Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent 1

Jesus said to his disciples, "In those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see `the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." Mark 13:24-37

It is Advent 1, the time when the church begins a new year, when everything turns from the end of time to its beginning. Tomorrow I will continue a series that I started last year. Letter from Mary on her way to Bethlehem. Her voice is almost silent in the scriptures and yet she carried the Savior of the world. She is the turning point, the vessel of love incarnate. So, as we light our first candles on the wreath, let us imagine the challenges that come with bearing the Christ child into the world. Let us be awake to the real dangers of God with us.

Today, I ask God to prepare my heart and soul for a new season. May the accumulated burdens we are all bearing be set aside, as we wait anew for Christ, tender and vulnerable, God brought forth among us. May we not shirk our humanity but gain compassion day by day as we move forward in the mystery of God's presence in the world with us, now and forever.

The Collect

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weeping Over the City

As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God."
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, "It is written,
'My house shall be a house of prayer';
but you have made it a den of robbers."
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard. Luke 19:41-48 

The places and people that God has showered blessing upon, are too often the places and people that squander what they have been given. In this season of Thanksgiving, and as we prepare for Advent, we are invited by God to recognize and cherish the incredible gifts we have been given, and to make our lives prayerful and humble. I have too often lost friends who had everything but who thought they were invincible.  I have watched loved ones suffer because they only saw their lack and not their blessings. I have seen church families tear each other apart because they are not what they once were. We all can sink to self-pity and sadness at this time of year. And yet we are invited to renew our sense of wonder and awe - to see how truly blessed we are.

Jesus weeps as he enters Jerusalem. God has blessed the city and the temple for all eternity and yet the people often missed the blessings because of their greed and ache for power. The religious leaders were as human and sightless as everyone else. The heart of the Divine is broken when we overlook the beauty and holiness we have been given, and when we cheapen it to fill our own needs. We are invited by the Creator, as Advent approaches, to put aside all that distracts us from seeing clearly how loved and blessed we truly are.

Today I ask God to help me see clearly. May we rejoice in our blessings and share the abundance we have. May this be a season of reawakening to love and joy in the incredible gifts given to us all. May today be the start of making prayer and welcome our daily tasks, our daily work and our daily food.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Servant Leaders


Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' "Matthew 25:31-40

Servant Leaders

They were young and regal
bowed to and honored
feeling the weight of suffering
that was afflicting their people.

Their land had been taken over
their lives changes forever
once a paradise with enough for all
now an abundance for only a few.

They heard the cried and went
 to the beaches and the streets
the places of illness and loss
love breaking down social barriers.

She wrote sweet hymns for God
and gave her time to serve
They were brave and tender
in the face of brutality and violence.

Locked up by her captors she reached
across walls and through windows
her love for God and for the people
shattered the known world forever.

Let us today go out to the streets
to the blankets on filthy steps
to the toss aside and the abandoned
and welcome God on earth. 

O Sovereign God, who raised up (King) Kamehameha (IV) and (Queen) Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day 2014

Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."
Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:26-35 

The joy of Thanksgiving Day is the gathering of family and our gratitude for the many blessings we have received. The challenge of Thanksgiving Day is the memories of those who are not with us now, and the real cost for all of us being together. For those of us who are Indigenous on this land, the challenge of Thanksgiving goes even deeper. The cost for our welcome and inclusion of foreigners was the destruction of our ways and the capture of our homelands. And yet, even as once conquered people we have much to celebrate, much to be thankful for and futures that are even brighter for our children, their children and the seventh generation yet unborn. 

Jesus reminds the people that God is always about blessing and abundance.  Even when human beings are aggressive, violent and selfish, God is always about restoration and justice, feeding the hungry and caring for all those who are downtrodden and abused. We are reminded today of the incredible blessings we have in this country and how easy it is to ignore the ones whom God cherishes. We need to make room at the table for those who have been thrown away, set aside and those who need welcome even now.

