Saturday, February 28, 2009

G'wan. Go to church.

Stop. Drop and roll just don't work in hell.

So, ya better repent and believe the good news....

But, then again, if you believe the good news, none of the above makes much sense, does it?!

G'wan. Go to church. Convert the unbelievers you find there!

Paenitentia -- playing God with ourselves

Okay--been playing with the word "penitence" --because it has been driving me crazy. Doing penance, or being penitential.... From the on-line etymological dictionary: c.1200, from O.Fr. penitence (11c.), from L. pænitentia "repentance," from pænitentum (nom. pænitens) "penitent," prp. of pænitere "cause or feel regret," probably originally "is not enough, is unsatisfactory," from pæne "nearby, almost." Penitent (adj.) is attested from c.1375; as a noun meaning "one who is doing penance," it is attested from 1412.

First, what is fascinating is that this underscores that this word became frequent in the late-late medieval period (and for those of you who appreciate such things, it is Continental-although I have heard rumor of a monastery in Wales which had a customary of sin and a penance recipe for each sin).

Today, it is customarily understood as spiritual discipline regarding our sins, a form of paying back and getting right before God--a demonstration of our love for God, and wanting to do right. --a way to set things "right."

Well, forget it. The word, paenitentia (Latin, from which the OF comes as above) is definitely older than the 12th Century. Jerome uses it in his Latin translation of the Bible, in Mark 1:15. But the Greek word from which Jerome worked is metanoia (be you repenting)... which means to turn around, change one's mind, to change one's thinking.... to change one's mind from one's own mind to the kingdom mind of Christ. Like metamorphis --to change form.... it is meta --noia --change a way of knowing, understanding....

I really don't think Jesus wanted us to go around paying God back for our sins--he wanted us to see, that our minds might be changed, so that we might live....

From morning prayer: (Titus 3:1-11) Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good
works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.

But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being selfcondemned.

Selfcondemned.... wow. Now there's a word for ya. Yeah --okay... so for those still stuck on doing penance--did someone else set this penance for you, tell you what to do to get right again... or are you playing God in this too?

Friday, February 27, 2009

You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat

George Herbert (1595-1633) Scholar, poet, priest.

A young woman worked for me a while ago, and I asked her what she would point to as the center of her faith. She said 'the cross.' Great, I said. But the cross is the invention of people, not God. God offers God's self, and WE nail God to the cross.... And God then demonstrates the deep love in the Resurrection. A greater sign of God's love is the Resurrection... Practice putting the Resurrection as the center of your faith...

I am one who stands and says, God does not want payment for our sins. With what would we pay except that which is a gift from God? We possess nothing that could pay such a debt... and if you insist upon payment, you are then denying the 'payment' of Christ.

All sin is forgiven. Yes, of course one must begin the understanding of sin by getting out of denial-sin does indeed infect every part of our lives. Sin is like an addictive substance and we are drawn to it. When one sees that, then what?

To be a Christian is not to be holy and pure and live a life apart, striving not to sin and begging forgiveness and doing payback (read penance); to be a Christian is to get in and muck about in sin and hurt and despair, and speak the Good News that God loves us, no matter what. God has opened the feast to all those who dwell in the back alleys, the undeserving, the least....

Love (III)
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin.

But quicked-ey'd Love, Observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew near to me, sweetly questioning, If I lack'd any thing.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:

Love said, You should be he.

I the unkinde, engrateful? ah my deare, I can not look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I hav marr'd them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?

My deare, then I will serve.

You must sit down, sayes love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert. The Eucharist Gospel for the day is the Beatitudes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fear is the first sin....

It is always terrifying to put ashes on the foreheads of children.... always.

I am near speechless today, having been wrung out yesterday. In the best way. Like running a marathon. Exhausted to the bone.

A new feeling about Lent is dawning in me--hard to say, but it is so far beyond thinking about sin I can hardly contain myself.... I know... but there I am.

But then again, the news this morning is that the VA legislators are passing a bill so that concealed guns can be carried in to restaurants. One must be very afraid to carry a gun.... dang, this is more the wild west than the west is wild, because even in the wild west one must check their guns....

Great. Back to square one on sin.... and I think in the list of the deadly sins, the first one ought to be fear, because most sin erupts from fear.

We are not the fearless faithful ones--it is God who is faithful....

From morning prayer (Deut. 7:6-9) For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you-for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice....

Isaiah 58:1-12
1 Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.

