Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Hallows Eve

 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with* three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:*
‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
   I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’* Matthew 13:31-35

Tonight is Halloween, the eve of All Saints'. I am in Washington DC to be a part of, and witness, the service of installation for Michael Curry. An historic and powerful event that reminds us the world is turning towards justice and God is calling us all to pay attention. Halloween, throughout the generations is a time of turning, when there is a thinness between worlds and things are turned upside down - the poor can be fed by the rich and children can demands candy and receive it.

Jesus told the story of the mustard seed  and yeast, to reveal what had been hidden so long from the people. The life of the spirit is not concerned with the world's winners and losers, but always about making the smallest powerful and enriching the possibilities of those who have had impossible challenges. God wants us to hear that the blessing of these days is understanding and seeing God's activity and transformation of the least. God invites us to suspend our need for control in order to witness the love of God flowing from the most remarkable and unsuspected places.

Today I ask God to help me trust in God's presence in the hard places, in the least likely and in the most profoundly troubled moments. May we be shaken up today, so that the Creator can transform our weaknesses into God's glory.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sheep into the Midst of Wolves

Jesus said to the twelve, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:16-22

One of the challenging things to my faith and ministry have been times where folks have put their own agendas first, and worked to take down others who didn't agree.  The church is not exempt from human politics, from sociopaths and broken people who need to win at all costs. We are often naive, myself included, expecting those in places of authority to be healthy and fair. Humans are prone to animal instincts, and hungry hurt animals are dangerous, particularly to the undefended and unaware. We have never been promised an easy road, but sometimes it can wear us all down.

Jesus warns his disciples about the depravity of others, even among believers. We are to be innocent and wise, and strong in our faith despite the abuse of others. We are invited to have our eyes open and not be foolish about who we trust. God invites us today to take seriously that attacks and betrayal are a normal part of the life of faith and that we are never, ever alone in facing the worst folks can dish out.

Today I ask God to renew my faith and strengthen my heart. May we all remember that the broken will strike out, but that we are held in the hands of a loving Creator.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Love's Command

Jesus said to his disciples, "I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world-- therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, `Servants are not greater than their master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, `They hated me without a cause.'
"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning." John 15:17-27

Love's Command

To love one another we must together
live simply and humbly sharing
the blessings we have been given
with the world around us.

Truly to love another we must
recognize that hate surrounds us
cruelty that ache for desire to be fulfilled
jealousy which cannot stand losing control.

To love means to give oneself away
authentic and grounded, happy with presence
love infuriates the anxious and greedy
returns love to the violent and destructive.

We are bound by love's command
although we ache for retribution
we can live at the bottom and bear
the weight and persecution of the crushers.

Love will make light shine in darkness
setting free the long time prisoners
bring sight to the blind and food to the hungry
binding us all together in love's command.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good Soil

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!" Matthew 13:1-9 
We lived in Delaware surrounded by rich farm lands. Someone once told me that the soil in Delaware was particularly rich, as it had been sea bed some millennium ago. The ancient deposits from the sea life made the soil rich with nutrients.It also wasn't rocky,as Delaware is very close to sea level throughout the state. The soil allows roots to go deep, and rain to not pool  having enough ancient sand and proximity to the ocean. It is good soil, which had been built over time, and which the local farmers take care of with great effort and pride. 
Jesus explains the parable he has told to anyone who will listen. Many of us want our faith to be fulfilling and enriching at every moment. Great faith takes great effort, care and time. We cannot walk away when things get tough or when life isn't exciting as it once was. There are seasons of plenty and want, as in life. All of what we do is preparing the soil, even in the seemingly stagnant seasons of our lives. We are to cultivate of life of patient humility, willing to serve always, even when we are not "feeling" it, even when we see no results. God promises to bring a great yield for those who take time to care for the dirt, for the unexciting people and places, the ground of all that is life-giving. 
Today I ask God for the strength to go deep. May we all be prepared to serve for the long haul, season after season, expecting the true blessings, despite what we may see or feel right now. May our faith be life giving to others around us today.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Listening to the Need

Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:46-52

I have just returned home after being with the Montana Association of Christians who were working together to find ways to serve the people. We talked a good about listening, keeping our hands in our pockets, and not imposing our needs or ideas on the people we serve. Those of us who are helpers, those of us called to mission, are too often given to solving other peoples' problems and not listening. Not listening to them or to our own hearts and our own problems. And we often fail to listen to the heart of God.