Today, may my heart be exceptionally grateful for those who have suffered and still lived with hope and faith. May we be grateful for all those who in every generation have made strangers welcome and set a place for those in need. May we never flag in doing God will, which is to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry and make room for those who have nothing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Today Salvation Has Come to This House

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." Luke 19:1-10 

Today Salvation

We might think that everything's ruined
the weather is against us the family fractured
we are up a tree with no way down
and yet love is coming to this house.

God will bend down today and gather
the brokenhearted and the shamed
the addicted, the deniers and the corrupt
and give us a home together again.

We are broken people gathered around
each with sorrows and failures beyond words
but as we come together with faith
the Divine is searching high and low for us.

We might be shattered and bedraggled now
but grace and peace are coming to stay
a new lease on life for the hopeless and hurting
and new love for the lonesome hearts.

We might seem lost and up a tree
hiding from all our collected guilt and shame
God has more for us than we can imagine
love is setting the table for us now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jericho Road

Then Jesus took the twelve aside and said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." Then he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has saved you." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. Luke 18:31-43 

Sometimes on the hardest roads, the most wonderful things happen. The past few weeks have been very challenging for our family. We took the weekend to visit our daughter Ariel and our granddaughter Lilly. We spent two nights in Allentown just visiting as a family. One night Lilly stayed with us in the hotel room. She banished her Pop Pop to the other bed and slept with me. She tossed and turned a bit in the night, but every time she rolled away, she rolled back to me, snuggled close and held my hand. It was a gift to feel her sweet little child breath on my neck and watch her nestled close, so trusting and loving. Sometimes in our lives we cannot see the love that surrounds us.

The disciples and Jesus are on their final journey together. Despite all the explanations of what was to come, they failed to hear and see what was going on. We humans are often oblivious. It was the blind man on the road, who brazenly called out, who knew love drawing near and would not let himself be passed by. He called out to Jesus and was rewarded with sight. And even more, he was given faith beyond measure, as were the people who witnessed the healing.  We are invited by God, when we find ourselves on challenging journeys, to seek love and healing despite the evidence to the contrary. God calls us to seek and be love on our hardest days.

Today I ask God to help me have eyes to see the abundance of love that surrounds us. May we who face tough roads and storms ahead, remember that we are never alone, and that we can cry out in every moment and place. There is healing and love around every corner, today.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let The Little Children Come to Me

People were bringing even infants to Jesus that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
A certain ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.'" He replied, "I have kept all these since my youth." When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" He replied, "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God." Then Peter said, "Look, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:15-30 

Let The Little Children

Can't sit still for a moment
waiting for adults is an eternity
loud and pouting, laughing, crying
dancing and running in  the rain.

Little ones are messy and disruptive
terrorists in their own homes
making calm parents frazzled
and energetic elders exhausted.

They stalk imaginary beasts
little warriors who paint themselves
small hand that mold clay and weave
dreams of wonder delight and awe.

These little wondrous hurricanes
so delight the heart of God
that we are all invited to be
like the little children in our lives.

May we approach the Divine today
with all our conflict and our pain
with all our hopes and expectations
throwing arms wide as we approach love.

Come frightened little boys and girls
turn around and seek God's love again
run and know you are welcome and called
dance for love is calling to you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Christ the King

Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, `Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, `Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46

The long season of ordinary time has come to an end. We will start Advent this coming week. Life changes dramatically and the church and the world turns to await the coming of the Christ child. As we begin this new season, we are reminded of the glory of Christ which is found in our willingness to love and serve others.

There are those in this world who would have power and status. And there are those who win power and status through money, thinking themselves special and gifted because of their purchases. We are invited to know the true power in life which is found in kindness, tenderness, compassion and service. If we want to be close to God, we must be willing to draw close to the poor and imprisoned, the homeless, the lonely, the abandoned elderly. God is found in the darkest places, where no glamor or glitter is to be found.  We are reminded out loud, during this holiday season to find God beyond the decorations, beyond the parties, and deep in the heart of need.