3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lent is not about sin--it's about preparing for the Resurrection

Loaded up on pancakes, the kids had a small short-lived parade with masks on, the sausage was delicious, the President's speech was more like a rah-rah speech... I liked the pancakes and sausage and parade better....

And tomorrow are three services--all decked out in purple and gold....

Lent is so not about sin and penitence.... if we live all our lives checking ourselves out in relation to sin, well.... then all we live is a life thinking about sin. This is not to say that we shouldn't do that soul-search and ammendment of life.... that is necessary. But Lent is so much more.

Lent is about the practice of living a resurrection life. Lent is about praying for those preparing for baptism. Lent is about the community getting ready to receive them....which means change. The old line--advent is a little Lent.... well, turn the tables, Lent is a bigger advent, to prepare for the coming of our Lord--the Resurrected Lord...

That's not liberal poopoo caacaa. It's the Gospel of John.
Just sayin'.

Have a blessed, prayerful, adventful Lent.

Reflections on the Primates' Meeting from the only woman among them....

And excellent and thought-provoking reflection by ++KJS. About gender roles, scripture and real life. Do read it.

More Righteous than a Pharisee? God help us!

Can't help it--here is the way I read this, and really, really, really believe Jesus meant what he said....

From Morning Prayer (Matthew 5:17-20) "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. (Fulfill: to complete, to finish the contract, to pull the baked cake out of the oven... )

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. (Accomplished: Death on the cross, and the mind-blowing revelation of God's love for us in the Resurrection--He finished the contract of the Law, before we are perfect, before we understand)

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; (Note to self--see, even those who teach others to break the Law will find a place in heaven. As a matter of fact, they will be Least in the kingdom, and the last shall be first and go read the Beatitudes again....)

but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (and the first shall be last) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (And we know what he thought of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees....I mean, really....who the hell wants to be more righteous than a Pharisee?)

So, he fulfilled, completed the contract (Covenant) of the Law. He walked the bloody aisle of the holocaust of our broken lives. Go for the Law if you think you can--but, why? --that day is over... Day Eight of creation is dawning.... The New Covenant (read again our Eucharistic prayers) of Love is upon us.

Happy and Blessed Shrove Tuesday-- and a blessed Ash Wednesday, wherein, as Kirstin says, we begin to take our fig leaves OFF!

Oh yes, and a blessed St. Matthias Day.... you know, the one who replaced Judas in the body of the Twelve... now there's a claim to fame for you---

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tommy Emmanuel Mombasa link

Tommy Emmanuel update: here is the LINK to an example of what Tommy is like in concert.... except he is even more wild and the guitar percussion is shocking to hear.... in the best way... it resets the heart.

The Beatitudes--what a Christian life is all about

I remember, as a kid, having to kneel and recite the Ten Commandments as church began.... it wrung out my soul--dry, desiccated, --not that the very things we were reciting were not important life-directives, but that the attitude in which we undertook remembering them was deadly.... This very action of kneeling and recitation is one of the things that very nearly led me to leaving the church.... I found the action intensely degrading. To some extent, I still do--but endure it for those who seem fed by it.

My older brother, who is a pagan (and I love him for it), says--who wants to listen to a God that just keeps saying "Thou shalt NOT." (I know, it feels different in Hebrew--so give me a translation that changes my mind, please.)

And I agree.... To an extent. I mean, every one, at some point, needs to have said to them-- 'don't cross the street without looking both ways.' But, when we can embody that without much conscious effort, what's next? Is there not more?

Obviously, I think there is more... So, this morning, the Gospel at morning prayer is the Beatitudes.... I do consider it the Christian version of the Commandments. The challenge of living in to these blessings is what a Christian life is all about:

From morning prayer: (Matthew 5:1-12) When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Maybe next year I will suggest to the Worship Committee that we refrain from starting the worship service with a penitential rite, and that instead we stand and sing the Beatitudes...


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tommy Emmanuel

Went to a great concert tonight--Tommy Emmanuel... blown out of my seat. Tommy is like watching and listening to Bach and Zeppelin --or Pink Floyd and Andre Segovia combined. Something like that.

I have never heard the guitar be a percussion instrument quite like I heard it tonight. And that's an understatement--because when he started playing the microphone with his head--well, I was out of my seat!

We went as guests--THANK YOU! Thank you. (You know who you are!)

I would post a video--but I still can't figure out why I can't play youtube videos... something is blocking them.... sorry.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

G'wan. Go to church.

Rumor has been spreading, that all the hullabaloo was only because Mary really did have access to out-of-this-world bleach.

