Thursday, September 30, 2010

Words matter.... but the living WORD is all that matters

I have been lax in addressing those we are supposed to remember in our calendar of saints gone before us. ...sigh... Anyhow --it's Jerome's day today. Mr. Kiefer offers a wonderful if brief biography. Kiefer says:

Jerome is best known as the translator of the Bible into Latin. A previous version (now called the Old Latin) existed, but Jerome's version far surpassed it in scholarship and in literary quality. Jerome was well versed in classical Latin (as well as Greek and Hebrew), but deliberately translated the Bible into the style of Latin that was actually spoken and written by the majority of persons in his own time. This kind of Latin is known as Vulgate Latin (meaning the Latin of the common people), and accordingly Jerome's translation is called the Vulgate.

In 1611, the King James Version of the Bible was published, and generally accepted by English-speakers. However, the Psalms in English were already an established part of public worship in the Coverdale translation of 1536 or thereabouts. For roughly 75 years worshippers in England had been reading, saying, singing, or chanting the Psalms in the Coverdale translation (also called the Prayer Book Version). Their response to the Psalms in the King James Version was: "What is this nonsense! Take away this new-fangled modern translation, and leave me to recite the Psalms in the good old-fashioned version that I learned at the knee of my dear old silver-haired mother, the most magnificent version that the pen of man has ever written, the version that has comforted and sustained me all the days of my life."

The emphasis is mine.
Sound familiar?

Imagine the KJV sounding new-fangled and being rejected.... !!!!

When I talk to God --you may have noticed --I use my broken sentence style, the words and sequences I use in speech... hardly formal, sometimes decidedly informal... certainly not a separate language reserved just for God.... Maybe that is because I have found myself in a constant state of prayer --prayer is not something I do separate from the rest of my life... no special postures, no special formula... it is something I do when I dial the phone, talk to my dog, walk down the street....

Yes. Words are important. But our talk to God should not be precious nor separate --it should be the authentic 'us.' And, yes, I know it's rough sometimes --I mean, notice the distinct differences in these:

Here is the canticle after the Gospel at morning prayer:
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 shall 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.

And again:

And Mary said,

I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Yeah. I know.... but each one takes me a different place... and I value both those places.

And yes, the first is New Revised Standard Version, and the second is The Message.

In my office, I have the NRSV, RSV, The Message, KJV, NKJV, The Jerusalem Bible, New Jerome, and a few more --oh yeah, the one commonly called The Good News.... As I prepare for sermonizing, I read each of them at different parts of the week as I just sit and sift and listen --because each has something to offer and a different place--a different context.

Joel and I were talking the other day --he mentioned something about icons, and Jesus holding the book open or closed, and when did icons of Christ begin to show him holding a book at all... because as the living Word --the living breath of God, the Word become flesh and blood... that has nothing to do with a book and sentences and translations... it is when we hear the word and it becomes alive in us --moves with us --then.... then.... then. Now. Now. Now.

I respect my native brothers and sisters who have refused to use a written word to record their living stories... the must remember, must know --and, yes, there are those chosen to tell because the stories become alive in their mouth so that all may see and know....

Maybe we should just burn all the bibles --and call on the people to remember.... to embody...

A living word.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Michael --put your sword away... God don't want no macho angel....

Today is the day of St. Michael and All Angels....

I know there are powers I do not understand and cannot see. But I am not really sure about angels.... really.

What I am sure about is that the little angels crap, the statues and figurines --the books and air freshener holders --the fake-o little glittzy stained glass glop --that ain't angels.

--wild dirty messengers that bring strange unexpected news --that might be an angel.... but one must be mighty careful and fearful of this kind of might-be an angel type...

And, yes, I have angel icons in my office --because they are icons to my unbelief, icons to the holy mysteries --icons to that which I do not know and have not yet even imagined.

St. Michael is the strangest and most wild angel it would seem --Mormons believe he is Adam --Jehovah's Witnesses believe he is Christ in heavenly form.... he is the patron saint of policemen and medieval war gangs.... the warrior cults.

I cannot imagine that those who truly know God would make war, except through some leaps and machinations of the imagination of the bravado of national necessity.

Those who know God would do as Jesus did-- and tell Peter et als to put their sword away.... praising God in all things, in all ways --that is enough. More than enough.

At morning prayer (Psalm 148)

Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created.
He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, *
creeping things and wingèd birds;
Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
Let them praise the Name of the LORD, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

there we are --Hallelujah! Alleluia!! Amen.

Besides --I thought angels had no gender.... NOW we're talking!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

is it a shortcoming?

Some folks, when they come to the door and ask for help, are obvious tenants of the street --haven't had a good meal, a safe place to sleep, a change of clothes or a good bath in quite a while.

I purposefully shake their hand --if I am not alone, I ask them inside. They are usually asking for cash --which I do not have to share-- but give them a place to sit for a while, food, water, the bathroom.

The rough part comes when they want a hug.... not just the handshake --but the comfort of human compassion in a very present gesture....

So, when one of our guests come at me with open arms --I exhale, and go for it.... But after they are gone, I go wash. And I wash the door handles and wherever else they have been with a bleach-wipe... counter tops, chairs, faucets... --sometimes, because there can be a lingering odor, I change my clothes....

And, then I am ashamed. But a realist, I say to myself....

For one who has heard as a child and as an adult the stories of Jesus touching the unclean, who remembers the early AIDS fears and friends who suffered in more than spirit for lack of human touch --

At morning prayer (Luke 5:12-15) Once, when Jesus was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean."

Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do choose. Be made clean." Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one.

Human touch is so essential.... it is not spiritual.... and we live a 3-D faith --an incarnational faith.... It cannot be cerebral.

And I wished I did not feel.... the repulsion.... so, I am ashamed.


The gospel is so ever present to me --sometimes in uncomfortable ways.... and other times it feels so impossible to live it....

Hey God --I get it --I pray I get the gospel in so many ways, and then I am confronted with the real dilemmas of my soul.... where I hold back --revealed to me.... give me--us an inquiring and discerning heart and the courage to will and persevere.... in all things, in all ways....


Monday, September 27, 2010

Authority should walk the way of the cross, well --at least it should this morning

The Episcopal Church was born today in 1785 --in Philadelphia... What a terrifying and exhilarating time those post-Revolutionary war years must have been --establishing and experimenting with new governmental forms --and in the church, we became autonomous from the Church of England. (Well --at least that's the myth...) And, some clergy concluded that their ordination vows required them to remain loyal to the crown and the bishops who ordained them, and they fled to places where the crown and their bishops still ruled.

I have no doubts that our church governance resembles parts of our national forms of governance for obvious reasons --the same 'founding fathers' crossed the street and made the church.... Well, not literally, but almost....

And I know that our governmental system was set up with so-called checks and balances so that no one bit of authority could become supreme --the courts to prevent democratically initiated mob-rule, purse strings and law making in elected bodies separate from the courts, etc. etc.... Well, at least that's the myth...

And, yes, we have some checks and balances in the church --but much of the melt-down in the institutional church has to do with authority.... --in what do we place our final authority? Scripture? Tradition? Bishops? General Convention? The will of the People?

