Thursday, March 31, 2011

They eliminated the Creed.... so much for the faith of our 'fathers'


Pesky loyalists... faithful to their vows and citizenship....

Went to another church last night to give a talk --way out in the middle of nowhere rural church that's been there since 1704... and, of course, Joel was related to everybody. There were 55 people there --midweek dinner, for a history lecture from me on the Revolutionary era church.

What fun!

Did you know that according to the Virginia Historical Society there were 100 active Anglican parishes with 109 clergy in Virginia in 1776 --church part of the state, clergy paid by the colony.... After war was declared, 17 clergy fled-- they felt because their ordination vows tied them to the crown, and they wouldn't couldn't break their vows, that it was just better to hightail it outa here. About 50 clergy broke their vows and became revolutionary --and the rest either died or remained silent... didn't take a stand. And active parishioners in Anglican churches--attendance dwindled.... the church itself was suspect.... because it was part of the colonial state....

If it were not for the big wigs --Washington, Jefferson, Marshall --that ilk, the church in Virginia may not have survived at all. After the war there were only 60 something parishes --not all of them active for Sunday worship, about 50 clergy, the Methodists had left and formed their own parishes --the state took glebe properties...

In the first General Convention in 1784, there was only one unofficial representative from Virginia (priest from Fairfax)... and Virginia vehemently disagreed about the necessity of bishops --and the north had already elected one...

They certainly weren't going to succeed doing the same ol' thang.

So, they didn't. They revisioned the church. Radically. In its polity and involvement of the laity --and incorporated that pesky mysticism of calling on the Holy Spirit in the liturgy, which had been absent--in the prayer book at least, and the Scottish Church, which ordained our first bishops cuz England would not (still demanding an oath of loyalty to the crown).... oh--and, did you know, in the first prayer book, they eliminated the Nicene Creed and changed the Apostles' Creed... talk about the faith inherited once and for all!!! heheheheheheheeee!

If they did it --so can we... if we are willing to look deep and wide for the future of the church --not what makes us comfortable --but the courage to look forward, for those who may yet be only a twinkle in some one's eye.

At morning prayer --a portion of Psalm 42

--they say to me,
"Where now is your God?"
I pour out my soul when I think on these things:
how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving
among those who keep holy-day.
Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to God,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Yep. Trust God first.
As best as we are able --and if/when we fail... give glory to God, and start again.

So... would you go against your vows --any vows? To what are you loyal?

There we are.
Off I go.

PS --Last night, I did NOT say I was a direct descendant of those pesky northerners --and one of them (Whitman/Wightman of Rhode Island) was a loyalist... I claimed only California as my inheritance --that radicalism perhaps being more acceptable than the old deep wounds.... dear Lord, how long....?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

...sometimes being a priest is like being a taxicab driver....

...and one must always be careful whom you pick up!


...entertaining angels, or maybe eve Jesus--well, always Jesus... and not for one's own sake....

Hmmmmmm.... interesting. Yes --in Lent, rather than focusing on self-improvement (the church is NOT a self-help group) --look at this from Sojourners:

“We do not fast today against fiscal responsibility. We fast against political hypocrisy,” Jim Wallis said, criticizing members of Congress who are focused on cutting programs that help poor people instead of going after wasteful corporate tax loopholes and military spending.

“There is a difference between deficit hawks and deficit hypocrites,” Jim Wallis said.

Tony Hall, who completed a 22-day fast while a member of Congress in 1993, said that the stakes are even higher now.

“17 million U.S. children are going to bed hungry,” Hall said. “We’ve talked and talked and talked. And we’ve lobbied and we’ve reasoned and we’ve sent letters and we’ve admonished. That’s why we’re having the fast.

Now, that's something worth fasting for.... the link is here.

Not worried about that? Well --here's some other things for you to pray, learn and act for.

Why should we do any of this? The prophets tell it best....

At morning prayer (Jeremiah beginning at 8:18)

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:
"Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?"
("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?")
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved."
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
not been restored?
O that my head were a spring of water,
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!


Why--why worry about the poor, the lost, the helpless, the vulnerable? --because as St. Paul says (in the readings today at morning prayer) --it's easy to do (or die) for the righteous, but Christ didn't give himself for the deserving... he gave himself over for the undeserving... for the helpless, for those so snared in sin they see no way out --they don't even know they might want out... or they profit from their self-serving lies and deadly actions.

...and here's a thought.... So, if we may fast and through it engage in prayer--- fast as a sign... as solidarity.... We must also party like crazy --as prayer, as a sign, as solidarity with those on the other side of the veil... Party until we are exhausted from it all.

Yeah, man.

Because if we do only one, or just the other, it's aestheticism... it's morals or ethics or something.

But Kingdom people are different --we know what we grieve and mourn --we know joy and rejoicing. And we do each in its season... --we participate in, we share each, because we do both not for ourselves, but for the glory of God.

There it is --for the glory of God.

Off I am --to take the little ol' lady out to see her friend who is dieing.... sat in the pew together, one black, one white --praying and eating together eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder, for decades.... there will be little or no conversation, only tears, and more prayers. Together... --for the glory of God.

...and they will both need something else from me... --companionship, presence certainly... but what that something else is, will be revealed and hey God, I hope and pray I will not be as blind and dumb as I usually feel in the presence of such profound death and grief... but fully alive to and for them, to your glory.

...sometimes being a priest is like being a taxicab driver --taking people where they say they need to go... and them trusting I know the best route unless they have another in mind, of course... and every now and then saying I won't go to that neighborhood....

...but with these two old friends, there is no where --there is not any neighborhood that I would not risk.... you know what I mean.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oh --looky there --more living water stuff.

At morning prayer (beginning at John 7:37) On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.

As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.


Now, there's an interesting little tidbit... particularly following on the heels of the gospel read on Sunday. Living waters.

Through all this part of John, I have always focused on the bread and wine talk. Obviously, I must go back and look at all the water stuff.... --and then think some more about Jesus walking on it... there's more midrash here in the making --other than just trumping Moses and his water tricks....

Yesterday, in the midst of a day off --I got a call for last rites. Joel, lifting up his heels as he has been wont to do in the last couple of days, had the car and was away with out the cell phone. I began to panic because I could not call him, I didn't have the cell phone number of the families involved --I was stuck...

Yes, it did strike me that fifteen years ago, this would not have been an issue --the cell phone stuff... the immediacy of it all today... taking time would have been par for the course.

But --I did manage to get there within about an hour and a half (--and let me just say --when it comes time for me to die, I want about five strong southern women standing around my bed, praying the Lord's Prayer and reciting the 23rd Psalm.... just sayin'. --talk about living water...) Please keep A in your prayers.

Hey God, it's margaret here... yeah, living and dieing.... I offer it all to you. It's too much for me. You know I've been concerned with my meeting with AT today; while at the same time doing vigil at A's bed... --and why did I say yes to that talk tomorrow night...? Who really cares about the church and the American Revolution.... except Joel.... the miracle of Joel's walking and talking in our own midst puts me in mind of living water --it is so good to see resurrection every now and then... what a blessing. And, Oh --I don't believe that the President believed a word he was saying in his little speech last night... and if he believes that he believed them, he's dieing inside....

Living waters --and baptism --much to ponder. Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sin sin sin sin sin... I prefer to focus on redemption....

Our tradition includes burning the mortgage when we have paid our debt.... Here is Bishop Kilmer Myers about 1977, burning the mortgage of St. Peter's in Morro Bay....


...when, in reality, the mortgage has already been burned... redeemed, paid up. From the get-go.

At morning prayer (Romans 4:9-10) We say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness." How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

Yes. YES. YES!!!! And he didn't even know the frickn' Law!!!!

Righteousness is offered as a free gift of God --BEFORE.... !!!! Before Abraham did anything... !!!

From the very beginning --there it is. And I can't help but think --if we waste this free gift by begging for forgiveness for the rest of our days, --if we waste this free gift by constantly considering our unworthiness or confessing our inadequacy... if we worry about sin, ours or the presumed sins of others, it denies the gift.

