Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hometown Blues

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and began to say, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. Luke 4:21-30

Hometown Blues 

They built so close to the water
life giving sands eroding away
they so much wanted to control it
that they are on the brink of losing.

Poor used to live here and share
but now the rich want it all 
they want their few weeks a year 
and keep out those not like them.

We want God's love for our kind
we want the bounty and beauty
but attempt to share it with others
and find wrath and violence beginning.

We want to own what is not ours
keeping the abundance locked away
we shroud all God given  fruits
with price tags behind glass.

But God's love is not for us alone
not for the greedy, not for our kind only
but for the ones who make us cringe and tremble
those whose language and ways are unknown.

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Terror and Awe

When evening came, Jesus' disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 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." John 6:16-27 
I have spent a good deal of my life by the ocean. One of the great pleasures in light is swimming at night and being surrounded by luminescence, small plankton that glow when touched. Each stroke and kick are illuminated and it makes for a dream like, mysterious wonderland in the water. Other times, the ocean can be dark and violent, the surf pounding and dashing swimmers on the sands. In the dark, it can be hard to swim, let alone walk.
The familiar story of Jesus walking on the water, reminds us of the terror filled disciples and their fragile humanity. They are on dangerous seas, in the deep darkness and everything seems frightening and life threatening. Even Jesus for a moment. Our faith often brings us fragile human beings to places of great terror and awe. Even when our lives are threatened, we are reminded that Jesus walks with us and brings us to the shore. Even when we crumble and fall with the waves of our lives, God goes before us and finds us safe harbor.
Today I ask God to help me trust in the promise of safe harbor. May we live, like the disciples, honest about our failings and putting our whole trust in the Incarnate One who walks with us and before us, preparing safe landing and love beyond measure.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Abraham Laughed

God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "O that Ishmael might live in your sight!" God said, "No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year." And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised; and all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him. Genesis 17:15-27 

Abraham Laughed
An old man in conversation with God
aching to save his people and his land
a fierce and tender leader exposed
opening his heart to the Creator of all.

God walked with the sinewy elder 
promising that the impossible would become
new life to this newly arrived pilgrim
offspring of a faithful nomadic tribe.

Abraham laughed falling down
face down in the red clay earth
rolling in the dust in the scorching sun
his old bride covering her wrinkled face.

And the Creator persisted in bringing life
despite their limitations and unbelieving
God insisted in new life to the old and weary
asking for a change of name and way of life.

We laugh and hedge when God calls
testing the Creator with our practical understanding
rational and sincere in our human credulity
God invites us again to observe miraculous
and trust in the foolish wisdom of the faithful.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nothing On My Own

Jesus said, "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?" John 5:30-47
As a child I loved recess. I still do love those hours of unsupervised play in a park or at home. When I was a child, the fastest kids out the door from school always got the best swings. I was never one of the fastest. There were slides and teeter- toters for the slower ones of us. All those took working with others, coordinating weight and height or standing in line. Some of still think they can get to the swings first and we never have to coordinate with anyone. In reality, we all have to be in relationship, we all have to work with others, we all have to share our gifts and talents, and deal with unequal balance and time.
Jesus talks directly about his interdependence with the Creator of all and with others. Even the Son of God, even the Incarnate love of God, was dependent upon and lived in relationship with God and others. We Americans sometimes think we can be totally independent, self-made, fearlessly unique. We are delusional when we behave and think this we. We are interrelated, interdependent and reliant on those who have come before us and who have paved the way for us. We are reminded today of all our relatives, including creation, and the importance of living as related, dependent human beings. 
Today I ask God to help me be aware of all those who have helped me and who I rely upon. May we never forget the great sacrifices of Christ and our ancestors, who lived sacrificially and  who died to make us free.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gives Them Life

Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:19-24 
Gives Them Life
Intimately and in conversation
a dance of love that transfoms
every life and every individual
moving us all from death to life.

A single word can unlock
the doors of a broken heart
can soothe the angry soul
changing danger into possibility.

Woven together as bright threads
in a single warming blanket
no loss of colors but a blending
a harmony of intertwined lives.

