Friday, September 30, 2011
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper1 came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And 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, for a proof to them.” When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too 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 servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases." Matthew 8:1-17
The sunlight returned burning away
the mist and returning mold to dust
we hobble to the sand and pray for
miracles in the night.
We are fragile children all
immobilized by fear and lack
waltzing in the shadows where angry
voices cannot find us.
We wade in knee deep expecting
healing, baptism transforming us
into beings of compassion and light.
Our faith is strong the music swells
and we return with hope and prospect
waiting for the word waiting for the
whisper of love's touch on
our broken hearts.
We would serve through the night
rising up to care for young and old
we would be whole, God's hands,
God's heart at work in the world.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:24-27
We live in a world of sand and water. The old house we live in presently has withstood the test of time, a block from the ocean, with a full basement at sea level. It is not like the fancy new swanky houses that are perched in the dunes, which have magnificent porches and skylight views. She is an old sturdy dame, unmovable and set in her ways. And yet, it is this rock solid faithful consistency that had taken on storms and sieges of water and wind. It is her willingness to be less that she is more, in her humility she is less vulnerable, and in her steadiness she is rock solid surrounded by shifting sands.
Jesus challenges us today to think about how easy it is to go with the shiny new objects, politics of the day, and the people and devices that ring our bells. And he reminds us to recall how easily fashion and style are swept away, and only rock solid faithfulness will get us through. The times are full of storms with rising wind and water. And yet, even in the worst of times, Jesus reminds us that God is faithful and acting on our behalf always. We are invited to recall God's faithfulness and not put our trust in anything or anyone less.
Today I ask God to see me through the storms ahead, to help me to cling to the rock solid ground of God's faithfulness and abundance. May we all turn from the dazzle and cling to the old rugged cross, the rock of ages and the promises that never fail.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:13-21
The Narrow Gate
The temptation is there always
to give in to the wide alluring vistas
the self-indulgent opulence
the cubic zirconium fake brilliance
when mining truth and beauty
is such back breaking labor.
Some days we just want easy
sliding in to first and winning
the game we would sell our souls
and our children if we could have
an easy time of it today.
One day, the hard labor rewarded
we will see the vineyards the orchards
swollen with ripe delicious fruit
we will know the blessings
if we can know this narrow gate
this dark valley, this labor
that never seems to end.
"Yeah though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
As the tears roll and the taunts ignite
I remember your words and your love
you whispered and promised a way ahead
and despite my whimpering and pain
you walk beside me holding my hand.
"Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies, thou
annointeth my head with oil."
The dark may close in and the rain persist
the waves cover me and the light fail
yet I know this narrow gate opens my heart
to yours, my desire for love that has
no end and no beginning.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in
the house of the Lord forever."
I will find away through for I am not alone
I can know abundance even in these times
and when the shadows near and the devil breathes
I know my Creator draws close for love
covers me as a cloak against the elements
as an eternal shield raised
against the temporary armies of vanity.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:1-11
I know many women who wear pearls proudly and don't feel they are truly dressed without them. Pearls are simple, elegant and beautiful. And yet they are begun with an irritation, created in reaction to sand inside the shell. As someone who lives with sand everywhere, on the floor, on surfaces, in pockets and crevices, sometimes in the sheets, in our food and in our eyes. Sand can be soft and warm to walk on at the beach and completely irritating in other places. And yet, from such annoyance is created beauty beyond price, a symbol of timeless elegance and beauty.
Jesus reminds the people how we as humans have a tendency to judge and reject others because of their behavior, their looks or their irritations. And yet he reminds us that God would have us focus on asking for what we need rather than detailing the lack in another person. It is easy to see other people's flaws and blame them for the troubles in the world. God would have us take the irritations in life and use them for the beauty and love of the world. God would have us ask for what we need and use our skills for the caring of others.
Today, I ask God to help me find a positive use for the irritations of life. I ask God to help me see beauty and value in everyone and everything I encounter today. May creativity be the byword and response to frustration and irritation. And may my life and hands be used for the good of others this day.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34
These are anxious times for all of us. Across our country and across our world the economic crisis has folks over a barrel. Many millions are out of work, and those who were without before this crisis are destitute and at wits end. Others suffer from terrible physical pain, and suffer day in and day out, wondering when they will find relief. I have a myelogram scheduled for this week and it is hard not to be anxious about that test, as it can be miserable and painful. And then there is probably surgery in my future. There is a great deal to be anxious about from the big picture to the real traumas in our lives.
