Monday, February 28, 2011

do more than than advocate

Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School...


and, Dang, now that's a way to start the day...

I read first thing today, that "Elizabeth Wright, founder of Voorhees College in South Carolina, had to contend with arsonists three times to get her first school established."

We are called to remember Elizabeth Wright and Anna Julia Haywood Cooper in our prayers this morning. Strong. Smart. Southern. Black. Women.

Mmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmm. Watch out. The likes of them wrote the Psalms! (Psalm 3)

LORD, how many adversaries I have! *
how many there are who rise up against me!
How many there are who say of me, *
"There is no help for him in his God."
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me; *
you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.
I call aloud upon the LORD, *
and he answers me from his holy hill;
I lie down and go to sleep; *
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I do not fear the multitudes of people *
who set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O LORD; set me free, O my God; *
surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face,
you will break the teeth of the wicked.
Deliverance belongs to the LORD. *
Your blessing be upon your people!


Well. There we are.

They envisioned a world, and then worked to make it happen. Even though their race, gender, location --just about everything, might have rather encouraged them to do otherwise --you know, get as comfortable as one can, despite the oppression, protect what you have and hunker down and get on with it... scrapping out survival and dodging the blows...

No. Instead, they persisted to live in to something that was not yet. Rising out of the ashes.

And they made it happen.

Ohhh --for courage like that. I am naught but a gnat with broken wings...

Today-- day off --Joel and I were going to fix up the back room --promised ourselves all week, because we've put it off since last summer.... but late last night, he comes in all dejected looking --announcing he has an infusion today, most the day hooked up to an IV drip.... and first thing this morning, before we awoke, a call comes in from the alarm company at church --so off I run before coffee to wrassle with the alarm demons....

And in between all that --there is an argument going on about advocacy on the HoB/D listserve... should we, shouldn't we spend time on 'political' issues --you know, like immigration, global warming and the like....

Some feel the church shouldn't take 'a stand,' because the church needs to be a big tent where all are welcome... and when the church takes a stand, some will feel unwelcome.... and church is supposed to be a refuge, a sanctuary... a place of comfort.

This morning, I'm really feeling it --to hell with advocacy and taking a stand.... advocacy and taking a stand leave one safe... we are to bear in our flesh and blood --as the Body of Christ, the sins of the world --Jesus didn't advocate... Jesus didn't take a stand... He became. Was. Is. Will be. Always. All ways.

And that is not victim. That is claiming Resurrection life... as did Anna and Julia.

Okay --inspired. Knowing I can do nothing to even just pull up my own boot straps, I will venture forth again in joy. Trusting.

And that is enough.

I pray for K. For A. For M. For D. For the workers of Wisconsin. The people of Egypt and Libya and New Zealand. Heard a report last night that there was a strong earthquake yesterday in Chile --and nothing this morning... Hope that means it was not an overwhelming disaster. I pray for the students and teachers at the Anna Julia Haywood Cooper Episcopal School here in Richmond (a tuition free school to offer excellent education in the poorest and one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Richmond, founded by a member of the congregation I serve. They are totally dependent upon donations. If you feel so moved, you can find the link to give by clicking on the name above).

For all those who do more than advocate or take a stand... ...for those who DO. amen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:24-25)

Right. I hear ya Jesus. But the birds are well adorned or can fly a thousand miles... and they do stash food --I've seen 'em do it.

Hey God --You made us naked...



...and dependent upon one another.... and when that breaks down or becomes abusive, you also gave us the voices and the will to act... and you promised to hear our voices...

The rally was not only about food, and clothing and what we will drink. It was about all those things and more.

There was even a rabbi there --who said yes, it was the Sabbath, but he was about God's righteousness--and read us a bit of the law about worker's and their wages... every budget, he said, is a moral document.

It is about getting our voice back, and letting it be heard by those new pharaohs who wield the power --not only in our state house, but across the nation.

...and especially in Wisconsin.

G'wan. Go to church. Pray for the young people in Egypt and Libya, for the people of Wisconsin, for the teachers and public workers in this Commonwealth who are outlawed from speaking with a common voice....

(Pictures from the rally today in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin taken in downtown Richmond.)

Somebody gotta sing it, pray it... outloud.



At morning prayer (Matthew 6:6) But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Hmmmmmmmmm.....

Individual prayer....

I just wrote a mess o' thoughts. And I just deleted it all....

I can't imagine a secret God. That's all I mean to say.

So, there it is.

Personal piety is just that.

And it has no place in corporate worship... corporate --body ...whole.

And even these, my morning contemplations, I am not alone. About 250 of you out there come here every day.

Thank you. You may not know it, --we may not have ever met in person, but you are a blessing to me.

And, today, despite the inability of public workers in Virginia to have a collective voice (it is against the law here), I will gather with others at the State Capitol at 1pm and show my support for the workers in Wisconsin who are being told they will lose their voice. Or their jobs.

Probably both, when it comes down to it.

We'll see.

So, in both grace and courage, I pray for the people of Libya; I pray for their army and leaders; for workers here with no voice; for workers in Wisconsin whose voice is being strangled; for the legislators in Wisconsin; for the people of New Zealand and Haiti; for IT and her wife who are gathering in the cathedral in San Diego and celebrating the blessings of their marriage; for K,A,B,B,E,J,K,R; for the people of St.A; for M and his neighbors.





Yeppa. Somebody gotta sing it, pray it... outloud. Peace out.

Friday, February 25, 2011

fish hat --the cap on my clay pot


Big winds. Rain likely. More. Big. Winds. More rain. Dry tomorrow. The fish on my hat are ruined....

The daffodils have busted the ground up. all over the place. No blooms yet. I am yearning, panting for spring....

...and it all feels like the eye of the needle.

And, at first the readings were all misery in morning prayer... oh, those Psalms about enemies and pits and persecution... and then Paul says this (2 Corinthians 4:1-12)

Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake.

For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.


Yowza. Where to begin....

First --Paul. Paul. Paul. And, second --Holy Moly!

It amazes me how God works.... Through prayer this morning, I have been chatting with Kirstin. Funny how that works. After a good 40 minutes or so of chat, she said something about my doing my post/prayer --and I told her that she had been part of it all along....

Once I was walking on the beach in La Jolla and the monk in his orange robe was meditating facing the ocean and I realized suddenly I was jumping up and down right in front of him.... So, I said, Oooops! Sorry! Didn't mean to interrupt! And, he said, You are not interrupting. You are part of it.

So, here I am, thinking of all those things like I feel I am toting, bearing, and Paul says what he says --clay pots and all that Jesus stuff.... and my sister Kirstin is showing me her spirit and grace.... witness to grace and resurrection, she is....

...and prayer weaves it all together... in a spirit-braid. I will spend the day with it in my pocket, around my wrist, before my eyes...

...as I visit A in ICU.

...as I pray for all those grieving.

...for all those wondering how the spirit is calling them.

...for all those who feel hope frustrated.

...for those who have lost hope.

...that the Great Mystery be present to those in Wisconsin, New Zealand, Libya and all those places where hope is frustrated and yet still the cup runneth over.