We have formed our institution of church on a system of authority --Father has spoken-- that has been in a state of change and revolution since the mid-1970s.... for some, this is fearful. For others this is exhilarating.

And all things take time.... good or not.... or, is that really true?-- my inner self always asks... Well, yes, Saul was knocked off his horse with sudden conversion --but, then came weeks of blindness, months of query, years of promotion, generations of testing --and we are not yet done with what Paul offered. That's a bit of time....

And questions of authority were so very present for Paul... he had to stake out his claim to that turf....

And then, of course, there are the turf battles between Simon called Peter, John....

So, while we watch in our own time a government grind itself to death, a church frayed with controversy and questions of authority in order to resolve the controversy ---a new age, a new time, new questions --we should remember the terror and exhilaration of fishing with Jesus --always out over deep water, already having worked hard all night long and for nothing, having more on board than we reckoned, always in danger of sinking...

At morning prayer (Luke 5:4-7) When he [Jesus] finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let your nets down for a catch."

"Master," Simon answered, "we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets." They let the nets down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full of fish that they were about to sink.

Terrifying --about to sink.... And you know --after they caught all those fish, They pulled the boats on the beach, left everything and followed Jesus.

They left behind the biggest haul ever....
Folly in the eyes of the world.... economically unsound....

Hey God --thank you for our funny little church, thank you for giving us the constant questions of authority, thank you for making me one to constantly question authority in any form, thank you for giving us time --give us the will and courage to persevere through the empty nights, through the terror of a sinking boat --in order to follow you without knowing what's really ahead. Oh yeah --some days I think you were whacko with all the cross bit --and other days I see it and know it as the only Way.... So, is all authority to be known only if it is willing to go the way of the cross? --Amen.

PS --thank you for the late and lazy morning --double amen...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

G'wan. Go to church

The rich man --hanging out in on the other side of the great divide --and the poor man nestled and comforted in the lap of Abraham.... Oh honey --I KNOW what part of heaven I'm heading for --where folks aren't afraid to PARTY!!! Cuz I am sure I will meet the Queen of heaven there!

G'wan. Go to church. A foretaste of heaven. And if it's not --well then, make it so.

Hot today again. Perhaps showers this afternoon. Rainy tomorrow...

We are going to go to Richmond's Gay Pride Day downtown today --we have rented a space to be present at the festivities. I have been asked to participate in the first ever liturgy at the commencement --hmmmmm....

Joel worked to put together an image --and tried every which way to make it big, but it was not to be.... so I share it with you here.

Thank you Joel.

If you come looking for us --we are directly across from the beer stand. Corner lot. --Oh yes --we are ALL under the rainbow!

At morning prayer a Canticle: A Song of Hosea
Hosea 6:2-3

Let us strive to know the Lord, *
whose justice dawns like morning light,
its dawning as sure as the sunrise.
God's justice will come to us like a shower, *
like spring rains that water the earth.

Now I have to go and do a ritual --empty the car --take our camp chairs and all our other summer gear out of the back --which means, you know, that summer is over.... and that makes me sad... And then pack it with the stuff for our table in the park. Been listening carefully to the news --no mention at all of Gay Pride Day..... sigh. Maybe it's for safety reasons? Nah.

Oh well. We know. And blessings abound.

And as to that Gay Pride liturgy --and my hesitation... am I the only one who thinks that singing "Blowing in the Wind" is a bit over the top?

Friday, September 24, 2010

charity and justice prevail.... show me

Yesterday, I had my socks blown off. At the Richmond City Jail. In worship.

The jail is a very nasty place --having a capacity to house about 850 persons and usually has between 1,300 to 1,500 persons. The county dog shelter has more amenities... yesterday it was near 90 degrees outside --and there is no air conditioning on the inside....

Entering, there are gun detectors, bullet proof one-way vision windows, magnetic doors and bars, bars, bars. You have to leave your ID and get in return a pass. I had to walk through the men's section --a long hall way with huge iron doors on either side with cages packed with men, almost stacked on one another. There were other rooms I saw --a library, classrooms, and a chapel.

Then we went through two iron gates and headed to the basement for the women's jail. Yes. The basement.... smaller and with fewer resources --for example, there is no chapel...

An official report described some of its finding: The consultant team found that officials do not agree on or readily talk about the problems caused by jail crowding. Some officials stated that the problems threaten the integrity of the judicial system and the law. For example, it was reported that it is not uncommon for (a)judges to make decisions other than the one they believe is most appropriate because the jail is so crowded; (b) defendants fail to appear in court because they are incarcerated in the jail and that this is not known to the court at the time of a hearing; and (c) sentences to the weekender program to be delayed because there is not enough room in the jail facilities, countering research findings that sanctions are most effective if they, among other things, occur swiftly after an offense.

Excuse me.... the jail itself threatens law and justice?!! --the defendants fail to appear in court because they are in jail and no one knows it??!!! Sheeeeeesh.....

Well --despite the conditions, the service for the women was deeply moving --a cinder-block room, packed to the gills --standing room only, singing at the top of our lungs (with no sheet music mind you --one can figure out the tune and the words after a verse or two), a strange little altar covered with white sheets carefully sewn, grape juice.... and lots of tears. In a place where one is not supposed to touch another, there was lots of hand-holding and hugs --human touch. At the end of the service --at the blessing, we turned and put the sign of the cross on each other --blessing each other....

After the service, I discovered that there was another separate entrance for the women --I went out two simple doors and saw a family clustered around the reception desk --which was not behind glass or bars... so very different.... then I realized that the family was crying, speaking Spanish.... the young woman turned, saw the collar and asked if I were a social worker. No, a priest, I said. She said, can you talk to my sister? She's been arrested --her baby... we need help. --of course, I said... I gave her my phone number and the address of the church.... I am hoping she really will come and see me today...

You never know. You just never know what work is going to be given to you... But so often, it feels so insufficient.... Please God, help me help.

At morning prayer: Psalm 92
It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD, *
and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning *
and of your faithfulness in the night season;
On the psaltery, and on the lyre, *
and to the melody of the harp.
For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD; *
and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

And then I realized I had to go back through the women's section, up the stairs and through the men's station to get back my ID....


A great article at the Cafe that briefly discussed the difference between charity and justice... Charity seeks to eliminate the effects of injustice; justice seeks to eliminate the causes of it. (The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr.)

Now, there's some food for thought... Please God --help me do charity and incite justice. Help me.

Yesterday was hot --today it is supposed to get near 100 degrees.... please pray for those incarcerated in the hell hole we call jail in Richmond.... where there is neither charity nor justice...

Peace out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

bless all the wild things....

So, Joel has had a rough time of it these last two weeks --choking, coughing --spasms, an awful awful rash, feeling really miserable... I finally put my foot down and said, if you don't call the doctor, I will.

He did.

He's taking bucket loads of steroids to suppress his own immune system --that's awful enough. Then they give him infusions of stuff to give him an immune system.... he's at real risk for massive infections and all kinds of bad things.

But, he really is feeling better this morning. He's being treated for walking pneumonia --and he really is a woman.... at least, he's claiming turf for his inner woman... the steroids have also given him severe hot flashes, from the bones out --all you women of a certain age, you know what I mean. And to top off the hot flashes he now has a yeast infection.