Jesus has people from all walks of life gathered around him. And they are people of "all sorts and conditions". Looking at the faces in the crowds, he must have seen many lined with worry, people aching for themselves and their children, folks torn up by the true lack in their lives. He told them to not worry, rather to know that God was caring for their needs, great and small. He speaks to all of us today, in whatever circumstances and crisis we face. God is clothing the lily, which is temporary, and deeply caring for us, who are eternal.
Today, I ask God to help me seek first God's realm, the service of others, and living love, and trust that my worries are taken care of. May we trust that what we lack God is adding to our lives, if we are but willing to share what we have been given for the healing and restoration of the world.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him." Matthew 21:23-32
When we were in Quito at the House of Bishops meeting, we were at a break time and lining up for coffee and tea. Several of our brothers were at the coffee pot, exchanging meaningful and important conversation, and by so doing, holding up everyone's forward progress. Some of us needed coffee bad. I finally piped up, "less talking, more walking!" To which Michael Curry replied, "that will preach!" I hadn't looked ahead to this Sunday's lessons. That would preach much sooner than I realized.
Jesus was with the religious leaders of the time. They were more concerned about staying on message and landing in the right political and influential heap than they were concerned about true faithfulness. Their were so intent on religious and political correctness that they failed at living a humble and authentic life of faith. It is a big trap for us all. And yet Jesus tells a story of two sons, one who refused his father initially, then relents, and the other who answers right but lives all wrong. When we get caught up in the rightness of our church life, and forget the compassion and honest service, we can fail to follow Jesus. We need more walking and less talking - all of us.
Today, I simply ask God to help me follow Jesus by keeping my mouth shut and my hands in feet in motion in the service of others. May we all follow by serving the needs of others and in so doing bring God's love made visible in our lives.
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, abut if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Matthew 6:19-24
I am reminded that whenever I hear the word treasure, the first images that come to mind are not stores of gold in a chest but the faces of my husband and daughters. I have never had much money, nor wanted after great riches, but I have always felt rich beyond measure in their company. Their laughter is brighter than any sparkling gems, their smiles richer than any gold and their company is softer and sweeter than velvet and silk. And I am reminded in them the blessings of God, the tender bounty of God's blessings which is found in relationship with them.
Jesus reminds us today that we are not to worry about money and treasure - which is hard to do in this economy when so many are without the basic necessities of life. We can quickly get anxious when we are without employment and income, and it can keep us from relationships with one another and with God. Jesus invites us to remember the love we have been given and to cling to that in our anxious moments, for God is about caring for our needs and necessities.
Today, I ask God to help me to put aside worry and to be grateful for the many treasures have been given. May this day be dedicated to gratitude for the love that has been showered down upon me and which is made real in my family. May we all take time to day to say thank you for the blessings we have and deepen our trust that God is in the midst of our need, bringing solutions to the hardest trials we face.
Friday, September 23, 2011
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:7-15
When to pray, we ask?
when the night closes in
when the rain begins
when milk dries up
and when light fails
when sorrow grips the throat
and tears well in the eyes.
We ask and you remind us
simple and humble loving
and gentle the words and
our hearts for God knows
before we can even ask.
The drops of rain like prayers
dance on the water pattering as song
lifting to God's heart while
disappearing in the pools
gray and moving refreshing
mother and child together.
We plunge into the water
received as a child primordial
and primitive we ask to float
to be held to survive and we
are asked to do likewise when
on solid ground again.
With breath exhale and inhale
I need your help today
be my shield across my heart
and the helmet on my head
so that I do not forget ever
that I am lost without you.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:1-6
Reflecting on my time in Ecuador, I was touched by the grace and humility of the native peoples we visited with. They came from a long distance, over a five hour drive, to be with us on Sunday. Despite the challenges of life, despite the economic and political trials, it was their joy to visit with us, to sacrifice time and the great expense to share with others. Their generosity and faith has taken root in my heart. Their genuine love and fellowship has inspired me to deepen my commitment to the service of others.
Jesus reminds us all today that it is human nature to be showy, and it is easy to be generous and holy when we are in the spotlight, surrounded by the press. The place where it means something is truly in the private places, in the generosity and kindness when no one is looking. God cares how we consider one another at home, in private, personal places, when the cameras are off. Are we willing today to be generous to the familiar poor, humble with family, friend and enemy? Are we truly willing to walk the walk today?
