Saturday, April 30, 2011

G'wan. Go to church.

Well.... Firefox keeps crashing when I look for images. I don't yet know how to copy or save images in this new system.... So, --sorry. No image tonight!

Use your imagination. It's Doubting Thomas Sunday! And remember, faith is not the opposite of doubt, like two sides of a coin or something. Faith is knowing how to live with doubt Grace-fully.

But I don't want to think about doubt.... because I am fascinated with the scripture tomorrow that says something like "Receive the Holy Spirit. When you forgive a sin, it is forgiven. When you retain a sin, it is retained."

Peterson, in The Message puts it something like "When you forgive a sin, it is let go. When you retain a sin, what are you going to do with it?"

So, I googled "What are you going to do with it?" --some interesting stuff! Some wild rock group that sings something about the world trying to make you in to something you are not --so what are you gonna do with it!

I liked it.
Yes I did.

So, g'wan. Go to church. Let go of everything the world is trying to make you --let go of what the church itself is trying to make you --let go of all of it, 'cuz what are you going to do with it anyway?!

That place of stream and fire and stars and flying and voice and peace

At morning prayer (John 16:22-24) So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

I am not at all sure that folks in the path of the tornado are doing much praying and asking beyond lamenting... and perhaps a few OMG thank you --I'm alive! Except perhaps for those unusual few....

The folks in this region and all the areas where tornadoes touched down are in my gut-prayers. Other than rolling up one's sleeves and getting to work, the only real prayer I can offer is a howl. And a howl comes from my gut.

Here's where I have real trouble --those times when I hear someone say --"I prayed 'God save me' and he did."

I have trouble thinking that God moves purposefully through a tornado, plucking some to safety and killing and maiming others. Perhaps it comes from the cancer discipline of giving up the question 'why me?' --realizing that even Jesus died --saying those same words --why have you forsaken me... and in faith, we are alive in that way on the other side of those words....

...it hardly makes sense.... It certainly does not make linear, rational sense....

...but I do understand that generation of complete joy. It is a place in the gut not opposite nor different from the place where the howl is generated-- ...it is the place that seems to be the font of consciousness.... and when consciousness is blind or perhaps fettered, not free --not fully alive, or perhaps maimed --there is generated a howl. When there is peace that passes all understanding --in that place, no matter the circumstances, there is joy.

And, in those times of complete joy, there are no questions.... just a profound tap root beyond one's self to life itself.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer --1997, both my older sisters went to get screened --mind you, mammograms were not really a standard protocol at the time.... and my next-to-the-oldest sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

We both live. Standing on the shoulders of women who went before us --especially those who offered their bodies to radical and new treatments from which we benefited.

Years later, I was standing with my mom on her back porch and marveling with her at the silhouette of the mountains and the stars and moon above... and she said, 'it's like that night I came out here and you and B were so sick and I asked God to spare you both and take me instead... probably the prayer of every mother --and I was so very sad and desperate... and it was like, suddenly, the whole sky was opened, and I was lifted up and there was this stream of fire and stars and I was flying --and I heard a voice, and I knew then that everything was going to be alright. No matter what.'

No questions.

I aspire to know that place of stream and fire and stars and flying and voice and peace. More often....

I get to it on occasion --from a route different than my mother (it is not yet my charism to fly) --saying to myself, even God dies....

--but that place of no questions.... joy complete. Yes.

Yes.

Hey God --it's margaret here. You move like a pillar of fire and clouds. You are the small still voice. You are flesh and blood, bread and wine. You give us all. Hear the cry of your people. The questions tossed about like tinder for your fire. Give us your peace --now and in the hour of our trial. And if you aren't listening, I know your mama is.

For C,K,B,B, for those who knew the tornadoes, for those who don't know, for the W family and the H school, for B&L, M&R all preparing to exchange vows of solidarity and union, for D&R who just celebrated 19 years, K&A twenty-something, for the children and families who pick the dumps for a living in Guatemala City and for JC who gives to them; and thank you --God bless God for tap roots and those occasional still pools of living water where there are no questions.

This is the day the Lord has made; rejoice and be glad in it!

Amen!

Friday, April 29, 2011

there is no tent big enough for me to affirm slavery or misogyny --and the same goes with the condemnation of same-sex orientation

Don't be too disgusted with us....

'Cuz... Well --we did it. --to celebrate Joel's arrival home (and on sixty mg of prednisone daily --he doesn't sleep well at night anyway) --we got up at 5:30 and watched the Royal Wedding.

As good Americans are wont to do, we drank our coffee... no extended pinkies... C.O.F.F.E.E.  --as good Episcopalians and clergy we played liturgy geeks (we snorted with disdain that they said their vows botta bing right up front instead of as a response to the Word and in the context of the offering of prayer of said scripture --obviously they didn't have Louis Weil and Lizette Larson-Miller as liturgy instructors/inspirators!) --we reminisced and remembered watching Charles and Diana --we got up early on that day because we were just weeks away from our own wedding and were watching, carefully...

It was a wonderful way to start the day! A bit of royal beauty, pageantry and romance.

And the birds outside our window singing so loudly they nearly overwhelmed the choirs and fanfares....

Funny --well, kinda --the juxtaposition. I traveled to Fredericksburg yesterday to hear from my Bishop the protocol and expectations and outlines and parameters for the blessing of same-sex couples.

There are three and more requirements-- the first being proof of the process we have accomplished or are accomplishing with the congregation to discuss and prepare the people for such occasions. --the second being a statement from the Vestry on where they are in all this.... and whether the clergy are doing this as a pastoral response or if the Vestry approves... --because the clergy do not need permission for a pastoral response... nor should the Vestry approve pastoral responses... just where the Vestry is on the journey.... --the third being a personal theological statement from the priest.... you know, an essay with scriptural references and the like....

Hmmmmm.... would that all things were equal, and this type of reflection were required for all conditions of Christian households and vocations.

And then there was the clincher --we could use the words covenant, blessing, celebration, thanksgiving --but we were not to lift the words out of the service for Holy Matrimony and use them in a service for same-sex couples....

We could bless rings, homes, whatever, as part of the service....

And then the questions and discussion began.... There were some questions that were left unanswered --like, could we use the service for the blessing of a civil marriage....

A couple points in to the discussion, I said that I and some couples in the congregation I serve would continue to push for marriage equality... we will not rest until there are all in all....

...or in the words of Bishop Barbara Harris --we don't half-ass baptize Christians.

...because all Christian vocations are based in baptism and the Eucharist.... and building a life together is a sign of God's love --of Christ and the Church sure, but also God's love for the whole world --a Trinitarian sign of diverse love and union.

Quite frankly -I believe same-sex couples will help us all re-assess, rediscover, reaffirm marriage --a life together as a sign of God's love and hope for us all....

(At morning prayer Acts 4:12) 'the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.'


Now --off I go, to a meeting with a wonderful young man to discuss the celebration of his marriage to his betrothed --his husband to be... --with a pocketful of ideas like seeds --and eager to begin where we must begin in this Diocese --at the very beginning.

I must say --I was deeply impressed by the Bishop's passion and conviction to begin to process of permission and exploration of the blessing of same-sex couples in this Diocese. And I do understand his insistence that there needs to be 'gracious room for all in a big tent.' --however, in that, I humbly disagree... I understand, but I disagree.... because the conviction that slavery is affirmed in Scripture and that women must sit down, shut up and be quiet as affirmed in Scripture could also be given equal gravity... so goes the conviction that homosexuality is condemned in Scripture....

...and, there is no tent big enough for me to affirm slavery or misogyny --and the same goes with the condemnation of same-sex orientation.

I have no patience for it. Just sayin'.

There we are. Onward. In faith.
This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
And Joel looks really good folks! Really good. Amen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

8am and we wake up to a severe storm and tornado watch.... yikes! Lots of tornado touch-downs late yesterday.... loss of life... dear God....

And Joel woke me up with an early call --talk is they will be sending him home today!!!! Whoooohooooo! And a little stint in the heart through a vein --which not so long ago would have been a process requiring open heart surgery --blows the mind.