Today I ask God to help me move to the edges in my search for God. May we move to serve God by giving ourselves away and by seeing God in the least of our neighbors. May we stay away from the glamor and move towards the love.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Humble

 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’Luke 18:9-14

The Humble

Everyone knows what she did
and saw how often she fell down
no model for any other person
she sits in prayer asking for strength.

He stands strutting like a winner
although he left his family starving
despite the fact he stole money
and tore the hearts of all who trusted him.

The arrogance of the world surrounds us
competition and winners get the  press
yet the single mom who feeds her little one
prays over leftover food brought home.

The holy one hovers in the alleys
and hears the prayers and tears
raised day and night but the lonely
sent heavenward by the abandoned.

O gifted wealthy and talented
bow down before the one who made you
for gifts are given for the healing of others
grace given for the sharing with the world.

God is present at the soup kitchen table
in the cold night swirling with snow
in the blankets sheltering the homeless
and at the humble tables of the poor.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Crying Out to God

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:1-8 

Crying Out To God

It is truly broken Lord
I sit with the shards in hand
weeping over the loss
alone with my faults and shame.

The night chill descends upon me
like a blanket surrounding me with pain
this darkness is too deep for me
I might be swallowed up in this place.

This night I will cry out to you
my rock, my hiding place and my salvation
from time's beginning you are love
and you will come to me with compassion.

Despite the dampness and the drear
I will rise us in the early morning
I will light the lamps and set a place
for you are drawing near.

I will not dwell in evil's place
you will come and save us all
you will mend the sacred hoop
and bind the people together again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Between Samaria and Galilee

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." Luke 17:11-19 

Between Samaria and Galilee

The suffering and pain were less
than the shame and exclusion
sent away from all that we know
to live together in order to die.

This diseased body still cries
still aches for love and compassion
this body is still completely human
though wholly broken and rejected.

The outcasts of this world
huddled together for our sins
sick and shattered still cling to hope
that the road beside will still surprise us.

Thousands pass by and turn away
hundreds look and are horrified
the braver ones stare in wonder
what can they do for a sickness so vile?

One voice in our wilderness
heard our cry for help and healing
miracles abounding we returned home
forgetting to be grateful for our freedom.

On the road between Samaria and Galilee
one remembered all that God had done
one alone spoke thanksgiving and praise
all were healed but one was made whole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stumbling and Forgiveness

Jesus said to his disciples, "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive."
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'" Luke 17:1-10 

Being human, we all stumble and fall. We give in to urges and egos. We let our compulsions and our greed overtake our sense of who we really are. Those who are put on pedestals fall farther. They begin to believe what people say about them, and they think that they are more holy, more talented, and closer to God. We are all human and we will all stumble. Forgiveness is the only way we get beyond our fallen places, our humanity that is so broken and so in need of healing. Seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is a gift we get from God, even in our most fallen moments.

Jesus is instructing his followers about their daily lives. They could get grandiose visions of  their leadership and their power. And Jesus would have them focus on humility and forgiveness. I remember an old friend of my father's saying to me, "the point of embarrassment is the point of redemption." When we are fully human we can be fully forgiven. Our stumbling and broken nature is a given. And God would have us know, that despite our hideous and regular falls, our selfishness and erring, there is still more forgiveness and redemption, still more love to go around.

Today I ask God to help me forgive all those who have led others astray. May our broken humanity meet others and hear always the need for asking for forgiveness, and in return forgiving others. May we always bend toward the weak and fallen, being agents of love, lifting others up in their most desperate times.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Great Chasm

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 

 A Great Chasm

One lies on a cold sidewalk
covered in the grime and filth
daily life ignoring the hungry need
still looking at Divine compassion.

Another lies in silk, satin and linens
every need covered by bending servant
daily life revolving around him alone
still trusting self and wealth.