Ladies --I think we can give him a little bit of turf --his inner woman is really suffering, heh?!

And thanks to the marvelous intention and attention of our Outreach Minister --K has organized a response in case a certain and very needy individual shows up at our Pantry on Saturday --and S will be present as well --our guest will be welcomed with integrity. And with me not worrying too much....

Why do the jails and prisons release inmates on a Friday afternoon? What a set-up....

At morning prayer (Luke 4:16-21) Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.

The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

It's done. Fulfilled. The year of the Lord's favor. The time of --the day of ---Like pouring water in to the glass --filled to the rim --no room for more glory. It is done. Right now.

And we are called to participate in that announcement. But we have to be able to know it and see it first... yes?! No, maybe not... like a fish seeing water.... does it?

Today I start a jail ministry --women inmates in the hell hole of the Richmond City Prison where three inmates have died just this month alone... they called me to begin a ministry in Spanish, and then they said they were desperate for ministry to women... It will marvel me as I watch myself learn to respond to reveal the kingdom in their midst, 'cuz I don't know what the hell I'm doing....

After I prepare the altar and receive the offerings of the people, I always pray something like Bless these gifts O Lord, which we have fashioned with our hearts and minds, an offering made from the gifts of your own creation. Bless us. Bless the beasts of the wilderness and all the wild things. Bless the children. Help us to see and know and love your kingdom in our midst. Amen.

Yep. That's all. Right now. Amen.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

will the catch and release system be held accountable?

At morning prayer (Luke 4:1-4) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"

Funny line to quote from one who is bread for the world.

In prayer, my mind went to roots --to meaning.... In Greek the word for bread is 'arton' --which is also the word for food.... In Latin the word for bread is 'pan' which in Greek is 'all' --weird little games these words are playing in my head this morning... Food for the world... He gave his all for our sake....

Yesterday I received a letter from someone in prison --a man who was quite belligerent at our food pantry several years ago and within minutes of leaving our pantry was arrested --several blocks away --for verbally accosting a fellow pedestrian.... And this man had only just been released from jail that very day.... He wrote me some nasties after that incident, saying a little more than this and that....

And in the letter that I received yesterday he said he was being released from jail this Saturday, and he would be back --to the church, and he wanted food, money, clothes and shelter... (but then he listed all the types of food he could not eat...).

Did I mention that this guy was sent to prison about 15 years ago for continued physical abuse of a child --his own child.... --and that eventually there was a singularly cruel event and he 'disciplined' the child to the extent that the child died.

I don't understand a system that allows the continued abuse of a child --resulting in the death of the child. I don't understand a system that releases a person to the streets that has a decades long history of verbal and physical abuse... not to mention murder. Why are those who allowed his continued contact with the child not accessories to this crime?

Obviously, there are mental health issues here.... and yes, most if not all deserve a 'second chance' --but, at whose expense if the 'second chance' is a failure?

So, our food pantry is open this Saturday --I am worried about those who will be ministering there this weekend....

I am desperately calling the the prison, calling a lawyer that knows the board that reviews releases --pulling strings here and there to make sure they all realize we don't have the Homeless Persons Program this guy says we have (yes, he used those words, all caps)... and that we don't have clothes, we don't give money away, we can't house him....

And, just in case, trying to figure out what to do to prepare those who will be working at the church this weekend.... handing out bags of food --by grace administering arton--

He needs so much more than arton alone.

When working diligently on this type of thing, the arguments about Bishop Bennison who escaped unscathed from negligent behavior, and is being allowed to return to office under a cloud --even though the people and clergy of that diocese have said they don't want him back --and the bishops themselves are calling for his stepping down... but apparently he still feels determined to take his office back...

Or, that the people of the Diocese of Springfield have elected a man to be their bishop who not so long ago actively worked to remove his former Diocese (San Joaquin) from the Episcopal Church....

These argument about those that get put in places of authority within the system of the church --those that get put in places of authority within the system of the state --who seem to support perpetrators of emotional, physical, spiritual abuse --they all seem to continue supporting the devices of the institutions rather than those who interface directly in ministry or those who suffer from the abuse --like the folks distributing food in our pantry --the women and girls and all the others subjected to the corrupt power and authority given to a priest now bishop... --the people themselves choosing to elect and give 'another chance' to one who has stepped over so many lines and hurt so many....

I'll just say it --Is it cronyism that allows this perpetuation of bad behavior in the church? Is it subtle or not so subtle misogyny that allows the continued release of those who perpetrate their crimes against women and children and LGBTQ persons?

Does it seem a little harsh to compare a convicted murderer to priests who have abused their office? Yeah. I guess.... but I am and remain convinced that spiritual abuse renders death as well and as easily as physical abuse.... just is, the wounds are different.

And will those who support these perpetrators be held accountable if/when old patterns emerge and abuses are perpetrated once again?

I have a general idea and suspicion what might happen if I ignored this guy's letter and let him show up at church on Saturday... first time, we were caught unawares. Not again... not if I can help it....

...arton... sometimes the food we seek is not the food we need.
And sometimes one needs more than bread alone.

Well. There we are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes! Oh yes! Oh yes!!!

We are alive. We were given the opportunity to slip away to the Northern Neck --we took it... and, see, where we went there is no cell phone access, no computer access --only water, trees, great blue herons, deer, crickets, crabs, fish, sun and then stars and an almost harvest moon.... Yesterday was the best two weeks off evah.

Back to routine tomorrow --blessings!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

G'wan. Go to church

Funny that we use money as a sign of our life and labor at church..... and offer that....

G'wan. Go to church.
Saying anything more --well, I'd have to charge you money or something....


At morning prayer (John 12:44-47) Then Jesus cried aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in the One who sent me. And whoever sees me sees the One who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."

Oh yeah.... There it is again.... just like John 3:17... not to judge, but to save... and then Jesus says that the one who rejects and does not receive him already has a judge.... and it made me think ---yeah... they themselves put themselves up as the judge.... and then Jesus says And I know that his commandment is eternal life...

So.... eternal life... commandment.... Not a word about, Thou Shalt Not yadda yadda... the commandment is eternal life....

zoe aionious..... life of the eons...

Oh. Well. That's a whole different spin on things....

There we are.
(Pray for the Bishops meeting as they do behind closed doors... and those in the Diocese of Springfield electing a bishop today.... and the people of Pennsylvania traumatized by their bishop.... and the people and clergy of West Virginia having spoken to their bishop, saying YES to the blessing of same-sex couples, and the bishop... well... we have no other news on that front.... Oh yes... there is quite a theme here.... sigh.)

Friday, September 17, 2010



O Eucharius
You trod in the path of joyousness
when you tarried with the Son of God,
touching him and seeing
the miracles that he wrought.
You loved him perfectly
when your fellow-travellers were terrified
because they were men
and had no chance to see Divine Good perfectly.
But you in the full love of burning devotion
cherished him when you garnered
the bales of his command for yourself

o Eucharius.

