes Lord, I believe" she said
with tears running down her face
an ache deep in her broken heart
a loss so tragic, so unnecessary
she could hardly make herself breathe.

Buried, clean and bound up
all of his vibrant life hidden away
there is no recourse, no hope
the rituals complete, the opening sealed
and yet she walked on in faith.

Despite the hurt and pain of grief
despite the obvious disappointment
and the shame of broken promises
despite all she had seen and heard
she still said she trusted Jesus her friend.

One woman sets the standard for us all
believing despite the evidence to not
embracing love when it arrives
forgiving poor timing and added anxiety
still she proclaimed her belief for all the world.

And so, we like every steady Martha
the sister who served and fed and clothes
we must proclaim our trust and faith
in the face of a world where only money talks
and love is a foolish and temporary thing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Love Your Enemy

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 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 and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:38-48

This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the Consecration of Barbara Harris. I was there that day, as a seminarian. We were informed that many death threats had been lodged and we were to be very careful and very aware. There were protesters during the service and Presiding Bishop Ed Browning treated them with respect. Some people didn't want to see a woman as a bishop. Despite it all the beauty of the moment shined through. A very elderly woman talked to me and told me she had driven from Washington through the night to be there. She told me her mother had been born in slavery and this moment was for all those women who had been born into slavery. This moment, for her, love conquered all the past horrors and abuse.

Jesus invites us to love our enemies. To love those who don't think we have a right to do and be what we are. This is so hard but so important. As we love though who hate us, we change the world. As we respect those who seek to do us harm, we change our own hearts and our own understanding. As we love beyond reason, we find God in our midst.

Today I ask God to help me love more and judge less. May we all be moved by God's holy spirit to change the world by our love. May we give respect and honor to those who would shun or hurt us, so that God might be seen in the midst of our world today.

The Collect

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let Us Go

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this Jesus said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." John 11:1-16

Yesterday we took a walk through Totem park. It is a nice flat walk by the water and through the woods. Yesterday it was more challenging because we have had quite a bit of snow and ice, freezing and refreezing. There were very few people there because of it. It was a gorgeous sunny day and the walk was beautiful throughout, although we had to be careful not to slip and fall in some places, while others, the snow was high and make for a different kind of trekking. The sights and silence, the light and shadows all were beautiful and unforgettable. But we had to go out to see it, we had to take the risk to enjoy it.

Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus, was dying. To go to Judea was certain death for Jesus, as the religious authority had threatened him directly. Everyone knew that they were facing grave danger. Jesus knew that they would have to go anyway, if the world was going to witness a profound miracle. They had to go, facing threats from all sides, in order to see God's beauty and majesty at work. God invites us, when feeling threatened on all sides, to go awkward and difficult places, for there we will see God's beauty and majesty. In comfortable places we often miss the blessing, but we will know it for sure when we step out in faith.

Today I ask God to help me step out in faith. May we face the dark and uncomfortable places in our lives, expecting to find miracles instead of death. May we trust God to protect and defend us. May the road ahead bring more beauty and blessing than the challenges we faces.

Friday, February 21, 2014

And Many Believed

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God." Jesus answered, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, you are gods'? If those to whom the word of God came were called 'gods' - and the scripture cannot be annulled - can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, 'I am God's Son'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, "John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true." And many believed in him there. John 10:31-42

Sometimes we have to move to see th8ings differently. After almost 18 months here in Alaska, I know my perspectives have changed. We sat yesterday, listening to a free lunch time concert by a piano virtuoso. He played Beethoven and Chopin, to name a few. As we sat and listened intently, the big picture window afforded us a gorgeous panorama. The snow was falling and eagles and ravens regularly flew across our vision, seeming to dance on the air along with the music. I thought then how blessed I was to be in this extraordinary place with these unique people. If I had not left my comfort zone I would not have had this privilege.

Jesus was being verbally attacked by the religious leaders of his day. The arguments had gone on for hours. In their frustration and humiliation, they were ready to become violent. They were ready to stone him there. Jesus had to get away from the religious center and go to the fringe, crossing the water and changing perspective completely. There many came to him and believed. God invites us today, if we find ourselves faced with frustration and mounting fear, to change our perspective, get away from the familiar and to find faith and love again along the fringe, the edge, the place across the water. However we need to move ourselves from our stuck places and institutions, God challenges us to go today.

