Monday, January 31, 2011

begging under the table....


At morning prayer (Mark 7:24-30) From there Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there.

Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet.

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syro-phoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter." So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.


Hmmmmmmm....

Mr. Witty likes sitting under the table. Or, on my lap...

We once had a big ol' hunting dog, Mr. Olaf --springer spaniel, short hair pointer sixtyfive pounds of pure muscle mix-- who would sit and wait patiently in the kitchen for anything to drop. I took a nice rosemary coated pork roast right out of the oven, burned myself and dropped the roast and everything else on the floor. The roast rolled right over to him, and without missing a beat he picked it up in his mouth and before I could shake a towel at him, it disappeared down his throat.

Then the painful part began --the roast was some 170 degrees or something like that... and it didn't stop being 170 degrees after he swallowed it. He began to pace around the kitchen in obvious pain.

We called the vet in a panic. The vet said to make him eat as many ice cubes as we could shove down his throat....

We did. He survived. We went hungry... and I'm not sure Mr. Olaf even enjoyed his contraband.

But, I digress.

Well, maybe not. I would do just about anything for my dogs... and in this little Jesus story, dog is anything but a compliment.

What to do with a Jesus that calls a woman a dog unworthy of being fed?

I know exactly what to do with a woman who won't internalize the insult --who throws it back... takes the power out of it by owning it and making it her own and using it contrary-wise.

But, what to do with Jesus? --I don't live in the camp that talks about a god who gives us 'lessons'... or, testing the woman and all that tripe, or using the woman to teach the disciples something... how gross--that god would use people that way.... ?

Besides, it certainly seems as though it is Jesus who gets the lesson here.

So why is this story remembered? Told?

This story follows right on the heels of purity code talk --about it's not what goes in to someone that defiles them --it's what comes out that makes folks impure.... wicked thoughts, fornication, lies....

...she really didn't take the insult in... in so many words being called a dog... and she didn't put out filth in return....

But it still doesn't address the problem of Jesus insulting her in the first place.... but, than again, maybe it's no more an insult than being told to pick up your mat and walk --on the Sabbath....

And, ya ya ya --I've heard about Jesus growing in to the understanding of himself...

I think I must wrestle with this one for a while. Bring it up to the front of the line.

In the meantime, I continue my prayers for T who walked out of church in a rage, for R,T,M,S,S,B,P,Z,K....

...and I will feed my little dog something other than crumbs... but, ya know, he begs (politely but fervently) all the way through dinner and so we have tried feeding him first and then he is insulted after dinner that we don't feed him again when we are done.... there's just no winning.

Maybe this story is more about our begging at the Table of the Lord than about the one whom Jesus is going to feed first or at all.... hmmmmm.... begging.... at the table.

After all --she did throw herself at his feet --flat out in the Greek.... maybe it IS about begging.... and the word 'dog' really isn't D.O.G. --it's puppy.... little dog...

And Jesus so doesn't want us to beg.... all is grace --given freely.

Gonna drag my dogs to the gym. Peace out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

This is a true story.

A young man, named David, lived in a small town.
He attended an Anglican church, and he was a faithful member.
As he grew in faith and stature he also grew more self-aware.
And he knew he was sexually attracted to other men.
His town, his country, his church all told him this was very bad.
Rather than internalizing the condemnation,
he was confident he was made in the image of God,
and he remained a faithful follower of Jesus.
He began a support group for others like himself.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.


Last year, a magazine ran his picture on the front page,
with the headlines: “Top One hundred homosexuals: Hang them.”
He took the magazine to court and sued the publishers.
He won his law case and a monetary settlement a few weeks ago.
Early this week, David was beaten to death in his own home.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

His own church sent a person who stood up at the gathering of several hundred
friends and family and began a filthy foam of condemnation.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you.

In the crowd of friends and family stood a man and his wife.
The man, Christopher, was a Bishop in the Anglican church.
However, Christopher had been excommunicated and defrocked.
by his Anglican Archbishop because of his support of homosexuals.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Christopher came forward, helped family and friends
take the coffin some distance to the grave,
and gave David a Christian burial and final blessing.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the peacemakers.


Dear people of God, we have much work to do to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. Let us as a priestly people offer our prayers on behalf of the world; let us gather at this Table not for solace and pardon only, but for strength and renewal.

Let us pray: Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

we deny the horror we create and normalize horror we only imagine

I saw The King's Speech --the movie.

I will seem contrary if I say I didn't like it... but, I didn't --let me explain. It was fine and beautifully crafted, acting great, all that. But there was a tremendous disconnect for me. A chasm.

There was absolutely no weight given to what the King was saying --declaring war... OMG how God-awful... --no weight at all, only that he didn't stutter. So, at the end, it all came crashing down on me.... all the applause as he walked through the series of doors....

Sigh....

And yesterday we went to see The Rite with Anthony Hopkins. If was beautiful too --and scary. Hopkins was great. At points, very scary... I won't say more in case you are planning to see it, except to say I thought the end was so very buttery it is likely to go rancid quickly.

I like scary movies. But I also like scary movies to end scary.

I had a parishioner who once said to me that in her early life as a Christian she attended and was formed in a very fundamentalist/literalist-type congregation. The first thing she was told to study was demonology, how to identify, how demons and the devil work... how to fight them.

It would seem in this regard--exorcism and demons and devils and the study of 'em, that the Roman Catholic Church is no different from the fundamentalist/literalist-type....

...sigh....

Two disconnects. One in the failing to acknowledge horror--the horror of war; the other in its sweet ending... and normalization of idiocy.

As for me and my house... I do not confuse the fantasy of movies with goings-on in the neighborhood, but I do think that what we portray in our movies, books, pop-culture stuff speaks to underlying patterns and assumptions and trends.

...and in that we deny the horror we create, and we believe in and normalize horror that we only imagine....

...and we prefer to make our religion something that fixes us through rules instead of the radical liberty we are offered...

And, I thank God for the actions of deposed Bishop Christopher Senyonjo --thrown out of the church for being a Christian, he showed the compassion of Christ. Dear God, give all your people that courage --that radical liberty.

At morning prayer (Galatians 3:23-29) Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.


Now that's freaky --all our touchstones --who we are, our bodies, our inheritance --all changed.

And that's real. We are one.
Off I go.

Friday, January 28, 2011

the whole world in a cup of coffee


Joel brought me my coffee this morning and announced that he understood Thomas Aquinas for the first time....

The world thinks like Hegel, he said over the steam arising from the coffee. Hegel says all things emerge from chaos and become infinitely diversified. And God loves what the creation will become at the end...

--whereas Aquinas believed the whole cosmos was complete and perfect in every moment --that, for example, the whole cosmos was created for that little dog (he points at Mr. Witty who puts his ears down, eyes get big and wonders if he should wag his tail), or for that grain of sand... at every moment we meet the perfect 'other'....

