Tuesday, March 31, 2009

whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you

Today is the day when the church remembers John Donne. It is also the birthday of Cesar Chavez.

It's amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease. When the poor share some of the power that the affluent now monopolize, we will give a damn.

Such is the bread and wine of my childhood. My father woke me early one day in the late '60s, and we drove over the foothills to join Chavez on the last leg of a 300+ mile walk to the State Capitol to protest working conditions for the California farm workers. I am not sure my father was as supportive of all the rights of the farm workers as he was concerned that there be toilets available in the fields where they worked.

We all start somewhere.... by the end of the day, I had moved beyond the toilet issue, although at some point during the day the toilet had become an urgent imperative for which I had a whole new appreciation.

Or, as John Donne said so well,
Each man's death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

The Collect for the Eucharist today: Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A reading from the Lectionary (Wisdom 7:24-8:1)

For Wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

May we all have the wisdom to see and know and act on behalf of one another.

I am off to the hospital early. Our formerly homeless parishioner is being interviewed for a rehab center so he can learn to walk again.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Christus Rex

The heaviness of Holy Week is already pressing upon me.

It is a week rampant with the Gospel of John. And so many feel that John is a difficult Gospel--rampant with hatred of the Jews, convoluted, and laden with a violent theology of the cross.

And they are right.

John throws it all in our face--

And let's not stop there --it is a feminist theology and story (I mean, come on, how can any one logically assume that the Beloved Disciple is a man, when over and over again at the foot of the cross it reads, the women, the women the women and Jesus speaks to one of them), and yes, feminist because of the triumph over violence and death without either of those things being magically cured or overcome through more violence. It is hard for me to write this--my sisters are sitting on my shoulders whispering, "but, but, but, but...."

It is hard to write and know that "by his wounds we are healed" without some assuming that this condones and even elevates violence; that is not it at all. In John, we can point to the signs and teachings; we can point to the not-quite-getting-it-discipleship; we can point to the reaction of violence and lies; we can point to the death on the cross; we can point to the tomb; we can point to the resurrection. What happens in-between is mystery and known only to God. And the Gospel of John points to those things and says--this is how we know what we know, and there is no other way to know Jesus, and when you know Jesus, you know what can be humanly known of God.

And for most of us the revelation of Jesus is slow-going. For the Samaritan woman, it is a slow process from seeing Jesus as just another man making demands, to a man who knows everything about her. For the man, blind from birth, it is a slow process of "seeing" Jesus, from "I do not know," to prophet, to The One.

And, everything in John is written so that we might "see" the mystery, as best as we are able.

One of the signs we must see to know God is Jesus on the cross. And have no fear, Jesus reigns from the cross; God subverts the sign of shame and death to a sign of glory and life.

It is not a story of endurance and accepting violence and pain and humiliation. It is a story of subversion and mystery and ultimately, a story of liberation and trust. (The cross, just like the desert, a place of deprivation, solitude and death, can be the place where God is most intimately present and caring.)

I am already in Holy Week.

From morning prayer (John 9:1-17) As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet."

It is a sign that Jesus reigns from the cross. We cannot know the full mystery of it. If we are disciples, we are always not quite getting it. I suppose if we did get it, our bodies would explode.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

G'wan. Go to church

That's when all the trouble started.

It was when the Greeks asked to see Jesus.
G'wan. Go to church. Hear about how Jesus said the hour is now.

What would make you go away?


Today is a big run/race so we are cut off on all sides like an island. Both at home and church. We are expecting a call shortly, to go out with a cousin of Joel's. I don't know how far we will get.

And I should never do it, but I read my email before I said my prayers.... One of the emails pointed to a report about the Episcopal Church, its patterns of membership, attendance, mission and giving. It was quite sobering --on a quick read I can glean that the church is truly suffering. The report states that the church is suffering from a lack of identity; I read that to mean that the current arguments over sexuality, biblical interpretation, and the way we structure ourselves to govern ourselves are themselves the very issues that are causing us to hurt and others to jump ship.

Yeah. Duh.

They conclude that we must make a move toward identity.... I think we have an identity calling which is well stated already--we should more and more look and act like Christ. And what we need to do is state clearly what we think Christ looks like--a radical outlaw or the rule-keeper of eternal judgment.... I think Jesus is more the radical outlaw. And besides, he ate, drank and died with outlaws....

Anyway --I have to run. Not in the race, but to other things.

Is it so difficult to see Jesus as a radical outlaw? It wouldn't be the first time...

From morning prayer (John 6:60-71) When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil." He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

I have no wish to go away. But sometimes.... What would make you go away?

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bailout decisions made very clear

"The faith of a gay bishop...."

A really really great article written on +Gene Robinson. It is truly worth the whole read. To tempt you, here is a great quote:

On persevering: How do we keep this up? How do I keep this up, day after day? Because we know how it's going to end, don't we? Our struggle is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, in the life and ministry and leadership of the church. I have no doubt whatsoever. The fight that's going on now is not about if it's going to happen. It's only about when. I think even the conservatives would tell you that. They're just trying to forestall the day it is fulfilled. Not if, but when. We know how it's going to end. And whether we live to see it or not is irrelevant. The question is, are we going to play our part?

He is freakin' inspiring. I want to be a Christian like him....

Go read the whole thing. Thanks to Fran for pointing us to this article.


Today feels like one of those days where anything I do would be no more than charging at windmills. The pain and hurt and misery of the world seems almost overwhelming.