Well, it was a better thought than what went with this other transfiguration image, which while gazing at it, we would, of course, have to sing this verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

Oh! To sing "glory" and "bosom" in the same five seconds in church!
G'wan. Go to church. Be transfigured. Or, go figure....

Holding heartbreak and hope in healthy tension

Saw a very interesting interview on Bill Moyers last night--with Parker Palmer. He spoke to many points and the personal experience of depression, but what captivated me in the conversation was the discussion on our current economic crisis. Here are some notes I took as I was listening:

Personal depression is not entering the darkness, it is more like becoming part of the darkness--the self becomes dark.
yes--the national economic darkness wasn't called the great depression for nothing.
the nation became part of the darkness.
we are there again.
need to be drawing on the inner wisdom--not fake science
penetrate the illusions and deal with the reality

heartbreaking moment in our history
the rich getting richer the poor getting poorer
and the heartbreak is that this should never have happened
giving up the illusions about who we are and how we function
we have carried these illusions far too long--embedded in the stories we tell ourselves and call our history.
yes, a moment of heartbreak.

spiritual maturity is holding heartbreak and hope in healthy tension.

Those are not quotes...that is what I heard. It was a fascinating interview, and I commend it to you. Here is a link to the interview.

Here is a quote from the Moyers' site: The collapse of the U.S. housing market at the heart of the recent financial crisis is also, according to Parker Palmer, the collapse of a series of long-held illusions in American society: that housing prices will always rise, that Americans can live beyond their means forever, and that the growing gap between rich and poor doesn't matter.

Everyone realized the system was unsustainable, Palmer, a writer, traveling teacher and activist, told Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL, but, "We don't want to know what we really know, because if we did, we'd have to change our lives."

That last line really gets me as I ponder a sermon for tomorrow on the Transfiguration.....

From morning prayer today: (1 Timothy 6:7-13) ...for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

So, there we are.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's all in the name.....

C is a member of our congregation. C has lived on the streets for 35+ years, and has, for many reasons, refused to make any efforts to get off the streets. I was told when I got here that I was not to be surprised to see a member of the congregation cruising the alleys dumpster diving. C has never asked for food or assistance--and my office is full of little gifts from C--an orchid, a picture frame, a water pitcher....

C uses the church as a home address--always has. C is absolutely faithful, and comes to church every Sunday cleaned up, fresh clothes.... When C goes missing, we check the mail to find out if C is in jail or in the hospital.

C went missing just after Christmas--we knew something was wrong because C's shopping cart was not to be found... After three weeks we discovered the ambulance bill in the church mail and started making the calls to find out which hospital C was in---and miracles of miracles, we found C, who after a coma, ICU, and 20 days was ready for discharge.

Now, get this--the HOSPITAL paid for one month's rent in a hotel, and C has decided sleeping in a bed under a roof is really great. C wants off the streets --

C has no ID and cannot prove birth or identity or any of that.... Virginia will not issue an ID without a birth certificate-- To get a birth certificate, C needs an ID... great.... Catch 22. And to complicate matters, C was born at home.

My beloved likes these kind of challenges and has worked nearly full time for the last three weeks to figure out how to get C a retirement income, an efficiency apartment, food stamps, medicare and some ID. He didn't start with the ID barrier, and found ways and loopholes.... Between two Senator's offices, six governmental processes, institutions in two states, churches in two states, the Governor and a mess of other people-- C will be a person with a provable name soon.

Next week, my beloved will take C around to choose new digs. I pray that C will be our neighbor with a roof and bed and food for as long as C wants a roof and bed and food....

Two weeks ago, C received a welcome home ovation at church--and a couple of folks took C birthday gifts and treats. Because now we know C has a birthday.

From morning prayer (Mark 12: 29-31) Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Damn the republicans in California. Damn 'em. Part II

Guess the republicans in California should read their Bible:

From morning prayer (Mark 12:14-17): And they came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, "Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it." And they brought one. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."
Just sayin'. Please see post below, and I ask your prayers for my niece. (Instead of "emperor," for a laugh, read "Terminator.")

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Damn the republicans in California. Damn 'em.

This is my beloved niece.

She has Downs Syndrome. She is 25 years old. She works about 30 hours a week delivering mail floor to floor in the State Capital in California. She loves her job. She works very hard. She is very proud that she works so hard, and she does a very good job. Last year she took her first vacation ever, and came to visit us in Virginia.

It is quite likely that my niece will lose her job for the sake of republican ideology and their absolute disregard for the well being of all the people of California.