One hand holds a cup in begging
the other crystal filled with wine
one hand reaches towards the heavens
the other into others' pockets.

The ancient great chasm widens now
the poor still stand in line for food
the rich throw away and pay the spa
sending castoffs beyond their gates.

The Holy stands at gates watching
the lack of compassion and tenderness
when abundance and blessings not shared
the chasm widens and hope gets lost.

Throw open the gates and let them in
spread the blanket wide and make the feast
let the chasm close and blessing shared
and invite the reign of God today.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Matter of Talent

Jesus said, "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, `Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, `Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, `Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, `Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, `You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' " Matthew 25:14-30

I am blessed to know many talented people, and come from a family of talented people. Not everyone's gifts are the same, some are artists, some musicians and some talented at bringing people together. Whether famous or not talented people are at their best when they are able to use their talent for expression, to liven up the world and to challenge the way others see and think. It is incredibly sad when those same folks hide their gifts due to lack of confidence. Some have been hurt so badly. And sometimes they can be lazy or selfish and want perfection and adoration rather than the work it takes to develop a true gift. And worst of all, sometimes they can use their gifts to bully and hurt others. The more gifts we have the more responsibility we have.Love is the best gift of all, and it too takes work and humility.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples and those gathered about the blessings they receive. He reminds us all if we step out and use what we have been given, we will be a blessing and we will know blessing. If we hide away in fear or laziness, we will never know the blessings from what we have been given. We must, no matter how often we fail, continue to use the love and the talents we have been given. God planted each of us with talents that the worlds needs today.

Today I ask God to help me use what I have been given for the benefit of others. May our hands and hearts be used always for the good of others, for lifting up the fallen and for leading the lost and forgotten.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Faithful in Very Little

Jesus said, "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."
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.
"The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped." Luke 16:10-17 

Faithful As I Can

One foot in front of the other
stumbling yes but moving forward
bent over but not defeated
in pain but not giving in.

We are forced at times to linger
in dark damp and scary places
in nether worlds of loss and fear
regions where evil knocks at the door.

Terrified but never abandoned
breathing in and out stilling hearts
step by step we move slowly onward
face toward dawn that will surely come.

Weak as I surely am faithful as I can be
never giving in to the pulling, grasping fear
always looking for step ladders and handholds
we are fighting for love and will never stop.

This I know that God is within
our deepest fears tormenting dreams
holding us like a loving tender parent
singing us through the dangerous nights.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Getting Out of Trouble

Then 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.” Luke 16:1-9 

There are days when it seems there are no way out of the troubles we or others have caused. When our loved ones are in trouble, it tends to hit us hard. When it is our children in trouble, it is even harder. The world is full of troubles and we can often feel shame and failure when we or others hit bottom. We are stunned and dazed, and want to hide away from the world. The sun still shines though, and through the process we learn that there are people who can help, people who are wise, and who can help folks who seem stuck in deep trouble.

Jesus tells his followers to be wise in the things of the world. He uses, as he often does, a story. The story is about someone who is deep in the hole and who has made some bad and illegal decisions. He uses his skills and relationships to save himself. People of faith often find themselves in horrible life situations, both of our own making, and the consequences of those we love. We can be comforted that Jesus knew we would face all sorts of calamity and mess. We are never alone in the messes we make, God knows when we need help. More often than not, we need help before we recognize it ourselves.

Today, I ask God to help me be strong and wise in the face of adversity and trouble. May we all use the gifts and skills we have been given, and fearless when we need help. May we reach out, and move toward health and restoration in everything we do. And may we trust that God, who loves us more than we can imagine, is in the midst of these troubles with us, moving us steadily towards new life and new love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Lost Sheep

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 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 people 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

Hoisted up on a warm shoulder
after a night clinging to life
I had wandered off on my own
and completely lost my way.

I thought I knew my way for sure
knew better than the loving parent
I was more clever than the good shepherd
how wrong this foolish child can be!