I don't know about you, but that's a little steep before coffee.... 'like the hazelnut' I managed to say. 'the whole cosmos emanating from the hazelnut.'

No --not emanating, he said. Not shrunk down and in the hazelnut... nor emerging from it. Perfect as the hazelnut alone.

There is no past but the present moment. There is no future but the present moment.

Whew. Yes. I did manage to get the coffee from his hand....

And at morning prayer it's St. Thomas Aquinas Day. Whoooohoooo! --But, guess what the second lesson for the Eucharist is for Thomas --(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

I shudder at the implications of Joel's take on Aquinas when partaking in the Eucharist....

I am very uncomfortable with the idea of Christ being sacrificed anew in the breaking of the bread... every single time. And, I am very uncomfortable with the idea that Christ is not present in the breaking of the bread... every single time.

It is certainly not just remembering. It is.

The whole cosmos perfect in that bread. And this bread. And all bread.

Sacraments are more than signs --they are --they partake of what they point to. And we are what we eat....

Oh my. Even the fringe of Incarnation.... head spins. more coffee please....

The whole cosmos in that man... In this person....

How do I go from that to what's on my plate today --going to the halls of our State legislators and standing there looking 'em in the eye as they discuss immigration bills that would make Arizona look moderate... like not enrolling children in school unless the parents can prove their legal status...

Geeeez.... And if the children were born here and are citizens? Oh, the law states that all children must be enrolled... just is the parents most certainly face deportation so probably won't enroll them... ---we can break the families up, or even agree to deport citizens....

Disgusting.

I wonder if they would agree to let my husband serve them coffee first thing in the morning... each cup of coffee --the whole cosmos... each child.... the face of God.

And, I'll put money on it the enforcers would never dream of carding my husband --who was born in Canada... he's too white looking to be suspect.

Sigh.

Just in case, here's a little Aquinas for you:

Because of the diverse conditions of humans, it happens that some acts are virtuous to some people, as appropriate and suitable to them, while the same acts are immoral for others, as inappropriate to them.

So much for relativism being modern... Or, here's this one:

As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.

Hmmmmm.... guess the whole cosmos cannot be found in anything female... too bad he didn't know that it is female which is perfect expression. XX not XY. Or, there is this:

If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.

Sounds like a good one for the Church to remember.

I remember in my prayers today those legislators whom I will see today; all those who are in danger because of who they are --undocumented immigrants, those who knew and loved David Kato, all those who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation, color of their skin, their abilities; those who work tirelessly to respect the dignity of every person in this Commonwealth.... for the family and friends of the hostage situation out in Chesterfield this morning and the ensuing gun violence.... For P,B,K,M,P,R,B,S.

Peace out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Never the same ol' way

It's a sheet of ice with a dusting of snow out there this morning. Shlick shtuff.

Been thinking... worship/meditation/prayer can so often be self-serving, self-fulfilling, self-gratifying... and on a certain level, I guess it needs to be.

On the other hand... that is also one of the reasons we have a structured liturgy... so we don't descend in to the depths of self-gratification... it is also the reason why the prayers (particularly the Prayers of the People) in the book are so non-specific, allowing the imagination to go where the Spirit leads.

But, good liturgy should also open doors, not take us down the same old garden path....

Been thinking hard about that all... and it is so much more than just the words we use in worship. Worship is a sensory experience --sight, smell, touch, sound, posture.... embodied. And if we don't embody what we believe, we miss so much....

And how do we prepare the next generation of the church? --a tremendous responsibility.

Today, I read Isaiah and was reminded of the rich panoply of God --a pillar of fire, a wind, a burning bush, a farmer in a garden, a potter, a husband... this morning in Isaiah as a woman with child...

Morning prayer (beginning at Isaiah 49:13) Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me."

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands....


Jesus spoke of God as father... yes. But also as a mother hen, a woman cleaning house --the kingdom as a woman kneading bread....

We all have our comfort zones.... And worship should move us out of them. Because worship is practice to see and know and act.

I did my field work in seminary at St. Gregory's of Nyssa in San Francisco. Good Friday is a funeral service for God... Ash Wednesday as a day to remember redemption... Every Sunday is a little Easter --as it should be.... They have two seasons at SG --Easter and Easter's coming.



Here is a portion of the Good Friday service.... I remember being down on my knees, head on the floor and the smell of fresh cooked hot cross buns suddenly emerging --bread to take home... bread to share... even while we sing alleluia at the tomb.

And, no, St. Gregory's can't be picked up and super-imposed on another congregation. The work has to be organic in each place.

And, yes, our prayer book has these kinds of options --but very few pick up this good work... because it is work....

So much easier to go to worship and just let rip with those familiar thoughts... in the same ol' comfortable way.

Sigh....

Okay --off to work I go! But in my mind, never the same ol' way.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I am blue inside... not that blue... true blue....


I am a gentile sinner.

I am from a long line of people who painted themselves blue.

I understand the tribal history of the Jews. And it is an inheritance I have been given in the Bible....

But, I have another tribal history. The one that runs in my blood. The one that my grandfather whispered about as he sang songs with that glint in his eye. The diggers of mines. The forest people. Who lived by the edge of the sea. And fashioned metal. And clay.

They lived by another law. Written on the leaves of the forest. In grains of sand. Intertwined in the ivy. In the hart and doe.

And when they lost their language, and their earth diggings filled with water, they ran. Scattered. Diaspora. Never settled. Moved ever inward. And remembered the old songs and gathered to sing them. To a new sea and new stars. A new land. And the same moon and sun.

And when they heard the bible stories of gentile sinners, they knew they were those sinners. And they were glad.

Paul, once Saul, a good Jew, said: We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.

...if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
(from Galatians 2)

I understand.
And I am entirely grateful.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wolves are already perfect.

Paul. Paul. Paul... it's the day we celebrate your conversion.


When I worked at a grand parish in the deserts of California, a young fundamentalist and biblical literalist who resented and was perhaps frightened of my presence on the staff asked me about my conversion.

Tell me, he said, tell me how you came to believe in Our Lord.

I am quite confident he was going to try to frame me, wanna-be Pharisee that he was...

So, in a spurt of inspiration I replied, Which time?

And I wasn't lying. I meant it. I mean it. Because I certainly don't believe as I first believed. And I'm not talking about the childish belief I held --right up there with Santa in the chimney and the easter bunny with a basket --there was Jesus the miracle worker and healer. Magical thinking type.

Now, it is so very different. Now I ponder open wounds in the Resurrected Body.... and I have no need to touch the wounds as Thomas did. I remain amazed at brokenness and death being hand in hand with redemption. Salve-ation.

And there is a young man who is working the legislative bodies here in Richmond --keeping an eye out for those proposed bills that are friendly and those which are not --working feverishly because our General Assembly only works a few months of each year... He keeps calling and asking me to come testify before one committee or another. Today I will call him and we will discuss the bills he is following, so that I can formulate a testimonial in less than the 12 hour or less heads-up he gets....