So, it being my day off, I will tend to sister ass, and drag her to the gym; and for the love of it all, I will visit the formerly homeless parishioner in the hospital; and because it would be impossible to do anything without them, I will carry a surprise to two of my staff because one has a birthday today, and the other tomorrow.

And as to the pain and hurt and misery of the world--I will put a bead in my pocket and stop every so often to pray, knowing that the One who holds all things in being, already knows, and weeps and suffers --oh shit, the phone --too early

--okay, the formerly homeless parishioner is having trouble at the hospital. Off I go. This line pressed on me at morning prayer --"he also predestined" --what a crock of bull. For all you predestinators out there --I apologize if I have offended, but it is not "predestined." --it is more like 'already determined' --it would read 'those he already knew he already determined to be conformed to the image of his Son."

Don't forget, the whole freakin' world is the image--icon of Christ. Running now....

From morning prayer (Rom. 8:28- 39) We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you get that last part? If anything were predetermined, that would be it --NOTHING in all creation, not even time, will be able to separate us from the love of God.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words

Today I must rush as I am heading south to attend a Jackson-Feild Board meeting. First established by two Episcopal churches to help the orphans of a typhoid epidemic in the mid-nineteenth century, it now helps teenage girls in a bunch of trouble. It is a school and residential program in two locations, one site specializing in helping pregnant teens.

I ask your prayers for these girls. Most come from hopeless situations, and they have very little hope beyond gratifying the next impulse.

And I ask your prayers for our formerly homeless parishioner, FHP, who remains in the hospital. The hospital called at 9:30pm last night--FHP had fallen, --could I come in and sit with FHP as extreme agitation had inspired FHP to pull out all the I-V stuff and etc. So, I went and sat with FHP for about an hour. I sang and read 'til FHP fell asleep like a baby. I am hoping FHP has not lost hope....

And please pray for parishioner "T" who has been living in the dark cloud of depression and without hope, hospitalized twice.

And the the parishioners who have lost jobs and not found other employment.

From morning prayer (Romans 8: 24-27) For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Hope. Damn. Sometime Paul is on fire he is so good.
Blessings all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lent is riddled with goodness.

The Collect of the Day: Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A smiling Gabriel--the mirth of God. Mary embodying the joy.

The ancient song of Miriam, song of liberation and freedom, song of the oppressed standing on the other side, dancing. This, the Song of Mary. She who took ordinary bread, ordinary wine, and made the flesh and blood of Christ. Theotokos, God Bearer. She, the icon of priesthood.

May we all risk the joy. Now. Today.

The Song of Mary, Magnificat
Luke 1:46-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Lent is always riddled with goodness. That's the point of Lent. Leading us to Good Friday and beyond. Let the mirth get under your skin. Right in to your gut.

Blessed be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

++Oscar Romero

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever. Amen.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, appointed to be Bishop because he was perceived as a pushover by the powers that be; converted to the suffering of the poor and oppressed through his position of authority.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, slain as a lamb of God at the altar of God by the powers that be.

From the Eucharistic Lectionary to remember ++Oscar Romero (John 12:23-32) Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

It's like Good Friday today. Already. Joel and I worked with a group in northern California who helped El Salvadorians relocate during this awful slaughter. Please pray for all political refugees and for those who work for justice and peace and the dignity of every human being.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Mass of triage

Ah, the joys of inner-city ministry. Yesterday was a howler.

At the eight o'clock service we had a drunk man who obviously had lived on the streets for quite some time find his way to a pew before the beginning of the service. That is fine with me. But this guy fell over in the pew part-way through the sermon --and we had a member of the congregation preaching. Well, falling over in the pew is okay too --except then he began making a real racket, snoring and all, and it was causing distress among the congregation because they couldn't hear the sermon.

So, as I was not presiding, I slipped out, and to disrupt as little as possible, went down to the basement and up into the narthex and then into the back of the nave and found the guy in the pew. My plan was to rouse him enough to get him sitting up again so he would not 1) snore so loudly and 2) potentially aspirate spit or vomit if that were to happen....

Well, I shook him. Nothing. Shook him again. Nothing. Shook him hard. Nothing. Grabbed his jacket and speaking to him tried to get him to respond. Nothing. Now I was worried about him. I tried to get him to respond with a vigorous shaking. Nothing. I tried to sit him up --but could not on my own.

So I looked at "B" --our Associate Priest who is a big ol' guy and knows most the homeless guys by name, and motioned to him to come back. He was presiding --so it kinda disrupted the service. The preacher stopped, parishioners who were nurses and doctor types followed "B" to the back of the church. Between all of us, now free to shout and make noise, got the guy sort of roused, but we still couldn't move him so we propped him up in the pew and continued with the service.

The preacher was a real champ.

So, after the service, I tried to get the guy out of the church --oh my God, he smelled so so so so bad. One of the worst I have ever smelled. But we couldn't rouse him again. Then our Director of Formation came up to me and said, the guy in the chapel is schizophrenic and says he needs his meds and the pharmacy is closed and I think he is telling the truth. And "B" had slipped out for coffee. So I asked DF to sit with the needs-meds guy while I went to call the police for assistance with the un-rouseable; Then went back to the needs-meds guy to talk with him and see what he needed while DF went to wait for the police. And I had to tell need-meds guy that the police were coming, but not for him, and that when "B" got back we would see what we could do. So the police get there and recognize the un-rouseable and try to revive him and DF and I change places, she with needs-meds so he wouldn't freak out --and the police finally get the un-rouseable roused and moving toward the door and I go to make a phone call to a pharmacy for needs-meds and the phones suddenly don't work and "B" comes back and I ask him to get needs-meds whatever he needs.... and he says, your word is my command. If I didn't want to kiss him so, I would have popped him.