...for all those who pray TO Jesus instead of in his name...

...as I strive to keep this clay pot safe, uncracked... knowing full well that it is through the cracks that glory will spill out... but how to live with that in community where cracks are seen as weakness, not as part of our glory....

...so we pretend, and cover our presumed blemishes... just the opposite of what Paul is saying do...

There is a big wind outside. More rain. More wind. Hoping that spring is riding its wake. Knowing that spring is riding its wake. I just can't see it yet.

And I offer it all. In the bread. In the wine. Lift it before the people. Their body. Their life-blood. And it will be broken. Redeemed. Fill us unexpectedly.

The Spirit assures me that I live already beyond the cross. But my feet keep seeming to touch down at the foot of the cross. Looking up at the horror. The pain. The sour wine.

I do not dream of hope. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. That, and too many baskets-full of fish and bread. And hope.

Fish on a plate for a hat. A cap on my clay pot.

Oh. God.

amen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A new song and rocks that melt...

Well.... I know it takes five generations until you are considered 'local' in Richmond. But I was reminded again, yesterday, very gently and lovingly that I am perceived as being a radical outsider. A much beloved radical outsider, but that because I am from some place else I will never understand history, the love of the past, the integrity of being from here since forever....

Because, where I come from, there is no history.

...sigh...

Included in that is an understanding that I cannot, therefor, understand the love of church as it has always been done....

...sigh...

What to do? This time, I have decided not to resist the prejudice layered upon me. It hasn't worked so far. Saying I find it offensive and inappropriate does not work--ridiculous to try it again.

I won't own it either. Because I know it is not true.

Instead, I will turn to the Kingdom work I have been given to do. And I will not stifle the joy and liberty I know.

At morning prayer (Canticle: A Song of Judith, Judith 16:13-16)

I will sing a new song to my God, *
for you are great and glorious, wonderful in strength, invincible.
Let the whole creation serve you, *
for you spoke and all things came into being.
You sent your breath and it formed them, *
no one is able to resist your voice.
Mountains and seas are stirred to their depths, *
rocks melt like wax at your presence.
But to those who fear you, *
you continue to show mercy.
No sacrifice, however fragrant, can please you, *
but whoever fears the Lord shall stand in your sight for ever.


A new song. A new creation.

Hey God, it's me, margaret. Thank you, bless you for a new song. A new creation. Help me remember and know in my bones .... Give us the courage and imagination to shape our hearts and voices to sing a new song. In a constantly changing landscape. In a new creation.

I pray also for the people of New Zealand. Their temple has literally fallen. I pray for the wounded, dead and those who grieve. For the people of Libya and all the nations in turmoil. I pray for the workers in Wisconsin. For K,A,B,P,H,S,A,R,J and all who suffer and grieve. For all those who strive to fulfill a more just community. For all those who sing a new song. And greet a new creation. Prepare us all for the coming of the Day of the Lord. When the rocks shall melt like wax. Now --that's a scary thought! Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This morning


Where does he --Picasso, begin? And how can he end up in so many different places?

Want to try your hand at reducing the deficit? This link was circulated on the HoB/D listserve this morning... I was able to totally eliminate all the current deficit and 3/4s of the projected deficit without touching 'entitlements.'

Why are they called entitlements? --I have paid more every month for the last thirty years than I am due to receive every month at retirement.... The word entitlement makes it sound as though I expect it without deserving it....

...sigh... The whole entire system is built upon debt... if we give up our debt, the whole thing will come crashing down. Just sayin'.

...I have thought a lot this past week about the situation in Wisconsin, that is, it would seem, spreading to other places more to the center of the Nation. Been thinking about the silencing of the voice of the workers....

I found out last night that it is illegal for State workers to speak to or associate with any thing even resembling a union in the Commonwealth of VA.... Why am I not surprised... --wonder if it has anything to do with labor history in this place....

Sadly, there is a parishioner who works 40 hours a week for the State of VA for minimum wage and has no benefits, no insurance, no vacation, no sick-leave, no pension... nothing. --hired through a "special" program and is considered temporary part-time. So, s/he works alongside and does the same work as one who has all of the above....

I can only imagine that without a voice at the table, s/he is left to the whim of patronage--pleasing those who make the decisions. What I know for sure --I know they are afraid to say anything for fear of losing what they have.

A Very Special Program.

Losing what they have.... my thoughts and prayers go to the people of Christchurch, New Zealand. The devastation of an earthquake is unlike anything else... when the ground itself moves, what can one trust? Devastating. Devastated. Fires. No water. No shelter. For as far as the eye can see.

Ground moving --introduced the concept of an altar in the center of the congregation last night. One idea among many. Great feedback. Much work to do with regards to worship. I loved the thoughtful comment that we don't do church for ourselves, but for the neighbors we have.

Loved that. Love it. Yeppa.

And I am very saddened that the Diocese of South Carolina is lining up to secede from the Church... voted to amend their Constitution so that they might think they are no longer part of the whole....

What folly. Instead of saying we are not part of you, why not say 'we love you --we're staying, and this is how we are going to be.' Now, that would be integrity.

But anger, fear, angst, blaming and separation are a far easier path, it would seem...

But, that is the path of lies and of the liar.

At morning prayer (Revelation 22:12-13)

"Behold, I am coming soon," says the Lord,
"and bringing my reward with me,
to give to everyone according to their deeds.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end."


Oh dear God. Why do you place these ecstatic visions in my heart even while the poor cry out and the ground moves? And, is there really such a thing as an identifiable beginning and a complete end? What is there before a beginning? --cosmically speaking. And does the end of everything bring us around to where we began? or other someplace, some other beingness?

All in all, I hear. But that seems more like a shadow cast on the wall in the back of the cave. One shadow among many. Like the many bulls --none of them real... --all of them speaking the truth of bulls.

This morning.

Confess Christ crucified. Proclaim the resurrection. Share in his eternal priesthood.

There is nothing else.

This morning.

Spell check was to change 'beingness' in to 'bigness.'

Another shadow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

courage and vision and the knowledge of hope


This was the tiny (I am guessing the original is about 5"x8") and colorful little work that I fell in love with yesterday at the Picasso exhibit.

I loved it... Perhaps it was that the shoulder to shoulder crowd was alleviated, and I found myself with breathing room by this window to the beach --perhaps it was because it was next to the more famous women running hand in hand on the beach that is like an old friend --perhaps it was because this jewel was so unexpected --perhaps it was because I was familiar with each emotive stance of the women... --perhaps it was because the stones that embodied the personas of darkness.... littered in death about a beach by a green water that threatened the violence... and the women are not oblivious, just unperturbed. Focused on their athleticity and abundant health.

Perhaps it was because amidst the moving and wrenching tears, anger, angst, futility, despair, suffering, rawness, oppression and deconstruction that emerged from the work on the walls --this little bit of whimsy was like an oasis.

Picasso. With his feet in the sand. And for a moment, liking it.... He was the 20th Century. He knew it. All of it. And perceived it.

Even in his own brokenness.

No, perhaps because of his own brokenness. His own conclusions at that moment fell outside his own cascade of possessive lust fraught with contempt.