Yes. It. Does. Abraham didn't confess his unworthiness --he got on with it.

So, then... it's Lent. There will be those that say it is good to get our inner lives in order --good to confess our sins.

Fine. Realize 'em. And then realize that God has already thrown them away --as far as east is from west.

You might say --margaret, this is a horse you beat too often...

I can only respond, saying 1) I see it all played out too often... 2) what we must really confess is that which keeps us from participating in Christ's eternal priesthood.

--to use yesterday's gospel --we must lay down our empty water jars --repent of our water jars --when we meet and know the living water....

Of course, the risks in this are that then we might fall in to the syndrome of the 'the chosen,' 'the elect' --that all is revealed only to some.... and this is not true. It does appear that some 'get it' and some don't --but we are not to worry about that --leave that work to the Spirit.

What we must be about is doing what Jesus did --sitting at the well of our ancestors and persisting in a conversation with those whom we have been taught to despise, with those whom we disagree --and continue to press in to the difficult places. Together.

And be prepared to leave the good work of getting water --leave our water jars behind --leave the hole in the ground --all of us... because we have been offered living water... and others will be offered that food of which he speaks... but, that too is not something we need to worry about...

So. There.

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

oh heeeheeeheeeheheee! I just realized another 'bookend'... ! You know --those old fashioned tools one used to use to keep books upright on a shelf --a weighty thing-- one on each end of the line of books.

John uses such devices, bookends at the beginning and conclusion of the Gospel, to get the Message across... This is one of the bookends --and at the other end is the question of the disciples --Thomas, in particular, used at funerals... but Peter asks first --Lord, where are you going? --I will give you my heart and soul... and then he, Peter is told of his own betrayal as the cock crows... and is immediately assured by Jesus not to worry... a place will be prepared for us... and Thomas says, Lord, we do not know where you are going.... How do we know the way?

And Jesus says, I am the way.... (John 13 folks --just after Judas has left the room and before the high priestly prayer).

We do not know the way --we are called to follow. The Way will be revealed along the way. But we are called in faith to leave our water jars --the well of our ancestors no matter how deep and pure and clean, to not search for that food which fills only the gut, the quick fix.... we are called to remember that we are loved beyond all measure and all is forgiven us before we even begin....

We are subject and object --but there is only one noun.

I remember a sermon by Kilmer Myers --given at St. Paul's in Healdsburg (where I graduated from High School) --he spoke of radiating nonparallel lines each going their way and it is their intersection which forms a circle... and there is the church and the circle is the church and is exists for what is not in the circle... so my friend and I (we must have been 16 or so) went up to him after church in the parish hall and asked earnestly, who is saved, those inside the circle or outside the circle...?



He responded --what circle?

And, look --what I was taught in school was that they all had to be straight lines... that is obviously no longer truth!!!

Thanks be to God!

Somehow I am fairly confident that if I ran up to Jesus and asked --who is saved, those following the Way or those not following the Way he would respond, --what Way?

Somehow I am fairly confident that if I begged God to forgive my sin, God would say, What sin?

--because Jesus tells Peter to take heart at the same time his own cocky betrayal is revealed... tells us all to take heart....

We know the way. We are accorded righteousness even as Abraham was accorded righteousness. Before we begin.

Not because we are special. Just because that's the way God works.

So. Love one another. We will be known by our love... folks will know the God we trust and the One we follow by our love.

And, our mortgage has been redeemed from the get-to... just sayin.
Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sermon for 3 Lent --preached today by mi at the Spanish language service-- here in English

There are many times
I have felt a deep resonance with the story of the Samaritan woman.
There she is, going about her work;
the task at hand is drawing water out of the well,
and then, suddenly, she happens upon a stranger who changes her life.
At first he is a male, a Jew, and she wants nothing to do with him.
Then he becomes someone she calls ‘Sir.’
Then she calls him a prophet.
Then she confesses that she knows the Messiah is coming.
Jesus says at last, ‘I am he.’
And she believes him.

My journey to faith was very much like hers.
It took me a while to like, much less understand and then love Jesus.
You may think that because I am a priest,
my faith has been steady.
But, here it is, Lent. So, I will be honest.
It seems, that like the Samaritan woman,
my faith has been slow in coming, and it has been tested.
I, too, have felt the astonishment of others,
their words falling like stones around me
--what does Jesus want with her?
--She is an outsider, from a place where crazy is normal.
--a place where they know nothing of God.

Perhaps they are correct. However, I am also confident
that those other disciples seem to be the ones
who do not understand the very food they seek,
and certainly they do not understand
that I have come searching for water,
not for the bread they seek;
and that I will leave my water jar at the well
because, unexpectedly, I have found the source of living water,
the same one who turns water in to the best of wines,
the true bridegroom who marries heaven to earth,
and makes glad the heart of man.

I hope and I pray that you, too, during this season of Lent,
will take some time to reflect upon your journey in faith,
that you will honestly search out the desire of your heart,
that you will own the gifts given you
–as different and misunderstood by others as they may be;
that you, too, will also leave your water jar at the well,
or whatever else you may carry and suddenly find unnecessary
as you discover that you wish to tell those you know
about the One, the Lord,
who reveals himself to us in love, as we can bear it,
so that we might more fully know ourselves.
Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

I like the Samaritan woman --really like her. Her progress to faith was kinda like my own --from Jewish male, to sir, to prophet to faith... I especially like the part where she leaves her water jar at the well because she's found the source of living water...


You know --in reality, she understood Jesus better than the disciples did --while they worried about why she was talking to Jesus, and they had no idea what kind of food Jesus was talking about... she realized at Jacob's well that she no longer wanted the same ol' water of her ancestors....

G'wan. Go to church. Whether you want water or food (see--Jesus doesn't even offer us all the SAME THING) --you will be fed heavenly hors d'oeuvres --a taste of heaven!

our clue? our chance? hmmmm.... the poor with us

At morning prayer, (a portion of Jeremiah 5)

For scoundrels are found among my people;
they take over the goods of others.
Like fowlers they set a trap;
they catch human beings.
Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of treachery;
therefore they have become great and rich,
they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
they do not judge with justice
the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Yowza Jeremiah...

Ten richest people in US? --Computers, Walmart, investing and media (and politics). --oh, and the Koch brothers are listed as "diversified." Whatever that means.... a finger in every pot imaginable, I guess....

Seven women in the top one hundred.... and the top one hundred does not include Oprah by the way... Two Asians --saw no others who were people of color --as the saying goes.... And, I did not look at religious affiliation --I got too discouraged.

And, yeah, so Gates is encouraging the super wealthy to give away some of their wealth.... and pay appropriate taxes.... I'm not against it --more importantly, I hope they pay ALL their workers real living wages... including the ones that clean their toilets.

The alms situations at our door that break my heart are those working two jobs, their wages are garnished to support the two or three kids by two or three baby mamas, they have no health insurance and they are usually trying to keep clean and sober....

Took one alms requester over to get some gas --because the cost of gas is so high, I put $30 on the register inside... met the requester outside at the pump watched the tick tick tick of the gas until it passed about $18 and then gave a blessing and left.... As soon as I got back to the office, the phone rang and it was the alms requester saying that they accidentally let the gas pump stop and so they went inside the shop to get it going again and the folks at the register said it had already backed off my card....

I did not hesitate --I knew exactly what happened --as soon as my back was turned and the alms requester got $20 of gas, the alms requester turned it off and then went inside to get $10 cash back... $10 hot bucks in the pocket.... and then called because it didn't work out that way...

I said I would see them on Tuesday... no, not plural --the them/they routine I am employing is trying to keep it gender neutral...

Talked about it when I got home... Joel and I remembered the times when we had $10 a week to feed ourselves... and between the two of us we were working three jobs... without benefits.... I worked six hours a day at a book store and he was a store clerk and then I worked the 11pm to 4am shift in a bakery.... would come home crawl in to bed and wake up to work 11am to 4pm at the book store... we didn't even have a car...