Isn't it almost funny that I would testify in front of State legislators --testimony that is faith based... and yet that kind of testimony is rarely called for otherwise.

And it is faith that leads me to testify --probably polar-opposite conclusions drawn by the legislators themselves who have crafted bills to suspect folks with brown skin, demean same-gender union families, and support violent and cruel thoughts and acts as a traditional way of life....

You know, like, boys will be boys. It's okay to bully. Guns are just fine.... and, she asked for it.

From the readings for the Eucharist for the Conversion of Paul (Matthew 10:16) ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Sheep. Serpents. Doves.... Wolves.

Hey God. It's margaret. Sheep are not the smartest and can be domesticated. And the same with doves. Easily caged. Yeah, yeah --I know. Same with us... And, Serpents --well, they are such solitary animals. Now, wolves... they play, they have strong family units, hunt together, cooperate in raising the next generation... and in their own way, no more predatory than serpents and doves... I would much prefer to be a wolf... Couldn't you at least have chosen better examples? I know, that's why you did it... --when in Rome... or chameleons etc... Whatever. I understand...

Today, I am remembering A,A,K,S,S,M,R,C. Don't strike us as you did Saul --the horse and road and all. That's so harsh. Unless, of course, you have to. Rather, open our eyes as you did when we were infants. Help us name the colors. And to testify to what we know in you. As best as we are able. Yeah --like sheep and serpents and doves. 'Cuz wolves are already perfect.

Amen.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The wilderness inside....


At Diocesan Council, a young woman stood and spoke on behalf of the youth in the Diocese. She said she always laughed when she heard about Jesus and the disciples getting 'away' --and she stated that in her world view, there was no longer any place 'away'... that between the computers, social net-working sites and all that, she felt there were no places 'away.'

She said it in context about buying nets to prevent malaria... I thoroughly understood what she was trying to say--that we have neighbors right next door even though they be in Africa...

But I was struck by her statement --there is no place 'away.' Sure, anybody can unplug--disconnect for a few hours, a few days... But no place 'away'....

I am confident that one of the greatest deserts I have ever known is the one inside me... probably the greatest wilderness anywhere is interior.

And I have been in some of the greatest geographic and topographical wilderness areas in the world. And my own interior wilderness has welled up in those places--ever since I was a child, I have known the wild and contrary law and signs of those places.

The stardust of which I am made reclaiming its own inheritance. Far, far away. The cosmos come close.

Inside.

When we are called as disciples, called to follow Christ, we are called into that desert--into that place away, unfamiliar unexplored internal turf... tended by the wild animals... tempted by the visions of stones of bread, the roof-ridge of mountain peaks and concentric cities of power.... visions of pleasantly domesticating what should not--cannot be caged, or fenced in... cannot be house trained.

--called away into that wilderness to be at home.

Can anyone speak of, much less teach of that place?

I think Florence Li Tim-Oi --priest of the church in a place and time women could not be called priests --I think she knew of that interior place... how else could she lay down what she already was so as not to frighten, shock or offend those who could not see?

I have the sneaking suspicion that she was not the first woman priest --we have always picked up and carried the signs, curators of the mysteries for the sake of the children and the little ones, whether the boys named us as such or not.

Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much-beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of a priest in our Communion: By the grace of your Spirit inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Creator of the wilderness, show us. Help us know the way. More importantly --help us love the way and all those far far away places. Now and always.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

a new way


It's big. It's big for Virginia.

In the Bishop's pastoral address at Council yesterday it was announced that the first class of vocational deacons will be ordained.... yes, the blessing of the order of deacons (except as transitional to priesthood) has not been present in Virginia... thirty years behind the curve on this one. And kinda nice to ponder on the day we remember St. Vincent, Deacon.

Collect for Vincent, Deacon of Saragossa, and Martyr, 304: Almighty God, your deacon Vincent, upheld by you, was not terrified by threats nor overcome by torments: Strengthen us to endure all adversity with invincible and steadfast faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

And as Bishop David Jones announced his retirement in January of 2012, +Johnston called for an election of a Suffragan in April of 2012. Thank you, Bishop Jones, for your faithful service. And most especially for being the only Bishop in this Diocese who has struggled to learn Spanish.

And, the internalized oppression of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers has begun to break apart --we have a year to work on the details... and then in 2012 the blessing of these Christian unions--households--families that endure such wicked discrimination may begin.

I just want to say --the church only proclaims the blessing that already exists. The many blessings brought to the people of God by these faithful couples are a true sign of God's enduring love for us and among us.

Remember the story about the guy who lived shackled in the graveyard possessed --and Jesus sent the spirits possessing him in to a herd of pigs that then threw themselves off a cliff....

At morning prayer (Mark 5:15-20) Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid.

Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.

But Jesus refused, and said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.


If the townsfolk begged Jesus to leave, what they hell do you think they did to the man who had lived tied in their own chains of oppression relegated to the graveyard?!

Probably not a pretty sight.

This may be the predicament of many among us in the coming years --reviled and estranged, chained in the margins, suddenly restored to community....

We have come to the gateway. Our chains have been broken. We have been restored. But the community to which we have been restored --many have had their way of life thrown off the cliff.... We have come to the gateway, and we have much work before us still. We have been set free. Now we must work to the glory of God to liberate the community --and work with them to give them a new way of life.

A kingdom life.



Amen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

At Council

In northern Virginia --outside the Beltway, but nonetheless... it's crazy busy. Doing that annual church meeting thang.

No snow for us here... mostly all to the west of us. Maybe later--so they say.

Got in to a huge discussion last night with a woman who sits on the Resolutions Committee. This is a Committee that historically butchers submitted Resolutions. Now, in every place I've ever been, the Resolutions committee has respected the work presented to them --if they believe the the grammar could be brushed up or made more clear, they work with the submitter to amend it for the benefit of all. This Committee totally re-writes resolutions, changing their total intent and meaning.

This year, at least they asked.... but they still dinked with stuff... and thought nothing of it.

I told her what I thought of that. Emphatically. She said they had that authority.... and it was not wrong of them to do it.... and that she was left of left...

...which made me laugh... I'm not even left of left... I am part of organized religion. Where I come from, that alone puts me in the conservative category. Sheesh. Besides, being left of left doesn't prevent one from blindly participating in that heinous state of mind --patriarchy... which in this case is 'committee knows best.'

Today, we will hear only reports and all that good stuff. I really want to hear the Bishop's pastoral address.

Really. I am going to be listening. Carefully.

At morning prayer (Isaiah 45:18-20) For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, "Seek me in chaos." I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right. Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near....

No secrets. Nothing hidden. No machinations behind closed doors...

Please God.