I mean, didn't he once say there were only two types of women --goddesses and doormats... !?

Nay, Mr. Picasso, you saw only two types of women... and they both scared you.

Talk about being scared... I love (not in the good way --snark here) the conclusions of those who support the governor of Wisconsin --that it is the voice and benefits of the workers that must be crushed in order to balance the budget... and not just the situation of Wisconsin, but all across the map.

Why is it the hope of the workers must be taken away, instead of the wealthy paying their share of taxes, and corporations being held responsible for their workers?

Perhaps it is the same impulse that objectifies and subjectifies women. I know. I just made that word up.

Women. Workers. Doormats.

If I had not had those glimpses, that willing abandonment to grace... I too might live only in that willful deconstructed geometric despair.

At morning prayer (1 Peter 1:3-4, 18-21)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, *
by divine mercy we have a new birth into a living hope;
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, *
we have an inheritance that is imperishable in heaven.


Which doesn't sanctify suffering. That's not it. But gives courage and vision and the knowledge of hope.

Amen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Persevere in/for what?


Today--my day off... AND I have a hot date with my lover --we are going to the museum for the Picasso show!!! Finally!!! (I have even reserved a wheelchair, just in case, because there is no way I can see Joel being on his feet for any length of time.) And I have made reservations for lunch at the fancypants restaurant, called 'Amuse' at the top of the museum --it's been years since we have splurged....

And I am really excited!

Then, late afternoon, I run to my office for a conversation with my Bishop about two Eucharistic prayers I have written... I betcha I know two questions he's going to ask --why did I change the sursum corda, and why, in one of the prayers, did I put the Sanctus at the end of the prayer....

Well, I changed the sursum corda to fit the Oriental and Byzantine rite... ancient versions that vary from our inheritance of this exchange from our older Jewish sisters and brothers and make it a Trinitarian greeting... The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be you all.

And the Sanctus (and Benedictus) at the end? --well it used to be sung by the choir while the priest continued with the Eucharistic prayer... and it is only part of the preface in the western Tradition....

So..... we'll see what other questions he has....

And, we are working through a question of worship in our various teams focused on liturgy --should Sunday morning worship comfort us, console us, heal us from the various blows and wounds endured from the work week with the security of familiarity? --or, should Sunday morning worship prepare us for the week ahead, fill us with joy, confidence and courage to do the work we have been given to do?

Or, does it have to be either or? Can it be both and more?

Duh....

But, honestly, because it is the first day of the week, and the Day of Resurrection, the Eighth Day of Creation, the Day of the Lord, I would lean to the latter rather than the former.... just sayin'.

At morning prayer (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

We are consoled so that we may console....

To speak honestly, when I stand with the people of God (oh, how I wish I stood with them--not thirty feet away, but that is another post) and view the faces, and the burdens, the suffering, the joy, the weight of it all nearly obliterates me.

While others are consoled, fed, prepared for their work, I get a straw stuck in my head and I am (willingly) sucked dry.... to be fed at the table, yes, fed, yet as a servant. And it is like a marathon run --three services, hospital and shut-ins visited --and I awake Monday drawn out yet wonderfully refreshed, full cup, knowing I have been well used.

A little revolution every week.

Which takes my mind to Wisconsin. Folks elected Republicans to reduce taxes and gut government --just not the bits that protect them.... When government protects and benefits business interests over its citizens --you do know what that is called, right?

--believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong.

Viewing the nation as an integrated collective community, they see pluralism as a dysfunctional aspect of society, and justify a totalitarian state as a means to represent the nation in its entirety

--present their ideology as that of an economically trans-class movement that promotes ending economic class conflict to secure national solidarity.

--tend to support a "third position" in economic policy, which they believe superior to both the rampant individualism of laissez-faire capitalism and the severe control of state socialism

--promote a corporatist economy whereby, in theory, representatives of capital and labour interest groups work together within sectoral corporations to create both harmonious labour relations and maximization of production that would serve the national interest

Capital and labor work together? Yeah. Right...

You get the drift? The modern name for these concepts? Tea Party. What is the historical name for these concepts? Look here.

God bless the striking workers in Wisconsin. God bless the striking workers throughout the Middle East. God bless the workers everywhere who are merely grateful for the scraps doled out to them by the fat cats and big wigs and power brokers.

God bless those workers who wish to work but are unable to find work.... especially those who are out of work because of the profit margins of the few...

God help us all.... and give us all the courage and will to persevere with joy in the Kingdom work to which you call us.

Because --what else is it we work for?

Peace out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

(Matthew 5) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Yah. Right.



Actually --g'wan. Go to church. You are made in the image of God. Believe it. Know it. You are a priestly people. A holy people. And besides, we will all need help learning how to love our enemies...

I wish I understood. But I don't. So, I will trust.

At morning prayer (1 Timothy 6:6)

...we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it...

Nothing. Not even our selves. Not souls. Not bodies. Nothing.

The obliteration of self is the most terrifying thought... those of you who have looked death square in the face know what I mean.

My friend Kirstin has very sad news this morning --her cancer is aggressive and it has ignored the walloping treatments she has endured. It has spread to her brain. And the tumors under her skin are growing once again. She asks for your prayers.

She has mine. Fleeting prayers of the shadows. Deep water prayers. Feathers of the owl prayers. Alleluia prayers. --because even at the grave, we make our song....

And in a thousand years when we are dust and scattered, God will know that little bit of dust that is us, and call us by name.

That is not faith. That is trust. You know --of That. Guy. And the Mother of us all.

Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

That's what love looks like....

this....


--and that....


One man. More than one way. Not this OR that...

It's Martin Luther's day --Thank you Luther.

As I recall, he never meant to establish a new church.... Some days, I remember that there are those who think Jesus didn't mean to establish a new religion either --merely offer a reform, a new way to be in relationship with each other and a new way to be in relationship with God.

Because that's what love looks like.

In a class I offered with a Reformed Rabbi using the Genesis series by Bill Moyers as a basis for discussion, the Rabbi said 'I understand that Christians see Isaac as the type for Christ.'

I paused for a minute and then replied, 'I haven't yet heard that interpretation. But we do have the language that Jesus is the Lamb of God. In good ol' Christian atonement theology, the ram in the thicket is given --and offered instead of Isaac.'

He was stunned. And then he said, 'I wish Jews had understood what Christians were trying to say 2,000 years ago.'

My turn to be stunned.

...I was always in awe of the activity at that Synagogue. Teenagers in small groups meeting with him --required to be there by their parents. No choice. They will learn. Identity. History. The struggles and stuff of faith.

It is so very different from the way we do things recently --we let our youth choose whether or not they wish to learn about faith. Christian identity. History. The struggles and stuff of our inheritance.

And most choose not to learn. I know that was my path --diaspora from the traditions of my parents.

And I studied meditation, dance, --anything and everything except that which I thought I already knew. And I eventually even rejected the notion of a God.

And, mostly because I perceived hypocrisy... You know --the rules, the presumed God-given rules like 'don't murder' bartered away and violated by persons, by people of faith, by faith institutions, by governments. And I saw clearly that even Jesus violated the rules given him in faith because the religion officials and the government officials were all out to get him for disturbing the status quo.