Jesus stopped to listen to the blind beggar. He asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. He listened first, not imposing his own ideas on the man. The disciples tried to quiet the man and protect Jesus, but the Teacher wanted to listen to the man who needed healing. It was probably completely evident what Bartimaeus needed. And yet he invited him to name his need. In the story, Bartimaeus not only receives healing, but he follows Jesus. He became part of the community and in so doing, changed them. We remember his name because of his willingness to be transformed and to ask for what he needed. He turned his loss into service.

Today I ask God to help me seek healing for all the dark and blind places in my life. May we all take time to listen, and in so doing, honor the people we serve. May we listen with the heart of God.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Jesus said, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:16-22


The days of sweet summer are gone
and the light resists coming our way
the selfish and violent take the upper hand
we are feeling vulnerable and ashamed.

We have been used like pawns on a board
moved by the wealthy and the mighty hands
they view us as leverage and  disposable chattel
we are the children of loving Creator.

Formed by hands of love and purpose
set apart to carry Good news through our work
we have been sidelined and abused for the moment
but God is with us, the broken and despised still.

The fearful strong will burn the trail with heat
and in the twilight their fury will burn away
they will fall, stumbling into empty arms
wanting their slaves to save their lives.

We are the offspring of love and justice
we will wait for the Spirit to rattle our bones
we will sing the songs of hope and freesom
even when we are held in chains.

This race is not finished and there are miles to go
the spring and summer will surely return
our ancestors are holding arms o0pen wide
singing and cheering us on as we sleep.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Yoke is Easy

At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:25-30 

I am visiting with our daughter Ariel in Allentown. She gave birth on Saturday to our second grand child, Silas. He is strong and healthy with a full head of hair. The gift of children is like no other. It is a terrific responsibility and yet it is also the most amazing blessing. There is more mess and chaos than anyone can imagine. And there is more gift and joy in each little one than we can wrap our minds around. It is a heavy burden and yet love make the load so light.
Jesus invites us to bear the burden of love. We labor so hard and fight against the terrors of this world and yet, the Lord of life invites us to rest, as an infant in a mother's arms, as a weary child in the comfort of a soft bed. We are invited to recognize the tremendous  gift and responsibility that we have been given in carrying God's love into the world. And we are also blessed with unlimited measure of joy, comfort and renewal.
Today I ask God to help me live fully in this present moment. May we lighten our burdens by sharing them with one another and with God. And may we know the blessed rest, renewal and joy of carrying love into the world.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Good News to the Poor

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:14-21

Good News to the Poor

The sky crisp and clear
a fingernail moon reigns over
as they huddle together
over a small source of heat.

Our world broken by the greed
abundance squandered on the few
the good news held in captivity
joy held prisoner behind bars.

The open scroll promises freedom
healing and release for all
we would hide this shattering love
keeping it for the minority of power.

The sky break open with rain
and the beloved hover in doorways
shelter one another as water baptizes
working to clean the world yet again.

In the deep darkness of winter coming
love is fracturing the binds of cruelty
tearing down the walls of bigotry
feeding the hungry and clothing all.

Servant of All

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark 10:35-45

One Christmas I gave each of my daughters t-shirts that said, "Mom loves me best!" Everyone of us want to be most loved, greatest, best athlete etc.  Those who sell us merchandise often promise us beauty, recognition, and winning if we purchase their product. Americans are encouraged to be "winners" and to sidestep losers. And yet inside us all is the awareness of our frail humanity and our incompleteness. We ached to be special and loved, and often feel we have fallen short and are overlooked.