Yesterday, my visit with my 95YO friend --we spent a lot of time laughing. Last September he lost his bride of 68 years. It is very good to see him laugh. Soul food.

I was surprised when I went to see my friend on hospice. She was up and out of bed, fully dressed in bright red and down the hall in the fellowship room. But, she was confused --she knew I was from the church, but I am not sure she knew what that meant. She asked me to take her around the halls in the wheelchair. So off we went. Interesting ride....

When we got back, a woman with a guitar came in to the fellowship room. She spent some time arranging all the wheelchairs and then she sat down in the middle on a stool with casters, and she rolled around making eye contact with each lady, letting them touch her face, the guitar, her hands. She encouraged each of them to sing. She made each one the center of her attention --not just once, but with each old, familiar song. Camp Down Ladies. Take me out to the Ballgame. Give me that ol' time religion.

One little ol' lady sang her heart out. She couldn't speak, but she sang, lifting her face and voice --at first I thought she was going to cry, her face set in sorrow, the lines furrowed in grief and care, her eyes lifted, hands clasped.

The guitar lady came close to honor her participation, rolled right up to her and at the end of the song, said her name and told her how beautiful that was, how her singing was wonderful --how happy it made her. The lol nodded in agreement, and let her chin go back down on her chest, her expression of grief unchanging....

I guess there are some places in the heart where grief and sorrow and well worn care nestle side by side with joy... the two so interwoven they are one offering.

I left in tears, realizing that same place within me.

On to the funeral. Holy. Holy. Holy. God. Halfway through the readings --with the quantity of tears, I had to realize that there had been much unsaid about the death, other than the RCs being unwilling to celebrate the burial.... I chose to preach my homily extemporaneously from the chancel stairs --and pulled Holy Week (Jesus on the cross at the depths of despair --my God, my God, why have you forsaken me...) and Easter to the forefront... --the unexpected, unfathomable, unimaginable acts of God when we think all is done --all is undone... that it is finished.

I guess it is that same hopeless, sorrowful place that brings me the greatest source of joy and hope.

At morning prayer (Ezekiel 37:1) The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

You know the story, right? Old. Dead. Dry. Bones.

Yeppa! Unexpected fleshy LIFE!

Like --today, I travel (God willing) to Fredericksburg to receive instructions from the Bishop for conducting the blessings of same-sex couples. And this, after hearing over and over again that it would take another generation or so....

Collect of the Day: Thursday in Easter Week

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

That's adequate enough.
Not exactly how I'd put it --but adequate enough.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Easter Blessings --all!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This is the Day the Lord has made, Alleluia!!!!



Joel is waiting --as I write, to go down to surgery to have a catheter stuck in the big vein in his groin and have it pushed through his body, up to his heart, so they can look around and see what's going on.

He is nervous (scared).

And, as for my part --I will pray by going to visit a 94 year-old friend, another friend in hospice and conduct a funeral this afternoon.

I pray also for F,B,B,S,K,R,M, for the family whose 8YO daughter lost the war on cancer and won eternal life --for her family, friends, teachers and school community, for A,F,L.

Amen.

This is the day the Lord has made --rejoice and be glad in it!!! Alleluia! Amen!

And I am grateful I can pray --and that you choose to visit here.

Many blessings!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lord is a God of Justice --and the gates of hell are broken!

Collect of the Day: Tuesday in Easter Week

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

There. Much better. Because, you know, what we pray is what we believe....

Well --yesterday.... Joel had an appointment at 9am --I stayed home, and we were going to go out to lunch together or do something fun together in the afternoon. At 1pm he wasn't home --and I was getting kinda torqued because I figured he was out cruising through the junk stores he loves... drives me crazy, because then he brings home something really cool we don't need and says --but it was only fifty cents! We have a basement full of fifty-cent really cool crap....

Ugghhhh.... So, I ate lunch with Mr. Witty and commiserated with him in the both of us having to live with a junk yard dog. Mr. Witty was particularly vocal and unforgiving because we had celebrated his Easter bath after breakfast....

At 2pm we got the call --the ER called and said the Mister was being admitted --that they were concerned he was having a heart attack, and they were going to admit him to the hospital for more tests....

Then, the Mister called and said he would be home soon.... Oh. Denial is such a wonderful tool to get one through hard times!

I called B for a ride to the hospital --in trying to be green, we have only one car, and, of course, it was at the hospital with Joel.

So, I get there, and Joel is only worried about me... and I worried only about him.... and we are talking. The doctor comes in and asks Joel a bunch of questions, including what he 'does.' He said, retired priest....

When all that was done and it was dawning on him that he was going to have to stay in the hospital, a voice on the other side of the curtain --in the next cubical, says --Can I talk to a priest please....

I stuck my head through the curtain.... --beautiful eyes filled with tears, a body wracked with pain... standing, hand on the wall for balance.... the story spilled out --assaulted and raped for being a 'homo'.... no police --no police --I can't do that to my family.... the pain spilled out --I've been awake since it happened --two days --I can't sleep --I can't lie down or sit --too much pain....

What is your name? I said.

"F"

Who else have you told? I asked.

No one.

You must tell a doctor or a nurse. I said...

I can't --I am so ashamed.... Did I do something to deserve this? Why do I feel such shame?

I said, I don't care if you were dancing naked before a crowd --you still did not do a thing to deserve this.... and I said all those other words.... May I hold you? ...and F dissolved in to my arms. A body in pain. A spirit assaulted.

I still couldn't get F away from the wall or prone on the gurney... but I left the cubicle with F promising to tell a doctor or nurse what really happened....

After I came home (it took me a while to find the car in the parking lot --Joel was wrong about the floor and place, and then the cars in the next slots had parked so closely to ours that I had to crawl in from the back to get in...), got the machines with which Joel must sleep --gathered his other stuff --a book, his computer --that kind of thing --and returned to find him ensconced in the cardiac ward....

I had worn my collar back to the hospital because I had no cash, and the collar means I park for free... I also went looking for F but to no avail.... Hopefully, F will remember where I work, and come find me.... I hope and pray so.

And, so, today I will go to work --I meet this morning with a family to review a funeral bulletin --the Roman church would not bury this person.... so, we will. Shame on the Romans. The Lord is a God of justice.... And two more pastoral visits... and a Vestry meeting tonight....

I am feeling well used. Doing things I did not expect to do or pray during Easter week... In a way, I think I know the disciples who returned from the tomb with the news of it's emptiness for the first time --again. There is no relaxing in to the Good News. The soldiers who guarded the tomb are afoot with the same news --the tomb is empty --but for them, it is not Good News --it is news they are bound to undo.

So we strive to tell of the joy that is in us --while all the while --because the gates of hell have been broken and are open, all hell is loosed....

In all these things, and even at the grave, I shall sing Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

At morning prayer (Isaiah 30:18-21)

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.

Truly, O people in Zion, inhabitants of Jerusalem, you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.

Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

Off I go.
This is the Day the Lord has made; REJOICE! And be glad in it! Otherwise, what else are you going to do?!! Amen!

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Joel tells me it is customary in monasteries during the octave of Easter to enter the sanctuary at all the appointed times for prayer --then sing, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." And then, without alleluias or amens, make an exit! The end!

Makes perfect sense to me!
Happy Easter!

Collect of the Day: Monday in Easter Week
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Now, that is just a sucky prayer.... how unbelieving is that? Please, please, please may we be found worthy.... sheeeeeeesh.

Hey --all y'all.... YOU ARE WORTHY --WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS ALL ABOUT --AND YOU ARE WORTHY, NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING YOU DO OR DON'T DO, BUT BECAUSE THE ONE WHO HOLDS ALL THINGS IN BEING HAS SAID SO!!!!

So --how's this: Almighty God, we who celebrate with awe and joy the Paschal feast give you thanks for your profound and unbounded love; (we pray this) through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and holds all in being, with you and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. Amen.

A sure sign God is good --Easter is longer than Lent. Keep partying good people!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

The sermon I would have preached this morning, except the Bishop was there:

Remember Lazarus, the way the stone had to be moved,
the way he came out, bound in death rags,
head to toe,
covered in the stench of death.
He was bound by death.
He came back to life.
To die again.