I ask God to help me move, when arguments seem ready to kill my faith, getting to the edge where I can see love again. May we move when we are afraid and overwhelmed, may we follow when we want to cower and hide, so that God can renew us and make us whole again.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Father and I are One

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?" Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. The Father and I are one." John 10:19-30

The Father and I are One

It might have been a small hand
held in a larger stronger one
or an arm around a small shoulder
a hoist up to see over the crowd
that showed me I knew love and belonging.

The growing years of discipline and laughter
the living years of meals and prayers
the silent years of being watched over
the resting years sleeping in the sand
I am embedded in the Father's love.

I hear his voice with each old hymn we sing
a powerful tenor deep, penetrating and fine
in each prayer whispered in the night
the pronouncing of blessings beginning
his voice echoes in my heart.

When love is planted deep and watered
tended through the lean and abundant years
nurtured with laughter, tears and direction
encouraged with ancient songs and new visions
we know we can make it through any storm.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good Shepherd

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away - and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father." John 10:10-18

My granddaughter Lilly at 2 1/2, sings Tender Shepherd from Peter Pan with all the words and right in tune. While I was back east, I tried to record it, over and over again, but she got more silly and goofy each time. We got laughing so much we could not continue. Later, we did record her. I realized that when we were trying to record she was stalling the whole process so she did not have to go to sleep. She knew that song meant bedtime and lights out were coming soon. Even when we do the best for our children and grandchildren, we need a loving an tender shepherd to protect and care for us and our loved ones when the lights go out and when we cannot be around.

Jesus uses a familiar image of sheep and shepherd to bring home some clarity on his role. He was being challenged by the religious leaders and responded with images that the people could understand. He moved from theological jargon to real, daily images - the sights, sounds and images of real lived life. The son of God as one who is willing to lay down his life, as one who will do everything to protect the vulnerable, needy and the wandering ones. We are invited to hear that God loves us so much that we are tenderly cared for day and night. God is in the midst of our real gritty, messy lives, right there in the middle of our bedtime routines and our daily struggles. God is always bringing us back home.

Today I ask God to help me listen to the tender voice of our loving shepherd in every moment and every circumstance today. I pray that we may live as beloved children, never fearing for the darkness of night, but trusting that we are loved and cared for in every moment. May we be fearless and trusting as children, sharing God's love where ever we go this day and always.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Little Children

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness. 1 John 2:1-11

Over the past few days, as we have gathered at Wintertalk, we have heard stories of the challenges many of our elders and friends have lived with from childhood. Many people gathered here were sent to an Indian boarding school where they had their language and identity taken from them. Their stories are heartbreaking and hard to take in. Lovely, sweet children, far from home and isolated from the warmth and nurture of family. The light of God seemed far from these places.

The writer reminds us that we are all little children, subject to the mistakes and failures of all human beings. But the good news is that we are all children of God, all of us, no matter what people might say or think of us. We are given the commandment of love. We are to love God and love others. There is nothing that can remove us from the family of God, and no one can keep us from the love of God, which is our in abundance every day.

Today I ask God to help me live humbly and forgive all those who might lead others astray. May our focus be on the love of God demonstrated as we love our neighbors and welcome all just as they are, May we see the love of God in the face of all, friends and strangers alike, today.

Monday, February 17, 2014

God's Works Revealed

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet." John 9:1-17

God's Work Revealed

Our brokenness a life long burden
we beg and plead to let it lift
our healing is God's revealing
our need is God's inviting us.

The water laps over perfect pebbles
worn down over centuries of loss
the hard edges and angry shards taken
and replaced by smooth skipping stones.

We wish for perfection and lack of pain
we think God is found in the perfected only
yet God's is made most visible in our tears
in our blindness we can be found.

God draws near with mud and spit
an intimacy so profound and basic
that we might turn away and cringe
wanting a mor3e perfect God and self.

God is found in the messy muddy moments
in the chaos of giggling children
in the shattering cries of the failed
and the dark night where we ache for answers.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Passing Judgment

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:1-23

Today I am in Tulalip, Washington attending our annual Wintertalk. This is a time for Native leaders in the Episcopal Church to gather, to listen to our stories and to learn together. We come from so many different tribes and walks of life, but we join together to support the ministry we all share. As Native people we come together so that we can serve our various people, we come to build our people u0p and to set judgment and differences aside.