Jesus is approached by two of his disciples, James and John, who want to be first, best, the ones who receive the rewards and honor. When the others hear of this they are furious, angry with the obnoxious behavior. Privately, they probably all wished they had asked for favors. Jesus puts the fire of anger and jealousy out by suggesting that in God's kingdom is built on service. The Creator's community is built on caring for others, on living humbly with all. We are invited to consider that if we want honor, we might consider getting out of the way, making room for others, making the needs of others a priority.

Today I ask God to help me be a servant every hour of every day. May we all honor God by living a life of service,  building the Creator's community on our knees. May we be known by our humility and may God's love shine through us today.

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

More Valuable than Sparrows

Jesus said, "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:24-33 
We all feel insignificant and overlooked at times. I was one of those kids who got chosen last when choosing up teams for each side in a school house game.  Not terribly coordinated, I got used to standing along the fence and realizing eventually someone would have to take me. We can get used to the idea that we are insignificant and not needed. We are often very wrong, and the people who need us in their lives, would suffer much without us.
Jesus is teaching the disciples of their value and how God values each and every life on this planet. We are worth more than sparrows, and yet even the insignificant and overlooked are precious in God's eyes. Love has the capacity to honor all, big and small, famous and hidden. God's love is enough for all the trials we face, the good days and the bad alike. We are never overlooked or not cared for by God. We are precious, each and everyone.
Today I ask God to let me revel in being beloved of God. May we make this day one where we honor all of Creation, and shot from the mountain tops about the love we have received. May our lives reflect the importance of divine love in our lives.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Be Wise and Innocent

Jesus said, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." Matthew 10:16-23
I spend a good deal of time as a bishop  sitting with clergy who are worn down and exhausted. They are lovely, gifted people who have been through difficult times. They come to a community with great joy and purpose but can find themselves hurt and abused by their own people. They need sanctuary and rest, they need healing and restoration. They are people who have been and want to serve God but find themselves rubbed raw and confused. I wish I could provide them all with a good rest and a real vacation. Often times the only solution is to get out of the situation and begin again elsewhere.
The disciples, sent out by Jesus, were facing problems as we do. Some times our own people are on the attack, abusing and destroying the good work around them. Even Jesus suggested that we flee from that. And, even more so, he promises that we will be given the tools we need when pressed beyond measure, that God, as a loving parent, will send the spirit to speak and live through us.This is an honest understanding of the work of serving God. There is no happy, slappy community of the faithful, but a world full of tortured and angry souls who need the good news and are sometimes impossible to deal with. It is truly so encouraging that God promises to be with us in these times.
Today I ask God to help me seek the healing and restoration I need, so that I can endure to the end. May we all trust that the Spirit will use us and move through us, especially when our skills and strengths are spent. May we with joy carry the good news, knowing we are never alone where ever we go.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Proclaim Good News

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." Matthew 10:5-15 
Proclaim Good News

Arriving home the long road behind
dusty and weary but ever grateful
there was enough for every day
and love grew as we planted among our own.

The  stranded and the vacant lonely eyes
are those of our people broken
by exclusion, abuse and neglect
lost in a bottle to ease the pain.

The need is among our relatives
we are called to feed the known stranger
called to see the damage around us
carrying love and kindness with forgiveness.

The road is long the challenges rough
doors open everywhere welcome is offered
a cool drink and a sweet song
we find a home away from home .

Go then and proclaim the Good news
right in the neighborhood today
God is broad and generous enough
for all to be healed, renewed and fed.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Eye of the Needle

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and 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 murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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." They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."
Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10:17-31

I was kindly given a Diocese of Montana seal for my tippet, which has been blank up to this point. And as I sat down to thread the needle, I realized how much harder it is to thread a needle than it was years ago. I am a good deal more patient than I was then and so am probably a better seamstress. But that doesn't change the fact that my eyes are older and my fingers less nimble as they once were. I have to let go of not having young eyes and use the helps that make it easier. Letting go of what we once possessed can be very hard.