Now, this morning, we have another image:
the stone has already been moved,
a living earth,
and the death rags have been left in the tomb.
Jesus is not bound by death.
There is no stench.
Jesus didn't come back to life;
death is nothing to him.
He walked right on through death,
and broke open the gates of hell
so that we all might be free
from the bondage of sin and death.

And --Mary was not mistaken...
remember that ancient story of God walking
in the cool of the evening through that first garden?
God, the gardener, enjoying the garden.
Mary was not mistaken.
On this morning, the gardener walked in the cool of the morning,
the first morning of a creation made anew,
a garden of death
recreated in to the garden of everlasting life.

We, in baptism, have been buried, bound in death;
and we are now alive in him
where sin and death cannot conduct their business.

Life is now our business.
Tell the good news to all!
The Lord is risen!
Say hello to life!
Real life which has no end!
Amen! Alleluia!

And hey --tell somebody --anybody, you love 'em.
Cuz that's what it's all about!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

¡Felices Pascuas!

Happy Easter everybody!!!!


Cristo ha resucitado!

It's time to go look for some firewood... and, would Peeps make good incense?

Last night, we had the most sublime Good Friday service ever. It was the fourth one of the day --each crowd was different, each with its own gifts.... At the early service we consumed the reserved sacrament --or tried to, anyway. But there was a lot of Jesus, and our small crowd could not eat all that bread, so I buried the remains in the memorial garden --feed the saints....

Noon were those who stepped out from work or very busy schedules... At three the faithful who pray in Spanish....

And then 7pm --the choral service.... And it was like something clicked. The Spirit was on the move. The faithful gathered at the foot of the cross... not in devastation, but in hope and confidence... it was the best evah!

At morning prayer (Hebrews 4:13-16)

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.

Yeah. Approach the throne of grace with boldness...

Yeah.

So, I am going to go collect the firewood --we have been without fire and light since Thursday night (except around the reserved Sacrament--and that light was snuffed Friday morning) --I am going to hunt for gluten free --egg free bread... I am going to search for the candidate for baptism that disappeared ten days ago --unresponsive... I am sooooo very worried. I am going to set up the water, the oil --everything, in faith.

I was told last night that I had to choose the incense --I said, oh no --you can do it. And the Thurifer said, okay --I choose Peeps!

That would be hysterical --I can see it now... All the little peeps stuck to the charcoal, their little peep heads morphing and expanding through the smoke holes... ha! --but would they smell???!

And, then the Bishop comes tomorrow....!

Hey God, it's margaret here. Thank you for the challenge of Holy Week. Thank you for the experience and wonder of church... even in its brokenness... yeah, I know. It hurts and it sucks. Bless K,L,J --F and her family -bless all those who have been hurt by the church --are being hurt by the church.... Help us all keep the knowledge of your Passion and even more importantly the hope of the fullness of life in you --life that is without end. Amen.

About those Peeps....

Well, went looking for a picture of Peeps on fire (yeah --that is what I googled) --and my computer kept crashing.... Guess that's a hint, and I will post now before I lose EVERYTHING!

Blessed Holy Saturday folks!

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Good Friday homily

Good Friday is not a ‘safe’ Holy Day.
We are pulled right in to the center of violence and death.

Many of us may try to keep at a distance.
Or, as Peter did, deny any association to Jesus.
But, the arrest, prosecution, torture and death of Jesus
will either force us to run away,
to turn our faces away in horror,
or we will be drawn to the base of the cross.

It is the day that Jesus is dehumanized.
All that is the very best about being human
is crucified on a cross of our own making.

Yes. The cross is not the work of God.
The cross is our work. We made it. We make it.
This is what we do, to the poor,
to the marginalized, to the elderly,
to the most vulnerable.

All of us.

Let me read to you from the Stations of the Cross:
We stand in silence as we survey the result of our sin. The Lord of Life hangs dead from the tree. The peace we pursued as we chased you up the hill refuses to come. As we gaze upon you, Jesus, we realize that violence will never bring peace, and we are terrified. There is nothing divine in the torn flesh, nothing holy in the bloodied brow. There is only sorrow, deeper than the greatest trenches in the ocean. Sorrow. Today we walk as those robbed of hope, shuffling from one place to another as though we belong in the tomb with you.

But in the midst of this crisis of death and despair,
there is an event which seems disastrous,
but in fact is a sign of great hope.
Remember.In the hour of our Lord’s death,
the curtain in the Temple
which separated the mundane from the holy,
the every day from the sacred,
the common from the taboo,
has been torn in two.
That which has always separated us from the divine,

it is no longer.
God knows even death. God joins us, even there.

Do not run.
Do not turn your face away in horror.
Draw near to the cross.
Salvation is before us.
Not because of the suffering,
but because of God.
Amen

(Stations of the Cross by Jeff Krantz)

Good Friday.... dealing with suffering and a dead Jesus....

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy. Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering.

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps, to harden them. Endurance alone is no consecration. True asceticism is not a mere cult of fortitude. We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial.

Suffering is consecrated to God by faith - not by faith in suffering, but by faith in God. Some of us believe in the power and the value of suffering. But such a belief is an illusion. Suffering has no power and no value of its own.

It is valuable only as a test of faith. What if our faith fails the test? Is it good to suffer, then? What if we enter into suffering with a strong faith in suffering, and then discover that suffering destroys us?

To believe in suffering is pride: but to suffer, believing in God, is humility. For pride may tell us that we are strong enough to suffer, that suffering is good for us because we are good. Humility tells us that suffering is an evil which we must always expect to find in our lives because of the evil that is in ourselves. But faith also knows that the mercy of God is given to those who seek him in suffering, and that by his grace we can overcome evil with good. Suffering, then, becomes good by accident, by the good that it enables us to receive more abundantly from the mercy of God. It does not make us good by itself, but it enables us to make ourselves better than we are. Thus, what we consecrate to God in suffering is not our suffering but our selves.

Only the sufferings of Christ are valuable in the sight of God, who hates evil, and to him they are valuable chiefly as a sign. The death of Jesus on the cross has an infinite meaning and value not because it is a death, but because it is the death of the Son of God. The cross of Christ says nothing of the power of suffering or of death. It speaks only of the power of him who overcame both suffering and death by rising from the grave.

The wounds that evil stamped upon the flesh of Christ are to be worshiped as holy not because they are wounds, but because they are his wounds. Nor would we worship them if he had merely died of them, without rising again. For Jesus is not merely someone who once loved us enough to die for us. His love for us is the infinite love of God, which is stronger than all evil and cannot be touched by death.

Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead. And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

A Meditation for Holy Week from Bread and Wine.

Thomas Merton, “To Know the Cross,” from No Man Is an Island, by Thomas Merton copyright © 1955 by The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani and renewed 1983 by the Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust, reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Inc.

Blessed Day sinners!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

--as Jesus would have done. --does.

Today is the day we give bread and wine away...


...because we were given bread and wine to share.

At morning prayer (1 Corinthians 10:14-17)

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

When we wax on poetically about what it all means, I think we are worshiping an idol.

In the name of Christ, let no table be empty, let no one go hungry. Share. Rejoice! We are one. Amen.

The Last Supper above is one of five photographic images by Raoef Mamedov. This work is controversial.... duh. Some claim using models with Downs Syndrome was exploitative. Others claim that is hardly true--but that this image takes what is usually taboo and reveals it as holy --as Jesus would have done. --does.

I fall in to the latter camp.


My beautiful niece, from whom I have heard some of the most priestly prayers ever.

Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

...a certain wealth found in the devastation and poverty of tears


...given the rash of air traffic controller errors.... the news said. Yadda yadda....

Let me be the one to correct that statement for you --given the rash of air traffic controller errors PUBLICLY REPORTED.... I have no doubt that the close calls and sleeping employees is nothing new.

Nothing. New. Not that falling asleep on the job is acceptable... just, that this situation is not new.

But, I also have no doubt that the agenda behind this sudden discussion will soon be revealed.... just sayin'. Agenda, like... firing all the employees with tenure and establishing a new system under the guise of anti-terrorism... something like that.