...and don't get me going on the time the police questioned why we were standing at the street corner and were surprised when we responded saying it was a legitimate bus stop, and yet they continued to press us ....

Even though that was thirty years ago --I understand. I remember.

Being poor is oppressive --oppression. Add to that gender or race or any other mechanism of systemic oppression....

...is it any wonder that ghettos reek of violence, drugs and despair? And all that is "okay" --let be, so long as it stays in that neighborhood.... Two or three nights ago, my neighborhood was swarming with police and helicopters and all --a series of armed home invasions.... It is a violation when that violence and despair punctuates another neighborhood and sends tendrils out and around....

The true wickedness is not the violence, drugs and despair of the ghettos... all that is merely a symptom. The people who live there bear the sins of the whole world in their flesh and blood... --and we build programs and schools and all that to "fix" them.... The true wickedness is the crime of those who grow rich on it, because of it, through it.... they catch human beings....

...and they feel nothing... not even their own emptiness which they try to fill with more....

You know... perhaps I should have meditated on another lesson today.... but Paul was yarning on about the Law... and the gospel was about Jesus sneaking in to the Festival of Booths, and there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds.

Maybe it's just because my camellias are in full bloom --the tree rampant with them --and for the sixth year in a row it will snow on them... tonight....

Just when I was settling in to my allergy meds and now this... more snow....

But --I can hear Joel cleaning the bedroom... and that's a miracle. He hasn't had the strength to walk up and down stairs --and he's moved his bed three times this week... despite my yelling at him.

We love this reprieve... but in all honesty --we have been talking about selling our house and moving to something all on one floor...

...perhaps this is our clue to move in with the poor....

..hey? Love?

Peace out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

--a purpose driven life? --the ONLY purpose is joy

It's the Annunciation.... and the anniversary of the Garment Workers fire in New York...

Oh Mary. I had never put that one together before....

At morning prayer (a portion of Psalm 85)
Show us your mercy, O LORD, *
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Why does it seem to take a death for us to see? To see --the abundance and the glory --the beauty of righteousness and peace --kissing each other....

(sorry for the ads in this clip --but this was fascinating --do watch --P, it reminded me of you.)



Maybe she wept because she knew the people of Pharaoh were her other children...

I became fascinated with this woman, Theresa Andersson --recording and then singing with herself as she does... She's fairly local too... Here is something between a lament and glory...



....find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground

Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down
Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down
(Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground)


Now --I must go to take Joel to the hospital for his last treatment. --We had lunch yesterday (because he was in the hospital on my birthday). So, we celebrated by walking a block and having lunch together. I cannot believe the ecstasy of reprieve... --but we both know our old friend is waiting patiently.

In the meantime, we have the gift of life. And the only purpose of life is joy...

So, that is what we will do. --the trees are blooming again. Outrageous green and blossoms and a hint --an initial blush of the color they will show in the autumn.

Today --I am satisfied and grateful. So, we will rise to do the work before us, seeking and, God willing, serving Christ in all. --for the joy that is set before us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

...we are all made of sand and teeter on sand foundations looking for solid love... which is more like air than we know....


Oscar Romero day.... that's not Romero above... that's our love...

When the church decries revolutionary violence, it cannot forget that institutionalized violence also exists, and that the desperate violence of oppressed persons is not overcome with one-sided laws, with weapons, or with superior force. Instead, as the Pope says, revolutionary violence must be prevented by courageous self-sacrifice, by giving up many comforts. As long as there is no greater justice among us, there will always be outbreaks of revolution. The church does not approve or justify bloody revolution and cries of hatred. But neither can it condemn them while it sees no attempt to remove the causes that produce that ailment in our society. This is the church’s stand, one that makes it suffer terrible conflicts, but one that also makes it feel faithful to God’s justice and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
--Romero, February 12, 1978

Libya.
Egypt.
Wisconsin.
Indiana.
California.
Gaza--Palestine.
Japan.
Desperate violence... love built of sand....

And how can one drive down the street in Richmond and not see oppression --one-sided laws, weapons, hatred...?

yeah --the church cannot should not endorse bloody revolution... but when it happens, we must throw our lot in with those who work against oppression, throw in our lot with those against whom the guns of authority are aimed --not join them in the desperate violence, but stand with them as they bleed and die and be prepared to bleed and die with them, and bind the wounds and feed them bread and give them water to drink.

At morning prayer (Jeremiah 4:9-10)

On that day, says the Lord, courage shall fail the king and the officials; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded. Then I said, "Ah, Lord God, how utterly you have deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, 'It shall be well with you,' even while the sword is at the throat!"

My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster overtakes disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard,
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
"For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good."

hmmmmmmm..... sigh.

blindness. self-deception. violence. sand. un-cohesive. all sand. how long....

A few years ago we celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of a couple in our congregation... this past September we buried one of them, and the family worked so hard all winter to keep the other alive... striving to find hope and new life.

This morning, having talked with the survivor, I am confident that we really know very little about new life... caught up as we are in life... and all its banner waving, wars, weapons... oppressions. --and in the bitter cold and dank of this winter, we may have spent better time listening to the survivor rather than push for the horizon of Spring...

Because, then there is love. If, perhaps, Lent were focused on knowing, seeking, being love, then we might have a new understanding of true repentance...

Because, in the end, we shall have to repent of much of the love in which we have tried to engage... because much of the love we make is built of and on sand...

I found this the other day. I had forgotten all about it --apparently I wrote it and submitted it as an essay for General Ordination Exams.... heheheheheh....

In the sky my maker met me
lavished me blue
poured stars into my eyes
put suns and moons in my mouth like fruit
wrapped me in celestial winds.
My maker said
stay with me here a while beloved
love me here as I am

How can I love thee here Lord
I cannot see you

In the water my maker met me
placed stones as altars at my feet
pebbles in my hands
covered my head with moss
washed colors from my eyes
filled them with river-bottom sand
My maker said
stay here a while with me beloved
love me here as I am

How can I love thee here Lord
I cannot breathe

In the earth my maker met me
formed me of clay speckled with jewels and gold
shaped massive oaks for my limbs
dressed me with vines and figs
glazed me with milk and honey
My maker said
stay with me here a while beloved
love me here as I am

How can I love thee here Lord
I am un-fired

In the fire my maker met me
kiln turn crucible
unmade my form, smelted, refined me
turned me red, then glowing white hot, molten
held me, surrounded and licked by flame
dross consumed
My maker said
stay with me here a while beloved
love me here as I am

How can I love thee here Lord
when I am poured out
I will only grow cold in the mold

In the flesh my maker met me
fed me fish and bread and good wine
wept for my wounds and little deaths
showed me how to dance
told me stories
about darkness holding dawn
about my family and all my relatives, born slaves
purchased with a fair price
now truly free
My maker said
stay here with me a while beloved
love me here as I am

How can I love thee Lord
you, who are Love
Only when I am empty, can I be filled
(would that I could be your tomb, Lord)

Praying my way through morning prayer with the news on... listening to that story of the little girl whose classmates (well, their parents..) are up in arms because she is allergic to peanuts and they are required to wash their hands and rinse their mouths after lunch.

God forbid children should wash their hands and rinse their mouths --much less for the sake of another.... sheeeeeeesh.....

...we are all made of sand and teeter on sand foundations looking for solid love... which is more like air than we know....

Lord have mercy...
amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Transformation right before my eyes

I find myself singing the confession this morning --to the tune of 'Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy' --the tune 'Slane' I believe... what a wonderful way to start the day. I think it also puts sin in just the right place. This morning.

And, the woman at the well --who has had many husbands... well, that is metaphorical language folks --and here's the proof in the pudding: at morning prayer beginning at Jeremiah 3:6

The LORD said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? And I thought, "After she has done all this she will return to me"; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.