Today, I ask God to help me to be humble and generous in all things, never worrying about who knows, knowing God knows. May our hearts be ever humble so that we might, today, be the bearers of God's love and light to our world, where ever we are.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I have spent a remarkable week here in Quito, Ecuador, learning with other bishops what it means to do ministry in this place. There has been controversy and turmoil in this diocese and there are several sides in a very public battle. And yet in the midst of all of that we had witnessed an amazing amount of compassion and love, an enormous measure of love and forgiveness. Despite all that the church leadership faces, including lack of funds and vocal factions, we knew a welcome and love that was remarkable, tender and authentic.
Jesus reminded the disciples that as his followers we are expected to love and forgive, despite what people might say or do, despite their attempts to hurt us, take away our livelihoods, or destroy what we have carefully built up. All that we have is from God, and all the controversy and hurt we might face cannot be obliterated by any human action. Our call and our gifts are from God. And God promises to be with us, even when we feel most isolated, bent down and destroyed.
As we travel homeward early this morning, I pray that I might live the example of the people encountered here. May I be ready to love and forgive. May my lips always be ready to pray, and may I always be grateful for the gift of brothers and sisters of faith, companions on the way.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand. Psalm 78:70-72
We have been gathered as bishops for nearly a week, praying and learning together, listening to the local people and attending worship in many languages. At small tables we share our personal and local concerns, the needs of our people and the challenges of these times. We have a small legislative session today, but most of our work is understanding better how to respond to the needs of our various communities. We have been called to be shepherds, to use our skills and compassion for the care of all. I am always moved by the brothers and sisters that surround me, those who give their all for God as a shepherd to a diocese.
We hear today in the Gospel,and throughout the readings about the failure of communities and God's disappointment and wrath for misconduct among the faithful. Psalm 78 tells the story of the tribes who failed and how David came to be their leader. We are all invited to hear that our calls and our faith are not an invitation to selfish pride but rather to servant-hood and humility. We are to understand that God's beloved are to be servants of all, moved with compassion to care for the world.
Today, I ask God to help us to serve better, day by day. Help us to put power, control and lust for money aside and to live as shepherds, with the sheep, praying night and day for their safety and care. May our hands be the hands of love and not punishment and may all that we do bring glory to God and abundance to all people.
Monday, September 19, 2011
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:21-26
You promised to be my friend
when your back is turned
my eyes fill I have heard the gossip
and I can barely pray today.
They have been overlooked as they walk
the streets jumping in alleys
avoiding for one more day being
torn up under tires.
It is hard to pray with hands
full of grief, anger and fear
hard to sing with constricting throat
closing in anguish and sadness.
We stand at the church door
and wonder where is the welcome
where is the forgiveness?
I will leave this here, and seek the other
walk the streets looking for lost sisters
brothers, our children and grandchildren
who we have failed.
Our lives so sheltered, so protected
will be shattered for love.
Our safety and righteousness is a gift
and we are invited to give it away.
"Leave your gift there before
the altar and go."
Oh God help us to know the hurt
we have caused the pain of so many,
the isolation and desolation,
and help us to face it and go.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:1-16
I have been moved over the past days by the incredible beauty, tenacity and capacity of the Indigenous people of Ecuador. Mothers joyfully strap their babies to their back, produce incredible artwork as they nurse their young and burst with smiles and welcome wherever we have been. A people so down trodden, removed from much of their land, made poor by colonials, capitalists and the like -and yet I see sisters and brothers full of joy. They are always last in political concerns and considerations. They have no power, and no place at the table. And yet, the light of God's love dwells within them and shines forth.
Jesus tells a story about how God's reign really works. He wants them to understand that all of the privilege and power, the control and the money that they scramble for, has no currency or importance with our Creator. Jesus wants us to know that God's world is full of compassion and generosity. Now matter how important we think we are, no matter how much privilege we are given, how much stuff we obtain, God's eyes are on the end of the line, on the poor and those who love despite their need.
Today I ask God to continue to make me teachable and humble in this place. May our actions be those of love and generosity, of compassion and inclusion. May our hearts be broken open today for the further indwelling of the kingdom of God.