I am very worried for her well-being if she loses her job. She will understand most of why she will have lost her job--enough to make her overwhelmingly sad.

She will not condone the republican ideology or sentiment. I know her.

This is one of the faces the republicans are willing to toss to the curb.
Please pray for my niece.

Get your free indulgences here

Today..... well, there are too many windmills to fight....

There is a county just to the west of us that is trying to push through a county-wide zoning ordinance that would prohibit unmarried/unrelated persons from living together.... When asked what problems were going to be addressed by such legislation, the legislators refused to respond. --but there are at least two obvious targets--immigrants and same sex couples.... take your pick on who to beat into submission this week.

And a very frail elderly couple has not been to church for a couple of weeks. I have visited and phoned and talked to nurses, but they are not to be found, and no one will so much as give a forwarding address....

Many persons in the parish I serve have stopped coming to church because of the Diocesan stance on not ordaining persons in same sex couples and not blessing their relationships. And, yes, the people spoke in a Resolution at Council wanting to get on with recognizing all Christian households no matter the gender composition--but to no avail.

And they have stopped coming to church because the Church is a sinful broken arrogant institution. Well, yeah.

Lent is coming, and I dread the constant battle of telling folks that Lent is not a self-help time, nor is the church in the business of being a self-help group thingy.... it is not self-help we practice--it is not self-reliance we practice... it is about throwing ourselves to the mercy of God... Lent is not about us at all. But, then, again, it is. Double vision.

So, today I pray either for the courage to keep going, or the courage to lay it all down at the altar. And, I AM deeply grateful and very excited about the work our Vestry accomplished this past weekend. And, it's Luther's day.

Can you believe I offered FREE indulgences at church this Sunday past.... so far, no takers.

The Collect for the Day: O God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

know what time it is, what tree it is....

Well, the morning prayer readings I have posted and reflected upon this month have been from the wrong year.... my link had posted "year two" instead of "year one" readings. I didn't discover the error until this past weekend when I was looking up the readings manually, but then I thought the error was mine....the odd/even year always confusing when the church calendar begins...oh never mind. Then, this morning, I noticed the apology on the link site.... so, why didn't I trust myself! Dang....

So, plopped down in the middle of Mark are we. With a curse, the Temple rampage, and then instruction on prayer and forgiveness. Confusing at best.

I mean, come on Jesus--why curse a tree not in season? Throwing the money-grubbers out of the Temple--yes, I understand that. But a tree out of season?

....mountains can move, and fig trees can bloom at the voice.... so, the fig tree is like the Temple, in so many ways-- neither the tree nor the Temple were prepared for the visitation of the Lord --and both were struck down to their foundations. Is the imagery of the fig tree a reference to the tree from which Adam and Eve ate---is that tree now withered to its roots because its time has been fulfilled, completed, perfected, --are we being asked to be making the mental transition to the tree upon which our Lord was hung, and his body the new Temple.... ?

One of my favorite images for meditation... Mary the new Eve, picking different fruit off the tree.... same tree....

From morning prayer--in the right year (Mark 11:12-26) On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.

And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

I guess we better get a grip and know what time it is....

Monday, February 16, 2009

For the joy of it

I have declared today a Sabbath --of sorts. What between the Bishop's parish visitation, the annual parish meeting, CARITAS (housing, feeding, caring for homeless guests in our parish hall), our diocesan convention and the vestry retreat, parishioners in crisis, and all the other stuff in between --as well as living in a construction zone which kept busting apart and spreading dust, dirt and water throughout the house, I'm thinking today will be a day of relative rest. To get ready for the next big push--Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and our Lenten programs.....

But in a gentle cruise through cyberspace last night, I felt well fed by a post at An Inch at a Time --Susan used an image which I commend to you that will help me keep the turmoil and pressure that undoubtedly will continue to build as we wend our way to General Convention 2009. It is:

There is no restraint gracious enough to thread the camel of broad Anglicanism through the needle of the narrow dogmatism of this bunch of rabid revisionists. It is long past time for that truth to be told.

It is time for the Diverse Center of this Episcopal Church -- a center historically willing to live with the tensions of difference in the service of the unity of the Body of Christ -- to refuse to be blackmailed into actions contrary to our Baptismal Promises by those insisting that we have "no choice" but to choose between full inclusion of all the baptized locally and full inclusion in the work and witness of the Anglican Communion globally.