The writer to the Romans know that our human tendency to judge others can undo all the faith and good practice we have in communities. It we judge, shun and reject folks because they are different, we cannot be a Christian community together. Jesus sat with the condemned, ate with sinners, welcomed the broken, frail and weak. And if we, who claim to follow Jesus, cannot set judgment aside, we are unable to be those who follow in our Savior's way. It is a daily challenge to set aside judgment and to offer our heart and hands to the love of God and to others. This is our invitation today - to let go of judgment and to embrace the love of all.

Today I ask God to help me set all judgment aside. May we be the living community of God, understood by our love and our welcome. May we offer all that we have to the lifting up of others. May we be willing to be servants, so that others might be raised us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let Love

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Romans 13:8-14

Let Love (A mother's anthem to her daughters)

When I could not imagine more joy
you looked at me with a food smeared face
hair ribboned with rubbed in debris
and laughed the song of love
until the universe broke open wide.

When I could barely walk so pain heavy
you lightly slide in next to me
testing the pillow, joking and teasing
complaining about the insincerity of teachers
embracing a mother enough for you.

When flung far across the country
you still held me accountable for traditions
the underwear at Valentine's Day and the pie
the pie that is always needed at every occasion
when popcorn doesn't make it special enough.

When you uttered your first cry
and when you fell down on the playing fields
the day you walked, the day you strode across
a stage in cap and gown so regal and smiling
in every moment you make love grow beyond measure.

A sweetheart is important but a daughter well
she is beauty irreplaceable and magnificent
a giggle factory and a storming furious mob
she is light in darkness and a bestest friend
and I have three, so blessed, so humbled.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Truth Will Make You Free

Again Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." Then the Jews said, "Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:21-32

One of my favorite movies is a 1950s version of a Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sims. The character of Jacob Marley is wrapped in a profound amount of chains which rattle and terrorize as he speaks to Scrooge. He tells of the links of the chains being forged in greed, selfishness and dishonesty, a life lived in service of self alone. Some of us have chains we have forged, or which have been forged for us. Pain, hurt, resentment and failure can make their own chains for us.Binds that keep us from knowing forgiveness and being forgiven. When ever I hear of Jesus promise to be set free, I wonder what chains I have forged, and what I need to let go.

Jesus desires for the folks around him to understand the intimate relationship he has with God. He wants us to understand that their are behaviors and things in our lives that can hold us back from the love of God. The truth is the love of God is available for all, we cannot earn it because it is freely given and we cannot keep it for ourselves. God invites us to embrace the love we have been given, putting aside the need to control and exclude others. We are freed by the love of God and only we can forge new chains and new bindings in our selfishness and isolation.

Today I ask God to help me set aside all those things that might keep me from God's love. May we recognize God's desire for us today, braking down all the things that keep us from loving and caring for others.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Never Walk in Darkness

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Then the Pharisees said to him, "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf." Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
John 8:12-20

It has been wonderful to be back in Sitka in the sunshine. Before we left to go east to visit our children, we had experienced weeks of dark and cloudy weather. It was warm for Christmas and New Years but it had rained constantly. In the winter we treasure the light, the sunshine, and make the most of the days that are dry. Some places experience low church attendance in bad weather. Here it is just the opposite. In sunny, good weather everybody has something to do outside. We delight and cherish in the light, especially in the depths of winter.

Jesus was still in a very public place. The religious leaders were after him constantly, trying to find just cause to arrest him. Instead of hiding or walking away, he kept offering the people around him the gifts of God. He offers them light and love, a close relationship with God. He offers them the possibility of a life without fear, a life lived without fear of judgment. The crowd understand right away, as they have witnessed his rescue of a woman about to be stoned. We can see his compassion and forgiveness as they could. We are invited to draw close, to set aide judgment and walk in the light of God's love.

Today I ask God to help me walk in the light. May our vision not be clouded by fear, judgment or scarcity, but may we rise up and turn to the light of life. May we live without fear this day, trusting that God who loves us more than we can understand, is acting for us always and bringing light and love to the darkest and most broken places today.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Has No One Condemned You?