Father and Son, Mother and daughter
bound together in difference directions
child and parent tender despite the years
love binds us as one giving life.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My Father is Still Working

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, "It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take it up and walk’?" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working." For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. John 5:1-18 
I have had some experience with not being able to walk, and not being able to get up without great pain and assistance. Never have I been permanently paralyzed, but after 4 back surgeries, and degenerative problems, I have great empathy for the man waiting on the pool with no help. There are many people in this world who have no way to get better, no way to have access to the help and touch that they need to be made well.
Jesus comes into to scene, as people scurry to get their person into the moving pool. The pool, when it was stirred, was said to be moving by an angelic touch and therefore there would be healing. The man was stranded without help when Jesus found him. The Incarnate one, the loving presence of God, made him well that day. He found not only could he get up, but he could roll up his bed, and walk without hesitation and discomfort. He wanted everyone to know. And we, who have found healing, transformation and renewal in the near presence of the Incarnate love of God, we too want to share that. And God invites us to not wait for folks to come to us, since they may not be able, but to walk into the world, to the places of greatest need.
Today, I ask God to help me move from waiting to action, from prayer to reaching out. May we all be transformed by the near presence of God as we walk in the world of desperation and pain.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves

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

Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves 

Following Jesus into the unknown
sometimes we are lead to still waters
other times to verdant pastures of plenty
and often to dangerous violent streets.

Deep into alien and unwelcoming territory
we seek shelter in the crags of the rocks
hidden high upon the mountain side
looking down on the gaping maw of hate.

We can see all the pitfalls of our journey
yet our hearts must be childlike and soft
ready to embrace the unlikely and shunned
ready always to spread love like a blanket.

We can be drawn into a dank den of politics
a seductive place of power and favor
we must fly away from the enticing flames
and seek the heart of our loving Creator.

On this walk with the Incarnate One
we both tiptoe and take great leaps
always his footsteps guide our feet
his sacrificial love guides our hearts.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Spirit of the Lord

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

Having a voice and being recognized as a minority, or as a shunned group, can be very difficult. Many in our land and in our church even, find themselves on the outside of the circle and experience that freedom and the word of God is not for them. We have been inundated by the voice of politicians in this season. We hear about all of the polls. Do we really know the heart of the local people? And do we really trust the spirit of God upon others?

Jesus opened the scriptures as one who had been a refugee in Egypt and as a child of an unwed mother. We can be pretty certain that he was outside of the circle, outside of the accepted group, and someone who was suspect for many, many reasons. He opened the scriptures and claimed that the scripture was fulfilled in that moment. Many were probably angered and moving to violence. How dare he? God's spirit fell on Jesus, and in our baptism, the spirit of God falls on all of us, and does not discriminate by the strictures of cultures. God's love is never limited by our shortsightedness, our judgements, our cultural failures. God invites all of us to be filled with the spirit for service in this very broken world.

Today, I ask the Creator to help me trust the Spirit and to use all my skills and my voice for the blessing of others. May we all see God's love and spirit today on those who differ from us, and may we make room for the voices we haven't listened to, and the people's lives who can bless us all.

The Collect
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Astonished Disiples

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world." John 4:27-42 
From the beginning of my ministry I have encountered those, who, intentionally or unintentionally, question the ministry of women, especially those of us who were mothers of small children. We have been ordaining women in the Episcopal Church since the late 1970's, beginning with the "irregular" ordinations in Philadelphia. I had the great privilege, as a seminarian, to be present and participate in the consecration of Bishop Barbara Harris, our first female bishop. There were threats all around us and many stood to question "what are you doing?" and "why are you talking to her?" Now as one of two active female bishops of color, the questions still appear from time to time. And in the aftermath of the Primates meeting, we are faced with more questions by faithful disciples.
Jesus has been talking intimately with a woman, and a woman who was an outcast by birth, and rejected by her "lifestyle". The disciples are astounded, shocked and probably thought Jesus was going crazy or had crossed a permanent line of orthodoxy. We find out that this woman's testimony transformed her village and Jesus came and dwelt with them. Her evangelism was real, authentic and orthodox. The disciples didn't like it at all. God invites us all, at all times, to question our permanent line of orthodoxy, to step over the line and to go to the edge in love.
Today, I ask God to help me dwell on the edge and beyond. May we all find the deep well and the thin edges where we are called, bringing love and welcome as we go.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In Spirit and In Truth