...and it was never clear to me whether Jesus picked and chose what laws he liked and didn't like, or whether he rejected them all for some other law. I mean, he broke one of the biggies with frequency --keep the Sabbath holy.

I also rejected a God who would demand blood sacrifice --a payment for breaking all the rules.... If God is love, how could he break his own first rule of not murdering by demanding a father to kill his son.

Hypocrisy.

And rules.

At morning prayer (Mark 12:28-34)

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"

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

Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself' - this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

After that no one dared to ask him any question.


It was not the stories that changed. It was me. And I became willing to live in to that difficult space between mystery and law. Between unknowing and certainty. In the open-ended and on-going process of creation and revelation.

Between living in and leaving Tradition.

This AND that.

Jesus revealed and created.

I can now see Jesus in Abraham, Isaac, the bush, the knife, the ram. I now understand that there are about three different names used in this specific story and it is Y*HW*Y that tells Abraham to stay the knife....

And all of it and none of it are mine. To move into. To move through. To dance around. To go beyond.

I took vows before the altar of God. More than once. Confirmation. Marriage. Priest. And Jesus says it would be better not to make any vows --not in God's name, not in the name of mother earth, not even on my own head because I can't even keep my hair brown or gray...

Not only that --I speak in the name of God... I put words in God's mouth --framed by the Church....

So, I'm really screwed...

So --thank you Luther. Who didn't want to, didn't intend to, but did.

And, thank you Jesus --who knew the law, taught the law, loved the law, broke the law, was condemned by the law --and invites us to share his life...

...that life... somewhere between the thicket and knife... somewhere between the breath of Abraham and the hope of Isaac... somewhere between the base of the altar and the voice of God... somewhere between the law and the desert and mountains of faith ...between nativity and the empty tomb

--between the first garden with the snake, the garden where God searches and calls for us and we are ashamed, the garden of love gone awry --a kiss and betrayal and the garden where the rocks themselves move as they always have --at the wish of God for us, and shout and groan and bear the fruit of eternal life.

...the rock once an altar of blood, become the womb of the rock...
...born in blood... all of us.

...and I'm okay with that.

Good with it, actually.

Because that's what love looks like.
Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fan Fire


Yesterday, M and I were planning and discussing our approach to a ministry meeting next week, and we could hear siren after siren after siren. That is not too uncommon as we have a firehouse just down the street --but this was way more sirens than usual.

Then, S went out to his car and came back in, and through the open door came the pungent smell of smoke. Thick. Hot. Wood smoke.

It meant only one thing --a structural fire close by.

I tried to call home --but Joel did not answer. Was calling not because I thought it was our house --but because maybe Joel knew where it was.

So, I grabbed my keys and ran out to the busy street, and sure enough --there were the lights and crowds just two blocks away.

After peering into the sun and smoke and discussing what building was just beyond the art museum, M's eyes got big and said, --OMG it's the Planned Parenthood building.

Fearing the worst, we both ran --I was getting ready to offer shelter--whatever, and even to go fist-to-cuffs if this were an attack against PP.

But, we got to the corner and it was not PP --although that is where the ambulances and extra firetrucks were sitting with their lights blazing and flashing. The fire was in a house on a side-street, right next to the hospital...

...and it was a huge fire. Started in the basement. Flames coming out the windows of the attic. News this morning reports that there were 70 firefighters at the scene, it took almost two hours to get the fire under control --and all those who lived in the house got out safely.

At morning prayer (from Isaiah 65)
These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.


The firetrucks are still in the neighborhood. It got dark before they could get in for an inspection --so they needed to stand-by all night --go in this morning.

Such is an afternoon in our urban church....

And I have an early meeting.
Peace out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dirty God

I received an email from The Society of Winterthur Fellows this morning (yes, I was a Fellow... I have a degree in Early American Culture --museum curator stuff). --they are looking for multi-disciplinary essays on the topic of "Dirt."

--you know, the language we use, our concepts frame our reality and perspective of things... --and I was tempted, for one moment, to write a paper-- especially as these words were before me this morning: But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. (from the Isaiah reading)

Unclean... even our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth... dang. There it is.

What is it about sin that makes us 'dirty?' 'Unclean?' 'Filthy?'

--and in baptism we are made 'clean...' --we are 'washed...'

I can tell you what's really 'dirty' --we also awoke to the fact that our grand State legislative bodies were unwilling to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Not only are they about thirty years --no, wait --NINETY years too late, but they do not believe women need protection from discrimination in the law.

Well... bless their little hearts.

There are fifteen states which have not ratified the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Here's a link with facts about the Equal Rights Amendment... pertinent cases before the Supreme Court that demonstrate why the ERA would be a good idea...

Sigh....

Sad.

Have you ever heard of Womanist theology? --emerges from the experience of our sisters of color... when they felt that the women who were pushing the envelope of feminist thought and raising the specter of institutionalized misogyny and beyond were leaving their reality in the dust...

And they were right. Are right.

It's amazing, isn't it --sex is 'dirty' too. Well, at least it is 'dirty' when it is seen through the lens of power.... --and feminism and sexism are dirty words in certain circles...

Yes, Virginia has passed a local law prohibiting discrimination based upon gender --certainly the historical hackles were raised on the their backs of interference from that oppressive federal agency --which forced racial equality down their throats... --Constitutional fundamentalism run rampant --don't change a word of that document... --it's like the bible or something....

Thinking really, it's not about the holy Constitution at all... more like --damnit... don't tell me them wimins need something from us too....

Dirty. Dirty Wimins....

At morning prayer (Psalm 109:1-4)

Hold not your tongue, O God of my praise; *
for the mouth of the wicked,
the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me.
They speak to me with a lying tongue; *
they encompass me with hateful words
and fight against me without a cause.
Despite my love they accuse me; *
but as for me, I pray for them.
They repay evil for good, *
and hatred for my love.


Hey God --I know love is the only way. Only. Always. But somehow that picture of Jesus knocking over tables in the Temple is so satisfying. Right. I know that's love too --but we see it as righteous anger... And, just what do we do with 'dirt' --because you made us --pinched us in to being from dirt and breathed life in to us. And to 'dirt' we shall return --and you will know that little bit of cosmic spec that I will become. So, why do we have so much fear, why do we so malign 'dirt'...?

Our source. Our beginning. Our end. You are the farmer walking in the garden. You love the loam, the dirt. You press it in your hand. Looking for that life. Calling out through the evening mist. The eternal hide and go seek.... Would that I never even try to hide from you --and, should I enter a paper on dirt? They will expect art and writing and all that... but a faithful perspective... Or, would a Fellow turned priest --from a curator of stuff to a curator of souls... would that only embarrass them.... ah, yes... dirty.

A dirty God. That would make a wonderful title, heh?

And, now, I have lost my ether-connection... there we are.... will have to post this late.
Sorry --no Picasso today. Running late.
Peace out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

what a weakling, transient, un-powerful foolish God


At morning prayer (Psalm 94:19-20)

Can a corrupt tribunal have any part with you, *
one which frames evil into law?
They conspire against the life of the just *
and condemn the innocent to death.