(Translation by Christopher Page)

And, now this at morning prayer (Psalm 73:1-12)

Truly, God is good to Israel, *
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; *
I had almost tripped and fallen;
Because I envied the proud *
and saw the prosperity of the wicked:
For they suffer no pain, *
and their bodies are sleek and sound;
In the misfortunes of others they have no share; *
they are not afflicted as others are;
Therefore they wear their pride like a necklace *
and wrap their violence about them like a cloak.
Their iniquity comes from gross minds, *
and their hearts overflow with wicked thoughts.
They scoff and speak maliciously; *
out of their haughtiness they plan oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens, *
and their evil speech runs through the world.
And so the people turn to them *
and find in them no fault.
They say, "How should God know? *
is there knowledge in the Most High?"
So then, these are the wicked; *
always at ease, they increase their wealth.

Oh wow.... whamwhamwham...

Numbers were released yesterday --new statistics about poverty in our great land... statistical average above 14% --but in some areas --like Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina and West Virginia the average is much higher --bordering on 20%. These are the 2008 numbers --they have only increased in 2009....

God only knows what 2010 is going to look like statistically.

How did we get here? Selfish motives? Entitlements? Out of control, bad policies and corrupt government? IT discusses a recent article by Tom Friedman, in the NY Times, on "We're No. 1(1)!" He says: We had a values breakdown — a national epidemic of get-rich-quickism and something-for-nothingism. Wall Street may have been dealing the dope, but our lawmakers encouraged it. And far too many of us were happy to buy the dot-com and subprime crack for quick prosperity highs.....

IT concludes with the lament: ...We have a culture of entitlement, fanned by the rotors of helicopter parents, and an "I've got mine, screw you!" ethos encouraged by a putative Christian right wing. Is it reparable? I don't know. Increasingly, I don't see how. I come back to the US and am struck by our rampant homelessness, potholed streets, bankrupt states, crumbling public schools, and minor universities teaching remedial reading to uninterested teenagers. There is out-of-control religious bigotry fanned by one party, a political discourse that is no more than a shouting match between polarized center-right and far right voices, and heterosexist bias that deprives GLBT citizens of fundamental protections. I'm not seeing a shining city on a hill, but a crumbling vestige of a dying empire.

I'm not just on a rant --but I will have to be by Sunday when the Gospel of Luke concludes You cannot serve God and wealth.

Money.... There is nothing you are supposed avoid more in the pulpit in an Episcopal church --other than politics... God forbid.

I approach preaching the good news this Sunday with fear and trembling.

Yes. I. Do.

So, this morning I give thanks for the life and witness of Hildegard of Bingen, who lived in a time of horrific war campaigns perpetrated by the church --the crusades... war, tribal law and order based on gender and force.... and she, in trouble, for providing a Christian burial to a young man who had been excommunicated...

Collect of the Day: (Hildegard of Bingen, 1179) God of all times and seasons: Give us grace that we, after the example of your servant Hildegard, may both know and make known the joy and jubilation of being part of your creation, and show forth your glory not only with our lips but in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Oh yeah --sing joy and jubilation in a strange land....

O vis Aeternitatis

Power of Eternity
you who ordered all things in your heart,
through your Word all things are created just as you willed,
and your very Word
calls forth flesh
in the shape
which was drawn from Adam.
Power of Eternity
Power of Eternity.

I do hope.... Hope not as a withdrawal from the corrupt viciousness of this word, but for it... because of it.... amen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

strong words and light beams, walls and windows of my own design

A meat tenderizer. Wonder what folks would think if I told the truth --that I have to take a spiritual meat tenderizer to my soul, imagination, emotions, in order to read scripture --in order to worship.... not in a bad way --but to be able to eat and digest it all.... --in order that I take nothing for granted....

Joel and I were talking about something or other a while back --and he said something that I already knew, but has been bouncing around... --he said, The Hebrews had the Word --Word which contained the holy air of God --Word moving with life. The Greeks had Light. The shining Fire. Two different ways of thinking and we try to shove 'em all in to one....

Well, ---yeah. And then you look at our prayers, and we shove the Passover, the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world (a very different lamb from the Passover lamb), the Word.... the light, the victim, the victor.... much less all of it being made flesh and dwelling among us....

It seems to me that unless one is well-versed in all the vision and metaphor of these ancient cultures, that much of worship could be lost --glazed over --inaccessible....

And, of course, then there are the agendas of each of the translations of our scriptures.... the agendas of our worship... oh yes.'s like cooking with onions.... but some want to slice and dice without the peeling...

I suppose if I said worship is like hunting and eating abalone, there would be very few who would laugh with me.... 'cuz, you know, hunting abalone comes so naturally to all --even though abalone are fleet of foot, difficult to track, hide in the tall forests of the seas, and are as tender as tender can be....

...when actually, all the abalone hunters I remember come up from the deep panting for oxygen with the abalone sucking on their wetsuits, have to take a crowbar to get 'em out of the shell, slice 'em real thin and THEN beat 'em thinner with a meat tenderizing hammer...


At morning prayer (John 12:31-36) 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." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light."

When I read this --I weep and rejoice --all at once. I hear and see (Hebrew and Greek am I) that the judgment of the world has occurred when Jesus said this, when the evangelist wrote it and again when I read it. NOW. NOW. NOW. Eternal forever NOW. Always only NOW.

And the crowd --always turning back to the law --craving certainty, craving This not That.

And, honestly, then when the evangelist tries to wax poetic --light, dark, yadda yadda.... I want to scream like the frustrated and bored kid in the pew....

And that's just scripture.... I do it with worship too.
The ecstasy --the agony....

But, I cannot imagine not doing it.
And I suppose that even if we tried to create a translated scripture more accessible, an order of worship steeped in contemporary reference points, many in the crowd would still want to test it on the horizon of what they already think they already know....

I suppose a meat tenderizer is a little rough for most.
But I know I always need it.
For those walls I build.... of strong words and light beams of my own making.... walls and windows of my own design....

Hey God. It's margaret. You knit me together --you made me before I knew words or had seen light. You know I need courage and I knead courage.... and when I think about it, I do not want for courage. You know that I crave deep roots while at the same time I desire to fly. And I know without a doubt that I know next to nothing except that reconciliation of the light and dark, word and silence, flesh and spirit are found in you. Help me know when to wield my hammer, and when to lay it aside. If I even truly need an effing hammer.... sigh. Yah. Glad to make you laugh. Love you too. Now. Amen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

where I am... there will my servant be

I don't know if you heard --a couple of weeks ago in the mountain places of Guatemala, there were torrential rains which resulted in God-awful mudslides.

Many people were buried, and when some brave souls ran to the rescue, another slide occurred and buried the rescuers. In all --two hundred people were buried.

And then the second wave of rescuers went to work. This happened near milepost 171 of the Pan American Highway, two kilometers away from the municipality of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, Sololá. Amazingly --only 25 people were killed. But there is great injury, suffering, lack of resources and medical care --and crops have been destroyed in the rains. And every death in a small pueblo effects many generations in a family...

Locally--here in Richmond, a Guatemalan woman, married to a citizen of the United States, manages Highland Support Project, aimed at helping women preserve their families and indigenous Mayan culture and fight the extreme poverty the people in Guatemala face --but fight it in ways that are beneficial to and directed by the people of Guatemala. And, also part of the mission --relationships are built.

I received an email yesterday --asking for help. You can plan a mission trip or support a program to build efficient stoves to combat deleterious health effects of smoke from open fires in tiny homes and reforestation projects because the deforestation (wood being the primary fuel) causes the mudslides. There is also a Mayan art project..., if you feel so moved....