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."John 4:16-26 
I am aware that we Episcopalians can be liturgical snobs. We can take great pride in our worship and leave out spirit and truth by our need for control. All humans can miss the need for spirit and truth in our daily lives. We can delude ourselves by thinking we get it right, when we meanwhile mistreat and deceive others, or judge others when it is not our job at all. 
Jesus has one of the most straight forward conversations with the woman at the well, an enemy, an outsider and someone living in "sin". She too acknowledges truthfully her circumstances and knows what all of humanity waits for. And in her presence, in this intimate and honest conversation, he reveals himself to her. Honesty and integrity are hard to come by in this world, and yet, if we are willing to humbly and fully approach God, God indeed will be present with us. 
Today I ask God to help me live in spirit and in truth in everything I do. May we avoid plotting and manipulating, and instead humbly open our hearts to the living God. May we find ourselves transformed and renewed as we humbly approach one another and the heart of God.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Living Water

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, "Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John”—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."John 4:1-15

Living Water

Rejected, unwanted and yet present
wanting the living water promised
only a woman coming to the well
found a true welcome  so unexpected.

The incarnate God spoke with those
shunned and yet part of the family
less than because of poverty and status
embraced those called abhorrent.

The incarnate One stepped into water
his own baptism becoming ours as well
his place in the family ours also
deep in living water we find our home.

Come now to the waters of life  
don't be fearful of who is here also
they are as broken and perfect as you
they are thirsty and looking for joy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

From Above

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized—John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.
Now a discussion about purification arose between John's disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him." John answered, "No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God's wrath. John 3:22-36 
I have been a bishop for 15 years and have watched carefully what  happens when people get elected to this complicated leadership in the church. All are overwhelmed and some turn to trying to be the imperial leader, while others try to remain one of the people. Some loose all perspective and truly believe they are above all. Humility for them is a lost discipline and they are lost to the office and the people. We as humans often get lost by our hubris and our assumptions. Humility, whether personal or enforced, is essential to our life of service. We can be lost by our arrogance.
John testifies to the authority of Jesus with a humble and loving heart. He has a seen of the larger vision of God, the perspective that is not occluded by our shallow and petty worries. That vision sees the beauty of each creature and all of creation and has honored us by offering the incarnated self present in creation. God is in the midst of us, and we are invited to humble ourselves so that we too can share the vision and serve those we have been given into our care.
Today I ask God to help me to live and serve humbly each day. May we see the beloved Creator in our midst, as we see the love of God in the eyes of those we serve.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Build My Church - MLK Day 2016

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:13-19

Build My Church

I have built my church on the rock
the solid ground of solid faith
that sees and knows God's love
even within dank cell walls.

I have built my church on peace
solid, lasting, unshakable peace
peace that finds shelter and food for all
and works for the common good.

I have built my church and given power
to strong and weak leaders alike
some bind the hearts and hands of others
and some set my people free.

My church is the promised land
common sanctuary and holy ground
a welcome for every child and their dreams
a place of mending and reform.

I have built a church on a rock
a feeble man who fell often enough
who got up and saw the dream too
eating and living with the outcasts.

I am building my church on dreams
those of the refused and rejected
the dreams of the refugees seeking asylum
the hopes of the hungry child and mother.

I rebuild my church with broken hearts
restored by grace and my release
they will come when leaders hear the call
when people truly know the house of God.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Variety of Gifts and Same God

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Variety of Gifts

You are shaped and shaded so different from me
we are sisters and brothers all with the same heart
we are bent and broken by a very violent world
we are all mended by one gracious act of love.

Love entered the world as bloody as we
took our shape and frame and existence
took the lashes abuse and the world's shame
so we are blessed with all manner  of gifts.

You and are are sent out together entwined
branches and leaves of the same compassionate heart
born of water and spirit and tested in crisis
still renewed and saved by the same act of love.

I cannot put you off anymore than shed my skin
you cannot reject me and be done with me
we are made whole as we rely on one another
as we make good our promises to be God's people.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Father's House

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-22

My Father's House
My Father's house is as wide as the sea
and deeper than her hidden  cobalt depths 
there is room for all and all imagined generations
to sing our sacred songs of worship in this holy place.