So, the un-roused is roused and with the help of the police, out the door (not to be arrested --just moved on--I thought he should be sent to de-tox, but left it in the hands of the police), the needs-meds is tended to, and DF and I wipe down all the pews with bleach wipes for all kinds of reasons, and trying to get the stench quelled, but to no avail. So we opened all the doors in the church, lit scented candles because we couldn't find any other air freshener --I was ready to pull out the thurible etc....

And then it was time for the next service, and my beloved has gone to pick up our parishioner who is transitioning from the streets to living with a bed and a roof, but they are very late, so even though I am presiding my antennae are out searching for them --they come in at the Gospel, and during the sermon the previously homeless parishioner is making a racket trying to get his walker in to the pew with him and I notice he is not moving in a very successful fashion.... and I feel such great fear for him, and compassion for our preacher who once again is preaching in to a homeless racket....

But all were fed. Bread and wine enough. And nobody died.

After church, an acolyte was trained as a thurifer. A bicycle ride happened. The Lenten evening series was prepared. But our parishioner couldn't get his legs to obey him, couldn't hold on to a coffee hour plate of goodies which ended up on the floor, so my beloved took him to the hospital.... which is a whole other story.... the hospital wanted to write him off as a homeless drunk --and he is neither at this point... but the doctors wouldn't listen... finally the nurse who was trying to get him dressed for discharge from the ER would listen and finally got the doctors to look more closely...

In dealing with the bodies of society's cast-offs, I sometimes wonder if what I am doing is what I am supposed to be doing. I didn't become a priest to be a social worker. My job is not to "help" people but to set the table for conversion which leads to eternal life. But, when the body is in trouble, and bread and shelter and medical healing are necessary, it's just triage time. It was very interesting--no, startling to be serving at the altar in the midst of all the incarnational triage. Gave me a whole new fresh breath on the healing stories/parables...

I wonder if Gregory ever did triage in the midst of mass for the Armenians....

From morning prayer (John 6: 1-7) After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

G'wan. Go to church

This is Jesus and the Madonna.

I don't know where Nicodemus is--maybe he is hiding. Maybe he ran away when Jesus started talking about being lifted up and Moses and snakes and all that. Maybe Jesus is hiding the snake.

But, g'wan. Go to church. And if you see the light, don't worry. It's just judgment.

Speaking truth to power

The day before the ordination of our now Suffragan Bishop, +Johnston, the Presiding Bishop, ++KJS, met with the clergy of this Diocese for questions and answers. One priest stood and asked some question/made a statement about being marginalized as a conservative, and what place did the conservatives have in the church.... which is a real laugh, because the conservatives have been handed everything on a silver platter, and are not barred from full participation in the Body of Christ at all. And all they are trying to say is the platter belongs to them and no one else....

Anyway--I don't really remember the question I asked, but I think it had to do with a reformation and new ways of thinking about "being" church. And there was some general discussion about it.... what was more important was that afterward, +Johnston sought me out (in a room stuffed with hundreds of clergy-types) and said some such thing as "--it's scary, isn't it, speaking truth to power."

I was flattered that he sought me out, but non-plussed at his comment, because I had not thought that was what I was doing. Mostly because ++KJS served on the COM in the Diocese of Oregon that passed me for ordination--mostly because I have tossed a few coolers around with her--literally. The big coolers, filled with ice and drinks....

I was not ever afraid of her. But I have learned in these last two years to be afraid of the guys in pink. Not because of the power and authority they wield, but because of what they have exercised with that power and authority--institutional goals over the Gospel. And, I don't see that having a Bishop who says that full inclusion is a "Gospel imperative" but then acts in a way which is polar opposite for the sake of the so-called Windsor Process --I see that as very scary.... And I have said that to all my Bishops, and the response has been --so sorry that you see what we are doing as institutional goals and not Gospel....

Well, Gospel doesn't include refraining from doing what you believe is righteous for the sake of those who disagree, especially when it is not you that must bear the cost, but give the price of suffering to others. Even in the description of the meeting in Acts, when folks were upset that those damn Gentiles were going to be treated as one and the same, Peter waffled, but Paul was sent out to see what the fruit of his work would be. Broke the old Law every step of the way....

This day we are set to remember a Bishop, Thomas Ken (1637-1711), who spoke truth to one who could have cut his head off. Would that my Bishops would step up to that line. And then beyond.

Collect for the Day: Almighty God, you gave your servant Thomas Ken grace and courage to bear witness to the truth before rulers and kings: Give us strength also that, following his example, we may constantly defend what is right, boldly reprove what is evil, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

From the Eucharistic Lectionary (Philippians 4:4-9) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I love it that spell-check always gives "reactionary" as a corrective to "lectionary."

Friday, March 20, 2009

We will be known by our love

Members of our church suffer.... they suffer because they are treated as "less than" in this Diocese, and they bear the weight of the sin of the church with their flesh and blood. Their relationships are forbidden recognition, and ordination is out of the picture.