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Today I took the opportunity to visit the Mission of San Felipe in Ibarra with many other bishops and their spouses. We were received with open arms, welcomed with kindness and thanked for all the care and support they have been sent. The group also gathered funds today and made a donation to the ongoing work of the mission which is serving so many with so little. On our return we stopped in the crafts market at Oltovalo, site of an extensive indigenous crafts market. Everyone we encountered were kind and generous, patient with our language challenges and our confusion. Beauty was everywhere, in the simplest of crafts. It was apparent they do so much with so little and they beautify the world with what they have.
Paul reminds us today that we have been given the responsibility of stewards, caretakers of the Gospel, along with our fellow people, this precious earth, and the abundance we have received. Our job is not t squander but to share what we have, bringing light beauty and love in God's name.
As this long day closes and the sun winds down in the sky, I want to raise my thanksgiving for the incredible abundance we know. I also want to ask God to help each one of us here, share freely what we have, make the most of our time and talents for the service of the world.
Friday, September 16, 2011
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely hon my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:11-16
The morning light was barely there
a whisper over my shoulder
dawn unremarkable and tenuous
the persecutions of the night
so real, so inescapable.
It has been a long night
of storms and trials
a truth tellers punishment
a prophets pay isolation
and derision from all sides.
You knew the deepest dark
you held the bleakest pain
you sang to the depths of deprivation
and blessed us all.
The light which breaks through
is from your heart implanted
in my feeble lamp, my wavering
wandering, cautious light
and by your love it becomes
a beacon for the still lost
the other ships navigating
I will stand on the cliffs
and shine for you, for them
for you have rescued and blessed
over and over and continue
moment by moment to bring
new days from the ashes,
the abuse, neglect and the pain.
Your hand is in the midst
the mud and debris you create anew
light and blessing
more than enough for today.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
On our way to explore old town in Quito yesterday, we can upon some sort of student gathering, police in force with machine guns in hand. We asked the driver what was going on and he said it was a common occurrence, students clashing with police. As we passed the intersection I noticed clouds of smoke in the deserted square and people running everywhere. Too late did we realize it was tear gas, and before we could get our windows up, we had a taste of daily life for these students. As our eyes teared up and our throats tightened against the burning, I was humbled to have witnessed an all to normal setting in this gorgeous city nestled in breathtaking mountains. Our driver remarked as we coughed and pulled away, "welcome to Quito."
Jesus went to the mountain to teach the people who came from all over. These were people who were not permitted to sit in the temple and learn, their lives were those of service and humility. They were the faceless, nameless, humble people who carried on lives of great care and faith. And Jesus told them hoe blessed they were, despite what the culture, the world, or even the religious leadership might say to them. How wonderful to have this blessing, in a chaotic world where these humble people knew they were of no value. They were precious to God and of great value.
Today, I ask God to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts, to those people who serve and surround us as they are the carriers of God's richest blessings. May we who gather here, humbled ourselves and be grateful for the witness we have in their midst.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25
Arriving in Quito late last night, we walked by the crowds of people waiting for loved ones to come through customs and be on home ground. Arms ached to embrace and balloons floated, signs held up with anticipation. I was arriving here for the first time, for a House of Bishops meeting, walking streets that my sister Pegi did so many years ago. I remember her stories and pictures from when she was an exchange student in high school in the mid-sixties. I look forward to taking in the people, the sights and sounds of a world my sister explored, and which I knew only in my childhood imagination. Despite the challenges of the journey, we have to leave home to know what God has in store for us.
Jesus walked by the sea and called his disciples from the midst of their homes, their labors and their daily lives. They are surrounded family, friends and all that is comfortable and they are called away in order to understand what God has in store for them - things they could never even imagine. The obstacles and challenges were great and the blessings were immeasurable. God invites us all to step away and follow, so that we might be God's hands in the world.
Today, I ask God to give me the strength to take each step as we follow where God leads. May our hearts be open to being followers, to miracles and healing that we could not have imagined. And may the blessings be for all, especially those who have invited us to their home.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:12-17
Some seasons are more challenging than others. The past few weeks have been particularly challenging in our little household, nothing hideous, but constant challenges that can wear a spirit down. Between hurricanes evacuations, testing and surgery, it has been a full few weeks. The rains and lightening came last night, unrelenting and it seemed the road home was buckling under us and we were swallowed by fog. It is easy to get swallowed up by whatever fogs wear us down, the storms that beat us down and the physical struggles ahead. This morning, the light dawned crystal clear and bright. Fall temperatures and colors are lingering right around the corner, and there was an invitation to see the world with new eyes.