The young man who came to Jesus was so wealthy and Jesus suggested he get rid of his wealth. When the disciples questioned this he said it was easier for the camel to get through the eye of the needle - a minuscule gate in the walled city of Jerusalem.  It is so hard to let go of the things that have become part of identity. We would rather struggle and fall down then let go. Our riches might be monetary, or relationships or culture. Sometimes we hold those things so tight we make no room for others and the love of God in our lives. The love that urges us to live for others, to live as servants.

Today I ask God to help me let go of the things that I seem to desperately need to control and own. May we all let go of those thing which bind us, which keep us from serving God and others. May we give freely and love well for the sake of the realm of the Creator.

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Like Sheep

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. Matthew 9:35 - 10:4 

I have had the privilege to visit my friend Cornelia's sheep camp several times. They know her and the man who is their full-time shepherd and caregiver. When she goes into the pen they come around but when a stranger like me comes around they move away and make noise. They don't know what I'm up to and they're not sure they want to know. They huddle together, making noises of fear and warning seep in their beings. When she or the shepherd comes the gather around, nuzzling against her and surrounding her with their soft warm bodies.
Jesus saw the people and was moved by their sense of displacement and loss. They had no one to trust and be close to, no one to feel safe around. They were lost and he could see that in them. The people drew near to him because they could sense safety, trust and a place to belong. We are invited, as the disciples were, to respond to the needs of the people, those who are lost and in need of a home. God draws near to us and gives us that sense of belonging. We are cared for by a tender shepherd. 
Today I ask God to help me serve others in need of a shepherd. May we find our joy as we live in service to others. May our joy be found in their healing and transformation.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Do Choose

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress." And he said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it."
When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you according to your faith." And the servant was healed in that hour.
When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases." Matthew 8:1-17 
I have a letter that my mother wrote me several summers ago while we were in Alaska. I thought I had left it at home in my desk but I discovered it in my purse while digging for something. It seems to follow me. In this season of grief it reminds me of the many people she prayed for and how she believed in the power of healing. She knew God chose to heal her. Even in her last days, paralyzed and bedridden, she believed. And her last days she was ready to go home, so, so ready, for her the ultimate healing.  The letter I carry with me reminds me, in the midst of my loss, to hold on firmly to her faith.
The stories that we find in the Gospel today are on the healing of many and the amazing moments in Jesus' ministry. He chose to make people well, and God chooses, even now, to bring us healing and wholeness. We are reminded today, that in the midst of our suffering God is saying to us," I do choose, I always choose, out of love for you."
Today I ask God to increase my faith. May we have the faith of our mothers, fathers and the centurion, who knew that from afar, the incarnate God would bless him. May we live awaiting transformation and healing in every moment.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Take Heart, Daughter

 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue* came in and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well. When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. Matthew 9:18-26

Take Heart, Daughter

O my heart breaks when you suffer
when the abuse and loss overwhelm
when your spirit is on the ground
and it seems as if the light can't reach you.

A parent is never with caring
as the sun and moon rise and set daily
so we live to watch our children thrive
we rejoice ans weep with them.

The broken toys are not important
the mess left behind is so trivial
your smile chases away the darkness
your tears drop the sun from the sky.

O, daughter there is no end to love
even in the pains that will come
life is being brought forth again
and you will never be alone.