Israel (she mind you) --married to The LORD and playing the whore....just like that other woman who has had 'five husbands' and the one she has currently isn't her real husband....

Just sayin'....

And love Romans this morning... beginning at Romans 2

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth."

Yeppa --watch out if you claim to know God's judgment.... and, yes, In John, I think, we are told that what we hold here on earth will be held in heaven... but that too is about caution.... not power.

Big big big on the news last --Radiation from Japan Has Reached Virginia!!!! Said it ten times before the news... and in the news the second line was --but the amount is so small it doesn't matter.

I hate that kind of sensationalism. Hate it.

And am now running --taking Joel to the doctor for his fourth of five treatments. I cannot believe the transformation I have seen --right before my eyes.

Lord have mercy! --and hey God, you know the rest of my prayers... especially A who is popping in and out of the ICU again.... for those suffering from the ravaging storms in California... and watch out everyone --because we know that what happens in Japan, comes to Virginia --much less what happens in California...

Peace out! Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

--in our dry, empty, sick, weak, disturbed corruption... government and church alike

hmmmmmm... with Hieronymus Bosch, the world only seems at peace with itself when God is dead...


There's nothing like a tap-root (vision of where the cross hits the ground)-- These are the things I am carrying in prayer today --first a quote of Julian of Norwich: Pray, even if you feel nothing, see nothing. For when you are dry, empty, sick or weak, at such a time is your prayer most pleasing to God, even though you may find little joy in it. This is true of all believing prayer.

That is a good reminder. It isn't the lifting of our hands, the being filled with the Spirit, the confident rush that we should be after in prayer --it is the total emptying of self... as best as we are able.... Then, God can work.

And then there are these active folks:

Mark of Missio Dei is looking for collaborators on an economic justice campaign called Withdrawal Day. The aim is to encourage people to close their accounts with particularly unethical banks by October 3rd (the anniversary of the bail out) and put their money in local banks. On October 3rd, there will be simultaneous protests (including some money-changer-esque actions) around the country—paying particular attention to the headquarters and major offices of the big banks. Other actions are also being planned. We're looking for people to help with organizing local affinity groups, planning on-the-ground-actions and outreach. We would like the first Withdrawal Day to feature actions in a handful of cities, particularly Charlotte, San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis. If you are a videographer, artist, or web developer, we could use your help. Contact mark@missio-dei.com for details.

Then, there's always the Jesus Radicals....

Beyond a Brave New World: Anarchism and Christianity for the Coming Age.
The ninth annual Jesus Radicals conference is scheduled for July 29-30 at Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, Minn. The gathering, which will be co-hosted by Missio Dei, will look at three areas: 1) understanding the emerging technologies and forms of social control that will affect our futures; 2) identifying the "somas" that make us unwilling/unable to resist these forms of oppression; and 3) exploring ways we can live as anarchists and radical followers of Jesus in this unfolding reality. The planning team is currently developing sessions and identifying speakers. The conference Web site will be updated during the first week of April. Send topic or speaker suggestions to newsletter@jesusradicals.com

Scary? Jesus Radicals? Ohhhh --not as scary as our government right now... and not at all like right-wing fundamentalists.... The theological statement of the Jesus Radicals includes All of these resources challenge the easy assimilation of Christian life into the political, technological milieu of our day. These resources call us to faithfulness to Jesus life and example: to be radicals, Jesus radicals.

None of these so-called radicals desire the easy assimilation of Christian life into the milieu, whereas fundamentalists are insisting upon it...

And these radicals --they include such "radicals" as Dorothy Day and John Yoder...

...real folks striving to dwell in the Gospel beyond institutions... and at the same time to hold institutions accountable.

Given that our government and church uphold and employ these very trends/institutions etc... it is a good Lenten reflection to see where we are 'hooked' in and are unwilling or unable to disengage from the 'soma' --the euphoric drink that distracts us from the Kingdom of Heaven.

At morning prayer (Romans 1:16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous will live by faith."

Ohhhhhh, faith.... yeah, yeah....

Or, as Anthony Bloom said, God cannot save the imaginary person that we try to present to him, or to others or ourselves.

--so, what does the faith of the truly authentic person look like? --what do the actions of the truly authentic person look like? --what does a truly authentic person in prayer look like?

Beyond the obvious --it depends upon the person-- duh.

Biblical witness to authentic persons in prayer usually involve some type of fire --the young men in the furnace, Moses, the disciples at Pentecost --we are so tame... tamed.... and, no, I am not advocating the screaming, the singing, the lifting of hands, the fainting, the speaking in tongues... not. at. all.

...it is, in contrast, that we are required to go in to our room in secret and be quiet.... You know, like we heard on Ash Wednesday... no outward and visible signs of the inward working of the Spirit.

Personally --I think we are all kinda like velveteen rabbits... and we become authentic, not from the inside out... but from the outside in --we become authentic by being used up, worn through, re-sewn, rubbed bare, re-stuffed and finally discarded as a heap of contagious disease....

...not from any action of our own....

Right now --I am mad as hell at our government --prolonged war, the grinding down of the common person, capitalists raping and pillaging without accountability.... I am uninspired by the church --erecting safety nets for its survival instead of looking to the gospel for life.... I am saddened by the desperate state of the city which sprawls about us --rampant poverty and murder, happily falling in line with the regulations which viewed ketchup as a vegetable and giving an education to match --caging the souls who have violently reacted to being ground to bits and have no hope...

...and I am deeply grateful for those who struggle to live faithfully --as do those above --those in this place --this city, who continue to work a day --hour, minute at a time for the sake of others... especially the most vulnerable due to race, gender, economics, sexual orientation....

...and such is my Lenten journey this year. Looking at our big systemic indiscretions in a little way... and not feeling helpless --just overwhelmed. Can't run fast enough... you know that kind of dream...

It feels/looks as though the foundations are like sand beneath our feet --our government in true crisis, the church lost and inward looking, people hurting all around....

--and perhaps as it all falls apart, or not... --this is the very time which is most pleasing to God --in our dry, empty, sick, weak, disturbed corruption.

This is the very time. Amen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Women at the well, water jars left behind, and all that jazz...


Why this ecstatic 'Union' on the Monday of 2 Lent? Because that is our beginning and our end.... and, yes... I do get there.... after a rant. Of course.

Collect for Monday in the Second Week of Lent

Let your Spirit, O Lord, come into the midst of us to wash us with the pure water of repentance, and prepare us to be always a living sacrifice to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

hmmmmm.... wash... repentance...

It was the anniversary of the beginning of our invasion of Iraq this weekend. There were rallies all over the nation --Portland, Boston, NYC, DC, LA, San Francisco... and many more places. I had to dig to find any news about it.

...sigh...

And we dropped bombs and etc. in Libya... without the consent of Congress... although, somehow, stories would be cooked up so that they w/could not object.... Beyond ironic that it happened on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

I think it is outrageous. And Gates, I think it was, on TV, saying we have now intervened in a civil war and we have the moral obligation to stay the course...

B.U.L.L.

Obama --shame on you. Clinton --shame on you. The government is screaming 'no money' and yet, how much does it cost to drop one bomb --the planes, the fuel, the personnel... bunch of old white men with slits for eyes talking again about a dictator hated by his own people... and you are both playing with them just fine... you bought the popcorn and the farm.

...and photos showing the young white men posing with corpses they are claiming like animal trophies.... They have been taught so well.

And radiation in the food in Japan. With the continued claims that nuclear energy is a cleaner, greener and cheaper power than the alternatives.

And if one preached about these things and the cross... --well.... Who wouldn't hear something about the separation of the pulpit and politics...

And today is the day to remember Cranmer.... elevated to a position of power by one King and then later executed by his daughter.... isn't that about the truth of it all.