It is a false choice.
It is a lie.
It is time for us to say "no more" and to move on with the mission and ministry of the Gospel:

to preach good news to the poor.
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind.
to release the oppressed
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

"No restraint gracious enough to thread the camel...." Thank you, Susan. Thank you.

It is spot-on with morning prayer today: (1 John 1:1-10) We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us- we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

We cannot hold back from telling and living the Good News, for the joy that is in us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

G'wan. Go to church.

don't tell?

I'm pretty sure this is not what Jesus had in mind.....

But, g'wan. Go to church. And ask.

Speak to the people

I am on retreat today with our Vestry--looking at our Long Range Plans. Please keep us in your prayers.

And we remember today Cyril and Methodius--evangelists, brothers, sent from both east and west, told the stories in the language of the peoples--not Latin, not Greek. Imagine that.

The collect for the day: Almighty and everlasting God, by the power of the Holy Spirit you moved your servant Cyril and his brother Methodius to bring the light of the Gospel to a hostile and divided people: Overcome all bitterness and strife among us by the love of Christ, and make us one united family under the banner of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Absolom Jones--1803, George Young 1775?

Absolom Jones--first black priest in the Episcopal tradition....

Actually, I have an interesting story about that, unfolding in my own household. Joel has a several-greats-ago grandfather, George Young, born in Montserrat, West Indies, educated in England, ordained a priest in England 1775 by the Bishop of London at St. James's Palace, and emigrated to the States after the American Revolution. He began his ministry at Portsmouth Parish (now Trinity Church) in Virginia, and continued at North Farnham and Lunenberg parishes in the northern neck of Virginia. He died in 1811.

This picture of George was painted by Joel, the likeness taken from a period pocket watch-size miniature. It hangs above our living room fireplace.

Now--the interesting part. George's father, John Younge, was a physician--and he was a physician to slaves in Montserrat.... in what seems a typical fashion of the times, he slept with at least five slave women (a monster, yes, but he acknowledges and names their minor children, and takes care of them all in his will!!) and he sent his children (MANY--probably about 12) who could "pass" to be educated in England..... We know this man, John, to be George's father, but we cannot yet document his mother except for her name, Matilda.... there is no record that we can find of John having ever married...

Now, if George's mother was also a slave or descended of slaves, that would mean that George was the first black priest to be ordained.... and he served in Virginia. Years before Absolom Jones....

Well, if true, George is at least as black as Obama! We continue to piece together the puzzle of George and John and Matilda....

In the meantime, I thank God for Absolom Jones --getting up and walking out of church when he was told he had to pray from the balcony --because he was black..... may we all have that courage.

The Collect of the Day: Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear; that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servant Absalom Jones, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A real live grown-up bathroom

We have lived with that hole in the wall for a while.... BUT IT'S GONE NOW!

We started out with a vinyl tub and vinyl surround, with 1950s pink and gray tile and yellow walls, with a skimpy pedestal sink and a radiator with a huge cover....

So, we now have a porcelain tub and tile surround

and tan walls. We primed and painted the pink and gray tile, and now it is black and white to match the tub surround.

We mounted a new mirror on the medicine cabinet, put in a new light fixture above the mirror, and took out the pedestal sink and put in this more 19th c. looking cabinet --taller which is nice, because so am I, with a nice big sink.

A real live grown-up bathroom. Not a big one--for me, that just means more to clean. But it is really nice.... I like it.

Now, what color should I paint the hall?

words have life. the Word is life.

You know the line--sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. It's just not true. Words have weight, substance, worth, being. Words can create and make death. Words are not thin meandering lines that disappear --but are like colors which splash and dip and roil into form and motion --move in waves continuously, filling even moon craters and beyond.

I mean, Isaac spoke a blessing he could not revoke; when he spoke it and gave it to his son, Jacob; he could not call it back and change it, repackage it and give it to his other son, Esau. His words had a life of their own which were free of their speaker and could be carried away.... (from morning prayer) When Esau heard his father's words, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, "Bless me, me also, father!" But he said, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing."

This past Sunday I preached--and my best critic Joel said it was a weird sermon, unlike my usual sermons, and I was absorbing that, rehashing it.... and then I got this email:

Margaret, XXX and I want to let you know that we are going to New Orleans with the Katrina relief group ... next week. .... We are very excited! We want you to know that your sermon on Sunday totally drove us to going. XXX leaned over to me after the sermon and said, "we should do it, let's go." We look forward to the work we will do, the relationships we will form, and the spiritual enrichment that we hope will be a huge part of the trip. Thank you for speaking your message on Sunday. Without it, who knows if we would have committed? We are so happy and joyful to be members of XXXXXXXXX!