And give me patience.
I remember the people of Haiti. Of those who are homeless in the storms in the northern parts... for the wealthy, the oppressors, those who live in mansions...

Peace out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

O Church, live up to your calling

At morning prayer (Mark 4:32-34) He [Jesus] also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."


Last night, I spoke with a young person who is seeking baptism. It is more than just refreshing to hear some one speak of a call... against all odds.... It is humbling. And exciting. Awe-full.

And this young person felt a call by God --and wasn't sure what it meant. This person wrote to every faith community and asked questions --Romans, Pentecostals, Muslims, Jews --and a letter to a certain Bishop in New Hampshire, +Gene Robinson.

And the response? --Yes, each responded --do this, this, this, this and that and you might, MIGHT have a chance at redemption. Each and every one --except one.

One responded with a book and a very personal letter --and the letter said the place to begin is to know you are loved, created in the image of God --loved beyond compare... and, yes, that one who responded thus would be +Gene.

And that letter from +Gene brought the young person to our door, asking questions about God, hungry for God.

And I am reminded of the courage it takes to ask questions --risk responses... confident of a call... when one's own home is fairly ambivalent if not hostile to that whole idea of God talk/thought.

Welcome home little bird. You said to me, as we parted ways after sharing bread last night that you would never be able to pay me back. And I said that's not what it's about --and if you insist upon counting-- you already have, and you will someday anyway tenfold when you can say those words said to you to some one else--know that you are loved, created in the image of God --loved beyond compare. Build your nest here while you may --and carry the seed you gather to the next little bird --become the tree, become the seed, take flight little bird. Welcome home.

Thank you +Gene. God bless you.
O Church --live up to your calling.

Amen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From the ER to the thorny thicket amongst the rocks off the path


Missed the first Vestry mtg of the year with the new Vestry. I really really don't like how that feels.

Instead I was at the ER with a parishioner. Left the office at about 2:30. Finally got home about 7:30pm. Helping in those squeezed moments when one period of a life changes and another begins.... Not death. But a new way of living. Perhaps.

ERs are like funnels. The whole universe narrows down to particulars. Breath. Tears. Pain. Fear. Anger. Helplessness. Bottlenecked.

I am of a type that senses those things. Feel them around me. A different way of seeing.

And I didn't feel I could shift gears --going from the ER to the meeting... I had the wrong tool kit in my hands, and I had to rest those muscles before I picked up another....

Besides, the ER had perched itself up my nose and on my clothes.

(At morning prayer--a portion of Psalm 38)
There is no health in my flesh...
there is no soundness in my body...
For my iniquities overwhelm me; *
like a heavy burden they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds stink and fester *
by reason of my foolishness.
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; *
I go about in mourning all the day long.
My loins are filled with searing pain; *
there is no health in my body.
I am utterly numb and crushed; *
I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.
O Lord, you know all my desires, *
and my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart is pounding, my strength has failed me, *
and the brightness of my eyes is gone from me.
My friends and companions draw back from my affliction; *
my neighbors stand afar off.

I damn near memorized that psalm when I was undergoing chemo. Unlike so many of the other psalms, it never goes in to the exultant mode --just ends with the thought 'do not forsake me God.' I had to leave the exultant stuff to someone else...

In the ER last night, I heard and witnessed praise and thanksgiving. Wrapped in longing. Like an offering of fruit alongside naked bones. (hence the image above--thank you Cezanne.)

And now, shifting gears, even while I carry last night with me, and will bring it to the altar as I am able....

Today, I must organize the final touches on the weekend --because I get in the car and leave for Diocesan Council tomorrow. And I will be working late in to the evening --we had a table at the Gay Pride Day in the autumn, and a young man --teen in high school, came to the table and wanted to know about a church that didn't think he was doomed to hell before he even began. Now he seeks baptism.

(Isaiah 44:24) Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who by myself spread out the earth; who frustrates the omens of liars, and makes fools of diviners; who turns back the wise, and makes their knowledge foolish...

That One, young man, seek that One.

(Beginning at Ephesians 5:1) Live as children of light - for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

It is so easy to lose sight of those who work tirelessly for the kingdom in this world --where the wild beasts of the wilderness, the wild beasts that will consume our life are the very things we think will save us --insurance, cars, telephones, computers... you know what I mean?

Is that piece of fruit regarded by the skull rotten in its core? A smooth looking pure skin broken and a putrid chasm exposed?

That is how it looks to me.

(Ending with Mark 4:20) And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables?

The sower sows the word.

These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.

And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."


Hey God --it's margaret. You and I both know you made the path, you made the rocky ground, you made the thorns, you made the soil. You and I both know you hold all these things in being.

And you made me to say aloud to myself --The path in the garden is a good thing when it has rained; the rocky ground and even sheer hard cliffs are the home to eagles and ground squirrels alike; the thorns shelter the rabbit... and catch stray lambs... and I hear thorns make a mighty crown-- and good soil first erupts from mother earth searing and burning....

I mean, c'mon. You are the one who gave us the imagination to see the cross of death as a way to life.

Nothing is ever that simple. Or am I making it all too complex?

I know what you mean. I know what you are getting at. Go deep, grow roots. Yahyahyah. Explain to me why I am more like a fish in moving water.

You know what? --I'm not gonna worry about it. I will take the water and the fire and the bread and wine and the skin that feels the breath of the Spirit and I'm not gonna try to tame 'em nor pretend to understand 'em. You have made me a keeper of the mysteries. M.Y.S.T.E.R.Y. And I will carry them in to the ER for your own strange healing acts. And I will NOT talk about them to a young man, but pray I will teach him to use his eyes and ears. And how to track the signs that lead to life. Off the path--or on, wherever. Among the rocks. In the margins where the thorns grow and weave crowns of thicket. Where you hide yourself as a ram. The Lamb. Waiting for me to see you. Amen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

not sent to a people whose speech is thick and difficult --but sent to your own...

Uggghhh. I was supposed to get up and go to greet our legislators in a lobby day action --on immigration. The legislation that made headlines in Arizona is sliding in to effect under the radar here, by the generous actions of our AG. --who met with the Tea Party yesterday, by the way. On the grounds of the state house... with those who were demonstrating for their gun rights not to be tampered with...

Uggghhh. So much work to do...

But today, I am still nursing myself... sick...

...and a Vestry meeting tonight --first one of the new year --with new Vestry members... officers to elect... all that good stuff.

So, I tried to sleep in --but my bedroom window faces the alley behind our house, and the people who pick up our trash --who didn't come yesterday because of the holiday --came early this morning and woke me up... so, I said my prayers of thanksgiving for the work they do... well, not at first --at first they were just prayers with big boots and sharp toes... but, eventually I fell back to sleep.

And now I feel like I am trying to emerge through a cloudy web twelve feet deep in every direction.... and I really do not know which way is up. ...or down....

And today we are supposed to remember St. Peter. His confession of faith.