At morning prayer (Psalm 64)

Hear my voice, O God, when I complain; *
protect my life from fear of the enemy.
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, *
from the mob of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongue like a sword, *
and aim their bitter words like arrows.
That they may shoot down the blameless from ambush; *
they shoot without warning and are not afraid.
They hold fast to their evil course; *
they plan how they may hide their snares.
They say, "Who will see us?
who will find out our crimes? *
we have thought out a perfect plot."
The human mind and heart are a mystery; *
but God will loose an arrow at them,
and suddenly they will be wounded.
He will make them trip over their tongues, *
and all who see them will shake their heads.
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God's deeds; *
they will recognize his works.
The righteous will rejoice in the LORD and put their trust in him, *
and all who are true of heart will glory.

Yah --protect my life from the fear of the enemy...

It is fear that drives so much that is so wrong... so pornographic. And so many of our fears are so very real and wickedness has very real consequences... not the least of which is death... and those torments that are a living hell.

And faith is all we have when it comes to that fear. and death. and torments. and living hells.

And what is faith?

It is a grounding in the knowledge of One. Union. ...perhaps knowledge is not the best word, but I cannot think of another right now.

It is a grounding in the knowledge of The Story... --goodness, love, light, grace, betrayal, the lie, death and unexpected new life...

It is the willing participation. Eyes. Wide. Open. in all of it.

...and when our own stumbling blocks put us in the vanguard of The Lie, forgivenness and the assurance of redemption--that in time, it shall be made right....

..and those who have least, are seen as the least --those who are broken, who grieve, who are persecuted, hunted and hungry.... they know.

Morning prayer continued (John 4:27-28)

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?"

The Messiah? --oh, that and so much more... the One who holds all things in being. Union. Ecstatic.

Hey God --it's margaret --and yeah, I know how preposterous it is to use my name when in fact it is the voice of your firstborn you hear --or, that's the narrative, anyway. But, here I am. So, I repent of the ways of war, and yet war is made in my name... what the hell am I supposed to do about that? And we are all caught up in the consumption of unholy and destructive power... with very little wiggle room... what the hell are we to do? It is so very disheartening....

Even so. Today, I will take Joel back to the hospital, to partake in a blood-scrub that the poor cannot fathom--that has given him new life when neither of us had much hope at all.... and somewhere between guilt and joy I shall stumble further in to glory... in faith. And keep my eyes wide open for that redemption thing.

JC and the little ones and all the women searching for water who leave their water jars behind. For the sake of Union. Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

So.... have you broken your Lenten promises yet? Not really begun them yet? Been tempted and afraid you might succumb this week?

Don't worry --it's not about good works, what we do or don't do. It is about leaving our native ground in faith --it is about showing up in the dark of our own doubts and fears --it is about being blown away by the Spirit --it is about trusting that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it...

...and in faith, we participate in his salvation work (not our own)... Lent is about realizing that... --all over again....

G'wan. Go to church. We drop Matthew--pick up John--realize the folly of self-improvement and strive to cultivate in ourselves the mind of Christ. Because Jesus did not come to condemn... only to save... the whole world.

And that's enough.
Jeeeeez --when did I get so serious?!

omens....

It's a full moon --very full... closer than normal.... And the news feels compelled to report it is not an omen.... --sheeeesh-- If it were an omen, would they be able to report what it means?? What message was purportedly being delivered?

I know what it means: it is the Day of the Lord; Rejoice! --and be glad in it!



..at morning prayer (canticle of creation)
Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold, *
drops of dew and flakes of snow.
Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, O nights and days, *
O shining light and enfolding dark.
Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.
Those are camellias from our backyard. I post them for Joel --because he cannot go down the back steps and see them for himself --and YES!!! He is home! He has responded to the treatments like a champ --no seizures, heart attacks, allergic reactions etc. --and since they don't give treatments over the weekend, they sent him home! --and the hope is they will be able to give the remaining three treatments on an outpatient basis....

And it is the day to remember Joseph --who hung out with Mary, mother of Jesus.... He took in his arms both Mary and a son he could not claim as his own, and risked his own life loving them --a son that brought the hounding of mystics from strange lands, unclean shepherds, a ruler of that place hunting them, the murder of a thousand children, exile... and sorrow in the eye of the young woman he loved --a knife in her heart....

God bless all adoptive parents on this day, K&A, S&R, V and M, A&S, and the children who bring light and life in their lives.

Now --gotta run --our summer house collapsed in the back yard, and folks are coming over to help me take it apart and see what is left underneath!

Blessed Sabbath, all!

More camellia shots for Joel:



They are an omen of spring y'all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A mouse on the throne of glory, of course


It's Cyril of Jerusalem day.... that's not Cyril above... well, but they are relatives, 'cuz we are all related....
Cyril was born in Jerusalem around 315, and became bishop of that city in about 349. The years between the Council of Nicea (325) and the Council of Constantinople (381) were troubled years, in which the Church, having committed itself at Nicea, over the strenuous protests of the Arians, to the proposition that the Son is "one in being" (homo-ousios) with the Father, began to backtrack and consider whether there was some other formula that would adequately express the Lordship of Christ but not be "divisive."

...but not be divisive.... Oh my, how we shy from controversy....

Cyril was among those who looked for a way of expressing the doctrine that would be acceptable to all parties. As a result, he was exiled from his bishopric three times, for a total of sixteen years, once by the Athanasians and twice by the Arians.

wuuuups! there we are! --try to please 'em all --forget it... try to preach the Gospel --it'll be worse...

...heheheheh....

...and just listening to the news with my right ear --and the wedding of the Prince and his bride at Westminster Abbey is on --and guess what ---the members of the congregation, the choirs, the Queen and etc. etc. etc. --they will be facing in toward the aisle, facing each other across the aisle....

....heheheheheheheh....

...gotta get a diagram of that for the Sacred Space:Christian Architecture journey I am conducting for Lent... which will end up, by the way, with a contemplation of our inner space... our interior entry ways, altars, holy spaces... but that's a secret... don't tell.

At morning prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And that is what held me this morning.... although this morning is like a deconstructed array --parts and pieces disassembled and thrown into the air for my inner eye to see anew... or, perhaps that is aknew... although there is no such word, but there ought to be.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness... Once my nephew and I were cross-country skiing on the backside of a mountain in Oregon --and we stopped in the middle of an un-traversed slope... the snow was so pure and clean it was the same blue color of the sky --that I-don't-believe-it's-blue breath-taking western mountain blue... nobody had been on that side of the mountain for quite a while...

So, I pulled out the thermos of hot coffee (I always carry Peet's when I x-country ski) and as we sipped and listened to the quiet, a small mouse emerged from the snow. It stood up on the snow and began to lecture us --saying if we needed such and such --and pointed at our skis and hats and gloves, then we shouldn't have the privilege of entering the mountains this time of year... it was quite adamant actually.

I said to my nephew --watch out, that mouse isn't acting right --it might be sick.

And that just made the mouse furious, and it stomped its little feet in the snow and began to cuss at us.

I said, perhaps it's rabid --let's move on!

And that was too much for the mouse --who, by the way, never told us its name... but we stood aghast at the venom it continued to hurl at us --and in a final fit of fury, it attacked my nephew's skis, jumping around, smacking 'em, yelling at the top of its lungs as it did...

...and then it stopped --nearly mid-air, and its eyes got big and with sudden fear it disappeared back in to the snow....

My nephew and I stood there --in wonder and awe and laughing so hard we fell down --at a mouse that had the courage to tell us off... for our trespasses.

...and that, my dear friends, is exactly how I expect I will approach the throne with boldness--like the mouse --and I too will try to hide when I see myself as I am --but The One will catch me by my tail and delight in me and listen to my little rants with wonder and awe and probably laugh so hard The One will fall in to the snow in fits of laughter --and then I shall be enthroned alongside/within/by The One Who Holds All Things In Being, and I shall behold my friend who is not a stranger... and in my flesh I shall see God....

...there we are. Or, perhaps the mouse was The One... and I shall have to figure out how to approach that throne of glory... oh dear. I shall never fit.