And it is time to remember again, aloud, the folks who are still struggling, the folks who died and the devastation for their families, and the creation that still suffers from the oil spill in The Gulf.

...and pray for all those who so cleanly separate the biblical imperative of caring for the least among us and the antics of our government to continue to abuse the workers and poor of this nation.... sigh.

Those are some of the big things that haunt my prayers... the small things include the woman who showed up on Sunday asking for help for a local bus pass. I said I would be glad to help, to please come back on Tuesday. And she did. She showed all this paper work, no letter head or anything, this that this that... whatever. We went to the market together and got what she was asking for... totally unrelated to the paper proof I felt was fabricated. But as we returned to the parking lot and I said something about returning to work, she said, 'you mean you work here today?' --pointing to the church....

....ummmm. Yes. I think it was at that point she understood I wasn't the secretary, but that I was clergy. She looked horrified. Then she started in on all the bad things she had done.... and maybe she needed to be baptized again.

...like, it's alright to lie to the secretary, but not the pastor? I told her that as far as I was concerned, she only needed to baptized once... 'Even though I did back-slide?' she asked.

Yes. Even though. And let her taste Romans 8 in her despair... there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.... She ran from me as fast as she could. Made me sooooooo sad.

...sigh...

So, then, I drove out to visit and pray for F who is on hospice at one of our local retirement homes. I walked down the hall and in to her room and was dismayed at the changes I saw --a rapid weight loss from just a few weeks ago, curled up in bed --which was now only about ten inches off the floor --so she wouldn't fall as far when she tried to get out --or in case she rolled out of her bed.

So, I let the first exclamation escape --Ohhhhhh ---and dropped my purse in the chair shoved up against the wall. I approached the bed, to kneel and pray... Behind me, I heard a voice, 'Can I help you?'

I turned to introduce myself and said yes --help me pray. And the tall woman burst in to tears.... daughter. We talked at length.... I was deeply moved and wept, inside and out, at her depth of grief and her desire not to cry....

I know I am supposed to remain disengaged... I know I am not supposed to cry.... I usually don't.... but this one... how could I not?

...but, hey... didn't we just hear about Jesus crying? Is there not a certain wealth found in the devastation and poverty of tears....?

At morning prayer (Philippians 4:12-13)
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Yes. Through thick and thin....

It's Holy Week. Perhaps today I shall celebrate my wealth of tears by going in to the sanctuary and being alone there, and pray... so that I can be proper, and not weep tomorrow when I go and gather with the Bishop and others, renew my baptismal (privately and always before I renew my ordination vows) and ordination vows, and collect the new and fresh oils for the year... watch the Bishop wash the feet of the newest and oldest clergy among us....

--and not publicly weep at the service Thursday night when we remember the gifts of bread and wine given to us by Jesus... --and not weep on Good Friday when our lies are exposed.... --and not weep at the first signs of Resurrection... totally undone and remade.

Hey God... Big things. Little things. Wealth and poverty... you know. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Suffering does not redeem. The cross is not redemption --it is the revelation of our own horrific wounds

...even the angels are in pain this week....


Talk about suffering, poor Mr. Witty had his annual yesterday... and his toenails clipped and updates on all his shots. He hurts so badly this morning, he won't come out from under the bed.

I hate that.

From under the bed he is saying (at morning prayer, Jeremiah 15:10)

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!

Poor little guy.

Mr. Witty puts me in mind of suffering... and you know, Holy Week and all. I could perhaps wax poetically for Witty and tell him how what has been done to him is all for his own good and all.... And so often, particularly in the history of the church and our cultures and societies we are told to suffer, for the sake of others, for the good of the whole --that somehow suffering sanctifies everything. You know, like Christ's suffering sanctifies....

I remain unconvinced. Suffering has no purpose. It is.

Some people, like Simone Weil, have sliced the pie and described the differences between affliction and suffering --affliction being what is imposed upon one by others or natural circumstances, and suffering which is a com-passion filled decision to enter in to the affliction, take it on, share it.

But in my mind, there is still no sanctification in that.

I am reminded of my Native American friends --when the dancers enter the sacred place to dance and pray for four days and nights without food and water, the people of the camp are to support them, pray for them. And to support them, the people must eat and drink --never within eye sight, but eat and drink they must. Lots. So that they may spiritually feed and satisfy the drinkers... because what the dancers bear in their own flesh and blood is for them to bear, no one can bear it for them, no one can pray it for them --but we can share our strength and fat and health.

So, likewise, using that image, we cannot take on the affliction and suffering of another --what is theirs, is theirs, but we can, in compassion, share our strength and fat and health.

I am left pondering these two understandings.

I do know that Jesus told us to pray for our oppressors, to pray for our enemies. It is one of the actions that identifies us as followers of Jesus. Because, ultimately, the heart of all must be liberated, redeemed, freed from the bondage that holds us all. And we cannot free those who are oppressed without also freeing the oppressors. We cannot relieve the victims of rape without relieving the rapists. We cannot relieve the haters, the benders, the jailers merely by tending to the wounds they have afflicted.

That is a whole different model than assuming, taking on the suffering....

Solidarity. Yes. But with a new twist.... giving voice and strength where there is neither.

In the book, The Body in Pain, the descent in to word-less groans is the descent in to hell --to lose our humanity. It is the un-making. This is the object, the purpose of affliction --to debase the oppressed, make them not human, because then the pain is justifiable.

But, it is our own pain --the pain of the oppressors, which is imposed upon those we wish to debase.... A vicious circle -a train of contempt.

And the only way is to interrupt --to derail the train. And in doing so, both the oppressed and the oppressors will object to the destabilization of the process. That is how and why Jesus had both the authorities and the people --those whom he had healed, demanding his death.

He had destabilized the whole process.

He restored the dignity of the victims. He forgave the oppressors.
He loved them all.

This is what makes Holy Week Holy. Love.

The cross is not redemption --it is the revelation of our deep, horrific wounds, oppressed and oppressor alike.

The Resurrection is God's sign of the depth of love for us all. All.

Hey God --it's margaret here --how can I say 'help us' when this is the work you have given us to do --to stay awake, to see, to witness --the deep wounded-ness of the heart of your people. And, I know already you are with us. So, I really do not know what to pray, what words to use, but you see and know the jumble in my heart.

For K,R,the children,for F in hospice, the G family in their grief, for those who have no words, for those who groan and have lost their words, for those who oppress --and all those I would rather haul off on, and yes, I know I am not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but it is my offering today. Amen.

Freeing the oppressor is the goal of this Holy Week.... Love. Only love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Saying Yes means saying No... dang

Yes, we have No bananas...



At morning prayer (Philippians 3:7-8)

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I remember creating a puppet show --what was I, eight? And I think it was the comment from my Godmother (Carol Christopher Drake --Hymn #69-- a pen name folks, but she did indeed write Hymn #69 and when she knew her hymn submission was assigned that number she laughed for weeks with great delight, but I digress) --and as I performed my childish endeavor and she contemplated it with great seriousness, she complimented my curious puppet stage set (made from a fire screen), told me she loved the show --and then she got behind the screen with me....

...and without saying a word to me, I saw her puppet come alive and speak to me... and, behold, her puppet spoke and ended with its mouth open, unlike mine... which always concluded things said with its mouth shut....

Technique. Opposites. Saying yes to something... unexpected.

Why think on this? Because sometimes it takes a teacher, someone to show us. Sometimes what we do actually needs to be the opposite of what we are doing, or think we are doing.

For me, that is what Paul is saying above... the things we are taught to value in so many ways, are really nothing. And when we are shown, when our eyes are opened to the subtle shift the Gospel demands, things come alive in unexpected ways.

And this week, one of the books left in the bathroom (by my beloved, by the way), was titled Saying Yes and Saying No; On Rendering to God and Caesar by Robert McAfee Brown.

Brown states that so often we are taught to say "yes" to Christ --but saying yes to Christ also means saying "no" to other things... something we might not articulate... in thought word or deed. We must exercise not only what we believe, but what we do NOT believe.