At morning prayer (John 12:24-25) 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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For Elizabeth

Elizabeth --this is the text from which I actually preached. God only knows what actually came out of my mouth... and, yes, I usually put the "I am preaching this" note to myself to help me remember which of the sources I used moved me.... short and sweet:

(I am preaching this because Louie Crew has been a constant source of inspiration for me)
(Prop 19, September 12, 2010)

Did you listen to and pray that first prayer –the collect of the day?
It caught my breath –listen to this portion again:
O God, because without you we are not able to please you…

Hmmmmm ---well, first and foremost,
there is not a thing we can do without God,
we cannot even live without God
because, in faith, we believe that Christ our Lord,
the Word spoken in creation, holds all things in being.
So, I thought that was a funny little way to start our prayers…

And I am convinced that God is pleased only when we are fully
and freely who we are—you know,
when we are exercising that God-given free will.
not trying to please God… but show God glory by being who we are.
Because, I am also convinced that God loves sinners,
Sinners first and foremost.

Look at the first lesson –Moses convinces God to step away from wrath
when Moses reminds God of God’s own Love.
And the second lesson –Paul says that Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
(and then boasts that he is the best sinner around…
but that is typical Paul –always the best…. But, he had never met me!)

And then the Gospel—the proof!
–the Pharisees and scribes are grumbling that Jesus prefers the company of sinners,
and Jesus says, in so many words, YES! Of course!
Like a shepherd finding a lost sheep,
Like a woman finding a lost coin,
You all rejoice with me!!!

What I think is most striking,
is that it should be obvious that everyone in this room has, at one time or another,
been a sinner, and by God, you all have been found!
In one way or another, as a sheep or a coin, you all have been found!
(And this is where the choir is supposed to spontaneously sing “Amazing Grace”)
You all have been brought through the Red Sea—the deep waters.
You all have been redeemed from the life where you found no joy.
The angels are singing and dancing!
And if you are here because you have not yet found that joy,
Let us share our joy with you!

Because this is the reason we gather together,
this is the reason we need each other:
to remind each other, to tell each other our stories,
to tell how we have been changed,
to tell how we have been found,
to tell each other the great story of redemption,
how the whole world has been found!
What wondrous Love this is!
And we gather at the table;
we are called to pay no heed to the Pharisees and scribes of our own time;
we are called to gather in the real presence of the one who holds all things in being.
And in the words of St. Augustine, we become what we eat
so that we might go and invite those sinners who do not yet know,
to eat with us.

This is pleasing to God.
Nothing else matters.
All else is extra.

It's Holy Cross day....

At morning prayer (Numbers 21:8-9) And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live." So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

We have such a strange God.... the very things that turn the world upside down, wound, destroy, kill.... like the cross, like a dead God.... become the very things of healing and glory...

There have been some things written about holding a serpent on a pole ---the serpent that emerged in the tree in the garden, the fruit offered.... the poison in taking that fruit for self.... the same tree holds poison and life...

Franciscans sing the song that blesses Eve and the serpent, because without the serpent and our bold sister Eve, we would not know Jesus...

....hold up the very thing that destroys as the thing of glory....

It's not easy living that way. But it's Gospel.

Is it possible to live in a way such that hind-sight is always present-tense....?

I am so not done....

Gotta run.... long day ahead.... thanks be to God.

Monday, September 13, 2010

...still point in the center...

At morning prayer...(John 12:1-3) Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Dang, you know, when you think about it --that sounds like something Lady Gaga would do.... outrageously sexy and over the top and at the same time a parody--no, parody is not the word --I can't find the word, but it is of something extremely sincere while at the same time pushing the envelope --acting out of the box. Outrageous.

Risking everything.

I wonder what she was thinking. I mean, when John the Baptizer says he is not worthy to deal with the shoelace thang, and here, she, a woman, goes beyond the shoelaces all the way to touching his feet --with Martha serving.... --and Mary, not doing what she was supposed to again, ignoring her own brother she takes that outrageously expensive oil reserved for anointing the dead.... hardly making a still point-- a place of calm in the conversation at the dinner spread...

Why with her hair? Was she concerned that if she picked up a towel her sister would put her to work...?

Maybe it was all to cover the scent of her once dead brother because it was forbidden to touch him like this --nah... that's just snark....

I wonder what his feet looked like... -- having walked nearly barefoot through so much open countryside.... dirty toenails, cracked and chapped heels poking out from the frayed dirt-embedded hem of his clothes as he reclined on a mat to eat... taking on the sins of the world, did his flesh bear more on the way to the Passover than it did after his blood marked the lintel post of the way to for ever and ever amen-- what other open wounds --holes.... not just where the nails chewed through his skin, but the sexual sins, the battery of gender-slaves.... was he marked that way too?

I wonder if it were Mary that inspired him to get on his knees and tend the feet of his friends.... and it was doing the part of a woman/slave that freaked Peter out, pushed Judas out the door....

What must we do today that would be an equally distressing/magnificent sign....

It was rumored St. Francis nailed steak to the gate for the dogs....

Hey God, it's margaret. The pictures of the hurricane we have named Igor are pretty magnificent.... powerful storms with a hole in 'em too? Always the still point in the center....?! Just sayin'. Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

G'wan. Go to church

Oh yah --nothing better than eating with sinners! Good enough for Jesus--Good enough for me!

G'wan. Go to church! We are called to pay no heed to the Pharisees and scribes of our own time. We are called to gather and feed one another in the real presence of the one who holds all things in being.

And we become what we eat so that we might go and invite those sinners who do not yet know that joy to eat with us. This is pleasing to God.

Nothing else matters.
All else is extra.


Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

At morning prayer (Psalm 55:21-26)
My companion stretched forth his hand against his comrade; *
he has broken his covenant.
His speech is softer than butter, *
but war is in his heart.
His words are smoother than oil, *
but they are drawn swords.
Cast your burden upon the LORD,
and he will sustain you; *
he will never let the righteous stumble.
For you will bring the bloodthirsty and deceitful *
down to the pit of destruction, O God.
They shall not live out half their days, *
but I will put my trust in you.

I was on my way to morning prayer--in Berkeley. I was scheduled to preside. I heard that we had been attacked and that one of the World Trade Centers had fallen. I went inside and called Joel --because he was far enough out in the outback of Oregon that he had no radio or TV --and indeed, he had not yet heard a thing, and I told him what had happened and nobody knew anything substantial yet, but if the attacks continued and occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area I would try to get to my sister's house in Sacramento --or I would be working, doing what needed to be done on the streets....

We hung up, having confessed our love for one another. Like so many others that day....

At morning prayer, I used the prayer from the burial service at The Commendation as the prayers --saying, yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

By the end of morning prayer, the second tower had fallen.

Today, the worst type desecration is occurring --with those who are using the day to promote anger and hatred and loathing.

And, today, I go to bury a beloved member of our congregation, and I will stand again and say yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

The Prayers
Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.

Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.

Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.

Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.

Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.

Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servants....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jesus began to weep....

At morning prayer (John 11:32-33) When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?"

They said to him, "Lord, come and see."

Jesus began to weep.