Jesus ministry begins with the words of ancient prophecy. The promise to those who had suffered long, those oppressed and worn down beyond recognition, was that God was drawing near, bringing a new dawn, new light to deep, painful darkness. Jesus' ministry begins and continues to this day with that promise. New life and new life are on the horizon for us all. No matter what we face today, around the corner is new life.
Today, as I fly off to Quito for the House of Bishops, I pray for the new dawn, the new light, a new day in our church and ministries. The world is changing around us and we dwell on the cusp of new possibilities. May we all have the strength to look up and trust the coming of the light, a new day and God's dwelling near us.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:1-11
On our way home from New York yesterday we stopped at one our favorite and unique markets. Carrados is a place where every fruit and vegetable imaginable is available for great prices, along with meats, cheeses and breads from many different cultures. The clientele are from all languages and cultures, and is a very crowded place all day long. You have to be patient and persistent when you go there. And there are a thousand different taste treats to take home. It is easy to get swept up and tempted to bring much more home than one family will ever consume. It is a dangerous place for anyone trying to control their appetite.
Jesus is tempted after forty days fasting and praying in the wilderness. His body must have been aching for food and the tempter knew just how to get to him. A truly hungry person is blind to anything by sustenance. And yet Jesus finds a way to remain calm in the face of terrible, wrenching temptation, he found strength in his weakness to rely completely on God. We humans often fail because we count on ourselves alone, denying our weakness and our need.Jesus was cared for by angels after his ordeal. We are encouraged to see that no matter what arduous and painful ordeal we face, God id with us providing the strength and the helpers to get us through.
As I pack for my trip to the House of Bishops today, I want to remember that I cannot do anything by myself, and I want to rely completely on God in every trail and temptation that faces me. May we all trsut that God is sending help when we need it, picking us up when we fall, and filling us completely in our most tempted times.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Peter came and said to Jesus, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, `Pay what you owe.' Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." Matthew 18:21-35
Ten Years After
The first strikes came with disbelief
then fear rose up and horror surrounded
we stopped breathing and called home.
Every single life lost shattered
families, communities, faith
a thousand bells rung cannot bring them back.
We prayed and cried and held survivors
as anger replaced our disbelief, tight-fisted
we stood trembling in desperate prayer.
Some ran to help, some to watch
some sat by the phone waiting for evidence
that their precious one was spared.
Today the name are read, voices raw with loss
high voices of children, ancient old men,
names etched in bronze, solid gold on hearts.
We wanted revenge we wanted to punish
and we raged and warred by then silence
overtook us and held us still.
Colors and cultures we are children all
mothers, fathers, brothers, sons and daughters,
a common family broken to be remade anew.
At first a whisper in the night, forgive
then, "Not seven times, but, I tell you,
seventy-seven times" the voice of the crucified.
Ten years after, we weep, we ache for loss,
and we are moved to make life better
for our common worldwide family.
God help us to gather our tears make us streams of living waters.
O Gracious Creator make us a flood of forgiving hearts and may forgiveness
water the fertile earth and plant in us the seeds of healing, the seeds of hope, as we see the heart of God in every face today. Amen
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,1 and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17
It's early and we are heading down to the river. Emily and her teammates will jump in to the cold water and swim for others-for people they know and for perfect strangers who are battling cancer. The Hudson River was very polluted when I was growing up, and it has been cleaned up by herculean efforts. The river is now overflowing with debris from the recent storms, branches and leaves, and a fast current due to high water. Going down to the river always has its challenges. The river is a place to change, to change lives and to turn lives around -it always has.
Jesus goes down to the river and he is baptized by John. There the world changes and the skies open and we hear the voice of God identifying the child, and through the one, we are all blessed by God and made a member of the family. Going down to the river can change the world, and we are invited to expect great things from as we are dipped into the water.
Today, we ask to be good support to our brave daughter and to be support and care for all those who come into our lives today. May we all go down to the river today expecting to be changed, expecting to be used for the love of God.
Friday, September 9, 2011
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12
Today, we travel to New York to cheer our daughter Emily on as she swims across the Hudson. This is not simply an athletic feat, but she is raising money for the leukemia and lymphoma society in their fight against cancer. She witnessed her Dad's valiant struggle with cancer, and although he is healthy now, she knows we all must do our part for others. Six years ago she was hit by a car as a pedestrian just after she began graduate school. She was sidelined for a long time and she still carried scars from that accident. Despite the challenges, the pain and the uphill battle, she fought back and now can swim three miles. Tomorrow it will be in open water and we pray that God makes the currents favorable and the water calm for her passage. She struggle back not for herself alone but for the love and care of others.