In his introduction Brown makes these assertions:

I say Yes to Scripture as our means of access to the story of God's people; I say No to Scripture as a repository of doctrine. I say Yes to Scripture as radically "good news to the poor," which can also be good news to the rest of us; I say No to Scripture as consolation apart from its radical social challenge.

I say Yes to Jesus, a Jew from Nazareth, who embodies the present reality of God's Kingdom as Christos (God's anointed one); I say No to a deified Jesus whose humanity is thereby negated.

I say Yes to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection not only as sources for our own individual transformation but as points of decisive confrontation between the power of God and the power of human society, which tried to destroy Jesus on the cross. God reversed all expectations by the resurrection, and Jesus' followers became citizens of a totally new order. I say No to interpretations of Jesus that reduce these events to an individualistic meaning.

I say Yes to the biblical God as the true God in distinction from false gods; I say No to the false gods, believing that continual No-saying to our most dangerous contemporary false god--uncritical nationalism --is a way of saying Yes to the true God. This means saying No when our government invades other countries, breaks international law, deports political refugees to sure death, supports military dictators, and gives priority to the arms race over the needs of the poor.

I say Yes to the image of God in every person, including migrant workers, women, Sandinistas, and homosexuals; I say No to those who deny that image by rewarding the rich at the expense of the poor, I say No to the church that denies full participation to women by de facto discrimination in jobs, pay, and use of noninclusive language, and I say No to the church that denies ordination to homosexuals, forcing the to lie if they wish to fulfill God's calling to them.

I say Yes to the presence of sin not only in human hearts but in political and economic structures that exalt competition at the price of destroying others; I say No to those who tell us that sin is the monopoly of our enemies.

I say Yes to God's concern for every human being and the consequent need for society as a whole to provide basic human necessities for all; I say No to those who leave such tasks to the whim of private charities.

I say Yes to the church that stresses liberty to the captives; I say No to the church that denies "the cry of the poor" by accepting social structures that violate the poor.

I say Yes to the church that celebrates God's liberating power with bread and wine; I say No to those do not affirm that accepting food and drink at Christ's Table means ensuring food and drink on all other tables.

I say Yes to the need for the church to take sides; I say No the church when it claims that political or economic neutrality is possible.

I say Yes to a generous view of the power of God's grace to overcome sin and death; I say No to a belief that reliance on grace can exempt us from the ongoing struggle for justice.

I say Yes to the Kingdom of God as a present possibility in this world; I say No to the Kingdom of God as only a future possibility in another world.

I believe we are in the midst of bad times, and that they are likely to be worse by the time this volume appears in print. The issue that makes for bad times is the sin most roundly condemned by the Hebrew prophets--the sin of idolatry.

Brown published this book in 1986.

Brown died September 4, 2001... probably not innocent of the knowledge of the climate in which we currently live --but free of living in to it with us.

...sigh...

Hey God, it's margaret here --I know that saying Yes and saying No is modeled for us in our baptismal rite... but I thank you for this and all unexpected teachers who reveal our received treasures for us in new ways. I pray for M & J who seek ways to answer your call. I pray for K & R in their love of life. This life. I pray for the woman who came seeking bus fare yesterday morning, and the man who wants peace --and a break. I pray for F in hospice. I pray for Mr. G whose mother died and was refused a burial at the RC church --his church --help us make a welcome place for his whole family in their grief and anger. Help me say Yes to see this week of horror and glory in new ways; help me say No to idolatry, gossip and false accusations and all that leads to certain death.

And I give you thanks for a community of prayer and fellowship, trusting you to shine in through the cracks of our oh-so-human brokenness. Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

Tomorrow, we will hear of the Entry in to Jerusalem as the primary Gospel of the Day --not the Passion, as is customary... so this is what I will preach:

There is much we have heard in the news this week.
We remember the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary
of the beginning of the Civil War.
We hear of the budget battles between our government factions.
We hear all of the arguments over tax spending and cutting,
and other economic strategies. We hear that
folks my age and younger should not expect so-called entitlements.
We hear that we narrowly escaped a government shutdown.
We hear of the continuing violence in the nations surrounding
the Mediterranean Sea, and of our often deadly participation.

We are certainly living in difficult times.

And today, as we celebrate Palm Sunday,
we begin the trek through Holy Week.
We will be called to bring to mind the celebration
of Our Lord’s entry in to Jerusalem; and then witness again
his betrayal, abandonment, the accusations,
and the bloody and verbal violence and death he endured.
(For Gates of Hope)

Where are we going to find the hope we are called to carry
for the sake of the world?

Bring to mind the ancient Covenant
the people of God have shared with their Maker.
God told Abraham to worship and trust him, and have no other gods,
and bear the mark of circumcision as proof of this promise; and in return
Abraham would have land and descendants as numerous as the stars.

But, because the Holy Scriptures are rich and diverse,
there is another telling of the origins of the Covenant.
God tells Abram to bring a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a young pigeon,
to cut them down the middle and lay the halves opposite each other.
Abram did this, and then he sat, and he waited, chasing away the vultures.
At last a sleep overcame him, and a feeling of dread, dark and heavy.
And God told Abram of the enslavement of his descendants, how they
will live in a land not their own,
and they will be beaten down for four hundred years.
God said, “Sin is still a thriving business.” (The Message, Genesis 15)

But then God told Abram of their liberation, their Passover, their freedom.
And God sealed this promise by passing as a column of fire between the carcasses,
saying, Let this promise be true, or let be done to me as has been done to them.

Today we hear of Jesus passing through the crowd of people
in his entry into Jerusalem, each face before him
bearing the burden of enslavement, of betrayal, a people living
as disenfranchised strangers in their own land.
Jesus passes between the brokenness of human life, our lives
and makes good the promise of long ago, letting be done to him,
taking on the burdens and sins,
the violence and injustice of the people.

And God now makes a new promise, a new covenant
in God’s own flesh and blood.
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, because of us,
so that we may have liberty, true liberty.

This is the good news, this is the hope we are called to carry:
that God-with-us, Emmanuel, is ever present, ever ready, ever willing.

The only question we should have is, “are we?”
...Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...
(Paul to the Phillipians)
Amen.

And, THEN, AFTER we are fed, we will hear the Passion and exit the church in silence.

G'wan. Go to church. Holy Week has begun. Just do it.

Fig leaf aroma


"You should smell it," Joel said. "You should go out and stick your hands in the bin, and turn the mess over, hold it to your face and breathe deeply. It is the smell of spring. Your hands will come out clean, and the aroma is heavenly."

Joel has been composting. Saving scraps from the sink. Shredding junk mail.

But, Joel is one of those peculiar people who love the smell of skunks, too. While my eyes water and sting in the back-road journey down the James and we happen upon a skunk encounter, he sticks his head out the window and breathes deeply --inhaling the skunk perfume with the same joy I taste honey.

I think he comes by it genetically. His mother was The Compost Queen from Suffolk way back when. Her neighbors called the police, public health --whomever they could think of that might be able to make her change her composting ways, but to no avail. 'The stench!' the neighbors would complain --and Joel, a child, would watch, trying to hide his glee in his mothers clean and starched apron, trying not to laugh (as that would be rude) at the poor public official traipsing around the backyard with his nose in the air, striving to catch a whiff of the offense.

And when he turns the compost in the backyard, he smells --at the very least, the memory of his mother.

I do not know if it is because my nose is more or less acute --or differently gifted... the smell of compost does not send me, any more than the smell of a barnyard or chicken coop. I can discern the various odoriferous gifts of the barnyard with great distinction.... the cows, the old spilled or dumped milk, the chicken scratch and grain dust. It smells like life and death.

I am not opposed. It does not offend. I just don't want to rub my nose in it.

And at this moment, perhaps I digress --perhaps not, I recall another smell --a very human odor. I recognize it when I enter the room of a servant of God near death... it is usually a very wet weepy old rotten salt smell... or skin pores oozing urine... or the opposite --the dry decimated evaporated dry summer stagnant water smell I know from the remains of winter streams out west....

...a smell that blurs shadows... and brings the deep to mind.

This morning, at morning prayer, the story of the raising of Lazarus plays fiddle. Again.