I find it amazing how often folks need to be told that it is alright to weep. We are a people who are told to suck it up.... I guess because true grief unmasks so much of the pretense and so many of the assumptions upon which we build our lives.

We really do....

I have done an awful amount of lamenting here recently.... But, there we are. Perhaps you can join me --we got the first bill for Joel's little hospital stay --I am sure there will be more --it was over $80,000.00

Yes, insurance will whittle it down.... but still. That's just sick crazy. And Joel is not feeling well at all --even though he looks okay.... he goes in for another infusion today... but he's not at all sure the treatment is working.

In my prayers this morning, I guess I have to include the CEO and all the bigwigs of the hospital, heh?

And I also pray for those in the fires of Boulder, Detroit and the new one that flared in San Bruno, CA. I have seen the hills around my own home burn, and breathed in the stark reality of that furnace.... It is unspeakable.

And I pray for those wannabe Qur'an burners. What torment they must be in...

I pray for our Jewish sisters and brothers who have begun a new year.

I pray for our Muslim sisters and brothers who will end their fast of Ramadan.

I pray for the people of New Zealand. For the people of Pakistan.

For the T. family who grieve in a big way.

For all those who weep today.... blessed are they.

And I give thanks to those who built the site for the Daily Office. Yes, I have begun to use the site fairly consistently for my morning prayer rather than Mission St. Claire.... Just sayin'.

And now I have to run to practice the funeral of Phyllis --so that we may do our ministry and provide a safe place to grieve and give thanks to God for her life and witness.

Yet even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Peace out.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

for now.... in the present moment....

Malinda brought us everything we needed for dinner. Saag. Tomatoes. Squash. Rice. Bread. And it was delicious. Thank you, thank you Malinda. Sacramental. A foretaste of the great feast --Bless you, Malinda.

She fed our very souls. She always does stuff like that. For everybody.

Care like that keeps me going with news like this: Juan Manuel had his day in court in Texas Tuesday. Joel tried to follow up so that he could continue with letters and encouragement --but the parole officer didn't know what happened to him... although she was pretty confident he is still in juvenile custody.... and his lawyer didn't even remember him until verbally poked... and said he only gets to met 'those people' for a few minutes before going to court... and then said he didn't remember where he was sent, but his bid to be sent home was refused....

....excuse me Mr. Lawyer.... you asked the court to send him home?! I know for certain JM didn't ask for it....

Sigh.... poor kid. I am hoping we are not being told because he is a minor and we have no legal jurisdiction.... That is what I am hoping. Call me naive... But, in any event, for me, it is good news that he was not sent home, because that is his worst fear.... I still grieve.

And I pray.

I pray also for all those killed and made homeless in the flooding in Texas --and for those in the fires in Boulder and Detroit.

I pray for the Bishops who will meet in Arizona. I hope... I hope they all walk the border, --I hope they are moved to compassion for the motives that make some leave desperate situations only to be met with so many barriers --physical, spiritual, social.

But, in fact, illegal immigration is beginning to drop --ironic that the immigration debate is heating up just as the numbers demonstrate that the numbers of illegal immigrants are dropping... and perhaps one of the reasons is the economy... read this little bit from NPR:

But according to the Central Intelligence Agency (whose patriotism I hesitate to question), income distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador. Income inequality is actually declining in Latin America even as it continues to increase in the United States. Economically speaking, the richest nation on earth is starting to resemble a banana republic.

Emphasis is mine... Dang.

And this little document, Getting Ahead or losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America, published by that so-called liberal bastion that supported every Bush maneuver in the book, the Brookings Institute...

In sum, the research reviewed in this volume leads us to the view that the glass is half empty and half full. The American Dream is alive if somewhat frayed. Most people are better off than their parents, but slower and less broadly shared economic growth has made the economy more of a zero-sum game than it used to be, with very high stakes for the winners. Some subgroups, such as immigrants, are doing especially well. Others, such as African Americans, are losing ground. .... Nor is there evidence that the United States is in any way exceptional when compared to other advanced countries. Indeed, a number of advanced countries provide more opportunity to their citizens than does the United States. (From the Overview, pp1-2)

Ahhhh... there's the rub... immigrants as a group are doing well --better than some born here... Dang!

I pray for the rich.... because the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor... and those who grieve... already.

At morning prayer (John 11:20-23) Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who trust in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and trusts in me will never die."

I hear Martha --confronting Jesus, angry --IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE.... but then catches herself... and then responds to Jesus, yah, yah, yah --on the last day... stamping her feet... implying --but what about NOW....

...and then the truth... there is always and only life. And the invitation to know it.

Hey God, it's margaret here.... Today we will gather at the retirement home and give thanks and glory to God for a lamb from your flock --Phyllis. And I obviously have all these other thoughts crowding in on my mind.... help me, as you helped Martha, to see you present in all things --life, death, and all those places and fires and floods and struggles in between. And I, too, like Martha, want it all now.... lead us, guide us, to be utterly fearless in living resurrection lives in the present moment.

Yeah. That's all. For now. --wait, bless all those who feed others, especially Malinda. Amen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Can one live on Grace alone?

OMG! My heart breaks for the people of Detroit. And Boulder too... Watching one's house burn --the neighborhood burn is God-awful.

Speaking of burning.... the Qur'an burning so-called Christian church --I think there is a special place in heaven for asshats like this.... right next to those they hate... forever.

And yesterday, there was a little family that knocked on the door... a VERY young mother with a 3-month old infant and a five year old boy --the father looked well worn and unrested.... they had decided to move from New Jersey to settle in Richmond just because.... and they had become stranded. "We're Roman Catholics" he said. "But we knocked on the church door over there and they wouldn't even let us use the bathroom. We're out of formula for the baby. Can you help us?"

I let them in. Thank God we had some infant stuff in the food pantry for immediate consumption. Planted them in the library, got some toys for the kid --did my lunch meeting and came back to take the dad out to get what he needed at the market and a run to McDonald's....

But I'm going to send the Roman bishop and that church the bill --not because I think they will pay --oh hardly, but perhaps to prick their consciousness and remind them about that little bit in the Bible when Jesus says something about do this for the least of these and you will do it for/to me....

Now mind you --the father also tried to prove to me his faithfulness by saying he'd been to private school and it was pre-seminary and he knew all about the bible and how the world was created --all those fundamentalist think it was six days, he said. But, they are wrong... the world was created in six thousand years.... And he had never met a female preacher --Priest, I said, --yes, he had never met a female preacher.... and are we Anglicans? Were we one of those anti-bible gay-hugging churches?

Sigh.... I do not think he could even hear what I said....

And then, there's the little bit o' stuff that happened during my time off this summer.... In the midst of a prolonged discussion by the worship committee on our values and priorities in worship --brought on by discussion of the use of alternative Eucharistic prayers and the use of Rite 1 and how do we decide these things other than 'that is what the rector wants/likes' --requests to do the very things we have decided to discuss but not do were done --because I was away.... and I am struggling not to feel what I am feeling. But I'm feeling it....

Sorry --but using an antiquated language that expresses an antiquated,violent and oppressive theology because it makes us feel good --takes us "back," ...and insisting that the world was made in six days or six thousand years, whatever ---burning the Qur'an.... all these come from the same source --the same root.... Afraid of Grace. Grace denied.