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." John 7:53 - 8:11

Throwing Stones

It is so easy to condemn another
to blame them for our own sins
to taint them with our jealousy,rage
the sins of our parents borne
in our boiling angry blood.

We can live in a sanctuary of denial
with safe vehicles and fences
we close out the world's need
name ourselves the righteous
and bludgeon another woman to death.

Shut off from want and need
our greed has made us mean
we look for prey to soothe us
the destitute the honest, the sweet
point the finger, name the fault.

Those who we desire secretly
we pick up rocks to stone
those who we admire we choose
and condemn with stingy words
our ache and malice is unceasing.

The truly forgiven are soft
like morning light always gentle
never noticing the ancient scars
never pointing out the recent flaws
delighting in the newest smile.

The music of the forgiven is light
inviting all the world to dance
it's rhythm is childlike familiar
never cruel but swinging like grass
gentle accepting all who would dance.

The woman roughly brought to Jesus
shame and death desire by the elite
forgiveness and freedom desired only
by the one who looked on the sin of all
and hung on a rugged cross anyway.

So enter the life of the forgiven
where we dance and sing on soft ground
where rocks and guns and arrows are buried
the scars enough to remind us we are free
the gratitude deep and abiding for all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let Anyone Who is Thirsty

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?" The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law - they are accursed." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" They replied, "Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee." John 7:37-52

We arrived home last night, after delays, illness and minor disasters. What a lovely feeling, despite all the challenges, to come home, to be pounced on by a loving dog and to settle in again. We didn't put much away, but just took inventory of what we need to do, and were very grateful. Grateful to be home again, for all the people who took our parts when we were gone, and for making it through a very complicated journey. I am reminded of being a child in the summer. Like most people my age, we spent our days outside, running and playing (when the chores were done, of course). We had a little bubbling attachment to the hose and we refreshed ourselves there. It was cold and delightful, a taste of heaven, even out of the hose. In a sense, that's exactly how I felt last night.

Jesus finds himself at the end of the festival and offered folks a taste of heaven. This moment, like all of them in his ministry, did not come without controversy and challenge. With the Son of God in their midst, the religious leaders doubted him. He lacked credentials and came from inappropriate place. This clouded their insight and understanding. Even Nicodemus could not persuade them. But many in the crowd knew what it was like to be thirsty, to be rejected, an alien without proper credentials, and to be on the road a very long time. The words they heard were a taste of heaven to the poorest of the poor, a welcome to the stranger, the lost and the forgotten.

Today, I ask God to help me offer welcome and refreshment to all those I come in contact with today. May we be agents of the in-breaking of God's reign, where all are welcome, all are fed, and all who are thirsty are given the water of life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Light of the World


Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  Matthew 5:13-20

One of the challenges of living where there is so much cloud cover is that we don't often see the stars at night. Coming east for a visit, we have had several clear, cold nights when we can see many stars. The moon is waning and is what my daughters always called a fingernail moon. It is amazing how much light is in the night sky, and how the moon reflects the sun, even when the earth is turned away. We all need the light in our lives, whether direct or reflected.

Jesus talks about being salt and light. He tells his followers that they are salt and light. We are slat and light. The world needs salt and light, those who can bring flavor to the dull wretchedness of living, and those who can shine enough so that others may see their way home. We are invited today by this Gospel reading to share what we have, acting as agents of the loving and living God. We may not feel like we have a lot to share, but we must see how the good we bring, the love we share, the lamps we light - hpw the small acts become the way to change the world for the good.

Today, I ask God to help me do my part. May my words and actions be salt and light. May all that we do bring laughter, love and joy to those around us. May we reflect the amazing love we have been given and share it where ever we go today.

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

In Secret

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world." (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come." After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, "Where is he?" And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, "He is a good man," others were saying, "No, he is deceiving the crowd." Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews. John 7:1-13

In Secret

Sometimes the world's cruelty
makes us hide away to survive
misunderstood and discredited
we walk in the deep shadows
singing by moonlight only.

In this season we must lay low
hide the gifts and the music
stash away our capacity
the world is angry and jealous
and the rough streets are mean.