I know... it's not just morning prayer --I read the whole office. Anyway....

Martha says, "Lord, already there is a stench."

So. I ponder. I know the smell of compost, of death's door, of death. Is that the smell of the Gates of Heaven? And we are taught, sold, encouraged to cover our odorous lives with a purchased aroma --fake bottled smells that we shake, burn, plug-in. Cover ups.

Another sign of how we hide from ourselves. Hide from God. Fig leaf aromas.

I am reminded again of how my mother made us take our shoes off before we came in from the harvest --picking prune plums through August and grapes through the fall. The smell and trace of the embedded fruit in the soles of our shoes... sick sweet gone rotten.

...and I would have to say to my beloved --don't breathe too deeply love... compost is full of mold and bacteria and you have no immune system. --you know, like I can't stick my hands in the dirt because of cancer treatment because I have no lymph nodes... you shouldn't be breathing in that mess, Love.

I wish I could run down the stairs, perhaps I should, right now, before the severe storms arrive, and take his hand and process to the yard and breathe deeply with him the whole mess.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Or something like that...

Yeah. We should quit hiding --hoping to cover ourselves, our stench, our sins. Whatever.

Hey God.
Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

--what if the place we live does not care to care?

Who are our prophets today? I suppose that depends upon the tribe to which you belong.

What I do know is that I am exhausted with pretending that some lies are true and broadcast as true --like the lie of Planned Parenthood type services being available at Walmart.... and the so-called 'birther' lies.... and all that crap and worse.

I guess some things never change...

At morning prayer (Jeremiah 29:4-10)

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD.

...so are we merely to do the same? --plant gardens, marry, multiply, seek the welfare of the city... because when the place we live is healthy, we are healthy.

And, what if the place we live does not care to care? ...how do we sing a King Alpha song in a strange land.... So that the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable...(Psalm 137)



...in a strange land... where is the hope?

I think this is the work of Holy Week. As the Prince of Peace enters Jerusalem, through the parade of our incomplete joy, waving branches as flags of broken promises, shattered hopes, lies.... the Prince of Peace like the pillar of fire rides between the corrupted carcasses of our lives, promising 'let this be done to me' as the cost of our own brokenness... He didn't die for our sins, as a payment.... he died because of them.

Now, name the hope.

...and the crowd which once sang 'Blessed is he' will sing 'crucify him'.... --and the congregations of today are mortified to say these words themselves, and leave it to others....

...the horror of the lies we create, the lies we listen to....

...the cross doesn't resolve our lies, it exposes them....

....uuugghhhhh. If church is doing it's business right, Holy Week should not be merely 'observed.'

...gotta get to work....

..and remember --render unto Caesar...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Masters of death --God's cup of tea --no Christian ethics allowed, well, for today anyway

At morning prayer (Jeremiah 26:2-9)

Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD's house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD; speak to them all the words that I command you; do not hold back a word.

It may be that they will listen, all of them, and will turn from their evil way, that I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on them because of their evil doings.

You shall say to them: Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to heed the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently - though you have not heeded - then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.

And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, "You shall die!

People seek the truth... hunger for it, and when somebody says it, they really, really don't want it after all...

Over half of all discretionary spending in the US goes to military spending.

Folks --gay folk in Virginia, are having to continue to suffer a multitude of injuries --only married opposite-sex couples and singles are allowed to adopt a child. Proposed changes to the current law were rejected.

The budget cuts eliminates the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency and boosts Pentagon spending.

If we don't curb pollution, folks, we will kill ourselves. It is killing the people of China, where the corporations that run our government (for their own benefit, not ours) ship the jobs, pay less and have to pay no local taxes and are not mandated to provide safe guards against pollution or worker safety. So --do you own an Apple product? Make your voice heard....

Everybody knows something is wrong... I just heard the pundits say it on the news. They say the only thing they disagree about is how to 'fix' it.... Right. Those who want to hunker down and maintain the status quo or benefit only themselves and their kind will have the furthest to fall when it all falls apart... and it will fall apart....

What to do?

While we're setting things aside, let's get rid of "Christian" ethics as well as "Christian" religion. Not only because it, too, is a contradiction in terms, but especially because it's a piece of puffery which, given any houseroom at all, elbows the meaning out of both Christianity and ethics.

That's a quote from Between Noon and Three by Robert Farrar Capon (p170 Harper & Row, SF, 1982, first edition). Without using the language of today, ethics and religion combined will only lead us to fundamentalism... and away from Grace.

That, you see, is the trouble with Christian ethics. Of course there will be Christians who study ethics, just as there will be Christians who study cookery, gardening and tennis. And it is entirely possible that their Christianity may lead them to prefer certain ethical, culinary, horticultural or athletic postures to others. It is difficult, however, to see how such preferences could ever lead them to conclude that they had invented something called Christian gardening or Christian tennis. And it is impossible to see how they could imagine there was such a thing as Christian ethics.

---ohhhhh, but I know people who cook "Christian Food" and grow "Christian gardens" and the like.... heheheheheh.... but he continues --here's the punch:

Ethics tells you what you ought and ought not to do in order to be recognizably and acceptable human. Christianity tells you about a God who takes unrecognizable and unacceptable human beings and re-cognizes and accepts them in Jesus, whether or not they happen to have done what they ought to have done.
ohhhh, where the 'like' button....

Christianity and ethics must never be jammed into a single category. All you do by that is destroy both of them. Your Christianity forces you to say that unethical people can go to heaven, and so tempts you to say that ethics is barking up an eschatologically nonexistent tree. And your ethics forces you to say that unethical people are really not what the Creator of the Universe has in mind, thus leading you to question whether a God who so blithely takes them home hasn't, in fact, got soft in the head.

You may--indeed, if you are to be free, you must --take your Christianity neat: grace, straight up, no ice.

And then there is a whole holy page on all our "mildewed performances is simply your death." ....

Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead--and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.

That then is the first rule of the life of grace: it is lived out of death. It begins with a solemn proclamation of your death in baptism and it continues all your life long under that same banner: we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Death is the operative device that sets us free in Christ...

What is it you're afraid of losing? Your wits, your looks, your job, your grip? Your lover, your friends, your standards, your way? Don't be. Or be, if you feel like it. It doesn't matter. Because you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Oh dear... I've quoted more than I intended... Grace, he concludes, is just to make ourselves available... not to make anything happen, not to achieve anything... but to be there --available --like a lover. And in return we find an un-lose-able lover.

wowza. I have a glimmer of something... yeah, beyond just striving to not make demons out of the numbskulls who seem intent on creating death, more death, and awful death... So, instead of the overwhelming battle... it has something to do with shifting focus....

Oh God --are you the devil? --not my activist stripes too? Must be because I'm sick... something like that... helpless.... years ago, I would be dead already...

Okay, okay... I get his dead thing... proclaimed at baptism... the banner we fly....

So --the example of Jesus is to keep being present to the damn pharisees... the fundamentalist rule lovers make every one like them or destroy them or use them for their own advantage....

From morning prayer (Romans 11: 6-12)

"God gave them a sluggish spirit,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day."

And David says,
"Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and keep their backs forever bent."
So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!


Dang. but the idea of being dead and carrying the banner of the resurrection of the dead....
Just sayin'.
God bless Capon.
Thank you Jesus.

Now off to historic St. Paul's to see if we can 'borrow' their space for a celebration of a marriage --two wonderful guys going to Vermont to get married, want a blessing and party upon their return.... and our church is not near as grand....

...all the work we have done for full inclusion... coming to fruition. Grace, part two....

Thank you Jesus. Oh, and PS --I guess it's part of the death that makes us your cup of tea that I carry for the sake of the hope of Resurrection --to speak and kneadle and give face and voice to the bruised, objectified, abused... the other walking dead who carry the burden of the masters of death...

Laura, I liked that 'cup of tea' business! Thought of you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Getting knock-down drag-em-out sick the week before Holy Week sucks

Sorry. Internet down. Had to go to doctor for follow-up-- she said I was better, but to remain careful. So I came to work to do work email--because I couldn't do it from home. Getting knock-down drag-em-out sick the week before Holy Week sucks.