God bless him. Although I am furious beyond measure at those who now inhabit and encircle his temporal throne in Rome. It seems there are few who are working harder to make the Church obsolete... or at least nothing more than an old fossil bone.

And the end of this week we go to our own Diocesan Council. The conservatives have been crying for the Bishop to lay down the litigation regarding the properties in northern Virginia --and do the 'Christian' thing and work for reconciliation. Even wrote a resolution to that effect. Without consulting those who are now bereft of their church homes --the remnant congregations who are now meeting in other places....

Some of the laity who worship in the Nigerian churches started a campaign to 'share' the property... but retaining control.

The priests and people in charge of the homeless congregations will have none of it. They too wrote a Resolution asking the Bishop to use 'every possible means' to secure the property.

There was heated discussion at the pre-Council hearing (yes, Virginia, in its exceptionalism, call its convention a council). Heated to the extent that those who wrote the Resolution asking the Bishop to lay down the litigation, and those who are asking the Bishop to use every possible means decided they better model Christian reconciliation... the result being a new resolution asking the people of the Diocese to pray.

When one of the priests I serve with heard the new resolution, he said certain profane words. As he is wont to do. Can't say I disagree with him...

And, interestingly, Baby Blue and her cohorts knew of the changed resolution before we did... something fishy in Denmark, yes?

There is nothing un-Christian about standing up for justice. There is nothing un-Christian about not accepting and internalizing the oppressive rhetoric and actions of CANA et als.

Just sayin'.

And a group in this Diocese, Just Episcopalians, of which I am a member, worked long and hard on a Resolution regarding the blessing of same-sex unions. The initial Resolution even called for an end-date of Pentecost --to lift the ban and prohibition of blessings we live under. And with much debate, we omitted the end-date....

The text we submitted (R-2): Resolved, that the 216th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia thanks Bishop Shannon Johnston and the diocesan team for the very fruitful "Listen ... And Be Heard" sessions in 2010, and urges our Bishop to “provide a generous pastoral response" by moving forward with guidelines for public blessings of same gender unions.

The Resolutions Committee --who have stopped, edited, morphed, merged and re-written --in other words butchered Resolutions, couldn't keep their hands off this one either. They re-wrote the last sentence from "by moving forward with guidelines FOR public blessings" to "with regard to public blessings."

Which, of course, may demonstrate 'neutral language' --but neatly and subtly changes the whole meaning of the Resolution. It was argued that most would not notice nor understand the change. These changes were circulated by email to our group. In response, I wrote:

Dear all,

I see this "friendly" amendment as the ploy that it is. I have no doubt that others will too. And I am confident it is not we who are being silly, petty, hyper-technical, uncooperative, and simply blindly opposing anything and everything ---we have been patient beyond all measure, faithful and honest in all that we do. And we have bent over backwards at every step.

I think it a slap in the face that endorsements and signers might be dumped.

I believe our work at next year's Council is to find some way to get this Committee from running rampant with submitted Resolutions. As I understand it, from someone who has been in the Diocese since baptism at birth --this behavior of this Committee has always been thus.

If I, or any other cleric behaved this way within the context of parish ministry, --well.... let me just say it is insulting to the people of God and shows little or no respect to the people or work presented and proposed, and lands clearly in the "father knows best" patriarchal category of behavior. (So, just how many women and gay persons serve on this committee anyway?)

Resolution or no --I will continue to work to the goal of this Resolution.

I am disheartened. But, I am not going to throw my hands up and say, whatever. This is not about splitting hairs. It is about throwing one more obstacle in the path of those who wish a blessing of the church. It is about not recognizing the faithful work of all those involved. It is about putting down our LGBTQ sisters and brothers and not recognizing their existence in the life of the church yet again. That is their goal.

Let be done what will be done.
And shame on them.


Several have written or called, saying I was burning up the phone lines --so to speak. And I thought I was being polite! Well --actually, I WAS being polite!! I didn't cuss once!

At morning prayer (Ezekiel 3:4-11) Man, he said to me, go and tell the Israelites what I have to say to them. You are sent not to people whose speech is thick and difficult, but to Israelites. No; I am not sending you to great nations whose speech is so thick and so difficult that you cannot make out what they say; if however I had sent you to them they would have listened to you.

But the Israelites will refuse to listen to you, for they refuse to listen to me, so brazen are they all and stubborn. But I will make you a match for them. I will make you as brazen as they are and as stubborn as they are.

I will make your brow like adamant, harder than flint. Never fear them, never be terrified by them, rebels though they are.

And he said to me, Listen carefully, man, to all that I have to say to you, and take it to heart. Go to your fellow-countrymen in exile and speak to them. Whether they listen or refuse to listen, say, "These are the words of the Lord GOD."


yeah.

I hear that.

Now, to work. Gotta call the people I work with and let them know I will be late.

Amen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Repenting of repent.

I keep returning to the image of the two disciples leaving John the Baptizer who preached 'Repent!' --and by the end of the day they had determined to follow the man called Jesus who preached forgivenness. Grace.

What a change that must have been! They repented of repent.

It seems most of our conservative sisters and brothers in Christ are still disciples of John... and they believe the Christian message is Repent.

I feel quite aware that (calling people to repent) is not my job. I'll leave that one up to the Spirit. My job is to pronounce the gifts of the church --forgiven-ness. Grace.

And, no, I did not misspell forgiveness. I mean forgiven-ness. Instead of a verbish thing --an action, and deed to forgive or to be forgiven --I am trying to make a word that describes a state of being. Like Grace. We live in Grace. We live in forgiven-ness.

Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we remember today, knew that. He knew that when a people are oppressed, even the oppressors are not free. Perhaps, especially. Forgiveness and forgiven-ness a necessary salve to claim justice. And liberty.

At morning prayer (beginning at Ephesians 4:1) I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

We share the gifts for the sake of all... One Body.

I am not interested in the grand feats of aestheticism and all... with the grand acts of defying the temptations of this world.

I am interested in those who are prisoners in the Lord, leading lives of humility, gentleness, patience and love....

Of course, the very things, when push comes to shove, that I feel I lack.

Sigh.

I think today is one of those nap days.... fighting with a cold. Wonder what would happen if I approached the nasties in my head and lungs with humility, patience and love?

Nah. Nuke the crap.
How the hell does one forgive a cold?
Nah.
All over the map....
I hate being sick.
amen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

Ya know, if you look for him, really look for him, you can find him anywhere.


Those disciples of John the Baptist didn't even know that they were looking... nor what they were looking for... --woke up in the morning preaching repentance, and ended the evening as disciples of Jesus preaching forgiveness.

Their lives were forever changed.

Do you know what you are looking for?
Do you know that your life is changed?
Are you a living breathing sign of Christ?

G'wan. Go to church.
Maybe you will find good company for the search and journey.
And maybe, just maybe.... you'll be changed.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll become the sign you are.