For the people of Egypt.
For the people of Iran.
For all those places inspired by the unfolding events of Egypt.
For all those who conspire against life.
For all those who condemn the innocent to death.
For all those who suffer.

I find it interesting that in the news, the news people speak of the regime in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but of the monarchy in England.

And they hold our government up as an ideal... here, where folks have to decide between essential things like housing and education or medical care...

Joel was at the doctor again yesterday --they are deeply worried that he has not improved significantly. So, after checking his blood yesterday, they are doubling the infusion meds for the next two rounds, and if that doesn't kick something in to gear, they are talking about ten days in the hospital and a severe and radical blood treatment.... I don't understand it all, but it is something like cleaning his blood of all antibodies --scrubbing it clean and starting over.

He thinks they will try anything and everything until we have had to sacrifice all we have.... and he doesn't think that will be worth it....

...sigh...

There is a youtube video of a young newswoman, Serene Branson, from L.A. --giving the news last Sunday night, and she began slurring her words in the middle of the broadcast. Everyone is buzzing 'stroke'

--but as Joel and I watched it, we looked at it and said --myesthenia gravis... duh. That is exactly the way Joel's stuff started... his tongue wouldn't obey... and they treated him for stroke, and then water on the brain.... took 'em five months to discover what's wrong, and apparently that was really fast.

And it's young women and old men that get this autoimmune disease. (whassup with that?!) So, I pray for the young newswoman from L.A.

The human body is still such a mystery --we know so much and so very little.

And, whatever else one may chose to describe 'God' --it is mystery that is still best. Because we don't even know what we don't know.

Know what I mean?

Yeppa. God is mystery.

I think there's a book about that. I think it even begins with a discussion for atheists, describing God as what we don't know....

'Cuz atheists love to blame suffering on God, because if God is good, how could that be...? I mean, just look at the world--floods, volcanoes, disease, death....

It is as if the law of God-- the way God works condemns us all to suffering. Like a corrupt tribunal...

So, rather than looking deeper at suffering, atheists just ditch God. Suffering is proof that God does not exist.

Well... I know that God meets us in suffering. Face to face. God meets us everywhere, anytime. I know this from my own dark night of the soul.

And, suffering is not the antithesis of glory. Nor is suffering glory. Not. At. All.

But, God has made God's self subject to what we know. All of it.

God even dies.

What a weakling, transient, un-powerful, foolish God.

Blessed be God! Amen. Alleluia!

Peace out.

(Picked up our Picasso tickets yesterday. --Monday, Monday!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Piercing or fragrant?


Happy Valentine's Day all y'all. Yes, more Picasso. He's coming to town!

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.


Oh man, I slept in.... missing the rally as we speak... --A rally for LGBTQ rights at our local public university --because our State legislators, governor and big-wig attorney are pushing to discriminate big time, and then a march to City Hall to ask for marriage licenses and after rejection, blessings on the steps in front of God and everyone else....

But I slept in... sigh. Guess I needed it!

Yesterday at church was wonderful --one of those holy times... on the heels of a wonderful vestry retreat. But church was also hard. By the end of the day, I had received five important and difficult pastoral messages.

And they weigh on me this morning.

Sometimes it is the way the light comes in the windows in the morning --almost hesitant, sideways, never brittle this time of year, even when it is frigid... that I want to live for another hundred years. I want to see how it will all turn out.

And, yes, I have seen brittle light --but it is mostly in those places where the sun pierces --like in the high desert, east of the mountains in the west. Where the water is grabbed from the sky before it hits the ground. And the light cuts a raw profile.

Here the light always seems to have a halo, a cushion, a fringe. It works its way softly in to the room and leaves bouquet shadows, almost fragrant.

Like it is today.

Wouldn't you know it --my computer slammed down--crashed because of a virus threat as I was doing a search for a Picasso picture --googling 'light love picasso' --thought I'd found it and then WH"AM!

Found one anyway.

Hey --on this day, when we remember if not celebrate romantic love --let us remember and love those who are alone. Let us remember those whose love is not recognized by the powers that be. Let us celebrate that love that pierces and the love all fragrant.... Let us give thanks for those (like Cyril and Methodius) that work to make love known in the languages of the people.

And, please keep A,P,L,K and B in your prayers.
Peace out.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

G'wan. Go to church


Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, `You shall not murder'; and `whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you....

He even says to love our enemies... Right. That's called treason, folks.

And then he goes and gets all persnickity and sets the bar so high... higher even than the Old Law... and that's impossible enough! Whassup with that?!

Well... methinks it is about living well in community --and being a Christian --and who said THAT was gonna be easy?!

G'wan. Go to church. Besides, it's not about following the rules, it's about living a Godly life.... and that's all about reconciliation, and grace.... and all that kinda stuff.

I give you this charge:


At morning prayer (2 Timothy 4:2-6)

I give you this charge:
Preach the word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.


That would be all y'all. In case you haven't read the baptismal stuff in a while, the people say, Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.

Oh --you don't like that? Here's the job description for the baptized: The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church.

(are you listening yet?)

--to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world, and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church. (BCP 855)

No one can do it alone --even Jesus didn't do it alone. And he didn't do it with like-minded persons... so, we all need each other.

So, off I go today, on a retreat with the Vestry of the congregation I serve.

Hey God, please be with A and her family. What awful decisions. And bless the people of Egypt --I stand in awe of their patience and determination. And move the hearts of stone of the rich in this country and all countries to help the poor of the world --cuz, I mean, the wealth they enjoy is created on their backs.

Peace out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

revolution? rebellion?


(Mark 10: 43-45) So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


We can read that and read that --but what would it really look like in action? --leaders that serve instead of rule? --in the way we might build the institutions that form the basis of our society and culture? --in the way we function?

Thinking and praying about Egypt and Tunisia --and the new Republican majority in the House in DC... --and juxtaposed against this little bit o' scripture.... I stumbled upon this series of essays on this blog by Professor Daniel Little of Michigan regarding revolution, rebellions, insurrections and the like...

Little, parsing the work of Skocpol (whose work I do not know), this paragraph really got me:

A social revolution involves both significant transformation of political structure and major change of social structure. It is both political (having to do with the institutions of the state) and social (having to do with the basic relations of property and class that exist in society).

She does presuppose that there is such a thing as a purely political revolution; but she indicates that she is not particularly interested in this category of change.

Second, she postulates that social revolutions derive from a duality of types of grievances as well: grievances about the economic structure (property, class, and inequality) and the political structure (the institutions through which a dominant group exercises power and coercion over the rest).

So a social revolution derives from demands for social as well as political change, and it results in large scale structural changes in both social and political institutions.


I had never separated economic structures from political structures.... perhaps because living in a capitalist society which infuses both social and political structures with its ideology... etc... but has there ever been a place and time in which economic and social structures were separate?

...and certainly, given the many references to worldly wealth and change of heart in the gospels, --leaving families of origin for the new family given in communities of faith... by the prophets and all the biblical stuff...