Blessings all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Guns and God.... faith and faithfulness....


Is there a difference between faith and being faithful? Is walking down the street without a gun an act of faith or faithfulness? Are these questions just semantics?

At morning prayer (Romans 10:1-3)

Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

botta-bing --there she is.

I think, for the first time, I am understanding this part of the Letter to the Romans in a new way.... I see the ritualists --the sacristy rats --the rule detailers being put to task --those who think they can purchase the liberty of life in Christ by doing the 'right' and 'lawful' things...

--when, instead, we must remember that faith is a free gift... not faithfulness, which is hanging in there--showing up, offering the sacrifices, saying the prayers... --but faith itself.... that is seeing, that is hearing, that is the getting up and walking like you've never hoisted up and walked before...

And, yet when one walks down that road too far, one runs smack-dab into predestination and all that stuff.... although it would seem fairly obvious that the gift of faith can come at any time, on the side of the road, by a pool of water, in the kitchen... at the graveside.

It is the Unlikely that wake up to the gift --are enlightened.... not those that are comfortable, who make their own way.

I don't know why this popped in to my head right in the middle of that thought... but, yesterday, Ken Cuccinelli, the State Attorney General of Virginia, announced that it is legal to carry a concealed weapon in to church.

Virginia statute §18.2-293 generally prohibits carrying a firearm into “a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place.” The statute provides an exception to this general prohibition when an individual has a “good and sufficient reason” for carrying the firearm.

And while the Constitution of Virginia protects the right to bear arms, it also recognizes the importance of property rights. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious entities – like any other owner of private property – can restrict or ban the carrying of weapons onto their premises.

You can find the full opinion here: http://www.vaag.com/OPINIONS/2011opns/11-043.pdf

Official opinions do not create new law. Instead, the opinions represent the attorney general’s analysis of the current state of the law based on his thorough review of existing law and relevant prior court decisions.

Quote from here.

...sigh... there's a sign for the narthex (the front entry way of the church) --Sinners Welcome, No Guns Allowed.

There is no 'safe' place.... never has been, never will be... and carrying a gun is not going to make one safer, only gives one the potential to blow someone away... So, we must walk in faith...

Hmmmmm.... interesting.... Joel brought me 'carrot cake' yogurt for breakfast....

I will be faithful and eat it! --and yes, I do feel better... but I haven't been out of bed since Saturday night... pesky pneumonia.

The image above is from here. The article is interesting --old, but interesting...

Peace out... seriously.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not one universal call


Brahma... God of Creation.

At morning prayer (Romans 9:30-33)
What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law.

Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

Works. Faith. Righteousness. A rock that will make us fall... on purpose.

It would seem that for every thought in the bible, one can find a contradictory thought... like Paul above, and then the letter of James --be ye doers of the word...

I guess that is because there is not one universal call.... our God, a Trinity, a Three-in-One kinda God, speaks with more than one voice --calls us in delight in ways we can hear --as a stumbling stone in our path.... as a voice in the wilderness... --a broken voice from the cross... you name it, there God is.

--and if you cannot see our God in the face of Brahma, well, there is your stumbling stone... not that they are the same, not by any means, NO! --but there is nothing I can see that is not held in being by the One who holds all things in being.

That's fine with me most days --but today, I am host to one of the wonders of creation --little pneumonia bacteria... congested, feel like crap... haven't been out of bed since Saturday night... terrified that every time Joel walks in the room he might catch it... what with his compromised immune system and all...

So, today, that's all she wrote --thanking God for all the stumbling stones in such a variety... thanking God for giving us to know a Trinity God of many faces and voices... for the chance at being faithful and doers.... in their own season.

Amen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

G'wan. Go to church

Whoooohoooo!!! It's ST. ZOMBIE DAY!!


But really, ya gotta love it --they warned him --the stench and all that... so different from the resurrection of Jesus who left his death robes neatly folded in the tomb... (you know, Lazarus came back to life to die again... Jesus went right through death and out the other side....).

I think what's really amazing though, is the confidence of Jesus... I mean, before he said it--you know, before he said anything like 'Lazarus, come out,' Jesus said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me." Before he even opened his mouth.... he feels heard.

G'wan. Go to church. And pray as a follower of Jesus --with confidence, that you have already been heard. Then go out and do that work you have been given to do with that same confidence --that the kingdom is upon us!

forgive us the evil done on our behalf... well in our name....

I suppose it is a good day to remember Bonhoeffer on the day the Feds roll out the budget deal.... Planned Parenthood is somewhat saved, from what I understand... but that's all the news they are broadcasting here.

ooooh. I can hardly wait to find out the rest of the 38 billion or whatever....



Oh --and Walmart and McDonalds are hiring! whoohooo --minimum wage part-time jobs with no benefits (except for the companies that are hiring who continue to win big tax credits for hiring unemployed persons and giving them wages they can't live on.)

sigh.

from morning prayer:
God of all mercy,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives.
We have denied your goodness in each other,
in ourselves, and in the world you have created.
We repent of the evil that enslaves us,
the evil we have done,
and the evil done on our behalf.
Forgive, restore, and strengthen us
through our Savior Jesus Christ,
that we may abide in your love
and serve only your will. Amen.


--forgive us the evil done on our behalf.... well, it is done in our name, but not FOR us....

Think not? Read this. And this.

Oh. I just sneezed in a way that convinced me I am sick.... damn. Awoke with a tickle in my throat and some congestion --typical this time of year with allergies... but this, this... please no. Not now.

Better get to work... before I crash... you know what I mean?
Dang.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment

At morning prayer (John 6:52-59)

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Talk about taboo. One should certainly NOT eat the flesh of anything and consume its blood too....

...so many thoughts.... Only priests in the Temple ate the offerings... unless, of course, it was a holocaust offering --given entirely to God. Burned up. And no one did anything with the blood --except Covenant type stuff.... blood --the VERY life.

But that is all cult-type thought. We are what we eat. When we eat consciously, what else can anything be but manna from heaven? And more. And better.

Joel and I were talking about the funeral yesterday --how food is so much of a --of a --what is the right word? He said, 'food is Tradition.' I said, 'no, food is traditional, recipes are Tradition.'

hmmmmm.... I both agree and disagree with what came out of my mouth over coffee.

So, we have invented the recipes for our Tradition --setting aside certain types of bread, certain types of prayers recognizing certain mystical descriptions of revelation done and said in certain ways and with certain manners and gestures --the prayerful intent of the gathered people.

But, bread and wine are Tradition... too. An offering of ourselves --brought up out of the earth--just as we have been --grain crushed and conjoined, mingled --a symbol of our own lives together, once many now one... --wine the blood of the grape. --yet ultimately a bloodless sacrifice as a symbol of the guts and gore we know and live... knowing the farmyard reality of death for life...

...the danger is letting any of it become domesticated and safe....

Let us,
In Heaven's name,
drag out the Divine Drama
from under the dreadful accumulation
of slipshod thinking
and trashy sentiment heaped upon it,
and set it on an open stage
to startle the world
into some sort of vigorous reaction.

If the pious are the first to be shocked,
so much the worse for the pious
--others will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before them.
Of all men are offended because of Christ,
let them be offended;
but where is the sense
of their being offended at something
that is not Christ
and is nothing like Him?

We do Him
singularly little honor by watering down
'til it could not offend a fly.

Surely it is not the
business of the Church
to adapt Christ to man,
but to adapt man to Christ.

Dorothy Sayers (Creed or Chaos?)

...and it would seem some would want to press all into the same recipe --instead of making good bread and wine to make glad the heart of man by any or no recipe....

...there we are.

yeppa.... which might make me, by my own discussion, neither traditional nor a traditionalist.... which is quite funny, because I consider myself to be both.

There's the rub.

Today is a day of gratitude --gonna make it so.

The Confederate Statues on Monument Ave were vandalized earlier this week...

...so, are the Statues tradition or traditional? And vandalizing them-- is that tradition or traditional?

Perhaps it means the revolution has begun.... or it means nothing more than a few teenagers went wild who do not yet truly know the meaning of their gestures....