Hey God, it's margaret. Thank you for the sign of Cyril who in trying to please all pleased none. Hope he pleased you. Thank you for the sign of The Mouse who reminded me of me and you. Guard the weak, the foolish and the bold. Reveal your wondrous work in K,R,M,Y,B,J and S. Help us see our trespasses as do you. Keep us in your sight as we struggle to understand the Way. Love you too. Amen.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Science, philosophy, theism... I choose breakfast in bed a little grace

So, Joel was sitting up in bed, talking about three theologians... Pannikar, some other German dude who wrote The Gift: Creation  and some other German dude who wrote God as the Mystery of the World.... --theology and theism and atheism.... As his words unfolded before me --it was like colors and waves... science, theology, philosophy... and how science and philosophy divorced from theology and what has happened to the language of those disciplines because of it... and how they now try to talk around mystery or explain it.... or, at worst/best ignore mystery altogether....

--I remembered all the reasons I fell in love with him... sitting at the Bishop's Ranch or working together in the kitchen --he always blew my mind away at the way he connected this and that... the stars and heaven and the core of the earth and the glory of human flesh... And I promised my self to remember what he said...

...but this morning I only remember the feeling... --and, I adore thee --beloved.

A portion of Psalm 19 at morning prayer....

The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.
In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

Yeah. Like that.

And, because M and I have been working on the deep work of what we DO --but grounding it in the context of WHY --you know, why do we feed the poor? --why do we visit the children in the development center? --why do we offer gifts to the elderly poor in the rest home?

My most fav pericope in the whole bible (John 3:16-18)

Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Yeah yeah yeah.... and I HATE the billboards on that one... but this:

[Jesus continued, saying] "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already...

OMG --zombies --the walking dead!

--because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world....

Hot damn. Already. This is the judgment --the light has come into the world... That is the judgment....

Right out of the mouth of Jesus....

In that hope, I will now go to work, confident in grace and hope and mercy and healing and forgiven-ness and eternal life --and I do not know if philosophy or science can use those words or understand or speak to those things... but this I know --in him there is no condemnation --only life....

So there. Now to a shower and hi-ho off to work I go.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everbuddy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

--bull. bull. BULL.


The signs of God are everywhere... yes?!

At morning prayer (John 2:23-25)
When Jesus was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.

But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.


Many believed because of the signs.... but he did not entrust himself to them.... he knows everyone.

What the hell....

Alright --one could go to 'we did not choose, we were chosen' --but that goes to really weird places, in my mind. --a platform for real abuse. --and self deception.

Perhaps this is the place on the family tree of belief between faith and religion. Faith is a matter of trust --one puts down all assumptions of power and outcomes, and that is faith.

Religion, on the other hand, works with power and expected outcome.... if one does this, then that....

Okay --so that's our working with the signs bit... (oh, how we love and idolize the signs, but not what they point to!) --but what is that stuff about Him (big H Him) not entrusting himself to them (or us, for that matter).... If he loved and trusted Judas, why not them?

Oh the huddled, insistent, dirty masses... can't trust them.

Hey God --and you too Jesus, listen up. It's instances like this, particularly in John, but you know the other places too --that the exclusive pandering of the evangelists sicken me --and yeah, we see it all the time on the tv too --oooooo we are the chosen.

I hate that. Because you have proven it wrong. Into the broken pots, the weak hands, the children --the homeless, the powerless, the poor, --that's where you are, that's where I know you.

So --you have heard it said, but I say to you --bull. Bull. Bull to the exclusive poo poo caacaa.

That's all. Love you too.
Amen.

Oh, and bless and guard all those who suffer. And thank you for Joel's buoyed spirits last night, now that the first blood-scrub is done and he knows what to expect. And I pray for that lady across the hall from him, and the kid passing out chocolate kisses in the hallway.

For K,R,K,M, M's mom, A, and all those with whom you have entrusted your Spirit --that they may let go of power and outcome and serve with courage and peace.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

...a temple of stone? --a temple of bread? --a temple of flesh and blood?


Stones. The stones themselves will sing. The bread we really need....

So... not yet shaking it... the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, confusing at best because we contradict in every way what the readings call us to do --by smearing ashes on our faces and confessing our sins... publicly... --and yet, the smearing of ashes does not call us to remember our sins, but our mortality.

And the readings certainly call us to undertake a fast worthy of God, to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, 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 --not a project of self-betterment.

As Lilith Zoe wrote (a Lay Deputy from Colorado on the HoB/D listserve) regarding Lent: "In a world where so very many people are living lives characterized by denial that is not voluntary, one might even argue that for those who have plenty to simply voluntarily deny themselves - without any further action for the benefit of others - is actually blasphemous. A kind of faux solidarity with the poor and the oppressed; a co-opting of their suffering for the sake of our own self-righteousness. ....

The author of this article is exactly right that spiritual growth is not cost-free. What the author seems to be unclear about is who is actually paying the price for a lack of sacrifice (Gandhi said worship without sacrifice is sin) and consequently that the solution is more personal piety. It isn't, nor is it a reactive "return" to some imagined more holy past. We can't fit Jesus into our existing lives any more than we can sew new cloth onto an old garment or put new wine in old wine skins. We must find a new way, a new container, a new synthesis that integrates the old and the new (like scribes who are fit for the reign of God) without destroying both.

As we go through, once again, our cyclical preparation for ministry (that we are all called to by virtue of our baptism and continuing participation in the Eucharist), I am reminded of the Godly Play parable of the Good Shepherd. God shows us that there is no reason to be afraid of death (Hebrews). Sometimes we think that Jesus' death means that we don't have to go through our own metaphoric crucifixions as part of the journey to resurrection. But Jesus as the Good Shepherd shows us the way to go through those "dark and dangerous places" of our own without getting lost or being consumed by them, so that they serve God's purpose in us and for the world."

Yowza! Preach it Lilith! --because, yes --Lent is practice, a discipline and reminder for undertaking our Christian ministry in the world... remember, during Lent, we used to really pray for those preparing for baptism, or those who had been separated from the Body.... Amen.

...so, what happens if one preaches or pushes beyond the hubris of personal piety and self-discipline of Lent? --no one likes to be pushed out of their comfort zone... but isn't that what Lent is all about?

Back to that mortality stuff in the ashes of Lent....

Joel and I have continued to press in to the questions/realities of mortality.... what happens if this last-ditch effort at treatment does not work? His current treatment is not sustainable --the current treatment itself will kill him....

...and the God-awful suffering and death in Japan.... In Libya, Bahrain.... I have watched some of the videos emerging about Japan --but always with the sound off... I could not bear to hear....

Is it not all almost overwhelming... searing?

Yes. And No.

It is a good thing to have this at morning prayer (John 2:13-22)

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!"

His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?"

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?"

But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


The Temple --the offerings of the people --driven out... the coins dumped... at the advent of the high and holy feast of Passover. I love that the evangelist John places this at the beginning of the revelation of Jesus as our Passover --not at the end as the other gospels do. At the beginning the old way of sacrifice, the old way of doing everything is thrown out, and we must find the new temple of his body.

...and that would be us.... And Jesus, our Passover, not a sacrifice for sin, but the feast of our liberation....a new temple --not of stone but of bread made flesh and blood... or flesh and blood made bread...

...so that we may encourage others to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, be confident of the strength of the One who will lead us through the desert terrain.... without getting lost or consumed... or becoming hearts of stone.

--ashes, sin, mortality, injustice, oppression, death....

No. It was in solid rock that new life was given... is given... in the center of a garden of death.... the real bread we really need.

...so the faith that even when we get lost, or consumed, or our hearts turn to stone --God is there, in the ruins of that temple, inviting us home to the temple of the Body.

Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

--they coulda called yesterday....

I will have to do some reflection at some other point in the day... 'cuz the hospital phoned and said be here at 8.... Joel is going in for ten days or so... hopefully this will work for him... plasmapheresis --put the link below in my Saturday post--- a process to scrub his blood.... get out his warped antibodies from this damned autoimmune disease.