--certainly those who have the property are of a certain class and they create the institutions through which they exercise power and coercion of the rest...

...the gospel mandate on how to live, think, breathe --give it all away, don't lord anything over anyone --we serve. Flies in the face of it all....

Jesus deconstructed social, political, economic... --you name it institutions and ways of thinking and being....

...and constructed, for lack of better words, --the Kingdom of God.

...and when the Church endorses the economic and social institutions --it fails the Kingdom. I might even go so far as to say when the Church even participates in the economic and social institutions, it fails the Kingdom....

...and the church... sigh.... --we are incapable of living without institutions --social, economic.... but, maybe the church would be better off with ephemeral constructions....

...a revolution...

I admire those I know in this city that work outside the boundaries and construct institutions that break the boundaries of the institutions in play... but the real Christian question comes in constructing those same institutions... --how do/will they resemble the Kingdom?

...sigh...

I must leave those big thoughts of revolution, economics, social constructions and return to the work before me --helping A's family as she continues to refuse to eat and her body fails her.... none of the economic nor social structures are much help when navigating the streets that carry us in to the human realms of unknowing.... and yet it is these very economic and social structures which can be so oppressive in those same realms....

And I will strive to be naught else but a servant --not only of the people of God, but of God's own self.

That will be revolution enough. --a sign of the Kingdom.

With God's help.
God willing.
Of course.

Pray for the people of Egypt. Pray for our own oppressors. Pray for those who know and see. Because theirs is the Kingdom. Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

neither fish nor fowl --but both....



So --is it a fish? --is it a fowl? --is it both?

Whomever wishes to define it, nail it down, is confident in their answer is a fool....

At morning prayer (2 Timothy 2:14-17) Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene.

Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some.


Don't wrangle over words --whoooo... I am sure this could be used to subvert imaginative discussion by those who want the party line to be their line... or their line to be the party line... whatever. But, at the same time, I am fairly confident that it is a warning to stay out of the line by line, word by word parsimony that happens so very often... pun intended.

Avoid profane chatter --isn't that kinda like gossip --but about the bible? ...but I love the example that is used --by claiming the resurrection has already taken place.

That's profane chatter?

What kinda huge door in the barn is that?!!! --okay, we could settle and say the resurrection of our Lord has taken place, just not the end-of-epoch resurrection... that's what hasn't happened.

It's still a huge door. And probably, the barn doesn't even exist.

But, that would mean good ol' grandma is still mouldering in the grave, not enjoying her new shoes on the streets paved with gold and the perpetual grand feast of the bridegroom.... or whatever.

(Weird, isn't it, that I could have read 2 Timothy how many times and that one line hadn't popped out at me before...)

This I know --I cannot not speak with absolute confidence even as a master-worker with regard to what happens after we die --whether the resurrection happens right away or at the end of all things seen and unseen. I know that the only words I have to offer are metaphorical --imaginative --and that the reality will be awesomely different. Beyond imagining. Like fish and fowl. All at once.

And, I think any one who has settled on an absolute answer to be a fool.

Just sayin'.

And this is not to say resurrection isn't or doesn't --it's to say that I am confident we are part/members/partake in/of the resurrected Body of Christ already --and anything I say to try to describe it or name it beyond that makes me a fool.

Right --like that would be a novelty.

Hey God, it's margaret. I like mystery. I like knowing that whatever I know, whatever I am confident of and in about you is never the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And that's alright with me. Give me confidence to live in to ambiguity. That will be enough. I pray for M, the counselors, for all the children, for A who is suffering and lost in sorrow, for K & R living with cancer, for the women at the jail whose faces are before me, for our Vestry as we prepare for our retreat this weekend, for that mess--whatever it was down the street with all the flashing lights, for M, for all those who think solving the immigration junk is to punish the undocumented workers rather than reforming immigration means and methods themselves --and all that other stuff you have placed in my heart that have no words, but are images and colors always always round about me --all those mysteries about which I am confident I have no absolute words --thank you. And thank you for Picasso who can imagine/paint a fish and make it a bird --or is that imagine/paint a bird and make it a fish... Amen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the voices of the children


174 masterpieces by Picasso in Richmond --his own personal collection --the only east-coast venue of three in the U.S.

The touring exhibit was made possible because the Paris museum is undergoing a $28 million renovation that won't be complete until 2012. U.S. showings will take place Friday through Jan. 17 at the Seattle Art Museum; Feb. 19 through May 15 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and June 11 through Sept. 18 at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

We took 'Manuel to the museum --he had never been to an art museum... he was a little overwhelmed. There were three tiny Picasso works in ink --and I stood there looking at them, and I said to him --He's my favorite artist... and 'Manuel stepped forward and glued his eyes on the images for a good long while.

When we left, I asked him what he thought of the museum --and he said, well, I went in thinking I was an artist and now I know I'm not, so I didn't like it at all.

Yeah. I know what he means.... face to face with genius can either inspire or belittle. I remember as a kid mostly being in the belittled camp.... and I often wonder when and how, even in the best of circumstances, the voices are introduced in to the heads of children that encourage self-conscious and self-deprecating thoughts and images....

(At morning prayer ending at Mark 10:16) People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Not intending to carry the image of children when speaking of first-nation peoples, Not. Going. There. --but thinking of how we internalize the demeaning attitudes and actions of others even as children --internalized oppression... --the Daily Office posted a picture today of Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia, defender of the Mayans in Mexico.

This good Bishop was hated by the Mexican government for supporting the rights of Mayans. And, he was invited by the Church to step down because he was supporting the rights of Mayans... and creating an 'indigenous' church.

I would say, good work Bishop.

Is it fear and power mixed that creates oppression? Ignorance? Selfishness?

I suppose I might as well be asking what motivates the likes of the Tea Party....

Oh, did you hear --the Feds are inspecting the immigration status of the workers of every Chipotle in Virginia... Does it need saying that the work force of Chipotle is probably about 80% Latina/o --all this, while our General Assembly is working feverishly to pass legislation that would make Arizona's crap look like child's play.... because we are already beyond doing what Arizona is trying to do.

Here's a nice little site for you to explore --Numbers USA--For Lower Immigration Numbers. They say this crack-down on Chipotle is part of Obama's administration's plan to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers... Right.

It's not the employers who get thrown to the curb or under the bus... they just pay the fine and move on.

Fear? Power? Ignorance? Selfishness?

Children had no rights --were not seen as persons in the days of the disciples. Nor were women. And the ill and diseased and the possessed were seen as ill, sick and possessed because they had done something wrong. They deserved it --just punishment. And shall I just say fishermen and tax collectors were seen as garbage too --the same type of persons he called as his followers.

And these fishermen and tax collectors didn't want the children getting too close to Jesus.

And Jesus was hated by both the State and the Church....

Hey God.... it's margaret here. So, why do you send your beloved among the dispossessed when it is the 'possessed' (if that is the opposite of dispossessed) who truly need the liberation? Why is there such a thing as a hard heart?

You are right --I am not sure I could stand the image of your answer. So, I will ask --why do you create soft-hearts? Never mind. Yah --I hate binary oppositions, you're right. Stupid questions....