Words have life. That should be no revelation to a people of the Living Word. I guess this is why we should speak only words of love, even to our enemies. Perhaps especially to those who do not love us back--because who wants to fill moon craters with broiling words of hatred.... there should be no blessings we regret or want to take back.... we should know we live in a world of abundant blessings.... for all.

wake up, church. speak blessings. for all. for the whole world.

from morning prayer: (John 8:31-32) "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The judgment is resurrection

I am still being haunted by the movie we saw on Monday, The Reader. At one point near the end, the woman in prison will not change; the woman survivor will not change. Will not? Unable? I don't know.... For the both of them, a way out is offered, but the both of them reject it.

This pattern of rejection reminds me of circumstances in the church abroad. Perhaps you have not heard, but Akinola has labeled the churches in North America as heretical. There is a way out here--and it is not pronouncing judgment from our constructed pulpits.... I dream a dream for the churches. It is like the dream I have where I am not the cookie cutter of my mother or sisters--it is a dream of being known....

This pattern of rejection reminds me of circumstances in my life. Yesterday was my sister's birthday. I did not call. I did not write. Yet I prayed for her constantly. But she will not speak to me because we differ so dramatically --because I am a Christian, because I am a Christian priest, because I do not understand her approach to our mother's death (she thought my brother's abuse of our mother acceptable--and still does), and on and on.

In all this--there is a way out of our prisons, our ruts, our pulpits, our judgments of self and other. It is not a dream. It is on the table before us. Constantly.

And it is not judgment. And even if it is judgment, it is the judgment of resurrection. Of this, I am convinced.

From morning prayer: (John 8:12-16) 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."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

speak of sin aloud--sin loses. eventually.

We went to see the movie The Reader yesterday. It is a movie which ends as it begins, with the narration of the story. There are no judgments, no discussions of the devastating story.... there were times when the story seems to clear and one might think, --oh, this is a contrast in morality and law, or, --oh this is a contrast in reflection and learning, or, --oh, generation gaps, or, or.... But in the end, one is left with a bundle of contrasts and the despair and hope of the human condition.

The movie is absolutely beautiful. It is absolutely devastating. It is about being caught up in our own times and circumstances with self preservation and preservation of the status quo being our foundation and bearings; it is about the reality of not being able to step outside the way it is; it is about how we are bound to each other. It is about how we most often self-limit and continue to bear oppressive silence and weight of experience.....

One person experienced a woman as deadly prison guard who allowed persons to be incarcerated in a work camp and die burning in a bombed-out burning church; another person experienced the same woman as passionate lover who opened unimagined sensibilities, tenderness, and betrayal. And the woman herself, caught up in what came next, making a living, and trying to maintain order, lived a life of shame. So, which was she? --brutal death machine, broken lover or shameful animal eking out a living....

...all carried in silence. the closet. ....hidden.

Sin, true sin flourishes in silence. Perhaps that is why we confess aloud. Not so that God can hear it--God knows. But so that we can hear it, and in speaking it aloud it loses its power.

When Jesus wrote in the sand at the feet of the scribes, pharisees and a woman, perhaps they all saw their dehumanizing objectification of her, and she saw her own self-loathing and shame.

And there is no condemnation in Our Lord--only abundant life.

From morning prayer (John 8: 3-11) The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you.

Still living with the hole in the bathroom wall..... perhaps if I write it in the plaster dust on the floor....

Monday, February 9, 2009

it is well for the heart....

Mr. Witty got his mid-winter bath in our new shower.... He thought it would be wonderful because there is no longer a shower door---just a see through thingy that would be easy to get through and escape the torture.... but not so! And to his horror we added a snakey thing with a sprayer to the shower, so he can be sprayed no matter where he cowers! Poor, poor Witty. But now he is all glossy and feeling pretty smarty, skipping around.

But, we are still living with the hole in the wall.... perhaps today will be the day we can stop stumbling through tools and living with plaster dust throughout the house....

And it is warm enough, perhaps I shall work in the garden. Try to begin to create beauty out of mid-winter chaos and tend to the camellia--just to see how close it is to announcing spring with its amazing blooms.