John encounters a bunch of religious leaders coming to him for baptism and he gets angry. Angry because these men lead a life of ease and comfort, and do nothing for the poor and the needy in their midst. They often condemned the weakest, as sinful, so as not to have to care for them. And so John sees clearly their hypocrisy, the empty repentance, their showy turning. We all can rest when it is time for service and care. And yet God invites us today through the intensity of John the Baptist, to be serious in our repentance and to use the gifts and skills we have for the love and service of others.
Today I ask simply for the strength to see the need and respond, not with judgment but with open arms, not from a place of my own limitations, but with the limitlessness of God's love. May all that we do today be for the renewing and love of God's people everywhere.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Now when they had departed an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they care no more.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:13-23
I see you beauty grown
laughter spilling over
joy sparking from all around
you were once a twinkle a dream
and now more marvelous spell binding
more brilliant than any dream.
"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace."
Cloudy reality familiar yet changed
hope slept in our dreams promising
more than we see today drawing
vague maps on complicated hearts
we heed the warnings and moved on
seeking refuge seeking home.
"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace."
We are at home in our dreams
surrounded by known but fluid worlds
nothing concrete everything possible
nothing outside of night's realm
we wander empty hometown streets
understanding these are homes yet to come.
"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace."
These dreams you put in our heads
at night become stamps on our hearts
maps of tomorrows promises the ache
to forgive yesterday foregoing the ghosts
clinging to the spirits of freedom
a new road home, a place to come from.
"Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace."
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned win a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12
One of the wondrous things about living here is that we are far from any major source of light, like a city, and so the night sky is full of stars and planets visible to the naked eye. Last night was overcast, but most nights, we can stand on our deck or on the beach and stare up at countless stars witnessing the beauty of the heavens. They seems so close some nights, as if they draw close and near, as if they have a story to tell, as if they want to share something with us.
The wise men who followed the star were learned and serious men who knew how to listen to the story the stars were whispering, and they saw and heard a great tale and came out of their comfortable and familiar surroundings to seek the child.Their quest was not in vane and they worshiped the little child they would never know, except for in story and legend. They knew how to listen, and when they were ready to go home they listened again and found another way home.
Tod ask God to help me to listen, to the world around me and to the heart of God. I pray that we can all use the gifts and skills we have been given to understand the truth and beauty that surrounds us and to share God's love with a world starved for a renewed sense of hope and expectation.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I have spent the last few weeks behind the wheel of the car, taking mostly local trips, ferrying a challenged mother and a recuperating husband to doctors and the like. Occasionally I am sent on some mission or another to retrieve a needed medicine or the like. It has given me time to reflect on what it means to be sent, to be the wheels and legs of those who cannot right now. It is a responsibility that I am happy to take on, but I never feel adequate for all the tasks and things they need me for. At the end of the day there always seem to be many things yet to do.
The disciples were admonished by Jesus for their unbelief then sent forward into all the world. They must have felt both honored and afraid, wanting to believe in their own capacity and knowing all too well their limits. Their world was limited, their failures all too real. And yet Jesus promised to equip them with what they needed and to be with them throughout.
Today, I ask God to strengthen me as I go forth, trying to be enough for the tasks of the day. Knowing that relying on God is the only way to face the world, I ask God to supply me with the tools and the patience I need to serve and care for those entrusted to me.
Monday, September 5, 2011
There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem. And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mark 15:40-47
Oh cover us with water wash us
again and again for we weep for him
bloody and torn lifeless in Joseph's arms
loving arms dangling eyes closed
in death we are broken open here and now.
Oh let the waves wash over
we have followed him everywhere
causing scandal and clacking tongues
we ached for justice and mercy
now faced with ridicule and abuse.
Oh hide us, hide our faces
let us bury our tears in water
we were baptized in made whole by
oh deep and mighty waters
free us from this weary world.
Oh wash away the dust and blood
we weep and we prepare him
we mourn as we wrap the cool crisp linen
the shroud he should never have known
hiding the world's battering
behind a stone.
Oh wash us over pour us out
until we find our rest in God.