The first steps were divine tender grass
and gentle warmth from the sunset
then darkness deep and bone chilling
the howling of the hungry hit my ears.

The next steps were stumbling all
crashing into beastly grasping bushes
falling in to cutting biting holes
and finally tumbling down a ravine.

The pain of scraps and bruises 
was nothing to my rising shame
my brilliant self-deception
had lead directly yo my downfall.

The long night through I cried
a little babe in the deep woods
simply a tender morsel for the wolves
a feast of foolishness I caused.

There was no death this night
love found me in my deepest fear
lifted from my self imposed peril
love brought me back home again.

The sounds of friends and family
like choirs of angels to my rescued ears
this heart skipped and rejoiced
life will never be the same again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Cost

 Now large crowds were traveling with him; 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.

 ‘Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Luke 14:25-35

When we were getting ready to move from the row house we owned in Baltimore to head north to seminary, the hardest thing for me to let go of was my dark room equipment.  Not the wonderful house we had worked hard to renovate, nor the wonderful neighborhood and city full of dear friends that we would leave behind. They were all hard to leave but leaving the dark room meant an end to a way of life, an identity and a sense of who I was. I remember vividly the cold winter day that we went to New York City to buy my darkroom. It was symbolic and powerful and I had to let it all go. Following the call to ministry has, over the year demanded a price that I could not have imagined.

Jesus talks very bluntly about the cost of discipleship. To follow Christ calls us to give up our control over the present and the future. We cannot "have it our way." We must let go, so there is room for the work of God's spirit, healing and renewing us, and making us able to serve others. The release and letting go that we experience can be very, very difficult and yet it is essential. God will provide for our every need, but we have to be needy, not independent, large and in charge.

Today I ask God to help me let go of those things that stand in the way of my daily walk with Christ. May we all make room for God's spirit and power in our lives today. May we make room by letting go control and those things that keep us from opening our hearts.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Filling the House

Jesus said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’” Luke 14:12-24 

Filling the House

The shell of a busy home
now stands silent and watching
waiting for the crowds to return
hoping for new life from the silence.

Have we walked the streets with invitations?
called up the restless and the weary?
We hoped only the nice well behaved
would come and fill up the room.

The elegant meal is worthy of kings
and the homeless and lonely too
this shell can be filled again when
we look beyond our selves for family.

We ring our church bells
we set the altar and light candles
do we walk the streets with this love offering
or are we keeping it for ourselves?


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Keep Awake

Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, `Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, `No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, `Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." Matthew 25:1-13

I spent a good deal of time preparing. Because I am traveling a good deal, I have to make sure that I have everything I need with me. Then there are the times that no matter how well I am prepared, I either forgot something or, it was not something I thought to bring. With the changes in weather and circumstances  I often feel unprepared. I also have to trust that God will help me through, even when the storms bear down and I am without the tools I need.

Jesus tells a story of the bridesmaids - some prepared and some unprepared. He likens the kingdom of heaven  to this coming wedding banquet - a royal and wonderful celebration. He invites us, almost challenges us to be prepared. We know that Jesus was preparing himself an his disciples for his final days. We must always be as ready as possible to encounter the kingdom of Heaven, God breaking into our time and space. We are invited to take notice and keep awake, for Gos is always doing a new thing, change is always occurring, and we are to be those who are prepared to meet God in new and renewing ways.

Today I ask God to help me do everything to be prepared while trusting that God's reign is breaking out all around. May we never be discouraged nor negligent in our faith and service, so that we might be ready at all times to see the face of God.

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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Honor in Humility

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:1-11 

Humble Gifts

The fancy table settings glisten
aroma, sight and sound are perfect
everyone dressing in silver and gold
there is power here but no honor.

Some paper plates and rusty cups
frigid water from a nearby stream
coffee boiled over and over
this rustic place of honor.

The handshakes are firm convincing
the place cards elegant the service silent
a thousand proud and haughty guests
scrambling for yet a better place.