My Father's house is generous and broad
only humans divide and set others out
only humans fear what God had made well
only humans take for granted all their blessings.

We break the backs of the poor and sweet
we buy and sell what we have been freely given
we take forgiveness and hoard it from others
and raise the ire of of loving incarnate Savior.

My Father's house will never perish
no matter how small men control and wrangle
how vain women  toy with others' hearts
My Father's house will see your destruction and rise again.

So enter sweetly your poor shunned neglected ones
know it well that this is your rightful home
there is a place set for you this night and ever
the selfish and cruel can never corrupt this love.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Water Into Wine

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days. John 2:1-12 
Sometimes I ache for the load to be lighter, my ordinary turned into something extraordinary. We wish that our days were so hard, or so dreary. We all watched as the entire country caught powerball fever, imagining their lives changed extraordinarily, miraculously. And yet, we often miss the extraordinary blessings that go on in our lives every day, the little miracles that we miss because of our shortsightedness. Every little slight we count but fail to recognize the overwhelming privileges we have every day. We don't see the routine kindness that changes someone's world, the sharing, the moving over, the making room for others that truly transforms us and our world.
Our Gospel story tells of the first miracle of Jesus at a wedding in Cana. He is pushed by his mother to be his true self and the miracle comes after a little mother-son brush up. Daily life among families. And yet it is in this daily life of families that water becomes wine, where Jesus becomes more than a guest at the wedding, when we find ourselves transformed by love. It is often the God's activity amidst the routine and mundane that  changes everything and revels the divine glory.
Today I ask God to help me see every interaction as a potential miracle, every routine conversation latent with the love of God. May we no longer discount our average ordinariness, and rather see the opportunity for miracles with every step on our journeys.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Come and See

 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ John 1:43-51

I find myself, when with those who really know me, much more relaxed, and much more willing to be teased and prodded, encouraged and chided. When we know ourselves loved and trusted, we drop our defenses and become pliable and teachable.  We are our true, vulnerable selves, and in that fragile skin, we can make great things happen. When we are protective, unsure and discomforted, we are watchful, reactive and unlearning. When we let go, surrounded by love, the broken bits and the lost moments can be transformed and blessed.

Philip calls his friend to come and see Jesus. Jesus lets Nathanael know that he is known and loved, just as he is. We all want to be known and loved, just as we are. The incarnate God, who walks among us, comes as a loving friend, one who sees us completely and rejoices in us. We are invited to be known completely, to see us as Jesus sees us and to live as the beloved of Christ.

Today, I ask God to help me be vulnerable and trusting, knowing that God is remaking me and building me up as I learn to accept that love. May we all know the love of God which accepts us completely, knows us by name and is always walking with us, and leading us through the darkest journeys.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Do Not Worry

 ‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’ Luke 12:8-12

Do Not Worry

Oh so easy to say out loud
so hard to live out within
do not worry about it
but I am shaking in my boots.

My heart is beating so hard
my mind races with possibilities
and fear running through my veins
knowing the end might come anytime.

God help my sleepless restless body
my shaking hands and quaking heart
as my fate is splayed out in public
my small little self reaching for a hand.

Teach me to breathe in and out again
show me how to measure my steps
help me delight in this fragile journey
walk me through the fire with a song.

I will sing your songs in the dark night
when morning light shines help me listen
as dawn is braking let me be grateful
for a new day of your love given today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Crying In the Wilderness

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28

Wilderness can be found in many places, not just in the vast forests and deserts that cover our earth. We can find ourselves in a wilderness in the midst of a great cities, in the midst of a huge party, in the center of all the action. We can feel very separated from others and from God, isolated, lonely and misunderstood. As faithful humans, we can do all the good work we do and be separated and sent packing, shunned for no good reason, except politics and personalities.

John is given a tough assignment by God. The Creator has asked him to stand in the in-between place, the place of preparation and expectation. He was called to speak to the great wilderness of human hearts, the places where we seem lost and without direction. He was called to open the wilderness hearts to the love of God incarnate, living and working among us. We are invited in this Epiphany season to open our hearts to listen to God moving in our midst.