So --thanksgivings it is. Thank you for our own wild Picasso who saw the world nose and boobs first when it comes to women. Thank you for the Mayans. Thank you for those who seek a better life for all, Like Bishop Ruiz Garcia. Thank you for those workers who labor hard and long hours. Thank you for calling children, women, fishermen and tax collectors to be your friends.

Yeah... it's always better when I give thanks. Thank you. For all of it. But what about those demeaning voices in children's heads? amen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For the joy!


Picasso painting Joy of Life. Can you tell I'm getting ready for the Picasso exhibit that is a-coming to our Art Museum? (Which is just down the street from our house!)

At morning prayer (a portion of Psalm 78:18-19)
They tested God in their hearts, *
demanding food for their craving.
They railed against God and said, *
"Can God set a table in the wilderness?
True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed; *
but is he able to give bread or to provide meat for his people?"


When I preached this past Sunday, I left my sermon in the pulpit and just went for it. Put folks on the spot --walked up and down the center aisle, asked them what they heard. Some immediately went back to the bulletin to read again...

...heheheheh...

But I hope I made it perfectly clear that God is not transactional --IF you do THIS, then God will do THAT. IF you keep the Law, the rules, follow the prophets, THEN God will love you and give you a perfect life.

That ain't the way it works.

That ain't why we pray. Or worship. Or serve.

We do it for the joy in us. Through us. With us.

And, yes, God hears our voice when we cry out at injustice, in grief, in pain... at the feeling of abandonment. God knows personally, physically, really and truly what we know.

We do it for the joy in us. Through us. With us.
Perhaps that's what discipleship is all about --finding the joy. Not happy-clappy superficial stuff --but Joy!

It's sacramental... --that joy.

That's all. Off I go!

Monday, February 7, 2011

it's more than a dream


The kingdom... --it's more than a dream --and what the prophets rant about...

...and, it doesn't happen very often --the Hebrew scripture heard yesterday morning is the first lesson at morning prayer today... --and Isaiah always hits it out of the park.

At morning prayer (Isaiah 58:1-9)

Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.

Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?


Botta bing.

What more is there to say? Well, there is what Jesus said... (from Mark 9 this morning too) Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

I watched the documentary last night about the State-wide reactions in Virginia to the laws requiring integration of schools. Virginia had codified segregation. O.M.G.... Rather than integrate, most areas in the State closed all public schools. For a year or more.

In the end, the nastiness of it gave me great hope--because we have come so far.. hope, because of recent legislation codifying marriage and all. But, we have a long way to go...

And, all this health care stuff --the insurance stuff... Joel is due for his monthly infusion today, and the insurance company says they will pay for the infusion, but it depends upon the drug the goes through it --he is expected to know the code for the drug... arrange all the pre-approval crap. Pre-approval --for something he's had to do for the last seven months? --for something that is required if he is to live? They pulled this out of the hat late Friday... after all he's been through.

And, the IVIG he receives is considered an "off-label" use --something doctors use because tests have determined it works, but the drug company cannot sell the drug for that use... and insurance companies don't have to pay because... well, you see it, the Catch 22....

The anxiety it produces in him convinces him he should probably just be put away... --or end the fight to live....

Perhaps someone in the tea party or those effing Repugnicans in power would like to come and straighten it out for him... fight the insurance company and the doctor's offices for him... know what we know...

...as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness...

....sigh....

Hey God, it's margaret. You gave me a trumpet voice and spirit. I strive to do what is right. And just. And holy. And I know I fail miserably and often. And, I can discern the difference between a fast I chose, and abuse of power and wickedness impressed upon us.... help us keep that place of peace beyond understanding in sight.... and be servants to all, even to those who abuse their workers. I pray for P,R,T,M,L,B,B,A,J,J,M,K --that from those places seemingly broken and weak, your kingdom is known.

All over the map. But, it's more than a dream.

I. do. know.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

Jesus said, For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven....


...but why in the world would you want to be like that? Oh --it's Jesus snark!

G'wan. Go to church. We have a NEW covenant... otherwise we wouldn't be Christians, right?! And, while you are there, pray for your enemies... 'cuz Jesus said to.

...all of it needs offering...


Supposed to remember Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams today... perhaps I should read this book this summer...

At morning prayer (Isaiah 57:3)

But as for you, come here,
you children of a sorceress,
you offspring of an adulterer and a whore.
Whom are you mocking?


I like Anne --she is my 15-greats-ago grandmother. She is billed as an advocate of religious freedom and women's rights, but I like the title given her of individualist anarchist best.... heheheheh.

Or course, I am neither, right?!

She ran to Rhode Island and then after her husband died to the Bronx area, and got caught in the fight between the First Peoples and the Dutch and she and 12 of her 14 children were killed...

I am also a descendant of those Dutch folks --the Op den Dycke to be exact --later become the Updikes by various spellings.

I am also a descendant of Cotton Mather who helped try Anne, declared her a witch, and drove her out.

I am also a descendant of Mary Dyer who was likewise tried as a witch....

So, if I carry anything of Anne and Mary --I also carry Mather, Updike and the like.... and all my ancestors. Can't forget that bit that came here from Brazil, either... For good or ill.

What do we do with the past? Forget it? Forgive it? Reconcile it?

I prefer to offer it --if anything else is true --I am such a mutt I can imagine that there is some trace of someone in me who stood in that crowd and cried 'crucify him.' --some trace in me of some relative who stood at the fire warming my hands and heard Rocky deny him, someone who watched Pilate wash his hands... some trace in me of the soldiers who participated in the nailing and vinegar routine...

So, I offer it to God. I would perish, crumple or burst apart in a flash if I tried to bear it. I offer it at the altar --along with all that other stuff --the joy, the hope, the love...

...all of it needs offering...

My computer has crashed three times in writing this post.
I take it as a hint.

I remember in prayer the first vocational deacons to be ordained in the Diocese. Perhaps all Christians should be ordained deacons... it is The Christian Vocation. I give thanks to God that the sign of that vocation is now present among us in this neck of the woods.

Blessings all.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No crown necessary nor desired


At morning prayer, a portion of a psalm (Psalm 69:7-8)
O God, you know my foolishness, *
and my faults are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
Lord GOD of hosts; *
let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me,
O God of Israel.


Well, chalk up another one in my crown --a call, a conversation, and the words --I just don't believe any more. Since when did Y*hw*h, the God of Israel become the universal God of all? Since when did this God change his mind --what happened to eternal truth... It seems as though we create God to fulfill our own desires and needs. Besides, faithful conservative Episcopalians are being pushed out of their church homes, the Presiding Bishop is taking over and doing things against canon law, and biblical faith is no longer taught.

Oh dear God --my faults are not hidden... --let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me....

I knew there was not much I could say. Or do. I also know that this person trash-talks me at every chance --at parties... --on the front steps of the church....

--sigh--

On one hand, I see and know I have obviously been a catalyst to move this person to hear something unexpected.

On the other hand, rather than be moved, this person has shut down, shut out, gotten angry.

So, I pray. In love.