Our thrones are rocks and logs
others move to make the circle rounder
we live our lives for the giveaway
aching to serve through the night.

The Divine is welcomed at both
some places the Holy is not invited to stay
say and prayer and be done with it
the Creator of life sent back to the kitchen.

We will make room on our mats and blankets
share the bread of our toil and the wine  of our labor
may God find a home with us this day
and may we find God in our midst at the last.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13.31-35 

There are places that seem to always be festering, always simmering and sometimes erupting. In my lifetime I have seen that Jerusalem, the most holiest of cities, is one of those places.  We can also experience certain relationships in our lives that always seem fraught and always seem to make us uneasy at best. Certain people can be toxic to us, and it may feel as if we are in danger whenever we are around them. 

Jesus is warned by the religious leaders. The government is sending agents to arrest and kill him. Knowing how dangerous the city is for him, he still aches for all the people, wanting to protect and nurture them. Despite the real threats of violence, the Incarnate One moves with love and compassion, despite it all. We are invited by God today to respond to threats with compassion and to leave defensiveness behind. 

Today I ask God to help me move always towards love and compassion, no matter how anxious and threatening the situation becomes. May we all step away from violence and defense, to a place of compassion and care. May those places and people who have troubled us become gentle places of renewed life.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

First and Last

Jesus said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:18-30 

First and Last

The wealthy and the powerful
stand firmly first in line head high
an assumed position thought to be deserved
pushing the week and the needy back.

We are called to take the backseat
and yet we shove and grapple
to take the highest places 
losing sight of whose we are.

We are made from dust and stars
intended for the kingdom of love
made for compassion and kindness
strangers in this selfish world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Set Free From Bondage

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. Luke 13:10-17 

Last year in Sitka we witnessed the release of birds at the Raptor Center. The eagles come to the center wounded and broken. The good folks there bind their wounds, and when they are strong enough, give them space to practice flying. It can take many long months for the birds to recuperate. Some are never strong enough or are too wounded to ever fly again. Most of the injuries are from people, or man-made objects like high voltage wires and the like. Come spring, the birds who are ready are released. A volunteer in huge glove and protective suit, take the eagle to an open field and gently lifts them to the air. Each bird flapped and took off. Several were startled at first and then soared and dipped above us for many minutes. It was a delight to watch them set free to be exactly who they were.

Jesus encounters a woman who is severely crippled and he heals her. He takes heat from the religious leaders since it was a sabbath day. Defying the rules, Jesus acted with compassion on a woman who didn't deserve another day in torture and pain. Some things may need to wait, but when the opportunity to provide healing and release is there, the divine spirit is always for our healing, always for our release. We often get in the way, but the Creator would have us always moving towards healing and freedom, always sharing that healing and freedom with others.

Today, as I set out for Montana, I ask God to use me as an agent of healing and release. May we who have been blessed with freedom, share all that we have, unbinding those who have been bound for too long. And may God's spirit soar within us, so that our joy might renew the people who we encounter today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

One More Year

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:1-9 

One More Year - A Prayer

Dear God give us one more year
to gather the family and hear them laugh
to dig around the roots and feed them again
to live beyond our limits and fears.

Dear Lord grant us one more cycle of seasons
let us nestle into the winter against the blowing snow
to plant early in the spring nurturing and caring
so that we might feed and restore our people.

Loving God give us another chance
to harmonize together side by side
to hold each one another as we weep
to light candles for those we have lost.

Tender Lord, give us more time to forgive
more time to repent and seek out those
who we have set aside and hurt with words
and actions so selfish and unkind.

Healing God, bind us together once more
and make us new people waking in the light
make us strong in love ready with service
and always grateful for the gifts you give.

Transforming Savior, hear our prayer
and in our darkness lift our bending bodies up
wrap us in your strength and power this season
that we might reach and bend our hearts to others. Amen