Our Bishop Johnston just denied a third-year seminarian and postulant ordination because of love... while in another arena of our Communion, ++Bishop Peter Akinola is supporting legislation which targets homosexuals with violent persecution and threats of death; his behavior to TEC has been aggressive and damaging --especially here in Virginia. And that is only the tip of the iceberg.... and no one is speaking out against his actions, or taking action to censure him. Some claim silence is passive approval and participation in the violence of his actions.

And I agree. We should not be silent. But what is a Gospel response to these actions by Bishops of the Church? I think I have at last found one. Over at Louie Crew's page, Natter, he posted a letter which he wrote addressing these very issues. It is the most compelling response I have yet seen.

Subject: ++Peter and resolutions at GC

Of course we need to counterstate ++Peter's messages of hate and violence. However, we should respond to him in love, not in condemnation.

I promise to give ++Peter a great big hug and a kiss of peace if he will show up at Anaheim. Those with easier access to him might routinely invite him to dine with lgbt Christians.

St. Peter has scheduled several thousand years for ++Peter and me to be in joyful conversation with each other in heaven, and I am all for beginning those conversation right now.

If lgbt people lived down to ++Peter's expectations of us, I would be opposed to lgbts too. He lives in almost complete isolation from us.

The best response to ignorance and isolation is the truth lovingly and patiently spoken. Even if some have terminal earwax, others are eavesdropping on our conversations, and they will know that we are Christians by how much we love those who abuse us, who say all manner of evil against us falsely.

I did not set up those terms, but I will not betray Christianity to accommodate the limits of my patience. Seventy times seven is not 490; it is an infinite and immeasurable number. It's the number God uses when forgiving me my sins.

The feast is not ++Peter's or mine to control: Jesus issues the invitation; Jesus paid the bill.


Couldn't help it--but in reading morning prayer, I heard Louie Crew's words between every word of Paul's admonition to the Corinthians to keep the faith....

From morning prayer (2 Corinthians 6:1-10) As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

"At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you."

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

I wept as I read. I stand in awe of such faith and am inspired again to strive to live it. And I do love the boa.... but it would not do for me what it does for Louie.

Thank you, sir, for your witness.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The R.A.F. in my office

I got blown away yesterday.

An older man, Mr. D. --well, let's just say he's old because he's 89, came into my office with a copy of an article he has just had published. He wanted me to put it in his funeral folder so that I could have a reference to his life....

And we talked. And talked. I won't talk about what we talked about, but I will quote the article, which is titled, Aerial Warfare and the Ethics Of Collateral Damage, published in The Torch, (Vol 82, No. 2).

His introduction begins, This paper is written with two thoughts in mind. First, to expiate the lingering regret for the role I played over 60 years ago in the inadvertent, collateral damage to numerous innocent German citizens, especially their little ones. ...[and to] essentially eliminate the enormous loss of innocent live that inevitably occurs during modern wars, especially if the doctrine of "mutual assured destruction" is continued in this age of nuclear capability and the threat of terrorism.

Mr. D joined the RAF in 1938 and flew 64 missions as a "navigator, bomb-aimer and gunner" over occupied Europe and Germany. He earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and flew in the elite squadron of the Pathfinders.

Mr. D estimates that he, personally, killed about 300 persons in his career as a bomber-aimer. He wants to tell the world that he did his duty, he did it well, and he thinks we should not do war. Ever again.

He writes, Following my discharge from the R.A.F., I studied medicine in Canada, taking the Hippocratic Oath and joining the Hippocratic Honor Society. My private practice in R. was most gratifying, but it did not compensate for or eradicate the persistent guilt....

Oh, what our warriors bear for our sake. Please pray that Mr. D finds the peace he longs for. For all of us. I assured him of God's grace, but sometimes our sin is like a comfortable shoe we cannot give up, or a close friend we choose to live with.... you know what I mean?

From morning prayer (Rom. 5:20-21) ...but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A see-through house

I once knew people in northern California that had a beautiful home, all glass, rock and clear redwood nestled in the forest and surrounded by redwood trees, rhododendrons and azaleas with a glimpse through the trees of the ocean. The house was one of those modern homes built to be seamless between the environment and the habitation. By living in the house, they lived in the woods, no question.

Not this house, but one like it. Thoroughly modern. See through.

(This is a house in Big Sur....)

They bought the house, moved in, lived there a year, and then covered the windows with drapes, and painted the house orange, inside and out. They decided that a Pacific slope was too foggy, colorless and dreary-- and they needed to jazz it up.


I think painting one's see-through house in the woods orange is a good picture of what sin is--not comprehending who we are, where we are, how we are to be, we think we are jazzing ourselves up and miss the whole point.

Which brings me to Cyril, whose day is today --an interesting Bishop who gets run out of his See more than once because he experimented with expressing a Christian vision of Trinitarian thought, beyond the Arian and the opposing credal configuration which became norm.

I think the church has junked itself up--painted itself orange, by silencing, running out and preventing thought which may take us to the brink, but which may also offer us a new view of the house we live in.... sometimes I think the church should not stand out in its thought, but be see-through, structural, architectonic in the woods in which we live. We are scared of those who come with paint-thinner who want to see what is underneath our self-imposed layers of paint, or those who want to take the curtains down and clean the windows....

Yeah, Cyril finally said--I like orange! and gave up his arguments and exploration, settling with the idea that the Nicene Creed said all correctly that could be said about the Trinity.