I want to be considered wild, unpredictable and... well... dangerous

"We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news.

Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into ‘nice people’.

But radical Christianity wasn’t nice; it was category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional; it spread like wildfire throughout the 1st century and was considered by those in power to be dangerous.

I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and … well …dangerous. I want to be dangerous to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered dangerous by our predictable and monotonous culture.

Dullness is a cultural issue."
--Robert F. Capon

ohhhh --now there is a way to start the day!

And we do live with an oppression of dullness....

I mean, when was the last time we really embodied our faith? --like, when was the last time we shouted for joy in church...?

Psalm 95 (Venite)

Come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before God's presence with thanksgiving;
and raise to the Lord a shout with psalms.


When I am with my native brothers and sisters, they involve their whole body in prayer --they swath themselves with the smoke of sweet smelling cedar, it's outside so it's hot or cold or rainy, they sing and shout, they move their feet, lift their hands --not in a show of emotion, but in an orans --like the priestly people they are...

(Isaiah 43:2-4) Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

We no longer risk passing through the waters --we merely sprinkle tamed water, all nice and easy. I love the babies that turn and twist to get into the water, to splash and make a mess --they know.

We tame the fire --put it in containers, light little candles.

We should risk more as we pray.

(Ephesians 3:14-21) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory,
he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being
with power through his Spirit,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,
as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend,
with all the saints,
what is the breadth
and length
and height
and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him
who by the power at work within us
is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,
to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.
Amen.


And people ask me, why do you not kneel? And I say, it is Sunday --the Day of Resurrection. We have been 'made worthy to stand' before him. If you want to see me kneel, come on Good Friday. I dress in cold black and lay down helpless on the floor before the altar. And people mock me behind my back for that...

I do not ask in return, when it says stand or kneel, why do you sit? Why do you place your haunches on the pew and get comfortable?

Should one be comfortable in addressing God, Todopodoroso?

When one has been near the gates of death, and all words, all strength, all thought, all ability stripped of them --one knows the true discomfort in addressing God.

As if prayer were something we DO.

(Beginning at Mark 2:23) One sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"

And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."

Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."


We are a priestly people --we eat the bread of the Presence every Sunday. We should be petrified --ready to be hit by lightening... ready to die to ourselves.... Breaking the rules, breaking the Sabbath Law because we don't keep the Sabbath holy--we meet and pray on the day of Resurrection... category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional.

"I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and … well …dangerous. I want to be dangerous to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered dangerous by our predictable and monotonous culture." --amen Capon.

Amen.

Capon brought a large basket full of apples to our wedding --for me to offer Joel. One by one.

...as if we needed tempting....



Amen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

gonna start again... today.

Listening to one of those silly 'magazine' shows on TV --diet talk.... One of the guests on the show said something to the effect of "when you are tired and exhausted and stressed you make bad decisions, and one of those bad decisions is to overeat."

Yah. I know that.

Last July, with Manuel busted in our living room and thrown in jail --then fighting extradition to Texas, and then Joel in the ICU for a week... So, between the jail, the hospital, the house, the church, Ronnie in the nursing home being dragged off to jail, mt mom's sister dieing--which brought up so much other stuff... and all the other stuff in between.... I ate. Ice cream. Pizza. Christmas cookies and candy. Fast food. I ate.

And all the stress didn't let up in the fall... more huge, big, monumental stuff at work --and then in December Joel back in ICU, parishioner-hit-by-car living here... I ate.

I know I eat as comfort. And when I eat -sugar and fat and all that, then my body craves all that. And it becomes a vicious circle.

And, so, even when I eat properly, and even when I exercise at the gym four times a week, I have to eat fewer than 1200 calories to lose weight.... and to maintain, fewer than 1500 calories... and exercise like a banshee.

So, my ancestors were able to survive famine. Good for them. But it's just not fair (she whines).... and I'm just getting too old to run thirty miles or more a week and more in order to keep in shape.

...sigh.... but I must do what I can.

So, today, even though it is not fair and I'm getting to old, I am going to fight the cravings and begin again.

...sigh...

God help me.

Why today? --cuz. It's time.

Now, I know it's not as big a news as the flooding in Australia and Sri Lanka, global-political meltdowns, and the other disastrous and heart rending circumstances we as people and nations face daily... But it is a difficult something I will face hourly for a long, long while... and I ask your prayers.

At morning prayer (Mark 2:18-20) Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"

Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.


No, the bridegroom has not been taken away from me --to the contrary. I have been gearing up --getting mentally prepared for a couple weeks now. And now it is time. It is for the joy that is in me that I will fast!

And that is what I will hold before me. Make it not about deprivation, but joy! Yes --and it is a form of prayer.

There we are --now, off to the gym!
Peace out!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You are so weird.

There has been a lot of screed on the HoB/D listserve regarding whether or not the violent nature of the political language and the cross hairs on a map led to the shootings in Tuscon. And whether or not the conservatives or the liberals are more to blame.

Mostly, the conservatives are trying to claim that they and the language of Palin are not responsible.... sigh.

And as some have said, Palin's scramble to remove the cross hair map demonstrates that she had already drawn the connection --despite her angry 'blood libel' speech trying to demonstrate her innocence and decrying the so-called liberals who were trying to blame her....

How very different she sounded --defensive, angry, continuing to lay blame --how very different from the tone of the President's speech.... calling us to do better. All of us.

And then there was this at morning prayer:Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision" - a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands - remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


Dang. We. Are. One.

Yes, I know it is true --Palin and her ilk are as one with us as we are with her.... We are, in Christ, reconciled, one body through the cross, hostility dead...

I have an easier time seeing her as the lying snake in the tree --she is either purposefully wicked in laying claim to death panels in health insurance reform (on one level --she is already correct --those who decide to drop coverage on folks or weasel out of coverage on others --but that is already true, not a result of recent legislation....) or, she is spinning in fear and ignorance... or both.

I guess for true reconciliation we must all lay down our agendas and search for what is godly. In each other. What brings life to all.... no matter the cost. As disciples of Christ.

And most especially, when those we are working with are not Christian.

But somehow, I keep ending up thinking that those I love and know are closer to a godly vision than she and hers...

And I suppose she does too.

It's a strange dance we do. Trying to keep the Gospel before us. As we twirl and turn. Especially when the economia of God has nothing to do with financial sensibility. But, instead, has to do with making a holy temple wherein God may be known.

Those who are outsiders are not outsiders. The law and rules have been laid down. A new law.

And it is frightening. Awesome. And risky.

Hey God. It's margaret. All this "ONE" talk is fine, great... but what do we do when the likes of Palin would take advantage of that, and condemn and marginalize --would kill and take the money and run? Okay--okay.... so walk the way of the cross.... that's fine for those who know, but what about the ones that get squashed and wrung out and beat and dead in the meantime? Okay --so I get the Beatitudes --blessed are the poor, the meek, the hungry.... I get the slaughter of the innocents --this is what happens... this is gospel reality. So, I want to know how you reconcile with those who want none of it and see it as unrealistic and a weakness... Do you really love Satan, Legion, the Liar so much?