My prayers continue today for those --for my nephew who continues to be ill, for K. whose mother died, for L. who needs courage and peace, for B. who has been in pain, for V. who has had surgery, for C. in jail, for A. who is alone, for K. fighting addiction, for A. in recovery, for A. who is ill, for L. stepping out, for those injured and offended by the church, for J. who is angry, for B. who is discouraged and overworked, for G. and family, for C. and L. who are dieing, for R. in his new home and life, for N. and R. who had a car accident, for that old lady in the nursing home, thanksgivings for all those in the parish who engage in kingdom work so quietly.... yes, it is off to the garden now....

From morning prayer: (Hebrews 13:8-10) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

G'wan. Go to church.

....and Jesus would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Yeah. I'll bet.

G'wan. Go to church. Haven't you heard? --Mark is beginning to talk about all that healing stuff.....

(And I think this image is probably a closer glimpse of heaven than we can imagine... just sayin'.)

So, just what is our 'birthright' ??

Last night, I heard words out of the mouth of my beloved that I thought I would never hear. We were discussing the current conflict in the church, and he said (speaking of those who seek to ruin TEC), 'Give them "the church." Let them have it; I am no longer interested in trying to hold on to something for the sake of the idea of it.' He spoke of finding the Gospel only 'outside' the church at this time....

I mean, a devout priest of some 30+ years who has sacrificed much and given much saying 'give them the church.'

Is this like selling our birthright to just get on with what is next--for a bowl of warm soup?

This is on the heels of something I preached a while ago--about 'the first shall be last and the last shall be first.' --I spoke of the physical reality of being a Christian, that the Gospel will turn the world topsy-turvy.... like when one stands outside a church building, there is usually an obvious front and back, the front with doors and signs and marked entrances--but the minute you cross the threshold, the front of the church becomes the back of the church, or at least no longer the focus.... and that is what it is like to be a Christian...

For Christians, once one crosses the threshold, and what was unseen from the outside becomes central, one MUST cross the threshold again, and seek what is 'outside' to engage the Gospel--to engage what one received inside. A constant first last, last first, first last, last first....

So, give away what we have held most dear, to find what we have held most dear, to hold again what we have held most dear....

Oh dear. Takes courage or it's extremely stupid to do something like that. And giving away the church to find the church---is that like selling our birthright? Perhaps it is only like healing on the Sabbath....or like making a broken sinful woman your first apostle of the Resurrection, or placing the foundation of the Church on someone who denied you three times....

I mean, what do we really need to embolden people to 'be' --to enflesh the Gospel? What is the best way to 'pursue peace' in this ungodly situation....?

From morning prayer (Hebrews 12:12-16) Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Glad Jesus didn't wait....

Today, God willing, the bathroom and the hole in the wall get finished! Get to lunch with a clergy friend, and attend a party for the choir this evening.

I am still pondering the words of the Primates.... but they are institutional words, fear, power and anger words, not Gospel words....

Today at morning prayer Jesus lies. He tells his brothers he doesn't want to go to the festival, they do, so they go without him; and after they are gone, Jesus goes too.

Glad Jesus didn't wait for everyone to understand what he was doing--or for consensus before he did it.... just sayin'. So ungracious of him....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Not Properly Anglican

I have only briefly reflected on the airs emanating from some primates in Alexandria. I have read them but not studied them. Perhaps I will.

So, briefly, I've said it before, but I'll say it again, not all primates live in trees, but perhaps more should....

And all this stuff about TEC being the most egregious offender was, well, feel good for somebody I guess.... but a blind observation. And while our "gracious restraint" was given lip service, it is obviously in direct contradiction to the egregious offense we have given--so which is it? ....and the call to discipline Bishops who don't exercise this "gracious restraint" is a total lack of comprehension of the word autonomous.

Speaking of autonomous--how about exercising gracious restraint and allowing some churches to respond to their context without bitching about it....not getting your ruffles all bent.

Here is a quote for you:

The Church in America, though descending through both the English and Scottish lines of the apostolic episcopacy, is properly not Anglican. Here, as in England, in France and in other countries, the Catholic Church is one in organic union with the universal Body of Christ, holding to the one succession under the one LORD, with the one faith and the one baptism, but she is already, and is more and more manifesting herself to be a distinctively national Church.

....and the National Church of England became, as she still remains, free from foreign control. She became only the more distinctly Catholic by rejecting the uncatholic assumptions of the Pope. ...The Anglican Church, however, maintains successfully her national autonomy. While recognizing the authority of the whole Church Catholic, and remaining ready to obey it should it ever be clearly and legitimately exercised, she supports the right of National Churches to conduct their particular national affairs without foreign intervention. What the Anglican Church claims for herself, she allows to others.