From morning prayer (Psalm 49:6-7)
We can never ransom ourselves,
or deliver to God the price of our life;
For the ransom of our life is so great,
that we should never have enough to pay it..., should we stay and keep begging for mercy and standing in awe of the sacrifice? Or is there something else....

Call me grumpy --or that 'b' word.... but I am convinced there is something else. And that something else begins by standing at the edge of the Red Sea and picking up the tambourine and dancing. That something else begins by Jonathan and David breaking the rules and expectations and taking their oath of love and fidelity to one another. That something else begins by being fed and inspired by the present Holy. That something else moves beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, beyond the resurrection, beyond the ascension... and is what gives the joy I feel confidence.

Hey God, it's margaret here.... yeah. I know. Love. Grace. Nothing else matters. And they alone are more than sufficient. Keep truckin'. Amen.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wisdom.... ??!!!

Canticle: A Song of Pilgrimage
Priusquam errarem
Ecclesiasticus 51:13-16, 20b-22

Before I ventured forth,
even while I was very young, *
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
In the forecourts of the temple I asked for her, *
and I will seek her to the end.
From first blossom to early fruit, *
she has been the delight of my heart.
My foot has kept firmly to the true path, *
diligently from my youth have I pursued her.
I inclined my ear a little and received her; *
I found for myself much wisdom and became adept in her.
To the one who gives me wisdom will I give glory, *
for I have resolved to live according to her way.
From the beginning I gained courage from her, *
therefore I will not be forsaken.
In my inmost being I have been stirred to seek her, *
therefore have I gained a good possession.
As my reward the Almighty has given me the gift of language,*
and with it will I offer praise to God.

When I read scripture like this, or even some of the psalms --I can only read it in faith --well, because --in my earliest version of prayer, all I had was always petitions of well-being and prosperity for my dolls, my friends, my family.... and as far as I know, I haven't kept firmly to the true path since I was young.... whatever the true path is... --and I have never really trusted anyone who said they knew the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I don't know that I ever panted for or sought after God with all that I am, with my inmost being....

What I am confident about is that whenever I have been stripped of all my resources, my words, my strength --stood naked and speechless in a maelstrom, beaten, bowed, desperate --I have discovered that there is an even greater cosmic storm in which I move that strips away pretense and thus feeds and sustains, in which in fear and trembling I can stand up without fear --a storm that puts all other storms in its purse, so to speak.

But I don't think I ever sought it. No. In truth, most often --run from it....

And I sure as hell know it is not my possession....

So, I am left puzzling.... are there really people who have sought --panted after and really captured Wisdom?


What I know for sure is that today I will, God willing, organize the piles, --I meet with a true survivor for lunch, then I will help plan a funeral, establish my work for the week ahead and have a worship committee meeting at the dinner hour....

At least, God willing, that is what I will do.

I guess what I can really be confident of is that whenever I have sought peace, wisdom, clarity, surety --what I have sought slaps me up the backside of the head, and has never been what I thought I was looking for....

...but something totally different, surprising.... more wonderful and awesome than my imagination could conjure....

Just sayin'.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Voices --those who labor

Collect for Labor Day: Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yesterday, in my sermon, I said something to the effect of 'this is not political, this is Gospel.'

Joel, my most vociferous critic said, 'you should have said, --this is the Gospel... it is political.'

So, there we are....

I'm all over the map this morning --So much churning in my mind. Yesterday was the length of a whole lifetime. After the Spanish-language mass, packing the sacrament of the altar with me, I went to the bedside of Phyllis --her strong family gathered round her, we laughed and talked about the Gospel and love of family and loving God and what that means --heard the stories from each one where and when Phyllis had made manifest that love... and shared prayer and food for the journey.... came home about 4pm and stretched out on the sofa.... 5pm and the phone rang. Phyllis had stormed the gates of heaven.

I went back and stayed with the family until late when the funeral home arrived to wheel her down the long hall and begin the preparations for burial.

May she rest from her labors.... A whole life of love and labor.... to the Glory of God.

And we had several visitors at church --each bringing their blessings.

And over the cannoli laden and rum soaked cake Joel constructed --which looked more like a messy bed but tasted like heaven, I told stories of ordering our wedding cake at a mafia bakery in Brooklyn.... (what a silly little western girl I was....) and how each year we can never quite replicate what we remember, so we decide to go for it another year when we can try again....

The children always decide the cake is too weird, and never try it... so far, that is.

And, it is Labor Day --and I feel beholden to remember.... remember the children and slaves and miners and seamstresses and machine-tenders and agricultural workers who built this country but have shared only a sliver of the wealth they created.... and even that, they get only begrudgingly.

And we have a high unemployment rate, and people are suffering --but those with capital are still making money, more money --sometimes on the suffering.... and their souls are tied fist to cuff and they protest, calling their earnings their own....

At morning prayer (John 10:19-20) Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?" Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

Demon.... God forbid Jesus should embody the salve for the people --the undeserving, the sinners, the outlaws, the beggars, the foreigners.... he threw the whole system on its head. No wonder he was feared, hunted, betrayed...

Let's remember --when workers protested being laid off for the sake of profit, offered no benefits, having no life for the sake of long work days, no like security enjoyed by those who benefited from their labor --the US Government called in federal militia to quell them....

And let us remember that in some quarters, not much has changed --I know workers who work for this Commonwealth under a special provision of the law which provides for them to work full-time without ANY benefits --sure, they get holidays, without pay.... without health insurance, without retirement, without vacation, poverty-level wages... I know this because they join us on Sunday at church.

It's wrong. Let's throw the whole system on its head --perhaps Jefferson is right, the cost of freedom is constant vigilance and a revolution in every generation.

In any event.... Jesus is right --it's Gospel. It's political.

Write your representatives at every level. Protest mountaintop mining... Protest 'clean coal'....

If you watched none of the others --please watch this last one... Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good....

We are all downstream from this.... no matter where we live.

See --all over the map this morning.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

G'wan. Go to church

We met at the Bishop's Ranch in Sonoma County in 1973. I was 16. Joel was Brother Joel, SSF, fully professed under life vows. Our love was impossible. Forbidden. This picture was taken of us when we were building the Tree House with Father John, --Russian Orthodox priest, aka Bill Pierce at the time.... we joked and called ourselves the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. I was the Id, Joel the Ego....

On September 5, 1981, at noon, we got hitched, tied the knot, jumped the broom.... That morning, I was waiting to get dressed in the rectory, and I remember praying --Oh Dear God, make me worthy.... and a little voice answered from deep in my heart, saying, No Such Thing.

Indeed. I have learned so very much of love. And I don't love him and he me --we have learned we don't have that power. We swim IN love--love holds us. Essentially Trinitarian --him, me and the life we share --the love we swim in.

It has never been easy. Even so, I am content and grateful for all that we have had.

It is a terrible thing to hear "Hate your family" from the Lord of Love. But I know with all that I am that if I had not been fearless in trying to know and understand that strange state of Love greater than obligations, expectations, duty, honor, stability --including being willing to risk all that we had --love... I would not have had those in-breaking moments... of... of... of.... Well. You know.