My hope is that those who have a vision of the see-through house, will. While at the same time, the seamless see-through sanctuary stands obvious but part of the landscape.... No vision is ever complete or says it all. But that we have faith that God loves us, in all our drapery antics and frantic paint-jobs.

From morning prayer (Rom. 5:8) But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Blessed Lent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love those who would rather enslave you....

Last week, sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my ride, I overheard a conversation a couple of tables away--and realized it was a Bible study.... so, I listened. And became so discouraged. Their work in that book.... it was all about magic, and rules. They trusted in God, the micro-manager.... God, the nano-manipulator.

How could they? ....turn the God of peace and grace into a secretive powerful admiral directing a cosmic battle of power of which they were a part--were warriors? What tiny, fearful, beaten little spirits they must have... that's all I could conclude.

And today is St. Patrick's day. An example of one who returned to those who kidnapped and enslaved--who, by rights under their law would be a runaway --a lawbreaking fugitive.... and he returned to them, self-possessed, bringing word of peace and grace.

Paul reminds us this morning in the readings for morning prayer that we are called to live a life beyond what is required of us in the Law. (Rom. 4:13-16) For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law....

If you do not know the story of St. Patrick, here it is told well enough by a child:

Grace and peace to all today--and don't forget to risk loving those who would rather enslave you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Swimming the deep

Last night at our Lenten series there was some talk about our Bishop, Peter James Lee, and his pending move to Grace Cathedral in the Diocese of California. There were expressions of hope for him, and despair and anger for how he is leaving us.... One commented that when they had been to Grace Cathedral and the prayers began to pray for many other world religions, they had felt an internal shock of sorts--and wondered how +PJL was going to adjust to the wider and different fields of Grace.

I laughed--knowing what they were talking about, because Diocese of California is my home, and there, the Pacific rim is always an invitation to wide-open thought, and I am viewed somewhat as a middle of the road soul... if not bordering on conservative by my friends because I confess to being a Christian, and I go to church.... but in this Diocese of Virginia, I am a flaming liberal, if not a radical. Part of that frame is given to me because of the parish I serve-- but I believe the other part of that is because I am an outsider, from "that" seminary not "the" seminary....

Labels are such sad things. Because no one spends the time to find out where people are "coming from."

This morning in morning prayer, people question Jesus about where he is coming from, and he basically says, 'you have no idea where I am coming from, and you can't get there from here....'

Literally immersed in the Pacific rim, I was taught by my father to swim in the cold ocean waters of northern California--and one began to decide where to test the waters by standing on a cliff and watching the tides roll in and out, known by the curl and froth and draw. And then, one would cast one's eyes out to find where the water went dark--to find the shelf where the land would drop away suddenly. In a space of ten feet, the continent could literally disappear, and drop away--into thousands of feet of cliff and nothingness. In the dark water, anything could happen. I was taught one must never swim there because of the unpredictable chaos of the deep. Not to mention the great white sharks. Sleeper waves, cold temperatures, rip tides, sharks--it's a wonder my father let me within a thousand feet of the beach. But he did, and he taught me well. He taught me how to read where the waters were coming from, and how to get from there to here.

Of course, my father swam in the dark waters all the time. He knew the way.

In a few more chapters of this current morning prayer Gospel, at the last dinner together, betrayer and beloved side by side, Jesus says, 'you do know where I am going, and I am preparing a place there for you.' I guess he had stood long enough on the cliff with them scouting the waters, and trusted they knew the way.

It's Lent. Drop the labels. Learn to scope out the waters.

(John 7:13-36) Jesus then said, 'I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.' The Jews said to one another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, "You will search for me and you will not find me" and "Where I am, you cannot come"?'

Saturday, March 14, 2009

G'wan. Go to church

Remember? (My parents would let me go to a Mao rally in Berkeley, but they didn't like rock music, so they wouldn't let me see Superstar live.... sigh.) Anyway, enjoy....

....oh, and by the way, g'wan, go to church. Jesus felt badly for what he did, and he has been making it up to bankers and merchants and all the other law abiding temple-goers ever since.

Play with me

It's my birthday! Thank you mom--thank you dad! Mom said I was always the most considerate baby--I was the smallest (of the five of us--I was 7 pounds and something), was two weeks early, and was born in time to give everybody a chance to see me and then get off to school on time. I used to think that was great--until I figured out that meant she was up all night....

Finally gave up on trying to patch my other browser and vista in order to play videos --switched to mozilla, and now, after months of not being able to play youtubes went crazy last night. I found these.... please play with me:

To visualize Bach is such a freakin' treat! Hypnotizing.

I used to play the following one--perhaps I should pull some music out and play again... it's been such a long time.

And this concert was one of the most exhilarating gifts in a very long time --(thank you again 'A team'). I have heard Amazing Grace so many times at so many funerals, if I never heard it again I would be okay.... but this bluesy version turned me on to it again--Thank you Tommy... So, if I die anytime soon (no, I'm not planning on it, nothing's wrong--but as a cancer survivor, sister death is always as close as my shadow), please feel free to play it like this:

Now, off to work I go--to talk to a couple about jumping the broom, to another person about baptism, and then to hammer out a sermon on Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple.... oh my!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

this is the day the Lord has made

I know that when one is very busy, one should pray longer, take more time. But right now, my usual time is going to be filled with these things: going to the church to talk to the cleaning crew about "things" --to see if it really is snowing like the weather man said it would --to open a new bank account for the church --and to get my hair cut!