(pg 40, The Church Cyclopaedia; a Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization and Ritual. ed. A.A. Benton. Pub. James Pott and Company, 1883.)

Would that it were so.....

Life on life...

The Church celebrates martyrs--those who have been put to death for the faith, and one may wonder why....

Well, in short, perhaps it is because they become living flesh and blood icons; through them we see the Passion of Our Lord.... and this is not a celebration of a death cult or wish, but the multifaceted truth that in order for there to be life, something must die (remember that one at the dining table)--that when one speaks truth to power, this is always what happens--that the Christian hope of the Resurrection always trumps any fear of death.... and on and on. Icons are windows to the world of the Spirit. One never knows what one might see....

And today, we are offered the opportunity to see through the icons of the martyrs of Japan, 1597, with continued episodes of murder through about 1637. The Franciscans are the persons in the brown robes on the crosses. Of course, the advent of Christianity was a real mixed bag in Japan, with rumors of women being sold in to slavery by the Christians.... this was the same period of aggressive expansion in the new world, and that was not a pretty picture either... and usually only one side of that picture is usually told.

It is never good when faith is utilized by government to uphold its policies and agendas. And it belies the foundation of Christianity--that it upset both the governmental and religious authority....

Curious mix today--the image of power and authority killing, Christians blind to the damage they are doing in new lands and different cultures, faith that captures and emboldens ordinary on life on life.

This powerful little snippet is from the Eucharistic lectionary for the day: (Galatians 2:19-20) Through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I pray that we all might be alive enough to see through the maze and layers of life on life on life, and do the most loving thing we can muster today. And always.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Be part of the hole in the wall gang.....

There is a huge hole in the wall of the upstairs hall with a fan directed at it-- but the leak from our new shower is fixed. Yesterday, as my down stairs hall light fixture filled with water and in the basement streams of water appeared on the walls, I prayed for desert dryness--I forgot that deserts are shaped by water and wind....

And today is the day we remember Cornelius the Centurion.... The gospel for the day includes this: (Luke 13:22-24) Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able." The parable concludes with the houseowner shutting the door and refusing entry to those who come knocking--not recognizing them.

Today, I hear this story this way--striving to get through the narrow door is a dead-end. That door is either shut or is being shut. And what is the narrow door? Well begin with the rules and regulations and then move on to the good ol' boy system, the rule and regulation makers, the 'I will eat with you and only you' syndrome--while those not part of the system are excluded... and it is those 'outsiders' from the far-flung places, the unconnected who are not trying to get in by the narrow door--they will gain access to the house, be in the company of godly people and eat the feast.

Perhaps Cornelius the Centurion--the soldier--enforcer of the powers that be, who broke rank with his own system of authority , risked all and went for the guy hanging out with the outsiders---you know, Jesus, who broke ranks with both the governmental authority and the Temple rule makers--- sure, try for the narrow door, but..... perhaps there is a broad and open way--a huge hole in the walls and narrow constructs we build--an unexpected open way to the heart of God. Wide open, shaped by water and wind.....

....perhaps I should go look in that hole in my wall for some hidden treasure....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

damnit--a flood

Well, the morning is off to an interesting start. with a flood.....

Joel started to use our brand new shower, and had been in there for a few minutes when I thought I heard some water dripping. When I drew near to the chase where the water comes up and the drain goes down, I thought I kept getting splashed-- but thought it was from the shower itself. So, I went downstairs to follow the sound, and water was gushing out of the wall, and the ceiling lamp (which was on) was filled with water. So, my first thought was to get Joel out of the water before he was electrified, did that, scared him to death, and then I went back down stairs, stood on the dry wood floor, reached in and switched the light off.....

No shock--we are both alive, the walls of the house all the way to the basement are wet..... hopefully we can get it dried out and it won't mold..... hopefully the old plaster won't curdle and blister.... damnit damnit damnit damnit and the "s" word and the "f" word....

At morning prayer, it is the story of Abraham casting his first son and his mother out in to the desert.... I hope I can dry the house out.... I'm praying for desert dryness....

Monday, February 2, 2009


For the past month we have lived in construction mess---first in the basement (we have a fully finished basement) where the shower was a real mess--tile directly on plywood which leaked and molded.... so a whole new shower there.... and now upstairs where we had a vinyl shower and surround which leaked, so we yanked that out and now have had a new tub and a tile surround installed which inspired us to paint and fix up the rest of the bathroom--now a project going in to its third week.... but we can see the light at the end of the bathroom, so to speak. So, hiho hiho it's off to work I go!!!