G'wan. Go to church. Give thanks to God for the will and courage to persevere to all that is beyond family, the cross and all that we have.

And to all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers who long for the day.... I remember and grieve. But this I also know --you who choose the vocation of making a Christian life together --you are already married. And yes, you are already the celebrants of that holy state of being. And, yes, I will work with you to affirm that in community. Right now. Amen.

on the third day....

Today we remember Bishop Paul Jones. He was an outspoken pacifist, and when World War I began in 1914, he spoke against it. As the war progressed, and when the United States entered the war in 1917, many Americans were vehement in holding that pursuing the war was a moral duty, and opposition to the war was immoral. In the spring of 1918, yielding to pressure, Bishop Jones resigned as Bishop of Utah. He continued to speak out within the Church as an advocate of peace and the Christian renunciation of war, until his death on 4 September 1941.

God bless him. Imagine being for peace --hating war.... A Bishop who was so committed --so convinced, it cost him his job. A rarity. In any time.

Enough snark.... I have other work to do.

Late last night I received a call. Phyllis T. is on hospice and declining rapidly. I am wondering this morning if she made it through the night. So, I am running to get to the office early, make calls, do my 10:00 counseling meeting and then off to meet with Phyllis's husband and family, for last rites and all those other good and holy conversations.

I ask for your prayers.

And, Joel, this morning, said --I finally get what's happening. I'm grieving Juan Manuel.

Yes. Finally, my love.

Blessed are those who mourn.
Even on the Sabbath.

From morning prayer. A Canticle: A Song of Hosea
(Hosea 6:1)

Come, let us return to our God, *
who has torn us and will heal us.
God has struck us and will bind up our wounds, *
after two days revive us,
On the third day restore us, *
that in God's presence we may live.

Our God is the God of the living.
And life is never ended, but changed.

Friday, September 3, 2010

was blind, but now I see...

Our internet stuff is all by satellite. Our service has been very on and off this morning.... Mostly off....

The hurricane is well off-shore of Virginia. But there is wind and rain in parts to the east....

It seems as though our little part of the world is almost/not quite this morning.

At morning prayer (John 9:38-41) Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."

Sometimes I am so freakin' blind. At other times, I feel great clarity... perhaps humility and Godly 'fear' should be the companions of clarity. I guess the ones to be scared of are those who say they see all the time... and are not afraid.

In Pennsylvania, the Bishop has been caught in something old --as a rector of a parish quite some time ago, his brother --his own employee-- manipulated an under-age girl and others into satisfying his sexual needs --and then it gets worse from there... and the Bishop --at the time the rector --didn't report him. So, he--the bishop was brought up on trial lo these many years later for cover up and a whole wad load of other stuff.... found guilty, he appealed, and then it was determined the statute of limitations had run out.... and now he wants to go back to his job as Bishop....

As though nothing had happened.

Shall I say, many are appalled. Angry. Disgusted.

Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of our General Convention, wrote an open letter. She wrote in part: Like the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee, and many diocesan clergy and laity, I wish that Bishop Bennison had the wisdom and generosity of spirit to resign. As bishop he is more likely to deepen divisions and discredit the church than he is to bring healing or advance our common mission. I join the Court of Review in its assessment that Charles Bennison’s handling of the sexual abuse charges against his brother John was “totally wrong.” Bishop Bennison’s lack of remorse about his handling of this situation, and his solipsistic view of what is at stake, concern me deeply. ....I wish there were more that I could offer you in gratitude for your bravery in the face of all that you have endured at the hands of our Church. It grieves me to be another person telling you that my hands are tied, and I know the potential remedies that I am proposing may serve the church in the long-term but do nothing to right the wrongs inflicted upon you.

Nobody's hands should be tied in this.

Why can't the Bishop SEE....

Yah. I know.

Almost. Not quite. Not even.

I guess it is like living under a corrupt government.... from which he have barely emerged, and the effects of which we will be living with for a very long time. And some just don't see....

Even the thought --well it was different back then.... well, no. It wasn't that different. It's always been against the law for a grown man to have sex with a girl.... no matter the circumstances.

This morning, clouds and hardly even the fringe of a huge storm run over my sky --interrupting, disrupting my life and plans. It reminds me... as a people, what we are trying not to see is that there is so much more than just the church or various governments running like they can see....

It is as ominous as the Commonwealth giving over its databases and communications to a war machine.... the whole world....

Lord have mercy.

Song left a wonderful comment on a post several days back. She said, We don't err to say that the bread and wine are Christ's body, broken for us, Christ's blood, shed for us. We err to say that everything else isn't.

Yeppa. Exactly.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

...what to do with the likes of....

The Repugnicans wanted privatization here in good ol' Virginny. They got privatization. Farmed out some of the Commonwealth's computer systems and oversight to a private company, Northrop Grumman, with a $2 billion computer contract. Northrop Grumman, known for providing security, big ships, maintenance to the military --intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance... wow.

So, there were 40 state agencies initially impacted... the DMV has been particularly affected... they are now more than a week behind in issuing licenses... yes, the very same DMV who unwittingly issued ID to many of the guys who drove planes in to the World Trade Centers.... but now they have brought in extra security --for "crowd control" to deal with the known 40,000 citizens who are without legal ID now --much less those newbys from out of state.... Other departments suffering a prolonged effect include Social Security and Taxation.

Don't know about you --but, in my book, those are pretty frightening dots to connect.

Sigh.... A parishioner, who works IT at the DMV wants to talk to any one who will listen about privatization.... because, there really is no recourse until the contract runs out.... no changes to be made, can be made....

Wonder what other contracts at which Northrop Grumman will be shrugging their shoulders and saying, oooopps.... sorry.

At morning prayer (Psalm 37:1-9)

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; *
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, *
and like the green grass fade away.
Put your trust in the LORD and do good; *
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the LORD, *
and he shall give you your heart's desire.
Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him, *
and he will bring it to pass.
He will make your righteousness as clear as the light *
and your just dealing as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD *
and wait patiently for him.
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.


But, some days it is overwhelming, yes?

an interesting blurb at the Cafe --lifted from Religious News Service, called The Way Forward by Tom Ehrich (posted by our much loved Peter Carey)

...These are troubled times, and those troubles cut broadly.

This is the moment for Christianity to step up and offer a way forward. Not a way backward, as many religious traditionalists offer; not a cantata of scapegoating, as the Glenn Beck-Sarah Palin "religious revival" would offer; and not a phony patriotic fervor that is self-service wrapped in a flag. ....Jesus' answer was clear, albeit threatening. Love me first, he said. Love your God before all others. Love your neighbor before yourself. Don't baptize your desired way of life and call it holy, but conform your life to the true holiness of God. Seek the courage not to be afraid.

The courage not to be afraid....

That's some courage BooBoo!

Hey God. It's margaret here. So, were the prophets like whistle-blowers? (--and we all know what happens to whistle-blowers...) Give us the gift of perseverance --graceful perseverance to reveal your realm which is constantly alongside us. Shield the innocent and joyous, guard and guide our children, comfort those who suffer, show your face to the dying, embrace the marginalized, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.... oh yeah, this is the job you've given us to do.... no matter what. Okay. I still don't know what to do in the face of the likes of the wickedness of Northrop Grumman.... just sayin'. Amen.