Got news this week that I have been accepted as a volunteer at General Convention. I'm excited for that.

Blessings all --

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Reading the Gospel of John is like kneading bread, folding and punching a sticky floury mass over on itself. Reading the Gospel of John is like walking in library stacks--every phrase a whole book in itself.

This Gospel is the food of morning prayer lately. And the line which stopped me in my tracks this morning is about the resurrection --to life or "condemnation."

(John 5:28-29) the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out-those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

First, I love this image of the Resurrection of Jesus, holding hands with Adam and Eve and pulling them out of the grave with him. The thought of that....

Second, in praying over this scripture--the word is NOT condemnation, it is "crisis" (in Greek: kriseos) --better translated as time of choice.

The image I hold in tension with this scripture is of Jesus in hell--in hades, the underworld--whatever, breaking the bonds and chains that bind one, and at the resurrection, the gates of hell itself are blasted apart, pulled off the hinges, the walls crumbled and the gates mangled. There is nothing to keep anyone there by force---but, the crisis--- you may stay if you choose....

It is God's choice that we are free to choose.... the crisis is ours. The resurrection of life or the resurrection of choice.... free to choose....

I must run--I will keep folding this crisis over and over in my mind and thought and deeds today....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In this, anger not a sin....

Sin is such a weird thing.

So many times, anger is seen as sinful. And so many times it is, because we do not use anger as a creative wedge to open things up, to seek God at work--we use it as a sledge to beat things down and destroy things, control things and make them over in our own image, as we would have them be.

Young and married for only about eight years, I called my priest and asked if he could meet me for a confession--he said of course. So, he came over to my house--well, it was my mother's house--it was the last great recession in the mid-eighties, and Joel and I had been through the wringer, including me being in the hospital five times, and we were living in my mother's garage.... I had been in the hospital because I had ectopic pregnancies (the fertilized eggs kept getting stuck in my fallopian tubes--VERY dangerous and exceedingly painful). We were financially, spiritually, emotionally wrecked.

So my priest came over, and I said I wanted to confess --confess that I was so angry I didn't know what to do. Angry at the state of the world, angry at the loss of my babies, angry that we were ruined....

And his words to me were like balm--he said that I had not sinned, and that in this my anger was not sin--was not confessable, in fact it was my greatest strength --that it was my anger that was keeping me alive and focused.... he laid hands on me, anointed me, and prayed for healing....

The very thing that I thought was most sinful--my anger, he basically said it was my strongest tool. And when the anger simmered down to grief, I had a better understanding....

In the letter to the Romans, Paul does not equate anger as a sin....every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,a foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless (Rom. 1:31-32). No anger.....

As time has passed since those awful days, I can more clearly see that he was right--the anger was a gift that got me through the valley of death. The mounds of sin that were indeed present, I can see more clearly with hind-sight, and perhaps that is as it should be. We are given the gift of clarity as we can bear it.

As Lent is typically seen as a time for housecleaning in our lives--as a period of reformation and preparation for a Resurrection life, I pray that I may see and know the difference between what is sin, and what is not sin. I pray for clarity and peace.

And I must always remember that judgment is potentially the worst sin of all... (From morning prayer, Rom. 2:1-2:11) Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, 'We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.' Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one's deeds.

Blessed be our sister, anger, who carries us through the times of trial....and God help us when we judge.

Have a blessed Wednesday in Lent.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Yesterday afternoon, a friend called and asked to go on a bike ride. I agreed conditionally, saying that I had not been on a bike since October, and I am not sure how my broken foot would perform--and I had every other excuse in the book.

We went, and I was amazed--Spring is springing. Frogs were croaking, weeds were anxiously blooming, saw two snakes, the air gentle and warm--t-shirt weather, ...the aroma in the air spoke to everything cutting loose in life soon. I do believe that winter will give us another shake or two, and then the world will change from brown to green.

In today's Gospel (John), Jesus speaks of believing merely because of signs and wonders. The implication is that we believe, not because we grasp the truth, but because the caress of action we can understand becomes the foundation of truth. And that place of faith is a shallow place.

The reality is, when we are no longer able to comprehend action or anything else at all--dead to this world, it will not be our faith which saves us, but the faith of him who was raised from the dead which shall save us.

From morning prayer (John 4:43-54) When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet's own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, 'Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' The official said to him, 'Sir, come down before my little boy dies.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your son will live.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, 'Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.' The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.' So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

All the signs are now saying it will be one of those twelve-hour days... but it's all good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Be shaped and formed as a friend of God

There are a couple of persons and places that have really shaped and formed me as a Christian. One is, of course, my beloved, through whom I learn of God's unconditional love--which began when he shattered my prudish piety.... I was 16 and upset that someone was playing a very bawdy saxophone in the chapel at the Bishop's Ranch in Sonoma County.... somehow he convinced me that the chapel was the very place that one should play a bawdy sax, God taking great joy in the things of the body such as music and thrill and sex....

A place and people which have really shaped and formed me is the community of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. I served as a seminary intern there. Praying with one's whole body--all the senses, is such a liberating experience. Walls covered with art exhibits, vibrant color and texture of textiles, icons of dancing saints, the smell of bread baking while worship is occurring, touching and being touched on the shoulder, grasped by hand, playing with sound--nothing but the human voice with drums and bells folded in reverberating in a place built for sound, conversations of the heart shared

--all this.... a sensory overload in worship. Blew me apart inside. I feel like I experienced true worship there.... worship which was then lived out and shared in service and fellowship and learning.