Yes. I suppose you do. You are so weird. So unrealistic. If I didn't think you knew what it was like to be human, you know, I'd just walk away.

Yeah --I remember. I tried it. That didn't work either.

Love you too. Well, you know at least I strive to do so. And all this Christian stuff of loving your enemy... sometimes it just sucks. Amen.

Spellcheck says Palin is a misspelling. Wish spellcheck were God sometimes. Would be a helluva lot cleaner... easier.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

it is the gift of God... not the result of works....

Today we remember Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx, Yorkshire, 1167


He is the patron saint of Integrity.

The Collect: Pour into our hearts, O God, the Holy Spirit's gift of love, that we, clasping each the other's hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred draw many to your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Aelred thought and wrote at length about love --loving someone because God loves that someone... He also thought and wrote at length about particular love, particular friendship as a particular way of knowing and experiencing the love of God.

...which is fairly radical for a medieval monk...

It set me thinking... and seeing love as something we do... that it is a work, much like art, that we choose to make.

And, it's not.

Love is not something we do. It is something bigger than ourselves that we participate in. ....something that we fall in to, in which we swim....

We are always all in love. Because we all always live in a state of grace.

At morning prayer (Ephesians 2:3-10) But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.


Not our own faith, not our own love, not our own grace....

Which is what makes so much of what we pray at church a lie.... we pray that 'we all may be one' --and we are. Already. One. And it is our own sin which keeps us living the lie that we are not one.

And we pray for the poor and the homeless, the destitute, those without work or friends.... and, yes, all these persons need prayer.... However, in particular, it is for the rich we should pray --those in power, those who have the power to make our world, our systems something other than a means to perpetuate wealth and power... because the poor, those without, the marginalized, the homeless ---they already know the Gospel. They are already blessed.

Every time we ask for mercy, ask to stand in God's favor and grace --it is a sin against the Spirit --because we already so do.

Love. Grace. The ground of all being. Our source.

Talking and thinking about love.... Today, pray not only for the people of Haiti --as we are upon the anniversary of the terrible quake. Pray for those who profit from those circumstances of oppression and poverty and perpetuate them for their own gain, that their hearts may be changed. That they may see and know we are one.

--and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works... It is our true reality and ground. It is the way we are made.

Amen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For love. For joy.


All things come of you, O LORD. And of your own, have we given you.

At morning prayer (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; the LORD's understanding is unsearchable.

God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.


For those in The Sudan.
For those in Australia.
For those in this nation who wish to deny the fabrication of our own violence.

For those homeless and without shelter in this winter storm.
For the caregivers of those who suffer in body, mind or spirit.
For the mentally ill and emotionally challenged.

For those who are lamenting, saying 'why did no one intervene?' in the life of Jared Loughner. I can only say, try it --try intervening on behalf of a broken mind. Broken bones? We attend to it. Flu? Cold? Cancer? We attend to it. A broken mind --forget about it, until the broken mind hurts self or someone else.... and then, all we attend to is the law. This. I. Know.

For the rich and the powerful.
For the selfish.
For fundamentalists.
For those who purposefully seek to do others harm.

Thanksgiving for lovers.
Thanksgiving for my little dog. Even when he does sleep on top of me. And licks my ears and cheeks and nose because he things it's time for a cookie.
Thanksgiving for family and friends.
Thanksgiving for the strength that surprises.
Thanksgiving for this astounding creation --for the sleeping trees and the promise of spring. Especially for camellia buds in the midst of winter.

Keep on keepin' on. For love. For joy.
Amen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

too many alarms recently

I slept in this morning....

O.M.G. it felt good. And, we had our Annual Church meeting yesterday --and it was good. We unveiled our new ministry model and I think it was very well received. I, for one, am VERY excited about it. And the other housekeeping things we did as a parish --it's like there is a new light in the room. I serve the best congregation this side of the Mississippi!

It makes everything else that happened this weekend stand out in sharp relief.... the shooting violence and death in Tuscon. It makes the bone-chilling reckoning of the condition of our nation so apparent.

The rabid rhetoric and opinions which have been soundly condemned here and so many other places --probably better than I have done, --the realities of those rabid states of mind have come to fruition. The likes of Palin-- and by no way is she alone --she is just the face and mouthpiece of that world view --coy and pretty, for some so seductive --but with a rampant inner darkness and void of compassion --she/they put sharp-shooter type cross hairs over geographic areas, over persons, and what they dreamed and said should happen did happen.

Folks can chant 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me' until they are blue in the face. But, names do hurt. Nasty rhetoric breaks backs and kills. Gossip and rumors kill.

For a people who believe the Word became flesh, we cannot but imagine that words, all words have reality and a life and can menace and maim and kill and destroy.

Some are already insisting that there is not cause and effect.... that because the words and rhetoric happened, they cannot be directly connected to the violence that happened. The shooter was just crazy, they say.... Even so, if there is no connection, why did Palin take down her little cross-hair map? Surely, she sees/fears the connection.

And, sure, it sounds like he was mentally unhinged. Honestly, mental illness is/must be the new horizon of civil rights. And it seems the shooter fits in to that whole category of young men who act with a gun in a crowd... As a nation, we are in such denial --always shocked when something like this happens.

In a certain way --we should be shocked. It is the amnesia in between the shocks that concerns me. The continued denial.

And if the Westboro Baptist crowd were people of color or of a different faith... somehow I think they would have been silenced and shut down a while ago --not tolerated and treated to media fests.

The link by their name above leads to the article describing how the Westboro clan intends to picket the funerals of those who were shot in Tuscon, and they denigrate Palin for taking her little cross-hair map off the public inter-waves... a coward they say.

shit --the alarm at church has gone off --bye. this makes four in the last three weeks.

The alarm --well we have a theater group rehearsing there --two alarm zones, and they use only one zone. --and they let someone in, and that person went in the other zone looking for me.... sigh.

Any how... This is the little bit 'o scripture that set me free this morning:

At morning prayer (Canticle: A Song of God's Love
1 John 4:7-11)

Beloved, let us love one another, *
for love is of God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, *
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was revealed among us, *
that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Jesus Christ.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us *
and sent his Son that sins might be forgiven.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, *
we ought also to love one another.
For if we love one another, God abides in us, *
and God's love will be perfected in us.

Praise to the holy and undivided Trinity, one God: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


There is no condemnation in Christ. Only an outpouring of love. Forever. No one can claim Christ and belittle and condemn others. However, he did throw the money changers out of the Temple....

Hey God --it's margaret. Inspire us as a people. Infuse us with courage to do the work at hand. Help us not to flee. And help us love even those who would do us harm.