So daughter your faith is wrapped
like a hand in my hand together
we pray and sing our songs to God
and we are certain beloved to be found.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Desire Mercy

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
 And as he sat at dinner* in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting* with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often,* but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.’ Matthew 9:9-17

We were in Rome last February and came across this painting by Caravaggio in a dark side altar area. Such stunning beauty and common place people, caught in the light and reflection, a moment when life changed altogether. The calling of the most unlikely and outcast. Having spent a good deal of my life feeling like an outsider, unlikely and sometimes outcast. I stood by that painting for a long time, soaking in what it means to sit with Matthew and to be called away from the business of life by God. Called away to live a life of mercy. This image is still a part of my dreams.

Jesus calls Matthew and everyone has questions. An outsider, a reject is included among the disciples. And everyone wants to know hoe to behave. Somehow the inclusion of the outsider has made them all wonder how to go forward. And Jesus invites them to live a life of mercy not rules, a life of compassion and inclusion. We, like those first followers are invited to live a life of mercy, forgiveness and inclusion. We are invited to demonstrate patience and understanding for difference.

Today I ask God to help me walk every step a procession of mercy. May we remember how we were once an outsider and an unwelcome guest. May we live mercy so that others might know God's inclusion and God's welcoming love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Stand Up and Walk

And after getting into a boat he crossed the water and came to his own town.
 And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. Matthew 9:1-8

I understand what it is like not to be able to walk, to look at the world and the beautiful faces of your children from a horizontal position, and to have to rely on others to take care of daily household and personal tasks. Loving people can often be harsh to people who are sick, and will wonder out loud what the sick person might have done to incur the pain or the illness. I am always grateful for this story of love which finds God willing to restore and forgive - beyond human judgment and understanding, free from the evil that is in human hearts.

Jesus makes a man well who cannot care for himself -a man who has had to rely on the kindness of his family and friends for his every need. He lived in shame. And the religious leaders wanted to add to his injury and pain. But Jesus steps in making him well and forgiven. And that is the word for us today. We are being made well and always forgiven. We are released from the sufferings that bind us by the love of God.

Today I ask God to help me give thanks for my healing and daily forgiveness. May we all live as those who are healed and forgiven. May we lose all the hardness and judgements in our hearts and spend our days sharing God's miraculous love with those in need.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Receive Like A Child

 Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; 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." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. Mark 10:2-16

*I tried to upload this yesterday, but we were in a place that had spotty internet connect. After much wrangling, I gave up and waited until I am back in Helena.*

I have three wonderful daughters who are the delight of my heart. Sometimes when they were young they taxed my patience a great deal. Our eldest, Emily, had a pretend brother named Mister. The problems that happened, the things that got broken or neglected, well, they were Mister's fault. We finally had to kindly suggest to her that Mister was not real and he had to disappear. We wanted her to take responsibility. We asked several days later where Mister had gone, and we were told, very matter of fact,  that Mister had gone into the woods and gotten shot by hunters. We hadn't anticipated such a violent ending. Children are always good problem solvers - we just hadn't expected quite this resolution.

The religious leaders were trying to tangle Jesus in arguments while not taking responsibility for their own behavior. They wanted to win at the game but not open their hearts. Jesus invites us all to move away from the politics and wrangling of adults and approach God with an open heart, like a child. Children are very literal and sometimes too direct. God invites us to be wholly ourselves, since we are loved already completely as a child of God.

Today, I ask God to let us all come to the feet of God as little children. May we forgive others and go on, let go of the trouble and trouble makers of our lives and rejoice in the love that we have today.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Founded on Rock

Jesus said, "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!"
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:22-29 

Founded on Rock

The storms are coming they say
high wind high water and destruction
homes built on sand will be evacuated
and there will be nothing to return to.

Everyday storms and worries arise
like rolling tides of terror and mist
we want to run screaming and crying
but we find ourselves safe within.

We have toiled stone on stone
building a castle of love and service
at our simple table all our welcome
we survive this next assault together.

We have not shunned the broken
using the mortar of compassion to bind
all that want to serve the Creator
can find shelter within this fortress.

This is a fortress of love and mercy
where pride and smugness are left outside
we wipe the wet mud from our feet
and hubris is stomped out beyond our walls.