You think if he had to be there at 8 --they coulda called yesterday or last night?

grumpy...

and it's my birthday today --thanks mom! thanks dad!

If he's up to it --I'll get some chipotle and we will eat it together tonight at the hospital.

Please pray.

Peace out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

So, Jesus was tempted in every way...


...who isn't... yeah, that's Satan in all his glory. Good ol' Blake.

...it'll preach as a morality story... --resist stone bread that'll leave you hungry, resist religion that'll make God a false saver, resist idolatry of the powers that be in politics and governments...

But, I think the evangelist was inscribing the first revelation of Jesus as mightier than all the prophets before him.... and the victorious son that Adam and Israel were not...

But, that's Christian triumphalism....

Perhaps there is something more?

G'wan. Go to church. And then tell me what you heard as the good news.

...strange joy....


At morning prayer, Psalm 42

As the deer longs for the water-brooks, *
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; *
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, *
while all day long they say to me,
"Where now is your God?"

I pour out my soul when I think on these things: *
how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God,
With the voice of praise and thanksgiving *
among those who keep holy-day.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God; *
for I will yet give thanks to the One,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

...put your trust in God...

...and that doesn't mean easy street --that all shall be good and there will be no sickness nor death....

--it means, God is with us--

This part really jumped out at me too --But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The saying is sure.
(Titus 3:4-8)

These bits o' scripture buoyed me this morning --with that inner calmness--space that one can occasion every now and then.

Yesterday, when I got home from work, Joel was cleaning the kitchen, frantically... his face looked white-hot... He hasn't been real well. Wednesday, I think it was, he fell on the sidewalk outside the house and was unable to get up. He has had extreme weakness, and has not felt well...

So, of course, I yelled at him to stop cleaning the damn kitchen.

He turned and said that he needed to clean --to get ready...

Ready for what? I ask as I leaned against the kitchen wall thinking --oh-oh... here it comes....

The doctor called back --when I told him everything, he didn't give me a choice --I am going in to the hospital for ten days for plasmapheresis. I have to get everything ready for you....

Plasmapheresis --kinda like dialysis, scrub the blood... for ten days....

Ohhhhhh.... my poor beloved....

So --today, I will help him in that work he feels compelled to complete to take care of me, while he helps me help him in that work I feel compelled to complete to take care of him.... --he's gonna need a boatload of comfortable clothes...

...and both of us will have to remember to return to the water-brook... that our thirst will only be quenched at the water-source... to trust in God, not because of what we do or have done, but because of who God is....

...and I know that what we have before us is nothing compared to our brethren in Japan... n.o.t.h.i.n.g.

Hey God. i got n.o.t.h.i.n.g. today. Not even saying my name, like i usually do, just so you know... And i know you know that i know that's exactly what Paul was talking about when he said 'be subject' --not the demeaning, destructive, disrespectful, diminishing subjection that some demands of others... but that strange joy....

...strange joy when God is first... last... in all.
Like what Mother Theresa said --when you find yourself wrapped in fine clothes and eating rich foods in the palace --give thanks to God. And when you find yourself naked, bruised, hungry in the worst place in a hell of a neighborhood --give thanks to God...

I pour out my soul when I think on these things...
Amen.

(Image here.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan, Hawaii --earth quakes and tsunamis....

8 point freakin' 9..... The earth cracks open and the ocean jumps out of its skin at 5.... The strongest earthquake Japan has ever experienced...

My friend Ichihara posted to Facebook 現在まだ三百数十人の生徒と保護者(卒業式だったため)が留まっており、今夜は学校に泊まりの見込みです。交通以外のライフラインは全部動いており、そういう意味での問題はありません。ご心配下さっている皆さんありがとうございます。

Roughly translated --that is (I think): Remaining with one hundred and three--dozens of students and parents (because of the graduation ceremony), and expecting to stay here all night at the school. Our only lifeline is non-moving traffic --with all the other problems I do not mean it like that. Thank you guys --please pray for us, we are very worried.

My friend Kate on Oahu says: Civil defense sirens just came on here in Hawaii. The destruction in Japan looks terrible. Prayers ascending... --as I write at 8am this morning, she posted that four hours ago....

Oh. Dear. God....

And my friend and teacher, John is in Hong Kong --he does not think there will be tsunami action there --but says it's a "terrible time for this part of the world."

Dang.... And in the torrential rain here last night, the little summer house in our back yard collapsed --we we had covered it with tarps placed our picnic table, chairs and bikes in it for the winter.... that mess is now nothing.... Well... as I clean that up, it will be my physical prayer for those left in utter devastation and danger.

At morning prayer, a Canticle: A Song to the Lamb
(Revelation 4:11, 5:9-10, 13)

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God,
For you created everything that is, *
and by your will they were created and have their being;
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
And so, to him who sits upon the throne, *
and to Christ the Lamb,
Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, *
for ever and for evermore.


Hey God --in every place the land and water have unexpectedly danced and caused unutterable devastation to those of us made of adam and born through the water, give your priests from every family, language, people and nation the courage and compassion to minister to those in need and give comfort to those who mourn; keep us ever mindful that you are always present and always hear the cry of your people. Inspire those of us in safe harbors to respond generously to those in need.

Kate in Ohau has just posted: First wave, nada. Then ocean receded, reef is bare, but water came back gently. Now reef exposed again.

Such is the wonder and awesome, terrible power of God in creation.... --and just sayin' --it has nothing to do with sin.... long before people ever came to be, this mess was happening... don't know why we go inventing more--like war and crap like that --cuz that IS the fallout of sin... just sayin'.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

it is okay to imagine this broken-up slab as a dwelling place for God

It's St. Gregory of Nyssa Day.

At St. Gregory's of Nyssa in San Francisco, there are only two seasons in the church calendar --Easter's coming and Easter.


...dancing with all the saints --in heaven and on earth...

I cannot begin to recount how deeply moved and transformed I was in worship at St. Gregory's. The monumental shift of worship --from the care and nurture of self to the radical emptying of self--a total offering to and worship of God... --which then becomes the pattern or type of Christian life.

...because we follow Christ... are members, in of, by, with, through Christ...

At the Eucharist for Gregory (Ephesians 2:17-22) 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.

...a dwelling-place for God....

Last night, as I preached --and I preached about engaging the season of Lent as Isaiah encouraged us so to do --as St. Paul encouraged us so to do --it's not about us! Quit the ashes, the pomp, the navel gazing, the worry about personal sin, and instead get out there and be present to the wrongs --be present and with those who bear the sins of the world on their own backs --the poor and the vulnerable --last night I could see some shaking their heads vigorously --yes! --yes! --yes! --and others who crossed their arms and shook their heads --no! --no! --NO!

--but at least, even though it felt like my words crashed and burned about three feet from my mouth --at least no one fell asleep...

...and of course... let's not forget that what we do in the Ash Wednesday liturgy is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the Gospel tells us to do....

...sigh...

Talk about a necessary reformation....

I have decided my Lenten discipline is joy --unfettered joy! --and not for my own sake! --but because of the joy that is set before us!

I will keep my eyes fixed --not on my sin, --but on Him --and as it says in the Proper Preface for Lent --so that we may live no longer for ourselves.... And if it is good enough for silent cold rock to be the womb of eternal life --it is okay to imagine this broken-up slab together with all those who say yes-yes and no-no as a dwelling place for God... dancing with all the saints!

That's all!

Have a blessed St. Gregory's Day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rejoice --and greet with rejoicing those who bear the sins of the world for us --the poor, the homeless, the hungry


Update: My Ash Wednesday Sermon

Lent –a time to ponder our sins, reform our lives… or is it?

Isaiah tells us not to fast to humble oneself, to bow our heads, to lie in sackcloth and ashes while at the same time oppressing your workers and forgetting the poor –Instead, --remove the yoke, the pointing of fingers, --satisfy the needs of the afflicted—that is the fast which is pleasing to God.