And today is St. Gregory's Day. One of the directives of St. Gregory's is to learn to be a friend of God. (James 2.23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. Friendship--not high falooting stuff, but the ordinary walking alongside in love and joy.

Here is something which St. Gregory wrote, reminding us of the ordinary in our friendship with God: “So we say to God: Give us bread. Not delicacies or riches, nor magnificent purple robes, golden ornaments, and precious stones, or silver dishes. Nor do we ask Him for landed estates, or military commands, or political leadership. We pray neither for herds of horses and oxen or other cattle in great numbers, nor for a host of slaves. We do not say, give us a prominent position in assemblies or monuments and statues raised to us, nor silken robes and musicians at meals, nor any other thing by which the soul is estranged from the thought of God and higher things; no—but only bread!..."

Last night at our Lenten series, we shared bread baked by a member of our congregation--and she is only three...it was flat and lumpy and folded over on itself, but the common bread she baked carried us and spoke to us of uncommon places of the heart.

Whenever I see her, I exclaim --"my friend, my friend!" And it is true. She, too, is shaping and forming me as a Christian.

have a blessed St. Gregory's Day --eat bread, dance, worship with your whole body--be formed as a Christian and a friend of god.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

G'wan. Go to church.

and this is Jesus just after Peter invented Lent.

No wonder Peter wanted to walk a little ways behind him. Jesus really didn't need to tell him to do that.
That's the truth. Nothing but the truth.

G'wan. Go to church. Jesus is so busy yelling at Peter he won't have time to yell you.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Not a lateral move; a move to be known, finally

The move of +Peter James Lee to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco can hardly be a typical bishop move--it is not a lateral move at all...

...it is a move to the heart of the matter, to a Diocese with a Bishop who is not afraid to be known.

Bishop Peter James Lee was interviewed by the Washington Post today, with regard to his retirement and his taking on the tasks of being interim dean at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

This part of the discussion grabbed me:

Q: You said you wanted to leave Virginia as soon as you stepped down, and you plan after San Francisco to retire to Chapel Hill, N.C. Why so anxious to leave?

+PJL: "I don't want to be the kind of retired bishop that people sort of call when they're unhappy with the new bishop. I don't want to be dragged into that. Now I'll have more freedom. I won't have to take into account what the most conservative or most liberal lay leaders in Virginia will say about x, y and z."

What really got me was the last line--that he won't have to take into account what the most conservative or most liberal lay leaders will say....

It reminded me of a recent conversation I was privileged to have repeated to me, by the person who had engaged in it--not hearsay. This is a conversation which occurred at our recent Episcopal visit. This was said by a person of great integrity, having served as a lay leader in the Diocese for many decades, a so-called "liberal" by the way. This person said to the Bishop "--we know you have been walking the tightrope in all this, --we won't let you fall."

The Bishop allowed that he had been walking the tightrope, but wasn't sure he understood how we helped in not letting him fall. And this person responded "--well, because, we haven't let go of our end of the tightrope. Others have--but we won't."

I am sure the Bishop will be very relieved, will be very free in San Francisco.... while we continue to live in the oppression and degradation and 2nd class citizenship he required of so many of us.

Sorry --I am just very sad to think that the Bishop put us in boxes--liberal or conservative--rather than engage us meaningfully in the issues, rather than engage us meaningfully, as persons.

Mostly, I am sad that +PJL was afraid to let himself be known. He kept himself hidden from us, never told us what he thought, always keeping silent, never gave us direction or opinion or thought--except that the majority of us were the wide middle of Anglicanism....

Well, dear Bishop, I think you've finally let yourself out of the box on this one, going to the Left Coast and all. Perhaps you are doing this so that you can finally be known.

Shame on you Peter James Lee

Got news by email this morning that the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee will be interim Dean at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in the Diocese of California upon his retirement from this Diocese October 1, 2009.

I'm really trying to take the day off. So, I will try to shuck off the pissed-offness I feel.... except to say, shame on you Peter James Lee --shame on you. Because in the Diocese of California you will be doing what you refused to do here in Virginia for us. You will be serving with openly gay and coupled priests, and you will be presiding where same-sex couples are blessed alongside straight couples.

Why won't you do/allow that here for us?

Shame on you.

I will not put in to writing what I really think....


Today, I feel the need to clear the mind and escape the city for a little bit. So, we are packing a picnic and escaping. It will be warmish, but snow on the ground in shady spots. Mr. Witty loves excursions. So we are set and here we go!

I remember the first time--say about 20 years ago, I heard clergy telling me it was okay to retreat and take care of self. They pointed out that Jesus retreated and spent time by himself...

I guess it is a form of prayer and retreat to walk among trees, breathe that air, and see rural things after the enclosure and congestion of the city. This I know: it rejuvenates me, so that I might come back to work and be 100% available and present to all.

Confession: I was one of those who in 1979 with the change in the prayer book--when first given permission--stood. Stood. Stood. Kneeling was never a posture I understood; as a matter of fact, it rubbed me all the wrong way. Just the way God made me. So, every now and then, when our holy scriptures encourage us to be bold, it is like a caress.... (I know--in the scheme of things, me being bold is like all eighteen pounds of Mr. Witty barking or growling....)

Mr. Witty and me, in the woods..... that is my camping throne, not the throne of grace.