Today, I ask God to open my heart and eyes to see God's love and movement around me. May we all be reminded in our wilderness experiences, that the Creator is drawing near to us, among and bringing us new hearts of love.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.John 1:1-18 
Our human flesh is frail and assaulted often by disease and pain. Our human flesh is glorious and dynamic and we can experience great moments of wonder and grace. I have been struggle with a virus that has knocked me low for more than a week. It is something I will eventually get rid of, but it reminds me how fragile we are, and how dependent we are on others. We cannot live without the care and kindness of others.
Into this body, into this life came the living God. Not a representative,  not a front man or media specialist, but God incarnate living as we do, fully human and completely vulnerable. This gift, this compassion from God to become us to show us love in the flesh, is remarkable and holy. This gift signifies that we are born from the will and heart of God. Our Creator is not far off but in the midst of us.
Today I ask God to give me the eyes to see God's presence manifest in every place today. May we all live this day with a new sense of presence and belonging, as we are made flesh of the flesh of the living God.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

All the People were Baptized

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

All the People Baptized

Among the crowd bumping elbows
listening to the Baptizer's call
there at the edge of the water, on the brink
stood the Savior of the world.

There was a long line of strangers and friends
wondering and hoping that God would be there
God was there in their midst among them
and they could not single him out from them.

We stand in a long line of ancestors and family
pondering our own baptism as others submerge
we wonder where God is in all that we do
and fail to single out the Creator of the world.

God rides the bus with us and grocery shops
in every crowd and every hospital room
in every dark night and moment of terrible news
seen or unseen our God is there.

Every one chosen and beloved no matter
how ragged or finely dressed we might be
no matter where on the globe we find ourselves
seen or unseen our God is there.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Light of the World

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Then the Pharisees said to him, "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf." Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." John 8:12-19 
We are deep in the season of Epiphany, the season of light. Although the world has turned and we are gaining more light each day, it seems to be a very dark season, with plenty of storm clouds and early dropping night.  Living Epiphany means having to find the light in the midst of darkness and discouragement, seeking possibility when all around seems dead. It means finding new ways home, as the Magi did, and willingly being aliens as did Mary and Joseph. Living the Epiphany means stretching beyond comfort to embrace the living God.
Jesus was again talking about himself in the presence of those who were bound by time, space and their very limited cultural understandings. They lived by specific rules and judgements, and could not imagine life without defining people by status, wealth and being born to the right group. Their standards saw only limits, and legal arguments, not the possibilities of God. And we too can be trapped by our own way of knowing, which often considers our way as the best. And God invites us, in this holy season, to be remade by the light, and to catch a new vision of what is present and what is possible.
Today, I ask God to help me see beyond my own shallow limitations. May we find our understandings expanded by God's grace, willing to embrace insights and people who are different from us. And may we receive the gifts we have been given and use them to bring light to the world.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Let Anyone Who Is Thirsty

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?" The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" They replied, "Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee." John 7:37-52 
I have found that the end of the holidays is a thirsty time. We anticipated the joys of family gathered at the holidays, we cooked and decorated and were filled. And now, Epiphany has arrived, full upon us and we are back to work and taking down decorations. We are more hungry and thirsty now, since the season of light and celebration is over for the year. I always find it hard, to stop writing the Mary letters at the coming of Epiphany. I love imagining and writing about a young woman so blessed and challenged at the same time. And then, it's back to normal and it makes me feel thirsty and a bit deprived.
Jesus spoke boldly in the temple about offering life and living waters. He wasn't arrested because the guards didn't think he mattered for much, didn't think a Galilean could be worth anything. In the presence of the living God, people were judging from their political and cultural values, not with their hearts. They didn't even know they were thirsty for God, because they were caught up in their own cultural roles and responsibilities. And we can, as we dismantle the holidays and return to our roles, get caught up in the tasks and miss the needs we have for God. We can busy ourselves and neglect the spirit that is crying out to us.
Today, I ask God to help me attend to my spirit and my relationship with God. May we be focused on prayer and service, and finding God in our daily challenges. May we yearn and thirst for God today, asking for the living water which will strengthen us in every challenge.