Oh water water cleanse us until
we are healed by love that cannot
be hidden or wrapped away
divine love that is living despite
our daily agony, despite our denials
let love flow again.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Jesus said, "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Matthew 18:15-20
Yesterday, we did something we have never done before, we got a ride onto the beach. Mark is on crutches due to knee surgery and really wanted to sit on the beach but was unable to since the sand and crutches were not cooperating. With some trepidation I went to the life guard garage and asked if it was possible to get transportation since they have many vehicles. They were happy to help us and picked us up and took us off with kindness and professionalism. We were grateful. Sometimes you have to ask and always God is in the midst of us, "bidden or unbidden".
Jesus tells his disciples about living in community, and how simple, honest conversation with others was essential to a shared life. He also wanted them to know of the power that was with them (and is with us) to bring good (or ill) to the community. If they would but work together, agreeing and forgiving one another, with egos in check, God's love and mercy would prevail in everything. And Jesus promised to be with them in everything, if they would but ask.
Today, I want to remember to ask, to seek God's strength in all times, not just in extreme need. I ask God that we can agree together these days, in these times of extreme need and challenge throughout the world, so that God's mercy and goodness can flow through us and be evident and prevail in everything.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:33-39
The hurricane left behind interesting items on the beach. Although the water is remarkably warm and calm, there is much debris to be found both in the water and in the sand. A friend found a plastic wrapper from a bait company in Florida, and although it probably washed off a boat locally, we like to imagine it was whipped up here in the storm. Lots of things came apart in this last storm, and although we were spared the worst, the evidence that the water spits up makes it clear that some places and people will never be the same. Ways of life were shattered, home were torn apart, and people struggle mightily and some lost the battle with their lives.
The curtain in the temple is torn apart as Jesus gives up his life. That which was a sign of stability and control was rent asunder, and nothing would every quite be the same, no matter how hard folks tried to put things right, to put things back the way they were. Jesus offered his life, God in the flesh gave up the flesh in horrid pain, so that the distance between God and humans would be nothing, and no one could separate us from the holy. Many have tried to restore the past order, and many still do. But the great shaking of the earth, the tearing of the curtain, the moment when in death Jesus gave us all divine access, makes us all the offspring of God, no matter what storms may face us.
Today, I pray that we can all rise up and face the tasks before us, knowing that God is not far off but with us in the daily toil, with us in the dark of night and with us as we suffer the pain of being human. May we all be comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that we have been made children of a living God, the near members of God's race and clan.
Friday, September 2, 2011
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints!
The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Psalm 31:1-5, 20-24
The beach is glorious this time of year, after the heat of the summer has dissipated and the water is cam and cool. The tourists are streaming in for one ast summer weekend. Those of us who live here know the best is yet to come. When the noise and crowding has gone away, and cooler heads prevail, life slows down again some and we can breathe deeply, having our sanctuary to ourselves. Sometimes it feels as if we live in a besieged city, cut off from tender care as anxious people compete to spent money and time, in a frenzy to get the most out of a vacation. So we wait and breathe, praying for the return of calm and quiet, when the anxiety goes back home and settles in down the road.
Our Gospel reading is all about crucifixion and brighter more sensitive souls have said all that one can about the suffering and the dying of Christ. Living in the long besieged city, through times of unemployment, illness and isolation, well these are the times when the psalms get us through, where we turn to the music, the songs David sang to get through the onslaught and the chaos. Sometimes there is something we can say or do, and sometimes we just have to keep praying, singing and waiting it out.
In the midst of personal, familial and health challenges, I hear God inviting us all to rest in the psalms to take heart in the ancient music and trust that we will see these times through.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions1 are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!3 Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, e“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.4 The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 3:13-4:12
The Wisdom of Peacemaking
Now is the time when the four winds subside
with the early morning stillness lingering
sleep still heavy in the eyes, gentle words
and language flow, we are like children
stretching for the day.
The storms drove us away and apart
we groaned with labor and striving
we thought we could judge and exclude
we thought we knew we were right
and in losing meekness and humility
we lost our way.
The ancestors cried out and the winds blew
we didn't listen then we tightened our grasp
we bullied and argued we flexed and raged
the dangers of an angry heart clouding all.
And the sea rose high the waves covered us
sweeping us to the four corners of the earth
and in our isolation we knew our need
in our lonely ache we knew desire for love
in our damp abandoned selves we found God.
And whispering in the wind
God loves us
in the sweet smell of new grass
God judges us with forgiveness
with the eyes of a tender parent
ready to forgive, arms ready for embrace
love aching to be made whole.