From morning prayer (Heb.4:16) Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The new path

I spent more than a couple hours shoveling snow and chipping ice this week. Which was actually kind of fun. Our Director of Christian Formation came out to join me at the task, which made the job truly pleasurable.

But it was a dangerous job, too. There were huge 5 foot long or more clusters of icicles hanging from the eaves of the roof--beautiful, but deadly as the day warmed up. One cluster fell literally two feet behind me seconds after I had walked there--and another bank of snow fell on the path we had cleared... impaled by icicles... not the way I would choose to go.

I think the next time there is a snow-job like this, I will not clear the regular path where we walk all the time--by the building, but dig a new path through the parking lot--the place where one does not usually walk.... maybe I should make notes and stick them in a file.... so that I will remember, so that those who come after me will know....

None of us really ever likes to admit how close death is around us, all the time. We build a buffer of denial and get on with life. Cancer stripped away my folly and helped me stare death in the face. But I have found that as years pass, it is nearly impossible to stay at that edge of reality; life cannot be lived while staring into the abyss. That darkness is overwhelming. But life is changed having done so.

Sometimes I wonder if, when surrounded by constant death--as in war, or working in a slaughterhouse or the likes, that the shock to the bodily system of constant death either brings normalcy to death or death to normalcy. Either way, how is life lived when death is the norm?

Differently, for sure. Denial of both life and death being first and foremost the greatest fact of what is.

When Jesus was crucified, denial was shattered. Even God dies. Even so, God lives. The eyes of those whom he loved, and who loved him, --their eyes viewed death differently-- And it changed the way they viewed life, the way they viewed sin, the way they lived alongside those who continued to live in darkness--the walking dead--those who had not yet woken up....

And they saw that the walking dead were already 'condemned' --not damned, but condemned.... prisoners dragging the heavy chains of denial around, the blinders of denial--like horses bound to carts, blind to everything except that path which is directly before them.

Hmmm --yah. Get off the path that leads that way--the way we always go. Take off the blinders. Go by the way of a new path.

From morning prayer (John 3:16-21) 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 'Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.'

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snake on a stick

I am convinced that some days it is okay to be not rational.... not irrational, but not rational....

My beloved has studied Kanji --and he says it is wonderful to walk around and see signs and symbols --language written in the clouds, in a puddle, in the trees, in the snow. The world can talk. Quite literally.

Sometimes I wish I could break free of my rational mind, and leap in to the art of being and seeing. Death defying life leaps. Not connect the dots.

In the Gospel reading for morning prayers, when Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, the rational part of me says 'darkness.' The not rational part of me pushes to see 'shame, secret, ignorance,' and more.

And the text itself plays between those two points of rational and not rational. The last line --about Moses lifting up the serpent, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.... well, there is a not rational image for you --Jesus, like a snake on a stick. But, then, that is perfectly rational.

I don't want to know the rational part about snakes being the symbol for both wickedness and wisdom.... I want to see the art of it. I want to see into the mystery... the signs.

From morning prayer (John 3:1-15) Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.' Jesus answered him, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, "You must be born from above." The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.' Nicodemus said to him, 'How can these things be?' Jesus answered him, 'Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 'Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

I think that image above may be too rational. Perhaps this is a better one:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sing a new song

It is 17 degrees out this morning... my poor camellias. Sigh. And my women's clergy group--that keeps me buoyant month to month--has been cancelled. The snow on the ground is preventing some of my companions in the group from travelling down their back roads to the highway.

So, I get to go and find out what shape our parking lot is in, and what safe access there is to the church building --and you know, it is so temporary, because it will be 65 degrees by Friday, and the snow will be gone. All gone.

And today is the day to remember and give thanks to God for John and Charles Wesley. Perhaps I shall stand in the chancel and sing today--in lieu of my clergy meeting. Sing some good ol' Wesley hymns.

From the Eucharist Lectionary for John and Charles Wesley:
Psalm 98:1 (Page 727, BCP)
Cantate Domino
1 Sing to the LORD a new song, *
for he has done marvelous things.

Well, they are not new songs, but they are good songs.... !

I am caught pondering what happens whenever we want or try to sing a new song to the Lord. --you know, the cry "we've never done it that way before" and the cascade of grief and fear and longing (usually edited and romanticised) for what was that follows.


Monday, March 2, 2009

My morning....

Without power since about 10PM last night --just got it all back on at noon.... usually that wouldn't be so bad, except we had a snow storm, with a thunder storm mixed in (poor Mr. Witty!) and we woke up cold, no heat in the house and snowed in! I know 8 inches of snow is not much for places set up for snow --but it shuts everything down in Richmond! This is what spring looks like now..... cherry blossoms covered in snow.

And, we never bothered to buy a snow shovel here, so I attacked the snow with my broom. When it came to getting the snow off the car, something a little more rigid was necessary. Since the snow removal was a neighborhood affair, everyone had a good laugh at my ice-chipper....

but it worked.... I found it knocking about in the back seat of the car... I had finally relented last summer and removed the Hawaiian print seat covers and my Palm Springs license holder. Who knew it would make such a fine snow and ice remover.... thus is my morning prayer.

Blessed be God, creator and ruler of the universe, who brings forth snow and ice from the sky, snow and ice to make glad the heart of Man, the heart of Man to be the Body of his Son. Bless all those who labor today, and bless the hearts of those who see snow and think "time to play." Amen.