I just wish I didn't have to take the destructive abuse... --not destructive to me per se --I know what has been said and done, but destructive to our community of persons engaged in trying to discern the Godly work before us.

And, dear friend, the God of Israel was revealed to be the God of all by, through, with, in Jesus, the son of Mary and by the power of the Spirit the first-born of God, the first fruit of the new creation...

--the one who ate with those unable to keep the laws --the one who ate with those who thought the law to be life --he ate with anyone...

--the one who wept at the grave of Lazarus --hmmmmm --new thought --not for Lazarus, more likely because of the weight and power we give sin and death...

--the one who opened our eyes to see the shame of condemnation by the powers that be and death on the cross as a blessing and the way to life... making the tomb more than a dead-end...

--and that last line never makes any sense... I mean really....

Except I understand it. And I trust what Jesus said and did. I know it in my bones. I am convicted. No crown necessary nor desired....

O God, you know my foolishness, *
and my faults are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
Lord GOD of hosts; *
let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me,
O God of Israel.
amen

Thursday, February 3, 2011

daffodils pushing up through the winter litter --but I have not yet parked my soul in the daffodil hotel


Yesterday was warm and sunny--a real tease.

And then in the afternoon and early evening there were incredible blasts of wind, shaking the church. There have been guys on the church tower--fixing the rotten balustrade... I hope they were not up there when the wind went crazy.

I didn't hear from them--so I suppose they are safe... but then again, they could have been picked up by that wind and carried away to New York or something.

Weather is funny that way --surprising --and every place I have ever lived has claimed to have something unique in the way of weather --rapid changes, extremes, the best or worst.

And there is something everywhere that is totally wonderful --watching the fog roil in like a huge white wave over San Francisco and across the Bay is unequaled anywhere --there is no fog like San Francisco fog. In the desert, the extreme and brilliant blue sky because of the total lack of water in the sky --and rain that falls but evaporates before it hits the ground. The fifteen feet of snow in the Cascades --a normal winter crop of white... the twenty or more feet of snow at Crater Lake always a wonder to me --snow even in early August. The succulent and extravagant summer humidity in this part of Virginia --the rampant heat and wet are like the vestiges of youthful sex....

Each a wonder.

And the wide earth holds them all.

Would that people could see that even though we are all different, the earth holds us all. Each gifted. Each carrying blessings.

At morning prayer (beginning in Isaiah 55:10-12) For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.


Last night we gathered in the dark, pierced it with candlelight, offered our prayers as incense and lit our foreheads with an anointing that reflected the vesper light, sent out in to the strange warm February night in peace.

Today, we awaken to below freezing mid-winter weather again --the warmth which bathed us was the yang to the yin of the storm which inundated so many just to the north of us, and it is gone, today.

But as I walked to work yesterday, I noticed the daffodils are pushing up through the bark and winter litter of brown decaying leaves and naked branches. There is also the promise held by the camellias.

I decided not to long for something else --not to wish for something that is still not yet... not to park my soul in the daffodil motel --but instead to listen and watch with patience the purpose of the long gray cold stretch that is still ahead of us, knowing that I carry the sign and knowledge of the vesper light within, and that is enough.

Hey God, thanks. for all of it.
Oh --the people of Egypt. I pray especially for the children. May they know your presence.
And you know the rest.
Amen.

(photo)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

beyond the task-master of sin--the law


Last night, we had the best and most inspiring worship committee meeting ever! --planning for Lent.

I am not at all sure that minds were changed --but the desire to hear, to really hear and try to understand was expressed. And I know it was sincere.

It was a discussion about the shape of the opening of the service during Lent --silence with the penitential order first? the Great Litany in procession? the Decalogue?

We have done the first two... but I sincerely object to opening a worship service on a Sunday with the Decalogue... no matter the season.

Because in Christ, the law was fulfilled, completed --and we live on the other side of the law, no longer subject to it. We live in the new law of Christ.

So, there was discussion --what does that mean? If we have only a few Sundays --cannot liturgy be pedagogical? --should we not include the decalogue? --why not?

And I responded, if we have only a few Sundays --we should teach the Christian ethic --the Beatitudes... and, because I happened to look ahead at the lectionary we so rarely get to use --the full compliment of readings in the time after Epiphany, I was delighted to see we get several weeks of --you have heard it said (fill in the blank), but I say to you---

From the Beatitudes to But I say to you--

And then the brilliance began --in the midst of this conversation, it was suggested that we take the Beatitudes and process to them, take the prayer of St. Francis --and process to it, --take what I was pushing as the Christian ethic and pray it, walk it, process with it.

Brilliant!

So --we have some work ahead of us. And I am delighted.

(Beginning somewhere in the first part of Haggai 2)

Begin the work, for I am with you,
says the LORD of Hosts,
and my spirit is present among you.

Have no fear.
For these are the words of the LORD of Hosts:
One thing more:
I will shake heaven and earth, sea and land,
I will shake all nations;
the treasure of all nations shall come hither,
and I will fill this house with glory;
so says the LORD of Hosts.


We have more than treasure enough--
help us LORD to see and know your glory
and fill your house with the joy we know.

Hey God --it's margaret --I remember IT and her family in their unexpected grief; for R and K living sacramentally with cancer; for M who is traveling; for C and M and all those in jail; for P in the hospital; for E and her classmates and teachers (--not that one can't be both!); for Bishop G who is coming to my home this morning... bless us, fill us, help us know your glory and grace beyond the task master of sin--the law and to walk in your way always.

wwuuups! --there we are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The first church picnic --potluck...


A third of this country's population will be affected by the massive storm that is now dumping snow in OK. That's what I just heard.

Blizzard warning in nine states.

Supposedly, we will be on the warm side of the storm in this neck of the woods. It is supposed to get up in to the 60 degree area --which would be welcome relief... we have been freezing here --it seems forever. And then some.

But I am praying for those who are and will be impacted by this storm --the hungry, the cold, the homeless, pregnant mothers and worried fathers, the elderly, those who are alone, those who must work --and for those who could help in so many ways. Not that the storm could go away --but that we could share and do so much for each other.

And I am praying for the people of Egypt. The people of Uganda. All those who mourn. All those who work and act and pray for God's justice.

At morning prayer (Mark 8:1-8) In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way - and some of them have come from a great distance."

His disciples replied, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?"

He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?"

They said, "Seven."

Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.

They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.

They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Now there were about four thousand people.


I have seen this happen. I mean --doesn't it happen at every church potluck? Thanksgiving? Superbowl party?!

Yah --they should stop calling this story the feeding of the thousands or whatever... it was the first church picnic --potluck. Yeppa.

This is the second telling of the grand picnic in this Gospel of Mark. I stumbled upon this site --a little weird --the geometry of the Gospel... (and I wonder to what end?!!!) but the site sent me back to the text.... the first telling of the story, Mark 6:37 --where it says, literally, "Give to them you to eat." Give them yourself... not you yourself give them something... but, give them yourself...

I had never seen that before....

Cool. But I called in the household expert and Joel says it is in the nominative... not a direct object.

Oh well. Woulda been cool...

Off I go. Trusting that the bread we need will be provided. Amen.