Dang.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

The mighty River Jordan.... it's predicted to run dry this year... and it's toxic, foaming weirdly and full of poop.


But--it's still holy.

Human flesh can be pretty skanky too... (Yes, yes, glorious --by the grace of God even holy too.) Even so, God becomes human flesh, and joins us in all this frothy, foaming, poopy, glorious weirdness. That's why he goes on down to be dunked in the river by John -Emmanuel --with us in all things.

G'wan. Go to church. Pray for the People of The Sudan. Pray for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords --all the people of Arizona, those who were shot, those who died --and the one who shot them all.

And thank God that we are joined by the Divine in all this mess.

Always. All the time. No matter what.

Pray. Worship. Promote justice, peace and love.

Snow.

Snow. Snow.

More snow today. Big flakes. But only sticking on the grass and trees and shrubs. And the top of the shed in the back yard.

And, today, I have to go to the Diocesan pre-Council (convention) meeting out in the west-end of Richmond. Last year, as a result of a botched job of totally re-working a Resolution asking our Bishop to allow a 'pastoral response' to same-sex couples in this Diocese --according to the work of General Convention --and that Committee has met all year and concluded exactly what I stood up and said at Council --there are no Diocesan nor Church requirements or regulations that would prove to prevent blessing same-sex couples... and the requirements listed in our Diocesan canons could be used equally in all circumstances....

This pre-council meeting is so that less-legislative type work is done at our one meeting per year.

Whatever.

At morning prayer (Isaiah 59:15-16)

Truth is lacking,
and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.
The LORD saw it,
and it displeased him that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
and was appalled that there was no one to intervene.

Well --there we are.

Do not turn from what is wrong --roll your sleeves up and get to work.

I love this little bit from the catechism of the Church (p 855, BCP)

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace and love.


And, justice delayed IS justice denied.... yeppa. Just sayin'.

Off I go then. To pray. To worship. To promote justice, peace and love. Amen.

Oh, and remember Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary, who died in 1969. She worked among the First Nation peoples. Her name among them was Bird Woman. She worked less on 'conversion' and more on health and economic stability.

Justice first. I like that, Bird Woman. God bless you.

Holy God, you chose your faithful servant, Bird Woman, to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect for all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The true bridegroom


Looks like a good party to me! --it's the wedding at Cana....

At morning prayer (John 2:1-11) On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


This isn't about Jesus blessing the idea of marriage by his mere presence....

This isn't about water being changed to wine --a miracle. In John, all the "miracle" are signs, and signs are not important in and of themselves --signs are important only because they point you to something, show you the way.

This is the Gospel of John. It's about signs. This is the first sign.

It reveals that Jesus trumps the purifying waters of the Jews, used to get one ritually clean. It is a sign that eventually leads one to the table of the Lord to receive the wine of the new covenant.

It reveals that Jesus is the source of the best wine, the blood of the vine. And everyone knows the bridegroom provides the wine at the feast --and the bridegroom at this feast has no idea where this wine came from....

It reveals that Jesus is the true bridegroom at the heavenly marriage feast....

The true bridegroom.

And, now, I have to run and get my hairs cut ---and hope I don't turn blind and lose all my strength! I slept in --that's why this is so short today --thanks be to God! Thanks be to the true bridegroom! The one who provides the BEST wine!

Blessings all!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I have no tangible idea what fulfillment really means....

At morning prayer (Matthew 12:15-21) When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

"Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope."


...he cured all of them, he ordered them not to tell... this was to fulfill what the prophet said....

...is that magical thinking? ...all that fulfillment stuff?

Magical thinking such that it takes away the spontaneous acts of experimentation, of newness out of chaos and darkness --magical thinking such that fulfillment means following the map God laid out in a clockwork creation what works toward a specific end.

Yck....

I think God much prefers to say --oh man! --This. Is. Gooooood! --just like God said in the beginning. Almost surprised... no, really surprised.

Today I go to the jail again. Sometimes I feel it is like a liturgical band-aid... and I have to trust what goes on in-between my time there.

But, I am always surprised there.

Last time, a young woman got really angry at me --I talked a little about my experiences and how I became a follower of Christ (because someone asked me if I were Christian--having been taught that anyone from 'those' type churches really were not Christian at all) --and one young woman stayed after the conclusion of the service and she said I shouldn't call my husband a drunk... I said, but why? --He does. He considers it a gift that he has had to deal with --being a drunk has made him whole.

She was upset because she had been arrested for being drunk in public.... and didn't want to be called a drunk --even though she was in jail....

I promised her I would not call her a drunk. But that I wouldn't take my husband's gift away.

That is certainly, it would seem, not what Jesus was sayin' do-- not tell....

But I know enough that when your life is changed, one is very likely to say something about it, or at least, it's gonna show in some way.

Perhaps that is where Jesus was going with the 'don't tell' stuff --let your life show it... do it, don't talk about it.

But the fulfillment stuff? The so-called prophecy stuff? I'm still there--- How is it not magical thinking?

Perhaps it is the expectation we have placed on 'fulfill.'

I know that when I am under stress, I eat... so, it is not prophecy to say that when I am under stress I get fat. That's just prediction. Reliable history and tangible evidence. (oh man, too reliable right now.... sigh.)

But that is not where this fulfillment thing goes....

Fulfillment is not expectation, prediction, clockwork....

I know it is supposed to be close to perfection, completion....

Perhaps it is closer to what has happened with those Christians who can look at the cross --the implement of shameful, bloody, nasty death for outlaws and political scapegoats --and not see shame and death, but instead see grace and mercy.

I am not sure....

I hope, today, that when I go to the jail, God's hope--God's dream will be fulfilled. I know I will be changed....

Perhaps that is the best thought of fulfillment --transformation, conversion... unfolding glory.

Pray for all prisoners today --of all types... --that justice may be proclaimed and all be given hope... in fulfillment of what God has promised.

Hmmmmmm fulfillment like --my cup runneth over.
Now we're getting close.
But I still have no tangible idea what fulfill really means...

Do you?!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Somebody

It is the Eve of the Epiphany. The fullness of the revelation.



'Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

(Jean de Brebeuf, ca. 1643 in the language of the local indigenous people of Turtle Island, the Huron/Wendats)

Totally different take --and oh so very beautiful --I encourage you to listen to the whole thing:



People who do music, understand interpretation. A new understanding. Sometimes the rythm, the notes, everything is changed, but you know and recognize the music.

Why do folks get so upset when one does it with faith and scripture? A new revelation?

Are we so afraid to be changed? to be moved?

Epiphany.

We who have been baptized have been given a new covenant in the fullness of this revelation. And it is very simple:

(At morning prayer-- John 15:11-12) "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

Joy. And love.

Somebody. Write the music. Play it anew.
Somebody. Dance.
Somebody. Pray.
Somebody.