Some would kill that which they fear
destroy the delights and joy of others
repress and imprison the strange
bury the loved of God in shadow
and tell lies to the little children.

Some times are the festivals of Booths
dangerous and maligning leadership
afraid of losing control and power
afraid of goodness and healing
scared of sharing like little children.

In good time love conquers all
and God's goodness prevails against
evil men and women who would stifle love
Creation's beauty brings a new dawn.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

To Whom Can We Go?

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

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil." He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. John 6:60-71

We have been spending time with our daughters, our granddaughter, Mark's sister and my Mom. Being close to my family, laughing and holding them close, sharing meals and stories, we have renewed our relationships and being to imagine our futures together. Among those you love, one cannot help but ask, "where else would I go, to what other people would I go to?" This trip has deepened relationship and cemented our commitments to being together more often.

The road ahead was getting more challenging. The first heady days for the disciples have now become daily challenges and constant controversy. They would have to decide whether they were committed or not. Peter spoke for them all. They were sticking with Jesus, throwing in their lot with him, committed to following where ever he might take them. Love does not look back but instead looks forward with hope, taking risks and challenges in stride. God's love for us does not look back at our mistakes but invites us deeper in love's direction.

Today I ask God to help me not look back but to look forward with joy. May we be committed to where we have been called, deepening our love and commitment every day. May we grow more in love with the people God has given us, so that the world might know God in our midst.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A New Heart

I will take you from among all nations;
and gather you from all lands to bring you home.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you;
and purify you from false gods and uncleanness.
A new heart I will give you
and a new spirit put within you.
I will take the stone heart from your chest
and give you a heart of flesh.
I will help you walk in my laws
and cherish my commandments and do them.
You shall be my people,
and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28

We left Boston early to get out of the head of the storm. We made it to New York in great time. We woke up to at least a half of foot of snow on the ground. We have been on this long road trip to see our family and to spend a little time at home, surrounded by loved ones and traversing familiar territory, engaging landscapes where years of memories have been made. It is a time of gathering up, if just for a few days, a renewing of heart and spirit, a reconnection of love and life.

The passage from Ezekiel reminds us all that God is about gathering us together, drawing us back and giving us all a sense of home and belonging. In God's understanding and desire, we become real people, real family, gathered, cherished and loved. If we are feeling distress and loneliness, we are reminded that the Creator of all is always about gathering and loving, taking us under the wings and giving us new hearts of flesh. We are never alone, as God is always acting for us, healing our broken places and finding us a new home.

Today I ask God to help me trust the new heart I have been given. May we all live and act as those gathered together by God. May we know that moments of isolation and loneliness are not permanent, and that our loving Creator is renewing us all.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

For the Life of the World

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

For the Life of the World

Like us walking and wandering
along desert and seaside paths
giving all himself for them
giving all himself for all.

The followers did not know us
our ancient and familiar ways
they did not our tongues or stories
but they knew it was for all.

The missionaries carried bread
and wanted to offer it all
but they feared our constant drumming
and worried about our sings,

They wanted to change us to save us
wanted to give us new names
but our songs already knew the love
that the teacher had long ago promised.

We live forever in our ancient ways
the way that welcomes the Creator's love
which invites the bread and wine
to come to the circle and dwell with us.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bread of Heaven

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’ John 6:27-40

When we were around the table with my family, sometimes in place of a spoken grace we would sing. As we got older, one of our favorites to sing was Cwm Rhondda, or Guide Me O Thou, Great Jehovah. We would sing it with great gusto and in as many parts as we could remember or find. To this day we enjoy singing the old hymn even when we are not around the table. It reminds us of the constancy and faithfulness of God and of the blessings we have received.

The folks who were with Jesus wanted exciting miracles and instead bread. He had fed a hug crowd and they all wanted more. Jesus was trying to help them understand that the love of God provides daily strength and sustenance, peace during chaos, support during trauma - things that truly make life worth living. And he encourages them to seek relationship with God rather than flash in the pan miracles. A relationship with God is much, much more rewarding and fulfilling than flash in the pan windfalls and huge feasts.

Today I ask God to help me deepen our relationship and to be grateful for the small daily miracles. May we all rejoice in the daily visions of God's love in our friends and neighbors. May we seek the bread of heaven, that which gives life and sustains us forever.