Paul says –now is the day of salvation –put yourself in the front lines, endure prison, hardship, riots, labors, sleepless nights hunger –and practice patience, kindness, holiness, love, speak the truth for the sake of Christ---

In the gospel --we have the contrariness of hearing about praying in private while we pray together in public. We have the contrariness of the gospel saying we should not mark ourselves with ashes and then go public --yet we mark ourselves with ashes and then go public. we have the contrariness of our worship --when we remember our mortality and then celebrate eternal life in Christ eating bread and drinking wine on a fast day. Jesus says, quit being dismal hypocrites!

What are we supposed to do with this contrariness? –this seeming opposition of what to do and what not to do? Should we do one thing or the other?

What we must do is move forward in faith. We must continue in to the contrariness of the gospel itself. I encourage you in this time of the penitential season of Lent --forget about your sins—your personal sins, your worthiness or unworthiness –do not be subject to either --Do not take on a discipline of self-improvement—do not make lent about yourself… –do not worry about your personal salvation. Salvation day is now!

--Instead, take on the mantle of the priesthood of Christ, take your share of the eternal priesthood which became yours in baptism –and preach life, eternal life --preach forgiveness and grace –to those who suffer, to the hungry, to those who mourn, to sinners. Let us remember, Jesus said, you will have me but for a little time, but the poor will be with you always. Perhaps that was not a statement of fact, but an invitation to find him –in the poor! Well, then, let us then serve the poor as we would serve Christ. And because the poor of the world bear the sins of the world on their backs, in their flesh in blood, let us join them, let us join with them, as witnesses to Christ, for the joy that is before us, in bearing the sins of this world.

This is the way to Good Friday. This is the way to the cross. This is the way to Easter and Resurrection. This is what we are about.
__________________

At morning prayer (Hebrews 12:1-3) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.


The ashes we use on this day were created by the former head of the Altar Guild... and she's been dead about fifteen years now. There is an unnameable grace in that...

The words that shake me today --the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame...

Would that we, as a priestly people, --would that we take on the mantle of dealing with sin... it seems, this morning, that when we continually ask God for forgiveness of sin, we are still subjects to sin --sin is what rules...shame is what rules...

I'm not talking/thinking about amendment of self --amendment of our ways... self evaluation... recognition of our sin.... yes. we need that...

I am talking about not dwelling in that place of recognition.... not staying there.

--and by taking on the mantle of sin, we speak authoritatively of forgiveness and grace. God is not interested in our individual sin... just not interested... because we are ONE.

God is interested in us as a people --as the Body of his Son. When we know and recognize that we are One, asking God to forgive our individual sin becomes a little silly...

We are called to priestly work --proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ Jesus -- not to be subject to sin, but to offer the salve, to affirm the salve... to join in the salvation story.

We need to know the story in our very bones.

We need to know we are dust.

We need to know that God loves us, and trust what God does with dust.

We need to bear each others' sin. And offer it for each other at the altar. Trusting redemption, not condemnation.

We must change our mind about what Jesus said --that the poor will be always with us... --not as a statement of fact, a thing to be regarded as a burden or something to be tended and solved and healed... but as a gift --he said, the poor will be with us always, but I will be with you only a little while... so we have the poor with us instead of him... always.

We will find the Kingdom, there, with them... Blessed are the poor.


Rejoice! Greet those who bear the sins of the world in their flesh and blood for our sake... be subject to sin and shame no longer! Arise, and join in the work they do. (And, no. I am not being naive and idealistic --I know full well what being poor does to the soul... perhaps that is what we are for?!)

Ohhhhh itsa gonna be Lent!

Don't try to make yourself better --don't try to take some discipline on --try to willingly join the poor in the work they do (probably unwillingly) --bearing the sins of the world for the sake of all.

Or something like that!

...so not finished with this...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Han.... it's not enough to think about the Christian doctrine of sin during Lent

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy.... the featured saint of the day. Sounds like an interesting guy. This was part of his blurb:

After the war, Kennedy was given charge of St. Edmund King and Martyr in Lombard Street, London. Having been converted to Christian socialism and pacifism during the war [WWI], he wrote Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as "The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob," "Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering," and "So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless"), Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925). He moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, for whom he went on speaking tours of Britain. It was on one of these tours that he was taken ill, and died in Liverpool.

"The Church is not a movement but a mob...." I like that!

Wonder what he would say about our current involvements in the middle east and gas prices... --never mind, I can figure it out.

I long for the day when Americans will grieve the true cost of gasoline --not what comes out of their pocket, but the daily grit in the eye of the poor the world over --and the lacerations to the body of our mother earth....

...sin....

....alongside much else... --which leaves me contemplating Lent, because it is, at last, Mardi Gras.

And what shall I repent of? --what shall I do the turn and turn about for/from? And I speak of it this way, because the fire in my belly regarding Lent --that it is NOT a time of personal make-over-- it is the time to leave our personal sins with God and turn to deal with han --the effects of sin all around us...

Han. I googled for the more precise definition --and couldn't find it... but han is that which happens when I sin... --the fallout of sin... and it is not enough to say, God forgive me for my sin, because that is only between me and God... Han recognizes that 'my' sin affects all with whom I am in relationship, and all those I might not know because any action is never isolated....

This 'han' stuff comes from The Wounded Heart of God: the Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin, by Andrew Sung Park.

ahhhhh --here it is-- Joel just got it down off the shelf for me.... Park writes:

There is a fundamental problem in the Christian way of thinking about sin: it has been oriented almost exclusively to sinners. Christianity has been preoccupied with the well-being of sinners/oppressors and have devoted little attention to their victims.... This sinner/oppressor-centered thinking arises from the very way Christian theology has cast the doctrines of sin and salvation. Christianity has thoroughly analyzed the issue of sin, the way of conquering the power of sin, the way of repentance, the doctrine of reconciliation, justification by faith, sanctification, glorification, and Christian perfection. It has thus delineated a complete map for the salvation of sinners, while at the same time devoting little or not theological analysis to the oppressed, the victims of sinners. The latter have been regarded simply as recipients of pity, compassion, and mercy. ...

We need a theological revolution--a Copernican revolution in the doctrine of sin and salvation. The unilateral perspective of Christian doctrines must be changed into a bilateral one. Subject-object divisional thinking must be overcome. In this one-sided scheme, it seems that everything, including God, exists for the well being of the subject. ... 

A subject must meet another person as a subject. In this intersubjective relationship, the doctrine of sin can be complemented by the doctrine of han; the doctrine of repentance by the doctrine of victim's forgivingness; the doctrine of justification by faith by the doctrine of justification by love; the doctrine of personal sanctification by the doctrine of social sanctification....

...it is the doctrine of sin itself that is self-centered; it is concerned about and focuses almost exclusively on the sinner.... (pp72-73, Abingdon Press)

But, how does one go about refocusing the Christian discussion of sin and personal sanctification to one of systemic sin, institutional sin, those affected by our sin --han, and being honest in that?

I mean, instead of addressing poverty by striving to alleviate the wounds of the poor, why don't we address the rapacious behaviors and the systems of privilege written in to tax codes, property ownership, education, health care, racism --all that kind of stuff... you know, the han of the consequences of the actions of the very wealthy.

I know.... it is so much easier to say 'I am not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under this thy table... but thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy' --let's not talk about why some are under the table.... and why it's okay to think about gathering up the crumbs...

A morning prayer Canticle: A Song of Faith (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.
The ransom that was paid to free us *
was not paid in silver or gold,
But in the precious blood of Christ, *
the Lamb without spot or stain.
God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory *
so that we might have faith and hope in God.


...and the blood was spilled on the earth at the foot of the cross, fed in to the rain and rivers and ocean, lifted to the sky in the winds and returned to us as life-giving water....

So, tonight I'm gonna party. Because He is the Lord of the Dance. And tomorrow I will offer myself, my life and my death --because even these are gifts of God's own good creation --and I will preach forgiveness....

...with God's help.

...and, for today, I will try to not think about the han of pancakes....