What I do know is that when the revolution does begin, statues such as these will be toppled and the whole scenario will be caught on film and published to anxious eyes, wondering.... If you think not, please remember....

Peace out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hey God. Pissy prayer.

Government shut-down? Trump for president? The people held hostage to corporations that refuse to pay taxes and have convinced people that in order for them to be competitive they can't pay taxes and that they will move overseas if we ask them to pay taxes....

...and cutting spending instead of raising taxes on the corporations that want to be treated like citizens...

Well. Things are going to get interesting.... especially now that Trump is a birther. Becoming convinced that Obama was born in Africa... Trump spending millions to 'discover' the 'truth'....

At morning prayer (Romans 8:26-27) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Perhaps it's time to be done praying about the madness that is engulfing this country....time to really roll up the sleeves....

Today I have a big funeral... real work... and late in the afternoon yesterday, after S had finally left the office after working two hours overtime, the copy machine broke down.... it's little screen said, 'unplug me and call a technician.' More big 'sigh' type prayers.... and God bless M for dealing with it. We are not yet done with the second hundred bulletins for the funeral, and we have more to go after that.... It's the second time the dang machine has broken --and it's only seven months old... not trusting this trend.... --or, trusting it, and not liking the trend.

Anyhow --I will pray for the spokesperson and 'values and principles' mantra that will unhook and expose the radically treacherous and destructive tactics and mind-warping people of the lie... .

Oh --and if the Republicans succeed and really do hand over medicare and Social Security to private insurance companies and corporations --I want all my money back from the last 40 years --all of it, with interest. Damn straight. And mind you, I have spent most my life being 'self-employed' and have paid not only the employee portion of taxes like everybody else, but the employer portion as well. Yeppa. Twice the rate.

And why clergy are considered 'self-employed' beats the hell out of me. I suppose if that meant I would pay the same proportionate rate as Trump it might make me happy --but I don't. Bet on it.

In the meantime, I must go tend a family and the people of God who will gather to grieve and begin the long trek back from the graveside to the glory of God.

Hey God. Pissy ass prayer. Why do I continue to be shocked at the madness of the Tea Party and the Repugnicans? Mad as hell. Full of wordless sighs.... Gotta trust the Spirit and set it aside and go do something important. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

word words words words words dang words

At morning prayer (John 6:35) Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

My inter-linear translate that as Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He that comes to me will not get hungry at all, and he that exercises faith in me will never get thirsty at all."

So, the NRSV neutralizes the gender laden language, which is a relief to me, because the Greek is actually "the one who comes to me" etc.... I like that. But the Watch Tower folks get closer to my comprehension of the word "pistoen" --which is neither belief nor faith --but trust.

So much in the words.... and our language changes over time.... There have been some suggestions to celebrate the anniversary of the KJV and use it in liturgy at church.... perhaps we should. Some folks crave the lilt and cadence, and the imagery that is internally cooked up for them is so very tasty and satisfactory for them.

For me --it's give and take. The unnecessary gender specificity oppresses me. And those who tell me, well, that's just the way it was... its not personal.... Well, it is. I do not find masculine pronouns universal. Nor helpful. And if one is after lilt and cadence, let it be sung. As it was, in the good ol' days. Yes, even the readings....

...or if we celebrate the KJV, let's then follow the service with a discussion of colonialism, empire --let's make the laity sit down during the service, not take part in the readings (except for a few good men), not allow laity to pray the prayers, let's make the choir all male, no women or girls behind the altar rail, and certainly no women at the altar... and no laity in distribution of the gifts.

The package is the package.... sigh....

I do not find the experience of the KJV to be pleasant nor inspiring... nor helpful except to rouse a nostalgia I and many others do not share...

...if we want to celebrate the KJV and its impact, let's do it in a class....

...someone said, well, Shakespeare is still done in Elizabethan English...

Yeah. So let's set up a ticket booth at the door, and charge folks to see a performance of Elizabethan type liturgy.... Not.

Sigh.... Dang. Look where words took me this morning.... didn't plan on going there.

And, then... tomorrow is a big funeral. A was part of a congregation that was closed when a freeway was built --and they were invited to join the congregation i serve --making it the first racially integrated congregation in Richmond in living memory. That is something wonderful to celebrate.

But, B, who has was baptized at the congregation I serve, says that we pay homage to the memory now without remembering the conflict it caused --the heart ache it caused --how some members of the Vestry were out on the front porch greeting with great hostility those persons responding to the invitation.... encouraging them to go away.... it cost the church. It lost members....

We forget so easily.... even when we try to remember.

I guess that is what the altar is all about. Celebrating the saving grace, remembering the brokenness. And we try to domesticate it. Or minimalize it.

We forget --although we call them to mind, the words of the prophets, the misery and exaltation of the desert, the history of bloodshed at the birth, the devotion and betrayal, the death and resurrection....

We forget.

And we do it so that we shall be not not remembering. Or, at least, that is what it says in the Greek.

Hey God, it's margaret here. Some days... some days... it's all too much. All of it. The Glory and the Passion. Which is glory --and then I think how gross that is.... but it's not about the death, it's the decision.... the choice. The congregation I serve of good and holy people is still living in to that decision to invite others to join them --and it was and is a holy decision --and a decision that took them to the cross. And there they are. God bless A and her family who experienced that same decision in such a different and life rendering way. You alone know the rest of my prayer which has no words --Elizabethan or not, mostly not and mostly ummmmm colorful, but there we are, or--there I am. Yeah. Your favorite saying, I know. I am. I. Am. So there. I AM. Good enough for the blind man, good enough for Jesus... good enough for me, cuz you made me that way. Bless us with the knowledge and experience of your Passion and dying to oneself, for the sake of life and the life to come. Not an oxymoron but perceived as such by the world. Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of Gods and Men.... "consigned to the apathy of oblivion"

I cannot get the images out of my head....

Yesterday, on a recommendation from a retired priest who serves in the congregation I serve, we went to see the movie Of Gods and Men....



Stunning.... a true story of a small Cistercian monastery in Algiers during their civil war... 1990's.... --and we never even really heard about it....

Lordy --and we heard about all those priests and nuns out of El Salvador... but not these....? Until now?

Maybe the Cistercians don't hire the same promotional peeps as the Jesuits.... (oh snark... cut it out margaret.)

From Wiki: SPOILER ALERT! --kinda.

The film opens with a quotation from the Book of Psalms 82:6-7: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes."

It closes with an anonymous letter from one of the monks:

“Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.

The Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion.

I’ve lived enough to know that I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder.

I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul.

My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who called me na├»ve, or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them.

This thank-you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of the last minute, who knew not what you were doing.

Yes, to you as well I address this thank-you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.

There is more witness to the Gospel in that anonymous note than I have seen elsewhere in a long time.

...we meet again --happy thieves in Paradise --it if pleases God....

Oh. Yeah.

I wonder, at times, if I have the strength of faith these men showed.... the faithfulness to witness to love in the midst of violence and despair. --Because that is what they finally decided to do --stay for love, love of all... And the French government investigated their deaths in Algeria and determined that it was quite likely the brothers were executed by the government militia... because the brothers treated all alike --terrorist, child, villager, government official....

Love.

At morning prayer (John 6:24-27)
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"

Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."

...we look for him because our stomachs are full, we are happy, content to go about our work... not because we believe --not because of the signs....

Hey God. it's margaret here.... Some days I do not believe I have the strength to look for the food that endures... I get so caught up --as the brothers in the movie did --so caught up in stuff other than seeking the great love first... you know, it's all those other little loves that creep in --the love of satisfaction among them.... and my default is always self-doubt....

...but loving the one who threatens one's very life.... now, there's a calling.

You know that today I will strive to form a liturgy to give thanks for the life of A --help me make it honest and good. And a time for people to both mourn and rejoice....

I pray for L,K,R,M,J,B --S,T,R... give me courage to continue to press in to the hard places... in town, in relationships, in church, at home --in love.

Because you are love, and if we claim a place in you, our default should always be love...

...and being consigned to the apathy of oblivion, but even so, you shall know and love us... every little bit of oblivious silent star dust shall shine and sing.

Amen.